I want the New Orleans Saints to lie to us. As a Saints fan, I need a prescription strength dose of false hope. I need the Saints to trick me a little longer into letting us believe they could make something of the 2016 season.
If you have paid any attention to the Saints this year, you know they are an injured mess on defense, a catastrophe waiting to happen on special teams. and have an offense that can be good, but also goes missing for long stretches at a time. The Saints are in no way a playoff team, but it's October 13, and I'd like to at least pretend these games matter. Watching non-Saints football is more fun when the Saints are at least kinda-sorta, maybe, possibly, in contention.
How fun was it watching the Carolina Panthers fall to 1-4 and look like a complete mess, and then think to yourself, "You know if the Saints can beat the Panthers Sunday, and Atlanta loses in Seattle, the Saints would be only 1 game out of first in the loss column in the NFC South, plus Kansas City isn't that good, so 3-3 might actually be possible!"
If we are going to be delusional, we need to THINK BIG! For the 2016 Saints, 3-3 would seem like some sort of early Halloween miracle. The thing is hope for football teams die once mid-October arrives and they are a long way from .500. The Saints win Sunday and 2-3 feels like fun things, such as meaningful November games, might be possible. The Saints at 1-4 feel like it's time start looking at 2017 mock drafts because hope is on life support and the doctor needs to talk to us about letting the 2016 Saints go peacefully and not suffer anymore.
So Sunday isn't about fighting back into the playoff race, or starting a fantastic winning streak at home, it's just the Saints lying to us a little longer, and telling us, "Everything's fine baby. You'll see. It's gonna be different this year, I just crushed Carolina FOR YOU BABY."
All we ask is for the Saints to whisper sweet lies into our ears a little longer because we want to believe them.
16 for 50: 2000 Saints Go Crazy in Free Agency
Since the Saints are celebrating their 50th Anniversary, every week I'm going to talk about a memorable moment from team history. Some everyone will remember and some will be odd and forgotten moments.
In 2000, the Saints had fired Mike Ditka and general manager Bill Kuharich, then hired new GM Randy Mueller and head coach Jim Haslett. Full NFL free agency wasn't even a decade old, and while the Saints had done a couple of moves during the 1990's that were major, they always seemed a step slow in free agency. Either they let their own good players leave (Wesley Walls and Sam Mills) or couldn't quite close the deal on players they wanted (Kevin Mawae.)
While Mike Ditka's Ricky Williams trade was a disaster as far as lost draft picks, the Saints never really spent big money on free agents under Ditka, so the new Saints regime went to work using the one tool they had: cap space.
What Randy Mueller did in free agency in 2000 was the stuff of dreams. In the opening week, the Saints signed quarterback Jeff Blake, receivers Joe Horn and Jake Reed, tight end Andrew Glover, and defensive tackle Norman Hand. They also added Fred Thomas, Kevin Mathis, and Chris Oldham at corner, Darren Smith at linebacker, and Darren Perry at safety. Most of this happened in about a 2-week-stretch and it seemed like the Saints were doing moves every single day. When the Saints were done they had added 8 new starters to a 3-13 team and were poised to have the greatest season in team history up to that point.
After a decade of letting free agency pass them by, the Saints jumped in head first. There was no Twitter to give minute by minute updates, so I was reduced to going to Saints message boards and other New Orleans media outlets on the web using dial up. Kids, ask your parents about dial up, it was worse than Brandon Browner trying to cover Julio Jones.
The 2000 Saints would eventually go 10-6, overcome a ton of injuries, and win the franchise's first playoff game, but the Saints set it up by going crazy in free agency. It's still my favorite Saints offseason ever.
Last week: 3-2
New Orleans (+3) vs. Carolina: If the Saints, after a week off, can't beat Carolina (playing on a short week), then all hope is dead. Everyone around the country probably expects Cam Newton to play, and the Panthers to 'get right' versus the Saints.
What if Carolina isn't any good? I know they went 15-1 last year, but they went 8-1 in games decided by 1 score. That is not a repeatable trick. The Saints lit Carolina up for 38 points at home last year when the Panthers defense was elite. What do you think is going to happen Sunday against a defense giving up 246 yards passing a game? 246 yards doesn't seem awful (15th in NFL), until you realize the Panthers have played the 31st and 23rd ranked passing offenses. Did I mention the Carolina offensive line is terrible and has allowed 13 sacks in 5 games? Even the Saints might be able to generate a pass rush Sunday. Miracles happen every single day, if you just believe they can.
The main reason I'm certain the Saints are winning this game is because I had to cancel my plans to attend. The last 2 Saints games I planned on attending but didn't? The Indianapolis Colts game in 2011, where Saints scored 62, and last year's New York Giant game, where the Saints scored 52. Sunday will be the Saints best performance of 2016 and I'm going to miss watching it in person. Think of me as Cam Newton sulks on the bench.
Seattle (-6) vs. Atlanta: If the Falcons go into Seattle and win, then we will have to resign ourselves to Atlanta going 12-4 and having a bye in the playoffs. I still believe the Falcons are a 9-7 team and will show it against the Seahawks.
Tennessee (-7) vs. Cleveland: The poor Browns are an injury at quarterback away from calling Bernie Kosar. Kosar is 52 years old.
Houston (-3) vs. Indianapolis: The Colts are wasting Andrew Luck's prime in a way that makes me appreciate the job Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis have done the last 4 years.
Detroit (-3.5) vs. Los Angeles: The Rams started 3-1, so remember this at season's end, when Jeff Fisher wins 7 or 8 games for the 11th time in 22 years as a head coach. The man is consistent.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast.
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