Texans vs. Saints NFL Week 3: 4 Reasons This Could Be a Super Bowl Preview
Both respective teams have quarterbacks that can raise the level of play of every offensive player that surrounds them. Drew Brees is certainly highly regarded in this aspect, whereas Matt Schaub has his chance with Peyton Manning residing on injury reports rather than under center.
Sunday's game will not only be entertaining, but it may foreshadow something much greater, with the Saints possibly taking on another AFC South team in the Super Bowl. Here are four reasons why it very well could happen.
4. Late-Season Schedule
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Houston and New Orleans are in the middle of the pack as far as schedule strength. The Texans' opponents' winning percentage in 2010 was .516 while the Saints' foes was .508.
For New Orleans' sake, odds are against three teams in the NFC South winning more than 10 games again. In predicting the NFC South champion, go with Drew Brees, the best and most reliable quarterback in the division.
Fans have seen teams like the 2007 New York Giants use late regular season games to springboard themselves into the playoffs. Drew Brees faces Tennessee, Minnesota and Carolina in three of his last four games.
Matt Schuab and the Texans have Cincinnati, Carolina, Indianapolis, and Tennessee the last four weeks. These games could very well become the "get right" performances for both, presumably, playoff-bound teams.
3. Defensive Pressure
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Houston has overhauled their defense with the addition of Wade Phillips as team defensive coordinator. By moving Mario Williams around on defense in the newly installed 3-4, quarterbacks cannot rest easy not knowing where the 6'7" linebacker is lining up.
The addition of playmaking safety Danieal Manning is an attempt to get the ball back in Matt Schaub's hands. Johnathan Joseph isn't great at getting the ball in his hands, but he can be what Dunta Robinson was for the team two season ago.
Gregg Williams, New Orleans' defensive coordinator, is trying to get his unit back to their 2009 form. Adding defensive tackles Shaun Rodgers and Aubrayo Franklin will help Sedrick Ellis collapse pockets from the middle, leaving no place for opposing quarterbacks to step up.
Malcolm Jenkins is one of the more underrated safeties in the NFL today and cornerback Patrick Robinson is improved from his rookie campaign. Veteran Jabari Greer is good enough to get the opposition's No. 1 receiver, while Tracy Porter can jump routes (as he's shown before).
The Saints can't expect to force the same number of turnovers in their historic 2009 season, but also Drew Brees shouldn't throw 22 interceptions like he did in 2010.
2. Running Back Committees
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The NFL workhorse running back is dead.
Both of these teams have their main threat now that it appears rookie Mark Ingram will be the Saints No. 1, for whatever that means in Sean Payton's scheme.
Arian Foster's hamstring will have to be monitored throughout the season, because risking serious injury, like Gary Kubiak did by playing him in Week 2, isn't wise.
As the season goes on, teams with only one solid ball carrier will be exposed. Darren Sproles for New Orleans has already paid early dividends, playing even better than Reggie Bush was in his prime. If Pierre Thomas can get some of that burst back from two seasons ago, New Orleans has arguably the best three-headed monster of any NFL team.
Ben Tate, meanwhile, is healthy for his sophomore season and is showing why the Texans drafted him in the second round. If Foster is a no-go for the better part of the season, Tate can shoulder the load with the help of veteran Derrick Ward. Remember, it was just in 2008 that Ward rushed for over 1,000 yards with the New York Giants.
NFL teams don't necessarily have to be a top running team to make the Super Bowl, but the threat of run is, without question, crucial.
1. Offensive Mismatches
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The Green Bay Packers showed throughout their Super Bowl run how important it is to have multiple offensive threats. Shutting down one option can be done by opposing defenses, but it isn't worth doing with the other skill position players on the Texans and Saints.
Houston doesn't have the depth that New Orleans has, but the team is heavier at the top with Andre Johnson. Matching up with the former Miami Hurricane is impossible, because the cornerback will be giving up strength, speed and, often times, both.
Tight end Owen Daniels lining up in the middle of the field can hurt top AFC teams like the Ravens, Steelers and Chargers due to a lack of quality cover linebackers in each team's 3-4. If Daniels can stay healthy throughout this season, Matt Schaub may find a new favorite target.
Drew Brees is having some trouble due to some injury problems for the Saints, but the key players should be healthy by the time the playoffs come around.
The Super Bowl MVP can make do without wideout Marques Colston for a while, but Colston's big body will present mismatches to corners not named Nnamdi Asomugha in the NFC. Colston doesn't have the speed of Johnson, but he can go up and make the tough catches.
Another big target has emerged for the Saints, and he goes by the name Jimmy Graham. Fantasy players may know him but the world will soon enough because of his speed and size combination.