It goes without saying, but Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans could dictate the rest of the season for the New Orleans Saints. Staring at a 4-6 record with six contests to go doesn’t necessarily give you a death sentence in today’s NFL, but a loss will seriously complicate things for the black and gold.
The New Orleans Saints currently sit 11th in the race for the playoffs. The St. Louis Rams (4-6), Washington Redskins (4-6), Chicago Bears (5-6), Seattle Seahawks (5-5), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5), Atlanta Falcons (6-4), and Green Bay Packers (7-4) all stand in the way, with the Falcons and Packers holding onto the final two Wild Card spots. The mood of the team is one that hasn’t given up hope, as they continue to fight through and endure. If the Saints want to better themselves in the race, here’s what they’ll have to hit on to generate a victory.
Get on the Texans early
With the Texans winning three straight games, they’ll have a very energized crowd at NRG Stadium. The AFC South has Houston currently tied with Indianapolis at 5-5, but the edge goes to the Colts for the division lead. If there’s one thing the Saints can do to help their cause, it’s getting the home crowd out of it early. Long offensive drives will be key early, and with the pressure more on the Saints defense in this contest, I’d expect them to have to set the tone.
Control, isolate, or do what you can against J.J. Watt
6 sacks on Drew Brees in the past two games sets the tone for most things right now. The team is searching for answers at left guard right now, and have a hobbled Terron Armstead toughing things out. Zach Strief will be tasked with defending against J.J Watt, who enters Sunday with 11.5 of the Texans 27.0 sacks this season. While Strief has had some respective opportunities this season, blocking Watt will be a focal point of the Saints offensive attack. I fully expect the Saints to have tight end blocking help from Ben Watson and Josh Hill, and Michael Hoomanawanui picking up some extra assignments.
Watt’s had only three games this season where he’s been held without a sack (Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, and Jacksonville). I don’t think he’ll be held off the stat sheets against the Saints hobbled offensive line, but the idea is to not let him find his groove.
Do what you haven’t been doing
130 points allowed in the last three contests and 1,409 yards surrendered by the defense. The Saints defense, or lack thereof, has been equivalent to a hot knife slicing through butter. Will Dennis Allen really make that much of a difference for the Saints? That’s the million dollar question that we’ll see answered during Sunday. The Texans offense comes in 13th in the league with 357.5 yards per game, and New Orleans is giving up a league worst 424.3 yards per game defensively.
Needless to say, playing defense is something that Dennis Allen’s squad will have to do tomorrow. If you’re going to make a big difference, getting a strong pass rush going early will help alleviate woes in the secondary.
Get key players to step up
Where do we begin when you talk about the disappointing players on the New Orleans Saints right now? Brandon Browner, C.J. Spiller, Jairus Byrd, and Marques Colston are just a select few of some of the team’s players who need to step up on Sunday. The Saints offense went stale last week after a strong start, which was largely fueled by Mark Ingram and Brandin Cooks. With a team that is struggling so heavily, they’ll need an unlikely hero to step up and deliver for the team tomorrow. That spark must be ignited, and it doesn’t matter where it comes from, it just needs to happen.