Finally, the Saints can play football instead of talking about suspensions and bounties. Although, on Friday New Orleans got some good news when the players who were effected by "Bounty Gate" got their Suspensions lifted.
That is not the end of the bounty situation but it does end it for week one. New Orleans opens the season at home against the Washington Redskins and their rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Facing a rookie quarterback is an advantage for the Saints in week one. Preseason games feature vanilla defenses and offenses so RG3 hasn't seen a complete NFL defense but more than likely the Saints didn't the Redskins full offense featuring Griffin in the preseason.
Here is what the Saints need to do on offense and on defense in today's game. I am including my week one picks as well.
Saints on offense
Get off to a fast start
One of the best things the Saints can do is get off to a quick start on offense. If Drew Brees and company can put up points early, it puts pressure on RG3 to match the Saints production.
When a rookie quarterback starts to press, normally bad things start to happen. It would be great if New Orleans can get out to a quick 14-0 or 10-0 lead early in this game.
New Orleans can use their offense to put pressure on the Redskins offense because they have to keep pace. Washington will want to keep the Saints close till the fourth quarter and try to steal a win.
Establish the run early
New Orleans has a deep stable of running backs and they should get the running game going early. If the Saints can get the running game early it will pay off in the fourth quarter.
No team has played a full game since last season. The Saints can wear down the Washington defense using the run. If the Redskins begin to wear down, it will be in the fourth quarter after the Saints have been pounding on them for 45 minutes.
Another reason to get the run game going is it leaves RG3 on the sideline. New Orleans can keep the rookie from getting in a rhythm if he is sitting on the bench.
Protect the ball
Nothing sounds more obvious but if the Redskins are going to pull off a week one win it will be because the Saints were sloppy with the football. New Orleans must avoid turnovers, especially in the fourth quarter when teams begin to get tired.
A big turnover could switch all the momentum to the Washington sideline. It doesn't help to get off to a fast start if the Redskins get a quick turnover that leads to point and lets them back into the game.
Being smart with the football and keeping two hands on the ball late in the game will be key for both teams. New Orleans needs to make sure they are that team.
Take away the running game and tight ends
Rookie quarterbacks typically rely-on their running game to take pressure off them. A good running game can put a rookie quarterback in second and third down with short yardage to go.
New Orleans needs to take away the run game and force the Redskins into second and third downs with long yardage to go like 2 & 8 or 2 & 9. That puts pressure on Griffin to make a play with his feet or his arm.
That is also why taking a the tight end is important. Most rookie quarterbacks throw to their tight ends or running backs early in their career in the passing game.
Taking away options for Griffin will pay off for the Saints as the game wears on. It also forces Griffin into things he is not comfortable doing or feel like he has force the issue.
Put pressure on RG3 but keep contain
Robert Griffin III was electric in college when he scrambled as plays broke down. New Orleans needs to put pressure on the highly touted rookie but can't let him run around with his legs.
The Saints must play sound defense, rush but don't let RG3 get outside the defense. New Orleans would be best suited making RG3 step up in the pocket into the heart of the defense.
Depending on how healthy the defense is for the Saints, New Orleans could put a spy on RG3 to keep him inside the pocket and take away big plays from his legs. If RG3 starts running round, throwing off of scrambles and rushing down field for yards it will be a long day for the New Orleans defense.
Tackle soundly, force turnovers, and cover receivers
I know this sounds like football 101 again but you would be surprised how many teams loose because they play with such poor fundamentals. The Saints need to make good tackles and not miss tackles (especially in the running game, where they struggled in the preseason), play good coverage on pass defense and force turnovers when possible.
The replacement officials let the Giants & Cowboys play pretty physical pass defense. If that trend continues the Saints should be able to do the same and slow the Redskins receivers which could lead to turnovers from RG3.
Playing sound defense is one of the easiest ways to get a week one win. New Orleans has looked very good on defense for most of the preseason but injuries could slow this unit at the start of the season.
Prediction: New Orleans Saints 34 Washington Redskins 17
Week one winners (winning teams in bold)
Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears
Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns
New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans
Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs
Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
St. Louis Rams at Detroit Lions
Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders