Don't Look Now, But The Saints Are Marching
By Tayyib Abu
The New Orleans Saints are not going anywhere. In fact, they might just be getting started. Week 10 is huge for them as they play the 49ers…
Go Big Or Go Home
The New Orleans Saints went all in for 2020. New Orleans brought in veteran after veteran. Emmanuel Sanders, Janoris Jenkins, and Malcolm Jenkins all joined New Orleans in the offseason. After three years of postseason heartbreak, this was the year the Saints won it all.
The Saints’ front office left nothing to chance; there was even a late play to bring Yannick Ngakoue to the Big Easy. With franchise quarterback Drew Brees nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career, the Saints’ championship window is closing. 2020 was now or never for New Orleans; with a salary cap armageddon coming in 2021 and a looming change at quarterback, this season has always felt like boom or bust for this franchise.
Bucaneers Buried As Season Gets On Track
It was an inauspicious start. Primetime defeats to the Raiders and Packers left people wondering whether this Saints team were contenders or not. There were questions about Drew Brees, the defense, and Michael Thomas (for one reason or another) was nowhere to be seen.
The Saints were also no longer the only show in town. The NFC South welcomed Tom Brady, and the Bucs were the centre of the media spotlight. After those primetime losses, New Orleans quietly got themselves back to 5-2 before last Sunday night. It was a game that every man and his dog had the Bucs winning; even the NBC crew covering had Tampa Bay winning. Well, that was until Sean Payton’s team came in and punched the Bucs in the mouth over and over again.
New Orleans dominated in every phase of play and sent out a ruthless statement to the rest of the NFL: write them off at your peril. The Saints are still here, and they’re not going anywhere.
The team is packed with experienced talent and is extremely determined to right the wrongs of the past three years, for all the talk of this play, that rating, and this scheme. We cant measure grit and determination; the Saint has three years of pent-up frustration. They’re filled with a burning desire to win it all, finally.
49ers Come To Town
New Orleans gets to go home to the ‘Dome this weekend to host the 49ers. Last year’s runners up have had an incredibly difficult season. Kyle Shanahan’s team has battled big injuries to key players, and it now looks like San Francisco will miss out on the playoffs. The 49ers are coming off a mini bye as they last played on Thursday night, where the Packers beat them comfortably.
San Francisco will still be well organized, well-coached, and will not beat themselves. Coach Shanahan is one of the best coaches in the NFL, and he will have his team prepared. However, San Francisco is still an injury-ravaged team missing key players on offense and defense. It is now time for New Orleans to flex their muscles and show the NFL world why so many had them as the NFC favourites.
Weapons Of Mass Destruction
With Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook, and Sanders, the Saints possess stars all over the field. Now with superstar Michael Thomas back, the Saints offense is ready to be unleashed. Thomas can do everything an elite wideout is supposed to do. He can catch in traffic, can catch contested balls, and get a ton of YAC yardage.
With Thomas back, Drew Brees was at his pinpoint best. He was throwing strike after strike as he carved up the Bucs. With Thomas back, a good offense can become a great offense, and don’t discount Taysom Hill. Hill is so exciting to watch as he can do everything. Pass, run, catch or block, Taysom Hill is the Saints’ not so secret, secret weapon. He was phenomenal against Tampa Bay. With the personnel at Sean Payton’s disposal, the Saints might have the best, most variable offense in the NFC.
A Defense On The Rise
The 49ers will be prepared defensively. Coordinator Robert Saleh will have his men ready. Even without Nick Bosa, San Francisco’s defense has a lot of talent. With Richard Sherman on the way back from injury, the defense will still compete against the Saints. Expect Sherman to shadow Thomas, and the rest of the 49ers secondary should be familiar with how to stop Sanders.
It is offensively where the concerns are. Deebo Samuel is still hurt, George Kittle is out long term, and worryingly for Jimmy Garropolo, the Saints defense came alive against the Bucs. Trey Hendrickson is having a breakout year, while the experience of David Onyemata and Cam Jordan is invaluable. With the likelihood of San Francisco being light in their receiver department, the 49ers may lean heavier on the run as they did against New England.
But this comes with the caveat that if San Francisco is run-heavy, then the heavy Saints front could clog running lanes for Raheem Mostert. That will have to be the game plan for the Saints and then force them into third and long situations. At which point, Hendrickson and crew can pin their ears back and race to the quarterback.
Injuries To Rob Us Of A Coaching Duel?
From a coaching perspective, this game will be fascinating. Sean Payton is as good a coach as anyone, while Kyle Shanahan is fast putting together an impressive record. The problem the 49ers have is they are ravaged with injuries and are about to play a Saints team trending in the right way. The Saints have not lost since Week 3 and are now healthy.
This is a must-win game for New Orleans, and it is high time for them to make their run towards a division title. We all counted them out after Week 3, but after Week 10, we may be calling them the best team in the NFC. The Bayou boys look primed and ready to make their run, and it starts this week.
Tayyib is an avid NFL fan and, as a follower of the detroit lions, is a permanent resident in the honolulu blue heartbreak hotel. writing football articles since 2019, tayyib loves everything about the sport except that wins are not a qb stat. follow him on twitter @TayyibABU1