Gameday!!!!!! The Saints are looking for their third in a row today which would bring them one game closer to .500 and a 3-4 record overall. To do that they will need to beat an extremely good Denver Broncos team at their place that is much better than their 3-3 record might indicate. It will take every bit of the Saints' best football to come away with a win. Here are five things I'm looking for:
1. Does Joe Vitt's Return Make a Difference?
I'm looking for Vitt to scream at refs, get in player's faces and make a noticeable difference from the fan's visual perspective during the game. Maybe that's too much to ask, but I really feel like this team needs a shot in the arm and as the head coach Vitt's duty is to come in and give this team a boost. I feel like this team has had a void in leadership since the beginning of the year and Vitt is the kind of guy that could be just what the doctor ordered. Hopefully he can hit the ground running. His return comes at a crucial stage as the Saints are playing better but their margin of error is still very small.
2. Can the Saints Establish the Run?
The running game has been very poor lately, particularly when Mark Ingram gets the football. Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller are terrifying pass rushers that have already combined for 11 sacks this season! The Saints have 13 sacks as a unit, only 2 more than those 2 players alone. The Saints can't afford to become one dimensional and allow those two to get after Brees on every down. Establishing the run comes at a premium and has never been more important than in this game. I don't care if it's Ingram, Chris Ivory, Pierre Thomas, or incessant end arounds with Greg Camarillo (yes I realize he's no longer on the team) but the Saints need to find a way to keep Miller and Dumervil honest.
3. Can the Jimmy Graham of 2011 Return?
It looks like Jimmy Graham's bum ankle won't prevent him from playing this week, but Graham for most of this season has been a disappointment. He's officially listed as a gametime decision but I believe he'll be a go. He's been banged up and dropped numerous easy passes this season. He's made his fair share of plays, too, but he hasn't gone in full out beast mode like he did all of last year. The Saints need a big performance from him. Maybe that's too much to expect from a guy that's ailing and just recovering from an injury but the Saints could use his help now with a game this tough.
4. Does the Saints Defense Do Anything Right?
Literally, the Saints' D match up so poorly against the Broncos, I feel like Denver could also call any play they wanted in their entire playbook in almost any situation and it would work. Peyton Manning, specifically, should torch the Saints repeatedly and at will. I have very low confidence they'll be able to do anything positive to slow the Broncos down. I hope they prove me wrong. I'm looking for something. Anything.
5. Does Drew Brees Remain on Fire?
Anything short of Brees playing out of his mind probably results in a loss. But, with Drew Brees as your quarterback you always stand in with a chance against anyone, regardless of the situation. Brees has played exceptionally well at times the last four weeks, but he's yet to truly but it together for an entire game with the possible exception of last week against Tampa. He does seem to have gotten better every week, though, and if he can build off last week's performance again and play ever better, that starts to get really scary for opposing defenses. How about it Drew?
Enjoy the game!