The New Orleans Saints stay home this week as they welcome the Cincinnati Bengals. New Orleans is now 2-3 after defeating the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday. The build-up to this game has challenged the Saints. Superstars Marshon Lattimore, Jarvis Landry, and Michael Thomas will miss this game due to injuries. The Saints must rally because these wounded Bengals will not lie down for anyone, especially with Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Trey Hendrickson, and Vonn Bell returning to Louisiana. Here are three things New Orleans must do to get back to .500.
Eliminate The Explosive Passing Game
The Bengals were the most explosive passing attack in 2021. What they lacked in efficiency and consistency, they made up for in field-tilting, game-breaking plays. Since 2021, Burrow to Chase has been the most devastating combination, especially on go routes. Chase leads the NFL in receiving yards on go routes and has seven touchdowns. Through five games, the Saints have allowed a passer rating of 128.1 on deep pass attempts. The Saints must compress the field and eliminate the deep pass threat. Safety Marcus Maye will need to be at his ‘center-fielder’ best. The Saints don’t necessarily need to stick with a ton of Cover-2, but they should show it to throw off the Bengals. Maye’s return will help and allow Tyrann Mathieu to roam the field as a roaming safety when the Saints shift.
Burrow’s touchdown to interception ratio when facing Cover-2, Cover-2 Man and Cover-6 is 2:3. The Baltimore Ravens did that successfully, as they restricted Burrow to an average of four air yards per attempt, the lowest of his career. Cincinnati is not a rhythm offense; they struggle to march the ball downfield. Take the explosive play away from this offense, and it’s like taking a pinch runner’s legs away; it becomes much more complex. There is a reason why the Bengals are 24th in offensive EPA. Maye, Mathieu, and the Saints coverage unit need a good day.
Unleash The BYU Bulldozer
With Landry and Thomas out, and Chris Olave yet to clear concussion protocol, the Saints’ offense is shorthanded. Therefore, it feels like another game where New Orleans will need Taysom Hill. The Bengals are sixth in defensive EPA and are top-10 in defensive DVOA. They are a very good, well-coached unit. But in Hill, the Saints possess a true wildcard. How many 220-pound men run at 20 miles per hour, block like an animal, and can throw a touchdown pass? Hill’s plays are not exotic, nor are they an x’s and o’s nerds fever dream. But they are difficult to stop. The Saints have a variety of ways to roll out heavy personnel and use misdirection, motion, and play fakes to test the Bengals defenders’ eye discipline. Hill has patience, and he ferociously hits a gap when it opens. Add an ever-improving Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram as the power back, and the Saints have options. It all starts with Hill. These three will be key, especially in the red zone, where the Saints are the second-best offense in the NFL. If Hill causes carnage, the Bengals may have a problem.
Get Pressure, And Finish
The Saints are 32nd in pass rush win rate. They cannot get after the quarterback. However, the Bengals are 27th in pass-block success. Their offensive line has not gelled yet, and Jonah Williams is listed as questionable. Add that to Burrow’s penchant for holding onto the ball a tad too long, and the Saints have to find a pass-rushing performance. If the back-end plays top-down and forces Burrow to double clutch, the Saints must finish. It is non-negotiable.