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Saints Keys to Success: Victory hinges on which version of Jay Cutler plays in London

Can the Saints defense muster up a repeat performance against a Jay Cutler-led offense? Let’s take a look at what New Orleans can do to leave London 2-2.

NFL: International Series-NFL on Regent Street Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“He hasn’t gone away for three years and come back now. I mean he still has the broadcasting pin in its plastic wrapper. He just played last year so it’s the same guy we’ve been seeing.” Sean Payton - Jay Cutler

For the second week in a row, the chances of the Saints winning depends highly on the play of the opposing QB. This week, it’s Jay Cutler, who has been known to have Jekyll and Hyde tendencies when throwing the ball. Good Cutler is the guy you build physically on Madden in create a player mode. He’s got all the physical tools - Throwing Power, Size, etc. Bad Cutler however, has low awareness, takes sacks, and forces throws that result in turnovers. While his accuracy may not be as erratic as Cam Newton’s, his decision-making at times is, and if the Saints allow him to get in a rhythm he can definitely cause them some problems. The wide receivers that the Dolphins sport are also a cause for concern as they are infinitely more talented and diverse than what the Saints saw against Carolina. This acts as a segue into our Keys to success for New Orleans.

Saints Secondary versus Dolphins Receivers

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Wide receivers are typically only as useful as the QB throwing them the ball. However, as we discussed earlier, when Cutler is on he’s on, and the talent of this group is pretty solid. DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, and Jarvis Landry all have different skills. Parker has been slow to come on, but is easily the most physically talented of the bunch. He’s got size, length, and ball skills to win jump ball matchups down the field.

Stills, meanwhile, is their version of Ted Ginn Jr. He’s dealing with a hand injury at the moment, but against a team that hasn’t been tested much with the ball over their heads, he could prove dangerous if he gets behind the defense. Finally, you have Landry, who is the “playmaker” on offense. They’ll look to get the ball in his hands via screens and plays that allow him to maneuver in space. If we see Kenny Vaccaro in the slot again this week, then the Dolphins will probably like that matchup and look to exploit it. P.J. Williams, Marshon Lattimore, Crawley, and the rest of the crew will have to be at their best to keep these guys from beating them.

Surf the Wave of Momentum

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

In the preseason, the team lost their first game versus Cleveland and then returned to stack two wins against the Chargers and Texans. That was significant because it shows the ability not to get too low after a loss (Week 1). Then it shows an ability to not get too high after a win (Week 2) so you can come back to work focused and get another win (Week3). That parallels what happened to start the season. You saw a team not get low after its first two losses and then show up and show out in a big way for a division game. We’ll see how it plays out, but based on the makeup of this team (that was displayed during preseason), I’d be wiling to bet that they’ll be able to stack another win and leave London 2-2. That would put the Saints at .500 to end September for the first time since 2013 - which coincidentally was our last winning season.

Drew Brees versus Dolphins linebackers

NFL: New England Patriots at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know that the Saints will want any parts of the Dolphins pass rush, so I’m going assume that they will not rely on plays that consist of longer developing routes. With that in mind, I expect them to test the Dolphins LBs in coverage. It’s a group that is much maligned with injuries, absences, and trades to acquire resources (Stephone Anthony) — a big part of their storyline to start the season. They’ve also put some tape out there that suggest their ability to play tight coverage is in question. Matchups that take advantage of their lack of speed, and a game plan that revolves around attacking the intermediate and short area of the field seems like the best option here. It would also be wise to use the pass to set up the run, as Miami’s defense is quite astute at defending the ground game.

Player To Watch against the Dolphins

P.J. Williams - CB

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

I’m putting P.J. Williams in this spot this week due to the scarcely mentioned storyline involving the Kenny Stills trade in 2015. The 3rd round pick the Saints acquired in that trade ended up being used on Williams, who fell to the 3rd only because of off-the-field concerns. Saints fans have clamored about this because of the fact that Stills has played in every game since the trade and just recently earned a second contract with the Dolphins. Meanwhile, Williams has played in just five exhibition games to date due to injuries in his first and second season.

There’s a solid chance Williams will see a good dose of Stills on Sunday morning, and I’ll be the first to point out that he isn’t the best CB when the ball is over his head. He doesn’t have great makeup speed and can be a little late getting his head around once beaten. On the other hand, Stills is the type of WR that can make him miss a jam and then get behind him on a deep ball. It will be interesting to see if he can prove that the Saints brass made the right choice in what up to this point has been considered a one-sided transaction in the Dolphins favor.

Random Thought I: Alvin Kamara hasn’t quite been the revelation in the receiving game the Saints figured they were getting to date, and yet he’s a better runner than originally thought as well. If there was ever a game where he had a distinct advantage as a pass catcher it would be this one. I’d say he gets his first receiving TD on Sunday.

Random Thought II: We’ve played mistake-free football for three weeks now on offense. In fact, it’s Drew Brees’ first time in his career he’s gone his first 3 games without throwing an INT. How much longer can we continue to protect the ball at a high level, and does that streak continue or come to an end on Sunday?

2-2 is right around the corner if the Saints can manage to handle the Miami Dolphins in London. The Dolphins are a team that is disjointed and less talented than New Orleans, and yet most fans are in wait and see mode. I wouldn’t go as far as to guarantee a win, but it’s a game we should be in control of from the first whistle to the last. Drop some comments below and I’ll see you guys on the Who Dat Confessional podcast w/Rev after the game.