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John DeShazier: Key ingredients to a Saints victory presented by Domino's

Big question is who will start at QB for Saints

  1. We may not know who will be taking snaps at quarterback for the New Orleans Saints until kickoff. Will it be Drew Brees, who vowed to play despite having torn his right plantar fascia in the Monday night loss to Detroit? Will it be Matt Flynn, the eight-year veteran who has been the backup quarterback the last four games, and who has a better knowledge of the offense after having been in the system since mid-November? Or, maybe, rookie Garrett Grayson,the Saints' third-round draft pick, will get the call if Brees can't go. The distinct vibe from the Saints is that if Brees can't play, Flynn will start. He'll give New Orleans the best chance to win in Brees' absence. Working in the Saints' favor is this: Opposing quarterbacks are completing 65 percent of their passes against Jacksonville for 276 yards per game, with 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Saints played well in the game this season that Brees missed due to injury, a 27-22 road loss to Carolina. If they have to, they should feel confident that they again can play well without him. Keep an eye on Saints second-year receiver Brandin Cooks, who needs just seven yards for his first 1,000-yard season.
  1. New Orleans was extremely unbalanced offensively against Detroit. Falling behind 28-3 contributed to the Saints only posting 18 rushing attempts, for 69 yards, against the Lions; Brees had 52 passing attempts in the comeback attempt. Simply, they have to run the ball more and the only way to ensure that is to not fall behind early by two or three touchdowns. Tim Hightowerhad just 13 rushing attempts against Detroit after posting a career-high 28 in the previous game, against Tampa Bay. Jacksonville allows 101 rushing yards per game, so hopefully the Saints can get to that level in order to keep the Jaguars defense honest.
  1. It's no secret that opposing quarterbacks have been too comfortable against the Saints this season. New Orleans' opponents are completing 68 percent of their attempts for 4,053 yards (289.5 per game) and 39 touchdowns, with just six interceptions. Jacksonville's Blake Bortles(311 of 539 for 3,821 yards and 31 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions) isn't exactly a pushover. However, Bortles has been sacked 41 times this season, suggesting that the Saints should be able to reach him. They're going to have to pressure him more than they did Detroit's Matt Stafford, who completed 22 of 25 passes and threw three touchdowns on Monday night.
  1. One hundred thirty-seven rushing yards per game, and 5.1 yards per rush – that's what the Saints are allowing this year. No opponent is going to do New Orleans the favor of not trying to run until the Saints show they can stop the run, which means Jacksonville certainly will pound away after Detroit nearly doubled its season average with 150 rushing yards against the Saints. It's difficult to win without making an opponent one-dimensional, so New Orleans again will seek to take away the run and force the opponent into obvious passing situations. Of course, that means the secondary will have to deal with Jaguars receivers Allen Robinson(69 catches for 1,141 yards and 13 touchdowns) and Allen Hurns(53-907-8). Better that, though, than allowing the Jags to have everything at their disposal.
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