New Orleans Saints: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 13

Murf Baldwin@@MurfBaldwinContributor INovember 26, 2013

Nov 21, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) calls a play against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half at the Georgia Dome. The Saints defeated the Falcons 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

A win is a win...

The New Orleans Saints improved their record to 9-2 after a 17-13 victory over the rival Atlanta Falcons (2-9). In a performance that was more substance than style, the Saints yielded 355 yards of total offense but only surrendered one touchdown in the process.     

In addition, the 381 total yards on offense (103 yards rushing) was supported by zero turnovers but only mounted to those aforementioned 17 points. The 4.1 yards per carry on 25 attempts suggests the Saints did virtually whatever they wanted to on offense.

Furthermore, the five-sack performance on defense assisted in the bend-but-don't-break plan that was executed to near perfection. 

So why are some pundits dissatisfied with the performance?

Simply put, because the Saints are the best team in the NFL and are now being judged on a higher plateau. But those same pundits failed to take into account that the NFC South usually cannibalizes itself.

Last season, the Falcons went 13-3 on their way to the No. 1 seed in the NFC. But all three losses were inside the division, despite the fact that every other team finished 7-9. So needless to say, the Saints surviving a tough divisional game, on the road, is nothing to sneeze at.

Looking ahead to the season-defining tilt with the Seattle Seahawks, on Monday Night Football, the skeptics will be out in mass just waiting to pounce on the Saints—if they are defeated.

The Saints can essentially kill two birds with one stone with a victory over the favorite Seahawks. Most believe they can't win against physical teams (although their previous win over the San Francisco 49ers suggests otherwise), and a great deal of pundits think they struggle to win road games (which is absurd).

Respect is a lot more important than most of us can imagine. A team like the New England Patriots strike fear no matter the venue or setting. But they are the same Patriots team that needed a last-second miracle to knock off the home.

It's time to go out and take your respect on Monday, New Orleans!

Division Standings

NFC South division standings
TeamWinsLossesPoints forPoints against
New Orleans92305196
Tampa Bay38211258

Can you believe with how well the Saints have performed this season, they are still only one game ahead of the Carolina Panthers? This makes the tilt with the Seahawks extremely paramount in the grand scheme of it all.

If the Saints were to lose to the Seahawks, next Sunday's contest with the Panthers could be for first place. The outcome of that game could end up being the difference between the No. 1 and No. 5 seed in the playoffs.

Carolina is the hottest team in the NFL after winning its seventh game in a row. The only other team with a streak that closely mirrors Carolina's happens to be Seattle (six in a row). So needless to say, the Saints have prime opportunity to both earn respect and playoff positioning over the next couple of weeks.

The Panthers are only allowing 13.7 points per game, which is No. 1 in the entire NFL. But it's the 26th-ranked offense that will undoubtedly be their undoing. But anytime you can run the ball, and play defense, you will be a threat to beat anyone.

The team that could end up being a thorn in the side of both the Panthers and Saints is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon is looking like a budding star with each passing week. 

He's completing 62.5 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns opposed to just four interceptions. Tampa's offensive coordinator, Mike Sullivan, deserves a ton of credit for the development of its young signal-caller. 

Glennon is starting to look a lot like Sullivan's former QB—and current New York Giants star—Eli Manning. Both have the ability to drive the ball down the field with the best of them, and both of them are kind of goofy looking (I kid...sort of).

Atlanta is looking like the least talented team returning next season. It is in serious need of a scheme overhaul and could use some tweaking in its philosophy. 

Throwing the ball 70 percent of time, while being soft in the trenches, will get you beat more times than not, according to

Injury Report/Quick Hits

Injury report prior to Falcons game
CB Chris CarrHip/Back/HamstringQuestionable
G Jahri EvansAnkleQuestionable
TE Jimmy GrahamElbow/FootProbable
CB Jabari GreerKneeOut for Season
G Ben GrubbsNeckQuestionable
DE Akiem HicksBackQuestionable
DE Cameron JordanAnkleProbable
G Tim LelitoNot injury relatedProbable
ILB Curtis LoftonHamstring/AnkleProbable
RB Darren SprolesKnee/AnkleQuestionable
CB Rod SweetingHipQuestionable
S Kenny VaccaroConcussionQuestionable
DE Tyrunn WalkerKneeQuestionable
TE Ben WatsonConcussionQuestionable

The Saints are a tough squad. Most of the players that are banged up are performing the best. Darren Sproles was the only difference-maker, per se, who missed the tilt with the Falcons. His absence showed that the Saints have a back more than capable of replicating his role in the passing attack—in Pierre Thomas.  

Nov 17, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Travaris Cadet (39) returns a kick for 82-yards against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spo
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

As great as Sproles has been over the duration of his career, it may be time to see what fellow back Travaris Cadet can do. At 6'1", 210 pounds, Cadet is a quick-twitch freak with excellent change-of-direction capabilities. He is very reminiscent of former Falcons back Jerious Norwood, who was very effective in both the pass and run game.  

It feels like every time Cadet has had an opportunity he has made an explosive play. Cadet has very good hands with an innate feel for the passing game. He can be used in a much similar role to Patriots back Shane Vereen. 

Vereen is at his best when split wide like a normal wide receiver. With the Patriots' use of "11 personnel," this usually forces teams to send a linebacker to defend Vereen in some serious space.

Via NFL Rewind

Here we see Vereen motioning out from the backfield, which forces Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis to follow. The type of space Vereen incurs in relative to the defender. You're not going to get many, if any, linebackers who will get up and press a back like Vereen or Cadet.

Via NFL Rewind

Vereen runs a quick hitch which ensures he will have enough time to make a move on Thomas. Thomas, being one of the fastest linebackers in the league, closes rather quickly. But Vereen has enough size and agility to make him miss and break off a pretty sizeable gain.

This formation really puts pressure on the defense when the back runs 7- and 9-routes—as Vereen often does.  

Using Cadet in this capacity is ideal because of his size and suddenness. Cadet is more of a receiver than a running back at this point in his career. Why not utilize him as such? Cadet is just another weapon on a team with seemingly endless possibilities.  

On another note, is Panthers safety Mike Mitchell certifiably insane? He used the words Drew Brees (Saints QB) and "soft" in the same sentence, according to NBC Sports. Bulletin-board material is overrated for the fact that if you need something to fire you up to play, you might as well sing on a boat for a living. 

But questioning a warrior like Brees' heart, or intent, means your cable subscription ran out at the beginning of the last decade. This is the same Brees who has come back from a serious shoulder injury to author a Hall of Fame career. 

This is the same Brees who has missed only one game in the past nine seasons! Not to mention he's also that guy who leads those cool pregame chants. Your time will come in two weeks, Mr. Mitchell...but for now, enjoy these chants. 

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