Sometimes it's nice to get a chance to survey the landscape.
Following their bye week, the New Orleans Saints (5-1) host the Buffalo Bills (3-4) in what is coming across as a pretty innocuous game for fans of the Black and Gold. Despite the below-average record, Buffalo sports one of the most athletic rosters in the entire league.
Its propensity for running the ball (fourth overall with 983 rushing yards), and getting after the quarterback (fourth overall with 23 sacks), makes them a tough out for anyone. Now would be an opportune time for the Saints to unleash a run attack of their own, as Buffalo has the 29th-ranked rush defense in the NFL.
Buffalo is the most physical opponent the Saints will have faced thus far and is a mirror image of the Saints' following opponent—the New York Jets. Both aren't the ideal opposition—from a physicality standpoint—to precede the toughest part of the Saints' schedule.
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Those pesky Carolina Panthers are beginning to hit their stride. Following their 30-15 disposal of the St. Louis Rams, the Panthers look to go over .500 with a win over the totally defeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers—on Thursday Night Football.
Carolina still sports the No. 1-ranked defense and is allowing only 13.8 points per game. Surprisingly, it's the Panthers' 28th-ranked offense that appears to be the anchor. This is surprising for the fact that the Panthers were the 12th-ranked outfit last season—with less talent.
The Panthers' 13th-ranked run game doesn't seem all that different from last season (ninth overall) on the surface, but the difference in average yards per rush (4.5 in 2012, 3.9 this season) is the most damning statistic.
Eventually the Panthers offense will get up to speed, which will not be good news for the Saints, as the two will face off twice before it's all said and done.
The Atlanta Falcons survived the lowly Buccaneers by a score of 31-23. Injuries aren't an excuse at the professional level, but the Falcons have been ravaged by the injury bug possibly more than any other team.
With what most pegged as a favorite to be a Super Bowl participant, the Falcons may have to perform Yeoman's work to finish with an 8-8 record. Something tells me Saints fans aren't shedding a tear over that last statement.
The Buccaneers are well on their way to procuring the services of one of the best players in all of collegiate football.
University of South Carolina's defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney, would look great in a Tampa uniform.
As you can plainly see, the Saints are pretty nicked up as well. The bye week may have come at just the right time as the Saints could possibly have all of these players available for the game against Buffalo.
Graham needs to be fully healthy for the meat of the schedule. Resting him against Buffalo might be the thing to do at this point.
If Graham is not available, establishing the run game might be more of a necessity.
The Saints can't afford to be complacent in regard to their positioning in the NFC South. As great as the Saints have played thus far, the competition moving forward is much more formidable.
So far, the 5-2 Patriots have been the strongest competition, and as we all know, that contest ended in a loss. Before that, the Chicago Bears (4-3) and Miami Dolphins (3-3) were viewed as the most quality wins.
As the season continues to unfold, both of those wins are looking average at best. In addition, wins over the Falcons (2-4), Buccaneers (0-6) and Cardinals (3-4) are now considered nothing to phone home about.
Make no mistake about it; you can only beat who's on your schedule. But overlooking the deficiencies throughout your squad may prove to be problematic when the competition is heightened.
With the Dallas Cowboys (4-3), San Francisco 49ers (5-2) and Seattle Seahawks (6-1) appearing on the schedule—after the Bills and Jets—the quality of competition looks to be turning up a couple of notches.
When you factor in the aforementioned games with the Panthers, and a perennially tough road tilt with the Falcons, the Saints will be thoroughly tested the rest of the way. Remember, iron sharpens iron.
Fans shouldn't want it any other way.
It's about to get real, folks...
Saints receiver Marques Colston hasn't been as effective as most have come to expect. His 24 receptions for 324 yards, with one touchdown, are well below his standards.
With tight end Jimmy Graham receiving the majority of the opposition's attention, Colston should be his usual dominant self. Getting the opportunity to face No. 2 corners should be just what the doctor ordered for Colston. But is it his entire fault?
Here was a 3rd-and-7 opportunity that would've more than likely sealed a win against the Patriots. Colston is running a fade route against man-to-man coverage. This is a play Colston and quarterback Drew Brees have run to perfection for nearly a decade. As experienced as they are together, they seem to be on different pages.
In the initial illustration, I diagrammed the fade route in red and what should've been ran in yellow. When the Brees-to-Colston combination was in full effect, they would've ran what is called a sight adjustment.
Due to the amount of space given by the corner, coupled with the isolation, it makes the back-shoulder fade a better option at this point.
The corner does Colston a favor by initially using poor technique in his press technique. He uses his inside hand to jam the outside shoulder of Colston. Colston has all the leverage as the corner is pretty much along for the ride without leverage.
The corner does a great job of recovering and is on top of the route—in Colston's hip pocket. This heightens the chance for the sight-adjust read to come to fruition.
The corner is literally out in front of the route, and there is plenty of room to operate.
Instead they go with the called route, and it bites them in the rear. Don't expect for this duo to operate in the red for much longer.
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