Saints 2014|18

Jan 1, 2015 by

Saints LogoWow! What a finish, eh? Can you imagine the Tampa Bay Bucs, with the game barely in hand in the second half, sitting most of their first stringers and allowing the Saints to actually win the game? Must have wanted that first round draft pick really bad, eh?

I had a nightmare last Sunday. I dreamt that Sean Payton fired Rob Ryan. Then the Saints fired Payton and hired Rex Ryan who immediately re-hired his brother Rob… I really gotta lay off the cheap vodka! No more of that $35/bottle stuff for me!

So that’s it for the Saints season. Now it’s all about axes and rings and who’s going to get them. The axes will have to wait awhile until Sean Payton comes out of his post-regular-stupor but here’s something to read while we wait: at the beginning of this NFL year I rumbled off a mock season to try and predict the eventual NFL champion. I erred incredibly by overestimating the Saints chances. I am 100% certain they will not meet the Pittsburgh Steelers for the NFL Championship.

In the NFC East I projected the Eagles to win the division at 11-5 (they finished 10-6) and get the third seed. Who knew Foles would be replaced by Sanchez and the Cowboys would show up in December? I guess there’s something to hiring an effective offensive line to protect your QB after all. While my team pick was wrong, I got the 3rd seed on the money for the division champion Cowboys.

I came closer with the NFC West picking the 12-4 Seahawks to win the division (they did, and at 12-4) and get the 2nd seed (they got 1st). I had the Niners as the 5th seed wildcard but instead they tanked and that seed and WC slot actually went to the Cardinals. I also pegged the last place 6-10 Rams to finish last at 5-11.

For the NFC North I had the Lions winning the division as the 4th seed. Instead the Packers took the division as 2nd seed and Detroit picked up the other NFC wildcard at 6th seed. Also, I nailed the Vikings at 7-9 in 3rd place and the Bears in last.

The NFC South was a shambles both in the NFL and in my picks. Foolishly I chose the Saints to win it all as 1st seed and the Panthers as a 6th seed wildcard. Instead Carolina won the division and the 4th seed.

In the AFC East my money was on the Patriots as division champs and the 3rd seed and sure enough they took the division, but as 1st seed. I had the division in the right order and at just one W/L away from their final record!

The AFC West almost ran like clockwork for me with the 12-4 Broncos taking the division as the 2nd seed as I predicted at 11-5. If I hadn’t picked the Chiefs as a 6th seed wildcard I would done better here. I did nail KC at 9-7 but gave the Raiders twice the wins they actually got but still had them in last place.

The AFC North champ is the 11-5 Steelers, as I thought, but as 3rd seed and not 1st. I picked the Ravens as my other AFC wildcard team at 5th seed but they ended up as the 6th. Go figure the Bengals taking the 5th seed as the second AFC wildcard! Has any division sent three teams to the playoffs before? Well, yes. Apparently it’s happened a number of times. And the last place 7-9 Browns were right where I said they’d be, but I had them at 6-10.

Last, and least, I had the Texans winning the AFC South as the 4th seed. I got the spot right but it went to the Colts. Shucks! I also pegged the Jaguars in last place, where they indeed finished, but at 4-12  and not 3-13.

Oh well… I did correctly predict 7 of the 12 post-season teams and even got a few seeds right, plus I had 12 teams slotted exactly where they finished in their divisions. Sports Illustrated does this every year and in 2014 they had a pair of “experts” on the job. Chris Burke slotted ten correct team finishes and Doug Farrar nine. All of us picked NE, SEA, DEN and IND in first place and CLE and OAK in last, Burke had GB in first and SF in third, Burke and I had WAS last, and both Burke and Farrar nailed the AFC West in order; I nailed the AFC East. Burke also somehow kiped my unpublished NFC South picks for all the good it did him! But the SI guys just threw teams in an order without taking a stab at predicting W/L records or a mock playoff. Not only do I beat them in prognosticating, I have the balls to do the math, so I got that going for me!

Sadly, the mock playoffs I ran are blown to crap, much like the Saints season, so I won’t bore you with the details. While I had some the majority of correct teams my seeding destroyed the actual post-season matchup predictions. But, since there’s no Saints game this week, I’ll take a run at the actual wildcard games!

Arizona (11-5) at Carolina (7-8-1):
Much as I’d like to pick Carolina, I just can’t. The Panthers have improved since the season began but only on paper. And only if you can’t read. The Panthers have allowed eight teams to cruise past 20 points this season, five of them (PGH, BAL, CIN, GB and PHI) scoring 37 or more! And four of those teams are in the playoffs. And while Arizona’s offense hasn’t been scoring much recently, (first- and second-string QB’s both sidelined and third stringer Ryan Lindley making only his third NFL start,) their defense has kept opponents at a frigid 20 or below in all but three games this year; DEN, SEA and (inexplicably) ATL.

But Carolina’s on fire now, right? Well… in the last four weeks of the season (all Panther wins) they have managed to keep opponents at 17 or less while scoring 41, 19, 17 and 35. So yeah, that looks totally awesome in print, but those wins came against NO, TB, CLE and ATL; not the most solid defenses in the league, you see? The plain truth is that statistically Arizona is better on the road than Carolina is at home. I trust The Machine on this one!

Cardinals: 21
Panthers: 19

Baltimore (10-6) at Pittsburgh (11-5):
Steeler’s RB Le’Veon Bell “may” be out this week and they’ve signed former HOU/CLE/MIN RB Ben Tate as a back-up’s back-up, just in case. The Ravens get DT Haloti Ngata back, which I’m certain is the reason the Steelers aren’t favored more.

We’ve seen this dance a million times in the post-season since 1996. Well, three times since 2002 to be precise, but each time the Steelers emerged victorious; 27-10 in 2002, 23-14 in 2009 and 31-24 in 2011. And like this matchup, all three games were played at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field. Empirical evidence suggests Pittsburgh as a solid lock. however there are certain differences in this contest. In 2001 and 2010 the teams split the regular season winning on each other’s turf and met in the AFC Divisional round. in 2008 the Steelers swept the Ravens at home and away and they battled in the AFC Championship. This year they each won their regular season home games and are appearing together for the first time in a wildcard round.

Statistically, Ben Roethlisberger is the best QB playing this weekend. Averaging just over 347 passing yards per game and 1.5 TDs at home no one else even comes close. Pitted against a Ravens secondary which, out of this weekends teams, gives up the most passing yards and second-most TDs, the absence of Bell may go completely unnoticed. The Machine was checked numerous times for rust, loose screws and unwound springs but passed all tests. It’s not just my bias, as I used the same settings for all four games; it really predicts this score! And that’s fine with me because the last two times the Steelers beat the Ravens in the playoffs they went on to win the Superbowl…

Ravens: 26
Steelers: 42

Cincinnati (10-5-1) at Indianapolis (11-5):
Really, the smart money is on the Bengals. They’re hot right now! Or, they were hot right then. They’re certainly capable of scoring a lot of points and they swept the Ravens this season, not to mention spanking the mighty Broncos 37-28 a few weeks ago. About that: a few Cinci fans were using the DEN game as proof of superiority for the season-ender against PIT and I pointed out that the Bengals only beat DEN because of a freak monsoon, Peyton Manning needing perfect (or dome) weather in order to win. Naturally they accused me of only watching the 4Q which is when the downpour started. I replied that they were, of course, correct about the time of deluge, but at that point the Bengals were losing 28-27, being outscored 21-7 in the third quarter and they were quickly falling apart. Still, they promised the Bengals would destroy Pittsburgh. I suggested they pray for rain. Guess they aren’t the praying type.

And losses? Cinci was swept by the Steelers this year (42-21 and 27-17), drubbed by NE 43-17 and CLE 24-3 and shut out 27-0 by the very Colts they’re about to play. Indy’s losses came at the hands of DEN 31-24, PHI 30-27, PIT 51-34, NE 42-20 and DAL 42-7; all but the Eagles making the playoffs. Indy played decent teams close and blew out pretenders like a playoff team is supposed to. And Cinci is a decent team but nothing more. They beat Tampa Bay by just 14-13 for crying out loud! I will admit a chip on a shoulder can sometimes produce miracles, but not here and not now. Luck simply isn’t on the Bengal’s side.

Bengals: 29
Colts: 32

Detroit (11-5) at Dallas (12-4):
I know everybody loves a post-season Cowboys loss. Especially Dallas fans! They feed off them like strife vampires and it keeps them fueled for the next season! Weird, weird, weird people! Unfortunately, it ain’t gonna happen this weekend. It can’t. The Machine says so. You see, The Machine only understands numbers. It has no dial for ineptitude, no choke button, no gear for the inexorable and inevitable Romoplosion. (Ex- or im-, flip a coin.) But perhaps this weekend it doesn’t need to. The Lions lost to CAR and BUF while they were missing Calvin Johnson. Then they tried to bring him back too soon and lost him for longer than they initially would have, but still managed to win hard-fought, close games! In the second half of the season their only losses were to ARI 6-14, NE 34-9 and GB 30-20, all playoff teams, and NE and GB are the only teams to score more than 24 points against Detroit’s D. But the only times the Lions scored more than 24 points was against NYG, CHI and TB. Hurm.

Dallas, on the other hand, has scored 24 points or more in eleven games including six of their last seven! And in three of those they cracked 40! Of course, the only playoff teams Dallas did this to were SEA and IND. The rest of their big-score games came against TEN, SL, NO, the Giants (twice), JAX, CHI, WAS and a Sanchez-infused PHI. Talk about taking candy-flavored footballs from very overpaid babies! But here’s the key… despite the numbers the Cowboys have deluded themselves into actually believing they are playoff contenders! Like when Wile E Coyote stands aloft in mid-air as long as he doesn’t look down! Of course, eventually the Cowboys will look down and drop to the bottom of Post-Season Canyon, but I don’t think it will be this week.

Still, I’m going to be rooting for the Lions because my dear friends Ivy and Uncle (hers, not mine) Dave are rooting for them and they also root for the Saints and Stillers (when appropriate)! Maybe if enough of us get together, all at the same time, and concentrate on just one word we can defeat the Cowboys! Just one word… Doctor… Doctor… Doc… waitaminit… Detroit… Detroit… Detroit… Doctor Detroit?

Lions: 18
Cowboys: 25

And now, your final frippery of the 2014 season. Savor it. There’s a long road to 2015!

Drew Brees (5-t-191st) caught his fifth pass. And he threw it to himself. Way to bump up your numbers, kid! Brees finished the season with 4952 passing yards which was enough to put him into the #1 spot for 2014. Until Ben Roethlisberger passed him by a yard Sunday night! But the the stats were adjusted, reeling Ben back a yard and putting him in a tie with Drew! Both finished 191 yards ahead of Andrew Luck with 4761. A nice One-Two-Punch for fans of all shades of Black and Gold!

Mark Ingram (53-t-68th) passed Joel Parker (51), Aaron Craver and Tony Baker (52) and tied Brandin Cooks, Mike Karney and Sean Dawkins on the Receptions list.

Kenny Stills (95-t-41st) passed Alvin Maxson (90), Keith Poole (91) and Cam Cleeland (93) and tied Wesley Walls on the receptions list. Stills (1572-33rd) passed Wayne Wilson and ‘Fast’ Willie Jackson on the receiving yards list.

Junior Galette (2-1st) became the first Saint to record two safeties in a single season. In fact, he’s the first Saint to record two safeties… ever! Not only that but both sacks came against the Tampa Bay Buc’s Josh McCown; #1 in W05 in the Louisiana Superdome and #2 in Tampa! Fourteen other Saints did the safety dance once. Congratulations, Junior!

Shayne Graham (55-t-8th) tied Benny Ricardo on the XP list. he can use that as a talking point when he renegotiates his contract in the off-season.

-M Styborski

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