Along the way, The Freak enjoyed some great southern food like catfish, shrimp and grits, and some of the best southern barbecue ribs ever tasted by man.
In New Orleans, we had some fun along Bourbon Street, and the people from this city couldn’t be nicer and any more festive. We again tasted some of the great local cuisine like jambalaya, gumbo, shrimps, crayfish and even some alligator (tastes like chicken).
The tailgating outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was just fair as there really isn’t much parking near the stadium unless you want to park indoors and tailgate at the top of a parkade. Many people stay in the bars until game time while many others gather at the large Champions Square (10,000 people), where they have a huge stage with a band playing to jack up the fans along with an assortment of local refreshments.
The most popular jersey was definitely Drew Brees’ No. 9, and it wasn’t even close as 90 per cent of the crowd wore his jersey. With the Saints not having a great football past until the last five years, you didn’t see many old ones except the odd No. 8 of Archie Manning.
The Freak wore the New York Giants’ jersey of Archie’s son, Eli Manning, to the game, and the locals had no issue with it. Both Eli and Peyton grew up in New Orleans, and often come back to visit their parents.
Most locals are hoping since the Saints won’t make the playoffs that both Eli and Peyton will meet in the Super Bowl here, on their old stomping grounds. However, after the Giants’ loss in Atlanta, The Freak warned many of them not to buy a Big Blue jersey now with the way they are playing.
As for the Bucs, they had a very small following at this game except for a few Josh Freeman (No. 5) and some old John Lynch (No. 47) jerseys. It was nothing like the Falcons’ following in Carolina last Sunday.
This indoor stadium has really been renovated and improved after Hurricane Katrina, but also since New Orleans is hosting the Super Bowl in February. The interior is looking like new and very impressive.
As for the game itself, the crowd really “loves them Saints” and the noise level inside the dome is intense. The noise has nowhere to escape, and had Tampa rattled from the opening kickoff.
‘The “Who Dat” chant at the beginning of the game was fun, and the jazzed-up and hip-hop versions of “When the Saints Are Marching In” really got the crowd energized after touchdowns.
Brees made the NFL quarterback position look easy, ripping off four touchdown passes, and by far was the most accurate passer on the trip to date. He was throwing the ball on the money and into the smallest of windows, and in person you can see how Brees broke so many quarterback records the last couple of seasons with his arm and decision making.
The opposite could be said of the Bucs’ Freeman, who had a terrible game with four picks, one fumble and had some obvious accuracy and decision-making issues.
The Saints’ D played their best game of the season, and pitched their first shutout in 17 years that gave the hometown fans lots to cheer about on this afternoon.
As we were leaving the game, The Freak couldn’t imagine the atmosphere here in New Orleans during Super Bowl Week, and with Mardi Gras clashing at the same time. Wow, what a week it will be in New Orleans!
With The Freak in attendance, the home teams on this road trip are now 3-0 (won-lost) as we head to sunny Florida to once again see the Bucs, who host Sam Bradford and the Rams. Hope the Bucs show up for this one.
Stat of the week
Seattle became the first team since 1950 to score over 50 points in back-to-back games as they pounded the Bills in Toronto.
Pet peeve of the week
The brutal out-of-town scoreboard at the Superdome, which was about 15 minutes behind the actual games.
Bonehead play of the week
Bucs linebacker Adam Hayward shoving and yelling at linebackers coach Bryan Cox on the sidelines while on the big Jumbotron screen.
The sure thing
Being in the football-crazed country of the United States, The Freak has been on fire since being down here, going 13-for-14 with two straight Upset Specials.
With sports talk radio and people in general talking football 24/7 here, it has helped The Freak get hot late in the season.
New England will be angry after coming back against the 49ers and then losing. Poor Jacksonville will feel the brunt of this. The Pats pound the Jags in sunny Florida.
The Broncos are rolling and host the Browns. Denver is one win away from getting a playoff bye. Take the Broncos.
Green Bay got off to a rough start this season, but is now hitting its stride as they play Tennessee. The Packers are in the running for the second seed, and the Titans are just running out the season. Pack wins at Lambeau.
Don’t mortgage the house picks
Not many will be watching Tampa and the Rams except The Freak. The Freak’s game picks are hot as the Florida sun. Take the Bucs (hope the pirate ship is rocking).
How can a team score 52 points one week, and then get shutout the next week? Well, that’s the Giants this season as they head to Baltimore in a must-win game. The Ravens are struggling as well, but leader Ray Lewis returns and they won’t lose three straight games at home. No early Christmas gift for The Freak. Take Baltimore.
How can a team give up 52 points one week and then shut out Tampa Bay the next week? Well, that’s the NFL and the New Orleans Saints this season. The Saints head to Big D for a game that means more for the Cowboys than the Saints. Santa arrives early for local Cowboys’ fans. Dallas wins.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Many people are on the San Fran bandwagon after beating the Patriots.
The 49ers now head to Seattle. However, the Seahawks are playing really well, and are a different monster at home.
Seattle still has a chance at the NFC West, and will give everything the 49ers can handle. Seahawks win.
Last week: 6-for-7.
John Turner is a Summerside schoolteacher. His column appears every Saturday during the NFL season. Feel free to e-mail questions and comments to email@example.com.