New Orleans Saints (8-2) at Denver Broncos (4-6)

Sunday, Nov. 29, 3:05 p.m.


Radio: WWL 105.3 FM/870 AM; Spanish KGLA 105.7 FM/830 AM


Saints look to run win streak to eight

Playing some of their best football of the season, the New Orleans Saints march into Denver this week with hopes of securing their eighth straight victory. They’ll have to prepare for more than the Broncos as they’ll play at the famous mile-high altitude. Hydration will be a key concern, as will the low temperatures this late in the season.

The Saints vanquished the arch-rival Atlanta Falcons, 24-9, last week, on the surprising play of Taysom Hill in his first NFL start at quarterback and the incredible play of the defense.

Hill looked comfortable stepping up in the pocket to avoid pressure as he scanned for targets downfield. When he found them, he made hard, accurate throws finishing the day completing 78.3% of his passes for 233 yards and running for two touchdowns.

The defense was dominate, holding Atlanta to 52 yards rushing and sacking Falcon quarterback Matt Ryan eight times and intercepting him twice.

In his first road start as QB, Hill will face a better defense in the Broncos than he did in the Falcons. Denver will aim to pressure Hill to try to force him into mistakes, but the Saints QB will rely on his multiple offensive weapons and amazing line to limit the heat.

The Saints D has only allowed one TD in the last three games. They have the second-best run defense in the NFL and the pass rush is emerging as one of the NFL’s best.  They forced former NFL MVP Ryan into several bad plays last week and will seek to emulate that performance against second year QB Drew Lock, who has thrown 11 interceptions and lost five fumbles this season. The Broncos will look to running backs Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay, who combined for 166 yards on 31 carries last week against Miami, to help carry the load. But breaking the Saints run defense won’t be easy, especially with defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins returning from injured reserve.

The Saints are rolling, and there’s no reason to think they’ll be slowing down any time soon.


At the Line of Scrimmage

Here’s a snapshot of how the teams match up based on their average points, total yards, passing yards, and rushing yards per game and where they rank in the NFL.


When the Saints have the ball

Unit                         PPG            TYPG           PYPG           RYPG

Saints Offense       29.5 (5)      373.6 (12)    248.1 (14)    125.5 (8)

Broncos Defense   26.7 (21)    346.3 (13)   224.8 (9)     121.5 (19)


When the Broncos have the ball

Unit                         PPG            TYPG           PYPG           RYPG

Broncos Offense    20.6 (27)   346.5 (22)   231.7 (21)    114.8 (15)

Saints Defense       22.2 (8)      302.2 (3)     227.9 (11)    74.3 (2)


Goal to Geaux

The keys to a Saints victory center simply doing what they do well. Getting in an early groove on offense on the ground will continue to help Hill’s development at QB. If the Saints offense doesn’t make mistakes, the defense should be able to limit Denver’s opportunities to score and win.


Three & Out – Thoughts on Week 11

  1. Taysom Hill was impressive in his first NFL start at quarterback.
  2. Had a lot of fun counting the number of times the Saints sacked Atlanta QB Matt Ryan. The Saints finished with eight – Cameron Jordan (3), Trey Hendrickson (2), David Onyemata (2), Demario Davis (1).
  3. Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins had an impressive five pass breakups and an interception.


Quotes of the Week

“I spent a lot of time reflecting. This week, my wife and I had so many conversations about where we’ve been, the process of getting here. And if I’m being honest, it was an emotional week. I felt a lot of love from a lot of people. And it was overwhelming in a good way. So, we spent a lot of time reflecting. And then to be able to come out and get a win in my first start, was gratifying more than anything. Man, I have so much love and respect for Drew (Brees) and my other teammates, that I wanted to make sure that I did my part to help us continue to win.” – Saints quarterback Taysom Hill, 30, on the week leading up to his first NFL start as a signal caller

“Man, he played tremendous. I can tell, all throughout the week, his preparation, I can see the look in his eyes. He was ready for the moment every day. He found a way to win today. And he just progressed today and everyone saw it. And I’m very proud of him. And man, I’m kind of at a loss for words because I know he’s been waiting for that moment and he finally got it. And he showed what he could do and we still have a lot of room for improvement. That’s the exciting thing.” – Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas on Hill’s performance

“You have to give the Saints credit. They did a great job on defense; their defensive backs did a nice job to limit us and what we were able to do. Those guys came out and had a great game plan for us. They did a nice job of keeping Matt (Ryan) under control. They did a nice job of keeping our receivers under control. You have to give those guys credit for what they were able to do.” – Falcons coach Raheem Morris on the Saints defensive domination


Inside the NFC South

                                                W   L   T   Win %   PF       PA     DIV    

New Orleans Saints               8    2    0    0.800      295     222    4-0

Tampa Bay Buccaneers         7    4    0    0.636      320     253    2-2

Carolina Panthers                  4    7    0    0.364      253     272    1-4

Atlanta Falcons                      3    7    0    0.300      252     275    1-2


Atlanta Falcons (3-7) vs. Las Vegas Raiders (6-4)

The Falcons are looking to rebound from the thrashing they got last week against a Raider team fighting to remain in the thick of the AFC playoff race. Atlanta has a talented – but beat up – offense, and the Raiders defense has had some struggles. Vegas QB Derek Carr could be the difference maker in this game. Sportsbooks have the Raiders are favored by three.


Carolina Panthers (4-7) at Minnesota Vikings (4-6)

Both of these teams have struggled, but this game is intriguing due to Teddy Bridgewater heading north to face his former team. The Vikings lost to the Cowboys last week, while the Panthers blanked the Lions 20-0. It’s a must win for each team if they hope to keep their slim playoff chances open.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1)

The Bucs had another poor primetime performance against the Rams on Monday and now have to face the defending Super Bowl Champions. Tampa’s defense will have their hands full trying to contain Patrick Mahomes and company, and their offense hasn’t looked great against solid defenses.


NFC Playoff Picture

Below are the current NFC standings into Week 12. The NFL expanded its playoff format from 12 to 14 teams for the 2020 season. Each conference will have seven playoff teams – four division champions and three wild card teams. Only the top seed from each conference will have a first-round playoff bye.


Seed  Team             Division       W L   T

1          Saints           South            8   2   0

2          Rams              West               7    3    0

3          Packers          North             7    3    0

4          Eagles             East                3    6    1

5          Seahawks       West               7    3    0

6          Buccaneers    South              7    4    0

7          Cardinals       West               6    4    0

8          Bears              North             5    5    0

9          Vikings           North             4    6    0

10        Lions              North             4    6    0

11         49ers              West               4    6    0

12        Panthers         South              4    7    0

13        Giants            East                3    7    0

14        Washington   East                3    7    0

15        Cowboys        East                3    7    0

16        Falcons          South              3    7    0


The Extra Point: Taysom’s Triumph

There was more than turkey on the menu in New Orleans this week. As many prepared for Thanksgiving, the Saints feasted on the Falcons and naysayers of Taysom Hill’s ability to play quarterback in the NFL ate a healthy dose of crow.

I admit I was one of those who questioned Saints head coach Sean Payton’s decision to start Hill, an undrafted free agent who entered the game having completed 10 of 18 passes for 205 yards in his career, over a Jameis Winston, a former top overall draft choice who threw for 33 TDs and more than 5,000 yards last year alone.

Hill showed solid pocket presence, stepped up and read the field, and completed 18 of 23 passes. He ran when he had to but didn’t panic when defenders got close.

I was concerned with what Hill had previously shown when inserted at quarterback. He often threw rainbows with questionable accuracy. That wasn’t the case on Sunday.

Payton has said he sees Hill as the Saints heir apparent to Drew Brees. Those comments previously raised eyebrows. Not anymore. If he continues to play like he did against the Falcons, this will be Taysom’s team when Brees retires. Replacing a legend is notoriously difficult, but Hill – who has been solidly entrenched in this team for his effectiveness at multiple positions – looks like he could make the handoff as easy as possible.

I’m happy for him and hope he continues to play well.

I’m also remembering to second guess second guessing Sean Payton.