NFC South: Superdome

Live from the Superdome

January, 24, 2010
1/24/10
3:52
PM ET
NEW ORLEANS -- I’ve made it into the Superdome and it wasn’t all that difficult, but certainly an entertaining ride.

I’m set up in the press box with colleagues Kevin Seifert and Jeffri Chadiha on each side of me. I’m going to follow the rest of the AFC Championship Game on television. I’ll bring you updates and inactives as we get closer to kickoff.

On the way to the Superdome

January, 24, 2010
1/24/10
2:35
PM ET
NEW ORLEANS -- I was going to wait another hour or so to start making my way to the Superdome. But I decided to head out now as I was flipping through the channels and saw Reggie Bush on “Keeping Up With The Kardashians’’.

I think it was a sign, although I admit I’m mildly curious about what Bruce Jenner is doing on the show. I’ll figure it out some other time. I’m heading into the Superdome and will watch the AFC Championship Game from there.

As we get closer to kickoff of the NFC Championship Game, I’ll be back with updates on the inactives and injured players. I’ll check in once I get settled in the Superdome.

NFC Championship Game mailbag

January, 23, 2010
1/23/10
3:28
PM ET
Time for a special NFC Championship Game edition of the mailbag.

Nat in Maryland and a bunch of other readers asked about the controversial column by Mike Freeman about the way Sean Payton treats the media. They ask if it’s true.

Pat Yasinskas: I can’t say anything that Freeman writes is untrue. He's a fine writer and he did his homework on this one. I’ve never had any personal issues with Payton, other than he’s bland, but that’s not uncommon for a football coach. But some of the anecdotes Freeman uses are pretty well known around the league.

Jennifer in Hattiesburg, Miss. asks about Minnesota coach Brad Childress implying that the Vikings will silence New Orleans fans and asks if his words can be placed at every entrance to the Superdome.

Pat Yasinskas: I don’t think Saints’ fans need any added motivation. They’re always loud and they’re going to be even louder than usual for the first NFC Championship Game in city history. I’m actually going out this afternoon to try to find some earplugs to wear Sunday.

Ian in Houston asks if Deuce McAllister will get a Super Bowl ring if the Saints win.

Pat Yasinskas: The technical answer is no because he’s not on the roster. But I sincerely doubt this will come down to a technicality. The Saints ultimately decide who gets rings and I’m pretty certain McAllister would be on the list because of his accomplishments and long history with the team.

John in Denver asks about the status of New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey.

Pat Yasinskas: Shockey is questionable for Sunday with a knee injury and hasn’t practiced all week. But the mere fact he hasn’t practiced doesn’t mean he’s automatically out. This game is of huge importance and I’m sure if there’s any way Shockey can play he will.

Bill in Biloxi, Miss. asks about the status of New Orleans receiver Robert Meachem.

Pat Yasinskas: The Saints are listing Meachem as probable and he practiced Friday. Payton even went so far as to say Meachem was close to 100 percent.

Final Word: Vikings at Saints

January, 22, 2010
1/22/10
4:00
PM ET
AFC Championship: Graham | Kuharsky NFC Championship: Seifert | Yasinskas

Five nuggets of knowledge about Sunday’s NFC Championship Game between the Minnesota Vikings (13-4) and the New Orleans Saints (14-3).


Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesA victory in the NFC Championship Game would be a signature win for quarterback Drew Brees.
1. This is Drew Brees' game. Yes, all the hype has been about Brett Favre. When a 40-year-old legend gets his team this far, that's expected. But I think this game is more about the legacy of Brees. For the past few years, he has put up numbers that put him in the conversation with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Favre as the league’s best quarterback. But the one thing Brees doesn’t have that they all do is a signature win. It might be time for Brees to sign his autograph.

2. Reggie Bush will be a huge factor. I wrote in this space a week ago that Bush would be a huge factor against the Cardinals -- and he was. My logic was simple. When you throw a bunch of good athletes on the field, the best athlete out there will rise up and make plays. Once again, I think Bush is the best athlete stepping onto the Superdome floor Sunday.

3. Matchup of the week? It seems like the ultimate mismatch with New Orleans left tackle Jermon Bushrod going against Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen. On paper, it probably is. But let’s face it, the Saints aren’t going to leave Bushrod on an island by himself. They’ve been covering him up with help all season as he’s filled in for an injured Jammal Brown. Bushrod hasn’t really been exploited because the Saints help him and their offense is designed for Brees to get rid of the ball quickly. This matchup might not be as big a deal as many people think.

4. Payton’s big chance. We already mentioned how important this game is for Brees’ status. It’s kind of the same deal for his coach, Sean Payton. This will be two NFC Championship Games in four seasons. Win this one and Payton will go from being just a great offensive mind to being a great head coach.

5. Sharper image. We’ve heard all week about New Orleans safety Darren Sharper's familiarity with Favre. A lot of people have said that could work to the Saints’ advantage. But Payton has done his best to downplay that aspect and frequently said players going against former teams is overrated. I disagree. I think Sharper’s knowledge of Favre is important, and I’m guessing that the Saints have been tapping into it all week. But I think the real issue here isn’t so much what Sharper can tell his teammates. I think it’s whether Sharper can take all his knowledge of Favre and come up with an interception against his former teammate.

METAIRIE, La. – Since early in the week, radio talk-show hosts, friends and people I don’t even know have been asking for my prediction for the NFC Championship Game.

I’ve given them all the exact same answer – I’d reveal it on the NFC South Blog on Friday, so here it is.

Saints 31, Vikings 24.

My logic is pretty basic. Two very good teams and it should be a pretty nice offensive display. But I think the Saints have more offensive talent. I also think Drew Brees can withstand the Minnesota pass rush and exploit some holes in the secondary.

Perhaps more than anything, the home-field advantage is huge. The Superdome was incredibly loud last week and it’s only going to be more so this week.

If you want to see some other predictions, check out what our ESPN panel had to say.

Join us on NFL Nation Live

January, 16, 2010
1/16/10
3:35
PM ET
NEW ORLEANS -- I’m all set up in the Superdome and will be reporting throughout the game.

Also, I’ll be jumping in and out of NFL Nation Live throughout the game. If you want to join us over there, here’s the link. We’ll get rolling at 4:30 p.m. ET.
As most of you know, I generally avoid making game predictions during the regular season. My logic is that predictions really don’t mean anything, and if my insight really was that good, I’d probably be living in Vegas.

But it’s the postseason and everything kicks up a notch. I’m going to make a prediction, largely because my longtime friend Brian Allee-Walsh, the outstanding football writer for NewOrleans.com, asked me and a bunch of other national journalists for predictions on Saturday’s game between the Saints and Cardinals. You can see them all here.

I gave one to Allee-Walsh, and I’ll repeat it here: Saints 41, Cardinals 38.

My logic goes something like this: I know the Saints weren’t impressive in their final three games. But I think they’ll bounce back because they’ve got most of their injured guys back. They also have Drew Brees, and that means a lot in my eyes. Finally, they’ve got the home-field advantage and that’s significant. New Orleans fans can truly rock the Superdome, and they’re going to be ready for this one. I don’t see the fans letting the Saints lose this one.

Saints on the airwaves

January, 11, 2010
1/11/10
4:47
PM ET
Here’s a quick viewing guide for Saturday’s playoff game between the Arizona Cardinals and the New Orleans Saints.

FOX will carry the game nationally. Kenny Albert will handle play-by-play duties and Daryl Johnston will be the color analyst. Tony Siragusa will be reporting from the sidelines of the Superdome.

The game also will be carried on the Saints Radio Network (870 AM and 105.3 FM in the New Orleans area). Jim Henderson is the play-by-play announcer with Hokie Gajan as color analyst and Kristian Garic as the sideline reporter.
Here’s an encouraging note for New Orleans fans, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information. The Arizona Cardinals, who will be coming to the Superdome on Saturday, are coming off an overtime victory against the Packers, and history hasn’t been kind to teams following overtime games.

Sunday’s Arizona game marked the 24th overtime postseason game that was not a league championship or Super Bowl. Teams that won those games have gone on to win the following week just eight times.
The NFL sent out its official playoff scenarios for the coming week this afternoon and there’s only one thing on there with any impact on the NFC South.

The Saints, who already have the division title and a first-round bye, have only one thing left to claim in the regular season. That’s home-field advantage and the ways to get it are very simple.

The Saints can earn the right to play in the Superdome throughout the preseason if they win or tie Sunday against Tampa Bay.

If that somehow doesn’t happen, the Saints still could claim home-field advantage if the Minnesota Vikings lose or tie their Monday night game on Dec. 28 against Chicago.
Drew BreesChris Graythen/Getty ImagesDrew Brees and the Saints aren't perfect but a championship is still within reach.
NEW ORLEANS -- Now we know for certain the New Orleans Saints are not a perfect team.

But come on, stop acting so surprised that the Dallas Cowboys came into the Superdome on Saturday night, dominated the Saints for three quarters, and were able to hold off a furious fourth-quarter rally on their way to a 24-17 victory.

This time, there was no miracle on Poydras Street, just Drew Brees getting crushed (again) and fumbling the ball -- and his shot at the MVP trophy to Peyton Manning -- as the clock ticked down. So much for 16-0.

But isn’t this kind of appropriate anyway? Reach deep down and tell the truth -- have the Saints really been anything close to a perfect team for the last month or so?

If you had visions of them going through the regular season undefeated and strolling on to win the Super Bowl (read 19-0), you were hallucinating or too caught up in the hype. Fact is, the Saints have showed their flaws every week (except for that New England game) since a Nov. 15 trip to St. Louis.

Maybe you should have seen rookies and old guys getting thrown into the secondary and getting thrown on. Maybe you shouldn’t have been nominating replacement left tackle Jermon Bushrod for the Pro Bowl and realized that, translated into Cajun, Bushrod means "smoke, mirrors and, in the end, duck."

And maybe you haven’t noticed, but no matter who’s in the secondary, this defense just isn’t all that good when defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis isn’t on the field. Oh, and there also was that myth, although it sure looked true for a long time, that the Saints could spot anybody any lead and still find a way to win it in the fourth quarter.

Soon-to-be-former Cowboys kicker Nick Folk did open the door for the miracle of all miracles when he sent a short field-goal attempt on a collision course with the upright with two minutes, 16 seconds remaining. But 2:04 later, Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Ware blew past Bushrod and decked Brees and any shot at perfection.

"All of our goals are still out there,"’ New Orleans receiver Marques Colston said.

Several other Saints uttered similar words and they are absolutely right. The Saints are 13-1, they should win their final two games against Tampa Bay at home and Carolina on the road, and they should end up with home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

And, yes, it is still entirely possible this could be a special season. A Super Bowl victory remains somewhere on the horizon.

But let’s not talk Super Bowl or even playoffs right now.

"If you’re playing a playoff game and you go out and play like that, you’re going to have the same result as tonight," New Orleans safety Darren Sharper said.

Sharper is exactly right. Picture the Saints playing the way they did against the Cowboys against … oh, let’s say Philadelphia or Arizona or Minnesota or Dallas, again, in the playoffs. It would be ugly.

But this isn’t about bashing the Saints, so let’s look on the bright side. All the attention and pressure that comes with being undefeated is now gone. And all those questions about whether the Saints should rest their starters or shoot for perfection will stop.

"There is no type of relief,’" New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. "It’s disappointing. It’s disappointing when you lose."

Disappointing, but not really all that disastrous.

The Saints are still in a spot where everyone else in the NFC would love to be sitting. And, this might be the best news of all, there’s plenty of room to make it all better.

Now, the Saints can focus entirely on fixing their problems. They got banged-up cornerback Tracy Porter and linebacker Scott Fujita back on the field against the Cowboys. The Saints are always very tight-lipped with information on injuries and Payton wasn’t providing any postgame updates on running back Reggie Bush, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, center Jonathan Goodwin or cornerback Randall Gay, each of whom had to leave the field, for at least some time, with injuries.

All indications are cornerback Jabari Greer, who has sat out the past six games with a groin injury, Ellis and tight end Jeremy Shockey, who was a bit of a surprise scratch Saturday with a turf-toe injury, will be back. Maybe before the regular season ends, and almost certainly for the playoffs.

Plug Greer and Porter back in as the starting cornerbacks and you don’t have to keep throwing rookie Malcolm Jenkins and veteran Mike McKenzie, who was on the street a month ago, out there. Plug Greer and Porter back in and Sharper no longer has to play mostly Cover 2 to bail out McKenzie and Jenkins. Sharper can roam free as he did early in the season when he was an interception machine.

Remember how good the New Orleans defense was early in the season? There’s really no reason it can’t be like that again. Get Ellis and Greer healthy and all the parts should be in place.

And get Shockey back healthy so the Saints can go with their two-tight end sets, with Shockey and David Thomas, instead of having to use only Thomas and leaving Bushrod without much help against the Dallas pass rush.

Picture all that and you still can see a bright ending for the Saints. It can’t be perfect now, but if the Saints can fix all that’s ailed them for the last month in time for the playoffs, a Super Bowl win would be better than perfect.

Final Word: NFC South

December, 11, 2009
12/11/09
4:00
PM ET

NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of information about Week 14.

[+] EnlargeMatt Moore
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesMatt Moore was 14-of-20 for 161 yards against the Buccaneers.
Anybody have a cornerback? Atlanta’s Chris Houston and New Orleans’ Jabari Greer already have been ruled out with injuries. It's pretty much a lock that New Orleans’ Tracy Porter will join them. Atlanta’s secondary was bad to begin with, and the Saints are as beat up as I’ve ever seen a position group at this spot. If the Falcons had a healthy Matt Ryan, I’d expect a shootout of epic proportions. But the likely scenario is that we’re going to see Drew Brees against Chris Redman. Somehow, I think the Saints can find a way to get through this game with the collection of cornerbacks they’ve got.

Closing in on home-field advantage. The Saints can clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs with a victory against the Falcons. That would be nice, but there’s something better on the horizon. New Orleans has a two-game lead on Minnesota right now in the overall NFC standings. Win this one and the Saints will be another step closer to clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. That’s always a great thing to have, but it means even more than usual for the Saints. The Superdome’s been a special place for them this year. The crowd noise literally forced Tom Brady to call two timeouts in a recent Monday night game. Imagine what Saints’ fans can do in a playoff setting?

Curb your enthusiasm. Let’s keep the delirium about new Carolina quarterback Matt Moore in perspective. Yes, he’s 1-0 and he looked fairly efficient last week. But he was playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the game was in Charlotte. He also might have benefitted just a bit from the five interceptions by his defense. I don’t think the setting in New England on Sunday is going to be quite as friendly.

Smoke, mirrors and four on the 50-yard line. All right, a lot of you have been on me to say something positive about the Buccaneers even though there isn’t much, besides Josh Freeman, to praise. But, here goes: I’m going to give a special shout-out to the Buccaneers’ ticket department. Somehow, and I’m sure this took some creativity, the Bucs have avoided having this game against the New York Jets blacked out and kept alive the streak of selling out every game in the history of Raymond James Stadium. They’ve only got to do it one more time this season -- Jan. 3 against Atlanta.

Free travel advice. The developing custom in New Orleans this season has been to welcome the Saints home as they return from road victories. Obviously, with each victory, the crowd gets a little larger. If you’ve got a flight out of New Orleans on Sunday night, you might want to head to the airport about five hours early, just in case the Saints get past the Falcons. Not to get too far ahead of things, but, if you have a flight out of New Orleans on the night of Jan. 3, you might want to move it up to Jan. 2 or just stick around. Jan. 3 is the day the Saints close their regular season in Carolina. If they’re 16-0, you even might want consider flying out of Pensacola, Fla.

What happened to rest of 'NFC Stout'?

December, 11, 2009
12/11/09
1:00
PM ET
Think back to night of Nov. 2. The Atlanta Falcons went into the Superdome and pretty much played the New Orleans Saints evenly.

Matt Ryan/Michael Turner
AP Photo/Donna McWilliamAt 6-6 and with Matt Ryan and Michael Turner out with injuries, the Falcons are long shots to make the playoffs.
The Falcons ended up losing, but, everywhere you looked that night, there was reason to believe Atlanta could at least contend in the NFC South. Michael Turner ran wild, Roddy White had a big night, Matt Ryan looked like he did last year and even the defense made some plays.

Just build on that, hope the Saints could get knocked off once or twice and there were lots of indications that, when the teams met again in Atlanta in December, the Falcons could win and take the division race right down to the wire.

Well, it’s December now and the Saints come to the Georgia Dome on Sunday and both teams will be carrying flags. The undefeated Saints already have earned an NFC South banner. The Falcons have thrown up a white flag.

“We’re not in the NFC South anymore,’’ Atlanta coach Mike Smith said in a conference call with the New Orleans media. “We’re in the Wild-Card Division.’’

Yes, the Falcons have pulled out of a union that traditionally had all four teams on the map until late in the season. But this season’s dramatically different.

Tampa Bay really never was in the picture. Carolina was pretty much out after an 0-3 start and any hope the Panthers had after winning their next two games disappeared forever with that pathetic home loss to Buffalo.

So what’s happened to a division that fans were calling the “NFC Stout’’ at the start of the season?

Well, let’s first give the Saints a ton of credit for putting so much distance between themselves and everyone else. But let’s also remember the Saints finished last in the division last season. They got dramatically better.

But let’s not forget the Falcons, Panthers and Buccaneers did a pretty fine job of pulling themselves out of a division that now should be called the NFC New Orleans and Nothing Else.

Let’s take a look, team-by-team, at how it came to this:

FALCONS: The Falcons still were in it after that loss in New Orleans. They were 4-3 and they went to 5-3 a week later with a blowout win against Washington. Then, the Falcons self destructed. Ryan struggled and Turner got hurt. Then, Ryan got hurt, Turner got hurt and almost the entire offensive line got hurt. And the defense, which already was shaky at best, got really shaky.

“We haven’t made plays when they’ve been presented to us and you have to make those big plays and those game-changing plays in this league if you’re going to get the outcome you want,’’ Smith said.

The outcome the Falcons wanted for this year was to get back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history, make the playoffs again and maybe even win the NFC South championship.

None of that’s going to happen. The Falcons are 6-6 and mathematically still in the playoff hunt. But let’s be realistic. With that defense and with Ryan and Turner looking like they each will miss one more game, there’s no reason why the Saints should lose this one to the Falcons. If Ryan and Turner stay out longer than this game, there’s no reason to believe the Falcons win anything until they’re back and, even then, the defense is capable of keeping any opponent in the game.

I still like Atlanta’s nucleus, but I like it for next year when it’s healthy again and there’s been time to fix that defense. For right now, though, seeing backup quarterback Chris Redman starting is like watching the Falcons wave a surrender flag.

PANTHERS: Call it overconfidence, complacency or a comedy of errors. Whatever you want to call it the Panthers have gone from 12-4 to one of the league’s most disappointing teams, and that’s probably going to cost coach John Fox his job.

He has no one to blame but himself and possibly general manager Marty Hurney, although I think Hurney still could have a job when Fox is gone. Yeah, Hurney’s the one who does the deals, but Fox is the one who told him what deals he wanted done. And the decision to bring back Jake Delhomme, as well as sign him to a contract extension, ranks as one of the biggest gaffes of the past offseason. A lot of coaches would have handed Delhomme his release after his five-interception game against Arizona in last season’s playoffs and a couple of horrible games late last season.

At the very least, it might have been wise to bring in an alternative to Delhomme. As much as the Panthers were proud of the fact that they were returning 21 of 22 starters, the downside to that was they paid a fortune to offensive tackle Jordan Gross and moody defensive end Julius Peppers. That left them with no salary-cap room to sign any depth and it has cost them dearly when injuries happened, and when some of those 21 starters turned out to be less than the coaching staff thought.

Fox brought stability to this franchise, but he might have brought too much for too long. His message no longer carries the same weight in some corners of the locker room, and there’s a feeling among some players that rules aren’t the same for everybody and some guys get, or have demanded and received, star treatment. It might be the quarterback, it might be the coach or it might be both of them plus a whole bunch of others, but someone’s going to have to take the fall for this mess.

BUCCANEERS: Let’s be real honest here. The Bucs took themselves out of this year’s NFC South race in February. That’s when they cut ties with Derrick Brooks, Jeff Garcia, Warrick Dunn, Ike Hilliard, Joey Galloway, Kevin Carter and several other older players who had just enough left to keep them close to making the playoffs last year. There was some logic in all that because the Bucs weren’t going to get any better if they kept the same crew around.

Instead, they got worse. Much of that was to be expected. But if this rebuilding plan had been carried out better, the Bucs would have been respectable early on and should be showing substantial progress by now. They’re not. Rookie quarterback Josh Freeman has brought some hope since taking over at midseason, but free-agent pickups Derrick Ward and Angelo Crowell haven’t brought anything to the table.

Coach Raheem Morris fired offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski before the season started and took the reins away from defensive coordinator Jim Bates after 10 games. Morris may get another year because ownership knew from the start this was going to be a project. But Morris and general manager Mark Dominik have a lot of work to do in the coming months.

So do Smith and Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Same for Fox and Hurney, if they’re still there, or for a new regime.

Long story short and we’ll borrow from Smith’s first quote: The Falcons, Buccaneers and Panthers have a lot of ground to make up just to get back into the NFC South.

Will the Saints go unbeaten?

December, 2, 2009
12/02/09
1:35
PM ET
The headline suggests a question worthy of debate.

Maybe my answer doesn’t fit that mode, but I’m sticking with it. It’s real simple and I’m not leaving the door open to wiggle out of what I’m about to say.

The New Orleans Saints should go undefeated.

As ridiculous as it may sound to say, a 15-1 or 14-2 season would be a disappointment. Now that the Saints have gotten through the supposedly mighty Patriots in such convincing fashion, there’s really no reason they shouldn’t go undefeated the rest of the regular season.

New Orleans has the second-easiest schedule in the league for the last five games. Its remaining opponents have a combined .400 winning percentage. Let's break it down:

Sunday at Washington: This is one of three road games and weather could be a bit of an issue for a team that’s used to playing in a dome and passes the ball so much. The temperature is supposed to be in the mid-40s and there’s a 20 percent chance of precipitation. But, come on, it’s the Redskins. They’ve got almost as many problems as Tiger Woods. If the Saints are half as good as they were Monday night, they should cruise.

[+] EnlargeDrew Brees
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesDrew Brees' 112.6 passer rating is tops among all quarterbacks.
Dec. 13 at Atlanta: When the Falcons played the Saints nose to nose in the Superdome on Nov. 2, I thought the trip to the Georgia Dome would be a heck of a rematch and a huge obstacle to an undefeated season. I don’t think so anymore. We don’t know how long Matt Ryan and Michael Turner and all of those other banged-up Falcons are going to be out. But the Falcons aren’t the same team they were back in early November. They struggled to beat the Buccaneers in Week 12 at home. The Saints are a little bit better than the Bucs.

Dec. 19 at home against Dallas: The Cowboys are easily the best team on New Orleans’ schedule. But I have two questions for you:

1. When’s the last time Dallas won a game that really meant anything?

2. You really think a Saturday night crowd in the Superdome is going to allow the Saints to lose?

Dec. 27 at home with Tampa Bay: It’s the Buccaneers and it's at home. Enough said.

Jan. 3 at Carolina: Even if the Saints are 15-0 and have home-field advantage locked up for the playoffs, I can’t see any way Sean Payton would sit his starters. Going 16-0 and carrying incredible momentum into the playoffs would be too much incentive. Besides, I strongly suspect the Carolina tents could be folded by then and John Fox could be coaching his last game with the Panthers. The Saints will be playing for a spot in the history books.

Here’s how ESPN.com national writers John Clayton and Len Pasquarelli see it.

Clayton: Having the Minnesota Vikings on their heels may allow the Saints to have the perfect regular season. Sunday’s game between the Cardinals and Vikings could determine how that might work out.

If the Vikings beat the Cardinals, there is a good chance Minnesota could go 14-2 or 15-1. If that happens, the Saints might need a 16-0 season to have home field in the playoffs. That’s why I give the Saints the best chance to go undefeated. They have the second-easiest closing schedule in football, playing teams with a combined record of 22-33. The Falcons (in Atlanta on Dec. 13) and Dallas Cowboys (in New Orleans on Dec. 19) are New Orleans’ remaining opponents with winning records.

As long as the Vikings keep winning, the Saints need to keep winning. That means Drew Brees keeps playing and Sean Payton keeps calling plays. The Saints’ final two games are against the 1-10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a Carolina Panthers team that might be in the last days of coach John Fox’s tenure.

I think the Saints can go unbeaten. They might need to do that to get two home games in the playoffs.

Pasquarelli: Given their offensive display against the New England Patriots on Monday night, and a December schedule that is difficult but not daunting, it’s hard to fathom the New Orleans Saints dropping a game to anyone this regular season.

But more than their high-octane performance, and the worthiness of their five remaining opponents, it is the Minnesota Vikings that will motivate New Orleans. Unlike the Colts, who can virtually breeze to the AFC home-field advantage, the Saints own just a one-game edge over the Vikings.

The Saints are 6-0 at home, but they are averaging more points on the road (37.4) than at the Superdome (36.7). But there is something about playing in front of their raucous loyalists that, combined with the one-game proximity of the Vikings, will keep the Saints motivated throughout December.

As is the case with the Colts, the Saints have been forced recently to play with an undermanned secondary, but ultra-aggressive coordinator Gregg Williams continues to dial up blitzes to camouflage any deficiencies. Couple that with an offense that is averaging 37 points per game, and which has scored 30 or more points on eight occasions (four times with 40-plus points), and New Orleans has every reason to believe it will stay undefeated.

Live from the Superdome

November, 30, 2009
11/30/09
6:21
PM ET
NEW ORLEANS – Alright, I just arrived at the Superdome with surprisingly little difficulty.

It’s a great atmosphere outside. Right now, the inside of the dome is very quiet. One of New England’s team buses just arrived and some players are walking across the field to their locker room.

There are a few Saints out stretching and the national anthem is being rehearsed. But that’s about it for now. I’ll be back as soon as I start getting injury updates and/or inactives.

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