Life in “The Big Easy” is enjoyable right about now; Thanksgiving Day has now entered into our respective pasts, and the horrors of Black Friday morning have left people tired, yet possibly satisfied (I say “possibly” for a number of reasons.). Hopefully everyone around the country enjoyed his/her Thanksgiving celebration, as there was much to smile about during yesterday’s hectic afternoon. For Saints fans, all three contests that occurred yesterday had playoff implications; the Dallas Cowboys, the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions are all currently fighting for that number two seed in the NFC (Green Bay has essentially locked up the number one seed, and I simply cannot see them dropping from that spot.). With that in mind, many fans jumped for joy as the Lions fell to the Packers in the fourth quarter and the 49ers watched their QB, Alex Smith, get manhandled en route to a 16-6 defeat in Baltimore. Suddenly, the Saints have some room to work with against Detroit, especially considering that the two teams meet one another on Sunday Night Football in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Week 13. Also, with the 49ers receiving their second loss of the season, San Francisco is now in danger of losing that second seed, as the Saints are now right on their tails in that regard.
But enough about last night; it’s time to take a look at the vital week ahead for the Black and Gold. For New Orleans, this Monday Night Football challenge in the Dome will not be one that should be taken lightly. Though they are coming off of a loss against the Michael Vick-less Philadelphia Eagles, the 6-4 New York Giants have been a pain for opposing squads throughout the 2011 campaign. In terms of offense, the Giants are currently ranked fifth in the NFL in passing yards per game (281.4); however, they also sit at an embarrassing 31st in rushing yards per contest (83.2). To add on to the misery that is the New York backfield, it appears as though RB Ahmad Bradshaw will miss his fourth straight game this weekend, as he was held out of the team’s Thanksgiving Day practice with an ankle injury. This bodes well for the Saints (currently ranked 19th in the league in rushing yards allowed with 121.5 per game), as LB Jonathan Vilma remains out of the lineup after recently having surgery on his injured knee.
In order for the Giants to have success, they are going to have to rely on the arm of QB Eli Manning, as the Saints’ below average pass defense, which allows 239.9 pass yards per game and is ranked 19th in the NFL, should prove to be a kink in the armor of the New Orleans squad. With receivers like Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham (if he plays) and the breakout star that is Victor Cruz, New York has been able to successfully stretch the field against opponents this season. This provides a challenge for the young CBs of the Saints, and it leaves the defensive line with one simple objective: get to the QB. Knowing defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, he will be bringing the heat against a squad that primarily uses its offense for passing purposes. In order for an offense to stretch the field, the QB must be able to have ample time in the pocket, something that Williams will be looking to prevent on Monday night. Expect exotic blitz packages from every angle, as safety Roman Harper should pose as a severe threat in the Giants backfield.
Now it’s time to turn to the Saints’ offense. I could sit here and try to give multiple keys to success that either could/could not end up in New Orleans’ favor. Instead, I’m going to keep this simple and honest: stay balanced. In terms of defense, the New York Giants have been below average in every phase of the game. They are currently ranked 21st in pass defense, as they are allowing 362.1 yds/game through the air. On the ground, opposing teams are having similar success. Enemy squads have racked up 239.1 yards/game on the ground against the “G-Men,” putting them at 18th in the NFL in terms of rushing defense.
For the Saints to truly give the Giants a beating, they must be able to have a steady dose of both the run and the pass in the play calling. You know what they say, “The run sets up the pass, and the pass sets up the run.” This should be the overlying theme for head coach Sean Payton heading into this Monday Night contest. With DE Justin Tuck missing practice this week with multiple injuries, this balance may not be too difficult to accomplish. If the Saints are able to establish any type of rushing attack with their “three-headed monster” (Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles), then expect the play-action to be used to QB Drew Brees’ advantage. Having WRs like Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson makes the play-action that much more scary, as that same term used to define the Giants’ passing offense (“stretch the field”) is taken to a completely different level.
So what is my prediction for this top-tier matchup? Because this game is taking place in the Dome, and the Giants have been unable to truly establish an identity on offense, I’m going to say that the Saints take this game by two scores. Tack me down with a 21-10 prediction in the Black and Gold’s favor. All in all, it’s just hard for me to see the Saints coming away from Monday’s contest with a loss, considering that they are bringing the number one-rated offense (in terms of total yards per game) into the Dome against a defense that is having trouble stopping anyone lately (I mean comon, Vince Young was able to tame them last week.).
So hopefully all the Saints fans in the country enjoyed their Thanksgiving Day celebrations; and let’s all hope that the jubilation continues through the weekend.Back to the New Orleans Saints Newsfeed