Andrew Luck -- not Peyton Manning will be the Colts quarterback next season.
Robert Griffin III will be a top-five pick.
The Broncos will bring in a veteran to challenge Tim Tebow for the starting job.
Sleeper teams for the 2012 season: Miami and Carolina.
MVP: Drew Brees. He could be in the mix this season, especially after setting the single-season record for passing yards. It's impossible to overemphasize how important Brees is to the Saints offense.
SOME HITHER, others yon: Playoffs picture: The Packers will be the No. 1 seed in the NFC, thanks to a win over the Bears. The 49ers still have the inside track on the Saints for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye -- if the 49ers beat the struggling Rams or the Saints lose to the Panthers, the 49ers would clinch that position. A Saints win plus a 49ers loss would leapfrog the Saints past the 49ers. The Lions and the Falcons are jostling for the wild-card position, though both teams have clinched playoff spots. A Lions win or a Falcons loss this week would give the Lions the No. 5 seed and a first-round trip to play the NFC East winner, while the Falcons would settle in as the No. seed and play either the 49ers or the Saints. If the Lions lose to the Packers and the Falcons beat the Bucs, the Dirty Birds would take the five seed...
Here is the media availability with Saints Head Coach Sean Payton from Thursday.
“Mark Ingram (right toe) did not practice, Lance Moore (hamstring) did not practice, John Gilmore (right toe) did not practice, Malcolm Jenkins (right neck) was limited, Jon Vilma (left knee) was limited, Patrick Robinson (hip) was full and Jonathan Casillas (right knee) was full.”
Can you talk about Mark Ingram’s injury?
“Yesterday he got it again and had some soreness in it so we backed off today. He had been making progress and I would say he had a setback yesterday.”
Will it be tough to force Ingram back into the mix?
“We just have to wait until it’s healthy. It’s real simple. Each week we just keep evaluating where he’s at with it.”
Do you think the bad publicity Roman Harper has received had an impact on his status as not being a Pro Bowler ?
“I don’t know. It’s hard for me to say. I wasn’t aware of fan voting or coaches or players. I really wouldn’t know the answer to that.”
Do you think anything with the incident in Carolina had anything to do with it?
“No, I don’t think so. He’s obviously had enough votes to where he’s an alternate to the game.”
Does anything like that incident from the Carolina game ever carry over to the next game?
“No, I don’t think so. That game seems so far removed from where we are now for both teams. I think each team is preparing to play their best game and there’s a lot that goes into that especially during a short week.”
Is your homefield advantage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome stronger this year than it’s ever been?
“I think it’s a great home venue. It’s loud and it’s inside. All those things are a constant. We’ve played better this year from a record standpoint than in year’s past, but I don’t know aside from that statistic that anything has changed in regards to all the other elements that go into playing at home.”
Are there advantages offensively to playing at home?
“Generally when you play at home, you have an educated fan base that quiets down and allows you to operate in a controlled environment. That’s significantly different from when you’re playing on the road. We take that sound machine and each week it’s going. If we’re playing at home, the sound machine is going for the defense because there’s a lot of communication that takes place during the noise, and that noise is an advantage and yet there are certain things that have to be communicated defensively. When we’re playing on the road, we crank it up for the offense. It’s just practicing in the element aspect of it and dealing with that.”
Do you think you defense is underappreciated that no one on your defense was picked in the Pro Bowl as a reserve or as a starter?
“I think there are players that are certainly deserving. You start with guys that have been before. Will Smith, who has been before and Jon Vilma, who has missed a handful of games this year. I think in the secondary typically the interception statistic is important. I think we have a number of guys that we would grade or evaluate as that type of level. I don’t think we’re under the radar. I think we play enough games on national television. If it’s a secondary position, it’s interceptions and that’s a big statistic. If it’s an end position, it’s sack totals and you look at those numbers. There are some key elements statistically, no different than the punter. I think those play a large part in it. Jon Vilma being injured during the season plays a large part in it.”
Would it be accurate for me to say that you had players snubbed from the team?
“As a coach, you would feel like that. I said this the other day, the safeties with the year they’re having and Jabari Greer with the year he’s had – there are some statistics that the league has given us in regards to passes defensed and those are harder to measure for the fan than the players or coaches. That would be your story and your word. Every year when the balloting comes out, there’s excitement for the players that are going and there’s disappointment for those that you felt should have gone, and that would be the case this year.”
When you’re designing a play, who as far as coaches you’ve worked with have you taken most of that information and put that into the play?
“The first year I coached in this league was ’97 with Philadelphia and Jon Gruden was there, so there’s kind of a system that I was taught. Over the years, you tweak certain elements to it. In New York, we did some things that were similar and some things that were different. In Dallas, the system was different with Bill (Parcells), and you begin to make up what you want to do as an offense. More importantly, you want to put a system together that suits your personnel and be flexible enough to do that. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to coach a number of real good players and players that had certain strengths, so that constantly is something that moves even while we’ve been here since ’06. There are certain elements to it that are different to it than from what we did in ’06 or even last year. Mainly it’s based around who’s up, who’s playing and the people that you’re asking to do those things.”
Does the game plan change weekly?
“Yes, but there are some core principles that exist and terminology. There are some principles that exist each week and you can take a certain play. A shallow cross is a play each week that we have up and how we would formate it and who’s running the bingo and who’s running the shallow and how we chip and protection – those things would be tweaked and yet that mental rep of the play for Drew and the people involved, there would be a lot of carryover. There are some things that we do in training camp that for the next however many weeks are going to be involved in the game plan, and then formationally and from a personnel standpoint you play with different sets and you move guys around.”
Which coach do you think you pulled from the most?
“I think the impact Bill (Parcells) had on my career was beyond just x’s and o’s. I would say there were a lot of important elements that were much different than just scheme. I think the early impressions from an offensive standpoint with Jon (Gruden) were significant.”
Can you talk about the improvement players have made on this team from one year to two years playing?
“We were just talking about Patrick Robinson and Junior Galette. I think the first year to the second year for a lot of these guys is real consuming in that it’s a schedule and it’s a routine and it’s a system, and yet some players develop at a quicker rate than others. We’ve had both ends of the spectrum. If you looked at a couple of the receivers in Devery Henderson’s case or Robert Meachem’s case, that transitional time took a little longer. The transition time for (Jimmy Graham, Junior Galette, and Patrick Robinson) happened quicker. There’s a lot that goes into that – who’s playing ahead of them, how quickly they pick up the scheme. Fortunately for all these players we’re discussing, there hasn’t been a lot of carryover in regards to coaching and the system with what we do. There hasn’t been change in that, which can sometimes slow down that process, but a lot of it varies per player.”
Do you think the play-calling that goes on at the line of scrimmage has had something to do with all the offensive yards that are being put up this season and in recent seasons?
“I think that aspect or element of offensive football in the last seven years has become more complex – putting a value on not having a negative play and trying to get to a positive play. Not every play has that flexibility. In other words, there are a number of running plays that we’re going to call regardless of what we see defensively and tehn there’s a group of plays that could possibly go to a run or a pass based on what we see defensively. I would say that would be one area to say that would be accurate, that it’s definitely different today than it was seven years ago with the amount of information. It’s just trying to avoid the negative plays – the idea that you’re going to try certain running plays that are only conducive to a few looks and it also allows you just to practice that play specifically versus this and this look, and then the other looks we’re going to get out of it to a run or a pass. I think that Peyton Manning with the Colts would be a good example with their success and the amount of information that’s communicated at the line of scrimmage that has been. You see it with some of the better offenses. That’s still I would say placing a value on not having negative plays because the minus play really hinders your chance of doing something with that drive – a sack or a loss of yards on a running play where you’re overloaded. I would say that’s different now than then. We could go back 25 years, and there’s always been the audible. That hasn’t changed, but I think there’s been more going on at the line of scrimmage in today’s game than ten years ago.”
Would you say the same thing with the defense?
“Yes, I would say that. The last time we played Carolina we had a play we checked and then they checked to a different look and they checked back to the original, and at some point it’s how much time is left on the play clock?”
Can you talk about Steve Smith and the big numbers he’s still putting up at his age?
“He’s a great athlete. He’s someone that I think keeps himself in great shape. To play the position he has for the time he has, that’s a lot of running. He has very good instincts and awareness. He’s a player we had a chance to coach in 2006 over at the Pro Bowl. When you do that, you gain an appreciation for some of the other things that a player brings to the table aside from the other things you see on tape. He’s very explosive and obviously in great shape.”
Other NFL picks: Cowboys - 6 1/2 over Bucs; Giants - 6 1/2 Redskins; Packers -14 over Chiefs; Seahawks +3 1/2 over Bears; Bills -1 over Dolphins
LSU vs. AlabamaAlabama coach Nick Saban on rematch with LSU : "I've been a little bit amazed that because in every league, NBA, college basketball, the NFL, people always play the same team again and nobody thinks twice about it. And now all of a sudden this is some unique thing in sports."
Alabama wide receiver Brandon Gibson on why his team deserves a rematch: "We left a lot of points on the field the first time we played. I don't think they beat us, we beat ourselves. It's all about Alabama right now. We're going back to the basics. We'll be prepared for them."
by Ed Staton