And thus we kick off 2014… with a post about the Saints taking silly measures to reverse their road struggles.
The Saints (11-5) opened their first practice of the week Wednesday with a tweak from the normal routine — blasting some hip-hop music during the team stretch and individual drills. Coach Sean Payton said the idea was to bring, “just a little juice.”
And Payton and players once again had fun Wednesday describing the other off-the-field tweaks they have planned — like changing the Gatorade flavors, the pregame meal and the travel sweat suits — sometimes with a laugh and sometimes with a straight face.
Yeah, it’s in their heads.
But for real, I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on the Saints can’t win on the road thing. Sure, all five of their losses this season came away from home, but let’s look at who they played in those losses: Patriots, Jets, Seahawks, Rams and Panthers. Three of those teams have first round byes this month, one is historically a tough place to play (St. Louis), and we’ll call the Jets loss a mulligan.
This is the thing with the split stats media hacks love to reference. Often there’s a reason for a given outlier (somewhere, Malcolm Gladwell is stroking himself). The Saints played tough road games this year. They lost some of them. But they also won in Chicago. Beat the Bucs and Falcons, too.
I’m sure there’s something to the fact that teams built for speed are often better at home, in their domes. A lot of teams are better at home. But pundits act like Saints players have never seen cold weather before. You’d think that the entire roster was reared in a temperature controlled incubator, venturing outside only to play eight impossible NFL road games each year. Obviously that’s not the case. The Saints are a human-defined concept, not a group of men bred to play in certain conditions. Their players grew up all over the country, went to different colleges, played for different NFL teams… they’ve all played in cold weather. Drew Brees and Nick Foles went to the same high school in Texas, and you know what? I’m almost certain Brees has played in more cold weather NFL games than Foles, who played in the snow once and went to college in Arizona.
That said, the best part of this is the get inside their heads factor. Everyone keeps talking about it, so it must be true! Let’s change the music, change the wardrobe, change the food! If there’s one advantage the Eagles have this week, it’s that Saints players may be starting to believe that Old Man Winter dislikes teams that play their home games in a building with a roof. Oh, and then there’s the fact that the Eagles are a much better team right now.