TGTBWIO - know what that stands for? Thank Goodness The Bye Week Is Over. It is about bleeping time.
I have been going out of my mind waiting for the time to come to finally write this feature again. I know it's barely been two weeks, but that is quite long enough for me, and I'm not exactly sure how I'll survive until tonight, but I'll have to figure it out somehow.
And if I've been missing this that badly, there's just no telling how bad it's been for you to have to wait to read this, so let's delay no further and jump right into the Hot Reads I have come up with that will enable the New Orleans Saints to overcome the New York Giants on Monday Night Football.
It still comes down to this: the Saints will not be able to do squat on offense if they cannot PROTECT DREW BREES, and this is especially true this week, as the Saints will face a defense that entered Week 12 tied for the league lead in sacks with 31.
There is hope, though, as the Giants were able to muster just one hit on Michael Vick last week, and they have recorded only five sacks in the last three games (after notching 26 sacks in the first seven games for an average of 3.7 per game).
The other glimmer of hope in this area is that the offensive line of the Saints hasn't given up a sack in the two games since allowing a deplorable six sacks to the Rams in Week 8.
What I'd Like To See: No sacks and minimal hits on Brees, along with wide open passing lanes emanating from a clean, well-defined passing pocket that is maintained for the duration of the game.
Checkdown # 1
This match-up with the Giants is absolutely screaming for the Saints to COMMIT TO THE RUN.
The Giants are giving up 123 yards per game on the ground, at a 4.5 yards per carry clip (tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for 9th most in the NFL). Given that the Saints are averaging 4.6 yards per carry (good enough for 7th in the league), the measly 16 carries they had against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 10 will simply NOT cut it, and it would not be smart football.
What I'd Like To See: The Saints need to make a concerted effort to actually use the running game as a significant portion of the offensive game plan. Over the course of the game, call enough runs to find someone with the hot hand and feed him the rock consistently. I'm calling for an absolute minimum of 25 carries by the team, and I'd really like to see at least 30.
Checkdown # 2
With the Giants averaging only 3.2 yards per carry on the ground and 83 rushing yards per game, the brunt of the offensive load will fall squarely on the shoulders of the quarterback, so the Saints need to MAKE ELI MANNING MORTAL, and in a city where the Manning Family name has been immortalized, this will not be easy.
So far in 2011, Eli is putting up good passing numbers: 220 of 355 for 2,952 with 18 TDs and 9 INTs, and taking him down a notch or two will make their offense zero-dimensional and give the Saints offense some breathing room, which it may need coming off the bye.
What I'd Like To See: Creative and varied pressure packages (as well as the crowd noise described below) that force Manning into less than 50% completion rate, under 200 passing yards, and a couple of picks would just about do it, I think, and the delicious gravy on the sundae would be at least three sacks of him. C'mon Roman Harper, you know you want another one...
SAY IT LOUD - WE'RE BACK AND WE'RE PROUD!! OK, Saints Fans, here's where you can contribute significantly to a victory. It is the first Saints game in two weeks, a Home Sweet Dome game on Monday Night Football that is against an NFC opponent very much in the playoff hunt with six games remaining in the season. Need I say more? Oh wait, I almost forgot. This is also the two-year Week 12 MNF Anniversary of the Saints epic pummeling of the New England Patriots during the Super Bowl Year. Remember that one?
What I'd Like To See: Fueled by the above-mentioned factors, the crowd needs to step up and completely SHATTER all the decibel meters that are sure to be on hand in the Dome on Monday night. I'm talking rock concert and jet take-off levels, people. Make it impossible for Manning to audible at the line of scrimmage, or even call the play in the huddle. I want the silent snap count to have to be in effect from start to finish for the Giants. I want New York players false starting, Giant times out to be called early and often, and a Saints defense teeing off on a hamstrung and stunned New York o-line. I want the building to erupt with every big play the Saints make. Think you can do that? I know you can.
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It has been a couple of weeks since I've done this, so let me know if you think I've missed the boat on something or if it seems that I haven't lost a step. What do you think it will take for the Saints to win the game tonight?