The New Orleans Saints (3-2) return from a bye week by traveling to face the Seattle Seahawks (2-4) on Monday Night Football.
This is the fifth road game of the year for the Saints, who technically had a home game in Week 1 that was relocated to Jacksonville because of Hurricane Ida.
The Saints have had some ups and downs offensively over the first portion of the year. QB Jameis Winston is still getting acclimated to the system, and the team has been shorthanded at wide receiver with the injury absence of WR Michael Thomas.
New Orleans has scored 25.4 points per game, but their average of 295 yards per game ranks just 28th in the NFL.
With the struggles of a passing attack that ranks next-to-last in the league, the Saints have been more reliant on their running game and an offensive line that has been without Pro Bowl LT Terron Armstead and star C Erik McCoy the last few games.
A once dominant Seattle defense has plummeted to one of the worst in the league. The Seahawks are allowing nearly 25 points/game and rank dead last in total defense, giving up an average of 433 yards per outing.
New Orleans performed better offensively in the two weeks before their bye. They'll try to keep that momentum going on the road against Seattle, starting with a balanced approach.
SAINTS RUSHING ATTACK VS. SEAHAWKS RUN DEFENSE
The Saints have the NFL's 9th ranked rushing attack, averaging 125.8 yards/game. Their ground game has been feast-or-famine. They've been held to less than 100 yards twice, but have rushed for over 170 yards twice and had another outing of 148 yards.
Dynamic RB Alvin Kamara leads the ground assault. Kamara has 368 yards rushing, including one game with 120 yards and two more with over 80. One of the league's most dangerous weapons, Kamara has only averaged 3.9 yards per carry so far and hasn't had many opportunities in open space.
The Saints offensive line has bullied most opponents over the previous four seasons, but has underperformed at times this season and struggled with injuries. Armstead and McCoy may both miss another outing with injuries. James Hurst has performed well at left tackle. Ruiz had initial struggles in McCoy's center spot, but has played better in recent weeks.
The bulk of the team’s rushing success comes over the right side, behind RG Calvin Throckmorton and RT Ryan Ramczyk. Hurst, Ruiz, and LG Andrus Peat must open up cutback lanes for Kamara and are athletic enough to open up opportunities at the second level of a defense.
With backup RB Tony Jones sidelined with an ankle injury, there is no clear-cut rushing complement to Kamara. Veteran WR/RB Ty Montgomery and reserve RB Devine Ozigbo will see some snaps, but the brunt of carries will go to #41.
Utility weapon Taysom Hill has 77 yards rushing and a team-high 3 touchdowns. He is a bulldozer of a runner, usually on the right side, with a lethal burst into open space. Hill left a week five win at Washington with a concussion, but should be cleared to play against Seattle.
SEAHAWKS RUN DEFENSE
Seattle ranks 30th in rushing defense, allowing nearly 141 yards per game on the ground and 4.4 per carry. The Seahawks have allowed two 100-yard rushers this season, with three other backs gaining at least 80 yards against them.
Seattle's 4-3 defense has been especially vulnerable to inside runs. Defensive tackles Poona Ford and Al Woods are big-bodied defenders, but have consistently lost leverage at the point of attack. Their ineffectiveness has allowed running backs to get to the second level of their defense unimpeded.
The Seahawks have had poor gap control all season. Several defenders have shown poor fundamentals and over-pursued plays, allowing runners to cut back against them for big gains.
Defensive ends Kerry Hyder, Rasheem Green, Carlos Dunlap, and Alton Robinson have been out of position on several plays, creating room for opposing backs off tackle.
Ten-year veteran MLB Bobby Wagner remains one of the NFL's best defensive players. An elite playmaker always around the ball, Wagner has recorded over 100 tackles for nine consecutive seasons. He has a league-best 72 tackles so far this year.
Wagner is complemented by second-year LB Jordyn Brooks, a first-round draft pick in 2020. Brooks is a throwback linebacker who packs a punch at 6-feet and 240-Lbs., but has the burst to explode into the backfield quickly to make a play.
Veteran S Jamal Adams has never been strong in coverage, but is one of the NFL's most disruptive defensive backs near the line of scrimmage. Adams is at his best in the tackle box. He has great anticipation, the strength to take on blockers, and the athleticism to track down plays in the open field.
What to Watch
Seattle made some nice defensive adjustments in the second half of last weeks loss to Pittsburgh, but have generally been bullied and out-schemed by opponents all season.
Brooks is a solid run defender and Wagner and Adams are considered among the league's best at their positions. The Seahawks, as a unit, have been average on third downs but are getting beat soundly on first and second downs.
On paper, the Saints should be able to move the ball at will on Seattle's floundering defense. The key will be up front, where New Orleans will likely be without linemen Terron Armstead and Erik McCoy for another week.
Alvin Kamara is a slashing runner who has elite vision for cutback opportunities. He looks primed for a huge outing, if the Saints offensive line can control the action in the trenches.
Wagner and Adams must be accounted for at all times, but winning the one-on-one battles across the front will spring Kamara for big gains that have crippled the Seahawks defense all season.
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