WEEK ONE: SAINTS vs. BROWNS and Fearless Predictions

Andrus

Owner/Webmaster
Staff member
Administrator
Joined
Aug 1, 1997
Messages
31,546
Ratings
20,284
Age
59
Location
Sunset, La
Online
By Scott Balot - SaintsReport Staff Writer




It’s that time of the year again. The 2006 NFL regular season gets cranked up this weekend, and I can’t remember a time when Saints’ fans have looked forward to the start of a season as much as this year. With the influx of new personnel, many Saints’ fans will need a program for the beginning of the year just to keep up with all the changes. The new (and hopefully improved) Saints travel to Cleveland to start the regular season. Let’s take a look at the Saints/Browns and the rest of the WEEK ONE in the NFL.

WHAT A YEAR

It’s hard to believe it’s been only a year since Hurricane Katrina blew through the Gulf Coast region and turned its world upside down. For those who have been affected by Katrina, it seems like its been forever. The 2006 season for the New Orleans Saints will represent more than wins and losses on a football field. The Saints’ performances on the field in the past have produced more heartache than joy, more headache than happiness, and occasionally more comedy than romance. But this year, their mere presence on the football field, particularly when they come marching home on September 25th, will represent healing more than anything else. They will serve as a reminder of what it means to miss New Orleans, and how good it is to finally come home. They will prove to the whole country that it takes strong will and determination to live in New Orleans. They will prove that it takes more than Hurricane Katrina to drown our spirit as New Orleanians. And, they will show that New Orleans, while still rebuilding, still has a heartbeat. As long as New Orleans has a heart, history shows the Saints will find a way to break it. And that, my friends, is why there are no greater fans in any sport than New Orleans Saints’ fans.

CH-CH-CH-CH-CHANGES

In what has been a topsy-turvy world in post-Katrina New Orleans, the New Orleans Saints have gone through as many changes as its hometown. First, the Saints made a change its coaching staff by bringing in Sean Payton. Payton, who is a Bill Parcells’ disciple, has not been afraid of making changes. Payton has gotten rid of several career underachievers, such as Donte Stallworth and Jonathan Sullivan, as well as fan favorites, such as “Fast” Freddie McAfee. While getting a second gift from Houston in the form of Reggie Bush has made most of the headlines this off-season, the acquisition of free agent Drew Brees will have the biggest impact. Brees does not bring the athleticism to the table that his predecessor did, but he does bring a much more consistent game, and the ability to manage games consistently throughout the season. The biggest concern with Brees is his surgically repaired shoulder, which has held up in preseason. However, Brees was only sacked once, and stayed relatively clean in all four games.

Reggie Bush will make plays this season that will have Saints’ fans in disbelief. (And that’s hard to do). However, it is important for Saints’ fans to realize that Bush is a rookie and will have a bit of a learning curve. He has already stated that one difference from college ball to the NFL is the speed of the defensive linemen. Bush will need to learn the tendencies of NFL defensive linemen, and adjust his decision-making accordingly. Bush is definitely the real deal, and for the Saints to land him is a minor miracle, but Saints’ fans should not expect Bush to single-handily win games.

The Saints’ offensive line has been completely re-tooled from last year. The two biggest changes have been at center and left tackle. Jeff Faine has looked solid in the middle, and should provide play equal or better than the departed LeCharles Bentley. Jammal Brown’s switch to left tackle has not been as smooth. Brown has struggled at times with speed rushers, particularly when he plays too high. Brown is still learning the proper technique that it takes to play the left tackle spot. He does remind me a bit of Willie Roaf when he first made the transition, although Roaf was a quick study. If Brown can become half the technician Roaf was, he’ll be great. Jonathan Stinchcomb has looked solid at right tackle during preseason; however, he is coming off a serious knee injury. Depth-wise, the offensive line is paper-thin, and if the injury bug starts biting, the Saints could be in deep trouble.

Defensively, the question marks still remain. The Saints will start three linebackers Sunday that were not on the roster last season. While it remains to be seen if it will make a difference, it has to be noted that at least the organization is trying to upgrade the position. Charles Grant is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and must show improvement from last season’s performance. Grant can be a game-changer at times, for both teams. The Saints will be starting two youngsters at safety, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Both Roman Harper and Josh Bullocks are fine athletes that also seem to have football intelligence, which is something that has been lacking on this team for a while. They will make their share of rookie mistakes, but their learning curve should be shorter than the typical youngsters this organization has brought in recently. At cornerback, Fred Thomas looks to be a solid starter on one side, while Mike McKenzie has struggled of late. McKenzie is not afraid to hit someone in run support, but needs to get that swagger back in pass coverage.

WEEK ONE: Cleveland Browns

The Browns are coming off a 6-10 season led by second year head coach Romeo Crennel. The Browns starting backfield consists of Charlie Frye at quarterback, Reuben Droughns at running back, and former Saint Terrelle Smith at fullback. Starting at tight end for the Browns will be former number one pick Kellen Winslow. Winslow is finally healthy after being injured for the past two seasons. Also healthy is last season’s number one pick, wide receiver Braylon Edwards.

Defensively, the Browns are led by big defensive tackle Ted Washington, and free agent acquisition Willie McGinest at linebacker.

KEY MATCHUPS:

Saints O-Line vs. Browns 3-4 Defense: The Saints struggled against the Cowboys 3-4 front seven during preseason. The Saints’ offensive line has to give Brees time to throw the ball, and create space for Bush to run.

CB Mike McKenzie vs. Browns’ WR: McKenzie was schooled this preseason by Marvin Harrison, although Harrison does that to many defensive backs. McKenzie needs a big play early to boost his confidence.

Sean Payton vs. Romeo Crennel: Payton gets his first taste of being a head coach when it counts. It will be interesting to see how Payton manages this team on game day.

SCOTT’S FEARLESS PREDICTIONS

Line: Browns favored by 3

Has there ever been more uncertainty up and down the starting lineup for the Saints as this year? Between rookies, players coming off injuries, and a new coaching staff, no one really knows how this team will react once the real bullets start flying. (Except me). Brees throws for 230 yards and one touchdown to Joe Horn. Deuce gets his year started right with 80 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Bush gets 40 on the ground, and another 40 in receptions. John Carney goes two for three on field goals, however the one miss looms large as the Saints fall short. Scott says take the Saints and the points…Browns 21, Saints 20.

LOCK O’ THE WEEK

Cincy + 2 ½ over Kansas City-Carson Palmer makes a statement. So does Chad Johnson.

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

Pit even over Mia-returning champs defense too good for Dolphins
Den -4 over Stl-two words, Haslett and Venturi
NYJ + 2 ½ over Ten-Jets surprise in week one
Buf +9 over NE- Bills defense keeps them in this one
Balt +3 over TB-Ravens finally have an NFL QB
Sea -6 over Det-Alexander has big day
Atl +5 over Car-will be decided by a last minute field goal
Phi -5 over Hou-Mario Williams has one sack and one tackle
Jax -2 over Dal-Leftwich becoming one of the premier QB’s in the NFL
Chi -3 ½ over GB-Favre should have retired
SF +8 over Ari-be careful what you wish for
Ind -3 ½ over NYG-Peyton wins battle of the Mannings
Min + 4 ½ over Wash-Skins are beat up
SD -3 over Oak-Raiders may bring in Kenny Stabler next week for a tryout
 

Create an account or login to comment

You must be a member in order to leave a comment

Create account

Create an account on our community. It's easy!

Log in

Already have an account? Log in here.

Similar threads




Saints Headlines (The Advocate)

Headlines

Top Bottom