WEEK FOUR-Saints vs. Falcons and Fearless Predictions

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By Scott Balot - SaintsReport Staff Writer





Attention Saints fans. You can now exhale for a moment and soak in what was one of the most magical nights ever in the Superdome. Despite what some of the national talking heads say, your New Orleans Saints are a darn good football team. And if the Greater New Orleans Area can bounce back and correct the mistakes of the past in the same fashion as this football team, New Orleans will be the greatest city in the world. This week, the Saints travel to Carolina to face another division foe, the Panthers. Let’s take a look at the Saints/Panthers and the rest of WEEK FOUR in the NFL.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE DOME

Words cannot describe the excitement and energy that was inside the Superdome Monday night. Despite having problems entering the stadium due to the lack of open doors, fans outside the Dome were more than patient in waiting to see how the landmark of New Orleans looked with a major facelift. Once inside, the Dome did not disappoint. A giant heap of gratitude needs to go to the ladies and gentlemen who worked their tails off to get the stadium renovated, upgraded, and updated. The lighting was improved as well as the sound system. The scoreboards and replay screens are top notch. The new seats are comfortable and come with drink holders, which is an added bonus. It’s still hard to believe that they were able to get that stadium area in such top-notch condition in a year’s time. However, the most impressive item that underwent a facelift was the home team in black and gold.

VERY SUPERSTITIOUS

The Saints’ first winning season came on the heels of a visit from Pope John Paul II in 1987. Many believe that the visit by his holiness somehow quelled the “demons” that haunted the Saints, since it has been speculated that the Superdome was built over an old cemetery. Before the Saints’ home playoff game in 2000, the Saints hired a local voodoo priestess to come and try to exorcise the demons during a pre-game ceremony. The Saints, of course, won their first playoff game in their history three hours later. Now, the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina filled the Superdome. Perhaps, just maybe, those horrible floodwaters have finally drowned the “bad spirits” that have haunted this team. If you are one of the believers in “bad spirits” or “demons”, maybe, possibly, those evil ghosts that have been haunting the Saints for years could finally be gone. Chew on it.

WHO DAT ON DEFENSE?

The biggest surprise this season has got to be the way the Saints’ defense has performed. After three weeks of football, the Saints’ defense is ranked fifth overall in the NFL, second overall in the NFC. The Saints have held every running back they have faced to less than 50 yards in all three games. The Saints are also tied for second in the NFL in sacks with 12 for the season. The most important statistic for a defense is points allowed. The Saints are tied for seventh in the NFL, and tied for third in the NFC for least points allowed. Based on those stats, it should come as no surprise that the Saints are undefeated at this point of the season. If this defense continues to perform at this level, this team will be in the playoff hunt by December.

WEEK FOUR: Carolina Panthers

Former Saint Jake Delhomme still commandeers the offense for the Panthers. The Panthers drafted running back DeAngelo Williams to pair with DeShaun Foster in the backfield. The Panthers also added free agent wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson to play opposite Steve Smith. Smith, who has been hampered with a hamstring injury, returned to action last week against Tampa Bay. The Panthers’ offensive line suffered a blow when tackle Travelle Wharton was lost for the season with a knee injury.

Defensively, the Panthers employ two of the best defensive ends in the league with Mike Rucker and Julius Peppers. Peppers is one of the best defensive players in the NFL. You can bet he’ll also line up as a wide receiver in the red zone on offense. Middle linebacker Dan Morgan suffered a concussion and may miss this week’s game. The Panthers also have two solid cornerbacks in Ken Lucas and Chris Gamble.

Kicker John Kasay continues to perform as one of the best in the league, particularly in the clutch.

KEY MATCHUPS

CB Mike McKenzie vs. WR Steve Smith-Smith is one of the most explosive wide receivers in the NFL, and is Delhomme’s favorite target. McKenzie seems to be a favorite target to pick on by opposing quarterbacks.

RT Jon Stinchcomb vs. DE Julius Peppers-Stinchcomb has done a solid job at right tackle so far this year, but he has yet to face a player of the caliber of Peppers. Left tackle Jammal Brown will have his hands full with Mike Rucker. You can bet tight end Ernie Conwell will be providing help blocking Peppers.

K John Carney vs. K John Kasay-this game looks to be a low-scoring defensive battle between two bitter NFC South rivals. One of these kickers will decide the outcome of the game.

SCOTT’S FEARLESS PREDICTIONS

Line: Panthers favored by 7 ½

The key to last week’s win over the Falcons was the play of the Saints’ offensive and defensive lines. The Panthers’ offensive line has been plagued with injuries and could be a source of weakness to exploit by the Saints. This week’s game will be a defensive struggle, with plenty of emphasis on field position. Saints’ Head Coach Sean Payton won’t allow this team to have a down week after such an emotional game on Monday night. Drew Brees throws for 160 yards and a touchdown to Reggie Bush. Bush and Deuce McAllister combine for 130 yards on the ground. Saints hold Panthers’ running backs to 90 yards rushing. Delhomme gets 210 yards and a touchdown to Keyshawn Johnson in the air. This game comes down to the kickers. John Carney goes two for four on field goals, but it’s enough for a Saints victory. Scott says take the Saints and the 7 ½ points. Saints 19, Panthers 16.

Last Week: 7-5-2 (.583)
Season: 31-13-2 (.704)
Lock O’ The Week: 2-1 (.667)

And now for the rest of WEEK FOUR in the NFL:

ARI +7 over ATL-Leinart gets his first start this week
Ten + 9 ½ over Dal-Cowboys distractions gets best of them
Ind -9 over NYJ-Colts are best in the AFC
Mia -3 ½ over Hou-Williams will get his first sack this week
Min +1 over Buf-Bills are still a year away
SD – 2 ½ over Bal-the kickers will decide this defensive battle
SF +7 over KC-49ers are improving
Det +5 over Stl-Rams win a close one at home
Cle -2 ½ over Oak-Raiders sign Daryl Lamonica, will start on Sunday
Jax -3 over Was-Jags bounce back after close loss
Cin -6 over NE-Pats have lost too much talent
Chi -3 ½ over Sea-another defensive battle. Take the under on this one
GB +11 over Phi-Favre shines in prime time
 
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