1. Is the team's effectiveness affected by all the injuries?
Presumably out for this game are several key players: Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne, Darren Sproles, Turk McBride, Jabari Greer, Ramon Humber, Adrian Arrington, Nick Toon and Andy Tanner to name a few. Other guys like Marquis Johnson are on the mend and may not play either. Regardless of who plays banged up and who sits, the Saints will be running out a starting lineup that may look quite different from opening day. The Texans on the other hand aren't too banged up at this point. J.J. Watt will miss the game, as will Shaun Cody, so the defensive line of the Texans is more depleted than any other position on their roster. My big question here is how the Saints will manage, especially defensively, with three key starters out (Greer, Lofton, Hawthorne).
2. Can the Saints slow down Andre Johnson and Arian Foster?
The Texans showcase two of the very best playmakers in all of football with Arian Foster at running back and Andre Johnson at receiver. Those two would have been hard enough to stop without the Saints missing their top tackler and top cover man. With Greer out and their best two linebackers sidelined, the Saints will try to cover Johnson with the P-Rob/Patrick tandem, and slow down Foster with the Casillas-Lawrence Wilson-Shanle trio. That is a nightmare matchup for the Saints and it shouldn't be pretty, but hopefully they can surprise us.
3. Do Junior Galette and Martez Wilson continue to provide exterior pressure on passing downs?
In this game the Galette/Wilson tandem providing pressure in 3rd and long situations is even more important because without key players stopping Schaub/Owen Daniels/Kevin Walter/Johnson is going to be very difficult. Putting pressure on Matt Schaub will come at a premium. I really do believe the key to this defense improving, even more so than Hawthorne/Lofton improving the linebacker play, will be Galette and Wilson consistently getting pressure/sacks. The achilles heel of this defense the last two years has been the inability to generate a pash rush with the front four. So far it looks like Galette and Wilson are poised to change that and it would be nice to see them keep it up in this game to help get the Saints' defense off the field.
4. How does the Saints' offense move the football without Darren Sproles?
Sproles is arguably the most key component to the entire offense besides Drew Brees. Without him, a key wrinkle is lost and the Saints will need to rely on their other playmakers. Presumably Travaris Cadet will assume some of the receiving role that Sproles enjoys. I'm interested in seeing how the Saints will move the ball without Sproles. With some key interior players out for the Texans, the Saints may pass less and try to be more physical. This may be a game where Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory get pounded repeatedly between the tackles. If this were a regular season game, I have no doubts the Saints would run more than usual. That said, the Saints may elect that it's more important to get Brees going, and since Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Lance Moore have all been pretty quiet in preseason this might be their game to get numerous touches.
5. Does Joe Morgan increase his chances of making the roster by playing well?
Joe Morgan may never get a shot this good again in his NFL career. Nick Toon, Adrian Arrington and Andy Tanner are all out and won't play in this game. Greg Camarillo was just added to the team this week and I can't imagine he's an immediate threat (at least not yet) for significant reps. Morgan will get a lot of run, and the Saints will be looking for consistency out of him. His performance in this game will largely dictate his fate, but the opportunity in front of him right now with all the injuries is one all good players take advantage of. It's now or never for the young speedster. The Saints know he's raw but if he can produce a couple big explosive plays the Saints will have to weigh both his upside and health - if that happens his odds of making the team increase dramatically because Toon is almost assuredly headed for IR and Arrington/Tanner may not be ready to go week 1.