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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!" 

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Twitter: @dekebigchief
Email: bigchief@wwl.com
Posts from December 2013


Deke: Saints vs Buccaneers Preview

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) vs New Orleans Saints (10-5)

Sunday December 29 Noon Kickoff WWL Radio

Series History:  New Orleans leads the series 26-17
Last week’s results:  Carolina beat New Orleans 17-13

What they are saying:

Saints Coach Sean Payton on Tampa LB Lavonte David

“He is playing outstanding.  It is interesting, you go through the year and each week you put on cutups, you put on games of opponents you are playing and a week ago we saw an outstanding Mike linebacker.  I would say in Lavonte’s case, he plays that Will if you will.  He is very active.  He is very athletic.  He is a strong tackler.  He is having a Pro Bowl season.  The culmination of his tape demonstrates that.  He is playing extremely well.”
 
Saints Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan on dealing with two last minutes losses this season

“I think every coach has and if they say they haven’t, they are obviously lying.  But it is something either you look first at yourself to improve and then you look at exactly what happened and then we’ve done that.  We’ve addressed it numerous times.  It is just such a hard thing to do because like you said, we were playing pretty well and that is a quarterback (Cam Newton) that made a couple of good plays and threw in pretty tight windows.  Bottom line is it doesn’t matter.  We have to get it done and we don’t want to make excuses for anything.”
 
Saints QB Drew Brees on the high number of close games in the NFL this season

“There’s been quite a few, especially as you look over the last four weeks. Then the fact that I know that a few years ago they started making the schedule changes to where you’re playing divisional or NFC opponents right there at the end so that those games become even more meaningful. The swings that can kind of occur in regards to a change in seeding and all of that stuff. Look at the NFC picture here going into the last week. It’s crazy how many things and scenarios can take place.”

OK folks, this is real simple.  We all know what kind of mood we, the spectators, will be in depending on the outcome of the Falcons and Panthers Game.  The 'Dome could become home to one of the best regular season games in the Saints history should our hated, arch-rival do us a solid and take care of Super Cam and the Cats from Carolina.

If that upset does occur, the Who Dat Nation will be more than amped up to see the Saints take on a Tampa Bay team that is not very good.  With that said the Bucs are a legit defensive team with a stockpile of young, talented players.

Gerald McCoy is having an incredible season with six sacks from his interior D-Line spot, LB Lavonte David is fifth in the NFL in tackles and interceptions, and the play of Jonathan Banks and Mark Baron have all Bucs fans excited about the future of their defense.  In fact, when you look around the NFC South, one could argue that the Bucs have the best young talent on that side of the football.

However, Tampa Bay is flat-out bad on offense.  Although Rookie QB Mike Glennon has had his moments, Tampa can’t do anything on offense.  Glennon has passed for 2,389 yards with 17 TD’s and 8 interceptions.  But the overall numbers of the Bucs offense ranks them as one of the worst in the NFL!

Tampa is last in the league in passing yards and 22nd in rushing yards per game as well.  The Bucs future looks to be pretty bright if they can decide if they are going to stay the course with current head coach Greg Schiano.

Tampa is 4-3 in their last seven games, and Tampa has lost four games this season by a total of 9 points.  But folks, Tampa would need to be +2 in the turnover department, with one of those turnovers being a TD.

As they are on offense, I just can’t see Tampa staying with the Saints.  Now, I am in no way, shape, or form saying that the Saints defense is not good, because they are very good.  I’m trying to stress to you how bad the Bucs offense is!

Outside of a huge day from Glennon and several key turnovers including some for scores, the Saints defense should have no problem shutting down a bad Tampa Bay offense.  And the pressure that the Saints offense can put on the Bucs defense should be more than enough, even against a good group of defenders, for the Saints to win this one by double-digits.

I rarely make a play on games that have double-digit spreads, but if you make a play on this one, I would have to take the Saints minus 13. 

The Big Chief says New Orleans 27-Tampa Bay 10!

 

 (7) Comments




 
Deke: Are there too many Bowl Games?

Traveling from Lafayette, Louisiana to New Orleans, Louisiana is not that bad at all. But what about from Buffalo, New York to Boise, Idaho?  Or Syracuse to Houston?  Those distances seem a lot further because they are.  What am I saying?  Well, with the landscape of college football about to change once again, the question that seemingly always comes up but rarely gets answered is: are there too many bowl games? 

There are 125 teams in the current FBS, which is known as the Football Bowl Subdivision.  There are currently 35 bowl games.  That means that 70 teams, well over half of the number of teams playing, advance to bowl games.  Some, including myself, have wondered at the very least how schools and teams can make it to these bowl games.  Did you know that the schools that are invited to play in a certain bowl are also on the hook for a certain number of tickets that must be sold?  Folks, this is all about one thing - and that is the dollar, dollar bill y'all!  How can a school from Buffalo afford to travel all the way across country to Boise to play in a bowl game?  And if the allotted number of tickets are not sold, then the school has to foot the rest of the bill. 

The current way the bowl system is designed is no different than a pyramid layout.  I love CFB as much as the next fan, but to me, there is something wrong when a team plays in a post-season game, they stand to lose money and they could be a losing team also.  In the 2013 Little Caesars Bowl, the University of Pittsburgh earned a bowl berth with a .500 record of 6-6.  Pittsburgh won that game but had they lost they would have finished the season with a dismal 6-7 record.  Is that right?  What about the criteria to make it to a bowl game?  Six wins is it!  I personally think that needs to be raised to at least seven wins to be invited to play in a bowl game. 

And guess who basically owns and broadcasts the overwhelming majority of the bowl games?  The Sports four-letter-lead, of course, that being ESPN.  ESPN has cornered the market on CFB, and you know why?  Because they could, and they know its a huge money maker - FOR THEM!  Only the Cotton Bowl, Sun Bowl and Capital One Bowl are carried by someone other than ESPN/ABC.  You see, not only does ESPN dictate when the bowls are aired and played, but they also determine the teams that land in those very same bowl games.  Sure, Florida State and Auburn deserve and are the right teams to play in the BCS Title Game this January.  But can we actually say that the right teams land in the other BCS games and bowl games in general?  The rules, folks, are geared to make it one sided in CFB, and for those who think that the new four-team playoff coming in 2015 will make things on a more level playing field, you're flat out wrong.  Yes, we all love the feel-good "Boise State over Oklahoma" stories of the BCS past, but the haves and the have-nots will be much farther apart in the new four-team playoff.  The alignment of power conferences has been taking shape for years, because the powers-that-be saw this coming before everyone else - because those very same powers are the ones that make all the rules! 

So folks, as you prepare to eat your corned beef, cabbage and black-eyed peas this New Years' Day, be sure to understand that when it comes to the current state of bowl games, all that glitters is not gold.  In fact, very few even have a chance to win Gold.  If you know what I mean! 

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Deke Bellavia – Saints @ Panthers Game Day Preview
New Orleans Saints (10-4) @ Carolina Panthers (10-4)
Sunday, December 22, 2013…Bank of America Stadium (74,455)
Noon Kickoff on Saints Radio WWL 870AM/FM 105.3
Last week’s results:  St. Louis beat New Orleans 27-16/Carolina beat New York Jets 30-20
Series History:  Carolina leads the series 19-18
 
What they are saying
Carolina QB Cam Newton on how big this week’s game is: 
“This is the biggest game of the year, not because of all the hype that is going into it.  It is the biggest game for us, because this is our next game.  We have had that approach each and every week and it has put us in this position right now.  For us, we are not going to go into this preparation like we did everything else, because at the end of the day this is our next game.  We didn’t pick it, those guys just showed up on our schedule.  We were excited to have that opportunity to play those guys a couple weeks ago.  We didn’t succeed and we have an opportunity to prove it, not only to ourselves, but to everyone else…that we are the real deal.”
 
Carolina Coach Ron Rivera on correcting his team’s mistakes from the first meeting with the Saints: 
 
“I can tell you right off the bat…red zone.  We go to the red zone twice; the first two times we get the ball and we take two field goals.  They did a great job, I think, what Rob (Ryan) did defensively was good and it kept us out the end zone and kept their offense in a great situation, because the next time they get the ball they convert on third down and go down and score a touchdown and (they go) up 7-6.  To me it is about what happened in the red zone more than anything else.  We have to be better there.  We cannot allow that.  Then in the last four minutes of the first half the Saints scored 14 points and went up 21-6.  Again, to me, it was about the way we played in the red zone and the effectiveness they had in the red zone against us.”
 
Saints Coach Sean Payton on what changes need to be made since the last time New Orleans played Carolina. 
 
“I think in both cases there are things that we didn’t run that were on a call sheet, offensively and defensively.  And I am sure vice versa that things you wanted to have a chance to do and weren’t able to, you keep those things.  Teams aren’t really changing their scheme philosophically during the course of weeks.  There are certain things you do as an emphasis.  There are certain things you want to apply in a game.  But the personalities of teams, at this point in the year, are pretty defined.”
 
Keys to victory:
  1. Repeat Dat – When you win a game 31-13…even I know you want to try and do some of the same things you had success with in the first game.  To me the #1 thing the Saints need to do is play well on third down.  In the Saints 31-13 win over Carolina two weeks ago the Saints offense, as well as the defense, were outstanding on third down.  The Saints offense was 7 out of 12 on third down conversions for 58%, while the Black & Gold defense allowed only 6 of 15 third down conversions by the Cats offense.  Repeat those numbers and it is all good!
  2. Repeat Dat 2 – The Saints defense set the tone early in the game…sending a clear message to Carolina that points scored would be hard to come by.  The Saints defense stiffened on the Cats first two drives forcing the Panthers to kick two field goals.  After falling behind 6-0, the Saints outscored Carolina 31-7 the rest of the game.  Red zone defense needs to be just as good this time around.  Hey, even I know if the other team can’t score, they can’t win!
  3. Score!  In the second half!  Man, the Saints have been bad when it comes to scoring points on the road.  In their last three road games (Atlanta, Seattle and St. Louis) the Saints scored 16 points combined in the second half of those three games.  And the 13 points scored against the Rams came far after the game was out of reach.  My question-- if the Saints don’t score in the first half, will they get some points in the final two quarters of the game? 
  4. Win!  By any means necessary.  This is it.  If the Saints beat Carolina, they lock up the NFC South and the #2 seed in the conference.  Next week’s game would mean nothing and allow the Saints starters to rest up for over two weeks to get ready for a divisional game at home in the Mercedes Benz Superdome.  It does not matter how or by how much.  Just win and you’re in!
 
The Big Chief’s Final Analysis
Simply put, if I would’ve told you back in August that the Saints would play Carolina in week #16 for the NFC South title and the #2 seed, you…me...the whole Who Dat Nation would’ve been pleased.  Now, the Saints can resolve a lot by winning over the Panthers.
A win gives the Saints the title, the #2 spot and more importantly confidence… confidence to win on the road…something the Saints desperately need.  However, I pick with my head not my heart.  The last time I picked the opposing team to win over the Saints on the road was against Seattle.  With a rookie offensive tackle and a new field goal kicker and playing on the road against a team that is 9-1 in their last 10 games…it’s enough for me to go with Carolina.  I’ll take the Panthers 24-16.  But, I’d love for the Black & Gold to prove me wrong.
 
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Deke Bellavia: NFL TOP 10 - Week #16
The best two teams in the NFL are from the same division.  With so much on the line, the Saints, Lions, Patriots, Broncos and Bengals all blew it!   Now we shall see if those very same teams can rebound and take back control of their post season lives.  Oh baby!   Here’s my TOP 10 for the second to last week of the regular season! 

1) Seattle Seahawks (12-2) – This team is by far the best team in the NFL.  Perhaps the only team that can beat them this post season is their divisional rival San Francisco.  The Seahawks can lock up the #1 seed and home field advantage this weekend with a win over Arizona.  Last week Seattle beat NY Giants 23-0 / this week vs Arizona.   

2) San Francisco 49ers (10-4) – Hey, this is my Top 10.  And, yes, I do think the 49ers are the second best team in the NFL right now.  They’ve won four straight games and are still alive for everything in the NFC.  Now…a possible emotional last game in the place called Candlestick Park.  Wow…what history has been made in that stadium!  Last week the 49ers beat Tampa Bay 33-14 / this week vs Atlanta.   

3) Denver Broncos (11-3) – I’ll put Denver here by default.  Honestly, we all know how great Peyton is.  He is great indeed.  But, honesty is the best policy…and I don’t have a lot of confidence in Mr. Manning or the horses this post season.  Last week the Broncos lost to San Diego 27-20 / this week vs Houston.   

4) Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) – The Chiefs could finish with an impressive 13-3 overall record and be the #5 seed in the AFC playoffs.  Oh well, better hope someone knocks off Denver in the last two weeks!  Last week KC beat Oakland 56-31 / this week vs Indianapolis.  

5) Carolina Panthers (10-4) – Carolina has been one of the best teams in the league in the month of December the last two years.  A win this week could give Carolina the #2 seed and the NFC South crown.  Will Superman be able to show us his crest on his chest this week?  He didn’t the last time he played the Saints!  Last week the Panthers beat NY Jets 30-20 / this week vs New Orleans.    

6) New England Patriots (10-4) – The Patriots are a couple of hairs away from being an 8-6 team.  Now “Pretty Boy Tom” and the hood wearing fellow that coaches him face a tough road test against a surging Ravens team.  Last week New England lost to Miami 24-20 / this week @ Baltimore.   

7) New Orleans Saints (10-4) – The Rams kicked them out of the Edwards Jones Dome.  The head coach called his players out.  And, if they don’t win one of their last two games the Black & Gold might be left out of the playoffs.  Check please!  Gut check, that is!  Last week the Saints got beat by St. Louis 27-16 / this week @ Carolina.   

8) Baltimore Ravens (8-6) – The Purple Birds can’t protect their QB; they can’t run the football…but the Ravens have the heart of a champion and a bad ass field goal kicker.  Don’t look now but the Champs are lurking!  Last week Baltimore beat Detroit 18-16/ this week vs New England.   

9) Arizona Cardinals (9-5) – The Cardinals won six of the last seven games.  Arizona could actually win 11 games and not make the playoffs.  That’s how tough the NFC West is.  Last week the Cardinals beat Tennessee 37-34OT / this week @ Seattle.   

10) Cincinnati Bengals (9-5) – Last season the Ravens caught the Bengals in the last couple of weeks of the regular season.  Right now it looks as if the Ravens will just have to wait and watch the Bengals fall to them.  Again!  Last week Cincinnati lost to Pittsburgh 30-20/ this week vs Minnesota.  
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Deke Bellavia: Saints on the Road… Again?
bigchief@wwl.com
@dekebigchief

Man oh man, this Saints/Rams loss was bad.  We all know how disturbing and disheartening the 27-16 loss was.  Some call it the biggest loss in the Payton/Brees era.  We also know what this team is capable of doing.

In 2006 the Saints were amazing with a unique story that grabbed the world’s attention.  In 2009 the Saints were just better than everybody they beat.  In 2010 the Saints fought their way to a playoff spot.  And, in 2011 (many of us still feel very strongly) the Saints were a team that could have and perhaps would have won the Super Bowl.

And, this season is this season.  So far the Saints are hailed as a team that’s not good on the road.  And if “team” is the main concept, I guess we have to take a look at the glass half full instead of half empty.  Even though the Saints are playing badly, they are playing badly as a team.

In their last four road games the Saints played consistently poorly in all phases of the game--offense, defense and special teams.  They’ve come up short of expectations in every way.

I will not relive all of those bad moments.  Let’s not live in the past.  Let’s look forward.  Now at 3-4 on the road with one road game left, time is running out for the Saints to look formidable when they’re away from the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Even Coach Payton opened his post-game press conference basically saying how disappointed he is in his team’s play on the road.  And Payton said the Saints have to question themselves on many fronts about what kind of team they are.

The Saints are not a good road team.  And now they’ve been called to check themselves by their head coach…after Coach Payton first checked himself by taking responsibility for this loss.  Now with their backs against the wall…facing a first round road playoff game, if not a more severe dent into what looked to be a promising post season…the Saints face a must win situation at Carolina.

The Saints will have to perform far better and win.  If they don’t, it’s only going to get more difficult to deal with the moniker “road dog or dog on the road.”  So, which is it?  Why does this team play so poorly on the road?  I don’t know how to drop the science on that.

But I will tell you, if the Saints don’t win their next road game against the Panthers… the most important game… this team could find themselves not talking about how bad they are on the road but how they won’t even get to play on the road, again!   

 
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Deke Bellavia: Saints @ Rams Preview

~~New Orleans (10-3) at St. Louis Rams (5-8)
Sunday, December 15…3:25pm /  Kickoff WWL 870AM/FM 105.3
Last week’s results:  New Orleans beat Carolina 31-13 / Arizona beat St. Louis 30-10
Series History:  St. Louis leads the series 39-31
What they are saying:

St. Louis Coach Jeff Fisher on the Saints running game:

“They do what they need to do to win ball games.  If they feel like they need to run it, they are certainly equipped to run it.  This is a very well-coached offense, offensive line, tight ends… everybody understands the run game.  But when you have Drew (Brees) and the weapons outside, you can push the ball down the field and make first downs.  They can do whatever they want to do.”

Rams DE Chris Long on the challenge of putting pressure on Drew Brees:
“Well, Drew (Brees) does a good job of moving in the pocket.  He might not be the fastest guy in the world, but he has adequate speed.  What he has is a really good understanding of just trying to move a little more subtlety in the pocket, not looking to run, but to avoid the rush.  Their offensive line is good.  They are really solid and they play the run as well as they do the pass.  That is going to be a big challenge and I know their guards get a lot of praise, but their tackles I think do a pretty good job too.  Charles (Brown) has done a nice job stepping in at that left side and my guy has been there a while. (Zach) Strief has been there a while.  I can remember watching tape of him throughout my career, but I haven’t played him yet or maybe I played him in 2010.  It seems like a half a decade ago, which it almost was.  He has been there forever.  They are a good group and when you have a quarterback like that, it makes everyone around you better.”
 
Saints QB Drew Brees’s response when asked if this week’s game is a trap game:
 “No, I don’t.  This is a very good football team we are about to play, especially over the last six weeks and I know they’re coming off a tough loss at Arizona.  I know they’re well-coached and they’re going to be ready to play us based upon the track record there and what’s on stake.”

Saints Coach Sean Payton on the play of OLB Junior Gallette:
 “He’s obviously come a long way.  He was a free agent we looked closely at.  We saw speed and athleticism in the player.  To his credit, he came into a real good locker room and really made this his number one priority. That sounds like a given, but where he’s at now is because he had a vision and he worked extremely hard to put himself in that position.  I think that each year he has gotten better.  He’s extremely focused on his position and on his job.”

The Big Chief’s Final Analysis:

Well folks, this looks like a game the Saints should win.  With that said, New Orleans has been at St. Louis before in the same situation and come away disappointed.  The Saints control their own fate in the NFC South and as far as the #2 seed in the NFC is concerned.

Keys to the game:

1. Don’t let them have control.  St. Louis’ QB play hasn’t been good.  That’s why the Rams give the ball to promising young rookie RB Zac Stacy.  Stacy has rushed for 721 yards this season.  The Saints can’t let the Rams dictate the pace of this game.  The longer the Rams stick around the better chance they have to win.

2. Get after their QB!  The Saints took down Carolina QB Cam Newton five times last week in a 31-13 win over the Panthers.  Rams QB Kellen Clemens is far less mobile. With the strong play of Cam Jordan and Junior Gallette, the Saints could really make things even more difficult on one of the worst passing offenses (205.7 per game) in the NFL.

3. Protect the football.  The Rams don’t have a lot to brag about, but their defense isn’t bad.  And currently the Rams are 7th best in the NFL in the turnover margin.  St. Louis is (+7).  If the Saints don’t turn the ball, the Rams can’t win.

4. Third and longer.  The Rams are flat out bad when it comes to converting on third down.  St. Louis ranks 30th out of 32 NFL teams.  The longer the distance, the more challenging the Saints defense can make it on an already challenged Rams offense!

5. Just win baby!  Hey, this ain’t no beauty contest.  It’s a football game!  It does not matter how or by how much…the Saints just need to win.  Bottom line…WIN!
 
The Big Chief says – The Saints just need to win two of their last three games to lock up the NFC South and the number 2 seed.  After this game, that magic number will be one.  Take the Saints and give up the 5 ½ points.  New Orleans 27 St. Louis 16.
WHO DAT!

 

 (4) Comments




 
Deke Bellavia - NFL TOP 10 - Week #15
Seattle is still the best.  The Saints proved that last week was not the real Black & Gold.  The Broncos are staying ahead of the Patriots.  Plus, the 49ers will not go quietly this post season.  And, the NFC West is by far the toughest division in the NFL…and they are proving it!  Here is my TOP 10 for week #15: 

1.  Seattle Seahawks (11-2) – The Hawks got a dose of their own medicine last week; held to under 270 yards of total offense in their loss to the 49ers.  You know we were a few seconds away from having an NFC West championship game.  It could very well happen.  Last week Seattle loss to San Francisco 19 -16 / this week @ NY Giants. 

2.  Denver Broncos (11-2) – The White Horses got off to a slow start, but then hammered the Titans behind Manning's 4 TD passes.  With one of the top two seeds already locked up, the Broncos will now have to deal with the shaky post season questions that their star AB will face a lot.  Last week Denver beat Tennessee 51-28 / this week vs San Diego. 

3.  New England Patriots (10-3) – It took an on-sides kick and a late score, but the Pats came back after nearly blowing one to the lowly Browns.  Now the Patriots keep the heat on the Broncos for the top spot in the AFC.  Tom can add another AFC East title to his belt with a win over the Fins this weekend.  Last week New England beat Cleveland 28-27 / this week @ Miami. 

4.  New Orleans Saints (9-3) – Man, the Saints kicked the Yin-Yang out of the Cats from Charlotte.  Now the Who Dat Nation has control of the #2 spot in the NFC and the Saints can claim that spot by winning 2 of their last 3 games.  Last week New Orleans beat Carolina / this week @ St. Louis.

5.  Kansas City Chiefs (9-3) – The Chiefs snapped their 3-game losing streak in a big 45-10 win over the Redskins.  KC returned a punt and a kickoff for a TD in their blowout win.  KC will need a lot of help to catch the Broncos for the top spot in the AFC.  Last week the Chiefs beat Washington 45-10 / this week vs Oakland. 

6.  Carolina Panthers (9-4) – The Cats 8-game win streak came to an end last week in the Big Easy.  Now the Panthers must go on a 3-game win streak and hope the Saints lose 2 of their last 3…in order to win the NFC South.  Last week Carolina lost to New Orleans 31-13 / this week vs NY Jets. 

7.  San Francisco 49ers (9-4) - Four Phil Dawson field goals and a nasty defensive effort told the Seabirds from the Great Northwest that the 49ers are going to be hard to beat.  I would not be surprised if San Francisco and Seattle are both in the NFC Title game this January.  Last week San Francisco beat Seattle 19-17 / this week @ Tampa Bay. 

8.  Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) – Andy Dalton threw 3 TD passes in the Bengals big win over the Colts.  We know Cincinnati can get to the post season, but can they win?  We are waiting to see!  Last week the Bengals beat Indianapolis 42-28 / this week @ Pittsburgh. 

9.  Philadelphia Eagles (8-5) – The Eagles scored 28 points in the snow in the 4th quarter to come back and beat the Lions from Motown.  Man, Shady McCoy plowed through the snow gashing the Cats for 219 yards and two scores.  Now the Eagles remain atop the NFC East with just 3 games left.    Last week Philibeat Detroit 34-20 / this week @ Minnesota. 

10. Arizona Cardinals (8-5) – The Cardinals defense scored 9 points in the Red Birds big win over the Rams.  Arizona is 8-5…winning only one NFC West contest this season.  That shows you exactly how tough it is in the NFC West.  And this division could very well send 3 teams to the playoffs.  Last week Arizona beat St. Louis 30-10 / this week @ Tennessee. 


 
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Deke Bellavia - LSU vs Iowa - the last time they played!
When the LSU Tigers and the Iowa Hawkeyes meet New Year's Day in the 2014 Outback Bowl, it will mark just the second time ever the two schools battle.  The first meeting is one I'll always remember. 

Iowa stunned LSU with a last second win.  The Tigers prideful football program had been restored by a man who is now still pretty much hated in the Capital City of Baton Rouge and everywhere purple & gold reigns...with the exception of Tuscaloosa. 

It was back in December 2004 and it was one of the most interesting weeks in the rich history of LSU football.  The way LSU landed the 2005 Capital One Bowl and the storyline leading up to the game was as good as the game itself.  And the game was pretty salty!

Entering the 2004 CFB season, LSU was coming off their first national title since 1958 and just the second in school history.  The Tigers beat Oklahoma 21-14 in the BCS Title Game, which happened to be in the Sugar Bowl in the Big Easy.

Just days after the Tigers beat the Sooners, Coach Nick Saban held a special press conference to announce he would not be going to the Chicago Bears or any other NFL team, and that he and his family were very happy in Baton Rouge.

During the 2004 college football season, LSU lost two regular season games.  LSU lost one to Georgia (16-45), and the Tigers controversial 10-9 loss to Auburn kept LSU from getting back to the SEC Title Game in 2004...as Auburn would win the SEC West. 

LSU's Fighting Tigers wrapped up the regular season with a nice 9-2 record.  LSU beat Arkansas 43-14 and then learned their fate—they'd play the Big Ten's Iowa Hawkeyes in the 2005 Capital One Bowl. 

After the Tigers received their invitation, speculation once again began about the future of then LSU head coach Nick Saban.  This time, Tigers fans fears became a reality.  Nick Saban announced Christmas Day he would be leaving LSU to become the new head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

Saban stayed on to coach the Tigers for their game against Iowa.  The Tigers looked as if they would send Coach Saban off to Miami with a big win; LSU took a 25-24 lead with just :46 second left in the game. QB Jamarcus Russell threw a yard TD pass to Skyler Green to give the Tigers what looked to be the game winning points. 

But, the Hawkeyes did something not many teams could do...they wentthe length of the field against a Nick Saban coached defense. QB Drew Tate threw a 56 yard bomb to Warren Holloway, and the Hawkeyes stunned the Tigers winning as time expired 30-25.  The Tigers finished the season with a 9-3 record.

During the broadcast of LSU's game against Iowa, rumors surfaced that Oklahoma State Coach Les Miles would become the next coach at LSU.  Those rumors turned out to be true.  Miles was officially named the Tigers new head coach the next day--January 2, 2005. 

The Tigers and Hawkeyes will meet once again marking their first clash since Iowa's 30-25 win over LSU in 2005 on New Year's Day.

Nine years later the two shall meet again.

Now, this is where some would say I buried the lead.  There's another reason I'll NEVER forget that game.  I had just been diagnosed with cancer...and three days after that January 2005 LSU/ Iowa game Buddy D passed away.  Life is unique indeed.   And as these teams get ready to play again...I'm worried about my next x-ray.

Let's WILL a different outcome for LSU...and for me.

GEAUX Tigers!

-The Big Chief-
 
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Deke Bellavia: CFB TOP 10 - Week #15
The Sugar Bowl just overnighted a package of gumbo, beignets and keys to the Big Easy to Bowling Green.  The Sugar Bowl will get a good match-up for the first time in a long time as the Sooners of Oklahoma will battle the Crimson Tide of Alabama.  Had Northern Illinois beaten Bowling Green, the Huskies would have more than likely been in the Sugar.

The Spartans are welcomed to do as they want in Auburn whenever they want…the Noles are back in the BCS Title Game.  And the volume of Pepto Bismal sold in Tuscaloosa hit an all-time high last week.  
Here is my TOP 10 for week #15.      
1.      Florida State - (13-0) – The team that played in the first 3 BCS Title Games will play in the last one.  Did you know the Seminoles are 1-2 in BCS championships including 0-1 vs the SEC?   Last week Florida State beat Duke in ACC Title Game 45-7 / next BCS Title Game vs Auburn.  

2.      Auburn Tigers (12-1) – Auburn entered the 2013 season on a 10 game SEC losing streak.  Now they’re on their way back to the National Title Game for the second time in four years.  “In Gus we trust” down on the Plains.  Last week Auburn beat Missouri 59-42 in SEC Title Game / next BCS Title Game against FSU.   

3.      Michigan State (12-1) – If this were 2015, the MSU Spartans would be in a four team playoff.  Defense wins championships.  This team is living proof!   Last week Michigan State beat Ohio State 34-24 in Big Ten Title Game / next vs Stanford in the Rose Bowl.   

4.      Alabama (11-1) – Does winning 3 out of the last 4 National Title Games feel better than feeling terrible?  For the last two weeks Tide fans have had to endure reliving the most dreaded play in Alabama football history.  I’m quite sure some of that rolled toilet tissue from Toomers Corner can be used to wipe away those tears!  This week…still crying! Next up vs Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.  
5.      Baylor Bears (12-1) – The Big XII Title and a berth in a BCS Bowl is huge.  But nothing compares to being the state champion in Texas!  Yes, everything is bigger in Texas.   Last week Baylor beat Texas 30-10 / next up Fiesta Bowl vs Central Florida.
6.      Ohio State (12-1) – The worst feeling in life is knowing you had something and you lost it!  However, an even worst feeling is thinking you had something and you never really did?   Either way the Buckeyes blew it.  Or the correct analogy would be that the Spartans took it from the Nuts.  Last week Ohio State lost to Michigan State 34-24 / next up Orange Bowl vs Clemson.
7.      Stanford Cardinal (11-2) – The most dominant program in the PAC-12 is now going back to the Rose Bowl.  Hey youngsters--you can be smart, you can be good and have a title caliber program.  This is it!   Last week Stanford beat Arizona State 38-14 in Pac 12 Title Game / next Rose Bowl vs Michigan State.  
8.      Missouri Tigers (11-2) – Yes, they gave up a record number of points and yards in the SEC Title Game.  But, they deserved to be there.  Now the Tigers can finish the season with a bowl win and work on being a consistent power in the SEC East.  Last week Missouri lost the SEC Championship to Auburn / next AT&T Cotton Bowl vs Oklahoma State.
9.      Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-2) – The Pokes’ Coach Mike Gundy has officially become the John Cooper of Stillwater.  You remember ole Coop, when he was coach of the Buckeyes?  Coop would win all his games except the one against Michigan.  Well, move over Cooper…here’s Mikey!  Gundy has built the Ok. State Program into a powerful one, but he is now 1-8 against that team from Norman.  Damn, Damn, Damn.  Last week Oklahoma Staste lost to Oklahoma 33-24 / up AT&T Cotton Bowl vs Missouri.  
10.  South Carolina Gamecocks (10-2) – Hey, an 11 win season is not bad at all for this Gamecocks Program.  Next up the Capital One Bowl against Wisconsin in Orlando.

 
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Deke Bellavia - Saints 31-13 - Feeling better now?
Man, a week ago the Saints got busted in the mouth by the Seahawks…and that’s putting it lightly.  The best thing to do after getting beat down is to give a beat down.  And that is just what the Black & Gold did on Sunday night football.

The Saints beat down, busted up and battered the hottest team in the NFL in a 31-13 win over Carolina.  Last week’s embarrassing loss, delayed plane ride home and adjusted work week had no effects this week’s Saints gladiator like performance.
Carolina got off to a good start, jumping out to a 6-0 lead over the Saints.  But the Saints defense’s ability to make the Cats go for three’s instead of seven’s early on was huge.  The Panthers drove the ball all the way down to the Saints 26 yard line…then the Saints defense stiffened.  Carolina was set up first and 10 at the Saints 26 yard line early in the game.  The Saints defense shut them down--a 1st and 10 turned into a 4th and 11.  Carolina was forced to kick a field goal. 

Then later in the first quarter the Saints D came up big again.  Carolina had a 1st and 10 at the Saints 10 yard line.  The Black & Gold defense allowed just four yards.  Carolina was forced to kick another field goal.  Even though the Panthers led 6-0 the Saints defense sent a message to Carolina that yards in the red zone would be hard to come by.

Carolina gained 79 yards on 22 plays and scored six points on their first two offensive possessions.  However, after that the Saints completely shut the Panthers offense down.  On their final eight offensive possessions the Panthers gained just 160 yards on 40 plays and scored just seven points.

On the flip side, the Saints offense went on a 31-7 run to come up with their 10th win of the season.  The message sent to Carolina and the rest of the league is the same message that this franchise has sent over the last eight years…you will not come into our house and beat us.  It ain’t gonna happen! 

What a difference a week makes, right?  The Saints have now taken a big step forward in landing the NFC South crown and the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs.  The Saints need to win two of their last three games to accomplish both feats.  As I said in my Saints/Panthers preview--all the Saints can control is what they can control.  New Orleans lost control of a possible #1 seed last week in their loss to Seattle.  The Saints determined not to lose control a second straight week. 

The Saints got after Carolina QB Cam Newton.  Newton was pressured and harassed all night long.  Cam was sacked five times Sunday night in the Superdome.  After starting the game 3-for-3 on third down conversions, the Saints defense allowed the Panthers to go just 3-for-12 on their remaining third down tries. 

So, now it’s on to the Rams Sunday in St. Louis.  Yes, we will see the Panthers again in two weeks, but right now the Saints feel better about where they are.  Way better.  And, so does the Who Dat Nation. 
 
 
 
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Deke Bellavia: Saints/Panthers Preview
New Orleans Saints (9-3) vs Carolina Panthers (9-3)  
Sunday December 8th 7:30 Kickoff, WWL Radio
Last week’s results: Seattle beat New Orleans 34-7 / Carolina beat Tampa Bay 26-7
Series History:  The Panthers lead the series 19-17

What they are saying
Carolina LB Luke Kuechly on the confidence the Panthers have right now
 
“I think as the season goes on, we’re more and more confident.  The guys we picked up at the beginning of the year, we had to figure out kind of how each guy played.  Now 10, 11, 12 games into the season, we’re figuring out how guys play and have a good feel for each other out there.”
 
Panthers Coach Ron Rivera on being called “Riverboat Ron”
“It’s unbelievable.  This thing has taken on a mind of its own.  It’s kind of gone all over the place and it’s one of those things that the moniker is what it is as far as trying to describe some of the decisions I’ve made.  I kind of look at what I’ve done as just calculating it.  But I will say this: my wife and I are going to try to figure out a way to use it to help benefit some of these charities out here that we work with.  We’ve got to just keep rolling with it I guess.”

Saints Coach Sean Payton on Carolina WR Steve Smith
“He’s very competitive.  We had a chance to coach him in the Pro Bowl in 2006.  He has a great feel and instinct for routes.  He is explosive.  When I say that his stature, he is very strong in the lower body which allows  him to get in and out, start and stop very quickly and change directions.  He is extremely competitive.  He was fantastic coaching for that one week, just working with him.  He is someone that doesn’t feel the pressure.  In fact I would say thrives on situations of making a play where they need it.  What’s impressive is the length of his career and his ability to do the same thing.  That hasn’t changed much.  His skill set combined with his competitive nature and instincts have been outstanding.  He will be the first to receive a retirement card from me when that happens.”
 
Final Analysis
Okay, last week is over.  This game is by far more important.  The Saints lost the right to control their own destiny; they will not be #1 seed in the NFC.  If they lose this week, the Black & Gold will lose control of having the inside track of capturing the NFC South division title as well as the #2 seed in the NFC. 
Both teams are 9-3.  The Saints started the season 5-0; since then New Orleans has gone 4-3.  On the flip side, the Panthers got off dismal 1-3 start, but since that slow beginning Carolina is the hottest team in the league--winners of eight straight games.  The Panthers have limited mistakes and played tenacious defense…thus the win streak.

On paper, this game looks as if it could be a low scoring defensive struggle.  But in the past, especially at home in the Superdome, the Saints offense has a way of making opposing defensive teams look bad…real bad!
As of late, the Saints offense has struggled.  Other than their blowout win over the Cowboys, the Saints offense has struggled more so in the second half of games.  Against the Jets (6 points), 49ers (9 points), Atlanta (3 points) and Seattle (0 points)…the Saints offense scored only 18 points in the second half of those four games combined.

Is this a second half slump?  Are teams adjusting to what the Saints strategy and play, and making necessary adjustments at halftime?  The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.  But, more times than not, the Saints offense has been far more productive and they play on another level in the Superdome.

This week’s challenge is against the league’s best defense.  Carolina has arguably the best front seven in the game today.  Here are a few things watch in this key NFC South tilt:
 
  1. Total turnover:  The Panthers rank #1 in total defense and they are tied for #4 in turnovers--an impressive +10 in the turnover margin. The Saints just can’t lose the turnover battle this week.  If they do, they will probably lose this game.
  2. Run for some more yards!  The Saints looked as if they solved their running game issues after gashing the Cowboys 242 rushing yards.  But since that high mark, the Saints have gained only 239 yards total in their last three games.  Things won’t get any easier this week; the Cats from Charlotte have the league’s #2 rushing defense allowing only 80.3 yards per contest.
  3. Physical D’s limit Jimmy G:  He has been one of the best in the game since he arrived in the Big Easy.  But when opposing teams get physical #80, Saints TE Jimmy Graham has a tougher time putting up those video game like numbers.  Look for the Panthers to follow the same physical strategy as Seattle and San Francisco in defending the Saints top target.
  4. Can I kick it?  Okay, he was on fire in the Saints 23-20 win over the 49ers three weeks ago.  In a game like this, Garrett Hartley will be needed.  The Panthers have a defense that buckles down in the red zone and the Saints must score points when they have the opportunity.  This game could very well come down to the foot of GH.
The NFC South is going to come down to the Saints and the Panthers.  The #2 seed is going to come down to the Saints and the Panthers.  New Orleans can take complete control of the NFC South and the race for the #2 seed with a win over Carolina.
The Saints could win this game and then go on to beat the Rams and Bucs and still lock up the #2 seed and the NFC South title even if they lose on the road to the Panthers in two weeks.  But a loss to Carolina this week takes the Saints out of the driver’s seat.
No need to worry about the Seahawks.  Seattle would have to collapse like the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers for the Saints to catch them.  For those of you who are hoping, Seattle would have to go 1-3 and New Orleans 4-0 to catch the Seahawks for the #1 seed.

So, Who Dat Nation, focus on what you can control.  The Saints can control the NFC South Title and the #2 seed.  And, that will be a prime spot this post season.  I think this is going to be a game much like the Saints battle with the Falcons and 49ers.
Because they are at home, I’ll go with the Saints to win.  As far as the numbers, I would not be wise in telling you to lay the four points.  In 12 games this season the Saints are just 6-6 against the spread.

In a close one I say New Orleans 20 Carolina 17.
 
 
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Deke Bellavia: Prep Football Semi-finals - 12 golden tickets left!
Okay, in this first of a kind unique playoff format here in Louisiana, we already have six teams and three title games set for next weekend’s LHSAA Championships.  In Division I, the defending 5A Champion Rummel Raiders will battle the Byrd Yellow Jackets.  In Division III Archbishop Hannan will take on Calvary Baptist.  And, the Division II Title Game looks like one of the best match-ups—the John Curtis Patriots take on the undefeated University High Cubs.

So what’s left?  This week is now officially semi-final weekend.  12 games will produce six state title games.  All five classes play semi-final games this tonight while Division IV will also play its semi-final game. 

Up in Class 5A we are one week away from a dream match-up of great high school QB’s.  Now in order for that to happen two very good teams stand in the way.  The Destrehan Wildcats and star QB Donovan Isom take on the battle tested Acadiana Rams.  And in the other 5A semi-final match-up the Covington Lions entertain future LSU Tiger and current Parkway QB Brandon Harris.

Harris leads a Parkway team that has had to play every game on the road this post season due to a penalty that was levied against their program last playoff season.  Harris and his Panthers are now just one win away from making it to the Superdome.  A Destrehan versus Parkway 5A final would give us perhaps one of the best QB match-ups in recent memory.  Harris has already inked with LSU and Isom is a verbal commitment to Utah.

Now, if you want to talk about power, let’s bring up Class 4A.  Again we’re looking at two of the best programs.  Teams in the deep south are one weekend away from playing in the State Finals for a third straight season.  Edna Karr and Neville have played each other in the last two 4A Title Games with the Tigers taking the 4A Title in 2011 and Karr got the win a year ago.

Both teams have difficult games this week.  The Tigers have to come down to Metairie to battle the East Jefferson Warriors, while Karr has a rematch against district foe Landry Walker.  Karr came from behind earlier this season to edge the Charging Bucs 26-22.

Other big games include Haynesville at Kentwood under the Tank and Amite visits Union Parish.
Great high school semi-finals; we’ll have it all covered on the All State Sugar Bowl Prep Football Roundup at 7pm.  Let’s hope the weather cooperates. 
 
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Deke Bellavia: Seahawks top NFL TOP 10 Week #14
The Seahawks are the best.  The Panthers have not lost a game in two months.  Peyton is having another great REGULAR season.  Pretty Boy Tom and the Boston Patriots are lurking.  And, the Saints threw the Seattle game tape in the Gulf of Mexico.  Here is my TOP 10 for this week!       

1. Seattle Seahawks (11-1) – Say what you want, but this is the most complete team in the NFL.  And when they play at home they are nearly invincible.  Unless Seattle falls apart, the road to the Super Bowl will go through Century Link Field!  Perhaps the only chance the Seahawks have to lose at home would be to an NFC West team.  Last week Seattle beat up New Orleans 34-7 / this week @ San Francisco.

2. Carolina Panthers (9-3) – The hottest team in the NFL has now extended their win streak to eight games.  Only the Chiefs (9-0) have won more consecutive games this season!  If defense wins championships,the Panthers can win it all.  They have a legit shutdown D!  Last week Carolina beat Tampa Bay 27-6 / this week @ New Orleans.

3. Denver Broncos (10-2) – We know how good Peyton Manning and the Broncos are.  But will they get it done in January?  I'll believe it when I see it.  Last week Denver beat Kansas City 35-28 / this week vs Tennessee.

4. New England Patriots (9-3) – New England has just about sewed up the AFC East and now the Pats can earn the #1 seed by having the same record as the Broncos.  That come-from-behind win over Denver could prove to be huge in late January.  Last week the Patriots beat Houston 34-31 / this week vs Cleveland.  

5. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3) –The Chiefs could actually finish the season 13-3 and be the #5 seed in the AFC. Hey, those are the rules!  Last week KC lost Denver 35-28 / this week @ Washington.   

6. New Orleans Saints (9-3) – Man, the Saints made an exception to their 24 hour after a game rule.  They reduced that to 24 minutes.  Oh well, better get it right!  The hottest team in the league comes to town Sunday night!  Last week New Orleans lost to Seattle 34-7 / this week vs Carolina.  

7. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4) – The Bengals still have a two game cushion over the Ravens in the AFC North.  A key battle this week to decide playoff seeding takes place against the inconsistent Colts.   Last week Cincybeat San Diego 17-10 / this week vs Indianapolis.

8. San Francisco (8-4) – The 49ers are right back in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt.  Now the boys from Rice-A-Roni land will look to extract some revenge.  The 49ers can make the race for the #1 seed in the NFC a lot more interesting with a win over the Seahawks.  Last week San Francisco beat St. Louis 23-13 / this week vs Seattle.

9. Philadelphia Eagles (7-5) – The Eagles won their last two games at home upping their record to 7-5.  Now the Eagles are in a heated battle with the Sliver Stars for the NFC East Title.  Last week Philadelphia beat Arizona 24-21 / this week vs Detroit.  

10. Dallas Cowboys (7-5) – The Cowboys still have everything in front of them.  If Dallas wins the NFC East, they would have earned it.  The Boys last four games are @ Chicago, home vs Green Bay followed by a trip to Washington and a huge one at home against the Eagles.  Last week Dallas beat Oakland 31-24 / this week @ Chicago.  

 
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Big Chief's CFB TOP 10 - Week #14
One second and three yards were the difference last weekend in the ability of two teams to survive.  In Ann Arbor Michigan's failed two point conversion allowed the Poisonus Nuts to run their win total to 24 straight games.  

While on the Plains, the one second Little Nicky begged for, cost him a shot at a national title.  Like they say...be careful what you wish for because you just might get it!  Now, the most unlikely two teams battle for the SEC Title.  The Buckeyes have their hands full this week against those smarten Spartans.  And the Noles look like they'll have an easy time in the ACC Title Game.

Last week I told you there's a lot of football left to be played.  With only one week left there still is.  Any slip ups this week and we'll be talking about the best "one loss" teams in the national title...and that conversation will be a damn good one!  

Here is my Top 10 for this week:

1.  Florida State - (12-0) – Win and you're in the BCS Title Game.  It's only fitting that the team that was in the first three BCS Title Games makes their fourth and final appearance.  Last week Florida State beat Florida 37-7 / this week vs Duke in ACC Title Game.  

2.  Ohio State (12-0) – Man, had their rivals made that two point conversion, we'd be talking about another possible all SEC BCS Title Game.  But, "if...ifs and buts...were candy and nuts we'd all have a Merry Christmas.  You can say what you want about the Buckeyes and their weak schedule, but I don't know another team that has won 24 straight games.  Do you?  Hell no!  Last week Ohio State beat Michigan 42-41 / this week vs Michigan State.  

3.  Auburn Tigers (11-1) – Auburn had one hell of a season.  And now with one more win and some help from the Spartans, the Tigers could get back to the BCS Title Game for the second time in four years.  Not Bad!  Last week Auburn beat Alabama 34-28 / this week vs Missouri in SEC Title Game.  

4.  Missouri Tigers (11-1) – Hey, this team is still alive in the BCS Title Game hunt.  A win over Auburn and a loss by either FSU or Ohio State and this team DESERVES to be in.  Yes, over ALABAMA!  Last week Missouri beat Texas A&M / this week vs Auburn in SEC Title Game.  

5.  Alabama (11-1) – Even the greatest coaches mess up!  The only play in football that has the least amount of athletes on the field is a long field goal attempt.  High risk, high reward.  Last week ‘Bamalost to Auburn 34-28 / this week crying!

6.  Michigan State (11-1) – It's a shame because even if the Spartans beat Ohio State, it won't be enough for them to land in the BCS Title Game.  This would be a great year for that new playoff format that starts next season!  Last week Michigan State beat Minnesota 21-3 / this week vs Ohio State in Big Ten Title Game.

7.  Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-1) – The Pokes can lock up the Big XII Title with a win over rival Oklahoma this weekend.    Last week Oklahoma State beat Baylor 48-10 / next vs Oklahoma on Dec 7th.   

8.  South Carolina Gamecocks (10-2) – The Gamecocks beat their rivals, but did not get the help from Johnny Football.  Oh well, at least the Gamecocks had another 10 win season!  Last week South Carolina beat Clemson 31-17 / next bowl game.  

9.  Baylor Bears (10-1) – The Big XII Title is on the line for a few teams this weekend and Baylor is one of them...so is the team they're playing.  Man, this is a big weekend in the conference that doesn't even have 12 teams!  Last week Baylor beat TCU 41-38 / this week vs Texas.

10. Stanford Cardinal (10-2) – The Cardinal team is in the Pac 12 Title Game and will take on the red hot Devils from the desert.  Another trip to the Rose Bowl is just fine with the folks from Palo Alto!  Last week Stanford beat Notre Dame 27-20 / this week vs Arizona State in Pac 12 Title Game.  


 
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Big Chief: Seahawks have the edge for the Battle in Seattle
Okay folks this has the makings for a classic.  All the right things have been said from both teams, compliments have been passed out like a Black Friday sale flyer and, now it's game time!  The two best teams in the NFC meet in prime time.
 
New Orleans, which used to be a flat out loser on MNF, has become prime time king.  QB Drew Brees is 9-0 in his last nine starts on Monday Night Football, with a QB rating of 123.6 in those nine previous games.
 
Okay with the extra time and the long holiday weekend, there have been more breakdowns for this game than any other this weekend.  Honestly this is a huge game, but next week's game against Carolina is even bigger for the Black and Gold.  If any team could afford a loss here it is the Seahawks.

Seattle is nearly invincible at home with a perfect mark of 5-0 at CenturyLink Field this season.  Seattle has one of the most difficult venues an opposing team can face in all of professional sports.  They have won their last 13 games at home.

I won't get all deep on you.  I'll give you what I think are the 3 big spots to look for in this game.

1. Can the Saints protect the football?  The Seahawks feed off turnovers, as they are +11 this season...  which is good for second in the NFL.  Seattle blows teams away when they create turnovers.  If the Saints protect the football, they will win this game.  I'm not saying that the Saints have to win the turnover battle, but I know that they can't lose it.

2. To the left, to the left!  No, I'm not singing Beyonce's hit tune.  What I am doing is giving much love and mad respect to the Seahawks defense, particularly the left side of their defense.  At left DE are two of the best in the game today.  Red Bryant and Michael Bennett are beast.  Both can stop the run and wreak havoc on QB's.  These two guys get off the ball as fast as any DE's in the league, and if they have big games that is not good for the road team.  Weakside LB Bruce Irvin is also on the left side of the Hawks defense.  Although Irvin has just two sacks this season, he does a good job of hurrying the QB and he is considered one of the toughest in the game today.

3. Run through the defense!  The Seahawks have the 2nd best defense in the NFL, and their rushing attack is a big reason why.  Seattle allows 112.9 rushing yards per game, which is 12th in the NFL.  However, let's look at what teams have done as of late.  In their last four games, the Seahawks have not been as good defending the run.  In their last four games against St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Minnesota; Seattle allowed over 130 rushing yard in three of those four games, with St. Louis and Tampa both gaining at least 200 yards rushing.  Seattle has given up 601 yards on the ground in their last four games, with an average of 4.8 yards per carry to their opponents.  Should the Saints average 4.8 yards per rush, they will win this game.  Bet on dat!

The Big Chief Says: 

Okay the Saints are a very good team, but they are not good against the spread.  In eleven games this season, New Orleans is 6-5 against the spread, including just 1-4 against the numbers on the road.

Both teams get great play from the QB's, and both QB's should be able to do some good things in this game.  Brees will look to exploit a thin Seattle secondary that was hit by the league last week when both Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond were suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.  How will this affect the game?

"It is certainly a concern from a depth standpoint.  The Seahawks have enough players to cover things right now.  But there is not much depth there with the loss of those players," said Brock Huard.  Huard once played QB for Seattle and now he is an analyst for the Seahawks.

So if anything, things seem a little even with both teams adjusting to defensive secondary issues.  The Saints lost Jabari Greer two weeks ago, and the Seahawks have some problems of their own.

Folks in the past, even under Sean Payton, I would not be as confident as I am right now.  The confidence that I carry is solely due to the way the Saints defense plays.  When you have a consistent defense like New Orleans has, you will be in every game you play... as long as you don't give things away.

The Saints defense is good enough to keep them in and help them win in any environment.  Even if the Saints were playing the Dracula's in Transylvania, I'd give them a good chance to win due to their defense.

I think the Saints play well and make this a four quarter game.  It's hard to go against New Orleans, but if this game were played in the Superdome I'd go with the Saints. 

Since it is in Seattle I'll give the edge to the Seahawks.  Take the points, but the Saints come up short here. 

Prediction:

Seattle 24 - New Orleans 20

What they're saying
 
Saints Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan on Seahawks QB Russell Wilson

"I'll tell you what. I think we played him the second game he ever played quarterback in this league. Right now the guy is one of the star quarterbacks in the league. He does so many excellent things with his feet first of all, and then you can see the intelligence out there. I know it's documented how smart he is, but it looks like he loves to play the game. He is so accurate, especially when he's on the move, running around like he does making plays. He's tremendous at that. He's probably the best scrambler in football (in my book). I think the guy is outstanding. We got our work cut out for us. The receivers are extremely talented. This is a well-coached team. They've got a hunter-killer back there running the ball. This is what you get, I guess, this time of year and this will be a hell of a challenge."
 
Saints Coach Sean Payton on if more emphasis is being put on this game compared to other games
 
"No. We would try to, every week, prepare as if that type of game is of that same magnitude. In other words, it's the next challenge and certainly it's a big challenge. It's not like you do additional this (or that). Guys are working late, players are practicing, studying, and preparing just like we did on a short week last week, just like we did the week before last week before Dallas. That's just the nature of the work week and the schedule. We feel like we've got a pretty good itinerary. This one was a little unique in that it fell after a Thursday game and then Thanksgiving week and then Monday Night Football. Seattle had a bye week with Thanksgiving this week and a Monday night game. As coaches and players you quickly lay down the itinerary, you get adapted to it, and you follow the process of getting acclimated as quickly as you can to the opponent. That's how you treat it. After this game, we'll treat the next week the same week. So to answer your question, no."
 
Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll on how big the game with
 
"Every game we play is a championship game. You never know which one is going to be the one that you look back on and say, ‘Boy, if we'd have got that one, we would've had this or that.' We play every one of them like it's the biggest game in the world. It's the championship game every time we go. This happens to be against a great opponent and a well-balanced football team and a winning group and all of that. They will pose us all of the challenges of anybody we've played, so we're going to have to play at our best, which is what we try to do every week. So if you're asking me if this is a bigger game than the others, no it isn't. It's the biggest game we can possibly play this week and we're going to try to make the most of it."

 
New Orleans Saints (9-2) @ Seattle Seahawks (10-1)
Monday December 2 7:40PM Kickoff on WWL Radio, ESPN TV
 
Last week's Results:  New Orleans beat Atlanta 17-13 and Seattle had their bye week
Series History:  The teams have met a total of 12 times with the series tied 6-6


 
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