The 1-4 New Orleans Saints are (finally!) back in action this afternoon, taking to the road against the 2-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and hoping to build off a record-setting 31-24 victory over the Chargers with a fourth straight post-bye win in Aaron Kromer's final game as the interim-interim head coach.
I am so ready for real Saints football that it's going to be difficult for me to wait for kickoff, so maybe you can help me in this effort...
** Let's also use this comment area as our pre-pre-pre-game Open Thread area (until the real one opens at noon) to discuss our gameday gear, food, drink, and general outlook for today's game. **
Drew Brees has been sacked 12 times and been hit more times than I care to remember this year, and with the defense in a shambles, it is now even more important than ever for the Saints to PROTECT HIM LIKE A MINT CONDITION COPY OF ACTION COMICS #1. (here's one that sold for almost $2.2 million)
While the Bucs pass rush isn't particularly ferocious, the Saints o-line would be wise to focus on DE Michael Bennett (4) and DT Gerald McCoy (3), who have combined for seven of the eight sacks recorded by the team.
What I'd Like To See: Zero sacks and three or less hits on Brees, while also allowing him time and clear passing lanes through which to throw the ball (less than two passes deflected at the line of scrimmage). Say, did you get Brees those lifts I mentioned? I wasn't kidding about those.
Checkdown # 1
On the flip side, FRAKKING FREEMAN should be the main order of business for the Saints defense.
Bucs QB Josh Freeman has had a mostly average year, coming in at 18th in the league with an overall quarterback rating of 84.2. But in their two wins, he has put up ratings of 124.7 and 95.5. This doesn't bode well for Spags' Hags (how's that for a scary Halloween moniker?), who are allowing quarterbacks a 67% completion rate and a 104.5 QB rating while surrendering almost 300 passing yards per game.
What I'd Like To See: Josh Freeman is average, and let's see you keep him that way. Step up and please hold him to a passer rating of 90 or below.
With quarterback play being so important to these two teams, it necessarily follows that a crucial area will be the BATTLE OF THE BIG TIME RECEIVERS.
Jimmy Graham is staying home in New Orleans, and Lance Moore is a bit of a question mark coming off his injury. That means stalwart Marques Colston (28 catches for 444 yards and 4 TDs) is again going to have his number called quite a bit in the passing game.
Tampa Bay went out this offseason and snagged the biggest WR prize of the free agency pool, Vincent Jackson, and he has not disappointed thus far, as he is on pace for over 60 receptions, 1100 yards, and 12 TDs.
What I'd Like To See: Anything Jackson can do, I want to see Colston do it better. In fact, let's just go ahead and have Marques better him in catches, yards, and scores.
This week's final Hot Read turns to the sidelines as we have a rookie head coach (Greg Schiano) facing a lame duck interim-interim rookie head coach (Aaron Kromer) in a HEAD COACH SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN.
Schiano was hired away from Rutgers this year, and is adjusting to the pro game, hoping his college success translates to winning ways in the NFL. Will he be another first-year "wundercoach" like Jim Harbaugh? Not today. Not in this house, please.
We all know Kromer's story and the Saga of the 2012 Saints. Kromer has faced numerous obstacles, and has certainly taken it like a man as the team has stumbled to a 1-4 start. It'd be great for him to take it like a real head coach today, and lead his team to victory.
What I'd Like To See: Kromer get his bid within $100 so he wins both showcases - any Price Is Right fans out there...? Anyone? Well, anyone besides you crickets, I mean. But seriously, I want to see a polished product on the Saints sideline, outperforming Schiano in replay challenges, in-game adjustments, clock management, overall composure, and the right level of aggressiveness/confidence on fourth downs.
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So there they are. Enjoy your morning, folks and I'll see you back here later to get your take on these Reads and talk about where your mind is at for this game.