Gus Kattengell’s Saints Report – Buffalo Bills Game
The New Orleans Saints are finally ready to get back in action as they host the (3-4) Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Who Dats have seen their team start off the season nicely as the 5-1 record marks only the third time the Saints have began that way joining the 1988 and 2002 seasons. In 1991 and 2009, the team was 6-0 through the first six games.
10 games remain for the Saints and five of those are what I call the “gauntlet portion” in which the Saints will square off against five straight NFC opponents in Dallas, San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle and Carolina. I believe that stretch of games absolutely will determine whether the Saints will be among the top two teams in the playoffs standings. That of course is big because you get a first round bye and host the second round game.
Head coach Sean Payton all week has said that he has been happy with the way his team came off the bye week. QB Drew Brees said he felt the team look refreshed and were “flying around” during the practices this week. The Saints have done a good job of handling the bye week as they have won four straight games coming off of their bye.
The game marks the return of former Saints offensive line coach Doug Marrone, in his first year as Buffalo’s head coach, spent three seasons under Sean Payton from 2006-2008.
This games marks the tenth time the two teams have met and the Black and Gold lead the series 5-4.
Buffalo has been in their games this season leading in all but one game and 14 points has been the largest deficit margin. Running back CJ Spiller has rushed for 362 yards on 90 carries as the workhorse of the Bills but is coming off of just a six carry 11 yard effort last week due to an ankle injury. He is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game. Fellow running back Fred Jackson is no slouch with 380 yards on the ground and 215 yards receiving to go with five touchdowns.
Quarterback Thad Lewis will be under center as he plays in place of injured rookie EJ Manuel who is recovering from a knee injury. Lewis is 1-1 as the starter going 40 of 64 for 418 yards along with two TDs and an interception.
Tight End Jimmy Graham won’t play Sunday as he continues to heal from a foot injury suffered at New England. The injury may help or rather force quarterback Drew Brees to spread the ball around a bit more. Graham leads the team in receptions with 37 and after that Brees has thrown to running backs 69 times. Receiver Lance Moore is back after missing three games.
Buffalo’s defense leads the NFL in interceptions with 12 and their 23 sacks are good for fourth best in the NFL. Bills defensive end Mario Williams leads the pass rush with his 10 sacks this season, he had 10.5 sacks all of last season.
HOW I SEE IT
The Saints have played good football so far this season, yet they haven’t played I think to the best of their ability. Offensively the running game appears to be coming along but it remains far from being something to be counted on. Defensively, the Saints continue to get pressure (five sacks at New England last game), and tackle well. The points and yards have gone up since the start of the season but the talent they’ve faced has increased as well. The key is if the Saints defense holds opponents to field goals rather than touchdowns. Redzone defense is what defensive coordinator Rob Ryan preaches the most so expect that to continue to be a key element.
Buffalo four losses are by a combined 25 points, three of those losses have been by two points in one game a pair of games by three points. The Bills’ losses have come against the Patriots, Jets, Browns and Bengals with their wins coming against Carolina, Baltimore and Miami.
The Saints won’t roll over Buffalo but they are more talented and are further along than the Bills.
Protecting Drew Brews will be key against defense that has shown this season the ability to pressure the quarterback and take the ball away. A way to combat that is the use of the running back as a receiver out of the backfield and it’s something the Bills have struggled with this season. Expect to see running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles be used a good amount in this capacity.
Buffalo doesn’t have a dangerous passing game and their weapons are limited which is why I feel that if the Saints offense can find pay dirt early and often the Bills will struggle to play catch up.
I see it Saints 31 Bills 13.
***Don’t forget, you can hear all the action here on Acadiana’s Saints station, 97.3 The Dawg. Pre-game begins at 10am with Bobby Hebert and the Big Chief followed by the kick-off at noon with Jim Henderson and Hokie Gajan, plus your calls and comments following the game.***