Aug 8, 201708:05 AM
Full Sport Press
'The games we play in New Orleans and beyond'
Saints last trip to the playoffs was 2013
all photos, associated press
The time for men tackling one another in different colored uniforms has finally returned with the New Orleans Saints taking on the Cleveland Browns this Thursday, Aug. 10 at 7 p.m. With the preseason kicking off into high gear this week, lets take an only slightly-too-early look at the 2017 regular season. We will pretend every Saint not named Terron Armstead is going to be healthy for week one and hope for the best. Here comes some prognosticating!
The First Four (Week One through Five)
I’ve said it before, it’s arguable that no team has a bigger must win in Week One than the Saints, who travel to play the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 11 to kick off another season of Monday Night Football.
The Saints are a team that has been haunted by slow starts the past three seasons and are preaching starting quickly in the upcoming campaign. In that regard, the reason week one becomes a much-needed win is that the Saints will face the reigning Super Bowl champions, on a short turnaround, the following Sunday. No one wants to face Tom Brady and the Patriots with the prospect of starting 0-2 on the line. So, we’ll say the Saints take week one behind some awesome play involving former Viking Adrian Peterson. Then they lose to the Patriots.
Which leaves games on the road (C’mon NFL!) against the Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins. The Saints have been splitting division games down the middle the past few seasons so let’s say they beat Cam Newton and then drop one against a sticky Dolphins defense.
It is absolutely imperative the team gets two victories in this opening stanza. If they only have one victory riding into the bye week, a 9-7 season (at best) looms large. Which, since the team has posted three losing seasons in a row could be seen as progress but Drew Brees ain’t getting any younger folks and is owed a big fat new contract after this season, a season in which the Saints can’t franchise tag their star player. Point being, the team needs to show Brees they’re playoff contenders. But hey, the team is 2-2 headed into the bye week and the city is cautiously optimistic.
Darkness before the Dawn (Week Six through 13)
Things get rough for every NFL team at some point during a season. Well, okay, maybe not the Patriots but you get the picture. The difference between playoff bound teams and the “better luck next years” is how a team (and their fan base) reacts in the face of adversity. In other words, don’t quit.
After a Week Five bye things could get rough for the Saints. For whatever reason, the Saints just can’t stay in front of the Detroit Lions offense, a team the Saints play so often it feels like they’re a member of the NFC South. Matthew Stafford has owned the Saints defensive backs in the last three matchups (all wins for the Lions) hitting 74 percent of his passes for 894 yards and seven touchdowns. After that test, the Saints get to travel to legendary Lambeau Field and play an even better quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Darkness consumes the land. I want to make a "Game of Thrones" reference here but you know I don’t watch that show or play Dungeons and Dragons. Anyway, the Saints are headed back to New Orleans at 2-4 and an anxious Who Dat Nation awaits.
Let there be light! The Saints finally get to start their first home stand of the season when they host and destroy the Chicago Bears in week eight. The following week, and just like the previous three seasons, the Saints scrap their way to 4-4 at the midpoint of the season by knocking off the tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is a stretch where the Saints can absolutely play with every team and have to take advantage to turn the corner on their three-year playoff drought.
Those good times keep rolling as the Saints travel to Buffalo and Brees picks apart the Bills defense. The next week sees the Washington Redskins enter the Superdome to try to beat the Saints, who are riding a three game win streak. Are you kidding me? Victory Saints. After that the Saints travel to L.A. and beat the still hapless Rams to go 7-4 and all of the bars from Treme to Uptown are abuzz with playoff talk. Are they back?
Then they lose to the Panthers at home.
Battlegrounds (Week 14 through 17)
Oh right, then there’s Atlanta twice in three weeks. Forget everything you know at this point — the Superbowl hangover, Matt Ryan’s penchant for choking, the awesome Dirty Coast sign, 28-to-3 — this is arch-rivalry football.
Another interesting note with the way the NFL has scheduled the Falcons season is that even if Atlanta enters with a losing record they still have everything to play for being that five of their last six games are against division rivals. I’ve never seen that before and it gives a team a lot of reason to believe. So we’ll say the Saints and Falcons split with both teams winning at home. Between those two games the Saints will buzz saw right through the New York Jets.
All of this would leave the Saints at 9-6 heading into the final game of the year, on the road in Tampa Bay. A win gives the Saints a crucial 10th win and likely Wild Card spot. A loss might leave the Saints on the outside looking in.
The coaches will be barking, “Win and you’re in.” The fans will be dreaming, “Win and they’re in.” The players will feel it: Win and we’re in.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Urban South Brewery’s “Quatrefoil” Sour IPA
Playlist Recommendation: Allen Toussaint – “Happiness”
Around the Way
The New Orleans Privateers men’s basketball team is off to Costa Rica and Panama to play four games against national teams. The basketball tour couldn’t have come at a better time for the defending Southland Conference champions, who have eight newcomers joining a team that lost four seniors. The Privateers will play a pair of games versus both ball clubs and return Aug. 15.