Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
The NFL doesn't really care about player safety. There, I said it.
But Ralph, Roger Goodell will tell anyone who'll listen player safety is his most important mission. Goodell is making Sean Payton watch tonight's game from home to prove it. Besides, the NFL made those cute commercials with Tom Brady talking about concussions and they play them 5000 times during games and if bad public service announcements don't prove you are serious about something, what does Ralph?
How about not making teams play on Sunday then turn around and play four days later and quit talking about an 18 game schedule as well?
The NFL has been and always will be about cash. If they weren't petrified about the class action lawsuit from former players involving concussions, we'd probably be hearing about a 20 game schedule and instead of having their season blown up the Saints would have gotten a sternly worded letter.
The NFL could lose billions if the ex-players win the lawsuit, so they say they care about player safety but their actions prove otherwise.
The Thursday night games are cash grab by the NFL to help make their cable channel NFL Network profitable. Let's be honest, if the NFL Network didn't have actual games on it would you really care if your cable company carried it?
Didn't think so.
If you see Goodell during Super Bowl Week ask him if having players play a game on three days rest helps player safety and then enjoy the silence.
Sean Payton sabbatical spot of the week: Portugal
Sean could head to Portugal that is home to the longest bridge in Europe, the Vasco de Gama. It stretches more than 10.5 miles and spans the Tagus River just outside of the city of Lisbon. Only 10 miles? Silly Euros here in America we build bridges like the Causeway that are way longer and better than your little bridges.
Last Week: 3-2
Atlanta (-3.5) vs. New Orleans: To me this game is more about Atlanta than the Saints. The Falcons are 10-1 and not once all year have I watched them play or seen their highlights and thought, 'My God they are spectacular. They scare me and they can win the Super Bowl.' Even though the 49ers didn't dominate the Saints nearly as much as some local media would have you believe the last 7 minutes Sunday their defensive line was frighteningly awesome. It was so dominate when the 49ers had the ball with less than four minutes to go I just wanted them to run out the clock so Drew Brees wouldn't take any more punishment.
All NFC contenders have looked at times way better than Atlanta. The Giants looked great against the Packers, the Packers looked great against the Texans, while the Falcons have pulled off one close win after another.
The only recent team with as good a record as Atlanta with as may close wins as the Falcons have was the 2006 Indianapolis Colts. They started 10-1 and had 7 wins by less than a touchdown but at least they scored 45 points twice.
If the Falcons are a legit Super Bowl team they are going to have a signature performance similar to the 2009 Saints dismantling of the New England Patriots on Monday Night football. Blowing out their most hated rival on national TV sure would make a statement.
To me this game goes two ways:
1. Atlanta is extremely fired up to exercise their demons against the Saints, their defense creates a pass rush to force Brees into mistakes, and Matt Ryan torches the Saints secondary just like he did last time. It's a blowout and the Falcons are puffing out their chests in the post game and suddenly everyone believes they can win it all.
2. Or the Saints are a cornered animal and the Falcons can't match New Orleans desperation and the Saints save their season in style. Atlanta can't stop the run and if you block John Abraham you can throw all over their secondary.
This game is an elimination game for the Saints because if they fall to 5-7 the playoffs are done and December is just for pride. I've literally gone back and forth picking this game like 50 times. Something tells me its just Atlanta's year but then I keep thinking, 'Drew Brees needs to have one of those Drew Brees moments.' You know the one where he either throws up a 75% completion, 365 yard, four-touchdown masterpiece or a last minute miracle drive. I'll go with the former just because my hatred of the Falcons won't allow me to acknowledge them as a real Super Bowl contender.
Chicago (-.3.5) vs. Seattle: Jay Cutler may sulk and at times his own fans loath him but the Bears turn into a Division III team without him. The Seahawks can't win on the road and hopefully they won't start this week.
Denver (-7) vs. Tampa Bay: Everyone raves about Tampa Bay and how hot they are and consistent they have become. You know what they are? The Saints if the Saints beat the Chiefs.
Green Bay (-8) vs. Minnesota: I swear if the Saints lose to Atlanta and then all the teams in front of them lose again I'm going to need ALL THE WORLD'S LIQUIR, ALL OF IT. I'm not sure the Packers with all their injuries are any good right now but I'm not picking any team quarterbacked by Christian Ponder.
New York Giants (-2.5) at Washington: Could be a really tough spot for the Giants because if all the 6-5 NFC teams lose Sunday then Redskin fans will see an unlikely playoff spot right in front of them. I fully expect the Giants to roll, everyone declare them the NFC's best team, and then they will lay a giant against the Saints. It's what the Giants do before they get rolling in the playoffs.
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/#!/MilneMalbrough or download his podcast at Itunes.