The New Orleans Saints look to have shaken their early-season struggles with another Week One win, this time against the new-look and Tom Brady-lead Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The defense and special teams units were outstanding in that game, and the offense found the endzone three times despite otherwise light stat lines. Now, the Saints will travel to the west coast for the second Week Two in a row, but this time their stop is in Las Vegas to open up Allegiant Stadium and take on Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders.
Can the Saints survive without Michael Thomas?
Despite my confidence that they will, the question still has to be asked. Last year, the Saints watched 40% of their passing yardage as well as just over a quarter of their completions go through Michael Thomas . Now, they are just trying to figure out what the offense looks like without him for potentially several weeks. The team will certainly be leaning on the recently acquired Emmanuel Sanders as well as some of the younger guys behind him in Tre’Quan Smith, Deonte Harris, and Marquez Callaway. Worth keeping an eye on Bennie Fowler to see if he gets the call up again for Monday’s game as well.
Is Drew Brees still dominant in primetime football?
Monday Night Football is Drew Brees Football. Since Brees came into the league in 2003 he has more passing touchdowns, yardage, and completions in Monday night games than any other quarterback. He also has a better completion percentage and passer rating than anyone with more than six MNF starts in that span as well. Last year, he put together one of the best games of quarterbacking we’ve had the pleasure of seeing completing 29 of 30 passes for a 96% completion rate, 307 yards, and four touchdowns. Is the Raiders defense much better than the Indianapolis Colts from last year? Considering Las Vegas gave up 270 passing yards and a touchdown to Teddy Bridgewater and a watered-down Saints offense lead by offensive coordinator Joe Brady, Brees should be able to maintain his success under the lights of primetime. Watch for rookie corner Damon Arnette. He gave up a perfect passer rating along with 110 yards and a touchdown on five targets. He’ll be a target.
Will rookies make a greater impact?
The only Saints rookie with a snap from last week’s win was tight end Adam Trautman. Trautman was in for about ten plays and served mostly as a blocker. Cesar Ruiz and Zack Baun were both inactive after missing time in camp and seemingly just not being ready to get going at the top of the season. Very understandable considering both look set to start at new positions. Ruiz feels like the mostly likely to impact the Saints offense if he’s healthy considering he’d be on the field every snap. Baun, however, could be introduced at a more manageable pace. The Saints were very rarely in “base” defense with starting SAM linebacker Kaden Elliss seeing only three defensive snaps. If Dennis Allen and the Saints defense intend to continue that trend, Baun’s role may be more that of a rotational, situational pass rusher. That could still be a pivotal role if Marcus Davenport isn’t ready to go.
Do the Saints defense and special teams continue to set the tone?
Many have said numerous times that the Saints’ defense and special teams won their week one game. I am no exception. Now, it will be interesting to watch and see if they continue to set the tone for the team. Are we looking at a Saints team that is all of a sudden a defensive powerhouse as opposed to an offensive juggernaut? Can they be both? It’s all very possible. But above anything else, maintaining the production on defense and special teams against what should be a lesser offense in Las Vegas might end up being the key to 2-0.
How will the rest of the NFC South perform?
As of now, the Saints are the only team in their division with a win. Monday night, they could distance themselves even further in the early race. At least one other NFC South team should get a win as the Bucs and Carolina Panthers play each other. (I suppose they could tie.) The Atlanta Falcons however, will be traveling to Dallas to take on the Cowboys and a strong offense. Atlanta needed triage following their game against the Seattle Seahawks. If the Saints could take a 2-0 hold of the division accompanied by a 1-1 squad and two unfortunate winless clubs - they are in great position to continue through the more favorable early part of their schedule.
Lagniappe: Will Coach Payton run up the score?
What are your biggest questions ahead of the Saints-Raiders Week Two matchup on Sunday? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @RossJacksonNOLA and subscribe to my daily Saints podcast, Locked On Saints.