The New Orleans Saints once again play in primetime in Week 16 of the NFL regular season. Marching will not be a word used to describe the team this week though. Over 20 Saints players have been put on the Covid-19 list leading up to this week's game. The Saints are headed to this week's game looking to start their practice squad against the Miami Dolphins. This is likely a playoff seeding game for both teams so the Saints outbreak came at a bad time for an already trying season. Games still have to be played through. Any given Monday, even the Saints practice squad could deliver a win. The Saints will have to win some of these key matchups against the Dolphins this week to have a chance.
Saints defense against Tua Tagovailoa
The Saints defense has played well lately; however, the last quarterback that had scrambling ability really hurt the Saints. The Saints rushing defense is always near the top of the league, but scrambling quarterbacks have always given this defense trouble. Jalen Hurts took advantage of this. Against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Saints let Hurts rush for 69 yards. Combined with the running backs, the Eagles racked up 242 rushing yards for the game. Hurts and his feet were a threat on every play and the Saints could not account for it. The Saints lost this game easily, letting the Eagles put up 40 points in the game.
This week the Saints get a similar player in the Dolphins Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa only averages around 3.5 yards a carry so far in his NFL career. The threat is always there for him though. Even harder to defend is Tagovailoa’s scrambling with his accuracy. Tagovailoa is completing passing at nearly 70% on the season so far. He has proven himself to be a dangerous opponent in his second season. The Saints will need to use whatever is left of their defense to contain Tagovailoa the entire game to have a shot at winning this game.
Will the NFL delay the Saints game for virus reasons?
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NO! IN CAPS!
Saints roster against Covid-19
As previously mentioned, the Saints are currently experiencing a huge outbreak of the virus. Every day, more and more Saints players have been placed on the list. It appears as if most of these players will miss this game. This has affected both sides of the ball as well. The NFL has postponed games in recent history but it does not appear that the Saints will get that luxury going into Monday Night Football. Players currently on the Saints virus list include Taysom Hill, Ryan Ramczyk, Adam Trautman, Juwan Johnson, Demario Davis, Malcolm Jenkins, Kwon Alexander, and many more. If the outbreak continues into Monday, there will have to be some real talk about postponing this game. If the NFL has shown any indication with how they treat this organization, there is a very low chance that this game gets moved though.
Saints rushers versus Dolphins defensive front
With the first and second string quarterbacks on the virus list, the Saints will turn to rookie Ian Book this week to make his first career start. Book, a fifth-round draft pick, was likely not in the plans to play any this week when the season started. This will be the fourth quarterback to start for the Saints in the 2021 season. Waiting is a Dolphins defense that has 11 interceptions on the season while surrendering just the fifth-worst completion rate to opposing quarterbacks. Any Saints quarterback would be in for a difficult game, but a rookie in his first start might be too much. The Saints will need to lean on their backfield to stand a chance.
Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, so far, appear to be healthy going into this week’s game. Both players will need to be ready to touch the ball a lot this game. The running game will need to support the rookie quarterback and shorten the game. Long, sustained drives will be a huge key for a potential Saints victory. The Dolphins do allow over four yards a carry to opposing running backs. Both Ingram and Kamara can expect to be heavily involved in the game to try and take advantage of this matchup. If the Saints win this game, both players will need to have efficient games.