Overview: They are the champs. The New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees won the Super Bowl in case you forgot. Maybe someday a Browns quarterback can pose for a picture like Brees is going on the right.
A couple weeks ago, it appeared that like many teams that play that many games in a prior year that the Saints had a bigtime hangover. They were 3-2 and in the games they won, their margin of victory was 10 points. Like, for all three games. Five point win against Minnesota, three point win against Frisco, and a two point win against Carolina. Add in a three point loss to Atlanta and a ten point loss to the Cardinals and rookie QB Max Hall and Browns fans could have been thanking their deity of choice that the Saints weren’t the same team that won it all a year ago.
Well, then last weekend when the Browns were getting injured further in Pittsburgh the Saints were getting it together in plastering the Buccaneers 31-6 on the road. Drew Brees hit on some really big plays and they plastered the Buccaneers. Great. Just in time for the Browns to find themselves licking their wounds on the road in the dome!
Airing it Out: Drew Brees had a coming out party for 2010 last week in Tampa. This week he welcomed a new son to the family, so let’s hope he is staying at home the night before the game and that kid isn’t sleeping well. Brees led an assault on the Buccaneers for 263 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He posted a QB rating just over 109 for his efforts.
Robert Meachem and Lance Moore led the way with a touchdown each. Marques Colston didn’t have a ton of yards with 53, but he caught five balls himself. Colston is far and away the leader on the team in terms of targets for the season. If those guys weren’t scary enough, Jeremy Shockey is their tight end. On top of that, the Saints scored two of their touchdowns with passes just over 40 yards a piece. If the Browns sell out their secondary this week and expect Abe Elam and T.J. Ward to cover these receivers on the turf, Brees and company can and probably will make them pay.
Running it Down: The good news is that the Browns won’t have to contend with Reggie Bush carrying the ball and finding space to catch balls out of the backfield as he is out. The bad news is that Chris Ivory averaged over 10 yards per carry in his 15 carries against the Buccaneers.
The Browns have been pretty good against the run this season, but even if Ivory carries the load again this week for Pierre Thomas who will probably miss the game with an ankle injury. Other than Ivory the Browns could see some carries from Julius Jones and Ladell Betts both of whom averaged just over 3 yards per carry against the Buccaneers.
In the Trenches: Uh oh. The Browns placed both Tony Pashos and Robaire Smith on the IR this week. So, the Browns will have to figure out a way to get pressure on the quarterback in other ways. That could mean Shaun Rogers at DE, but I get tired of even suggesting that. We haven’t really had cause to say Shaun Rogers’ name yet this season, unfortunately.
Whichever offensive line shows up for the Browns on Sunday will have to deal with Will Smith, Sedrick Ellis, and Alex Brown from the Saints’ 4-3 defense. If the Browns decide to have a good day running, the Saints have given up 106 yards per game to opponents on the ground along with four rushing TDs.
Special Teams: Remember when the Browns used to have special teams as an advantage? Well now it is questionable whether or not Josh Cribbs is going to play after he was eviscerated a week ago by James Harrison’s legal helmet-to-helmet tackle. (Yes, I am still bitter and still talking about it even if Cribbs isn’t.) The Browns signed Yamon Figurs this week, presumably to take over the punt receiving duties. Joe Haden has spent some time returning kickoffs in the pre-season. Maybe the new looks will revitalize the special teams this week on the turf.
Prediction: I am now 3-3 picking the Browns games after being correct a week ago in predicting a Browns loss. The Browns lost 28-10 and I wrongly picked the Browns to lose by only 10 24-14.
This week the Saints are favored by 13 points. The Browns are still banged up. They are on the road. Peyton Hillis seemed healthy a week ago, which is a bonus. Colt McCoy looked pretty competent against the Steelers defense which says a lot. Still, to assume that his performance is somehow predictable based on his first week, is wrong. The Saints bring some interesting looks. If McCoy continues to make decisions quickly he might be OK. That doesn’t mean that the Browns will complete their drives for scores, necessarily. Still, if they are successful on the ground it could open some things up.
I think the Browns are just too injured. They will play hard like they always do and it will be close at halftime with the Browns losing 7-10. In the second half though the Saints will gain traction against a tired Browns defense and pour it on a bit. They will beat the Browns 27-10 as the Browns convert a late, meaningless field goal and fail to get the onside kick.
Is that specific enough for ya? I always say how silly predictions are, so consider my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. Enjoy the game, folks. The bye week will be up next.