Are The Saints The Best Team In The NFC Playoffs? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Are The Saints The Best Team In The NFC Playoffs?

The NFL regular season is over and the playoffs are set to begin this week. Over in the AFC the New England Patriots look like heavy favorites.

On the NFC side of the playoffs the New Orleans Saints will begin their defense of their championship on the road. The road to Dallas will go through the Georgia Dome and the Atlanta Falcons.

Last year, the Saints and the Minnesota Vikings were the two strongest teams in the NFC. This year every team in the NFC is flawed.

In Philadelphia, the Eagles have placed their title hopes in the hands of Michael Vick and a young defense. In fact the Eagles are one of the youngest teams in the NFL and Vick is trying to rebuild his career after spending time in jail for dog fighting.

As teams get more tape on Vick, they get better and better at defending him. Many have picked the Eagles as a favorite to reach the Super Bowl -- but do not buy in to the hype.

Andy Reid (Eagles head coach) is used to deep playoff runs, but has only reached the Super Bowl once, even after making the NFC Championship Game five years in a row. Vick is beat up and teams will blitz the running quarterback into submission. Plus, they will take advantage of a young defense to score points.

Vick's former team -- the Atlanta Falcons -- have, like a Phoenix, raised from the ashes after their former star QB (Vick) lied to the owner (Arthur Blank) and the NFL Commissioner (Roger Goodell) and went to jail.

Using a smash mouth running game and a young savior at quarterback from Boston College (Matt Ryan, who is 19-2 at home since joining the league three years ago) the Falcons earned the best record in the NFC and the number one seed.

Atlanta's defense is "bend-but-don't-break," but will have to get even better in the playoffs but the offense is not very explosive if they get down by more than one score this team could be in big trouble.

In Chicago, the "Monsters of the Midway" are back on defense and the Bears offense has improved as the season progressed. The Bears are dangerous on special teams with return man Devin Hester breaking the NFL record for most punts/kicks returned for touchdowns in a career.

While the Bears are sound on defense, their playoff hopes will rest on their quarterback Jay Cutler. The former Vanderbilt star is prone to throwing interceptions in bunches and a weak Bears offensive line gives up several sacks per game.

The last team to make it into the playoffs was the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers has made Packer fans forget about Brett Favre, but this team has been decimated by injuries.

The only way Green Bay and New Orleans will meet is the NFC Championship game. A Green Bay/New Orleans game is the only way the Saints can host a SuperDome playoff game as well.

I refuse to say anything about the Seattle Seahawks. Finishing the season at 7-9 should not be rewarded with a playoff spot and definitely should not be rewarded with a home playoff game.

If the Saints do not blow the Seahawks out of the building by three touchdowns, they should get ready to lose in the next round of the playoffs. Seattle is a bad team from a bad division that shouldn't be very much of a problem for New Orleans.

This brings us to the defending World Champion New Orleans Saints and their hopes of repeating. This team is pretty much the same one that won it all last season.

There are some differences from last season to this season. On offense the Saints have struggled running the ball, going from sixth in rushing last season to 28th in rushing this season.

The main reason for struggles on offense has been the injuries to running backs Chris Ivory, Pierre Thomas, and Reggie Bush. The lack of a running game has kept the Saints offense from being explosive in the down-field passing game.

The lack of a rushing attack has made Drew Brees take more chances in the passing game which has led to more interceptions this season. If the running game bounces back in the playoffs, the main benefactor will be Brees and the Saints receivers.

While the defense is better this season -- statistically going from 25th in total defense last season to fourth in total defense this season -- this unit has not been as opportunistic as last season. Gregg Williams (Saints defensive coordinator) is not getting the turnovers from this unit this year like he did last year.

The Saints were plus 11 in turnovers last season and are negative five in turnovers this season. That means the offense has turned the ball over more than the defense has forced turnovers this season.

Williams needs to get his defense forcing turnovers. Something they did not do this season that they did last season is scoring touchdowns on turnovers. The Saints had three defensive touchdowns last season and had zero this season.

The NFC is wide open and New Orleans has a very good shot at reaching the Super Bowl for a second straight season. The Saints will have to do something they have never done before -- win a road playoff game. But facing Seattle in the first round sets up an easy chance to reverse that trend.

I am not completely sold on any team in the NFC and have to give the Saints a major edge because, of all the teams in the playoffs, they know what it takes to get to a Super Bowl. None of the other NFC teams have deep playoff experience except for the Bears -- but this is not the same team, with many new faces.

All in all I believe the NFC is the Saints' to lose and they should be in Dallas in February representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Previous Comments

ID
161416
Comment

I know many of you are fans of AFC teams. If you would like a preview of the AFC side of the playoffs let the powers that be know by commenting on how much you would like to read an AFC preview. Enjoy this NFC preview and feel free to comment on what you think will happen with the team you feel will make a deep playoff run.

Author
Bryan Flynn
Date
2011-01-04T13:03:00-06:00
ID
161418
Comment

I like the Saints chances too. I worry about weather -- even though they always say they're fine with weather, I see Drew make more mistakes in the cold and I see the defense miss more tackles in the cold. And we'll need a running game if we run up against any rain or snow. It's also worth worrying over the injuries; the Saints go into this weekend with 9 key players trying to recover from injuries -- Ivory and Thomas at running back, Graham, Thomas and Shockey at tight end, Colston at WR, Jenkins, Hargrove and Waters on defense. The Times-Picayune is reporting that DeShawn Wynn has been signed -- he's been on and off the practice squad at running back and played some during preseason. That's an interesting move by the Saints management that suggests they're worried about depth at the "fireplug" RB position (Thomas or Ivory) given that they have two "finesse" backs healthy right now (Bush and Julius Jones, for what he's worth.) Having said that, the one thing not to count out is that the Saints actually win on the road. Which is a good thing, because they're going to have to. One other note -- the lineup this weekend offers some *really* good games. NO-SEA is, hopefully, the weak game in that list, because NO will own it. But then we've got Indy-NYJets, which pits Peyton against a Rex Ryan defense, Ravens at Chiefs (who is the real deal?) and Green Bay at Philly (game of the week...end.) Are you ready for some football? :-)

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2011-01-04T13:22:14-06:00
ID
161419
Comment

I agree Todd. The Saints should be fine if they can adjust their defense back to 2009 form and get something from the running game. One good thing is that heading into the playoffs nearly every team has key guys who are recovering from the grind of the season. That means everyone needs key players to gut it out in the playoffs if they expect to be playing for a title. You are also correct that their are some great games this weekend. Can Payton return Indy to the big game? Can the Jets put their foot fetish, tripping, reporter harassment, etc... behind them and focus on the playoffs? Can Green Bay's defense contain Vick and can the Eagles defense stop Packers high powered offense even with all the injuries? Can the Chiefs prove they really belong with the big boys of the AFC? Can the Ravens aging defense and up and down offense lead them back to the Super Bowl before Ray Lewis hangs it up? All these questions and more will be answered over the next couple of weeks.

Author
Bryan Flynn
Date
2011-01-04T13:32:19-06:00
ID
161432
Comment

Update on Chris Ivory: His Season is Over. No wonder they signed DeShawn Wynn.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2011-01-04T15:56:50-06:00
ID
161435
Comment

I think the Saints will get past Seattle. After that, it's up in the air. That is, if the air isn't cold (i.e., Philadelphia and Chicago). I also think Atlanta would beat them if they meet each other a third time. I hadn't heard from Deshawn Wynn since he played in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State while he was at Florida.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2011-01-04T16:45:16-06:00
ID
161438
Comment

The New Orleans Aints aren't going to be doing much of nothing in the post season. They will lose the first game. Yes, I called them the Aints because they aint won but one Super Bowl Championship and they aint gonna win another one because the Steelers have something to say about who wins and loses. We ain't scared of the Aints in the NFC or the birds in the AFC be they the Atlanta Hawks, Baltimore Crows or Philadelphia Buzzards. And we damn sho ain't scare of the New England Patsies. We have all of our important playes back now and we will unleash Hiarston and the likes without concerns for penalties on the patsies. We will kill Brady if we have to. For the last time until next time, the Steelers will be the Super Bowl Champions of 2011. I'll holler at yall later on in February about this. We out!

Author
Walt
Date
2011-01-04T17:46:57-06:00
ID
161440
Comment

Hey Walt, I forgot but maybe you can tell me exactly when the Steelers beat the Saints or the Patriots? Maybe I am wrong but I remember New England go to Pittsburgh and whipping the Steelers up and down the field. I also remember the Saints doing the same thing a couple of weeks before the Patriots did. Maybe you mis-remembered those games. Just messing with you, Walt and meaning this all in good fun. Walt, your Steelers have a very good shot at winning it all this year.

Author
Bryan Flynn
Date
2011-01-04T18:04:56-06:00
ID
161442
Comment

The Saints still do not know what quarterback they will face either. Pete Carroll has not named a starter. My money is on Matt Hasselbeck to get the start. If he cannot go it will be the Charlie Whitehurst (called clipboard Jesus by one of my favorite sportswriters) show. Either way the Saints should take care of Seattle like they did in the regular season.

Author
Bryan Flynn
Date
2011-01-04T18:09:10-06:00
ID
161444
Comment

I was just about to mention the what the "Patsies" did to the Steelers in the ketchup bowl, er, Heinz Field. While you can never really count the Steelers out, I don't know they'd want to face the Patriots again. At least not this season.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2011-01-04T20:52:40-06:00
ID
161453
Comment

Todd, more bad news for the Saints running game. Saints running back Pierre Thomas will miss the playoffs because of his injured left ankle. The Saints on Wednesday placed last season's leading rusher on injured reserve and signed Joique Bell from the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad.

Author
Bryan Flynn
Date
2011-01-05T15:45:27-06:00
ID
161457
Comment

Saints running back Pierre Thomas will miss the playoffs because of his injured left ankle. Ouch. Reminds of Times-Picayune turn-of-phrase where the writer said he thought the Saints could win in Seattle, assuming they could "field a traditional 11-man offense." These injuries are scary. But Jeff Duncan down there has it exactly right: Reggie Bush is Now the Man. Now is the time for him to step up and play the role -- blocking (which he can do), running from scrimmage (I've seen him do it), rambling screen plays (seen those too). And then, at the very least, the Good Lord has to give us at least one of the starting tight- ends back. Reminds me of a country song ("Oh Lord, wontcha buy meeee... a starting tight end...") Reportedly Shockey and Thomas practiced today. Colston looked healthy.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2011-01-05T18:30:21-06:00
ID
161460
Comment

Boo, hiss. I want my Pierre back. And I'm in shock that Chris Ivory can't play. Waaaa. Yay, Colston. That's my man. I have the jersey to prove it.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-01-05T20:20:12-06:00
ID
161466
Comment

I have to say that I'm impressed that Drew Brees has managed to avoid the John Madden curse. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, NFL players who have appeared on the cover of the Madden NFL video game have had tendencies to suffer major injuries in the season after appearing on the cover. Perhaps instead of injuries, it transferred in the form of throwing more interceptions.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2011-01-05T21:09:16-06:00
ID
161491
Comment

You have to play with the players available like the Steelers did all year long. We don't go crying about who is hurt, sick, dead or retired and we got six (6) rings to prove it. Spare us Steelers fans the excuses of injuries, et al, and show up and get your whipping like somebody. Donna a gold and black jersey with #7 and the steel emblem will look good on you too. Go Steelers.

Author
Walt
Date
2011-01-06T18:05:56-06:00
ID
161492
Comment

Seattle has decided on a starting quarterback for Saturday's game. The Seahawks are starting Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck was the starter when these two teams faced off in the regular season.

Author
Bryan Flynn
Date
2011-01-06T18:07:17-06:00
ID
161504
Comment

I predict either the Saints or Seattle will win on Saturday or the Jets or Colts will win, but my money is on Seattle and the Jets. My sympathy is with the Saints though. On Sunday I'm looking for either KC or the Ravens to win or Green Bay or Philadelphia to win. My money is on Philadelphia and Baltimore, although I hate to think of what the Steelers will do to the Ravens a week later, and the Patriots the following week. I'll be glad when all the other bums are out of the way so we can have a Steelers v. Eagles Super Bowl. The ladykiller versus the dogkiller if you will. Don't hate me because I'm a poet. One of my homie referenced my poetry a couple of days ago. Thanks for looking out. The female hate on this game if these two teams make it will be at an all time high! We out!

Author
Walt
Date
2011-01-07T17:59:18-06:00
ID
161509
Comment

Picks for wild card weekend: Saints 31 Seattle 17 Even even banged up the Saints have more firepower than the Seahawks. The Saints will like all championship teams find another level in the post season. Indianapolis 24 New York 10 Never bet against Peyton Manning. He has willed this team into the playoffs. The Jets are better at getting headlines for all the wrong reasons and Manning is 5-1 against Rex Ryan defenses and the one Ryan win was when Manning and company took to the bench having wrapped up everything in the regular season. Baltimore 28 Kansas City 7 The Ravens are playoff tested and should be able to run the ball with Ray Rice. Joe Flacco needs to take another step in his development and have a big game with all the weapons he has. Kansas City is a young team who is reaching the playoffs after a long drought. Next year is the year the Chiefs make noise in the playoffs. Green Bay 48 Philadelphia 35 This game comes down to can Clay Mathews stay in Michael Vick's face all day. Well no one has been able to stop Mathews yet so I have to believe he will make a play when the Packers need him to do so most.

Author
Bryan Flynn
Date
2011-01-07T19:28:29-06:00
ID
161510
Comment

To answer the original question...no. I'm stunned that the Seahawks won the game. Even more stunned of the poor tackling that allowed Marshand Lynch to go 67 yards for a TD to pretty much seal the deal.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2011-01-08T20:07:14-06:00

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