Saints (7-3) vs. Giants (6-4), Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Monday Night Football, Nov. 28, 7:30 pm. CT (ESPN)
First, let’s get what all the pundits have been saying this week out of the way because it’s all a bunch of nonsense. Yeah, you heard me. After all, these are the same idiots who called the Eagles “The Dream Team.” The knock on the G-Men has been they’ve lost their last two and are prone to second-half of the season collapses under Head Coach Tom Coughlin. Was it Jean-Paul Sartre or Mike Tyson who said, “The past is history, the future’s a mystery.” I’ve been wading through all the pre-game prognostications and what most NFL Nostradam-i seem to forget is the Giants won a freaking Superbowl after a second-half season resurgence just four seasons ago. This oversight renders those fools; therefore everything they’ve said or written about this game should be ignored.
Now, on to the Saints. Oh, the Saints have been inconsistent all season. They delivered a beatdown for the ages to the hapless Colts, only to get whipped by the winless Rams the following week. Sure they just beattwo Divisional rivals in a row, but it wasn’t so much that they beat the Failcons as the Falcant’s beat themselves, or rather, two particularly stupid plays called by the usually sane Coach Mike Smith did them in. And the only reason they beat the Bucs was they were at home. That and the gimmicky “bat game” thing, you know, passing out red baseball bats to all the players. Never mind the Saints have the #1 Offense in the NFL. Maybe they’re running NFL stats through the B.C.S. computer this year. Oh, and Drew Brees throws a lot of Interceptions. It doesn’t matter anyway, because they’ve already mailed the Lombardi Trophy to Green Bay.
For the rest of you sane, intelligent football fans Monday Night’s showdown comes down to two BAMF teams who are on top of their Divisions (well, technically NYG is a half-game behind Dallas), who want to STAY on top of their Divisions despite second-rate rivals (the Cowgirls, the Felons) that the NFL would LOVE to see overtake the front-runner all in the name of “parity,” and regardless of performances in the first half of the season or what happened in previous years, both the Saints and the Giants will fight like BADGERS Monday night to secure the playoff spots both have earned and deserve. I don’t write the Giants off as “Dead Team Walking” for dropping their last two anymore than I believed the idiots who were certain the Foulcons would leap-frog over us two weeks ago. This game will be the toughest the Saints have faced since Week 3 against the Texans. Luckily for Da Who Dat Nation, your Queen will be there Monday Night. As I was for the Bears and as I was for the historic butt-whipping of that other team with a QB named Manning (you know, the one we stomped in Superbowl XLIV), Da Queen will not rest until I have ABUSED any miscreant in a blue jersey until they an entire row of them gets up and heads to the farthest exit just to avoid walking by me. Thanks for spending yourtourist money; turn right on I-10 and follow it until you see the Louis Armstrong International Airport Exit.
The intriguing aspect of Monday Night’s game is as both the Saints’ and Giants’ fortunes rest on the shoulders of their franchise QBs, it will be the threats from within and without each team to the success of their passers that will ultimately determine the outcome.
Eli Manning’s own team is his worst enemy. You know what the difference between the Giants and the Taliban is? The Taliban have a Ground Game. The Giants have struggled with the run this season pulling off just 83.2 YPG--the NFL’s second-worst—and a pitiful 3.2 yards per carry—the NFL’s WORST. Some of the blame lies on the Offensive Line, which suffered a blow when Left Tackle Will Beatty’s detached retina in his right eye that requires surgery caused reshuffling (Coach Tom Coughlin is expected to move LG David Diehl to Beatty’s position and Kevin Boothe to Diehl’s vacated spot.) Adding to the G-Men’s rushing woes, their leading RB Ahmad Bradshaw has missed three games with a broken bone in his right foot and is Out for Monday as well.
Bottom line: no ground game, everybody and their grandma sees passing situations coming. Even blitz-happy defenses that consistently get SMOKED in man-to-man coverage situations by Defensive Coordinators that throw 7-8 defenders at the QB leaving 3 guys to cover the rest of the field (not that the Saints have one that fits the profile, cough, cough.) Were it not for a QB the caliber of Eli Manning, the Giants would have more than 4 losses. Say what you want about “the other Manning,” but Eli’s been carrying the Giants’ Offense all season. For that alone he deserves props for being an elite QB.
On the other hand, the Saints have a backfield of four healthy running backs, including leading rusher Pierre Thomas and the multi-purpose Darren Sproles who continues to lead the NFL in all-purpose yards. The Saints activate only three backs a game, so a healthy Mark Ingram or a 100% Chris Ivory will be de-activated.
While the decision is a difficult one, it’s a call Coach Sean Payton is glad he has to make after injuries all but wiped out the Saints backfield at the end of the 2010 season, causing the team to sign Joique Bell from the Eagles’ practice squad three days prior to their playoff game with Seattle last year. Restructuring the backfield was the top priority in the offseason; the Saints traded to get a second first-round Draft pick to acquire Heismann Trophy-winner Ingram, traded Reggie Bush to Miami, and picked up Darren Sproles from the Chargers during Free Agency. “It’s something we sought to start the year - that depth and that competition,” Coach Payton said.
As a result, the Saints elevated their Rushing Attack from 28th in the NFL last season to 13th, averaging 117.5 YPG, 4.6 yards per carry. When the Saints rush for 100 yards or more this season, they’re undefeated. When they rush for 120 or more yards a game, they are undefeated since the dawn of the Sean Payton era in ’06.
A solid ground game has certainly helped QB Drew Brees, and the Saints will definitely need one Monday night. With 31 sacks the Giants have the second best pass rush in the NFL (although they’ll be hogtied somewhat if MLB Michail Boley misses a second straight game with a pulled hamstring.) They’re ranked 7th in INTs with 14; by contrast, the Saints are 29th with just one. Another particularly disgusting stat is the TO ratio. The Saints are -5 this season (26th) compared to the Giants at +7 (5th). Oddly, the Saints and Giants are almost dead-even in Total Defense (YPG). The Saints are 20th (361.4 YPG) and the Giants 21st (362.1.) While the Giants give up beaucoup yards per game, they’re opportunistic and dangerous. In ’09, the Saints were the 28th ranked Defense in the NFL, but first in INTs—proof that despite conventional wisdom that “Defense wins Championships,” turnovers certainly make a huge difference. And the Giants get turnovers.
The Giants will need them going up against the NFL’s #1 Offense. Both our OLines suck just about the same; Drew and Eli both have hit the turf 19 times this season, though Eli has taken substantially more hits than Drew (49 to 35.)
The Saints are coming off the Bye week healthy. MLB Jonathon Vilma will be back in the lineup after knee surgery, although backup JoLonn Dunbar did stellar work in his absence.
The Saints are also undefeated at home this season. Don’t think they don’t know what a homefield advantage they have in the Mercedes-Benz Terrordome. “Four of the next six games at home … and this is our opportunity to try to separate ourselves and really establish our position both in our division and in the conference,” Brees said.
Brees leads the NFL with 3,326 yards and is on track to shatter Dan Marino’s single-season passing record. He’s thrown for 23 TD’s (third-most.) In his career, he’s 3-0 against the Giants, with seven touchdowns, no INTs and a 65.5 Comp % winning by an average of 22.0 points.
Manning is 6th in the NFL with 18 TDs. He’s also the NFL’s pre-eminent game closer with a League-leading 120.5 fourth-quarter QBR. This will be the second time Manning will play in his hometown, and the Saints will whip his behind like we did two seasons ago when he went 14 of 31 passes for 178 yards, one TD and one INT in a 48-27 loss (Brees threw 4 TDs in that game. Ha ha!)
“I know it’s not easy playing there,” Manning said. “It’s a loud stadium and we have to try to do our best to concentrate well. We have to try not to let the crowd get into the game. We have to start fast and then not allow them to get big plays.”
That’s an understatement. One place the Saints have been consistent this season is the Superdome, and they’ve been consistently LETHAL.
Fearless Prediction: The Saints are healthy, well-rested coming off a bye week, and Sean Payton, the NFL’s reigning Offensive Genius has had two weeks to prepare for this one. The Saints have won 10 straight November games. The Saints have an arsenal of Offensive weapons; the Giants have Eli Manning. Unless Drew is running for his life the entire game (in which case the Saints’ OLine better go into the Federal Witness Protection Program), the Saints will take this one. They just don’t like to get embarrassed on national television. The Giants will put up points—quite a few, actually, thanks to our blitz-happy D.C. who doesn’t even think strategy. Luckily with the Giants’ lack of a running game, he doesn’t have to. The Giants will have to throw. Saints 28 Giants 24.
Next up: Saints face a probably Suh-less Detroit Lions, Dec. 4, 7:20 CT (NBC)
Giants are home against the Packers (good luck with that), Dec. 4, 4:15 ET (Fox)