The Saints look to be walking into the dome badly wounded but, not dead. Let’s take a look at how this version of the Saints, down many starters, matchup to last season’s Superbowl runners-up the Cincinnati Bengals.
Saints Offense Vs Bengals Defense
It’s expected that the Saints will give Andy Dalton at least one more start this week, Jameis Winston has been limited in practice this week and has looked healthier. It makes sense with how efficient the offense has been under Dalton to give Winston another game or two to make sure he’s as close to full health as possible before inserting him back into the line-up.
Dalton will need to continue his efficient play under center this week as he will almost definitely be without Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry again, there is hope that Chris Olave will be available for the game after returning to practice on a limited basis following his concussion on Sunday Vs Seattle.
Adam Schefter who’s usually a reliable source tweeted last week that the Saints expected Thomas back this week and the fact he is still not practising is concerning, after the debacle of MT’s ankle injury this has shades of how that was reported, maybe it’s just the Saints preserving him going into a short week against Arizona next week on Thursday night, that’s what I’m hoping.
If the Saints have Olave available then that’s good enough for the passing offense to function with a healthy dose of Alvin Kamara mixed too.
Speaking of Kamara this has to be another strong rushing game, the offense has to play complimentary football, shorten the game and keep a defense without Marshon Lattimore against Ja’Marr Chase fresh.
Kamara had his best game of the season last week and was running was more noticeable burst than he’s had recently, he did have another costly fumble, to continue the theme of the offense needing to play complimentary football that can’t happen this week, nor going forward. The Saints offense needs to be able to rely on its best player not to make killer mistakes so they can feed him because when you do that special things happen.
The Bengals defense has allowed 4.2 yards per carry so far this season, which ranks 10th best in the league. They are without arguably their best-run defender this week with DJ Reader on IR. They managed to bottle up Lamar Jackson last week for only 4.8 YPC last week, which is about as good as you can hope for. That was also a perfect matchup for them to help in the preparation for the Saints own mobile QB weapon.
Enter Taysom Hill, along with Kamara he needs plenty of touches early and often if the Saints are going to win this game. More on Taysom vs the Bengals here- Analysing Three Key Saints Matchups To Watch in Week Six – Full10Yards.
The Bengals defense enters the dome as one of the better units in the league and so far looks like the best defense in this game. Trey Hendrickson returns to New Orleans and leads a stout d-line, Hendrickson has been a force on the edge since his last season for the Saints, which has only continued for the Bengals. The Saints o-line will have a handful this weekend with him and Sam Hubbard on the edge and B.J Hill on the inside.
The secondary for Cincinnatti is led by another former Saint Vonn Bell, the Saints chose to sign veteran Malcolm Jenkins over Bell in free agency a few years ago, something he hasn’t forgotten, he was quoted this week by Cincinnati media “ they drafted me, yeah, and I appreciate the opportunity. But they moved on from me. You never forget that.”
Chidobe Awuzie leads the CBs, he’s only allowing 42.4% of the passes thrown his way to be completed with 4 PBUs and a 62.4 passer rating when targeted. He will give the Saints WRs all they can handle this weekend. Opposite him is Saints reject Eli Apple starting opposite, who has played well so far this year but expect New Orleans to target him frequently rather than Awuzie.
Saints Defense Vs Bengals Offense
The Saints defense is expected to be without their best cover CB on Sunday Marshon Lattimore is expected to be out after bruising his kidney against Seattle last week. Every week is a bad week to be without your best CB, this week hurts especially with Ja’Marr Chase making his return to the Superdome for the first time since his days at LSU.
Paulson Adebo will need to step up after a dier showing against Seattle last week. Hopes were high for Adebo entering his second season, he was widely considered to be the training camp MVP and most improved player on the defense before suffering an ankle injury that sidelined up for the first 2 games of the regular season.
It’s expected that Bradley Roby will start opposite him this week, Roby had been manning the slot since Adebo’s return. posing the question who starts in the slot? do the Saints return to Justin Evans? who started in the slot at the start of the year. Or do they go with Chris Harris Jr. who was an elite slot CB for most of his career but he is in the twilight of his career at this stage, so who knows how effective he will be at this stage?
Whoever mans the slot will have their hands full with one of the better slot WRs in the league Tyler Boyd. Outside of Boyd and Chase, the Bengals have their own question mark surrounding their number two WR Tee Higgins, an elite big play machine who will be questionable this week after missing practice at the start of the week with a knee injury, before some limited participation today.
The Saints should have safety Marcus Maye back this week which should help this Saints defense defend big plays. More on the secondary’s issues with big plays here- https://www.full10yards.co.uk/analysing-three-key-saints-matchups-to-watch-in-week-six/ .
Having Maye back should also allow HC/defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to use Tyrann Mathieu in the way he envisioned when Mathieu was signed, a more free-flowing playmaker at safety who can line up anywhere, without too many responsibilities. That’s the version of the Honey Badger the Saints need on Sunday.
The Saints also shouldn’t have to stack the box to defend the run this week. Despite having one of the better RBs in the league, the Bengals running game has been stagnant. Joe Mixon is averaging 3.1 yards per carry so far this season. Without having to stack the box the Saints can live in NICKEL (2LBs, 5DBs), which should also help against the pass.
Cam Jordan and the rest of the Saints d-line should have an advantageous matchup this week against a porous Bengals o-line. If the Saints d-line, especially Marcus Davenport doesn’t dominate this week and they need to help limit the big plays against this Bengals passing attack, then I don’t know when they will. More on Davenport and the Bengals o-line here- https://whodathype.com/2022/10/14/bold-saints-predictions-saints-bengals/ .
State Of The Rosters
No surprises for the Saints, Olave being upgraded to full is a huge development, but his status for the game is still up in the air. Fingers crossed he plays, with Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry out the Saints need their standout rookie.
On the Bengals side Tee Higgins and Jonah Williams missed practice all week but practised on a limited basis on Friday, I’m sure they will play, there’s been no reporting on that its just big players, especially WRs always seem to find a way to play when the Saints are the opponent. If Higgins doesn’t play that would be a huge help to the Saints secondary.
I’ve predicted the Saints to win every game this season so far, but with the injuries, I don’t think I can this game. There’s a path for the Saints to win if the running game dominates and the defense limits big plays they can win. Of course, I hope they do win, but I think the injuries are just too much to overcome this week.
28-20 Bengals win.
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