The last time the Who-Dats strolled into town to take on the Who-Deys, things were eerily similar to the present. The Saints were 9-5 and psyching themselves up for a playoff run. The Bengals were 1-13 and were left for dead on the side of the road. The weather was cold and the game was blacked out, as will be the case this Sunday too. The big story on that day in 2002 was that the Bengals were able to pull out their second win of the season, and, in the process, greatly contribute to the Saints missing the playoffs that year.
This time, the Saints are cruising once more having won their last four games and pressing hard for a playoff spot. The Bengals, of course, are suffering through an eight-game losing streak with very few bright spots anywhere on the team. The last I heard, the spread was more than a touchdown and even if Cincinnati does extend their misery streak to nine, no one seems to care much anyway.
Can they win? Of course they can; it's the NFL, anything can happen. Will they? No.
The Saints are a complete team, ranking in the top-10 in nearly every category imaginable. They do have trouble running the ball, but they throw it so well, it's hard to notice any deficiencies in their ground game. Their defense has been assembled with talented and neatly-fitting pieces, and they specialize in creating turnovers. If that weren't enough, they face a special-teams unit this Sunday who dug up strange and obscure ways to lose their game over a week ago on Thanksgiving.
There is no evidence available that leads any thinking person to conjure a reason as to why the Bengals can win, and so this week's preview is a dreary one.
Saints offense vs. Bengals defense
Drew Brees is great—everybody knows that. He has a complete handle on his offense, uses every weapon given to him, and just feels like a quality leader of men. In the limited games I've seen of the Saints this year, he still shows a very accurate passing ability, has good pocket presence and plays with a fiery, yet controlled, passion for the game. If all of that weren't enough, he gets to hear arguably the best play-caller in the game yammer into his helmet.
Head coach and offensive coordinator, Sean Payton, has a nice stable of play-makers at his helm. There are a host of receivers he can rely on to stretch the field and catch the ball. There are numerous running backs with unique abilities that compliment the offense as a whole, and a brash yet athletic tight end who seems like a Kid Rock roadie. With this kind of firepower loaded up on one team, it's no wonder they rank so high passing the ball.
The Bengals, on the other hand, are the walking wounded on defense. Thin in the secondary and up front on the line, Mike Zimmer is strapped with backups going up against such a speedy offensive assault. If his men are unable to get pressure on Brees, and the defensive backs have to chase multiple receivers around on every play, the Saints could score over 100 points in this game. Hopefully Carlos Dunlap continues to grow and gets another sack or two and limits New Orleans to more like 70 points. Despite the difficult schedule Cincinnati has struggled against this year, they haven't seen an offense of this caliber since perhaps the opening game against New England and are likely to get blown out early once more.
Bengals offense vs. Saints defense
Since I expect Cincinnati to play from behind, they probably won't have the luxury of establishing any kind of run. Carson Palmer will have to drop back to pass time and again and hope his protection holds up for his receivers to run all the way down field. Since this team seems incapable of playing a short, west-coast kind of offensive attack, they are likely to heave long bombs into coverage and hope for the best. This philosophy has not proven effective enough to win games this season, but still they persist at going about their business in the same useless style. I expect Terrell Owens to maybe pull down a long pass and pad his meaningless stats a bit more, but in general, I would count on at least two or more interceptions, a host of sacks, and an out-of-hand score by the third quarter.
The Bengals game plan doesn't change and neither does the outcome of their games. They're a team led by men who insist that their way of football is the only way to go and no one is going to convince them of anything different. If they had the ability to adjust, they would have by now, but it simply has not and will not happen with the same individuals in charge. I wish I could paint a more optimistic picture on the situation, but the facts speak for themselves.
Maybe the Bengals will show up, play their best game of the season and treat the less-than-capacity crowd to their third win, one better than 2002. Maybe the coaches will finally get it and try a new approach to the game, and maybe Paul Brown Stadium will transform into a spaceship and whisk its inhabitants to an underwater planet ruled by the Crab People.
|If this happened, admit it, you'd buy tickets to Paul Brown Stadium|
Anything is possible, I suppose. Still, I have to predict the future with reason and logic and that's why I see none of these things taking place this Sunday.
Saints 48, Bengals 3
Mojokong—what's it matter?