The NFL’s game of the week takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana. The New Orleans Saints square off against the reigning world champion Kansas City Chiefs. Sean Payton’s team is back home after a galling defeat in Philadelphia. Kansas City rolls into town off the back of a superb win over the Miami Dolphins.
This game is the Christmas present every football fan has wanted. The defending champs against the team in a boom or bust year. It is the heavyweight clash of the sporting weekend. Let’s start by taking a look at the team in the black and gold corner.
The Saints’ long winning streak came to a shuddering halt in Philadelphia. It was a performance where New Orleans didn’t start until the fourth quarter. They let the Eagles build a lead and New Orleans could not come back.
They left too much work to be done in the late stages. The Saints started that game with a confidence bordering on arrogance, and it bit them in the backside. That defeat saw New Orleans lose the number one seed and now their playoff fate is out of their control.
For a team that went all in for 2020, that is not good enough. Last week’s defeat has made this game a must-win. Luckily for them, franchise legend Drew Brees is back. How healthy he is, we don’t know; nevertheless, the future Hall of Famer is back.
With Brees back at the helm, the New Orleans offense should be fine, regardless of Michael Thomas’ injury. The Chiefs are 27th in ESPN’s run stop success rate, that is a lousy statistic when the Saints have Alvin Kamara in the backfield. New Orleans will have opportunities to score points. Brees is the old cowboy who is surely saddling up for his last rodeo.
The legend will want to remind everyone why he is so great. If New Orleans can establish the run, Brees is cerebral enough to pick apart the Chiefs secondary. Perhaps, the most significant load is on the offensive line. That unit must protect the veteran quarterback. A nasty hit could rule Brees out for the game and maybe more.
The defense must help the offense. Perfection is what New Orleans will need. They must find a way of neutering the best offense in the NFL. Trey Hendrickson and Cam Jordan will have to have ferocious games. David Onyemata must control the running game.
You cant stop the Chiefs; you can only contain them. If I were New Orleans I’d play a soft zone, let Kansas City take everything underneath, and then rely on good tackling. The Saints are a strong tackling team; they should excel at that. Then if the Chiefs end up marching into the red zone, you can then play your aggressive man defense.
The field shrinks in the RedZone, even more so in goal to go situations. It is risky, but you must play with risk to beat Kansas City. New Orleans has to personnel to get physical in the RedZone, Janoris Jenkins, Marshon Lattimore, and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson can all be physical at the line of scrimmage. If New Orleans plays its standard defense, they will get burnt by the Chiefs.
The Chiefs are getting better and better. Despite Mahomes’ turnovers, Kansas City ran out comfortable winners over Miami. Mahomes threw for nearly 400 yards, while Travis Kelce went off with 136 yards receiving plus some insane highlight-reel catches. Moreover, a performance like that has underlined Kelce’s OPOY credentials. This Chiefs offense is the reincarnation of the Greatest Show on Turf.
Mahomes can make any throw from any platform as well as any arm angle. It is absurd. The Chiefs offense has rewritten the blueprint for NFL offenses. In Hill, Hardman, and Watkins, they have elite speedsters that can break any coverage. It is a bad matchup for New Orleans; their powerful defensive backs do not possess great speed.
If Mahomes is protected, he will not hesitate to let rip downfield. New Orleans can hurry him; they have the players to do that; it is a pivotal ingredient to this game. Give Mahomes time; he will go berzerk in an indoor stadium. Kansas City will come to New Orleans wanting to impose their will on the Saints defense.
For as great as the offense is, there are concerns on the defense. It is not a tremendous run-stopping unit that gives New Orleans a route not only to success; they can also keep Mahomes on the sideline with an excellent running game.
Steve Spagnuolo is known for his disciplined defenses. He must drill into his players that they must maintain their gap integrity and win their blocks. He will not want to stack the box with more players than what he needs, doing that can open up options for Brees with his quickfire release. New Orleans will be desperate to establish the run; it will give them the platform to success. Kansas City must take away the run game of New Orleans.
It is a mammoth game, two fantastic teams going at it this late in the season. Both teams know defeat is not an option; both teams know a win can build insurmountable confidence. The Chiefs will not have fans to deal with; conversely, the Saints will have no fans to rally behind them.
The Saints will embrace the underdog mindset, whereas the Chiefs will feel no pressure. It does not get any bigger than this. The Saints corner is ready; the Chiefs corner is ready, now we need the bell to ring so that this heavyweight matchup can get underway. The Battle in the Bayou is almost here.