Saints (8-3) vs. Lions (7-4), Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Sunday, 7:20 pm C.T. (NBC)
Finally some respect! A month ago NFL pundits were dissing the Saints as “inconsistent” and “faltering.” Now they’re talking Superbowl Run. Tell me something I didn’t already know. And I thought the 2011 Lombardi Trophy was already in the mail to Green Bay. Now the League recognizes the Saints are the only team with a rat’s lower-G.I.-tract of a chance of denying the Packers a Repeat. Tell me something else I didn’t already know. How many more teams must the Saints DESTROY on nationally-televised night games for the “Failcons are still in the hunt” wishful thinking to cease and desist? As many as it takes! Sorry, Lions, looks like it’s your turn.
After spending years (or is it millennia? Sure seems like it) locked in the dungeon of the NFCN, the Lions came out swinging this season, starting off 5-0. A spectacular 34-30 win over Dallas got the League’s attention and made both skeptics and hatahs in their vicious Division realize the Lions are for real. Didn’t surprise me one bit; as my nfl.com compatriot “Leolyon” will attest, Da Queen picked the Lions during the Lockout to be this year’s Sleeper team based on three things: 1. A healthy Stafford; 2. The mighty Megatron; and 3. The three letters that strike fear across the NFL: S-U-H.
And now, if the Lions miss the Playoffs they’ll have the same three letters to thank for it: S-U-H.
Da Queen will try to contain her Royal giddiness at the “new Albert Haynesworth’s” two-game suspension. Normally, H.R.H. WANTS healthy starters on opposing teams so I don’t have to spend hours after the game reading crybaby posts whining about excuses. I’ll make an exception this time. I’m GLAD Suh won’t disgrace himself AGAIN on the hallowed astroturf of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Players like Suh make me wantto pull out my waist-length Auburn hair by the roots. He had a Rookie season for the ages, winning A.P.Defensive ROY, Pepsi NFL ROY, Sporting News ROY, Pro Football Weekly ROY, Pro Football Writers of America ROY, the Pro Bowl, and First Team All-Pro. There's no valid excuse for a player of his superstar-calibre to act like he's in a prison yard when he's on an NFL field.
On the other hand--Suh was voted “Dirtiest NFL Player” by his peers in 2010’s annual Sporting News Poll. In the year and half since he became a Pro, Suh’s nine personal fouls is the MOST of ANY player during the sametimeframe.
Suh speaks like an intelligent, civilized, and dare I say highly evolved person, peppering his excuse du jours with words like “karma.” After their loss to the Failcons, Suh was criticized for taunting QB Matt Ryan as he lay on the field with an iinjured ankle. Suh’s response? He said Ryan’s injury was “karma for all the bad stuff they (the Falcant’s) have done in the past their Offensive lineman hurt their own QB.) Yet you never hearanything that even REMOTELY resembles a mea culpa come out of his mouth. What moron meets with Roger Goodell at his Park Avenue HQ one week, then stomps on Packers’ G Evan Dietrich-Smith the next game? DTNdamukong Suh, that’s who.
And to what does “tough on NFL crime” Roger Goodell sentence this recidivist? Two game suspension. Gee, I thought the NFL’s new “Player Safety” policy was to base suspensions on priors in the current season as well asprevious ones (or if your name’s “James Harrison.”) The Park Ave. pow-wow isn’t the first (nor probably the last) time Suh’s been called to the Commish’s Office. Goodell said he’s had to discipline Suh FIVE times since he came into the League and fined him $42,500 for 3 violations. There’s NO EXCUSE for a player with Suh’s talent to act this criminally insane on the field. A two-game suspension that takes $164K out of his bank account won’t improve Suh’s on-the-field behavior any more than attending League-mandated Anger Management will. What did Suh do show he’s learned the error of his ways? Immediately appeal it. In a rare show of some common sense, the NFL rejected the appeal Dec. 2.
What do you expect on a team whose Head Coach had to be pulled off of Jim Harbaugh after their loss to the 49ers because Harbaugh “shook his [Schwartz’s] hand too hard?” Proof that once again thug behavior stemsfrom thug culture on a team which starts at the top. It’s either tolerated or it’s not. The Lions’ Defense is #1 in the NFL in penalties. Coincidence? I think not. (Lions are 3rd in combined penalties behind—who else—perennial outlaws the Raiders & Pete Carroll’s emerging criminal empire in Seattle.) With Suh off the field sulking about Refs that don’t understand shoes get caught in opponents’ helmets, there’ll be one less violent offender for NOPD to worry about. (Note to Coach Schwartz: you better act RIGHT. Don’t make Coach Payton have to beat you with a crutch. Orleans Parish Prison is a stone’s throw from the Superdome.)
Suh may have a point about Karma. His suspension couldn’t come at a worse time for the Lions whose secondary has been gutted by injuries. Two starters are out: FS Louis Delmas and CB Chris Houston, both with knee injuries. CB Brandon McDonald is listed as Questionable with a thigh injury. I’ll go out on a limb here and take a wild guess that the Lions’ game plan is to pressure Drew Brees. A few days ago I was in the Dome watching NYG’s very similar Defense built around pass rushing (and at that time was ranked #2 in the League in sacks (31) whose secondary was also banged up like the Lions’. Result: 577 net yards of Total Offense, 49 points. Credit goes to the VASTLY improved Saints' OLine; the G-Men not only didn’t get a sack on Drew all night, he had an ETERNITY to throw racking up 4 TDs and even running one straight through the Giants’ line in the Red Zone for a score (and Drew’s lack of speed is LEGENDARY.) He even dunked the ball over the goal post backwards (although he’s no Jimmy Graham, who dunked the ball so hard over the Foulcan’s goal post it became crooked & had to be realigned by a work crew during the game.)
Granted, the Lions have formidable weapons on Offense (4th in the NFL in Points.) What they DON'T have is the depth and breadth of our arsenal. Last Monday, the Saints had to de-activate a 100% healthy RB Chris Ivory (the Saints’ leading Rusher in ’10) because we only activate three RBs a game. Their names? Darren Sproles, who leads the NFL in all-purpose yardage, Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, and human-wrecking-ball Pierre Thomas. All three have more yardage individually than the Lions’ top Rusher, Jahvid Best, whose been on I.R. since Week 6. Under Coach Payton, the Saints’ Rushing Attack has been run by committee, and it works. Defenses rumble, bumble & stumble because of the innumerable combinations of packages Coach Payton has on what we in Da Who Dat Nation loving refer to as his “Shoney’s Menu” of plays that he holds to cover his mouth (so Bill Bellicheat can’t read his lips).
Any one of our Receiving Corps would be a premiere featured Receiver on another team. Chasing them down is like entering an Olympic Track Meet. Then there’s TE Jimmy Graham, tied with NYG’s Victor Cruz as the 4th leading Receiver in the NFL (yes, I know Megatron’s 3rd…Duh.) His teammates nicknamed him "Avatar" because he's bigger and faster than everyone on the field and runs like he's on remote control. This former University of Miami basketball player has a vertical leap of 38.5” added to his 6’6” frame; he can catch falling satellites from lower Earth orbit AND pancake defenders as a lights-out blocker. Sorry Lions, with your gutted secondary and the NFL’s Premiere Thug suspended, you are mismatched downfield. Cope with it.
The big question about Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford is: Is it his broken finger or bone-headed decisions thathave resulted in nine INTS in the last three games? Stafford maintains his broken right index finger isn't the bone of contention. This week, he threw without gloves at practice. Ergo, Stafford’s’ decision-making becomes the main suspect. The majority of those INTs resulted from Stafford throwing directly into coverage. The blitz-obsessed Saint Defense swaps more packages than UPS. Let’s see how Stafford holds up against D.C. Gregg Williams’ D that likes to play fast-paced and high-pressure. All season, playcallers have struggled against Williams’ constant substitutions and ever-shifting alignments, confusing even top shelf QBs like Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, & Matt Schaub. Sure, Aaron Rodgers saw us coming. Matt Stafford aint Aaron Rodgers.
If Lions' Head Coach Jim Schwartz doesn’t screw his QB’s head on by Sunday night, Stafford will be a lost ball in the tall grass trying to move the ball downfield against the shifty Saints D.
After starting off 5-0, the Lions’ Offense has become increasingly predictable and one-dimensional, i.e., Megatron, Megatron, and more Megatron. A 104.3 YPG Ground Game is respectable (22nd), but what could it have been if Jahvid Best wasn’t on I.R.? He last played Week 6 and he’s STILL the Lions’ leading Rusher with 390 yds. Tsk, tsk. RB Kevin Smith sprained his ankle after burning Carolina for 201 yds. and 3 TDs, forcing him to sit out Thanksgiving’s Green Bay debacle. Though he practiced Thursday, Smith’s Questionable for Sunday night. If he sits out, expect Maurice Morris to fill-in.
Meanwhile, the Saints are healthy. MLB Jonathan Vilma's knee is Questionable and Turk McBride's Out (but what's new.) Cam Jordan and Patrick Robinson are both Probable.
Bottom Line: Lions, I respect you, but the Saints have fired up the afterburners on a Superbowl run. Unfortunately for ya'll, that makes you just another NFL casualty in our War. Our #1 Offense is on a collision course with the Packers for the NFC Championship, and we’re going to unleash HELL on the Packers’ 30th ranked Defense. The Saints are undefeated this season at home—actually an anomaly in the Sean Payton era when we’ve historically been harder-to-beat Road Warriors. The Saints aren't just playing games; they're making statements. We didn’t like losing to the worthless Rams and every week we're playing better and better football to remind hatahs who and what we are. We're not the same club that lost in the 1st Round last year to Seattle either, so ya'll can stop throwing that in our faces too. The only reason hatahs do that is because they're SCARED, and they should be (Watch out 49ers. We'll deal with you in January. Thanks for the film, Ravens! It'll go to very good use.) Most of all (and I’d think seriously about this if I were you Lions' fans) the Saints do NOT like to be embarrassed in nationally televised games. So blame the NFL’s Competition Committee forFlex Scheduling when we do to you what we did to the Colts and the Giants. When it’s over and done, lick your wounds and move on. Da Queen will be rooting for ya’ll to take down the Packers New Year’s Day. We'll take out the Viqueens for you Dec. 18. I have no beef with ya'll (there's a chance it'll stay that way with Suh off the field Sunday.)
Fearless Prediction: Saints 41 Lions 28
Next Up on Sunday, Dec. 11: Saints @ Titans, Noon C.T. ; Lions @ home vs. Viqueens, Noon C.T.