More records tumbling and a final home win of 2019 under their belts, Drew Brees and his Saints return to the march and get to 11-3 on the season. With claims for a bye week in the post season out of their hands, the Saints are doing all they can to keep the pressure on the rest of the NFC.
A very professional performance on all sides of the ball saw the Saints beat the Colts 34-7 on MNF and now move on to a road game against the Tennessee Titans. The Titans have a chance at reaching the postseason but this could be in the balance come Sunday if the Texans beat the Bucs on the Saturday football match-ups. They will be relying on the Steelers making some mistakes to sneak in. As per usual I will look into our opponents and their key players to watch out for.
Star man for me is Derrick Henry. The big, physical running back is a player who can seriously hurt any team on his day. If you let Henry find a groove and wear down your defense, he will eat, especially into the 3rd and 4th quarters. 1,535 yards from scrimmage on the season and Henry has racked up 15 TDs (13 on the ground). His power is what will hurt you on the ground with his average of just under 95 yards per game in the run. Henry tends to have HUGE games or average games. With the Saints run defense standing at 4th in the NFL, they will be hoping to contain him well even with some continuing injury issues for both Henry and the Saints Line-Backers.
Quarterback has been a position of change for the Titans, starting with Marcus Mariota, they moved to Ryan Tannehill after 6 games and have been much better for it. The Titans have gone 6-2 since Tannehill was confirmed as the starter. He has over 2000 passing yards with a very good completion % of 71.5 and 17/6 TD to INT ratio. He is playing well at the moment and is accurate even with some limitations and injuries in the receiver group.
One receiver who is playing well is rookie AJ Brown. This guy is going to be a star in the NFL. Another physical player he is incredibly hard to tackle. Stopping him getting the ball will be the key for the Saints defense in this game. That means batting passes and covering him out of the game. As a rookie, Brown does have some limitations in his route tree so the experience of the Saints defense as a unit will have to help on this part.
I’m expecting Marshon Lattimore to be shadowing Brown in this one. If Brown does get the ball in hand, the Saints will need to stop those crucial yards after catch. 893 yards is the standout of the receivers and Brown has 7 TDs to his name so far. A 91-yard-long for a score is the reason he must be tackled as soon as he gets the ball, or he gone.
Corey Davis is a receiver I like but he hasn’t really shone this season and Brown has been the main threat in the pass game. Just two touchdowns on the year for Davis and over 500 yards. He has been overshadowed and hasn’t lived up to the hype around him. Still he is a big guy and could be used in the RedZone. Adam Humphries is likely OUT for this game.
An area of concern for the Titans is their Offensive Line. 51 sacks allowed and 87 QB hits which puts them at 3rd worst in the NFL. Even though the Saints are missing Marcus Davenport and Sheldon Rankins, Cam Jordan will be licking his lips for this one. The Saints will want to create a lot of pressure on Tannehill forcing the mistakes and getting important turnovers. I’m expecting a lot of drop backs, bootlegs and QB runs here. Tennessee could also pass more with Saints injuries in the secondary, some potential new faces at cornerback and with Henry potentially limited on the day.
So, the keys for the Saints on defence are:
- Create pressure on Tannehill, forcing sacks and mis-placed passes.
- Stop Henry in the run game
- Tackle AJ Brown early or stop him receiving the ball entirely.
- STAY HEALTHY.
The Titans have a pretty good Defense and they currently sit 8th in the NFL on points allowed. Where they do fall down is pass yards allowed at 25th. With Drew Brees and Michael Thomas on fire, the Saints will be looking to the air once again.
A player who is good against the pass and could potentially cover the uncoverable Michael Thomas is Logan Ryan. On the season Ryan has the most tackles on the team with 102 as well as 3.5 sacks, 6 tackles for a loss and 4 interceptions. Great numbers for the cornerback and the Titans like to use corners in pressure plays so the Saints offensive line will have to be aware of this.
A middle of the road pass rush is lead in sacks by a Linebacker, again used in all-out pressure packages. Harold Landry is the sack leader with 9 on the season. The second-year player has also racked up 13.5 tackles for a loss and has been very effective in his blitz plays. With the usual pass rush positions not being effective on this defense, again the Saints O-line will need to be clever to pick up players blitz and pressure sets.
The line-backers as a unit have gotten a lot of sacks and they are good in the run game. With the Saints lacking in establishing the run as much as they would like with Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray, I can see them continuing through the air. Both Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown have accumulated over 90 tackles and get both sacks with TFL too. These players will be looking to stop any kind of run game being forced and keep Brees passing, which is won’t mind at all.
Down at safety, the Titans have a former Saints in there with Kenny Vaccaro alongside Kevin Byard. The later has been the better of the tandem, grabbing 4 interceptions on the year as well as 8 passes defensed. Vaccaro will be after putting on a show against his former employers and may be used in double coverage on Thomas, this will most likely draw some flags from Kenny and get some automatic first downs for the Saints…
So, the keys for the Saints offense are:
- Attempt to establish the run
- Dominate time of possession
- Use Thomas and Cook to their strengths
- Let Drew run the show.
I’ve been between winning and losing in this one. On a positive note for the Saints, the weather is set fair and won’t be too cold – I won’t get into temperatures with Celsius and Fahrenheit arguments…It could depend on what happens to the Texans on Saturday as to how the Titans play. It could also depend on whether Derrick Henry is at full tilt.
With the talent New Orleans has, especially on offense, I’m going for the road win. Also, a Vikings home win on MNF to the Packers would be a nice little Christmas present in helping to get a bye week.
Titans 17 – Saints 21