The New Orleans Saints got a solid win last Sunday versus the Dirty to stay alive to win the NFC South. If they want to do that, they’ll need to get road wins over these next couple of holiday weekends. It’ll start this Sunday when the Black and Gold travel to Cleveland, Ohio to play the Browns. Here are five things to look out for:
1) THE WEATHER:
The forecast will not be looking pretty, optimal, or any other positive adjective that you would like to use. The weather during game time is projected to be in the teens with wind gusts of over 60 mph and about a 50 percent chance of precipitation. This game will likely be an ugly and low-scoring contest. I wouldn’t be too shocked to see the total of punts and fields be at a minimum and fewer pass attempts than we are used to seeing from either squad.
2) BROWNS RUN GAME:
The Cleveland Browns are a top-five rushing offense as they rush for 149 yards per game. Historically, the Black and Gold have been able to shut down the opposing team’s rushing games as they ranked near the top over the past few seasons. This year, there have been times when the run defense has been good but that wasn’t the case versus the Falcons last week as Atlanta ran for over 230 yards. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are the headliners of the two-man backfield as Chubb is third in the league on the ground with 1252 yards and Hunt over 600 yards from scrimmage.
3) OFFENSIVE LINE SHUFFLING:
New Orleans has lost another player that was put on season-ending IR. This time is right guard Cesar Ruiz, who was having his best season in his young NFL career. Another lineman that’ll be out for the Black and Gold will be Andrus Peat. At least the Saints recently got back rookie offensive tackle Trevor Penning back. He has since been in jumbo tight-end formations where he comes in as an extra blocker in the run game. We will see multiple changes to the line that will play in the favor of Myles Garrett and the front seven of the Browns.
4) 4TH QUARTER EXECUTION:
By the end of the third quarter, the game should still be within reach for either team. If the Saints are leading in the fourth, it’ll interesting to see how they make their fans sweat it out and keep Cleveland alive late. The Black and Gold tend to start strong and let go of their lead as we move farther along in the game. The offense becomes bland and conservative and the defense plays prevent allowing every pass to be completed and struggle to tackle, leading to big plays and touchdowns given up. Demario Davis and the defense of New Orleans will need to play a full 60 minutes if they want to leave Ohio with a win and keep their playoff chances alive.
5) WHO STEPS UP:
Due to the previously mentioned weather, this would’ve already been difficult enough to score points. It won’t be any easier for the Saints as they got some major players missing for Saturday’s contest. Wide receivers Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry and Pete Werner are the biggest names to be officially inactive. Now that you won’t have your top three pass catchers, Andy Dalton will have to lean on others like Juwan Johnson, Rashid Shaheed, Tre’Quan Smith, and Marquez Callaway to put points up on the board.
Kick-off is scheduled for Saturday, December 24th at 12:00 p.m.