The playoff preview continues with the Super Bowl XLIV champions…
#3 Seed – New Orleans Saints
First Round Opponent: Detroit Lions
Best Case Scenario: Drew Brees is Drew Brees; the New Orleans Saints defense does something it hasn’t done for much of the season…force turnovers; and Darren Sproles is his normal, excellent all-purpose self.
Worst Case Scenario: The offense struggles to convert on third down; the defense still doesn’t find a way to force turnovers (finished 31st in that category), and a forces Brees off the spot and disrupts his timing in the pocket.
Saint of Note: Drew Brees wasn’t the only record breaker for the Saints. Running back Darren Sproles racked up 2,696 all-purpose yards in 2011, which established a new NFL record. His presence made Reggie Bush easily forgettable and perhaps lack thereof, conspired to keep San Diego out of the playoffs.
A Reason Why The Saints Should Be Worried: Despite going 13-3, the Saints could not secure home-field advantage or a bye, which makes their road to the Super Bowl somewhat treacherous. A win over Detroit puts them in San Francisco next Saturday against the defense-happy 49ers. Thus, in order to reach Indy, they’ll likely need to win in Frisco and in Green Bay with a rather pedestrian defense. All three of their losses were via the road, with two of them on grass.
A Quick Thought on the City of New Orleans: One of the casualties of Hurricane Katrina turned out to be the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans. Back in October, the rebuilt Hyatt debuted thanks to $275 million worth of work. The restructuring of the Hyatt appears to be magnificent. It’s a relatively important landmark in Louisiana. It’s located right next to the Superdome.
A Number on New Orleans: 24. After New Orleans defeated, lambasted, and skewered the Indianapolis Colts 62-7 in front of a national television audience, the Saints participated in one of the more inexplicable games of the season. The 0-6 Rams jumped out to a 24-0 third quarter lead at home against the visitors from the Bayou before winning 31-21. Ultimately, if the Saints don’t reach the Super Bowl, they’ll point back at this game as one of the reasons why. It’s this bizarre loss that kept them from earning a first-round bye.
Song That Best Describes Them: Dr. John – Right Place, Wrong Time
No one is playing better than the Saints right now and I could easily see them winning Super Bowl XLVI…or losing to the Niners next week. Their offense is Super Bowl ready but is that defense capable of getting enough stops if they face Green Bay or New England?
Final Verdict: I think the Saints are the best team in football at the moment but that guarantees nothing moving forward. Of the top three big boys (Saints, Packers, Patriots), their defense ranks highest in the points allowed department (13th). However, can a team that doesn’t sack the passer (33, tied for 19th) or force turnovers win a Super Bowl? The defense will need to arrive at some point if the Saints want to claim their second Vince Lombardi Trophy in three seasons.