By Barry Hirstius – Contributing Writer
While there may be a lot of similarities from one year to the next, the events of each particular NFL season usually have their own distinctive results and subsequent storylines. For the New Orleans Saints so far just 3 games into their 2018 season, there have been some similarities to last season in several aspects; but there is one very unique difference.
That difference is that while the Saints remain as one of the NFC’s serious Super Bowl contenders just as they were last season, there’s a new “king of the mountain” (or a “powerhouse” team if you prefer that term) that they should be worried about: the red hot, undefeated (4-0), and very scary Los Angeles Rams, who have passed the defending World Champion Philadelphia Eagles as the conference’s undisputed #1 team.
It’s for that exact reason why (2-1) New Orleans needs to come away with a big win later today when they face the (1-2) New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in suburban East Rutherford, New Jersey.
A win would allow the Saints to “keep pace” with the Rams, who they will face in a little over a month from now, in a Week #9 contest at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 4th.
The Rams (4-0) are off to their best start since 2001, back when NFL Hall of Famers QB Kurt Warner, RB Marshall Faulk and their fleet-footed receivers known as “The Greatest Show on Turf”, made their franchise’s last appearance in the Super Bowl.
They’re currently the League’s top story right now, and with good reason. They have an explosive offense, a perfect record and a red-hot quarterback (3rd year star Jared Goff). And if they weren’t already previously, then you can bet that they will find themselves at the top of plenty of NFL “Power Rankings” this upcoming week.
“It can’t get much better than how we’re playing right now,” All-Pro RB Todd Gurley said to reporters after their very impressive 38-31 win over fellow NFC Playoff contender Minnesota (now 1-2-1) this past Thursday Night.
“I mean, it can happen (playing even better than they already have been). But it probably won’t. Nah, we can’t be beat right now.”
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) September 30, 2018
Statistically, the innovative and dangerous young Rams offense is at or near the top of the NFL in several offensive categories completely across the board, and they have a defense headlined by multiple All-Pro caliber players who are being coached by one of the League’s greatest defensive coordinators (Wade Phillips) of all-time.
And they have the reigning 2017 NFL Coach of the Year and one of the League’s brightest young offensive minds leading them, in 32-year old Rams head coach Sean McVay. He might just be the very best game-planner on the offensive side of the ball in the entire League, on Game Days.
Los Angeles’ entire offense has been absolutely phenomenal through their first 4 games, but they’ve been especially good during the past two weeks. The Rams have scored 73 points the last two games, and they have increased their total number of points scored in each game of the past four weeks.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) September 28, 2018
Perhaps even scarier: the dominance of the Rams’ defense. Led by D-Linemen Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, L.A.’s defensive unit had allowed just 13 points in its first two games, going six straight quarters without allowing any points.
They obviously had a bit of a letdown by allowing the Vikings to score 31 points on Thursday, but yet they still came up with “big plays” when they needed it the most.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 29, 2018
Bottom line: the Rams are pretty damn good, and they might even be better before the year is over.
Which isn’t the best of news for the Black and Gold or any of the conference’s other legitimate Playoff contenders.
However, it’s important to note that while the Rams have clearly been very impressive, one thing that they haven’t been so far yet, is “battle tested”.
Sure, L.A.’s win over Minnesota was great from their perspective, but this is the same Rams team that lost their only playoff game last season and lost to the Eagles in a key-late season game as well. Even more worrisome for them: both of those losses came at home in Los Angeles at the Coliseum.
— CBS Los Angeles (@CBSLA) January 7, 2018
Clearly and without any doubt whatsoever, the Rams are an extremely dangerous team and they obviously have some potential to do some major-league damage come playoff time.
But until they actually do?
Then no one should be counted out, and that definitely includes a very resilient Saints team of the past 2 weeks.
Last week in a game that seemed as if New Orleans would lose in a very similar manner to other losses in the past that many older fans of the team have witnessed over the years, this Saints team “refused to lose”; and they deserve big-time credit and praise for their resiliency for a 2nd consecutive week, after having just pulled out a win over Cleveland the previous week before.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) September 23, 2018
The Saints are (2-1) when they could very well be (0-3) — and while they certainly have a variety of on-going issues that require immediate attention such as their very notable trouble at the cornerback position, they still have an entire 13 games remaining to play.
Which means that they do have enough time to get themselves “straightened out”, just as we saw last year when they rebounded from a shaky start to go on an 8-game winning streak and make the Playoffs.
That very well could be the case for them once again this season, but first it requires a win today at New York; which New Orleans hasn’t done since beating the Giants by a score of 30-7 back in December of 2006, the first year of the Sean Payton-Drew Brees Era in New Orleans.
The away team has not won in the series since 2006, with New York holding a (2-0) record against New Orleans at MetLife Stadium, which opened in 2010. That includes a 16-13 Giants victory over the Saints in their last meeting there, in 2016.
Nevertheless, the Saints need to find a way to win today. A loss would drop them to (2-2), and even though it wouldn’t be the end of the world per say with an entire 12 more games still left to play after today, falling another game behind the Rams and the rest of the NFC’s other Super Bowl contenders wouldn’t be a desirable result.
The Saints need a “Giant” win in New York a few hours from now, to keep pace with the undefeated “powerhouse” Rams.
Let’s hope that they take a bite out of “The Big Apple”— and take care of business on their end of things later this afternoon…
Editor’s Note: If you enjoy Barry’s writing, be sure to check out his detailed story on the how the Saints and their fans are tackling the controversial NFL-National Anthem issue, featuring his interview with Saints linebacker Demario Davis! Don’t forget to also check out our series on things to do in New Orleans as well as a piece we released today on a controversial movie filmed in New Orleans!