If there’s any hope of the Saints avoiding another losing season, Sunday’s matchup with the Los Angeles Rams is a must win.
There are six games left on the schedule for the 4-6 2016 New Orleans Saints. The first of those six is Sunday in the Mercedes Benz Superdome against the 4-6 Los Angeles Rams. The remainder of the slate is not an easy one: against a resurgent 7-4 Detroit Lions at home, a dangerous 4-5-1 Arizona Cardinals team on the road, home and away vs. the 5-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and in Atlanta against the 6-4 Falcons to close out the regular season.
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Nov 17, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees (9) on the sidelines in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
On paper this matchup against the Rams is the easiest and most winnable of the lot. But nothing is guaranteed in the NFL. The Rams have the worst offense in the NFL yet their 6th ranked defense has kept them in games.
The Rams used the overall first round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to select quarterback Jared Goff. He’s starting his second game as a pro. This is classic gut check time for the Saints defense under first-year coordinator Dennis Allen. He’s got the unit on the upturn and they’ve shown well in their past four games against Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and Carolina so that side of the ball should be an easy win for the Black and Gold.
It’s the occasional offensive struggles the Saints seem to have, turnovers and inability to convert on 3rd down, which will need to be overcome against this stout Rams defense. Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is arguably the best defensive player in the NFL. Certainly he’s the best interior defensive lineman and is a disruptive force on every down he plays.
To date, the Saints offensive line has had an outstanding season. But if Terron Armstead is out then Andrus Peat has to shift to left tackle. Backup Senio Kelemete then has to come in at left guard. If this is the case on Sunday you can expect Aaron Donald to be licking his chops at the prospect of getting to Drew Brees. It will be on Saints OC Pete Carmichael to dial up plays to let Brees get the ball out quickly to mitigate the pressure.
Oct 16, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz (3) connects of a 52 yard field goal with sixteen seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of a win against the Carolina Panthers in a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints won 41-38. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
For the Saints’ special teams unit costly blocked kicks, mistakes in the kick and punt return game and the lack of an effective kick/punt return have cost the Black and Gold games this season. These mistakes need to be cleaned up against the Rams and going forward.
Certainly all elements need to be clicking for the Black and Gold in this one. A win would give them momentum and positive energy going into the stretch of the last five games. So a loss would be deflating and leave a lot of questions to be answered going into the offseason. Unless miracles happened in the remainder of the year.