Despite it only being week four this is an incredibly pivotal game for the 2022-2023 New Orleans Saints. It might not quite be a must-win, but it’s certainly not far away. Let’s see where both teams are at heading into Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday.
Saints Offense Vs Vikings Defense
The Saints very easily could be 0-3 and staring down the barrel of a completely wasted season instead they sit 1-2 thanks to a miracle fourth-quarter comeback against Atlanta in week one. Only one game off the lead in the division.
Minnesota laid a beat down on the Packers in week one, then got a similar beatdown put on them in week two by the juggernaut Eagles. Week 3 brought a very similar comeback win against the Lions as the Saints did in week one against Atlanta.
Both teams could be on the other side of results giving them very different outlooks. Even though the Saints are 1-2 and the Vikings are 2-1 both teams feel like they could end up being very similar.
Offensively so far, the Saints have been a mess for 10 of 12 quarters this season. Jameis Winston having four fractures in his back certainly doesn’t help this. His mobility is clearly affected and that has cost the Saints so far, there have been times where he could have scrambled for first downs or to extend drives or moved to avoid rushes and he clearly hasn’t been able to do it.
Therefore, a QB change is coming to give Winston a chance to heal up. The ‘Red Rifle’ Andy Dalton took first-team reps all week in practice. Winston is listed as doubtful and all reports are, he’s unlikely to play on Sunday.
There’s no guarantee that Dalton will be better than Winston. However, there is reason to believe that he could operate the offense with more rhythm than Winston has been able to. Dalton has shown throughout his career that he’s willing and able to get through his progressions quickly and take the check down. Something this offense has been missing and needs at times to keep drives going.
This could finally be the game for Alvin Kamara to shine in the passing game and look for the Saints to use Kamara to attack Jordan Hicks in coverage.
The problems with offense do not just sit with Winston and his injured back and they are much different from problems faced this time last season. Last year the Saints were too injured and completely void of talent at the skill positions.
This year, it’s the opposite. They arguably have the best WR core in the league, especially with the emergence of rookie sensation Chris Olave and to date, no offensive starters have been lost for the season (touch wood) unlike this time last year. Olave and Jarvis Landry should find ways to win Vs this Vikings secondary.
Former all-pro Patrick Peterson has started the season well. The same can’t quite be said for his other starting CBs. Cameron Dantzler and slot corner Chandon Sullivan both have allowed more than a 100-passer rating when targeted so far this year.
So, what’s the problem? Well, it seems everything else. Turnovers, Penalties and struggles against the Blitz. For more analysis on these offensive issues see https://www.full10yards.co.uk/analysing-three-key-matchups-to-watch-for-vikings-saints/
I expect to see the Vikings test the Saints’ defense early and often with the Blitz.
The Vikings have star pass rushers Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith. Expect to see Smith lined up inside on certain packages to add to the deception of the blitz. The Vikings also possess two LBs that are more than effective blitzing in Jordan Hicks and Eric Kendricks. The Saints will need to prove early that they have fixed their issues against the blitz otherwise despite not being a blitzing team the Vikings will keep coming early and often.
The offense doesn’t need to score 30 points per game as it has in the past to win games. With how this defense is playing right now 21-24 points with minimal turnovers feels like a formula to win more games than you lose.
Saints’ Defense Vs Vikings Offense
The Vikings have star pass rushers Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith. Expect to see Smith lined up inside on certain packages to add to the deception. The Vikings also possess two LBs that are more than effective blitzing in Jordan Hicks and Eric Kendricks. The Saints will need to prove early that they have fixed their issues against the blitz otherwise despite not being a blitzing team the Vikings will keep coming early and often.
The Saints’ defense overall has played well but mainly because of their coverage. Marshon Lattimore is playing like the best CB in the league through three weeks. He will have another tough test this weekend against Vikings star Justin Jefferson (more on this matchup here https://www.full10yards.co.uk/analysing-three-key-matchups-to-watch-for-vikings-saints/ ). The Saints could have their training camp MVP back fully opposite Lattimore.
Paulson Adebo was worked back in last week against Carolina, it’s expected that he will see more snaps this week. That could be huge for New Orleans considering the WRs they are expected to face on Sunday.
The pass rush needs to improve and has struggled to get pressure without blitzing. The Saints need to start getting pressure just with the front four. Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport need to get going. They have one sack between them so far.
Vitally the Saints need to do a better job stopping the run. With Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison on the other side, both have started the season well and are a massive threat to, a so far fragile and very uncharacteristically porous Saints rush defense (allowing 139.3 yards per game so far) more on the Dalvin good vs Saints rush defense here https://www.full10yards.co.uk/analysing-three-key-matchups-to-watch-for-vikings-saints/ .
State of the Rosters
A rather lengthy list of injuries for New Orleans, many carrying no injury designation meaning they will play on Sunday.
QB Jameis Winston is Doubtful for Sunday and all reports are he will not be playing leaving Andy Dalton to start.
Unfortunately, the Saints will also be without star WR Michael Thomas a player whose skills would have definitely been accentuated by Dalton’s style of play. All reports are the Toe injury shouldn’t keep him out long-term, so hopefully, him being out is more precautionary to make sure the injury isn’t made worse and keep him out longer.
Saints will also be without starting LG Andrus Peat and starting safety Marcus Maye. Not having both players hurt, backup LG Calvin Throckmorton looked rough last week after Peat went out. Not having Maye hurts quite a lot, backup safety P.J. Williams will need to step up again. We could even see Justin Evans take some safety snaps despite playing solely from the slot so far this year.
With Adebo back, that likely means Roby moves to the slot. Freeing Evans to play some more safety.
Seems unlikely 2nd round rookie Andrew Booth will make his season debut after being listed as doubtful.
Za’Darius Smith is listed as questionable, HC Kevin O’Connell has been quoted that Smith is a true game-time decision, but is trending upwards (so I’m sure he will play).
Otherwise fairly clean injury for the Vikings.
Tough one here, I like to predict things I can root for, thus generally you won’t see me pick against the Saints. This is the first game so far this year where my head says I should.
However, I can see a path for them to win this game so I’m going with that. Saints win 24-21.
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