What a crazy time of the year it has been in the month of December. The holiday season has been in full effect and the NFL regular season is coming to a close. The insane thing about it is that with only two weeks remaining, every playoff position in both conferences are still up for grabs with a plethora of possibilities still to be made. However, we all know there is one scenario that can happen today in the Superdome. With a win, the Saints can clinch the #1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. With such a big factor comes an even bigger tasks as they host the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are also playing for their playoff and division hopes.
Not to mention, both teams are playing for another interesting feat. Whoever wins this game today will have a complete sweep of the other teams’ division and that is pretty rare territory this late in the season. Nonetheless, this will be the 5th matchup between these teams since the division realignment in 2002. The Saints have won 3 out of 4 games and hope to make it 3 in a row this afternoon. The Saints also hold the lead in the overall series at 8-7.
The kind of match-up we will see today will depend on which types of teams will show up today. For the Steelers, as a whole, they have had some inconsistent ways this season. You’re not sure if you will see a team who was on a win streak after the bye week or a team who managed to lose 3 straight games when they were favored in each matchup. For the Saints, we’re not sure if we see the high-powered offense we have come to know and love or the offense that has struggled the past 3 games to get anything going. We know for sure there is one consistent factor and that is the Saints defense. Over the last few weeks, they have turned into an elite squad and much credit is due for the trade for Eli Apple. Since that trade, Dennis Allen has been able to be more creative in his play calling and the defense as a whole has finally found its identity.
There are two big factors that will make or break how this game will flow. The first factor is how will the Saints secondary matchup against the Steelers duo of Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. With James Conner out with an ankle injury and facing the league’s best run defense, I would suspect that the Steelers would try to win through the air more times than not. The second factor will be whether Terron Armstead and Ted Ginn, Jr. are able to play in today’s game. Both players have been missed dearly in this offense. Armstead has been a force and gives Drew Brees the protection he needs to be able to step into the pocket and make a play. Ginn’s speed and veteran leadership has not been replicated on the field since Week 5 and with his return could finally open up the field and playbook to get the Big Easy Train rolling again.
Overall, we can expect an exciting matchup whether it be a shootout or a defensive chess match like last week. The Saints know how important home field is to them and with the chance to rest starters in Week 17 and not have to travel anymore this season, how could they not be motivated to get the victory? The Dome will be rocking and pretty much have a playoff atmosphere, as if it hasn’t already. In the Christmas spirit, let’s hope Santa brings us the gift we all want to hopefully bring in the New Year the right way and what better would that be than a parade before Mardi Gras. Who Dat!