Playoff talk?!? Really?

2009 September 21
by Don Hammack

We were driving back to the Coast after celebrating Nephew Will’s 15th birthday yesterday and I turned on the postgame show on WWL (Sports department motto: Where the English Language Goes to Die). I was not the least bit surprised to hear, in what I believe was the second player interview from the locker room to hear the WWL sideline guy ask a convoluted question of, I believe, Darren Sharper that included an assumption of making the playoffs.

I point this out not to belittle the interviewer. I’ve asked some doozies in my day, I know. (Amazing when you open your mouth with what seems like a perfectly formed question, how many forks in the road you can take the wrong turn on.) It’s to point out how insanely high the hopes are in New Orleans and the Gulf South for the 2009 New Orleans Saints.

But how good are the Saints really? Well, offensively, they’re scary good. They were scary good most of 2008, but I’ll point out they had some struggles on the road in the NFC South. And I’ll also point out that the Saints played only one of the top nine scoring defenses in the NFL last year. (Washington held Brees to 216 yards passing and won 29-24.) Matchups in the NFL are everything, and we’ll know a lot more about the offense three games from now. After traveling to Buffalo, the Saints get the two New York teams — Jets before the bye, Giants after.

Nobody really doubted the offense, but if you trusted the Saints defense headed into the season, you could find employment as a financial regulator. (What? You say things are OK? Everything’s on the up and up on your ledger? OK by me!) Two games in, you could argue the defense is actually better than it looks statistically. The Lions feasted on some field position served up by special teams and turnovers to put up more points than indicated. The Eagles got a lot of garbage time yardage. The most encouraging statistic the Saints can point to is turnovers. New Orleans is tied for first in the NFL with six interceptions. Last year, the Saints had 15.

I’ll point out that the Saints have feasted on teams giving quarterbacks their first NFL starts (Stafford and Kolb). All you can do is beat the team in front of you, but they’ll play some good QBs before the end of the season (Ryan twice, Brady). Get back with me then.

I’ll also point out this doozy: I wanted to embed some video of DeSean Jackson’s 71-yard touchdown reception against the Saints, but the NFL doesn’t appear to like doing this. So just tell me if what happens 23 seconds into this video looks familiar.

The NFL’s very nature exaggerates highs and lows. Translate a 16-game season into baseball’s 162-game calendar and a two-game winning streak is like winning 20 in a row, while a three-game losing streak is Washington Nationals territory. Sharper had a good response when asked his playoff question. He said all that winning the first two games guarantees is that you can go 2-14.

Here’s hoping the Saints don’t have a 140-game losing streak. I don’t think Saints Country could take it.

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