Saints vs. Texans: Full Breakdown & Analysis for Preseason Week 3

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Saints vs. Texans: Full Breakdown & Analysis for Preseason Week 3
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans square off in the famed preseason dress rehearsal today, a final first-team tuneup before the games actually count. 

It'll be a good barometer for both clubs as Drew Brees' high-powered offense gets to test its effectiveness against one of the league's more intimidating defenses led by J.J. Watt.

Here are the things you need to know.

New Orleans Saints Major Storyline No. 1: Will New Pass-Catchers Continue To Jell With Drew Brees?

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport
WR Nick Toon had a strong preseason opener.

With Drew Brees under center and Sean Payton calling the plays, Saints fans shouldn't be worried about their team accumulating passing yards and scoring points in 2013.

We know Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Lance Moore will be Brees' go-to targets, but with his propensity to spread the football around, there are plenty of opportunities for secondary pass-catchers to contribute this season.

Veterans Steve Breaston and Patrick Crayton were signed in August, but both were cut on August 19. 

In the preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, Nick Toon led the Saints with four receptions for 66 yards on five targets. 

Last week against the Oakland Raiders, he had a 56-yard reception while rookie Kenny Stills led the way with four grabs for 64 yards and a touchdown. 

Watching how some of New Orleans' unproven pass-catchers jell with Brees will be interesting. 

New Orleans Saints Major Storyline No. 2: How Will Rob Ryan's Defense Play?

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

By now, we're well aware of how bad the Saints defense was in 2012. Although Rob Ryan's defense in Dallas wasn't significantly better, a major change was needed in New Orleans.

Unfortunately, Ryan already lost front seven members Kenyon Coleman and Victor Butler for the season. With Brees primed for another huge year, the Saints defense won't have to be ridiculously stingy, but it'll need to improve from where it was a year ago.

The Texans don't boast an elite offensive unit, but they did finish 13th in points per drive according to Football Outsiders in 2012. 

After thoroughly dominating the Raiders first-team offense a week ago, it'll be intriguing to see how the New Orleans defense fares against a more capable offense. 

Houston Texans Major Storyline No. 2: How Will Arian Foster's Backups Perform in his Absence?

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
RB Deji Karim should see some action in Week 3 of the preseason.

Arian Foster has been taken off the PUP list, but he won't play in this preseason game. Ben Tate will get the start, and Deji Karim, who has carried the ball 15 times for 92 yards in the first two exhibition games, should see a decent-sized workload. 

Foster recently said he'll be ready for Week 1; however, he's averaged 318 carries per season over the past three years, so there's a chance Houston will look to Tate and potentially a third running back to keep Foster as fresh as possible during the regular season.

Karim could lock up a roster spot with another strong game. 

Houston Texans Major Storyline No. 2: Brian Cushing's Second Preseason Appearance

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Pro Bowl LB Brian Cushing returns for his second preseason game.

Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Cushing is returning from an ACL tear he suffered in early October of last year, and he made his debut a week ago against the Dolphins

He made one solo tackle, a tackle for loss, but played only 10 snaps.

It'll be worth monitoring how long Gary Kubiak keeps his star linebacker in the game and how the former USC Trojan moves in space. 

Cushing was having a tremendous season in 2012 before going down with the knee-ligament tear, and the Texans defense was noticeably more vulnerable without him.


Bottom Line

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Will QB Case Keenum lead the Texans to victory?

This is your classic effective offense vs. effective defense battle, although it's only a preseason game. Neither squadron has been amazing in the preseason, and both first-teams would like to "end" the exhibition campaign on a high note. 

Brees, his new pass-catching targets and Tate will be solid to start, as will the surprising Karim. But Case Keenum will have an efficient fourth quarter—slightly better than Ryan Griffin and Luke McCown—to lead the Texans to victory. 

Final Score Prediction: Texans 35, Saints 31

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