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.
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!
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:
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!
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!
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?
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.
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.
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!
~~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.
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.