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Rivalry Week: Saints and LSU Ready to Battle Familiar Foes

09:00 December 04, 2020
By: Andrew Alexander

Somebody get Denver a quarterback!

In one of the weirdest game scenarios most NFL fans have ever witnessed, the Saints faced a Denver squad who was without a quarterback. The Broncos promoted practice-squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton to handle the duties under center, and calamity ensued.

Hinton and multiple Denver running backs took snaps at quarterback, mustering only 112 total yards, one completed pass, three turnovers, and three points. The Broncos even became the first team since 1998 to throw more interceptions (two) than completions.

Although the circumstances were bizarre, New Orleans took full advantage of the situation, opting for a conservative, run-heavy attack. Led by a strong Latavius Murray performance, the Saints pounded the Denver defense for 229 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns en route to a 31-3 victory.

Meanwhile in College Station, fans witnessed another unusual occurrence: The LSU defense finally showed up. Despite limiting Texas A&M to only 267 total yards, two third-down conversions, and 13 offensive points, the LSU offense somehow found a way to be even more inept. The Tigers rotated both TJ Finley and Max Johnson at quarterback, and the offense sputtered time and again in the 7-20 loss. LSU had three turnovers and two third-down conversions and mustered only 36 rushing yards. It's just not the Tigers' year.

With seasons headed in opposite directions, the Tigers and Saints prepare to face hated rivals this weekend.

Saints (9-2) at Atlanta (4-7)

Where/When to Watch: Sunday, December 6, at 12:00 p.m. on FOX

Coming off an eighth straight victory, New Orleans heads to Atlanta to face the Falcons for the second time in three games.

Both NFC South teams drubbed their opponents last weekend, with Atlanta forcing five turnovers in their 43-6 thrashing of the Las Vegas Raiders in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The quick turnaround for a rematch gives the Falcons a better chance to avenge their 24-9 loss in the Superdome, but it's tough to draw significant conclusions with only a fortnight in between matchups.

New Orleans has faced the same team twice in three games at four different times previously under Sean Payton, and each time, the Saints split the divisional series.

One particular edge the Falcons may have is that they've already played Taysom Hill. After trying to defend him to no avail in the first contest, perhaps Atlanta will have luck on their home turf.

Taysom Hill still doesn't have an NFL touchdown pass, but who cares? The Mormon Missile has four rushing touchdowns in two starts, and he played well in his first career start as an NFL quarterback two weeks ago against Atlanta, when he completed 78 percent of his passes for 233 yards. Last week, although it wasn't flashy, Hill spearheaded the conservative game plan he was tasked with carrying out, and the Saints prevailed. While Hill is still learning the intricacies of the NFL quarterback position, his real value is his versatility. In two starts, the Stormin' Mormon is averaging 10 carries for 46.5 rushing yards. He's a threat to run, and defenses have to account for that when scheming against him.

The real question is: Can the Falcons block the Saints? New Orleans feasted on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan two weeks ago, sacking him eight times and forcing two interceptions. In the last five games, the Saints defense has forced 19 sacks and 13 turnovers. The unit is ranked sixth in the league in turnover differential (+7) and leads the NFL in total defense, surrendering only 284.9 yards per game.

The Falcons may find a way to bottle up Hill this week to keep the rematch closer, but the Saints defense will once again be the difference-maker in a season sweep of the Dirty Birds.

Prediction: Saints 26, Falcons 20

LSU (3-4) vs. #1 Alabama (8-0)

Where/When to Watch: Saturday, December 5, at 7:00 p.m. on CBS

This one could get ugly.

Not only is Alabama unequivocally the best team in college football this season, but the Crimson Tide is on a revenge tour rivaled only by Maximus Decimus Meridius. The latest stop is in Baton Rouge, and Nick Saban's team hasn't forgotten last year's 41-46 loss in Tuscaloosa nor Coach Ed Orgeron's fiery postgame locker-room remarks.

The Crimson Tide hasn't just won every game so far this season, they've also embarrassed a majority of the foes who dare to step on the same field. Alabama's offense is averaging over 48 points per game, while holding its opponents to less than 19 points. Their last four opponents averaged less than nine points per game. The Tide hasn't allowed over 17 points since mid-October and has surrendered more than 24 points just once this year. Alabama is destroying teams—even ranked ones.

Unlike in year's past, the LSU faithful have no delusions of grandeur about beating Alabama. The Tigers aren't ranked, have a losing record, are playing two freshmen quarterbacks, and just had their best offensive player (Terrace Marshall) opt out for the rest of the season. LSU is going to lose.

Last week, I wrote that LSU would have to play a nearly flawless game and have several players and units rise to an unseen level in order to beat Texas A&M. Against Alabama, there's nothing, not even a COVID outbreak that causes the Tide to play only the second string, that will give LSU a chance in Saban Bowl XV.

The Crimson Tide will be out for blood in Death Valley on Saturday, and for the first time since Orgeron has been head coach at LSU, his squad will lose back-to-back games.

Prediction: Alabama 41, LSU 13

Andrew Alexander is a contributing writer, football fan, and unofficial president of the Arch Manning Fan Club. Follow him on Twitter at @TheOtherAA and listen to the Krewe du Drew podcast.

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