In the fall of 2008, Les Miles faced an eerily similar situation with his QB’s. Jarrett Lee was a good looking young QB who had shown some promise, while freshman Jordan Jefferson was a QB who had the ability to extend plays and was the more mobile of the two youngsters. Well, no need for me to go into how those two QB’s played out. But, it is the way that situation was handled that leads me to believe this is why Les Miles has decided to do things a little differently.
Monday, Coach Les Miles said that true freshman QB Brandon Harris would be the Tigers starting QB. This going back and forth is not doing anyone any good, and to me that's why Miles is going with Brandon Harris. We all have seen the Tigers offense plays much better, moves smoother and the production is night and day, when Brandon Harris is at QB compared to when Anthony Jennings is under center.
From what we’ve been told, Jennings looks the best at practice and then struggles when he gets into real game action. On the flip side, Harris has not looked as good as Jennings at practice, but the true freshman is a gamer. Sometimes things are better going unexplained. I don’t have any clue as to why Jennings practices well and plays bad and Harris plays good and does not practice all that well.
Now this week the Tigers go on the road for two weeks in hostile environments at Auburn and Florida. To many of us, going with Harris over Jennings was a no brainer. But, to the coaches there could be more than meets the eye. Which player prepares best? Which player picks up the game plan for that week? Who has the best practice week? And, which player takes better control of the Tigers offense?
I would gander that those are just a handful of things Miles and Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron had to think about, when deciding which QB to give the ball to. Jennings has done some good things, but in my own opinion, the Tigers needed to go with Brandon Harris.
Sure, there is a good side and a bad side here. But, the potential upside with Harris under center can’t be overlooked. Harris has more confidence on the field right now. But, more importantly, the Tigers players appear to have more confidence in Harris than Jennings.
The LSU offense came to life against Mississippi State and again last week against New Mexico State, but only after Harris was inserted into the game. Harris looks smoother, calmer and Harris runs the LSU offense more efficiently.
When Brandon Harris was in high school his ability to extend plays and then use his legs or arm to complete big plays was pretty special. Now this is an entire different level of play and players. But I’ve seen enough of Brandon to believe that his special play in high school can continue on the college level.
Harris now gives the LSU offense the rest of this season and three more years in the LSU program. When is the last time LSU had a young QB, who looked good and had the remaining of his eligibility left? Been a long time.
Harris is a part of one of the most talented group of players I’ve seen in all my years covering prep football. LSU is set at the skilled spots for a few years and if they settle at QB, LSU could recruit more talent to surround their young offensive leader.
What Les Miles has to do is keep Anthony Jennings in the right frame of mind, as we all know that he is still one snap away from being the Tigers starter. And, the likelihood of the Tigers needing Jennings services this season is far greater than not.
It’s a difficult spot to be in, but by making a quick decision LSU can now prepare with one QB this week. By giving Brandon Harris all of the snaps, the talented freshman QB can learn as much as he can; get acclimated to what Cam wants him to do, and show confidence in him.
Flipping back and forth from QB to QB has not worked in the past. And Miles knew that It will not work now, nor will it work in the future. Harris will make mistakes, LSU will lose games with him. But, going with Harris at QB and sticking with him will be the best thing for LSU's program right now and moving forward.
Again, I’m just a person who watches from the outside, just like many of you. I think the decision was clear, the choice is obvious and Brandon Harris is the man LSU will go with at QB!
The halfway point of the season happens this week with the biggest weekend ever in the SEC West. Three games that feature six teams ranked in the top 15 says it all. Man, the SEC West is one tough division and the last place team in 2014 could win another conference. Let’s take a look at this week’s top 10!
1. Oregon Ducks (4-0) – The Ducks got some rest and now can remain perfect with a win over the Wildcats. Right now the Pac-12 looks salty with Oregon, USC, UCLA and Stanford. Can the Ducks win out? I doubt it! Last week BYE/ this week vs Arizona October 2nd.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0) – The Tide had the weekend off and two weeks to get ready for Ole Miss. You know, the Tide love to spoil others house parties! A year ago the Rebels thought they were on the same level as the Tide. They thought. Hey, I think Ole Miss is on the right track. But, the Tide will prove that they are still the cream of the crop in the SEC West! Last week BYE / this week @ Ole Miss.
3. Florida State (4-0) – The Noles keep getting by each week. I think the ACC is weak and with one loss the Noles could be out of the playoff chase! Last week beat N.C. State 56-41/ this week vs Wake Forest.
4. Oklahoma Sooners (4-0) - The Sooners have a stretch of five games that is the toughest stretch this season. TCU, Texas, Kansas State and Baylor are four of the Sooners next five games. Win those and see these Sooners play in the Sugar Bowl in one of the playoff games! Last week BYE/ this week @ TCU.
5. Auburn Tigers (4-0) – The Tigers are a team that now faces seven straight ranked opponents beginning with those other Tigers from the Bayou. Will Auburn be back in the ATL this December? This week is a big game, but not the biggest for the boys on the Plains. Last week beat Louisiana Tech 45-17 / this week vs LSU.
6. Texas A&M Aggies (5-0) – Texas A&M proved that having a QB, who does not get rattled, is huge in the SEC. Now, can the Aggies go to Starkville and beat a team that has the best QB in the conference? I can hear the Cowbells now! Last week beat Arkansas 35-28 OT/ this week @ Mississippi State.
7. Baylor Bears (4-0) – The Bears can score, and right now look like the second best team in the Big 12 behind the Sooners. But, another loss to the Longhorns would be a setback. A big one! Last beat Iowa State 49-28 / this week @ Texas.
8. Ole Miss Rebels (4-0) – The Rebels really are a sound team. But, QB Bo Wallace is shaky and the Tide will make him pay for any mistakes. If the Rebels are to beat the Tide, they need Wallace to play big! Last week beat Memphis 24-3/ this week vs Alabama.
9. Georgia Bulldogs (3-1) - The Bulldogs got off to a slow start but then rode the legs of the best RB in the nation in Todd Gurly. Gurly had over 200 yards rushing, and as he goes so do these Bulldogs. I could see UGA losing three or more games! Last week beat Tennessee 35-32 / this week vs Vanderbilt.
10. Notre Dame – (4-0) – The Irish have the schedule to land in the four team playoff this year. A huge test takes place this week with the Cardinal. A win would allow more ND faithful to pump them up and overhype them sadly again! Last week beat Syracuse 31-15/ this week vs Stanford.
I speak for myself and I speak from the heart. I know no more than any of you out there. I will tell you that what I write is what I see and it’s my take. Right now the New Orleans Saints are 1-3. And to me they are not that good! After a 38-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Saints return home to take on a Tampa Bay team that beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh. With the way the Saints are playing, don’t chalk up anything as a win with this Black & Gold team.
This was supposed to be a team that made all the necessary moves; brought in the missing pieces to a puzzle, that was supposedly so close to becoming a complete Super Bowl framed puzzle in the making. I guess I should ask, did the Saints make the necessary moves? Did they bring in the right pieces to the puzzle? And, was the puzzle really that close to being framed? Instead it looks fragile!
As the Saints enter the fifth week of the 2014 season they do so with a 1-3 record. And they do so after playing a Dallas team that is not that good. Inconsistent, undisciplined; lacking fundamentals are words now being written and said about the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints offense will always have good numbers. But, is this offense better? What’s wrong in the early moments of games? What's hindered the Saints offense from scoring TD’s instead of field goals? And why has the Saints offense gotten off to more slow starts in the first four games of this season than in any of the previous years since Sean Payton has been in New Orleans?
The Saints defense looks like a completely different team than they did a year ago. The defense can’t tackle. They can’t rush the passer. They can’t stop the run. And right now the Saints defense is one of the worst and arguably the worst in the NFL.
I’ve watched six high school football games, 15 college games and 10 NFL games. And the Saints defense is by far the worst tackling team I’ve seen play in 2014. The Saints defense should be embarrassed by how they tackle, because they are just that, embarrassing!
The Saints Special Teams can’t make field goals consistently. They can’t make extra points all the time. And, the return game once again looks bad. And to make things worse, former Saints special teams ace Darren Sproles continues to make the Saints front office look silly. Why was he given up for a meager fifth round pick?
And that fake punt. What can I say about that, that hasn't already been said? One has to wonder and at the very least question who thought that fake punt was a good idea? Man, I’m just a broke down, bootleg broadcaster, but it don’t take no Rhodes Scholar to know that was terrible!
In closing I will say that nothing I’ve written is news. It’s not earth shattering. And it sure ain’t anything you all haven’t seen with your own eyes. People, the Saints are 1-3 with 12 games left in the season.
But this is a bad football team. The Saints are doing the things that bad football teams do. I know over the next several days we will hear some of the same stuff we always hear. But I’ll simplify things. I don’t need to watch the tape to see how bad this team is. The first impression is usually the right one. And the impression I get from the Saints is that of a bad football team.
People are frustrated, People question why the Saints went to WVA for training camp. People want to know why a team that the overwhelming majority of experts picked to be a Super Bowl caliber team is anything but right now.
I’m a firm believer in not calling anything until it happens. And with 12 games left the Saints still have everything in front of them. But, if what we have seen in four games is an indication of what the next 12 games will be like...then 2014 will go down as the most disappointing season in the history of the Saints. And that is the damn truth! It hurts, don’t it!
Sunday, September 28; kick-off 7:30 @ Arlington, Texas
SERIES HISTORY: The Saints and Cowboys battled 26 times. Dallas leads the series 15-11. But, the Black & Gold have dominated the series lately. New Orleans won eight of the last nine meetings between the two. And, since 2006, when Sean Payton took over, the Black & Gold average 34.4 points per game against Dallas. Last season the Saints beat the Cowboys 49-17 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
LAST WEEK'S RESULTS: New Orleans beat Minnesota 20-9; Dallas beat St. Louis 34-31
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING:
Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant on Saints CB Kennan Lewis - Where would you rank Keenan Lewis among cornerbacks you’ve faced? “He’s a great cornerback. He is one of those guys that you have to be on top of your game. You are not just going to beat him. He is a physical corner. This is a game where you have to be well-prepared, because if you are not you are going to get beat.”
Saints QB Drew Brees on what is considered a big play by the Saints offense: “A big play is considered a run play of over 10 yards and a pass play of over 20. I’d say in general that is how most people evaluate it. It might vary by a few yards here or there but that’s generally how we look at it.”
Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett on why he thinks the Saints have struggled: “I think they’re a really good defense. We just put the tape on and watched them play. They do a lot of good things. They have a lot of really good players, a really good front seven. They have some back end guys who they’ve made a commitment to who can really be difference-making players. We obviously know Rob Ryan well. He’s an outstanding football coach and challenges you a lot of different ways. We have a real healthy respect for them and really when we watch the tape we are really impressed by them in a lot of different ways.”
Saints Coach Sean Payton on why playing the Dallas Cowboys is personal: “Yes, listen there are a lot of people I’m close with there. I’ve said this before, my three years there are really important and rewarding. I learned a lot. I think playing on Sunday night, playing in a primetime game is exciting…I think for players and all of us involved, but typically you could pick a team, go there and there are ties. I’ve said this all the time, there’s ties for some people and there are maybe some teams and some cities where there aren’t many for myself, but having coached there, I think it’s obviously a storied program.”
The Cowboys have been able to do good things on the offensive side of the football. The main concern--two halves of football where the Cowboys offense was basically asleep at the wheel. In two of their three games, Dallas had trouble in the first half. In week one against the 49ers Dallas was outscored 28-3. Versus the Rams the Cowboys fell back 21-10 by the break. But, a high number of turnovers have to be alarming for Coach Jason Garrett. Dallas had 11 first half drives combined against San Francisco and St. Louis. On those 11 drives, Tony Romo was picked off four times and the Cowboys fumbled the ball away twice. So, more than half of those combined drives ended with turnovers. That is a bad pattern. With the Saints struggling to create turnovers, one has to wonder is this the week the Cowboys have a clean game in the first half?
Cowboys RB Demarco Murray has been one of the most consistent rushers in the NFL. Murray hit the century mark in each of the Cowboys first three games. Murray rushed for a total of 385 yards, which is tops in the league. He averages 5.1 yards per carry. I expect Dallas to make the Saints prove they can consistently stop the run. And Dallas will stick with the run as long as the game is tight. If New Orleans jumps on the Cowboys like the 49ers did, Dallas will have to rely more on the arm of Romo.
The Cowboys defense, like the Saints, has not played all that well. And Dallas, like the Saints, is struggling in the defensive backfield. Both QB's should be able to have some success throwing the football. The Cowboys defense could be without their best player in DL Henry Melton. Melton is one of the best interior DL in the game and not having him would be more bad news for an already suspect defense. Remember, the Saints 2012 defense gave up the most yards in NFL history. Well, Dallas got close in 2013 giving up the third most yards in history.
I truly believe what another team does against your opponent only matters when you are game planning. For example just because Rams third string QB Austin Davis had 327 yards passing and three TD's does not mean Drew Brees will light up the Dallas defense. With that said, I do think a future Hall of Fame QB would be able to do a few good things. Just a few!
THE BIG CHIEF'S FINAL ANALYSIS
Okay, folks, I know the Cowboys are not that good. But, you can't use 2013 as your reference. Right now, all I know is Dallas is 2-1 and their offense is playing pretty good. Dallas has ball security issues on offense, and the Saints have issues on defense creating turnovers. Whoever wins that battle may very well win this game. One thing the Saints have to feel good about is the way they've rushed the football on offense. Lost in the Black and Gold's 1-2 record is the #6 rushing team in the NFL. New Orleans gains more yards rushing the football on first down (7) than any other team in the league. Giving Sean Payton second and short is too easy. Payton already has an impressive set of plays to use and that short distance on second down only allows Payton to be more creative on the early downs.
The Saints want to start this game exactly how they did the first game of the season against Atlanta. With one exception--New Orleans wants 7's and not 3's. If the Saints come out and score TD's on their early possessions, that is a great sign. I think RB Khiry Robinson could be in store for a big game. And then Drew Brees will be able to use one of his many targets to pass on the Cowboys defense. On the flip side, I have to wonder is this is the week the Saints defense reveals their true identity? The first two weeks were bad. Last week was good. Dallas has a great QB, dangerous WR and a solid RB. Playing well against the Cowboys offense would be a good sign that the first two outings of the season were not an indication of who the Saints defense really is.
Pass rushers Cam Jordan and Junior Galette started to heat up last week. But, when will the interior DL amp up their game? For the Saints to become the defensive unit they want to be, the front line has to play big. The Cowboys O-line is legit. The Saints front seven has their work cut out for them. And, applying pressure on Tony Romo is essential. Romo can extend plays and move well in the pocket. But, if the pocket collapses, Romo could be in trouble. The Saints interior D-line needs a good outing against Dallas. The Cowboys have turned the ball over at least once in each of their first three games. I would think the likelihood of at least one Cowboys mistake handling the football is far greater to take place than not. This is a big game for the Saints…not only to win on the road, but to do so against a good offense, that has one of the better QB's in the game…would allow me and everybody following Saints football to think the Saints are about to get on a roll. 2-2 after four games with the Tampa Bay Bucs in town next week would put New Orleans in good shape. I don't like the match-up between the Cowboys offense and the Saints defense, but I think the Saints offense can aid the Black & Gold defense in more ways than one.
The Saints offense can force the Dallas offense to score each time they have the football. And, that added pressure on a good QB, who has succumbed to pressure more than he has flourished in it, would be big. I'm laying the three points and taking the overs in this one. I think in the fourth quarter of the game the WDN will take over the stadium and chants of “Who Dat, Who Dat” will echo everywhere and on national TV. If not, then it could be an up and down season for New Orleans. Win one, lose won, lose two, win one…that can't keep happening. If the Saints are who the entire world thinks they are, they will show it starting with Dallas. If not…
The Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert visited with iconic New Orleans Saints running back Deuce McAllister on SportsTalk. Deuce sized up the Saints season so far and talked about his former college team Ole Miss. A major point of discussion—how critical that first win against the Vikings was for the psyche of the Black & Gold.
"The biggest thing is...you've (Saints) got that one win. Yo win and get that monkey off your back. Now you've got a game in prime time. And you want to go out and play your best. I think you'll see the Saints best effort this weekend."
McAllister said the Sunday night prime time game in Dallas against the Cowboys allows the team not only to play to the expectation of greatness, but it gives the Saints critical extra time to prepare. "They have a little more time to get ready. People may not think those four-five hours are not that much. But it really helps the players get their bodies better ready for a game."
The 1-2 Saints are 8-0 under Sean Payton in Sunday night games. #26 was helping the Black & Gold the first time Sean Payton beat Dallas on Sunday might during the 2006 season. Deuce shared the three targets he believes the Saints have to focus on against the Cowboys.
"You don't want (Tony) Romo to get out of the pocket and make plays. You have to know where WR Dez Bryant is...and TE Jason Witten is one of the best in the game. Dallas has a very good offense."
Next week at this time Deuce will be keeping a close eye on what takes place in Oxford, Mississippi as his Ole Miss Rebels prepare to host perhaps the biggest home game ever against Alabama Saturday, October 4th.
"That is going to be a very big game. The Rebels can't overlook Memphis this week, but the Alabama game is one that Ole Miss fans are looking forward to for sure. Last season Alabama really had a solid game against Ole Miss and now people want to see how the Rebels match-up with a great Alabama team."
Deuce keeps up with fans and interacts on Twitter and invites you to follow him @dmcallister26.
Well, folks, in 2013 we saw two teams not ranked in the pre-season top 25 (Auburn and Missouri) climb all the way into the top 10…then both Tigers squared off for the SEC Title. Now, a Bulldog from the great state of Mississippi can climb as high but even faster, after an eye opening 34-29 win over LSU. Alabama gave Florida 21 points and still beat the Gators to death. Auburn proved that a win on Thursday night is a little tougher than expected. And, next week one of the biggest days in recent memory takes place. Let's take a look at how I stack up the nation's best conference going into week five of the season.
1. Alabama (4-0) - Alabama gave Florida 21 points and still covered the spread. The Tide's offense is not as in sync or consistent as it’s been in past years. It might be even better! Alabama has the ability to make monster plays in the passing game. And, moving forward teams are going to find out that the Bama is the only team in the nation that can line up and come right at you. Or, should they choose to, the Tide can spread you out and pick you apart. Name your poison!
2. Auburn (3-0) - Auburn showed a lot of resolve in a big Thursday night win at Kansas State. Folks, the Wildcats are damn good and have a great coach. This was a quality win for Auburn. Two of the next three weeks will be telling with dates at home against LSU and a trip to Starkvegas to visit the Bulldogs!
3. Texas A&M (4-0) - A&M has a tougher than expected test this week. The best way to beat the Aggies is to play keep away from their high powered and potent offense. Uh oh…the Hogs from Arkansas can run the ball with the best of them. Should be a great match-up…on paper at least!
4. Ole Miss (4-0) - The Rebels had the week off and now face local rival Memphis before the biggest game ever in Oxford in two weeks. Ole Miss can let the rest of the world know that college football in the state of Mississippi is pretty damn good too!
5. South Carolina (2-1) - The ole ball coach and his Gamecocks ran into a tougher game than thought against the Vandy Doors. No fret, Coach and his gang won and now face a Missouri team that looks like one of the best in the East so far! Wait…didn't Missouri just lose to Indiana? Damn…I'm wrong for dat!
6. Mississippi State (4-0) - Dak is the best player in the SEC right now. Dan Mullen eats for free in Starkville and now with a week off and two huge home games, these Bulldogs can go from being an unknown to a top 8 team. Should Mississippi State win home games against A&M and Auburn, the Dogs will be and deserve to be in the national conversation. Huge win last week in BR.
7. LSU (3-1) - LSU defense's was exposed beat the Bulldogs last week. I think over the next three weeks we all may very well learn that LSU is still pretty good. But, Mississippi State is even better…this season. Hey, it sounded good when it typed it!
8. Georgia (2-1) - 66 points and a lot of confidence were acquired last week in UGA's blasting of Troy. Now a feel good win can be obtained with victory over the rising Vols from Tennessee.
9. Missouri (3-1) - The Tigers had the Hoosiers beat…then let them off the hook. Hey Missouri, it's okay to lose one game in the SEC. You can still achieve all of your season goals. A win this week puts Missouri right back in the hunt for everything. A loss…and well, y'all know the rest!
10. Tennessee (2-1) - The Vols can assert themselves as a legit SEC East Title contender over the next two weeks…with games at UGA and back at home against Florida. I think Tennessee will win one of those. Which one? Hell, I don't know that!
11. Florida (3-1) - The future of Coach Will Mushchamp will be determined over the next three games. Tennessee, LSU and Missouri are the next opponents for the Gators before a bye week. If UF loses all three games, I'm not sure that Will will make it through the bye week and still keep his job. The Gator Nation will speak loudly!
12. Arkansas (3-1) - The Hogs are being built like the Badgers, when Coach Bielema was in Wisconsin. Arkansas can make life tough on everyone they play because of their ability to rush the football. Man, a win (or even a respectable) loss to the Aggies could go a long with the
Ar-Kansas fan base. I could see Arkansas knocking off a big opponent and landing in a bowl.
13. Kentucky (2-1) - I'm telling you UK is not that bad. The Wildcats can get to 3-1 with a win over Vanderbilt this weekend. Finding three more wins after that is tough just looking at the schedule. But, don't sleep on these Wildcats.
14. Vanderbilt (1-3) - Give the Commodores some credit…they did play their best game of the season last weekend against S.C.. That statement alone sounds like observations I made about Vanderbilt say five, six years ago. Former coach James Franklin was downgraded to having “moral victories,” but he overcame that. I'm not sure the Doors can do that this season!
The Seabirds and White Horses played the game everyone wanted to see eight months too late. The Tigers from the Natti are looking Super right now. The Red Birds from the desert want to play in the Super Bowl they host. And the Eagles from the City of Brotherly Love and Steelers from the same state both had nice wins. Let's look at this week's Top 10.
Seattle Seahawks (2-1) - All the talk is about the Seahawks defense and how physical this team is. Those are valid points. But, people, the main difference between Seattle and the rest…is under center. I don't care about all those pretty numbers, give me wins. Russell Wilson has become arguably the most clutch QB in the game in only two seasons and three games! The best is yet to come from this young Seabird! Last week the Seahawks beat Denver 26-20 / this week BYE.
Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) - The Bengals wished for a hot start & they got it. Now Coach Lewis and his Cats can rest before a crucial four game stretch that features the Patriots, Panthers, Ravens and Colts. Time to take a deep breath. Last week Cinci beat Tennessee Titans 33-7/ this week BYE.
Denver Broncos (2-1) – How could the Broncos have a so called “moral” victory? I was more impressed with Denver Sunday in their battle with Seattle, than I have been since Peyton got there. Denver showed a lot of physicality in their loss to the Seahawks and with a little luck and a lot of Peyton we could see a rematch in February! Last week Denver lost to Seattle 26-20 / this week BYE.
Arizona Cardinals (3-0) – A rookie QB guided the Red Birds to a big 23-14 win over the 49ers. Arizona's Drew Stanton tossed two TD passes as the Cards came back for their most impressive win of the season. This team is off to a hot start. Who knows…could Arizona play home for the Super Bowl? Last week the Cardinals beat San Francisco 49ers 23-14 / this week BYE.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) - The Eagles can soar on offense, but like the boys in Black & Gold, can Philly get in one of those slobber knockers and fight among the toughies like Seattle, San Fran and Arizona? We shall see this Sunday. Last week the Eagles beat Washington 37-34 / this week @ San Francisco 49ers.
San Diego Chargers (2-1) - Bolts QB Phillip Rivers has gotten better with age. The Chargers have a legit shot to win each game they play because of Rivers. Now the Bolts can lick their chops and pad the stats with the Jacksonville Kittens in town Sunday. Look out AFC, a new Super Bowl sleeper has arrived! Last week San Diego beat Buffalo 22-10 / this week vs Jacksonville.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) - I know the Burgh lost to the Purple Birds in week two. But I'm going with the boys from the Steel City at #8. Man, that hand delivered beat down of Carolina was vintage Pittsburgh. The NFC West is the best division in the league. But with three legit playoff teams in Steelers, Bengals and Ravens, the AFC North is not far behind! Last week Pittsburgh beat Carolina 37-19 / this week vs Tampa Bay.
Baltimore Ravens (2-1) - Maybe Cleveland is not as bad as I thought. The Ravens needed a last second FG to nip the Browns 23-21. Hey, it's the NFL not horseshoes. All you have to do is win. And, that’s exactly what the Ravens do. Last week Baltimore beat Cleveland 23-21 / this week vs Carolina.
New England Patriots (2-1) – The Patriots offense is somewhat in a funk right now. It's okay! Tom is still good looking…” the hood” is still the game’s best coach…and New England still looks like the class of the AFC East. But, one has to wonder…will Tom ever win another Super Bowl? Last week the Patriots beat Oakland 16-9 / this week @ Kansas City.
Detroit Lions (2-1) - Their lone loss was a road decision to Carolina, and their two wins at home came against two of the best QB's in the league (Eli & Aaron). Could the Cats from Motown be a real threat in the NFC North? Well, right now they are. Anytime someone holds Aaron Rodgers to one TD that's damn good in my book! Last week Detroit beat Green Bay 19-7 / this week @ NY Jets.
It’s only one game. But, my oh my, did that 34-29 loss tell us a lot about the 2014 LSU Tigers. A team that was supposed to be a dominant defensive club got gashed and bullied for four quarters by a much more physical MSU Bulldogs team.
Mississippi State’s O-line manhandled the Tigers defensive front, and the Bulldogs' D-line had their way with what many claimed was the best set of offensive linemen in the SEC. Now, with eight games left in regular season schedule, the question is...where are these Tigers ranked in their own division?
You tell me. Do you think LSU is better than Alabama, Auburn A&M or Ole Miss right now? We know the Tigers are not as good as Mississippi State. And by the looks of how tight the Hogs from Arkansas played the Tigers last season in Death Valley, I would put LSU at the bottom of the West slightly ahead of Arkansas...and I have my doubts about that.
Hey, I’m not giving up on the season, but let’s face it, the Tigers are young at the skilled spots, their O-line has not lived up to expectations, and now with road games at Auburn and Florida looming in the next three weeks, this LSU team could be out of contention for any post-season play by second week of October.
The thing that alarms me most about LSU...their weaknesses are strengths of other teams. This team is going to have to scrap to win seven games. Can they do it? Sure they can. But it’s going to take a lot of strides, a little luck and a win here or there that LSU is not supposed to win.
It’s only week five, but I’ve seen enough to know this LSU team has some issues, and those issues are far more difficult to correct on the fly than they are during the off season. To be real, the Tigers will more than likely be underdogs in six of their last eight games. So, this is not just me bumping my gums, the boys in Vegas think the same.
The Tigers are 3-1 with eight games left. But where are they now in the SEC West? I’d have to say towards the bottom. And LSU fans are not too happy about that one bit!
Why must I be like that? Why must I chase the cat? It must be the dog in me...the Mississippi State Bulldog, that is. Man, give it up for the SEC West.
The two most impressive wins in all of CFB this season have come from SEC West teams Texas A&M and Mississippi State with huge road victories. Don’t look now but with back to back home games against two more top 8 teams, the Bulldogs can skyrocket into the national conversation. Yep!
Starkvegas is on fire right now! FSU is learning the hard way that a knuckle head is worth one title, but how much more? Oregon won a tougher than normal road game in Pullman. And now the first weekend in October has gotten even bigger with the most recent developments in the SEC West.
Hey, how 'bout the rest of the nation take one bowl and then let the SEC play all others among themselves. Hell, that’s what we all want anyway! Hate, hate, hate!
Hey, you know the Iron Bowl has been a play-in for the SEC and National Title before. Could the Egg Bowl be that play-in game this year? I hope so. I got 50 yard line tickets to the Egg Bowl this November! Hell, yes!!
#1 - Oregon Ducks (4-0) – The Ducks were able to overcome a slow start and come back to beat the Cougars. Oregon will stump their toe somewhere down the line. Could it happen this week? Last week Oregon beat Washington State 38-31 / this week vs Arizona October 2nd.
#2 - Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0) – The Tide had a record day passing the football and they gave the Gators all 21 of their points. And y’all said little Nicky wouldn’t take it easy on soon to be outgoing Will! Last week Bama beat Florida 42-21 / this week BYE.
#3 - Florida State (3-0) – The Noles proved (like Roger Goodell) you can mess up; admit it; then still not do anything about your misstep until the national media comes down so hard you change your mind. Oh well, Jamies Winston will be somebody else's problem one day. Soon Jimbo Fisher hopes. Last week FSU beat Clemson 23-17 in overtime/ next @ N.C. State.
#4 - Oklahoma Sooners (4-0) - The Sooners got a good test last week with a 12 point win over WVU. And now Boomer Sooner can continue to march on to what looks like a lock playoff spot. Last week Oklahoma beat West Virginia 45-33 / this week @ TCU.
#5 - Auburn Tigers (3-0) – The Tigers won a close game against a very good Wildcats team. Now a final tune-up before a home date against LSU. Last week Auburn beat Kansas State 20-14/ this week vs Louisiana Tech.
#6 - Texas A&M Aggies (4-0) – The next 2 games for Texas A&M will tell us how legit they are. Arkansas this week, then on to Stark-Vegas next week! Last week the Aggies beat SMU 58-6 / this week vs Arkansas.
#7 - Baylor Bears (3-0) – The Bears got some rest and now hit the road to take on ISU. Baylor and Oklahoma look like they're on a collision course. Last week the Bears had a BYE / next @ Iowa State Saturday Sept 27th.
#8 - Ole Miss Rebels (3-0) – The Rebels had 3 weeks to get ready for the biggest home game perhaps ever, when the Tide come to Oxford in early October. Hotty Toddy baby! Last week The a rebels had a BYE/ this week vs Memphis.
#9 - Georgia Bulldogs (2-1) - The Bulldogs licked their wounds and now will try to get even in SEC play with a home date with the boys from good ole Rocky Top! Last week Georgia beat Troy 66-0 / this week vs Tennessee.
#10 - Notre Dame – (3-0) – With Stanford, USC, Arizona State and Florida State on their schedule, the Irish will be one of 4 playoff teams, if they run the table. That I can guarantee. Last week Notre Dame BYE / this week vs Syracuse.
Minnesota Vikings (1-1) vs New Orleans Saints (0-2)
Sunday September 21, 2014; noon kickoff @ the Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Series History: The Vikings lead series 18-9. The Saints won the last 3 battles.
Last week's results: New England beat Minnesota 30-7; Cleveland beat New Orleans 26-24
Noteworthy: After just 2 regular season games, both the Saints and Vikings are facing a lot of heat. The entire world is watching Minnesota’s every move ever since their star player RB Adrian Peterson became of the eye of the NFL’s domestic violence (child abuse) storm. At the beginning of the week Peterson was given the okay to play. But, after a national media & social media avalanche of negative feedback and a scolding from Minnesota’s governor, mid-week the Vikings banned Peterson from all team activities until his abuse allegations are legally cleared up. On the flip side, the team everyone thought would be a Super Bowl caliber club is off to a 0-2 start. In fact, if you look at the Saints’ defensive numbers, they’re eerily similar to the 2012 stats, when New Orleans ranked dead last in just about every major category. Something has to give, right?
What they are saying…
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on not having RB Adrian Peterson
“The one thing that I think we’ve tried to do with this football team is we rely on our core beliefs for everything we do. Obviously, it’s going to change some because of the personnel we have. I’ve always believed that you have to have a foundation you can start with and you can always fall back on that foundation for where you have to get to. In training camp we built the best foundation for what we had. You never prepare for your best player getting hurt, but you do prepare for a lot of scenarios.”
Saints Head Coach Sean Payton on the Saints playing at home for the first time this season
“I think our players are excited. We are. I think more importantly you get excited just for the next opportunity. It can’t come quick enough when you have a tough loss. So now it is just the preparation in the work week and making sure you are doing everything you can to put together the best plan possible.”
The Vikings got off to a good start, when they came up with one of the most impressive opening week victories. Minnesota went on the road and dominated the Rams 34-6. But, last week at home without the aid of star RB Adrian Peterson, the Vikings fell apart against the Patriots.
Minnesota took their first offensive possession and marched down the field on a 7-play drive that chewed up over four minutes on the clock and saw the Vikings go 80 for a TD, when QB Matt Cassel hit Matt Asiata for a 25 yard score to go up 7-0.
Then, the game was over…at least for the Vikings. From that point on the visiting Patriots closed the game on a 30-7 run…winning easily. The Vikings threw 4 picks and finished minus (-4) in the turnover battle in their loss to New England.
New Orleans has to win against Minnesota, if they want to be among the top 6 teams in the NFC. I know there are 13 more games to play after this one, but you have to look in the mirror, before you look across the line at your opponent. Yes, the Saints have been very close, just about as close as any team can get without actually winning, but the Saints defense has some problems and only time will tell if those problems are short term or season lasting!
At 0-2 everyone is shocked that a team the national media hailed as a Super Bowl contender is off to a slow start. It’s only the third week of the season, but the big question now--are the Saints’ issues bigger than a few corrections here and there? The answer will become more obvious after this battle at home against the Vikings.
The Saints will look to put it all together this week and post a win. Last week, New Orleans was stagnant on offense in the first quarter against Cleveland. The Black & Gold passed the football 6 of their first 9 plays without much success.
The Saints did finish up with 174 yards on the ground, and now someone will have to step up as the Black & Gold’s leading rusher (Mark Ingram) is out. The Saints will strive for balance that’s been missing on offense. In the first 2 games combined the Saints have 82 pass attempts and 55 rushes.
In my opinion, the Saints are much harder to defend when they pass somewhere between 38-42 times and rush 28-32 times. On the defensive side of the football, there is nowhere to go but up. The Saints have been flat out bad on D. Then, when you let the opposing team win the game by giving up the ball, after you’ve established the lead…it compounds the problems.
The Big Chief’s Final Analysis
You have to trust the people who’ve made the Saints a contender. Sean Payton has been 0-2 before; the final result was 7-9 in 2007 and 8-8 in 2008. So what will be different this time around? We’ll see.
The Saints need to win and win badly. But more importantly, how the Saints win will be a critical gauge moving forward. Can DB’s Patrick Robinson and Corey White all of the sudden produce? Are they really good players who need time to warm up?
How much attention should we pay to the fact that the Saints have a 6-7 record in their last 13 regular season games? And, is it a bad trend or just bad luck that in 4 of the Saints last 5 road games the Black & Gold gave the football back to the other team (after establishing the lead), only to see their opponent win on the final drive?
I’m no rocket scientist, but I have confidence that the Saints offense will pump out points anyway they have to, but the defense is more of an issue. Hey just win this week. Then worry to death about how P-Rob or C-White are going to cover the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant. After all, who am I to rain on a Black & Gold parade? At least this week anyway. The Saints win big 28-16!
The Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert and I held our weekly interview with Saints QB Drew Brees Wednesday on Sports Talk. “It is a thin line between being 0-2 and 2-0. We feel like as a team we have made the necessary corrections and look forward to getting back on the field this week,” Brees said.
Drew told Bobby that he thinks the Minnesota Vikings defense is very well coached, and expects the Vikings to come in to New Orleans play hard and give the Saints their best effort. “They are young and talented and they have some very good veterans on the defense.” Drew said that the Vikings do a good job of putting pressure on the QB, so the Saints have to be well prepared.
Drew also spoke about the injury sustained by RB Mark Ingram. “When he’s (Ingram) in the line-up we have a great player. Unfortunately for Mark he has had to deal with injuries. We hope he gets back soon.” Ingram hurt his hand on the Saints second drive in their game with Cleveland last Sunday and still played the game out.
To listen to the entire QB to QB interview click below.
Well folks, if the SEC West added Georgia, Missouri and South Carolina, then the rest of the nation's games really wouldn't matter. Currently all seven of the SEC West's members are ranked among the top 42 teams in the nation with five of the West Schools being in the top 10. Even for the SEC, that's a record. And don't go to sleep on Mississippi State (28th) and the Hogs of Arkansas are at #42.
So when you put a pencil to the numbers, the SEC has 14 member schools, seven in the West and seven in the East. 11 of the 14 SEC member schools are ranked in the top 42 teams in the nation. That's amazing even for the SEC. Let's take a look at how I stack up the nation's best conference going into week four of the season.
1. Alabama (3-0) - Sure, they are ironing out their QB details, but just put it this way - if Alabama is good then we know what that means. When Alabama is not as good, that means the Tide are still better than 99% of the other teams. Who is in that 1% that can hang with the Tide? I'm not sure. An interesting game this week at home against a Florida Team that does not look that capable of beating the Tide in Tuscaloosa.
2. Auburn (2-0) - Auburn is great on offense and better on defense. A dangerous road trip for a Thursday night date with the Wildcats of Kansas State awaits. Win that one and a huge game happens on the Plains in early October when the Purple and Gold Tigers come calling.
3. Texas A&M (3-0) - When you can score on anyone, that means you will have a chance to beat everyone you play. South Carolina could run the table with their lone loss being to A&M. The Gamecocks are good. The Aggies offense is much better than that!
4. LSU (3-0) - If you can't score you can't win! Since going down 24-7 to Wisconsin at the 12:24 mark of the third quarter in their first game, the Tigers have not allowed a point. A good offense that features a seasoned QB is in town this week. If these Tigers can play consistent on offense they could be hard to beat this season!
6 of 7 SEC West teams ranked in top 28. 5 in top 10. Bama 3 Auburn 5 A&M 6 LSU 8 Ole Miss 10 Miss State 28 Ark 42 #LSU@SEC#CFB
5. Ole Miss (3-0) - The Rebels have made things look pretty easy ever since QB Bo Wallace came to life in the second half of the Rebels first game this season. And now Coach Freeze looks to have the Rebels best defense allowing a meager 10 points per game. Man wouldn't I love to have about 10 Rebels vs Tide tickets in my hand? Oh what I could get for those on Stubhub!
6. South Carolina (2-1) - Ok Georgia is pretty good, so is East Carolina and A&M has the best offense in the conference. The ole ball coach has a shot to run the table and play in Atlanta. Never bet against the visor people. You know better than that.
7. Missouri (3-0) - I've got these Tigers ahead of the Bulldogs because of the QB's. Sure UGA has Mr. Gurley but Missouri has QB Matty Mauck. And the Tigers have played well on defense. I could see these Tigers posting a 10-2 record in the regular season. Maybe!
8. Georgia (1-1) - The Bulldogs squandered their chances in a tough loss to the Gamecocks. UGA has three straight home games between the hedges before a crucial four game road trip takes place.
9. Mississippi State (3-0) - Ok is this the year the Dogs beat LSU? Man, one has to figure if MSU plans on being a factor in the West this season they have to beat someone other than rival Ole Miss. Hey State, name your poison, LSU, A&M, Auburn or Alabama. Win one of those and then you get respect. A little more respect that is.
10. Tennessee (2-1) - The Vols took it on the chin last week in Norman against the Sooners. But I like what Butch Jones has done and I fully expect these fellows from Rocky Top to knock off a big opponent at least once this season. And even maybe twice!
11. Florida (3-0) - I personally don't think the Gators are that bad of a team. However by Florida's standards, being not that bad is never good in Gainesville. The wheels on the bus could begin to come off this week with a trip to face the Tide.
12. Arkansas (2-1) - The Hogs two headed monster of RB's Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams gashed the Red Raiders last week as Arkansas rushed for 7 TD's. I could see the Hogs winning six maybe seven games this season. Hey that's not bad considering that every other team in the SEC West is ranked right now!
13. Kentucky (2-1) - I'm telling you UK is not that bad. The Wildcats are second to last in the SEC right now but they are several steps ahead of the team ranked below them. The Wildcats know they are going to have to upset between three to four teams this season to get to a bowl. They almost pulled it off last week.
14. Vanderbilt (1-2) - I still can't believe that all the hard work and pride that James Franklin built in Nashville has fallen by the waist side this quickly. Are the doors that bad? I think they are and that's is sad considering what Franklin did while he was there.
The Monsters of the Midway have supplanted the Cheese Packers in my poll. The Who Dats way down yonder in New Orleans are out, while the 2-0 Bills from South of Canada have burnt me before, so I'll use caution before I put Buffalo in my best 10. The Red Birds from the desert are the lone undefeated in the NFC West? Yes, Arizona is for real and off to a 2-0 start. The Seabirds and 49ers dropped a game but are still elite teams. Denver's White Horses are in store for a beating this week, the striped Tigers from Ohio are for real, and Houston has quickly returned to the top 10. The start to the 2014 NFL season is a very good one as we move into week #3 - here is my top 10!
1. Denver Broncos (2-0) – The White Horses will try to gain some confidence this weekend with a business trip to the land of the Seahawks. You reckon Mr. Manning gets chills and has flashbacks about what happened to him and the Broncos the last time they lined up against Seattle? Hey, if I was Peyton I would go after the Seahawks. What do you have to lose? The game! Don't do it! Last week beat Kansas City Chiefs 24-17 / this week @ Seattle Seahawks.
2. Seattle Seahawks (1-1) – Make no bones bout it, the Bolts just flat out beat the Seabirds. But I fully expect to bounce back this week and gladly welcome to the Pacific Northwest the team that they smacked down last February for the Lombardi Trophy. Last week lost to San Diego 30-21 / this week vs Denver Broncos.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) - After piling up 568 yards and 37 points in week one of the season, the Bengals shut down the Birds, limiting them to 309 yards and 10 points. The Bengals have a super defense. And if their offense just plays well this could be the --- well, maybe! Last week beat Atlanta 24-10 / this week vs Tennessee Titans.
4. Arizona Cardinals (2-0) – Arizona has avoided a bad start to this season, unlike in 2013 and a home win over rival San Fran this weekend could put these Red Birds in the spotlight. And they would have earned it in my opinion. Last week beat NY Giants 25-14 / this week vs San Francisco 49ers.
5. San Francisco 49ers (1-1) – The 49ers allowed three fourth quarter TD's in their eight point loss to the Bears. And don't look now, but a huge early season showdown with divisional foe Arizona looms large this weekend in the desert. Last week lost to Chicago Bears 28-20 / this week @ Arizona Cardinals.
6. Carolina Panthers (2-0) - Say what you want, but the Panthers are 2-0 and off to a hot start for the first time in the Ron Rivera era. While the rest of the NFC South looks to get their act together, these Cats keep purring right along! Last week beat Detroit 24-7 / this week vs Pittsburgh Steelers.
7. San Diego Chargers (1-1) - Let's be real, if if's and but's were candy and nuts the Bolts would be 2-0. The Chargers have a fearless QB in Philip Rivers that showed a lot of courage and poise torching the best secondary in the game to the tune of 284 yards and 3 TDs. These Bolts could be a sleeper in the AFC. Last week beat Seattle 30-21 / this week @ Buffalo.
8. New England Patriots (1-1) – The Patriots built a big 24-7 halftime lead and then rode the rushing effort from RB Steven Ridley's 101 yards. Now the Pats are back in Boston for a week off before getting back to work. Or in other word,s they are playing the Raiders this week. Damn did I just say that? Yep! At least Too Short is from Oakland. Yes y'all remember the 80's rap scene - I ain't tripping no more. Man that was the jam! Last week beat Minnesota 30-7 / this week vs Oakland Raiders.
9. Houston Texans (2-0) - The Texans were not as bad as their 2-14 record indicated last season. Houston lost nine games by seven points or less in 2013. And now these boys from the Lone Star State look like a legit threat to the Colts in the AFC South. That JJ Watt is one bad man. I ain't lying either! Last week beat Oakland 30-14 / this week @ NY Giants.
10. Chicago Bears (1-1) - I know the Packers own the Bears and will probably sweep them again in 2014. But any team that goes into 49ers land and gets three fourth quarter TD's deserves to be ranked in my top ten. At least for this week. Jay Cutler's most recent effort has been his best since he moved to the Windy City! Last week beat San Francisco 28-20 / this week @ NY Jets.
SEC WEST, SEC WEST, SEC WEST, Yes! The SEC West has four teams in this week’s top 10, and that’s no fluke. The first weekend in October could be the biggest regular season in the history of the SEC with monster games like Ole Miss hosting Alabama, Auburn entertaining LSU, and Mississippi State welcoming in Texas A&M. Do they play football anywhere else in America? Not like the SEC does. Here is this week’s top 10!
1) Oregon Ducks (3-0) – The Ducks shrugged off a slow start to beat the Cowboys going away. After falling behind 7-0 the Ducks fought back to end the game on a 48-7 run. QB Marcus Mariota totaled 4 TD’s, two running and two passing. The Ducks quack on! Last week Wyoming 48-14 / this week vs Washington State.
2) Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0) – Alabama will beat Florida into submission. Man oh man, that first weekend in October which features a Tide trip to Hotty Toddy land sure looks like a big one! Last week beat Southern Mississippi 52-12 / this week vs Florida.
3) Florida State (2-0) – The 'Noles were off last week and if they don’t run the table, even a one loss 'Noles team could land in the four-team playoff. Man, the ACC is weak. Or whack. Whichever you prefer. Last week off / next vs Clemson Sept 20th.
4) Oklahoma Sooners (3-0) - The Sooners took care of the SEC East foe Tennessee last week. Could the upstart Mountain Men come into Norman and shock the football world? I doubt it! Last week beat Tennessee 34-10/ this week vs West Virginia.
5) Auburn Tigers (2-0) - The Tigers got an off week and now face a dangerous road trip to Manhattan. Auburn has covered the spread in their last 13 games. High rollers! WAR EAGLE! Last week BYE/ next @ Kansas State Thrs Sept 18th.
6) Texas A&M Aggies (3-0) – The Aggies got off to a slow start and did not look so good in a 38-10 win over the Owls of Rice. I truly think that Coach Kevin Sumlin saves most of his best plays for the best teams. Makes sense to me! Last week beat Rice 38-10 / this week @ SMU.
7) Baylor Bears (3-0) – The Bears broke out early and then coasted in a Friday night win over the Bulls from Canada. Happy Birthday to my main brother from the A-Town Coach Carlton “C-Buck” Buckles. Coach played for the Bayou Bengals, but more importantly was a mighty Amite Warrior too. And now he’s the DB’s Coach for the Baylor Bears. Oh yes Baylor is good too! Last week beat Buffalo 63-21 / next @ Iowa State Saturday Sept 27.
8) LSU Tigers (3-0) – The Tigers offense is still a work in progress, but the LSU defense looks to be in mid-season form. In their last 31 possessions faced, LSU has not allowed a single point and forced 22 punts. Could the Bulldogs from StarkVEGAS win in Death Valley for the first time in 23 years? Last week UL Monroe 31-0 / this week vs Mississippi State.
9) Ole Miss Rebels (3-0) – The Rebels are now locked and loaded and have three weeks to get ready for the biggest home game perhaps ever. Yes the Crimson Tide will come into Oxford the first weekend in October for what could be a huge game not only in the SEC. But also in the CFB playoff hunt. Last week beat ULL 56-15 / this week BYE.
10) Georgia Bulldogs (1-1) - The Bulldogs fell in Columbia but still are in good shape in the SEC East. I mean, the national media might rank the church at #10 but Notre Dame is not on the level of Georgia. Not even close. Last week lost to South Carolina 38-35 / this week vs Troy.
New Orleans Saints (0-1) vs Cleveland Browns (0-1)
Sunday, September 14 First Energy Stadium, Cleveland Ohio Kickoff 12pm
Series History: Cleveland leads the series 12-4 over New Orleans
Last week: Atlanta beat New Orleans 37-34 in OT and Pittsburgh beat Cleveland 30-27
Interesting: The Browns and Saints both lost by three points. The Saints had their game tied up at 34-34 on the final play of regulation while the Browns lost by three to the Steelers on the final play of regulation.
Noteworthy: The first regular season game in the Sean Payton era started in Cleveland back on September 10, 2006. The Saints would come up with a 19-14 road win over the Browns en-route to a 10-6 season and a trip to the NFC Title Game. Sean Payton has been with the Saints ever since but Cleveland has had five different head coaches in that time: Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur, Rod Chudzinski and Mike Pettine.
The Browns story: Cleveland showed a lot of heart last week after the Steelers jumped out to what looked to be a commanding 27-3 lead over the Browns. The Browns were able to not only get back in the game, but Cleveland had their chance to pull off a rare road win over the Berg. However, this is the NFL and coming up short is the difference between Super Bowl teams and sorry ones!
Cleveland really got off to the kind of start a road team in the NFL needs to. On their first offensive possession, Cleveland went on an eight-play 54 yard drive that resulted in a Billy Cundiff 39 yard field to even the game at 3-3.
But then the Browns offense was shut down on their final five possessions of the first half. Cleveland would run 17 plays, gain only 47 yards and the Browns had to punt on all five of their final drives of the half.
In talking to members of the Cleveland media this week, the Browns were able to have far greater success in the second half as they went to a no-huddle, which gave the Steelers fits.
The Browns offense looked like a well-oiled machine in the second half, scoring on their first four possessions including three TD's and one FG. The Browns would tie the game at 27-27 early in the fourth, but then were unable to get any more points and the Steelers won 30-27.
The Browns lost to the Steelers despite winning the turnover battle (+1). And Cleveland out-rushed the Steelers 183-127. RB Terrance West carried the load as he had 100 yards rushing on 16 carries with an average of 6.3 yards per rushing attempt. Isaiah Crowell averaged 6.4 yards per rush. Ben Tate was effective for the Browns but he is injured and will not play against the Saints.
New Orleans will once again try and maintain a good balance of rushing and passing plays. The Saints had 42 pass attempts and 28 rushing attempts against Atlanta. One would expect the Saints to be able to make some plays downfield in the passing game as the Browns defense gave up two plays of 40 or more yards in their loss to the Steelers.
I think the Saints will try to establish the run early in the game. Coach Payton told me that one of things he feels like the Saints need to do is have success on the early downs against the Browns. In other words, be in third and short yardage situations more often than not.
Steelers QB Ben Rothlisberger had a lot of success, especially in the first half throwing the ball down field. WR Antonio Brown had five grabs for 116 yards, Markus Wheaton added six receptions for 97 yards and out of the backfield RB Le’Veon Bell ended with six grabs for 88 yards.
Last week the Saints' Pierre Thomas caught seven balls, and by the looks of how Bell did catching the ball out of the Steelers backfield, the Saints may be able to find some match-ups in their favor with New Orleans RB’s against the Browns LB’s.
The Saints are where they need to be rushing the football averaging 5.0 yards per tote last week. Five yards per rush is more than enough for the Black and Gold offense.
With New Orleans having a better player at TE than the Steelers did, look for Drew Brees to be able to spread the ball around with a lot of success, as Jimmy Graham will command special attention from the Browns defense.
The Saints defense versus the Browns offense match-up is a close one in my opinion. Cleveland’s defense did a lot of the things the Saints defense did last week in the form of giving up big plays. Nearly 350 of the Steelers 503 yards of total offense came in the first half. And aside from about 12 big plays (11 or more yards) the Browns did not play bad defense. However, like the Saints, Cleveland gave up far too many big plays.
The Browns can’t afford to get themselves in a hole this week like they did a week ago. Cleveland will look to establish a ground game against the Saints defense early in this game. If the Browns had success (183 yards) rushing against the Steelers they have the capability to have success against the Saints.
Browns QB Brian Hoyer was solid in the third and fourth quarters last week completing 15 of 20 passes for 173 yards. What was more impressive is that Hoyer led the Browns to three TD’s and one FG to open the second half.
The Big Chief’s Final Analysis
The Saints are a 6.5 point favorite on the road at Cleveland. I like the Saints to win, but I’m laying off this game from a line standpoint. I have no doubt that the Saints will be able to move the ball on the Browns defense. But will the Black and Gold offense get the 7s instead of 3s? The first two drives against Atlanta ended with FGs and not TDs and that hurt.
And can the Saints defense improve from last week’s performance in which they gave up 568 yards and 37 points? I do feel like if Cleveland falls behind this week like they did a week ago the Browns will be unable to come back this time around. The Saints are far too aggressive and the Black and Gold offensive machine will only keeping pumping out points.
I want to see a better pass rush, and I’d like to see RB Mark Ingram put together several games in which he rushes at a high level. To me this is a bigger game than most people think. Just by what history has shown us since 2006, the first four games of the season have been key. In years in which the Saints have gone to the post season, New Orleans has been either 4-0 or 3-1 after four games. A loss this week puts the Black and Gold at 0-2, and that would not be good. The Saints get it done this week.
"Bow Down When you Come to My Town" was once a hot tune by Westside Connection in the 90's, and it came to mind last Thursday night when I drove home and was listening to a beat-down in Seattle. I've seen a bunch of beat downs, but rarely one as nasty as what the Seabirds did to the Cheese Heads. After one week,(and yes, it's only one week), no one is on the Seahawks level.
The Patriots, Ravens and Saints all got a little slice of humble pie while the 49ers, Broncos and Eagles all proved that sometimes all you need to play is one good half of football to win! The second week of the season is always the most difficult to rank. What I mean is that you don't want to get that knee-jerk reaction because a contending team lost last week, and on the flip side you don't want to rank a team in the top ten just because they are 1-0. Everyone this week is either 1-0 or 0-1. Now looking ahead, if New Orleans, New England and Green Bay all fall to 0-2 then I will have to go back the deck and reshuffle! So with that I present to you this week's NFL Top 10!
1) Seattle Seahawks (1-0) – From the Pacific Northwest - It's a bird, it's a duck! Is it a goose or a chicken? It don't really matter cause it's yo ass 'dey be kicking! The Seahawks are nasty, physical and down right-good. When they play their best I'm not sure anyone can come close to beating them! Last week beat Green Bay 36-16 / this week @ San Diego.
2) San Francisco 49ers (1-0) – The 49ers scored 28 points in the first half and then coasted to a 28-17 win over the Silver Stars. We could very well be on our way to another all NFC West NFC title game! Last week beat Dallas Cowboys 28-17 / this week vs Chicago Bears.
3) Denver Broncos (1-0) – The White Horses are expected to be better on defense. But Denver's D gave up 24 points to the Colts and had to scrap to hold on for the win. Is Indianapolis that good or Denver not as good? The answer lies somewhere in between and we will see a more clear indication as the next few games take place. Last week beat Indianapolis Colts 31-24 / this week vs Kansas City Chiefs.
4) Cincinatti Bengals (1-0) - A big time defense on one side of the ball while on offense the Bengals have a big time playmaker in WR A.J. Green. Could this be the year than the Bengals breakthrough and become the contender like many of us think they can be? Last week beat Baltimore 23-16 / this week vs Atlanta.
5) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) - The Steelers looked to be in control over the Browns up 27-3. But credit Cleveland with a comeback to make a game of it. Are the Steelers legit this season? A win over rival Baltimore Thursday night would make me more of a believer! Last week beat Cleveland 30-27/ this week @ Baltimore
6) New Orleans Saints (0-1) – The Saints had their chances against the Birds, but you've got to score 7's not 3's in the Red Zone. No need for panic as the Saints are still a very sound team. A loss to Cleveland would be cause not to panic but maybe push the panic button. Last week lost to Atlanta 37-34 OT / this week @ Cleveland.
7) Indianapolis Colts (0-1) – The Colts nearly pulled off another huge comeback but the Horseshoes came up short in a 31-24 loss to the White Horses. I think this team will be the class of the AFC South again this season. Last week lost to Denver 31-24 / this week vs Philadelphia.
8) Green Bay Packers (0-1) – The Pack got humbled last week, and the arguably best QB in the game did not test Richard Sherman. Green Bay is still the team to beat in the NFC North but they are still several steps behind the Seahawks. Last week lost to Seattle Seahawks 36-16/ this week vs NY Jets.
9) New England Patriots (0-1) – The Patriots are the only team in the AFC East that did not win last weekend. And don't look now but a trip to Minnesota could have the Pats in an 0-2 hole to start the season. Man oh man how the national media would pounce on that one! Last week lost to Miami 33-20 / this week @ Minnesota.
10) Arizona Cardinals (1-0) – The Cards stormed back to beat the Chargers and now head to the Big Apple to face a struggling Giants team. Had Arizona started last season 2-0 they would have been in the playoffs. A fast start could serve this Super Bowl host city team well! Last week beat San Diego 18-17 / this week @ NY Giants.
First of all, there are 16 weeks and 15 games remaining in the 2014 NFL Season. No team has ever locked up or been eliminated from anything after the first week of the season. After all, this is not college football.
I turned 43 last month, and over the course of being able to work with the legendary medium of WWL Radio, I would like to think that I have learned that a more calm, rational, and thought-out response, approach and reply is the best way to analyze things.
The quick knee-jerk reaction is one that makes you say to yourself "why did I say or do that?" "That was not right." "I should not have let my feelings interfere with what I should have said and done." Well, you get the point.
So what I did was go back and listen to my pre-game interview with Coach Payton. And I wrote down the things that coach told me he felt like his team had to do in order to be successful against Atlanta. The first thing coach said to me that the Saints needed to do against the Falcons was to eliminate the big/explosive play. So I took that response from coach and went back and reviewed every drive and every play in the game.
Atlanta had eight plays that went for between 10 and 15 yards, the Falcons added three plays that went for between 15-20 yards. And the Dirty Bird offense chalked up five plays that went between 20-25 yards. But the biggest blow was the five plays that went for 27 yards or more. Atlanta's offense hit on big plays that went for 27, 35, 39 and 54 yards against the Saints defense.
I'll break it down a little further for you. Atlanta's offense ran 69 plays in their win over the Saints. 49 of those 68 plays gained a total of 165 yards which equals 3.4 yards per play. That's very good. But the other 20 plays the Falcons ran piled up a massive 403 yards for an average of 20.2 yards per snap. Damn!
Then, Coach Payton told me that the Saints needed to protect the football. Drew Brees threw an interception while the Saints were in scoring position. And WR Marques Colston was stripped of the ball in overtime which led to the Falcons kicking the game winning FG. And New Orleans finished minus -1 in the turnover ratio.
The final key that Coach Payton told me he felt like the Saints needed to do, and I quote: "When it comes down to opportunities in the Red Zone we are looking to score touchdowns and not have to settle for field goals."
The Saints offense got off to a great start but the first two drives ended with Shayne Graham kicking field goals from 31 and 50 yards. So with all the numbers that I could have talked about, all the woulda, coulda and shoulda's, it all boils down to what the game plan was, what was executed and what was not properly executed.
The Saints had won 13 of the previous 16 meetings with the Falcons because they had done the things that Coach Payton said his club needed to do. And in the four losses in the last 17 meetings the Saints did not do what Coach Payton said his clubb needed to do. It's just that simple!
It’s my top 10 and I’ll rank’em how I want to! FSU has not impressed me at all, college football will soon be going to big games all the time. And the Big Ten is done after just two weeks of the 2014 season. Only way Big Ten gets back in the national title hunt is if a lot of other teams lose. Five SEC teams, two Big XII clubs, two from the Pac-12 and one from the ACC make up this week’s top 10 for the third week of the season.
1. Oregon Ducks (2-0) – Don’t come at me like, "well that game was close for a long time." People there is a reason why games last FOUR quarters. Oregon beat the MSU Spartans just like they beat everyone. They broke their backs. Scoring the last 28 points was very impressive. Don’t look now, but could the Pac-12 get two teams in the four-team playoff? Possibly! Last week beat Michigan State 46-27 / this week vs Wyoming
2. Alabama Crimson Tide (2-0) – You just never know what a season will bring. The Tide went into the season looking like the clear favorite in the always tough SEC West. Now A&M has reemerged, the hated Tigers from the Plains are still good, the Bayou Bengals are getting better and a trip to Oxford in three weeks looks like a bigger test than expected. But hey, it’s Nick Saban, it’s Alabama, and more times than not it will be Roll Tide Roll! Last week beat Florida Atlantic 41-0/ this week vs Southern Mississippi.
3. Florida State (2-0) – The 'Noles have not looked too good in their first two outings of the season. FSU is in a very weak ACC again this season. And it looks as of right now that only Va. Tech is a decent fellow ACC member. One slip up and the defending national champs may not be able to get a shot to defend their title. And honestly they would not deserve to, in my own humble opinion! Last week beat Citadel 37-12/ next vs Clemson Sept 20th.
4. Oklahoma Sooners (4-0) - The Sooners are off to a hot start, and now can lay the wood to a decent (maybe contender) SEC East team. QB Trevor Knight threw for 299 yards and two scores, and now Knight has a new go-to guy in WR Sterling Shepard. Shepard went off hauling in 177 yards vs Tulsa last week. Last week beat Tulsa 52-7/ this week vs Tennessee.
5. Auburn Tigers (2-0) - The Tigers are an offensive machine that will continue to pile up huge numbers. Auburn has nearly 700 rushing yards in just two games. These Tigers will be very hard to stop and that could be the reason why this other team from Alabama gets back to the national title game! Last week San Jose State 59-13 / next @ Kansas State Thrs Sept 18th.
6. Georgia Bulldogs (1-0) - The Bulldogs could put to sleep the SEC East favorites this week with a road win over the Gamecocks. UGA is in a good spot right now, but who knows where they will be next week? Last week BYE/ this week at South Carolina.
7. Texas A&M Aggies (2-0) – The Aggies are going to be a hard out in the SEC West this season. One has to wonder with Auburn, A&M, and Mississippi State all having these spread-you-out-and-run type offenses if anyone in the West can run the table. A&M will only get better and it’s about damn time that the rest of the country and the world recognizes that Kevin Sumlin is a great coach. Just look at his record! Last week beat Lamar 73-3 / this week vs Rice.
8. USC Trojans (2-0) – Well, the Men of Troy have gotten back into the legit contender mix and if there is one program that could be the long term antidote to the mighty SEC it’s USC. The Trojans have excellent talent, they can run the football and they are fast and physical. It’s early but for a program that has only 57 scholarship players you gotta give it up for USC already back in the national title picture! RB Javorious Allen averaged 6.7 yards per carry against a very sound Stanford Defense last week. Now the real team from L.A. has served notice! Watch out this week with a cross country dangerous road trap game at BC. Last week beat Stanford 13-10 / this week @ Boston College.
9. Baylor Bears (2-0) – 438 yards and 5 TD’s is not a bad day at the office for Bears QB Seth Russell. Art Briles has built a solid program in Waco and now Baylor looks like a top tier team in the Big XII from the state of Texas. But the short horns aren’t! Last week beat Northwestern State 70-7 / this week @ Buffalo
10. LSU Tigers (2-0) – I’d put LSU over UCLA any day of the week. LSU has not looked bad and now the Tigers have developed a long ball game from QB Anthony Jennings to WR Travin Dural. LSU faces in-state foe this week UL Monroe before opening SEC play in two weeks against Mississippi State. Last week beat Sam Houston State 56-0 / this week vs UL Monroe.
New Orleans Saints vs Atlanta Falcons
Sunday September 7, 2013
Noon Kickoff Georgia Dome
Series History: The Falcons lead the all-time series 47-44 against the Saints. New Orleans swept the Falcons last season.
The Preseason: New Orleans was 3-1 in the preseason while Atlanta was 2-2.
2013 Numbers: Atlanta was 4-12 last season. The Falcons offense ranked 12th (345.5) in the NFL while the Atlanta defense was 27th, allowing 379.4 yards per game and 27.7 points each week. The Saints had the league's 4th best defense (305 yards and 19 points per game) while the Saints offense was also 4th with 26 points per game and 399 yards on average.
Noteworthy: In the Sean Payton era the Who Dat Nation has enjoyed many beat-downs of their hated rival. Since September 25, 2006 the Saints are 13-3 against Atlanta. The Saints swept the Falcons in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 and New Orleans took two more from the Dirty Birds in 2013.
Falcons not as bad as you think! The NFL is all about teams being able to win the close games. During the 2013 season Atlanta lost five games by five points or less. And the Falcons had nine losses with an average of 4.3 points per game in those nine losses. Simply put, the Falcons were close last season... but not close enough.
Atlanta offense against the Saints defense
To predict the future we must look to the past. In past seasons (4 of 6) the Falcons have done well when they rush the ball consistently. Atlanta does not have a Michael Turner kind of RB, but the biggest question and possible concern could be Stephen Jackson. Jackson is not the Jackson of four years ago. But in Atlanta's offense he does not have to be. Atlanta will want to maintain a good balance of pass-to-rush ratio in this game. I don't think the Falcons will abandon the run in the game unless they fall behind by three scores or more.
Mike Smith made a point this off-season for his team to be as physical on offense as they were when the Falcons posted 13-3 marks in 2010 and in 2012. Atlanta was the worst rushing team (78.1) per game last season. Atlanta will not be last this season simply because they will be more patient and more commitment to running the football.
The threat of one of the best trio's of WR in the game has to be a concern. WRs Harry Douglas, Roddy White and Julio Jones is as good as any in the NFL. And if a play in the passing game is going to be made by the Falcons I think it would be to Douglas looking for match-up's in his favor against Saints LBs. And when it comes to Julio Jones, he has the skills to be successful against any DB in the league. Don’t forget that the Falcons also have one of the greatest special team performers of all time in Devin Hester. Will Hester factor into the Falcons offense in some fashion?
Saints offense versus the Falcons defense
The Saints can pass with the best of them, but New Orleans wants to put more of an emphasis on running the football with more success. New Orleans was 25th (92.1) in rushing last season. Please take note that those numbers are averages. Those numbers do not represent when the ball was ran, how effective the yards were in the game and so forth. Example, the Saints averaged 92.1 yards per game in the regular season in 2013.
The Saints were far more effective in the post season, gaining 185 yards in their win over the Eagles. And the 108 yards New Orleans earned against the Seahawks was far greater than just the 108 number. The Saints stayed in the game with Seattle and kept within striking distance due to their ability to run the ball. Now you see what I mean?
The Saints don’t have any glaring flaws on offense, but this is the first week of the season. The O-Line looks as solid as any, and the addition of WR Brandin Cooks gives New Orleans another dangerous weapon.
Atlanta has gone back to being a more physical team, or at least, that is what the Birds tried to do this training camp. They have to be better overall defensively if they plan on getting back to the playoffs. Atlanta gave up 136 yards on the ground and 28 points per game on average. New Orleans will test the Falcons run defense early and often. The Falcons and the Saints both understand that the more balanced the Black and Gold offense can be, the more unstoppable they become during the course of a game.
Atlanta has a good young corner in second year player Robert Alford. Still with a year under his belt in the big league, you have to wonder if Drew Brees will go after Alford more than testing the other side.
The Big Chief’s Final Analysis
I have no reason to think that this game will not be as close as past contests have been. I think that both teams will be in position to win the game as the fourth quarter begins. New Orleans looks like a team that has Super Bowl on their minds.
The more the national media tries to down play how big the Saints and Falcons rivalry is, the more ignorant they look. Numbers don’t lie and the numbers say that the Saints and Falcons have been among the best in the league while Sean Payton and Mike Smith have been in control of their clubs. I think New Orleans is the better team. But Atlanta is at home and under Mike Smith the Falcons have won 36 home games which is currently 4th in the NFL over the six seasons.
Atlanta lost nine games last season by an average of 4.3 points per game including two one point losses to NFC South champ Carolina. Since the 2008 season Atlanta has a .647 winning percentage in games decided by eight points or less. But the Saints have won the majority of the close games in this series since 2006.
In a highly competitive game I like the Saints to cover and win the contest. The Big Chief says New Orleans 24 Atlanta 16!
The NFL season is here, and with it, another year of having the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert visit each week with Saints QB Drew Brees. Bobby and I were able to visit with #9 about training camp and the start of the 2014 season. "This is where the fun begins. It's about being able to go out and see all the work that was put it during training camp and the preseason games," said Brees.
Drew talked a lot about how important this week's game at Atlanta is for the Saints. "This is a big game. A lot of the games have gone down to the last possesion. And there is always a lot at stake." The Saints are 13-3 versus the Falcons since Drew Brees came to New Orleans in 2006.
Bobby asked Drew about rookie WR Brandin Cooks: "First of all, he's such a smart player. He's (Cooks) been able to pick up some things from veteran players like Marques Colston and Robert Meachem. It seems like he's been around here a long time instead of him being a rookie."
The Saints are widely thought of as one of the best teams in the NFL entering the 2014 season. What does Drew Brees think about all the hype? "I feel good about this year's team. We've got to go out and win games. We haven't done anything yet. We all have to be on the same page, take things one game at a time, and the sky's the limit!"
You can listen to Bobby's entire conversation with Drew Brees by clicking below.
In a league that’s all about what have you done for me lately, the New Orleans Saints have dominated, defeated and flat-out owned the Atlanta Falcons. Since Sean Payton was hired to take the Saints to a place where they had never been before (the Super Bowl), the Black and Gold have taken control of their series with Atlanta.
I’m a firm believer that you can look at numbers and spin them in any direction to your liking, but I also believe that inside those very same numbers lies the truth. Truth be told, New Orleans has stormed back and taken control of a series that was once lopsided.
Check this out: before Sean Payton came to the Big Easy, Atlanta had a commanding 44-30 edge in the Falcons versus Saints series. Now as the two rivals meet for the 91st time, the Saints have trimmed the Falcons once huge lead to 47-43. New Orleans was once 14 games behind the Falcons in series wins and now just trail by four games.
Since that most historic, life changing, and unforgettable game that took place in the renovated Superdome on Monday, September 25th, 2006 the Saints have owned the Atlanta Falcons.
The Saints 23-3 win over their rival that night served as the starting point for a 13-3 run that New Orleans has been on the last eight seasons. The Saints have won 13 of the last 16 meetings between these two.
New Orleans is currently on a two game win streak with the Saints holding a 6-1 mark versus Atlanta in the last seven meetings. As I researched and put this little breakdown on paper for the proud members of the Who Dat Nation, I too learned a few things.
Winning 13 of 16 games is certainly impressive. But things are even better than that when you look deeper inside the Saints' 13 wins. Yes, the Saints have dominated the series since 2006 - but only six of the past 16 games have been decided by more than eight points. Four of the Saints 13 wins over the Falcons in the last 16 games have the Saints winning by 18 points or more!
The Saints crushed the Falcons 23-3 and 31-13 in 2006, beat em down 34-14 in 2007, and put on an offensive clinic with a 45-16 win over their rivals during the 2011 season.
And for those of you that own Who Dat Brooms, New Orleans owns sweeps over Atlanta in the 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013 seasons. For five of the eight seasons that Sean Payton has been coach of the Saints, New Orleans did not lose to Atlanta.
Or if you want to make that sound even better, you can say that the Falcons have only won a game against the Saints (two meetings each season) in three of the last eight seasons. The lone three wins that the Falcons have scraped up against the Saints since 2006 include a 34-20 win in 2008, the Falcons win in OT 27-24 in 2010, and the last win Atlanta has in the series was a 23-12 win in 2012.
The Saints and Falcons series has been great over the years, but since 2006 the Saints and Falcons have both been among the best when it comes to total wins during that time span. Since Sean Payton took over the Saints have been to the playoffs five times, winning it all in 2009.
And the Falcons have been a solid team under Coach Mike Smith. Since Smith got the Falcons job Atlanta has been to the playoffs four of his six seasons including owning the #1 seed in 2010 and 2012.
If the Saints and Falcons were shooting marbles, throwing darts or bowling, their fans would want to win and win in the biggest and best possible way. The 91st meeting takes place Sunday in the ATL and if things go as they have been as of late, it will more than likely be another win for the Black and Gold. In fact if you go by the numbers, the Saints chances of beating Atlanta are excellent!
OK, I think we would all agree that every person's favorite team and the opponent that they are playing is the most important game to that individual. But when it comes to the national stage, only a handful of games make the real headlines in the NFL on a weekly basis.
As the 94th season of the National Football League begins, there are several big games in week one of the 2014 season. Let's begin, shall we?
Green Bay Packers @ Seattle Seahawks: The last time the Cheese Packers and the Seabirds met, the ending of the game was so bad, it officially ended the NFL referee strike. Who knows, if not for the ref's giving the business to the visiting Packers, the big power-tripping (according to some) NFL boss may not have given in. That was then and this is now. Both Seattle and Green Bay are the favorites to win their divisions, and this game could decide one of the top seeds in the NFC post-season. Remember the #1 rule in tiebreakers is head to head match-ups. No one, including Green Bay wants to have to play the Hawks in their house this post-season! Russell Wilson vs Aaron Rodgers, Richard Sherman and the tenacious Seattle defense on a season-opening game on Thursday night - now, that is an excellent way to set the tone for the NFL Season!
I Gotta See:
Indianapolis Colts @ Denver Broncos: There is only one team in the league that is Super Bowl WIN or bust, and it is the Denver Broncos. Yes, Denver will win 13-14 or perhaps 15 games in the regular season. And yes, the Broncos will be the top seed in the AFC again for a third straight season. But can the White Horses win the Super Bowl? Denver opens the season with a reloaded defense that is still wondering what hit them in last seasons Super Sunday game. The Colts look to be a team that is one of the very few that could contend with Denver in the AFC. Hey, the Colts are very good, but I think Denver is on another level.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time under coach John Harbaugh. The Bengals are set for the future with QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green. But can the Bengals win a playoff game with these two special youngsters? In my own personal opinion, if there is a team that can win the AFC and challenge the Horses and Pats it's the Purple Birds of Baltimore. The year off is done. Baltimore re-assumes the role of top dog in the AFC North and power in the AFC this season!
Inquiring Minds Want to Know!
San Francisco 49ers @ Dallas Cowboys: Is San Fran that bad on offense? Is Dallas really that bad overall? I think the answers to both of those questions lies somewhere in between. Some have cooled off on the 49ers due to their lackluster looks on offense during the preseason. And even more people are jumping off Dallas after an 0-4 showing in the preseason. Remember to read too much into the preseason. However I think the 49ers are still that good and Dallas is that bad. When I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong. But doesn't San Fran -5 1/2 look like stealing candy from a baby?
The One that Matters Most to Us:
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons: The Saints are the clear cut favorite in the NFC South and New Orleans looks like a legit Super Bowl team. Atlanta thinks that last season's 4-12 record was an exception and not the rule. QB Matt Ryan is looking to bounce back against a team that has won 6 of the last 7 in the series. In 10 of the last 16 meetings outcome between the Saints and Birds has been decided by eight points or less. Atlanta wants to serve notice they are back. The Saints want the road to the Super Bowl to go through the Superdome. Something has to give!
The dull, boring-for-the-fans preseason is finally over, and now the NFL is all for real. The defending champs looked sharp in the preseason, but Seattle has history clearly set against them as they try to repeat as World Champions. The White Horses from the Mile High City are stacked on both sides of the football. But can Denver win when it counts the most? And which teams are the most likely challengers to last season’s NFC and AFC champs? Folks, take a deep breath, fill your gas tanks, stock up on coals and prepare for an exciting long haul, as the NFL season is finally here. Here's my first NFL top ten.
1: Seattle Seahawks – The Seahawks didn’t look like a team that took an off-season break. Yes the odds are clearly stacked high against the Seabirds trying to repeat. But Pete and his gang of ferocious defenders can even out some of those odds with home field. Big game to open the season against the NFC North favorite - Thursday vs Green Bay Packers.
2: San Francisco 49ers – People kind of started jumping off the 49ers as the San Fran offense did not look too good this preseason. I’m not jumping off this team any time soon. I still think San Francisco is an elite team in the NFL. This week @ Dallas Cowboys.
3: Denver Broncos – The White Horses got better on defense. And Denver should be as good as they were a year ago on offense. But there is not another team in the league that is Super Bowl win or bust. I’m not sure Peyton can handle that pressure. He has not in the past! This week vs Indianapolis Colts.
4: New Orleans Saints – The Saints upped their defensive intensity by adding the top safety interceptor in Jairus Byrd. New Orleans does not have a glaring weakness. Now the Saints need to get off to a hot start beginning this week in the ATL against the desperate Dirty Birds. This week @ Atlanta Falcons.
5: Green Bay Packers – The Packers look like the cream of the crop in the NFC North and with a huge road win over Seattle this week, the entire country will claim that these Cheese Heads are as legit as they have been since they won it all! This week @ Seattle Seahawks.
6: New England Patriots – The Patriots still look like the far best team in the AFC East and NE is still among the best in the NFL. How many more seasons do the hood and pretty boy have together? You can best bet when Bill and Tom are done, the Patriots might be as well too! This week @ Miami.
7: Baltimore Ravens – If there is a team in the AFC that is going to be serious threat to the Broncos and Pats I think it is the Ravens. Baltimore has everything they need to make another Super run. A big opening week win over the Bengals would be a good start. This week vs Cincinnati.
8: Indianapolis Colts – The Colts are going to be a good team but can Indy really threaten the elite teams in the AFC? I don’t think they can. But that does not mean that they are not a good team. Hey Indy prove me wrong this weekend! This week @ Denver.
9: Arizona Cardinals – The Cards have a great defense and they are pretty sound on offense. If the Red Birds from the desert can get off to a better start this season they might be in the right place at the right time come January. This week vs San Diego
10: Philadelphia Eagles – Among the weakest division (NFC East) in the NFL, the Eagles look the best. Kind of like if you had four bad pairs of shoes and you wore the one that looked the least-worst. Does that make any sense to you? This week vs Jacksonville.
Let's face it, Texas A&M stole the entire weekend show with a Thursday night beat-down of the Gamecocks. After that, not really much to brag about from the big boys of college football.
I will tell you though, I get a kick out of those who already claim that a highly-ranked team that does not look so impressive in their first game is not going to be that good. Please, people, don't show your homer-ism or lack of knowledge that easily. It's called a season for a reason. Never ever has there been a one-game season! All that matters is which teams get better each week.
The Gamecocks learned the hard way that the Aggies have a great program and they are not just about one player. The Bruins, Seminoles, Tigers (Auburn & LSU) and Tide all got a little scare, and now a two huge games take place out west with Oregon hosting Michigan State and USC facing Stanford.
With that said, here is my top 10 as we enter the second week of the season.
1. Florida State - I know famous Jameis did not look great, but the Cowboys from Stillwater are a good team that has a pretty good program. Now the 'Noles get back home and remedy their problems with a tune up win over the Citadel? Last week beat Oklahoma State 37-31 / this week vs Citadel.
2. Alabama - I really get sick of hearing how the other team should have and could have beat Alabama if they had da-da-da! Hey, there is a reason why Alabama is good, you know. The Tide still don't know who their QB is. But they do know that Nick Saban is their coach. I say no more! Last week beat West Virginia 33-23 / this week vs Florida Atlantic.
3. Oregon - The Ducks will put up a lot of points and have plenty impressive numbers. But will they quack down the stretch of the season like they have done so many times before? Uh oh, a big defensive team is in town this week. And that could mean trouble! Last week beat South Dakota State 62-13 / this week vs Michigan State.
4. Oklahoma - The Sooners beat up the Bulldogs from Louisiana Tech and now will hit the road to take on Tulsa. The Sooners could become one of those locks to make it to the four team playoff this season. Last week beat LA. Tech 48-16 / this week @ Tulsa.
5. Auburn - The Tigers were tied 21-21 at half against the Razorbacks in their first game of the season. And then the War Eagles pulled away in the second half. Auburn will be great on offense. But will they have enough defense to get back to Atlanta? Last week beat Arkansas 45-21/ this week vs San Jose State.
6. Michigan State - The Spartans have a sound defense and an offense that does not make many mistakes. A huge road win over the Oregon Ducks could put MSU in the right spot for the rest of the season. Last week beat Jacksonville State 45-7 / this week @ Oregon.
7. UCLA - The Bruins traveled cross country to take on the Cavilers. UCLA inked out a 28-20 win. Of all of the preseason top 10 teams, UCLA looks the least likely to be legit. Hey, it's my opinion. Last week beat UVA 28-20 / this week vs Memphis.
8. Stanford - The Cardinals have a a great program and this week they get hyped up as the USC Trojans are on the schedule. One team will still have all of their season goals in tact. One will not. Last week beat UC Davis 45-0 / this week vs USC.
9. Ohio State - The Buckeyes broke in Freshman QB J.T. Barrett slowly in their 34-17 win over Navy. OSU got six points in the first half and added 28 in the second. If Barrett does well the Buckeyes could still be the cream of the crop in the Big Ten. Man look out this week as those Hokies are always hard to beat! Last week beat Navy 34-17 / this week vs Virginia Tech.
10. Georgia - The Bulldogs gave the ball to Todd Gurley, they let Todd return kickoffs and he piled up nearly 300 yards in a big 45-21 win over Clemson. Now the Dogs can seize control of the SEC East and put to put the Gamecocks with a win on the road. It won't be easy. Or perhaps it will! Last week beat Clemson 45-21 / this week at South Carolina.