The New Orleans Saints seek their 8th straight victory this coming Sunday when they travel to south central Ohio to face AFC Central division opponent the Cincinnati Bengals at their home Paul Brown Stadium — which is one of the NFL’s toughest venues to play for visiting teams. The amazing Saints turn around after getting burned badly in their first game continues to be the talk of the NFL right now. They will seek to continue that turnaround against a (5-3) Bengals team that is (3-1) at home and will be seeking to hand the Saints their first loss on the road (4-0 as the visiting team through eight weeks) this season.
This actually has been one of the most competitive series between an AFC team and the Saints franchise in recent NFL history.
Since the turn of the century, the (7-1) Saints have only gone (1-3) against the Bengals and have been outscored by them 108-63. Cincinnati leads the all-time series 7-6, and the Bengals have won four of the past five meetings. Remarkably, however, the odds-makers still have the Saints as a very strong road favorite this week (some as high as a 4.5 point favorite) despite the rough venue. Undoubtedly, that’s because the Saints are regarded by most observers at the moment as THE best team in the entire NFL.
It’s with all of that in mind this morning, that Big Easy Magazine presents 5 bold predictions for this Sunday afternoon’s contest in Cincinnati, as New Orleans attempts to win its 8th straight game in a row in the Queen City.
And we’ll start first at #5, and work our way down to #1…
#5. With the Bengals a Bit Short-Handed at Wide Receiver, the Saints Pass Defense Has Their Best Game of the 2018 Season
The Bengals are hoping that Green won’t require surgery after suffering a toe injury during when they faced off against the Buccaneers a week ago. Although Green has kept a positive attitude, his right foot sported a walking boot the next day, and as of last Sunday, was still wearing one.
Green currently leads the Bengals in both receiving touchdowns, and receiving yards. Terrell adds that losing him is a huge blow to an offense that was already without several key players including both starting tight-end Tyler Eifert and backup tight-end Tyler Kroft, as well as running back Giovani Bernard.
With most of those players now on injured reserve, the Bengals can ill-afford to lose Green for a drive, let alone a game or more; and especially against a team that’s as good as the Saints are.
The Bengals will likely have veteran quarterback Andy Dalton (21 touchdown passes with eight interceptions for 2,102 yards and a 92.9 QBR) compensate for the loss of Green by spreading the ball around to a variety of capable backup receivers in Green’s expected absence, which undoubtedly will be heavily aided by the play of talented running back Joe Mixon (more on him coming up in a minute). That’s good news for the Saints pass defense, who, although they’ve dramatically improved in recent weeks, has shown a knack for still allowing wide receivers to burn them and catch a “deep ball” at least once a game. Though they do eventually settle down and shut down the opponent’s passing game the rest of the way.
In this contest, Green is replaced in the Cincy starting line-up by speedy wide receiver Tyler Boyd, whom Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor knows is the perfect player to match up against a Saints defense that currently yields 27.3 points per game — something which the 23-year old Boyd can exploit if he’s on the field.
But the Bengals will have no such luck in this contest, as the Saints pass defense stifles Dalton, Ross and the entire Bengals passing attack, limiting the Cincinnati offense to a meager 72 net passing yards in the 2nd half.
#4. Recently Acquired Saints CB Eli Apple Gets His First Interception as a Member of the Black and Gold
While the Saints signed 9th-year free agent veteran and former Dallas Cowboys All-Pro wide receiver Dez Bryant on Wednesday, the expectation is that the 30-year old will have to learn/get himself accustomed to the team’s offensive scheme before he sees any game action. The signing of Bryant is the Saints franchise’s 2nd major player move within the past three weeks; the team traded for 3rd-year veteran and former New York Giants cornerback Eli Apple back during Week #8.
For his part, Apple has been very solid, if not all that spectacular, since his arrival and entrance into the Saints defensive secondary’s starting line-up; although the stats haven’t exactly backed that observation up completely.
However, that will all change in this week’s contest, when Apple has his best performance ever as a pro while matched-up one-on-one against Bengals 3rd-year wide receiver John Ross. Apple will finish with an interception (his first as a member of the Saints), two more passes broken up, three tackles (including one for lost yardage behind the line of scrimmage), and will several days later be named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his note-worthy effort.
#3. Saints 2nd Year RB Alvin Kamara Hits the Bengals Defense With a Double Dose of Running & Catching for Over 100 Scrimmage Yards
Some observers feel that Cincinnati has one of the worst defenses in the entire NFL; although well-respected Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has defended his unit’s performance by looking at the team’s “winning” (5-3) record. Unfortunately for Austin, the Bengals defense has yielded 79 points and 1127 yards just in their past two games alone. That doesn’t bode very well against a Saints offense that’s capable of blowing another team out considering how well they’ve played recently.
Through eight weeks of the 2018 NFL regular season, the Bengals are 29th in scoring defense, 26th against the run and currently are ranked dead last against the pass and in total yards allowed per game. It goes without saying that won’t be the most advantageous situation for Austin and the Bengals defense against the overwhelming capabilities of the Saints offensive attack, especially since they’ll get their first-ever taste of Saints running back Alvin Kamara.
Kamara — the 2nd-year sensation out of the University of Tennessee — has been one of the most versatile running backs in football, rushing for 490 yards (4.4 per carry) and nine touchdowns, while catching 51 passes for 427 yards (8.4 per catch) and three more scores; making him by far and away, the Saints’ #1 offensive weapon.
For this coming Sunday’s game, Kamara will show the entire pro football world yet again just why he’s worthy of being considered among the League’s elite caliber players. He’ll turn in another performance of 100 plus yards from scrimmage (nine carries, 42 yards; five catches, 78 yards and a touchdown) while giving the Bengals defenders fits all game long.
#2. On the Flip Side, It’s Another Masterful Performance for Saints QB Drew Brees and the Saints Passing Attack
Saints quarterback Drew Brees is (not surprisingly) still as sharp as ever despite now playing in his 17th NFL season. He is making a case for NFL League MVP consideration with 213 completions out of 279 attempts thus far (a whopping 76.3% completion percentage) for a total of 2.336 yards and 18 touchdowns, along with one interception and a QBR rating of 120.6.
You’ll have to forgive Brees for making the “smacking” sound that’s emanating from his lips this week. He is no doubt licking his chops against a Bengals defense that allowed nearly 500 passing yards in their win over Tampa Bay at home two weeks ago. If you think Cincinnati’s “D” struggled somewhat against the Buccaneers in that particular contest, then facing Brees and the Saints high-powered attack could get downright ugly.
Brees will continue to add to his impressive start to the 2018 season; as the soon-to-be 40-year-old wonder throws for 376 yards and three more touchdowns while guiding the Saints’ offensive attack to one of their better showings of the young season thus far.
#1. Despite Winning the Statistical Battle, the Saints Are Actually Trailing the Bengals Midway Through the 4th Quarter — When Suddenly…
Despite winning the statistical battle in which the Saints’ offense accumulates over 400-plus yards of total offense and makes life difficult at times for Dalton and the Bengals passing attack, it’s Bengals running back and former University of Oklahoma star Joe Mixon who will single-handedly keep Cincinnati in this contest.
On the season thus far through the first eight games, Mixon has carried the ball 105 times for 509 yards (an average of 4.8 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. He’s additionally caught 19 receptions out of the backfield for another 115 yards and a touchdown.
Joe Mixon’s Acceleration pic.twitter.com/1UlUGeZrVQ
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 28, 2018
And even though the Saints boast the League’s #1-ranked run defense at the moment, it would very likely come as a surprise if Cincinnati still didn’t try to do some damage to the Saints defense by running Mixon right at New Orleans early and often. In this Sunday’s game, Mixon GASHES the Saints offense for 112 yards on 22 carries; including a 77-yard run to give the Bengals a slim 14-13 lead right before halftime.
Mixon then scores another touchdown early in the 4th quarter to put Cincinnati up by three points in a “see-saw”, back-and-forth contest that threatens to get even worse for New Orleans when wide receiver Tommylee Lewis fumbles a punt return that allows Cincinnati to tack on a field goal for a 23-20 lead in the contest, with less than four minutes remaining.
The Saints’ offense then gets the ball back and faces the prospect of having to drive 80 yards, needing a touchdown to take the lead and hopefully win the game. Brees cooly and calmly leads the Saints on a methodical drive, brilliantly mixing in a pass here and a run there; with Kamara making a key 3rd down conversion to set the Saints up inside the Bengals 30-yard line right before the two-minute Warning.
On the very next play, Brees finds Michael Thomas on a seam route over the middle near the 10-yard line, and after breaking a tackle, Thomas dives across the goal line for the go-ahead score and a 27-23 lead.
Cincinnati then gets one last shot to pull it out, but Dalton is pressured by Cam Jordan, who forces a bad throw from the Bengals 7th-year quarterback right into the willing and waiting hands of safety Marcus Williams.
The 2nd-year defender makes an outstanding play on the ball in coverage in front of streaking Cincinnati wide receiver Tyler Boyd and returns the ball 33 yards for a “Pick 6” touchdown and the 8th straight win in a row for red-hot New Orleans…