This morning’s practice out at the New Orleans Saints’ facility in Metairie didn’t leave much to talk about, but I’ll have a report up on it later. This afternoon’s practice is also closed to the public as it appears the team will just be doing some weightlifting and having meetings.
So in the meantime, I took it upon myself to organize the Saints’ 2010/11 schedule and break it down into matters of importance.
Some people that watch NFL football simply look at the season for their favorite team as a whole. When all sixteen games are done, they just know that it’s a good thing if their favorite team is in the playoffs.
Football fans with a bit more knowledge of how things work in the NFL will look at the season in two parts. To them there is the opening stretch of eight games and making sure their team gets off to a fast start so that a cushion can be built in the division. The second half of the season is then seen as a way to pad their lead in the win column, clinch things up, and then possibly take it a little easy in the final game or two.
Hardcore football fans separate then season into four main parts realizing that a four-game stretch can make or break a season for any team. A 3-1 record can keep you in it while a 2-2 record still gives you a chance. A 1-3 record means you have a lot of work to do while a four game losing streak at any point in the season can be disastrous.
Then there the people like me that realize the season should be taken one game at a time and each game has a differing level of importance when it all boils down to it. That’s why this is the first section of a four-part series dissecting the upcoming 2010 season for the New Orleans Saints.
What I’ve done is split the season into four parts including four games a piece. They are not just in schedule order but in order of just how important these games are on the Saints’ schedule and whether they “need” be a notch in the win column or not. The list will be working backwards starting with what could be considered the least important game on the season all the way up to which one matters the most. In no way does this list downgrade any game because they are all vitally important. It’s just that some mean a lot more when it comes to divisional standing, conference standing, and overall momentum.
So without further ado, let’s jump right in to the bottom tier of games on the Saints’ schedule this season.
13.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 17 @ Home)
By this point in the season, chances are the Saints are going to have whatever position they have in the playoffs sewn up. Who knows if coach Sean Payton will rest starters like Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, Jonathan Vilma, and others. The thing is that if home-field advantage or an NFC South crown is on the line still; the starters will play and give it everything they have. There will also be a slight measure of revenge on the line considering what happened last year. The Saints were fresh off their loss to the Dallas Cowboys which ended a 13-game season opening win streak. A good lead was built as the Bucs visited the Superdome, but a second half collapse led to overtime and an eventual 3-point loss for a “losing streak.” You can bet money that even if this game has no ramifications on playoff seeding, Brees is going to not want the Bucs to come into his house and beat them two years in a row.
14.) Cleveland Browns (Week 7)
The biggest deal here is that much beloved former Saints’ linebacker Scott Fujita will be making his return to the Superdome in a different helmet. In the biggest offseason loss for the Saints, they lost not only a great player but overall leader on and off the field. Cleveland is just in a period right now where they aren’t exactly rebuilding but aren’t quite good yet either. I just don’t understand what made them think an aging and talent-fading Jake Delhomme was an answer at the quarterback position. Getting rid of two tested, but not proven, players in Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn for Delhomme and lifetime back-up Seneca Wallace doesn’t seem like the right solution. Look for the Saints to run up the score here in a game that won’t have much overall bearing on the season as a whole.
15.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 6 @ Tampa Bay)
Division games are always important, but again this is Tampa Bay. New Orleans usually has success down in all parts of Florida (remember Super Bowl XLIV?), and let’s face it, the Bucs are rebuilding. Parts are coming into place for Tampa Bay but they’re nowhere near competing for first place in the NFC South at all. This game coming in the middle of the season makes things a little better for the Saints because a division victory in the middle of the season is a great thing. Still, this is not a “must-win” game for the Saints because Tampa isn’t really hot on the heels of anyone.
16.) St. Louis Rams (Week 14)
Here is your typical trap game. The Rams have a brand new quarterback in Sam Bradford that will have a number of games under his belt by this point and have gotten in some NFL experience. Last season the Saints went into St. Louis and literally almost laid a big egg. Thanks to the help of Courtney Roby and his kickoff return, they managed to pull out a win. This game isn’t early enough in the season to mean much and is just late enough in the season so that the Saints could know where they’ll stand in the playoffs. Yeah, there isn’t such a thing as a “quality win” factor in the NFL like in college football, but beating the Rams isn’t going to say much. Pride would be on the line of course if St. Louis can pull the upset of the defending Super Bowl champs, but even a loss for the Saints wouldn’t do much damage. Three straight losses to end the season last year sure didn’t.
6.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Away)
7.) Cleveland Browns
10.) Bye Week
14.) St. Louis Rams
17.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Home)
Keep checking back for more as I’ll do the next installment of this list tomorrow (Friday: 08/20/10).
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