Category Archives: Saints

Predictions NFC South

Chris Schisler

New Orleans Saints: 11-5
Reason: The New Orleans Saints are an offensive powerhouse. The addition of Jairus Byrd will help the back end of their secondary tremendously. I am still of the opinion that Drew Brees + Sean Payton = NFC South Championship. Last year was an exception to this rule. The Saints schedule is not all that tough.

Carolina Panthers: 9-7
Reason: The Panthers lost their biggest playmaker (Steve Smith). They lost their left tackle. Last season the offense was not explosive enough to win it all despite a championship caliber defense. Now the offense looks worse even if Cam Newton takes a step forwards. The Gregg Hardy suspension that is likely to be substantial hurts the defense.

Atlanta Falcons: 7-9
Reason: The Falcons secondary is of chief concern to me. The entire defense is questionable at best. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White can only do so much. The offense desperately misses Tony Gonzales. Gonzales was the “X-factor” that made the Falcons passing game scary good. I may be giving the Falcons more credit than they deserve; they have brutal stretches in this schedule.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5-11
Reason: With a brutal schedule and no quarterback this is simple. Josh McCown may have talent around him. But the Bucs are not going to outscore Brees, Newton and Ryan with McCown. I could be wrong but Im not betting on this team.

Poisitinally Speaking

-Chris Schisler

So there I am, eating leftover pepperoni and sausage pizza and waking up watching NFL Network’s NFLAM. There was some intersting football talk, once they got past the mandatory Manziel report. (They called him the new Tebow. This is stupid because he is the anti-Tebow. That’s alright though, as Billy Joel so eloquently sang “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.” Manziel has talent, Tebow’s career died young). The interesting part though was when they discussed Eric Ebron’s comments on hybrid positions. They played a clip where Detroit’s rookie tight end essentially stated that the new age tight ends are receivers than anything else. And that there needs to be a hybrid position for tight ends who can all of the sudden catch.

Tight ends have changed over the years but someone needs to teach Eric Ebron some history. Ozzie Newsome had 662 receptions and 47 touchdowns in his playing career that lasted from 1978-1990. Mike Ditka had 427 receptions and 43 touchdowns in the 60’s and 70’s. John Mackey of the Baltimore Colts had 331 receptions and 38 touchdowns from 1963-1972. While tight ends have evolved into a bigger part of the passing game, tight ends catching passes is nothing new.

However there is a point to Ebron’s comments and as usual it comes down to money. Jimmy Graham of the saints is fighting his franchise tag designation of tight end. He claims that he plays more as a wide receiver. He has a point as he very rarely blocks and catches over 80 passes a season. The Saints have him lined out as a wide receiver routinely and he is usually flexed out like a slot receiver. Graham would make more money designated as a tight end. The wide receiver tag is roughly $12 million dollars, the tight end tag is roughly $7 million dollars. This is a substantial difference.

Tight ends are not alone in this however. Some outside linebackers routinely align as a defensive end. Starting corners are sometimes played in the nickel position. 4-3 defensive ends tend to make mire money than 3-4 defensive ends because they get more sacks. The tight end is not the only position with this problem, rather they are the position that has taken this spot light.

So what should be done? Everything hinges on Jimmy Graham. If Graham’s grievance works and he gets his way, well then its a brand new ball game. If Graham is told to stop whining and be a tight end nothing will change. Graham is more valuable to the Saints than any receiver. He has a point but will likely lose the battle. Tight ends by nature are a jack of all trades. They can block and they can catch. They are allowed to line up next to the offensive tackle, as a receiver, even in the backfield. The definition of tight end is broad in the first place and there are different kinds of tight ends. This does not help Graham’s case. He may be revolutionizing the position but I doubt he changes the way tight ends get paid under a franchise tag.

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Season Preview NFC South

Last season the Carolina Panthers won the NFC South with dominant defense and the emergence of Cam Newton as a superstar. The Panthers look to win the division again in 2014 but it will be harder. The Saints will be tough as always; and the Falcons and Buccaneers will be better. The division will not be easily won, but it should be fun to watch.

Carolina has had an active offseason to say the least. It started by releasing their fan favorite receiver, Steve Smith. The Panthers then added Jericho Cotchery, Jason Avant and drafted Kelvin Benjamin at wide receiver. The Panthers big question: do they have enough star power around cam Newton? There is no questioning the defense, as it could be even better in 2014.

The Saints are opposites to Carolina; which makes for two intriguing showdowns each season. The Saints offense is never the problem. Quarterback Drew Brees and head coach Sean Peyton have an incredible chemistry that is demonstrated on the field. The Saints big question is always their defense. It had seemed at times in 2013 Rob Ryan had fixed the defense. However there were also times when the Saints defense was exposed as fools gold. The Saints made a big move to truly fix their defensive woes by singing Jairus Byrd an elite free safety. They also signed veteran cornerback Champ Bailey.

New Orleans will be good. They will be in it to win it-in terms of battling for the division championship. Drew Brees will put up mega numbers as he always does. Jimmy Graham and Marquise Colston are a dynamic duo. Kenny Stills has emerged as a deep threat and first round slot receiver Brandin Cooks is an good addition. The Saints traded Darren Sproles to the Eagles. Sproles was very productive as Sean Peyton creatively found ways to get him the ball. The Saints running game should be solid enough however.

The Buccaneers also have a lot of fire power offensively. Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and Austin Seffarian-Jenkins are big bodied weapons who can go get the jump balls. Doug Martin should be back to his dominating ways and Charles Simms is the perfect complement. Lovie Smith is a defensive guru and he will bring the Tampa 2 back to Tampa. The Buccaneers will be fine on defense. They have talent all around the offense. The question is can Josh McCown, a career back up, deliver the mail successfully? Can Mike Glennon do the job if McCown fails? Tampa Bay could be a surprise team of 2014, but they need good quarterback play. Without it they are SOL in the NFC South.

Atlanta had a miserable 2013. A year after falling 1 game short of the Super Bowl, they found themselves with the 6th pick of the NFL draft. The Falcons have focused on their defense this offseason. Jonathan Babineaux, Paul Soliai and rookie Ra’Shede Hageman will beef up their defensive front. Atlanta still could use another pass rusher, and needs to find a Tony Gonzales replacement at tight end. The Falcons have plenty offensive fire power and should have a better season.

Predictions
Carolina 11-5
New Orleans 10-6
Atlanta 8-8
Tampa Bay 7-9

Saints Blunders, Seahawks Prevail

Chris Schisler

The New Orleans Saints lost a game to the Seattle Seahawks that was there for the taking. The Seahawks led from start to finish but failed to stick the dagger into their opponents. Drew Brees and the Saints had a game filled with miscues and they got the loss they earned.

The first quarter went Seattle’s way, but only to the tune of a 6-0 lead. The Saints defense let the Seahawks march down the field but held them to two field goals. That is a win for the defense on a day where the offense needed all the help it could get.

The Saints came into the game determined to have a strong run game. It looked like the plan was working early on. The first play the Saints had from scrimmage was an 8 yard run by Mark Ingram. There was 1 problem to this plan. The Saints could not hold on to the football.

A fumble early in the second quarter cost New Orleans dearly. The Seahawks took advantage of the short field. Seattle did very little wrong in the first half. Before you could blink it was halftime with a score of 16-0. The most shocking statistic 34 first half passing yards from Drew Brees.

The Saints missed 2 field goals, turned the ball over, had poor clock management and had costly penalties. The list of blunders seems to go on forever.

With all of the miscues on the part of the Saints, the Seahawks should have won by a much larger margin. The Seattle offense was not spectacular. The run game was great, but then again the Saints run defense was horrible. The Seahawks did just enough offensively to win the game.

The Seahawks defense played very well. There was nothing open down the field. Jimmy Graham was a non factor. The Saints offense was stifled and frustrated by Seattle’s intense defense. The Saints were guided by multiple should have been interceptions that were dropped. One Brees pass got the Saints into field goal range after it was tipped by a Seahawks defender.

The Seahawks did a lot right; but they kept Saints fans with a breath of hope until the very end. The Saints made every mistake you could make and then some. At the end of the day the Seahawks won. That is all that matters.

Last Minute Thoughts on Seahawks/ Saints

Stuck at work, pushing carts in the rain I thought about football. It was all I could do to fake smiles and wish the masses a good day. I came up with some ideas about the Seahawks game against the Saints that I deemed worth sharing.

There is one thought that keeps pounding through my brain. It is really more of a question than a thought. Who are the New Orleans Saints? I do not question their offense. But who are the Saints defensively?

It was hard not to be impressed with the Saints run defense against Philadelphia’s elusive LeSean McCoy. It is equally challenging to be sold on the Saints defense. Every time I am impressed with the defense they let me down. Do I have to remind Saints fans of Zach Stacey?

I have come to the conclusion, that the Saints can be dominated on the ground. If I am correct not to trust Rob Ryan’s squad then Seattle will be able to pound the rock in tonight’s game. I expect a big day out of Marshawn Lynch.

Why do I not trust the Saints defense? Ryan’s defense is over aggressive. The defensive linemen tend to take themselves out of the play. Linebackers get caught in the trash. Pre snap motions force the defense to adjust. The Saints often get out of position before the snap of the ball. (I would run unbalanced sets and counter to the weak side). The run defense can be good when the linemen do their jobs. I don’t think they can be consistent enough to be a great defense.

The Seahawks love to run the football. In a Twitter conversation this morning @RealBobManning wondered how the Seahawks would use Percy Harvin. That is when the fun started for my football mind.

I thought against an over aggressive defense a couple of options would be a Harvin reverse or a jet sweep (possibly a designed shovel pass on jet sweep play).

I also thought about Seattle running a wildcat offense. As much as I tend to loathe this kink to the NFL running game the match up favors it. Imagine Lynch taking the direct snap with Harvin coming across for the potential sweep rush. If you could use the jet sweep successfully once, the Saints may overreact to it. Just the threat of Harvin burning them again would set up big runs from Lynch.

Here is a non wildcat idea. If the Saints blitz Russell Wilson this could backfire. Russell Wilson is best when he rolls out and can kill you with both his legs and his arm. Blitzing Wilson may force him to roll out feeding into Wilson’s strengths. I’m not saying not to apply pressure but blitzes should be designed to keep Russell Wilson in the pocket.

We already know the zone read play will be a great option all day.

The Saints defense needs to play smart in this game. Defensive linemen cannot back door plays. Linebackers must flow to the football. Outside contain is critical. There should always be a man responsible for the cut back.

I hope you enjoyed my ideas about the game. I find it fitting that I thought up this article while in the rain; weather is another big factor in this game.

Preview NFC Divisional game: Seahawks Host Saints

Preview NFC Divisional game: Seahawks Host Saints

-Chris Schisler

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The last time the New Orleans Saints went to Seattle they probably felt a lot better about themselves. They had been on an absolute tear to that point of the season with a 9-2 record and ambitions of earning the number 1 seed in the NFC. The Saints have been trying to regain that confidence ever since they left Seattle with a 34-7 loss. The Saints finished losing three of their last 5 games including back to back losses to St. Louis and division foe Carolina. The Saints went from the front runner in the NFC South to a wild card who scrapped their way into the playoffs with a win against Tampa Bay. Now New Orleans has a chance for redemption in the stadium where their demons originate.

The Seattle Seahawks are an incredibly tough team to beat, especially on the road. They play in a stadium that broke a decibel record as the loudest stadium in the NFL. Seattle boasts a top defensive unit that is strong up front all the way through the secondary. They have arguably the best secondary in the NFL and their corners are like glue in man coverage. Earl Thomas is one of the league’s most feared safeties and he pursues to the football like a freight train. The scary thing is I have not even mentioned their offense. The offense is just as physical as the defense and they love to run the football with Marshawn Lynch who is glowingly adored by fans as “Beastmode.” Russell Wilson is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. He is a great passer and is legs are as dangerous as his feet. If you put a gun to my head demanding I tell you who the best football team was I would tell you it is the Seattle Seahawks.

In the 34-7 game the Seahawks dominated every aspect of the game. The defense created havoc in the backfield and the secondary beat up the Saints flashy weapons. New Orleans could not run the football, they could not throw it, the only thing they could do was seemingly go backwards. The Seahawks offense cut through the Saints as if they were playing on air. Russell Wilson threw to 9 different players and had 310 passing yards and 3 touchdowns and also rushed for 47 yards. The Saints contributed to the beat down with poor play but the Seahawks played absolutely phenomenal.

While the game was a deafening statement from the Seattle Seahawks it seems unlikely that they could replicate that performance. With Drew Brees and Sean Payton at the helm I would expect nothing less than a great performance from the Saints. The Saints now have a worst case scenario. They have a nightmare they should learn from and they will go about this game differently.

The significance of that blow out however cannot be understated. It was the first time of the season that their weaknesses were exposed. There were now glaring problems with the Saints that other opponents could exploit. The run defense was a real problem; a problem that Zach Stacy of the Rams exploited two games later to the tune of 133 yards and a touchdown. The offensive line could be dominated. In the Saints back to back losses to St. Louis and Carolina, Drew Brees threw 4 interceptions. The Seahawks proved that pass rush could completely knock the timing of the Saints prolific passing game. While I think this blow out game is an outlier for New Orleans it did expose their flaws.

If the Saints are to redeem themselves and go to the NFC Championship game, pass protection has to be their area of major emphasis. Sean Peyton had the answer for protecting Drew Brees in the Saints wild card victory against the Eagles. He used many different personnel groupings and frequently used bigger less spread out formations with multiple tight ends. The Saints were able to run the ball with great success which set up the beautiful bombs we are accustomed to seeing from Brees and company. I would expect the Saints to stick to this formula. If the Saints try to spread the Seahawks out and burn them with a pass happy attack they will be burnt by the Seattle defensive line.

The Saints have more weapons than the United States military. They have the league’s best tight end in Jimmy Graham, and a bevy of wide receivers. They also have three running backs with different skill sets. I would expect the Saints to use Darren Sproles heavily in the passing game. There is no linebacker or safety that can keep up with Sproles and getting him in the open field should be a priority. I would also expect Sean Peyton to bunch up his receivers and use passing concepts that make it hard to play man coverage. The Seahawks play a lot of Cover 3 so the deep pass will have to be set up with a good rushing attack. The Saints have no chance to win this game if they cannot run the football. If the Saints are seeing a lot of man they must have man beating plays like crossing routes and this is when they need to get Sproles in a favorable match up. The Saints receivers need to help Drew Brees. They need to be able to go up and snag the football in one on one match ups. They also need to make themselves available to Brees when he is running for his life. Brees will have to be able to improvise and the receivers have to be in on the act.

The Seattle Seahawks know exactly what they need to do. They need to create relentless pressure in the backfield. They need to stop the Saints running attack and make them one dimensional. The Saints are going to make big plays, this is a reality that any defense has to accept. The Seahawks must make sure these big plays don’t get New Orleans in the red zone. Settling for field goals is a sure fire way to lose this game and that goes for both teams.

It is tough to bet against the Seahawks here. With the more complete team and home field advantage the Seattle is the definite favorite. I expect a great game from both teams but I think the Seahawks are just too strong for the Saints. If there is a guy who can defy the odds it is Drew Brees. It will be fun to watch and we’ll see what happens in this heavyweight fight.

Saints vs Eagles: Recapping Wild Card Saturday

Saints vs Eagles: Recapping Wild Card Saturday

-Chris Schisler

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The New Orleans Saints came to Philadelphia for what seemed likely to be a shootout featuring two high octane offenses in the NFL’s second playoff game. The game did not start that way as the first quarter ended without a score and Alex Henry missed a field goal early in the second. When Drew Brees threw an interception (that was mostly receiver Kenny Still’s fault) my Twitter timeline was full with the groupthink idea that Brees and the Saints can’t play on the road and in the cold.

The Saints seemed determined to sustain long drives on offense. They were committed to the run game. After the Henry field goal attempt the Saints had a drive that lasted almost 5 minutes before a Jimmy Graham fumble in the red zone. The play however was reviewed and reversed the Saints retained possession and faced a 4th & short. This is where New Orleans made one of their worst mistakes. Benjamin Watson was called for a false start and the Saints settled for a field goal. This must have been a wild swing of emotions for the Saints faithful. First they think their star tight end gave away the ball, and then they think they convert on 4th and 1 and finally they kick a field goal.

The Eagles intercepted Drew Brees for the second time with 4:12 left in the first half. This was a big opportunity for the Eagles. They had a chance to turn a Saints mistake into points to capture the lead and momentum before the first half expired. That is exactly what the Philadelphia Eagles did. On a 3rd & 9 quarterback Nick Foles found Riley Cooper leaping in the end zone for a touchdown.

On that scoring drive a Saints defensive player was injured. Chip Kelly was upset and the fans were booing vigorously which displayed a sickening trend in football. People now assume when a defensive player gets injured that he is just buying time for his teammates to catch their breaths and slow down the offense. It is embarrassing that this is assumed. While I admit it does happen you want to give players the benefit of the doubt. Injuries are not to be taken lightly and in a league that preaches player safety you must stop play and attend to the player down on the field. Remember, Atlanta fans booed New England defensive tackle Vince Wilfork who fell down; he had an injury that sidelined him for the entire season.

It was now a critical moment for the high powered Saints offense. The Saints absolutely needed a score before the half. The Saints managed to get into field goal range for newly acquired Shayne Graham. The drive was nothing special, Brees was sacked twice and the drive was kept alive by a penalty. Special or not New Orleans got 3 points at the end of the first half which made it a 1 point ball game.

Of Saturday’s two games you would expect the offense to come from the Saints and the Eagles. The Colts won 45-44 of their game and at the half of their Eagles led 7-6. Some of it was good defense. A lot of it was bad offense. Drew Brees threw 2 interceptions. One of these interceptions was not his fault, the other was a horrible decision. The Eagles only score came when the Saints gave them a short field. Both teams needed to execute better in the second half.

New Orleans came out with an impressive drive to start the second half. The Saints went down the field and scored with a well-executed 6 play touchdown drive. They set up a play action pass to the veteran Lance Moore with run formations and two strong runs from Mark Ingram including an 18 yarder.

On the subsequent drive Eagles receiver Riley Cooper dropped a pass on 3rd & 4 and the Eagles were forced to punt to the Saints. With a 13-7 lead the Saints had a huge opportunity with good field position to take command of the game.

The Saints took advantage of the opportunity with an 8 play touchdown drive. The Saints playcalling was great. They were able to protect Brees as he rifled completed passes. The Eagles had to respect the Saints run game that had been very productive tonight, especially in formations with multiple tight ends. 7-8 Eagles drives had ended without points. The Saints at this point scored two field goals and two touchdowns.

There was plenty of time left but if the Eagles could not come up with a score on the next drive they would be in a troubling situation. Nick Foles must have gotten the memo when he hit Desean Jackson for a 40 yard gain taking advantage of Saints corner Keenan Lewis’s injury. The big pass play set up the Eagles second touchdown drive to make it a 20-14 game. Early in the 4th quarter the Saints went three and out and the Eagles offense went right back to work. They had found their rhythm and the Saints secondary problems helped the pass game. The Eagles had to settle for a field goal however and the Eagles cut it to a 3 point Saints lead.

On the next drive Drew Brees found Robert Meachum who got behind the safeties for a 40 yard strike. The momentum that the Eagles had accrued had seemingly vanished. If the Saints scored a touchdown they would be up two scores with only 8 minutes remaining. The Eagles however had other ideas. The Saints squandered the opportunity, scoring only a field goal. This made the score 23-17 and it was still anyone’s ball game.

8 plays later the Eagles scored a touchdown and a PAT and were up by one point. Desean Jackson drew a PI call again on the backup corner that put the ball on the 1 yard line. The Saints trailed by 1.

The next Saints drive started with great field position after Darren Sproles was horse collar tackled after an already outstanding return. The Saints were able to run the clock out and kick a field goal. The New Orleans Saints won their first road playoff game in their history. The New Orleans Saints ended a great day of football with clutch play.