Game 13, Falcons: Three-quarters of the way through the season my predictions thus far have the Saints sitting at 8-4, and 2-2 in the division.
A .500 record in the division seems a little shaky at this point, but the good news is the team who has the best overall record wins the division. With the schedule setting up nicely for a relatively easy finish, the Saints should have no worries about getting enough wins to capture another NFC South division championship
It starts with Atlanta. Now I understand the whole mantra that says on any given Sunday any team in the NFL can win regardless of how good or bad they’re record says they are. But the Falcons, really?
I know I know, cockiness won’t get me or the Saints anywhere. They must prepare as diligently for the Falcons as they would for the Super Bowl. After all, Matt Ryan could be hitting his stride and Michael Turner may be having a pro bowl year at running back. You never know.
But realistically speaking the Falcons won’t pose much of a threat to the Saints at this point in the season. New Orleans, at 8-4, will be running diagnostics, making sure every part of their engine is operating like it should be as they head into the playoffs.
Atlanta, likely sitting around 3-9, will be auditioning young prospects for next year’s team.
The Saints cruise to an easy 30-10 win over the Falcons and improve to 9-4 on the season.
Game 14, Bears: If you can name one player on the Bears offense who will be drafted before the 8th round in your fantasy draft, I’ll make a case for the Bears winning this game.
Whatcha got…nothing? Couldn’t buy Brandon Lloyd as your third-string wide receiver? Yeah, me either.
How rough is that if you’re a Bears fan? To know that your offensive production this season will rely on the collective talents of Rex Grossman, Matt Forte, and Brandon Lloyd—all guys who should only start in the NFL if there was some kind of league-wide The Replacements type player strike.
Seriously, I feel bad for the Bears nation. What did they do to deserve Rex Grossman as the starter for a third consecutive season?
Anyway, the only way I see the Saints losing this game is if the defensive team’s bus breaks down on the way to Soldier Field. Saints brave the conditions and emerge victorious with a 21-3 win, improving their record to 10-4.
Game 15, Lions: The Lions were very unbalanced last season. They had a great receiving corps with Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson and a strong armed quarterback in Jon Kitna. They also had one of the worst defenses in the league and an inconsistent running game.
Will they be the same type of team this year as they were last year?
A lot of people are talking about Kevin Smith having the inside track for the starting RB position in Detroit. Smith, a diminutive third-round draft pick who lead the NCAA in rushing and scoring last season at UCF, will undoubtedly have the Motor City fantasizing about the next Barry Sanders.
He doesn’t have much to compete against in the backfield either. Career waiver wire mainstays Tatum Bell and Aveion Cason are the only names I recognize on the Lions roster.
As it relates to the Saints and this game, Detroit’s wide receivers will most certainly have the advantage over New Orleans’ cornerbacks. But the same can be for the Saints’ receivers.
This one has the makings of a high-scoring affair. The Saints have a better all-around offensive arsenal though and it will lead them to a 35-27 win over the Lions. Saints improve to 11-4.
Game 16, Panthers: Two years ago the Saints closed out their regular season with a meaningless game against the Panthers in the Superdome. They had already secured the No. 2 overall seed in the NFC and couldn’t improve or worsen they’re playoff positioning.
The Saints rested their starters for the nearly the whole game and Carolina, playing their starters all the while, won 31-21.
Despite the loss fans exited the Dome that afternoon jubilantly screaming Who Dat and Black-and-Gold Super Bowl. It was an odd feeling to have just lost and still be celebrating, but it was exhilarating.
I have a feeling we might be have the same type of game circumstances this season. If the Saints are 11-4 heading into Week 17 as I’ve predicted, it’s entirely conceivable that they will have already locked up the NFC South and possibly a first round bye in the playoffs.
If that’s the case, Week 17’s game won’t matter and the Saints will rest their starters. Carolina will take advantage like they did two years ago and pull out a 28-17 win over the New Orleans second-stringers.
With the loss the Saints fall to 11-5 but begin preparations for the playoffs where they will look to return to the NFC Championship.
If all goes well in the playoffs, the Saints could be booking a trip to Tampa. What a ride that would be!
This concludes the four part series preview of the Saints 2008 opponents.