It's been a long time coming.
For the first time since the 2019 season, the New Orleans Saints will play a consequential game inside the Caesars Superdome in front of a sizeable, pro-Saints crowd. And New Orleans brings with it something that fans should be pleased to see: a 2-1 record that has been achieved through the kind of adversity that would derail lesser teams.
On Sunday against the New York Giants, the Saints can construct their first winning streak of the young season. Here are a few ways in which that can happen:
1. FOLLOW THE D: When the Saints' defense said it intended to be the bedrock of the team this season, it wasn't kidding. In New Orleans' two victories, the defense has harassed, befuddled, bullied and dominated Green Bay and New England. It'll need to do so again against the Giants and, especially, quarterback Daniel Jones. Jones is a third-year pro who has had a penchant for turning over the ball (39 turnovers, including 22 interceptions, in his first 27 NFL games). But he only has turned it over once in the first three games this season, a lost fumble, and more, he's a threat to run (23 carries for 161 yards and two scores this season; 6.5 yards per carry on 133 career attempts). New Orleans has to be disciplined in its pass rush, which it mostly has managed to do this season. The defense has been such a cohesive unit for 10 quarters (the first half against Carolina was the exception), and there's reason to believe that the trust level is high. It's a fast unit, and it'll need to be against Jones.
2. AVOID BARKLEY'S BITE: It doesn't matter that Giants running back Saquan Barkley only has run for 134 yards and a touchdown on 39 carries this season, his return year from a torn ACL. He's going to have a breakout game against someone this season, and the Saints can't allow it to be them. Run defense remains the foundation of the Saints, who have allowed just 181 yards and a touchdown on 65 carries (2.8 yards per attempt) this season. Making the Giants one-dimensional is the top priority.
3. RED HOT IN RED ZONE: The Saints are 8-for-9 in red zone opportunities this season. That efficiency likely will decrease as the season goes on, but it's a testament to how New Orleans has been able to take advantage of its chances. No, the offense hasn't been as electrifying as we've grown accustomed to it being but if it's taking advantage of its red zone chances, then it's doing a good enough job. Whatever criticisms might be leveled at the offense, remember that efficiency is preferable to electricity.
4. FIND A FLOW: While efficiency is preferable to electricity, this could be the opportunity for the Saints' offense to put up some big plays. The Giants allow 107 rushing yards per game and 4.6 yards per attempt, and the first three opponents have completed 75.4 percent of their passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns, with one interception, against New York. Running back Alvin Kamara carried a heavy offensive load for New Orleans against the Patriots, but quarterback Jameis Winston and Saints receivers might find some success against a Giants defense that has been susceptible.
5. RIDE THE WAVE: A full Superdome always has been advantageous for the Saints, and Sunday's crowd will bring the noise. The Saints haven't had a full-capacity home crowd since the final game of the 2019 season. That crowd will bring the energy, the team can ride it throughout the game.
ZATARAIN'S KEY INGREDIENTS RECIPE OF THE WEEK:
SLOW COOKER CAJUN BUFFALO MEATBALLS
For a memorable party appetizer, try these delicious meatballs. They're packed with New Orleans flavor – from both Zatarain's® Cajun Hot Sauce and Creole Seasoning. First baked, and then slow cooked, these spicy meatballs can also be served over pasta or rice for a quick, complete meal.