The New Orleans are hoping to get back into the win column for the first time since defeating the New England Patriots. The Indianapolis Colts are the Saints third AFC South opponent in as many weeks. The New Orleans Saints defense has struggled in the first half of each of the last two games, but they have been stiff in the third and fourth quarter. Jonathan Taylor and the Colts provide another challenge for New Orleans.
Critically, the Saints offense is looking to put together a full game. New Orleans has had troubles ending drives with touchdowns. In general, New Orleans needs to do a better job using their weapons to their strengths. But here are their keys to victory:
The Saints must win in the red zone
The New Orleans Saints must walk out of this game as winners in the red zone. It may be a bit obvious, but to this point of the season it has been a complete failure of this offense.
The Colts redzone defense has been one of the weaker in the league this season. Teams score touchdowns in the red zone against them 61.9% of the time, which ranks bottom-10 in the league. The Saints offense, however only scores touchdowns 37.5% of the time. That’s not the worst in the league, but is very close.
The other side of that matchup will be a battle of units having more success. The Colts offense ranks 12th in the league in red zone touchdown%. The Saints defense ranks 15th.
Chris Olave and Michael Thomas must be utilized
A lot of focus as been on Chris Olave disappearing from the offense for large chunks of the game, for good reason, but the same could be said of Michael Thomas.
Carr and Carmichael need to do a better job of getting those two the ball early and often.
The offense has had a bad habit of forgetting Thomas exists until garbage time and then he takes over. Getting a rhythm with him early will make the job a lot easier in terms of spreading out the defense.
Olave has been all over the place to start the season, both on and off the field. It has started to look slightly better in terms of his involvement, but you can still tell that he and Carr are not on the same page.
Don't let the Colts running game get going
Jonathan Taylor is close to getting back to his star-level play and if Zack Moss plays they could be a dangerous duo.
Taylor’s first two weeks back were shaky. He didn’t eclipse 20 yards either time. Last week against the Cleveland Browns, however, he had 18 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown. The Colts average 124 yards per game on the ground, which is top-10 in the league.
The Saints will have a big day ahead of them on defense. They allow just 98.7 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 12th in the league. Demario Davis and Pete Werner will need big days, keeping the game in check. Forcing the ball into Minshew’s hand will be how the Saints want to win this one.
The Saints must improve third down efficiency
The Saints were putrid in this aspect of the game last week. On 18 third down plays, the Saints converted on a mere three attempts. Derek Carr attempted 14 passes on third down and only one led to a first down. That’s the first time in the last 25 seasons that has happened. There are multiple reasons for the Saints inefficiency.
New Orleans needs to be more effective on early downs. That puts the team in position for easier third downs. Also, play calling on third downs must improve. There needs to be more calls tailored to the down and distance. Lastly, there needs to be better execution. You don’t go 3-18 without issues with execution.
And the defense must Limit the Colts' big plays
The Colts were able to score 38 points on the Cleveland Browns, one of the best defenses in the NFL, despite having four turnovers. The reason they were able to do that is because they had multiple explosive plays. The most notable of these plays was a 75-yard touchdown pass from Gardner Minshew to Michael Pittman Jr.
This wasn’t the only long touchdown the Colts scored on that day. Minshew also threw a 59 yard touchdown to Joshua Downs. This was just two of the multiple explosive plays the Colts had last week. The Saints have to limit those plays. The team isn’t built to get into a shootout. In order to avoid that scenario, the Saints need to force the Colts to drive the football. This helps the Saints because New Orleans has been good at forcing teams into field goals.