NFL New Orleans Saints

New Orleans Saints’ Week 11 In Review; Week 12 Preview

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New Orleans Saints Week 11 And What's Up Next

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Another NFL week is almost in the books and as we get closer and closer to the postseason these games start to mean more and more. Not that an actual regular season NFL game is not exciting, because they are, but with more and more on the line every game, every decision and every play begins to take on a new and deeper meaning.

The seasons for some franchises, however, are all but over. I’m talking about the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders, Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons. Because of their slow starts and tepid play, these teams are basically finished already. The only thing they have left to play for is where they will be drafting in next year’s draft.

You may say they might still play for pride, or for the fun of it, but I doubt it.

Others are definitely on the bubble, with a chance for postseason play if everything that needs to happen for them, does. I am talking about pretty much every team in the NFC East. With the first place team, the Philadelphia Eagles holding a 6-5 record and the last place Washington Redskins having a 3-7 record, nothing is set in stone just yet.

Same goes for the AFC East and AFC North. With only a three-game difference between the first and last place teams in both of these divisions, the postseason is still a very real distinct possibility for any of these teams with six weeks of games left to play.

Other teams are on more solid ground, like the Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos. The Carolina Panthers are also looking for postseason play as well.

Of course, nothing for anybody is a given with six more weeks to go until the end of the regular season, but we can begin constructing the playoffs at least a little bit. After all, that’s part of the fun of being an NFL fan, isn’t it?

Here now is a look back at the Saints’ Week 11 and what is in store for Who Dat Nation in Week 12 and beyond.

Jack Cavanaugh is a New Orleans Saints contributing writer for Follow him on Twitter @cav_jack, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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Fundamentals, Decision Making And Ball Security

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

First and foremost, turnovers and ball security must be addressed by head coach Sean Payton and his assistants. All three areas of the game suffered a turnover in some manner.

The first was Lance Moore's fumble on a punt catch in the second quarter. This was just inexcusable for a solid, dependable guy like Moore who once caught an incredible two-point conversion in the Super Bowl. This was also the second time in two weeks that they special teams muffed a simple punt catch.

The second turnover was Corey White's fumble into the back of the end zone which resulted in a touch back and gave the ball back to the 49ers. White appeared to be juggling the ball as he honed in on the end zone from his interception of Colin Kaepernick as the quarterback closed in on him. That ball should have been secured much, much sooner. That, or he should have just went out of bounds somewhere after the five-yard-line and gave the Saints' offense a short field to do their thing.

Drew Brees also made a poor call when he chose to loft the ball to one of his receivers in the third quarter while he was outside of the pocket. Ahmad Brooks of the 49ers showed his athleticism by jumping up, tipping the ball and coming down with the interception. This was just a poor decision by Brees, but was a costly mistake nonetheless.

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Hartley's Return

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Kicker Garrett Hartley finally shook off whatever was bothering him and came through for his leg. Garrett knocked in three field goals on three attempts, including the game winner.

Prior to the San Francisco game, Hartley had missed four out of his previous six attempts and the Saints had brought in several kickers in an attempt to update their emergency kicker depth. It was nice to see the hero of the 2009 NFC Championship Game play a clutch role once again.

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Defensive Effort Continues To Improve And Show Its Teeth

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Ryan's defense continues to get better and better.

Ryan's defense held Kaepernick to 17-of-31 passing for 127 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. They also held prolific running back Frank Gore to just 48 yards on 13 attempts and the entire rushing effort to 81 yards, which includes a 25-yard scamper by Kaepernick. Not bad for a defense that had got ran over by New York Jets' running back Chris Ivory just a few weeks ago.

The defensive front also came through big time near the end of the game, getting to and pressuring Kaepernick, causing a near safety and a sack. Junior Galette, Cameron Jordan and Akeim Hicks each had one sack.

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Offense Was, Well, Good Enough

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The offense played as well as they had to to come away with a victory. Besides Brees' lazy lofted throw that resulted in an interception, the offense was not that bad and they did what they had to do to win a close game. They were going against what many consider to be one of the most physical, dominant defenses in the entire NFL.

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Remaining Schedule Still Tough

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Up next for the Saints is a short week for a Thursday night game in Atlanta against the lowly Falcons. Though the Falcons are obviously hurting and playing at a subpar level, divisional games seem to be close, competitive games most of the time.

After the match up in Atlanta, however, comes a huge test for New Orleans — a Monday night game in Seattle.

This game could very well decide the NFC playoff seeding and who gets to play where. It won't be easy for the Saints, but this is one they should want to win badly, especially considering the heartbreaking 41-36 loss that saw Marshawn Lynch turn on his beast mode and break what seemed to be dozens of tackles by several Saints defenders.

This will be a playoff type game within the confines of the regular season. Don't miss it.