Unabated to the QB, Week 13: The Saints Are Marching

“In truth the way matters but little; the will to arrive suffices.”

—Albert Camus

It took me awhile, but I knew I had already made this comparison. And I did it only three weeks ago:

The Saints remind me of a really good college football team at this point. They score a lot of points, so it’s no big deal if they come out flat and fall behind early. They play down to competition. Reggie Bush played well for them. Eventually, though, they’re gonna drop one of these.

Yes, on the final weekend of the college football regular season, with Texas and Cincinnati using last-minute scores to each win by a point and maintain undefeated seasons, I couldn’t help but think of New Orleans in college terms. If anything, the Saints have looked more and more like a college team as the season has progressed: They have a quarterback who is preternaturally accurate—one that makes several throws per game that simply cannot be defended. They have three running backs, none of whom are particularly good, but all of whom are good enough given the system they play in. They have a half-dozen viable wide receivers, all capable of making big plays at any time, even if they’re playing defense. Their offense relies more on speed than any other in the NFL; given adequate time, Drew Brees will find an open man.

Their defense continues to make big plays when needed, scoring a boatload of touchdowns itself and receiving lucky breaks, like opposing kickers missing 23-yard field goals to ice games. That was arguably the biggest break an undefeated team has received since Clint Stoerner’s stumble and fumble for Arkansas against Tennessee—which Pierre already linked to last week.

The thing about the Saints that reminds me most of a college football team, though, is how they play to their opponent. The most anticipated games in college football are rarely the best; often, in order to beat the best team, you have to catch them on an off-day when their guard is down. The same is true of New Orleans. The Saints have played three games against teams over .500: They won those games by a combined 68 points (26 over Philly, 21 over the Giants, 21 over the Pats). They have looked utterly invincible in those contests, beating defenses so routinely it’s as if they’re playing Madden against somebody who runs a 4-3 on every play.

New Orleans’ closest calls, on the other hand, have come against the Dolphins, Rams, and Redskins—one decent team, one bad team, and one atrocious team. The Saints recall the USC teams of the last few years; they’ll throttle Cal but blow one to Oregon State. Of course, the Saints have yet to blow one, but their tendency to come out flat against poor competition is what makes the final four weeks of their season—all games they’ll be favored to win by a touchdown or more, I’d guess—that much more exciting. Because if we’ve learned anything about this team, it’s that the one game we know they won’t lose down the stretch is to the Cowboys. The Bucs, on the other hand? That’s the team to watch out for.

The Colts are a different story. Indianapolis will also be pretty big favorites to win their remaining games, with the possible exception of a Week 15 battle in Jacksonville, which will still probably be blacked out in north Florida. But, I get the sense that going undefeated doesn’t matter much to Indianapolis, which is odd because it should matter more to them than to New Orleans. The Colts, after all, already have a Super Bowl title, have already had the best record in the AFC, have already won 12 games for each of the last seven seasons now. They’ve even flirted with 19-0 before, getting to 13 wins in 2005 before Michael Turner and the Chargers—who else?—dashed their hopes in Week 15 at the RCA Dome.

The Colts should care about going undefeated, though, for two main reasons: 1. While Peyton Manning has never missed a start, backup Jim Sorgi has gotten the majority of the snaps in Week 17 in four of the last five years. The one year he didn’t was 2006—the year the Colts won the Super Bowl. The four years he did, the Colts did not advance past the Divisional Playoffs, losing their first playoff game three of those seasons. And if the Giants proved anything in 2007, it’s that resting your regulars in Week 17 is overrated. 2. This is Indianapolis’ chance to cement its claim as one of the greatest teams of all-time. And I don’t mean this in a micro-2009 sense, because obviously any team that goes 16-0 will be considered one of the greatest of all-time. I mean this in a whole decade, dynastic kind of way. Think about it: The Colts have won 12 games or more seven straight years (an NFL record) and 10 or more in 10 of the last 11 seasons. And yet, they’re not the Team of the Decade. They’re not even second. Going 16-0 would bolster the Colts’ claim as having arguably the greatest regular-season run in NFL history. Plus, think how much fun it will be when they lose to the Chargers…again.

  • “For the love of God, slide!”: Chant levied at both Mark Sanchez and Carlos Beltran in a disappointing year for Long Island Met/Jet fans.
  • Is it really possible that the two AFC Wild Cards will be Denver and Jacksonville? I mean, really?
  • Speaking of really, I really, really hope this was the beginning of the end (this season) for Brett Favre.
  • The race for the No. 1 overall pick is really heating up between the Browns, Bucs, and Rams. This may come down to strength of schedule, which favors St. Louis in the NFC West.
  • The race for the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA is over: Yay, Nets!
  • If Oakland runs the table and sneaks into the playoffs somehow at 8-8—which may or may not be mathematically possible (I mean, we know the whole hypothetical is testing the idea of possibility)—how seriously would Bruce Gradkowski be considered for MVP?
  • We know Oakland will win next week because it hosts the Redskins, who will find a new way to lose by missing an unmissable field goal, by intercepting a pass and then having it stolen from them and returned for a touchdown with seconds to go in the half, by being hosed by the refs. Wait, all of those things happened??? In one week??? No, Washington will lose because the Raiders will inexplicably be awarded 10 points for a single touchdown late in the game.
  • Why would any Atlanta Falcon fan cheer Michael Vick? I’ve been as soft on Vick as anyone I know, but there’s no reason to cheer that guy.
  • In related news, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl people were really hoping to bring Arkansas and Bobby Petrino back to town. Word is, the Atlanta fans will throw him a parade.
  • What I’m saying is this: Atlanta is the worst sports town in America.
  • Are we sold on the Bengals yet? I’m still betting against them in their home playoff game—outright.
  • SBCS: 1. New Orleans 2. Indy 3. Minnesota (tenuously holds on) 4. San Diego 5. Cincinnati

In an executive decision, after a 3-13 mark last time around, there will be no Prior to the Snap this week. I mean, I need to maintain some of my credibility, don’t I?

P.S. I LOVE San Diego and Miami as underdogs this week.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by only dodgers' fan friend on December 9, 2009 at 4:53 PM

    don’t root for my two favorite teams! jeez tim, stick to college bball picks.


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