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The Fleur-De-Lis Report: Saints take on the Seahawks in a must-win week 5 game to potentially save their season
This week, the New Orleans Saints (1-3) are back home taking on the Seattle Seahawks (2-2). The Saints have a lot at stake going into this game as they sit alone at the bottom of the NFC South. A win today will help keep them on pace within the division while a loss could seriously hurt their playoff chances. However, despite last week’s crushing defeat to the Vikings, the offense showed some signs of improvement under backup quarterback (QB) Andy Dalton.
OBSERVATION FROM THIS WEEK
Last game against Minnesota featured several ups and downs but one constant was runningback (RB) Latavius Murray. Pro Football Focus ranked Murray as the highest graded offensive player during the game as he led all rushers with 57 yards, a touchdown, and averaged 5.2 yards a carry. The Saints activated Murray from the practice squad ahead of the game after it was confirmed Alvin Kamara wouldn’t be able to play. Despite his performance, the Saints placed Murray back on the practice squad which allowed for the Denver Broncos to sign him just a day later. League sources confirmed the signing this past Monday. This is incredibly disappointing when you consider the RB position was an area of concern going into the season. Mark Ingram has given the team little to no production and it finally seemed like the Saints had a guy they could rely on to back up Kamara. Not only did Murray know the Saints system being that it was his second stint with the team, he was also on a bargain deal contract. I get that he’s an aging player, but I still view him as a valuable asset to any team. He is a reliable, hard-nosed, veteran back who’s averaged well over four yards a carry throughout his career. The Saints truly dropped the ball by letting him walk out the door.
Former All-Pro cornerback (CB) Chris Harris Jr. was signed to the practice squad Monday. Friday, he was elevated off the practice squad along with WR Keith Kirkwood after the team made a series of roster moves. Harris Jr. of course isn’t expected to be an impact player as he’s well out of his prime but he’s still a savvy veteran who I think will be used as a mentor to these younger defensive backs. And who knows? Maybe he might have something left in the tank should the team need him at some point this season. Good move by the Saints.
You can read more about the Saints roster moves here.
Once again, the Saints came into practice with a lengthy injury report and several guys not participating Wednesday. Of course all eyes were on QB Jameis Winston and receiver Michael Thomas, both of which did not practice all week long. Thomas has been ruled out for the second week in a row as he continues to rehab a foot injury. Backup QB Andy Dalton took reps with the first team and is expected to make his second start today in place of Winston. Dennis Allen and the coaching staff are being very careful with Winston as both his back and ankle injuries are considered to be significant. Allen says he isn’t trying to rush Winston back too soon, giving him plenty of time to heal and recover.
Good news for the Saints, RB Alvin Kamara is back and expected to play today after missing two of the last three games with a rib injury. Kamara says he is healthy and ready to go which is music to Saints fans ears. He also elaborated on the offense's struggles this season saying he feels everything that has gone wrong has been self inflicted. Nonetheless, if Kamara is healthy, I believe he is still the X-factor that lifts the offense out the gutter. As long as Pete Carmichael can find a way to get him more touches in both the passing and run game, I gain confidence that maybe they can find a rhythm offensively. So far this year, that has not been the case. But something to note, Kamara has dominated Seattle in his two meetings against them, both resulting in Saints’ victories. Hopefully history repeats itself today.
Other names on this week’s injury report that were OL Calvin Throckmorton (ankle), DE Payton Turner (chest), S PJ Williams (quadricep), S Marcus Maye (rib), OL Andrus Peat (concussion), WR Jarvis Landry (ankle), TE Taysom Hill (rib), and DE Carl Granderson (eye). Landry is considered questionable to play after being limited Wednesday and Thursday and DNP on Friday.
The Saints also received some encouraging news regarding rookie CB Alontae Taylor’s injury. Taylor did not suffer any significant damage to his knee after injuring it in practice a few weeks ago. He is on track to return later this season after he recovers from an MCL sprain. He is rehabbing with the team and is still said to be involved in meetings. This is great news considering his amazing potential as a player. He was able to get meaningful real game reps after Marshon Lattimore was ejected during the Tampa Bay game in week 2.
Another development from this week is free agent WR and former LSU Tiger, Odell Beckham Jr., visiting the Saints as he continues to weigh his options of teams to sign with. Beckham Jr. is on tour visiting several potential destinations as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered in Super Bowl LVI back in February. He’s projected to return sometime later this season. It's a long shot that he signs with New Orleans given the crowded WR room but you never know.
PREVIEWING WEEK 5 AGAINST SEATTLE
There’s not much to say about this week’s matchup against the Seahawks other than the Saints need to WIN! After four weeks of sub par football, the team finds themselves at the bottom of the division for the first time in years. Last week against Minnesota, things improved slightly in terms of moving the ball down field and scoring points but turnovers, special teams woes, and penalties ultimately cost them the ball game. They’ll need to clean up a lot of those miscues if they are to walk away today victorious. And a win will also help them remain on pace within the division.
Seattle is exceeding expectations this season after four weeks. They shockingly upset Russell Wilson and the Broncos in week one and put on an offensive explosion last week against Detroit. They’re entering this game feeling confident about themselves after several analysts counted them out before the season began. Much of their success so far this year is linked to the play of QB Geno Smith. Smith’s career has been less than stellar for the most part but this season, he’s seemed to have found something. He leads the NFL in completion percentage (77%) and is playing at a pretty high level. How long can he keep this up remains to be seen. But the Seahawks are a dangerous team as many will overlook them as not a serious threat. The Saints cannot afford to fall into that trap.
This will be a battle of weakness versus weakness as Seattle’s defense has not been very good this season but so hasn’t the Saints’ offense. Alvin Kamara should be able to take advantage of a Seahawks’ defense that has struggled to tackle all season. I like the matchup of Andy Dalton throwing to guys like Chris Olave and company against Seattle’s secondary but much like Carolina, Seattle is opportunistic. They will take full advantage of turnovers and costly errors if the Saints aren’t careful.
Defensively, I have no fear that Geno Smith will torch the Saints’ defense like he did Detroit’s. But as good as the Saints have been defensively, they still have a few areas of their game to clean up. They can’t afford to give the Seahawks cheap yards and free possessions off penalties like how they did last week against the Vikings. Tackling will also play a vital role as guys like DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are hard to get down. LB Pete Werner has been the team’s most consistent tackler. He leads the team and the entire NFL in solo tackles at 31. Marshon Lattimore versus Metcalf will be a fun matchup to watch and Lattimore usually does well against the more physical receivers. It will be interesting to see how Dennis Allen plays Tyler Lockett in the slot whether that be putting a guy like Bradley Roby on him or sliding Paulson Adebo inside.
Lastly, special teams must do their part. Wil Lutz has been hot and cold this season. He’s made some big kicks and he’s missed some. But overall, he simply has to cash in his opportunities when called on. Leaving points on the board is never ideal. New Orleans will also have to remain mistake free, especially on punt coverage and punt returns.
Kickoff is at noon.
I cannot stress enough how important this game is to the Saints’ season. Usually a week 5 game doesn’t hold this much weight but when you’re 1-3 and dead last in your division, the stakes get raised to a new level of desperation. Statistically speaking, the chances of a team making the playoffs after a 1-4 start is extremely slim so if the Saints are to keep their postseason hopes alive, it starts with taking care of business in this game. A 2-3 record is manageable but 1-4 is disastrous.
While yes I’ll admit the offense picked it up a bit last game, I didn’t see enough that makes me think this season is suddenly saved. I still saw poor execution on third downs and another slow start in the first half of the game. I think the Saints understand the magnitude of this week and I do believe they will come out a bit hungrier. But at the end of the day it will come down to how well they execute the game plan, both offensively and defensively.
I have the Saints taking care of business at home and getting back into the win column, 24-14 over Seattle.
Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter @Chris_Lunkin98 for weekly content and up to the minute updates on your New Orleans Saints.
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