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Steve Geller

"WWL First News" Sports Anchor
Weekdays 5am-10am

"Sports Talk" Producer
Weekdays 4pm-8pm

Twitter: @stevegellerWWL
Email: steve@wwl.com

Kiffin still in play for LSU? Cougars go after Applewhite

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...

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.

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Geller: Saints look to steal Buccaneers booty

Sunday, December 11th, 3:25pm on 870AM / 105.3FM

Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, Florida

Saints +2.5 Under / Over: 51.5

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.

Buccaneers 27 - Saints 21

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Steve: Motivated Saints look to tame lucky Lions

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.

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.
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Saints at Bucs flexed!

Even at 5-6 the NFL recognizes that the Saints are must see TV.  The Black & Gold's December 11th match-up at Tampa Bay has been flexed from noon to a 3:25pm kickoff for "America's Game of the Week" on Fox. 

The Buccaneers are also fighting for a spot in the postseason and own a 6-5 record.  It will be the first meeting of the season between these 2 NFC South foes who are trying to catch division leader Atlanta who is 7-4. 
The NFL is able to modify the Sunday schedule in weeks 11 thru 17 to showcase the the best possible game. Meanwhile, the Saints are getting ready to hoist 7-4 Detroit this Sunday at noon.  The Lions have won 3 straight and 6 of their last 7.  
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Steve: Will Rams D-Line be too much for Saints to handle?

Sunday, November 27th, Noon on 870AM / 105.3FM
Mercedez Benz Superdome – New Orleans, LA
Saints -7   Under / Over: 45.5

Feasting with family this Thanksgiving helped to digest the Saints' past two losses a bit. Everyone has their own take on the direction of this 4-6 team, but there’s no debating on the improvement witnessed on the defense side of the football.  Over the last 5 games the unit is allowing 23.6 points per game, which is a substantial jump from the first five weeks in which that number was at 33.6! Now if the team could just stop turning the ball over and get their act together on special teams they could be dangerous down the final 6 game stretch.  But, worry about the next game right?

That will be against the Rams who have one of the top defenses in the NFL. They are ranked 6th overall (16th vs the run / 6th vs the pass) while giving up only 19 points per game.  Pressure is the name of LA’s game as former Saints DC Gregg Williams is running the rowdy Rams defense.

Two former SEC linebackers lead the team in tackles.  Georgia Bulldog Alec Ogletree has 86 with 6 for a loss. Former Bama boy Mark Barron has 77 tackles with 2 interceptions and 1 sack.   It’s the kid out of Pitt that is the biggest menace at William’s disposal.  Aaron Donald, the 6ft1, 285 pound defensive tackle, has exceptional speed and strength that make him a dangerous disruptive force. Donald has 5 sacks with forced fumble this year. 
The Rams D however is getting no help from an offense that comes in at 2nd to last in the league (29th rushing / 29th passing) and puts up an NFL low 15 points a game. JUST FIFTEEN POINTS A GAME! They finally turned to their rookie quarterback who they mortgaged the future for. LA traded up to the top overall pick to select Jared Goff who tossed  43 TDs vs 13 INTs his last year at Cal.

Goff made his 1st NFL start last Sunday at home against Miami and completed just 17 of his 31 passes for 134 yards. It will be interesting to see how the newbie fares this week where he’ll also have to try and conquer the Superdome crowd. To keep Goff uncomfortable, the Fleur Di Lis D can’t let young running back Todd Gurley get going to lift pressure off the passing attack.   Gurley has 591 yards and scored his 4th TD of the year last week as he swam though the Dolphins. 
PREDICTION:  The obvious advantage for the Saints here is that they have a future Hall-of-Famer under center while the Rams are throwing a rookie out there that is making his first career road start. I feel like Goff is also catching the Fleur Di Lis D at the WRONG time since the Saints squad is playing with confidence and consistency.  As long as the Back & Gold don’t give the ball away, they should romp the Rams.

Saints 27 Rams 17
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Steve: Will Panthers pounce on visiting Saints?

Thursday, November 16th, 7:25pm on 870AM / 105.3FM
Bank of America Stadium – Charlotte, NC
Saints -3.5   Under / Over: 52

Saints players seem to remain confident and focused on the next task at hand, even though they just lost a gut-wrencher at home to the defending Super Bowl champs. Hopefully going toe-to-toe with Denver ends up being a good warm-up for a Panthers team that still has claws, even though their record is 3-6.  

The Black & Gold took the first outing back in a week 6 offensive bonanza that almost reached 1,000 yards of total offense and combined for 79 points. Carolina gets to host this time, and are ticked off after blowing a 17 point lead at home to Kansas City.

The Panthers offense is ranked 12th overall in the NFL (11th rushing / 15th passing) and scores on average 25 points per game. Quarterback Cam Newton is not MVP Cam Newton in 2016.  He’s completing just 58% of his passes and has tossed 10 TDs vs 7 INTs but can also tuck and run.  He’s dabbed after 4 rushes into the endzone this season; last week’s plunge was most impressive. 
Tight end Greg Olsen leads the team in receptions and yards with 50 for 712.  He has 3 touchdown grabs while Kelvin Benjamin has one-uped him with 4.   Both of those guys are problems, since they are large targets that stand 6ft5.  
29 year old Johnathan Stewart is still their main running back. He is only averaging 3.6 yards per carry but has 4 touchdowns while collecting 334 yards. Beware, because Stewart LOVES to play New Orleans. The Saints have given up the most TDs to the 2008 1st draft pick, which is 10 so far in his 9 year career.

The play of the Panthers defense has been a lot less flashy than Newton’s postgame attire.  Carolina’s D unit may be ranked 15th overall (2nd vs. the run/ 25th vs. the pass) but are allowing 25 points a game while last season that number was at just 19 ppg. To be fair, the offense has not done them any favors, committing 19 turnovers this season.  

The Cats D can still apply plenty of pressure having managed to sack the quarterback 27 times which is good for 5th most in the NFL.  Linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are 2 of the best in the biz and set the tone for this bunch. Kuechly seems to be in on every tackle on every play. Intelligent player who reads offenses and can quickly process to call out adjustments for the entire unit.

I think the Saints have played some pretty decent football of late with the defense making some noticeable improvements. Thank the Fleur Di Lis D for even keeping it a game versus the Broncos last week following four turnovers.  The offense really cannot afford to do that in Charlotte, but the good news is that Carolina’s weakness is their secondary. Brees should have a 300 yard, 3 TD day even though he isn’t as proficient when playing outside.  Look for rookie Michael Thomas to bounce back in a big way after a rough day at the office last time out in which he fumbled twice.

Saints 24 Panthers 23
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Steve: Saints bracing for Broncos defensive barrage

Sunday, November 13th, 12pm on 870AM / 105.3FM
Mercedes-Benz Superdome – New Orleans, LA
Saints -2      Under / Over: 49

Buckle up buttercup, because a serious pass rush is coming to town. The 6-3 Denver Broncos may not be as dominating as last year’s Super Bowl squad, but they can get after, and more importantly, get to the quarterback. Outside linebacker Vonn Miller leads this hungry wolf pack with 9.5 sacks this season and Sean Payton considers him the best pass rusher in the game today. 

His partner in crime is a now healthy Demarcus Ware. The 12 year vet missed some time this year with a fractured forearm but is still a threat at age 34 who can hunt down opposing QBs. The Broncos are a bit banged up as defensive end Derek Wolfe, who has 4 sacks on the season, is out with an elbow injury and shutdown cornerback Aqib Talib doesn’t seem likely to play as he is dealing with an issue in his back.

The unit has been a no fly zone for the passing game, allowing only 6 TDs by air this season and allowing a league low 183 passing yards a game. Adding to Denver’s fear factor is that they like to create turnovers. The team has 8 interceptions and have recovered 8 fumbles - but wait! There is a weakness.  The Broncos have been surprisingly awful against the ground attack, allowing 129 yards a game which is the 4th most in the NFL.  Only the 49ers, Browns and Dolphins are worse versus the run.

On the offensive side of the football, Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset on his retirement white horse following a second Super Bowl win, handing over the reins of the offense to Trevor Siemien. The 24 year old QB is in his 2nd NFL season after being selected in the 7th round out of Northwestern. He is completing 60% of his passes for 1,770 yards and has 10 TDs versus 5 interceptions. That’s actually not that bad considering how poor his offensive line has been along with a struggling rushing attack that is without starter C.J. Anderson.

In turn, Siemien’s had a hard time getting the ball to his targets, which include a pair of playmaking vets at WR in Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.  The duo has combined for 7 scores; but Thomas might have added more to the total if it weren’t for a handful of drops.

At running back, 4th round draft pick Devontae Booker is also a question mark this week since he has been limited in practices with a shoulder issue.  That would leave Kapri Bibbs as the Broncos main ball carrier. He went undrafted out of Colorado State in 2014 and has worked his way up to the active roster from the practice squad. He sure made quite the impression last week as he caught a screen pass and weaved in and out of traffic for an impressive 69 yard score.
A lot of the national media has been jumping on the Saints express after the team managed to beat Seattle. They’re even the favorite in this game despite the fact Denver is the defending champs and have a better record this season. The biggest key for the Black and Gold winning the last two contests has been the commitment to the run game. Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower have shown that if given the chance, they can wear down the opposition while keeping the Fleur Di Lis D off the field. Now that the Saints seem to have the right recipe, it’s really hard to pick against Drew Brees in the Superdome. I had this game as a loss in my preseason prognostications but will flip my pick because I BELIEVE!

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Steve: 49ers mining for victory against surging Saints

Week 9 of the NFL slate sends the Saints to San Francisco to face a 49ers franchise that has been on the decline since Jim Harbaugh left. Chip Kelly is off to a 1-6 start in his first season as head coach there now. He managed to lead San Fran to a 28-0 win over the L.A. Rams in the season opener but 6 straight losses have followed.

His Oregon Ducks offense is ranked 2nd to last in the NFL (21st rushing /29th passing) and is scoring an average of 21 points per game. Blaine Gabbert started the first 5 games at quarterback, but the switch to Colin Kapernick has been in effect for the last 2 losses.  He is 2-1 all-time against New Orleans, passing for 4 TDs vs 2 INTs and also running for a score. Kaep is only completing 46% of his passes this season though. You can't blame poor QB play though for all the problems in the passing game.  

The Niners lack any real threats. Jeremy Kerley, Torrey Smith, and Vance McDonald each have 2 scoring grabs apiece. The offense leans on running back Carlos Hyde. He missed last week with a shoulder injury but looks to be on track for a return this Sunday, and the 49ers need him badly since he's their biggest threat. Hyde has made 6 trips to the endzone to go along with 429 yards and one fumble. Another impressive product out of THEE Ohio State University.  With the uptempo offense going 3 and out more often than not, Frisco's defense has been getting fried. They have taken over for the Saints as the worst ranked unit in the league, surrendering on average 31.3 points per game. San Fran still has plenty of studs on that side of the football.  They've been opportunistic with 5 interceptions and 6 fumbles recovered; big problem is the offense has given the ball back to the opposition 13 times for a -2 giveway/takeaway ratio. A hard hitting safety duo of Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid have a knack for getting their hands on the football. 

The linebacking corp is pretty solid as well with NaVorro Bowman, Nick Bellore, and Gerlad Hodges. Up front on the defensive line, the 7th overall pick in the draft, Deforest Buckner, has 2 sacks on the season, while Arik Armstead has 2.5 in his 2nd season in the NFL. Both of those d-lineman played college ball at Oregon.
PREDICTION: The 49ers are a bad football team and things have not gone any better since throwing Kaepernick in at QB.  At 1-6 San Fran’s season is done; but the Saints are still very much alive in the NFC South.  Drew Brees has been money all year long and New Orleans defense has shown improvement - that should be enough to secure a victory, because Kaep and crew just don’t have the firepower to roll with the Saints offense, and San Fran’s D is hurting.  
Saints 30 49ers 20    
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Steve: LSU vs Bama - a battle of two undefeateds?

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron talks about his team's "new season" every week. Since he's taken over for Les Miles, Coach O has guided the Tigers to 3 straight victories. Even Alabama's Nick Saban looks at LSU as a whole other animal, calling the Tigers an undefeated  team:

The #1 team in all the land will arrive in Baton Rouge for a 7pm kickoff Saturday.  #15 ranked LSU finds themselves 7.5 point dogs in Death Valley.  The ability to get RB Leonard Fournette going along with protecting QB Danny Etling have been Coach O's two biggest keys. That's because the Crimson Tide defense is suffocating. Buckle up, because the pass rush is coming. They lead the nation in sacks with 32.  Trying to run against Bama has also been futile as teams are averaging just 70 yards on the ground against them.  

Looking at the Tide's offense; freshman Jalen Hurts is at the QB helm with Coach O's good buddy Lane Kiffiin calling the plays. Hurts has 12 passing TD vs. 5 INTs along with 521 yards rushing and 9 trips to the endzone.  He leads an offense that is scoring 44 points a game. 

Ed Orgeron could prove to be the trump card LSU needs though. With Miles the offense put up 21 points a game this year, but after Coach O unleashed Steve Ensminger as O.C. the energized Bayou Bengals are scoring 41 points. The bleeding needs to stop for Tiger fans as LSU has lost the last 5 in this meeting.  
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Steve: Can Saints snap 3 game losing streak against Seattle?

Sunday, October 30th, 12pm on 870AM / 105.3FM
Mercedes-Benz Superdome – New Orleans, LA
Saints -2.5           Under / Over: 48

The Saints will try and get back on track in week 8 after falling to 2-4 against the Chiefs in Kansas City. My biggest positive from that game was that the run game at least had a pulse, putting up 104 yards. You better believe if you want to beat Seattle, you have to hand it off to keep ‘em honest. If not, the Legion of Boom will just be planning to tee-off on Drew Brees every down. The Seahawks are 4-1-1 and are led by that defense. The unit gives up the fewest amount of points per game in the NFL at 14 and are 6th in the league (5th vs. run / 9th vs. pass) overall.
The list of names on this sinister squad is scary. Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, Cliff Avril… you get the point. Surprisingly the group only has 5 interceptions and a single fumble recovery so far.  Sherman and Thomas have 2 INTs each. The pressure is coming up front though as the Hawks have 20 sacks, which is 3rd best in the league. Avil is the leader in the clubhouse with 6.5 of those. If Seattle’s offense was clicking this team, might be undefeated right now. They are ranked 22nd overall (14th passing / 27th rushing) and are averaging just 18.5 points. Russell Wilson has thrown for 1,559 yards 5 TD and 1 INT. Former Saints TE Jimmy Graham has one of those scoring grabs along with 408 yards on 27 catches, but has been targeted 41 times. He is coming back from a season ending knee injury last year and hasn’t put up the numbers Who Dats were used to seeing from 2010-2014.  

Doug Baldwin is the Hawks leading wide receiver with 34 grabs for 430 yards and 2 scores. Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett COMBINED have 353 yards on 31 catches. The strength of the Seahawks offense used to be Marshawn Lynch, but Beast Mode is retired. Christine Michael averages around 68 yards a game but is gaining 4.2 per carry and has 4 scores. The other guy really toting the football for the team is the QB. Wilson has not been effective with his feet gaining just 33 yards on 22 rushing attempts.  

PREDICTION: If you look at Seattle’s schedule they have only faced one top tier offense like the Saints this season. That was a 26-24 win over Atlanta. Other than that they’ve beaten the Dolphins, Rams, Jets and 49ers. None of those teams are equipped to put up points like the Black & Gold who have averaged 36 at home this year. Sure, the Seahawks have taken the last 3 against New Orleans, but all of those were in their house. This time the 12th man is on the Saints side. I think the Hawks are ripe for the pickin’, especially with Wilson banged up having a knee and a pec injury.
Saints 27 Seahawks 23
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