The New Orleans Saints (2-3) still are hunting for that synced, complete game. Maybe it'll happen Sunday in the Caesars Superdome, when New Orleans takes on Cincinnati (2-3). That would be a good place for it, and here are a few ways it can happen:
1. GROUND AND POUND: In the last six quarters the Saints have scored 57 points (seven touchdowns) and totaled 700 yards. The catalyst has been the ground game, with 308 yards and five touchdowns on 64 carries. Taysom Hill (nine carries, 112 yards and three touchdowns) and Alvin Kamara (23 carries for 103 yards) gave New Orleans a formidable 1-2 pop against Seattle, and they'll probably share the workload again this week. Don't expect Hill to match those herculean numbers, but he'll get touches and Kamara absolutely is capable of duplicating his effectiveness. The Bengals allow 100 rushing yards per game, and 4.2 yards per attempt, so they're no pushovers. But New Orleans needs effectiveness on the ground.
2. ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE? New Orleans is down three of its top four receivers – Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Deonte Harty. Chris Olave basically missed the last two quarters against Seattle after suffering a concussion early in the third, spent the week in concussion protocol and is questionable for Sunday. His presence would be huge. An effective running game will negate some of the need to rely on the receiving corps that will include Tre'Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, Keith Kirkwood and possibly Rashid Shaheed, who'll be making his NFL debut mainly as a kick returner. Yes, New Orleans will need to throw the ball to balance the offense, but it will need to be able to pick its spots. This isn't a game to be playing from behind. Kamara (six catches for 91 yards against Seattle) will help, but Cincy has allowed four touchdown passes, has five interceptions and opponents have completed a league-low 57.4 percent of their passes.
3. SMALLER BITES: The Saints defense gave up six explosive plays (receptions of 20-plus yards, runs of 10-plus) against Seattle, and four of them went for touchdowns. That's not a recipe for success. New Orleans has to do a better job against the deep ball, and has to be better with its fits against the run. It has to force the Bengals to construct drives, instead of quick hits. It won't help that cornerback Marshon Lattimore (abdomen) and safety P.J. Williams are out, but Marcus Maye returns at safety and cornerbacks Paulson Adebo, Bradley Roby and Chris Harris Jr. are more than capable of rising to the challenge. Adebo wants and needs a bounce-back game after Seattle, and the Bengals receivers will provide a huge challenge. It'll be interesting to see who matches against Cincy receiver Ja’Marr Chase when New Orleans goes man-to-man. Adebo has the ability and mentality to do it.
4. RETURN TO FORM: New Orleans hasn't gotten much juice from the return game this season, and this would be an opportune time for it to happen. Shaheed, the rookie, returned seven kicks for touchdown in college. With Harty out and Hill too valuable on offense to risk, he'll get the chance to make a mark in the return game. Field position always is critical, and Shaheed hopefully can give the Saints a shorter field to navigate when he gets the chance. New Orleans is overdue for a long return.
5. GET TO JOE: Everyone knows how effective and efficient Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow can be. Also, everyone knows he can be sacked. He has been taken down 18 times this season, though the numbers have improved the last three games, where he only has been sacked five times. The Saints, with nine sacks in their last three games, are trending in the right direction and defensive end Cameron Jordan (2.5 sacks in the last two games) has been formidable. Burrow can't be allowed to be comfortable; he has too many weapons at receiver for that. New Orleans has to make him uncomfortable and keep him uncomfortable, or it could be a long day for the secondary.