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Inside Week 12: Saints Defense vs. Bills Offense

With injuries further limiting an already shorthanded New Orleans offense, it's up to their defense to snap a three-game losing streak.  Can a slumping Saints defense shut down an explosive Buffalo offense for a Thanksgiving Night win?
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The 5-5 New Orleans Saints host the 6-4 Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving Night to wrap up the NFL's triple-header of holiday football.

New Orleans has lost three straight to tumble into a fight for playoff chances. Buffalo, an AFC Super Bowl favorite, has lost two of their last three,

Injuries on the offensive side have contributed greatly to the Saints fall in the NFC standings. However, the team's defensive failings in recent weeks have also put a dent into postseason chances.

Major coverage breakdowns against the Titans, Falcons, Giants, and Panthers have contributed to four losses. Philadelphia destroyed the usually formidable New Orleans rush defense last week, rolling up 242 yards on the ground. 

After forcing 13 turnovers over the first seven games, New Orleans has only had one takeaway in the last three contests.

Buffalo comes into this game with one of the league's most productive offenses. The Bills hold a top-five ranking in total offense, points scored, passing yardage, rushing touchdowns, and third-down efficiency.

Led by explosive fourth-year QB Josh Allen, Buffalo has several ways to beat opposing defenses.

After struggling the last three weeks, will the New Orleans defense rebound against a top-tier Buffalo offense in this Thanksgiving showdown?

SAINTS DEFENSE VS. BILLS OFFENSE

New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) rushes as Buffalo Bills tackle Jordan Mills (79) blocks. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) rushes as Buffalo Bills tackle Jordan Mills (79) blocks. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Defensive Rankings

  • Total Defense - 10th (342 yards/game)
  • Points - 10th (21.8)
  • Pass Defense - 22nd (252.2 yards/game)
  • Run Defense - 3rd (89.8 yards/game)
  • Third Down% - 14th (39.4%)
  • Red-Zone% - 2nd (46.7%)
  • Turnovers - 11th (14)

Considered a team strength entering the year, the Saints defensive line has struggled with consistency issues this season. Other than against Philadelphia, they've been strong at the point of attack against the run, but have struggled to generate pressure at crucial times in some games.

The Saints have 23 sacks this season, but have recorded an impressive 70 QB hits and 54 tackles for loss. Fourth-year DE Marcus Davenport leads the team with 5.5 sacks, despite missing four games with injury. Davenport has been the defense's most dominant player over the last month.

Veteran DE Cam Jordan has 4 sacks and a team-high 19 pressures. He and Davenport are outstanding against the run and force opponents to double-team both edges in pass protection. DE/DT Tanoh Kpassagnon has provided terrific depth, but missed last week's game with a knee injury.

New Orleans needs more disruption from their interior defenders. DT David Onyemata is a difference maker against the run and as a pass rusher, but hasn't generated a consistent inside rush. Shy Tuttle has been strong against the run, but he, Christian Ringo, and Josiah Bronson haven't been a factor as pass rushers.

Linebacker Demario Davis has been the team's most consistent player and is arguably having the best year of his career. He leads the Saints in tackles for loss (10) and total stops while also contributing 3 sacks, 7 pressures, and four passes broken up.

Davis is an elite defender who excels against the run, has excellent awareness, and explodes into opposing backfields. He has the athleticism to chase plays down from sideline-to-sideline and is strong in coverage against backs and tight ends.

New Orleans Saints free safety Marcus Williams (43) against the Buffalo Bills. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints free safety Marcus Williams (43) against the Buffalo Bills. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Veteran LB Kwon Alexander, along with Davenport, have been the Saints best defenders over the last two games. Alexander is a standout in coverage and has terrific range in the open field.

Rookie LB Pete Werner has also had a strong inaugural season. Werner gives the defense three athletic and versatile linebackers capable of making plays all over the field.

Cornerback was a position of strength early in the year, but has shown critical letdowns in recent weeks. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 62.8% of their throws against the Saints, having much better success in the last month.

Elite CB Marshon Lattimore has an interception, broken up 10 passes, and has allowed less than 58% completion rate when targeted. Lattimore typically shadows the opponent's top wideout one-on-one with great success, but has given up more completions lately.

Corners Bradley Roby and rookie Paulson Adebo have both had strong outings this season. Adebo has 2 of the team’s 11 interceptions and has the skill set to be a long-term fixture at the position.

Veteran S/CB P.J. Williams leads the team with 3 interceptions. He provides valuable depth for a secondary without injured versatile defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.

Fifth-year FS Marcus Williams has had a Pro Bowl caliber year. Williams, who has 2 interceptions, has much range as any safety in the league. He’s complemented by veteran SS Malcolm Jenkins, who plays outstanding run defense and helps in deep support.

New Orleans swarms to the ball better than any defense in the league. This is one of the NFL's better defenses, capable of winning games by themselves. However, each level needs to make more game-changing plays than they have in the last month.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) passes the ball. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) passes the ball. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Offensive Rankings

  • Total Offense - 5th (391.7 yards/game)
  • Scoring - 2nd (29.5)

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  • Passing - 7th (272.9 yards/game)
  • Rushing - 12th (118.8 yards/game)
  • Third Down% - 2nd (48.8%)
  • Red-Zone% - 10th (62.8%)
  • Turnovers - 18th (14)

Josh Allen has entrenched himself among the league's best young signal callers. He has four 300-yard outings this season and has completed 65.7% of his attempts with 21 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.

Allen has one of the strongest arms in the league and has greatly improved his accuracy in the last two years. He also taxes defenses with his legs. At 6’5” and 237-Lbs., he has the size to withstand punishment but also the mobility to escape the rush and make big plays on the ground.

Allen's favorite target is gamebreaking All-Pro WR Stefon Diggs. After leading the NFL in receptions and yardage in 2020, Diggs has 60 catches for 773 yards and 5 touchdowns this season. He’s one of the NFL's top offensive weapons and will engage Lattimore in a critical showdown on most downs.

Buffalo receiver Stefon Diggs (14) catches a touchdown pass against the New York Jets. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo receiver Stefon Diggs (14) catches a touchdown pass against the New York Jets. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Bills have a deep receiving corps that creates mismatches against most defenses. Slot receiver Cole Beasley (57 catches, 484 yards) is one of the league's most underrated wideouts. Former Saint Emmanuel Sanders has 33 receptions for 531 yards and 4 touchdowns, providing an exceptional complement to Diggs.

Second-year WR Gabriel Davis is a dangerous deep threat who’s greatly improved his route precision. Tight end Dawson Knox is a big, but athletic target that runs extremely well after the catch. Buffalo backs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss have combined for 43 catches and 280 yards as check-down options for Allen.

With the big-play threat of their passing attack, Singletary, Moss, and Allen have had plenty of room as rushers. The Bills have averaged 4.7 yards/carry and scored 12 rushing touchdowns, both sixth in the league.

Devin Singletary leads the team with 415 yards rushing, scoring twice. Moss, who has 265 yards and a team-high 4 rushing touchdowns, gives Buffalo a solid 1-2 punch in the backfield.

Former 49ers RB Matt Breida adds starting quality depth. Allen gives the Bills a legitimate rushing threat at quarterback with his 340 yards on the ground and 3 scores.

Buffalo's offensive line has been an underrated reason for the team's success in their wins. However, they've struggled with protection on the edge and short yardage push in their losses.

Allen has been sacked just 15 times and is normally given plenty of time in the pocket, but protection breakdowns on the outside have led to turnovers.

What to Watch

New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) and makes a tackle on Buffalo Bills fullback Mike Tolbert (35). Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) and makes a tackle on Buffalo Bills fullback Mike Tolbert (35). Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Look for the Saints run defense to bounce back in a big way after last week's debacle against Philadelphia. However, the Bills offense is built around their receivers and the daunting physical skills of Josh Allen.

It’s imperative that New Orleans heavily pressures Allen to force him into rushed decisions. Allen has exhibited poor mechanics when opponents have successfully pressured him. The Saints must also react quickly when Allen goes on the move. They've played poorly against mobile quarterbacks this season.

Marshon Lattimore needs to bounce back after a few consecutive poor outings. He and Diggs will face off most of the night in a battle of NFL elites. Even if Lattimore plays well, the rest of the New Orleans secondary will face the challenge of a deep and playmaking Bills receiving corps.

Nov 28, 2019; Saints linebacker Demario Davis (56) celebrates a victory by holding a turkey leg after a game against Atlanta on Thanksgiving Day. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 28, 2019; Saints linebacker Demario Davis (56) celebrates a victory by holding a turkey leg after a game against Atlanta on Thanksgiving Day. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints defense has the personnel to create havoc against this explosive Bills offense. With the limitations of a shorthanded New Orleans offense, it will probably be on the shoulders of the defense to snap a three-game losing streak and give Saints fans an early holiday gift on Thanksgiving night.

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