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Beignets and Café au Lait: Saints vs. Rams Edition

These 2018 Saints may beat you fast, or beat you slow. Either way, they will beat you.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints
Can’t Catch Mike!
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 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?

· The 2018 New Orleans Saints are not an enigma anymore, they’re a team on a mission. Could it be the so-called 2017 “Minneapolis Miracle” that is fueling this bunch? Is it the sting of the week one puzzling loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Or could it simply be that this is a damn good football team gaining confidence win after win? Whatever it is, the Saints (7-1) have won seven games in a row and just defeated the high-powered and previously undefeated Los Angeles Rams to gain a crucial tiebreaker over the aforementioned Rams in the NFC playoffs race.

In their 45-35 win over the Rams yesterday, the Saints once again displayed all the qualities we’ve seen from them this season: an offense that can score at will, but also one that will score when it most sorely needs to. A defense that will bend and bend but rarely completely break. A unit that is finally starting to cause turnovers, be it on downs or by taking the ball away.

After eight games, the Saints are not just a contender in the NFC: they’re a downright scary team that can beat you in multiple ways and doesn’t seem phased by playing on the road (4-0) or in the friendly confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (3-1). After eight games, let’s stop beating around the bush: the 2018 New Orleans Saints are a Super Bowl contender.

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Five Numbers...That Don’t Lie

· 211. Michael Thomas’ receiving yards yesterday afternoon, the Saints’ franchise record for receiving yards in a single game. Thomas is having an amazing season to date, with 70 receptions on 79 targets (a preposterous 88.6% reception rate). He already has 880 reception yards (4th in the NFL) and 5 touchdowns. The Saints’ third-year wide receiver is becoming a superstar in front of our very eyes.

Thomas also had a terrible-yet-awesome celebration yesterday, when he scored his game-clinching touchdown and pulled a cellphone from below the goal post and paid homage to former Saints wide receiver Joe Horn, who pulled that stunt in 2003. Would someone please remind Michael to do that at a moment when the Saints are ahead by like 28 points though? Thank you Mike.

· 90. The Saints’ percentage on fourth down so far this season, after going 2-for-2 against the Rams yesterday. New Orleans has gone for it on fourth down 10 times in 2018 they have converted 9 of them. That is tied for the lead in the NFL and is what you call deadly efficiency.

What this number tells us is that the Saints are not only aggressive in their design to keep crucial drives alive, they are also calling the right plays and going for it on reasonable distances. What that does is put an unbelievable amount of pressure on opposing defenses, as they know that facing the Saints could mean “four-down territory” at any moment of the game. This is the kind of play calling that will help a team win seven games in a row.

· 3. Alvin Kamara scored 3 touchdowns yesterday against the Rams and joined an elite company in NFL history, in none other than legendary former NFL running back Jim Brown. Indeed, Kamara and Brown are the only running backs in NFL history 23 or younger to record three games in a single season with 3+ touchdowns. Kamara also had 3 touchdowns in week one against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and three touchdowns on September 30 against the New York Giants. With eight games to go, it is not far-fetched to think that the prolific Kamara could break that record before the season is over.

· 1. Linebacker Alex Anzalone’s NFL career interception came at a most opportune moment for the Saints. With time winding down in the first half and the Rams trailing 28-14, Los Angeles had the ball, trying to go down the field and narrow the Saints’ lead to 11 or at worst 7 points. Jared Goff, under pressure, unloaded a pass down the middle from his own 25-yard line. Anzalone lunged towards the ball and intercepted it, twisting himself as he fell to the ground to ensure that the ball wouldn’t be dislodged and ruled an incomplete pass.

The Saints would need only about 30 seconds to find the end zone and make it a 35-14 game. At that moment the game looked to become a laughter. Little did the Saints know how important that touchdown would turn out to be.

· 0. The number of sacks that the Saints allowed to the Rams yesterday. Los Angeles came into the game against the Saints with 22 sacks on the season, nearly 3 sacks-per-game. Yet, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, a defense that boasts the likes of Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers couldn’t muster a single sack of Drew Brees.

In the last two games against two stout defenses in Minnesota and Los Angeles, the Saints did not give up one single sack. At only 9 sacks allowed so far this year, New Orleans unsurprisingly leads the NFL. Not only is the Saints’ offensive line a top unit in the NFL, Sean Payton’s scheme coupled with Brees’ quick release of the ball is second to none in the NFL.

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Keep Your Enemies Closer

· What do you get for winning seven games in a row? A measly one game lead in your division. The Carolina Panthers are 6-2 after winning a 42-28 game against the Tampa Buccaneers, who at 3-6 look like they will finally settle as the bottom feeder in the NFC South this season. The Atlanta Falcons are (somewhat) back from the dead, recovering from their 1-4 start to win three in a row and get back to .500. With a game against the Cleveland Browns on the docket, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Atlanta get to 5-4 in a week. The division race is far from being determined, which is certainly going to keep the Saints focused on the task at end, which is winning their next game.

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If the Playoffs Started Today

· At exactly the midway point of their season, the Saints (7-1) have the number two seed in the NFC, tied in the loss column with the Los Angeles Rams (8-1) who have played one more game than New Orleans. As the third seed in the conference we find the Chicago Bears (5-3) after a 41-9 dismantling of the woeful Buffalo Bills. Following in fourth place are the Washington Redskins (5-3) who were shellacked at home by the Atlanta Falcons (4-4). The fifth seed are the Panthers (6-2) who are lurking behind the Saints, and finally, the sixth seed are the Minnesota Vikings (5-3-1) who rebounded from their loss to the Saints last Sunday night to defeat the mediocre Detroit Lions 24-9.

· Should the playoffs start today, the Saints would enjoy a bye week, then play either the Bears, Redskins or Panthers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

· According to Fivethirtyeight.com, following their victory over the Rams, the New Orleans Saints have the third ELO Rating in the entire NFL. They have a 94% chance of making the playoffs, a 67% chance to win the NFC South, a 62% chance of earning a first round bye and a 16% chance of winning the Super Bowl. Pretty numbers, and they are going up with every win.

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What’s Next?

· The Saints travel to Cincinnati next Sunday to face a 5-3 Bengals team coming off a bye. Cincinnati has been an inconsistent team, fresh off a 37-34 escape win over the Buccaneers two Sundays ago, their first win in the team’s last three games. On the other hand, playing on the road in the NFL is always a tall task, and the Bengals will be yet another team with a winning record on the Saints’ road to the division crown. Following yesterday’s thrilling win, the Saints do not have a lot of time to celebrate, not with the Panthers and the Falcons breathing down their neck. However, the way Sean Payton’s team has been playing since week two, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them improve their road-record to 5-0 next Sunday in Ohio. Enjoy what you’re witnessing Saints fan, this is rare stuff.

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

Poll

Who is your Saints’ MVP at the midway point of the season?

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    Drew Breeeeeeees, who has 18 TDs and 1 pick!
    (371 votes)
  • 5%
    Michael Thomas, 70 rec, 880 yds, 5 TDs
    (25 votes)
  • 8%
    Alvin Kamara, 12 total touchdowns, 3rd in the NFL
    (37 votes)
  • 2%
    Taysom Hill, mister Swiss Army knife extraordinaire
    (12 votes)
  • 2%
    The Double Whopper, man. The Big Mac has underachieved this season.
    (10 votes)
455 votes total Vote Now