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John DeShazier's key ingredients for a Saints victory presented by Papa John's

Team must protect Drew Brees

A look at the Drew Brees press conference as he announces his contract renewal with the New Orleans Saints on September 7, 2016.

A few key ingredients to a New Orleans Saints victory against Oakland on Sunday.

  1. This is a pretty simple one, and could lead the list for every game. But after a rocky preseason in this category, it earns front-runner treatment: protect Drew Brees. An upright, infrequently harassed Brees usually spells offensive success for the Saints. Having right guard Senio Kelemeteback on the roster will help, and so will an effective running game, so don't be surprised to see Mark Ingramget some early touches. The Saints need to slow down the pressure that will be applied by Oakland's Khalil Mackand it'll be a group effort (good protection always is), but it's paramount that Brees be given more time to survey than he was given in the preseason. Hopefully, Evans' return will help solidify a line that couldn't quite find the right combination/chemistry while he was gone.
  1. Are the Saints' young cornerbacks – second-year player and first-year starter P.J. Williams(who was on injured reserve for his rookie season), and undrafted rookies Ken Crawleyand De'Vante Harris– ready for this? We'll find out quickly. Oakland's offense is led by quarterback Derek Carrand receiver Amari Cooper, and if the Raiders opt not to challenge New Orleans' Delvin Breaux, then the other three have to be ready for their first regular-season test. Obviously, it'll help if the pressure up front forces Carr into quick, inaccurate throws. But the pressure won't always have Carr on the run, so the DBs will have to keep the chunk plays to a minimum when he's not.
  1. Know who might be able to help the Saints' defense the most? Coordinator Dennis Allen. Allen was Oakland's head coach from 2012-14, and Carr was drafted in '14. Granted, Carr in '14 probably doesn't much resemble Carr in '16. Still, Allen knows what his weaknesses were, and whether those weaknesses still can be exploited or whether, perhaps, while Carr shored up one weakness, it left him exposed in another area.

4. Craig Robertsoncame late to the party with the Saints; they're hoping he'll smash a few lamps as a pass-rushing compliment to Pro Bowl left defensive end Cam Jordan.Kruger has had seasons of nine (2012, with Baltimore) and 11 ('14, with Cleveland) sacks, so he knows his way to the quarterback. New Orleans is counting on him as a proven commodity, and Kruger, who was none too pleased by the timing of his release in Cleveland, is carrying around a chip that the Saints hope he'll cash in to their benefit. Carr, by the way, was sacked 31 times and fumbled six times last season.

  1. Here it is, opening weekend, and the Saints' objective above all is to get off to a fast start. New Orleans has a relatively young team, it's coming off consecutive 7-9 seasons and it hasn't won the regular-season opener since '13. That also happens to be the last time the Saints appeared in the playoffs. A fast start will give the Saints confidence, something they hope to be able to ride the rest of the season. Many of the principle characters are gone who were on the roster at the end of last season, when New Orleans won three of its last four games. This team needs to establish its own success, and hopes to begin the establishing on Sunday.
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