I talked to Drew Brees just after one of the roughest games of his career. Drew talked of the missed opportunities and mistakes made in the 23-13 loss to Atlanta.
"Unfortunately, the turnovers just overshadow everything, they usually do. We were so good in so many other situations," Brees said. "Defensively, third down, was awesome. They held the Falcons to 1 of 11, that's championship football. We had numerous occasions, where we'd drive the ball, then there would be a turnover, a critical mistake that would cost us points. That can't happen in a game like this. You've got to take advantage of every opportunity you get to win the game and seal the deal."
I also asked him about the clock-management issue at the end of the first half that saw the Saints walk away with no points on the board. Drew said that was on him.
"I thought we had more time. I was watching the clock, I was trying to be strategic with how we were managing it. I saw 17 seconds, then next thing you know, the ball is complete, and it's 7 seconds. I thought we had more time, but obviously in hindsight, that's a ball that needs to be complete in the end zone or thrown out of the end zone, at least give yourself another shot, or another field goal opportunity.
In his initial post-game comments, and speaking with me, #9 shouldered the burden of the blame for the loss.
"A lot of those things fall on me, it's my responsibility, I know that. My belief in this team and myself and confidence level is unwavering. You know, it hurts, it definitely hurts. It's kind of heartbreaking to lose the way we have the last two weeks, especially when you feel like you're in large part responsible. I've got to get better, and I will. I'll respond, because that's the only way I know how.
Without the benefit of a lot of practice time, both the Saints and Falcons will rely on what they do well - and not particularly game planning - in tonight's game. The Saints were very successful offensively in the week 10 match against the Dirty Birds up in the Superdome, running and throwing the football. The Falcons, however, couldn't get their running game going in the last meeting. I would expect the Falcons to come out trying to get that established tonight. Drew Brees told me this game will be about "reacting to what you're getting and making quick adjustments." Coach Joe Vitt echoed similar thoughts, "This game will be about execution, and physicality more so than game planning." The Saints have the advantage in this area.
William Robinson will get the start at right offensive tackle if Zach Strief (groin) can not play tonight against the Dirty Birds. Strief is officially listed as questionable. Vitt said, "We have a couple of options if that's the case." Vitt didn't elaborate on those options, but you can expect the offense to chip on coming rushers with a back and some double teams from the tight end position. If New Orleans can run the football well tonight, it will go a long way in helping Will Robinson in pass protection.
The Saints have owned the falcons (11-2) since Brees and Payton arrived in New Orleans. That includes the 31 to 27 week 10 Saints win this season. For that reason, I'm picking the Falcons. They're just due. Atlanta can clinch the division tonight with a win over the Saints. I don't like it, but I see this ending with the Falcons winning 34-30 in another close one over New Orleans.
The Saints have a tough challenge ahead of them, never mind the fact they are playing the Atlanta Falcons, they are doing so on a three day turnaround from a physical beating at the hands of the 49ers. The loss to San Francisco came with a price. Wide receivers Marques Colston and Lance Moore were both evaluated for concussion type symptoms after brutal hits from Niner defenders. The Saints are also down to their fourth offensive right tackle. Players and coaches alike often say that it's not always who you play, but when you play them. That couldn't be truer this week as the Saints travel to Atlanta to battle the division leading Falcons. Plain and simple, the Saints are a banged up football team.
The good news is the Saints played the Falcons just over two weeks ago, and the players should remember clearly with what the Dirty Birds do. That's perhaps the only benefit to playing on a short week, when it's a divisional opponent there is some familiarity. The game plan won't be exactly the same, but it will be similar with some slight wrinkles here and there. The Falcons will not be in a good mood hearing "the Saints own them" talk for two weeks after New Orleans handed them their first and only loss of the season so far back on November 11th. The Saints have dominated Atlanta, going 11 and 2 against them since 2006. However, this one is a tad different. The Saints are on the road, and as I mentioned really banged up. The saints have their backs against the wall at 5 and 6, and their playoff hopes are on life support. New Orleans has to pretty much run the table and win out in the final 5 games remaining. Can they do it? Sure they're capable, but it's a tall order.
11 and 2:
There's been a ton of talk about the Saints owning the Falcons with an 11 and 2 record against Atlanta since 2006. What's more? New Orleans hasn't lost to the Falcons in the Georgia Dome since 2008. After the Saints beat the Falcons earlier this month, linebacker Scott Shanle called the Dirty Birds the "Saints little brothers." Well they need to really be the big brother in this one, or the little brother might take over and pass the big brother up in the pecking order in the NFC.
1,2,3, and 4 is the current situation for the Saints, as in four offensive right tackles this season for the Black and Gold. Zach Strief went down against Eagles with a groin injury. Charles Brown replaced him and suffered a leg injury in the win over the Raiders. Bryce Harris was forced into action, starting against San Francisco, and he promptly went down with a lower leg injury. Coach Joe Vitt says Harris will not play this week against the Falcons. Vitt also said that Strief is close to being ready to play. If Strief can't go, it will be on Williams Robinson, who signed with the team less than a week ago and filled in against the 49ers.
I spoke with Drew Brees following the Sunday game against San Fran, and he said the big turnovers were the big factor in the loss.
“Obviously there were a lot of opportunities out there that we felt like, man, we didn't take advantage of like we needed to,” Brees said. "The most important thing is taking care of the ball, it always is. I felt like defensively we got a big one, special teams we got a big one. Unfortunately, offensively, you kind of scratch those out by giving them two. The fact that both resulted in touchdowns was the dagger."
With the Black and Gold now at 5-6, does #9 see this Thursday’s divisional battle with Atlanta as a “must-win?”
"Well, I think each one of these is just that much more important. Huge sense of urgency...we're not banking our whole season on one game, and at the end of November. We still have a lot of football left, but certainly, we understand the importance of this one."
O-Line: Bryce Harris filled in for Charles Brown at right tackle last week against the Raiders after Brown suffered a leg injury in the first half. It’s unclear if Harris will be the starter this week as the Saints host the San Francisco 49ers. The usual starter at right tackle is Zach Strief, he’s been sideline by a groin injury and was limited in practice on Wednesday. The Niners boast one of the league’s best pass rushes. DE/OLB Alden Smith leads the league with 15 sacks coming off a 5 sack performance in the 49ers 32 to 7 win over Chicago on Monday night.
Strief told me he’s still not sure what his status will be this week for the Saints. “You gotta wait and see how things respond. Missing time with any type of Injury, there is a little bit of ‘how does your body react’ to being back in action.”
Sacks Alive! Believe it or not, the Saints defense has more sacks this season with (24) than the San Francisco 49ers (23). I would have never guessed that in a million years.
Collin or Alex? While 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was coy through this week about who will get the start at quarterback this week, many media outlets now report that the backup will start.
“In both guys we have quarterbacks that we’re confident in, believe in, have won for us, Alex (Smith) over a long period of 25 games and Colin (Kaepernick) playing winning football the last two times he’s been out on the field. Plus the situation is that (Kaepernick) has gotten to play this year. Both of them have displayed that they are guys that we believe in, are confident in and can win for us.” Smith suffered a concussion a few weeks ago, and Kaepernick started and played well in a 32-7 win over the Bears on Monday night. In either case, the Saints say they’re preparing to see both Quarterbacks.
Kristian@wwl.com - Questionable return: Saints RB Darren Sproles has been practiced every day this week, but the Saints officially listed him as questionable for Sunday’s week 11 match up with the Raiders.
"“There is some swelling in the (left) hand, so we’ll monitor that and see where that takes us,” Coach Joe Vitt explained.
I caught up with Sproles in the locker room and he told me he’s ready to play but the decision is not his to make. "Whatever the doctors tell me, they have the final decision," he said.
Wide Receiver Courtney Roby (shoulder) is listed as probable against the Raiders.. OT Zach Strief, DE Junior Galette and CB Corey White have been ruled out.
With White down for this game, that means Johnny Patrick will fill in for White in the nickel on defense. “We expect production. He is the next man up," Vitt said. "We expect from him, at his position, exactly what Charles Brown gave us a week ago. He has been here since day one of the install, he knows this defense and he has been in every meeting this week, so we expect production."
OCD Jimmy?: Some pro athletes are more superstitious than others. Tight End Jimmy Graham takes it to another level. In fact, the Saints pro-bowler admitted he has an "OCD" about gloves during a game. Graham wouldn’t elaborate exactly what he means, other than to tell me he brings 12 pair of gloves to every game, and he wears all of them throughout the game. Strange? Yeah, just a little, but if it works, stay with it.
Graham also told me he’s as healthy as he’s been all season, and that’s a big reason we’ve seen his production skyrocket over the last few weeks. He’s been hobbled by an ankle problem and other little bumps and bruises nearly all season.
Kristian@wwl.com - After the Saints started 0 and 4, I was one of many that had written them off for the season. I started looking ahead to April’s NFL draft, thinking I might be in New York for a top-10 selection.
Boy, am I glad I was wrong.
The Saints all of a sudden win 4 of their last 5 games and are in contention for a wild card berth. They’ll need a lot of help down the stretch, but it’s highly possible New Orleans could get into the tournament.
Here are a couple of things that have to fall into place and a review of tie-breaking procedures in the NFL:
First things first: New Orleans has to prove they can handle success after toppling the previously unbeaten Atlanta Falcons last week. The Saints face a 3 and 6 Oakland Raiders team that is begging to be put out of their misery this Sunday. You can’t think playoffs if you can’t beat a Raiders team that has been woeful in two straight losses.
Down the stretch they come: Three of the Saints’ final six games are at home. Likewise, three of those match-ups are against three playoff teams from a season ago, and all three of which looked to be poised for another run. San Francisco visits New Orleans after thanksgiving on a short week. The Saints then go on the road against New York and Atlanta. The Giants are always tough on the road, and the Saints potential face bad weather up there. The Falcons game will be another 4th quarter brawl that could go either way. NFL network will have plenty of storylines leading into that one. In week 15, the Saints will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whom they’ve beaten once this season in a shootout in Tampa. The Bucs are also in contention for a wild card berth, and this game very well could go a long way in deciding that 6th final spot. Like the Saints, the Dallas Cowboys hold an outside chance of getting into the dance, and host New Orleans in week 16. Will the Cowboys fold in December again? And finally, the Saints will need a win in their week 17 home game against the Panthers. Carolina beat the Saints in week 2, but both teams have gone in opposite directions in the weeks since.
The NFC playoff picture as it stands now:
#1 Seed: Atlanta Falcons 8-1
#2 Seed: Chicago Bears 7-2
#3 Seed: San Francisco 6-2-1
#4 Seed: New York Giants 6-4
#5 Seed: Green Bay 6-3
#6 Seed: Seattle 6-4
In the hunt:
#7 Seed: Minnesota 6-4
#8 Seed: Tampa 5-4
#9 New Orleans: 4-5
** The Saints have another shot at Tampa, with an opportunity to make up some ground. The Saints will not play the Vikings or Seattle in the regular season. Green Bay would own the tie-breaker over New Orleans in their week 4 victory against the Saints.
The Bucs’ remaining schedule:
Week 11: @ Carolina—Pull for the Panthers to somehow get a win.
Week 12: vs. Atlanta—Believe it or not, you have to pull for the Falcons
Week 13: @ Denver—once again another tough match up for the Bucs in Mile High.
Week 14: vs Philly—No chance they stub their toe here.
Week 15: @ New Orleans—could be a big match up.
Week 16: vs St. Louis—Jeff Fisher won’t let his team quit despite being out of it.
Week 17: @ Atlanta—normally this would be good, but if Atlanta has the #1 seed all locked up, the Falcons will play the backups.
Projections: Tampa could finish at 9 and 7 with three losses against Atlanta, Denver, and New Orleans. If the Falcons are still trying to secure home field in week 17, that could be a fourth loss dropping them to 8 and 8.
Vikings remaining schedule:
Week 11: Bye (they will need it)
Week 12: @ Chicago—The Bears are bucking for the #2 seed and Green Bay is right on their heels.
Week 13: @ Green Bay—I know it’s a divisional game, but they won’t go into Lambeau field and beat the pack.
Week 14: Vs Chicago—yeah the schedule makers are cruel.
Week 15: @ St. Louis—Ok they’ll get a break here
Week 16: @ Houston—The Texans are fighting for the #1 seed in the AFC
Week 17: Vs Green Bay—yeah it’s at their place but the Packers could be ready to squeeze the division
Projections: Nobody thought the Vikings would be in position to think about the play offs after going 3 and 13 last season. Running Back Adrian Petersen is the comeback player of the year, but this schedule is brutal. I objectively see maybe 2 more wins for them down the stretch. If that’s the case the Vikings finish at 8 and 8. You could make the argument that 7 and 9 is realistic.
Seahawks remaining schedule:
Week 11: Bye
Week 12: @ Miami—it’s always tough to travel across the country, plus the Hawks have just 1 road win this season.
Week 13: @ Chicago—the Bears, to good of a defense against a poor passing attack.
Week 14: vs Arizona—The Cards have fallen apart. This is a win for Seattle.
Week 15: @ Buffalo—aside from foul weather fouling things up Seattle should get another win.
Week 16: vs San Francisco—this will be for the NFC west crown, and it’s a tough road venue for any team.
Week 17: vs St. Louis—another possible win at this point in the season.
Projections: I think the Seahawks will go 3 and 3 down the stretch. They’ve never won more than 2 in a row all season, and can’t win on the road. Three of the final six are away from their vaunted 12th man. With this projection the Seahawks will finish at 9 and 7. That still might get it done in the NFC. We’ll go over the tie breakers in a sec.
Tie-breaking procedures: If two or more teams finish the season tied for one of the two wild card spots, the following scenarios will apply. If the two teams are from the same division a different formula is factored in. However, for the sake of this argument, let’s say Seattle and New Orleans is tied at 9 and 7.
1. Head to Head: Does not apply, the Saints don’t play Seattle
2. Conference record: BINGO.
Who would win that tiebreaker? Ok pay close attention. Entering week 11 the Seahawks are 4 and 4 in the conference and New Orleans is 3 and 3. Seattle has 4 conference games remaining. The Saints have 6 NFC games remaining. What if they end in a tie at the end of the season? What’s the next tie breaker? Common games. The Saints and Seahawks, play 5 similar opponents. Seattle has beaten Green Bay, Dallas, and Carolina, and lost to the Niners. The Saints have lost to, Green Bay, and Carolina and would have to beat the Niners and Cowboys to even make it interesting.
Are you confused yet? Hang on, I am getting there.
The bottom line is I think the Saints have to go 6 and 1 down the stretch here to get into the post-season. A tough task, but not insurmountable.
Just imagine a chance for New Orleans to play at home for the Lombardi after starting the season 0 and 4. Just a few weeks back, a “Black and Gold Superbowl” unthinkable.
Kristian@wwl.com - Take the chains off: Ask and you shall receive. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been slowly re-introduced to the playing field once his suspension was temporarily lifted. He’s played in 4 games with a “Pitch count” coming off of knee surgery in the spring. Vilma joked with the media after last week’s game against the Falcons that he wished the coaches would “take the chains” off of him and let him get after it. The Saints coaching staff finally appears ready to do so. “He’s going to see more snaps, the biggest I had as his position coach is protecting Jonathan Vilma against himself. He’s a warrior. He wants to play every snap” Coach Vitt explained. The Saints linebacking corps has benefited from his play and experience on the field, and Vitt says his reps are going to increase this week against the Raiders.
Sproles’ roles: After a second straight day of practice and no setbacks to his surgically repaired left hand, it appears Saints RB Darren Sproles will play this week. Sproles was officially listed as “Full participation” in Thursday’s practice. The speedy scat-back broke his left hand on October 28th in a loss to Denver, and was expected to miss 4 to 6 weeks. Sproles brings the speed element to the Saints offense and now they have a decision to make. How do they keep the rhythm in the running game and still get the ball to their dynamic playmaker? I’m sure they’ll figure it out and still manage to feed the football to Chris Ivory, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas. It’s just another weapon in an offense that is starting to resemble the record-setting unit of 2011.
Payton contract: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN radio the Saints and Sean Payton have been given permission to begin discussing a new contract after the league voided his previous deal because of “unfavorable language”. Goodell says both side have a chance to work something out. “It between the team and Sean at this point and time, we’ve given them the ability to negotiate that under certain restrictions”. The commissioner also said, “They are doing that currently.” That makes me believe the deal for Sean Payton will get done pretty quickly. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Payton is not going to Dallas, Philly, or Cleveland. He’s going to be in New Orleans for a long time. The track record of General Manager Mickey Loomis tells me he’ll get his man once again. I would expect Payton to be one of, if not The, highest paid coaches in the NFL when it’s all said and done. Patriots coach Bill Bellichick is the league’s top paid field general at $8.5 million per season. Has Payton won three Super Bowls? No, but what’s his value to the Saints? It’s not a matter of whether Bengals, Patriots, Cardinals or Cowboys don’t think he’s worth it. Given the Saints 0 and 4 start, you could argue that Payont might just be more valuable to the franchise than any player, including Drew Brees.
Saints vs. Raiders, my take: The Saints are favored by 4 and ½ points over Oakland. I don’t gamble, but I might start after seeing this spread. I know home field advantage is worth 3 points, but I think the Saints win by 10 points. The Saints just have their Mojo; New Orleans 34 Oakland 24. The Raiders have allowed a league-worst 31 points per game, and that’s not good when Drew Brees and company have a ticket to show up at your place. The Saints will get to 5 and 5 with a huge match up against San Francisco looming in week 12 at the Super dome. My, my, my how suddenly interesting has this season become? You can bet the Who Dat Nation will not be in a hospitable mood after the way they were treated last year in ‘Frisco.
Saints RB Darren Sproles was officially listed as "limited" in practice to start this week of preparing for the Raiders, but Coach Joe Vitt said that Sproles was "full go" in practice. Vitt explained Sproles took every rep in practice, but was listed as "limited" because it was a "no contact" practice. Sproles did wear a glove on his surgically repaired left hand.
What are the chances we see Sproles back in the mix this week against the Oakland?
"We'll evaluate that as the week goes on," Vitt explained. He also called Sproles work out "dynamite" Wednesday.
WR Courtney Roby (shoulder) was also listed as "limited." DE Junior Galette (ankle), OL Zach Strief (groin), and DB Corey White missed practice.
Raiders Coach Dennis Allen is affectionately referred to as D.A. among the coaches and players with the Saints. Allen was a part of the Saints 2009-2010 Super Bowl Championship team as the defensive backs coach. In 2011, Allen was the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, before taking the Raiders head job this past spring.
"He's a good teacher, I would think that D.A is implementing a lot of things out in Oakland that he learned here under Sean (Payton)," Coach Vitt explained.
Allen's rapid ascension in the coaching ranks in the NFL is no surprise to several players that I talked to. "He's got the 'it' factor," one player told me.
The Raiders are 3 and 6 in Allen's first season, but it won't take long before he'll have them winning more often than not.
Much has been made about the Raiders 55 to 20 pasting at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens this past week. Vitt is pulling out all the reminders that you can't count on a poor performance in back to back weeks from Oakland.
"Since 2005, any team that has given up 55 points, and they now return home, it's a different football team that you're going to play," Vitt explained.
In that span Vitt is referring too, teams are 5 and 1 after giving up 55 points. I know Vitt has to motivate the team, but that's about as obscure a stat as there is in football. Whatever works right? The bottom line is that Vitt recognizes what's on the line Sunday for the Saints. That is a chance to get to .500 this season for the first time.
The Saints have dominated their divisional rival Atlanta Falcons since Drew Brees arrived in New Orleans. New Orleans has won 10 of 12 against the Dirty Birds including 2 meetings last season... one of which was a 45 to 16 spanking in the Super dome.
"I enjoy the rivalry, but more importantly the Saints are an organization that I have tremendous respect for," said Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Several Falcons players took exception to the Saints "running up the score" in the last meeting in week 16 of 2011. The Saints set a number of records against the Falcons last season, and while the Dirty Birds say it's ancient history, you can bet it will be on their mind Sunday. The Falcons haven't forgotten the 45 to 16 spanking at the hands of the Saints in week 16 of last season. Oh by the way, the Falcons are 8 and 0 right now. The Saints, meanwhile, are a wounded animal. Who will be the prey?
Lofton against old mates:
Saints middle linebacker Curtis Lofton has been a bright spot on the New Orleans defense since coming over from the Atlanta Falcons this season. "He's still a tackling machine," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. Lofton came to New Orleans after the Falcons allowed him to test the free agency market.
Lofton says, "I wanted to go to a team that celebrated me - not tolerated me. I'm happy I am here and excited for this game." He's also doing his best to downplay facing his former team. "I don't think I have anything to prove to them, I'm not there anymore." Lofton made those comments with a huge smile, as if to say, 'I can't wait to go out and play the game of my life against my former team.' Ironically it's his former team that is making the assault on a championship this season. Lofton has often said that he harbors no ill will toward the Falcons for letting him go. That's all well and good, but I'm sure Curtis will have some extra motivation against the team that drafted him and then "tolerated" him.
Open mouth and Insert foot:
Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White raised some eyebrows with his comments this week, saying that the Falcons could go 16 and 0. White has never been shy about expressing his feelings in the media, but this one is a little silly when you consider there is nothing to be gained from making that kind of comment.
Saints defensive end Will Smith had some thoughts on White's comments. "You gotta go 9 and 0 before you can go 16 and 0. I think he's getting a little ahead of himself." It's just more fuel for the Saints and Falcons rivalry.
Who said rivalry?
Coach Joe Vitt says he isn't buying into the hype of a rivalry game Sunday in New Orleans. "I don't think we have a pep rally and bonfire tonight anywhere. To get caught up in some supposed rivalry; we better know who to get, how to get him, what to do and how to do it... or it will be a long afternoon," Vitt insisted. Now that is classic Joe Vitt.
Defensive end Junior Galette (ankle), offensive tackle Zach Strief (groin), running back Darren Sproles (hand), and wide receiver Courtney Roby (shoulder) all missed practice this week. As of Thursday, Coach Joe Vitt would not rule any player out for Sunday against the Falcons.
With RB Darren Sproles out for tonight's game against the Eagles, the question becomes who will fill in for the speedy pass catching running back? It will fall on a committee of backs.
Rookie Traveris Cadet will get a chance to build on an impressive preseason, both on offense and in the return game. Chris Ivory should finally get his chance that was said to be coming. I would also expect to see Pierre Thomas be a bigger factor in the game plan.
"It's a significant loss, but the Saints have so many weapons on this offense. It hurts, but that doesn't mean they can't do without him (Sproles)," said Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan.
Assistant Coach Joe Vitt refused to give a timetable on how much time Sproles might miss. "I'm not a doctor," he responded when about how long Sproles could be out of the lineup.
The Saints defense is just too big of an issue, and the Eagles are fighting for Michael Vick and their Coach Andy Reid's job. I'm picking New Orleans to win, but it will be because of an inspired Drew Brees led offensive attack that outscores the Eagles and Michael Vick. I think we will see a 35-31 Saints win in a wild one with a lot of big plays.
The Saints defense is just bad, but then again so is the Eagles D.
Don't walk away from this game too long, you'll miss a score. The Saints have won 7 straight Monday night football games, they'll push that streak to 8 tonight.
With the news out today that Sean Payton is potentially a free agent after this year, or after the 2013 season, the national media is already whipping up the hype that Payton has his eyes set on Dallas.
OK, not surprising that they're trying to stir it up with a big stick. That's what they do. But here's why Sean Payton will stay in New Orleans:
1) The contract clause in question was HIS idea. The part of the contract that the NFL had issue with was that Payton would be free to walk if Mickey Loomis was fired, suspended, or otherwise kicked out of the organization. That's a sign of just how much Payton wants to work with Loomis, a man who has been his professional partner for years. Loomis will be back in the house long before Sean's suspension is over this February.
2) Sean Payton has too much sweat equity…too much emotional equity in this market and this team. Plus, this is HIS show…Mickey Loomis allows it to be. In Dallas that would never be the case.
3) Tony Who? Drew Brees just signed a 5-year extension and will likely finish his career here at New Orleans. He's got a good chance to make a run at another ring for years to come. So are you telling me that Sean Payton would want to leave his partnership with Drew Brees to work with Tony Romo?
4) Yes, I know a lot has been made of Payton's ties with Dallas...But he's already addressed this. He can afford to commute, and has said that he gets a lot of work done on the plane.
5) Jerry's $$? Even though Sean Payton is now on record saying he’s not going anywhere (Click HERE to read what Payton had to say,) some Who Dats are still fearful because Jerry Jones has “deep pockets.” Well, so does Tom Benson! And, in the past 10 years the Saints have one of the highest player payrolls in the NFL. Tom Benson writes the checks. In the last decade he’s never quibbled about spending money, if it makes his team better…and Sean Payton makes his team better. Mr. Benson knows unequivocally now that his Saints team needs the leadership of Sean Payton as evidenced by their 2 & 5 start.
6) Mr. Benson will want the Commissioner to know that Goodell doesn’t run his team. He’ll make Sean Payton the highest paid coach, because he deserves to be.
All in all, I just don't think Sean Payton has any intention of leaving New Orleans. This was a move by the NFL to void his contract over a single clause that they thought gave Payton (and future coaches) unfair leverage.
I do question the timing of it all, coming out on the Sunday before a prime-time Monday night matchup between the Saints and Eagles. The team has taken emotional hit after emotional hit for what seems like forever now…so has the Who Dat Nation.
Last week we were all on Jimmy Graham watch, this week it looks like we're on Darren Sproles watch. The speedy scatback missed practice this week (hand). It's unclear the severity of the injury, but we'll know more today. The Saints can ill afford to lose Sproles for Monday night's game against the Eagles at running back and as a receiver. The good news, WR Joe Morgan was back on the practice field taking every repetition, and TE Jimmy Graham was not even listed on the injury report. Linebacker David Hawthorne also practiced fully for the first time in a month (hamstring).
Saints running back Chris Ivory has been active for just 2 games this season, and has yet to register a carry on offense. He told me last week he was frustrated with the lack of playing time. The NFL trade deadline came and went Thursday afternoon, and Ivory is still a member of the Saints. "He's prepared to play, he practiced well today, and we'll see where this leads us," said saints coach Joe Vitt. It's extremely puzzling to determine exactly what is keeping Ivory off the field. New Orleans ranks dead last in rushing yards with less than 75 yards per game.
Vick a threat:
If you look at the stats on Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, it's not that impressive. He has 9 TD passes to 8 Interceptions. He's been sacked 20 times and lost 5 fumbles this season. The rumblings in Philly this week were that the Eagles considered making a change at QB. That didn't happen! Saints Coach Joe Vitt says regardless of what the stats say, Vick is extremely dangerous. "I've got great respect for him. You have to defend 12 players when he's on the field." Both teams enter Monday night's prime time game with an extreme sense of urgency. The Saints are trying to right the ship, and the Eagles are playing for jobs at 3 and 4.