The return of football this week means we get another chance to chat with a fellow SB Nation blogger. This week Dave Cariello of Canal Street Chronicles provides some insight into a few areas of the Saints, some of which we know and some of which we don't know.
Dave provided a prediction and continued the run of confidence we have seen from Saints fans. In his prediction he went with a 35-10 Saints victory, concluding with an apology for his confidence. I provided my own prediction over at Canal Street Chronicles, going with a 27-23 49ers victory.
Niners Nation: Aside from forgetting to charge the batteries on the Drew Brees robot, what would you say are weaknesses in his game?
Canal Street Chronicles: Well, there was a time last year when he was incredibly mistake prone, making bad passing decisions and throwing gobs of interceptions. The worst examples of this would have to be the Saints losses to Arizona and Cleveland. That seems to have vanished for the most part this year, but he's still thrown multiple interceptions a game this season because, let's face it, he's no Aaron Rodgers. Some people like to point to his height, but I don't think it's ever been much of an issue. Whatever weakness he has, however, will only be exposed when he's under heavy pressure and distress. The Niners need to bring the heat, mix coverages and hope for the best.
NN: You guys have a rushing attack that is putting up solid yards per carry, but something seems a little funky about the running game. Can you describe what is going on with it?
CSC: I don't think there is anything funky about the running game at all. The Saints have the 6th ranked rushing attack in the league. I think the reason others might perceive it as funky is because there is no marquee back putting up huge numbers and calling attention to this backfield. There is no Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew or the like. The Saints get the job done with an incredible rotation of backs, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram earlier in the season, all who have a different style and fill a particular role. Everyone knows their place and head coach Sean Payton has been brilliant getting the most from each of them. For Saints fans, it's been an absolute thing of beauty to watch. When Mark Ingram was sidelined with a toe injury, Chris Ivory was able to pick up right where Ingram left off. Funny thing is, they could have probably had the best rushing attack in the league if Payton wasn't so in love with passing the ball. But I'll get over it.
NN: Roman Harper is your leading sack man, which I figured was due to all the blitzing Gregg Williams does. There is a lot of talk about the blitzing, but the team is 19th in the league in sacks and 25th in Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate. What can you say about the Saints pass rush?
CSC: Just because they do a lot of blitzing doesn't mean they're good at it. Perhaps that's a bit harsh and over-simplifying it a bit. The Saints don't get great pressure from their front four or their linebackers, purely because of a lack of talent. That's the sad truth. But Williams is at least able to maximize that talent by confusing opponents with multiple looks and exotic pressure packages. That's why Roman Harper is the sack leader; he's one of the more talented players on the defense and Williams often brings pressure from safeties and cornerbacks instead of the usual front seven. I would love to see what Williams could actually do with a more talented unit.
NN: What are your thoughts on the whole indoors vs. outdoors discussion? The stats do show a difference, but in seeing some Saints fan discussion, some people think it's overblown for one reason or another. Thoughts on why?
CSC: The Saints are definitely better at home this season, there's no denying that. And it's true their offensive stats aren't nearly as impressive in their outdoor games this year. But I really have a hard time believing it's the result of the playing surface. If anything, I'd say it's the simple fact of not being in the comfort of their own home in front of the crowd that loves them. There may be some credence to being home or away, but I don't think the indoors/outdoors has made a difference for the Saints this season. After all, the Rams kicked their butt in the Edward Jones Dome. Whether the Saints win or lose this Saturday against the Niners, it won't be because they had to play on grass.
NN: We know a lot of the big names on the Saints. Can you give us a couple under the radar guys that could play a key role for the Saints on Saturday?
CSC: I'm sure you guys haven't heard about Saints fullback Jed Collins. He's a small part of the Saints offense and doesn't get utilized much other than in goal line situations but he does have four touchdowns this season. Payton likes to give him the ball when teams least expect so while he may not be a difference maker throughout, he sometimes shows up on big plays.
On defense, I'll go with safety Isa Abdul-Quddus. He was an undrafted free agent who worked his butt off to surprisingly make the roster. A true long shot. I still really don't know too much about him. He's used occasionally in nickle and dime packages, but he's really made a name for himself on special teams. Keep an eye on him during the game.
NN: Care to make a prediction?
CSC: Absolutely. This might stir some ish but I don't think it's going to be close. I will say Saints 35-10. The offense won't be slowed down in San Francisco and the defense is going to show up and surprise. I'm just that confident and in love with my team right now. Sorry.