Taysom Hill is officially a touchdown-passing NFL
The Stormin' Mormon threw not one, but two
touchdown passes in the Saints 21-16 win over Atlanta. The win
marked New Orleans's ninth straight victory, the third straight without Drew
Brees. Hill led the way with 315 total yards, including 83 rushing yards, in
his best game so far as the starter, but nearly squandered a fourth-quarter
12-point lead with two fumbles, one of which the Falcons quickly turned into a
Thankfully, the Saints defense delivered once again, holding
the Falcons to just nine first-half points, largely by stifling the Falcons
rushing attack to 70 yards and limiting Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan to a
mediocre 48.7 percent completion percentage and sacking him three times.
More importantly, the Saints completed the season sweep of
the reviled Dirty Birds and maintained first place in the NFC while giving
Brees another week to heal.
In Baton Rouge, it was a massacre.
Alabama annihilated LSU 55-17, scoring on every first-half
possession en route to the largest point total ever scored by either team in
the rivalry. Making matters worse, Louisiana native DeVonta Smith put on a
receiving clinic in Death Valley, torching the LSU secondary for 231 yards on
eight receptions and three touchdowns. For Tiger fans wondering how the normally
ferocious LSU defense has fallen so far so quickly, one only needed to look
across the line of scrimmage at the three Crimson Tide linebackers who all
prepped in Baton Rouge.
The Tigers are a broken team, and the dumpster fire that is
the 2020 season is raging even harder this week with news of freshman star tight
end Arik Gilbert opting out for the rest of the year and LSU
self-imposing a bowl ban this season. For Ed Orgeron and the Tigers,
2021 can't get here soon enough.
Both the Saints and LSU head to the eastern time zone for
road games this weekend, one fighting to extend a winning streak, the other
desperately hoping to break a losing one.
New Orleans (10-2) at Philadelphia (3-8-1)
Where/When to Watch: Sunday, December 13, at 3:25 p.m. on
In search of a 10th straight victory, the Saints head up to
Philadelphia to battle the Eagles, who, thanks to an awful NFC East, are still
in the hunt for a division title.
After starting the first half of the season barely below
.500, the Eagles are in a freefall, losing their last four games and failing to
score more than 17 points since November 1 (the date of their last win). Hoping
to avoid a fifth straight loss, Eagles coach Doug Pederson is turning to rookie
quarterback Jalen Hurts as a potential late-season savior. Philly's previous
starter, Carson Wentz, leads the NFL in interceptions and sacks and ranks 31st
in completion percentage.
Hurts replaced Wentz during last week's loss at Green Bay,
breathing some life into the Eagles by throwing for 109 yards and his first NFL
touchdown. However, the former Alabama and Oklahoma product was also sacked
thrice and picked off once.
LSU fans may remember the Tigers squaring off against Hurts while
he played quarterback for both Alabama and Oklahoma. In his lone season as a
Sooner, Hurts totaled 52 touchdowns (32 passing and 20 rushing) and finished
second to Joe Burrow in Heisman Trophy voting.
Hurts isn't surrounded by a bevy of dynamic offensive
weapons in Philly and will make his starting debut against a defense that is
hitting its stride at the perfect point of the season. The Saints have held
opponents to less than 17 points for five straight games, allowing single-digit
points in three of those contests. A unit plagued by untimely penalties and
busted coverages early in the season has developed into one of the most
tenacious defenses in the league, leading the NFL in total defense. The Eagles
offense ranks 29th by comparison.
New Orleans's defense is likely ready to feast on a rookie
quarterback whose offensive line is the most porous unit in the NFL, but for
some reason, I keep getting Robert Griffin III
flashbacks when I hear a dual-threat rookie is starting against the Saints.
That was many moons ago, and a season opener, but the memories don't fade.
For New Orleans, the question of when Drew Brees will return
looms large. The safe play is to let Brees heal up another week, especially
considering the opponent, and let him make his return versus the reigning Super
Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs in the Superdome the following game. Plus,
Taysom Hill has been exciting to watch.
Hill's found a great connection with receiver Michael Thomas
over the past three games, connecting 22 times for 259 yards, including two
100-yard outings. Although Alvin Kamara's role has been altered with Hill under
center, the Saints continue to have offensive weapons step up week after week
in key situations. Last week, Tre'Quan Smith, Jared Cook, and Kamara each found
the end zone. The week before, Latavius Murray had a monster game.
New Orleans's offense just finds a way, and Hill continues
to improve with each passing week (aside from the fumbles). If the defense
continues its dominant hot streak, the Saints should be able to nab a fourth
straight win without Brees.
Prediction: Saints 27, Eagles 17
LSU (3-5) at #6 Florida (8-1)
Where/When to Watch: Saturday, December 12, at 6:00 p.m.
There's no love lost between these cross-divisional
In one of the most underrated rivalries in college football,
the Tigers have won five of the last seven matchups, but this year's Florida
squad has blistered its way through the SEC. Since their lone loss in October,
the Gators are averaging over 41 points, while holding their opponents to just
21 points per game.
Quarterback Kyle Trask is a serious Heisman Trophy
contender, leading the SEC in both passing yards (3,243) and touchdowns (38),
with only three interceptions. Trask hasn't thrown less than three touchdowns
in a game all season and is without an interception in Florida's last four
Florida's prolific passing attack features wide receivers
Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes and tight end Kyle Pitts as the primary
options. Pitts is a matchup nightmare, ranking seventh in the SEC in yards
(641) and second in touchdown catches (11). Toney ranks fifth in receiving
yardage (649), while Grimes has added over 400 yards this season. Both
receivers have eight touchdowns.
It's going to be a long day for the LSU secondary.
On offense, LSU is still relying on a pair of freshmen
quarterbacks in TJ Finley and Max Johnson. After losing the team's two best
pass-catchers in consecutive weeks with the opt-outs of Terrace Marshall and
Gilbert, the LSU offense will rely on several talented but inexperienced receivers.
Freshman Kayshon Boutte was one of the few bright spots against Alabama,
catching eight passes for 111 yards. Expect to see heavy doses of fellow
youngsters Trey Palmer and Koy Moore as well.
The Tigers have been most successful when they've been able
to produce a balanced offensive attack through establishing the running game
and controlling the clock. Easier said than done with a bad offensive line, but
sophomore running back John Emery showed the kind of playmaking flashes last
week that LSU needs more of on a consistent basis.
If the LSU offense can keep Trask off the field, the Tigers
stand a puncher's chance of avoiding a third straight loss. But based on what we've
seen for most of the season and the current downward trajectory of the LSU
program, that's probably not going to happen.
Prediction: Florida 38, LSU 17