The Vikings (10-2) and Eagles (10-2) are fighting for the No. 1 seed in the NFC, while the Rams (9-3) are sitting pretty at No. 3. But don’t sleep on the Saints (9-3), who are atop the NFC South and have won nine of 10.
Is New Orleans a legitimate Super Bowl threat?
“Yeah, 100 percent,” NFL on CBS analyst Nate Burleson said on The DA Show. “The defense has played so much better. The last couple years, they ere historically bad. It seemed like any team could go in there and put up 400 yards in the air, and they could run all over this defense, (but) they’ve tightened (it up). Even some of the draft picks, some of the guys they brought in, are making an immediate impact. They’re just different. They’re a different defense. They smother the quarterback. They’re flying around sideline-to-sideline.”
Instead of relying on 38-year-old Drew Brees to win shootouts, the Saints have grounded-and-pounded their way to becoming one of the top teams in the league.
“It’s not just about the hot streak; it’s about the style in which they’re winning,” Burleson said. “I’ve seen Drew Brees go out and light up the sky, like we’ve seen him do throughout his career. But what’s even more surprising and I guess more of a relief for Drew Brees is they can win games without him throwing a touchdown. That stat blew me away.”
The Saints are 2-0 in games in which Brees has failed to throw for a touchdown. He is on pace to throw for 4,397.3 yards and 22.7 touchdowns, which would be lowest output since 2005 and 2003, respectively.
“That should be not only a message to their team that we’re at where we need to be, but a message to everybody else,” Burleson said. “It’s a scary thought that a Hall of Fame quarterback that can throw with the best of them – some of the most pinpoint accurate throws we’ve seen over the last decade – doesn’t need to sue that tool. There’s other tools now.”
Namely, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Kamara has rushed 86 times for 606 yards (7.0 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns. He also has 59 catches for 614 yards and four scores. Ingram, meanwhile, has rushed 180 times for 922 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns and 42 receptions of his own.
“Alvin Kamara is the reincarnation of Marshall Faulk, and Mark Ingram is having yet another career year, busting off tough runs and the long runs,” Burleson said. “That’s what you need. You need a defense that can stop offenses and make plays when tested in the air, and then offensively, you got to have a quarterback that’s capable of throwing, but only if you need him to throw. You’d rather have a running game going into the postseason because you’re going to face these explosive offenses. You’re going to face these top-tier quarterbacks, and what do you need to do? Keep their guys on the sideline.”