Do you smell that Saints fans? That's the familiar smell of success (or possibly my gym socks?!). Breathe it in. Doesn't it smell a lot like 2009? Well it should, especially coming off that 2009-like balanced performance against the Dallas Cowboys.
After executing a diva-like performance against the Jets (extremely finessed), which saw the Saints rush the ball 13 times for 41 yards, New Orleans returned to its roots to the tune of 38 carries for 242 yards.
With running backs Mark Ingram (14 carries for 145 yards), Pierre Thomas (17 carries for 87 yards) and Darren Sproles (seven catches for 76 yards) all contributing, it undoubtedly brought back memories of 2009's three-headed monster of Thomas, Reggie Bush and Mike Bell.
But don't be confused, the Saints still put up 392 yards passing which helped annihilate the Cowboys by a score of 49-17 on Sunday night. The Cowboys took the kind of beating that some teams don't recover from.
Has anyone ever seen Mike Tyson's early opponents again? I didn't think so, and there's a reason for that.
We won't be seeing the Cowboys again this year either.
Even the harshest of critic must admit that if the Saints operate with that type of balance, there's not too many teams who can compete...especially in New Orleans.
As the San Francisco 49ers roll into town, the Saints will undoubtedly face their staunchest opponent to date. If you had to pick a team who could slow down the Saints, it would be one that defends the pass well (the 49ers are eighth against the pass), and rushes the ball proficiently (the 49ers are fifth in rushing).
The 49ers lost one of the most entertaining defensive battles you'll ever see to the Carolina Panthers (10-9) in their last outing. Expect a heavy dose of the rush because the 49ers are dead last in passing. Thus, dedicating extra help to the run might not be a bad idea.
|NFC South division standings|
|Team||Wins||Losses||Points for||Points against||Next opponent|
|New Orleans||7||2||265||163||San Francisco|
As predicted, the Panthers are right on the heels of the Saints. As great as the Saints demolition of the Cowboys was, the Panthers road defeat of San Francisco may have been even more impressive.
When you can go into someone else's house and hold them to three field goals, while only allowing 91 yards passing, you are doing something! The Panthers currently have the No. 2-ranked defense but are still struggling to find offensive consistency.
They are the 10th-ranked rushing offense, which when paired with a great defense is a formidable combination. They are currently on a five-game winning streak with a home contest against the Patriots looming.
With two games still remaining between the Saints and Panthers, each game becomes even more paramount.
Tampa picked up its first win on Monday Night Football against the reeling Miami Dolphins. Call me crazy (among other things), but if Tampa is able to attract a good offensive-minded coach, they can do damage as early as next season. They are 13th in total defense, and fifth in rushing defense (giving up 3.8 yards per carry).
They play a brand of football that's conducive to a quick turnaround. Watch out for Tampa in 2014.
Atlanta is afraid to make tough decisions with personnel and often rely on stars to compete. A team like New Orleans has built so much depth, that it's hard to imagine a few injuries derailing their season (sans the quarterback).
Atlanta needs to trade some of its older players and load up on youth, as they are easily the least talented team in the division (depth wise).
|Injury report prior to the Dallas game|
|WR Marques Colston||Knee||Questionable|
|G Jahri Evans||Hip||Questionable|
|TE Jimmy Graham||Elbow/Foot||Questionable|
|S Roman Harper||Knee||Questionable|
|ILB David Hawthorne||Toe||Questionable|
|TE Josh Hill||Foot||Probable|
|S Malcolm Jenkins||Knee||Questionable|
|DE Tom Johnson||Hip||Questionable|
|DE Cameron Jordan||Ankle||Questionable|
|ILB Curtis Lofton||Hamstring||Questionable|
|RB Darren Sproles||Concussion||Probable|
|S Kenny Vaccaro||Chest||Probable|
|DE Tyrunn Walker||Knee||Questionable|
The diminished presence of David Hawthorne created an opportunity for fellow linebackers Will Herring and Ramon Humber (even-front alignment). Both showed that they could be viable when thrust into duty—especially Humber.
Humber is a player that isn't getting much recognition, but he is one whose presence will be felt before it's all said and done. A team like the 49ers will run more heavy packages, so operating out of a base 4-3 may be the alignment of choice. Humber, along with Curtis Lofton and Hawthorne, is as good as it gets.
Kenny Vaccaro was concussed in the Dallas game, which makes the return of Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper a necessity. But with the way cornerback Corey White is playing, the three-safety look may be a thing of the past.
Upon Further Review
Speaking of White, the second-year corner is blossoming into a legit threat at the corner spot. Despite his size (6'1", 205 lbs), White has shown a penchant for being able to play in the slot.
Being a lengthy player is not ideal for an inside corner, but White is special. His agility is uncanny, and his instincts may only be superseded by the ferocity with which he plays. The Saints may have found another late-round gem.
This is a perfect example of his agility. White gives up positioning on this quick slant but has the wherewithal to transition his hips, rather than taking a false step, in an effort to get back into the play.
The quickness of the diminutive Cole Beasley (5'8", 180 lbs) is tough to deal with for anyone—especially in the slot. But White's technique and talent will be tough for most receivers to deal with eventually.
The more playing time White receives, the better off the Saints will be. The coaching staff should look into White playing the No. 2 corner immediately, as Jabari Greer continues to struggle with the more physically talented receivers.
You're looking at the future No. 1 corner of the Saints ladies and gentlemen.
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