The Saints will look to climb their record back to 3-5 against a very strong and deep Philadelphia Eagles team at home in the Superdome tonight. In order to win, the defense is going to have to show SOMETHING. Whether is a fortunate sack, turnover or the Eagles self destructing, we have to hope for something to go the Saints way. Sooner or later it almost has to. Hopefully the home crowd will be a boost. Here are the five things I'm looking for.
1. Who blinks first between Michael Vick and the Saints defense?
The Saints defense is the worst in NFL history so far, and Vick hasn't come close to living up to his $100 million contract. Vick has been miserable this season struggling with a plethora of turnovers and horrible accuracy. His performance in the red zone in particular has been atrocious. So what gives? Will the Saints defense finally take advantage of a falling apart quarterback, or will Vick use this defense to turn around his season? Hopefully it's the former given that it will be a hostile environment for Vick.
2. Will the Saints' DB's get torched horribly?
My biggest fear about this Vick vs. Saints' DBs matchup is that he's a mobile quarterback that can buy time in the pocket. The Saints can hardly get any pressure on a stationary quarterback, so now that you have a guy back there with escapability, it gives the receivers even more time to break off their routes while being covered by Patrick Robinson, Corey White, Malcolm Jenkins and the like. I just don't see that ending well unless Vick misses on throws. Odds are, some guys are going to get wide open throughout this contest. Can White/P-Rob in particular surprise us and play well despite plays being extended?
3. With Sproles out, how does the running back reps distribution shake out?
The player most like Darren Sproles is probably Travaris Cadet, but I doubt the Saints will trust him enough to plug him in to all situations in which Sproles would play. Most likely Pierre Thomas will play more like a featured back in this game, but I could be wrong. With Sproles out, it has to mean more snaps for Thomas and Mark Ingram for sure, and possibly Cadet and Chris Ivory. But who will play in what situations? Should be interesting to see how the Saints account for all the reps Sproles normally gets, because he's typically in there as the main back about 50% of the time.
4. Do the Saints' fans turn on the defense?
The defense is starting to get the brunt of the blame for this miserable season, and rightfully so. With the game being Monday Night at home the fans will be charged up early, but I think they could start turning on the defense very early in this game if the Saints go down a couple of scores. Fan patience is growing thin with Spagnuolo's system and I think their performance will be on a very short leash. My fear is if the boo birds rain down, we could see the unit start to quit, a little bit like what we saw late against the Broncos. This game could be ugly and very painful in front of a national audience, if so.
5. Can Jimmy Graham rebound?
See what I did there with the double entendre basketball reference? Nice. Seriously though, with Sproles out there's even more need for Graham to play well. He hasn't done that this year. I don't care if he only finished the game with 40 yards receiving, I just don't want to see a drop. If he can get through this game without a drop then it'll be a positive. Odds are, though, no drops probably means he'll have a huge game. I'm still hopeful.