Forget the Saints 32-21 loss to Carolina a month ago.
This game will be completely different.
In that game the Saints basically gift-wrapped the Panthers a 23-0 lead. The Saints now are playing defense almost totally different. Brown and McKenzie are playing a lot of man to man and since the linebackers are playing better the safeties aren’t free-lancing to help out so teams aren’t gashing the Saints with the big play. McKenzie’s match up with Mushin Muhammad will be the most important individual battle to watch.
The Saints need to stop the run and force Jake Delhomme into third and long.
The young linebackers still get beat physically sometimes but the Saints haven’t had the ‘busted’ coverages and the huge plays that plagued them all year haven’t happened lately.
Michael Lewis could turn the game
The special teams need to keep up their outstanding play. The Saints have a huge edge in the return game and field position will be a key, especially if the weather is bad.
Get the Deuce Rolling
On offense they need to get Deuce going, which will slow the Carolina pass rush, but most importantly the Saints need to protect the football. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Saints won but I’d wager a grand the team that turns the ball over more will lose.
Haslett will probably revert to the guy in 2000 that had the attitude of anything goes to win including a little lying, cheating, and stealing. Remember the on sides kick in St. Louis? Expect the Saints to be very aggressive and maybe pull trick or two.
Game Huge for Aaron Brooks
Aaron’s teammates have rallied behind him. Veterans like Joe Horn and Ernie Conwell told me one of the main reasons for the teams three game winning streak is because of Aaron being more assertive and being more of a leader. Players always respond to leaders. Football players want to be pushed and Brooks has done it lately. This game is huge for Brooks because a win could really change the fans perception of him but a bad performance would make for a long off-season. Really long.
Saints need to make playoffs to have good year
If the Saints win but don’t get in the playoffs then it means 2004 wasn’t a good year. I don’t buy all the stuff about momentum for next year and a four game winning streak won’t change four years with no playoffs.
I think the Saints win. This team is playing with confidence. The game should be close but I think the Saints special teams make the difference.