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Saints ready to come marching in again

Pigskink Pick 'Em

Posted: Friday, September 21, 2007

The New Orleans Saints are in familiar territory entering their showdown with the Tennessee Titans.

They're playing at home, on Monday night and facing a mobile quarterback.

Ring a bell?

Because it should.

It wasn't until Week 3 of last season that the Saints proved to America they were for real.

Coming off a disastrous 3-13 campaign in 2005, during which they were forced to play on the road the entire season due to the ravaging effects of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans reinvigorated a city desperate for any sliver of excitement with an emphatic 23-3 Monday night victory over the four-point favorite Atlanta Falcons in front of an electrified crowd at the Louisiana Superdome.

While they faced the elusive Michael Vick in that contest, the Saints will now have to contain another running QB in Vince Young.

This time, however, they're 4 1/2-point favorites at home.

There's another crucial difference, too.

Last year's edition of the Saints opened the season with a pair of victories on the road and improved to 3-0 with that statement-making victory over Atlanta.

After an embarrassing 41-10 loss at Indianapolis on opening night and an equally gut-wrenching defeat last Sunday at Tampa Bay, the Saints are now just looking to avoid their first 0-3 start since 1997 when they finished 6-10.

"By no means are we out of it," said New Orleans' QB Drew Brees.

Of course not. But if they plan on staying in it, Brees and Co. need to revert to what got them to the NFC Championship last season.

And it wasn't always their defense, which, at best, has been porous through two games this year, allowing an average of 391 yards per contest.

The offense, on the other hand, hasn't been any better.

Brees has thrown only one touchdown pass and running backs Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush are averaging a combined 21 carries per game with no scores.

The Titans, though, are struggling in their own way.

Young did all he could to rally Tennessee from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit, but came up just short, nearly taking a sack on fourth-and-four before fruitlessly throwing the ball to nobody in the final seconds of the Colts' 22-20 win Sunday.

And that's been the story of their season thus far Young having absolutely no one to throw to.

At least the pitiful New Orleans secondary, which has already surrendered five TDs over 24 yards, won't have to worry about the deep ball.

So, as usual, look for Young to rely on his legs if Tennessee wants to emerge victorious.

But the Saints have more to prove in showing the country last year's surprising run wasn't a fluke.

SAINTS, 34-28.

Arizona (plus 8) at Baltimore

Battle of University of Miami backs. Edge outruns Willis. But Ravens' defense too much for QB Matt Leinart. RAVENS, 20-13.

Buffalo (plus 16 1/2) at New England

Can anybody beat New England? Certainly not the Bills. PATS, 41-17.

Detroit (plus 6) at Philadelphia

Lions at 3-0? Eagles at 0-3? Is the world about to end? Not quite yet. EAGLES, 35-24.

Indianapolis (minus 6) at Houston

Texans got an early Christmas present last year, shocking Indy on Dec. 24. They would have gotten an extra early gift this year if WR Andre Johnson were playing. But he's not. COLTS, 34-21.

Miami (plus 3) at New York Jets

Battle for top pick in next year's draft. JETS, 10-6.

Minnesota (plus 3) at Kansas City

Larry Johnson finally finds the end zone. CHIEFS, 24-10.

San Diego (minus 5) at Green Bay

LaDainian Tomlinson has rough day against an improved Packers' defense. Green Bay off to first 3-0 start since 2001. PACKERS, 24-21.

San Francisco (plus 9) at Pittsburgh

Niners won first two games by combined four points. Pittsburgh doubles that. STEELERS, 34-26.

St. Louis (plus 3 1/2) at Tampa Bay

Taking a lead from Kanye West and 50 Cent, I'll retire if Steven Jackson doesn't surpass his season-best total of 60 yards rushing last week. RAMS, 17-14.

Cincinnati (plus 3 1/2) at Seattle

Chad Johnson makes his first trip to Seattle a memorable one. BENGALS, 38-37.

Cleveland (plus 3) at Oakland

Browns looking for first two-game winning streak since 2003. Derek Anderson is given key to the city. BROWNS, 27-20.

Jacksonville (plus 3) at Denver

Denver's vying for third consecutive game-winning field goal. Jacksonville is still searching for first rushing touchdown. JAGUARS, 23-21.

Carolina (minus 3 1/2) at Atlanta

Joey Harrington was sacked seven times last week by the Jaguars. Carolina defense is better. Much better. PANTHERS, 28-19.

New York Giants (plus 3 1/2) at Washington

Tiki Barber rumbled for 234 yards and three TDs in a season-ending victory at Washington last year. Too bad he's retired, Brandon Jacobs is hurt and Eli Manning, is, well, Eli Manning. REDSKINS, 24-21.

Dallas (plus 3) at Chicago

Marion Barber III should be starting over Julius Jones. Cedric Benson shouldn't be playing at all. Neither should Rex Grossman. COWBOYS, 17-10.

LAST WEEK: 9-6-1 (spread); 9-7 (straight up)

SEASON: 17-12-3 (spread); 16-16 (straight up)

Comments and criticisms may be sent to Clarion sports reporter Matthew Carroll at matthew.carroll@peninsulaclarion.com.



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