Week 11: Saints-Raiders preview

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

New Orleans at Oakland
Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, at O.co Coliseum, Oakland, Calif. - TV: FOX; DirecTV: 713
*TV announcers: Dick Stockton, John Lynch, Jennifer Hale
*Keys to the game: The Raiders had no threat of a running game with Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson out with ankle injuries last week. A one-dimensional offense finds the Saints at a bad time. New Orleans, once 0-4, is back to its winning ways by repairing what could've been fatal defensive flaws. The answer has been two-fold: penetration into the backfield, reducing time for quarterbacks to throw, and greatly improved team tackling. The Falcons had only 46 rushing yards (2.6-yard average) last week but did air it out with success. If the Raiders connect on big plays -- WR Darrius Heyward-Bey has catches of 32, 46, 55 and 59 yards in the past four games -- New Orleans would be stuck in soft coverage that plays into QB Carson Palmer's comfort zone of attacking outside the numbers on close-range passes. Saints QB Drew Brees and TE Jimmy Graham are flourishing again. Graham has 15 catches and three touchdowns in the past three games. If RB Darren Sproles (hand) misses a third straight game, the Saints can continue to rotate Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory, who've provided more of a jolt than expected with Sproles out.
*Matchup to watch - Ivory vs. Raiders defense: Fumbling issues in training camp sank Ivory to the bottom of the depth chart. All of a sudden, he has leapfrogged Pierre Thomas with 17 carries for 110 yards over the past two weeks and a 56-yard touchdown run in Week 10. Paired with Ingram -- 111 yards in the past two games -- Ivory has added needed balance to the offense.
*Player spotlight - Saints DE Cameron Jordan: The 6-4, 287-pound lineman is versatile enough to slide inside, can win with speed or power and has produced in bunches of late with five sacks and two forced fumbles in the past five games.
*Fast facts: The Raiders have been outscored 109-31 in the third quarter this season. ... The Saints are attempting to become the second team to start 0-4 and make the playoffs (1992 Chargers).
The Saints aren't going to win many games with their defense, but if the unit can return to a standard of not losing games, New Orleans' playoff push could be legitimate.
*Our pick: Saints 32-29