The final AP college football poll of the season is out and Clemson holds the top spot after knocking off Alabama in the National Championship. The Crimson Tide wind up in 2nd place while 4 other SEC teams round out the top 25. LSU is one of them coming in at #13. It's the Tigers' highest finish to a season since 2011.
Not a bad accomplishment for a team that started out 2-2, fired its head coach and played the majority of the season without its top offensive player. But what can we expect from the Bayou Bengals next season? Will the Tigers be able to replace the likes of Jamal Adams, Tre'Davious White, Ethan Pocic, Kendell Beckwith, Duke Riley, Dwayne Thomas and Davon Godchaux? Also, WR Malachi Dupre could join that mix if he decides to enter the NFL draft.
Ed Orgeron's first full go as head coach will start with the same ole question in Baton Rouge... what will LSU get out of its offense? New coordinator Matt Canada will need to develop more of a passing attack. The question will quickly turn to quarterback and if Danny Etling will be able to hang on to the starting job or will someone else step up to unseat him.
Meanwhile, the running back position in in good shape even though Leonard Fournette is gone. Derrius Guice wound up the SEC's leader in yards with 1,387 yards in only 12 games. Over on defense, we can expect the Tigers to rank in the upper tier once again in. DC Dave Aranda has a bevy of talent to mold and unleash on the purple and gold's opponents. Will 2017 be the year of the LSU Tigers making the College Football Playoff?
LSU football 2017 schedule
Sept 2 BYU (at NRG Stadium in Houston)
Sep 9 Chattanooga
Sep 16 at Mississippi St.
Sep 23 Syracuse
Sep 30 Troy
Oct 7 at Florida
Oct 14 Auburn
Oct 21 at Ole Miss
Nov 04 at Alabama
Nov 11 Arkansas
Nov 18 at Tennessee
Nov 25 Texas A&M
Sunday, January 1st, 3:25pm on 870AM / 105.3FM
Georgia Dome – Atlanta, GA
Saints +7 Under / Over: 56
This Saints season will conclude the same as the previous two; minus a spot in the playoffs. 2016 however does feel a little different since the defense has gotten better, as well as there being a stronger commitment to running the football. But in the end, the Black & Gold will either finish with a familiar 7-9 mark or get to .500 with a win over the NFC South champion Atlanta Falcons on New Year’s Day.
The Dirty Birds have punched their ticket to the playoffs already and with a win Sunday can earn the #2 seed, which would give them a bye to open the NFL’s second season. Like New Orleans, Atlanta is powered by a high flying offense which is ranked 2nd overall (7th rushing / 3rd passing) and puts up the most points per game in the league, averaging 33.5. Matt Ryan has been living up to the nickname 'Matty Ice' this season and is getting strong MVP consideration. He has completed 69.5% of his passes for 4,613 yards and 34 touchdowns versus only 7 interceptions. Julio Jones remains one of the best WRs in the game and has caught 76 passes for 1,3,13 yards and 5 scores.
Mohamed Sanu is a dangerous #2 receiver with 55 catches for 621 yards and 3 trips to the endzone while Taylor Gabriel, who was claimed off waivers right before the start of the season, leads the teams in TD grabs with 6.
The dynamic duo of running backs in Atlanta are also a part of the Falcons air raid. Devonta Freeman has rushed for 983 yards and 6 touchdowns to go along with his 49 receptions for another 2 scores. Tevin Coleman meanwhile has 882 yards combined with 10 TDs.
Over on defense the Falcons are the 23rd ranked unit in the NFL (16th vs the run /26th vs the pass) and give up 25 ppg. They do have 11 interceptions along with 10 fumbles recovered, though. With the offense not coughing up the football that makes Atlanta an outstanding plus 10 in the turnover ratio!
Former LSU stud Deion Jones leads the team in tackles, interceptions and defensive scores in his rookie campaign. We witnessed a pick 6 from Debo in the Superdome back in week 3.
PREDICTION: Swami Steve’s Saints forecast for 2016 was another 7-9 finish, so I am going Atlanta here. I don’t think it will be another blowout though, even with the Falcons playing for a lot more. These two teams typically go back and forth exchanging scoring blows against one another and I don’t see why that will be any different this time around. The Dirty Birds just seem to have things going more their way this season than the Black & Gold do.
The NFL announced the rosters for the 2016 Pro Bowl last night and not a single Saints player was voted in. It’s the 2nd straight year no one from the Black & Gold made the initial cut. You could make the case for a few Saints players; but the omission of Drew Brees is flat out ridiculous.
He leads the league in completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns, yet Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Dallas rookie Dak Prescott were the quarterbacks selected for the NFC. The results are the combination of votes from fans, players and coaches. New Orleans 6-8 record likely had a negative effect keeping its roster from getting recognized. 5 other teams also did not have a single player voted in. They are the 49ers, the Bears, the Jaguars, the Jets and the Lions.
Brees and other snubs still have a shot to be alternates, as injuries and Super Bowl commitments will cause a number of guys to drop out. The Pro Bowl will be played in Orlando, Florida on January 29th and has returned to the traditional NFC vs AFC format.
The Saints have placed Stephone Anthony on injured reserve due to a knee injury, ending the linebackers season with two games left to play. After leading the team in tackles his rookie year, Anthony had a hard time getting involved in games his sophomore season. He played in 10 contests in 2016 and recorded 16 tackles and no sacks. Just last week coach Sean Payton said the the former first round pick out of Clemson needed to work on a his ability to diagnose plays.
"Some of the things that are hurting this player: He's explosive, he's disruptive and yet his key in diagnosing and his instincts at times are off. You know, it's run, and he's dropping back in a pass mode, or it's pass and he's at the line of scrimmage. So, his ability to see and diagnose some very simple reads, for instance, are the keys for him to getting better.
While Payton has been on the end of recent trade buzz, I would not be surprised in the Saints tried to move the 24 year old this offseason.
Sunday, December 18th, 3:05pm on 870AM / 105.3FM
University of Phoenix Stadium – Glendale, Arizona
Saints +2.5 Under / Over: 50
It seems as if most Who Dats are restless to close out the 2016 season since the Saints have found new ways to lose. We’ve been used to seeing the offense put up video game numbers only for the defense or special teams to blow it. But not of late, as we have witnessed Drew Brees throw ZERO touchdowns and 6 interceptions the past 2 contests. Maybe the end of days are upon us.
The remedy from the angry Black & Gold mob is to fire everyone, from the front office to the head coach and even the man they once called Breesus. If you are in that number I ask… what were you expecting coming into this season? Playoffs were never in the forecast for 2016. My advice is take a deep breath and try to enjoy the final three contests because all you are going to do is whine that you miss Saints football when it’s over!
A trip to 5-7-1 Arizona is on the schedule for week 15... just think how Cardinals fans are feeling. They had Super Bowl hopes coming into this season after they made it to the NFC Championship game a year ago when the offense was soaring as the best unit in the NFL. This year that unit has slipped to 10th overall (11th rushing / 13th passing) and puts up 23 points a game.
QB Carson Palmer is a 14 year vet with a strong arm but has faced a lot more pressure this year. He has been sacked 37 times, second most in the NFL, which has caused his stats to suffer. If the pass rush isn’t getting to him, though, and he can step up and sling it… beware the long ball, because he can drop one in the bucket!
The Cards' primary weapons on offense are WR Larry Fitzgerald and RB David Johnson. Fitz is in his 13th season in the NFL, all with Arizona, and he can still make DBs look silly as he has 91 catches for 892 yards and 5 scores.
The young buck is Johnson, who looks like a steal after being selected in the 3rd round a year ago. He managed to score 12 touchdowns his rookie campaign and there has been no sophomore slump for the kid out of Northern Iowa. Johnson has found the endzone 12 times already this season and is not just a threat on the ground. To go along with his 1,085 rushing yards, he is the team's 2nd leading receiver with 69 grabs for 745 yards. A truly telling stat, though, is that he leads the league in missed tackles forced with 64!
On defense, AZ is king of the hill as the top overall unit (2nd vs the pass / 10th vs the run) and are allowing on average 21 ppg. The have 32 sacks, 12 interceptions and have recovered 11 fumbles. They did just lose their top tackler Deone Bucannon, but could have safety Tyrann Mathieu back this week as he’s been dealing with a shoulder issue.
The Honey Badger isn’t the only former LSU Tiger now residing in the desert. Patrick Peterson is still one of the best cornerbacks in the league, Kevin Minter is a thumper at middle linebacker and the team picked up Tharold Simon in September after the Seahawks released the CB.
With playoffs hopes kaput for both ballclubs, it is tough to gauge who is really going to show up to play this week. Players have said all the right things, but you have to think some guys won’t be going 100% since nothing is on the line. With the Cardinals playing their home finale and the fact that they seem to run the football more effectively, I am leaning in their direction even though Arizona’s O-line is awful. I’ve heard David Johnson being compared to Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell and I just don’t think the Fleur Di Lis D, even though they are much improved, is ready for that. Cardinals 30 Saints 24
Lane Kiffin being named Florida Atlantic head coach means Ed Orgeron and his LSU staff must move swiftly to their next top option, because guess what? You are competing in the offensive coordinator market with good ole St. Nick now. Saban will let Kiffin stay on with Alabama through the College Football Playoffs, but after that the Lane train is headed to lead the Owls. Must be that view in Boca Raton…
The Tigers are said to be talking with the Pittsburgh Panthers OC Matt Canada today. The 44 year old year old has been there one season and Pitt averaged 447.5 yards with 42.3 points per game. The Panthers stunned Clemson in their own house giving the #2 team in all the land their only loss of the season:
Before Pittsburg, there were 3 seasons at North Carolina State. Fox Sports college football columnist Bruce Feldman had a write up on Canada and will be a guest on Sports Talk tonight at 535pm
Some other names out there who could be possible targets for the Bayou Bengals are said to include former Orgeron head coach Mark Helfrich. Also, Bama’s Steve Sarkisian has been mentioned, but could end up being Kiffin’s replacement at Alabama.
Everyone jumped on the Lane train to Houston yesterday, but the Cougars have named Major Applewhite their new head coach. He was promoted after serving as offensive coordinator under Tom Herman who left for the Texas Longhorns gig.
That means Lane Kiffin is kinda back on the market for Coach O to continue to court him to Baton Rouge. South Florida might be interested in him as a head coach, though. As that drama builds, Alabama's Nick Saban will surely get asked more questions about his OC. Saban fielded a number of Kiffin quandaries at the College Football Playoff press conference and was, let’s say less than thrilled...
Alabama head coach Nick Saban comments on reports that offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will be named head coach at Houston pic.twitter.com/WPqI7c41a3
Meanwhile Les Miles could be headed to ...ESPN! Footballscoop.com says that they've heard the network is very interested in having Les join their team if no coaching openings are right for him. I think that would be a big win for everybody.
I’m still not really sure what the heck happened last week against the Lions, but it sure did prove to me that not a whole lot has changed around here. It’s S.O.S. - same ole Saints. They’re up and down play has resulted in a 5-7 record, but for some reason we want to believe they are still a playoff contender. All the Black and Gold need to do is win their remaining 4 games, the Falcons to lose one of their three games that aren’t against the Saints, and voila they’ll be in the playoffs. Problem is they haven’t shown they can pull that feat off. The last time they’ve earned that many victories in a row was back in 2013.
Back to the now, week 14, where the Saints finally get to match-up against division rival Tampa Bay for the 1st time this season. The Buccaneers started out 2016 shaky but have come alive down the stretch. They are tied with the Falcons for the lead in the NFC South at 7-5. Their defense is ranked 22nd in the NFL (25th vs. the run / 15th vs. the pass), and they give up on average 24 points per game. That doesn’t sound like anything special, but the unit has been pillaging offenses of the football with 11 takeaways during their current 4 game win streak. The Bucs have a total of 22 takeaways on the year, which is ranked 4th overall in the league. Tampa is also putting pressure on the quarterback, with 29 sacks this season. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy leads the team with 7.
The Saints o-line will also have to contend with defensive ends Noah Spence and Robert Ayers. Spence has 5.5 sacks in his rookie campaign, while Ayers has 4.5 to his credit. The linebacker position is also a great strength of this Bucs squad. Lavonte David is a proven stud, and Kwon Alexander has really impressed in his sophomore season. The former LSU Tiger leads the team in tackles with 97 and seems to be in on every play as he has also tallied 3 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 1 interception and a defensive TD.
Over to the offensive side, where Tampa comes in at 12th overall (17th rushing / 13th passing) and put up 23 ppg. QB Jameis Winston is having a solid 2nd season in the pros after handing out interceptions to begin the year. He’s completed 62% of his passes for 3,180 yards and 23 TDs vs 12 INTs. However, 8 of those picks came in the first 4 weeks. Winston’s main man that he targets is Mike Evans. The WR out of Texas A&M has 10 touchdown grabs on the year to go along with 76 catches for over 1,000 yards.
Tight end Cameron Brate has also emerged as a scoring threat for the Bucs with 6 TD grabs this year. Both of those prime pass catchers stand 6ft5, 230+ lbs. Their rushing attack has only accounted for 6 trips to the end zone this season, but running backs Doug Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers can make a defense pay dearly when they’re on their games. Martin is only averaging 2.85 yards per carry since returning from his hamstring injury though, and he hasn't gotten more than 3.8 yards per carry in any of his six appearances this year.
It would appear that the Buccaneers are an easy pick in this match-up. They’ve won 4 in a row, are fighting with the Falcons for the division crown and are playing at home. BUT…Tampa hasn’t done well in Raymond James Stadium as they’re just 2-4 there this season. The Saints, on the other hand, seem to call it their home away from home. They have won the last 4 meetings in Tampa Bay. I just don’t foresee a Black & Gold road triumph this time around, though, since the Saints can’t seem to do the little things to win the big games.
Sunday, December 4th, Noon on 870AM / 105.3FM
Mercedes Benz Superdome – New Orleans, LA
Saints -6 Under / Over: 53.5
The Saints have an opportunity to get back to .500 on the season in week 13. They sit at 5-6 right now and are coming off a 49-21 drubbing of the L.A. Rams. In that contest, Drew Brees and the offense moved the ball at will against one of the better defenses in the NFL and the Fleur-Di-Lis D made the right adjustments to pitch a shut-out after halftime. The challenge will a bit tougher this Sunday with the 7-4 Lions now coming to town. Detroit has won 3 straight and 6 of their last 7.
Their offense is ranked 26th in the league (30th rushing / 17th passing) and puts up on average 22.5 points a game. Detroit is all about the air-attack and have the quarterback to drive it. Matthew Stafford was the top overall pick in 2009 and the former Georgia Bulldog is having one of his best seasons completing 67% of his passes for 2,883 yards and 19 TDs vs. just 5 INTS.
Now that superstar Calvin Johnson has retired, Stafford seems to be forcing the ball less and is spreading things around evenly:
Catches / Yards / Touchdowns
Marvin Jones 42 / 730 / 4 Golden Tate 57 / 617 / 2 Eric Ebron 35 / 451 / 1 Anquan Boldin 48 / 392 / 6 Theo Riddick 48 / 356 / 4
Riddick is also the team’s top back, but the Lions DO NOT run the football. He has 88 rushing attempts on the year for 355 yards and one score. Meanwhile, Boldin is a 14 year vet that may not be able to outrun you, but is a 6ft1, 220 pound target with reliable hands that Stafford looks for a lot once they are in the red-zone.
Detroit’s defense is middle of the pack ranked 15th overall (16th vs. the run / 14th vs. the pass) and comes into the Superdome giving up just under 22 points a game. They have recorded 20 sacks which is tied for 25th in the NFL to go along with 7 INTS and 4 fumbles recovered. Linebacker Tahir Whitehead leads the team in tackles with 101 but is questionable for Sunday as he is dealing with a sore knee. Remember safety Rafael Bush? He is in Detroit after 4 seasons with the Saints. He has 2 interceptions and has played well this year after suffering a season ending injury in week 1 of 2015.
Saints players have talked about how their backs are up against the wall and how they are treating every game left like its win or go home. They know there is no margin for error in these final 5 contests if they want a shot at making the postseason. None of the Lions stats are really that impressive to me, expect for the fact they have been able to win 7 games despite trailing at some point of the 4th quarter in every single match-up this season.
I feel like New Orleans should be the team with the better record here but the Black & Gold have found ways to lose ballgames instead of winning them. I don’t think Detroit will be able to keep up pace with the Saints scoring though, especially with the Black and Gold defense playing inspired ball of late. The Lions have only one offensive touchdown in each of their past two games and haven’t put up more than 30 points in a contest since October. For a 2nd time this year, the Saints get even on the season. PREDICTION: SAINTS 31 LIONS 24
The Saints throwback uniforms for Sunday are FIRE! The team has been celebrating its 50th year in the NFL and many great players from New Orleans past will be in attendance for this game.