NFC South: MNF12 Saints

Breaking down Brees' big night

November, 25, 2008
11/25/08
12:56
PM ET
Brees

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

ESPN Stats & Information sent along some phenomenal stuff that really puts Drew Brees' huge Monday night game into perspective.

Brees was almost flawless on first down. He threw for six of the Saints' 11 passing first downs on first-down throws. He almost had a perfect QB rating (158.3) on first downs and for the game:

Brees Sharp on First Down
 Comp
AttYdsTDINT1st DownRating
First down 12 15 185 3 0 6 157.6
All others 8 11 138 1 0 5 145.0
Total 20 26 323 4 0 11 157.5

Brees had plenty of help from his teammates with 226 of his 323 passing yards coming after the catch. Here's a look at what Lance Moore, Jeremy Shockey, Pierre Thomas and Marques Colston provided in yards after the catch:

Saints Receivers by the Numbers
 MooreShockeyThomasColston
Thrown to7651
Complete5531
Yards115573470
TD2001
Defended1000
Dropped0000
YAC84134744
Brees by Quarter
 CompAttYdsTDINTRating
First Quarter 5 6 107 1 0 158.3
Second Quarter 8 10 87 1 0 136.3
Third Quarter 7 10 129 2 0 152.1
Total 20 26 323 4 0 157.5
* Brees did not attempt a pass in the fourth quarter
Brees Four TDs Out of Shotgun
 CompAttYdsTDINTRating
Shotgun 9 12 214 4 0 156.3
Play Action 6 7 59 0 0 101.8

Brees at his best on third-and-long

November, 24, 2008
11/24/08
4:20
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Maybe the Saints should pretend its third-and-long on every down. According to our friends a ESPN Stats & Analysis, that's when quarterback Drew Brees is at his best.

When facing third down and 6 or more yards, Brees has the highest passer rating in the NFL this season at 119.4. Tony Romo is a very close second at 119.3, followed by Matt Cassel (116.5) and Eli Manning (106.8). The league average is 77.7.

Audibles: Week 12 NFC South preview

November, 21, 2008
11/21/08
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Detroit Lions (0-10) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3), 1 p.m. ET
It's been pretty amazing in the Tampa Bay area this week. There seems to be a large chunk of the population that suddenly is very worried about the winless Detroit Lions.

The theory goes something like this -- the Lions have former Bucs assistant Rod Marinelli as their head coach (as of the moment, anyway) and a bunch of former Tampa Bay players on their roster and this game has "trap'' written all over it.

Yeah, but there's a reason why all those guys are "former'' Bucs and this game should have "win'' written all over it. Sure, the Bucs often make things more interesting than necessary. But, if they're going to overtake Carolina in this division, the Bucs have to take care of the easy games as the Panthers head into the hard part of their schedule.

Carolina Panthers (8-2) at Atlanta Falcons (6-4), 4:15 p.m. ET
A couple years ago, the Panthers were getting such bad play at quarterback (Chris Weinke), they went into the Georgia Dome and Dan Henning and John Fox resorted to the Wildcat formation that has become the rage around the rest of the league this year.

Jake Delhomme's struggled mightily, passing for less than 100 yards in each of the last two games. And those were against Detroit and Oakland. But I just don't see the Panthers resorting to something so desperate this time around. Although running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have done a nice job bailing Delhomme out the last two weeks.

I look for the Panthers to get back to their most basic offensive philosophy this week. That's Delhomme throwing the ball to Steve Smith, repeatedly. That's also a good way to bust a slump.

Green Bay Packers (5-5) at New Orleans Saints (5-5), 8:30 p.m. ET, Monday
First the good news: The Saints will be playing in the Superdome for the first time in 42 days. Now, the bad: It's a Monday night game.

When it comes to "Monday Night Football," the Saints have been horrible. Only the Falcons have a worse history under the brightest of lights. The Saints are 8-17 (.320) in appearances on Monday. The Falcons are 9-21 (.300).

And you can't even make the case that the Saints' Monday woes all stem back from the bad old days. The last time the Saints played a game on Monday night was one of the most disastrous games in franchise history.

Earlier this year, they squandered two punt returns for touchdowns by Reggie Bush and a late fourth-quarter lead and lost to the Minnesota Vikings. At 5-5, there is no margin for error for the Saints. They have to find a way to win this game (and just about all the rest) to make the playoffs.

Looking ahead at possible free agents

November, 20, 2008
11/20/08
3:17
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

We started talking about potential 2009 free agents in the previous post on the Carolina Panthers and that's prompted several of you to ask for lists of possible free agents for all the NFC South teams.

My friends at kffl.com do a nice job of keeping their list up to date and, with their help, here's a list for each of the NFC South teams:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Quarterback Jeff Garcia, quarterback Luke McCown, fullback B.J. Askew, tackle Anthony Davis, defensive end Kevin Carter, defensive tackle Ryan Sims, cornerback Phillip Buchanon, safety Jermaine Phillips and safety Will Allen are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. Fullback Byron Storer is slated to be a restricted free agent.

New Orleans Saints: Running back Aaron Stecker, receivers Devery Henderson and Lance Moore, tight end Mark Campbell, tackle Jon Stincomb, defensive tackle Antwan Lake and linebacker Jonathan Vilma highlight the list of potential unrestricted free agents. Offensive lineman Jahri Evans and Zach Strief are potential restricted free agents. A couple of notes here: Expect the Saints to either extend Vilma's contract or place the franchise tag on him (there are implications that would impact the conditional draft picks the Saints are giving up for Vilma and Jeremy Shockey). Also, look for the Saints to try to extend Evans' contract.

Carolina Panthers: Defensive end Julius Peppers, cornerback Chris Gamble, offensive tackle Jordan Gross, offensive tackle Frank Omiyale and long snapper Jason Kyle highlight the list of potential unrestricted free agents. Tight end Jeff King and linebacker James Anderson can become restricted free agents. Subtle point here, but keep an eye on Kyle. I wouldn't be surprised if the Panthers quietly try to extend one of the best long snappers in the game. They believe in continuity and already have extended kicker John Kasay. If you've never heard of Kyle before, it's only because the guy almost never has had a bad snap.

Atlanta Falcons: Guard Harvey Dahl, defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, cornerback Brent Grimes and safety Lawyer Milloy highlight the list of potential unrestricted free agents. Babineaux and Dahl probably are the top targets for extensions.

Opening the mail: New Orleans edition

November, 19, 2008
11/19/08
3:14
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Still waiting to see whether the NFL suspends Deuce McAllister, Charles Grant and Will Smith for testing positive for a banned substance. But there are plenty of other things to talk about when it comes to the Saints. Here's the New Orleans edition of the mailbag:

Paul in New Orleans writes: Hey Pat, how are you doing? I just wanted to know if you think the saints have a shot at making the playoffs?

Pat Yasinskas: At 5-5, the Saints obviously are a bit of a long shot and they seem to have a lot working against them (injuries, possible suspensions, etc.). However, they have found a way to keep themselves at .500 and that's at least good enough to keep them in the race. I've been saying all year that you can't count the Saints out, as tempting as it's been at times, because they still have a ton of talent. They face an uphill battle, but Drew Brees is enough to keep New Orleans in any game and getting Reggie Bush back from an injury could provide a big spark.


Adam in New Orleans writes: Pat, if you disregard the season up to now, do you think that the Saints have what it takes to win out the season and make at a run at the division or a wild card spot? Also, I would like to know your pick for the Monday night game between my the saints and the packers.

Pat Yasinskas: That's a very unique and interesting way you phrased your first question and I like it. I'm sure there's a fair amount of the first 10 games the Saints would like to erase. But, following your logic, I'm going to say the Saints still have a chance. As I said above, Brees is a huge positive. But let's just imagine the final six weeks go the opposite of the first 10 -- Bush comes back, Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey get back to doing what they can do and, maybe, the possible suspensions somehow don't happen. That would leave the Saints with an offense that's loaded and a defense that, umm, is pretty shaky. There's talent in some places, but the Saints would have to catch just about every break to run the table or anything close to that. As for a prediction on Monday night, I'll leave that up to our guys on the television side who make predictions. I picked the Seahawks and Colts to be in the Super Bowl, so I'm probably not the guy you want to hit up for predictions.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

There's a sudden flurry of roster moves in the NFC South. Here's a look:

BUCCANEERS
As expected, the Bucs placed Earnest Graham (ankle) and linebacker Geno Hayes (knee) on the injured reserve list. They filled their roster spots by signing running back Noah Herron and linebacker Matt McCoy, who was with the team earlier in the season.

FALCONS
Atlanta made a minor tweak to its roster, elevating receiver Eric Weems from the practice squad and releasing rookie defensive end Brandon Miller. Don't be surprised if Miller ends up back on the practice squad.

SAINTS
As reported last night, the Saints signed running back Mike Bell and put running back Aaron Stecker on the injured reserve list. One other move to add -- the Saints signed fullback Darian Barnes, who could get immediate playing time with Mike Karney hurt.

More patchwork for the Saints

November, 18, 2008
11/18/08
8:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

If you're expecting Mike Bell to be a savior for the New Orleans Saints, think again.

Bell
The Saints signed the running back Tuesday as they placed running back Aaron Stecker on the injured reserve list.

Reggie Bush still hasn't played since knee surgery and there's a possibility veteran Deuce McAllister could be suspended soon for reportedly testing positive for a banned substance in a water pill.

That could leave the Saints with Pierre Thomas and Bell as they try to stay in the playoff race. If you look at Bell's numbers from 2006 -- he ran for 677 yards and eight touchdowns with Denver -- you might get excited.

But get back to reality here. Bell might be able to contribute a bit, but there are reasons why he had only six carries last year, why he couldn't make Houston's roster this preseason and why he was still available in late November.

He's a very ordinary runner and he'll be joining a team that doesn't really run the ball.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Have to say I'm more than a little shocked by the early results of Pro Bowl voting. There are three weeks left and a lot can change, but the NFC South isn't faring very well in the fan voting, which counts for one-third of the vote. Coaches and players make up the rest of the vote.

As of the moment, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is the only NFC South player leading at his position. In fact, Brees is one of only nine NFC South players who ranked in the top five at their positions.

Atlanta defensive end John Abraham and kicker Jason Elam and New Orleans return man Reggie Bush each rank third at their positions. Atlanta running back Michael Turner, New Orleans fullback Mike Karney and tight end Jeremy Shockey and Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers each rank fourth at their positions and Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber ranks fifth.

Off the top of my head, I'd say Carolina linebacker Jon Beason, safety Chris Harris, kicker John Kasay and receiver Steve Smith, Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Bryant, kicker Matt Bryant and linebacker Barrett Ruud and Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Roddy White all are having seasons that should put them in the top five.

If you agree, you might want to hop over to NFL.com or out to the stadiums and vote. Looks like that's all the NFC East fans have been doing the last few weeks.

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