New Orleans Saints: The Big Picture

This was supposed to be a different kind of matchup. This was supposed to be a showdown between two playoff contenders. Possibly two Super Bowl contenders.

On one side, we have the once-mighty New Orleans Saints, who suffered through a tumultuous offseason, but were nonetheless one touchdown away from playing for the NFC championship last year.

On the other side, we have the intriguing Philadelphia Eagles — a team that seemed to have as much talent as any in the NFC.

If the Saints weren’t playing the Super Bowl in their own hometown Feb. 6, maybe the Eagles would be.

During the preseason, that argument made plenty of sense. Obviously, things have changed.

Monday night, the Eagles and Saints square off in what can rightly be labeled the Disappointment Bowl. After all, these teams have combined for five wins in 14 games.

Earlier this season, Eagles coach Andy Reid fired longtime defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. This week, mistake-prone quarterback Michael Vick — he has 14 turnovers in seven games — said he thought Reid was considering a change (Reid later said Vick is still his starter).

As for the Saints, well, it’s been the same old story since Week 1. On offense, they have either failed to establish the run, or they haven’t tried hard enough.

Then there’s the defense. In case you’ve missed it, New Orleans is on pace to give up more yards than any team in NFL history.

These, obviously, are not recipes for success.

Monday night, the Eagles and Saints will try to find one.

WHERE THEY STAND

The Saints are 2-5 after last week’s ugly 34-14 loss at Denver. They are third in the NFC South, one game behind second-place Tampa Bay and five games behind first-place Atlanta.

COMING UP

The Saints host the Eagles at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. After that, they host Falcons on Nov. 11 and play a road game at Oakland on Nov. 18.

JOB WELL DONE
FS Malcolm Jenkins

What he’s done: Arguably, Jenkins has been the best player on a unit that’s been incredibly bad. He had eight more tackles in Sunday’s loss at Denver and is perhaps the Saints’ most reliable player in the secondary. He ranks third on the team with 55 stops.
What’s next: The Saints still rank 30th in the NFL in pass defense at 304.6 yards per game. But this week presents an interesting opportunity for Jenkins and his teammates, as the Eagles have committed 17 turnovers in seven games. The Saints could do themselves a big favor with a takeaway or two.

ON THE SPOT
LB Jonathan Vilma

What he’s done: Vilma’s place in franchise history is secure; his arrival in 2008 helped turn the Saints into one of the NFL’s elite teams. But last week, the Broncos often ran right at Vilma, exposing his weaknesses as an outside linebacker. He finished with four tackles.e_SFlbWhat’s next: Naturally, the Saints are glad to have Vilma back. Now, however, they have to find a way to help him play to his strengths.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

1 The Saints have rushed for more than 100 yards in only one game this season. That was Sept. 16 at Carolina, when they rushed for 163 yards on 27 attempts.

500 — Three opponents have gained more than 500 yards against the Saints this season — Kansas City (510), Tampa Bay (513) and Denver (530).

6,793 The 1981 Baltimore Colts hold the NFL record for most yards allowed in a single season.

7,595 — The Saints defense is on pace to allow 7,595 yards from scrimmage this season. That would set a new NFL record.

WORTH REPEATING

“It’s frustrating. It’s uncharted territory. I’m not used to this, because I’ve been blessed to be at places where we’ve played pretty good defense, and we’re not doing that right now. Yet I can’t really put my finger on it. But we will.”
—Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo

NFC SOUTH: JUDGMENT CALLS

Falcons: UP

What they’ve done: Their 30-17 win at Philadelphia was more lopsided than the final score. For now, the Falcons are the best team in the NFL.

Buccaneers: UP

What they’ve done: They’ve won two of their last three — and in every game they’ve played this year, they’ve been competitive.

Panthers: DOWN

What they’ve done: Give them this much: Last wee, they had the Bears on the ropes. Then again, they blew a 12-point fourth-quarter lead. Oops.