For all the flaws the Saints have shown the last two weeks, they still hold home field advantage all the way to the Super Bowl. While Saints fans may be greatly concerned with the back-to-back losses, there is still not reason to panic. After all, the team is still 13-2. And the biggest reason may be that the Saints still are not at full strength.
Malcolm Jenkins was beat many times in man coverage against Dallas and Tampa Bay. Ideally, Jenkins is the Saints dime corner, or maybe even the fifth corner behind Mike McKenzie. Due to injuries to Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter and Randall Gay, the rookie has been thrust into a starting role, one that he is not ready to play at this point. Porter has made his return and is still playing at near a Pro Bowl level as he was before the injury. If Tracy Porter was good, Jabari Greer was great. According to Pro Football Focus, Greer was a top 5 corner in the NFL at the time of his injury. Even checking today, Greer ranks 11th in the NFL (Porter at 28th makes the Saints one of 6 teams to have both of their starting corners in the top 29).
According to the same website Malcolm Jenkins ranks 86th (out of 108 qualifying players), which is passable as a dime back, not for one of your starting corners (Randall Gay checks in at 61st, which is hardly stellar, but still an upgrade).
When Jabari Greer returns it should make the Saints a completely different team on defense. The Saints can stick more men in the box to stop the run knowing that Greer and Porter can be left in man coverage (with Darren Sharper back in his role as centerfielder).
Offensively, the Saints have had their worst two games the last two weeks. Jeremy Shockey has missed each of the last two games, and while that doesn’t make all of the difference, he does enable the Saints to stretch the field more as he is a matchup problem for any linebacker. While David Thomas is a very good backup tight end, worthy of a good amount of playing time, he does not bring the physical ability that Shockey does.
If the Saints can get the trio of Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell and Reggie Bush to all be healthy at the same time (which has not happened the last two games) then the offense will also gain an aspect that was missing in the two losses.
This is no time for the Saints to hit the panic button. While the starters should get a healthy amount of playing time against Carolina on Sunday, the Saints really have until January 16 or 17 to come up with some more wrinkles on offense and defense that will bring them back to their early season dominance.
And if that doesn’t calm a Saints’ fans nerves: the 1998 Broncos started 13-0, lost two straight, and ended up beating the Falcons in the Super Bowl.