Why 2020 is the Saints Last Shot at the Super Bowl

For the last three seasons, probably the most consistent team in the NFC has been the New Orleans Saints.

3 straight division titles

37-11 in three seasons

Nice surplus of talent all around.

But we know the stories of each elimination: 2017 NFC Divisional Playoff where they blow a lead with 10 seconds left to the Vikings. 2018 NFC Championship Game of the “no call” pass interference. 2019 Wild Card of the no-call offensive pass interference.

To me as a Falcons fan, it’s karma for the Saints ragging about the Falcons about 28-3 and the constant abuse in recent memory. So I shed no tear for the Saints and their heartbreaks and continue to wish more painful losses for Aints.

Anyway, with my personal take out of the way, let’s get to it.

New Orleans window is closing faster than what I believe many people is. They have been the best team in the NFC with little anything to show forth. Being in a division where the Panthers and Buccaneers have been chasing their own tails and the Falcons can’t get out of their own way, the Saints have lived pretty. They’ve gone away from the typical style which was pray to outgun and outscore your opponent and hope the defense doesn’t screw up too much and they can get a yard on the ground when needed.

2017 was a year. The addition of Alvin Kamara in the backfield and drafting Marshon Lattimore ignited hope that another run of a Super Bowl was soon. And again, Diggs, no PI, then Rudolph + No PI. And now we have the Saints come up empty handed in three seasons. So why do I think New Orleans window may close after 2020?

2020 may be Brees final year

DREW BREES: Real world comments notwithstanding (which was probably the most tone-deaf comments possible where Michael Thomas even was mad), Brees is probably entering his final year. Unlike Brady and perhaps to a lesser extent Rodgers, Brees really hasn’t taken a dip with his quality of play. He played very well in 2019 after the injury. But that said, this isn’t Brees circa 2006-2016 where he could just ignite it. To add on top it felt like he was getting hit more and more including the Wild Card game against the Vikings where they lost and you even had a small amount of backlash from Saints fans wondering if Brees is the guy anymore. If we have seen anything, it is very likely Brees quality of play will continue to drop, but how far? We know one of the big moves was the Saints signing former Bucs starter Jameis Winston. He is good but is he really a franchise caliber quarterback now? Bruce Arians couldn’t steer the ship with Winston and until Winston matures, it’s more of the same. Now will Brees have that same respect after these comments by his players? If not, how much will it come out on the field? But if so, then the Saints will be all in.

TAMPA, FLORIDA – DECEMBER 29: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

RIVALS ARE THINKING THE TIME IS ALSO NOW: The Falcons and Buccaneers made a lot of noise by the moves. We know about Brady and Gronk back together in Tampa Bay. They’re in the win now mode with the talent built around there. Atlanta knows the window is starting to shrink under Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. The Falcons added Rams star back Todd Gurley to bolster the dying run game and hoping he returns to his MVP caliber play (good luck) and Dante Fowler who had a big year with the Rams as well to rush the quarterbacks. And the talent surrounding the Falcons is excellent. Both teams should improve and expect to be in the thick of it. Adding on, New Orleans sees Green Bay who may have that mentality with Rodgers seeing the exit sign, San Francisco is bent on getting back to the Super Bowl, and also teams who believe they will make great strides in 2020 (Philadelphia) and are somewhat of a “win or else” mentality in their seasons. To add on, the Saints get to see Kansas City and Denver this year. Pulling out 11-5 would be a great accomplishment at this point.

Kamara is eying a big payday aftger 2020

SALARY CAP ISSUES (PERHAPS): Alvin Kamara is on his final year of his rookie contract. His ability to catch out of the backfield gave Saints opponents fits. But he is probably wanting more of a workload increase. First it was having Mark Ingram and now Latavius Murray. Do the Saints open up the pocketbooks and invest heavily in Kamara while still having Murray locked up two more years? And while you have that, Marshon Lattimore has two years left and we know he is probably believing of having the highest paid contract at cornerback. And Marcus Davenport who really has come to his own in New Orleans, he will also command a big deal by 2021 and you have Sheldon Rankins looking at free agency. The Saints can keep one or two but not all of them. Maybe a first casualty of trying to keep as many has been Larry Warford, who was cut by New Orleans after three straight pro bowls. There will probably be others who will end up having their days numbered.

The Saints may still have the total package in the NFC

BEST ALL-AROUND TEAM IN THE NFC: I’m still standing by the fact the Saints are the most complete team and show it. All aspects are top notch. Quarterback who can pass? Check. Strong running game? Check. Solid corps of receivers? Check. Serviceable offensive line? Check. Strong defensive line? Check. Stout secondary? Check. Special teams? Check. Innovative head coach? Check. The 49ers and Packers have some holes to fix. The Vikings may have taken a step backwards. The Falcons are poorly prepared. The Bucs may have gotten a very aged Brady who can’t throw it like he did just even three years ago. The Eagles lack consistency. And the rest of the NFC is just not that good. The Saints have to be considered the favorite to win it all in the NFC barring major injury.

If the Saints fail to get to the Super Bowl, I wouldn’t say a rebuild will happen but things will heavily change down on the Bayou. A new QB is likely unless Payton believes he found it in Winston and that shouldn’t make any New Orleans fan excited. They probably let Kamara walk which was unimaginable (and to an extent still) especially if he sees what McCaffrey is getting in Carolina (he won’t get THAT much but someone will pony up a lot of dough). And then you do have others who will be asking for a lot. So keeping this nucleus in tact is not really going to happen after 2020. So for the Saints, 2020 is their year or bust.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook

Advertisements

The Saints Need to Blame The Saints, Not the Refs

First off, let’s get it out of the way: yes, I am an Atlanta Falcons fan. I get it.

“Well, if this was your team you’d be screaming bloody murder as well so go (bleep) off! Oh yeah, 28-3!”-any PO’ed Saints fan.

Actually I had a gripe in 2012 when the Falcons lost to the 49ers in the NFC Championship game where I felt like the 49ers had a PI on Roddy White that wasn’t called on them on 4th and 5 at the end of the game. And Atlanta didn’t have another chance, thus having a major heartbreak in Atlanta. Nobody griped on that. Falcons took the L and deserved to lose. End of discussion.

And secondly, while Patriots fans boast the 28-3 score as well, they have EVERY RIGHT to since they were the ones whose team came back. And they don’t do it as much as Saints fans, whose team had ZERO part in that comeback.

Now, I get that the Falcons rival is the New Orleans Saints and that Atlanta fans, LOATHE the Saints. I mentioned it before on here that I love going to different MLB, college football & basketball venues around the nation and my good friend and I now are going around country to NFL games. Now, I went with my son to New Orleans last year to see a Saints game (no, not against the Falcons and not wearing any Falcons gear-and no, no Saints gear either). I appreciate how the fans were and I also know how that franchise healed the town after Katrina. From that angle, I won’t even go to that point. Yes, they have every right to be angry about that no call. And honestly, when I saw it I thought the same thing: “where’s the flag???”

We know the narrative now: Brees threw a bomb to Ted Ginn, Jr. that was poorly played by Lamarcus Joyner to set the Saints up for an easy score near two minutes. Brees throws a horrible pass on first down to Michael Thomas, stopping the clock and keeping a timeout for the Rams. A run play goes nowhere and then of course, the no-call on Tommylee Lewis, only giving the Saints 3 points and the Rams with a timeout to spare with plenty of time left on the clock for that offense to go. Of course, the Rams get the tying FG to go to overtime. And a Brees INT & a Greg Zuerlein 57-yarder later, the Rams are in, leaving the city of New Orleans in anger and heartbreak.

“But that one call decided the game!”-Still angry Saints fans.

Well, to be fair, the refs missed a boatload of calls, such as the prior drive where the Saints face-masked Goff which would have extended their drive and take time off the clock and possibly put in the go ahead TD over a field goal. So as we say, “it goes both ways.” Again, I’m not disputing that it wasn’t a penalty, but to put the game on that call alone, well, how I look at it is a simple look:

The Saints deserved to lose that game.

I will put out reasons obviously, but the time you have to rely on a referee call to get you ahead or knock you out is the time that you truly didn’t earn to win.

What decided that game wasn’t decided on that no-call. It was decided up until everything and the Saints, notably Sean Payton, should look in the mirror to see who lost that game. So let’s begin shall we?

THE SAINTS FAILED TO CAPITALIZE IN THE RED ZONE: Saints fans will love how I will compare their team to the Falcons right here as Atlanta has historically (save 2016) been woeful punching it in in the red zone. A big dropped pass on the opening drive would have netted a touchdown. A failed attempt for a touchdown off an interception in the Rams territory only gave the Saints 6 total points. This is an offense that is top 3 in the NFL with a gun-slinging quarterback in Brees and Kamara who is becoming already one of the best dual threat backs in the game, with Thomas as your receiver? Come on. And of course, we know how they got there in the red zone and failed to capitalize there. And some of those calls in the red zone were a bit odd to begin with, especially on that last series. At that point, try to run down the clock and give the Rams a difficult time of tying the game with little or no timeouts with around a minute left. It COULD have been done. But the Saints failed in those opportunities.

THE SAINTS OFFENSIVE LINE WAS BEATEN UP…BADLY: Ingram and Kamara were useless on the ground. Combined they had 17 carries for 46 yards and the Rams attacked them time after time. But what the story was how the Rams got to Brees. The Rams hit Brees 7 times and got him 3 times for a sack. Look, I don’t care how good Drew Brees is (more on him in a second) and while I am a Falcons fan I’m not ashamed to say he is one of my favorite players to watch on Sundays and a true class act, you can’t play at a top-notch level when you’re getting drilled all the time. It is the same lesson we see in Detroit with Matthew Stafford getting knocked all over the place and how he can’t be at that high level either or Matt Ryan in years’ past. You can argue that he threw a gem of a bomb to Ginn, but you can also argue that had Joyner played it correctly, the Saints are not even in the red zone because that ball was a little bit underthrown.

FATHER TIME MAY BE CATCHING UP TO DREW BREES: Again, I love watching Brees and he is a stand-up guy. But he just turned 40 a week ago. Adding on, ever since the Saints lost to Dallas in December, the Saints passing attack wasn’t the same as it was before that. Brees threw for an average of 285 yards per game with 29 TD’s and only 2 INT’s in the first 12 games and was considered the front-runner for MVP. The last three regular season games? Brees only threw for an average of 214 yards per game, 3 TD’s and 3 INT’s. One other note: Brees was sacked a total of 9 times in the first 11 games but 7 in the last 4 games. The Saints offensive line wasn’t completely dinged up save for Terron Armstead missing 6 games in the second half of the season and perhaps that may have lingered on him, but teams started to come after Brees and whether the line wasn’t picking up the blitzes or Brees was just not as aware as he has been over the years, it is something that has to be slightly alarming and even in overtime, he wasn’t looking like that guy who to me is the second best QB in the NFL over the past 15 seasons (still have to give it to Brady). If he doesn’t throw that pass short to Thomas two plays before the no-call, who knows what would happen. But Brees threw some questionable passes that were also key in the Saints staying home until August.

SEAN PAYTON’S EGO IS GETTING THE BEST OF HIM: I’m not going to say he’s a terrible coach, but the Sean Payton in the first half of the Saints golden years (2006-current) is a very different Sean Payton we see now. You saw Payton be zeroed in, focused, aggressive, and being a championship caliber coach and it showed in 2009. He still is a great coach as we see how he has made changes to his offense to be a more balanced attack, frustrating his NFC South rivals and the rest of the NFC in general. But I’m not sure if it is because Les Miles is no longer at LSU where he has to act like an entertainer on the sidelines with all his extra bits, talking garbage to opposing teams’ players, mocking opposing teams’ fans when the Saints are on the road, doing whatever he did to “motivate” the Saints with the $225K bit during their playoff run (I mean if your team isn’t motivated to win in January because you are already in the playoffs, why do you need to do that?), many feel (notably Falcons, Panthers, Vikings, and Steelers fans right now) that karma kicked Payton in the butt. We know Payton is an aggressive play-calling coach. However, sometimes he takes chances he doesn’t need to take and many felt how he handled that last drive in regulation was a massive factor. It seems like he wants to show the world how great he is as a head coach. But the problem is, we already know it. There’s a difference being shrewd and being reckless and he has a problem. He doesn’t have to do all that excessive nonsense to do it either.

THE DEFENSE DIDN’T MAKE BIG STOPS AS NEEDED: New Orleans has a defense that is underrated. Are they the Bears defense? No. But they played great down the stretch especially when the offense took a step backwards. However, the Saints in key moments, didn’t make that needed tackle on a third down or late in the game when the Rams tried to tie it up. Make a stop, don’t let Josh Reynolds get behind you with a linebacker on a mismatch. I mean some of those mistakes also dictated the game far more than that no-call.

I get it. Saints fans feel robbed. However, There were 58 previous minutes that their team could have done something to avoid that call at the end. I get the fans in New Orleans are losing their minds about the call though being incredibly irrational (i.e. making stories up about how the ref in question was a former Rams player or hoping to beat up the refs at the airport or drag him back so Payton can beat him up) is NOT the answer. However, for any other fan or pundit outside of the NFL to cry and whine about it (Boomer Esiason), well, then they don’t know how football is played. Games aren’t won or lost by one play. And teams will always feel screwed over by no-calls or phantom calls. So as upset as the Saints fans are, they can get in the back of the line behind the likes of the Steelers, Lions, Falcons, Packers, Vikings, Bills, Cowboys, etc. where all their fan bases have said they were screwed in the playoffs over the years. But when it comes down to it, those teams will say that didn’t make enough key plays to win the game.

And the Saints most certainly did not make enough.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook

The Obstructed NFC Championship Preview

Like the AFC Championship game, the NFC Championship games featured two teams who held serve at home. The Saints got off to a sluggish start against the Eagles and then shook off a late Philadelphia comeback to take down the defending champions. The Rams, while not looking like an offensive juggernaut, won their game as it really felt like the team dictated the tempo against the Cowboys.

Both the Saints and Rams really dominated their schedules from beginning to end and are probably the two most balanced teams left (and my pick to win the Super Bowl over whoever they face in the AFC). The Rams have stars on both sides of the ball and have won in many different ways in 2018. The Saints offense carried them for the first half of the season, but as the offense has been relatively “figured out,” the defense has stepped up, creating key turnovers, making big stops and really put them in an amazing spot.

This game could be high-scoring as well, but it could be one that you look at the scoreboard in the 4th and see it is only 17-17 given how the defenses can play. So who will come out on top?

LOS ANGELES RAMS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, 3:05, FOX

RAMS WIN IF

NEW ORLEANS, LA – NOVEMBER 04: Quarterback Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams passes from the pocket during the fourth quarter of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 4, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

JARED GOFF PLAYS A FLAWLESS GAME: I feel with Goff is that when he is on his game he can be an elite quarterback. But I also feel with Goff is that when he is not on his game, he looks like Jared Goff pre-2017 and you want to run the other way. And he hasn’t been playing as sharp as he was to start out the year. But what Goff needs to do is be smart with the ball, make accurate passes, and not give the ball away. I’m not saying he needs to play shoot-out with Drew Brees as that is asking for bad news, but New Orleans will be focused on Gurley. Goff HAS to be on his A+ game Sunday.

THE DEFENSE KEEPS THEIR COOL: It felt like in the regular season match-up between the Rams and Saints, Los Angeles lost their edge a bit and got visibly frustrated. That can’t happen again and somebody needs to make sure that Ndamukong Suh is not trying to do underhand tactics because for some reason I feel like if he tries it Sunday, the refs will nail him for it and it could continue a Saints drive. If they let the emotions get the best of them, this will be the fourth straight NFC Championship game that may end in a blowout.

THEY PLAY PHYSICAL ON BOTH SIDES: The Rams defense is solid. And th thing about the Saints down the stretch was the passing game wasn’t as productive as the first half of the regular season (I had Drew Brees as my fantasy QB and needless to say, he wasn’t getting me the same points as the season got later). But when Dallas beat New Orleans in late November, teams took the Cowboys blueprint and used it. The Rams have to get to Brees and have to play tough on the likes of Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, etc. It isn’t the Saints don’t like it, but they aren’t accustomed to it. Similar on the other side. Have Gurley punish the Saints on the ground.

SAINTS WIN IF

NEW ORLEANS, LA – NOVEMBER 4: Aaron Donald #99 of the Los Angeles Rams gets a hand on Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 4, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints defeated the Rams 45-35. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

THEY START OFF FAST ON OFFENSE: It nearly went to a nightmare with Philadelphia last week to begin the game. I don’t see the Eagles having the same depth as the Rams though. They also need to make sure Brees is protected. He’s been sacked 12 times in the last 6 games, but he’s been pressured a lot as well, unable to make those same passes he had earlier in the season. An early quick start is what New Orleans needs to really frustrate the Rams.

THEY ARE AGGRESSIVE, BUT NOT OVERLY AGGRESSIVE: Sean Payton against Sean McVay is one of the more intriguing storylines as they both love to get aggressive on offense and love to gamble. That said, at times you wonder if Payton in the past gets overly aggressive. Last week he made some great calls to really change the momentum for the Saints against Philadelphia. But in the past he has been burned as well when they have leads and try to do too much with it. Plus, the Rams are a team that will make you pay for mistakes.

THEY DON’T LET GOFF TAKE OVER: Goff nearly got the Rams back in that first game in New Orleans. That means the Saints defense will have to get after him (which is hurt a bit with Sheldon Rankins not playing) and pressure him as much as possible. Gurley will still be a focus, but he will still do his thing and the Saints will have to be ready for that, but Goff is the one they really have to zero in on.

OUTLOOK: I don’t think the Rams are as strong of a team away from Southern California than they are. I know that most fans who pack the Coliseum pull for the other team (Dallas, Philadelphia, Green Bay, etc.) but they do have their trip-ups against some of the stronger teams regardless. And they are going into a madhouse that is the Superdome. The more I think of it, the more I think the Saints will jump on the Rams early, get the Rams defense flustered and frustrated, and keep the pressure on Goff. People are thinking this is a close tilt, and I can see it. But I don’t think it will happen here. Too many things will have to happen for the Rams to win this, or even making this a close game. SAINTS 38, RAMS 16

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook

Looking at the Three Major NFL Trades This Week

The NFL Trade Deadline is approaching and we are actually getting something happening that we’ve never really seen before at the Trade Deadline in the NFL: Trades.

This week we saw three moves being made that really impacted teams who are hoping to play some January football.  We will look at all of them and figure out the impact of the trades for the teams involved.

RAIDERS TRADE AMARI COOPER TO COWBOYS FOR 2019 FIRST ROUND PICK

For Dallas:  The Cowboys needed a WR as the passing offense is a disaster, so it makes sense on that issue.  Adding on, Tavon Austin (whom Jerry Jones compared him to Michael Irvin-not kidding on that either) has been injured while the tandem of Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson, and Michael Gallup won’t resemble that of the Falcons, Steelers, and Saints receivers that’s for sure.  It’s been said that Jerry Jones was REALLY involved on getting Cooper there and when Jerry REALLY wants a certain player, he will get that certain player.  But is Cooper worth a first round pick?  He has the ability to be a #1 receiver and an elite one at that.  His first two seasons were excellent and considered elite (155 rec, 2,223 total yards, 11 TD), but the last two years, as he’s been dinged up, he has struggled tremendously (especially this year in the Raiders lost season).  He has only 22 catches for 280 yards and 1 TD.  Now Dallas hopes that a better atmosphere instead of the toxic one out in Oakland right now will do the trick.  But though it is one pick, that is a first rounder.  If Cooper produces like he did in 2015 and 2016 then yes, a pick well spent.  But Dallas was burned before 10 years ago when they traded a first rounder to Detroit for Roy Williams, who pretty much did nothing after joining the Cowboys.  So in other words, high-risk, high-reward for Dallas with this move.  That said, they probably could have made a better offer than that for Cooper.  GRADE: C+

For Oakland:  The nightmare for Raiders fans continue as Gruden now shipped off his offensive star.  While I get the idea that the Raiders weren’t Super Bowl material, they were at the very least competitive with those guys.  Unless Gruden is trying to pull like an Atlanta Braves where they sell off their top stars and pile up the picks to have a great future in their new home in Las Vegas, this is just a head-scratcher in what they have been trying to do since the Khalil Mack trade.  That being said, getting a #1 for Cooper right now is not too bad.  Of course while they do have three first round picks, it doesn’t seem like aside from their own pick (which could be the first overall), Oakland won’t be seeing those picks near the front of the draft.  I guess because they got the first round pick from Dallas, that is fine, but the team is in disarray because of Gruden.  GRADE: B

Apple

GIANTS TRADE ELI APPLE TO THE SAINTS FOR A FOURTH AND SEVENTH ROUND PICKS:  

For New Orleans:  The Saints need help at corner and Apple, who had played decent this year despite the Giants woes, fits that need.  Is it a risk?  Yes, but giving up a 4th and 7th rounder isn’t a massive risk.  Apple has gotten a new attitude this year which has been considered a positive by Giants personnel so this may be a great move for New Orleans if he plays well and is up to snuff.  Given New Orleans is Ohio State Pro, he may fit in perfectly.  And if the Saints are able to take down the Rams (New Orleans and Los Angeles are probably the favorites to win the NFC right now), it is because they have to slow down the Los Angeles offense which is top notch in both the run and the pass.  He fits the bill.  GRADE: A-

For New York Giants:  Many felt like Apple turned the corner with the Giants this year so it was a bit surprising.  The defense isn’t the problem nor was Apple.  We can figure out what the issue is with the Giants of why the struggles are there.  Getting a 4th and 7th rounder I felt is a little bit of selling low on him unless Pat Shurmur was just fed up with him and we don’t know it.  I really don’t get this move for the Giants besides the whole “we are going to rebuild a la Oakland.”  GRADE: D

Detroit.jpg

GIANTS TRADE DAMON HARRISON TO LIONS FOR 5TH ROUND PICK:

For the Lions:  Detroit needs depth on the line as well as finding guys who can stop the run (Detroit is ranked 30th against the run in 2018).  Adding to the fact that Ezekiel Ansah has been injured for most of the season, the Lions desperately needed help as Matthew Stafford is in the midst of his prime years and probably the Lions best chance to be a legit threat in the NFL.  Harrison fits this bill.  Now Detroit owes him a lot of money but partly because they had some left over after Haloti Ngata left the Lions for the Eagles for LESS money, they could afford it.  Harrison will be with tackles Da’Shawn Hand and A’Shawn Robinson and could be a huge veteran presence on a young line.  To me, this could be a trade for Detroit that could change their season in a good way.  GRADE: A

For the Giants:  Yep, rebuild.  Moving contracts out, getting picks (though late round picks), etc.   But a 5th for Harrison?  I guess because Detroit is eating the contract that it was either pay the contract or pay for a pick.  But honestly, a guy like Harrison’s caliber doesn’t necessitate a 5th round pick.  I honestly don’t know what the Giants are doing really at this point.  At least the Raiders are getting picks near the top of the Draft.  GRADE: D

That’s it for this time.  Let’s see what the deadline holds later this week.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook

The Obstructed NFC South Preview

The NFC South is at the very least a competitive division, if not one of the toughest in football.  Three MVP’s for quarterback.  2 of the last 3 representatives for the NFC in the Super Bowl came in the division.  And last year, 3 teams from the division made the playoffs.  This year, it has a vibe that two teams really have a legit chance.  But oddly, the NFC South always has that surprise squad that comes out of nowhere to win, and really be at the forefront of the NFC.  And we’ve had three different champions each of the last three years.

Does that mean the 4th will win it this year?  Probably not.

New Orleans won the division last year and edged out their divisional foe Carolina in the Wild Card round and lost in one of the most heartbreaking manners in the Divisional to Minnesota.  Atlanta, after their Super Bowl run got back in as a #6 seed, defeated the upstart Rams with relative ease, but also lost in stinging fashion in the Divisional to Philadelphia.  Tampa Bay had issues all year with injury and issues and was considered by many a major disappointment as some had them being the one that would be the Falcons from the year before.

So, how will it shape up?  Will the Saints repeat and exact revenge on Minnesota?  Will Carolina get over the hump against the Saints and Cam Newton look like his MVP self?  Will Atlanta’s young defense start to be the feature of that team?  And will Tampa Bay get out of their own way?

 

Here we go.  Order by how I feel the teams will pan out.

Atlanta

(1) ATLANTA FALCONS

LAST SEASON: 10-6, 3RD PLACE; DEFEATED LOS ANGELES RAMS IN WILD CARD, LOST TO PHILADELPHIA IN DIVISIONAL

KEY ADDITIONS: TE-Logan Paulsen (FA-San Francisco), G-Brandon Fusco (FA-San Francisco), CB-Justin Bethel (FA-Arizona), S-Ron Parker (FA-Kansas City), WR-Calvin Ridley (Draft-Alabama), CB-Isaiah Oliver (Draft-Colorado), DT-Deadrin Senat (Draft-USF)

KEY LOSSES: WR-Taylor Gabriel (FA-Chicago), WR/KR-Andre Roberts (FA-New York Jets), TE-Levine Toilolo (FA-Detroit), DE-Adrian Clayborn (FA-New England), DT-Dontari Poe (FA-Carolina)

The Falcons entered 2017 with some high hopes of getting back to the Super Bowl and avenging their loss.  They kept pretty much the team in tact plus adding a former Pro Bowler in Dontari Poe.  However, things didn’t work out the way people had hoped.  While the defense made huge strides and kept on building to be one of the best in the league, the offense fell back under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.  And really, everybody on the offensive side including Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Mohamed Sanu, etc. were heavily criticized for not putting up the same numbers as their record breaking offense last year.  Now this year is a little different as now Sarkisian has control of the offense and adds another weapon in Alabama receiving standout Calvin Ridley to go along with fellow Tide alum Julio Jones, who drew a lot of headlines of possibly holding out.  He didn’t but people will look at Julio’s season to see if he can step up as he has gone to be one of the more polarizing figures in Atlanta sports right now.  He had a big year, but only 3 TD’s and had key drops and mistakes in big games.  The defense however, is where people are excited on with young rising stars of Deion Jones at linebacker, Vic Beasley returning to end where he dominated in 2016, Keanu Neal at safety, Grady Jarrett on the inside, and Takk McKinley opposite of Beasley.  Many feel Atlanta quite possibly has a top 5 defense in the league, which to go along with an offense that can figure things out, it can be an exciting season in Atlanta.  KEY QUESTION: Will Julio Jones have an MVP-caliber year at receiver?  IF he stays healthy and makes those big catches like Falcons fans are accustomed him to having prior to 2017, then yes.  To be effective, he needs to at least have 7 or 8 TD’s and be a beast in the red zone.  But given how he wants an “update” to his contract, he will be playing with quite possibly a chip on his shoulder.

MY PREDICTION: 12-4.  Atlanta doesn’t have an easy schedule, but the scary part was last year, they were in all of their games but one and 4 of the 6 losses they had a shot on the final drive to win, plus the playoff game against Philadelphia.  If the offense gets it together, they won’t have to worry about a final drive coming up short.

Brees

(2) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: 

LAST SEASON: 11-5, FIRST PLACE, DEFEATED CAROLINA IN WILD CARD, LOST TO MINNESOTA IN DIVISIONAL

KEY ADDITIONS: QB-Tom Savage (FA-Houston), RB-Terrance West (FA-Baltimore), RB-Shane Vereen (FA-New York Giants), WR-Cameron Meredith (FA-Chicago), WR-Michael Floyd (FA-Minnesota), WR-Brandon Tate (FA-Buffalo), G-Jermon Bushrod (FA-Chicago), T-Don Barclay (FA-Detroit), LB-Demario Davis (FA-New York Jets), CB-Patrick Robinson (FA-Philadelphia) S-Kurt Coleman (FA-Carolina), DE-Marcus Davenport (Draft-UTSA), WR-Tre’Quan Smith (Draft-UCF)

KEY LOSSES: QB-Chase Daniel (FA-Chicago), WR-Willie Snead (FA-Baltimore), T-Senio Kelemete (FA-Houston), S-Kenny Vaccaro (FA-Tennessee), S-Rafael Bush (FA-Buffalo)

New Orleans had one of the most improved teams last year.  It wasn’t just because Drew Brees is Drew Brees.  Drew Brees is always Drew Brees.  But what really got New Orleans going was they put more emphasis on the run game with Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara, which is one of the deadliest one-two punches in the backfield.  And on the defensive side, they made huge jumps with Marshon Lattimore at corner and All-Pro Cameron Jordan at end with Alex Okafor on the other side.  They went from being a joke on defense to at the very worst a respectable one and by the end of the year a tough one.  Of course, we know the story to their end of the season and while they added good pieces of the off-season, they lose Mark Ingram to start the year for a PED violation.  New Orleans loaded up on backs and receivers bringing in Terrance West until Ingram returns as well as Cameron Meredith and Michael Floyd.  The defense added Demario Davis from the Jets and Patrick Robinson, both good moves I believe.  But you wonder if the suspension of Ingram for four will sting them early on (two of the games are at Atlanta and the Giants) and knock their rhythm off.  But this team should be in the thick of the NFC race.  KEY QUESTION:  Can the Saints defense be a top 10 defense to go with Brees?  Yes.  If they do that, you could see the Saints and Falcons be fighting for the division where 12 wins may not be enough to win.  I think there will always be that second guessing on New Orleans and their defense as it hasn’t been the reason why they have won games.  It has really been the reason why there is only one Super Bowl under Brees.  But they have pieces.  MY PREDICTION: 11-5.  I believe the Saints are one of the three best teams in the NFC alongside Atlanta and Philadelphia and could be a 14-2 team really easy.  The home schedule is an interesting one (Eagles, Steelers, Rams), and facing their rivals at home is always a dogfight. 

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New England Patriots

(3) CAROLINA PANTHERS

LAST SEASON: 11-5, 2ND PLACE, LOST TO NEW ORLEANS IN WILD CARD

KEY ADDITIONS: RB-CJ Anderson (FA-Denver), RB-Kenjon Barner (FA-Philadelphia), WR-Torrey Smith (Trade-Philadelphia), WR-Jarius Wright (FA-Minnesota), G-Jeremiah Sirles (FA-Miami), DT-Dontari Poe (FA-Atlanta), CB-Da’Norris Searcy (FA-Tennessee), WR-DJ Moore (Draft-Maryland), CB-Donte Jackson (Draft-LSU), S-Rashaan Gaulden (Draft-Tennessee)

KEY LOSSES: QB-Derek Anderson (FA), RB-Jonathan Stewart (FA-New York Giants), TE-Ed Dickson (FA-Seattle), G-Andrew Norwell (FA-Jacksonville), DT-Star Lotuleilei (FA-Buffalo), DE-Charles Johnson (FA), CB-Kurt Coleman (FA-New Orleans), T-Daryl Williams (Injury), CB-Ross Cockrell (Injury)

Carolina’s last seasons have gone something like this: 2015 was GREAT.  2016 was BAD.  And 2017 was somewhere in between.  Yes, they won 11 games, but Carolina has a knack of winning games in some of the ugliest manners.  And it seems wherever quarterback Cam Newton goes, Carolina goes.  Newton is one of the most polarizing figures in football with his style and attitude.  When he’s on, he’s dancing and having a good time and Carolina is winning.  When he’s off, he is that kid you see outside at recess in time out, sulking and whining and you don’t want to be around him.  Last year he was pretty much good and bad, but he can’t be pulling that card all the time.  Cam has to be consistent all season similar to 2015.  Now, partly because of Cam, it has a vibe Carolina is a bit of a house of cards.  I don’t see them having the same depth as their rivals in Atlanta or New Orleans and while Christian McCaffrey is a good receiving running back, he isn’t a guy I would trust to run the ball 20 times per game and take over.  Carolina gave Newton a couple of pieces in DJ Moore and Torrey Smith to help out and give him reliable hands and a playmaker so that helps.  But lost in the shuffle is the fact the Panthers lost All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell to Jacksonville and starting right tackle Daryl Williams, which means teams can pressure Cam more and when Cam gets pressured, he struggles immensely.  On defense, Carolina will have that mix of veterans like Luke Kuechly, Julius Peppers, Thomas Davis (who is suspended for the first four games),  and added Dontari Poe while they have a youthful group mostly in the secondary, notably Donte Jackson and James Bradberry.  But it doesn’t seem like the Panthers defense is as dangerous as we’ve come to know them.  They can still stop the run thanks to that line up front, but passing is a concern especially when you see Brees and Ryan for four games and this year having to see Big Ben, Wentz, and Goff will only hurt matters.  But I just think Carolina’s defense isn’t as stout as what we’ve come to see and if Newton’s inconsistencies and immaturity show up, it will be a disappointing year in Carolina.  KEY QUESTION: If the Panthers struggle and finish under .500 will we see an overhaul in the team with new ownership?  Yes.  Rivera has been coaching on a hot seat for the last 3 seasons it seems.  And if Cam struggles and say the Panthers go 6-10, there may be some talk of deciding if Cam is their guy.

MY PREDICTION: 7-9.  Carolina has a talented bunch, but not deeply talented like others.  And I also don’t see Cam turning back the clock to 2015. 

Bucs.jpg

(4) TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

LAST SEASON: 5-11, 4TH PLACE

KEY ADDITIONS: C-Ryan Jensen (FA-Baltimore), K-Chandler Cantanzaro (FA-New York Jets), DE-Jason Pierre-Paul (Trade-New York Giants), DE-Vinny Curry (FA-Philadelphia),  LS-Drew Ferris (FA-Seattle), DT-Vita Vea (Draft-Washington), G-Alex Cappa (Draft-Humboldt State), RB-Ronald Jones (Draft-USC)

KEY LOSSES: RB-Doug Martin (Released-Oakland), K-Patrick Murray (FA), DT-Clinton McDonald (FA-Denver), DE-Robert Ayers (FA), DT-Chris Baker (FA-Cincinnati), DE-Ryan Russell (FA-Buffalo), CB-Robert McClain (FA)

What a difference a year makes.  This time last year many thought in 2017 Tampa Bay would do what Atlanta did in 2016 and what Carolina did in 2015 and Jameis Winston would have an MVP-caliber year.  It started out fine as Tampa Bay went 2-1, but then fell apart.  Winston was injured and was showing signs of acting more like the controversial, immature guy that people believed he was at Florida State.  While his numbers didn’t necessarily reflect it, it just seemed Winston didn’t take that next step.  And once again, his off-field problems came back to hurt him as he will miss four games, including three against the Saints, Eagles, and Steelers.  When he comes back, there is a good chance he comes back 0-4 (they get the Bears in Chicago too) and they have a road game in Atlanta after their bye.  The sad part is, Tampa Bay is a talented team, especially with their defensive line of Gerald McCoy, William Gholston, and now Jason Pierre-Paul & Vita Vea in the fold.  Tampa Bay will have a good defense to be reckoned with (though not to be confused with the Sapp-Brooks-Lynch years).  That said, while the line is great, the secondary is a problem and being in the NFC South will not be easy and given how the defense is very conservative, it will be a bigger problem.  But of course, it comes back to Winston.  As the Bucs 2017 season became lost, the talk of tension between Winston and Dirk Koetter arose.  And the local media downplayed it like “well, we are losing, it won’t always be peaches & cream.”  Well, the problem is, if you are losing, the last thing needed is to have tension and to work together and it didn’t look like they were working together.  So if Winston comes back to Tampa and sitting at 0-4, there will be a lot of dissecting with his communication with him & Koetter.  And if it goes south, the Bucs season is really lost.  KEY QUESTION:  If Tampa has a losing season that they win less than 6 games, will this be Winston’s last season with the Bucs?  No, but let’s face it, Koetter may be gone.  And he may be gone if the Bucs are out if it by early November.  The next head coach will probably give Winston a shot and if there are issues with him & Winston, you can bet 2019 will be Winston’s last.

MY PREDICTION: 4-12.  Tampa has gaping holes in the secondary and at running back.  And if there are too many issues in the locker room, it won’t help anybody.

That’s it for this week.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook

Cursed Sports Cities in America-New Orleans

Yes, I know the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009.  But as I said in my Indianapolis blog, sometimes one championship isn’t enough to hit the heartbreak.  The Saints ever since winning have had numerous gut-punches to them in games, notably the playoffs, which I will detail later.

New Orleans is one of those towns where crazy things happen.  We associate the town to a lot of things, from the Mardi Gras celebrations, Bourbon Street to unfortunately Katrina, to the unique blend of French and American put together as well as the whole voodoo vibe.  It is one of the most unique towns in the country and a great town.

I’ve made it clear I’m a Falcons fan on here more than a few times.  And while the rivalry between the Falcons and Saints may not be as front page as Eagles/Giants, Broncos/Raiders, Packers/Bears, it is a hated rivalry on both ends.  Saints fans love conjuring that 28-3 choke by Atlanta in the Super Bowl (as they seem to be more obsessed with it than the Patriots fans, which their team who came back on Atlanta, which to me is odd but whatever).  Atlanta fans had fun throwing out memes on the Saints when they blew the game with 10 seconds left to Minnesota this past year.  Parting shots get taken on the local media (as one Atlanta sports personality calls New Orleans “Stinkytown” and nickname the Saints the Swamp People).  It’s fun overall and with the Falcons and Saints being at the top of their games right now.  But I’ve gone off-topic as I’m trying to say being down for a Saints game, I appreciate the fans of the city as it is a great sports town, as I guess you can say I’m an enemy of that town.

But, it does not excuse New Orleans from not being cursed.

I mentioned the Saints in recent years since their Super Bowl win have gotten more than a few gut-punches, but also New Orleans has not had much luck with their basketball team(s), as they’ve lost one through relocation and then the one they have inherited have gotten a few punches to the gut themselves so let’s look at one of the more underrated sports towns, and I relatively cursed sports town with it.

NEW ORLEANS: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, NEW ORLEANS HORNETS/PELICANS, NEW ORLEANS JAZZ (PREVIOUS)

RESUME: 1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (2009-SAINTS); DROUGHT OF 9 YEARS

Beast

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (1 SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP):  Again, it is admittedly a debate New Orleans is here for the fact of their Super Bowl title in 2009.  While that should eliminate them from being cursed, some fans (and mostly Minnesota fans) believe that the Saints were “handed” the NFC Championship that year for a couple of reasons: first one was the Saints were rumored to have been trying to take players out of the game (perhaps Brett Favre) and two Favre’s big-time blunder of throwing across his body late when the Vikings were already in field goal territory and Tracy Porter picking it off to keep the Vikings from scoring and the Saints would win it.

It may have ended their 42-year run of misery at that point as the Saints from its inception through really the aftermath of Katrina in 2006 had been one of the bottom-feeders.  Even their playoff runs were disappointments (91 vs. Atlanta, 92 vs. Philadelphia as both were home games; 2000 playoffs in Minnesota, blowing a nice chance in 2002 to get to the playoffs, etc.).  However, since the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009, they’ve endured some pretty bad heartbreaks in the Bayou.

The reason why the Saints have been near the forefront of the NFC since 2006 and why they have a Super Bowl title is really because of one man: Drew Brees.  To me, he is the best passing QB in NFL history, over Dan Marino and he is also one of the fearless, toughest quarterbacks to play.  He will keep the Saints in every game possible to win, even if New Orleans has issues such as the defense over the times.  But since the Saints are always considered a tough out because of him, it doesn’t ease the fact New Orleans has seen its share of heartbreaks with Brees.

I’m really going to start past the 2009 season on New Orleans.  The Saints didn’t really fall into that category as they went 11-5 in 2010, but had lost out to Atlanta for the divisional title, thanks to an early home loss to the Falcons where the reliable Garrett Hartley missed an easy chip shot to win it in regulation while Matt Bryant buried one from 46 yards out in overtime to give the Falcons a win in the Superdome.  It would play large as the Saints (though beating the Falcons near the end of the season in Atlanta) would have to travel on the road in the playoffs to the 7-9 NFC West champion Seahawks.  Many slated New Orleans would have no problem against the “won-it-by-default” Seattle team.  And while at times in the first half it looked like New Orleans would run away with it, the Saints defense kept on allowing Seattle to get back into it and Seattle would make couple of key stops on the offense which gave the Seahawks a 24-20 lead at half time.  Seattle tried to be the team running away with it after a key touchdown and a FG in the third making it 34-20.  After the Saints came back Seattle was more than willing to run the ball with Marshawn Lynch.  And the Saints had NO answers for Lynch.  In late in the game the Saints had the right defense in to stop Lynch, but to no avail as Lynch broke 8 tackles to scamper in from 67 yards, thus creating an actual small earthquake in Seattle and also giving Lynch the name of Beast Mode with that run.  The Saints would be bounced out.

Davis

The year after in 2011, Brees and the Saints re-claimed the division title at 13-3 but because of losing tiebreaks to San Francisco and also 2 behind 15-1 Green Bay they did not get the bye.  The Saints offense was a record breaking one as Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s passing yards record with 5,476 and Darren Sproles broke the record for all-purpose yards, it was the offensive juggernaut in football.  After a shootout win over Detroit in the Wild Card, the Saints traveled to San Francisco for their divisional tilt.  Many thought despite the 49ers having a young team, the Saints would win.  The game went back and forth as times the Saints took advantage of the young Niners defense and others the Niners would actually get enough offense from Alex Smith to take it to the Saints defense.  The Saints were up 32-28 after a Brees TD pass to tight end Jimmy Graham with 1 minute 37 seconds left.  However, San Francisco drove down the field like clockwork (which most teams really started to do on New Orleans from 2010-2016) and Alex Smith connected to Vernon Davis in the end zone with 9 seconds left in the game to give the 49ers the win and advance to the NFC Championship

Then after that season, BountyGate took place as the Saints were investigated by the NFL for the defensive coordinator Gregg Williams offering bounties to take notably quarterbacks out of the game, notably Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Matt Hasselbeck, and Josh Freeman.  The Saints denied it though evidently the NFL found emails of Williams and Payton knowing about it and Payton covering it up.  Saints fans screamed foul that there wasn’t any evidence about it.  However controversy continued as many said Williams did similar things in Tennessee and Washington.  But the end result was Payton was suspended for the 2012 season, GM Mickey Loomis was suspsended for half of the season for not telling the Saints to drop the bounties, linebacker and team captain Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the season, and DE Will Smith was suspended for four games.  It took a hit on New Orleans with the 2012 season, failing to make the playoffs.

In 2013 the Saints went 11-5 but again was in 2nd place, this time to Carolina.  After a road win in the playoffs, New Orleans went to Seattle in the Divsional round and despite the score being 23-15, it really felt like the Saints were outplayed by the Seahawks this time as they were shut out for the first 3 quarters of the game thanks to Seattle’s Legion of Boom defense.

The last 3 years before 2017, the Saints had a familiar vibe to them: great offense led by Brees, terrible defense.  End results of those three years? 7-9.

Meme

Last season was one that had a feel reminiscent to the Super Bowl Saints team.  Brees had weapons galore and had a strong running game with Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara while the defense stepped up with the likes of Cameron Jordan and Marshon Lattimore.  The Saints went 11-5, fended off hated rivals of Carolina and Atlanta and won the South.  After a first round W against the Panthers in a nail-biter where Carolina nearly came back to stun them, the Saints traveled to Minnesota for the Divisional round.  The Saints struggled in the first half to Minnesota’s defense, unable to score any points.  However, the second half arrived and New Orleans started to do what they normally do on offense with Brees and that score at will (and they scored 24 in the 2nd half alone).  However, the Saints defense was becoming more and more reminiscent of those Swiss cheese defenses prior and unable to stop Case Keenum from moving the ball around.  After the Saints got a FG from Will Lutz with 43 seconds left, many thought it would be near impossible for the Vikings to get into field goal territory.  And even Sean Payton was mocking Minnesota’s fans with the Skol clap thinking it was over.  However with 10 seconds left and on Minnesota’s own 39, Keenum threw a deep pass to Stefon Diggs, who was not tackled by corner Marcus Wiliams (who went for the shoulder tackle to take him out of bounds) and missed, ran it in with no time left to give Minnesota the miracle win.  Of course, the internet had fun with the memes on the Saints, notably Williams (for his poor tackling) and Payton (for his arrogance to the Viking fans after New Orleans took the late lead and for a few other instances during the season, notably for their rivals of the Falcons and Panthers).  So New Orleans, despite that Super Bowl, have had some crazy things happen to them thus ending in heartbreak over the years.

CURSED MOVE: Really, and I’m looking at post-2006 Saints here, the roster moves haven’t been too terrible, it probably has to be getting Jairus Byrd.  Byrd was one of the best safeties in the game in Buffalo and Saints fans had hoped he would be that stud for the defense.  However, Byrd was lost after 4 games in the 2014 season (his first) and many thought he was never the same player in New Orleans after that.

DEFINING CURSED MOMENT:  The Minnesota Miracle.  Everything that could go wrong, went wrong on that play.  Why on earth would Sean Payton actually care about the Minnesota fans enough to mock the Skol chant as the game was still going on (that was an omen right there) and then you have your rookie safety, who had a great year to that point, make probably the most fundamentally challenged tries of tackling ever.  Honorable mentions will go to the Beast Quake and the Vernon Davis TD pass.

CURSED RATING: 2/5 (SOMEWHAT CURSED-New Orleans DOES have a Super Bowl within 10 years, but I’m beginning to think somebody down on Bourbon Street may have made a deal with a powerful voodoo doctor in 2009 to make a deal saying they would get the Saints to win the Super Bowl that year and then the rest of the years suffer after; we can kind of go back and look at everything New Orleans had happen to them pre-2006 and go, yeah, they were definitely cursed, but that Super Bowl win really knocked out a lot of the mess so I really don’t look at that part, though it could still factor in, similar to the Colts before they won their Super Bowl). 

Hornets

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS/HORNETS, NEW ORLEANS JAZZ (0 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS):

New Orleans

I’ll start with the previous resident of New Orleans, the Jazz. I’ll sum it up pretty brief: the Jazz brought Pete Maravich back to his home state in Louisiana.  He played great, but the Jazz were a true expansion team and never made it to the Playoffs, even with Pistol there.  And on top of it, Maravich’s knee problems kept him from playing a full season.  The venues were also subpar for the Jazz as the first season they played in two venues, the Municipal Auditorium and Loyola Field House, where players faced the chances of falling into the stands from the court.  The Jazz moved to the Superdome, but the venue is too large for basketball and it seemed like something was always going on in there as the Jazz were an afterthought.  And the team moved out of New Orleans after the 1979 season.

New Orleans would get the Hornets from Charlotte after the 2002 season after George Shinn wanted a new arena to replace the Charlotte Coliseum, which was declining in attendance.  When Charlotte refused, he looked elsewhere, first to Memphis where the Grizzlies had beaten the Hornets out of that spot and then to New Orleans.  In the first two seasons New Orleans made the playoffs with the tandem of Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn.  However, the Hornets moved out to the Western Conference as their closest teams were in Texas, Memphis, (and later) Oklahoma City as opposed to Atlanta, Orlando, and Washington.  The adjustment was rough as the West was far more competitive than the East and Baron Davis had been traded earlier in the season to Golden State.  The Hornets went 18-64 in 2004-05, however was fortunate to get a point guard in Chris Paul in the draft.

Unfortunately, life and mother nature stunted the Hornets for the next few years as Hurricane Katrina happened.  For the next two seasons the Hornets split time in Oklahoma City and a rebuilding New Orleans and failed to make the playoffs (though bringing in Paul started to make them a threat again).  When the Hornets returned permanently, they finished the 2007-08 season at 56-26, their best since moving and while the Saints got a lot of deserved praise when they came back to New Orleans post-Katrina, the Hornets got fans excited too.  With Paul, David West was a key player while they had shooter Peja Stojakovic and defensive big man Tyson Chandler that was a legit threat in the West. They got to the semi-finals against the defending champion Spurs and had the golden opportunity to take out San Antonio in the 7th game at home, but the experience of the Spurs and the struggles of Peja shooting the ball and Paul really unable to take that game over, ended the Hornets chances.  The next year New Orleans got back to the playoffs but fell in the first round to Denver.  After an injury riddled year to Paul in 09-10 where New Orleans didn’t make the playoffs, they returned once more the year after, but bounced in the first round again.

After the 2010-2011 season, the fear of Paul leaving in a similar fashion to how Carmelo Anthony leaving Denver and Deron Williams leaving Utah, was high.  It sounded like Paul was not going to stay in New Orleans much longer.  First the Hornets tried to trade him to the Lakers, but the deal was controversially nullified by David Stern.  So the Hornets traded Paul to the Clippers for a package headed by Eric Gordon and Chris Kaman.  Much like any other team losing its star player, the Hornets struggled.  They failed to make the playoffs the next two seasons and were considered one of the league’s worst teams.

However, like when they drafted Paul, the now re-branded Pelicans drafted a big man named Anthony Davis, who has taken the league by storm and is considered today’s top big man.  Three years after Davis was drafted, New Orleans got back to the playoffs.  However, paired with a lack of depth (and Davis missing some key games with injury issues in 2015-16), New Orleans was unable to get back to the post-season the next two seasons before they ended back into the playoffs this past year thanks in part to some help from DeMarcus Cousins (until his injury knocked him out for the rest of the year after 48 games) and the emergence of Jrue Holiday.  They ended up seeing the semis once again but ran into the buzzsaw that we call the Golden State Warriors.  Time will tell if the Pelicans will end up being at the top of near the top of the tough-as-nails Western Conference with Davis, Holiday, and now Julius Randle and if the Pelicans now have a window to do something before Davis’s contract runs out in 2021.  Of course, it will be hard to do so when Golden State still rules and the Lakers now have LeBron while you still have a tough out with Houston (which is led by former Hornet Chris Paul).

CURSED MOVE:  I’m going to do two here.   The Jazz messed up by trading their 1979 first round pick to the Lakers for Gail Goodrich, who was mostly injured in his time in New Orleans.  The Lakers would use that first round pick, which was #1 overall, to get Magic Johnson.  Whoops.  However, by the time that draft took place, the Jazz were in Utah, but still.  A Johnson-to-Malone tandem would have been sick.

For the Hornets, the Paul trade wasn’t horrible as Gordon was a solid player for the Hornets/Pelicans, but he was no Paul.  He left after the 2016 season to Houston, where he is now teammates with Paul.  Kaman played well, but only played one season in New Orleans before he left for Dallas.  The third guy they got in the trade was Al-Farouq Aminu, was also a decent guy and played for New Orleans when he left for Dallas.  But Paul’s departure ended New Orleans chances of really being competitive until Davis arrived.  And while Paul hasn’t seen the holy grail either with the Clippers or Rockets, he is still one of the top point guards in the game.  So really this trade wasn’t a horrible as I said, but trading Paul away just signified the end for that run of good teams.

CURSED MOMENT:  I guess Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals in 08.  The Hornets were an exciting team to watch and they had San Antonio on the ropes that whole series.  They just never were able to put it away and you got that vibe that season could not be replicated, even with Paul & Co.

CURSED RATING: 3/5 (CURSED).  It’s still relatively early for the Pelicans as they are in an NBA that has been criticized for the lack of parity especially now, but it isn’t like they haven’t had chances to be a top team in the West.  I’m also factoring in the Jazz run too and the fact that the Pelicans had to play two seasons in two different cities called their home and that is NOT an easy thing to do.  

So while the Super Bowl has given New Orleans fans relief after Hurricane Katrina, things after that Super Bowl run have been one gut-punch after another with the Saints from on the field playoff heartbreaks to BountyGate, to what have you (and especially if these are the last few years Brees will play given his age, that window may not be as wide despite the great young talent they have), if being unable to get another Super Bowl with Brees happens and they are a playoff regular, you do have to think the Saints have to be more cursed than what they are now.

To be fair, New Orleans isn’t a city that has massive curses on their sports teams like Atlanta, Minneapolis (spoiler alert), San Diego, Phoenix, and Buffalo (another spoiler alert), but since the Super Bowl run in 09, the Saints have really been bit hard by some of the worst breaks around (of course like New Orleans fans with the Falcons choking, Atlanta fans love every second of those Saints heart-breakers) as well as a huge controversial issue with trying to injure players.  And the Hornets haven’t had a lot of opportunities to be one of the top dogs in the NBA, but when they have, they’ve failed to capitalize on it.

So maybe there isn’t a major curse, but there has to be some negative voodoo juice going on down there for nearly the past 10 seasons.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook

Winners and Losers of Week 10

WINNERS

Los Angeles Rams

How bout’ them Rams? Yes, you heard that correctly, the Rams are 7-2 for the first time since starting 7-3 in 2003 after week 10. They ended up finishing that season 12-4 (losing in the divisional round of the playoffs). On Sunday, Jared Goff looked like an elite QB throwing for 355 yards and 3 TD’s, two of those touchdowns were thrown to Robert Woods who has had the best two weeks of the season. He also caught 8 for 171 yards. Look for the Rams to extend their streak to 5 as they head to Minny to take on the 7-2 Vikings.

New Orleans Saints

Instagram-Ingram pounded the defenseless Bills for 131 yards and tallied 3 touchdowns. Alvin Kamara also had a 3 yard touchdown, as the Saints scored five times in their first six possessions. The saints defense limited the Bills offense 198 yards and only 10 first downs which is phenomenal and the ideal type of defense you want week to week. The saints also set a franchise record by recording 6 rushing touchdowns. The saints will fly back to the dome to take on the Redskins. Look for the Saints run game to continue its dominance against a lousy Washington defense.

LOSERS

New York Jets

“The Goddamn Jets” yes folks, the goddamn jets is back because this week, they lost to their 2016 starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown could not beat his former team that he started for in 2016 as well. I guess you can say it was the battle of aging quarterbacks but that is an understatement because this game was in favor of the Jets to run over the Bucs because 10 days ago the Jets dominated the Bills which pointed to this game being an easy win. The jets ended up punting the ball seven times resulting in having more punts, then points for the first 59 minutes. Jets head to the bye with no playoffs in site.

Dallas Cowboys

No Zeke, and no Tyron Smith it had to be painful for those two watch this game as the Cowboys lose to the Falcons 27-7. The whole next man up mentality did not really take affect at all throughout this game. People were saying that the Cowboys would be fine without Elliot for the next 6 games but it seems that, that is not the case. It is a level of concern that should be brought up with at the team meeting. Dallas has the weapons to win without him and Dak needs step up and use his arms and legs to fire this team up to win at least 3 of the next 5 games to keep the playoffs in reach but the high flying 8-1 Eagles come to town looking to improve to 9-1.