The Saints Keep Marching In

“Who dat! Who dat! Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?”

This is the chant that has been blaring across Louisiana like a horn from a trumpet for the past six weeks now. The New Orleans Saints officially have the longest win streak of the 2017 season with six wins in a row — a sentiment that no one saw coming after the Saints started off 0-2 for the third season in a row. Energy has been jolted back in to the city of New Orleans after years of starving. Fans were hungry to have that taste of familiarity again; the taste of being on top. Except the bellies can’t ever be full until the playoffs, and even then the drive won’t stop until the Super Bowl. So the question remains that the fans continue to mock towards the rest of the NFL. Who can beat the Saints right now?

Behind the ruckus of New Orleans fans marching towards victory, whispers will murmur in the alleys of being over-rated. “They have a weak schedule,” the pessimistic will say. Looking back at the first nine weeks, it can’t be that simple. Week one was a loss to the Vikings, a team that still had a healthy Sam Bradford, a very tough defense, and are under the radar for having home field advantage at U.S. Bank Stadium. New Orleans still trying to find a way to use Adrian Peterson, and their defense didn’t click yet. Week two was another loss against the Patriots, who needed a big game as a come back after being embarrassed by the Kansas City Chiefs the week prior. Saints still had the same problems as week one, and it didn’t fix itself until week three. The rumors began flying around the news: Saints going 0-3 again for the third year in a row. Sean Payton was on the hot seat, fearing for his job by the end of the season. A big divisional game against the Carolina Panthers and the Saints annihilated them. Week four Saints travel to London and completely skunked the Miami Dolphins — the same Miami team who beat the incredible Los Angeles Rams — and we saw the defense create their identity. By week six Saints cut their losses and drop the dead weight of Adrian Peterson to allow a highway lane for the impressive rookie Alvin Kamara. They came to Lambeau and beat the Packers sans Aaron Rodgers, and despite two interceptions in the first half after the rain, the second half Drew Brees does what he does best and proves once again why he’s one of the best to play his position. Week seven the Saints beat an under-rated Chicago defense and a talented Mitch Trubisky, and week eight go against a very injured Tampa Bay team only to reign higher on the NFC South totem pole.

New Orleans has rhythm, they have an identity, and can find more ways to win other than relying on their 38 year old star quarterback. Fans in Louisiana haven’t seen a good defense since Bounty Gate, and the feeling is a sight for sore eyes. Even if a defense has great pass protection, it’s hard to stop the one-two punch between Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Kansas City Chiefs get a lot of attention for having Kareem Hunt as a dangerous threat in the back field, but as Hunt has been slowing down the past few weeks, it seems as though Alvin Kamara only heats up more.

Talk about a polar opposite between the teams. When Kansas City started the season at 5-0 people only talked about how they are true Super Bowl contenders. Since then the Chiefs have been 1-3 the past few weeks, and Saints haven’t lost a game since week two. Despite the drastic changes, no one speaks of the Saints going to the Super Bowl at all. Brees and Payton already have Super Bowl experience together, so it doesn’t seem unfathomable. Perhaps it’s because they’ll have to go through the Rams and Eagles, both of whom scored 51 points on their opponent in week 9, before getting to the biggest game of the year. New Orleans will be able to answer one of those questions in week 12 where they will face off against the Rams away in Los Angeles. It’s no question the toughest game that the Saints will face to face the rest of the year, but until that game happens, prepare to continue hearing the who dat chant echo across the airwaves.

The Chargers Are Shunned in L.A.

I want to invite you to take a trip down memory lane with me for a second. The year was 2016. Barack Obama was in the White House. Dabbing was beginning its decline in popularity to make way for fidget spinners. Colin Kaepernick still played in the NFL. The New York Giants players rented a yacht and left all their talent on it. But the biggest thing to remember from 2016 is that the Chargers were still in San Diego. The very idea left a bitter taste in the mouths of every San Diegian, and the taste never sweetened as time went on. The day that Alex Spanos revealed that he was moving the team from San Diego to Los Angeles the aggression and animosity towards the Chargers and the Spanos family grew so large that it could mean the end of the entire franchise all together.

To be fair, Spanos at least attempted to keep the team in beloved San Diego. He wanted to build a brand new stadium for Chargers, a team who hasn’t won their division since 2009, and after many meetings with Mayor Kevin Faulconer the city of San Diego decided to leave it up for a vote on whether or not to build an estimated $200 million stadium. November came, a new president became elected, and the referendum to build a new stadium for the Chargers in San Diego was a majority NO. Understandably, not every resident in the San Diego area is probably a Charger fan, or even a football fan for that matter. It makes sense on why bother raising taxes for a stadium that doesn’t necessarily have to be built? Most of the time fans enjoy their current stadium just for the history aspect. As for Spanos though, he already had a back up plan in case Faulconer wouldn’t allow a new stadium to be built in San Diego. Spanos and Mayor Eric Garcetti made an agreement to build a brand new stadium if the franchise moved to Los Angeles. Garcetti already was very vocal about wanting two teams back in L.A. to begin with. Oakland was his original choice, but after a deal was made for the Raiders to move to Las Vegas, it seemed all too perfect for the Chargers to move back to their original home again. Perfect for everyone except the Chargers fans.

During the off-season when the announcement hit that Alex Spanos was moving the franchise to Los Angeles the entire fan base of the Chargers erupted. They were livid, felt betrayed, and plagued all media sources to give their two cents on how the felt about the entire transaction. Some of the fans spread their faith and loyalty towards the Chargers no matter where they would go. Majority of fans renounced their patronage to the team, and decided to go towards the Bay Area to watch their football. The transition from San Diego to L.A. has definitely been a rocky one, with a fan base that’s not travelling with the team, but there also isn’t a place for the Chargers to play. Logically, it made sense for the Los Angeles Rams to share their temporary stadium with the Chargers the same way that the New York Giants and New York Jets share the same stadium, except the Rams owner Stan Kroenke wasn’t having any part of it. The best NFL and L.A. could come up with a temporary interim stadium for the poor Chargers was the Stub Hub Center, the home of the local soccer team L.A. Galaxy’s. The stadium is actually in Carson, a suburb that’s a half hour south of L.A. and a half hour west of Anaheim. The worst part is the stadium can only hold 27,000 seats, which is less than half of what the average stadium holds for every other NFL team.

The disaster of leaving San Diego has definitely shown in the attendance. Week 1 of the season was pretty much empty, and although the seats are being filled more and more every week, they aren’t being filled with Chargers fans — it’s the opposite team’s fan base! Talk about being embarrassed, being humiliated, and starting the season 0-4. That’s not to say that they haven’t been competitive in their games, but can you blame them not having the motivation? Los Angeles is a giant city, and within that city is a fan base from all 32 teams in the NFL. When the Chargers plays at “home” the people from L.A. that come to see them play in Stub Hub Center are literally fans of the opposing team. The Chargers don’t have a home field advantage, and part of that problem is purely that San Diego fans didn’t transfer at all. The L.A. Chargers have to start from scratch, as if they’re a brand new franchise, with an absolutely zero fan base in Los Angeles. On top of that, they’re competing with the L.A. Rams who have all the momentum. Not only did they have a small fan base to start off with — basically anyone who moved from the St. Louis area and now lives in Southern California — but right now the Rams are electric. Between Jared GoffTodd GurleySammy WatkinsCooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald this team is young, exciting, and most importantly: they’re winning. It’s a no-brainer that any new fans warming up to their new L.A. teams are gravitating towards the Rams versus a Chargers team that has zero wins.

The Chargers new stadium will get built… eventually. When it finally does get built in projected 2020, the Chargers will have a different team. Philip Rivers might not be around anymore, the coaching staff may be switched out, the whole division may have a new power surge. Through the uncertainty of the future, one thing is going to be the same: the absence of attendance at Chargers games. With the seats being as barren as San Francisco 49ers games, it makes a person wonder if the estimated $2.6 billion stadium is even worth it. Everyone loves new stadiums, and after the tape is cut and the shine wears off, the main thing will be whether or not the Chargers can win games. If they can’t, then this $2 billion investment might be the iceberg that sinks the franchise once and for all. If the San Diego fan base doesn’t start travelling to L.A., and the Los Angeles fan base still remain loyal to the Rams, it wouldn’t surprise anyone that Spanos decides to jump ship on the franchise entirely. Other owners have done it in the past, so it’s not an outlandish thought to have. Even if Spanos wants to keep an NFL franchise, or sell cheap and have it revamped, this could be the beginning of the end of the Chargers.

A brand new start may be exactly what the Chargers need. Unfortunately the Chargers would have to die out for it to happen, but the “new start” that they’re receiving in Los Angeles isn’t the answer. Perhaps the answer is for the Chargers to fold, a new franchise to emerge, and move to a new city with a brand new roster. It’s already happened in the past. The Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans. The Baltimore Ravens were originally the Cleveland Browns. If the Chargers were to crumble and resurface with a new look, a new logo, and a new city, that could be the restart that they truly need for a fan base to finally start following them. A new city is the first place to start, and the most promising city that could accept a franchise again would be St. Louis. Sounds crazy, right? They just lost their team to Los Angeles, so why wouldn’t they just keep the Rams in that case? Except if history has taught us anything, it’s already happened to Baltimore and Houston. So maybe not so crazy. It might take another 15 or 20 years before any of this to happen, but if it does start heading that direction and the Chargers really begin to struggle, at least San Diego fans can have their own moral redemption by telling Alex Spanos that maybe he should have never left.