Sunday's game ended with Saints' fans grilling up some bison burgers as the Black & Gold improved to 6-1 on the season beating the Buffalo Bills 35-17. But while all was grand in Who Dat Land, Coach Sean Payton's mood and tone was not so jubilant following the win in the Superdome.
"I was pleased that we got the win, but it certainly wasn't our best effort. I thought we made a lot of mistakes in a lot of areas and those are things that, starting with me, we've got to do a better job with," he insisted. "We made some silly mistakes... we had problems with the penalties... I think there are a lot of things we've got to get cleaned up... we didn't play our best game today."
Hold on a second coach, things weren't that bad were they?
Sure, the team managed to get no points after the Bills turned the ball over on the first play of the game and Garrett Harley missed 2 field goals. Yeah, I guess committing 8 penalties is a lot. Oh right , Drew Brees was sacked 4 times, bringing the season total up to 18.
Sean Payton expecting more out his team is to be expected as the team is about to hit their toughest stretch of games this season. The results of this game may not have been so favorable if a higher quality of opponent was on the field, say the 49ers or the Seahawks.
All that being said though, I feel there are a lot more positives with this ballclub then negatives.
First off, really take in the fact that you are watching a future 1st ballot Hall of Fame QB slice and dice defenses on a weekly basis. Through 7 games this season Brees is completing 67.5% of his passes and has totaled 2290 yards with 19 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions. These numbers are what we expect from Drew because of his track record, but it should still be noted that this guy is one of the best of ALL TIME. He had five TD passes against the Bills.
To go along with having one of the best QBs in the game, the Saints also have the top tight end in Jimmy Graham. None of us will ever really know how much pain he was really in yesterday, but his warrior mentality pushed him though and managed to add 2 scores to his yearly total, putting him at 9 on the season. The Graham Reaper (thanks Facebook fan post) certainly deserves the big pay day that is coming his way. And relax Who Dat Nation, GM Mickey Loomis will find a way to make the money work for the team and the tight end.
Kenny Stills is another big positive. The rookie has scored touchdowns in consecutive games and has really cemented himself as the team's number three option. He now has 13 receptions for 327 yards and is #2 on the team in receiving TDs this year with 3.
The running game gets a lot of criticism, and for good reason, but is showing signs of life over the last 2 games. Sure the team only amassed 77 yards on the ground against Buffalo, but Pierre Thomas accounted for 65 of those, averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
Last, but certainly not least is Rob Ryan and the defense. The Saints are allowing just 17 points per game and currently have 9 interceptions, have forced 8 fumbles and are creating loads of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The unit is top 10 in the league in sacks - with 24 sacks - while the Fleur Di Lis D ranks 12 overall in the NFL right now. To steal a memorable Les Miles quote, "Spectacular group of men. You go find them, you throw your arms around them and you give them a big kiss on the mouth… if you're a girl." The turnaround is night and day from last season.
We tend to harp on negatives too damn much. No team, not even the Chiefs (despite what their record says) is perfect. For now, Who Dat Nation, I say bask in the glory of being 6-1 and dream big. The secret is to visualize in order to realize.
After suffering a disappointing loss in Oxford, the 13th-ranked LSU Tigers attempt to lick their wounds during Homecoming today against the Furman Paladins.
Furman has experienced an up and down campaign in the FCS, going 3-4 overall. After suffering back-to-back losses to start the month of October, the Paladins got back on track last Saturday with a 27-10 home triumph over Appalachian State.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two programs, and just looking at the numbers, it shows the Paladins are in trouble.
Furman has failed to impress offensively, scoring 22 points per game while gaining 304 yards per contest.
A lack of identity under center is largely to blame for the Paladins' struggles. The revolving door of signal callers include Reese Hannon, Duncan Fletcher and Dillon Woodruff, with all three combining to complete just 59 percent of their passes for 1,074 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions.
The Paladins at least can rely on a solid rushing attack led by Hank McCloud, who has racked up 604 yards and four touchdowns on 115 carries.
Receiver Gary Robinson has been able to produce no matter who is delivering him the ball, catching 24 passes for 351 yards and two scores.
Defensively, Furman has held most of its opponents in check by allowing 24 points per game, although it obviously hasn't faced an adversary as talented as LSU this year.
Carl Rider is one of the best linebackers in the FCS; tallying 73 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
LSU is in the midst of one of the best offensive campaigns in school history, putting up 39 points per game and 456 yards per contest.
Zach Mettenberger is completing better than 65 percent of his passes for 2,164 yards and 16 touchdowns, but he had his worst game of the year against Ole Miss. He tossed three interceptions.
Jeremy Hill is the SEC's third-leading rusher with 779 yards, and his 10 touchdowns are tied for the league lead. Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard remain in the mix at tailback, especially near the goal line.
The Tigers also boast two of the conference's top four receivers. Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. have both made their share of big plays. Landry has 53 receptions for 795 yards and 8 TDs, while Beckham Jr. has caught 42 passes for 805 yards and 6 scores.
Although LSU's defense has been less than stellar this season, it is still just allowing less than 23 points per game.
Lamin Barrow has a team-high 57 tackles. The linebacker has also impressed with 3 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. Corner Jalen Mills has two of the team's five interceptions and also leads the Bayou Bengals in sacks with 3.
This tune-up for the Tigers comes at exactly the right time, as they are surely anxious to erase the memory of the Ole Miss loss. Expect this one to end ugly for the Paladins.
This week is really tough for fantasy owners not only because it's a bye week, but also due to the numerous injuries to some big names last week. Here is some of my friendly advice for week 8:
Patriots QB Tom Brady
Tom Terrific has look more like Tom Tepid this year. He's been riding my bench more often than not and I'm certainly not starting his this week against Miami.
Brady has thrown over 300 yards just once this season and has struggled to connect with his new wide receivers. Now that Rob Gronkowski is back there should be an increase in production, but I still can't rely on Brady to give my team adequate point production. To tell you just how bad things are…I'm opting to start Oakland's Terrelle Pryor this week.
Jets RB Chris Ivory
This name still upsets many Saints fans who feel Ivory should still be wearing Black & Gold while Mark Ingram should have been the one sent packing. That's a whole other discussion, but guess what? Ivory has done diddly pooh all season till last week's 104 yard day.
Don't expect the much maligned RB to duplicate that success this week against a Bengals defense that is giving up the 7th fewest points to opposing running backs.
Cowboys WR Miles Austin
The former star has become just an afterthought in the Cowboys offense, making him not even worth a roster spot in fantasy leagues. Austin was dealing with a hamstring injury, but returned to the lineup in week six. Wait you didn't know he was back! Yeah, well neither did his QB Tony Romo. Austin has been held catchless over the past two games as rookie Terrance Williams has replaced him a lot earlier than expected.
Saints WR Marques Colston
Boy oh boy has Colston struggled and frustrated fantasy owners this season. But he's got a great match-up this week against the Bills and could be in store for a few more looks from Drew Brees with the status of Jimmy Graham still up in the air.
Hopefully the bye week helps recharge the Quiet Storm as he could potentially put up huge numbers against a Buffalo defense that is allowing the 2nd most fantasy points to WRs. Only the Philadelphia Eagles are worse.
Patriots RB Stevan Ridley
I was able to vulture Ridley off the waiver wire after an impatient owner decided to cut ties with him way too early. Sad thing is I even told him to just hold on and wait because Ridley was too talented to just let go for nadda. No really I did!
Well whadda you know, over the last 2 weeks he has rushed for 146 yards and 3 scores. This tells me that Coach Bellichek has started to trust Ridley again and he may be retuning to 2012 form. This week the Pats take on the ‘Fins who have given up the 5th most points to opposing RBs.
Redskins TE Jordan Reed
First off, run to waiver wire to see if Reed is still available in your league. Washington was excited when they drafted him in the third round of this year's draft, but could not have expected Reed to be such a difference maker so early. Each week, the Redskins began to involve the rookie more and more in the offense and he busted out this past week, going off for nine receptions for 134 yards and one touchdown. He has become the number two guy in the passing game behind Pierre Garcon and faces a great matchup this week. Washington faces a Denver D that is giving up an NFL worst 319 yards passing per game. Reed not only makes for a great start at TE, but also at the flex position.
Time to chase those bye week blues away Who Dat Nation. The Saints are looking to close out the second half of their schedule with the same success that they've had so far. The Black and Gold are 5-1 and welcome the 3-4 Bills to the Superdome on Sunday. You cannot chalk this one up as an easy win though. Buffalo has been in every single game they've played this season and seem to improve every week. Here are some players to watch in this match-up:
Tight End Jimmy Graham
What is the real status of Jimmy Graham? He injured his foot in the Saints loss to the Patriots and reportedly went for an MRI. The results of that test are not known, but ESPN reported that it is a “minor” injury. However on Monday, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter tweeted that IF the Saints were in action this past Sunday it would have been difficult for Graham to play. He didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday.
We constantly hear that Drew Brees spreads the ball around to so many different weapons in the high powered offense, but the fact is Graham is the go-to-guy. Brees has thrown 14 touchdowns this year, 6 have gone to Graham. In fact, only one other player has more than one TD grab.
That being said though, I could see the team resting the big TE this week against the Bills since the Saints are at home and facing a weaker opponent.
Wide Receiver Marques Colston
With a big question mark over Graham, my first thought is that Colston needs to step up and pronto. The Quiet Storm has been too quiet this season, and I'm concerned his foot that bothered him during training camp is still an issue.
He has just 24 receptions for 324 yards and one score thru the first 6 games. To compare last year at this time, Colston had 5 TDs with 517 yards on 35 catches. That's a pretty alarming dip in numbers. Hopefully the week off will help the 30 year old get some of his mojo back.
Running Back Khiry Robinson
Time and time again I've been bangin' the drum in support of giving Pierre Thomas more carries. Well, Robinson is getting even fewer touches than PT and has been more productive.
K-Rob saw his first action of the season in week 3 and has been handed the ball just 26 times, but is averaging 5.27 yards per carry. He scored his first career TD in the loss against the Pats and feels as if he's earned an increased role in the offense. One problem though is that Coach Sean Payton has mentioned ball security issues with the 23 year old. Until coach CAN trust ‘em, his role will remain limited. This game could be that opportunity for Robinson to bust out.
Defensive End Mario Williams
Super Mario got paid big bucks in free agency last year and came alive after a tough start to post a 10.5 sack season in 2012. Well, this year the mammoth defensive end already has 10 sacks on the year, and you can bet he'll be coming hard for Brees on Sunday.
At 6 ft 6, 290 pounds Williams has the ability to steal momentum away from an offense like he did in last week's win over the Dolphins. Pressure is the name of his game so the Saints o-line better eat their Wheaties.
Linebacker Kiko Alonso
Alonso is off to a strong start and leads the team in tackles with 70. He also has 4 interceptions, 1 sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. The rookie out of Oregon also has 4 tackles for loss.
If Jimmy Graham is good to go, Alonso will likely be the guy in charge of trying to shut him down. So, it might be another frustrating day for the Saints TE. This kid also isn't afraid to do the dirty work of standing up offensive linemen to create opportunities for those around him either. Alonso is turning out to be a real top notch 2nd round draft pick by the Bills.
Running Back Fred Jackson
It's hard to highlight any player of the Buffalo offense, but I am going with Jackson. He and CJ Spiller have been splitting carries this season, and despite being 32 years old, Jackson has outperformed Spiller who is 26.
Jackson has managed to score 3 TDs over the last 3 games and has 226 yards rushing/receiving in that span as well. He aggravated a sprained MCL last week but intends to play Sunday. F-Jax remains the lead dog in the Bills running back committee and will try to victimize a Black and Gold run defense giving up on average 114 yards per game.
The Miami Heat flexed their muscles late in the game and handed the New Orleans Pelicans their first loss of the preseason, 108-95.
The Pels got off to a hot start. They were leading 34-19 at one point in the first quarter, but the battle tested defending two time champs flipped the switch in the 4th quarter - outscoring New Orleans 31-13.
Eric Gordon led the Pelicans in scoring with 19 points, while Anthony Davis added 18 with 8 rebounds and 3 blocks.
For the Heat, the duo of Lebron James and Dwyane Wade dominated. They combined for 52 points, 7 steals and 8 assists.
New Orleans is now 6-1 this preseason, while Miami is 5-2.
Preseason play finally wraps up for the Pelicans on Friday in Orlando against the Magic. Then on Saturday the team is back home in the New Orleans Arena to host a scrimmage that is open to the public from 11am to 1pm. Parking & admission are free, and you will get an inside look as to what Coach Monty Williams puts his team through during a practice session.
The regular season opens Wednesday October 30th, when New Orleans hosts the Indiana Pacers.
6th ranked LSU invades Oxford to do battle with an Ole Miss team that is trying to put an end to a three-game losing streak.
The Tigers hold a 58 win 39 loss and 4 tie advantage over the Rebels in the all-time series.
The Bayou Benglas offense is currently averaging 466 yards per game and is scoring 41 points per contest. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,890 yards with 5 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Mettenberger is aided by the best receiving tandem in the nation. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry rank second and fourth in the SEC in receiving yards and have combined for 13 scores.
Big bruising back Jeremy Hill ranks third in the conference in rushing yards with 715 and is tied for the lead with 9 touchdowns. Hill gets the bulk of the carries; but Terrence Magee, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard are also actively involved.
Over on the defensive side of the ball, LSU allows on average 22 points per game and 349 yards per contest. They did have their best performance of the season last week against Florida... giving up just 2 field goals and haven't surrendered more then 27 points in any game other than their loss "between the hedges."
Linebacker Lamin Barrow leads the team with 49 tackles, while defensive end Jermauria Rasco has made his presence known in the backfield with eight QB hurries. Also, after getting off to a very slow start to the season, defensive tackle Anthony Johnson has come on of late and has notched 5 1/2 tackles for loss along with 2 sacks.
This year's Ole Miss team has shown plenty of promise on offense, scoring 29 point per game with 433 yards per contest. Rebels QB Bo Wallace has thrown for 1,444 yards and rushed for 144 to go along with 12 total touchdowns and just three interceptions. The problem is Wallace is completing less than 60 percent of his passes.
Laquon Treadwell is the leading Rebels receiver with 32 receptions for 327 yards and 2 scores. Donte Moncrief is Wallace's number 2 option, and a player to keep an eye on as he has 24 catches for 358 yards and four scores.
While the defense hasn't exactly hurt the Rebels this season, it also hasn't done much to impress. They give up 28 points per game and 399 yards per contest. They are allowing teams to convert third downs 44 percent of the time.
Linebacker Serderius Bryant has been the unit's top playmaker with 55 tackles and 6 tackles for loss, although he is listed as doubtful after suffering a concussion last week.
Home field advantage should be enough to keep this game close for Ole Miss, but now that LSU is clicking on both sides of the ball I foresee the Tigers being 7-1 after this one.
The 5-and-eaux start by the Saints is the best by the team since the 2009 Super Bowl season, and many people are starting to believe a return to the big game is possible this year. The offense is currently ranked 4th overall in the NFL, while the defense is tied for 11th in the league. Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan should be called "the miracle worker" for what he's done with a defensive unit that couldn't stop ANYONE last season.
The Black & Gold face their biggest challenge of the season so far this week as they travel to New England to face a Patriots ballclub that lost their first game of the season last week and are still likely steaming from the defeat at the hands of the Bengals. Here are some players I'll be looking out for in the showdown:
Cornerback Jabari Greer
Oh man did the Saints top corner get abused last week in Chicago. According to ProFootballFocus.com Greer gave up 87 yards on four catches to Bears WR Alshon Jeffery and also allowed a catch to four other receivers. In total he surrendered 128 yards and a touchdown. OUCH!
I fully expect Greer to respond in a big way this week against a shaky Pats receiving corps as well as playing on a surface that is field turf and not grass.
Wide Receiver Kenny Stills
Stills really electrified during the preseason but has been seemingly lost in the shuffle now that the regular season has started. He only has 7 receptions for 134 yards thru 5 games and didn't register a single catch last week. Not a one as he dropped passes!
With Lance Moore M.I.A. so far this year, you would think Stills would be the benefactor. This could be that big week for him as I'm sure Bill Belichick's top priority is to not let monster TE Jimmy Graham beat them.
Quarterback Drew Brees
Seems a pretty obvious choice since as Brees goes, so do the Black & Gold. But the only thing that still comes to mind when I think about Tom Brady and the Pats is a Monday Night football game in 2009 when Drew shredded New England in the Superdome. He threw for 371 yards, 5 scores and ended the evening with a perfect passer rating. Brees is still the only player to toss 5 TDs against a Belichick coached team.
Brees looks just as locked in and focused as Coach Payton this season, and it feels as if a special season is a brewin' in the Big Easy. This game will make a statement to the entire league that Drew & Krewe are for real.
Tight End Rob Gronkowski
New England's lackluster offensive start to the season isn't completely due to Gronk being sidelined because of a spinal issue, but he does provide a huge boost to a unit averaging just 19 points a contest currently.
The 6 ft. 6, 265 pounder is considered by many as the premier TE in the game, and Tom Brady and this Pats team really do need him desperately right now. The big question though is: IF he is cleared to play Sunday, how effective will he be? Any Gronk is better than no Gronk for this team right now.
Cornerback Aqib Talib
The Patriots defense has looked a look better since the arrival of Talib last season. He is capable of big plays and has already picked off opposing quarterback 4 times this season. New England hasn't had a ball hawk with his ability since Asante Samuel.
Falcons QB Mat Ryan threw at the elite corner 7 times last week and completed NONE of those passes. Brees will have to be extra mindful of where Talib is on the field, just like he had to know where Darrelle Revis was when N.O. played Tampa.
Linebacker Brandon Spikes
This guy was a winner in college with the Florida Gators and had a breakout year in 2012 with 92 tackles, 1 interception and 7 passes defended. He isn't happy that he hasn't gotten a new deal as he's in the last year of his rookie contract. As a result, he has been taking it out on the opposition.
Spikes has been a beast against the run blowing up plays in the backfield and providing the Pats with some extra bulk in the middle. New England really needs Spikes to step up in DT Vince Wolfork's absence and in turn will probably result in a big payday for the linebacker.
The Saints improved to 4-0 with their 9th straight victory on Monday Night Football, filleting the Dolphins 38-17. Now the Black & Gold face a tough two-game road stretch where they’ll face the Chicago Bears, followed by the New England Patriots.
Soldier Field has not been a friendly venue for the Saints. They haven’t won there in the Sean Payton era, which includes a 31-19 Bears beat-down in the 2006 NFC Championship game.
What will it take to earn a “W” this week? Coach Payton and the team have been stressing winning the turnover battle against a Chicago ballclub that is historically good at creating them. Here are some players that I’ll have my eyes on in this one:
The Offensive Line
Yup, back to this group again. As a whole the unit has grossly underperformed this season and yet amazingly the team remains unbeaten. That’s a huge testament to just how good Drew Brees is at getting rid of the ball quickly, because the opposition has been getting to #9 A LOT. Too much in fact, as the quarterback has been sacked 12 times already.
Another problem has been the run game. It’s been putrid, averaging just 81.9 yards per contest and with Mark Ingram inactive the last 2 weeks, you can’t blame him. I know Jahri Evans still isn’t 100% healthy, but there have been breakdowns up and down the line, not just at his position. Fans are quick to jump all over me for my criticisms here, but it’s a huge problem…and if does not get corrected, will not carry you to the Promised Land. Heck, it just may bite you in the butt this week.
Running back Pierre Thomas (I’m still not giving up!)
Ok, so I’m a big fan of PT and still believe he can lead the Black and Gold’s rushing attack. So far Thomas is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and hasn’t been able to get into a groove.
The good news though is that the Chicago native has had some pretty good games against the Bears. In 3 contests he has an average of 4.57 yards per carry, 9.24 yards per reception while finding the end zone 3 times. I’m betting that this is the week Thomas will score for the first time this season
Defensive end Cameron Jordan
“The Big Kid,” as I call him, is showing that he is a force that’s not easily contained. After 4 games he has 4 sacks on the year and 23 total pressures on opposing QBs.
I know he’s dying to get lay a hit on “Mr. Pouty Face” Jay Cutler since the Bears signal-caller seems to be easily thrown off his game if things don’t go his way early on in games. Chicago’s offensive line may be improved, but I still expect to see Jordan leading a Saints pass rush that should get to Cutler often.
Running Back Matt Forte
This former Tulane Green Wave is the best back the Saints defense will have faced thus far this season. Forte can run inside, outside, and is a threat in the passing game as well. The last time he played New Orleans he racked up 167 all purpose yards (49 rushing / 117 receiving.)
Forte is reliable and is a consistent part of the Bears offensive game plan. He is looking for his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, and may achieve that, as the Saints defense is giving up on average 112 yards rushing per game.
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery
We here in SEC country know this name well. Jeffery played 3 years in South Carolina and is gaining confidence in his 2nd season in the NFL after dealing with injuries in his rookie campaign.
This guy did a little bit of everything in their last game. He had a sweet catch in the endzone despite being blanketed by a defender; he showed the ability to beat a defense deep with a 44 yard grab; and the 23-year-old was even used as a weapon in the run game with a 27 yard end-around.
He is turning into a reliable target for Cutler and could be the x-factor for Chicago in this one.
Defensive End Julius Peppers
Sure, Peppers is getting “up there” in age, but Saints fans are quite familiar with his abilities from back in his Carolina Panthers days. His penchant for demolishing quarterbacks scares me, especially with the way New Orleans O-line has been playing.
However, the Bears defense isn’t what it used to be, by any means, and has been struggling to find a pass rush up front. That being said, Peppers seemed to come alive last week with 6 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. The 33-year-old is dealing with a chest injury and the severity of it is not yet known. If Chicago doesn’t have his presence up front, Drew Brees might be in the running for yet another Offensive Player of the Week award.