Two teams heading in opposite directions will meet at the Superdome on Sunday.
The Saints are coming off their best performance of the season and return home for a two-game home stand against AFC North opponents, who they’ve struggled against in the past. Drew Brees finally enjoyed a breakout game and has a new offensive weapon in the backfield in running back Chris Ivory.
By contrast, the Browns are coming off one of their worst performances and must play their fifth consecutive game against a playoff-caliber opponent.
The Browns offense has not scored more than two touchdowns in a game this season and must “shorten” the game to have a chance for the upset. Defensively, they need to force turnovers to give their offense short fields and scoring opportunities.
Keys for the Saints
• The offensive line played its best game of the season last week and needs another strong performance to keep the Browns’ aggressive defense on its heels. They’ve struggled with 3-4 fronts in the past. If they can protect Brees and give him time, he should be able to find mismatches against the Browns’ sub packages.
• Ivory must produce again. He’s added a new dimension to the offense and given it much-needed balance in the absence of Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas. Ivory has struggled with injuries and ball security, though. He needs another healthy, turnover-free day.
Keys for the Browns
• The offensively-challenged Browns can’t get into a shootout with the Saints, especially on the fast track of the Superdome. Their best chance is to pound the physical Peyton Hillis on the Saints’ undersized front seven. Problem is, the Saints’ run defense has improved dramatically the past two weeks, surging from 30th in the league rankings to 16th.
• Colt McCoy needs to play with the same poise he showed last week against the Steelers. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is a master at confusing young quarterbacks with an array of blitzes, bluffs and fronts. McCoy needs to avoid the big mistake and maintain his composure in the pocket. If so, he should be able to find open receivers downfield against the Saints’ injury-riddled secondary.
This game is all about the Saints. They’ve been uncharacteristically inconsistent this season. If they come to play, they should have too much firepower for the Browns, especially at home. Saints 31–6