Since the New Orleans Saints have won twice and lost four times, most of the words written about them concern the things they do badly. But the 2014 Saints also do a lot of things well — probably more things than you'd expect given their record — and these strengths, along with the laughable state of the NFC South
, mean they still have a chance to turn their year around.
The Saints' strengths might even match up with the weaknesses of the Green Bay Packers, which, you know, will be important Sunday night.
The Saints' Rushing Attack
Sean Payton is infamous for not running the ball. For the most part, and for a lot of reasons, this criticism is wrong
. Regardless of your opinion on the issue of run/pass balance, though, the fact is the 2014 Saints have the second best average per rushing attempt in the NFL. When the Saints run well, they tend to run more.
Green Bay's defensive is vulnerable to the run. The Packers allow 4.6 yards per carry, which is the league's eighth-worst number. If the Saints can put their big-play running game to use on Sunday, they'll be doing Drew Brees a huge favor, which could help him avoid his handful of mistakes, which have hurt the team so much this year.
The Saints' Rushing Defense
I don't agree that running the ball and stopping the run is the recipe for success. If that were the case, the 2014 Saints would be in really good shape right now, because in addition to their excellent rushing attack, the Saints have a pretty good rushing defense. They've allowed just 3.9 yards per carry and 103 yards per game; both numbers rank eleventh-best.
Green Bay doesn't run the ball particularly well. Their team rushing average? Just 3.9. The Packers' offense is about efficiency rather than big numbers. Between the home crowd and the Saints' chance to make Green Bay one dimensional on offense, the pressure on Aaron Rodgers could increase, and maybe — just maybe — the Saints can force a few mistakes.
The Saints' Third Down Offense
New Orleans is good at a lot of stuff on offense. One thing in particular is its third down efficiency, which is fourth-best in the NFL at 50 percent. In fact, in any season this decade aside from 2011, when the Saints led the league at nearly 57 percent, that number would be good enough for first place.
The Green Bay defense is pretty bad on third downs, allowing opponents to convert 46 percent of the time — that's just about as bad as the Saints' defense.
The Saints' great third down offense, paired with the Packers' bad third down defense, might allow the Saints to play keep away from Aaron Rodgers, which might be their best defense against him.