I don't know if I would call it a whole different scale. I would say different playing fields. The cheating by NE will effect the outcome of a game based on they may know when the other team lines up in a certain formation, they know what's going to happen. It gives them an unfair advantage I know, but it doesn't physically hurt the other players.
Major has a good point. Right now the NFL is dealing with some pretty big issues with the toll that playing in the NFL does to your body. In my mind, people have signed up for this and they should understand what they're getting into. But, if they don't come down hard on what the Saints were doing, they might look "soft" on the issue and to some, it might look like they condone the violent behavior of people like James Harrison.
What the Saints did does not actually give them an unfair advantage on the field like what NE did, but it endangers the lively hood of the other players on the field. The refs can throw a flag on a cheap shot that knocked out a QB but the QB is still knocked out.
I think breaking the rules is worse than hurting other players within
Football is a violent game, and the NFL is trying to skirt a line. On the one hand the bigger the hits the more people want to watch it, the big hits are the ones that get replayed over and over. On the other hand there is player safety. The players have a lot of skill and take risks, and are generously compensated for that. I don't want to see anyone injured, but you still have to let them play the game.
To rip off Denny, if the players are worried about their livelihoods from legal hits they should take up knitting.
And Harrison gets fined for things that aren't even penalties, so I don't think anyone believes the NFL condones his style of play. In fact, I read he's being fined $50,000 over the Saints bounty program.