The NFL Playoffs are upon us. This weekend features four Wild Card games, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. This is the first season that I can remember where all 12 playoff teams feel like potential Super Bowl winners; that being said, every team can also be defeated. It only takes three or four wins to be crowned champion. The real winner this season: NFL fans.
The New Orleans Saints got their identity back when Sean Payton returned from his year-long suspension. His value is clear now: he takes New Orleans from a mediocre team to a playoff team. The Saints finished this season with an 11-5 record, much improved from their 7-9 mark last season. Drew Brees and Sean Payton have proven to be capable of winning in the post-season. There is no denying that Brees is one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. But he is not the only one in the NFC Playoffs.
The NFC boasts several highly touted quarterbacks all vying for a chance at the Lombardi trophy. Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, and Nick Foles round out the rest of the conference after Brees. The common theme with this list is youth. At 34 and 30 respectively, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are the old men of the group; but either one is capable of winning out the playoffs. So how do you win against the Saints?
Don’t let Drew Brees beat you. In four of the five Saints losses, Drew Brees has had a passer rating of 80 or below. Generating pressure will force Brees into quicker throws, and sometimes, bad decisions. This offense lives and dies by Drew Brees, and he is the defense’s main focus.
Jimmy Graham is the best TE in the playoffs. His presence is felt most in the red zone, where he is almost impossible to cover. His size and athleticism enable him to get open easily and Drew Brees will find him every time. When you play the Saints, you must shut down Jimmy Graham in the red zone. This offense is too lethal when Brees and Graham are connecting.
Play them away from the Superdome. The Saints are 8-0 this season in New Orleans. They are 3-5 anywhere else. The Superdome has been an advantage for years, as it is one of the louder stadiums in the NFL. Not to mention the perfect conditions a dome offers. Weather could be a factor when playing the Saints, and thankfully for the rest of the teams in the NFC Playoffs, the Saints won’t have a home game until next season.