Not saying that a short-week game is a fantastic remedy, but it does allow a team quickly to move on from a lopsided loss, which was the case for New Orleans (5-5) in its last game against Philadelphia.
So on to Thanksgiving night go the Saints, against Buffalo (6-4) in the Caesars Superdome, attempting to end a three-game losing streak against a team that was a preseason darling to advance to the AFC Championship Game, but itself is coming off a major beating (41-15, at home to Indianapolis).
In order for New Orleans to stop the wrong, several areas will have to be made right.
1. PLAY MISTAKE FREE: Easier said than done. Actually, MUCH easier said than done. But if it's not one thing (dropped passes), it's another (penalties), or another (turnovers). Much of that is in New Orleans' control, so much of it can be cleaned up. Quarterback Trevor Siemian’s first two interceptions of the season were huge contributors in the loss to Philadelphia, so whomever plays that position has to be protective of the ball. Taysom Hill could get a lot more work than he has this season because the offense has been stagnant. But in the past, Hill has been prone to fumbling, so an increased role isn't an automatic remedy by any means. What'll help the unit as much is if one of its starting tackles returns (maybe Terron Armstead at left tackle) to provide a little more strength up front.
2. BE SPECIAL: New Orleans is due for something big to happen on special teams – a blocked punt, a long punt or kick return, a forced fumble and recovery, several consecutive successful PATs. To that end, safety J.T. Gray almost blocked a punt against the Eagles, and he's the most likely candidate to cause a fumble on a kick return. It's a significant expectation, but Gray is a former All-Pro who's fully capable of making something happen. So, too, is receiver/returner Deonte Harty. He hasn't popped one in awhile, and Thanksgiving night would be the perfect time for a team that has been in need of such a swing. The PAT mention was half in jest, but only half – this team needs to make the routine kicks much more routine.
3. HEAVY D: The Saints' defense is supposed to be the strength of the team. In three losses (Giants, Falcons and Eagles) it hasn't come close to rising to the occasion. Allowing 242 rushing yards and three touchdowns to Philadelphia probably was the low point of the season. The pride of the unit has to surface, because the Bills have a quarterback (Josh Allen) and receiver (Stephon Diggs) who can collaborate to embarrass a defense. Allen isn't the runner that Philadelphia's Jalen Hurts is, but he's mobile and he can extend plays and even if he's not running and eluding, Diggs can make a defensive back appear to be out of sorts. The Saints didn't allow a ton of passing yards against the Eagles, but that mainly was because Philly was running so successfully, it didn't need to pass. The Bills will challenge the secondary much more and if the Saints aren't up to it, it'll be another long day on defense.
4. RIDE THE BREES: Emotions will be at a fever pitch in the Superdome with former quarterback Drew Brees present. It'll be Brees’ first appearance in the facility since retiring, and fans have been encouraged to show up early for pregame introductions, and to be in place for a Brees address at halftime. The greatest Saint of all time authored many signature wins in the Superdome; the energy surrounding his presence is something the Saints can ride Thursday night especially if they're able to take an early lead.
5. QUICK SPRINT: Speaking of early leads, New Orleans needs one. Late rallies are fine, but the Saints have put themselves in too much of a hole during their losing streak. Twice, the team scored 22 fourth-quarter points and didn't win, a sign that the deficit was much too significant. An early score or three would eliminate the necessity of having to score in bunches late, and would obviously put New Orleans in better position to win.
ZATARAIN'S KEY INGREDIENTS RECIPE OF THE WEEK:
CRABMEAT AND SHRIMP FRITTERS WITH CREOLE TOMATO DRESSING
This easy-to-make appetizer will have you cooking like a gourmet chef.