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Finishing Strong: Bad Defenses Mean Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints Can Still Go 9-7

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Nov 24, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) prior to kickoff of a game against the Baltimore Ravens at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It’s pretty apparent that the New Orleans Saints are not playing their brand of football this season, especially after losing three consecutive games at home.  With a 5-7 record, the Black and Gold are sitting at second place in the horrendous NFC South behind the Atlanta Falcons (5-7).

There are four games remaining for the Saints in the regular season – three division games (two at home, one on the road) against teams that are frankly worse than New Orleans, and the Chicago Bears on the road.

Sean Payton and company are looking for a season sweep against the Carolina Panthers (3-8-1) this Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.  Cam Newton and his once high-powered offense rank at the bottom of the pack this year at No. 21.

The Saints rank at No. 2 in total offense, and if the mistakes are limited like they were in Pittsburgh, the team could find a ton of success against the Panthers’ 17th ranked defense.  Carolina’s secondary is giving up 243.5 yards per game through the air in 2014.  Aaron Rodgers aside, Drew Brees is the best quarterback they face all year, so he could certainly be in for a big day.

Allowing 116.8 yards on the ground, the Panthers rank at No. 19 in rushing defense.  New Orleans RB Mark Ingram, who has just been terrorizing struggling defenses this year, could have himself a solid outing as well.

The Saints must play well on both sides of the ball to claim the win, but they are the better team.  Containing Cam will be key, as well as getting the running game going to keep Brees relaxed and to open up the big play opportunities.  Division games are never a guarantee, however, there is no reason why the Black and Gold can’t bag the W.

After hopefully taking care of business against Carolina, New Orleans will travel to the Windy City to take on the 5-7 Chicago Bears.  QB Jay Cutler has been an absolute mess lately, but with Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, the Bears could find major success at home against the Saints’ second-to-last ranked defense in the NFL.

However, Chicago is not far behind, fixed in as the No. 26 overall defense (30th through the air).  This is where Brees and the Saints’ offense must take advantage.  It’s going to be tough and it’s going to be cold, but New Orleans must find a way to “arctic blast” their way through the Bears’ struggling secondary to keep the score close.

Before the season began, I looked at this contest as one of the toughest games the Saints would have to play all year, and I still stand by my statement.  I believe a shootout is the likely scenario if the weather stays dry, so the better quarterback must step up and win the game.  The Black and Gold can take care of business, and right now, they’re playing better on the road than they are at home.

Week 16 means a return to the Superdome where the Saints will take on their most hated rival, the Dirty Birds.  This contest also has shootout written all over it.  There is only one team that has a worse defense than New Orleans, and that is the Atlanta Falcons.

Brees, Jimmy Graham, Mark Ingram and the the offense should have a big day at home.  It’s the defense that must step up and contain Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Steven Jackson.

This may not be the most historical rivalry in professional football, but it is undoubtedly one of the most heated ones.  It seems like every time these two teams go head-to-head the outcome is not determined until the final possession of the game.

Whoever has the better quarterback that day will win — limiting the turnovers are a must.  The Saints shouldn’t be in this position, but this is a matchup that could achieve settlement on who goes home and who goes to the playoffs.

Finally, to conclude the regular season, New Orleans will travel to South Florida to battle it out with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-10).  The Bucs are struggling mightily, but they did almost take care of the Saints on the road in overtime in of the worst performances I’ve ever witnessed by Drew Brees.

Tampa ranks from middle to bottom in various defensive categories, and their offense is just horrendous.  The Black and Gold are clearly the better team, but the way they’ve performed all year, this is a game that could go either way.  Winning the turnover battle usually means winning the game, and that theory should prove to be accurate in Week 17.

None of these games are out of the question for the Saints, and winning these final four would be no surprise.  If you noticed the pattern above, I’m sure you realize that Drew Brees will be the x-factor for the remainder of the season.

With injuries and lack of depth, it is highly unlikely that Rob Ryan’s unit will make a complete turnaround.  The Saints will be facing some bad defenses, so it’s the offense that must step up, limit the errors, and keep the ball away from defenders.

As long as No. 9 is captaining that offense, anythings is possible, including a four-game winning streak to cap off the regular season and make it into the playoffs.  With the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers still on the schedule for the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints must take advantage and capitalize off this opportunity to get ahead.  It’s time to finish strong, Who Dat Nation.

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