Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
Are the Saints wide receivers any good? I know Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Robert Meachem used to be good, but how are they in the present?
The stats don't paint a pretty picture. The three leading pass catchers for the 2013 Saints are Jimmy Graham, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. The first receiver on the list is Colston with 47 catches.
The Saints wide receivers have gotten old before our eyes. Colston and Moore have both battled injuries and Robert Meachem has yet to return to the form that got the San Diego Chargers to wildly overpay him.
Against Seattle, the entire offense struggled, but the inability of the receivers to get open was staggering. The Seahawks shut them down and there weren't even many opportunities to throw down field. Drew Brees did not complete a pass that traveled over 10 yards in the air.
The good news is the 2014 NFL Draft is very deep at receiver. The Saints have shown an ability to create an elite passing game with receivers without elite skills so they could even bargain hunt in free agency and find someone like they did with David Patten in 2007. Rookie Kenny Stills has also shown great promise and is having the best season by a Saints rookie receiver since Colston in 2006.
The bad news is none of that helps the Saints in 2013. So the Saints passing game is very dependent on Sean Payton coming up with a great game plan and scheming guys open.
It's worked just fine against mediocre and average defensive secondaries. The problem is Seattle might have the deepest secondary in all of football and Carolina has the second-rated defense. Could be tough sledding for the receiving corps the final month of 2013.
With a month left in the regular season if the Saints are going to go deep in the playoffs Marques Colston and Lance Moore are going to have to play better.
Health, age and performance so far in 2013 says they aren't up to the challenge. That needs to change because the Saints aren't going to a Super Bowl with a passing game totally dependent on Jimmy Graham, using Pierre Thomas on screens, and swing passes to Darren Sproles.
Rob Ryan's Big Chart of Fun: All year long I'll be charting how the Saints defense does under Rob Ryan in certain situations. For a full explanation of how it works read this. Special thanks to the guys at Black and Gold Review who took the chart and made it interactive.
This week's chart as you would expect was a disaster. The Saints had their worst week including average yards per rush on first down and allowing big pass plays on second and third down with less than four yards to go.
Rob Ryan looked desperate for the first time all year and went 'Full Gregg Williams' a couple of plays. Full Gregg Williams involves rushing almost every defensive player on the field at the quarterback and maybe some trainers and equipment guys if they are available. YOU NEVER GO FULL GREGG WILLIAMS. It ends in huge passing plays, sadness and a shame spiral.
Last Week: 3-2
New Orleans (-3.5) vs. Carolina: I had four different people email this week begging me not to pick the Saints because whenever I pick them the Saints lose. As if I alone have magical powers to control the outcome of the game.
If I did, Pete Carroll would have fallen down a well Monday night.
You know how I mentioned that the Saints wide receivers have been able to get open against mediocre secondaries? The Panthers qualify as one. Their front seven on defense is probably the best in football, but if the Saints can block them, then the receivers will get open. New England moved the ball up and down the field on Carolina and Tampa did as well in the first half.
Zach Strief's health is obviously a key.
Another is playing the read option better than the Saints did in Seattle. Cam Newton will probably be doing it a great deal. Whenever Carolina is the opponent Steve Smith needs to be mentioned. He's probably a Top 5 all time Saints killer. He needs to be controlled
If the Saints beat Carolina once and then defeat St. Louis and Tampa Bay they get the no. 2 seed in the NFC. So despite the national media deciding they are irrelevant, the Saints still can have a clear path back to Seattle.
Also, Carolina has played two winning teams on the road. They got destroyed in Arizona and beat San Francisco 10-9. I'm not sold they can handle adversity, if the Saints jump on them early and I expect to see a lot of sad Cam Newton face. Until the Saints don't show up big at home in primetime, I'm picking them.
Miami (+3) at Pittsburgh: The Dolphins went up 6-0 on the Jets last Sunday and I flipped to the Red Zone channel. My wife, a Miami fan, said, 'Why did you change it. It's still close.'
'Geno Smith could play until Wednesday and not lead a touchdown drive.'
I was correct.
Philadelphia (-3) vs. Detroit: Wasn't watching Alabama lose on a missed field goal being returned for a touchdown the best? Someone tweeted me saying kicking the 57-yard field goal was Nick Saban's worst call since picking Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees.
I love Twitter.
Also, the Eagles are going to win the NFC East.
Arizona (-6.5) vs. St. Louis: Poor Arizona, they might go 10-6 and miss the playoffs. If they were in the AFC they'd practically have a spot locked up after winning this game.
San Diego (-3) vs. New York Giants: Really liked Eli Manning playing the, 'I can't remember why I refused to play for the Chargers' card.
Clever. I'll refresh your memory Eli...
At the time you were going to be drafted the Chargers were as well run as Pets.com was in the 1990's.
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 https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.
Forecast: Are Saints wide receivers still any good?
Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer