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Beignets and Café au Lait: The Sheriff is Back in Town

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And his trigger finger is just fine, just ask the Arizona Cardinals

NFL: Arizona Cardinals 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?

And there it is: the 1-1 team that was left for dead seven weeks ago (looking at you, Stephen A. Smith) has just completed an incredible 6-game winning streak, with five of the said games without its future Hall of Fame quarterback.

Drew Brees’ return to the Saints’ starting lineup yesterday was big news in the NFL, and amazingly, it was welcomed with mixed feelings by some, including many Saints fans. Would Brees be rusty? Was his thumb properly healed? Teddy Bridgewater had played so well in Brees’ absence, didn’t he deserve one more start while Brees rested for two more weeks with a bye coming up? These were the type of questions and concerns that were heard when the Saints announced that Brees would be starting against the Arizona Cardinals in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this past Sunday afternoon.

Brees had said that he would return to the lineup only when ready, and boy did he ever look the part! In a 31-9 victory against Arizona, Brees was 34 of 43 (79% completion rate) for 373 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. But beyond the cold hard numbers, what was most impressive was Brees’ timing with his receivers: nearly flawless. His grip on the football also looked perfect, with no apparent ill effects from the splinter and tape on his right thumb.

Now, at 7-1 and atop a crumbling NFC South, the Saints are going into their bye week with a ton of momentum and ample time to further heal key players such as running back Alvin Kamara and tight end Jared Cook. In a stacked NFC that features teams such as the San Francisco 49ers (7-0) and the Green Bay Packers (7-1), New Orleans has two weeks to get ready for a second half of the season run in which every game will count in terms of positioning for the increasingly probable postseason. Enjoy the upcoming stress-free week, Who Dat Nation, you’ve earned it!

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Five Numbers...That Don’t Lie

· 157: The total number of yards by Saints’ running back Latavius Murray against the Arizona Cardinals yesterday. With the 2019 New Orleans Saints, nothing is truer than the “next-man-up” cliché. With Alvin Kamara out for the second consecutive game, Murray rushed 21 times for 102 yards, a whopping 4.9 yards-per-rush. He also caught nine passes for 55 yards. He scored a rushing touchdown and caught a touchdown. He has now proven to the Saints’ coaching staff that not only can he be counted on, he deserves to be an integral part of the offensive game plan, even after the return of Alvin Kamara to the lineup. It took a bit of time, but the Saints once again have a true one-two punch in the backfield and that is bad news for any opposing defenses that will face the Saints going forward.

· 73: The number of receptions by wide receiver Michael Thomas through eight games. That ranks first in the NFL. Thomas has 763 receiving yards, which also leads in the NFL. If you’re doing math at home, the Saints’ number one receiver is on pace for 146 receptions for 1526 yards! What is utterly remarkable about these numbers is that the second pass catcher in terms of receptions for New Orleans this season is not even a wide receiver: it is running back Alvin Kamara, with 33. The next wide receiver with the most catches is Ted Ginn Jr. with 20 on the year. In other words, despite opposing teams knowing that Thomas is the main and nearly the only true receiving threat in the Saints’ offense, he still manages to catch everything thrown his way. The Saints’ front office can pat itself on the back for that draft pick.

· 10: The total number of first downs allowed to the Arizona Cardinals by the Saints yesterday. Here’s something that should surprise you less and less: The New Orleans Saints have a very, very good defense, y’all and people are noticing around the league. In their three-game winning streak preceding the contest against New Orleans, Arizona averaged 23 first downs per game. In the Mercedes-Benz Superdome yesterday, wunderkind Kyler Murray found the going a little tougher than he had experienced previously. For good measure, Arizona was also 2-for-12 on third down (17%), 0-for-2 on fourth down and did not score a touchdown. Take that for data!

· 4. The rank of Saints’ defensive end Cameron Jordan in the NFL in terms of sacks through eight games. New Orleans sacked Kyler Murray three times yesterday, and Cam Jordan recorded his eighth sack of the season. That ties him with Danielle Hunter of the Minnesota Vikings, behind only Shaquil Barrett of the Buccaneers (10), Myles Garrett of the Browns (10) and Chandler Jones of the Cardinals (8.5). If you wanted another reason why the Saints’ defensive line has been so good this year, it is anchored by one of the very best in the NFL.

· 3: The number of receiving touchdowns for Saints’ backup quarterback Taysom Hill through eight games this season. That number is significant because it is the most TD receptions by a quarterback since Kordell Stewart did it in 1996, when he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers. That year, as the backup to Mike Tomczak, Stewart caught 17 passes for 293 yards and three receiving touchdowns. Anyone wants to bet that Taysom Hill will break that record before this season is over?

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Beignets and Café au Lait Awards

· Fresh Beignets with Hot Coffee: Drew Brees. We take Brees for granted, don’t we? Despite the magnificence that he has shown throughout his years in New Orleans, some in the Who Dat Nation and around the NFL were quick to state that Teddy Bridgewater should’ve played yesterday. I even read some (gasp!) who thought Bridgewater should remain the starter until the end of the season. What? Have we such short memories? Despite not having played a lick of competitive football since September 15, Brees looked as though he hadn’t left the field at all. There was no hesitancy, there was the quick release, the uncanny ability to throw receivers open, the calm and complete command of the huddle. Yes, there was also the customary “What the heck?” throw to Zach Line that resulted in an interception. But if we take some of the emotion out of it, we can all admit that the Saints are better with Brees at quarterback than they are with Bridgewater. And that is no shot at “Teddy Two Gloves,” whom I love in a Saints uniform. At this point of their respective career however, Brees is still the better option.

· More Fresh Beignets with Tasty Coffee: Dennis Allen. Not every cook can make a great meal with great ingredients. Yes, the Saints have drafted well as of late and have accumulated a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball. But for the past three years, Saints’ defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has called plays that have put his players in a position to maximize their talent. His defenses have improved as the seasons go on, indicating that he has been willing and able to self-scout and get better game after game, not only with personnel but also with schemes. Given his success the last couple of seasons, Allen may not be in New Orleans for very long, as other teams might try to poach him. But count me in the number of those who hope that he stays with the Saints for a few more years, at least until Drew Brees retires.

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What’s Next?

· The Saints are on vacation, as they have now entered their much-needed bye week. The break couldn’t have been scheduled better, as it splits the regular season evenly. New Orleans will be mending its wounded while hoping that its main division rivals keep tumbling. Next week, the Carolina Panthers (4-3) who were blown out 51-13 by the San Francisco 49ers (7-0) yesterday will be welcoming the Tennessee Titans (3-4). The Titans were kind enough to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5) yesterday. These same Bucs will be traveling to Seattle to face the Seahawks (5-3) next, which does not bode well for our good old pirates. The hapless Atlanta Falcons (1-7) are on a bye like the Saints, and will be pondering whether to fire their head coach Dan Quinn. The ghost of 28-3 is real in Atlanta. Is that a big laughter I hear coming out of the Who Dat Nation?

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Super Bowl Odds

Following their win against the Cardinals yesterday, according to fivethirthyeight.com, the Saints remain with the second-best odds of winning the Super Bowl at 19% (up from 17% last week), behind only the Pats (30%, up from 26% last week). Rounding out the top five are the streaking Green Bay Packers (9%), the still-undefeated San Francisco 49ers (9%), and the Kansas City Chiefs (5%). New Orleans’ odds of winning the NFC South increased from 86% to 91%, followed by the Panthers (9%, down from 14% last week). Both the Bucs (< 1%) and Falcons (< 1%) have virtually no chance to win the division or to make the playoffs.

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Hey, how come you’re still here? Get some work done! Unless you’re still drunk from celebrating the return of Breesus, in which case, carry right on.

Poll

Who is your Saints MVP at the halfway point of the 2019 NFL season?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Teddy Bridgewater. He kept the team afloat during Brees’ absence
    (75 votes)
  • 40%
    The defense. They have carried the team during Brees’ absence
    (165 votes)
  • 30%
    Sean Payton, who kept his team fully engaged while facing adversity
    (124 votes)
  • 1%
    Cam Jordan, who has anchored one of the best defenses in the NFL
    (7 votes)
  • 8%
    Michael Thomas, who is basically the Saints’ receiving corps
    (35 votes)
  • 1%
    Everyone knows that the Triple Big Mac with cheese is the real MVP
    (5 votes)
411 votes total Vote Now