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Saints hit the bye in great position for division crown

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

PFT is checking in on each team during their bye week. The last four teams are up this week, starting with the Saints.

Great Position

The Saints have been an uneven team, but the end result through ten weeks is a 7-3 record and terrific position in the NFC South.

Mike Smith’s fourth down call in Atlanta changed everything. The Falcons are behind in the loss column and every conceivable tiebreaker. The Bucs are fading fast. New Orleans would love to get a bye in the playoffs, but they have a lot of work to do there because the 49ers only have one loss.

Home Cooking

The Saints have been a different team at home, winning all four games by a combined score of 159-69. It wasn’t just the blowout against the Colts. They trounced Chicago, beat a good Houston team, and dominated Tampa.

New Orleans is in great position to win the division largely because four of their last six games are at home. They host three NFC contenders (Giants, Lions, Falcons).  We’re not sure any team has a better homefield advantage right now than the Saints.

YAC Rabbits

Drew Brees‘ receivers gain more yards after the catch than any quarterback, and it’s not even close. That’s because of Brees’ accuracy and the Saints’ personnel. The Saints are great on screens and timing throws. They could use more plays to the outside; Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson have vanished lately.

Graham and Sproles

Jimmy Graham has quickly evolved into the most dynamic receiving tight end in football. He’s second in the league in receptions; Darren Sproles is third. Sproles has been a massive upgrade on Reggie Bush.

Sproles has 60 catches and he’s averaging 6.8 yards-per-carry. Between Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, and Chris Ivory, the Saints have a hugely dangerous and diverse backfield. They are eighth in yards-per-carry.  They still have two mauling guards in Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans. (Nicks is probably the better player right now.)

When the Saints are rolling, you can argue their offensive personnel matches up evenly with the Packers.

Need even more from offense

The offense carries this team, yet they probably need to get better. Their overall stats are a bit deceiving. Throw out the Colts game, and New Orleans averages 24.5 points-per-game since Week 4. They aren’t built to win games like that.

Turnover trouble

The Saints defense is 29th in turnovers despite playing an extra game. Three of their ten turnovers came against the Colts. This is a scheme defense without great talent, and the scheme isn’t presenting enough problems for opponents.

Mediocre defense

Where are the difference makers on defense? Will Smith has enjoyed a solid season, but the pass rush is below average.

Free agent pickups Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers have been ordinary. Jonathan Vilma was struggling badly before surgery. The rest of the linebackers aren’t much better.  The team is last in yards-per-carry allowed.

The most talent is probably in the secondary, but they are asked to do too much. There has been only moderate progress since the Saints D was carved up on opening night in Green Bay.

Day after Christmas

The NFC South will probably come down to Falcons @ Saints on December 26. It’s hard to imagine New Orleans losing the division if they win that game.

This isn’t a complete team, but Brees remains a top-five quarterback and they present a lot of problems for any defense to handle.  That should get them at least one home playoff game this year.

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15 Responses to “Saints hit the bye in great position for division crown”
  1. jessethegreat says: Nov 16, 2011 10:13 AM

    In a great position… Yeah, a great position to get blown out by the Packers when they meet in the playoffs.

  2. ovacs says: Nov 16, 2011 10:37 AM

    Tiebreakers point is pretty moot considering the season series (vs. Falcons) is 1 game old.

  3. ovacs says: Nov 16, 2011 10:37 AM

    But go ahead and crown em

  4. thankheavenfornumberseven says: Nov 16, 2011 10:51 AM

    I know there is no shortage of Vikings articles on this site, but there wasn’t a bye-week look at the Vikings. Was this an oversight?

  5. steviaquinn says: Nov 16, 2011 11:04 AM

    If the officials continually call games where their Recievers and DBs play by a different set of rules, they should get to the championship game pretty easy.

    The saints basically get an extra 3-4 drives per game because of the officiating. The only way the Saints lose is if Drew starts throwing picks to offset the advantage.

  6. forthelove says: Nov 16, 2011 11:12 AM

    Sproles has been a massive upgrade on Reggie Bush.

    That’s pretty much all you need to know about Bush.

  7. norcalmafia says: Nov 16, 2011 11:32 AM

    Saints will be gone after the first round there sefense is to leaky…

  8. dvdman123 says: Nov 16, 2011 11:32 AM

    I bet if you gave Mike McCarthy truth serum he’d admit publicly the Saints are probably the ONLY team they do not want to have to play in the playoffs.

  9. saintskin33 says: Nov 16, 2011 12:22 PM

    This isn’t a complete team, but Brees remains a top-five quarterback and they present a lot of problems for any defense to handle.

    Brees remains a top 3 quarterback at worst. There aren’t 4 possible quarterbacks better than him.

  10. goawayeverybody says: Nov 16, 2011 12:34 PM

    Hey jessethegreat, people who are totally confident in their team don’t feel the need to shout it all over the blogosphere.

  11. smoothjimmyapollo says: Nov 16, 2011 12:40 PM

    “I bet if you gave Mike McCarthy truth serum he’d admit publicly the Saints are probably the ONLY team they do not want to have to play in the playoffs.”

    As a Packer fan, I’ll agree with this. I think you always prefer your team to face a team with a shaky quarterback in the playoffs. Of the remaining playoff contending teams the Packers could face, Brees is a concern, Manning (if he’s on) can be a concern and maybe Ryan is a concern, but so far, he has done nothing against Green Bay to worry me. However, Stafford, Cutler, Smith, and Romo are all ideal playoff match-ups because with the game on the line, would you trust any of them?

    This Packers defense reminds me of their 09 team, where a veteran QB can pick them apart like Roethlisberger did in the regular season and Warner did in the post-season. If you can keep up with the Packers in a shoot-out (and the Saints can), then it can come down to one mistake, one blown call, one injury, or one fluky play and it’s anybody’s game.

    The good news for the Packers is that with the Saints’ 3 losses (including the opener), they’re essentially 4 games behind the Packers with 7 to go. That’s a lot of ground to make up, so if there’s a rematch, it would likely take place at Lambeau.

  12. axespray says: Nov 16, 2011 12:41 PM

    ^ have you seen the saints play on the road?

    let alone, up north in cold weather type games?
    rex grossman beat them dudes in an NFC title game.

  13. axespray says: Nov 16, 2011 12:42 PM

    … and the 7-9 seahawks.

    Dudes play different outside of that dome.
    like they’re scared or just woke up or something.

  14. scomibord says: Nov 16, 2011 1:20 PM

    Oh would I love to see us geaux into lambeaux and kick the allmighty fudgepackersoff their high horse. And have payton with his cripple leg do the “discount double check”

  15. sterilizecromartie says: Nov 16, 2011 2:18 PM

    The Saints are one of those teams that can beat anyone, anywhere. I believe they pushed the undefeated Packers right to the limit in Lambeau in week one. I see no reason why they couldn’t knock them off if they got another shot.

    Unfortunately, they can also lose to any one team on any day (see Rams). They need to be more consistent, but when things are going right they are tough to beat.

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