Saints are Improving, Not a Team You Want to See in the Playoffs
While I might find myself in the minority on this stance, I am firmly convinced that it does. Every team establishes aspirations during training camp, with winning the division standing among the foremost objectives.
Consequently, the significance of securing a divisional title cannot be underestimated; it symbolizes the earned privilege of playoff participation.
With a pair of games left, the New Orleans Saints stand at 6-8 and surprisingly hold the reins of their destiny come December.
Such a scenario embodies the essence of December football ambitions. However, their standing is more than a mere token representation. I am convinced that this Saints team presents a genuine menace to any NFC opponent.
Since the arrival of head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints have been defined by two constants.
Firstly, they consistently amass an impressive point total. Secondly, their presence in the playoffs is one team’s dread.
Capturing the NFC South would secure New Orleans a coveted home-field advantage in the postseason.
Any team, whether with 10 or 11 wins, claiming the No. 5 seed, should brace for an intense showdown in the vibrant atmosphere of Louisiana.
Despite the win-loss column not shining brightly, the Saints’ offense continues to shine in the larger context of the 2014 season.
While it may be arguable whether they have fully filled the void left by Darren Sproles, their offensive prowess remains undeniable.
Averaging 26 points per game and ranking second in total yardage, the Saints boast a formidable offense. Drew Brees, with a remarkable 70 percent completion rate, appears poised to surpass the 5,000-yard passing mark for the season.
While it’s unwise to draw sweeping conclusions from a single game, Brees’ surgical precision in the 31-15 victory against the Chicago Bears last Sunday was nothing short of exquisite.
Tight end Jimmy Graham has valiantly battled injuries throughout the season, yet his status as a matchup nightmare remains undiminished.
The vertical threat presented by wide receiver Kenny Stills adds an element that keeps defenses on their toes.
The resurgence of receiver Marques Colston to his former level is a pivotal need for the team.
While Colston’s decline is discernible, evident from his 51 receptions and four touchdowns, my optimism holds that the seasoned ninth-year professional still harbors a reservoir of impactful performances.
I firmly believe in the enduring capabilities of a seasoned veteran, especially as the playoffs approach.
Prior to delving into the reasons behind the team’s sub-.500 record, it’s essential to acknowledge another facet that positions New Orleans as a formidable contender in January.
Operating somewhat quietly, the Saints’ offensive line has consistently delivered at a remarkable standard.
The guidance of elite guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs leads a unit that holds an esteemed position in the top five across two critical metrics: sacks allowed per game and rushing yards per attempt.
While many, including myself, might bestow the title of the NFL’s finest offensive line upon Dallas, it’s worth noting that Dallas does not rank within the top five in these two fundamental categories.
The Saints have long excelled in the screen game, and they continue to uphold this reputation.
Should Evans and his compatriots persist in furnishing Brees with ample time, facilitating effective rushing, and executing their screen strategies, the Saints are poised for a resounding success.
Let’s chat about this defense:
In the preceding season, New Orleans achieved an impressive 11-5 record, with significant credit bestowed upon its defense.
However, the narrative for 2014 paints a different picture.
A stark comparison reveals that while last year’s Saints stood at fourth place in scoring defense (allowing 19 points per game), the current year places them at a concerning 28th (conceding 27 points per game).
Although the defensive scheme has remained unchanged, a shift in personnel is unmistakable.
The departure of four seasoned defensive leaders—Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Jabari Greer, and Roman Harper—defines the 2014 iteration.
While the decision is beyond question, it’s crucial for fans to grasp that transitioning often extends beyond initial projections.
Nonetheless, the foundation for rebuilding is evident, commencing with the dependable presence of Keenan Lewis.
The Ryan family’s affinity for possessing a cornerback capable of neutralizing opposing premier receivers augments confidence, effectively securing one side of the field.
This enables an escalation of pressure and paves the way for inventive schematics. Another standout, defensive end Akiem Hicks, has undeniably captured attention.
With a formidable frame of 6-foot-5 and 330 pounds, this third-year professional has demonstrated moments of overpowering the opposition.
Further bolstering the ranks are outside linebacker Junior Galette and defensive end Cameron Jordan, proficient pass rushers who can disrupt quarterbacks.
While there’s a reservoir of talent, it remains apparent that it’s insufficient to triumph without the offensive prowess of Brees and his crew.
The linchpin for defensive triumph lies in the Saints securing an early lead, thereby enabling defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and his unit to execute effectively.
Let it be clear, the essence of this article might be rendered moot if New Orleans falters against Atlanta in their upcoming home encounter, a plausible scenario.
However, should the Saints secure a playoff berth, the prospect of facing them wouldn’t be sought by opponents.
Drew Brees and his skilled ensemble possess the capacity to emerge victorious on any given Sunday. The resonating truth is that the march of the Saints may yet endure…