Today is the moment of truth. Will the embattled Saints make the playoffs? Will they be a #5 or a #2 seed? Will they get a favorable matchup at either seed? These are all the questions that Saints fans everywhere are clamoring over furiously in anticipation for the game. Today the team will run into a Bucs team that is trying to play the role of spoiler and catapult the Arizona Cardinals into the playoffs and end the Saints season.
As scary as it may seem it’s quite possible that the Saints could lose this game. Recently pressure situations like this haven’t been the team’s strong suit. Although with an attacking defense playing against a tall, immobile, rookie quarterback in Mile Glennon it’s very advantageous for the Saints to force pressure and maybe even get some turnovers.
The fervor of the defense will all depend on what happens in the Carolina vs. Atlanta game. If the Saints know for a fact that they’ll be playing for a #2 seed instead of a #5 then look forward to the Saints attempting to put the game away early. Well, look for the Saints to put the game away early anyway because if they allow Tampa Bay to hang around they’ll be discussing draft strategy instead of playoff strategy.
The factors that concern me about Tampa Bay are RB Bobby Rainey, and WR Vincent Jackson. Rainey is more or less a “scat back” but he has the ability to run up the middle with agility from out of this world. It’ll be up to Pro Bowl DE Cameron Jordan and DT Akiem Hicks to shut down the run outside and inside the tackles respectively. Now we all know what WR Vincent Jackson is capable of doing, he’s been making plays his entire career and now is no different. We seriously have to count on a depleted secondary to keep him grounded and make sure the big plays stay in front of them. This is where guys like Pro Bowl snub Junior Galette come into play. If Galette can manhandle his blocker and get in Glennon’s face a few times and rattle him then the secondary’s job will become a lot easier.
There aren’t very many concerns when the Saints are on offense this week. IF ONLY THEY COULD ESTABLISH A RUNNING GAME! In all seriousness, the Saints did a decent job running the ball last week against one of the better defenses in the NFL which is a very encouraging sight. The Saints have the ability to pick and choose where to dominate this game whether it’s on the ground or through the air. Nothing about Tampa Bay’s defense scares me. There may be a few budding studs in their front 7, but outside of those 2 or 3 players there’s not much to fear.
Ideally, I expect Atlanta to shock the NFL and close the season with a feather in their cap by beating Carolina today. Therefore giving the Saints the chance to play for the #2 seed. If that’s the case, then look for the Rob Ryan led defense to bring everything including the kitchen sink and close the game out early. I expect an early defensive effort similar to the game against Buffalo. Forced fumbles galore! Offensively, the world knows what Brees & Co. are capable of doing. Enough said.
My prediction, 31-10 Saints.