Provided here is blunt analysis of the Saints season and the prospects for the playoffs. First, we all know by now that the Saints lost their third game in a row vs. the Carolina Panthers. Truth be told, there was never any effort expended to win this game. Even after the Saints scored to make it 23-10, the boys in black and gold had four possessions and never got serious about trying to score. When the opportunity did present itself late in the game, Mark Brunell threw one of the worst passes in Saints history.
So now we have the contradiction of the NFC's #1 seed, a team with the noble accomplishment of 13 wins, and a team limping into the playoffs with 3 consecutive losses. Never in the history of the NFL has any team won a Super Bowl with 3 straight regular season losses to close out a season.
So what happens in mid to late January? Which Saints team shows up? Can the team that played exciting, clean, crisp, aggressive football reappear? As I said last week, with the exception of two games, the New England game most notably, the Saints have been missing in action for 8 weeks. With all of this said, they do have a 13-3 overall record and the #1 seed but most factual points of emphasis do not bode well for the Saints.
The Saints can absolutely positevely not stop the run. Anybody with two legs can run through this swiss cheese d-line. Charles Grant is a wash out and we need a healthy Sedrick Ellis to also reappear. Will Smith is good and Anthony Hargrove played like a stud today but man, the d-line looks bad going into the playoffs. And as we enter the playoffs we now own the distinction of giving up 4 drives of 90 or more yards for a touchdown. Now most kool-aid drinking fans will always fall back on injuries. You know what the definition of those who constantly whine about injuries is: fans of a team that has never been to the Super Bowl. Remember, it was a starting d-lineman that enabled the long TD run by the Panthers today.
Offensively, the Saints have grown weaker and weaker by the week. Today is hard to assess although we all can agree that Mark Brunell is the worst back-up quaterback in the NFL. His play today was pathetic. How many times did he have the open streaking receiver but his throws fell way short from his aging body. And what about Robert Meachem? All of a sudden you have to question some of his decisions lately. And I mentioned this last week but it could not be more obvious today; has Mike Bell lost a step or two in the second half of the season?
Many people say that the playoffs is a brand new season and the Saints know what they are doing. In two weeks we will see. My question is how can anything that happened in the last 3 weeks give any confidence to a squad that seems to have lost its' way. The Dallas game, in part, was a combination of catching a good team when they are getting better and unfortunately a case of the collective big head. I'll say it again, analyze the tapes. Most of the comments and answers coming out of the lockerroom for almost two weeks before Dallas was about the 16-0 and were going to the playoffs and were going to win the Super Bowl. Talk the talk AFTER you walk the walk. But I can handle the Dallas loss and whatever that was today. That Tampa game is what still has me steamed. The more I analyze that game, the more concerned I become.
Look what happened today. With a lot less on the line, Atlanta whipped Tampa Bay today. Another omen that bodes poorly for long suffering Saints fans.
So here we are, listening to Coach Payton acting like nothing is wrong. For his sake I hope he is right. Soon, we will know who we play in week 2 of the post season. I can assure you of this; even though the playoffs go through New Orleans, this should not be a source of concern for the other guys. Honestly, anybody can beat anyone on any given Sunday. But if you are one of the other 5 teans and someone shoves a microphone in your face and forces you to say, who do you want to face in the playoffs, your answer should be the Saints. When the Saints back is really against the wall; when they truly play for something huge; well, we know the record.
I truly wish that I could post something contrary to what my analysis reveals. I still will have my fingers crossed and cheering for a victory in the playoffs, but football facts are stacking up against the Saints. And if this continues to go down the drain, they will have no one to blame but self. In just one short window of 3 hours or so, two weekends from now, will result in a historic possibility or the most disappointing end to a fabulous start in Saints history.
And nothing we can do will influence this. It's all on the Saints. Do they want it and will they go get it. We will know in 2 weeks.