Saints Defense will face Top 3rd-Down and Red-Zone Offenses

The New Orleans Saints will still have several top third-down converting and red-zone offenses in the NFL on their schedule.
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The New Orleans Saints will still have several top third-down converting and red-zone offenses in the NFL on their schedule.

I read a tweet from journalist Jeff Duncan and was alarmed again about the Saints defense's state in 2020. 

 Duncan shared: 

The alarming stats were 29th (3rd third downs) and 32nd (red zone defense. Not horrible, but horrific! These are not a Halloween play on words, but Dennis Allen must find answers soon to what's plaguing the team in these two areas. If not, the Saints' playoff hopes and Super Bowl dreams will quickly turn into screaming nightmares.

Let's examine a few of the Saints opponents offenses' third-down and red-scoring effectiveness:

3rd-Down Conversions/Red Zone Scoring

Saints Opponents in Top of 3rd Down Conversions & Red Zone Scoring

Team3rd Down ConversionsRed Zone Offense Scoring

Bears

 36.35%

 52.63%

Buccaneers

43.82%

78.57%

49ers

42.04%

69.23%

Falcons

44.00%

58.33%

Vikings

37.70%

75%

Chiefs

48.86%

65.52%

Saints QB Drew Brees

According to Teamrankings.com, the best on third down in the NFL are the Saints, followed by the Bills (52.38%), Steelers (51.09%), Packers (50.0%), and Raiders (48.86%).  The Packers are the only NFC team in the top five - Green defeated New Orleans in Week 3, 37-30. New Orleans sits at the top of the NFC with 7.3 third-down conversions per game - next is Atlanta (6.3), and Packers (6.2), Rams (6.2), Chiefs (6.1), and Eagles (6.1). Three teams, Falcons (2x), Chiefs, and Eagles, remain on the Saints 2020 schedule.

The league's best team in red-zone scoring is Seattle at a blistering 85.71%.  The Seahawks are followed by the Titans (80.0%), Browns (79.17%), Bucs (78.57%), and Cardinals (76.0%). The next two out of three red-zone offenses are Saints opponents in the Vikings (75.0%) and 49ers (69.23%).   

New Orleans may not face either if they reach the playoffs, but both teams will test the Saints defense in Week 10 (49ers) and Week 16 (Vikings).  The advantage for the Saints is both games will be inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, with fans in attendance.

Russell Wilson

The Saints could meet the Bucs, Seattle, Cardinals, or Packers in the 2021 NFC Playoffs.

The best offensive squads at scoring touchdowns in 2020 are Seattle (4.5/gm), Green Bay (4.0/gm), Bucs (3.9/gm), Titans (3.8/gm), and Chiefs (3.7/gm). Two, Bucs and Chiefs, are left to face the Saints.

More Defensive Concerns for New Orleans

Marshon Lattimore, Saints CB

Here are a few stats through Week 7, which the New Orleans defense allows in 2020

  1. 5.4 yds/play (11th), 
  2. 50.62% third-down conversions
  3. 1.2 4th down conversion/gm (3rd worst) at 77.78% converted, 
  4. 10.8 yds/completion (21st), 
  5. 0.8 takeaways/gm (26th)

The numbers don't lie. Most of the Saints' defensive numbers are in the middle of the NFL. Not bad, but not great for a team contending for a run at the Super Bowl. Suppose they cannot become more opportunistic in creating turnovers and limiting the passing first-downs. In that case, the team may be looking at another unsatisfying playoff exit in January - if they earn a berth. 

Remember, this year, only one team per conference will get a first-round playoff bye week.  At the moment, it appears the Saints are nipping at the Seahawks, Packers, Cardinals, Bears, Bucs heels for that lone spot.

Can the Saints defense correct their ills and make a turnaround down the stretch of this season?

We shall see.