Saints 34, Colts 7

Saints vs Colts: Good, bad and ugly

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The Saints were coming off a tough loss and managed to bounce back nicely with a blowout win over the Colts. Here are my observations:

The Good

-The Drew Brees/Sean Payton pairing is arguably the second best quarterback/head coach tandem in this era of football. The synergy they have is unreal. Outside Tom Brady/Bill Belichick, you can't name a better duo. Props to Brees for breaking the all time passing touchdown record on another big stage. Brees went 29/30 (96.7% is a single game record) for 307 yards and four touchdowns.

-Michael Thomas is not human. He's Brees' favorite target. Teams know he's going to get targeted at least 10 times a game or more. He doesn't have take the top off the defense speed. Yet, he still gets wide open! Thomas had 12 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. He's now 11 catches away from breaking the catches in a season record.

-Demario Davis is the playmaker the Saints have severely lacked at linebacker. He blitzes, covers, and stuffs the run better than any line backer this team has had since the Dome Patrol. I'm not saying he's a future Hall of Famer, but he's definitely making the team's Ring of Honor. Davis pressured Jacoby Brissett, as well as made key stops in both the run and pass game.

The Bad

-There was a play in the 1st quarter in which Brees got up from the turf and had to adjust his jersey, pads, and mouthpiece. That's something no saints fan wants to see, much less something Brees wants to feel. Keeping him clean is a high priority.

-43 seconds into the 2nd quarter, Brees threw his first and only incompletion of the first half short right to Latavius Murray. Bum! He couldn't complete 100% of his passes tonight because he missed that throw to Murray. What a joke! This bum deserves to lose his job!

-The defense played very well...until they put more backups in. That's when Saquan Hampton gave up an unnecessary pass interference call that set up the Colts' one touchdown with a shade over four minutes left in the game. So much for serving donuts.

The Ugly

-When right guard Larry Warford went down, so did the hearts of many Saints fans. He's been a lynchpin of that offensive line unit since he signed as a free agent from the Lions a couple years ago. His leg got rolled up on from friendly fire. Looks like he should be okay.

-An offensive pass interference call wiped out Brees' would be record breaking touchdown pass at the end of the first half. Tre'Quan Smith was flagged when the refs assumed his slight hand push gained him a significant enough advantage that the touchdown shouldn't count. I've seen way worse not be called or reviewed. At minimum, the booth should've upheld the touchdown. But then again this is like asking criminals to judge other criminals.

-With Sheldon Rankins and Marcus Davenport out for the season, it's time for the next man up mentality. While those guys will be missed, the Saints can't let up. They were fortunate to get by the Colts and their power run game without incident because they jumped out to a big lead. The Titans next week will present a different challenge in stopping the run, so will the Panthers if they decide to play for pride in week 17, as will every NFC playoff team outside possibly the Packers.

There's just something magical about the Saints and Monday Night Football in the Brees/Payton era, especially when Brees has a shot at breaking some sort of record. The Saints took full advantage of the opening created by the 49ers inexplicably losing to the Falcons by beating the Colts. The NFC race for the #1 seed is now wide open and up for grabs over the last couple weeks of the regular season. Maybe those blown coverages and questionable calls to go for two in the 49ers loss won't come back to haunt the Saints afterall. Or maybe they will. Only time will tell. There's still two more games left to play for everybody and anything can happen.

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Game One Is Pivotal For Both Teams

ALWC Game 1 Preview: Astros vs. Twins

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It might not have been pretty, and may not have met pre-season expectations, especially with all the injuries and headwinds along the way. Yet, the Astros' regular-season was enough to get them into the playoffs, and as we are likely to find out with this aptly-named Wild Card Round, all it takes is a ticket to the dance.

A losing record at the end of the first 60 is now a thing of the past. Everyone starts 0-0, needing to take two of three against their opponent to move forward into the Divisional Series. Here's a quick breakdown and some facts about Houston's first game against the Minnesota Twins:

Game Facts

When: Tuesday, 1:00 PM Central

Where: Target Field - Minneapolis, Minnesota

TV: ABC

Streaming: ESPN App

Pitching Matchup: Zack Greinke vs. Kenta Maeda

Series: Tied 0-0.

Series Schedule

Date & Time (Central) Location Pitching Matchup
Game 1 Tue 9/29, 1:00 PM Target Field, Minneapolis Greinke vs. Maeda
Game 2 Wed 9/30, 12:00 PM Target Field, Minneapolis TBD vs. Berrios+
Game 3* Thu 10/1, TBD Target Field, Minneapolis TBD vs. Pineda+

* If necessary.
+ Projected starters.

Game Storylines

Did Houston pack their postseason bats?

Over the last three years, the Astros have started the playoffs with wins in their first game, and it may be in part due to one key component: scoring first via home runs. In 2017, it was an Alex Bregman solo homer off of Chris Sale in the first inning to start the scoring against the Red Sox. In 2018, it was Bregman again, this time a solo shot in the fourth off of Corey Kluber of the Indians. In 2019, it was Jose Altuve with a two-run bomb against Tyler Glasnow as they'd go on to take game one against the Rays.

Can they make it four straight years? If so, they'll have to do it against another formidable pitcher in Kenta Maeda, who allowed just nine home runs in his eleven regular-season starts, only two of which were at Target Field. Also, those three games mentioned earlier were at Minute Maid Park, where the Astros had the support of their home crowd, along with the comfort of their own stadium. This year, they'll start on the road, and in the now-normal audience of cardboard cutouts. Having said that, if they can get their signature score-starting home run in the top of the first by one of their key bats, that could very well set the momentum in their favor to upset the Twins.

Which Greinke will we see?

On September 3rd, Zack Greinke went six innings while allowing three runs to the Rangers, still coming away with a win to improve him to 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA. That was his eighth start of the season, two of which he went six or more innings without allowing a single run, including an eight-inning gem at home against the Rockies.

In his final four starts after that, Greinke went 0-3 with a 6.53 ERA over that span, allowing four, five, three, and three earned runs, respectively, and unable to go more than six innings in any of them. That finished his year at 3-3 with a 4.03 ERA, not exactly riding a high into the postseason. So, can he hit the reset button and deal as he did in the early parts of the season? Or, will the Twins, who own the sixth-most homers as a team in 2020, find a wrinkle against him early that they can exploit? The answer to that, along with what run support his offense provides him, will be one of the game's deciding factors.

I don't need to tell anyone the obvious here; in a best-of-three series, taking the first game will be pivotal for both sides. Winning the first game and only needing one more is a tremendously more advantageous position to be in, instead of needing to win two straight to advance. It sets up for an entertaining series and set of matchups across the league. Get your popcorn ready.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

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