Thanks to Andrew Juge of Saints Nation for joining us for this week’s question and answer exchange. You can find my answers to Andrew’s questions over on Saints Nation. Andrew’s answers to my questions follow after the jump.
Total Titans: The Saints are 6-0 at home, but only 3-3 on the road, and this’ll be the closest thing the Saints have left in the regular season to a cold weather game. Do the Saints play even worse on the road than a normal team, and how worried are you about venturing beyond a dome?
Saints Nation: For some reason the Saints haven’t brought the same intensity and focus on the road each week. The win in Atlanta was a big one, but Atlanta plays in a Dome, so the setting is similar to a home game minus the hostile crowd and like you said Tennessee will represent the coldest experience the Saints suffer through this season (at least until the playoffs). I wouldn’t universally say that the Saints play worse than most teams on the road, but they’ve definitely come out flat on the road a few times this year. Other times not. I’m not going to lie, I am worried about this game. I’m not going to call it a “trap” game, because the Saints are on the road against a 7-5 team. But, I do think it’s going to take a huge mistake free effort to come out of Tennessee with a win. I have no doubts your fans will be juiced and your team will come ready to play their best game of the season.
Total Titans: The Saints have looked pretty close to unstoppable offensively on national television the last couple weeks. What’s the Saints’ biggest weakness on offense, and how would you try to stop them?
Saints Nation: There really isn’t much of a weakness, sorry. That’s why they’re #1 in the NFL and have been 4 out of the last 6 years (and top 3 all 6 years). Many people say “get to Brees is the way to stop them”. I’m not sure you really can get to Brees. His release is too quick. That’s the thing, even with a poor offensive line, I don’t know how often he’d get sacked because he gets the ball out of his hands so quickly. I’m not saying he never gets sacked, but I just think you risk with blitzes leaving open receivers and with Brees’ release that won’t be a good thing. Ultimately, I think the elements (cold/rain/wind) represent your best chance to throw off the timing and rhythm of the Saints’ offense. Additionally, the Saints pass so much that Brees will give you 2-3 opportunities at an interception each week. Your DB’s have to make that catch and get off the field when the opportunity is there. If the INT is dropped, it will come back to haunt you. So I’d say there’s increased pressure to make the most of the few opportunities you do get to get off the field.
Total Titans: Some of the contributing factors to Chris Johnson’s recent success have some either because the opposing defensive linemen haven’t held up well in run support or because opposing linebackers have struggled to fill gaps and/or gotten beat at the point of attack. How effectively has the Saints’ defensive line held up against the run, and are the linebackers as unimpressive as I think they are?
Saints Nation: Poorly, and yes. The Saints are poor at linebacker. They signed Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers to boost the middle this offseason and both have been a flop. My confidence in the Saints’ ability to stop Chris Johnson consistently is at an all time low. We’ll just have to outscore you to win.
Total Titans: How much does this game mean to the Saints, and what’s the level of fair/paranoia/need to win? It seems like the Saints have a pretty good shot at winning the division, with a two-game lead on the Falcons and winning the first game between the teams, but at the same time there are those teams in Green Bay and San Francisco out there.
Saints Nation: It’s going to be tough to catch the 49ers for the #2 seed in the NFC and the Saints are firmly entrenched in their NFC South division lead and #3 seed in the NFC. In the end they’re probably going to have to run the table to have any shot at the 2 seed, but they can afford a loss or two and still win the NFC South/#3 seed. So in the end, this game is important but it’s not vital. Plus, it’s an AFC opponent and non conference losses aren’t as damaging to tie breaking purposes. So I’d say in the grand scheme of things this game doesn’t mean much to the Saints, relatively speaking, considering they’re a 9-3 team. BUT, going on the road and winning a game in cold weather like this would be a big boost to the Saints’ confidence going to the playoffs, so of course I’d love to get it.
Total Titans: Is there anything I haven’t asked you about the Saints you’d like Titans fans to know for Sunday’s game?
Saints Nation: Mark Ingram has turf toe so I don’t think he’ll play, and you’re probably going to see a heavier dose of Chris Ivory. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad news, but are similar. What to expect: The Saints offense runs through Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham. Those are the two key cogs to the offense and those are the two players you have to focus on. Defensively, Matt Hasselbeck already knows this all too well as evidenced from him knocking the Saints out of the playoffs last year: find Roman Harper in coverage and pass to the receiver he is covering EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Total Titans: Finally, if you’d like to make score prediction, please feel free.
Saints Nation: Saints 27-24, but I’ll admit I have a bad feeling about this matchup.
Thanks to Andrew for participating in this week’s question and answer exchange, and don’t forget to check out Saints Nation for my half of the exchange and other great Saints coverage.