by Kristian Garic, firstname.lastname@example.org,posted Dec 6 2013 7:27AM
No we're not talking Super Bowl titles, or heavy weight titles, but the NFC South crown is on the line Sunday when the 9 and 3 Saints host the likewise 9 and 3 Carolina Panthers. "I think we all know what's at stake here. This is all for the division title," said quarterback Drew Brees. Not to mention the winner of the NFC south will likely end up with the #2 seed in the NFC playoff picture. The Saints have owned the primetime stage at home with Sean Payton on the sidelines. They have 14 straight victories at the Superdome on the big stage.
Stats that matter:
I'm not a huge fan of some statistics. I think they can be manipulated to tell one side of the story or the other, good or bad. Some stats can be misleading in the overall effectiveness of a team. With that said, keep an eye on the time of possession (TOP) in this game. The Saints are right behind the Carolina Panthers in TOP this season. The Panthers come in averaging over 33 minutes in time of possession, the Saints just over 32 minutes per game. Converting third downs will be another key to this. The Saints have struggled to string together some drives recently. New Orleans has scored 1 touchdown in their last 19 possessions.
Who has the longest rushing TD of the season for the Saints? How long was it? Pierre Thomas? Darren Sproles? Wrong! Drew Brees has it with a 7 yard keeper against Arizona in week 3. The Saints have seven games this season without a rushing TD. That is eye-popping. Please don't take this as an invitation to blame it on Mark Ingram. That's not all on him.
by Kristian Garic, email@example.com,posted Dec 5 2013 7:41AM
After the nightmare loss in Seattle, followed by an extra night in the Emerald City because of palne problems, the Saints landed in New Orleans Tuesday afternoon. They already had a significant amount of film study completed on the Carolina Panthers. After being stranded in Seattle, the Saints made a few audibles and started preparing on their iPads and tablets. The digital age allowed the Saints to avoid a setback in preparing for a first place showdown with the red hot Panthers riding an 8 game winning streak.
The Panthers are playing like a team destined and built to win in the playoffs. Carolina leads the league is scoring defense and total defense. They've ripped off 8 straight wins, and QB Cam Newton looks like the player he was projected to be coming out of Auburn in 2011. Newton is much more patient passing the football, and as we've seen, he might just be the most dangerous running back at the quarterback position in the entire league.
The Saints treated Wednesday a lot like a traditional Tuesday (players day off). Sean Payton said the team will work Thursday, Friday, and get a little more work than usual on Saturday. Payton said it was planned ahead of time to hold this schedule coming off a long trip to Seattle, and it is not precipitated by the plane troubles that kept the Saints in Seattle until Tuesday morning.
by Kristian Garic, firstname.lastname@example.org,posted Dec 3 2013 2:17PM
Seattle leads the nation in depression. It's a wonder, because their football team is reason alone to celebrate in the Pacific Northwest. The Seahawks methodically dismantled the Saints on Monday night football 34-7. New Orleans 10-0 run on the Monday Night stage was shattered. The seven points from the offense was the lowest output in the Sean Payton/Drew Brees Era. The Seattle defense also held the Saints offense to 188 total yards. Want more troubling statistics? The Saints have scored only one touchdown in their last nineteen offensive drives. This beat down had little to do with the crowd noise at CenturyLink Stadium and little to do with the four and half hour plane ride to get there. The humbling and eye opening loss had EVERYTHING to do with the better team on this night, on any night, and on any field... the Seattle Seahawks.
The Black and Gold are now 9 and 3 on the season and 3 and 3 on the road. It doesn't get any easier from here, with a red hot Carolina Panthers team riding an 8 game winning streak coming to the Superdome this Sunday. I was definitely in the Saints corner on this one, I thought and predicted New Orleans would beat Seattle. I was dead wrong. Seattle is by far the best team in the NFC and arguably the best team in the NFL. Their sparkling 11 and 1 record solidifies that argument. The Saints could play the Seahawks 10 times in Seattle or New Orleans, and the result will be the same more often than not. They might not get blown out, but they just don't match up well with Seattle home or away.
On a short week, the Saints would be wise to flush this one fast. The Panthers have their sights set on the NFC South crown. The Saints would be better served trying to clinch a playoff spot, preferably the second seed in the NFC, and hope another team can come to Seattle and beat the Seahawks in the postseason. If you have seen the team that can do that in the NFL this season, please let me know. The Saints could go from vying for the top spot in the conference to fighting for a wild card berth in a matter of weeks if they don't fix an offense that has scored just 24 points in the last 8 quarters of play.
For the glass half full Who Dats still holding out hope the Saints can clinch the number one seed in the conference, well even if Seattle goes 2 and 2 in their final two games, they would own the tiebreaker over the Saints. Sure it's possible, but not likely. For the delusional Saints fans forecasting a Seahawks collapse in the final four games, please don't kid yourself. Did Seattle look like a team that might struggle? The Saints still control their own destiny, and the Seahawks have embarrassed many a team at CenturyLink. Sean Payton has often said, in every season "There is Crisis or Carnival." Which one are the Saints facing? We'll know more in about three weeks.
by Kristian Garic, email@example.com,posted Dec 2 2013 10:07AM
The Saints look to be a loose team headed into tonight's Battle in Seattle, they've been here before ahead of a monster game with tons of potential ramifications on the line. Don't misunderstand, by loose I mean confident and aware of what's in front of them. By loose I also mean very respectful of the Seahawks that own the NFL's best record at 10 and 1. The Saints have reason to be confident. They match up with Seattle perhaps better than any other team in the NFL. If there is a team that can go on the road and take down the Hawks and the 12th man, it's New Orleans.
The forecast for today calls for rain off and on all day, and cold temperatures in the 40's, falling into the during the game 30's. The players say they've mentally and physically prepared for foul weather conditions and will not use that as an excuse if they lose. The Saints are 2 and 6 when the game time temp is under 40 degrees (when the starters play). They lost in 2009 at Carolina in the final game of the season, most of the starters rested that game.
The Saints have to stop Marshawn Lynch, a physical runner that can absolutely take over a game if he gets going. Lynch is having a monster season with 928 yards rushing and 9 TD's so far. The biggest storm the Saints might face is the crowd noise. They can't allow the Seahawks to get off to a fast start and work that crowd into frenzy even further. More importantly, the Saint defense has to get off the field on 3rd down; an area they struggled with against the Falcons last week.
I've gone back and forth on my pick this week. In the end, I like the Saints to pull this one out. They've been told all week that they can't, therefore they will. This game has Sean Payton's edge written all over it. I predict: 27-24 the Saints win and gain the inside track on the #1 seed in the playoffs.
by Kristian Garic, firstname.lastname@example.org,,posted Nov 29 2013 2:29PM
Prevent Beast mode:
The Saints learned firsthand about “beast mode” in the 2010 wild card round of the postseason. Marshawn Lynch went “beast” and ran through 9 tackles on his way to the kill shot, 67 yard rushing touchdown in that game. The Seahawks beat the Saints 41 to 36 in Seattle that day. The Saints are preparing for another heavy dose of the Skittle gobbling running back on Monday night. Lynch has rushed for 515 yards and 6 touchdowns during the Seahawks current 6 game winning streak. The Saints want to slow Lynch, and force Seattle QB Russell Wilson to try and win with his arm. “If they beat us and (Wilson) throws the ball 50 times, we’re good with that,” said Saints safety Roman Harper. The Saints are approaching this match up a lot like they did against San Francisco a few weeks ago. The 49ers were a physical ground and pound team and so are the Seahawks. Lynch has 426 yards after contact this season. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson leads the league with 486.
Rested and Ready:
Seattle is coming off their bye week, and should be well rested. The Saints should be rested as well. They played the Falcons in a tough, hard fought win on November 21st. With the extra lay off since that Thursday game, it’s almost like having a bye week. Running back Darren Sproles missed the last game with a leg injury, and I would expect Sproles returns to the lineup on Monday night. Offensive lineman Jahri Evans also sat out of the Falcons game and should return Monday.
Just how tough are the Seahawks to beat at home? Well the numbers say it’s almost impossible. The Hawks have won 13 straight at home. During that home streak, Seattle’s average margin of victory in Century Link Field is 13 points. Numbers are numbers, and I don’t put a lot of stock into some stats, but those are pretty eye popping. If this game were played in New Orleans, I am sure I could tell you some similar stats about the Saints dominance at home.
Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan was fined $10,000 for roughing the passer on November 21st in a hit against Falcons Quarterback Matt Ryan.
by Kristian Garic, email@example.com,posted Nov 21 2013 10:31AM
Two teams going in opposite directions meet tonight in the Georgia Dome. The Saints are 8 and 2 and the Falcons are 2 and 8.
The Black and Gold are coming off an impressive win over the San Francisco 49ers, the Dirty Birds coming off a loss last week to the Tampa Bay Bucaneers 41 to 28. The Bucs dominated the Falcons for most of the game. The short week presents some challenges for both teams but it’s not an advantage either way for the Falcons or the Saints.
The Saints and Falcons opened the season in week 1 with a thriller that came down to the wire. The Saints prevailed over Atlanta 23-17 in the first match up.
The Falcons have lost their last four games by an average of 18.5 points per contest.
Since 2006, with Sean Payton on the sidelines, the Saints average margin-of-victory over Atlanta is nearly 11 points. Even more impressive, Payton and the Saints are 5 and 1 in the Georgia Dome against the Dirty Birds. 2012 notwithstanding because of Sean Payton’s Suspension, the Saints are 12 and 3 over the Falcons.
Taking a close look at the Falcons, some eye-popping stats point to their 2 and 8 record. First, the Dirty Birds are minus 11 in the takeaway/giveaway ratio; the Saints are plus 3. Atlanta allows an average of 29 points per ball game while the Saints score an average of 28. The Falcons are 30th in the NFL against the Rush, allowing opponents an average of 132 yards per contest.
Finally, during the Falcons current four-game losing skid, Quaterback Matt Ryan has thrown 9 interceptions. Atlanta has been decimated by injuries this season, losing their top pass catcher Julio Jones for the season, Roddy White has been hampered by an ankle injury, and the offensive line has been well below average.
There is a reason the wise guys in Vegas have the Saints favored by 9 and 1/2 points tonight on the road. Earlier I told you the Saints average margin-of-victory over Atlanta with Sean Payton on the sidelines is nearly 11 points. The Saints win this ball game going away, it’s a name-your-score game for the Black and Gold. I get the rivalry aspect, but the Falcons look like a team much more interested in planning their summer vacations, hitting the golf course and anything else not related to football!
by Kristian Garic, firstname.lastname@example.org,posted Nov 19 2013 9:13AM
24 hour rule:
The Saints typically abide by the 24 hour rule after a victory or defeat, they are allowed to savor the win or reflect on the loss for 24 hours. This week it's more like a 24 minute rule. The Black and Gold had to flush the victory over the 49ers right away and prepare for a three day turnaround before they take on the Atlanta Falcons Thursday night in the Georgia Dome. The Saints are sitting atop the NFC south at 8 and 2, and the Falcons are an abysmal 2 and 8.
Saints defensive back Jabari Greer suffered what appears to be a gruesome leg injury in the win over San Francisco. Greer left the game on a cart and spent time in the hospital after the game. "I'll probably have more information tomorrow (Tuesday)," said Saints coach Sean Payton. Greer was in good spirits when Payton spoke to him at the hospital. Shortly after Payton spoke, the Saints announced they had signed another defensive back. Click here to read more about Trevin Wade…
With less than three days to prepare for the Atlanta Falcons, the Saints will take in more mental reps than physical practice reps this week. The big challenge is playing a game in short turnaround, the toll on the players (physically) is challenging, and the Saints will not have padded practices ahead of Thursday night. The good news for both teams; they're so familiar with one another that makes the game planning a little easier.
by Kristian Garic, email@example.com,,posted Nov 15 2013 4:17PM
November in the NFL is usually where we see teams start to pull away in their respective divisions and conferences. This Sunday, when the Saints meet the 49ers in the Superdome, we'll get to see who's ready to make the playoff push and who's not. The Saints are 7-2 and trying to keep pace with Seattle in the NFC playoff picture for the number one seed. San Francisco is two games behind the Seahawks in the NFC West. A loss by the 49ers would be devastating to their division hopes. A loss by the Saints would make it really difficult to overtake the Seahawks for the top spot in the conference. The Saints still have a matchup with Seattle looming in early December and two meetings with Carolina. The Panthers are nipping at the Saints heels at 6 and 3.
In two previous meetings, the 49ers have bullied the Saints with physical play on defense and dominating rushing on offense. This season the Saints stack up against San Francisco a little better than years past. The 49ers want to keep this thing low scoring and milk the clock late in the game with their 4th ranked rushing attack. The Saints want to turn this game into the Autobahn race track with a scoring fest. San Francisco is dead last in the NFL in passing offense. If the Saints jump out to a 10 point lead, it might really put the 49ers in a deep hole.
The Saints will look to build on their rushing performance of a week ago, when they rolled up over 200 yards on the ground in a decisive victory over the Dallas Cowboys. However, this isn't the Swiss cheese defense orchestrated by Dallas. The Niners pride themselves on stopping the run and turning those big linebackers free to make life miserable on quarterbacks and receivers with punishing hits. If they Saints can amass 120 yards rushing against this defense, it will be a win on the scoreboard. Also, it will go a long way in proving the Saints are ready to make a playoff push.
I like the Saints to pull this one out with a 24 to 21 win. Buckle up, this one will be hard hitting and full of drama.
by Kristian Garic, firstname.lastname@example.org,posted Nov 7 2013 8:42AM
It looks like Jonathan Vilma may have played his last down in a black and gold uniform. Vilma played in 12 snaps in the 26 to 20 loss to the New York Jets and had just one tackle. The veteran linebacker came to New Orleans in 2008 after a trade with the Jets and helped New Orleans win a Super Bowl in 2009. He battled knee injuries for the better part of the last 2 and a half seasons, and the team placed him back on injured reserve Wednesday. The Saints didn't offer any information on the transaction, but it's logical to assume his knee didn't respond very well to his first action of the season. The Saints had to let this process play out. He's been one of the valued veterans of this organization and helped build the team into a strong close knit group in the locker room.
Run, Run, Run, Run... a do Run Run:
Averaging just 79 yards a game on the ground this season through 9 weeks has the running game under the microscope for the Black and Gold. It's gotta improve. It absolutely has to get better.
"It starts with us (the offensive line) and it trickles down to other positions. Honestly it starts from the very top all the way to down and that's what we talk about. It starts with the play calling and falls to us. The reason it's not being called is because we're not doing a good job with it," Saints offensive lineman Zach Strief said after practice.
The Saints called 13 running plays last week, and Sean Payton said earlier in the week that he needs to do a better job in keeping the offense in more balance.
After just one play last week against the New York Jets, Darren Sproles was knocked out with a concussion. Sproles was back on the practice field Wednesday, taking every rep in practice and getting ready for the Dallas Cowboys. Defensive end Cameron Jordan(ankle), tight end Jimmy Graham (elbow/foot), offensive lineman Jahri Evans (hip), and linebacker David Hawthorne (toe) sat out of practice. Safety Kenny Vaccaro (chest) and wide receiver Marques Colston (foot) were limited in practice. Safety Roman Harper practiced fully for the first time since week 2 as he's battled a knee injury for the previous six games.
by Kristian Garic, email@example.com,posted Nov 1 2013 9:20AM
4 and 4:
Don't let the Jets record fool you! The Saints aren't getting caught up in the .500 record of the Jets. "This is a good team, they're 3 and 1 at home this season and beat New England a couple of weeks ago," fullback Jed Collins explained. The Saints came back to work on Monday following a double digit win over the Bills as though they had lost the game. "We're starting to measure ourselves only against ourselves and not our opponent. That tells you where we want to go and where we expect to go. Coach Payont made it clear; Sunday was good enough for a win but not good enough for where we want to go," Collins explained. The Saints want to go back to New York in February for another shot at a Super Bowl.
Stat to watch:
You hear coaches and players talk about it all the time, and that's the turnover margin. The Saints have been really good at protecting the ball and forcing turnovers this season. For the year, the Saints are plus 8 in the takeaway/giveaway margin this season. The New York Jets are minus 12. That's eye popping! Plus 8 equal's winning football. Minus 12 usually equals losing football, but the Jets have managed to pull out some of those games because of their defense. Jets rookie QB Geno Smith has been a turnover machine at times this season. It might only be 1 turnover, but that should get Drew Brees that one extra possession he needs to cash in on points.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins (knee) and G Jahri Evans (hip) were the only two players to miss practice on Thursday. If Evans doesn't play Sunday, rookie Tim Lelito will fill in his place. Safety Kenny Vaccaro (concussion) and WR Marques Colston (knee) were limited. WR Kenny Stills sat out of Wednesday's practice, but returned for every snap of practice Thursday.