Colts vs. Saints: 5 things to watch in Week 8

The Indianapolis Colts are heading into Week 8 on a two-game losing streak and will be looking to get back to a .500 record as they are set to host the New Orleans Saints.

Since the Super Bowl matchup between the two franchises, the Saints have beaten the Colts three times while outscoring them 123-41. The last time that Indianapolis beat New Orleans came in 2007.

These two organizations don’t meet often, the last time they played each other came back in 2019. Indy isn’t the only team that needs a win this week, the Saints also are on a two-game losing streak and a victory will also get them back to a .500 record.

I expect a hard-fought contest on Sunday with both needs needing a win. Here are five things to watch for when they hit the field:

Can Jonathan Taylor carry the offense?

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts offense had one of the most successful offensive performances against the Cleveland Browns but ended on the losing side mostly because of the turnovers from Gardner Minshew. While Shane Steichen needs his quarterback to do a better job at protecting the ball, one way to limit the potential turnovers from him is to lean into his star player.

A silver lining from the Week 7 loss was that Jonathan Taylor looked like himself. He went over 100 total yards for the first time this season. The one point from the Browns matchup that showed that Taylor can carry this offense was in the third quarter.

He touched the ball seven straight times from the 50-yard line and got the touchdown to make it a one-score game.

He will be going against one of the stingier rush defenses in the league. The Saints are allowing 98.7 rushing YPG, which is the 12 best in the NFL. They’ve been stout against running backs over their last four games. The most rushing yards New Orleans has allowed to a single back is 58 yards and just two touchdowns to the position in that time frame.

2021 is a perfect example of how Taylor can lift an offense despite the inconsistent play from the quarterback. If JT can get going early in this contest then he can make life easier on Minshew to help cut down the turnovers.

How do the boundary cornerbacks hold up?

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

If there is an area that Derek Carr is going to look to attack it is going to be on the boundary with Chris Olave and Michael Thomas. The Colts are set to be without their rookie JuJu Brents, who suffered a quad injury against Cleveland. He hasn’t practiced this week and it has been reported he will miss this contest and possibly more.

This will leave Gus Bradley down to seventh-round rookie Jaylon Jones and former-starter Darrell Baker Jr. as his starting boundary corners. There has been some speculation that he could slide Kenny Moore II outside in certain packages but he also doesn’t want to take away his best corner from the nickel role that he has excelled in this season.

If he does, then that could lead to more playing time for Nick Cross in the nickel if Moore II does get some play on the boundary. However Bradley plays his secondary, it will be a strong test for the young corners.

Olave is a precise route runner who leads the Saints with 471 yards and a touchdown. On the opposite side, Thomas has been working himself back into form and gives that big-bodied presence to Carr. He has the second-most receiving yards with 371 yards and a touchdown this year.

Indianapolis doesn’t need Jones and Baker Jr. to be perfect but if they allow Olave and Thomas to carve them up with Carr then it can be a long afternoon for the defense.

Does Gardner Minshew protect the ball?

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

The Colts have a gripe with how the officiating was on Cleveland’s game-winning drive but the game wouldn’t have come down to that if it wasn’t for Gardner Minshew’s turnovers that helped put 17 points on the board for the Browns.

He has eight turnovers in the last two games and to no surprise, Indianapolis finds themselves in the losing side of games when they commit at least four turnovers.

Because of those eight turnovers, the Colts are tied for the fourth most giveaways this season with 12. Minshew will be facing an opportunistic defense on Sunday. The Saints are tied for the fourth-most takeaways with 12 and have to be licking their chops at the opportunity to add to that mark.

The offense and defense have played too well for them to lose games because of turnovers. Not only for Minshew, but the entire unit has to make sure they don’t put the ball in the defender’s hands if they want to get a victory in Week 8.

Limit Alvin Kamara's impact

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The three-game suspension didn’t cause any rust for Alvin Kamara with him sliding right back into his role with the team. In four games, he has 438 total yards and a touchdown. Over the last two weeks, he has finished over 100 total yards and is coming off his best-receiving game of the season.

Kamara caught 12 balls for 91 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s been Derek Carr’s safety valve, with him getting targeted on 35.8% of his routes.

He’s also been great at moving the chains for the Saints offense. Kamara has 17 first-down runs and 10 receiving first-downs. Gus Bradley has to have his defense ready for Carr’s checkdowns to Kamara to help limit his impact on this game.

If Kamara starts creating explosive plays then it can wear down the defense chasing him down throughout the contest.

Getting pressure on Derek Carr

Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Carr is the type of quarterback who can dice up a defense when he has time to sit in the pocket. He’s shown in the past that when a defense can get pressure on him that’s when he can break down and it can end up leading to turnovers.

Teams have found success getting home on Carr this season. New Orleans has given up 20 sacks, which is tied for the fifth most allowed in the NFL. One way that Gus Bradley can help his young boundary corners is for his defensive front to get pressure on the quarterback early and often in this matchup.

The defense really needs an outstanding performance from Kwity Paye. He’s been solid in run defense and has three sacks this year but has failed to register a sack in his last three games.

It can’t be all on Paye, players across the defensive front need to win their reps and Bradley has to continue to dial up those timely blitzes as he’s done this season.

He called a pair of nickel blitzes against the Browns which led to two three-and-outs by his defense.

The less comfortable the Indy defense makes Carr feel the more stagnant their offense will be. It’s one of those matchups that can be won by the defensive front if they harass the quarterback from the opening kickoff.

Story originally appeared on Colts Wire