The Saints will conclude their 2012 campaign and I have mixed emotions about it. Like any NFL season, including the Super Bowl winning 2009 season, I don't want it to end. So there's a fair amount of sadness attached to my Sundays opening up again and a big void being placed in my fanhood. Conversely, I think we can all agree that this season can pretty much go F itself (pardon my language) and we've felt this way from the very beginning given the fact that we knew it was an uphill battle the minute the offseason started pretty much. But this will have to serve as our own personal Super Bowl for the season, and dammit, 8-8 just feels a lot better than 7-9. I don't want a losing season. So let's hope the Saints can close it out with a big win over their division rivals. Here are five things I'm looking for, for the last time this season.
1. The last time in a Saints jersey for a number of guys?
I can pretty much guarantee this is the end of the road for Scott Shanle (who may not even dress), Devery Henderson, Sedrick Ellis and Jonathan Vilma. Maybe I'm wrong about one or two, but I'm going to enjoy watching those guys knowing full well this easily could be the last time. Jermon Bushrod and Will Smith are two long timers that could also be packing their bags. Even guys under contract like Chris Ivory and Roman Harper may not be in the mix next year. Every single one of those guys I just listed has had great moments in a Saints uniform and they played hard for the team. Tomorrow could be it.
2. Can the Saints flush Cam Newton out of the pocket to his left?
Cam has had a major regression this season after a breakout rookie campaign. He and his team have been red hot as of late, but most of that came after the team was already eliminated from playoff contention. Cam's struggles this year have been attributed to teams overloading pressure to the right side, forcing him to roll out of the pocket to his left. The scouting report on him says he doesn't throw the ball as accurately running to his left and many teams have been effective slowing him down by doing this. Will Spagnuolo come up with the right scheme to make this happen, and if so, will it work?
3. Chris Ivory gets another shot.
With Pierre Thomas unceremoniously placed on IR for the final game and Ivory mostly recovered from a bad hamstring that's kept him out, this is Ivory's last opportunity to show off his power running style. I have a feeling he's going to get a lot of carries in this game. He will split the bulk of the carries with Ingram.
4. Is the young defensive backfield improving?
We've seen great things from Isa Abdul-Quddus, Rafael Bush and Elbert Mack at times the last few weeks, and some not so good things too. But, they have all three stated their case for deserving to return next season, and possibly getting a crack at a starting spot. This is their last chance in a full game to leave an impression on the staff. Will the last impression be "meh, this guy is good on special teams and gives us depth" or will it be "there is no way we can keep playing the vets over them"?
5. Where does a win/loss put the Saints, draft position wise?
I'm not going to root for a Saints loss, even in a meaningless game. I refuse to do it and I can't bring myself to it. But, I'm still very interested in where the Saints will pick in the draft. Because let's be honest, the minute that game ends tomorrow that is the next big date for us with no playoffs (the NFL draft). The Saints could still roughly pick anywhere between 10 and 17 depending on what they and other teams do on Sunday.
Enjoy the game! I'll be in the Superdome for this one so apologies in advance for less tweeting/updates in real time, timely blog posts as usual. HAPPY NEW YEAR!