The New Orleans Saints (6-2) are atop the NFC and looking to build on their 5-game winning streak in Week 10 as they return home to battle the San Francisco 49ers (4-5). When the NFL schedule was released, this was a game many quickly circled as a potential NFC Championship preview, but the narrative has changed rapidly. With over 20 injured players, the 49ers are searching for a lifeline to make the NFC playoffs and face perhaps the hottest team in the NFL this week, the New Orleans Saints.
Below are three X-Factors for the Saints in Week 10.
OFFENSIVE X-FACTOR: RB ALVIN KAMARA
If we are completely honest, Alvin Kamara could be the offensive X-Factor every week with no complaints from me. AK is on a roll in 2020, leading the NFL in scrimmage yards and yards after the catch. While his rushing numbers are not among the league's best, he is on pace to surpass 950 rushing yards on the season.
Sunday, against the 49ers, Kamara and the Saints' offense face a top-10 defense against the run and the pass. However, with the Saints returning to health and the 49ers continuing to catch the injury bug, there should be room all over the field for Kamara to maneuver and find one vs. one matchup with linebackers and safeties.
Kamara has been such a vital part of the Saints re-kindling their offensive mojo over the past month, and now including a healthy WR corps, the 2017 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year should only star more for the black and gold. With an opportunity to extend a winning streak and move to 7-2, the Saints should lean on Kamara to control the tempo of the game. Big plays by AK and Saints offense should get the 6,000 members of Who Dat Nation in attendance out of their seats cheering for more.
DEFENSIVE X-FACTOR: DE CAMERON JORDAN
Since the return of Marcus Davenport, the Saints defensive line has been the best in football at getting to the QB, according to Pro Football Focus. With Davenport's return to the lineup and the unexpected play of Trey Hendrickson, Cameron Jordan finds himself as the biggest beneficiary on the Saints defense. With less attention and double teams presented towards the All-Pro DE, Jordan has awoken over the past month, continuing to find himself in the middle of big defensive plays.
Despite Jordan's play on tape, the Cal product is still struggling to put up numbers in the sack category. After a career-high 15.5 sacks in 2019, Jordan has only 2.5 to his name halfway through the 2020 season. Jordan's production beyond the sack statistics does not go unnoticed. He is posting a PFF grade of 80.4 on the season. But, that number could be on the rise if Jordan suddenly has a flurry of sacks.
Against a banged-up offense, Jordan could begin to crack open the flood gates and sack 49ers QB, Nick Mullens, multiple times in Week 10. For the Saints defense's unquestioned leader, it is time to break out the “levels” celebration and continue to demand growth in the defense.
WILD CARD X-FACTOR: P THOMAS MORSTEAD
Punters are people, too, folks. Saints punter Thomas Morstead has continued to be one of the best in the NFL with limited time on the field. The Saints' offense has been humming over the past month and a half, which means Morstead has been seen less and less. Against the 49ers, the seasoned veteran could prove to be the difference in the ball game.
Last week, the Saints demolished the Buccaneers on national television, and though the 38 points were impressive, it was the Saints defense that deserves most of the credit for setting up Drew Brees and Co. with a short field, time and time again. Now Sean Payton can not rely on his defense to force 3 takeaways a game, so for the sake of winning the field position game, enter Thomas Morstead.
If the Saints' offense does stall at points on Sunday, they will lean on Morstead to “coffin corner” punt the Niners deep in their half and hope the defense can force them into a three and out. Morstead may not be called upon a ton or at all on Sunday, but he could be the X-factor between a win or a loss if he is.
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