This week, Dan and Josh pay tribute to Broken Lizard, while discussing who will triumph in one of those other games happening this weekend: Jacksonville at New Orleans.
I don't think we'd get a lot of argument that overall, Jacksonville is a better team than New Orleans. But thanks to health, momentum, and home-field advantage, we actually have a debate here. This should be a good game, which no one would have expected two weeks ago, but I still like Jacksonville to pull it off.
Against Indianapolis, Quinn Gray looked pretty bad. But he was thrown into that game, against an elite team, not to mention a division rival, in prime time, in his first significant regular-season action. I can't think of a lot of backups who would do well.
A big part of the problem was, Jacksonville was already down. The game was on Gray's shoulders. They had to pass the ball or they were sunk. Last week, Gray was only needed to throw 16 passes. It was a tight game, but he did just enough to keep them in it. And that was against Tampa Bay, who has a great secondary. This week, he gets New Orleans.
The Saints have been awful against the deep pass; and Gray has a very good arm. His accuracy needs improvement, but he averaged over 14 yards per completion against Tampa Bay. Tom Brady averages 12.3; and of the QBs New Orleans beat in their last 3 games, Matt Hasselbeck is good for 11.9, and Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich, and Alex Smith are all between 10.0-10.5, in the same range as notoriously weak-armed Chad Pennington (10.3).
And that brings up another point. Sure, the Saints are on a 3-game winning streak and appear to have turned things around. But the teams they've played have combined for 1 win in the past four weeks. And that one win was Seattle's defeat of St. Louis. EVERYBODY beats St. Louis. So let's not get too caught up in New Orleans fever yet; it just leads to heartbreak. I would know - I picked Drew Brees for MVP this year.
Go ahead, make my day.
No need to tell me about heartache...I picked Drew Brees in my fantasy draft. I've watched in utter horror as the Saints have stunk up the place, and took my fantasy team with them.
Yep, the winning streak is against some sad teams, no denying that. But, I'm not looking at the wins, I'm looking at the sparks the team has shown...why? Because you can't find a stat called "sparks over the last 3 weeks". Seriously though, what I've seen in the Saints is that with each one of the wins, they get more confident...and they start looking alittle more like the team that made a huge run last year...and less like the Aints of yesteryear. Do I think they are all the way back? No, not by a mile. But, like any good alcoholic, they have started their 12 steps, and that's a big thing.
And yes, the Jags are a better team...but the Saints are catching them at the right time...
The Jags are missing Garrard, and they're on the road in New Orleans. The Saints Pass D is sad, it's something that has been true since last season...but their run D isn't too bad...and that's where the Jags make their hay. It's safe to say, that any team in the NFL right now, would say, "Stop the Jags running game, and make Gray beat you." The Saints have the setup to do so.
Back in college (you can smell the analogy coming) I was at a party with a group of friends. It was later in the evening, party had been gonig for quite awhile...when this guy walks up to us. First off, we'd never met this guy in our lives...second...he was drunker than a skunk on crack. He has this huge punch bowl...with what looks like "Jello bits" inside. What was it? He had made himself a punch bowl of jello shots, and was eating it with a spoon! Explains the drunkedness...but then...
He walked up to my buddy Curt, and asked "Hey, you want some Jello shots" holding out a serving on the spoon that he had just eaten from...
Curt paused...looking down at the bowl, then the spoon...and said "I'd better not, my hands are all chapped."
The guy shrugged and walked away.
Sometimes it doesn't matter what you say, but how you say it...and who you say it too. The Saints might not be the team they were last year...but they know how to say it...and they're catching the Jags at the right moment. Pretty cool, huh?
But I'll tell you what's not cool--killing strippers.
I hope you at least started Brees last week. I have a similar situation with Philip Rivers; except it was less heartbreaking because it was a later round, and I was picking him as my backup... well, okay it turned out he was backing up Marc Bulger, but I digress. Where I was going with this is: Are Philip Rivers and Drew Brees psychically linked? Both started playing like crap, then started turning it around without warning and may be back to being fantasy studs. Both played great all 2006 long. Before that, they never played at the same time, so we don't have enough evidence... but it's something to keep an eye on.
Yeah, the Saints have been pretty good against the run lately. And considering the last three wins were against the 2005 MVP, last year's #1 rushing offense, and a top 5 rusher from 2006, that sounds impressive. Except that fantasy owners everywhere know that in 2007, stopping Shaun "Shell Of His Former Self" Alexander and Frank "Please, Someone, Open Just the Tiniest Hole" Gore isn't that hard; and without Michael Vick, the Falcons aren't the rushing dynamo they used to be. Those teams are 22nd, 25th, and 27th in rushing this year. The Jaguars are 4th.
The key for the Jaguars will be taking the crowd out of it, which will be difficult. But a good play action bomb ought to do the trick. Mostly, though, Jacksonville's going to have to keep pounding away until it works; and eventually, the Saints will tire out and you'll see Taylor and Jones-Drew breaking some big ones. Gray and his big arm are mostly there to keep the Saints honest.
Also, defensive starters Scott Shanle, Brian Young, and Charles Grant are hurting right now - they'll probably play but will be slowed by leg injuries. That gives Jacksonville's running game a boost. It also means less pressure on Gray, which he'll appreciate. And Bush has bruised ribs, which might limit his action. If the Saints have to use Aaron Stecker too much... Marcus Stroud and John Henderson are going to eat him up.
So there's a lot that can go wrong for New Orleans. And like any bad alcoholic, a little adversity and they relapse.
Speaking of bad alcoholics, here's an interchange from Bad Santa that sums up what I'm getting at, colorfully edited for poor, innocent FanNation's sake:
Willie: You know, I think I've turned a corner.
Marcus: Yeah? You [befriending] petites now?
Willie: No, I'm not talking about that. I beat the [senses] out of some kids today. But it was for a purpose. It made me feel good about myself. It was like I did something constructive with my life or something, I dunno, like I accomplished something.
Marcus: You need many years of therapy. Many, many [intense] years of therapy.
Yes, he thinks he's turned a corner, because he beat the tar out of some kids [Falcons, 49ers]. But the fact is, he's still the same sad drunk, and continues to screw up his life when he faces rougher challenges.
Sweet Jews for Jesus, have we stumbled onto another movie theme?
Oooh...I like the idea of a comic link [Editor's note: I think he meant cosmic link. This is a comic link.] between Brees and Rivers...call it the AJ Smith connection. We just added another crackpot theory to our book!
Ah yes, the rush defense has gotten a few freebies...but in all your research did you also see that the ONLY team to rush for over 100 yards against the Saints was the Colts? That includes the Titans...who were held to only 98 yards on the ground....the Titans if you recall have a pretty good ground game.
The Jags could wear down the Saints with the run game...but that's assuming the Saints offense isn't able to stay on the field and put up some points. The Saints short passing game will make up for the Jags run defense against Bush. And with the home crowd on their side, the Saints will put up some points...enough to make the Jags have to throw more than they want too.
But Bad Santa has turned a corner...it's a sad twisted corner...but it is a corner nonetheless. To simply quote a different underrated movie...
"Baby steps get on the elevator... baby steps get on the elevator... Ah, I'm on the elevator."
The Saints are just taking baby steps, it's true...but put enough baby steps together, and well...you can get in an elevator. And elevators go up...or down...but this one is going up. Yeah, that's it...up.
Let's take one final look at the Saints 4 game losing streak...and their 3 game winning streak...
During the losing streak they were -9 for turnover differential. That's not going to win many games.
During the current winning streak...their turnover differential is 0. Much better.
Turnovers are a big indicator in wins and loses...and that change has been the biggest difference for the Saints. You see...turnovers are lik syrup...
"I'm sorry, Bruce. These boys get that syrup in 'em, they get all antsy in their pantsy. "
Turnovers stick to everything...they get all over the place...and can make any meal a disaster to clean up. The only difference? Turnovers don't touch all maplely good.
But our shenanigans are cheeky and fun...
Oh man, you've warmed my cold heart. Broken Lizard makes great movies--I've seen all four and own all except Beerfest (will get that one eventually, I'm sure). Club Dread is severely underrated; and of course Super Troopers is amazing. Unfortunately, I had to look up the other quote - haven't seen What About Bob in a very long time.
Fair point about the Saints' having stopped the Titans' ground game. But of course, thanks to four of the Saints' five turnovers, the Titans were working on a short field most of the game. Three times they started in New Orleans territory, and three more times they got the ball past their own 40 yard line. So there weren't that many rushing yards to be had.
Sure, the Saints have a good short passing game, and the Jags will give them the short pass all day long. But you can't beat a good defense one-dimensionally; you need to have some balance. And the fact that the Saints won't be able to run the ball up the middle with any success will kill them. Bush isn't much good between the tackles, and Aaron Stecker is no match for the Jacksonville line. A short passing game lands you a lot of 3rd-and-1 or 3rd-and-2's, and they won't be able to convert. That will hurt them.
I'm so glad you brought up turnovers. Yes, the Saints have been much better about not turning the ball over in recent weeks. And while the Jags create more turnovers than the Falcons or 49ers do, the fact remains that the Saints have fewer interceptions than anyone in the league. That leaves them unable to exploit the Jaguars' biggest weakness: the erratic arm of Quinn Gray.
I leave you with the best quote from Club Dread; which really applies more to the Pats-Colts this Sunday rather than the game at hand:
"There's always one f***head like you trying to s*** in the apple pie. Well, you just s*at in the one apple pie that knows how to s*** back! So whaddya say you and me just--" [gets throat slit]
What's a ZJ?
Ah yes, the Titans were playing with a short field...but even when getting a short field 7 times...there are still plenty of yards to get on teh ground. It's simple math, if you start at the 40, 7 times...that's 280 possible yards. The Titans managed 98...far short of their 150 per game average. The most important stat that I look at in terms of rush defense though? Yards per carry...cause you can always get cheap yards late...but yards per carry, that's a very compelling stat. The Saints hold up there as well...with a very nice 3.6 yards per carry allowed. That's good for 3rd best in the league...not too shabby.
But wait, you mentioned how the Jags will shut down the run, making the Saints one-dimensional...did you realize that they are allowing 4.2 yards per carry? Yes, not having Deuce to carry between the tackles will hurt the Saints...but that's the heart of their Defense anyway...the yards you can get on the Jags are outside those tackles.
If their able to run, and make hay with a short passing game...they aren't really one dimensional...and have you watched Sean Payton call a game? He loves to find the time to call for the home run...just lay in the weeds, and then call that perfect play that blows things up...that big play will burn the Jags On Sunday.
In life you can't always worry about what the other guy is doing...get too caught up in strengths and weaknesses and you're bound to out think yourself. You see it all the time in the NFL...people copy what the other guy is doing...regardless of personnel. Well...here's what I say to that...
"I'm gonna puke! Hey guys... I don't think sitting on a rooftop drinking ram's piss is the way to go. We should get out there, and mix it up with some randoms."
If the Saints play their game...play to their strengths, and take advantage of the home run when it's there...they'll win this game. It's as simple as that. If they try to be something they're not...a power running team...or defensive powerhouse...well, they'll play in the Jags hands. Don't drink the "ram piss" Saints...just do your thing, and it will all work out.
That's what I've got...but remember....
I'm just lookin' for a little slap and pickle!
I'll believe ya when me s*** turns purple and smells like rainbow sherbet.
The thing I've noticed through my Natural Power Rankings is that a team appearing to have momentum after playing bad teams often gets severely let down when they play a good team again. In baseball, there's a reason batters don't warm up with styrofoam bats; they throw a donut on to make the bat heavier. But the Saints haven't gotten much resistance over the past three weeks. Meanwhile the Jags have gone against one of the league's elite and another very good team in the past two weeks; Quinn Gray got some valuable experience and grew up considerably in just one week. He'll be ready for a soft Saints secondary, and he'll be able to match whatever points the Saints put up.
Yes, the middle of the Jags' D-line is their strength, and so Reggie Bush probably will stick to what he does best and bounce it outside. But big ol' Marcus Stroud is also deceptively fast - if he knows Reggie's going outside, he can get there. And he could well be playing in his last game for a while, while he's being investigated for steroid use, so he'll play lights-out. Bush's ribs are already bruised, so everyone knows that all they have to do is hit him nice and hard, and they may put him on the sideline for a few plays at least.
All right then, tell me something. How the hell are we esposed to do our jobs when someone is killing the deek out of everyone here?
Not only is Bush a marked man, but the Jaguars know they're going to have to be in Brees' face all day. They're up to the challenge. Few teams in the league have a front four pass rush as good as Jacksonville's.
Are you familiar with the expression "sitting duck"?
Dan...sniff...sniff....I smell rainbow sherbet!
Just a shameless plug for your Natural Power Rankings (The reuse of the Natural Power Rankings, without the express written consent of Dan TM is strictly forbidden)...I was half expecting a banner ad to appear with "Hit the Monkey and see the Natural Power Rankings!"
And you know that you're not allowed to use stats that you make up to prove your point...only I can. I don't care if they're "based in real numbers"...
To that end, I have uncovered some stats that are indisputable...
In the 128 games that have been played so far this year...the team that scored the most points is 127 - 1.
Since 2006, the Saints are undefeated when playing the first Sunday of November.
Starting in 2004, the Saints are undefeated against the Jaguars.
Based on that, it's quite obvious what the pick is. You can't dispute those numbers...they're rock solid.
You can find a stat to prove anything you want...but then again...
My daughter loves Mary Poppins, as I've mentioned. For those that aren't aware, Mary Poppins flies with the use of her umbrella. My daughter has picked up on this and now "flies" around the house with the use of her umbrella.
Of course, her umbrella is a ladle...but there in lies the point...
Statistics would tell you that the ladle is NOT an umbrella...just the dimension statistics alone will tell you that...but my daughter sees an umbrella, and there's no telling her differently.
So the stats might say Jags...but I look at the Saints and see an umbrella.
And with that I leave you with...But our shenanigans are cheeky and fun!