Sean Payton and the Saints are back on the practice field today. The team is 2-4 after a 27-21 loss in Kansas City and get to come home for week 8 to host the 4-1-1 Seahawks. Seattle just slugged through a 6-6 tie in Arizona on Sunday night. More poor scheduling by the NFL; this time it will happen to favor New Orleans. Will the Black & Gold capitalize?
The chips may be down but the Saints 'aint folding. Coaches and players don't want to hear or talk about it, but the NFC South is far from from being decided and yes they're "still in it." Atlanta is in 1st but have dropped 2 in a row for a 4-3 record. Tampa is hot, having won their last 2 but are just 3-3. The pouty Panthers reside in the cellar at 1-5. Meow!
Seattle has opened as 3 point favorite in the Mercedes Benz Superdome with a total of 48 points being expected. Here's what Payton had to say to the media this morning...
New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton Conference Call with New Orleans Media Wednesday, October 26, 2016
With the way the whole league has leaned towards offense in recent years, how is it that Seattle has created and maintained such an impressive group in defending the pass?
"I think the first thing when you watch the tape there are two things (that stand out). They're very talented and I would say they have outstanding technique. They're playing a little man to man but you see a lot of zone coverage. It forces you to come underneath with throws. That combination of coverage and then what they're able to do with their rush plans make it extremely challenging."
How surprising is it that the Seahawks have struggled in running the football?
"They're dealing with a rash of injuries like we are, on that side of the ball specifically. They've had a lot of different offensive linemen in the game. All of that along with the quarterback getting nicked up. All of those things can lead to maybe the numbers you aren't looking for at the start of the year."
When you have a defense like theirs, what is it specifically about that defense that stands out to you where it seems like it's all 11 guys flying to the ball?
"I think a mentality begins to develop. We've seen this happen before on one side of the ball or the other. There's an expectation of how they play. I think there's a great scheme in place. There's talent. You kind of all of a sudden get this recipe with the leadership that they have. Occasionally there's a new face that shows up maybe at linebacker or the corner position and yet there's that expectation of success and that expectation of playing with numbers to the ball. I think that's a large part due to the players and coaches that have developed that and cultivated that."
Can you take us back to the trade between the Seahawks and Saints with Jimmy Graham and Max Unger and the draft picks involved?
"It seems like a while ago. Max is doing well. He's made the transition and helped us. I think it was really about acquiring numbers and the opportunity for us to select two defensive players with Steph (Anthony) and Hau('oli) Kikaha, but all in all there were a handful of things that went into it, but mainly trying to improve our offensive line and also our defense."
Do you still maintain a close personal relationship with Jimmy?
"It's hard to just from a distance standpoint. Our schedules don't allow you to touch base. I would say, probably a couple text messages in the last year and a half. I think the world of him and always follow how he's doing."
How do you think he's been doing this year?
"I think he's been more involved. You're seeing him healthy, moving around. He's high-pointing some balls. He's coming off the injury. Coming off the injury I think he's transitioned back in."
What have you seen from Nate Stupar?
"The evaluation a year ago came off the kicking game and some defense. He's playing more snaps for us defensively and I think playing pretty well. I think he moves well. I think he's athletic and I think he has a pretty good beat on what we do defensively. I thought he played pretty well the other day."
When you face a defense like Seattle's that's been consistently good like they have, does it give you a little extra juice and do you get a little excited to see how you can combat that offensively?
"I think more than anything as a team and the challenge they present. Each week, we try to present those during the course of the week of our players. We talk about playing a good opponent. We talk about the keys to playing a game like this. As coaches and players we get excited each week with the opportunity to compete and put our best foot forward, especially coming off a loss like we did at Kansas City."
How has Hau'oli Kikaha's progress been in rehabilitation since we haven't seen him around much?
"He's doing outstanding."
Going back to Stupar, he showed some hops in knocking down a pass intended for Travis Kelce on Sunday. Were you surprised he was able to jump up that high?
"He's pretty athletic. I don't know that any of us were surprised. We've seen him do some things athletically in practice. I think it was good anticipation by him and it was a good play."
Do you look forward to seeing Hau'oli Kikaha back out there next year?
"His energy and how he plays. I think there's no question you miss a player like that. He came on his rookie year and we thought did a lot of good things. I don't know that you replace him right away, yet we look forward to him coming back into the lineup and being a part of what we're doing defensively."
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro's passion for the game is pretty evident by his play on the field, but he's not seeing that same effort from his teammates.
"I think more guys need to want to be great; we need more of that," said Vaccaro after the Saints 27-21 loss to the Chiefs in K.C. "Accepting mediocrity, accepting being average is starting to float around a little bit and that can't happen. Why would you want that for yourself? Doesn't everyone want to be great?"
Vaccaro is just as frustrated with 10 penalties and 2 turnovers in that game as the fans; but what is really getting under his skin is that he's seeing the same mistakes over and over and over again.
"Guys on this team need to look themselves in the eye and take every rep and really, truly analyze yourself. Are you helping the team or are you a selfish player right now? You're going to make mistakes, but if you're a repeat offender on film over and over, you just don't care. If you see the same thing showing up, you don't care. Either you're helping us or you're shooting us in the foot."
All is not totally lost though. The safety still believes that the unit which is giving up 32.5 points per game can get things going in a positive direction.
"I want to be a part of a good defense, a team that doesn't rely on the offense. It's just so up and down; quarter to quarter. It's just too much inconsistency. I think that's all the players; I don't think that has anything to do with the coaches. I think guys have to want to make the play and don't expect anyone else to make the play."
Things are far from a runaway in the division. The Saints now sit at 2-4 and in 3rd place in the NFC South. Tampa is in 2nd at 3-3; while Atlanta has the lead at 4-3. Carolina is pouting at the bottom with a 1-5 mark.
Next up for New Orleans is 4-1-1 Seattle, who just had a Sunday night thriller with Arizona. The two played to a 6-6 tie. Sean Payton and the Saints have dropped their last 3 against Peter Carroll's flock of seagulls.
To hear the full audio of Vaccaro's interview here:
This year's LSU football team still can be special. They have 5 games remaining against ranked SEC opponents for interim head coach Ed Orgeron to boost his credentials for the full time gig. The gridiron's version of "American Ninja Warrior" sets forth for the Bayou Bengals.
The first challenge the Tigers must navigate their way through is against a good old fashion rival that Coach O just happened to be the head coach of in a galaxy far far away. Added to the entertainment value is that it's an 8:15pm kickoff in Death Valley and oh the teams are ranked in the top 25.
Check out this hype video for #25 LSU (4-2) vs #23 Ole Miss (3-3):
Sunday October 23rd, 12pm on 870AM / 105.3FM
Arrowhead Stadium – Kansas City, Missouri
Saints -6.5 Under / Over: 50.5
The 2-3 Saints quest to get even on the season leads them to Kansas City in week 7 to do battle against the 3-2 Chiefs, a tough team that has a tough venue. Arrowhead Stadium will be loud & proud, full of war chants from a sea of red that wants to see their team keeping up with the Joneses in the Wild Wild West of the AFC.
Denver and Oakland are 4-2; San Diego 2-4. K.C. averages 22 points and the offense is ranked 17th overall in the NFL (14th rushing / 19th passing) while churning out 352 yards per game. Good ole' Alex Smith is at the helm for the Chiefs. Yeah, this guy…
He is completing 67% of his throws this year and has 1,297 yards passing with 5 TDs and 2 INTs. He can run but the 32 year old has gained just 15 yards thus far. That's because the Chiefs are chock full of running backs, including a former LSU Tiger. Spencer Ware is the team's leading rusher with 415 yards and 2 scores; but has fumbled 3 times. Charcandrick West has only gotten 15 hand-offs but makes the most of them as he averages 5.5 yards a carry. Then there's Jamal Charles. This is his 3rd game back from an injury and his carries could see an uptick. He carried the ball twice in his first game back then nine times last week with a TD. Scary runner when healthy and has been known to rip off big yardage vs. the Black & Gold.
Kansas City wide receiver Jeremy Maclin followed Coach Andy Reid from Philadelphia to KC so knows the offense well. He has 23 grabs for 293 yards and a score. Tight end Travis Kelce is the team's leading receiver with 25catches for 252 yards and 2 TDs. Chris Conley, Albert Wilson, Tyreek Hill are all young WRs who have double-digit grabs, but only the rookie Hill has found the end zone and has done it twice. Watch for him in the return game as well; kid has speed.
The Chiefs D is 14th overall (12th vs. the pass / 24th vs. the run) and are tied for the lead in the NFL with 9 interceptions.
What's scary is they could be even better if they could find a pass rush having registered just 7 sacks. The good news for them is that the answer is walking through the door as linebacker Justin Houston is finally back at practice following knee surgery. However; he is unlikely to play this week. They still have quite a few studs on this side of the ball, starting with corner Marcus Peters who already has 5 interceptions this season after getting 8 with 2 scores in his rookie year.
Linebacker Derrick Anderson is still getting it done at a high level in his 12th NFL season. The 2005 1st round draft pick leads the team in tackles with 40 and has 1 sack, 2 passes defended, 1 interception and a touchdown. Eric Berry is also lurking in the Chiefs secondary. The 27 year old is one of the best safeties in the game today.
I do not like the match-up for the Saints since the Chiefs pass defense is their strength. KC just shut down Derek Carr and the Raiders in Oakland. I haven't seen enough from the Black & Gold's run game to make me believe that it can carry the team to victory in Arrowhead.
Saints 1st round draft pick Sheldon Rankins broke his leg during training camp and has healed enough to return to the practice field today, per head coach Sean Payton. He should provide a much welcome boost to the NFL's 31st overall defense.
Rankins was initially placed on injured reserve, but can be the one player to return to action for the Black & Gold from IR this season. However, league rules state that the earliest that the defensive tackle will actually be able to play in a game is week 9 at San Francisco.
The 6ft2, 287 pounder out of Louisville had a memorable moment the first day of joint practices with the Patriots in New England this offseason. He picked off a Tom Brady pass and returned it for a score, silencing the Pats faithful at Foxborough in attendance that day. Rankins tallied 14 sacks with 26.5 tackles for loss in his final 2 years of college.
Carolina clawing for victory against rested Saints Sunday, October 16th, 12pm on 870AM / 105.3FM Mercedes Benz Superdome – New Orleans, Louisiana Saints -3 Under / Over: 53.5
The defending NFC champs are headed to the Superdome this Sunday. But it's a new year and 2016 hasn't been kind to the Carolina Panthers. There's been no "dabbing" this season as they sit at the bottom of the division with a record of 1-4. Super-Cam got concussed in week 4 when former LSU heavy hitter Debo Jones unloaded on him at the goal line. Give Newton credit though; he seemed to just absorb the blow like Marvel's Luke Cage and still surged forward into the endzone.
Cam looks to be on track to start this week against the Saints and the Panthers definitely need the league MVP. The offense is ranked 3rd in the NFL overall (6th rushing / 10th passing) and average 25 points a game. You would think their PPG would be higher; but Carolina's turned the ball over a league high 14 times. A large part of that falls on Newton as he has thrown 5 interceptions to his 6 TDs and has lost a fumble. His most trusted target is tight end Greg Olsen. Sean Payton praised the guy's passion, toughness along with his ability. Olsen has caught 33 passes for 516 yards and 2 scores this year.
Even without the win, which totally counts for more than this, Greg Olsen had a great game. Best TE in the NFL atm. https://t.co/7PWOLhLehR
Kelvin Benjamin missed all of his sophomore season due to injury but has looked good in his return as he leads the team with 4 TD receptions. He isn't getting much help from the rest of the WRs as Corey Brown, Devin Funchess and Ted Ginn Jr. have combined for 29 receptions and 2 scores.
Over in the running back group, old nemesis Jonathan Stewart is making his way back from a hamstring injury and is on track to be active this Sunday. Fozzy Whitaker leads the team currently with 186 yards rushing but has not scored a TD. He is also active in the passing game, having hauled in 19 passes for 164 yards; but still no endzone. Newton is 2nd in rushing yards with 147 and 2 scores; while Cameron Artis-Payne has the most attempts with 36 and has gained 144 yards to go along with 2 touchdowns that he scored this past Monday Night Football.
The Panthers defense is still tough to contend with; they just haven't been great. They are ranked 12th overall (10th vs. the run / 15th vs. the pass) and surrender 27 points a game. Carolina has 11 sacks with 5 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries and have managed 2 defensive scores. It's easy to blame the secondary since Josh Norman, Peanut Tillman and Roman Harper are gone, but the defensive line hasn't been able to apply the same amount of pressure it did a year ago. Linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis remain the centerpieces of this unit. Kuechly is 2nd in the league in tackles with 57 along with 1 sack, 3 passes defended and 1 INT.
Carolina is quite comfy in the confines of the Superdome. They've been triumphant the last 2 times they've visited and I foresee a 3rd straight victory this Sunday. It should be close but I have more faith in the Panthers defense to make a stop. The Saints give up on average 423 yards and 32.5 points per game. The fact that this is a home game means nadda either. The Dome field advantage is non-existent. The Black & Gold are is 4-11 in their last 15 games there. (Thanks for that tid-bit @pboron88) PANTHERS 30 SAINTS 28
That means it is possible that Davis won't be ready for the regular season-opener when the Pels host the Denver Nuggets on Oct. 26. The big man missed the final 14 games of last season after he suffered a left knee injury that required offseason surgery.
Let's hope the Saints come back off the bye week packed with some extra punch, because they are headed in for a heck of a tough trek the remaining 12 games of the season. They get to at least begin the treacherous journey in the Superdome this Sunday; however, home field advantage hasn't meant much recently.
Carolina comes to town a wounded cat. The Panthers are also off to a less than stellar start to the 2016 season. Monday night's home loss to the Buccaneers dropped the defending NFC champs to 1-4. Last year's league MVP Cam Newton is still working his way back from a concussion. The offense has been churning out the yards but is turning the ball over at a high rate. Meanwhile, the defense is good, but hasn't been a dominant force like last year.
Will Sean Payton rally his 1-3 Saints squad to a 2nd straight victory that would snap a 2 game home losing skid? Following the bye under a Payton-coached team the Black & Gold are 4-5. They did manage to achieve a win coming off a break in 2012 when he was suspended.
Carolina has won the last 3 in this series and have even knocked off New Orleans in the Superdome the last 3 match-ups. Both teams are looking up at 2-3 Tampa Bay and 4-1 Atlanta in the NFC South.
Sunday, October 2nd, 3:25pm on 870AM / 105.3FM
Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego, California
Saints +4 Under / Over: 53.5
Alright, for real, this week is gut-check time for the Saints. The first quarter of the season will end on Sunday, and 0-4 is not acceptable. They are a team with everything against them at the moment and need this win in the worst way. Adding to their injury woes is a poorly timed trip to the west coast on a short week after playing on Monday night. Who schedules that?!
They’ll face a Chargers ballclub that is off to a 1-2 start. San Diego lost on the road to the Chiefs and Colts, but lit up the Jaguars in their home opener for a victory. We constantly hear coaches and players talk about having a balanced offensive attack - well San Diego has found that groove.
They are ranked 17th overall in the league and are 12th running the ball coupled with a passing attack ranked 15th. Philip Rivers has completed 69% of his passes for 789 yards with 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s 1-2 against the Saints all-time, throwing 5 TDs vs. 2 INTs. Rivers and the Chargers will likely be without their star tight end Antonio Gates and are also down receiver Keenan Allen and running back Danny Woodhead. This is the reason injuries are never an excuse with teams, because they all have them.
Who Rivers does have at WR? There is Travis Benjamin, who is a new addition after suffering through 4 years in Cleveland. He’s the team’s leading receiver right now with 17 receptions for 229 yards and 2 scores. Be wary of his speed because he can make you look silly and come through with the tough grab.
Tyrell Williams is 6ft4, 205 lbs and in his second season out of Western Oregon. His targets have gone up every week and has made 11 catches for 201 yards and 1 TD so far. Rookie tight end Hunter Henry will surely get a lot more looks without Gates in the lineup. Henry was drafted in the 2nd round out of Arkansas and has an impressive 96 yards on 6 receptions but has still not found the endzone.
The Yin to Rivers' Yang has been Melvin Gordon. The 2nd year running back needs to get his yards per carry up but has plowed into the endzone 4 times. To go along with his 194 yards rushing, Gordon has also been active in the passing game, making 7 catches for 61 yards. With Woodhead on the shelf, the team signed Dexter McCluster to fill that role. The pass catching back snagged 2 receptions in his debut last week.
Rivers and the Chargers suffer from the same problem as Brees and the Saints; no defense. San Diego’s D is ranked 25th overall (6th vs the run / 30th vs. the pass) and are allowing 24 points per game. They’ve been able to put pressure on QBs, as they’ve tallied 7 sacks, but the secondary is still getting torched for 322 passing yards a game. That’s even worse than the Saints, who allow 299!
PREDICTION: I thought there was no way the Saints would lose last week and got burnt. At least the Black & Gold are a little healthier heading into this match-up and that is enough of a positive nugget for me to believe they will get the job done in San Diego. With two gunslingers going at it against vulnerable defenses, the score should be high. The last time Drew Brees played in “The Q” he was carrying his right arm off the field because of a shoulder injury that threated the rest of his career. The Chargers let him walk out the door in free agency and the Who Dat Nation cannot thank them enough. Sure that was 10 years ago, but this is his first game back on that field. For that reason I can’t go against the uber-competitive Brees in this one. He might have to play some special teams or defense in order to pull it out but somehow, someway; New Orleans makes it happen. Saints 38 Chargers 34!