“What Are My Chances?”
5 Posted on September 6th, 2013 by Himself
Poor Sean Payton. After a year away, he comes back to find that Atlanta is unbeatable. That's what the media would have you believe, but there's an alternate explanation: the media's crazy.
In the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, no one can hear you scream. Actually, that’s not true; you can hear a lot of screaming there. Generally it has to do with things like Saints touchdowns. I’ve been told it can be a pretty loud place.
What you don’t usually hear are shrieks of terror and anguish and desperation (not outside the restrooms, anyway); but according to The Media, that’s all about to change. Here’s the scenario: Sean Payton is captain of the commercial towing vessel NFC South. But he has a threat loose somewhere in his ship: a threat so overwhelmingly dangerous that there appears no way to deal with it. Saints fans would be better off taking their chances in the shuttle and blowing up the ship. That threat is the Atlanta Falcons, who are simply so superior to the Saints in every way that there’s nothing Payton can do about it. He can Google Mother all he wants to, but he won’t find an answer, because there simply is none.
The Media, though, understands perfectly what’s coming. It’s not as though they hate us; they’re simply following Company directives. And they admire the Falcons: the perfect football team, whose structural perfection is matched only by its hostility to everything black and gold. That’s why, on site after site, in poll after poll, the androids have ranked the Falcons significantly higher than the Saints. For instance:
The “official” power rankings, at the league’s own site (I’ve always wondered what the teams and players think of league employees dry humping them in public), ranks Atlanta at #4. “Atlanta had a crappy 0-4 preseason. What else is new?” Well, more on that later. This is the first time I’ve heard any “expert” proclaiming all’s right with the world because a team looked like crap, right on schedule.
ESPN ranks Atlanta at #2. Because…well, because. “The best offensive skill players in the league won’t matter if the offensive line struggles.” This is nuts on two counts: first of all, because the offensive line is struggling. And second of all, because Atlanta doesn’t have anywhere close to the best skill players in the league. They don’t even have the best skill players in the division. The Saints, who do, are #13.
Pat Kirwan at CBS Sports has the Falcons at #4. “They can release three receivers — Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez — and the opposing defense needs at least five in coverage. Steven Jackson gets looks he has never seen before.” Like his offensive line guesting on “Pratfalling With The Stars.” Yet still, Kirwan only puts the Saints at #11.
Meanwhile, his compatriot, Pete Prisco, keeps hearing “how [the Falcons] aren’t any better than last year. That’s fine. They were 10 yards from a Super Bowl.” I suppose Petey is unfamiliar with the phrase “high water mark.” I also suppose he thinks the way Atlanta came up ten yards short—not a heroic failure but a humiliating collapse, for the second week in a row—means nothing. Well, Petey is an expert at meaning nothing. At any rate, he puts the Falcons in the #3 spot. The Saints? Again, #11. (To give Prisco his due: at least he acknowledges what we all know to be true: seventeen weeks from now Prisco will be mocked for his efforts. But why wait? Avoid the rush…mock today!)
SBNation has the Falcons all the way down at the 5th position…and the Saints all the way downer at the 10th.
John McClain of the Houston Chronicle picks the #2 spot for Atlanta. “Matt Ryan has a new contract, and the Falcons have renewed Super Bowl expectations. They’ll go as far as their defense, ranked 24th last year, will take them.” You know, I thought that last year Drew Brees had a new contract, and the Saints had renewed Super Bowl expectations, and the previous season their defense was ranked…yep, 24th. John McClain is a paragon of rational analysis. And he has the Saints at #13. Must be true.
The New York Daily News, powered by the powerful power of Hank Gola, puts the Falcons at #5. “Offensively, with the addition of Steven Jackson, they are good as it gets.” Wait a minute…what if they had gotten Adrian Peterson instead of Jackson. Would they not be even better? What if they had Calvin Johnson instead of Rodney White? Or Drew Brees instead of Matt Ryan? What if they had an offensive line? “As good as it gets”? Well, maybe what he means is “as good as they’ll ever be.” Which isn’t good enough.
The Saints, meanwhile, sit at #11.
Hub Arkush puts the Falcons at #3. “Falcons were the real deal last year and Steven Jackson could put them over the top.” The real deal? Is that what you call a team that barely misses an epic choke job one week, only to outdo itself the next? The Saints, meanwhile, are 15th. (Hub Arkush is the legendary ex-publisher of Pro Football Weekly, which recently shut down because who? He now runs a Chicago Bears site. He has the Bears at #12.)
Bob Glauber of Newsday really likes the Falcons this year. “Matt Ryan took a major step forward in 2012.” Too bad he and his team needed to take about ten more steps forward in the NFC Championship game. But the Saints? Nah. 16th.
FanSided.com puts the Falcons at #3. The Saints are #18.
You get the idea. If you go back further, the Saints’ rankings are even worse.
But all of this pales in comparison to Pat Yasinskas. He didn’t assign a ranking to the Falcons, or anyone else; he merely predicted they’d win the NFC South, becoming the first team to do so back-to-back, and then go on to win the Super Bowl. Why? “The Falcons are loaded at the skill positions…” (Moreso than the Saints?) “…their defense should be improved…” (Moreso than the Saints? And why? Based on what evidence?) “…and this is a hungry team.”
Well. Hungry? Sure…it’s hard to eat when you choke as much as the Falcons. I’d think that kind of hunger is debilitating, but what do I know?
Now, I’m going to let you in on a dirty secret: these assholes could be right. Not every one, simultaneously and in detail; but in general terms, maybe the Falcons do have a better season than the Saints. Crazy things happen in sports. But nobody in his right mind predicts crazy things, because that would be…well, crazy. Usually, people demand facts and evidence and vegetables and stuff. Crazy pulls things out of its ass. Crazy doesn’t need reasons.
And what’s remarkable about all this Falcons love isn’t the reasons The Media have for believing it to be true; what’s remarkable is that there are no reasons. There is no evidence of any kind that the Falcons are such an unstoppable juggernaut. Good, yes, and consistent: so long as they’re playing an inferior team, and luck is on their side, they win. But great? An invincible force? Where did this come from?
Perhaps from their vaunted home record. You know, of course, that Matt Ryan’s home record is 33-5. That’s the best home win percentage for any quarterback in NFL history. But two of those five losses came at the hands of …you guessed it, the New Orleans Saints. In both 2010 and 2011, the Saints went into Atlanta and came away with wins. (They also did it in 2009, but Ryan sat in favor of journeyman Chris Redman.) Last year, the Falcons won after Drew Brees threw five interceptions—but actually because two unforced errors by Saints players stripped away 11 points in what was eventually a 10-point loss.
(There’s also that whole 3-11 record against Sean Payton’s Saints, but apparently The Media doesn’t do certain stats.)
Or maybe it’s the evidence of the preseason. No wait, it couldn’t be that. Atlanta went 0-4. And besides: August lies! So ignore, for the moment, that last year’s #2 offense, the New Orleans Saints, finished the preseason ranked…#2. And that last year’s #8 offense, the Atlanta Falcons, finished the preseason ranked #11. August lies! Means nothing! Atlanta is vastly improved this year, after the acquisition of Steven Jackson, whose actually very average rushing average should pick up dramatically now that he’s a year older and playing behind a shakier offensive line. (Seriously: Steven Jackson, at this point in his career, is Shonn Greene. By next year, he’ll be Michael Turner.)
Ignore, for the moment, that last year’s #32 defense, the New Orleans Saints, finished the preseason ranked…#8? Wait, how can this be? Oh, sorry, I forgot: August lies! So we certainly can’t believe that the #1 team, the 49ers, and the #3 team, the Seahawks, and the #4 team, the Texans, are going to have good defenses this year. After all, last year they finished the season ranked…3rd, 4th, and 7th.
Okay, so where do the Falcons stand? 20th in total defense. Hey, that’s not bad…better than their 24th ranking last year. So they’ve gotten eeeeven better. (Unless August lies! Shut up.)
So it can’t be the evidence of the preseason, which is no evidence at all—except that Atlanta sucked and that’s a good thing, apparently. Then just what exactly is it that has the “experts” all on the side of Atlanta? It’s not that they’re down on Sean Payton. “Sean Payton makes a difference and this offense will put up lots of points.” “Sean Payton’s back and so is their edge.” “Without coach Sean Payton, Drew Brees threw for 5,177 yards and 43 touchdowns. No telling what he’ll accomplish with Payton back.” “Sean Payton is back after a year-long suspension, and there’s no question the Saints’ offense will be dominant.” As in, #2 offense? No, that was without Payton. We’re talking about being the best offense in the league again.
So it’s got to be that defense, right? That horrible, pathetic, historically inept, no good, very bad defense from last year that has only turned over about half its starters and gotten a new defensive coordinator to boot. So it must wind up looking just the same as last season, because deadline.
Look, here’s the thing: the Saints’ offense is just flat better than Atlanta’s. We have a better quarterback, and will until Drew Brees finally decides to retire, hopefully several Super Bowls from now. We have a better receiving corps; we have a better tight end (now); we have a better bunch of running backs. We have an offensive line. We have a better scheme, and better coaching, and we know we’re better. And we don’t choke.
Now, when it comes to defense, you can believe one of two things: the Saints are still plunging down the elevator shaft to Hell, or last year was an apparition (I believe you meant aberration, Drew). If you really believe the defense is going to wind up, like, 33rd this year, I wonder why you’ve stuck with this post as long as you have. But if last year was an aberration, then this year the Saints’ defense will be better. (This is called “axiomatic.”) How much better? Well, how much would it take to Rise Up as far as Atlanta, somewhere in the low 20s? Not much: a couple more completed offensive drives a game might do the trick all by itself—and that doesn’t even involve the defense at all. If they do their part too, and the sacks and takeaways increase, suddenly 7-9 becomes 14-2, and Atlanta is desperately clawing to get back inside the shuttle.
But OOPS! That convenient hatchway is actually the engine exhaust port…and the Falcons get blown the fuck into space. So it all ends well.
I can’t wait for the sequel.