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Beignets and Café au Lait: Saints at Vikings Edition

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The 2018 Saints (6-1) are not that flashy, yet they’re winning. It’s a formula that is likely to take them far this season

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings
What’s up Kirk? I’m Sheldon, nice to meet you.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning Y’all

As always, for our novice readers or non-New Orleanians, welcome! Let’s start with some definitions:

Beignets (English: /bɛnˈjeɪ/; French: [bɛɲɛ], ben-YAY literally bump) are distinctly New Orleans, a delicacy intimately connected to the city’s rich French heritage. Best enjoyed heavily powdered with sugar.

Café au lait (/ˌkæfeɪ oʊ ˈleɪ, kæˌfeɪ, kə-/; French: [kafe o lɛ]; French for “coffee with milk”) is a delicious New Orleans way to start your day.

This is your “After-Saints-Game” breakfast, where we talk about the state of the Black and Gold, we debate the goings-on in the NFC South, and paint the playoff picture in the NFC up to this point of the season. So, sit back, take a bite and a sip while your brain slowly wakes up, and let’s catch up on some football.

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What Just Happened?

· Down go the Skol Clappers - After defeating the Minnesota Vikings (4-3-1) 30-20 last night, the New Orleans Saints (6-1) have maintained their one game lead over the Carolina Panthers (5-2) in the NFC South. With the victory, New Orleans also retains the number two seed in the NFC, just behind the 8-0 Los Angeles Rams, who have yet to enjoy a bye week.

· Not an Android - Drew Brees is human: The Saints quarterback finally threw a pick, his first of the season. On the play, Brees was pressured by an unblocked rusher and unloaded a hurried pass. The ball sailed over Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas’ head, to the delight of Vikings safety Harrison Smith who picked off the errant pass. Brees now has 14 touchdowns to 1 interception on the season. Not too shabby!

· Minnesota Blues - With the win, the Saints are now 4-14 all-time on the road against the Vikings. That is a paltry record, and it emphasizes just how hard it has been for New Orleans to win in Minnesota. Which further underlines how impressive last night’s win was.

· Road Missionaries - Brace yourselves if you’ve bought into (false) narratives before: The Saints are now 4-0 on the road in 2018 and 2-1 at home. Not a road team they said. Can’t win away from the Dome, they said.

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Five Numbers...That Don’t Lie

· 33.4: The number of points that the Saints are scoring per game, which ranks second in the NFL just behind the scoring aberration that is the Kansas City Chiefs (36.3 ppg). Year in and year out for the last 12 years, head coach Sean Payton has found ways to make the Saints a formidable scoring attack, something that as frequent observers or fans of the team, we have come to take for granted. Let’s not, that is unbelievably consistent greatness.

· 23: The number of passing attempts by Drew Brees last night, his lowest in any Saints game so far this season. The rest of the NFC should be very worried when the Saints can win a game by double digit on the road with Brees attempting so few passes. New Orleans has been winning games in a multitude of ways this year: scoring in bunches in shootouts, using the running game and chewing up the clock like they did in Baltimore a week ago and against the Vikings last night. This is a team that can adapt to its opponent and beat them at their own game.

· 3.12: The number of rushing yards-per-play allowed by the Saints’ defense, which is first in the entire league. Total yards can be a very deceiving stat; however, yards-per-play are much more representative of the bigger picture. The Saints’ defense has been incredibly stingy in the ground game. Last night, the Vikings rushed 22 times for only 85 yards (3.9 yards-per-rush) and 15 of those yards came on a sweep play by Adam Thielen. As brutally awful as they have been against the pass, the Saints’ defense has been excellent at making teams one dimensional. The question now is: which came first: the bad pass defense or the fact that opponents being unable to run then decide to pass?

· 3: The number of career interceptions by Saints cornerback P.J. Williams. Playing corner in the NFL is a thankless job: Last night, Williams was often on an island, playing man-coverage and getting abused by pretty much every Vikings wide receiver that lined up opposite him, be it Stefon Diggs or Adam Thielen. Yet, the Saints’ defender kept playing hard and displayed the proverbial “short-term amnesia” that is such a valuable quality for professional defensive backs. Late in the second quarter, as it appeared as though Minnesota was about to put the Saints in a very precarious hole, Williams forced a fumble by Adam Thielen that allowed the Saints to score a touchdown and take a 17-13 lead into halftime. Then in the third quarter, Williams had his third career interception, one he took into the end zone to put the Saints ahead by two touchdowns and essentially seal the game. Keep playing hard, young man.

· 0: The number of sacks allowed by the Saints offensive line last night against the Vikings. In seven games, Brees has been sacked only 9 times, which is second-best in the NFL, tied with the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brees is a master at the quick release, but credit has to be given to the Saints’ offensive line as well, as Brees’ protective unit has now faced stout defenses like the Redskins’, Ravens’ and Vikings’ and hasn’t blinked once.

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Keep Your Enemies Closer

· The Carolina Panthers (5-2) continue to stay within striking distance of the Saints, after their impressive 36-21 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore came into that game boasting one of the best defenses in the NFL, yet the Panthers showed very little difficulty in tearing them apart en route to a comfortable win. While the Atlanta Falcons (3-4) were on their bye, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) lost a last minute 37-34 crusher in Cincinnati. Once again experiencing turmoil at the quarterback position as a struggling Jameis Winston was pulled for Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bucs have been an enigmatic team this season. Carolina remains the most threatening foe to the Saints’ aspirations as a repeat winner of the NFC South.

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If the Playoffs Started Today

Just like last week, the Saints (6-1) would have a first round bye, as they remain second in the NFC behind the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams (8-0). The Washington Redskins (5-2) hold steady as the number three seed in the conference after their 20-13 win over the hapless New York Giants. Following their loss to the Saints, the Minnesota Vikings (4-3-1) have fallen out of the playoff picture and have been replaced by the Chicago Bears (4-3) who now lead the NFC North and are the fourth seed. The Carolina Panthers (5-2) are the fifth seed, and another newcomer, the Seattle Seahawks (4-3) now occupies the sixth seed, while the Green Bay Packers have been relegated to the eighth seed following their narrow 29-27 loss to the Rams.

Should the playoffs start today, as the second seed in the conference, the Saints would play either the Washington Redskins, the Chicago Bears Vikings or the Carolina Panthers in the divisional round in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. If you want to feel even better about your Monday, according to fivethirtyeight.com, following last night’s win, the Saints now have an 88% chance of making the playoffs, a 64% chance of winning the NFC South, and a 53% chance of earning a first-round bye. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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What’s Next?

· No rest for the weary, as the Saints are now on a collision course with the undefeated and fearsome Los Angeles Rams (8-0) on Sunday afternoon, in what will be the featured game on Fox at 3:25 PM CT. The game being in the Superdome is an advantage that New Orleans will look to take advantage of, as the Rams have shown cracks lately, with a narrow 23-20 win over the Broncos two weeks ago, and an even tighter 29-27 win at home over the Green Bay Packers. The game also contains all sorts of important playoff implications when it comes to potential home-field advantage in the playoffs: Should the Saints manage to beat the Rams, they could very well find themselves hosting Los Angeles in the playoffs when it’s all said and done. But let’s not put the cart before the horse, defeating Sean McVay and his hungry pack of bullying even-toed ungulates is not going to be an easy task. However, this year’s Saints seem to be able to tackle every challenge that is put in front of them. See you next Monday for what will hopefully be another merry breakfast!

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Hey, how come you’re still here reading? Get on with your day already and see you next week!

Poll

How good did it feel to see the Saints beat the Vikings last night?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    It felt awesome, hopefully we can stop talking about THAT play
    (106 votes)
  • 24%
    Felt good, but it’s just another regular season win
    (51 votes)
  • 8%
    I want those horned helmet-wearing weirdos to lose every game from now on
    (17 votes)
  • 13%
    Last year playoff loss still stings. We have to eliminate them in this year’s playoffs
    (28 votes)
  • 2%
    I ate a burger for every point we scored. It felt glorious!
    (5 votes)
207 votes total Vote Now