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Barry Hirstius

How the Saints Respond Against the Jets Could Define Their Entire 2017 Season

In the Sean Payton-Drew Brees Era, the New Orleans Saints have a (4-5) record in the games played on the following Sunday after the game that they played on a Thursday Night the previous week before.

Which means that even with having 10 days worth of rest in between, the Saints have essentially managed only to "break even" the 9 previous times they've played on a Sunday following their Thursday Night appearances under Payton and Brees.

That includes the 2012 season, when Payton was suspended for the year as part of the "Bountygate" punishment handed out by the NFL. If you throw out that season, then New Orleans would exactly be (4-4) in the Sunday games following a Thursday Night game from the week before.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (IN THE SEAN PAYTON-DREW BREES ERA) WIN-LOSS RECORD ON THE SUNDAY FOLLOWING A THURSDAY NIGHT GAME: (4-5)

2007: Lost 41-10 to Indianapolis on Thursday (Sept. 6), lost 31-14 to Tampa Bay (Sept. 16)

2008: Lost 27-24 to Chicago on Thursday (Dec. 11), beat Detroit 42-7 (Dec. 21)

2010: Won 14-9 over Minnesota (Sept. 9), beat San Francisco 25-22 (Sept. 19)

2011: Lost 42-34 to Green Bay on Thursday (Sept. 8), beat Chicago 30-13 (Sept. 18)

2012: Lost 23-13 to Atlanta (Nov. 29), lost 52-27 to N.Y. Giants (Dec. 9)

2013: Won over Atlanta 17-13 (Nov. 21), lost 34-7 to Seattle (Monday, Dec. 2)  

2014: Won 28-10 over Carolina on Thursday (Oct. 30), lost 27-24 to San Francisco (Nov. 9)

2015: Won 31-21 over Atlanta on Thursday (Oct. 15), beat Indianapolis 27-21 (Oct. 25)

2016: Lost 23-20 to Carolina on Thursday (Nov. 17), beat L.A. Rams 49-24 (Nov. 27)

2017: Lost 20-17 to Atlanta on Thursday (Dec. 7),  vs. Jets (December 17th) ???????

 

Photo courtesy of the NFL Network

So.......

Why is all of this important, you ask?

Well, actually it's not all that important at all.

But here's what IS important:

The New Orleans Saints are coming off of their most disappointing loss so far of their entire 2017 season, after they lost this past Thursday Night to their bitter and hated arch-rivals, the Atlanta Falcons.

Not only did they lose the game, but it's HOW they lost the game which could have lingering effects as they face their final stretch of the last 3 games of the 2017 regular season schedule.

The Saints fought hard for an entire 60 minutes, in spite of being penalized 11 times for 87 yards, 9 of them which gave the Falcons automatic 1st Downs as a result.

For perspective, since 1999 the most 1st downs by penalty in an NFL game was 10; meaning that the Saints were either guilty of making a lot of mistakes (and in some cases they did), or just might have been unfairly scrutinized for their on-field play much more so than their opponent was — whether it was unintentional on the part of head referee Clete Blakeman and his officiating crew or not.

And then of course, there were the massive amount of injuries suffered by the team in the loss at Atlanta.

Photo courtesy of David Grunfeld, The New Orleans Times-Picayune

Rookie running back Alvin Kamara (concussion), linebacker A.J. Klein (groin), guard Senio Kelemete (concussion), defensive lineman David Onyemata (undisclosed), rookie defensive end Trey Hendrickson (ankle) and safety Kenny Vaccaro (groin) not finish the game because of injuries.

Tight end Josh Hill, running back Mark Ingram, wide receiver Michael Thomas and wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. also missed some time after being checked out the medical staff.

And yet DESPITE all of that, the Saints STILL had a chance to win the game at the end.

But QB Drew Brees threw what essentially was a game-losing interception to Falcons linebacker Deion Jones in the end zone with less than 2 minutes remaining when the Saints were hoping to score a game-tying field goal or a go-ahead touchdown.

Photo courtesy of David Grunfeld, The New Orleans Times-Picayune

It was a heart-breaking loss to be sure — and one very reminiscent of the way that the Saints franchise has agonizingly lost games throughout their 51-year history, some of which have been very well documented over that time.

But now, the Saints still have to have the wherewithal to BOUNCE BACK and beat their next opponent on the schedule, the New York Jets, when the teams meet a week from tomorrow at the Superdome.

That's because the Saints record currently stands at (9-4); and although they still maintain a half game lead over (8-4) Carolina (who plays at home tomorrow against Minnesota) and a 1-game lead over (8-5) Atlanta (who they will face again in just 2 weeks from now at home in the Superdome on Christmas Eve) in the NFC South Division, they still have to win enough games to even MAKE the Playoffs first.

Meaning that beating the Jets in 8 more days from now suddenly becomes Priority #1.

And how they're able to respond by needing to come out and win a game despite all that's happened to them in the past 48 hours, could just be the defining moment of their 2017 season.

The Saints in spite of having a handful of players that will miss the game against the Jets, will probably be favored to win at home. A key to victory for New Orleans will be getting some of those players (especially Kamara) back from injury.

But even if they do — it's not going to be a "Sunday picnic at Grandma's house" facing the Jets, by any stretch.

The Jets (5-7) may have a losing record, but they CANNOT be taken lightly. New York, who faces the Broncos in Denver tomorrow, is more than capable of coming into the Superdome and pulling off an "upset".

Especially after they just beat Kansas City just a week ago.

They have a legitimately tough defense and their offense can (and will) make plays. And perhaps more importantly from their perspective: they’re still alive and fighting for a Playoff spot in the AFC.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

And while the Saints should be well-prepared to play the Jets after having had over a whole week to game-plan for them; and also should be highly motivated to win this game after everything that's taken place to find themselves in this position, they still will have to go out and GET THE JOB DONE.

A loss to the Jets at home next week after losing to Atlanta in the manner that they did a couple of days ago, would be a potentially devastating blow to their Playoff hopes and could even RUIN their entire season.

Is it unlikely to actually turn out that way?

Probably.

But if you've been watching the NFL for any length of time, or ESPECIALLY if you're a Saints fan over the age of 50, you've already learned to "never say never".

The Saints only have 3 games left to play: the Jets next Sunday at home in 8 days from now, the Falcons again on the Sunday after that (Christmas Eve, December 24th) at home in the Superdome, and then finish the 2017 regular season against the Buccaneers in Tampa on New Year's Eve (December 31st).

Chances are, they'll need to win 2 out of the 3 games, to GUARANTEE themselves a Playoff spot at 11-5.

Whether or not winning the NFC South Division title will come along with that, is yet to be determined.

But for now, there's one thing that takes precedence for them going forward — and that's beating the Jets in 8 days from now.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

It's a task that they absolutely must accomplish, without question.

After losing the way that they did to the Falcons, how the Saints respond against the Jets could be the defining moment, of their entire 2017 season..........

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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