By Jake Magee – New Orleans Saints Writer
This week features a game in CenturyLink between two playoff teams from last season, the Seattle Seahawks (2-0) host the Drew Brees-less New Orleans Saints (1-1). The smart people in Vegas have Seattle as four-point favorites and it’s hard to argue against that value.
New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees has only ever missed four games since signing with the New Orleans Saints in 2006, of those four games two have been when the Saints already had the #1 seed in the NFC locked up. With Brees on the sideline for the foreseeable future is it too early to hit the panic button in the Bayou?
The New Orleans Saints look set to split the snaps at Quarterback between Teddy Bridgwater the former 1st round pick who is currently the highest-paid back up in the league and a former first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings. It would be very easy to forget that Bridgewater is still only 26 years old and missed considerable time due to his horrific leg injury. The other man in the Saints Quarterback room is the “Swiss Army Knife” Taysom Hill who Saints coach Sean Payton dubbed the “Next Steve Young” and has proven his versatility over the past season by playing special teams, tight end, receiving and even filling in at running back whilst occasionally throwing the odd deep ball.
A tough loss for the Saints in week two was a blunder by the officials which cost the Saints a touchdown was not the toughest news they received. Drew Brees only lasted two drives after following through on a pass and hitting his hand off the one man you really wouldn’t want to hit your hand off, The best defensive player in the NFL Aaron Donald. Brees looks to be sidelined for at least six weeks although no timeline has been confirmed. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see him until at least week ten which is a home game against the Atlanta Falcons and more importantly after the Saints bye week.
This week things don’t get any easier with a road trip to Seattle to face current NFC Offensive player of the week Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. After grinding out a win against the Cincinnati Bengals at home in week one, the Seahawks overcame some fumbling issues to hold onto victory on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Seahawks head into week 3 2-0 and full of confidence.
The NFC West has emerged early in the season with the Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers all 2-0, the Arizona Cardinals 0-1-1 get a pass with brand new head coach Kliff Kingsbury and the number one overall pick Kyler Murray. The NFC South, on the other hand, has long been regarded as one of the toughest divisions in the NFL but so far has stuttered out of the gate with the Saints, Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers all sitting at 1-1, more surprisingly the Carolina Panthers are 0-2 and may have Quarterback issues of their own.
The New Orleans defense will face a different test this week with the Seattle Rush attack the focal point of their offense, the defense so far hasn’t played badly, in fact, it’s probably the Saints best unit. There was more bad news when third-year linebacker Alex Anzalone was placed on injured reserve this week meaning he is out at least eight weeks, newly acquired linebacker Kiko Alonso will see more playing time in the weeks ahead.
The biggest worry for the Saints is the defensive backfield, outside of last years Rookie of the Year, Marshon Lattimore it’s a fairly thin group. At cornerback Eli Apple and PJ Williams take turns on making mistakes and being targeted, last years big free-agent acquisition Patrick Robinson has yet to make much of an impact since returning to the Bayou. Safeties Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams do not inspire me and frankly look better on paper than they do on the field, Williams especially has been a poor tackler and I’m not just referring to that play in Minneapolis a couple of years back that broke the hearts of many Saints faithful.
Offensively this season’s big free-agent acquisition Jared Cook is yet to get rolling. I think it’s fair to say before the season started everyone figured he would be an automatic pro bowler this year in the Saints prolific offense. On only the second pass attempt of week two, a ball intended for the tight end Cooks ended up in the hands of LA Rams safety John Johnson thanks to a play by the evergreen Eric Weddle. The first drive quite frankly set the tone for what was a long day offensively for the Saints against a very stout Wade Phillips defense.
Prediction: Saints 20, Seahawks 27
The best chance the Saints have this week is hoping the defensive line led by Pro Bowler Cam Jordan can take advantage of the Seahawks shakiest unit the offensive line. If the Saints can disrupt Russell Wilson enough they can keep this game close and maybe just maybe leave Seattle 2-1.
Away from home, the Saints are at their most vulnerable and the 12th man of Seattle look to cause the Saints more problems this week. It goes without saying that there is a huge difference between 1-3 and 2-2 in the NFL especially without your future Hall of Fame Quarterback. With the red hot Dallas Cowboys looming in week five this is already a very big game for New Orleans and the Saints faithful. One of the super bowl favorites could soon be on the outside looking in.
Being as unbiased as I can I think this game will be close but realistically I see Seattle taking care of business at home, and improving to an impressive 3-0 start.