New Orleans Saints: Predictions for the Rest of the 2011 Season
Saints fans can tell how different their football team is. The fact that a 7-3 record is almost a disappointment with Saints fans is incredible. Was it not six years ago that Aaron Brooks and Jim Haslett were finishing up a 3-13 season and Saints fans were ready to bring out the brown bags again?
Mickey Loomis, Sean Payton, Drew Brees and company have created a winning atmosphere for the Saints and city of New Orleans. I believe that as long as we have these three guys, we are capable of winning a Super Bowl every year. And our chances this year look pretty good.
What's left of the Saints regular season schedule is four homes games and only two road games. The schedule consists of three teams with a winning record, two teams with a losing record, and one currently at .500. Then, hopefully, the Saints will roll into the playoffs.
Let's look at the remainder of the schedule and my predictions for the Saints playoffs.
Week 12: New York Giants @ Saints
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This is a Monday Night game. Saints fans know what that means.
Sean Payton and the Saints are 6-2 on Monday Night Football since Payton and Brees came to town. The Saints are also 2-0 against the Giants in the Payton era. It also help that this game is in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Saints are undefeated there this season.
The Giants rank 18th against the pass and 21st against the run. In this game, I believe that the Giants will have to pick their poison. As we all know, the Saints can throw the ball, but they can also get the run game going if the Giants decide to bring pressure and focus on the pass.
Offensively, the Giants are pretty good passing the ball, but cannot get the run game going. This will help the Saints tremendously. Gregg Williams should be able to get his guys to Eli and fluster him some. The Saints' secondary is good enough to cover up Victor Cruz and company.
This game should result in some scoring, but ultimately the Saints will be too much for the Giants to handle.
Saints 31 - Giants 14
Week 13: Detroit Lions @ Saints
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The Lions are one of the more difficult teams to figure out this year. They started off 5-1, but have since gone 2-2. Suh and the Lions defensive front can definitely get to the quarterback and the defense strives off of that. I believe that the fifth ranked Lions secondary are the beneficiaries of the defensive line's outstanding play.
The Lion's offense is top ten in passing the ball, but struggle running. Calvin Johnson will surely make a few plays and the Lions offense will be able to score some points on the Saints bend but don't break defense.
The most important part of this game will be the Saints rushing attack. If they can move the ball on the ground and keep the Lions' defensive front at bay, then the Saints should be in for an easy win. However, if the Saints can't run the ball and the Lions are able to get to Brees like the Rams did, then Saints fans may be yelling at the television for the majority of the game.
I think Brees and company are nearly unbeatable in the Dome and they will be ready for that monstrous defensive line.
Saints 27 - Lions 20
Week 14: Saints @ Tennessee Titans
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Saints fans will recognize this game as one the Saints would typically find a way to lose. In week 14, the Saints will go into Tennessee to face the Titans. Currently the Titans are a 5-5 teams and have yet to beat a good team, besides the inconsistent Ravens in week two. The Saints have a knack for beating tough teams, but losing to the teams they are supposed to beat.
I don't believe that the Saints will do that this time. The Titans seem capable of putting up points, but the Saints will more than likely focus on shutting down Chris Johnson and pressuring Jake Locker (who is sure to be the starter during this game).
The Saints will be facing a team that is currently 22nd against the rush and 16th against the pass. The Saints have the running backs to be able to run viciously if the weather is too bad to open up the passing game. The Titans offense has looked good against teams like the Panthers, Colts, and Browns, but has looked below average against the Texans, Steelers, and Falcons.
The Saints will be able to play good enough to defense to keep the Titans at bay while the Saints offense takes the game away with their rushing attack. Look for Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram to explode in this game as they will get plenty of carries.
Saints 28 - Titans 10
Week 15: Saints @ Minnesota Vikings
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This game scares me. It reminds a lot of the game against the Rams earlier this year.
The Saints were coming off a game in which they looked perfect, destroying the Colts 62-7. Then they laid a complete egg and got ripped by the Rams in St. Louis.
I believe the Saints will be coming off a win against the Titans when they suit up for this game. It will be easy to focus entirely on Adrian Peterson (if he is healthy) and forget about Christian Ponder.
This kid has been impressive so far and, despite the Vikings 29th ranked passing attack, he can hurt you if you aren't careful.
With that being said, the Saints will come into this game ready to shut down Peterson and pick on Ponder. Gregg Williams and his defense love to play against young quarterbacks and I am sure they will get in a few "remember me shots" on the rookie from Florida State.
I expect to see Brees and the offense air it out a bit early because the Vikings currently boast the NFL's ninth best running defense.
The Saints will go to Minnesota and show everyone that the game against the Rams was a fluke, hopefully.
Saints 41 - Vikings 14
Week 16: Atlanta Falcons @ Saints
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The Falcons will want this game, probably more than any other all season. They will want to redeem Mike Smith's fourth down call. They will want to take out their biggest rival and show everyone that they were't a fluke last year. The Falcons probably already have this game marked on their calendar.
It's a shame that Drew and the boys will have to take it from them.
We have already said how good the Saints are on Monday Night Football. This game is also in New Orleans, and the Saints don't like to lose in their home.
I believe that the Saints will not be able to lose this game as they will be fighting for the second seed in the NFC. The Falcons will more than likely be fighting for a wildcard spot, which will lead to a bruising, action packed game between these two teams.
The Falcons would be wise to lean more on Michael Turner this game and the Saints would be smart to cover Harry Douglas at least a couple times. The defenses will play the same style as a few weeks ago. Both will give up some points, but should also force a turnover or two.
The offenses will decide the game. If the Saints get the ground game going along with Brees and the passing attack then it will be difficult for the Falcons to win. The Saints have to make sure that they contain Turner and Jones. The Falcons offense seems to feed off of Jones' performance. Despite performing well in week 11, Roddy White has struggled greatly this season and the Saints will surely frustrate him in this game.
Both teams will want, and need, this game desperately, however the fact that it is a Monday Night in New Orleans, the Saints win this one.
Saints 27 - Falcons 21
Week 17: Carolina Panthers @ Saints
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This game depends on Newton and his offense. The Panthers have a knack for beating the Saints in the Superdome and they came close to beating the Saints earlier this year. Newton has surpassed everyone's expectations this year and although he has cooled off some, he is still playing great football.
I look for the Panthers to come into this game playing spoiler. Their season will more than likely be done at this point, but the Saints all be playing for a first round bye. Steve Smith, Jeremy Shockey, and Newton will all want to come into New Orleans and take the win.
Unfortunately, I think that this might happen.
The Panthers rank ninth passing the ball and seventh running it. If the Panthers come into New Orleans and get up early then they may can pull out a late season win against the rival Saints.
The Saints game plan will focused on Smith and Newton, as those two have ripped NFL opponents all year. DeAngelo Williams always seems to run for 100+ against the Saints and one of his runs will probably be a 40+ burst.
The Saints will probably fall behind early and lose the running game playing catch up.
I definitely hope that I am wrong and the Saints win to finish the season at 13-3, but I think the Panthers will knock the Saints down to 12-4.
Saints 24 - Panthers 27
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I believe that it is still a little early for playoff predictions, but we can go ahead and map out some of it.
It seems like, in the NFC, we will have two teams from the North and South, and the winners of the East and West.
Green Bay and San Francisco seem to be the first and second seed, although I could see the 49ers blowing a couple games and giving up the number two spot to the Saints. I believe that the Cowboys and 49ers will win their respective divisions.
I think the Bears are a lock for a wild card spot and the other spot will come down to either the Falcons or Lions.
I'll give an early prediction of the NFC seeds so that we can get a basic picture of the Saints playoff path.
1. Packers (14-2)
2. 49ers (12-4)
3. Saints (12-4)
4. Cowboys (10-6)
5. Bears (12-4)
6. Lions (11-5)
The only thing with this prediction is that I could see the Falcons winning the last wild card spot instead of the Lions. Let's take a look at my predictions for the wild card round.
Wild Card Round
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Lions @ Saints:
I think the Saints win this game for the second time this season and move on to the divisional round.
Saints 31 - Lions 17
Bears @ Cowboys:
I am pretty high on the Bears right now and low on the Cowboys. Therefore, I believe that the Cowboys will get blown out at home in the first round of the playoffs.
Bears 31 - Cowboys 10
These two games would result in interesting matchups in the divisional round. We would have the Saints traveling to San Franciso to play the 49ers and the Bears going to Green Bay to take on the Packers.
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Saints @ 49ers
I have not been a believer in the 49ers all year and I believe the Saints will expose them in the playoffs. The 49ers have a great run defense and Carlos Rogers is probably playing the best ball of his career. Gore, of course, is having a great year. However, I think the Saints can come in and shut down Gore. While Rogers is having a great year, he cannot cover all of the Saints receivers. Jimmy Graham will make a mockery of the 49ers linebackers as he catches for 100+ again. Drew and the boys roll on to the NFC Championship.
Saints 28 - 49ers 14
Bears @ Packers
I believe that these two teams will split their regular season meetings. The Bears have played some great football lately and they owe the Packers a good beat down. I'm expecting to hear some criticism on this one, but I expect the Bears to go into Lambeau and take down the defending world champs.
Bears 31 - Packers 28
This creates a great game for the NFC Championship. Saints fans would love to see a rematch of the 06' NFC Championship in the Superdome. I am sure I speak for all Saints fans when I say that we'd love to have the opportunity to smash the Bears at home, again.
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Bears @ Saints
I think the picture in this one speaks everything that needs to be said.
If this game happens Cutler will start having nightmares as soon as he knows he's visiting the Saints again. Granted, these Bears are much different than the ones the Saints played in week 2, but the Saints will still try to pressure Cutler like they did in the earlier game.
That week two game was the first time I believe I ever saw an offense scared to take the field. The Saints had six sacks in that game, and at one point had three in a row. Cutler remembers that.
I expect Matt Forte to do his thing in this game and I am sure he will get over 100 total yards. Earl Bennett will more than likely be a nuisance for the Saints defense, but ultimately the Saints offense will be too much for the Bears defense.
The Saints will be able to run the ball well on the Bears' tenth ranked rush defense because of Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, and Pierre Thomas. I expect to see a lot of screens to keep the Bears honest and some runs off the tackle with Sproles.
Jimmy Graham will also run right past Urlacher and Briggs. I expect some big numbers from Graham in this game as well.
I am sure many fans, especially Packers fans, are wondering why I pick the Saints over the Bears in nearly the same situation that I picked the Bears over the Packers. Both the Saints and Packers have similar, weapon filled offenses and would be playing the Bears at home. So why do the Saints win and the Packers lose?
It's simple really. The Bears know the Packers much better than they know the Saints. Yes, the Bears played the Saints earlier in the season, but they play the Packers twice a year every year. It is not unusual for the Bears to win Lambeau and they will want to win that game probably more than any all year.
I expect a battle in Lambeau for that win and I expect the Saints to cruise over the 49ers. The Saints will be coming off a fairly easy road victory and the Bears will be coming off of a challenging, emotional, gut-wrenching victory in Lambeau.
I fully expect to see the Saints come out in this one with guns blazing. Saints win and move on to the Superbowl, for the second time in three years.
Saints 34 - Bears 17
I believe the Saints will make it to the Superbowl, but I am not sure who they will play so I will save Super Bowl predictions for later in the year.