Friday, July 17, 2009

New Orleans Sports Scuttlebutt 7-17-09

Posted By on Fri, Jul 17, 2009 at 11:54 PM

Monday I predicted that the Saints would start the '09 season 3-1 -winning against the Lions, Bills, and Jets and losing to the Eagles. But after their first four games their schedule will get much much harder. New Orleans will face last year's first ( Giants), second (Atlanta) and third ( Carolina) ranked rushing attacks.

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Coming off of a week five bye New Orleans will welcome home-town-hero Elli Manning and his New York Giants in week six. The Giants made it to the playoffs last year but lost in the first round against Philadelphia. Tom Coughlin's team proved in '07 that they are very resourceful after upsetting the unquestioned favorites, the New England Patriots.

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But that was then and this is now. Still, despite an early ousting in '08 and the team's best receiver inches away from literally shooting himself in the foot, the Giants are the favorites in this match-up. The return of one man wrecking crew Osi Umenyiora, who didn't play a snap in 2008 for the NFL's 5th ranked defense is a game changer. Umenyiora, was a huge reason why the Giants won it all in '07. His ability to get pressure on the quarterback could potentially disrupt a lot of the Saints' long passing plays. But the difference will ultimately be in the running game. Few teams have shown that they could contend with the one two punch of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, the NFC's version of "Smash and Dash." Sorry Saints fans but all that adds up to a 3-2 start.

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Pack some extra sun screen because in week 7 the Saints will travel the sunshine state to face the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are almost a carbon copy of the Giants. They have a, resurgent quarterback (Chad Pennington), a two headed attack at running back (Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown), and a solid defense with a beast in Joey Porter. Porter is one of those hybrid line backers who loves to line up at defensive end and rush the quarter back. At one point last year Porter led the league in sacks finishing second behind Dallas' DeMarcus Ware with 17.5. But the success of Miami's offense was largely predicated on gimmick plays. You can bet that coaches around the league, including Gregg Williams, are game planning for them and will force Pennington to beat them with his arm. Look for Miami receiver Ted Ginn Jr. to have a big game in a Saints win.

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Week eight will mark the return of the "Dirty Bird!" It sounds like a bad movie sequel but the Saints will be more than happy with a repeat performance of last year's week 14 meeting. The Saints won a nail biter to split the season series1-1. In their first meeting in Atlanta however, the Story was the running back tandem of Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood who torched the Saints' defense. Turner had 96 rushing yards and Norwood had two catches for 88 yards. Defensively, DE John Abraham lived in the Saints backfield and made it a long day for Drew Brees.

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The Falcons' acquisition of Tony Gonzales was a big off-season upgrade at the tight end position, but after wallowing in football limbo in Kansas City for over a decade who knows how much he has left. I have to go with the home team. The Saints had the antidote in their second meeting. Pierre Thomas stabilized New Orleans' running attack which had been unreliable all season. A new commitment to the run in addition to an improved secondary and the "Coo Coo Birds" are in for a serious clock cleaning.

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At the halfway point of the season New Orleans will meet up with their division rivals the Carolina Panthers in the Dome. Carlina's downhill running attack and big play wide out Steve Smith will likely give the Saints some problems. In last year's season finale the Saints lost a close one to Carolina by-in-large because of a desperation Hail Marry pass from quarter back Jake Delhome to Smith. Not to sound like a broken record but I think the Saints secondary can hold Carolina and their inconsistent quarterback to twenty-enough for Brees and his offense to win it. In the end I think the home-field advantage will be the deciding factor in what will be another close game.

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6-2 with eight games left on the schedule,  having lost two to NFC east power houses, but going undefeated in their division- not too bad right? Want to find out what will happen in the next four games against Tampa, New England, Washington, and Atlanta? See you next week!

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