Sunday is a battle of two teams struggling to right its ship. Who will stay afloat while the other sinks?

The Saints got a few extra days off thanks to playing and winning their lone Thursday night game against Atlanta. It’s a win that had Saints fans feeling good heading into the weekend and players in the Saints locker room something to smiles about if only for a little.

Indianapolis suffered a 34-27 loss to visiting New England in a game that was back and forth for a while but because of a strange punt formation (in which there was only the snapper and player under center and no one else), the game has become one to joke about.

It’s almost like two weeks ago as the Saints prepared to take on Philadelphia. Where both teams were similar but had different feels to them. The Colts went to the AFC Championship game last season and are team that made moves in the offseason in hopes of getting to the big game this year. On 0-2 start, add a shot fired at the team’s GM by the head coach, and an injury to the franchise quarterback have the 500 team feeling more like a 1-5 team.

The Saints like when heading into the Eagles game coming off of a win and are hoping to do something there only accomplished once last year, win a second straight game. It seems remarkable that at team in 2009 won 13 straight, and finished the season in 2011 winning nine straight are at a point where stringing consecutive wins is a major point of emphasis.

New Orleans has won seven of nine matchups against Indianapolis including Super Bowl 44.

HOW THE SOUTH IS WON

Carolina          5-0      vs Philadelphia +3.0

Atlanta            5-1      @ Tennessee    +5.0

Tampa Bay     2-3      @ Washington  -3.5

New Orleans  2-4      @ Indianapolis -4.5

STORYLINES

Two storylines stick out to me this week those being the realization a win doesn’t fix the Saints problems and the attempt to reestablish a culture of winning.

QB Drew Brees was quick to point out that the team doesn’t think that just because they beat the previously undefeated Falcons that the Saints are well on their way to the post season. The win doesn’t mask the problems the Saints have on offense such as the need to score more points as Brees pointed out. Head coach Sean Payton said this week that during a team meeting he addressed the need to be able to run and stop the run better or the Saints would continue to be an inconsistent team. The team is also entering the game with a new kicker and on the defensive side of things the team is near the bottom on nearly every statistical category for a reason.

The players also this week were reminded that if the Saints want to make the post season again they are going to have to win a couple of games in a row, something the team only did once last season. The Saints beat the Packers back on October 26 and followed that up with a win at Carolina on the 30th.  When reminded that the Saints used to be a team that strung together wins tackle Zach Strief once against reminded the media that this aren’t those teams of say 2009 and 2011. Brees, Marques Colston and Strief are really the only players that were apart of teams that experienced long winning streaks. Brees said that it was a focus to get back to being a team that can win consecutive games in a row and that is where the Saints are right now, a team that has to relearn how to become a winning football team.

THE ENEMY

Indianapolis enters the game (3-3) on the season coming off of a 34-27 loss that snapped a three game winning streak after starting the season out at 0-2. Indianapolis had a one-point halftime lead and the game has gotten a ton of attention for the trick play – fake punt that was called that was a horrible decision.

QB Andrew Luck suffered an injury to his shoulder that forced him to miss two games, both of which were won by the Colts as back up Matt Hasselbeck who performed well, but Luck in his first game back played well throwing for 312 yards and three TDs without one pick last week.

The Colts are in first place of the AFC South Division a game in front of Houston. Tennessee and Jacksonville are next with just one win on the season. New Orleans will play the Texans, Titans and Jaguars later in the season.

BY THE NUMBERS

The Saints offense is ranked 18th in points at 22.3(18th) a game getting there averaging 387.0 (7th) yards a game via 302.3 (3rd) in the air and just 84.7 (31st) yards on the ground. Indianapolis’s offense is averaging 21.0 (23rd) points a game by gaining 347.2 (19th) yards on average getting there by averaging 250.5 (13th) yards through the air and 96.7 (22nd) on the ground.

Defensively the Saints are giving up 27.3 (28th) points a game while allowing 409.7 yards (32nd). Teams are passing for 271.5(24th) yards and rushing for 138.2 (30th) against the Saints. The Colts are giving up 24.5 (18th) points a game while allowing 401.8 (29th) yards.  Teams are passing for 289.2 (28th) yards and rushing for 112.7 (20th) against the Colts.

PLAYER THAT NEEDS TO HAVE A GOOD GAME ON OFFENSE

Running back Mark Ingram. The Saints rushing attack is non-existent ranked second to last in the NFL at 84.7 yards a game. Payton this week said the Saints must stop the run better and run the ball better. RB C.J. Spiller this week that Payton saying those words were taken as a personal challenge to him and the running back group. Spiller wants the ball and I’ll get to that in a minute, but the running game will be on the shoulder of Mark Ingram. He wants it and has shown the ability to carry the ball a high volume. Establishing the run game will help keep Brees healthy and more importantly bring back the big play down the field. Can’t play action when there is no reason to respect the run.

PLAYER THAT NEEDS TO HAVE A GOOD GAME ON DEFENSE

Safety Jairus Byrd. The Colts are one of the top teams in the NFL at having big pass plays and want have big pass plays so they will take plenty of shots. Communications between CBs Delvin Breaux and Brandon Browner will be key and with those shots comes opportunity for Byrd to perhaps make a big play with a turnover.

X FACTORS

Running back C.J. Spiller. Payton this week again was asked about the lack of touches by Spiller in recent games. Coach got testy and assured media that Spiller isn’t frustrated and that he expects there to be opportunities for the running back in the coming games. Spiller can be a player that can be used in both the run and more importantly the passing game. If the offensive line struggles in protecting Brees for throws down the field Spiller short passes would be the way I go.

HOW I SEE IT

This game has every appearance of it being an even game. Indianapolis one can argue is perhaps more talented going on the argument that they came up one win shy of making a Super Bowl appearance.  It’s also a game where both offenses have struggled and each has a defense where just slowing teams down at times would be nice. So who has the edge? It’s honestly about who doesn’t make the most mistakes. I know that sounds cliché’ but what I mean is that neither team can afford to overcome costly penalties or turnovers. Coach Payton said that the Saints have only lost one game since he’s been here where they have not turned the ball over. In the team’s two wins this season, the Saints have not turned the ball over, yet Payton pointed out that the Saints are 15-19 following a game in which they don’t turn the ball over.

I think the focus of trying to get a second straight win and the defense continuing to grow is just enough as new kicker Kai Forbath will prove his worth quickly as he hits two or three kicks in 23-20 Saints win.

 

***Hear the game on Acadiana's Saints Station, 97.3 The Dawg. We've got the pre game Sunday starting at 10am with kick-off at noon, then your calls and comments following the game.***