It’s Remarkable how big a difference one point makes.
The season is only a week old but in the NFL every win and loss is heavily scrutinized. It’s just how it is the era of multiple full time sports networks, radio talk shows and social media platforms for fans to give their opinions. Due to it, there tends to be at times oh overreactions on a week-to-week basis.
This could be one of those weeks as the New Orleans Saints (0-1) visit the New York Giants (1-0) by saying this is a must win game for the black and gold as both team come off of one point games last Sunday.
Saints head coach Sean Payton hates it when reporters ask if a game is a must win, or a big win, or an important one. “They all are”, coach has said in the past and he is right. That said there are levels of importance right? After all it was Payton who said the Wednesday prior to the start of training camp that the start of the season would be important to the team’s post-season hopes.
Week 5 is when the Saints get their bye-week and after that will face the Panthers, Chiefs, Seahawks, 49ers, Broncos and Panthers in a tough six-game stretch. It’s clear you would like to get as many wins as possible prior to the gauntlet.
A 3-1 record into the bye would have been nice, 4-0 real nice. 2-2 would seem like a poor start and a 1-3 open could be potentially disastrous. True the season is long and overreacting to one loss or win is never smart as many things can happen to the Saints much less other teams on the schedule between now and game day.
First round pick Sheldon Rankins will be back after the midway point of the season to help the defensive line and cornerback Delvin Breaux will also return around the same time and clearly they will help the defense.
You never want to dig to big of a hole however and a loss this Sunday would have a Saints team taking to the field against a division opponent on Monday Night Football with them facing questions of trying to avoid an 0-3 start.
In New York, there is excitement as the “G-Men” went on the road and picked up a division win in Dallas for first year head coach Ben McAdoo. Sports talk in the Big Apple are penciling the Saints as a team New York should beat and one many expect could be a replay of last years offensive shootout. The Saints won that game in November 52-49 as New Orleans put up 608 yards of offense as QB Drew Brees tossed seven touchdown passes and QB Eli Manning tossed six.
Funny how one point changes how one feels about an upcoming game. IF the Saints had been the team that made enough plays to win, the storyline would be about how the Saints defense is better than the past as they closed out the win. New York fans maybe talking about how they failed to close out if the Cowboys receiver had gone out of bounds to allow a game winning field goal to take place.
So we won’t overreact too much. The Saints however are a loss away from beginning the process.
The Storyline this week is simple. Can the Saints defense slow the Giants down as once again it appears after one week that the offense will have to carry the Black and Gold.
It’s nothing new to Saints fans, watching Drew Brees do all he can to keep his team in the game. Heck it just last week where we saw Brees throw for 423 yards and 4 touchdowns in a loss that saw the offense put up 507 yards of offense.
The defense hasn’t been good. Since the start of last season opponents have been able to pass on the Saints, 46 touchdowns to just 9 interceptions during that time frame.
Delvin Breaux suffered a broken fibula in the opener and will be out at least six weeks, which means that now the Saints cornerbacks are pretty much all-first year players. De’Vante Harris, P.J. Williams, and Ken Crawley are all going into their second career regular season game. How will they be able to matchup against two veteran receivers and a rookie will be the key.
A way to help the young secondary is to pressure Eli Manning as the Saints pressure Oakland’s Derek Carr several times, flushing him out of the pocket, but failing to bring him down a single time. The defense had it’s moments keeping the Raiders from scoring in the second quarter and holding them to just three points in the third.
22 points in the fourth though showed me the lack of depth and fatigue that is a concern heading into a game where they will face a no-huddle offense run by a two-time Super Bowl MVP in Manning.
New York enters the game 1-0 following a 20-19 win at Dallas. QB Eli Manning hit receiver Victor Cruz for one of his three TD passes to put the Giants ahead with six minutes remaining.
It was Cruz’s first full game in two years as he suffered a knee injury in 2014 that has kept him from action. Cruz finished with four grabs for 34 yards and a touchdown. LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. also had 4 catches for 73 yards. 2nd round draft pick receiver Sterling Shepard had 3 receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown.
New York tried to upgrade their defense from a season ago, one that was as bad as the Saints statistically and they failed to record a sack last Sunday.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Saints offense after the opening week is ranked first overall in the NFL. New Orleans is 1st in passing in passing and 19th in rushing. New York is the 22nd ranked offense as the Giants are 22nd in passing and 12th in rushing.
Defensively the Saints finished the opening week second to last overall thanks to the 35 points and 486 total yards allowed to the Raiders (Oakland is last). New York is 13th overall as they are ranked 14th against the pass and 18th against the run
ESPN’s Week 2 power rankings saw the Giants move up one to 16 and the Saints move up 3 spots to 24 from last week’s 27th slot.
QB Drew Brees needs just 36 yards on Sunday to move past Dan Marino for third place on the NFL’s all-time passing yards list. Marino sits at 61,361 yards. Brees last year pass Dan “The Man” for third place on the all-time touchdown list. Currently Brees is at 432, behind Peyton Manning (530 TDs) and Brett Favre (508 TDs). Manning and Favre are also one and two on the all-time passing yardage list each with 71,000 yards.
HOW THE SOUTH IS WON
Tampa Bay 1-0 @ Arizona -7
New Orleans 0-1 @ NY Giants -4.5
San Francisco 1-0 @ Carolina -13.5
Atlanta 0-1 @ Oakland -5.0
PLAYER THAT NEEDS TO HAVE A GOOD GAME ON OFFENSE
QB Drew Brees. He was the pick last week and well he may be the permant pick every week if the defense doesn’t improve. The man threw 4 TDs and it wasn’t enough. I have a feeling he will have to have a similar game this week. Last year he needed 7 TD passes to beat the Giants. If he needs that many, the Saints got a real bargain in his latest contract extension.
PLAYER THAT NEEDS TO HAVE A GOOD GAME ON DEFENSE
DE Cam Jordan. One. Jordan had one tackle in the Raiders game and one QB hit. He has to be more of a factor in the game. I get that until others on the defensive line step up he will face double teams and such but I’m sorry his contract is one that says he is among if not the best player on your defense. The Saints will not win if they fail to pressure Manning and Cam Jordan can go a long way in doing that. Time to do it.
TE Coby Fleener. One catch for 6 yards was Fleener’s total last Sunday and well when you sign a deal that pays you $7 million a season it’s not good enough. The Giants no doubt will pay attention to WRs Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead and Michael Thomas will also have eyes trailing him. I believe the middle of the field could be and should be open for Fleener who will be matched up with a linebacker that he should be to take advantage of. A nice game from him can help the Saints win.
S Kenny Vaccaro. No doubt the Giants will try to use play action to go over the top and look for big plays from their recievers. The safeties for the Saints will be working a ton on Sunday. New York still likes to run the ball so they need to help there, help the young DBs they have, and in Vaccaro’s case get after Manning in a blitz or two.
HOW I SEE IT
The Saints put up 507 yards of offense at home and lost. I feel that’s enough to pick the Giants in this week’s matchup. New Orleans however should have won the game. Yes the pass interference call was a joke, but that game tying drive by Oakland in the final four and a half minutes exposed a lot of the Saints defensive deficiencies.
No doubt the Saints realize the importance of not going down 0-2 to start the season. I believe the team will be ready and play with the required energy and such. That’s not he issue. The issue is experience or lack their off for the Saints. A third year QB in Carr and second year receiver in Cooper figured it out and took advantage of them eventually in the game.
What’s Manning going to do? The Saints defense will get a stop or two but to expect them to be a deterrent for four quarters is wishful thinking. Brees and offense can score and I believe they will put up twenty plus points, the problem is they may need more than thirty
Giants win 31-23.
A new season is here and with it the excitement that this could be your year for post season excitement once again.
There’s only one problem. There doesn’t seem to be the typical over abundance of optimism about the Saints 2016 season as perhaps there has been or one has become accustomed to during the Sean Payton era.
Perhaps it’s the fact the team is coming off of yet another non-playoff season, the team’s third in the last four years.
Maybe it’s the fact the Saints went winless in four preseason games, yeah the games don’t count but boy they sure didn’t look good in the meaningless contests. You know the plays where starters were actually in the game and well didn’t play very well.
It could also be that the team has acted like we all have before a big house party or dinner and have forgotten items, rushing to the store to hurriedly hope we can make it all work just in time, by making late last-minute adjustments to the 53-man roster.
Take your pick but for whatever reason it seems Saints fans are expecting another season that will have fans and the team watching the post season from the comforts of their own living rooms.
“2-14”, said a gentleman at the gym this week. “Brees will get injured behind that offensive line.” The person he was speaking to in the conversation gave his opinion on the season’s record. “5-6 wins with a healthy Drew Brees.” It seems that even the most optimistic Saints fans feels that a 9-7 season would be a good one. Incredible when you consider three seasons ago the Saints were being talked about as Super Bowl contenders.
The Storylines to me have to do with as much of how the Saints play as it does with how good the Raiders are.
Here’s what I’m getting at. The Saints have 21 players on the roster that were not on the roster in 2016. Head coach Sean Payton this week tried to calm Who Dats’ nerves by saying that roster tinkering even post the mandated cut to 53 is normal, at this time of the year.
I agree, if it were to look for depth or to replace players injured during the preseason for example cornerback Damian Swann. The problem is coach is looking for players that will start or see significant snaps. Just since the final preseason game against the Ravens, the Saints have signed a new kicker in Will Lutz, a pass rusher in Paul Krueger, a nickel corner in Sterling Moore, and right guard in Jahri Evans.
That’s not to mention the hopes that rookies De’Vante Harris, Ken Crawley or P.J. Williams battling for the right to be the starting corner opposite of second year corner Delvin Breaux. There is also hope that second year player Andrus Peat will “fit” in at left guard now. Remember he was drafted to play right tackle, saw time at left tackle and guard last season and the vision was for him to start at right guard this season.
See my point? There is a lot of hope that pieces, and many of those being new pieces will come together quickly. It’s reasonable to assume that the opening game of the season will be a whirlwind for the team as both coaches and players trying to run as one well oiled machine. The reality is that it’ll be almost impossible.
The Raiders have had a season in which to learn and play with the key pieces that now make up their team. Carr has had two seasons under center and one full with Cooper as the team’s primary pass catcher. Del Rio has upgraded their offensive line but comes back mainly intact. The defense which was a strength picked up some additions there as well in free agency.
Oakland has an idea of who they at the very least and could argue that they do know and are now looking to take another step into becoming a winner. The Saints one could argue still in that first step of trying to figure out a competitive roster much less figuring out who they are.
So the task will be being able to assemble this group and get them to play on the same page enough against a team that realizes a season of great expectations begins with a good start.
Oakland enters the 2016 season with expectations of a team that is heading in the right direction and will contend for a spot in the AFC Playoffs at season’s end. The Raiders have not made the playoffs since 2003 but after a decision to tear down the roster a few years ago and rebuild with young pieces the franchise looks poised to be a contender.
Jack Del Rio heads up the team and made no bones about their intentions this year during preseason stating, “we come in expecting to win our division. That’s our goal, it’s our goal every year. We’re not going to back away from that.”
QB Derek Carr enters his third season under center and second year wide receiver Amari Cooper help form a pretty good offense as often over looked running back Latavius Murray is solid. Oakland also made a pair of moves this offseason to their already big offensive line, becoming bigger. Defensive End Khalil Mack leads the pass rushing attack for the raiders and he’s good receiving All-Pro votes at TWO positions last season. ESPN’s Charles Woodson went as far as pikcing Mack as the league MVP predicting he’d lead the Raiders to a Super Bowl win over the Packers.
The Raiders were 1-4 in the preseason winning their opener 31-10 over Arizona before losing 20-12 to Green Bay, 27-14 to Tennessee and 23-21 to Seattle.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Saints offense finished ranked second overall in the NFL behind Arizona. New Orleans was ranked tops in passing and 24th rushing. Oakland was 28th in rushing and 16th in passing for an overall ranking of the 24th ranked offense in the NFL.
Defensively the Saints finished second to last overall by giving up an average of 29.8 points per game and 413 of offense to opponents. New Orleans was second to last in passing yards allowed and second to last in yards allowed on the ground. Oakland was 26th in passing yards allowed but 13th in the league in yards allowed on the ground as they were ranked 22nd overall
ESPN released their power rankings this week and ranked the Saints 27th while ranking the Raiders 11th.
HOW THE SOUTH IS WON
Carolina 0-1 @ Broncos 1-0 21-20 F
Tampa Bay 0-0 @ Atlanta -3
Oakland 0-0 @ New Orleans -1
PLAYER THAT NEEDS TO HAVE A GOOD GAME ON OFFENSE
QB Drew Brees. He gave the team a hometown discount earlier in the week and now he’ll earn the payday as he’ll likely be under duress most of the afternoon. Brees will be tasked to avoid the turnovers that could hurt a defense stocked full of young and inexperienced players. The Saints offense has to convert on third downs and sustain drives to help out the defense. Brees has help as I believe the additions of WR Michael Thomas and TE Coby Fleener van be weapons. Brees unfortunately I believe will have to have a special day of 300 plus yards passing with at least 2 TD passes and no interceptions for the Saints to win.
PLAYER THAT NEEDS TO HAVE A GOOD GAME ON DEFENSE
LB James Laurinaitis. The newly acquired quarterback of the defense has a tall task. Fans probably look at his signing and want to equate a value based on production in tackles and such. Laurinaitis biggest contributions will be in simply telling people where to go. Alignment. Checking into the right formations to combat the offenses play call. It was something that rookie Stephon Anthony struggled with last season.
Teammates on that side of the ball have taken to his leadership and have raved about his knowledge. Here are the facts though: Laurinaitis has young players on the defensive line, linebacker and secondary positions. It’ll be a tall order to try and get guys lined up properly when the home crowd may actually work against you in terms of noise in key situations. Add the fact that he’ll likely have starters and players seeing their first regular season snaps on Sunday and well you can see why I wish him luck.
WR Willie Snead. Last season he was someone no one knew but became a player that Brees went to on third downs especially. A lot of attention will be paid to new draft pick Michael Thomas and pick up TE Coby Fleener. WR Brandin Cooks will get attention. Snead could be the one no one is thinking of and it could provide the Saints with a shot at a big play.
DB Young Bucks. De’Vante Harris, Ken Crawley, and P.J. Williams all are on the team because they made plays in OTAs, mini camp and training camp. They will be challenged as we saw in the Pittsburgh preseason game. The ability is there to make a play and making one could get the Who Dats rolling in the dome.
HOW I SEE IT
The Saints all offseason have shown signs that have the potential to be better than they were last year. Then the preseason hit and it just didn’t look good. Am I putting too much into what I saw in games that don’t count. Maybe. But I also don’t think there is a magical switch where players that couldn’t block air, can magically because it’s the regular season become All-Pro blockers. The offensive line is bad. That said the team bringing back Jahri Evans makes me feel better. Still Armstead is not fully healthy and Peat at best will be average at left guard in his first full game at that position. The Raiders defense is the real deal. Defensively the Saints are hoping ability outweighs youth and inexperience especially in the secondary.
It just seems to me you’re asking a lot for a team that picked up their starting RG, kicker, and pass rusher this week can get it all together against a team that believes they can compete in a division where the super bowl winner hails from and will play a team that won 11 straight last season.
The Saints will be better over the season with experience but not at the start. Raiders win 24-20.