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Deke Bellavia

"Sports Talk" Co-Host
Weekdays 4-8pm

Twitter: @dekebigchief
Email: bigchief@wwl.com
Posts from January 2014


Deke: The Super Bowl is so much more than a game!
Did Lamar Hunt ever think while watching his daughter play around with a Super Ball that the game he coined "Super Bowl" would ever turn into this gigantic event?  Well, I'm not sure if the late Mr. Hunt thought his idea would blossom into what it is today, but the Super Bowl has become much more than a football game. In fact, it is a lot more!

The numbers are staggering; the money spent, made, and waged on the game is astronomical and there are no signs of any slowing in sight.  Folks, whether you like football or not, you, yes you, have all spent towards or been a part of a Super Bowl in some way, shape, or form.

Super Bowl Sunday has become the second-biggest food consumption of the year, behind only Thanksgiving Day.  More televisions are sold and bought during the week of the Super Bowl, and an estimated eight billon dollars will be wagered on a range of things that extend from the game itself, to what color Gatorade will be dunked on the winning coach.

Again, even if you can't stand football, you, yes you, have been a part of the most known day of the year when it comes to sports and television! The most-watched TV programs ever have all been Super Bowls.  The most expensive day to advertise on TV is Super Sunday.  

And if you don't have the right to use the words "Super Bowl," you best not!  That's why you see so many TV ads, newspaper and radio spots all searching for different ways to promote their Super Bowl announcements.  Most will use the "Big Game"  or say this "Sunday is Super." Well, you get the point, don't you?

It's the day where the most chicken wings are cooked and eaten. Enough avocados are eaten to the point that they could fill the largest football stadium 12 feet high in the delicious green fruit.  And yes, more antacids are used on this food-filled football day as well!

So instead of me bumping my gums, I've gone back, done a little research, and given you an idea of how far the Super Bowl has grown since the first AFL vs NFL Championship Game back in 1967.  Here goes!

                   1967                                                                           2013

Green Bay vs Kansas City            Teams                                        Baltimore vs San Francisco 
January 15, 1967                          Date of Game                              February 3, 2013
Los Angeles Colosseum               Stadium                                      Mercedes Benz-Superdome  
NBC & CBS                                 Network Carrier                             CBS
CBS (46) NBC (49)                       Market Share                                CBS (69)
CBS (24.4) NBC (26.7)                 TV Ratings (Est. Millions)               CBS 108.7 US / 164.1 total  
$7,500.00                                    Losing Team's Share                      $44,000.00
$15,000.00                                  Winners Share                               $88,000.00
$42,000.00                                  Cost of a 30 second TV Spot           $4,000,000.00 

A little extra sumpin, sumpin for y'all!  Did you know...

A.  It was not until the New York Jets shocked the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III that the words "Super Bowl" were the official title of the big game.  The Jets became the first AFL Team to win the game, as they shocked the world beating the Colts 16-7.  Wtih the ever so famous words "I guarantee we will win the game," Jets QB Joe Namath led the biggest underdog in Super Bowl history to a win.  The Jets were an record 18 point underdog to the heavily favored Colts.

B.  The first-ever Super Bowl Halftime Show featured the Grambling State University and University of Arizona Marching Bands along with legendary trumpeter Al Hirt.  Last year's halftime show shut down the lights, literally, as Beyonce' performed at halftime of Super Bowl XLVII.  

C.  Two major networks, CBS and NBC both carried the first-ever Super Bowl.  

D.  The coldest Super Bowl ever was played in the Big Easy!  In fact, the two coldest Super Bowls ever played were both played outdoors in Tulane Stadium.  On January 12, 1975 the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 in the second coldest day the Super Bowl was played with a game time temp of 46 degrees.  And in Super Bowl VI, the Dallas Cowboys beat the Miami Dolphins 24-3 with a game time temp of 39 degrees.

E.  Only 11 teams have won more than one Super Bowl Title.  Seven of those 11 teams have played at least one Super Bowl Game in New Orleans.  

F.  There is only one team in the NFL to have played their first three Super Bowl appearances in the same stadium.  Yes, the New England Patriots played three title games in the Superdome.  New England lost to the Chicago Bears 44-10 in Super Bowl XX, then came back to lose to the Green Bay Packers 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI.  And the third time was the charm for the Patriots as New England won their first Super Bowl Title as the second biggest underdog in Super Bowl History.  New England beat St. Louis 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI.  The Patriots first ever win in the big game was the only game in Super Bowl history in which a team scored the wining points on the final play of regulation.  
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Deke: Four great teams make for exciting Conference football
OK, by now you've come to the realization that the remaining teams are the best in the NFL this season. Sure, we can all point to "what if's" and "could have beens" for a bunch of teams.  But this week, it's all about the Seahawks, Niners, Broncos and Patriots.

If you're a football fan, you might want to go ahead and make plans to park yourself in front of your TV for much of Sunday afternoon until the nighttime.  These two title games bring some serious stuff to table.

The matchup between Manning and Brady for a second time this season, and the third installment of what is now the best rivalry in the NFL will all come to a head when the Seahawks host the reigning NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers and the Patriots head to Denver.

Before we get all of your predictions and breakdowns for these two huge games, I'll give you my gut feeling, and right now I'm saying San Fran all the way.  I'm talking all the way and winning it all this season.

Now let's give a little take on the games.  Manning versus Brady gives fans and CBS higher up's so much to smile about that the bigwigs might bite a hole in their chest this week.

The game's two best QBs for well over a decade reunite for a berth in the biggest game on the planet.  All season long, there has been thoughts of these two teams meeting once again. This weekend's AFC Title Game is a Super Bowl of sorts.... well, kind of, anyway.

It's hard to say which of these two games I'm more excited about.  The brawl in the NFC reminds me of a good ole-fashion, show-up-in-your-best, bring-a-full-lunch and be-ready-to-get-it-on-for-four-full-quarters kinda game.

Let's be real, if not for an Atlanta last second come-from-behind win, the Seahawks and 49ers would have played in the NFC Title Game a season ago.  Now, these two NFC West Rivals will face each other for a third time this season with the rubber match winner going to Super Bowl XLVIII.

Man, this one gets me all fired up! This game will be physical, nasty, and fun.  FOX and CBS could both very well receive record ratings for NFC Championship Games this weekend.

The AFC Title Game kicks off first at 2PM, followed by the grudge match between the Hawks and Niners.  Both venues are two of the best in the league and there are enough story lines in these games to last an entire season.

Two older future Hall of Fame QB's will say all the right things this week and come across as class-act gentlemen.  But deep down inside, you've got to wonder if Manning and Brady have a picture of each other hanging on a mirror so they can remind each other of how bad they want to win.  You know, kind of like Apollo Creed did when he had that picture of Balboa on his bathroom mirror in Rocky II!

The other game, with two younger QB's that are both off to Hall of Fame starts in the NFL, will be no backseat match-up to the first game that pits great QB's against one another.  

Sure, Colin has struggled, but he is the starting QB on a team that is making their third straight appearance in the NFC Title Game, and he has been the starter in the last two.  Colin Kaepernick has been Montana-like in the post season with a 4-1 record.  And with a win Sunday, he can take the 49ers back to the Super Bowl as well.  

And of course, there is the soft-spoken Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, who reminds many of us of a younger version of Drew Brees. Wilson upped his playoff record to 2-1 with a 23-15 win over the Saints last week, and the second year starter from Wisconsin has an impressive overall record of 26-9 in two years as a starting QB.  

For those of you who are interested in the numbers, currently Seattle is a 3.5 point favorite over San Francisco, with the total set very low at 40 while the Broncos start off as a 4.5 home favorite over New England with the total set high at 55.    

So my advice to you is make a list of things you want to snack on, cook, ea,t and drink, so you can focus on what looks like two very good NFL Championship Games!
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Deke: Saints defense key difference this year
No way!  Ain't no way in hell the Saints did what they did, right?  Wrong! Of all the things that we could have predicted, none of us, and I mean nobody could have predicted that the Saints defense would do what they did during the 2013 season.

"We were hoping to have a middle-of-the-pack type defense this season," said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert.  "To have a defense ranked in the top five was incredible. Coach Rob Ryan has to be the Assistant Coach/Coordinator of the Year for what he has done."

And folks, Bobby ain't lying.  Sure, the Cajun Cannon wears his Who Dat emotions on his sleeve, and the man bleeds Black and Gold, but the Cajun Cannon has also facts and numbers to prove he is 100% correct.

Only one team in the National Football League had a top five offense and a top five defense and that team was the New Orleans Saints.  The Saints made significant strides in improving in all phases on defense.  And those strides began to take place when Coach Rob Ryan was hired.

Coach Ryan made an instant impact from day one, and now, in a short period of time, Ryan has the Saints defense as one of the best in the NFL.  The way Ryan was able to put his players in the right place at the right time made the defense a good one in 2013; matter of fact, the Saints defense was a real good bunch this season.

From being ranked last or near-last in every major defensive stat in 2012, the Saints made a complete 360-degree turnaround.  A year ago, the Saints defense allowed an NFL worst 7,042 total yards.  This season the Saints shrunk that number to 4,891.  That's 2,151 less yards of offense allowed!

And the numbers only get better for the Saints defense.  Let's break it down some more.

2012         versus              2013         Difference 
440.1    Yards Per Game    305.7         -134.4
292.6    Pass Yards           194.1         - 98.5
147.6    Rush Yards           111.6         - 36
471       Points Allowed      304            - 167
28.4      Points per Game   19              - 9.4

Is that impressive or what?  "The way the Saints defense played this season was something special.  I know they had some breakdowns at the end of some games, but overall you would have to give that group flying colors," said Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan.  

So in the coming weeks as we look back on the season and begin the evaluation process, one thing that we most certainly will point out is how well the defense played during the 2013 season.  And the most important move made during the off-season was hiring coach Rob Ryan.  And we would not be our genuine, good ole Southern charming selves if we didn't give a big thank you to the Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas fired Ryan a year ago.  This past season Dallas finished with a 8-8 record and the Silver Stars missed the playoffs.  And guess who had the worst (32nd) defense in the NFL this season?  I'll let you stew on that one!  
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Deke: That's a Wrap on 2013 Saints
OK, it’s over!  Like when Mickey told Rocky “It’s over Rock,” and like when Pinky told Craig the same thing.  As the season ended early Saturday night in a 23-15 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, it’s time to see what went down.  And folks, this game and the way we talked about it, wrote about it, read about it and spoke about it, turned out to be right on course of what we previewed a week ago.

I went back in looked at the several features I did for the web, and I found that a lot of the things many of you called Bobby and I to tell us about came to fruition:

1.      Saints could not avoid another bad start! It was certainly not as disappointing of a start as the first meeting, but there were a lot more similarities than not.  The Saints first drive was a three and out. Seattle’s first two drives of the game resulted in points.  Unlike the first meeting, the Saints were able to come up with a solid drive earlier in this meeting.  However, after a 54 yard drive the Saints missed a 45 yard field goal.  Bottom line, at the end of the first quarter the Saints trailed 0-6.

2.      Early missed chances! Mark Ingram should have caught a short pass from Drew Brees on the third play of the game.  Ingram could have gained the six yards needed to extend the drive, but he failed to catch the football.  Kicker Shayne Graham missed a 45 yard field goal.  

3.      Dismal halftime numbers again! The Saints gained only 188 yards of offense in the first game with the Seahawks.  At halftime of last week’s divisional game the Saints had run 27 offensive plays for a total of 113 yards.  And the team was in a huge hole down 0-16 at the break.  The Saints would flip their numbers into big yards in the second half.  But the biggest number that worked against them was third down offense.  The Saints finished the game 3-of-12 on third down conversions.  New Orleans was 1-of-5 in the first half and not much better with a 2-of-7 mark in the second half.

4.      Numbers can fool you too!  If I had told you before the game that the Saints would outgain the Seahawks 409 to 277 in total yards, and that the Saints defense would limit the Seahawks, especially in the second half...  the home team gained just 114 yards on 24 plays, went to 2-of-7 on third down in the process in the third and four quarters combined and I think we would have all taken our chances with those numbers.  But numbers can go anyway you want them to.  In the first half of the game, Seattle was in complete control up 16-0.  And the home team took control with only 163 yards of total offense.  Seattle did not gain many yards in either half, but it was their average on each play that was most consistent.  Seattle ran 32 plays for 163 yards for an average of 5.1 yard per play in the first half of the game.  Even though Seattle had nearly 50 less yards of offense than their first half total and scored no points, the home team averaged 4.75 yards per play. They managed to play keep-away just long enough to hold off the Saints.

5.      Lost the Turnover Battle! It’s the number one stat in football.  The Saints lost it, being -1 in the turnover department.  In the two games Seattle finished plus +2 in the turnovers.  They more importantly went 2-0 against the Saints keeping the Black and Gold from being in control of the #1 seed in the first game.  And Seattle ended the Saints season in the rematch game!

6.      Wilson cooled off, but Beast Mode went Beast Mode again! He has one of the best NFL post-season highlights with what he did to the Saints back in January 2011.  And this past weekend he went off on the Saints in the post season again. Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch gashed the Saints for 140 yards on 28 carries and scored two TD’s.  Lynch did his thing despite getting off to a slow start.  The Saints defense bottled up Lynch early as he had one yard on his first three carries, but that was not a sign of things to come.  Lynch would go on to carry the ball 25 more times for a whopping 139 yards.  The Saints did limit the numbers of QB Russell Wilson, who had a QB rating of 139.6 in the first game and 67.6 in the second, completing on nine pass attempts.  

So in closing, I’ll again say that the numbers are deceiving when it comes to sports.  I’ll spin them for you.  Seattle gained 152 less yards in the rematch game, scored 11 fewer points and their QB had a rating of 72 less points than he did the first time around.  And Seattle completed only nine passing attempts.  That all sounds good.  But as I mentioned several times before, numbers can be altered to make them look the way you might want them to.  But the final numbers can never be compromised or altered and the final numbers read Seattle 23, New Orleans 15.  

That’s a wrap my people!  
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Deke: This is anybody's game
New Orleans Saints vs Seattle Seahawks
Saturday January 11, 3:30PM Kickoff

Last week’s results:  Seattle is the #1 seed in the NFC and had a bye while the 6th-seeded Saints beat the 3rd-seeded Eagles 26-24.  The winner moves on to the NFC Title Game to take on either San Francisco or Carolina.
 
Saints Coach Sean Payton on how physical the Seattle defensive backfield plays
“They do a great job.  They play a lot of bump and run.  They are very confident corners.  They have a deep position group, but three of the starters are first team Pro Bowl players. Kam Chancellor is extremely physical.  He has size, range, and you see that on tape.  They have a scheme and they play it extremely well whether they are in their zone schemes or in their man schemes.  Often times one look might appear to be one but it’s the other.  (Richard) Sherman has great, they all have great ball skills so they all can catch a ball that is not just right.  (Earl) Thomas is the same way.  He is 100 miles an hour on the back end.  He is very sudden and quick to key in diagnosis and very smart. They are extremely good.”
 
Saints Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr on how the weather will affect the Saints offense
“Well, obviously we know what the weather conditions are supposed to be. Both sides of the ball are going to have to deal with it. It’s not like something you can really go out and replicate because we can’t make rain, but we’re going to have to deal with those conditions and do what we think is best for us going forward with the game plan.”
 
Saints Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan on if he has a better understanding on how to defend Seahawks QB Russell Wilson
 “I think I better have a better understanding of it.  I think he was exceptional.  My previous experience against him was the second week he ever started.  Obviously he has come a long way from there.  I see him as a premier quarterback in this league.  We all see it.  We have to be excellent and be at the top of our game to slow this guy down and that is not even mentioning the great running back (Marshawn) Lynch that they have and their commitment to running the football.”

Things the Saints must avoid
  • Don’t start slow!  Simply put, if Seattle gets up by two scores early you can turn out the lights and send the Saints back to the Big Easy.  We all know what happened the last time the Saints played the Seahawks.  I’m tired of talking about it, the Saints players are sick of hearing it.  So that was then and this is now.  This counts the most.  Don’t let Seattle win the game in the first 15 minutes like they did a month and a half ago.
  • Don’t get TOP-ed!  If the Saints win the time of possession battle, they will have a great chance to win this game.  Dictating the pace of the game is vital to the Saints.  And with the offense being on the field more often than the defense, the Saints enhance their chances of winning two fold.
  • Turnovers! It’s the number one stat in football for a reason.  Sure the Saints became just the 17th team to win a post-season game being -2 in the turnovers.  But that was living on the edge.  If New Orleans is –2 this week, they will be blown out again!
I did not feel this way a week ago, but I give the Saints a decent chance to pull off the upset here. The conditions in the game will have more impact than any player or coach in the game.  With conditions that are going to be happening during the game, it is going to be almost impossible to pass the ball down field with gusty 50 mph winds.

Vegas has the total 46 in this game.  I think this will go way under that number.  A busted run for a long gain, a short pass with a big run after the catch or a special teams score are the only things I can see as being big scoring plays in the game. Honestly, I did not think that the Saints had much of a chance earlier in the week, but I think the Saints will be in this game.  Barring another horrible start, the Saints should be in a four-quarter dog fight with the Seahawks.

I think that this will be anybody’s game in the fourth.  If I were betting the line I would most without question take the Saints with the 8½. but I’m hotter on the total in this game.  I like the under (46) in the game.

So take the Black and Gold and go under... I think way under!

 
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Deke: Saints LB Pat Swilling likes the Saints to win
Just two days before the biggest game of the year for the New Orleans Saints, I had the pleasure of visiting with the great Pat Swilling.  Pat was our special guest on the Saints Players Show, where Pat and I talked about the Saints game against Seattle, his glory days in a Black and Gold uniform, and of course, his relationship with the greatest set of linebackers to ever grace the field in the famed 'Dome Patrol.

Click to listen to the entire interview:


“You know it’s funny. When the Saints win I seem to always have a great week.  The fans make things so fun.  I think we have the best fans in the world, and trust me, the players are grateful for the fans support.”

The 1991 NFL Defensive MVP showed up in a Saints jacket, sat right down and began to dissect the Saints and Seahawks as if he were suiting up this weekend with the team.  “Man, Deke, I miss the game. I miss playing, I miss the friendships I had with many players and just being able to go out and play each week is something is greatly miss.”  I started things off by asking Pat to give a few words on each of the great linebackers he went into battle with each Sunday.

On Rickey Jackson: “The best player to ever play the game.  I’m talking about pure toughness in Rickey Jackson.  Rickey Jackson was someone you wanted with you if you were in a foxhole somewhere.  Rickey played just a few days after being in a serious car wreck.  That was Rickey.  One of the best pure football players to ever play the game.”

On Vaughn Johnson: “Not only my friend but one of the toughest, grittiest inside linebackers to ever play the game.  He could run, he could hit. Just ask Roger Craig.  Every time I see Roger Craig he looks at me and smiles and says I can’t believe how hard that guy (Vaughn Johnson) hit me.”

On the late great Sam Mills: “Coach Mills. That’s how we felt about Sam. He was our coach. Sam was a great football player, he was strong as an ox and he knew everything about the game. He knew every tendency on every player on every team. I can still remember hearing Sam call me and tell me what play the other team was about to run. Sam was a student of the game, but he was our coach on the field.”

Pat was more than optimistic about the Saints chances this weekend against Seattle.  Pat told me he thinks that the Saints will play much better and he really likes the way the Saints are playing right now. Can the Saints pull off the upset this week at Seattle?  #56 thinks so!  “I think the Saints have a great opportunity to win this game.  I’ve been hearing what the odds makers are saying and the national media, but I think the Saints are going to play well.”

So why does Pat think the Saints can win?  “We are playing good defense. When you are on the road you have to play great defense. If the Saints don’t play great defense they won’t win.”  Pat said that the Saints offense could aid the Black and Gold defense by having some long time-consuming drives that would keep Seahawks QB Russell Wilson off the field.

“He’s (Russell Wilson) a great player. And the longer he is off the field the better it is.”  Swilling was impressed with the Saints rushing attack last week and he says rushing the football against Seattle is vital for the Saints also.

So what will it be Mr. MVP?  “I’ll say the Saints win it 27-24.” 

So there you have it, Who Dat Nation. And as far as his life after football, “I’ve got a real estate company and I enjoy coaching basketball,” Swilling said. Swilling resides in New Orleans.  #56 finished his great career with 107.5 career sacks. 
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Deke: Saints can't afford another ugly start
Ask any head coach or player in the NFL about going to play a game on the road, and one of the first things they will tell you is that they need to get off to a good start. If the Saints are going to go marchin' in to the NFC title game, they need to get off to a great start.

In their 34-7 loss at Seattle in December, the Saints could not have gotten off to a worse start than they did.  The first three drives of the game for the Saints offense were flat out bad and things only got worse from that point. Seattle won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, so the Saints got the ball first.  The first play of the game was a sign of things to come for the Black and Gold offense: Pierre Thomas took a handoff and was tackled four yards behind the line of scrimmage.

So already, the Saints were facing a 2nd and 14 at their own 16 yard line. Drew Brees then completed a short pass to Darren Spoles for seven yards to give New Orleans a manageable 3rd and 7 situation.  But on third down, Brees attempted a pass to Robert Meachem that was incomplete, forcing the Saints to punt the football. Not only did the Saints not get a first down, they held the ball for only 1:29, and then punted the ball deep from their own end of the field.  Seattle would respond with a long, time-consuming drive that lasted 5:44 and resulted in a field goal to give the home team a 3-0 lead.

Things continued to go wrong big-time for the Saints on their next offensive possession. New Orleans had the ball for just two plays, gaining only four yards before the game changing play took place. Facing a 3rd and 5 at their own 25 yard line, Drew was sacked for a seven yard loss, fumbled the football; Seattle’s Michael Bennett scooped it up and returned it 22 yards for a TD, and then Seattle was off to a hot 10-0 lead over New Orleans.

Not only had Seattle taken an early lead, but they had established that the Saints offense would be hard pressed to move the ball against the Seahawks defense.  In fact, the Saints would score just once (7 points), be held to their lowest point total of the season, and pick up just 188 yards of total offense.

So already down 10-0, New Orleans got the football for their third offensive possession of the first quarter of the game. In their first two drives, the Saints ran five plays, and gained one yard. The third drive was also a three-and-out for the Saints. New Orleans saw RB Mark Ingram gain one yard, Brees attempted a pass to Jimmy Graham that fell incomplete, and then on 3rd and 9, Brees hit Sproles for three yards forcing a punt on fourth-and-six.  So the Saints third possession saw them run three plays, gain four yards and punt.

Seattle would then get the ball back and march down the field and score to take a commanding 17-0 lead over a team that had shown no signing of any success on offense.  The Saints only picked up their first 1st down of the game on their final drive of the first quarter.

But the tone had already been set, and falling behind 0-17, things were not going according to schedule for the Saints. New Orleans was on the bad side of the time of possession battle, already were -1 in the turnover department, with 22 yards of offense and just one first down.

Now, as I’ve stated before that was then and this is now, but I’m quite sure that Saints coaches and players have all discussed that the start to the game New Orleans had in December has to and must be avoided in the divisional meeting Saturday.

 
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Deke: Bobby's feelings at mid-week
OK, we all know what happened the last time the Saints and Seahawks met. Seattle handed it to the Black and Gold on MNF 34-7.  I think it’s safe to say that we can stop talking about that.  Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll, many of his players, as well as Coach Sean Payton and his Saints have all said on several occasions that the first meeting is long gone and this match-up Saturday is the one that matters most.

“That was a game we played not too long ago. This is a team that has been dominant all season. They’re the number one seed. They’re unbelievably talented defensively. Offensively they’re coached very well. They’re on a roll. They’ve had one of those magical seasons and we have our work cut out for this one,” Payton said earlier this week.
 
So as we continue to look ahead to this weekend’s divisional game, Bobby and I tossed around a few things the Saints need to do in order to win this game.

Sense of Balance

“I think one thing is being balanced on offense,” said the Cajun Cannon. The Saints ran 56 plays on offense in the first meeting, passing the ball 38 times and rushing just 17 times.  That unbalanced attack has to change this time around.  “Once the Saints fell behind, they passed the ball more than they would have liked to.”

The Turnover Battle

Securing the football will be a key factor in this game.  Seattle led the NFL, ending up +20 in the turnover ratio.  The Saints finished the regular season even, and are now -2 in turnovers after the Eagles game. Cannon says “We need to be on the plus side of the turnovers. Winning last week on the negative side does not happen that often (17-195) but the Saints were able to overcome those two interceptions to beat Philly 26-24.

Weathering the Storm

The current forecast for Saturday’s divisional match-up between the Saints and Seahawks says that the chance of rain is 100%, Humidity is 92%, Winds S at 11 MPH with a high of 42 and a low of 38. Last week, the Saints kind of dodged a weather bullet, as it was cold in Philly, but there was no rain and no high winds; that will not be the case this week when the Saints take the field in Seattle. Earlier this week, Bobby and I spoke with Drew Brees and I asked Drew which conditions are more difficult to throw the ball in.

“Whenever you can’t get a good grip on the football it makes it more difficult to throw the football, and when the ball is real wet, it’s harder to grip the football,” said Drew.  Brees continued to say that while throwing the ball in windy conditions is difficult, dealing with a wet football can be even more difficult.

So the breakdown continues and we will continue to look at this big match-up from all angles the rest of the week right here on WWL.com
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Deke: Seattle's Wilson enjoying one incredible ride
Just three years ago, Russell Wilson was at NC State with a big decision on his hands.  And now, he will lead his Seattle Seahawks into the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs for a second straight season.  “Russell was a great teammate and a great player,” said Saints Wide Receiver Nick Toon.

Toon and Wilson played one season together at the University of Wisconsin, with both players helping lead the Badgers to the Granddaddy of them all - the Rose Bowl.  For those of you that do not know, I’ll kind of fill in the blanks on the interesting story of Russell Wilson.  The young signal-caller that has compiled an impressive 25-9 overall record as a starter in two seasons has had a lot of big things happen in a short amount of time.

In 2010, Russell Wilson was coming off an impressive bowl outing in his then-NC State Wolfpack's 23-7 win over West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl. Wilson had carved himself an incredible start in three seasons at State as he became the first-ever freshman to be named to the first team All-ACC Offensive Unit.

But things get much more interesting.  After his junior season, Wilson and NC State Coach Tom O’Brien had a little sit-down to talk about what was best for each party.  Wilson was scheduled to report to spring training with Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies in the spring of 2011.

To make a long story short, O’Brien felt like Wilson was better served remaining on campus at that time to prepare for his last season.  You see, Wilson earned his degree after his junior year and still had one year of college eligibility remaining. Both parties came to what seemed to be a peaceful resolve as NC State granted Wilson his release, meaning he was free to transfer to another school to play his final season of college football.  After making history at one school, Wilson would do the same in Madison for the University of Wisconsin.

Not many players, if any, have made all-conference first team honors at two major football programs, but Wilson would go on to do just that.  At Wisconsin, Wilson added a dimension to Brett Bielema’s ground-and-pound style. Wilson would quickly become a player at NC State that had trouble getting attention of NFL Scouts, to being the hottest rising star of all of college football.  Wilson would throw for a school record 33 TD passes, help the Badgers win the Big Ten Title, and led his club to the Rose Bowl.

Wilson’s 33 TD passes happens to be second-most in Big Ten history, next to only Drew Brees’ 39 TDs when he played at Purdue.  He was named the Big Ten QB of the year, making first team all-conference honors in the process.

Now, just three years after transferring to Wisconsin, Wilson has his Seahawks poised to make another Super Bowl run.   After hearing his name called in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Wilson came out of nowhere to beat out veteran QB Matt Flynn to earn the starting job going into the 2012 NFL Season.

In his rookie season, Wilson led the Seahawks to an 11-5 record in the regular season that was good enough to land a Wild Card spot in the NFC post-season.  Wilson and the Seahawks would win one playoff game over the Redskins before losing in a heartbreaker to the Falcons in the Divisional round of the playoffs a year ago.

“He is a great player.  He (Wilson) can extend plays with his ability and he throws the ball very well,” said Saints sack leader #94 Cam Jordan.  In his second season in the NFL, Russell Wilson has completed 257 of 407 pass attempts for 3,357 yards with 26 TDs and nine interceptions.

Wilson upped his play even more in his second season in the league as he helped guide Seattle to a 13-3 record and the top seed in the NFC.  Saints Coach Sean Payton is quite impressed with what Russell Wilson has done. “You see in Russell a very competitive, driven player who's got number one, a very gifted skill set and then number two, certainly a guy that would prepare tirelessly and work tirelessly to be as good as he can.”

Coach Payton made those comments about Wilson prior to the Saints' first meeting with the Seahawks back in December.  “He’s a guy that knows how to win.  And I think he’s a very good leader and we can see that on tape.” Wilson was solid in the Seahawks 34-7 win over New Orleans as he completed 22 of 30 pass attempts for 310 yards with three touchdowns and quarterback rating of 139.6.  Wilson also displayed some of the gifted skill set that coach Payton spoke on finishing that very same game as Seattle’s leading rusher with 47 yards on eight carries for an average of 5.9 yards per rush.

Wilson was responsible for 357 of the 429 yards of total offense Seattle gained against the Saints back on December 2nd.  The Saints will look to lower those numbers Wilson piled up this weekend in the with a trip to the NFC title game on the line!
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Deke: What happened in Seattle on MNF?
OK, we’ve got all week to take a long look and analyze everything; from the game itself, to how loud the fans at Century Link are going to be, to the game-time weather forecast.  So let’s start looking back at the last time these two teams met.

The Weather:   For those wondering, the current forecast for Saturday’s Divisional match-up between the Saints and Seahawks says that the chance of rain is 100%, humidity is 92%, Winds S at 11 MPH with a high of 42 and a low of 38. 

The Stadium:  Century Link Field (67,000), Field Turf playing surface

December 2, 2013 Seattle 34 - New Orleans 7

The Saints and Seahawks first meeting was honestly more hype than anything.  A game billed by many as the possible best Monday Night Football game of the season was pretty ugly, from the Black and Gold point of view anyway.  The Seahawks won rather easily 34-7 over the Saints.

At the time of the meeting, the #1 seed in the NFC was on the line as the Saints entered that game with a 9-2 mark while Seattle was 10-1 on the season. The Seahawks jumped out to an early 17-0 lead en-route to a 34-7 win.

New Orleans did not get off to the kind of start they needed to as the Black and Gold offense gained just nine yards on nine plays on their first three offensive possessions that featured two punts and a fumble.  Meanwhile, the Seahawks could not have gotten off to a better start.

Seattle scored on five of their first six offensive possession to take complete control of the game.  Seattle also got a TD from their defense when Michael Bennett scooped up a loose ball and waltzed 22 yards for a TD.

Seattle QB Russell was solid, going 22-of-30 for 310 yards with three TD’s and a QB rating of 139.6.  Drew Brees was 23-of-38 for 147 yards with one TD and a rating of 77.4.  Seattle won the turnover battle and gained 429 yards of total offense.

RB Marshawn Lynch finished the game with 45 yards on 16 carries for an average of 2.8 yards per carry.  Russell Wilson paced Seattle with 47 yards on 8 carries averaging 5.9 yards per rushing attempt.  TE Zach Miller led the Seahawks with five grabs for 86 yards and 1 TD.

Seattle had 10 offensive possessions that saw them score three TD’s, three FG's, punt three times and then run out the clock to end the game.  The Saints' numbers were low.  New Orleans gained 188 yards of total offense on 56 plays.

The Saints passed the ball 38 times for 144 yards and rushed the ball 17 times for 44 yards averaging 2.6 yards per carry.  Mark Ingram led the Saints with 22 yards on eight carries, while Jimmy Graham had three grabs for 42 yards and a TD.

New Orleans had 11 offensive possessions with six punts, two turnovers on downs, one TD, one fumble and one drive that ended the first half. 

So do these numbers tell us anything about the last game?  I don’t really think so. Seattle was never really tested in the game jumping out to a 17-7 lead that stretched to 27-7 at halftime.  It seemed like once Michael Bennett scored the defensive TD for the Seahawks, the game was out of control.

So there you have it.  Maybe these numbers will help us point towards some things to break down and or talk about as we look forward to the second meeting between these two with much more on the line this time!
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Deke: An early look at the Seahawks
We are down to the final four teams in the NFC Playoffs and the New Orleans Saints are most certainly in that number! The Saints' next opponent is a familiar one in the Seattle Seahawks.  Next week’s meeting between the Saints and Seahawks marks the second post-season meeting since the 2011 post season. So let’s take a look, an early look at the Seattle Seahawks.

Team Colors: College Navy, Action Green, Wolf Grey
Division:  NFC West (Champions)
Head Coach:  Pete Carroll
Offensive Coordinator:  Darrell Bevel
Defensive Coordinator:  Dan Quinn
2013 Record:  13-3
NFC West Record:  4-2

The Seattle Seahawks are one of the most complete teams in the NFL this season.  Seattle ended the regular season with a 13-3 mark that included capturing the NFC West Division Title and the #1 overall seed in the NFL.

Looking at offensive numbers, The Seahawks are 17th in total offense with an average of 339 yards per game.  Seattle has the 26th-best passing attack with an average of 202.3 yards per game. Seattle also has one of the best ground games in the NFL, averaging 136.8 yards per game, which is 4th best in the league.

Quarterback Russell Wilson has quickly become one of the bright young stars in the NFL, having compiled a 25-9 record as starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks. Wilson has completed 257 passes of 407 attempts for 3,357 yards with 26 TD’s and nine interceptions.

The Seahawks' rushing attack is led by the physical running style of Marshawn Lynch.  This season Lynch rushed for 1,257 yards with an average of 4.2 yards per carry and 12 TD’s scored on the ground.  The Seahawks' top target is Wide Receiver Golden Tate. On the season, Tate has 64 grabs for 898 yards with an average of 14 yards per catch with 5 scores this season.  When it comes to defense the Seahawks have one of the best in the NFL.  Matter of fact, Seattle is the best defensive team in the league!

Seattle ranks #1 in total defense, #1 in scoring defense as well as #1 in pass defense. The Seahawks allow a league-best 273 yards of offense per game and a league-best 14.4 points per game. Seattle is also #1 in pass defense this season allowing a league-best 172 yards per contest.  Seattle is 7th against the run allowing only 101.6 yards per game this season.  Seattle’s leading tackler is LB Bobby Wagner. Wagner has 120 total tackles this season with five sacks.  Speaking of sacks, Michael Bennett leads Seattle with 8.5 sacks this season.  And when it comes to picking off the football, no defensive backfield is better this season than Seattle’s.

Richard Sherman leads the NFL with a season-high eight interceptions while teammate Earl Thomas is tied for 5th in the NFL five interceptions. 

So there is a little overview of the Saints next foe. Up next, we will take a look back at the first meeting this season between the Seahawks and Saints - a game won in Seattle 34-7 back on December 2nd. 
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Deke: Saints beat Eagles! A look back
The Saints no longer have to hear how they have never won a game on the road!  The Black and Gold put all that talk to bed for good with their 26-24 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.  After trailing 7-6 at halftime, the Saints took control of the game in the third quarter. Let’s take a look back at some key things that the Saints did in order to advance to the divisional round of the playoffs.  The Saints had to feel pretty good about their first half numbers as the Black and Gold had 191 yards of total offense with 97 yards passing and 94 rushing.

Coach Sean Payton has talked about his offense having balance throughout the season. In the first half, the Saints ran 36 plays with 16 rushing attempts and 18 passes.  But even with those good numbers, the two interceptions thrown by Drew Brees kept the Saints in a 7-6 hole at the break.

In the third quarter, the Saints took over the game.  New Orleans had 16 plays for 148 yards with two TDs scored.  Drew Brees was razor-sharp going 7-for-8 for 98 yards and 1TD.  On the flip side, the Saints kept the Eagles in check. Before a late-quarter scoring drive, the Saints had limited Philly to 6 plays, four yards, 0-for-2 on third down conversions and no points.  However, the Eagles took advantage of the absence of CB Kennan Lewis.

Prior to Lewis leaving the game, Lewis held Eagles WR DeSean Jackson without a catch.  Philly did close the third by going on a seven play, 65-yard drive that resulted in a LeSean McCoy one-yard run to allow the Eagles to cut the lead to 20-14. The Eagles would eventually come back and take a 24-23 lead over the Saints in the fourth quarter, but the Saints' ability to keep control of the line of scrimmage for much of the game was huge.

The Saints defense did more than their share. The Saints held the Eagles without a third-down conversion in the second half of the game.  The Eagles were 3-for-8 on third downs in the first half and went 0-4 in the second half of the game finishing 3-of-12.
The Saints wanted to own the time of possession in the game and the Saints did just that.  New Orleans possessed the football 58% of the time with a 34:53 to 25:07 advantage. 

About the only numbers that were not in the favor of the Saints were the turnovers. The Eagles finished the game plus +2 with the two interceptions they had on Drew Brees.

The Saints had perhaps their most impressive offensive balance in quite some time.  The Saints finished the game running 68 plays with 36 rushing attempts and 30 passes for a total of 434 yards in their 26-24 win over the Eagles.

And, of course, Kicker Shayne Graham was outstanding.  Graham was a perfect 4-for-4 on field goal attempts.  Graham made a 36 yard field goal and a 46 yarder the second quarter of the game. The Graham made two more field goals in the second half.  Graham hit a 35 yard field goal and then the game winning 32 yarder in the fourth to lift the Saints to a 26-24 win over the Eagles. 

Now it’s on to Seattle in the Divisional Round!
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Deke Bellavia: Saints / Eagles Preview

New Orleans Saints (11-5) vs Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
Saturday January 4, 2014 7:10PM Kickoff
Lincoln Financial Field


The Saints and Eagles have met twice in the playoffs.  In the 1992 playoffs, the Eagles beat the Saints 36-20 in New Orleans, and in January 2007, New Orleans edged the Eagles 27-24.  This is the third playoff meeting between the two and the first post-season game in the City of Brotherly Love between the Saints and the Eagles.

What They are Saying:

Saints Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan on Eagles QB Nick Foles:

 “Yeah, we saw him last year twice and this guy is really good.  He was excellent last year, so I think he has just matured.  I think their system has really helped him become a great quarterback.  I think he is a great quarterback.  We have our hands full, but I mean, they have so many weapons, and at this time of year there are no weak sisters.  You are going to play the best of the best and that is what it should be and we are looking forward to it.”
 
Saints QB Drew Brees when asked if he feels like the Saints offense has something to prove:
 
“No, we always have something to prove.  But like I said, playoffs kind of mark the start of a new season, a new opportunity.  As the sixth seed, you understand that the road you travel is going to be on the road, so you have no other choice.  We know what we are capable of, so now it is a matter of putting it all together in preparation throughout the week and going out there and executing.”
 
Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelley on his offense having to face Saints pass rushers Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan:

“Two outstanding athletes that bring a real good skill set to the game. I knew Cameron a little bit because he was at Cal. So, I faced him when I was at Oregon. Junior was actually at Temple, so the guys around here know him a little bit, but (they are) two very dynamic pass rushers that you have to be aware of where they are. Rob (Ryan) does such a good job of getting that favorable matchup, I think that’s kind of the fun part of coaching, how he’s going to try to get those two matched up against us.”
 
Eagles QB Nick Foles on his impressive TD to interception ratio:
 
“I think our guys are doing a great job. Our receivers are doing a really good job of running their routes and if the ball is in harm’s way, they’re getting the ball down and making sure that no one else gets it. Our line has given me time to get through my reads. Tight ends and running backs in the pass game and in pass protection are doing a great job, so it’s giving me time to make decisions and give guys an opportunity. The job of the quarterback is to put the ball in the playmaker’s hands. I’m just trying to do the best I can to give my teammates – to put them in a position to be successful. With that, you have to prepare. There’s a lot of preparation. Our coaching staff does a great job with our game plan and does a great job with giving us information to go out there and puts us in a position to where we can be successful and make plays. I think it’s just a team thing and our coaches and our players and everybody is doing a great job. I know everybody stresses the touchdown to interception radio, but it’s not just me. It’s the guys all around me that are doing a great job and that’s just a great credit to our offense.”
 

Deke Speaks:

Let’s make this real simple.  I know all of you (an me too) are about full and long in the tooth when it comes to hearing predictions and breakdowns of the NFL playoffs this weekend.  This game will be won by the team that protects the football the best and the team that can protect their QB the best.

The biggest challenge the Saints face is protecting Drew Brees. Rookie LT Terron Armstead is good, and seemingly can be a great player in the league.  But tonight, it’s a step up in class and competition. Armstead is going up against the second greatest sack-getter in Eagles history in Trent Cole.  Cole is second only to the late, great Reggie White when it comes to all time sacks in Eagles History. The edge here has to go to the Eagles.

The Saints ability to run the football has to come into question.  New Orleans has not rushed the ball well on a consistent basis this season, but in this game, rushing attempts may be as important as rushing yards! If the Saints run 65 offensive plays, I would say that 20 to 25 of those need to be rushing plays.  If the Saints have to pass the ball far more than they have to rush it, then that is not a good thing.  And now the Saints have to take on the Eagles without their best running back in Pierre Thomas.  Thomas not only does well in pass protection, he is the best when it comes to running the screen play.

To an offense that can’t run the football on a regular basis, screen plays mean a lot.  So the edge here goes to Philly, as I think they have a better shot at slowing down the Saints rushing attack more so than the Saints have a chance to rush the football with success against the Eagles.

And now, the Eagles offense comes into play.  Sure, the Saints have a solid defense that ranks 4th in the NFL.  But the Saints are going to get a heavy dose of Eagles RB LeSean McCoy.  The NFL rushing leader is a threat rushing the ball as well as catching it. If the Saints slow down Shady, that would be a win for the Black and Gold, and I have to give the edge here to the Eagles. 

Finally, I’ll finish up with the coaches.  Chip Kelly has done a great job in his first season, but this is the playoffs. And if Sean Payton is one of the best, which everyone agrees he is, then Payton has to have an edge here in coaching.  In fact, I would give New Orleans a big edge here when it comes to coaching.

I’ve been taught over the years, bet with your head and not your heart.  The Saints lost their last three road games with bad losses to Seattle and St. Louis followed by a season changing 17-13 loss to Carolina that cost the Saints a chance to be off this week and at home next week.

I’ll have to go with my head here and not my heart.  Until the Saints win a big game (playoff game) on the road, it makes it easy to go with the other side regardless of the opponent.  But the Eagles are a team that began 0-4 at home and they finished up 4-0 at home this season. 

In a close one, I’ll say the Eagles by five.

 

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Deke Bellavia: Who are the Eagles? An early look at Philly
Who are the Eagles?  An early look at Philly
Head Coach:  Chip Kelly
Division:  NFC East (Champions) 
Home Stadium:  Lincoln Financial Field (Capacity 68,532)
2013 Record:   10-6
Home Record:  4-4
Offensive Rank:  2nd 417.6 yards per game
Defensive Rank:  29th 394.2 yards per game
Road Record:  6-2 (Tied for best in NFL in 2013)
Like the Saints, the Eagles did not make the playoffs in 2012.  In fact, last season was the end of an era in Philadelphia, as longtime successful coach Andy Reid was shown the door.  Moving forward, the Eagles and Reid both made out well in 2013, as the Eagles are back in the playoffs and former Coach Andy Reid has his new team, the Kansas City Chiefs, in the playoffs as well.

The Eagles got off to a slow start this season, especially at their home field.  Philadelphia lost their first four home games this season before winning their last four to wrap up the regular season with a 4-4 mark at Lincoln Financial Field.
On the flip side, the Eagles were tied with the best road record in the NFL Regular season with an impressive 6-2 road mark.  The Eagles are definitely an offensive team. 

The Eagles have the league's 2nd best offense.
Philly averages 417.3 yards of total offense per game.  The Eagles gain on average 160.4 rushing yards per game (best in the NFL) and they pass for 256.9 yards per game, which is 9th best this season.  Running Back LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing this season with 1,607 yards.  McCoy averages 5.1 yards per carry and he has scored 9 touchdowns this season. 

The Eagles turned over the QB spot to Nick Foles.  To say that Foles has had a great year would be an understatement.  His TD-to-interception ratio is exceptional; Foles has thrown 27 touchdown passes this season with only two interceptions.

Foles has completed 203 passes of 317 attempts for 2,891 yards.  Foles’ favorite target is Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson.  Jackson has hauled in 82 passes this season for 1,332 yards with 9 TDs and Jackson averages 83.3 yards receiving per game.
On the defensive side of the football, the Eagles don’t rank very high.  In fact, that is putting it lightly!  Philadelphia ranks 29th in total defense allowing 394.2 yards per game this season.  The Eagles allow 289.8 yards per game passing and another 104.4 rushing yards per game which is 10th best in the NFL.

Eagles Cornerback Brandon Boykin is tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions in 2013.  Boykin’s biggest interception this season came in the Eagles 24-22 win over Dallas.  With the Cowboys in possession and with a chance to win the game, Boykin picked off Kyle Orton to help seal the Eagles win over Dallas.
 
 
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