In Week 5, the Saints (2-2) meet the Washington Football Team (2-2) at FedEx Field in Maryland to find out who will be below .500 after it's all said and done. New Orleans is coming off a very shocking home loss to the Giants, while Washington beat the Falcons after rallying from a 30-22 deficit in the fourth quarter to win in the game's final minute.
Washington is 8-5 at home against New Orleans in the all-time series, with them blowing out the Saints in their last meeting in 2015. Of course, that game spelled the end of Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator, as the 47-14 defeat brought up so many issues with that particular team. Here's a few things we're watching when Sunday rolls around.
What to Watch For
How the Saints respond. Last week's loss against the Giants was very humbling to this team, and everyone has to be curious about what New Orleans will do to follow it up. After the game, we talked about how they have to learn from the bitter loss and move on quickly. The Saints could very well be 3-1 right now, but the reality is they're 2-2 and "it is what it is" according to Sean Payton. This is the team's last game before they go on their bye week, and we'll see what message has been landed based on how they execute in this one.
The pass protection. It's hardly a secret, but Washington has one of the better defensive fronts in the league. However, like the Saints, this is a unit that has struggled to get home and sack the quarterback. The Football Team enters with 7 sacks on the year, which ties them for 23rd in the NFL. Meanwhile, New Orleans ranks tied for 30th with 6 sacks.
Payton said on Wednesday, "If you look at their defense you would say that it us a very good front. A group that can rush the passer. They are extremely athletic. Obviously, a lot has been invested in that group with first round picks. So you have to be on point with your protection plan. They have real good press, man-to-man type cover players."
Keeping Jameis Winston upright will be key for the Saints offense here, and we've seen the WFT defense struggle a bit in their tackling. Putting an emphasis on the run game will go a long way, but it's something we'll have to see the offense stick to. It's one of those games that feel like it could be decided in the trenches.
Handling the explosive talent. Payton made it a point to single out J.D. McKissic and Terry McLaurin. These are just a couple of the offensive weapons Washington has, and both had nice games against the Falcons last week. McLaurin was targeted 13 times, hauling in 6 catches for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns. Led by Taylor Heinicke, the Football Team put up 412 yards of offense on Atlanta and finished 4-of-9 on 3rd Down conversions.
The Giants exploited the Saints defense in several ways last week, and it wasn't pretty. The immediate concerns were in tackling, explosive plays, and getting after the quarterback. Atlanta only sacked Heinicke once last week, while the previous week's loss to the Bills saw him go down once. Teams like to get the ball out quickly against the Saints, and look for them to emulate something similar to what New York did. If New Orleans can execute accordingly, then they should be able to get this one.
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