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If it looks to you like Sean Payton is pushing all the right buttons with his Saints offense, you might be interested to hear it actually extends past that.

He’s doing more than just anticipating which cards another coach might play against him on the field. He’s getting pretty good at playing the right ones in response. And it so it was that a red-hot New Orleans team got its warning this week: A cornered animal would be on the other sideline.

The Eagles were 4–5, but a proud champion coming off a tough division loss on national television. That, as Payton saw it, meant something—and he needed his guys to be aware of it.

“So we prepared for that this week,” 15-year veteran tight end Benjamin Watson told me late Sunday night. “It’s a really a testament to Coach Payton, understanding that each week presents his own challenges. Obviously, X’s and O’s present a challenge, but emotionally, as you mentioned, you come off a big win on a [national TV] against the Rams, then you go on the road, and you come home against Philly, a team that had a lot to prove.

“And so he’s been able to prepare us emotionally and mentally for the challenge specific to that week, specific to that opponent, outside of obviously just the game plan, and how we’re going to attack each opponent.”

The goal, then, for this week: Take the Eagles’ breath away. Keep ’em in that corner.

Mission accomplished.


It was 10–0 after the first quarter, and 24–7 at the half. Forty minutes into the game, it was 38–7. When it was over, Drew Brees had 363 yards, four touchdown passes and no picks on 22-of-30 passing, and Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara had combined for 174 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries.

How bad a boat-racing was this? The disparity in points and total yards was greater in the Superdome on Sunday than in Alabama’s rout of The Citadel on Saturday. And maybe most impressive is how relentless the best team in the NFL—with apologies to the two playing tonight in L.A.—has been over the last three weeks.

As Watson insinuated, the Saints easily could’ve kicked back after dealing the Rams their first loss, 45–35, on Nov. 4. Instead, they kicked it up a notch, and kicked the rear ends of a couple pretty good teams, Philly and Cincinnati, by an aggregate score of 99–21. The schedule the rest of the way is tough—they play Atlanta and Dallas the next two Thursdays, and have the Panthers twice and the Steelers in December.

But increasingly, it’s looking like the Saints don’t have to worry about those teams, so much as those teams have to worry about the Saints.

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If Week 10 was a dud (and it was), Week 11 certainly made up for it. Around 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday, Bengals-Ravens, Texans-Redskins and Jaguars-Steelers were being decided all at once. And so we’ve got plenty to get to, including …

• A Steelers star on the book he read that explains how his team has fought through all the noise around it—and how Ben Roethlisberger made some noise at halftime to get his guys going.

• The Cowboys newcomer who’s making his bid for Defensive Rookie of the Year. And the Colts rookies who are making their own mark.

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• How the Ravens coaches prepared to play Lamar Jackson the last two weeks, and what his teammates have seen from him.

• A thorough explanation on why the game tonight is being played in Los Angeles, rather than in Mexico City.

• A look back at Thursday night with Pete Carroll, and how his Seahawks seem to have sidestepped the need to rebuild.

But we’re starting with a Saints team that looks damn near unstoppable.

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