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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

Steve: Will the Saints survive a shoot-out in San Diego?

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!
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Steve: Will fried Falcon be on Saints' Monday night menu?

Sunday, September 26th, 7:30pm on 870AM / 105.3FM
Mercedes-Benz Superdome – New Orleans, LA
Saints -3      Under / Over: 54

In case you’ve forgotten, the last time the Saints won ANY type of football game was the final contest of the season last year in Atlanta. That victory sealed the sweep of the season series for the Black & Gold. It’s also the last time New Orleans has finished with a “W” when the clock hit zero. Nothing doing in the preseason and 0-2 entering week 3.

Now those Dirty Birds come to town for a Monday Night football match-up that is sure to be your typical nail biter for the Who Dat Nation.  The Saints usually come out on top, but we’ve seen a ton of the unusual already this season to rest too comfortably on history.   

The ATL enters week 3 with a 1-1 record. They lost in their opener at home to the Bucs; then took down the Raiders in Oakland last week. Their biggest issue on defense has been the same as the Saints; generating a consistent pass rush. New Orleans has DOUBLED their sack production this season… but then again, Atlanta has just 1 so far. The Falcons defense comes to town ranked 29th overall in the NFL (26th vs. the run / 22nd vs. the pass) and is allowing on average 29.5 points per contest. We should witness Dr. Drew Brees surgically placing passes all over the field and hopefully he gets a pulse for a run game that has a whole 35 attempts in 2 games. 

Over on the Falcons offense you’ll find them just as feisty a bunch as the Saints. They are ranked #2 (1st passing / 17th rushing) after 2 weeks, scoring a total of 59 points. Matt Ryan has been anything but ice as he leads the NFL with a 121.4 quarterback rating. He is completing 73% of his passes and has 730 yards with 5 touchdowns vs 1 interception.  His main man is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL - Julio Jones has 9 catches for 172 yards with 2 scores and will be yet another mountain the Saints injury decimated secondary must climb after putting up a heck of a fight last week against Eli and OBJ.  
Ryan has been spreading the ball around a-la-Brees. Tight end Jacob Tamme leads the team in receptions with 11 for 126 yards.  Rookie TE Austin Hooper has caught 4 balls with 2 going for plus 20. Trash talking Roddy White is gone and the new #2 WR is Mohamed Sanu. The 27 year spent his first 4 seasons in Cincinnati and it fitting in just fine in Atlanta.  He has made 8 catches for 99 yards and had a real pretty TD grab in week 1.  
Atlanta has a dual threat in the backfield the Saints D can’t under estimate either.   Young RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman can hurt you even though they have a combined 181 yards rushing and 1 score after 2 games. Coleman is also heavily involved in the passing game as he has 7 catches for 120 yards. 

Prediction: THE SAINTS WILL NOT LOSE THIS GAME. They are 0-2… its prime time… in the Superdome… and against the Atlanta Falcons. Add to that recipe of some tasty dirty bird gumbo the fact it’s the 10 year anniversary of the reopening of the Dome following Hurricane Katrina. Emotions will be bursting at the seams as fans remember back, coupled with needing a win in the worst way this year to get that Who Dat pep back in their step.  
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Steve: Fee fi fo fum - can Saints stop Giants pass and run?

Sunday, September September 18th, 12pm on 870AM / 105.3FM
Met Life Stadium – Secaucus, NJ
Saints +4.5      Under / Over: 53

The 0-1 Saints week two match-up pits them against a 1-0 New York Giants team that New Orleans has had great success against in the Sean Payton / Drew Brees era.  Since 2006, the Black & Gold are 4-1 against Big Blue; the lone loss came in 2012 when Payton was suspended for the season.  Last year the 2 teams combined for over 1,000 yards of total offense and 101 points in video game-like sizzler in the Superdome.  Wouldn’t you know, the two defenses would wind up finishing at the very bottom of the NFL!

New York emptied out the Brinks truck in free agency, dropping $200 million dollars on some defensive players who they feel will make a change to a unit that ranked 32nd overall in the NFL (32nd vs the pass / 24th vs the run) while giving up on average of 28 points per game. What’s most surprising about this Steve Spagnulolo-steered group is that they were good at creating turnovers by picking off 15 passes along with recovering 12 fumbles. The big fish landed in free agency was pass rusher Olivier Vernon, who with a healthier Jason-Pierre Paul, make for quite the lethal weapons at defensive end.  

When talking about the D-line, you also can’t forget about the addition of Damon Harrison, who grew up in New Iberia. Great story of a guy who went undrafted out of William Penn University and has grown into a monster in the middle of the D-line. The 6ft4, 350 lb DTs nickname is “Snacks" and while his name might not appear on the stat sheet much, he makes everyone around him better. The 3rd piece the team brought on board in free agency was corner Janoris Jenkins. He’s known for making the pick big 6, but is ultra-aggressive and can be torched often. A little Brees pump fake and he’ll probably bite. 

The Giants offense was cooking in 2016 as they finished ranked 8th overall (7th passing / 18th rushing) and scored 26 points per game. Eli Manning had a Pro Bowl season throwing for 4,400 yards with 35 touchdowns vs. 14 interceptions. 13 of those TD passes went to one of the best WRs in the game today. LSU fans know and love Odell Beckham Jr. very well.  The league has bowed to his huge hands since he was drafted 12th overall by New York in 2014.  

With the return of Victor Cruz, who has fought to get back on the field after a two year absence, along with 2nd round draft pick Sterling Shepard out of Oklahoma; the G-men’s offense looks to be even more potent this season. Keep your eyes on Shepard. The kid is 5ft10, 198 lbs. and Sean Payton has compared him to Randall Cobb in Green Bay. Shepard has received a fair amount of hype entering the season since he plays in the Giants' pass-heavy system.  
New York’s run game was a combination of Rashaad Jennings and Shane Vereen in week 1. Last year they combined for 1,100 yard rushing and gained 4 yards a carry. Vereen also caught 59 passes for 495 yards and 3 scores. Former Tulane Green Wave, Orleans Dawrka remains on the roster but didn’t take the field last game.

Applying pressure to QBs has been the Saints' biggest problem and we didn’t see much of it in week one vs. Oakland. Add that to the fact that the group crumbled when top corner Delvin Breux left the game, and week two looks like another L to me. The Giants have a sniper along with plenty of ammo to pepper the Black & Gold’s young CBs. Sure, Drew & krewe can keep up but I just see Brees being forced into more bad decisions than Eli. GIANTS 38 SAINTS 27 
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Steve: After Spiller release, Saints lead NFL in dead money

Throw some more stacks of money into the Saints dead cap furnace. After releasing running back CJ Spiller, the franchise has added $4.5 million dollars of dead cap space this year, and also $2.5 million in 2017. 
The $40 million dollar total of dead money this year is tops in the NFL. Coming in a distant 2nd with $28 million in dead cash is the franchise many consider the worst run in football... the Cleveland Browns.  

What did the Saints get for their money out of Spiller? 112 rushing yards and 239 receiving with 2 scores.
What ended up being Sean Payton's reason for Spiller's dismissal? 

"This guy’s a phenomenal guy and teammate," said Payton.  "I think he’s going to have an opportunity sooner rather than later with another club, and yet, the window in this building or this club is not definitely closed. Obviously, last season was frustrating because he dealt with the injury in training camp. I think he is ahead of where he was a year ago and gotten better than he was a year ago and yet it just became a challenge for us when we were looking at actives and roles and that was really it.”
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Drew Brees up for weekly honors despite loss

Losing stinks, but you still have to acknowledge a top-notch performance.

Drew Brees is up for the FedEx Air weekly award after lighting up the Raiders for 434 yards and 4 touchdowns.  The offensive line looked like Dr. Jekyll after performing like Mr. Hyde in the preseason, and the combination of  Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks' yards after catch was outstanding.     

Brees is going up against the Lions' Matthew Stafford and Jameis Winston in Tampa.  You can vote for Drew by going to vote at NFL.com or by tweeting #​AirAndGroundBrees.  

If Brees wins, a $2,000 donation from FedEx will go in his name to the The USO. 
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Desperate Saints sign CB B.W. Webb

The agent of free agent cornerback B.W. Webb has announced that his client has inked a deal with the Saints: 
Webb was a 4th round pick of the Cowboys in 2013 and has bounced around a bit, playing for the Steelers and Titans. Tennessee let him go after their final cuts to trim down to the 53 man roster.

The Black & Gold will be without the services of their top CB Delvin Breaux for a least the next 6 weeks after he broke a bone in his leg in the team's week 1 loss to the Raiders.  Webb has appeared in a total of 35 games and has tallied 35 tackles with 3 passes defended and 1 interception.  That lone pick was against Drew Brees last year! He joins a Saints group that is now made up of P.J. Williams, Ken Crawley, De'Vante Harris and Sterling Moore. New Orleans travels to the 1-0 NY Giants this weekend for their week 2 match-up.  

Photo via USA TODAY Sports
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Know Your Enemy: Are Saints ready for Raiders' "Mack" attack?

Know Your Enemy Week 1 – The Oakland Raiders 
Sunday, September 11th at noon on 870AM / 105.3FM
Mercedes Benz Superdome – New Orleans, LA
Saints -1      Under / Over: 51

The Saints season opener is finally this Sunday and the Black & Gold will take on the Silver & Black in the Superdome. Like New Orleans, the Oakland Raiders had a record of 7-9 last year and finished 3rd in the AFC West.  They reside in a division with the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the San Diego Chargers.

Jack Del Rio took over the Raiders' head coaching spot last year and has a career record of 75-80.  He was the head man with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003-11. Some have forecasted that this is the year Oakland makes a return to the playoffs.  The last time they appeared in the postseason was following the 2002 season when they made it all the way to the Super Bowl only to get demolished by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That was 14 years ago! 

The defense finished ranked 22nd overall in 2015 (13th vs. the run / 26th vs. pass) and gave up on average 25 points per game.  The unit managed to sack the QB 38 times and picked off 14 passes. Khalil Mack looks to be an unstoppable force of nature that the Saints offensive line needs to find a way to slow down.  He accounted for 15 of the teams sacks last year and set a franchise record for 5 in one game. When folks use the term “BEAST” in sports, the 6ft3, 250lb. Mack fits the mold. 

The team added Bruce Irvin to the mix this year.  He spent his first 4 seasons with the Seahawks and is a good addition to a linebacking corps that was in desperate need of an overhaul. That's still the case as it may be the weakest postion group on the team.

The Silver & Black did some much needed upgrading to their secondary.  Future Hall-of-Famer Charles Woodson retired so they went out and signed former Bengals safety Reggie Nelson who led the league in INTs in 2015.  The Raiders also used their first-round pick on Karl Joseph out of West Virginia, who might have been taken a tad early, but it’s hard to question the kid’s talent level. Also, former Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith was added to the secondary and will start across from David Amerson. 

The offense will also present numerous challenges for New Orleans.  They ranked just 24th overall in the league last year (28th rushing / 16th passing) but there is good reason for the fans in the “Black Hole” to be excited. Quarterback Derek Carr came out strong his sophomore season as he completed 61% of his passes for 3,987 yards with 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.  His completion percentage should go up with another year of pro experience under his belt and has more chemistry with receiver Amari Cooper who had 1,070 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns while dealing with a bad foot during his rookie campaign. Good luck trying to shut down #89.

The Saints won’t be able to completely focus on the 6ft1, 210 lbs. Bama boy since the Raiders have Michael Crabtree on the other side of the field. Crabtree tied his career-high mark of 85 catches and nine touchdowns in his 1st season in Oakland after 6 seasons in San Fran.  With him being more comfortable in the offense this year it just may allow him to improve upon those numbers. Fantasy alert!

The most significant upgrade Oakland made this offseason was signing Kelechi Osemele away from the Ravens. He is one of the best guards in the NFL and team already had two potent interior blockers in Gabe Jackson and Rodney Hudson. The improved o-line will definitely help bolster their rushing attack. Latavius Murray ran for 1,066 yards last season avenging 4 yards per carry.  The big back stands 6ft3, 230 pounds and should exceed his 266 carries from 2015.  

PREDICTION: Has the Dome Field advantage been lost? The Saints are just a one point favorite this Sunday as there are still a slew of non-believers in the defense after witnessing the past 2 seasons.  The rough showing from the offensive line in the preseason didn’t inspire any confidence in the team either. I would say the Raiders are the better squad in the trenches, but I am still picking the Black & Gold against my better judgement. Sean Payton’s message of getting off to a fast start being so important is etched into my brain so I know the players have been hearing it all offseason. Coming out week 1 and losing at home just doesn’t feel right. Gut says the Black & Gold find a way to win. Saints 27 Raiders 24.
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Brees and Saints reportedly close to new contract

Pro Football Talk is reporting that Drew Brees and the Saints are close on a contract extension. 

There is no official word on the total figures or the length of the deal, but its likely to average around $25 million per season. 

The two sides could come to an agreement as soon as today.

The report says Brees and the Saints "have made significant progress on an extension" over the past few days.

Brees was said to be after a four year, $100 million deal, which would make him the highest paid quarterback in the NFL.
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Steve: Les Miles says "no leaping" while LSU is at Lambeau

LSU’s Les Miles can’t wait to take part in Saturday’s season opener in historic Lambeau Field but he does not want any of his players enjoying the stadium’s age old thrill of jumping in the stands after a touchdown.

Miles even went as far to say during his SEC teleconference that if one of his players does the “Lambeau Leap,” finding a way back to Baton Rouge will be added to their post-game agenda.

“I promise you that if anybody jumps for the Lambeau Leap, they’ll end up with their thumb out to see if they can get a ride home,” stated Miles. “It’s college football, and we’re going to play it that way. I think our guys understand that we’ll do it right.”

Under NCAA rules; jumping into the stands would result in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.  While it may be a Green Bay Packers tradition; it translates into a poor football decision in college.  
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Steve: Saints sign veteran pass rusher Paul Kruger

Saints head coach Sean Payton confirmed yesterday that the team was hosting veteran pass rusher Paul Kruger for a visit and this morning Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that the team must have liked what they saw:
Saints sideline reporter Kristian Garic has confirmed the news.  Kruger was released by Cleveland on Monday after spending the last 3 seasons there.  He was a 2nd round draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens in 2009.   

"He still affects the passer," coach Sean Payton said about the 30 year old. "You see a pressure player. He rushes with power. I think you see a high motor and a guy that plays extremely strong." 

Kruger has tallied 33.5 sacks in his 7 year NFL career.  Last season, though, he only manged to get 2.5. We'll see if he has enough time to get acclimated into the Saints system to be on the field for tomorrow's preseason finale against the team who drafted him out of Utah.
  ​ Photo via USA Today
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