by Adam Vingan, Special to District Sports Page, and unapologetic Saints fan
Who Are The Saints?
Actually, the more appropriate question is “Who Dat?” Either way, the Saints are one of the NFL’s most elite teams in recent seasons; since 2009, New Orleans is 37-11 during the regular season. Oh, and don’t forget about that Super Bowl XLIV championship. They also have one of the league’s most intimidating home-field advantages. There is nothing like a Sunday in New Orleans during football season. The lack of open container laws means that the entire city is a giant tailgate party. And they start early. By game time, the Superdome is filled with 75,000 highly-energized (and intoxicated) fans ready to make some noise. From first-hand experience, I can tell you that the Superdome is deafening. Good thing Robert Griffin III and the Redskins have been preparing for that.
Their offense is pretty good, right?
Right. The Saints’ offense led the NFL in total offense (467.1 yards per game) and passing yards (334.2 yards per game). That second number can be attributed to quarterback Drew Brees, who set a NFL record with 5,476 passing yards last season to go along with 46 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions. Brees has an arsenal of offensive weapons that he can throw/hand off to, from tight end Jimmy Graham (11 receiving touchdowns) to speedy running back Darren Sproles (1,313 total yards). Don’t forget running backs Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory as well as wide receivers Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Devery Henderson. It’s a stacked team.
But that bounty thing…that should slow them down.
Well, the bounty scandal only affected players on the defensive side of the ball. The coaching staff, however, will be missing its heartbeat – head coach Sean Payton – all season long. Payton’s offensive wisdom and penchant for taking calculated risks has been a large part of the Saints’ recent resurgence, but interim head coach Joe Vitt (who will miss the first six games due to suspension), interim-to-the-interim head coach Aaron Kromer, defensive coordinator/former Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael (as well as Brees) should handle his absence without missing a step. Meanwhile, New Orleans will likely have one of their best defensive players — defensive end Will Smith — back for Sunday’s game earlier than expected. Friday, an appeals board overturned the suspensions of four players associated with the bounty scandal, Smith being one of them (he was scheduled to miss four games). RGIII’s first start just got tougher.
So what’s the key to possibly beating the Saints Sunday?
Of course, the spotlight will be on Griffin, but if the Redskins hope to win Sunday, they will need their defensive line to be on top of its game. Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and the rest of the line will need to put pressure on Brees and force him to make rushed decisions. Brees, who releases the ball very quickly, will have a field day against the Redskins’ depleted secondary if given enough time to scan the field.
What’s your prediction?
I think RGIII will have a strong showing in his debut, but between the possible return of Smith, a lively New Orleans crowd and just the sheer dominance of the Saints’ offense, I don’t give the Redskins that much of a chance. The score will be close early before New Orleans takes over before halftime. Saints 38, Redskins 17.
Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Redskins coverage on Twitter @RedskinsDSP.