New Orleans Saints' season preview: Part Two

James ReesAnalyst IJuly 14, 2008

This is Part 2 of a four part series preview of the Saints 2008 opponents.  Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2:  Minnesota, Oakland, Carolina, San Diego

Game 5, Vikings
:  C’mon and get ready…I said c’mon and get ready. Are you ready for some football?

The Saints kick off the second quarter of their season in primetime Monday night football when the Vikings travel to the Dome in Week 5. 

The Vikings are a team on the rise.  They’ve got the best running back in the league, a mammoth offensive line led by Steve Hutchinson, and the best run stopping interior defensive line in the NFL.  Sounds like stuff-it-down-your-throat Steeler type football doesn’t it? 

(By the way, has anyone noticed how good Steve Hutchinson is?  Two years ago he anchored Seattle’s o-line and was, as we now can look back and deduce, almost solely responsible for Shaun Alexander’s league MVP.  Then he signs with Minnesota and starts blasting holes for Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, transforming the Vikings into the most feared running team in the NFL.  To say he’s the best run-blocking guard in the league would be an understatement). 

Anyway, the Saints are going to have their hands full trying to stop Peterson.  The obvious plan would be to stack the box and dare Tavaris Jackson to beat them. 

(Seriously, can the Vikings not find anyone better than Tavaris Jackson to play quarterback for them?  How about another Jeff George comeback?  He still has a pulse right?)

So will the Saints go with the obvious or try something else?  Odds are they’ll stack the box just like every other team did against the Vikings last season, and odds are they’ll give up at least 150 yards rushing just like every other team did against the Vikings last season.  Adrian Peterson and Hutchinson are just that good.   

But that doesn’t mean they can’t win.  Drew Brees and the receiving corps are going to need to show up big time in primetime for the Saints to beat the run-stuffing Vikings.  I see it happening and I see a bibulous "Who Dat" nation cheering on a Saints 24-17 win.  Saints improve to 4-1.

Game 6, Raiders
:  The Raiders have a young backfield in the form of JaMarcus Russell and Darren McFadden who have the potential to terrorize defenses for the next decade.  Unfortunately, they also have the potential to terrorize Raider Nation for the next decade with inconsistent play and unrealized ability. 

Despite the talent they’ve got in their offensive backfield, this Raiders team will rely on its defense to carry it as Russell and McFadden mature.  Pro Bowl cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Nnamdi Asomugha headline a strong pass-defense that ranked eighth best in the NFL last year. 

On the flip side, however, Oakland’s run-defense was ranked second-to-last in 2007.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how the Saints’ offense will attack the Raiders in this Week 6 match up. 

Expect a heavy does of Reggie Bush, Deuce McAllister and Pierre Thomas.  Once the running game has been thoroughly established, Brees will have the luxury of the play-action pass—a weapon even the best cornerbacks fall victim to.

The Saints should have no problem putting away the Raiders in what will likely be a blowout.  Saints win 38-13 and improve to 5-1.

Game 7, Carolina
:  After a three-game home stand, the Saints trade in the sweet stench of Bourbon Street for the crisp, clean air of Charlotte, N.C. 

The Panthers made several moves to improve their running game in the offseason, including the release of RB DeSean Foster, and the drafting of RB Jonathan Stewart and OT Jeff Otah.  Stewart will likely battle fourth year pro DeAngelo Williams for the starting job at tailback.   

It’s no secret around the Panther’s camp that the biggest question mark entering the 2008 season is whether Jake Delhomme can regain throwing strength in his right arm after offseason Tommy John surgery. 

If Delhomme is healthy and producing as normal, the Saints should expect a competitive game.  The Panthers and Saints have always played each other pretty evenly over the years and this game shouldn’t be any different.

But if Delhomme’s arm turns into cooked spaghetti three games into the season like it did last year, Carolina will be up the creek without a paddle, or a quarterback. 

I’ve got a feeling, though, that Delhomme’s fiery Cajun spirit will carry him through a successful rehab and he’ll be back to normal by the end of training camp.  Consequently, Delhomme will hook up with Steve Smith for 160 yards receiving and two touchdowns against the Saints and propel his team to victory.  Saints fall to 5-2 after a 30-27 loss to Carolina.

Game 8, San Diego
:  It’s off to foggy London town for the Saints Week 8 “home game” against the San D-A-GO Superchargers.  I think the NFL made a huge mistake moving one of the Saints’ home games to London. 

Of the 32 NFL cities, which city do you think needs the positive economic impact of a full eight-game home schedule most?  Do I even have to ask? 

Anyway, as far as the actual game goes, the Saints will probably be about a touchdown underdog.  San Diego has a relatively easy schedule leading up to this game with New England being their only real challenge through seven games. 

That means they’ll likely have a 6-1 record compared to the Saints 5-2.  It’ll still be early in the season but the Powder Blues will be favored to win.

The Chargers are good everywhere on their team.  They’ve got a strong secondary led by Antonio Cromartie, an intimidating front seven captained by Shawne Merriman and Luis Castillo, and a high-powered offense with arguably the best running back in the league.

The Saints will need outstanding performances from all of their playmakers to hang with San Diego for four quarters.  The neutral field favors New Orleans who tends to play better on the road then at home (five of their nine losses last year were at home). 

But in the end, San Diego is the better team and will prevail in London Bowl 2008.  Saints drop to 5-3 after a 38-30 loss to the Chargers.

Stay tuned for Part 3.            


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