Here are five things to know about the New Orleans Saints (6-2, first in NFC South) ahead of Sunday’s game at New Era Field.
1) Last game: The Saints beat the Buccaneers on Sunday, 30-10, while knocking Tampa quarterback Jameis Winston out of the game at halftime to due a reaggravated shoulder injury. He was limited to 68 yards in the first half and Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for only 67 in the second half. The Saints had four plays of 30 yards or longer and 14 of 10 or more. They got a big play on special teams, blocking a punt in the first quarter and returning it for a touchdown, but also had an extra point blocked and muffed a punt. Drew Brees completed 22 of 27 passes.
2) Streak: The Saints have won six consecutive games after an 0-2 start. The only teams they beat that are currently .500 or better are Green Bay (4-3 entering Monday night’s game), which had Brett Hundley at quarterback, and Miami (4-4), which is one of the least-efficient teams in the league despite owning four wins. So maybe that takes the shine off of some of their wins, but keep in mind that of the five teams the Bills beat, only Atlanta is currently .500.
3) Not the same Saints: The winning formula for the Bills the past few seasons has been to try to play great defense while getting good-enough offense. The Saints of late have basically been the anti-Bills, relying on Drew Brees and a great offense to overcome a soft defense. But after ranking 27th, 31st and 31st in total defense the last three years (’sup, Rob Ryan?) and missing the playoffs at 7-9 each time, this year’s Saints are enjoying the rewards of pairing their great offense with a capable defense. The 2017 Saints rank 15th in yards per game (12th in passing, 19th in rushing), which isn’t amazing but is better than the Bills this season and significantly better than they’ve been used to.
4) Look out for Alvin Kamara: Before the season, the Saints were thought to have one of the league’s better ground games, with Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson combining to form a two-headed monster. Third-round pick Alvin Kamara was an afterthought, but he has been one of the team’s most important players so far. He ranks second on the team in receptions and yards from scrimmage despite having a limited role until Peterson was traded to Arizona after Week 4. He’s also averaging 6.0 yards per carry, which leads the league. Bills linebackers had better account for him in the passing game, too.
5) Creating takeaways: The Bills lead the NFL in turnover margin at plus-11, but the Saints can take the ball away, too. They’ve recorded 12 turnovers over their six-game winning streak, which is third over that span to only the Bills’ and Jets’ 15. Safety Kenny Vacarro has four interceptions while rookie corner Marshon Lattimore has three. Losing the ball has been an issue for the Saints, though, committing nine turnovers in the last six weeks.