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?
- Playing their third-straight road game, the New Orleans Saints (12-2) found a way to win a low-scoring 12-9 affair over the Carolina Panthers (6-8) last night. The Saints have spoiled both the fans and the pundits with their video game-like offense this season, thus a lot of people are wondering what the heck is wrong with the team offensively, as they have averaged only 16.7 points-per-game in the last three games.
- My answer? Nothing is fundamentally wrong! This is the NFL and defenses make adjustments as the season wears on. Lately we have seen the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs stumble and the high-powered Los Angeles Rams bumble. No offense can stay white hot throughout every game of an entire season, just ask the 2007 New England Patriots. However, what great teams do is find a way to hit singles and doubles when their home run swing isn’t at its best. That is what the Saints have been doing lately, coming out 2-1 out of a grueling three-game road trip.
- Now 12-2, the Saints have a full game lead in the NFC over the Los Angeles Rams (11-3). New Orleans’ magic number to lock down the number one seed in the NFC? One! Win one more game and the Rams cannot finish with a better record than the Saints. New Orleans is limping to the finish line on offense, particularly on the offensive line, which saw both center Max Unger and backup-turned-starter Jermon Bushrod injured last night in Carolina. A first-round bye would be an absolute boon for a team that needs to heal up. One more win, boys!
Five Numbers...That Don’t Lie
- 117: After the victory last night, this is the number of wins by Sean Payton and Drew Brees as a head coach/quarterback duo. It is the second-winningest in the history of the National Football League, behind only the combo of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady (205). The success of Payton and Brees is something we’ll all remember 20 years from now as the true golden era of Saints football. But while we’re in the middle of it, let’s not overlook the greatness we are witnessing.
- 12.3: The number of points-per-game allowed by the Saints’ defense over the last six games. While everybody focuses on the offense because it has carried the Saints so often in the Payton/Brees era, the Saints’ defense continues to ascend and impose its will on opponents. Since week 10, the Saints lead the NFL in ppg allowed (12.3), takeaways (14) and sacks (28). That friends, is the brand of football that wins in December, in January and in February!
- 12: The number of rushing touchdowns scored by Alvin Kamara so far this season. The second-year running back is tied for second in the NFL with Pittsburgh’s James Conner, and behind only Los Angeles’ Todd Gurley (17). In a year in which he hasn’t had all the splash plays of his rookie year, Kamara has already exceeded the 728 rushing yards he had in 2017, with 860. With two games to play, he is only 140 yards from reaching 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his young NFL career. At only 23 years old, the sky is the limit for AK41.
- 9: Yesterday’s 12-9 win over the Panthers marked the lowest amount of points scored by the Saints in a victory since a 9-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 25, 1998 in the Louisiana Superdome. Yes, that day, the Saints scored nine points and won. New Orleans’ quarterback was one Billy Joe Tolliver and Trent Dilfer was at the helm for the Bucs. I knew very little about American Football then and was in Strasbourg, France, enjoying the national team having won its first-ever FIFA World Cup a few months earlier. I can only empathize with those among us who witnessed the sad show that was the Mike Ditka-led Saints. Thankfully it’s 20 years later and the Saints rock!
- 4: I am not superstitious, so I am going to continue this count until Drew Brees proves me wrong! This is now four games in a row that the Saints’ quarterback has thrown a pick and last night’s interception was his fifth of the season. Okay, this one really was not Brees’ fault: Tight end Dan Arnold had a costly catch-and-fumble in Dallas, that eventually led to the Saints failing on 4th down near the goal line at a crucial moment of the game. This time, Drew Brees threw a seam pass to the young tight end right where it had to be, but Arnold bobbled the ball, which ricocheted on Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis’ helmet and was picked off by cornerback James Bradberry. It would’ve been a tough catch, but you know the old saying: “if it hits your hand, you gotta catch it.” I will gladly put a “0” paragraph the next time Brees finishes a game without a pick. It has to happen again, eventually...right?
Keep Your Enemies Closer
- By beating the Panthers, the Saints all but crushed any real chances that Carolina had of making the playoffs. At 6-8, the Panthers have a less than 1% chance of making the postseason according to FiveThirtyEight.com.
- The Atlanta Falcons (5-9) took out their season-long frustration on the Arizona Cardinals with a 40-14 thrashing on Sunday. The Falcons are now playing for pride and to pad Julio Jones’ stats. The offseason promises to be an interesting one in Flowery Branch, with head coach’s Dan Quinn’s seat not exactly comfortable.
- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9) could not rebound from their loss to the Saints when they faced the Baltimore Ravens on the road on Sunday. The Bucs lost 20-12 and the margin was that narrow simply because Raven’s quarterback Lamar Jackson is as raw as a sushi roll. The Saints are simply running away with the NFC South at this point, with a six-game lead on the second place team. Wowser!
If the Playoffs Started Today
- At 12-2, the Saints are the top seed in the NFC and if the postseason started today, they would have a first-round bye throughout. In second place in the conference and a full game behind New Orleans are the Los Angeles Rams (11-3) who are on a two-game losing streak. The Chicago Bears (10-4) are the surprise team in the NFC, winner of the NFC North after going 5-11 in 2017. The Cowboys (8-6) got humbled 23-0 last Sunday in Indy, but they’re still occupying the fourth seat in the NFC playoffs standings thanks to their lead in the NFC East. The Seattle Seahawks (8-6) are in fifth place after a damaging 26-23 loss in San Francisco last Sunday, which has Seattle still looking to secure a playoff berth. The Vikings (7-6-1) are holding on to the last playoff spot, with the Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) and Washington Redskins (7-7) still alive and in pursuit.
- According to fivethirtyeight.com, the Saints widened their lead in the NFL in ELO rating with a +8 increase, while the second-rated team, the Chiefs, saw its rating decrease by 10 following their home loss to the Lo Angeles Chargers 29-28 last Thursday night. New Orleans’ estimated chances to win the Super Bowl went up from 26 to 32% after last night’s win. That leads the NFL. The graphic below shows the top 10 NFL teams in ELO rating and their playoffs odds.
- For the first time since November 22, the Saints will get to play at home next Sunday. The opponents are the dangerous Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1), who are holding on to a tenuous lead in the AFC North over the Baltimore Ravens (8-6). Pittsburgh will be as desperate as the Panthers were last night. Fortunately for the Saints, it will finally be “Dome Sweet Dome” and I fully expect the offense to return to form. And though it may not be their full early season form, we should at least see a better rhythm than what we have witnessed the last three games. Win this game and the road to Super Bowl LIII on the NFC side will go through the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. That’s motivation enough to come out focus and looking to kick ass and take names, wouldn’t you say?!
Hey, how come you’re still here reading? Get on with your day already and see you next week!
In your opinion, what is ailing the Saints’ offense?
This poll is closed
Defenses have caught up to Sean Payton’s playcalling
Three straight road games would be hard on any offense
Drew Brees is old and fully looks 39 years old right now
Just a little slump, defense is playing well. Football is a team game.
They should eat less Jimmy John’s and moar burgers!!!