1. It's Falcons/Saints Week.
Since 2006 when Sean Payton took over as head coach the Saints have sported a 13-3 win/loss mark against Atlanta and Payton-coached teams (2012 not included) have gone 12-2 against the Falcons.
In Atlanta the Saints are 6-2 since 2006 and Payton has sported a 6-1 win/loss record in the ATL.
These games have normally been close, but the Saints have owned the Falcons since 2006 and it didn't matter where they played.
2. Road Record
Saints fans hear it from local and national media types that the team is not a good regular season "road" team. That statement is not based on facts.
The Saints have not done well on the road at playoff time, only one road win against the Philadelphia Eagles following the 2013 regular season, but in fact since 2009 the Saints have gone 24-16.
They are tied with the New England Patriots (24-16) for the best road record in the NFL since 2009 and the Green Bay Packers are third with a mark of 23-17.
The Saints were 3-5 last season on the road, but they are in fact and have been a very good regular season "road" team.
3. Father-time chimed..
I have written this many times since the New Orleans Saints signed cornerback Champ Bailey in the spring that father-time strikes for every athlete and that while everyone would agree that Bailey will go down as one of the greatest cornerbacks of his era and that he is a NFL Hall of Fame player, we were never going to see that player.
Injuries and age catch up with every athlete in every profession and at that the cornerback spot, like halfback and left tackle, it is so noticeable when someone loses a step or two.
Bailey just could never stay healthy and while at times he could make a play or two because of his great instincts and knowledge of the game, he just couldn't do it from snap to snap.
For every 2009 Darren Sharper year, and that performance on the field may have been the most significant one-year run for a Saints defensive player ever, there are 25 others who fail at doing anything close to that signature season.
The Saints hoped that Bailey could be that 3rd cornerback and play in the nickel and dime settings of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, but that was just not the case.
Wishing you the best Champ, you were a truly "great" football player.
4. Scouting Department Doing their Job very well.
Last season the New Orleans Saints had 7 undrafted rookie free agents on the roster during the season. Quarterback Ryan Griffin, tight end Josh Hill, halfback Khiry Robinson, offensive center/guard Tim Lelito and defensive end Glenn Foster, along with cornerback Rod Sweeting and inside linebacker Kevin Reddick were on the 53-man team during the season.
While the Saints cut lose Sweeting and Reddick before the final cut down the other 5 rookie undrafted free agents made the team again in 2014.
In 2014 only one rookie draft choice, offensive tackle Tavon Rooks-who is on the developmental squad, did not make the final 53.
Wide receiver Brandin Cooks, cornerback Stanley Jean Baptiste, outside linebackers Ronald Powell and Khairi Fortt and safety Vinnie Sunseri did make the final cut, along with two undrafted rookie free agents in cornerback Brian Dixon and outside linebacker Kasim Edebali.
Former Canadian League standout linebacker-turned strong safety now in the NFL Marcus Ball also made the 53-man squad.
In addition, veteran castoffs from other teams in DT. Brandon Deaderick, linebacker/special teams ace Kyle Knox and offensive guard Senio Kelemete made the 53-man squad.
Nice job done by Ryan Pace, Terry Fontenot and Rick Reiprish for their efforts in keeping this team fully stocked-player wise.
5. Getting Back to Pounding the "Rushing Game" Rock
The NFL is certainly more and more becoming a pitch and catch game and sort of like fast-paced basketball on grass. But if you don't have a running late in the season in weather-related games and when you have to run the ball-you are not going to advance come playoff time.
In 2009 the New Orleans Saints averaged 4.5 yards per rush.
In 2010 with a running back unit ravaged with injuries the Saints averaged 4.0 yards per carry.
In 2011 the Saints averaged 4.9 yards per rush.
In 2013 the Saints averaged just 3.8 yards per rush.
You can't blame it all on the running backs. To be honest the turbulence in the running game starts upfront and the Saints have lost Carl Nicks-who with the Saints was the best offensive guard in the business, a quality left tackle in Jermon Bushrod and veteran center Jonathan Goodwin.
After starting for a couple of seasons with the San Francisco 49ers Goodwin is back with the Saints and the Black and Gold has to be thrilled with the progress of one of the top young left tackles in the game in Terron Armstead.
And the most impressive part of the preseason was watching the Saints offensive line, mostly the 1st and 2nd team units, really play at a high level as pass protectors and most importantly as run blockers.
The key other than keeping Drew Brees healthy is having Armstead, J. Evans, B. Grubbs, Goodwin and Zach Strief really getting some push with their run blocks.
Mark Ingram is a piece of the puzzle as a runner and he is running with more authority, confidence and trusting his field vision in a better manner, Khiry Robinson is a powerful runner with great leg strength and finishing ability and Pierre Thomas is one of the premier screen pass receivers in the game and a good all-around back.
Throw in Travaris Cadet and he will get some of the touches as a runner and receiver that Darren Sproles had and the Saints are poised to really get back to rushing the ball like they did in 2009 and 2011.
For the Saints to advance the offensive line has to be one of the major keys. I like what I have seen from this unit in preseason.
6. Giveaway/Takeaway Ratio???
Since 2006 when Sean Payton took over the head coaching reins for the New Orleans Saints the team has been in the "plus" column on the very important giveaway/takeaway ratio just two times, and in 2012 Payton was suspended for the season-when they were in the plus-category.
2009 Plus 11 ***
2012 Plus 2 ***
Watch this category during the season. This is why the Saints spent considerable free agent cash for cornerback Keenan Lewis in 2013 and free safety Jairus Byrd in 2014 and they used their 2013 1st round pick on strong safety Kenny Vaccaro.
Hopefully the "NFL football light" will come on quickly for 2014 2nd round pick cornerback Stanley Jean Baptiste.
What is amazing is that since 2009 the Saints, despite not getting big-time turnovers other than that magical 09 year, they are (55-25 W/L) and averaging 11 wins per year.
7. Crank Up the Hilliard Train...
Before the start of the LSU/Wisconsin game most of the talk of the rushing attack for LSU was about the talented offensive line and the running back tandem of Terrence Magee and highly-touted freshman Leonard Fournette.
Very little was said about senior halfback Kenny Hilliard.
But after a half of horrendous play upfront and no holes to run through the LSU offensive line cranked up big and so did Kenny Hilliard.
The senior from Patterson High School ran for 110 yards on 18 carries, averaged 6.1 yards per rush and scored on a 25-yard "lumber" carry.
The "Big Guy" dominated the Badger defense in the 4th quarter and just kept hammering away at guys that wanted not much in the measure of tackling the 232 pound Hilliard.
Kenny is the nephew of former LSU and N.O. Saints standout running back Dalton Hilliard, but he looked a lot like another former Bayou standout runner in former Assumption High School/NFL standout Brandon Jacobs against Wisconsin.
The Tigers ran the ball 47 times against Wisconsin. Tiger fans get used to seeing 45 to 52 rushing attempts per game in 2014.
8. OBJ Part II
Odell Beckham Jr. had a signature career for the LSU Tigers and will go down as one of the most talented versatile performers in LSU history.
In early May Beckham became the highest drafted LSU wide receiver in the modern day era when the New York Giants selected him with the 12th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
But the Tigers just may have found someone that can fill the football moccasins left by Beckham in Travin Dural.
I saw a lot of Dural when he was playing for Breaux Bridge High School and I was so impressed with his ability to catch the ball out front with his hands and he has "Roadrunner" type foot speed.
He caught everyone's attention when he caught a 49 yard touchdown pass against Arkansas late in the game to help defeat the Razorbacks 31-27 in the 2013 season finale.
Well, all the former Louisiana 200-meter dash champion and a major part of Breaux Bridge's state championship winning relay team did against Wisconsin was catch 3 passes for 151 yards, average 50.3 yards per catch and score 1 touchdown.
You are watching before your very eyes the development of another All-SEC wide receiver in Travin Dural.
9. Secondary Shaping up to be "Something Special"
LSU has been noted for their ability to recruit and develop some of the best defensive backs in college football for almost a decade.
Last season due to the departure of Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid and Tharold Simon the Tigers were forced to play a lot of young players and there were some major miscommunication issues throughout the 2013 season.
Based off the talent and the results, the 2014 secondary of the LSU Tigers may go down as one of the best groups in that spot, ever.
Even without the coverage skills of standout sophomore cornerback Rashard Robinson the Tigers limited Wisconsin to 8 completions of 24 passes for just 50 yards and 2 pass interceptions.
The Tigers are loaded in the secondary with cornerbacks Tre'Davious White, R. Robinson, Jalen Collins and freshman Ed Paris.
And at safety they have one of the nation's best in Jalen Mills and he is flanked by the likes of Ronald Martin, Dwayne Thomas, Rickey Jefferson, Corey Thompson and highly touted freshman safety Jamal Adams.
Since 2008 LSU has had 11 defensive backs drafted into the NFL. They have another crew of talented players just waiting to play in the big leagues on this team today.
There is a "WOW" factor to the 2014 LSU secondary..
10. What was Wisconsin Thinking?
We all do it, second guess coaching moves out on the field.
I even do a Monday Night Show called "The Second Guess on WWL-870 Radio", but I will still never understand why you would pull one of the best halfbacks in the nation, and someone who is "HOT" as a runner, for a second-string back.
That is exactly what Wisconsin did in the second half against LSU pulling in my opinion the most electrifying runner in college football in Melvin Gordon for Corey Clement.
ESPN hyped up Clement to be in the same rushing terms as Gordon and while he is a good football player, he is no Melvin Gordon.
Gordon rushed for 140 yards on 16 carries, averaged 8.8 yards per rush and scored 1 touchdown against LSU.
Clement rushed for 45 yards on 15 carries, averaged 3.0 yards per rush and scored 1 touchdown against LSU.
Why take the ball out of Gordon's hands when the Badgers had such a huge lead? What the Badgers didn't do was finish off the Tigers when they had a chance to knock them out and with no passing attack their best feature was to get the big shot in with Gordon and they passed on doing so in the 3rd quarter.
I don't get it.
Did Georgia pull the ball out of their superstar runner Todd Gurley in the second half? The answer was no.
Despite winning 45-21 against Clemson Gurley lit up the scoreboard amassing 293 yards of all-purpose yards and he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score to go along with his 198 yards rushing. He averaged 13.2 yards per carry against Clemson. The ball is not that heavy!!!
I understand we are living in the world of running back by committee, but when you have a talented back and a huge lead...just let him do his thing and pound away.
It was no second guess, but actually a first guess when I saw what was happening in the 3rd and 4th quarter for Wisconsin.
One thing for certain Tiger fans, get ready for a heavy dose of inside running from every team they face this season. Wisconsin rushed for 268 yards on 39 carries and averaged 6.9 yards per carry against the Tigers.
11. A new "General Lee" for the Wave...
Tulane really was in need of a take-charge quarterback and they have found that player in former Jesuit High School in New Orleans quarterback Tanner Lee.
The redshirt freshman had a couple of hiccups along the way, but he was impressive throwing the ball downfield, normally making good decisions and he showed some pretty decent movement skills in and out of the pocket.
The strong-armed signal-caller completed 22 of his 44 passes for 262 yards, 3 TD's and one crucial interception to help Tulsa seal the 38-31 victory, but he was very impressive in his opening debut as a starter for the Wave.
In a game the Green Wave should have won the double-overtime loss was stinging and Lee contributed with a fumble and a pass interception late, but his overall play really showcased just how talented Lee really is.
Tanner Lee is the most talented passer at Tulane since Patrick Ramsey. Yes, I think he is a better player at this stage than Ryan Griffin-now with the NO Saints.
Kudos also to redshirt freshman halfback Sherman Badie. The former John Curtis High School football and track athlete rushed for 215 yards on 15 carries and 1 score and he also caught 2 passes for 6 yards coming out of the backfield against Tulsa.
This was an impressive night for both Badie and Lee.
12. D'haquille, D'haquille, D'haquille
I have seen some very impressive prep receivers come out of the state of Louisiana in my scouting time.
Players like Reggie Wayne, Chris Henry, Damaris Johnson, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Trey Quinn and Malachi Dupre, but there was no one with as many physical gifts as a wide receiver as D'haquille Williams was when he was at East St. John.
Williams was not just good, but dominating when he was focused.
He had some grade issues in high school and Williams started out his college career at East Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and in two seasons caught 118 passes for 2,028 yards and 26 TD's.
D'haquille verbally committed to LSU, but backed off and ended up signing with Auburn instead.
All he did in his first game for Auburn was catch 9 passes for 154 yards and 1 score.
If he is focused and he is tuned up just right, Williams is a cut-above virtually anything athletically you will see at the college level.
Game #1 for Williams at Auburn showed just how good he really is.
Mike D's article is sponsored by Thibodaux Regional Medical Center.
@thibodauxreg. Giving the Bayou and State the Best in health care.
In January of 2016 we hope to have our new Wellness and Sports Medicine clinic on board and ....it will be one of a kind in the state and the Deep South.
I also want to congratulate my new spokesperson partner at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center in Fox Sports reporter Jennifer Hale. Jen is a great addition to our staff and she is indeed our #1 Round Pick for 2015.. Jen will write and speak on women’s issues and also work closely with our sports medicine team. Congrats Jen.
You can follow Jen at: @JenHale504