Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
The Saints are two wins from doing the unthinkable and finishing their 2011 season undefeated at home. They nearly pulled off the trick in 2009 but lost their final two home games to Dallas and Tampa Bay.
It might not seem a big deal to any of you who are under 25 and read this column but to those of us old enough to remember the 1980’s the thought of the Saints going 8-0 in the Superdome gives us the same feeling as being told a unicorn won the third race at the Fairgrounds. We’ll believe it when we see it but just knowing that it might be possible is fantastic.
For all the talk of the Superdome being some great home field advantage it’s not really true. The Saints have never won more than six home games in the regular season at home and they’ve only done that six times. The Saints have been so mediocre at home in 2000 they became the first team to ever host a playoff game after posting a losing home record.
This year the Saints are an unstoppable force at home. They are averaging 39.8 points and their lowest total at home is 27 against Tampa. They have beaten four teams with at least .500 records and I’d argue the wins against the Texans and Bears were great wins because when the Saints beat them they had actual NFL caliber quarterbacks.
The 2011 Saints use playing inside like no team in the history of the franchise. As great as the 2009 team was they were held under 20 points twice at home in case you were thinking the 2011 Saints aren’t doing something historic at home.
I haven’t had this much fun watching a Saints team in the Superdome since the 1991-92 Saints. While the 2011 Saints just spreads teams out on offense then dares them to cover all their weapons the Jim Mora Saints used the Dome Patrol and raucous crowd to take away an opponents will to live. The Saints allowed the fewest points in the NFL both years and in 1992 no one scored more than 21 points on them THE ENTIRE YEAR. When an opponent faced third and long it was like watching a cat stare at a gold fish bowl because something really bad was happening to the quarterback. It was just a matter of how quickly Rickey Jackson or Pat Swilling made it happen.
Those teams were really good at home but the 2011 Saints are transcendent. They haven’t trailed at home since Week 3 against Houston. So if you are lucky enough to have a ticket to Monday’s game against Atlanta take a moment to soak in what has a chance to be the best home version of the New Orleans Saints ever.
Last Week: 5-0
New Orleans (-6.5) vs. Atlanta: This feels like Drew Brees’ moment to remind America the MVP race is far from over. He’ll likely cruise past Dan Marino’s passing record and if he plays like he did the last time the Saints were on Monday night he has a chance to steal the trophy everyone thought already had Aaron Rogers name on it.
The Saints defense has really started to play pretty well, especially against the run. Michael Turner has quietly struggled the last month. He has only one touchdown and hasn’t averaged over four yards a carry since Atlanta faced the Tennessee Titans Nov. 20. Matt Ryan has picked up the slack throwing for 12 touchdowns and two interceptions the last five weeks.
Was the pass rush we saw in Minnesota a one-time thing? Gregg Williams may have discovered something by moving Will Smith to tackle in passing situations. Junior Galette is third on the team in sacks and I’d argue he’s been their best rusher the last few weeks. The Saints defense’s lack of interceptions is a freak show that eventually has to end. Tampa Bay has 13 interceptions to the Saints 8 and the Bucs defense gets off the bus at the stadium down 14-0.
Atlanta has one win over a team with a winning record and until they laid the wood to Jacksonville didn’t have a dominating win all season. I don’t think they are in the same class as the Saints. The only thing I’m looking forward to seeing more than Brees break Marino’s record in person is seeing the Mike Smith sad face on the video screen.
Who will have a huge game besides Drew Brees? Jabari Greer seems like a good guess.
Kansas City (-1) vs. Oakland: Chiefs players were so happy Todd Haley wasn’t yelling at them anymore they beat the Packers. If the Chiefs beat Oakland, Detroit beats the Chargers, and the Bills beat Tim Tebow guess what happens next week? Kyle Orton gets a chance to stick it to the team who cut him this year (Denver) and give the Chiefs a second division title in a row. Could somebody give Raiders coach Hue Jackson the card that tells him when you score to go up 12 with less than eight minutes left in the game you should go for two?
Buffalo (+3) vs. Denver: I’m in a picks pool and I’d probably be in the lead if I’d just stop picking the Bills to win. Chan Gailey I believe in you so you should believe in you. Isn’t Tim Tebow due for a three-interception stink bomb?
San Diego (+2.5) at Detroit: If the Chargers could get to the playoffs I think they could do serious damage. The Lions are going to still make the playoffs but since they still are the Lions they will make their fans suffer.
New York Giants (+3) at New York Jets: I won my auction draft fantasy football league last week and I’d like to thank Ahmad Bradshaw for his completely meaningless garbage time score against the Redskins. It wasn’t meaningless to me Ahmad. If the Giants and Cowboys are playing for a playoff spot next week and so is Tim Tebow what game would NBC flex to prime time? I say Tebow time trumps the Cowboys. A woman at work told me she loves Tim Tebow because he loves Jesus and scores more homeruns than the Astros. I’m not even kidding.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at email@example.com, find him on facebook, follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/MilneMalbrough or download his podcast at Itunes.