Week 5 of the NFL slate concludes with Washington coming off of its bye to face New Orleans in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. This games actually pits a pair of division leaders (entering Week 5), with the Redskins (2-1) benefitting from playing one less game than the rest of their NFC East compatriots, while the Saints (3-1) currently sit atop the NFC South having rattled off three straight wins.
Washington enters this game well rested. This will be the Redskins' first game in 14 days. They are currently 2-0 against NFC team, with both wins (Packers, Cardinals) coming on the road. Their only loss thus far came in Week 2 at home to the Colts.
New Orleans is coming off of a 33-18 road win over the Giants. After allowing New York to score a touchdown on its first possession, the Saints' defense clamped, as the Giants did not score again until two minutes remained in the third quarter. New Orleans moved the ball on offense, but had to settle for four field goals in the first half. The second half was a different story, as Alvin Kamara punctuated three dives by running it in for a touchdown.
Washington at New Orleans
Kickoff: Monday, Oct. 8 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Spread: Saints -6.5
Three Things to Watch
1. The return of Mark Ingram
Ingram’s four-game suspension ended the day after the Saints returned from New York. Comments from players and coaches indicate that he has remained in great shape. He may actually find himself at an advantage by not having endured any injuries and fatigue from four games as his teammates might have.
Ingram’s return should boost the Saints’ offense though Drew Brees and crew have fared quite successfully so far without Ingram. New Orleans is third in the NFL in scoring (34.3 ppg) and fourth in total offense (418.3 ypg). The Saints are averaging 25.3 first downs per game, second only to the Rams. Even more important, New Orleans has just four turnovers on the season, as Brees has not thrown an interception in 161 attempts.
Will head coach Sean Payton be able to plug Ingram back into the offense without disrupting its high level of efficacy? How will the backfield touches be distributed now that Kamara has his tag-team partner back?
2. The return of Adrian Peterson
Peterson began last season in New Orleans. He played in the first four games, posting just 81 rushing yards and no touchdowns on 27 carries. As Peterson struggled with his new team, Kamara began to be more involved. The end result? Peterson was traded to Arizona prior to Week 5 and Kamara went on to win AP Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
After signing with Washington in late August, Peterson has experienced a rebirth with the Redskins. His addition was out of need after second-round pick Derrius Guice tore his ACL in the first preseason game. Given a new opportunity, Peterson has excelled, with 236 rushing yards and three touchdowns in his first three games. His 78.7 rushing yards per game average is fifth in the NFL.
For Peterson, Monday night presents him with an opportunity to shine under the Superdome lights, something he wasn't able to do in his brief tenure in a Saints uniform. Will he show his former team and the fan base that he still has plenty left in the tank
3. The role(s) that Taysom Hill will play this week
Hill is a football-playing human version of a Swiss Army knife. So far this season, he has rushed the ball seven times for 67 yards. He has completed one of his two pass attempts for 10 yards. He caught the one pass which Brees threw to him although it resulted in a four-yard loss. He has returned five kickoffs for an average of 25.4 yards.
What kind of trick plays featuring Hill does Payton have in his back pocket? Hill has already completed a pass on a fake punt. He has lined up in shotgun formation with Brees lining up as a wide receiver. On those plays, Hill has run the ball, pitched it to a running back or thrown it.
Will this game demand one or more significant plays by Hill? He has not served as the holder on field goals or extra points though inserting him could be an opportunity for a fake. Could he line up in the backfield, either as quarterback or to take a pitch from Brees with a run/pass option? Might viewers see Hill split out as a receiver?
Washington's defense has contributed mightily to its success so far, holding opponents to just 14.7 points per game. The Redskins also are limiting teams to 278 yards per contest. If they can maintain those numbers, Washington has a strong chance of leaving the Superdome with a victory.
After a slow start, New Orleans has steadily improved. The opener was filled with defensive breakdowns, and then the Saints followed that up by winning two nail-biters. Last week, they pushed around the Giants after halftime. Is this team finally ready to put together a complete four quarters?
There's additional incentive for New Orleans with this game. Drew Brees needs just 201 passing yards to surpass Peyton Manning as the NFL's all-time leader. Considering that he has averaged 323.8 yards per game this season, that record seems sure to be broken. Sean Payton no doubt wants Brees to do so at home, in front of a national TV audience.
Viewers also should expect Mark Ingram to play like a fuming bull that has just been freed from his pen. Four weeks of frustrating idleness will lead to his trampling of Redskins defenders. Brees will get his record, but Ingram will be the star of the night.