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Saints vs. Bills: Five things to watch

Posted Oct 26, 2013

Saints need home-field advantage to pay off

1. NO HANGOVER.  Among the things said by Coach Sean Payton after the New Orleans Saints’ first and only loss of the season, a 30-27 road decision to New England in which the Patriots scored the game-winning touchdown with less than 10 seconds remaining, was that New Orleans needed not to wallow in it. Likely, having the bye week helped refresh minds as well as bodies. The operative description for practice Monday and Wednesday was that players were “flying around,” so there appeared to be no lingering effects. Even so, it probably wouldn’t hurt if the Saints jumped on the Bills early in Sunday’s game, to sow some seeds of doubt in Buffalo and entice the Bills to surrender a little early.

2. HOME COOKIN’. The Saints have been fairly formidable so far this season in home games. They’ve beaten Atlanta, Arizona and Miami by an average score of 31-14. The luxuries afforded by the Mercedes-Benz Superdome are advantages that New Orleans obviously will want to continue to press against Buffalo, which is 1-2 on the road and is allowing 28 points per game away from home. After two straight road games and a bye week, Saints fans should be pretty throaty Sunday and the team will hope to ride that adrenaline.

3. A LITTLE MOORE. Receiver Lance Moore should be dressed and ready to play for the first time since the third game of the season. The hand injury that forced him to miss three games sufficiently has healed and that’s a good thing, because the offense could use his presence and production. He has great hands, runs precise routes and is a source of comfort for quarterback Drew Brees. Don’t discount that last statement, especially if tight end Jimmy Graham (foot) is unable to play. Graham’s presence (37 catches, 593 yards, six touchdowns) will be missed and veteran tight end Ben Watson is a capable fill-in. But Moore, too, will be counted on to help soften the absence, especially given that the Bills likely will play heavy man-to-man defense, and that one of his specialties is being able to create space, separate and snag passes.

4. CONS AND PROS. The Buffalo defense is going to allow yards (380 per game) and it’s going to be on the field (opponents possess the football almost six more minutes per game, 33:27-27:43). But it also has done two other things very, very well: The Bills intercept passes and sack quarterbacks, to the tune of league-leading totals of 12 and 23, respectively, in those categories. So there’s going to be a bit of feast or famine with that unit. If it’s famine, the Saints’ offense should post some big numbers.

5. IN A RUSH. The Saints are coming off a five-sack game against the Patriots, and have 20 for the season. They may be minus defensive end Cam Jordan (team-high five sacks) against the Bills. Even so, Buffalo has been sufficiently accommodating that Jordan’s absence may not matter a whole lot. The Bills have allowed 24 sacks this season, around 3.4 per game, which virtually is lockstep with the Saints’ average of 3.3 per game. Rookie quarterback Thad Lewis has gone down nine times in 73 pass attempts (12 percent of the time) so the Saints' defense may be able to confuse him, force him to hold on to the ball a little longer than he wants to, and pile up sacks and/or hurries. If he’s rattled early it could be a long afternoon for the Bills.

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