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.
What Just Happened?
- After the Saints got humbled in Dallas about 10 days ago, here is what I wrote in my postgame “Beignets and Café au lait” piece: “This loss could be a blessing in disguise however, as losing always prompts needed adjustments that are easier to overlook after a win. This is now the time for Sean Payton, Drew Brees and company to look within, self-scout and find a way to make their team better ahead of another tough road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on December 9.”
- Yesterday in Tampa Bay, the New Orleans Saints offense waited about two and a half quarters to finally adjust, but adjust they did. After a blocked punt by quarterback/running back/special teams ace Taysom Hill, the Saints scored a touchdown and a two-point try with 4:43 left in the third quarter to get within three points of the Buccaneers, at 11-14. They didn’t know it at the time, but the Bucs would not score again, as New Orleans would win the game 28-14.
- The unit that did not need long to make adjustments was the Saints’ defense. Dennis Allen gets a lot of flak when the Saints’ defense is not playing well, and he should get a lot of credit for the way his unit has played in New Orleans’ last five games: The Saints have not given up more than 20 points in their last five contests. In the NFL, yards are the most misleading statistics. But what matters most in terms of winning is the scoreboard, and since week 10, New Orleans has given up 13 points-per-game. That, friends, is winning football!
- The Saints (11-2) are now your two-time defending champions of the NFC South division, a first in franchise history. New Orleans is also back in first place in the NFC after Los Angeles’ (11-2) 15-6 loss at Chicago last night. New Orleans once again has their playoff-seeding destiny in their own hand: win out and the route to the Super Bowl will run through the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. I’d take that any day of the week and thrice on Sunday!
Five Numbers...That Don’t Lie
- 25: The number of points the Saints scored without allowing any to the Buccaneers en route to their victory yesterday. When Tampa Bay scored a touchdown to go up 14-3 on the Saints with 26 seconds left in the first half, here is what their remaining six drives looked like (yards gained, outcome of the drive):
5 yards, Missed Field Goal
33 yards, Blocked Punt
- 13 yards, Punt
4 yards, Punt
3 yards, Punt
49 yards, Interception
That my friends, is what playing Super Bowl-like defense looks like and right now, the Saints’ defense is playing at an elite level.
- 12: You know how I talked about how this Saints’ defense is playing well? With three games remaining in the regular season, Cameron Jordan now has 12 sacks, tied for 5th in the NFL. The only players ahead of him? Oh, just guys like Aaron Donald (16.5), Von Miller (13.5), J.J. Watt (12.5) and Myles Garrett (12.5). Jordan is now only one sack away from tying his 2017 total of 13 and I’m willing to bet that he’ll surpass that number before the regular season is over on December 30.
- 5: Seems like we have a defensive theme going on in this segment: 5th is the Saints’ rank in the NFL in takeaways. New Orleans has 10 interceptions and 9 fumble recoveries. When the Saints have been really good under Sean Payton, they’ve had a defense that could take the ball away. This season however, not only can the Saints take the ball away, they can stop the run (1st in the league allowing only 75.3 rushing yards per game, and 1st in allowing 3.55 yards-per-rush). The Saints are a two-headed monster on defense this year, turning their opponents over and making them one-dimensional. Look out, NFL!
- 3: This one is in the “Oh No” category: Drew Brees has now thrown a pick in three consecutive games. The most disturbing part about this unfortunate trend is that each one of those interceptions (against the Falcons, Cowboys and Bucs) came with pressure right in his face. Someone (cough, Sean Payton, cough) needs to tell the Saints’ quarterback that taking a sack is always better than throwing an ill-advised pass. Brees is way too experienced to throw “panic” interceptions, which he has now done three games in a row. Fortunately for the Saints, they are 2-1 in those three games, but come playoffs time, the Saints will face teams that can pressure the QB. It’s time for Brees to shore up that part of his game: punting is okay, Drew. No, really!
- 2: Division championships in a row for your New Orleans Saints!!!! Remember when no one could win the NFC South in consecutive years? Then from 2013 to 2015, the Carolina Panthers won the South three years in a row! With that hex finally broken, the Saints have now followed suit by winning the division in 2017 and 2018. What’s even sweeter, the Saints will face the Panthers next Monday night knowing that Carolina can’t catch them in the division. Hopefully this will help the team play loose as they look to stay on top of the NFC through their last three games.
Keep Your Enemies Closer
- Talk about a good Sunday for the Black and Gold: with the Saints taking care of division foe Tampa Bay themselves, they also received welcomes help from the Cleveland Browns (4-7-1) who defeated the Carolina Panthers (6-7) 26-20 in Cleveland. The loss was Carolina’s fifth straight loss. Back in week 9, after a 42-28 win over the Bucs, the Panthers were 6-2 and very much a threat to compete for the division. Now at 6-7, even the playoffs are a long shot for the Fightin’ Cam Newtons.
- The Atlanta Falcons (4-9) have jumped the shark. After a 34-20 loss at Green Bay (4-7-1), the Fightin’ Matty Ices are done and I am actually inclined to think that they are tanking. Dan Quinn’s tenure in Atlanta is tenuous at best, but the Falcons’ season was derailed by injuries on defense and on the offensive line early and never got back on track. The Falcons now have firmly turned their attention to the 2019 NFL draft, eyeing a top 10 draft pick.
- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8) looked like the team that defeated the Saints in week one for about two and a half quarters yesterday. Then a Taysom Hill blocked punt happened and a re-energized Saints team took the game over. Yesterday, the Saints offense reminded me of shooters struggling in basketball: it only takes one basket for them to find that rhythm again. Right after Hill’s block, Mark Ingram ran on first down for 11 yards to Tampa Bay’s 19-yard line. At that point of the game, this was the Saints’ best run. From then on, New Orleans would not look back and score on each of its next three possessions, definitively crushing the Bucs’ then-slim playoffs hopes.
If the Playoffs Started Today
- Saints’ fans are not huge fans of the Chicago Bears (9-4), especially those who experienced the 2006 NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field. But yesterday night, Da Bears did the Saints a huge favor: by defeating the Los Angeles Rams (11-2) 15-6, the Bears gave the Saints the number one seed in the NFC back. Courtesy of their head-to-head win over the Rams, the Saints would get the NFC top seed if they finish, at a minimum, with the same record as Los Angeles.
- Chicago sits in third at 9-4, and the ever-surging Cowboys are now in fourth place with a firm hold on the NFC East. The Seahawks and the Vikings are 5th and 6th respectively, but these standings may change as both teams face off in Seattle tonight on Monday Night Football. Below is a graphic with the NFC conference standings:
- According to fivethirtyeight.com, the Saints still have the highest ELO rating in the entire league at 1716. New Orleans has now clinched both the division title and a playoff berth, while they have a 95% chance of earning a first-round bye, up from 84% after the loss in Dallas. New Orleans’ estimated chances to win the Super Bowl went up from 22 to 26%. In the NFC South, only the Panthers have a slim 7% chance of making the playoffs, while the Falcons and Bucs have less than a 1% chance of making it to the postseason.
- New Orleans gets a slightly longer rest as they face the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football in Charlotte on December 17. The rest will be helpful as the Saints hope to get left tackle Terron Armstead back from a pectoral injury that has sidelined him the past four games. The contest against Carolina will be the first of two games against the Panthers in three weeks, games that will go a long way in determining the Saints’ seeding in the NFC South. Buckle up!
Hey, how come you’re still here reading? Get on with your day already and see you next week!
How high is your level of belief in the Saints’ defense right now?
This poll is closed
Extremely high, they are playing at a Super Bowl level!
Medium high: I’d still like to see them give fewer passing yards
Meh, they still allow too many third down conversions
I’m hiding under the comforter waiting for the other shoe to drop
I believe in the Chipotle Sausage Burger...I always have.