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this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Saints seek to halt a five-game losing streak against AFC foes, starting with the Jaguars on Sunday Thursday, November 01, 2007 By Mike Triplett Last season, the Saints rewrote history by reaching the NFC championship game for the first time ...

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Old 11-01-2007, 07:58 PM   #1
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Saints seek to halt a five-game losing streak against AFC foes, starting with the Jaguars on Sunday

Thursday, November 01, 2007
By Mike Triplett

Last season, the Saints rewrote history by reaching the NFC championship game for the first time -- and they defied the odds with one of the NFL's greatest single-season turnarounds.

Along the way, Coach Sean Payton even beat his mentor, Bill Parcells, in an instant classic performance at Dallas.

But there still is one nemesis Payton and these Saints (3-4) have yet to conquer -- the big, bad AFC.

Dating to last season, the Saints have lost five consecutive games against the AFC, a streak they would love to squash Sunday when the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-2) visit the Superdome.

"We talked about it in the team meeting today," Payton said Wednesday. "We beat Cleveland (in Week 1 last season), and that's been it. We've really struggled against these other teams.

"And that's one of our challenges. Each week we play one of these teams, we understand it's going to be a physical game, and no one expects anything different this weekend."

There's no real rhyme or reason for the AFC's recent stranglehold on the NFL. It's not like the two conferences play a different style of football or play by different rules, like in baseball.

But it just so happens the AFC has a handful of better teams -- starting with the two best, Indianapolis and New England, who are preparing for an epic showdown Sunday, set to kick off right about the time the Saints-Jaguars game will finish.

"Those are obviously a couple teams that have been very special in the last few years," said Jaguars Coach Jack Del Rio, who has the unfortunate pleasure of playing in the same division with the Colts. "Beyond that, we consider ourselves one in that class of teams that can go out and compete against anybody. And we certainly respect what New Orleans was able to put together last year, getting all the way to the NFC championship game.

"I think all of that talk on the AFC and NFC, I think that's good for the people that do a lot of talking for a living. But I think for us, we just look at each opponent week by week and the challenges that they present."

Dating to last season, the AFC has a rather convincing head-to-head record of 59-38 against the NFC, including the Super Bowl.

NFC teams still are capable of beating AFC teams on any given week. The Green Bay Packers eked one out against the Denver Broncos in overtime in an evenly matched game Monday night.

And certainly, there are just as many bad teams in the AFC as there are in the NFC. The Miami Dolphins are 0-3 against NFC opponents this season. The Houston Texans went 0-4 against the NFC last season.

The Saints' problem, more than anything, is that they haven't gotten to face many of those struggling AFC teams.

Last season, they lost to Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. This season, they fell to the Colts and Tennessee.

"I'd just say it seems like every team we've played in the AFC has been pretty darn good," said Saints quarterback Drew Brees, though he admitted that when he began his career with the San Diego Chargers, there was "maybe a little bit of an AFC arrogance."

Jacksonville tailback Fred Taylor has noticed some of that, too, throughout the years. Dating to 2004, the Jaguars are 11-3 against the NFC, including 2-0 this season. They defeated Tampa Bay 24-23 this past Sunday and won at home against Atlanta 13-7 in Week 2.

"I think last year I noticed it more than anything, because we lost a lot of games vs. AFC opponents, and I think we only lost one against an NFC opponent," Taylor said. "Back in the day, when they had the so-called 'black and blue' (NFC), they were the teams winning all the championships, and then of course the 49ers and Cowboys. But here in the past 10 years since I've been in the NFL, with the exception of the Rams, it's been pretty much dominated by the AFC.

"Still, this is the NFL. If you don't prepare well, you're going to get beat, whether you're playing the NFC or AFC."

No matter what conference they call home, the Jaguars are an especially tough team.

Payton said they are "one of the better teams we'll face all season," and Saints cornerback Jason David, who spent the past three years in Indianapolis, can attest to their toughness.

The Jaguars have given the Colts fits in recent seasons, including a 44-17 rout last season against the eventual Super Bowl champs. David said Jacksonville is one of the most physical teams in the league.

"Those are the tough games," David said. "They're not just physical on defense, they're physical on offense and special teams. We have to stay on our game and bring that type of physicality back on them."


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