We’re back again with the next segment in the Interview with the Enemy series. This week, Walker Clement of Cat Scratch Reader answers 5 quick questions before the Week 15 matchup on Sunday: a prime time showdown on Monday Night Football against the Indianapolis Colts.
Is TY Hilton going to be ready to go this week? How healthy is the team otherwise?
A look at the injury report for the Colts shows the team is at its healthiest of the season with just Kenny Moore, Pierre Desir, and T.Y. Hilton listed. Hilton has been struggling with and aggravated the same calf injury that has forced him to miss the most time of any point in his career.
That injury report doesn’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t reflect the fact that receivers Parris Campbell, Devin Funchess, and Chester Rogers have all been sent to IR, as well as tight end Eric Ebron. This is a passing attack that has had its weapons absolutely ravaged by injury.
On defense, the status of Desir and Moore at corner is critical. They are the Colts two best corners, and Kenny Moore is very probably the Colts second best defensive player behind only Darius Leonard. The defense as a whole is fairly healthy, but the area they aren’t is likely to be a problem for them.
Until we get more information on Hilton, it will be tough to say whether he starts. I don’t doubt his willingness to play. He has proven time and again that he will fight through injury to help his team. The coaching staff may decide that with the playoffs out of reach by all but the most infinitesimal chance, it is a better idea to make sure Hilton is fully recovered before taking the field.
Finish this sentence: the Colts will when this game if __________.
The Saints forget that it is a home game and fly to Indianapolis on game day?
Don’t get me wrong, the Colts are a very talented team. Their defense when healthy is one that can get to the quarterback, create turnovers, and minimize the impact of the running game. According to Next Gen stats, Drew Brees is averaging 4.9 average completed air yards on the season. The Colts have done a good job this season of limiting teams after the catch, and it will be crucial to continue that effort if they want to stay in this game.
Unfortunately, they are not equipped with an offense that is able to put up points with any kind of consistency, and that has put a lot of burden on their defense. The starting wide receivers if T.Y. Hilton is unable to play are Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson, and Ashton Dulin. All are undrafted free agents, and while Zach Pascal has proven to be a talented player who belongs on the roster, he is hardly the player you want as your WR1.
The Colts will no doubt look to their strength, the offensive line and Marlon Mack, to try to run the ball and keep Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara sitting on the sideline as much as possible.
If you were the Saints, how would you game plan to attack the Indianapolis defense?
With the cornerbacks dealing with injuries, the best means of attack against this defense is to stretch them out, target them in the seams, and not shy away from taking deep shots to capitalize on their hampered mobility due to injury. Tight ends and slot receivers have been effective against the Colts, and I trust Drew Brees not to make the kinds of throws that give the Colts’ talented linebacker group a chance to take the ball to the house like the Bucs did last week.
If the Saints can protect Brees and give him time to throw, this very young defensive backfield could struggle to deal with Michael Thomas, and I’d be feeding him as much as possible and challenging them to prove they can do anything about it.
Who is a player on the Colts that Saints fans might not have heard of that you expect to make an impact in this game?
Darius Leonard is becoming a better known player across the league, but I still think he flies under the radar to some degree. Despite being a First-Team All-Pro as a rookie, he has gone somewhat unnoticed, but has been a force on defense again this season. He is even better when asked to rush the passer, but had 2 interceptions last week, one for a touchdown. There are some players who just have a knack for making game-changing plays. Leonard is one of them.
Apart from Leonard, another name that I’ve mentioned already that Saints fans may not know is Kenny Moore. Fresh off an extension, the undrafted free agent corner is just 24, but I’d put him up against any slot corner in the league and feel great about it. Moore is an outstanding tackler, is dangerous blitzing off the edge, and has made countless stops on 3rd downs when the Colts absolutely needed them. If Moore is active in this game, I expect him to be a major factor.
What is your prediction for the game? Who wins? Final score?
Unfortunately I just don’t think this is a game the Colts can win. Even at the outset of the season when all the Colts’ offensive weapons were healthy, this was a matchup I had circled as a very likely loss. The Saints are well-coached, talented, and led by a future Hall of Fame quarterback.
While Brees isn’t in his prime anymore, he is still more than capable of doing everything he needs to in order to win football games and put lots of points on the board. Surrounded by a complement of offensive weapons like the Saints have, it is tough to see the Colts offense keeping up, even if the defense is able to slow the Saints down.
Having said that, the Colts have only lost one game all season by more than one score. They are not a team that will be blown out, and I expect the defense to show up ready to play. If we get a solid performance on the ground from Marlon Mack, this game could be closer than many will expect.
Prediction: Saints win this one in a tough one.
Thank-you, Chris, for taking the time to answer our questions. Saints fans, make sure you check out Chris and the work his guys are doing over at Stampede Blue. You can follow Stampede Blue on Twitter @StampedeBlue, Chris @ChrisBlystone, and of course you can follow me @ChrisDunnells.