Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
When FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” he never had visions of watching his favorite football team lose to the worst playoff team in NFL history.
In 2006, when the Saints made their first playoff appearance since 2000, I was through the roof excited. Maybe it was the post Katrina emotion or just the shear joy of having a bye and home playoff game delivered like a winning lottery ticket, I wanted the Saints to win, but I knew Drew Brees and Sean Payton were the real deal and it was no flash-in-the-pan and there would be more playoffs to come.
Last year, I was anxious. The Saints during most of 2009 looked like a Super Bowl team but they seemed to fade just a little late in the year. I had questions if the bye week could recharge them but overall I was pretty confident they would pound an Arizona team who just gave up 45 points the week before.
This year, I’m completely petrified to watch this game.
It’s not even the losing that scares me; it’s how it would happen.
Seattle might play the greatest game any 7-9-team has ever played and we’ll just say, “Wow. The Seahawks really just kicked the Saints in the you-know-where.”
More likely if the Saints lose most or maybe all the damage will be self-inflicted wounds.
Remember the Arizona game earlier this year? The one where the Cardinals scored on an interception, a fumble return, and an offensive lineman scored a touchdown after the Saints sacked the QB because God thinks fat guys scoring is funny. It will be sort of like that only on steroids. If the Saints can conjure up a way to lose to Max Hall and Arizona there is nothing on earth they couldn’t be outscored by and that’s what makes me think I need to FULLY stock my bar for Saturday.
Oh, and Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory are both now on injured reserve.
This might seem disastrous, but I’ve come up with a solution Sean Payton and it doesn’t involve those room temperature bodies you’ve signed the last two days. My play is simple; Jim Henderson calls the game solo because NOLA NEEDS YOU HOKIE GAJAN. Wikipedia says, “He is third all time in yards per carry in a season (1984) for a primary running back (one with at least 100 carries in a season) in NFL history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.”
Ridiculous? Hugh Hefner just got engaged and we’re not even sure he still has a pulse. Age to me and my friends is just a number, but if you don’t like my solution, I’m open to others they just can’t involve DeShawn Wynn, Julius Jones, or some guy named Joique Bell actually touching the ball.
If you want something to feel good about the last time, I felt this bad going into a Saints playoff game was in 2000. The Saints lost to the Rams in the season finale, Marshall Faulk ran for like 500 yards, Aaron Brooks was pretty awful and the Saints had to play them the following Saturday. It turned out pretty well but let’s be honest; it was the football equivalent of surviving a crash landing.
Only God, Hakim, and Brian Milne saved us all from complete disaster.
Last Week: 4-1
Seattle (+10.5) vs. New Orleans: If you had to sum up the 2009 Saints in one sentence what would it be? Drew Brees was flawless and at critical times the Saints secondary was magnificent. How about this year? Defense was excellent, Saints played down to the competition, and Brees bailed them out time after time. Why will Saturday be any different? Seattle is a playoff embarrassment but they still won seven games, have a quarterback who went to a Super Bowl, and have a definite home field edge.
Since they couldn’t keep up with the Saints in the first meeting I can’t see them wanting to get in a shootout. They would love to shorten the game by running the ball, limit possessions, get special teams score from Leon Washington, and 900 fist pumps from Pete Carroll. Only flaw in the plan is they are dead last in the NFL running the ball.
If I may, a word for Reggie Bush. “You know that $8 million you are scheduled to make next year? Now is your chance to totally put the screws to the Saints. There’s no one left standing at running back but you. A couple good games would go a long way to getting you that money and if you deliver the Saints a ground game during a Super Bowl run they’ll have to keep you.”
As I mentioned earlier, for the Saints to lose this game they have to load the gun, take off the safety, hand it to Seattle, explain how to pull the trigger, and then tell the Seahawks, “You are welcome.”
I think this game will be painful to watch and midway through the forth quarter we’ll beg for a court order to have them institutionalized because the Saints are inflicting bodily harm to themselves. Then Drew Brees will shake off all of it and do what he’s done all year long. He’ll find a way.
Indianapolis (-2.5) vs. New York Jets: Go ahead and talk yourself into the Jets but I’ll take Peyton Manning at night. For the Jets to win Mark Sanchez will need to be very good and I just don’t think he’s got it in him. The Colts will stuff the run and Manning will carve up Rex Ryan’s defense. By the way, what do you think Peyton Manning thinks every time he sees that awesome NFL Network commercial of Tracy Porter’s interception? Probably that it will haunt his legacy until he wins another Super Bowl.
Kansas City (+3) vs. Baltimore: My wife watches ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ on TLC and I pretend not to watch but there is something captivating about crazy parents who sometimes seem like they’d knee cap a rival three-year-old so their daughter can win the title of Little Miss Snowflake Sunshine of Arizona. I feel the same way about Chiefs coach Todd Haley; Guy looks a little off. Much like watching the show I’ll regret this pick five minutes into it.
Green Bay (-2.5) at Philadelphia: Doesn’t it just feel like we’re heading for a Michael Vick implosion? 2005 Vick is back -- the one who throws horrible picks and thinks the solution to every problem is to run. Rejoice Vick haters, when Philly fans boo him after his third pick you’ll know all is right in the universe.
BONUS COLLEGE PICK!
LSU (-1.5) vs. Texas A&M: I fully expect to see a Bowl game in mid April soon. Next time someone yaps at you about the tradition of bowl games and why a playoff will ruin college football slap them in the face. Does Les Miles not look fantastic in the cowboy hat? Yes he does. I think he should get a custom camouflage one made with an LSU logo and wear it on game day for the Cotton Bowl. Don’t you dare go to Michigan Les; they won’t love you like we love you. Maybe it took us too long to appreciate your genius. While other coaches were trying to manage the clock you OWNED THE CLOCK. It holds no power over you, if LSU needs an extra untimed down to win a game YOU MAKE IT HAPPEN. How you do this we aren’t sure. Maybe it’s magic or because you eat grass on game day. Doesn’t matter, don’t go up to Ann Arbor its cold and the food isn’t as good. As for the game, Miles kills it in Bowl games at LSU and he’ll do it again. Patrick Peterson cements his place among top five greatest Tigers ever.
(Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on facebook, or listen to his Saints draft night podcast at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/forecastradio.)