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New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts Preview and Prediction

Drew Brees

Drew Brees

The Saints have discovered the way to cure their struggles on offense and ineptitude on defense: play in prime time. Maybe the NFL could grant the Saints special accommodations due to phengophobia (fear of daylight)? Assuming that will not happen, they will have to learn how to win a game with an afternoon kickoff.

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The Colts have fared slightly more successfully than the Saints. They have won and lost the same number of games (three). However, all three victories occurred within the AFC South. They need to figure out how to beat an opponent outside of the division in order to pad their lead within the AFC South.

The Saints lead the all-time series 7-5. The Saints have won two out of the three games played in Indianapolis. The Colts won both meetings played in Baltimore between these franchises.

New Orleans at Indianapolis

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Saints +4.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Dependable replacements for the departed Graham, declining Colston and the disappointing duo of Cooks and Coleman?

Against the Falcons, tight eend Ben Watson had 10 catches, 40 percent of all his receptions this season so far. His total yards in receptions exceeded 100 yards for the first time this year. The exact number (127) was more than three times his second best performance. He also scored his second touchdown in 2015 as well.

Despite having his second lowest number of yards in receptions this season versus Atlanta, Willie Snead has also shown signs of increasing importance for the Saints' offense. He has had 100-plus yards in receiving. Since the season opener, he has caught at least four passes per game.  

Drew Brees needs a reliable safety valve. In the past four seasons, Jimmy Graham filled that role. Marques Colston's catching abilities are noticeably reduced in his 10th professional season. Brandin Cooks has hauled in more than 50 yards in receiving in only half of this season's contests; he has scored just one touchdown. Brandon Coleman had four receptions and a touchdown in the season opener. In the past five games, he has a total of five catches and no scores. Can Watson or Snead continue to contribute and become a dependable cog in the Saints' offense?

2. Status of Andrew Luck

Against New England, Andrew Luck seemed to show that his right shoulder has recovered. He completed 30 out of 50 passes for 312 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Compared to his efforts in the first three games, those passing yards exceeded his numbers by more than fifty yards. He threw more touchdowns in a game last week than he did in his three previous starts. Also, he did not have any interceptions in a game for the first time in 2015. Was this an aberration or an indication that he has returned to pre-injury?

3. Winning the turnover margin

A team that recovers three fumbles by the opponent while not turning over the ball stands a great chance of winning the game. That may seem obvious to anyone who understands football. For the re-worked and struggling defense in New Orleans, holding a decided advantage in the turnover margin really matters. Those three recoveries with no giveaways of their own tilted the game versus Atlanta in the Saints' favor. The Saints have lost all three games in which they have committed more turnovers than the opponent. When they had the same number of turnovers as the other team, they are 1-1.

For the Colts, the turnover margin matters very much as well. In their three losses, their average turnover margin has been minus-two (-2). When they have won, they have averaged an equal number of turnovers as their opponents.

Final Analysis

Both teams have their quarterbacks back and have seemingly recovered from mid-season injuries. Neither team has a dependable defense, having allowed an average of more than 400 yards on offense to opponents. The Colts' outstanding placekicker will make the difference.

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Prediction: Colts 38, Saints 35

— Written by John La Fleur, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network. A graduate of Michigan State and LSU, La Fleur also has been a Saints fan since he was old enough to understand football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.