The New Orleans Saints are back in action this Monday night when they host the Indianapolis Colts in the Mercedes Benz Superdome. The 10-3 Saints are currently in possession of the third seed in the NFC standings, chasing one of the top two spots and a first round playoff bye. New Orleans is coming off their worst defensive performance of the 2019 season in a 48-46 loss to the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. Worse yet, the team placed defensive linemen Sheldon Rankins (ankle) and Marcus Davenport (foot) on injured reserve this week. The Saints enter this game ranked 13th in total defense, surrendering 338 yards per game and 17th in points allowed at 22.8 per game.
The Colts come into the game with a 6-7 record but still clinging to faint playoff hopes in the AFC. They are ranked 22nd in total offensive yardage with an average of 341 yards per game and score an average of 22.8 points per outing. Indianapolis has scored over 24 points just twice in their last nine games though, and have been held to less than 20 in five of those contests.
Here are some of the key matchups to watch as the Saints defense takes on the visiting Colts offense
CB's Marshon Lattimore/Eli Apple vs. WR's T.Y. Hilton/Zach Pascal
New Orleans ranks 20th against the pass, giving up 244 yards per outing. The Saints have allowed a 300-Yd passer in three of the last four games and 14 touchdown passes in their last five games. That includes 349 yards and 4 scores to San Francisco's Jimmy Garropolo a week ago. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore played well in his return from an ankle injury last week but fellow corners Eli Apple and P.J. Williams have been targeted heavily and not responded well.
The Colts rank just 25th in passing offense, averaging 208 yards/game. Jacoby Brissett has completed just over 63% of his throws with 18 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Hilton is the Colts most dangerous receiving threat. He has 35 receptions for just 378 yards this season though, but also tied with Pascal for the team lead with 5 touchdowns. Hilton has missed the last two games with a calf injury and his availability for this contest is a game time decision. With Hilton hobbled, the second year Pascal has responded with 35 catches for a team high 547 yards.
The Saints have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 62% of their passes and have recorded 11 interceptions. The entire secondary has slumped in recent weeks after shutting down some of the better receivers in the NFL though. A return to early season form may be key for both this game, but also to the Saints postseason fortunes.
S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson vs. TE Jack Doyle
Gardner-Johnson, who has an interception and is the Saints' best nickelback, will move into a starting strong safety role because of a knee injury to Vonn Bell. Gardner-Johnson will likely take on the primary coverage responsibilities on Doyle, the most consistent Indianapolis target. Doyle has 38 catches for 404 yards and 4 touchdowns this season. He is an athletic and sure-handed tight end and not overly physical, but will make the tough catch in traffic.
DE Cameron Jordan vs. RT Braden Smith
With Davenport out for the season, Jordan is left as the primary star for this defense along the edge. He has a career high 13.5 of the team's 43 sacks and is one of the most dominant defenders in the NFL. The Saints will line up Trey Hendrickson, rookie Carl Granderson, and newly signed Noah Spence opposite of Jordan. Veteran Mario Edwards Jr. will also see snaps at end as well as defensive tackle. While production from that spot will be important to defensive success, it's Jordan's disruptive abilities that is most likely to affect Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
LB's Craig Robertson/A.J. Klein vs. RB Marlon Mack
New Orleans linebacker Demario Davis is one of this defense's best playmakers and he will be all over the field again tonight. The other Saints linebackers were victimized often in last week's loss to the 49ers though. The Saints 5th ranked run defense gave up 162 rushing yards, as Robertson and Stephone Anthony were routinely beaten to the edge or caught out of position. Anthony and Robertson started in place of A.J. Klein and Kiko Alonso, who were out with injuries. Alonso (thigh) will miss this game also but Klein should be back in the lineup from his knee injury.
The New Orleans linebackers must be up to a challenge from Marlon Mack and a Colts running attack that ranks 6th in the league. Mack has rushed for 900 yards and five scores. He is complimented by the receiving skills of Nyheim Hines, who is tied for the team high with 38 receptions.
The Saints have not allowed a 100-Yd rusher in 39 games. Their linebacking play is aided by a defensive line that typically controls action at the line of scrimmage.
DT's David Onyemata/Malcom Brown/David Onyemata vs. Colts interior line
Rankins' injury will test the depth of the Saints' interior line, but few teams can match the talent that New Orleans has at the position. Brown, Onyemata, and Tuttle have combined for six sacks (along with 2 more from Edwards) but have provided consistent inside pressure all season. Their ability to control the line of scrimmage also fuels the Saints 5th ranked run defense while also enabling Jordan and the ends to receive more 1-on-1 chances on the outside.
This is the 14th meeting between the Saints and Colts franchises. New Orleans has won 8 of the matchups between the two, including each of the last three. That included a win in the biggest game in New Orleans Saints history, a 31-17 victory over Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLIV.
The Saints hold a 4-1 edge against the Colts inside the Superdome, site of tonight's affair. The last time Indianapolis and New Orleans met in the Superdome was October 23, 2011, with the Saints pummeling the Colts 62-7.
That kind of offensive explosion would be surprising this time, but the Saints offense has been on a roll the last several weeks. Expect quarterback Drew Brees to come out firing to the NFL's leading receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara to jump to an early advantage. The Saints defense, even with all the injuries, looks to restore some pride after last week's dismal showing and makes just enough plays to win this one comfortably.
Which is the biggest key for the Saints defensive success against the Colts offense
This poll is closed
Marshon Lattimore/Eli Apple vs. T.Y. Hilton/Zach Pascal
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson vs. Jack Doyle
Cam Jordan vs. Braden Smith
Saints DT's vs. Colts O-line
Saints LB's vs. Marlon Mack/Nyheim Hines