Well, this season has certainly not started as planned. The New Orleans Saints now sit at 2-5, last in their division, and yet only a game out of first place as well. The one highlight lately has been the run game, even after a somewhat lackluster showing in Arizona, the previous week against Cincinnati was a great rushing performance.
The Saints now take their roster back to the Superdome to take on the 2-4 Las Vegas Raiders, coming off a 38-20 win over the Houston Texans. With that said, in this article, I will be going over how these two units have performed so far this season, and then what we should expect from the Saints’ rushing offense and Raiders’ rushing defense.
How have these two units performed this season?
Starting off with the Saints’ rushing offense, it has been among the league’s best so far this season, ranking near the top in most standard statistics. They rank 6th in rushing yards (994), are tied for 5th in yards per carry (5.2), are 7th in rushing touchdowns (8), 8th in rushing first downs (53), and 6th in rushing first down percentage (27.6%). They are also top 10 in 20+ yard rushes and top 3 in 40+ yard rushes. The only major rushing statistic they do not rank well in is fumbles on running plays, where they are tied for 4th most with 4 on the season, granted they were all early in the season.
On the other side of the ball, the Raiders have also been exceptionally good at stopping the run in most instances. They have allowed the 3rd least amount of rushing yards (624), are tied for the 4th lowest yards per carry allowed (4.1), the 13th least amount of rushing touchdowns allowed (5), and the 13th least rushing first downs allowed (43). The issue they have had is that they have allowed a large percentage of rushing first downs to be converted, despite having a low total, as most of their first down stops have come on passing downs. They rank 4th worst in rushing first down percentage allowed, allowing 28.3% of rushing first downs to be converted against them.
What should we expect from this matchup?
This is the “big test” for the New Orleans run game. They had very minimal usage in Arizona, with Alvin Kamara only getting 11 carries, but he also rushed for 4.5 yards per carry on those attempts, so it is hard to knock the production. The last time the Saints went up against the Raiders, Kamara had a field day, rushing 13 times for 79 yards (6.1 per carry) and 2 rushing touchdowns, never mind his 9 receptions for 95 yards.
Now, is this the same Raiders unit as in 2020? No. Chandler Jones is now on the opposing side, who when paired with Maxx Crosby off the edges will make life tough on James Hurst. Bilal Nichols also is on this defensive line now, who has been a solid enough addition to the interior. All-in-all, the screen game is going to be huge for the Saints this weekend presumably, as it will be hard to get the run game going. We should see quite a bit of Taysom Hill no doubt, as it mixes things up and allows Kamara to take a snap or two off when needed. The Raiders DL should be expected to bend, as it did against the Saints in 2020, but in terms of breaking... unlikely. Despite Kamara’s quality game last time out against the Raiders, his productivity was gone by the second half with the Saints trailing and passing much more often. Expect a lot of Kamara, but more in the receiving game than anything.