With a month left of 2018 New Orleans Saints football, it's time to start deciding who we want the Saints to face in their opening playoff game. Save the tired cliches of, “Don't look ahead, take things one week at a time.” I'm not actually on the Saints and looking ahead is one of the most enjoyable parts of rooting for a great team when December arrives.
While we should definitely enjoy the last 4 weeks of the magical 2018 season, let's have some fun and start peaking ahead to the postseason. For this column I'm going to predict the Saints finish 3-1 and are the #2 Seed in the NFC.
So here are my rankings of possible Saints playoff opponents for the opening game from the team I'd least like them to play to the team I'd love to see in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
I know some of you are thinking, “The Saints beat them fairly easily in Minnesota, what's the problem with facing them again in New Orleans?”
The Saints won in Minnesota 30-20 but that game basically swung on 2 gigantic plays by PJ Williams. The Vikings were up 13-10, poised to score right before halftime, and receive the second half kickoff.
Vikings recover that fumble and lots more of you probably agree with me on this.
Minnesota has receivers in Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph that could stress a shaky Saints secondary to the limit. I still can't decide if Kirk Cousins is very good or not but the Vikings do have the best third down defense in football to make things difficult. Plus, the whole facing Minnesota in the playoffs after last year could trigger football PTSD and I'd rather not experience that.
Surprised a team the Saints beat 3 times last year and are currently 6-6 ranks so high on my do not want to face in the playoffs rankings? My hatred and fear of Cam Newton is well chronicled, and last year's playoff game is the number one reason. While the Saints won, Cam Newton was AMAZING and if not for a dropped touchdown and a missed field goal, the Panthers probably win.
The thing that's so frightening about Newton is when he's on he's almost impossible to stop. He's so hard to sack so pressure doesn't matter and he can make ridiculous throws on the move that great even defense can't stop. Carolina not in the playoffs would be just fine by me.
The one caveat to this is watching Newton Sunday his arm looks hurt. If he's not physically right then I'll drive the 8-8 Carolina Panthers to a playoff game in New Orleans myself.
Some of you probably have Chicago higher on your list of don't want to play after the Dallas Cowboys showed good defense might slow the Saints. I just don't fear Mitchell Trubisky or Chase Daniel in the Superdome. Also, a little payback for 2006 would be delightful. As a diehard Saints fan, I carry a sports grudge like an elephant. I still remember all Bears fans stupid Katrina joke signs and the Saints crushing them would bring me such joy.
Seattle would be fun because it would match the Seahawks top rushing offense in the NFL against the Saints top rushing defense. I believe in the Saints run defense.
The Saints scored 40 against them in 3 quarters and rattled Alex Smith. Smith and now backup Colt McCoy are out for the year so no, the team with the offensive nickname doesn't scare me.
I guess it'd be closer than 48-7.
Why would I most want the Saints to play the team who just beat them? A few reasons. First, it'd be fun to see the Saints give some payback to Cowboys good and hard. Second, Dallas isn't going to play any better than they did on defense Thursday night. They had an amazing plan, tackled superbly, and delivered consistent pressure to Drew Brees all night. Even that performance only got them a 13-10 win. Lastly, if the Saints would jump ahead of them by 2 scores, I don't think the Dallas offense is capable of a comeback. Dak Prescott was 24 of 28 passing and still Dallas managed just 13 points. I really want to see sad Jerry Jones in the Superdome as the Saints send Dallas home from the playoffs.
Saints Fan Mood and Meditation Music: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer – Dean Martin
It's never too early for Christmas music. Why Dean Martin? I like my holidays drenched in booze and nostalgia. Dino dropping 'Rudy the red-nosed Reindeer' makes it feel like 1965 and my Dad mostly hated Christmas but loved Dean Martin so Christmas isn't Christmas without Dean Martin.
Last Week: 3-2
New Orleans (-8) at Tampa Bay: That season opening loss feels like it happened 5 years ago doesn't it? In the 11 games that followed the Saints defense has improved tremendously, while Tampa fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith.
The Bucs are 31st in points allowed (30.7) and 27th in yards (391). The only defense not in the top 5 statistically to slow the Saints was the Cleveland Browns, and that mostly involved the Saints shooting themselves in the foot for 3 quarters. I doubt that happens in Tampa.
I am curious to see how the Saints secondary holds up against a receiver group that lit them up in Week 1. This game will be close...for a while.
Los Angeles (-3) at Chicago: The low for Sunday is 28 degrees in Chicago. It won't matter because the Rams are going 15-1.
Philadelphia (+4) at Dallas: The most Cowboys thing ever would be looking fantastic against the Saints, then falling flat on their face against the Eagles, and getting Jason Garrett fired.
Seattle (-6.5 vs Minnesota: Do you realize a Seattle win here probably means an 8-8 team is making the playoffs in the NFC. The NFC being quietly terrible besides the Rams/Saints has been delightful.
Green Bay (-6) vs Atlanta: Did you know the Falcons offensive line is a disaster? Yep. They will probably beat Arizona next week and that'll be it. 2018 is so amazing.
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 or download his podcast at Itunes. Oh and watch him every Monday on the WWL morning news at 6:45 a.m.