October Surprise

Saints turnaround has some talking playoffs



The Saints offensive line has only given up a league-leading four sacks. Ryan Ramczyk, one of the Saints’ 2017 first-round picks, has played every offensive snap this season at either right or left tackle.

associated press

I must admit, walking out of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome a month ago, I thought the 2017 New Orleans Saints season was a lost cause. Just two games into the season, the winless Saints suffered devastating losses to the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots. The fact is that since 1990, only 12 percent of teams to start season 0-2 went on to the playoffs, helped to sour my outlook. The offense was disjointed. Meanwhile, the pitiful defense had given up 65 points and made the opposing teams’ quarterbacks – Sam Bradford and Tom Brady – look MVP worthy. The team hadn’t had a winning record since the end of the 2013 season.

Then everything changed. The Black & Gold came to life, rattling off three straight wins against the Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins, and Detroit Lions to climb above .500 and positioning themselves a half game back of the Panthers in the division and among the leaders in the conference. If the team can continue to play at their most recent level, there is reason to believe that they can continue their win streak, and, yes, Jim Mora, even talk about the possibility of the playoffs.   

The Saints should be favored against their next four opponents are the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Buffalo Bills. While no one wishes injury on a player, the fact that Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will miss this game and the rest of the season with a broken collarbone is fortunate for the Saints. Even though the game is at Lambeau Field, the Saints should win. The following week they return home to play the Bears and rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky. A boisterous Superdome and this newfound attacking D should rattle Mitchy. The division rival Bucs will be a challenge at home, but this game, too, is surely winnable. As is the next contest on the road in western New York, where temperatures haven’t dipped low enough yet to affect the precision of the Saints’ offense.

Much of the Saints’ success has been due to their ability to overcome setbacks and rely on their depth. Enough good things cannot be said about the offensive line. After injury struck starting tackles Terron Armstead and Zach Strief, causing the team to shuffle linemen from position to position, the OL has only given up a league-leading four sacks. Ryan Ramczyk, one of the Saints’ 2017 first-round picks, has been exemplary, playing every offensive snap this season on both the left and right sides of the line.

The offensive line’s efficiency has allowed Drew Brees to throw for 1,292 yards, 10 TDs, 2 INTs, and a 68.7 percent completion percentage.  The offense is fourth in the NFL in points per game and seventh in yards per game, and Brees is being mentioned as an MVP candidate. 

While the offense is usually the story in New Orleans, the Saints’ defense and the job Dennis Allen has done in the past three weeks is starting to crowd the headlines. Last week, the defense looked like the Dome Patrol when they forced five turnovers and scored three touchdowns against the Lions. Defensive end Cameron Jordan has been amazing, linebacker A.J. Klein has gone from Carolina castoff to captain with the Saints, and rookie Marshon Lattimore, the team’s top 2017 draft pick, has established himself as a starter and could be the lockdown cornerback the team has been missing.

It’s been a lot of fun to be a Saints fan the past few weeks. After three plus years, they have a winning record. The team has given reason to believe that the doldrums of three straight 7-9 seasons may soon be behind them. The playoffs are a possibility. Geaux Saints, Geaux!  

 

2017 NFC South Standings

After starting the season 0-2, the Saints have won three straight and are a half game out of first place in the NFC South.

 

TEAM           W   L    T   PCT   PF   PA

Carolina           4    2    0    .667    128 122

New Orleans   3    2    0    .600    145 116

Atlanta            3    2    0    .600    121 109

Tampa Bay     2    3    0    .400    118 121

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Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he's not writing, he's avid about music, the outdoors and Saints, Ole Miss & Chelsea football. He lives in New Orleans with his wife, two girls and three Labradors. In addition reporting on New Orleans sports, he is looking forward to Biz’s assignment to cover the Mint 400, “The Great American Off-Road Race.”

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