More importantly for this week, can the Saints stop the Chargers on Defense? New Orleans have given up 40, 35, 27, and 28 points in their four games this season. Not exactly low totals. This also isn’t shocking. The Saints have lived and died off their offense for several years now. And it used to work. It is hard to point out exactly what is different this year, but there are some clear problems in New Orleans. Drew Brees is still racking up the yards with ease, but he is doing it less efficiently. He is completing just over 57% of his passes this year. Well off his career average of over 65%. In Brees’ record breaking season last year he completed 71% of his passes. This is far from vintage Drew Brees.
The running game has never been a large factor for the Saints, but this year seems more concerning. Perhaps the losing makes it a bigger deal, well of course it does. They have invested a lot in some very solid running options in Sproles, Ingram, and Pierre Thomas. They are all talented backs, so why not use them? Of course, with the defense struggling, they may not be able to use the run at their luxury.
On to San Diego. They are sitting at 3-1, but haven’t beaten the most impressive teams this season. There only loss came in a blowout to NFC South leaders Atlanta. The Falcons are the only offense they have faced that has a great offense as well. This is good news for the Saints, but nothing is imminent. New Orleans will put up their points, that is a given.
Will the D step up though? Rivers is a talented QB, but hasn’t been playing at an elite level since 2010. He still can rack up some big stats, but the consistency isn’t there. His top wideout is no longer Vinent Jackson, but instead Malcolm Floyd. Old friend Robert Meachem is now a Charger, but has yet to fully click with the new offense. Antonio Gates is still around, but health problems have limited his effectiveness the last two years.
The running game isn’t quite clear either. Ryan Mathews got his first action a couple weeks ago, but hasn’t resumed a feature back role as expected. In fact, Jackie Battle has overtaken Mathews for the starting spot. Don’t expect Mathews to be a mere handcuff, though. I’m sure he will get plenty of carries, and wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if he sees more snaps than Battle.
In the beginning of the season I would have thought this would be a pretty good matchup. I would have said New Orleans has too many weapons on offense for the Chargers to stop. I would have mentioned that Rivers has struggled in shootout games, and seems to crack under the pressure of close games. However, I have no idea what is happening in New Orleans right now, so predicting the outcome is no easy task.