Depending on how the previous 13 games go the final three weeks of the NFL season could be either a well deserved rest period for the Saints, or the final stretch run to tie up the division. If these games turn out anything like how I have scouted them to this point then the former is far more likely than the latter. Last year the Saints fought through an extremely difficult schedule and were also dealing with reaclimating to the return of the head coach and the aging nature of their offense. I watch ESPN and the NFL Network for the most part to give me opportunities to heckle all the Brady praises and the people who want to label Jim Harbaugh as a genius, but ignore his five year old antics. This year the Saints have what should be a much kinder schedule that has enough legitimate challenges dispersed throughout that they should secure a strong record without being totally beaten down.
Week 15: Saints at Chicago Bears.
As far as off-season’s go the Chicago Bears was pretty uneventful. They really only made two moves of note; they stole center Brian De La Puente (sorta) from the Saints and made what essentially amounts to a lateral move in letting go of Julius Peppers and signing Jared Allen. I am tempted to make comments about Allen being an aging player, but with the kind of motor this guy has had his whole career I refuse to count him out as a viable threat until proven otherwise. Lamarr Houstan is also a good pickup, but it remains to be seen if he can go from notable to star…let’s hope that he doesn’t at least in this week. The problem that the Bears represent has nothing to do with the players they added, and as high as I was on Kyle Fuller before the draft he is still going to be a rookie corner and will take some time to fully mature into the NFL game. What scares me about the Bears is two names: Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Lots of people will talk about the weather, and I won’t discount that becoming a significant obstacle to the Saints, as it would be to any other opponent, but considering NO has a vastly superior defense to the Bears at this point (how wondrous is it to say that guys?) the weather is a wash. Those two players on the other hand have the ability to be the best receiver tandem in the league this year and by a very large margin. Both have freakish measurable and run very good routes, but what might make them the most dangerous is the fact that they have hands to make the miraculous look like the mundane. When your QB is Jay Cutler who has never been considered an accurate passer by any means nothing could be more valuable.
The bottom line: If the Saints can contain Marshall and Jeffery and keep them from both going off I give the advantage to the Saints because they are simply the better team. If the Saints can get a pass rush on Jay and make him do ‘the Jay Cutler shuffle’ and throw the ball away…then I think this game is a great chance to send a message by getting a convincing win over a potential division winner. Stopping the Bears dynamic receivers is absolutely priority number one, and the other priority is to play smart level-headed football. Chicago in December is a place where more often than not slow and steady wins the race.
Week 16: Falcons at Saints
Like the Carolina game and the Bucs game in week 17 I am not going to do in depth coverage of a team I have already looked at. The scouting report for the Falcons remains mostly the same, however with the Saints in the dome I fully expect a good old fashioned NFC South Beatdown. The only caveat that may need to be added to that is there is a legitimate chance that the Saints pull their starters after the first half depending on how the division race is going and where they rank as far as the top seed in the NFC.
Week 17: Saints at Bucs
Unless something goes horribly wrong with the Season this game will mean absolutely nothing to the Saints and so I am going to go out on a limb here and wish Ryan Griffin luck on his first career start.
my next post will be my predictions for the Saints season and my pre-season prediction for the Superbowl (hint pigs may be flying again…and who doesn’t love flying bacon? I mean really.)