NFL New Orleans Saints

New Orleans Saints’ Jimmy Graham Could Be Decisive Factor In Wild Card Matchup

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Early on Friday, the Associated Press (AP) released its list for the 2013 NFL All-Pro team. The All-Pro team, in case you are not familiar with it, is chosen by a national panel of media members from the AP, selects the best players by position in the NFL without regard to football conference and is one of the longest running selection awards currently in existence.

Fresh of his second selection to the Pro Bowl, New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham found himself almost unanimously selected, having received 49 out of 50 votes. Graham had another remarkable year playing in the hybrid tight end/receiver position, leading all players in the league with 16 touchdowns while compiling 1,215 yards. He was also Drew Brees’ favorite target on the Saints’ roster, having led the team with 86 receptions.

Graham, whose contract is set to expire at the end of the season, will likely be seeing a big payday in the near future. Even if he ends up with the franchise tag next year while an argument over whether he is a receiver or a tight end is waged, New Orleans will most likely end up signing him to a big contract and lock him up for the foreseeable future. Brees now sees his importance on the field and it is unlikely head coach Sean Payton or general manager Mickey Loomis would let him get away.

More importantly, however, is the role Graham will play as the Saints look for their first road playoff win in the Payton-Brees era. Playing outside on the road, in less than ideal conditions, has not traditionally been one of the strengths for New Orleans.

Thankfully though, the Philadelphia Eagles pass defense has been one of their weaknesses this season. In terms of total pass yards allowed all season and net pass yards allowed per game, the Eagles’ ranked dead last. Hopefully Brees can exploit the deficiency in Philadelphia’s secondary as Graham is very difficult to match up against cover.

Graham could very well be the deciding factor in New Orleans getting their first road win in the playoffs.

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.