Well folks, if the SEC West added Georgia, Missouri and South Carolina, then the rest of the nation's games really wouldn't matter. Currently all seven of the SEC West's members are ranked among the top 42 teams in the nation with five of the West Schools being in the top 10. Even for the SEC, that's a record. And don't go to sleep on Mississippi State (28th) and the Hogs of Arkansas are at #42.
So when you put a pencil to the numbers, the SEC has 14 member schools, seven in the West and seven in the East. 11 of the 14 SEC member schools are ranked in the top 42 teams in the nation. That's amazing even for the SEC. Let's take a look at how I stack up the nation's best conference going into week four of the season.
1. Alabama (3-0) - Sure, they are ironing out their QB details, but just put it this way - if Alabama is good then we know what that means. When Alabama is not as good, that means the Tide are still better than 99% of the other teams. Who is in that 1% that can hang with the Tide? I'm not sure. An interesting game this week at home against a Florida Team that does not look that capable of beating the Tide in Tuscaloosa.
2. Auburn (2-0) - Auburn is great on offense and better on defense. A dangerous road trip for a Thursday night date with the Wildcats of Kansas State awaits. Win that one and a huge game happens on the Plains in early October when the Purple and Gold Tigers come calling.
3. Texas A&M (3-0) - When you can score on anyone, that means you will have a chance to beat everyone you play. South Carolina could run the table with their lone loss being to A&M. The Gamecocks are good. The Aggies offense is much better than that!
4. LSU (3-0) - If you can't score you can't win! Since going down 24-7 to Wisconsin at the 12:24 mark of the third quarter in their first game, the Tigers have not allowed a point. A good offense that features a seasoned QB is in town this week. If these Tigers can play consistent on offense they could be hard to beat this season!
6 of 7 SEC West teams ranked in top 28. 5 in top 10. Bama 3 Auburn 5 A&M 6 LSU 8 Ole Miss 10 Miss State 28 Ark 42 #LSU@SEC#CFB
5. Ole Miss (3-0) - The Rebels have made things look pretty easy ever since QB Bo Wallace came to life in the second half of the Rebels first game this season. And now Coach Freeze looks to have the Rebels best defense allowing a meager 10 points per game. Man wouldn't I love to have about 10 Rebels vs Tide tickets in my hand? Oh what I could get for those on Stubhub!
6. South Carolina (2-1) - Ok Georgia is pretty good, so is East Carolina and A&M has the best offense in the conference. The ole ball coach has a shot to run the table and play in Atlanta. Never bet against the visor people. You know better than that.
7. Missouri (3-0) - I've got these Tigers ahead of the Bulldogs because of the QB's. Sure UGA has Mr. Gurley but Missouri has QB Matty Mauck. And the Tigers have played well on defense. I could see these Tigers posting a 10-2 record in the regular season. Maybe!
8. Georgia (1-1) - The Bulldogs squandered their chances in a tough loss to the Gamecocks. UGA has three straight home games between the hedges before a crucial four game road trip takes place.
9. Mississippi State (3-0) - Ok is this the year the Dogs beat LSU? Man, one has to figure if MSU plans on being a factor in the West this season they have to beat someone other than rival Ole Miss. Hey State, name your poison, LSU, A&M, Auburn or Alabama. Win one of those and then you get respect. A little more respect that is.
10. Tennessee (2-1) - The Vols took it on the chin last week in Norman against the Sooners. But I like what Butch Jones has done and I fully expect these fellows from Rocky Top to knock off a big opponent at least once this season. And even maybe twice!
11. Florida (3-0) - I personally don't think the Gators are that bad of a team. However by Florida's standards, being not that bad is never good in Gainesville. The wheels on the bus could begin to come off this week with a trip to face the Tide.
12. Arkansas (2-1) - The Hogs two headed monster of RB's Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams gashed the Red Raiders last week as Arkansas rushed for 7 TD's. I could see the Hogs winning six maybe seven games this season. Hey that's not bad considering that every other team in the SEC West is ranked right now!
13. Kentucky (2-1) - I'm telling you UK is not that bad. The Wildcats are second to last in the SEC right now but they are several steps ahead of the team ranked below them. The Wildcats know they are going to have to upset between three to four teams this season to get to a bowl. They almost pulled it off last week.
14. Vanderbilt (1-2) - I still can't believe that all the hard work and pride that James Franklin built in Nashville has fallen by the waist side this quickly. Are the doors that bad? I think they are and that's is sad considering what Franklin did while he was there.
The Monsters of the Midway have supplanted the Cheese Packers in my poll. The Who Dats way down yonder in New Orleans are out, while the 2-0 Bills from South of Canada have burnt me before, so I'll use caution before I put Buffalo in my best 10. The Red Birds from the desert are the lone undefeated in the NFC West? Yes, Arizona is for real and off to a 2-0 start. The Seabirds and 49ers dropped a game but are still elite teams. Denver's White Horses are in store for a beating this week, the striped Tigers from Ohio are for real, and Houston has quickly returned to the top 10. The start to the 2014 NFL season is a very good one as we move into week #3 - here is my top 10!
1. Denver Broncos (2-0) – The White Horses will try to gain some confidence this weekend with a business trip to the land of the Seahawks. You reckon Mr. Manning gets chills and has flashbacks about what happened to him and the Broncos the last time they lined up against Seattle? Hey, if I was Peyton I would go after the Seahawks. What do you have to lose? The game! Don't do it! Last week beat Kansas City Chiefs 24-17 / this week @ Seattle Seahawks.
2. Seattle Seahawks (1-1) – Make no bones bout it, the Bolts just flat out beat the Seabirds. But I fully expect to bounce back this week and gladly welcome to the Pacific Northwest the team that they smacked down last February for the Lombardi Trophy. Last week lost to San Diego 30-21 / this week vs Denver Broncos.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) - After piling up 568 yards and 37 points in week one of the season, the Bengals shut down the Birds, limiting them to 309 yards and 10 points. The Bengals have a super defense. And if their offense just plays well this could be the --- well, maybe! Last week beat Atlanta 24-10 / this week vs Tennessee Titans.
4. Arizona Cardinals (2-0) – Arizona has avoided a bad start to this season, unlike in 2013 and a home win over rival San Fran this weekend could put these Red Birds in the spotlight. And they would have earned it in my opinion. Last week beat NY Giants 25-14 / this week vs San Francisco 49ers.
5. San Francisco 49ers (1-1) – The 49ers allowed three fourth quarter TD's in their eight point loss to the Bears. And don't look now, but a huge early season showdown with divisional foe Arizona looms large this weekend in the desert. Last week lost to Chicago Bears 28-20 / this week @ Arizona Cardinals.
6. Carolina Panthers (2-0) - Say what you want, but the Panthers are 2-0 and off to a hot start for the first time in the Ron Rivera era. While the rest of the NFC South looks to get their act together, these Cats keep purring right along! Last week beat Detroit 24-7 / this week vs Pittsburgh Steelers.
7. San Diego Chargers (1-1) - Let's be real, if if's and but's were candy and nuts the Bolts would be 2-0. The Chargers have a fearless QB in Philip Rivers that showed a lot of courage and poise torching the best secondary in the game to the tune of 284 yards and 3 TDs. These Bolts could be a sleeper in the AFC. Last week beat Seattle 30-21 / this week @ Buffalo.
8. New England Patriots (1-1) – The Patriots built a big 24-7 halftime lead and then rode the rushing effort from RB Steven Ridley's 101 yards. Now the Pats are back in Boston for a week off before getting back to work. Or in other word,s they are playing the Raiders this week. Damn did I just say that? Yep! At least Too Short is from Oakland. Yes y'all remember the 80's rap scene - I ain't tripping no more. Man that was the jam! Last week beat Minnesota 30-7 / this week vs Oakland Raiders.
9. Houston Texans (2-0) - The Texans were not as bad as their 2-14 record indicated last season. Houston lost nine games by seven points or less in 2013. And now these boys from the Lone Star State look like a legit threat to the Colts in the AFC South. That JJ Watt is one bad man. I ain't lying either! Last week beat Oakland 30-14 / this week @ NY Giants.
10. Chicago Bears (1-1) - I know the Packers own the Bears and will probably sweep them again in 2014. But any team that goes into 49ers land and gets three fourth quarter TD's deserves to be ranked in my top ten. At least for this week. Jay Cutler's most recent effort has been his best since he moved to the Windy City! Last week beat San Francisco 28-20 / this week @ NY Jets.
SEC WEST, SEC WEST, SEC WEST, Yes! The SEC West has four teams in this week's top 10, and that's no fluke. The first weekend in October could be the biggest regular season in the history of the SEC with monster games like Ole Miss hosting Alabama, Auburn entertaining LSU, and Mississippi State welcoming in Texas A&M. Do they play football anywhere else in America? Not like the SEC does. Here is this week's top 10!
1) Oregon Ducks (3-0) – The Ducks shrugged off a slow start to beat the Cowboys going away. After falling behind 7-0 the Ducks fought back to end the game on a 48-7 run. QB Marcus Mariota totaled 4 TD's, two running and two passing. The Ducks quack on! Last week Wyoming 48-14 / this week vs Washington State.
2) Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0) – Alabama will beat Florida into submission. Man oh man, that first weekend in October which features a Tide trip to Hotty Toddy land sure looks like a big one! Last week beat Southern Mississippi 52-12 / this week vs Florida.
3) Florida State (2-0) – The 'Noles were off last week and if they don't run the table, even a one loss 'Noles team could land in the four-team playoff. Man, the ACC is weak. Or whack. Whichever you prefer. Last week off / next vs Clemson Sept 20th.
4) Oklahoma Sooners (3-0) - The Sooners took care of the SEC East foe Tennessee last week. Could the upstart Mountain Men come into Norman and shock the football world? I doubt it! Last week beat Tennessee 34-10/ this week vs West Virginia.
5) Auburn Tigers (2-0) - The Tigers got an off week and now face a dangerous road trip to Manhattan. Auburn has covered the spread in their last 13 games. High rollers! WAR EAGLE! Last week BYE/ next @ Kansas State Thrs Sept 18th.
6) Texas A&M Aggies (3-0) – The Aggies got off to a slow start and did not look so good in a 38-10 win over the Owls of Rice. I truly think that Coach Kevin Sumlin saves most of his best plays for the best teams. Makes sense to me! Last week beat Rice 38-10 / this week @ SMU.
7) Baylor Bears (3-0) – The Bears broke out early and then coasted in a Friday night win over the Bulls from Canada. Happy Birthday to my main brother from the A-Town Coach Carlton "C-Buck" Buckles. Coach played for the Bayou Bengals, but more importantly was a mighty Amite Warrior too. And now he's the DB's Coach for the Baylor Bears. Oh yes Baylor is good too! Last week beat Buffalo 63-21 / next @ Iowa State Saturday Sept 27.
8) LSU Tigers (3-0) – The Tigers offense is still a work in progress, but the LSU defense looks to be in mid-season form. In their last 31 possessions faced, LSU has not allowed a single point and forced 22 punts. Could the Bulldogs from StarkVEGAS win in Death Valley for the first time in 23 years? Last week UL Monroe 31-0 / this week vs Mississippi State.
9) Ole Miss Rebels (3-0) – The Rebels are now locked and loaded and have three weeks to get ready for the biggest home game perhaps ever. Yes the Crimson Tide will come into Oxford the first weekend in October for what could be a huge game not only in the SEC. But also in the CFB playoff hunt. Last week beat ULL 56-15 / this week BYE.
10) Georgia Bulldogs (1-1) - The Bulldogs fell in Columbia but still are in good shape in the SEC East. I mean, the national media might rank the church at #10 but Notre Dame is not on the level of Georgia. Not even close. Last week lost to South Carolina 38-35 / this week vs Troy.
New Orleans Saints (0-1) vs Cleveland Browns (0-1)
Sunday, September 14 First Energy Stadium, Cleveland Ohio Kickoff 12pm
Series History: Cleveland leads the series 12-4 over New Orleans
Last week: Atlanta beat New Orleans 37-34 in OT and Pittsburgh beat Cleveland 30-27
Interesting: The Browns and Saints both lost by three points. The Saints had their game tied up at 34-34 on the final play of regulation while the Browns lost by three to the Steelers on the final play of regulation.
Noteworthy: The first regular season game in the Sean Payton era started in Cleveland back on September 10, 2006. The Saints would come up with a 19-14 road win over the Browns en-route to a 10-6 season and a trip to the NFC Title Game. Sean Payton has been with the Saints ever since but Cleveland has had five different head coaches in that time: Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur, Rod Chudzinski and Mike Pettine.
The Browns story: Cleveland showed a lot of heart last week after the Steelers jumped out to what looked to be a commanding 27-3 lead over the Browns. The Browns were able to not only get back in the game, but Cleveland had their chance to pull off a rare road win over the Berg. However, this is the NFL and coming up short is the difference between Super Bowl teams and sorry ones!
Cleveland really got off to the kind of start a road team in the NFL needs to. On their first offensive possession, Cleveland went on an eight-play 54 yard drive that resulted in a Billy Cundiff 39 yard field to even the game at 3-3.
But then the Browns offense was shut down on their final five possessions of the first half. Cleveland would run 17 plays, gain only 47 yards and the Browns had to punt on all five of their final drives of the half.
In talking to members of the Cleveland media this week, the Browns were able to have far greater success in the second half as they went to a no-huddle, which gave the Steelers fits.
The Browns offense looked like a well-oiled machine in the second half, scoring on their first four possessions including three TD's and one FG. The Browns would tie the game at 27-27 early in the fourth, but then were unable to get any more points and the Steelers won 30-27.
The Browns lost to the Steelers despite winning the turnover battle (+1). And Cleveland out-rushed the Steelers 183-127. RB Terrance West carried the load as he had 100 yards rushing on 16 carries with an average of 6.3 yards per rushing attempt. Isaiah Crowell averaged 6.4 yards per rush. Ben Tate was effective for the Browns but he is injured and will not play against the Saints.
New Orleans will once again try and maintain a good balance of rushing and passing plays. The Saints had 42 pass attempts and 28 rushing attempts against Atlanta. One would expect the Saints to be able to make some plays downfield in the passing game as the Browns defense gave up two plays of 40 or more yards in their loss to the Steelers.
I think the Saints will try to establish the run early in the game. Coach Payton told me that one of things he feels like the Saints need to do is have success on the early downs against the Browns. In other words, be in third and short yardage situations more often than not.
Steelers QB Ben Rothlisberger had a lot of success, especially in the first half throwing the ball down field. WR Antonio Brown had five grabs for 116 yards, Markus Wheaton added six receptions for 97 yards and out of the backfield RB Le'Veon Bell ended with six grabs for 88 yards.
Last week the Saints' Pierre Thomas caught seven balls, and by the looks of how Bell did catching the ball out of the Steelers backfield, the Saints may be able to find some match-ups in their favor with New Orleans RB's against the Browns LB's.
The Saints are where they need to be rushing the football averaging 5.0 yards per tote last week. Five yards per rush is more than enough for the Black and Gold offense.
With New Orleans having a better player at TE than the Steelers did, look for Drew Brees to be able to spread the ball around with a lot of success, as Jimmy Graham will command special attention from the Browns defense.
The Saints defense versus the Browns offense match-up is a close one in my opinion. Cleveland's defense did a lot of the things the Saints defense did last week in the form of giving up big plays. Nearly 350 of the Steelers 503 yards of total offense came in the first half. And aside from about 12 big plays (11 or more yards) the Browns did not play bad defense. However, like the Saints, Cleveland gave up far too many big plays.
The Browns can't afford to get themselves in a hole this week like they did a week ago. Cleveland will look to establish a ground game against the Saints defense early in this game. If the Browns had success (183 yards) rushing against the Steelers they have the capability to have success against the Saints.
Browns QB Brian Hoyer was solid in the third and fourth quarters last week completing 15 of 20 passes for 173 yards. What was more impressive is that Hoyer led the Browns to three TD's and one FG to open the second half.
The Big Chief's Final Analysis
The Saints are a 6.5 point favorite on the road at Cleveland. I like the Saints to win, but I'm laying off this game from a line standpoint. I have no doubt that the Saints will be able to move the ball on the Browns defense. But will the Black and Gold offense get the 7s instead of 3s? The first two drives against Atlanta ended with FGs and not TDs and that hurt.
And can the Saints defense improve from last week's performance in which they gave up 568 yards and 37 points? I do feel like if Cleveland falls behind this week like they did a week ago the Browns will be unable to come back this time around. The Saints are far too aggressive and the Black and Gold offensive machine will only keeping pumping out points.
I want to see a better pass rush, and I'd like to see RB Mark Ingram put together several games in which he rushes at a high level. To me this is a bigger game than most people think. Just by what history has shown us since 2006, the first four games of the season have been key. In years in which the Saints have gone to the post season, New Orleans has been either 4-0 or 3-1 after four games. A loss this week puts the Black and Gold at 0-2, and that would not be good. The Saints get it done this week.
"Bow Down When you Come to My Town" was once a hot tune by Westside Connection in the 90's, and it came to mind last Thursday night when I drove home and was listening to a beat-down in Seattle. I've seen a bunch of beat downs, but rarely one as nasty as what the Seabirds did to the Cheese Heads. After one week,(and yes, it's only one week), no one is on the Seahawks level.
The Patriots, Ravens and Saints all got a little slice of humble pie while the 49ers, Broncos and Eagles all proved that sometimes all you need to play is one good half of football to win! The second week of the season is always the most difficult to rank. What I mean is that you don't want to get that knee-jerk reaction because a contending team lost last week, and on the flip side you don't want to rank a team in the top ten just because they are 1-0. Everyone this week is either 1-0 or 0-1. Now looking ahead, if New Orleans, New England and Green Bay all fall to 0-2 then I will have to go back the deck and reshuffle! So with that I present to you this week's NFL Top 10!
1) Seattle Seahawks (1-0) – From the Pacific Northwest - It's a bird, it's a duck! Is it a goose or a chicken? It don't really matter cause it's yo ass 'dey be kicking! The Seahawks are nasty, physical and down right-good. When they play their best I'm not sure anyone can come close to beating them! Last week beat Green Bay 36-16 / this week @ San Diego.
2) San Francisco 49ers (1-0) – The 49ers scored 28 points in the first half and then coasted to a 28-17 win over the Silver Stars. We could very well be on our way to another all NFC West NFC title game! Last week beat Dallas Cowboys 28-17 / this week vs Chicago Bears.
3) Denver Broncos (1-0) – The White Horses are expected to be better on defense. But Denver's D gave up 24 points to the Colts and had to scrap to hold on for the win. Is Indianapolis that good or Denver not as good? The answer lies somewhere in between and we will see a more clear indication as the next few games take place. Last week beat Indianapolis Colts 31-24 / this week vs Kansas City Chiefs.
4) Cincinatti Bengals (1-0) - A big time defense on one side of the ball while on offense the Bengals have a big time playmaker in WR A.J. Green. Could this be the year than the Bengals breakthrough and become the contender like many of us think they can be? Last week beat Baltimore 23-16 / this week vs Atlanta.
5) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) - The Steelers looked to be in control over the Browns up 27-3. But credit Cleveland with a comeback to make a game of it. Are the Steelers legit this season? A win over rival Baltimore Thursday night would make me more of a believer! Last week beat Cleveland 30-27/ this week @ Baltimore
6) New Orleans Saints (0-1) – The Saints had their chances against the Birds, but you've got to score 7's not 3's in the Red Zone. No need for panic as the Saints are still a very sound team. A loss to Cleveland would be cause not to panic but maybe push the panic button. Last week lost to Atlanta 37-34 OT / this week @ Cleveland.
7) Indianapolis Colts (0-1) – The Colts nearly pulled off another huge comeback but the Horseshoes came up short in a 31-24 loss to the White Horses. I think this team will be the class of the AFC South again this season. Last week lost to Denver 31-24 / this week vs Philadelphia.
8) Green Bay Packers (0-1) – The Pack got humbled last week, and the arguably best QB in the game did not test Richard Sherman. Green Bay is still the team to beat in the NFC North but they are still several steps behind the Seahawks. Last week lost to Seattle Seahawks 36-16/ this week vs NY Jets.
9) New England Patriots (0-1) – The Patriots are the only team in the AFC East that did not win last weekend. And don't look now but a trip to Minnesota could have the Pats in an 0-2 hole to start the season. Man oh man how the national media would pounce on that one! Last week lost to Miami 33-20 / this week @ Minnesota.
10) Arizona Cardinals (1-0) – The Cards stormed back to beat the Chargers and now head to the Big Apple to face a struggling Giants team. Had Arizona started last season 2-0 they would have been in the playoffs. A fast start could serve this Super Bowl host city team well! Last week beat San Diego 18-17 / this week @ NY Giants.
First of all, there are 16 weeks and 15 games remaining in the 2014 NFL Season. No team has ever locked up or been eliminated from anything after the first week of the season. After all, this is not college football.
I turned 43 last month, and over the course of being able to work with the legendary medium of WWL Radio, I would like to think that I have learned that a more calm, rational, and thought-out response, approach and reply is the best way to analyze things.
The quick knee-jerk reaction is one that makes you say to yourself "why did I say or do that?" "That was not right." "I should not have let my feelings interfere with what I should have said and done." Well, you get the point.
So what I did was go back and listen to my pre-game interview with Coach Payton. And I wrote down the things that coach told me he felt like his team had to do in order to be successful against Atlanta. The first thing coach said to me that the Saints needed to do against the Falcons was to eliminate the big/explosive play. So I took that response from coach and went back and reviewed every drive and every play in the game.
Atlanta had eight plays that went for between 10 and 15 yards, the Falcons added three plays that went for between 15-20 yards. And the Dirty Bird offense chalked up five plays that went between 20-25 yards. But the biggest blow was the five plays that went for 27 yards or more. Atlanta's offense hit on big plays that went for 27, 35, 39 and 54 yards against the Saints defense.
I'll break it down a little further for you. Atlanta's offense ran 69 plays in their win over the Saints. 49 of those 68 plays gained a total of 165 yards which equals 3.4 yards per play. That's very good. But the other 20 plays the Falcons ran piled up a massive 403 yards for an average of 20.2 yards per snap. Damn!
Then, Coach Payton told me that the Saints needed to protect the football. Drew Brees threw an interception while the Saints were in scoring position. And WR Marques Colston was stripped of the ball in overtime which led to the Falcons kicking the game winning FG. And New Orleans finished minus -1 in the turnover ratio.
The final key that Coach Payton told me he felt like the Saints needed to do, and I quote: "When it comes down to opportunities in the Red Zone we are looking to score touchdowns and not have to settle for field goals."
The Saints offense got off to a great start but the first two drives ended with Shayne Graham kicking field goals from 31 and 50 yards. So with all the numbers that I could have talked about, all the woulda, coulda and shoulda's, it all boils down to what the game plan was, what was executed and what was not properly executed.
The Saints had won 13 of the previous 16 meetings with the Falcons because they had done the things that Coach Payton said his club needed to do. And in the four losses in the last 17 meetings the Saints did not do what Coach Payton said his clubb needed to do. It's just that simple!
It's my top 10 and I'll rank'em how I want to! FSU has not impressed me at all, college football will soon be going to big games all the time. And the Big Ten is done after just two weeks of the 2014 season. Only way Big Ten gets back in the national title hunt is if a lot of other teams lose. Five SEC teams, two Big XII clubs, two from the Pac-12 and one from the ACC make up this week's top 10 for the third week of the season.
1. Oregon Ducks (2-0) – Don't come at me like, "well that game was close for a long time." People there is a reason why games last FOUR quarters. Oregon beat the MSU Spartans just like they beat everyone. They broke their backs. Scoring the last 28 points was very impressive. Don't look now, but could the Pac-12 get two teams in the four-team playoff? Possibly! Last week beat Michigan State 46-27 / this week vs Wyoming
2. Alabama Crimson Tide (2-0) – You just never know what a season will bring. The Tide went into the season looking like the clear favorite in the always tough SEC West. Now A&M has reemerged, the hated Tigers from the Plains are still good, the Bayou Bengals are getting better and a trip to Oxford in three weeks looks like a bigger test than expected. But hey, it's Nick Saban, it's Alabama, and more times than not it will be Roll Tide Roll! Last week beat Florida Atlantic 41-0/ this week vs Southern Mississippi.
3. Florida State (2-0) – The 'Noles have not looked too good in their first two outings of the season. FSU is in a very weak ACC again this season. And it looks as of right now that only Va. Tech is a decent fellow ACC member. One slip up and the defending national champs may not be able to get a shot to defend their title. And honestly they would not deserve to, in my own humble opinion! Last week beat Citadel 37-12/ next vs Clemson Sept 20th.
4. Oklahoma Sooners (4-0) - The Sooners are off to a hot start, and now can lay the wood to a decent (maybe contender) SEC East team. QB Trevor Knight threw for 299 yards and two scores, and now Knight has a new go-to guy in WR Sterling Shepard. Shepard went off hauling in 177 yards vs Tulsa last week. Last week beat Tulsa 52-7/ this week vs Tennessee.
5. Auburn Tigers (2-0) - The Tigers are an offensive machine that will continue to pile up huge numbers. Auburn has nearly 700 rushing yards in just two games. These Tigers will be very hard to stop and that could be the reason why this other team from Alabama gets back to the national title game! Last week San Jose State 59-13 / next @ Kansas State Thrs Sept 18th.
6. Georgia Bulldogs (1-0) - The Bulldogs could put to sleep the SEC East favorites this week with a road win over the Gamecocks. UGA is in a good spot right now, but who knows where they will be next week? Last week BYE/ this week at South Carolina.
7. Texas A&M Aggies (2-0) – The Aggies are going to be a hard out in the SEC West this season. One has to wonder with Auburn, A&M, and Mississippi State all having these spread-you-out-and-run type offenses if anyone in the West can run the table. A&M will only get better and it's about damn time that the rest of the country and the world recognizes that Kevin Sumlin is a great coach. Just look at his record! Last week beat Lamar 73-3 / this week vs Rice.
8. USC Trojans (2-0) – Well, the Men of Troy have gotten back into the legit contender mix and if there is one program that could be the long term antidote to the mighty SEC it's USC. The Trojans have excellent talent, they can run the football and they are fast and physical. It's early but for a program that has only 57 scholarship players you gotta give it up for USC already back in the national title picture! RB Javorious Allen averaged 6.7 yards per carry against a very sound Stanford Defense last week. Now the real team from L.A. has served notice! Watch out this week with a cross country dangerous road trap game at BC. Last week beat Stanford 13-10 / this week @ Boston College.
9. Baylor Bears (2-0) – 438 yards and 5 TD's is not a bad day at the office for Bears QB Seth Russell. Art Briles has built a solid program in Waco and now Baylor looks like a top tier team in the Big XII from the state of Texas. But the short horns aren't! Last week beat Northwestern State 70-7 / this week @ Buffalo
10. LSU Tigers (2-0) – I'd put LSU over UCLA any day of the week. LSU has not looked bad and now the Tigers have developed a long ball game from QB Anthony Jennings to WR Travin Dural. LSU faces in-state foe this week UL Monroe before opening SEC play in two weeks against Mississippi State. Last week beat Sam Houston State 56-0 / this week vs UL Monroe.
New Orleans Saints vs Atlanta Falcons
Sunday September 7, 2013
Noon Kickoff Georgia Dome
Series History: The Falcons lead the all-time series 47-44 against the Saints. New Orleans swept the Falcons last season.
The Preseason: New Orleans was 3-1 in the preseason while Atlanta was 2-2.
2013 Numbers: Atlanta was 4-12 last season. The Falcons offense ranked 12th (345.5) in the NFL while the Atlanta defense was 27th, allowing 379.4 yards per game and 27.7 points each week. The Saints had the league's 4th best defense (305 yards and 19 points per game) while the Saints offense was also 4th with 26 points per game and 399 yards on average.
Noteworthy: In the Sean Payton era the Who Dat Nation has enjoyed many beat-downs of their hated rival. Since September 25, 2006 the Saints are 13-3 against Atlanta. The Saints swept the Falcons in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 and New Orleans took two more from the Dirty Birds in 2013.
Falcons not as bad as you think! The NFL is all about teams being able to win the close games. During the 2013 season Atlanta lost five games by five points or less. And the Falcons had nine losses with an average of 4.3 points per game in those nine losses. Simply put, the Falcons were close last season... but not close enough.
Atlanta offense against the Saints defense
To predict the future we must look to the past. In past seasons (4 of 6) the Falcons have done well when they rush the ball consistently. Atlanta does not have a Michael Turner kind of RB, but the biggest question and possible concern could be Stephen Jackson. Jackson is not the Jackson of four years ago. But in Atlanta's offense he does not have to be. Atlanta will want to maintain a good balance of pass-to-rush ratio in this game. I don't think the Falcons will abandon the run in the game unless they fall behind by three scores or more.
Mike Smith made a point this off-season for his team to be as physical on offense as they were when the Falcons posted 13-3 marks in 2010 and in 2012. Atlanta was the worst rushing team (78.1) per game last season. Atlanta will not be last this season simply because they will be more patient and more commitment to running the football.
The threat of one of the best trio's of WR in the game has to be a concern. WRs Harry Douglas, Roddy White and Julio Jones is as good as any in the NFL. And if a play in the passing game is going to be made by the Falcons I think it would be to Douglas looking for match-up's in his favor against Saints LBs. And when it comes to Julio Jones, he has the skills to be successful against any DB in the league. Don't forget that the Falcons also have one of the greatest special team performers of all time in Devin Hester. Will Hester factor into the Falcons offense in some fashion?
Saints offense versus the Falcons defense
The Saints can pass with the best of them, but New Orleans wants to put more of an emphasis on running the football with more success. New Orleans was 25th (92.1) in rushing last season. Please take note that those numbers are averages. Those numbers do not represent when the ball was ran, how effective the yards were in the game and so forth. Example, the Saints averaged 92.1 yards per game in the regular season in 2013.
The Saints were far more effective in the post season, gaining 185 yards in their win over the Eagles. And the 108 yards New Orleans earned against the Seahawks was far greater than just the 108 number. The Saints stayed in the game with Seattle and kept within striking distance due to their ability to run the ball. Now you see what I mean?
The Saints don't have any glaring flaws on offense, but this is the first week of the season. The O-Line looks as solid as any, and the addition of WR Brandin Cooks gives New Orleans another dangerous weapon.
Atlanta has gone back to being a more physical team, or at least, that is what the Birds tried to do this training camp. They have to be better overall defensively if they plan on getting back to the playoffs. Atlanta gave up 136 yards on the ground and 28 points per game on average. New Orleans will test the Falcons run defense early and often. The Falcons and the Saints both understand that the more balanced the Black and Gold offense can be, the more unstoppable they become during the course of a game.
Atlanta has a good young corner in second year player Robert Alford. Still with a year under his belt in the big league, you have to wonder if Drew Brees will go after Alford more than testing the other side.
The Big Chief's Final Analysis
I have no reason to think that this game will not be as close as past contests have been. I think that both teams will be in position to win the game as the fourth quarter begins. New Orleans looks like a team that has Super Bowl on their minds.
The more the national media tries to down play how big the Saints and Falcons rivalry is, the more ignorant they look. Numbers don't lie and the numbers say that the Saints and Falcons have been among the best in the league while Sean Payton and Mike Smith have been in control of their clubs. I think New Orleans is the better team. But Atlanta is at home and under Mike Smith the Falcons have won 36 home games which is currently 4th in the NFL over the six seasons.
Atlanta lost nine games last season by an average of 4.3 points per game including two one point losses to NFC South champ Carolina. Since the 2008 season Atlanta has a .647 winning percentage in games decided by eight points or less. But the Saints have won the majority of the close games in this series since 2006.
In a highly competitive game I like the Saints to cover and win the contest. The Big Chief says New Orleans 24 Atlanta 16!
The NFL season is here, and with it, another year of having the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert visit each week with Saints QB Drew Brees. Bobby and I were able to visit with #9 about training camp and the start of the 2014 season. "This is where the fun begins. It's about being able to go out and see all the work that was put it during training camp and the preseason games," said Brees.
Drew talked a lot about how important this week's game at Atlanta is for the Saints. "This is a big game. A lot of the games have gone down to the last possesion. And there is always a lot at stake." The Saints are 13-3 versus the Falcons since Drew Brees came to New Orleans in 2006.
Bobby asked Drew about rookie WR Brandin Cooks: "First of all, he's such a smart player. He's (Cooks) been able to pick up some things from veteran players like Marques Colston and Robert Meachem. It seems like he's been around here a long time instead of him being a rookie."
The Saints are widely thought of as one of the best teams in the NFL entering the 2014 season. What does Drew Brees think about all the hype? "I feel good about this year's team. We've got to go out and win games. We haven't done anything yet. We all have to be on the same page, take things one game at a time, and the sky's the limit!"
You can listen to Bobby's entire conversation with Drew Brees by clicking below.
In a league that's all about what have you done for me lately, the New Orleans Saints have dominated, defeated and flat-out owned the Atlanta Falcons. Since Sean Payton was hired to take the Saints to a place where they had never been before (the Super Bowl), the Black and Gold have taken control of their series with Atlanta.
I'm a firm believer that you can look at numbers and spin them in any direction to your liking, but I also believe that inside those very same numbers lies the truth. Truth be told, New Orleans has stormed back and taken control of a series that was once lopsided.
Check this out: before Sean Payton came to the Big Easy, Atlanta had a commanding 44-30 edge in the Falcons versus Saints series. Now as the two rivals meet for the 91st time, the Saints have trimmed the Falcons once huge lead to 47-43. New Orleans was once 14 games behind the Falcons in series wins and now just trail by four games.
Since that most historic, life changing, and unforgettable game that took place in the renovated Superdome on Monday, September 25th, 2006 the Saints have owned the Atlanta Falcons.
The Saints 23-3 win over their rival that night served as the starting point for a 13-3 run that New Orleans has been on the last eight seasons. The Saints have won 13 of the last 16 meetings between these two.
New Orleans is currently on a two game win streak with the Saints holding a 6-1 mark versus Atlanta in the last seven meetings. As I researched and put this little breakdown on paper for the proud members of the Who Dat Nation, I too learned a few things.
Winning 13 of 16 games is certainly impressive. But things are even better than that when you look deeper inside the Saints' 13 wins. Yes, the Saints have dominated the series since 2006 - but only six of the past 16 games have been decided by more than eight points. Four of the Saints 13 wins over the Falcons in the last 16 games have the Saints winning by 18 points or more!
The Saints crushed the Falcons 23-3 and 31-13 in 2006, beat em down 34-14 in 2007, and put on an offensive clinic with a 45-16 win over their rivals during the 2011 season.
And for those of you that own Who Dat Brooms, New Orleans owns sweeps over Atlanta in the 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013 seasons. For five of the eight seasons that Sean Payton has been coach of the Saints, New Orleans did not lose to Atlanta.
Or if you want to make that sound even better, you can say that the Falcons have only won a game against the Saints (two meetings each season) in three of the last eight seasons. The lone three wins that the Falcons have scraped up against the Saints since 2006 include a 34-20 win in 2008, the Falcons win in OT 27-24 in 2010, and the last win Atlanta has in the series was a 23-12 win in 2012.
The Saints and Falcons series has been great over the years, but since 2006 the Saints and Falcons have both been among the best when it comes to total wins during that time span. Since Sean Payton took over the Saints have been to the playoffs five times, winning it all in 2009.
And the Falcons have been a solid team under Coach Mike Smith. Since Smith got the Falcons job Atlanta has been to the playoffs four of his six seasons including owning the #1 seed in 2010 and 2012.
If the Saints and Falcons were shooting marbles, throwing darts or bowling, their fans would want to win and win in the biggest and best possible way. The 91st meeting takes place Sunday in the ATL and if things go as they have been as of late, it will more than likely be another win for the Black and Gold. In fact if you go by the numbers, the Saints chances of beating Atlanta are excellent!
OK, I think we would all agree that every person's favorite team and the opponent that they are playing is the most important game to that individual. But when it comes to the national stage, only a handful of games make the real headlines in the NFL on a weekly basis.
As the 94th season of the National Football League begins, there are several big games in week one of the 2014 season. Let's begin, shall we?
Green Bay Packers @ Seattle Seahawks: The last time the Cheese Packers and the Seabirds met, the ending of the game was so bad, it officially ended the NFL referee strike. Who knows, if not for the ref's giving the business to the visiting Packers, the big power-tripping (according to some) NFL boss may not have given in. That was then and this is now. Both Seattle and Green Bay are the favorites to win their divisions, and this game could decide one of the top seeds in the NFC post-season. Remember the #1 rule in tiebreakers is head to head match-ups. No one, including Green Bay wants to have to play the Hawks in their house this post-season! Russell Wilson vs Aaron Rodgers, Richard Sherman and the tenacious Seattle defense on a season-opening game on Thursday night - now, that is an excellent way to set the tone for the NFL Season!
I Gotta See:
Indianapolis Colts @ Denver Broncos: There is only one team in the league that is Super Bowl WIN or bust, and it is the Denver Broncos. Yes, Denver will win 13-14 or perhaps 15 games in the regular season. And yes, the Broncos will be the top seed in the AFC again for a third straight season. But can the White Horses win the Super Bowl? Denver opens the season with a reloaded defense that is still wondering what hit them in last seasons Super Sunday game. The Colts look to be a team that is one of the very few that could contend with Denver in the AFC. Hey, the Colts are very good, but I think Denver is on another level.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time under coach John Harbaugh. The Bengals are set for the future with QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green. But can the Bengals win a playoff game with these two special youngsters? In my own personal opinion, if there is a team that can win the AFC and challenge the Horses and Pats it's the Purple Birds of Baltimore. The year off is done. Baltimore re-assumes the role of top dog in the AFC North and power in the AFC this season!
Inquiring Minds Want to Know!
San Francisco 49ers @ Dallas Cowboys: Is San Fran that bad on offense? Is Dallas really that bad overall? I think the answers to both of those questions lies somewhere in between. Some have cooled off on the 49ers due to their lackluster looks on offense during the preseason. And even more people are jumping off Dallas after an 0-4 showing in the preseason. Remember to read too much into the preseason. However I think the 49ers are still that good and Dallas is that bad. When I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong. But doesn't San Fran -5 1/2 look like stealing candy from a baby?
The One that Matters Most to Us:
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons: The Saints are the clear cut favorite in the NFC South and New Orleans looks like a legit Super Bowl team. Atlanta thinks that last season's 4-12 record was an exception and not the rule. QB Matt Ryan is looking to bounce back against a team that has won 6 of the last 7 in the series. In 10 of the last 16 meetings outcome between the Saints and Birds has been decided by eight points or less. Atlanta wants to serve notice they are back. The Saints want the road to the Super Bowl to go through the Superdome. Something has to give!
The dull, boring-for-the-fans preseason is finally over, and now the NFL is all for real. The defending champs looked sharp in the preseason, but Seattle has history clearly set against them as they try to repeat as World Champions. The White Horses from the Mile High City are stacked on both sides of the football. But can Denver win when it counts the most? And which teams are the most likely challengers to last season's NFC and AFC champs? Folks, take a deep breath, fill your gas tanks, stock up on coals and prepare for an exciting long haul, as the NFL season is finally here. Here's my first NFL top ten.
1: Seattle Seahawks – The Seahawks didn't look like a team that took an off-season break. Yes the odds are clearly stacked high against the Seabirds trying to repeat. But Pete and his gang of ferocious defenders can even out some of those odds with home field. Big game to open the season against the NFC North favorite - Thursday vs Green Bay Packers.
2: San Francisco 49ers – People kind of started jumping off the 49ers as the San Fran offense did not look too good this preseason. I'm not jumping off this team any time soon. I still think San Francisco is an elite team in the NFL. This week @ Dallas Cowboys.
3: Denver Broncos – The White Horses got better on defense. And Denver should be as good as they were a year ago on offense. But there is not another team in the league that is Super Bowl win or bust. I'm not sure Peyton can handle that pressure. He has not in the past! This week vs Indianapolis Colts.
4: New Orleans Saints – The Saints upped their defensive intensity by adding the top safety interceptor in Jairus Byrd. New Orleans does not have a glaring weakness. Now the Saints need to get off to a hot start beginning this week in the ATL against the desperate Dirty Birds. This week @ Atlanta Falcons.
5: Green Bay Packers – The Packers look like the cream of the crop in the NFC North and with a huge road win over Seattle this week, the entire country will claim that these Cheese Heads are as legit as they have been since they won it all! This week @ Seattle Seahawks.
6: New England Patriots – The Patriots still look like the far best team in the AFC East and NE is still among the best in the NFL. How many more seasons do the hood and pretty boy have together? You can best bet when Bill and Tom are done, the Patriots might be as well too! This week @ Miami.
7: Baltimore Ravens – If there is a team in the AFC that is going to be serious threat to the Broncos and Pats I think it is the Ravens. Baltimore has everything they need to make another Super run. A big opening week win over the Bengals would be a good start. This week vs Cincinnati.
8: Indianapolis Colts – The Colts are going to be a good team but can Indy really threaten the elite teams in the AFC? I don't think they can. But that does not mean that they are not a good team. Hey Indy prove me wrong this weekend! This week @ Denver.
9: Arizona Cardinals – The Cards have a great defense and they are pretty sound on offense. If the Red Birds from the desert can get off to a better start this season they might be in the right place at the right time come January. This week vs San Diego
10: Philadelphia Eagles – Among the weakest division (NFC East) in the NFL, the Eagles look the best. Kind of like if you had four bad pairs of shoes and you wore the one that looked the least-worst. Does that make any sense to you? This week vs Jacksonville.
Let's face it, Texas A&M stole the entire weekend show with a Thursday night beat-down of the Gamecocks. After that, not really much to brag about from the big boys of college football.
I will tell you though, I get a kick out of those who already claim that a highly-ranked team that does not look so impressive in their first game is not going to be that good. Please, people, don't show your homer-ism or lack of knowledge that easily. It's called a season for a reason. Never ever has there been a one-game season! All that matters is which teams get better each week.
The Gamecocks learned the hard way that the Aggies have a great program and they are not just about one player. The Bruins, Seminoles, Tigers (Auburn & LSU) and Tide all got a little scare, and now a two huge games take place out west with Oregon hosting Michigan State and USC facing Stanford.
With that said, here is my top 10 as we enter the second week of the season.
1. Florida State - I know famous Jameis did not look great, but the Cowboys from Stillwater are a good team that has a pretty good program. Now the 'Noles get back home and remedy their problems with a tune up win over the Citadel? Last week beat Oklahoma State 37-31 / this week vs Citadel.
2. Alabama - I really get sick of hearing how the other team should have and could have beat Alabama if they had da-da-da! Hey, there is a reason why Alabama is good, you know. The Tide still don't know who their QB is. But they do know that Nick Saban is their coach. I say no more! Last week beat West Virginia 33-23 / this week vs Florida Atlantic.
3. Oregon - The Ducks will put up a lot of points and have plenty impressive numbers. But will they quack down the stretch of the season like they have done so many times before? Uh oh, a big defensive team is in town this week. And that could mean trouble! Last week beat South Dakota State 62-13 / this week vs Michigan State.
4. Oklahoma - The Sooners beat up the Bulldogs from Louisiana Tech and now will hit the road to take on Tulsa. The Sooners could become one of those locks to make it to the four team playoff this season. Last week beat LA. Tech 48-16 / this week @ Tulsa.
5. Auburn - The Tigers were tied 21-21 at half against the Razorbacks in their first game of the season. And then the War Eagles pulled away in the second half. Auburn will be great on offense. But will they have enough defense to get back to Atlanta? Last week beat Arkansas 45-21/ this week vs San Jose State.
6. Michigan State - The Spartans have a sound defense and an offense that does not make many mistakes. A huge road win over the Oregon Ducks could put MSU in the right spot for the rest of the season. Last week beat Jacksonville State 45-7 / this week @ Oregon.
7. UCLA - The Bruins traveled cross country to take on the Cavilers. UCLA inked out a 28-20 win. Of all of the preseason top 10 teams, UCLA looks the least likely to be legit. Hey, it's my opinion. Last week beat UVA 28-20 / this week vs Memphis.
8. Stanford - The Cardinals have a a great program and this week they get hyped up as the USC Trojans are on the schedule. One team will still have all of their season goals in tact. One will not. Last week beat UC Davis 45-0 / this week vs USC.
9. Ohio State - The Buckeyes broke in Freshman QB J.T. Barrett slowly in their 34-17 win over Navy. OSU got six points in the first half and added 28 in the second. If Barrett does well the Buckeyes could still be the cream of the crop in the Big Ten. Man look out this week as those Hokies are always hard to beat! Last week beat Navy 34-17 / this week vs Virginia Tech.
10. Georgia - The Bulldogs gave the ball to Todd Gurley, they let Todd return kickoffs and he piled up nearly 300 yards in a big 45-21 win over Clemson. Now the Dogs can seize control of the SEC East and put to put the Gamecocks with a win on the road. It won't be easy. Or perhaps it will! Last week beat Clemson 45-21 / this week at South Carolina.