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Beignets and Café au lait: Saints vs. Eagles Edition

These Saints will rip your heart out and use Spicy Cajun Seasoning while eating it.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-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 olɛ]; 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?

This was “Trap Game 2.0.”

The original trap game was last week in Ohio, when the Saints were going on the road to face a rested Cincinnati Bengals team following an emotional win for New Orleans against their main NFC rival, the Los Angeles Rams. Yesterday, heavy home-favorites against the wounded defending champions Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans faced the danger of being caught napping on the heels of a near-perfect game in Cincinnati, where the team scored a season-high 51 points in a rout of the Bengals.

No trap is tricky enough to trip these Saints so far in this crazy 2018 NFL season. New Orleans dismantled the Eagles 48-7, and the Saints could have named their score. Whatever motivational tactics head coach Sean Payton is using to keep his team loose yet focused this year, it is working. And I mean, it is working like the absolutely perfect jambalaya: the rice is not overcooked, the andouille is spiced to perfection, the shrimp are fresh premium jumbo from the Gulf and the seasoning is not too heavy on garlic.

The Saints at 9-1 keep the pressure on the Los Angeles Rams (9-1) for supremacy in the NFC, as the Rams are facing the Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) tonight on Monday Night Football.

Sit back, try to relax! We are now entering the crucial part of the season, where every win matters and teams are jockeying for playoffs spots. It’s about to get even more intense.

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Five Numbers...That Don’t Lie

  • 1,042: The number of receiving yards for third-year wide receiver Michael Thomas. Let’s not take what we are seeing from Thomas for granted: he is the first Saints wide receiver in franchise history to reach at least 1,000 yards receiving in the team’s first 10 games. This is also Thomas’ third straight 1,000-yard receiving season, after he recorded 1,137 yards in 2016 (his rookie season) and 1,245 yards in 2017. Thomas now has eight receiving touchdowns, just one off his career high established in 2016. He also has 82 receptions on 91 targets. An insane 90.1% catch rate. What we are seeing in Thomas is Drew Brees’ first bona fide Number One wide receiver, and I say that with all due respect to Marques Colston, who in his time was exceptional for the Saints. Thomas is simply on a different level.

  • 157: The number of receiving yards recorded by rookie wideout Tre’Quan Smith yesterday against Philadelphia. In the first game since the Saints signed wide receiver Brandon Marshall, Smith seemed to want to remind Sean Payton that the Saints might not need any additional help at wide receiver. Smith was targeted 13 times and caught 10 of these passes, including a touchdown in traffic where he held on to the ball after getting popped by an Eagle defender. The Saints invested a third-round pick (91st overall) in Smith in the 2018 NFL draft and at just 22 years old, the rookie might be another one of those offensive gems finds by head coach Sean Payton. If Sunday is any indication, New Orleans’ receiving core is just scratching the surface on how good it can become.

  • 78: These are the combined yards recorded by rookie undrafted free agent wide receiver Keith Kirkwood against the Eagles yesterday and against Cincinnati last week. This seems to be the “wide receiver” section of the piece today, but credit has to be given where it is due. Only active for the past couple of games, the 24-year old rookie out of Temple has caught five of the seven passes Drew Brees has thrown his way, and he is showing that he can be counted on to be an additional weapon in Payton’s incredibly diverse offense. The Saints have an embarrassment of riches on offense and Kirkwood is becoming yet another headache for opposing defensive coordinators to prepare for ahead of facing New Orleans.

  • 11: The number of three-and-outs recorded by the Saints to this point in the entire 2018 season. This is a preposterous number, especially considering that the second three-and-out of the day was in the fourth quarter, when the Saints were running the clock out with Dwayne Washington running the ball three straight times, along with backups at nearly every level of the offensive formation. Internalize this for a second: in 10 games, the Saints have basically averaged one three-and-out per game. For perspective, yesterday the Pittsburgh Steelers had four three-and-outs in their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags had seven three-and-outs in the same game. What we are seeing from the 2018 Saints’ offense is reaching an unprecedented level of excellence.

  • 7: After getting only two interceptions through their first six games, the Saints have now had seven picks in their last four games, including at least one interception in each of the last four. Yesterday, New Orleans picked Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz three times, once by 2017 defensive rookie of the year cornerback Marshon Lattimore and two by backup cornerback and special teams ace Chris Banjo. A non-negligible part of the Saints’ nine-game winning streak has been the improved play of its defense, not only on the defensive line, but even more notably in the secondary.

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Keep Your Enemies Closer

Week 11 was extremely good for the New Orleans Saints, as they were the only NFC South team to win.

  • The Atlanta Falcons (4-6) dropped a 22-19 game to the Dallas Cowboys and are now five full games behind the Saints, whom they play on Thursday night in New Orleans.

  • The Carolina Panthers (6-4) who have been the Saints’ main threat in the division, lost on a controversial decision by head coach Ron Rivera to go for a two-point conversion while trailing Detroit by one point. The failed conversion gave the Lions the ball and a 20-19 win, dropping the Panthers a full three games behind the Saints.

  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-7) continue their downward spiral and their quarterback carousel, as they fell 35-38 to the New York Giants in a game that once again saw Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston take turns under center for the Bucs. We will continue to mention that to date, the Bucs are the only team to defeat the Saints. No, I haven’t found a way to let that go just yet, but I promise, I’m working on it.

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If the Playoffs Started Today

  • With one game to go in week 11 between the Los Angeles Rams (9-1) and the Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) tonight, the Saints are currently - albeit maybe temporarily - in first place in the NFC! The Rams are the second seed by virtue of the Saints having won the head to head matchup between the two teams. The Chicago Bears (7-3) are showing that they are not a flash in the pan and sit in third place in the conference, and atop the NFC North. Chicago has a ferocious defense that will give fits to whoever faces them in the playoffs. Washington (6-4) is in fourth place, despite losing a heartbreaker to the Texans on Sunday, a game in which Alex Smith was lost for the season with a broken tibia. The Panthers (6-4) hold steady in fifth place, and the Minnesota Vikings (5-4-1) round out the current NFC playoffs team as the 6th seed.

  • According to fivethirtyeight.com, the Saints now have more than a 99% chance of making the playoffs, a 94% chance of winning the NFC South, and incredible 89% chance of earning a first-round bye and their odds of winning the Super Bowl increased from 21% last week to 25% after yesterday’s game. Saints are also now projected to win 13.3 games this season, which would equal their best record in the Brees/Payton era (13-3) set in both 2009 and 2011.
Saints 2018 Playoffs Projections after Week 11 (according to fivethirtyeight.com)

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What’s Next?

  • You will not have a whole lot of time to bask in the glory of this win, and neither will Saints players and coaches. Indeed, in only four days, the very much disliked Atlanta Falcons are coming to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for a Thanksgiving night contest. The Falcons are in a must-win situation, as their margin of error has grown paper thin if they want to sniff the playoffs this season. As tough as this year has been for the Falcons so far, they would enjoy nothing more than beating the Saints on their own turf, compromising New Orleans’ chance of gaining home field advantage throughout the playoffs and helping their own slim playoffs chances in the process. Another interesting factor is that former LSU linebacker and New Orleans native Deion “Debo” Jones is likely to be back in Atlanta’s lineup. In his short two years in the league, Jones, who is the heart and soul of Atlanta’s defense, has played very well against his hometown team. The Saints cannot (and I suspect will not) take the Falcons lightly.

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED???

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

Poll

Through 10 games, is 2018 the best Saints season you have experienced as a fan?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    Hello???? 2009 anyone? Championship!
    (172 votes)
  • 0%
    2000 baby. First time in the playoffs since 1992 and first playoff win!
    (0 votes)
  • 6%
    2011, despite the crushing finish. Saints were just taking names and eating souls
    (18 votes)
  • 6%
    2006 of course!!! The Return to the Dome! Gleason’s punt block!
    (18 votes)
  • 11%
    The "triple bacon double cheeseburger" is the best burger I have ever experienced
    (32 votes)
  • 12%
    Yes!!! Best season ever dude, 2018 all the way!!!
    (34 votes)
274 votes total Vote Now