Saints still unbeatable

For the second week in a row, a division rival walked into the Superdome and punched the Saints in the mouth in the first half. Just as the Falcons did on Monday night earlier in the week, the Panthers took a 17-6 lead into halftime on Sunday and looked to have the Saints on the ropes.

But the Saints never packed down, didn’t beat themselves and once again came away with a victory.

Drew Brees completed 24-of-35 passes for 330 yards, one touchdown and one interception to lead New Orleans past the Panthers, 30-20. As usual, Brees was calm and cool despite some early mistakes that cost his team and he spread the ball around to take advantage of holes in Carolina’s stingy secondary.

These past two wins for the Saints are perhaps more impressive than any in previous weeks. It’s not a shock that Atlanta and Carolina hung with New Orleans on its home turf, because the Falcons and Panthers are familiar with the Saints and Sean Payton’s tendencies. Yet in the end, the Saints proved to be the better team on both sides of the ball and it’s no surprise that they’re running away with the NFC South. (Not to mention the top seed in the NFC.)

There are two more games on the Saints schedule that I’m interested to see how they respond in: Home against the Patriots in Week 12 and at Atlanta in Week 14. Can New Orleans beat (one of) the best the AFC has to offer? And if the Falcons keep things somewhat close in the division, can New Orleans go into Atlanta and beat a good division rival on the road? As of right now, I’ll say an unwavering “yes” to both.

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The Saints have that Super Bowl feel about them

With their thrilling 35-27 win over the Falcons on Monday night, the Saints are off to their best start in franchise history at 7-0.

They were far from perfect tonight, but it’s hard not to watch the Saints without getting a sense that this team is destined for big things. Their offense is balanced and can beat opponents in a variety of ways, while the defense is incredibly opportunistic and more aggressive under new coordinator Gregg Williams than they have been in years past.

Save for a fumble that led to a Falcons’ defensive touchdown and an interception (what a play by Atlanta cornerback Brett Grimes) that killed a potential scoring drive, Drew Brees was incredible again tonight. Some of the throws he made were so perfect that he couldn’t have walked them to his receivers any better. And speaking of his receivers, Marques Colston, Jeremy Shockey and Robert Meachem made some absolutely athletic catches with defensive backs draped on top of them. The one-handed grab that Shockey made in the fourth quarter to help set up the Saints’ final touchdown was one of the best catches of the year.

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2009 NFL Week 7 Picks & Predictions

Instead of limiting myself to only four games like I have the previous weeks, I’ve decided to channel my inner Peter King and make predictions (with smaller write ups) on every contest on the NFL schedule this week.

49ers at Texans, 1:00PM ET
It had to have been a long two weeks for San Francisco’s players after the Falcons drubbed the Niners 45-10 in Week 5. Mike Singletary will have his team more focused and I think we’ll see a great defensive effort from San Fran this Sunday to slow down a potent Houston offensive attack.
Odds: Texans –3.
Prediction: 49ers 20, Texans 17.

Packers at Browns, 1:00PM ET
This will be a closer game than most think. The Packers could be looking ahead to a home date with the Vikings next Sunday, although in the end Cleveland’s offense is putrid and while Green Bay has been inconsistent defensively this year, I think they’ll do enough to get the Pack a victory.
Odds: Packers –9.
Prediction: Packers 24, Browns 16.

Chargers at Chiefs, 1:00PM ET
Ron Rivera has no clue on how to get San Diego’s defense back on track, but the young, inexperienced Kansas City secondary could have issues slowing down Philip Rivers and the Bolts’ passing game. Still, I think Matt Cassel and company pull off a surprise upset at home against a San Diego team coming off a short week.
Odds: Chargers –5
Prediction: Chiefs 20, Chargers 18.

Colts at Rams, 1:00PM ET
The Rams have given a nice effort the past two weeks, but this is a horrible matchup for them – even at home. Peyton Manning and company is well rested and the Indy defense will harass Marc Bulger all game.
Odds: Colts –14
Prediction: Colts 34, Rams 14.

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The best team in the NFL routs Giants

The New Orleans Saints are the best team in the NFL. Not just the NFC, but in the entire league. And if you disagree, then make sure you watch the highlights of the Saints’ beat down of the Giants on Sunday.

In what was supposed to be a battle of the two best teams in the NFC, the Saints absolutely guerrilla-smacked the Giants 48-27 at the Superdome. Soon-to-be MVP winner Drew Brees was brilliant, completing 23 of his 30 passing attempts for 369 yards and four touchdowns. He finished with a QB rating of 156.8.

The Giants turned the ball over twice and had nine penalties that totaled 110 yards, but this wasn’t a matter of New York shooting itself in the foot. New Orleans was just flat out better in all facets of the game. The stepped on the Giants’ throats and kept it there for four quarters.

For years, the one thing that had been missing for this Saints team was a stellar defense to go along with their explosive offense. Now now they have one under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and we’re finally seeing what this team is capable of. New Orleans limited the Giants to only 84 rushing yards, 241 passing and as previously noted, they also caused two turnovers and sacked Eli Manning twice.

Speaking of sacks, the Giants’ explosive pass-rush was limited to just one today. ONE. The Saints have one of the more underrated offensive lines in the league, which is something that is often overlooked when pundits gush about Brees and Sean Payton’s offense. One of the keys for the Giants today was being able to generate pressure on Brees and they couldn’t. New Orleans’ offensive line was that good and it doesn’t even have Pro Bowl left tackle Jammal Brown, who was placed on injured reserve in late September after he had to have sports hernia surgery.

As for the Giants, they saw today just how behind they are to the best team in the league. They certainly don’t have to go back to the drawing board, but they tried to match wits with another elite team and got their asses handed to them. They better get healthy defensively and figure out how to wake up Brandon Jacobs or else they won’t last in the postseason. Today was certainly a wake up call for the G-Men.

I don’t think any NFC team can beat the Saints in the Superdome. If they earn the top seed in the NFC, they will be on the fast track to the Super Bowl.

Shockey looking for revenge this weekend

Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey still has a bitter taste in his mouth from his days as a Giant, writes the New York Daily News. The Saints will host the Giants this Sunday at the Superdome.

Shockey gets his shot at revenge when the undefeated Saints and Giants meet Sunday in the Superdome. The defense should expect plenty of yapping from him. The Giants were thrilled to dump Shockey, who had become a divisive malcontent, and Saints coach Sean Payton, his offensive coordinator with the Giants in his rookie year, was glad to hand over second- and fifth-round picks right before training camp in 2008.

Shockey had been one of the faces of the franchise. But whether it was a bruised ego when the Giants won the Super Bowl without him or a feeling he was disrespected by management or money, it was clear his act had grown stale in New York and he forced his way out of town.

Shockey told the New Orleans Times-Picayune in yesterday’s editions that he had a “bitter taste in my mouth,” from his Giants days. “It’s just something that if you cross me once – it’s hard enough to gain my trust as it is – and if you lie to me and if you say something behind closed doors between that person and myself …

“I needed change in my life,” he said.

He had a blowup with GM Jerry Reese during a minicamp in June of ’08 and that made it impossible for him to return. He is happy and healthy in New Orleans after he was injured for much of last season, playing in 11 games and catching 50 passes with no TDs. In the Saints’ 4-0 start, he leads the Saints with 18 catches and also has two touchdowns. He is the third receiving option for Drew Brees after Marques Colston and Reggie Bush.

One of the things that always stood out to me about the Giants’ Super Bowl run a couple years ago was that Manning had so much success in the playoffs without having Shockey at his disposal. That was just one example of why individual players – no matter how talented they may be – will never be more important than the team.

Shockey has little right to be bitter with the Giants and he should just be happy with his new surroundings. Payton loves him in New Orleans, which is a perfect fit for his skill set. He should use his motivation in helping his team win this Sunday and not let his anger cloud his focus.

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