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Deke Bellavia

Join Deke and the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert for live, local talk about the Saints, LSU, Pelicans and much more on "Sports Talk!" 

Weekdays 4-8pm

Twitter: @dekebigchief
Email: bigchief@wwl.com


NFL Division Playoffs: Bobby and Deke make their picks

It's crunch time in the NFL! We are now down to four teams in each conference as we enter the divisional round of the playoffs. Each of the four divisional games are rematch games from earlier this season.

All four home teams won last week and all four homes teams are favored to win this round and advance to next week's conference title games. Earlier this week, and the Cajun Cannon and I spoke to several guests who helped us preview and set up all four of this weekend's games. Listen to those interviews on our podcast page.

And now the time has come for the SportsTalk crew to give their predictions. So here we go!

Saturday's NFL Divisional Games

#3 Seattle Seahawks @ #2 Atlanta Falcons
Georgiadome Atlanta, Georgia
3:35PM Kickoff WWL Radio 870AM/FM 105.3
The Line: Atlanta minus 5 (51)
Last week's results: Seattle beat Detroit 26-6 and Atlanta had a BYE
The winner: Seattle and Atlanta would both have to travel to Dallas should the Cowboys beat Green Bay. If Green Bay wins Atlanta or Seattle would host the Packers in the NFC Title bout.

The Picks:
Bobby likes the Dirty Birds. He says the Falcons will not only win but they will cover the five points. "I think this is a different team, and I think this is a different Matt Ryan. I also think that this is a different Seattle team and not having Safety Earl Thomas in the playoffs is going to hurt." Bobby says 27-20, Falcons

The Big Chief is going with the other birds. I just think the Seattle defense will be the difference in the game. Yes I do know that Matt Ryan is an MVP kind of player this season and Atlanta is at home, but with a 1-4 mark in the post season including 1-3 at home, I think Seattle's playoff experience and their veteran leadership of having been on this stage several times before is too much to pass up.

Seattle was lucky to win the first meeting back in week six, when the Seahawks came up on the right side of a bad' no call.' Atlanta lost 26-24 at Seattle - a non interference call on Julio Jones was a huge point in the game. But that was then and this is now and I think that Seattle will run the ball much better and try and dictate the pace in the game. Seattle did not rush the ball with much success in the first meeting with Atlanta.

Seattle knows that they have put up big numbers in playoff games in the past. But Atlanta is not a team you want to get into a track meet against. The Big Chief says Seattle 27 Atlanta 24.

#4 Houston Texans @ #1 New England Patriots
The Line: New England minus 15 (44)
Last week's results: Houston beat Oakland 27-14 and NE had a BYE
The winner: New England will host either the Steelers or Chiefs, if the Texans win they would be on the road regardless of who wins the KC versus Pittsburgh game

Both Bobby and I are in total agreement on this one, with the pick easily being the New England Patriots. Way back in week three of the regular season the Texans went into Foxbourgh and got hammered 0-27. And Tom Brady did not even play!

New England is way too good and they are even better at home, where they rarely lose. In a blowout, Bobby says New England 28-14 while Deke takes the Patriots 28-9.

Sunday's NFL Divisional Games

#4 Green Bay Packers @ #1 Dallas Cowboys
AT&T Stadium Irving, Texas
3:40PM Kickoff WWL Radio 870AM/FM 105.3
The Line: Dallas minus 4.5 (52)
Last week's results: Green Bay beat the NY Giants 38-13 and Dallas had a BYE
The winner Green Bay has to travel next week regardless of who wins the Falcons/Seahawks game, while Dallas would host the NFC Title Game next Sunday.

Bobby leans towards Green Bay covering but not winning - he likes the Cowboys ability to run the football and eat time off the clock.

I think it's just too hard for a rookie QB to lead his team to the title. And on the flip side, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is on fire and the Packers are rolling having won their last seven games.

I know Jordy Nelson may not play, but Green Bay is no one trick pony, and Rodgers is completing passes all over the field. I think the Packers are on a post season run very similar to the one they went on back in the 2011 post season when GB won the Super Bowl!

Dallas may win this game. But sooner than later, the Cowboys will fall short of their goal of winning another Super Bowl this season. The Big Chief says Green Bay 31 Dallas 27.

#3 Pittsburgh Steelers @ #2 Kansas City Chiefs
7:20PM Kickoff WWL Radio 870AM/FM 105.3
Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City
The Line: Kansas City minus 1 (44)
Last week's results: Pittsburgh beat Miami 30-12 and KC had a BYE
The winner: This game's victor moves into the AFC Title game against either the New England Patriots or Houston Texans. Both the Steelers and Chiefs would travel to New England. And both the Steelers or Chiefs would host the Houston Texans.

I am going with the home team and taking the Chiefs. Folks, I just think all that history and even the first meeting between these two in which the Steelers dominated (43-14) the Chiefs has nothing to do with this game. Kansas City is one of the toughest (along with New England & Seattle) teams to play in their own backyard. The Chiefs played well pretty much all season long and now have a chance to advance to the AFC Title game for the first time in 24 years.

The home field advantage will be just enough, as Bobby and I both agree that the Chiefs will win in a very close game. Bobby is going with the Kansas City 24-23 and Deke says Kansas City 23-20 over the Steelers.
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Deke: Saints running backs had a productive year

As we look back on the New Orleans Saints 2016 season, we have plenty of time to go back and review each position on the Saints roster. I have decided to start off with the Saints running backs.

As a group during the 2016 season, the Saints RBs carried the ball a combined 404 times for 1,742 yards. The Saints averaged 108.9 yards per game rushing this season, which helped the Black and Gold finish 16th in rushing in the NFL.

Leading the Black and Gold rushing was Mark Ingram. Ingram's sixth season in the NFL turned out to be his best as the veteran RB capped off the season surpassing the one thousand yard mark.

Ingram had 1,043 yards rushing on 205 carries with six TD's. His best number was his average per carry, pumping out 5.1 yards per attempt which was best among Saints RBs.

Ingram also chipped in 319 yards receiving on 46 receptions and four TD's. Not a bad year for Ingram as he totaled 1,362 yards from scrimmage and scored 10 touchdowns.

The Saints second leading rusher was Tim Hightower, who had 548 yards on 133 carries with four scores averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Tim also added 200 yards receiving and another TD giving him five total for the 2016 season. And Hightower returned three kicks for 61 yards for a 20.3 average.

FB John Kuhn gave the Saints their best threat at converting on short yardage situations in quite some time. Kuhn aided the Saints offense as he was called on to help convert on third downs. The veteran scored five touchdowns for the Saints.

Travaris Cadet had another season in which he made his presence felt - at times. Cadet played in 15 games with just four rushing attempts for 19 yards. Cadet did his damage on the receiving end, hauling in 40 grabs for 281 yards with four touchdowns. Travaris was also active in the Saints kicking game, having 10 kick returns for 144 yards (14.4 average).

In minor roles with the Saints offense, Rookie RB Daniel Lasco and second year RB Marcus Murphy did most of their production on Special Teams. Murphy had seven kick returns for 105 yards. Murphy averaged 15 yards per kick return. The second year player also added 57 yards on six punt returns.

Lasco was a big boost to the Saints, becoming one of the team's leaders on special teams tackles - he was tied for second place in special teams tackles with six. Lasco had 11 carries for 32 yards this season and the rookie from Cal Berkeley played in seven games for the Black and Gold.

So that's a look at the Saints RBs - next I'll take a look at how the Saints wide receivers did!
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DBs have a hard time getting at Saints WR Mike Thomas

His Twitter handle is @cantguardmike, and in his first full season in the National Football League, opposing defenses learned quickly that yes, it's hard to guard Saints WR Michael Thomas!

"I think I had fun out there competing. I feel like I've not scratched the surface on what I can do, and I can improve on a lot of things. I'm looking forward to putting in some hard work this off season and getting better," he told me and Bobby tonight on SportsTalk; he gave his take on his rookie season in Black and Gold, his plans this off season, and things he wants to improve on before 2017.

Thomas said going into his first season, his mindset was on a strong finish. "It's not about how you start, but how you finish and that was my focus this season. My approach was to go out and play my best each week and try and finish strong. And I had one of the best games of my career late in the season." Thomas torched the Atlanta Falcons by hauling in 10 receptions for 156 yards and a touchdown.

Thomas had a record breaking season with the Saints, putting up some impressive numbers for their high scoring offense. He led the team with 92 catches for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns. Thomas gave praise to his coaches and fellow Wide Receivers for helping him adjust to the NFL. "We all try and compete with ourselves and motivate each other to get better. I think all of the guys in our WR group are great athletes. Our coaching is good and we are a good group."

Michael will now go into the off season with a good rookie season behind him. Thomas says that he currently does not have any major plans this off season other than to get some rest after a long year. "I'm going to get away from the game from a little bit and visit with my family. We have some time before we get back to work as a team, so I'll take some time and take it easy before I get back to work."

You can listen to Bobby and Deke's entire interview with Saints Wide Receiver Michael Thomas by clicking below.

FULL AUDIO: Saints WR Mike Thomas on "SportsTalk"

Photo via USA TODAY

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Deke: Slow start, lack of win streak keeps Saints home again

She once said it standing next to Glinda the Good Witch of the South; all of us have used, or at the very least have heard that famous saying, "there's no place like home." Yes that was little Dorothy holding Toto in her hand. But folks, Dorothy wasn't talking about the NFL.

We all agree that there is no place like home, but when your team is home as the NFL post season gets underway, that ain't real good. If a team has home field advantage in the playoffs, then being home is super good, but sports fans know exactly what I mean when I say home. Being home means your season is OVER!

Four of the last five years the Saints have been HOME for the playoffs, not making the post season in each of the past three seasons with 7-9 records all three of those years. And when you look at the 20 teams that did not make the playoffs, most have several things in common.

On common trait among non-playoff teams is that some have too big of a hole to dig out of after a bad start. Some start hot and then just collapse the rest of the way, like the 2016 Eagles & Vikings. And if you look at each of those 20 non-playoff team's schedules, you will see that the overwhelming majority of those teams did not put together a string of consistent play. There are some exceptions, but hot starts and win streaks are always a part of a playoff run.

We are focused on the New Orleans Saints, and the Saints have not had either of those two things I have mentioned above.

So, Who Dat Nation, let's conduct our own mini research project. Let's take the last three seasons as our focus. We start with the most recent season, where the Saints got off to a terrible start, coming out of the gates with a 0-3 mark.

The Saints then went 3-1 to even their record at 4-4. But in their next four games the Saints sunk well below .500 going 1-3 with a 5-7 mark at the halfway point of the season. The Saints did not put together a solid win streak. The best stretch the Black and Gold had in 2016 was when the Saints won back to back games three times.

Now we look back at 2014 and 2015. The Saints were 1-3 after their first four games in both of those years, and New Orleans' inability to put together a string of wins hindered their post season chances. The Saints won back to back games on two occasions in 2015 and never had a win streak (3 or more wins in a row).

In 2014 the Saints got to 4-4 after a 1-3 start only to fall to 5-7 during their next four games. But again the Saints did not have a significant win streak, winning back to back games just once during the 2014 season.

Now remember we're just reviewing the last three seasons. If we pulled up the other three seasons ('07, '08, '12) the common thing with the Saints was a slow start to the season and no significant win streak therein. The Saints did start 2-2 in 2008 to finish 8-8, but in '07 and '12 the Black and Gold began the first four games winless going 0-4.

What about the Saints record in seasons in which they did make the playoffs? I'm glad you asked. Those four seasons also have a few things in common.

In the five most successful seasons under Sean Payton, the Saints got off to great starts and had win streaks of five or more wins in each of those playoff seasons. In 2006 the Saints started 3-1 and eventually pushed their mark to 6-1. 2009 the Saints started 13-0, 2010 3-1, 2011 3-1 and 2013 5-0.

The Saints had five game win streaks in both the 2010 and 2013 seasons. And the Black and Gold won their last eight games to roll to a 13-3 mark in 2011. The Saints had two three game win streaks in the 2006 season. And for those of you keeping track on what seed the Saints earned in playoff seasons...

The Saints were 10-6 in 2006 and that was good enough to earn the #2 seed and a first round bye. In 2009 the Saints edged out the Minnesota Vikings for the #1 seed with a 13-3 mark. The 2010 season saw the Saints finish with a stout 11-5 mark but 11 wins was only good enough to earn the 5th seed. In 2011 the Saints tied a franchise record with regular season wins going 13-3 but that 13 win season was only good enough for the #3 seed.

13 wins and just a #3 seed? Yes, and the story behind that season is that the Saints and 49ers both finished 13-3 just a game behind #1 seeded Green Bay at 14-2. But because the Saints lost to all NFC teams and one of the 49ers three losses was to the AFC's Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco picked up the #2 seed due to the NFC Conference record tiebreaker. And the last time the Saints went to the playoffs they were the #6 seed.

So what does all this mean? If you are a person that believes that history tells a lot about the future, then my advice to you would be look closely at the first four games of the 2017 season. If the Saints start out 4-0 or 3-1 then the playoffs are coming. 0-4, 1-3 or 2-2 means no playoffs and another one of those inconsistent, up and down, rollercoaster type seasons will unfold once again.

Getting to the reasons to why the Saints got off to another slow start and did not have a string of wins during the 2016 season is an entirely different feature that is for sure going to take more than just one sheet of paper to try and explain. But I'd be willing to bet that if one year from now if we are talking about the Saints being a playoff team the Black and Gold will have gotten off to a hot start and one or more win streaks will have taken place next season. We shall see!
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Deke: Aranda's defense was spectacular for the Tigers in 2016

The evaluation period is underway for teams who have not yet played in a bowl. When it comes to the LSU Tigers, first year Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda more than earned his raise, and the future of the Tigers defense with looks even brighter than it did to end the 2016 season.

Aranda showed the Tigers fanbase that he is more than deserving of his soon to be #2 million dollar salary. And it did not take a record setting effort against one of the most productive offensive units in the college game today, no - it was a consistent Tigers defense throughout the 2016 season that has everyone excited about years to come. The way the year came to an end for LSU, holding the current Heisman winner to season lows and without a TD, was just a cherry on top of the entire body of work that the LSU defense put up this season.

LSU's defensive numbers this year were outstanding. The Tigers defense allowed only 16 touchdowns this season, seven by way of rushing and nine passing. Folks, that's less than two touchdowns allowed per game!

The Tigers were stout on third down, allowing opponents to convert on a combined 61-of-189 attempts for 32%. LSU's Red Zone defense allowed only 8 TDs in 33 attempts for 24%. And when it comes to putting pressure on opposing QBs the Tigers piled up 36 sacks for -244 yards.

LSU's rush defense allowed only 3.3 yards per carry. And the season ending finale, in which the Tigers defense did not allow a TD in their bowl win over the high powered Louisville Cardinals, should have LSU players, coaches and fans feeling real good about the future.

Now Aranda will wait and see what players will decide to forgo any remaining eligibility and which players will return next season to be a part of what looks to be another hard nose Tigers defense. Aranda's stock is steadily on the rise and his future as a head football coach is coming sooner rather than later. But as for right now, LSU has one of the best, if not the best, defensive minds in all of football and having Aranda around will continue to bring out the best in the players that suit up for the Bayou Bengals.
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Deke: After another dismal Saints season, Who Dats waiting "til next year"

For the last three Januarys, Saints fans can only say 21 wins and 27 losses. And of course the old dreaded "wait til next year" slogan has been heard too much too often among members of the Who Dat Nation. And now the Saints will be one of 20 other NFL teams that did not make the post season.

The Saints will head into the 2017 season with many questions, including 'can a team that has had three straight 7-9 finishes and a no show in the NFC post season for the fourth time in five years turn things around in one season and become a legit playoff contender?'

The Saints were swept by an NFC South foe for the second straight season as the Falcons wiped out the Saints for the second time in three seasons. Now comes the evaluation period and the targets that the Saints must hit in the off-season in order to not be among the 20 teams that are not in the playoffs.

The Saints will take on the NFC North and the AFC East and already know who they will play at home, on the road and in London. The Black and Gold will learn the days and times of their games prior to the 2017 NFL Draft when the NFL has their annual schedule release.

The Saints will host the following teams in the 2017 season: Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Detroit, New England, New York Jets, Chicago and Washington.

The Saints will play the Miami Dolphins in London along with their three NFC South foes (Carolina, Atlanta and Tampa) on the road next season. Other road games include trips to Green Bay, Buffalo, Minnesota. Los Angeles.

So now we all do look on to next year. Who will stay? Who will go? Will the Saints become a playoff team once again next season? Or will the Black and Gold be left out and left with some major decisions to make?
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Deke: Lots on the line when Saints visit Dirty Birds

The oldest rivalry in the NFC South resumes Sunday in the ATL with a lot on the line. I say that because I think theses two fanbases are more entrenched in this rivalry than most in the League!
 
Sure, the Saints are only playing to earn a five hundred record and trying to stop a three-year 7-9 season streak. But Atlanta controls their own destiny, and the only thing currently in the way of the Falcons, the number two seed and a first round bye is their arch rivals from the Big Easy. The Falcons really put the hammer down on the Saints in the first meeting, winning by 13 in week three of the 2016 season.  New Orleans looks to return the favor in the Georgia Dome in the final meeting between these two rivals in that venue.
 
“The Saints and Falcons rivalry has a college rivalry kind of feel to it, and I think it’s because of the fans and how close Atlanta and New Orleans are from a travel standpoint.  I always remember seeing lots of Saints fans with us on the road when we played at Atlanta,” Deuce McAllister told me. He said the Saints and Falcons games have an intensity level that rivals that of some of the biggest games he’s ever played in. 
 
So what’s really on the line for each team?  From an Atlanta standpoint it’s pretty simple - win and you’re off for at least 13 days, and the Falcons will only be two wins away from reaching the Super Bowl. 
 
On the flip side for the Saints, a win means New Orleans snaps a two year 7-9 finish to the regular season.  And a win on Sunday would keep the Saints from being swept for the second time in three seasons (2014) by their arch rivals.
 
On paper it looks like a good ole fashion shootout as the Saints and Birds bring two high powered offensive units that have pretty much had their own way with all of the defensive units they have faced.  Sure both the Saints and Falcons offensive units had some outings in which they did not put up their average numbers, but both teams are considered dangerous because of what each team’s offense has done and can do. Of course the QBs are the straws that stir the drink for each team.  Brees and Ryan are both having good seasons, with Matt Ryan having what many feel is an MVP-caliber year under center. 
 
The biggest difference between these two teams, and the reason why one is preparing for a playoff run and the other is looking ahead to next year, is because of what each team’s defense has done. Atlanta’s defense has not done anything '85 Bears like, but the Dirty Birds defense is an opportunistic group.  Atlanta has done a good job of taking the ball away from their opponents and they have done an even better job of protecting the football.
 
The Falcons are currently 3rd in the NFL in the turnover margin at an impressive +10.  Now, if you don’t look closely at the stats, some would give most of the credit to the Falcons defense for their successful turnover margin ranking.  But it’s actually the Falcons ability to protect the football that has been the major key.
 
Case in point - both the Saints and Falcons defensive units have taken the ball away a total of 21 times this season, but the major difference is ball security.  The Falcons have given the ball away just 11 times compared to the Saints 23 giveaways.  That is huge because it puts the Saints at -2 for the season and Atlanta at +10. You can best believe that turnovers will be the most meaningful stat Sunday when it is all said and done.  And the Falcons are plus +7 in their last five games.  And the Saints are plus +2 so each comes in on a bit of a hot streak when it comes to turnovers.
 
Looking for other impressive numbers from the Falcons?  Well Atlanta is no one man show on offense, in fact, QB Matt Ryan has set an NFL record by throwing TD passes to 13 different players this season. The play of young RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman gives the Falcons a much needed one-two punch in the backfield that allows the Birds to be very aggressive by the way they call on their athletic RB’s.
 
And then it all goes back to the big guys up front.  And when figuring out why the ATL is going to the playoffs, you have to start with their offensive line.  Center Alex Mack was the missing piece to the puzzle while LT Jake Matthews has developed into one of the best in the NFL, likewise so has RT Ryan Schraeder.
 
Who wins? Simply put, the team that can protect the ball the best and win the turnover battle will come out on top.  Atlanta’s defense as well as the Saints have both had their stretches of solid play this season and right now both are coming off pretty good outings.
 
This is going to be another down to the wire game.  I think we are going to see the best from both teams and I think seven points is too much in this series.  I think the Birds win but it’s going to be a close one.  The Big Chief says Atlanta 31 New Orleans 28. 
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Deke: Offense wakes, defense naps as Saints prepare to host Bucs

The Saints offense came to life to the tune of 48 points and 488 yards of total offense in a 48-41 win over the Cardinals.  New Orleans, now 6-8 overall on the season with two games left, is clinging to their playoff lives in the NFC. 

After back-to-back games without a passing TD, Drew Brees threw four TDs and the Saints controlled the line of scrimmage as well as time of possession for much of the game.  New Orleans ran 27 more offensive plays than the Cardinals did.

So now what for the Saints?  Can two wins make members of the Who Dat Nation feel better about the future?  And looking at this win can we say that the Saints defense took another step forward?

New Orleans allowed 41 points and 425 yards of total offense to the Cardinals on just 56 offensive plays.  But the Saints defense did force two turnovers to finish the game +1 in the turnover ratio. 

So the season comes down to two games and the Saints face the 8-6 Bucs Sunday with a lot on the line for both teams. The Bucs are one of those eight win teams that the Saints need to keep from winning any more this season. 

New Orleans will know before kickoff if the game versus Tampa Bay even matters from a playoff standpoint.  But according to Sean Payton and his players of course the game matters as the franchise wants to finish up as strong as possible.

I think winning the last two games would be nice.  And depending on how the Saints look on both sides of the football we may get a better indication if the Saints are closer to being a more consistent team that can become a playoff contender.  Or will we all be left with that sour, bitter taste that the Saints are once again out of the playoffs for the fourth time in five years?  And one year from now the likelihood of the Black and Gold being home for the post season for a fourth straight season is more likely than not due to what we have seen in the last seven games of the 2016 season.

And having hope that the Saints can turn things around quickly is not as farfetched as some may think.  In the NFL there are quick turnarounds that take place each year.  And in this season we are seeing a New York Giants team have a ton of success and they are going to the playoffs.

If the Saints need motivation in a team that has been there and done that, then the Giants are that team to look at.  NY along with New Orleans has had one of the worst defensive units in football over the course of the last several seasons.  In fact in 2015 the Saints were 31st in total defense with the Giants at 32nd.

Now New York did sink nearly $100 million dollars into their defense but it has paid off and NY now has a defense that has carried them in several games this season.  And if you bounce the Saints up against what the Giants have done then New Orleans could very well be not that far off from doing what the Giants have done.

But seeing the Black and Gold play out this season with better overall results from offense, defense and special teams could serve as a good indicator of what the Saints could do next year, and what hopefully few missing pieces New Orleans needs to obtain this off season. 

So I guess when you throw in all the above into our made up gumbo pot, the Saints do have a lot to play for.  Or at least it sounds good.  Doesn’t it? 
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Deke's NFL Top Ten, week 15

The Pats won another AFC East Title, the 'Boys are one win away from taking care of the NFC East.  Oakland won and got some help, the Giants are legit while Seattle and Pittsburgh look like contenders - but not all the time!  And the Falcons and Fins are closing in on playoff berths!  Here is this week’s Top 10! 
 
1.    New England (12-2) – Breaking News! The Pats won the AFC East!  Wow!  You know you are good when no one really pays attention to a divisional title.  Patriots fans are spoiled and they better enjoy this unique ride.  Because it will never happen again!  This week vs NY Jets. 

2.    Dallas - (12-2) – The 'Boys now are one win away from locking up the East and the #1 seed in the playoffs.  And that means that the only time that Dak and Zeke would have to leave Big D would be to go to the Super Bowl.  Or back home!  Don’t slip!  This week vs Detroit.  

3.  Oakland (11-3) – The Silver and Black got a big road win over the Bolts and then enjoyed a little help from the boys from Music City USA.  And yes the streak is finally over - the Raiders are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2002.  And that season they won the AFC!   This week vs Indianapolis.   

4.   New York Giants (10-4) – The Giants defense is all that and then some.  The NY front office spent nearly $100 million on defensive improvements.  And it shows.  Hey there is nothing wrong with spending a ton of money as long as you get something on your investment!   This week @ Philadelphia. 

5. Kansas City (10-4) -  Oh man the Chiefs let one slip away, and now must have the Raiders lose in order to win the AFC West.  You know it’s bad luck when you sweep the team that wins you’re division!  Please believe it!  This week vs Denver.

6.  Pittsburgh (9-5) – The Steelers are finally showing some consistency and have many thinking that they have a Super Bowl run in them.  With that said, the Steelers need to win their last two games to guarantee a home playoff game in the Steel City.  This week vs Baltimore.  

7.  Seattle (8-4-1) – Seattle is trying to close the season with a strong push so they can nail down the #2 seed.  Seattle has the defense but one has to wonder can they go all the way with a suspect rushing attack on offense?  This week vs Arizona.  

8.  Detroit (9-5) – The Lions missed a shot to keep the pressure on the Packers.  And now Detroit is in a fight to win the NFC North and host a playoff game.  A win on the road at Dallas would go a long way to locking down the division.  This week @ Dallas.  

9 Atlanta (9-5) – The Dirty Birds are rolling and look like they are on their way to winning the South.  But two divisional foes will try and ruin the Birds season with dates against Carolina and New Orleans to end the regular season.  QB Matt Ryan has been on fire all season long and is more than worthy of being league MVP! This week @ Carolina.  

10.  Miami (9-5) – The Fins are having one of their best seasons in quite some time and it still might not be enough to get into the playoffs.  Miami’s best shot would be a win this week at Buffalo and then face a Patriots team that has nothing to play for in the final week of the regular season.  This week @ Buffalo.  
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Deke: Once hot, now ice cold Saints are done for ‘16

Pinky told Craig, Mickey said it to Rocky and now again the NFL is saying to the Saints, “It’s OVER.”  


The Saints season is over, and although there are three games left in the season, 2016 is again a major disappointment for the Saints.  For the fourth time in five years, the Saints will miss the NFL Playoffs.


The Saints will come out and say the right stuff about the last three games, but let’s face it folks, we are talking about a franchise that is three seasons removed from a spot in the NFL Playoffs.  That last appearance in the post season saw the Saints lose to the eventual Super Bowl champion Seahawks by eight points in the 2013 season.


That was then, and this is now.  Now is not too damn good!  


Folks the Saints are, well honestly, I have no idea of what they are.  Honestly, I thought the Saints were a team that was about to turn the corner and become a good, consistent team.  That was about a month ago when the Saints had won four of five and their lone loss was to a legit Super Bowl contender in Kansas City.


Now the Saints are 5-8 with three games left, and they have lost four of their last five games.  Two of those four losses the Saints really came out looking bad, only to make things look decent for a while on their way to back to back lackluster performances in losses to Detroit and Tampa Bay.  


Just as I was about to put stock into the Saints turning the corner because of the way the offense and defense were playing;  I’m now once again shown that using caution instead of making a quick rush to judgment has paid off.  The Saints offense has been down-right ugly the last two games.  


The league’s top offense has been anything but in the last two games.  The Saints have scored a total of 24 points combined in two weeks, which is lower than their per game average of 29 points.  The Saints offense has been real bad in the second half of the last two games also.


In their last two second halves, the Saints offense has had 10 possessions combined against the Lions and Bucs.  The Saints have produced just 10 points from their “high powered” offense.  In fact, when you put a pencil to things; the Saints have scored one TD, one Field Goal, punted the ball three times and Drew Brees has been picked off five times in the second half of the last two games.  


What frustrates fans the most is that the Saints are making the same mistakes they did when they were 1-3, and those hard to look at mistakes have shown their ugly head again in four of the last five games.  


Now the Saints are down to their last three games of the season, and it will be interesting to see how Sean Payton and the players react and respond.  


The Saints have been 7-9 before.  The Saints have had bad seasons.  Payton, however, has not faced as much criticism from Saints fans in his 11 years in New Orleans as he is facing right now.  
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