The New Orleans Saints are back in the post-season and looking for an early Mardi Gras. The average person in Louisiana is beyond elated about talking Saints football right now, as the playoffs bring quite the atmosphere. We found an extra special person in Scott Prather who carries many roles for ESPN 1420 in Lafayette. Scott is the brand manager, program director, and host for “The Great S.C.O.T.T. show and “The Sports Gap”. He was kind enough to leave some thoughts on the Saints’ season, possible future playoff matchups and a prediction for Sunday. You can catch Scott every weekday on both shows from 4-5 and 5-6. Hope you all enjoy!
1. Scott, many folks had written the Saints off after starting 0-2. It appeared that another disappointing season was in the works. Then everything started to slowly change, as the Saints ran off wins. At what point did you know this team was zero like previous 7-9 squads?
I know they were different from the previous 3 teams following the crazy win over the Lions. For the first time in a long time, the Saints were above .500. However, the performance that had me believing this year’s team had the potential to do something special beyond the regular season was the 47-10 win at Buffalo. The Saints sheer physical dominance in the run game, on the road against what turned out to be a playoff team, was eye-opening.
2. I wrote an article explaining how the Saints may not ever have an easier or more fortunate path to the Super Bowl. Would you agree? What’s your take on the NFC playoff climate?
I understand the rationale based on the Saints dominance of Carolina and potentially a game at Philly six days later. A second-round matchup at a struggling Philadelphia team, even on short rest (the game will be the first on Divisional round weekend), is a game the Saints will likely be favored in. However, if the Rams lose to Atlanta and the Saints have to travel to Minnesota in the second round, the Vikings are a bad matchup for the Saints. Whether facing them in the 2nd or 3rd round, their defense would feast on any Saints mistakes, and New Orleans would have to hold an early lead, as it would be difficult to come from behind in Minneapolis. Even a potential NFC Championship game at L.A. against a Rams team would be difficult. As a 3 seed, they have balance across their roster which is built for a postseason run, but possibly too young to realize it.
3. The Saints will beat the Panthers if ______?
The Saints beat themselves. Obviously, Cam Newton is the wild card of the wild card round. He’s only thrown for 185+ yards twice in the last 9 games. He only ran 3 times in the week 3 matchup, and 6 times versus the Saints in their week 13 showdown. Force Newton to beat you with his arm and Carolina stands no chance.
But even if Newton is able to churn out a decent game on the ground, as long as the Saints don’t make costly turnovers or miss a few field goal attempts, they’re not going to lose at home in the playoffs. The Saints are 19-4-1 in their last 24 home games in which they entered the game with a winning record. When the team is having success, the true dome field advantage comes to life. It’ll be on full display this Sunday afternoon.
4. Many folks have compared this current team to 2009. What similarities do you see, if any?
Not very many, honestly. The Saints run game in 2009 ranked 6th, while this year’s team is 5th, but even with great performers in ’09 like Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush, it was different. Alvin Kamara is a combination of what they both did best, with longer strides, while Mark Ingram is a bonafide Pro Bowler as well, something Thomas and Bush never were.
The ’09 team spread the ball around across the offense, and while Ginn has had a few nice moments this year, the 2017 offensive is heavily reliant on three-star players, as Michael Thomas, Kamara and Ingram soak up the bulk of the touches. The two biggest similarities to me are the play of the offensive line. New Orleans had the best offensive line in football between 2009-2011. This year’s O-Line has dealt with injuries and shuffling better than anyone could hope for, and is a major reason the team won their 6th division title in franchise history.
Defensively, this year’s unit doesn’t force as many turnovers, but statistically rank higher, especially if you take away the first two weeks of the season.
5. Final Prediction for Sunday’s Matchup.
The last time the Saints lost a playoff game, I was there to celebrate my 11th birthday. It wasn’t a happy birthday. New Orleans isn’t losing Sunday at home.
Saints 30, Panthers 21
That’s a wrap for our time with Scott. In addition to listening to him on the radio be sure to follow him on Twitter @Scott_1420 . Follow our twitter page @SaintsNationBlg and you can follow Chris at @impatientbull. Who Dat!