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Anyone watching the Saints games can see their running game is an absolute mess. In 2009, the Saints had 21 rushing touchdowns, but so far in 2010, they have one. I'd say that's a depression level drop in production. Sean Payton made it official this week the Saints are in full freak out mode over their rushing attack by what he said on Monday and what he did on Tuesday.

On Monday he said, 'These are guys that we have a lot of confidence in. I felt a week ago that Ladell played very well. He had the one fumble yesterday. I thought Chris ran hard yesterday. We'll keep coaching them. These are our guys. There's no one walking in here to save the day on the street right now.' Then the Saints signed Julius Jones on Tuesday so I guess Jones is here to save the day?

Maybe Julius Jones is Batman, Robin, Earl Campbell, Dalton Hilliard and Deuce McAllister all rolled into one? If that's true, why exactly did Seattle trade for Marshawn Lynch and then send Jones to the nearest bus station with a ticket to nowhere? Just asking.

I'm not here to rake Payton over the coals for saying one thing to the media then doing another because coaches do it all the time. Besides maybe the UFL or Canadian Football League was hot to sign Jones and Payton didn't want to show his hand and lose Jones to the Omaha Nighthawks. If that's the case well played coach. Payton says Jones was signed just for depth and not because the Saints are unhappy with their running backs. Funny how the Saints weren't too concerned about running back depth until after Ladell Betts was an absolute train wreck in Arizona.

What Payton says isn't nearly as important as what he does. The Saints running game stinks and he can't wait for the return of Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas for it to get fixed. It wasn't all that great with those guys on the field anyway. Last year the Saints offense was sixth in rushing, first in points per game, and they were the best offense in football. This year they are 31st in rushing yards per game and 18th in points. But Ralph, It's more complicated than that, you say. The lack of running has to do with opponent, scheme, offensive line, and if the Saints are trailing or not. Don't care. Not my problem. All I know is if the Saints finish in bottom five in the NFL in rushing yards in the NFL they'll be no better than 8-8. How do I know this? In 2008 and 2007 the Saints were 28th in the NFL in rushing and won seven and nine games.

The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one and Payton did that on Tuesday. I guess he could have just as easily said so but his actions did it for him.

Last week: 4-1
Season: 15-10

Tampa Bay (+4.5) vs. New Orleans: 'Do you see that? That's what panic looks like.'

'Ralph, that's Saints fans making themselves a stiff drink and looking for a place to lie down.'
'That is what panic looks my friend. Anger, then crying, and finally acceptance.'

After Sunday its panic we will have. In order to beat Tampa you need to run the ball and force them out of their basic Tampa 2 defense. We've already established the Saints can't do this. Although if Julius Jones runs for a couple of TDs and 100 yards I'll buy him a pack of his favorite cigarettes. Did you know Julius is a smoker? That makes you feel so much better about the Saints running game right?

I have a feeling this game will be like watching a gnome try to reach for the door knob; interesting for about five minutes followed by ever increasing frustration. Josh Freeman wins it late so keep all breakable objects at a safe distance in the fourth quarter.

Bucs 23-17

Pittsburgh (-13.5) vs. Cleveland: Colt McCoy probably will start for the Browns. He was so bad in the preseason the rumor was Cleveland might cut him. After Sunday, he will wish they had.

Steelers 38-3

Kansas City (+4.5) at Houston: Houston isn't any good but Matt Cassel is worse and yet I'm taking the Chiefs. Why? The Texans' secondary is so bad Cassel will look like a competent NFL QB.

Chiefs 27-21

Atlanta (-3) at Philadelphia: Kevin Kolb will get beat up by the Falcons and booed by Eagles fans. Did you know in 1990 when Colorado got a fifth down late in the game against Missouri to decide the game Andy Reid was on the field as an assistant coach for Missouri? Reid was involved in one of college football's worst end of game management fiascos. Nothing ever changes people. NOTHING.

Falcons 28-17

Minnesota (-1.5) vs. Dallas: Let's call this the 'Bad Coaching Bowl'. The victor gets to continue to torment their fans with legitimate playoff dreams. The loser gets to talk themselves into how 8-8 can get a wildcard in the NFC. There are no actual winners. In other news if my fiancee is any indication of the attitude of American women then Brett Favre=Tiger Woods.

Vikings 27-17

Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at ralphmalbrough@hotmail.com, find him on facebook, or listen to his Saints podcast at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/forecastradio.

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