Posted Wed Sep 17th by Ian Henson
Quick facts: Mike Shanahan is 2-1 versus the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees has been hurt twice against Denver in his career (one of which ushered in the Philip Rivers‘ era). Former Denver WR Keary Colbert posted his best game last season against New Orleans (4 for 74 yards, including one 49 yard reception). RB Michael Pittman was born in New Orleans, LA, and has posted one of his ten 100 yard games against the Saints.
The New Orleans Saints were a sexy pick to make the playoffs… Last season, but this season, they have had their moments of brilliance and they’ve had their middle-tier-team moments. In week one against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers they were able to pick apart a very strong defense. It is of note that the Buccaneers sat starting quarterback Jeff Garcia, mysteriously, following this game. Garcia claimed that he was healthy enough to play in week two, yet backup Brian Griese got the starting job in week two for the Bucs. All of this amidst rumors that Tampa had offered Garcia to the San Francisco 49ers.
The only reason that I mention all of this, is because the Saints were able to beat the Buccaneers, but was it because of the lack of power from the Buccaneers offense? Who is to say, but Garcia’s listed as the third-string quarterback going into week three for the Bucs.
The Saints owned the game most of last week versus the Washington Redskins, but like the Broncos, allowed the opposing team to get back in the game in the second half. However, unlike the Broncos, the Saints ultimately lost.
How were the Redskins able to defeat the Saints? Well, by neutralizing running back Reggie Bush. Bush wasn’t much of a rushing threat, nor was he much of a force on offense at all, he ran a punt return back 55-yards for a touchdown.
Quarterback Drew Brees was 22 of 33 passes for 216 yards with a touchdown pass and two interceptions. Bush led the Saints with 146 all purpose yards. Washington out gained New Orleans in yardage 455-250 and held the ball for 33:43 of the contest compared to 26:46 for the Skins. Bush led the Saints in both rushing (28 yards) and receiving (seven catches for 63 yards).
Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell completed 22 of 33 passes for 321 yards with one touchdown pass. Washington wide receiver Santana Moss recorded seven catches for 164 yards with one touchdown. Redskins running back Clinton Portis rushed 21 times for 96 yards, including eight and nine yard touchdown scampers.
The Saints had three rookies in the starting lineup (LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, DT Sedrick Ellis and CB Tracy Porter).
Where the Broncos will run into major problems
Reggie Bush on special teams: Think Darren Sproles was a problem? Well, think Devin Hester on this one, Sproles was a misprint compared to what Bush is capable of doing with the ball on a return.
Redzone Defense: The Broncos have played the, ‘Bend, but don’t break,’ defense to near perfection when inside the redzone this season. However, the Saints in 2007 were the number one offense in scoring when inside the redzone. In 50 trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, the Saints scored 36 touchdowns for a 72.0 percent effectiveness rate. Drew Brees had an NFL-best 116.8 passer rating in in the red zone, completing 60-of-84 passes (71.4 percent) for 314 yards, 23 TD passes, zero sacks taken and zero interceptions.
This season, the Saints are ranked for eighth in the NFL and third in the NFC in red zone touchdown percentage (66.7) through two games.
Leading going into the fourth quarter: If Denver’s not winning going in the the fourth quarter, then it is of note that Saints’ head coach Sean Payton is 17-3 in his career and would most likely pull through with the victory.
Deuce McAllister: He’s back and barring any major setback in practice this week, he’s looking to be back in the starting lineup. He can hurt in a number of ways, not just in the way that he can run the ball, but on passing downs. He’s one of the best blocking backs in the league in pass protection, this will slow down the first tier of Broncos lineman who are able to get penetration. He is the man in the short yardage game as well, a spot where, had he been more of a presence, the Saints may be marching into Denver 2-0, instead of 1-1.
How does Denver win?
Pressure all day on Drew Brees: Brees is an incredible quarterback, but as I mentioned in the Quick Facts portion, Brees has been hurt twice against the Broncos (both as a Charger). So the Broncos, at least at one point knew how to get at him and get to him. Speaking of sacking a quarterback, what happened to blitzing packages that we saw in training camp? Put Jarvis Moss back on the active roster, bookend him opposite Elvis Dumervil, stick Ebenezer Ekuban and Dewayne Robertson or Marcus Thomas in the middle and let’s see what happens. Let’s see what happens with Jack Williams in the nickel spot instead of Karl Paymah and let Dre Bly or Champ Bailey peel off the corner and steam roll a quarterback. Conservative defense is what got us into that god damned gun-slinging match-up against the Chargers.
Champ Bailey’s reemergence as a shut-down corner: Is it me or are quarterbacks going extra hard at Champ over the last three seasons? Bailey’s a future Hall of Famer and these aren’t his twilight years, this is the man’s prime, let’s see the tenacity and audacity of the old Champ. We saw a bit of it on the second play against Philip Rivers and the Chargers. However, that’s not enough, the Saints are without their best receiver and have relegated his looks to their running back.
Passing: The Buccaneers didn’t and the Redskins did, the running back by committee is a concern for fantasy players. It’s working perfectly in Denver, fresh legs, 5.4 yard averages per-carry. It really doesn’t matter who is running the ball. Denver needs to supplement Brandon Marshall for their running game once again and Jay Cutler needs to connect with Brandon Stokley whenever possible. With Eddie Royal available on deep routes, Darrell Jackson will also be a factor, if in fact he is active/healthy. This is all not mentioning Tony Scheffler, who is still Cutler’s favorite target, no matter what Marshall’s 18 catches said last week.
Don’t let Jeremy Shockey become a factor: Boss Bailey got very, very lucky on a couple of over-throws to Antonio Gates or it could have gotten really ugly early. Let’s not take our chances two-weeks in a row. When facing a top 10 tight end, like Jeremy Shockey, the Broncos must blanket them, speed wise, Boss owns Shockey. Get at Shockey’s ego early and neutralize him.
UPDATE: According to ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson, Jarvis Moss is set to make his debut Sunday. [ESPN]
Nation, what are your keys to your favorite team winning this weekend? Predictions on where Cutler and co. fair following Sunday, are they still number one or will the Broncos have to rush a little bit more? And the defense… Where do they stand after this weekend, do you agree with me on the blitz packages? Want to see Dre Bly and Marlon McCree in the backfield more often?