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The Saints have struggled in primetime this season, but can the magic return for Monday Night Football?
The New Orleans Saints looked to bounce back going into what would become a 35-29 victory against the Detroit Lions. A win that began with the team finding themselves in a 14-0 deficit early before scoring 35-unanswered points in the form of five straight touchdown drives. Even though the offense rolled at a pace not yet seen this season, by game’s end there are still several questions looming ahead of their primetime tilt Monday night as they host the Los Angeles Chargers in the Superdome.
If Marshon Lattimore returns, will a matchup with Keenan Allen spark a turnaround?
Star cornerback Marshon Lattimore has looked a little worse for wear to start the season. After opening up this year with a stellar performance across from his son, Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, he has gone on to allow a perfect 158.3 passer rating when targeted in primary coverage. Lattimore missed last week along with his running mate Janoris Jenkins. P.J. Williams and Patrick Robinson stepped in and had a surprising steady performance against the Lions talented wideout tandem. So steady, in fact, that some fans have even begun to endorse some wild ideas of benching Lattimore in favor of either of the two reserve corners. While that idea is a bit farfetched based on one positive showing, it is worth questioning whether or not Lattimore’s return to the field will accompany a return to the production of which we all know he is capable. He has often been criticized for playing down to competition. If that were the case, there’s no opportunity to play down when matched up with a three-time Pro Bowler like Keenan Allen.
Can Alvin Kamara continue his outstanding start?
Kamara has averaged an insane 139.3 scrimmage yards per game over the opening quarter of the season. He leads the NFL in total yards from scrimmage and combined rushing/receiving touchdowns. He’s fourth in the NFL in receptions, 11th in receiving yards, and tied for third in points scored. Kamara has been producing at a level unmatched across the league. The big question is; can he keep it up? He certainly doesn’t look anywhere near slowing down to me. His 321 receiving yards tops the next running back by nearly doubling Jacksonville’s James Robinson’s total of 161. There is one factor that may slow Alvin Kamara down a little bit, but would simultaneously help the Saints’ offense…
Will Michael Thomas return?
After suffering a high ankle sprain near the end of their week one win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Thomas has missed three games. His expected timeline following a second opinion of the injury was two to four weeks. Ahead of last week’s matchup (his third week out) Thomas practice every day at a limited capacity. If he can replicate that attendance, or better participate in full, there would be little reason to not see Michael Thomas on the field on Monday night against the Chargers. Even if his explosiveness isn’t entirely back, having him out there would be a benefit to the team even just because of the attention he demands. Once he’s fully healthy, he may cut into a little bit of Alvin Kamara’s production. But have to imagine that Sean Payton wouldn’t have any trouble balancing too much of a good thing between the two stars and their supporting cast.
Was Drew Brees’ week four performance a mirage?
Drew Brees went from completing just 12 passes 10 or more yards downfield over the first three games to hitting on nine against the Detroit Lions. The Los Angeles Chargers are the middle of the pack in the run game allowing just over 110 yards per game but allowing the eighth-most passing yards at 263 per game. This should be a defense New Orleans can continue to build rhythm against and attack. They can do so by keeping the run game churning just as they did against Detroit and mixing in play action where Brees has been very effective so far this season completing 17 of 23 passes for 302 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Most importantly, he’s averaging 13.1 yards per attempt over those passes. The Chargers bring in the 20th ranked defense in terms of total DVOA so far this year and are ranked 21st against the deep ball allowing success rates 43.4% above the league average.
Drew Brees led the offense’s grading with a superb 89.4 Overall mark in Week 4!
— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) October 5, 2020
Where will the game take place?
With Hurricane Delta on its way through the Gulf, the track has shifted westward clearing New Orleans for now. But even if that holds, the Chargers would have to travel through the hurricane in order to get to the Crescent City. The Saints have reportedly spoken with the NFL about potentially evacuating to Indianapolis to play at Lucas Oil Stadium instead of at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Though nothing is set in stone at this time, it’s a good thing the Saints have started to work this out early in an attempt to keep everyone safe. Such a change would add an approximately 707 air mile stint of travel for the Saints and extending Los Angeles’ from about 1,600 air miles to more than 1,800. That creeps the Chargers closer to the dreaded 2,000 air mile travel mark. Something to keep an eye on as the week continues. If the game remains in New Orleans, there will not be additional fans in attendance again this week, only the 750 friends and family members.
What are your biggest questions ahead of the Saints-Lions Week Four matchup on Sunday Night? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @RossJacksonNOLA and subscribe to my daily Saints podcast, Locked On Saints.