Week 3 is in the books, and we now have a chance to look ahead to week 4 and delve into the New Orleans Saints passing offense, and how it may perform against the Minnesota Vikings' passing defense. With the Saints’ passing offense struggling the past two weeks, and the Vikings’ passing defense doing the same, this should be a pretty interesting matchup to see who can overcome their struggles and produce. In this article, I will be breaking down these two teams’ seasons so far in the respective units, and then talking about what to expect from this matchup.
What have these units produced so far?
Weirdly enough, despite the Saints’ struggles to pass the ball efficiently, they have racked up quite a few yards through the air and, frankly, have not looked bad on paper. That would be overlooking the fact that Jameis Winston is playing through 4 fractures in his back and some form of an ankle injury, and the fact that the offensive line has given up 11 sacks so far through 3 games (partially due to both Jameis and the OL), which is a substantial component of this topic. So far, the Saints are 8th in passing yards (784) and 7th in passing yards per game (261.3), however, Jameis Winston has thrown 5 picks in the last 2 games via both lousy decision-making and the battle of him versus his injuries, which is understandable. The production is there, but the turnovers and 3 and outs that follow are holding this unit back immensely, with the 11th worst 1st down percentage at 30.4%.
The Vikings' pass defense has also struggled, both statistically and via the eye test. They have given up the 4th most passing yards this season at 827 and are 4th in passing yards per game allowed at 275.7. They have had a good eye for the ball, however, bringing in 3 interceptions on the season and have allowed the least amount of passing touchdowns this season at 2 (tied with various other teams). Their key weakness is their allowance of high completion percentage, allowing the league’s 5th highest % against at 69.4%.
What should we expect from these units matching up?
Frankly, both of these units have on-paper production in some areas and have been horrible in other areas. The one leg up that either of these teams has on each other is in 1 on 1 matchups, with Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, and Jarvis Landry lining up across from Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, and either Andrew Booth if he plays or Chandon Sullivan. Provided Thomas and Landry clear their medical checks, which it seems will likely be the case, this will be a matchup nightmare for the Vikings with Olave coming off a 147-yard performance and Michael Thomas playing bully ball in the red zone.
This is going to come down to the quarterback play and the game-planning, something the Saints struggled to do against the Carolina Panthers this past week. The defense has held rock solid in all 3 games this year in terms of scoring, it is all on Pete Carmichael and Jameis Winston now. Planning for short to intermediate passing is obviously what should be done to limit Jameis overthrowing the deep ball, which has been a consistent issue since his injury, and running Olave deep just to draw coverage off the top. While it is not flashy, and it is not utilizing Jameis’ potential for the deep pass when healthy, it is seemingly what needs to happen if the coaching staff is keeping Winston in. Is that the right choice? We will see, I guess. For now, it seems like no, but one more game is in order, and if he does not improve and still shows heavy signs of injury in his play, it may be time to consider alternatives.
This one could go either way in terms of these two units, on paper the Saints have a huge advantage, but in reality, it is a lot closer than one would think.
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