The New Orleans Saints (5-1) are hosting the Buffalo Bills (3-4) Sunday at the Superdome. The Saints are coming off a much needed bye week after a last second loss to the New England Patriots. Though on paper the Saints seem to be the superior team, the Bills are not to be overlooked as they have just come off a win against the Miami Dolphins and are gaining momentum. Here are some things to watch for this week.
1) Thad Lewis
The Bills lost their first round quarterback EJ Manuel a couple of weeks ago, but Thaddeus Lewis has been a more than capable fill-in thus far. Though Lewis won’t be expected to shred the Saints defense with his arm, he presents a new challenge the Saints haven’t seen this season—a mobile quarterback. Up to this point, it has been all pocket passers. It will be interesting how Rob Ryan attacks Lewis and the possible read option plays. This will be a nice primer for the challenges presented by the likes of the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers
2) Fred Jackson
More important than Lewis will be the rushing attack of Fred Jackson, and possibly CJ Spiller whose status is up in the air for the game. The Bills don’t have the firepower to keep up with the Saints, so they will look to use a ball control style with Jackson. This isn’t a bad idea against a Saints defense isn’t the best against the run. If the Saints can force Lewis to win this game with his arm, the odds are in the Saints’ favor.
3) The Bills’ Front Four
One bright spot on the Bills team is the play of the front four, headlined by Mario Williams who has 10 sacks already this season. Williams, along with Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams, are one of the dominant units in the league. The Saints’ offensive line hasn’t protected Brees as well as they have in the past and could have some problems against this tenacious front four. Look for the Saints to try to establish the run earlier than usual to help slow down this pass rush.
4) The Saints’ Wide Receivers
I predict this to be the bounce back game for Marques Colston and the rest of the Saints’ receivers. The Bills secondary hasn’t been great this season, but they will get safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Stephen Gilmore back from injury. The injury to Graham might keep him out, and if that is the case the Saints will need to get their production from somewhere. Darren Sproles will still garner a lot of attention, so it will be up to the Colston, Kenny Stills, Nick Toon, and possibly Lance Moore to step up. Their production would also help open holes for the Saints’ struggling run game.
X Factor: Ben Watson
The Saints’ most prolific weapon, Jimmy Graham, injured his foot against the Patriots and has been nursing that injury over the bye week. There is a possibility that he doesn’t play at all, but even if he does he is expected to be limited in his ability and playing time. In any case, Watson will be expected to come in and contribute. No one is expecting him to put Jimmy Graham numbers, but he has the ability to get open and more importantly is a great blocker. If Watson can play well, this may allow the Saints to bring Graham along a little slower as to avoid an exacerbation of the preexisting injury.