Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
Here are 12 things I think are certain to happen during the New Orleans Saints 2013 season. Some are more likely than others, some are complete insanity, some are sheer fantasy, and some involve actual football. You can decide for yourself which is which.
1. After the Saints drop 50 on the Cowboys, in the post game press conference the media will ask Sean Payton about video showing him saying the words, “Take that Goodell.”
He will smile, take a sip of Gatorade, and say, “That’s absurd. It might have looked like I said that but really I was just telling the field goal team to get moving.”
Payton’s burning desire to have the Saints march through their schedule like barbarians through ancient Rome is a lot like Fight Club. What’s the number one rule about Fight Club? YOU. DON’T. TALK. ABOUT. FIGHT. CLUB.
2. By mid October it will be really apparent the Saints have acquired something we have never really seen in the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era; the diva receiver.
Kenny Stills will be this person. He will catch bombs, have fun, and Las Vegas will have the odds of him doing something on Twitter that ESPN will spend a day talking about at three to one. Call it a hunch but once Mr. Stills gets a few good games under his belt my guess is he will be the most fun receiver we've seen since Joe Horn was making cell phone calls in the endzone.
3. Come next March Jimmy Graham’s contract situation will be messy. The players association thinks the tight end franchise tag is unfair because elite tight ends should be classified as receivers and get paid accordingly but no player has challenged this yet.
The good news is we don’t have to worry about it until next year and until then we get to enjoy the ‘2013 I Want My Money Tour.’ It will be glorious. If Graham weren’t so modest I’d expect him to demand the Superdome play Billy Idol’s ‘Mony Mony’ every time he scores. Expect 100 catches, 1,400 yards, and Graham to be a top five pick in fantasy football in 2014.
4. On October 27 at around 3:15 p.m. Saints fans will all say the most unbelievable words ever spoken and those words will be “Thank God for Luke McCown.”
Drew Brees hasn’t missed a start in his Saints career because of injury. If he hadn’t sat out the season finales in 2009 and in 2004 he’d be starting game number 145 in a row Sunday against the Falcons. Eventually, Brees will get nicked up and it’s going to happen this year but it won’t be a huge injury. My prediction is he won’t play the second half against the Bills and Luke McCown will look fantastic and secure the Saints back up quarterback job through 2015.
5. The Saints have five safeties on their roster and Rob Ryan is going to use them all frequently. Ryan is going to be the best thing to happen to Roman Harper since Eli Manning in 2009. Under Ryan I expect Harper to be put more in the position to do the things he is good at (sack quarterbacks, run blitz) and less of what he isn’t (cover any tight end with a pulse). Saints fans will get to fall in love with Roman all over again. I’m excited to see us make up with him on Twitter.
6. In mid November my mom and me will have the following conversation…
Mom: Hey, I know what I want you to get me for Christmas.
Me: What’s that?
Mom: A Kenny Vaccaro Jersey.
All you need to know about how good I think Vaccaro is going to be is if I’m predicting my mom will want his jersey it means he’ll be doing great things almost every week.
He’s going to be the on field cockiness and recklessness of Rob Ryan. I fully expect to love, then hate, then love Vaccaro again all in the span of 20 minutes about 10 times this year. He’ll be the leader of the defense by October.
7. You might think D.C. Jefferson was a general in the Civil War. He was not. He is a tight end for the Arizona Cardinals and he will catch 7 passes for 100 yards against the Saints. Why? Because the New Orleans Saints believe tight ends are like children in an open field and you should let them run free until they get tired.
8. “I’ll have the Cam Jordan. Thanks.” Teenage boys all over New Orleans will be telling barbers this because they’ll want the same hair style as the most consistent pass rushing defensive end to be on the Saints since Darren Howard.
9. President Obama will declare the New Orleans Saints linebackers a federal disaster area.
“Let me be clear, today I’m declaring the New Orleans Saints entire linebacking corps a federal disaster area. The injuries they have withstood are heartbreaking and the pain and suffering caused to New Orleans is immeasurable.”
This will have bipartisan support. The Saints linebackers are going to be so bad by November I might write a 1,200 word column asking Ricky Jackson to come play for the Saints. Rickey Jackson is 55 years old and I’d still rather see him in pass coverage than some of the current crop.
10. Mark Ingram will lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns but the rest of his season will be as mediocre as ever. I’ve come to accept that Ingram is what he is. I recommend you do the same and you’ll be a lot happier in 2013.
11. After qualifying for the playoffs on the season’s final day because Seattle loses its first home game in two years and Dallas loses at home to Philadelphia Drew Brees just shakes his head and says, “ I’ll be honest and say I didn’t see this coming but it’s what makes football so great. It is crazy and just when you think you are done a miracle happens. You just never know.”
New Orleans (-3) vs. Atlanta: If the Saints were smart they’d retire Steve Gleason’s number before kickoff and have Gleason lead the team onto the field. Yes, it would be an awesome moment and the roof might blow off the Dome but the main reason is we all know eventually Gleason’s number will hang in the rafters so why not enjoy the moment sooner rather than later?
I expect this game to be high scoring, not have much defense, and in crunch time when a coaching decision needs to be made Mike Smith will make the wrong call. If you gave Mike Smith a choice between three doors and behind door #1 was five million dollars, door #2 had a Lombardi trophy, and door #3 had a stale king cake and week old Popeye’s chicken I’m 90 percent certain Mike’s choosing door #3.
He can’t help himself.
Atlanta also got rid of Saints killer John Abraham for a slightly less old and more injury prone Osi Umenyiora and as a Saints fan I fully endorse this move. The Falcons will also be depending on two rookie corners Sunday, which isn’t the best scenario against Drew Brees.
Atlanta went 7-1 in games decided by seven points or less in 2012 and they’ve been really good in close games ever since Matt Ryan became their quarterback but eventually wins and losses in tight games even out. Stat nerds call it regression to the mean.
Drew Brees is 11-3 against Atlanta as a Saint and if you don’t think he remembers his five-interception nightmare last November you haven’t been paying attention. I’m guessing Sean Payton has reminded him of it probably 5,000 times since July. It wouldn’t surprise me if Payton had an Ipad placed in Brees’ locker everyday with video of the five interceptions and the clock screw up right before the half along with a sarcastic post-it note.
“Hey Drew why not throw one more and make it a six-pack?”
Payton pushes buttons on everyone. It’s what he does. Brees wants this one really badly.
Payback is… well you know…
Seattle (-3) at Carolina: I’m convinced the Panthers won’t be any good until 2014 when Nick Saban is coaching them.
Tampa Bay (-3) vs. New York Jets: The Jets are beyond embarrassing. Rex Ryan didn’t even talk to the players he cut Saturday because he was in South Carolina watching his son who is a walk-on for the Clemson Tigers. Seriously. The Rob Ryan implosion will dominate ESPN until the Jets pull the plug in November. The Jets will be the most covered 1-9 team in NFL history.
Green Bay (+4.5) at San Francisco: I’m not a believer in the 49ers. They’ll be good but it’s really hard to win at least 12 games three years in a row. They are beat up and feel like a 10 or 11 win team to me and I hate Jim Harbaugh.
Kansas City (-3.5) at Jacksonville: I’m forced to care way too much about this game because I have Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, and Cecil Shorts on my fantasy team. I’m going to be checking my phone while in the Dome for Chiefs-Jaguars updates which is really unhealthy because no one should care about Alex Smith’s stats this much. I should probably talk to someone about it.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on facebook, follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.