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Beignets and Café au lait: Saints vs. Steelers Edition

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These Saints...earned a little bit of rest

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-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?

  • Playing their first game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in over a month, the New Orleans Saints (13-2) went into their contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1) yesterday knowing that one more win would give them a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. In a back and forth contest, the Saints prevailed 31-28, in a fashion that was a bit more familiar to Saints fans: the offense scoring over 30 points, the defense being opportunistic and making stops when it counts.

  • Having everything wrapped up in the NFC in terms of seeding is humongous for these Saints: New Orleans can now rest most of its key players for the meaningless week 17 regular season finale against the Carolina Panthers (6-9) losers of seven games in a row. With the bye week as supplemental rest, the Saints’ can roll out a much healthier team when the divisional round of the playoffs starts three weeks from now.

  • Since a 13-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on November 29, the Saints have now won three games in a row. This has been such a successful season thus far that a three-game winning streak is almost taken for granted. As the regular season draws to a close, let’s take a moment to enjoy how great 2018 has been for the Black and Gold and for us, the fans.

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Five Numbers...That Don’t Lie

  • 120: The number of receptions by Saints’ wide receiver Michael Thomas through 15 games, a mark that leads the NFL. Thomas is one of five players to have at least 100 catches thus far, the others being Adam Thielen (105), Zach Ertz (101), Julio Jones (100) and Davante Adams (100). What’s more, Thomas has been targeted 140 times, and thus has a ridiculous 85.7% catch rate. For perspective, Julio Jones leads the league with 152 targets and has a 65.8% catch rate. Antonio Brown with 149 targets has a 60.4% catch rate, meanwhile JuJu Smith-Schuster, 141 targets, has a 67.4% catch rate. Thomas is straight up balling this year.

  • 50: By scoring the first touchdown for the Saints yesterday against the Steelers, running back Mark Ingram reached 50 rushing touchdowns in his Saints/NFL career, a mark (no pun intended) that passes Saints great Deuce McAllister’s (49) for all-time leader in franchise history. For the past three seasons, Ingram, has finally become a pivotal piece of the Saints’ offense, he recorded his first two 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2016 and 2017 and forms a dynamic duo with second-year running back Alvin Kamara.

  • 26: On a day of longstanding Saints records falling, kicker Wil Lutz broke a tie with Morten Andersen when he made a 43-yard field goal with two seconds left in the second half. The score was Lutz’s 26th consecutive successful field goal, eclipsing the 25 field goals in a row made by Andersen for the Saints in 1992 and 1993. Through 15 games, Lutz is 28-for-30 on field goal attempts, and is an integral part of the Saints’ success this season.

  • 13: The number of wins for the Saints in 2018, and the high regular season mark for New Orleans under Sean Payton, equaled in 2009 and 2011. The Saints have never won more than 13 regular season games during the Payton/Brees era and with the likelihood of the team resting players in week 17, New Orleans could once again finish the year 13-3. Unless of course, the Saints’ B-team can defeat the Taylor Heinicke Fightin’ Panthers. 14-2 sounds pretty good to me. How about you?

  • 0: The number of interceptions thrown by Drew Brees yesterday against Pittsburgh! Hurray! With that, Brees broke a streak of four games with at least one interception. Here’s to hoping that Brees started another long streak, like he did at the beginning of the season, going six games without throwing a single pick.

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Beignets and Café au Lait Awards

  • Fresh Beignets with Hot Coffee: Drew Brees. The Saints’ quarterback rebounded nicely from a string of subpar outings. Brees was 27 of 39 for 326 yards and one touchdown. What was even more impressive is that while facing the second-ranked defense in the NFL in terms of sacks, the Saints’ quarterback hung tough in the pocket to deliver several clutch passes in leading the Saints to victory yesterday.

  • Stale Beignets with Day-old Coffee: Cameron Jordan. After making disparaging comments about Ben Roethlisberger, doubting whether the Steelers’ quarterback was worthy of the NFL Hall of Fame, Jordan recorded two combined tackles, two quarterback hits, one pass-break-up and zero sacks yesterday. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger shredded Jordan’s defense for 380 yards, three passing touchdowns and zero picks. I love Cam and his snark and wit. But if you’re going to talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk. Yesterday, Jordan didn’t.

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Keep Your Enemies Closer

  • In the “Bank of America Draft-Positioning Bowl,” the Atlanta Falcons (6-9) beat the hapless Carolina Panthers (6-9) 24-10 to even the teams record. Both teams have been eliminated from playoffs contention and are now looking ahead to the offseason and possibly to new coaching staffs.

  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-10) were beaten by the Dallas Cowboys 27-20 in “Jerry World.” The Bucs, like the Falcons and the Panthers are now in 2019 offseason mode and are likely to have changes to the coaching staff as well as at the starting quarterback position.

  • Crazy NFC South Stat of the Day: With one game to go in the 2018 regular season, the Saints have a seven-game lead over the second-place team in the division. Seven!!! Remember when this thing was competitive back in week 9? At that point the Panthers were 6-2, just one game behind the 7-1 Saints. The Falcons at 4-4 and the Bucs at 3-5 were still alive. Then the Saints said: Child, please!

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If the Playoffs Started Today

  • With a 13-2 record, the Saints have wrapped up the number one seed in the NFC playoffs and would be watching the Wild Card round comfortably from their couch just like us.

  • Half of the NFC Wild Card round would pit the three seed Chicago Bears (11-4) against the sixth seed Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1) in an NFC North battle. On the other side, the fifth seed Seattle Seahawks (9-6) would travel to the four seed Dallas Cowboys (9-6).

  • It is important to note that the Vikings are not qualified for the playoffs yet. A win by the Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) against the now-eliminated Washington Redskins (7-8) in week 17 and a loss by Minnesota against the Bears would see Philadelphia earn the sixth seed in the playoffs.

NFC Standings Through Week 16, Courtesy of NFL.com. * = clinched playoffs and home field advantage. z = clinched division. x = clinched playoff berth.

  • According to fivethirtyeight.com, the Saints further increased their lead in the NFL in ELO rating with a +7 after their win over the Steelers. For a second consecutive week, the Kansas City Chiefs, saw their rating decrease, this time by 23 after their 38-31 road-loss to the Seattle Seahawks last night. New Orleans’ estimated chances to win the Super Bowl stayed at 32%. Note that the second-best odds are a distant 17% for the Chiefs. Having the number one seed in the NFC is rightfully considered a huge advantage for the Saints.
NFL Top 10 ELO-Ratings and Playoffs Odds - Courtesy of fivethirtyeight.com

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What’s Next?

  • For the Saints’ starters, this is likely what next week’s game will look like:
Courtesy of Giphy

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Hey, how come you’re still here reading? Get on with your day already and go enjoy the holidays!!!

Poll

With the number one seed in hand, what should the Saints do in week 17?

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    Rest everyone that matters, we need to get healthy!
    (139 votes)
  • 16%
    Play the starters for a half, you don’t want to be too rusty
    (43 votes)
  • 2%
    Get to 14 regular season wins, which the Saints have never reached under Payton
    (7 votes)
  • 28%
    Let’s see what Teddy Bridgewater can do!
    (75 votes)
  • 1%
    The Triple Bacon Cheeseburger is the real number one seed!
    (3 votes)
267 votes total Vote Now