The streak is over. The New Orleans Saints were beaten at home last week snapping a 20 game home winning streak that stretched back to the 2011 season.

Who Dats were hoping that a win against San Francisco would propel the Black and Gold to a possible 5-game winning streak by the time the team would have to hit the road again in Pittsburgh.

New Orleans however couldn’t finish against San Francisco a week ago. A common theme unfortunately this season as the 49ers converted on a 4th and 10 that would lead to a game tying field goal.

It’s really disappointing and almost upsetting when you thinking about it. Nine games in and the Saints are battling to stay atop the NFC South Division with a 4-5 record. Atlanta and Carolina are a game back at 3-6 (Panthers have a tie) with Tampa at 1-8. New Orleans should be wrapping up the division this week rather than trying to hold on to the top spot. Atlanta had a 5-game losing streak and a photo gallery of possible head coaches on the Sports section’s front page of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution two weeks ago. Carolina has no offense and Tampa, well they have one win for crying out loud.

The positive thing of course is that the Saints do have the most talent in the division and still control their fate.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Cincinnati is coming off of a dreadful performance on offense picking up 165 yards for the game. QB Andy Dalton went 10 of 33 for 86 yards and 3 interceptions. The Bengals also haven’t been good on the road recently losing by a combined 70-17 score to Indianapolis and New England. The Saints faced a similar situation last week. They have to avoid giving this offense any spark or confidence which can come with an early turnover.

THE SAINTS OFFENSE

Saints quarterback Drew Brees had another week of answering questions about his decision-making ability and risk taking. Naturally he defended those as did several teammates in the locker room. We get the offense is a high risk one at times with the amount of throws Brees makes. That said the Saints have seen RB Mark Ingram rush for over 100 yards for three consecutive weeks and seen the return of the big pass play. So just how risky is it? The ball is moving. Brees has made better decisions and not forced the issue.

Cincinnati is riddled with injuries and is giving up an NFL worst 391.9 yards per game and the Saints are second in the league with 435 total yards per game.

THE SAINTS DEFENSE

Cam Jordan is showing signs of life as of late and is picking up the pace on the sack front. Junior Galette continues to play well and for the defensive line the goal Sunday is simple and that is to stop RB Jeremy Hill. The former LSU Tigers back has rushed for 209 yards in the last two games as he fills in for Giovani Bernard who’s out with a hip injury.

An area of concern is at corner as in who’ll cover WR A.J. Green. CB Keenan Lewis said this week he’ll play but how healthy is he? One good thing could be Green has been nagged by a foot injury this season and after missing three games has just six catches for 67 yards in the two games since his return.

X-FACTORS

TE Jimmy Graham is my X-Factor on offense. The Bengals are banged up on the defensive front, which means that for them to bring pressure they’ll have to blitz. Graham should be able to exploit quick reads or find space over the middle.

SS Kenny Vaccaro has yet to play the way he, well, played last season as a rookie. Vaccaro continues to take bad angles, miss tackles and frankly not make plays. Dalton’s confidence is shaky at best right now and could force a throw or two to Green. Maybe Vaccaro will be at the right place at the right time this week.

MY TAKE

I think the Saints can win this game. They are the better team and are the healthier one as well. Cincy is a bad road team and again should be a problem if the Saints don’t provide them with early hope. Avoid the early turnover, run the ball and pressure a shaky Andy Dalton and it should be a good Sunday for Who Dats in the Dome. Saints win 31-17.