By Kristian Garic
… it took them 40 years to make it to the PROMISED LAND
It took Moses 40 years to lead the Israelies to the Promised Land, and with one more game to go, the Saints have darn near made it there themselves for the first time in their 40-year existence. Coincidence? YOU be the judge!
Seriously, Saints fans across Louisiana are giddy over the dream season that has transpired under first-year head coach Sean Payton. Maybe the ‘next year’ that losing teams always like to think about, for the Saints anyway, is finally here.
With the Championship Game looming as I write this, and the Saints heading to “Chi-Town” for the battle, nobody is doing anything else but watching their TVs at home or packing sports bars with friends and fellow fans.
We’re all captivated by “Saint Payton, “ Drew “Cool” Brees, the Samurai warrior himself, Scot Fujita and, well, do I really have to tell you the cast of characters? Of course not – they’re household names.
A lot is being made about the weather in Chicago, and how “dome” teams like the Saints don’t do well in frigid temperatures and blustery winds – the weather Chicago is famous for.
Have you been watching the same team that I’ve been watching? If so, you’ll agree with me that the only people making a big deal about the weather are national sportscasters who don’t know the Saints like WE do.
They don’t understand the desire and passion of the Saints. These aren’t your momma’s Saints, my friends.
Those days of getting really, really close to a championship only to lose in the last minute or two of the big games are a thing of the past.
In today’s free-agent-driven NFL, you have guys from different climates sprinkled throughout your football team.
They played college ball in the north, or, before arriving in New Orleans, played in outdoor stadiums in cold, nasty weather. Weather isn’t as much of a factor as it was in the early 1980s, when a team played in a dome stadium and most of the players played their entire career in the dome.
In today’s NFL, most of the players on dome teams have only been with the team about two or three years and they know what it’s like to play in weather.
Reasons I’m betting the Saints will beat the Bears
The Saints are a better team! Enough said! But I will go on to shore up my argument. When was the last time you saw a team with an inconsistent quarterback make a Super Bowl appearance?
Having trouble identifying one? Me too! One doesn’t exist, because no team has made “the big dance” with a sporadic quarterback. Rex, Wrecks, Gross-Man! is exactly that, inconsistent. He will get rattled early if he doesn’t hit the field with a rhythm, and things will go from bad to worse.
The Saints defense has been solid all year against the pass with the exception of Fred Thomas, who for some reason has lost his confidence and swagger compared to early in the season. Look for the Saints to really get after Rex and force him to make mistakes, and don’t worry, folks – he will make mistakes. The Saints just have to capitalize. In a game like this, mistakes are magnified.
And the Bears offense will be exposed by the Saints defense, I assure you. The Bears come into the game sporting a good combination in the backfield, featuring scat-back Thomas Jones and also Cedric Benson.
All season long the Saints have matched up very well against the scat-back runners, having more difficulty with bruisers like Washington Redskins’ running back Ladell Betts, who ran all over the Saints in week 15. Chicago Bear running back Thomas Jones suits the Saint just fine.
When the Saints are on offense
The “Monsters of the Midway” that smacked opponents around early in season have vanished, with Chicago having given up over 25 points per game in the last five contests. While they’re still solid, they are vulnerable to the big play.
That spells trouble as the Saints’ top-ranked offense blows into the Windy City. The Saints are second in the league in pass plays over 20 yards. Sean Payton seems to dial up all the right plays against teams with good defenses; I don’t expect that to change against Chicago.
If Seattle can ring up 24 points against the Bears – and they did – the Saints can put 34 if they don’t turn over the ball. The crowd will be a factor, but keep in mind the Saints are 6-2 on the road this season. And that proves they can handle the hostile environment and noise.
Next year has finally arrived, sports fans! I see the Saints traveling on to the Promised Land! My prediction: Saints stun Da Bears 30-14 and head to South Beach! Mardi Gras can start early!
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