Since beating the reigning Super Bowl Champions on Halloween, the New Orleans Saints have gone on to lose their last four games and now sit below .500 at 5-6. It seems strange for New Orleans to have a losing record this late in the season after winning four straight NFC South division titles.
Injuries have derailed any hope of making a run at a five-peat, with Jameis Winston (torn ACL), Michael Thomas (ankle), Andrus Peat (pectoral), and possibly Adam Trautman (knee) all missing the rest of the season. Star running back Alvin Kamara has also missed the last three games thanks to a knee injury.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Saints also went into last week’s game against the Buffalo Bills without both starting tackles, Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead, running back Mark Ingram, defensive ends Marcus Davenport and Tanoh Kpassagnon, and Taysom Hill, who was limited to just emergency backup quarterback duty.
To make matters even worse, it seems likely that the Saints’ best receiver, Deonte Harris, will be suspended for at least three games at some point this season.
Trevor Siemian began his Saints career with a heroic effort, coming in to replace an injured Winston and leading New Orleans to a dramatic win over the Bucs. Unfortunately, it’s all been downhill since then. To be fair, Siemian hasn’t played nearly as badly as people may think. The narrative that the Saints can’t win without Drew Brees has been so tiring and lazy, to say the least.
At times, the 29-year-old has looked solid and capable of running Sean Payton’s complex offense. He’s accurate, has a decent arm, and overall makes good decisions with the football, which is just about all you can hope for in a backup quarterback.
The bigger problem is with the Saints receivers and pass catchers as a whole, who struggle to create separation and drop passes on a regular basis. It’s so obvious how subpar this receiving group has been this season and I truly don’t believe any quarterback can succeed with this level of talent surrounding them.
With that being said, is it really fair to judge Siemian without more than half of the starting offense on the field? Even the great Drew Brees would have had trouble finding a rhythm without his top receiver, two top running backs, top tight end, and three of his five starting offensive linemen due to injury.
But regardless of your stance on the matter, the fact is something has to change. The offense has been downright painful to watch the past few weeks and is in desperate need of a spark. Does Payton finally turn to Taysom Hill as his starter (if healthy) to try and get the offense going? (Spoiler Alert: He did) It should most certainly be an option with time quickly running out on the season.
Thankfully, it looks like the Saints will be getting healthier this week as Kamara, Ingram, and Ramczyk were all back at practice on Sunday.
The Saints will be up against the 7-4 Dallas Cowboys who have a few problems of their own to deal with, as they’ll be without starting offensive tackle Terence Steele and several assistants due to COVID-19 protocols.
In addition to the outbreak, Dallas will be managing injuries to stars like Ezekiel Elliot (knee) and CeeDee Lamb (concussion) but will be getting a boost with Amari Cooper, who has missed the last two games due to COVID, expected back this week.
This is going to be a tough game for the Saints, even with the Cowboys being banged up and missing key players/coaches. Dallas has a high-powered offense, led by quarterback Dak Prescott, that is capable of scoring at will. The defense will yet again have to do most of the heavy lifting if the Saints are going to have a chance in this one and the offense will have to find a way to put up points and avoid another extremely slow start.
New Orleans is going to have to stop the bleeding somehow, someway very quickly if they want to sneak into the playoffs. The Saints are currently in a three-way tie with the Vikings and Falcons for the final seventh seed in the NFC.
Getting back Ramczyk, Kamara and Ingram will definitely help the offense get going. It would also provide a big boost if Hill can play any number of snaps in his regular joker role, but that’s still to be determined.
While losing this game would put a dent in the Saints playoff hopes, the remaining schedule after this week consists of the Jets, Bucs, Dolphins, Panthers, and Falcons. Four out of those five games are very winnable and if the team can just catch a break with injuries, they have a legit shot at finishing the season at 9-8, which will most likely be good enough for the seventh seed.
But if the offense continues to show no life whatsoever, New Orleans will quickly be forced to focus their attention on the 2022 season.