The New Orleans Saints will face what is arguably their toughest opponent of the 2010 NFL regular season when the Pittsburgh Steelers take to the field-turf on Halloween night.
The Steelers are number one in ESPN and Fox Sports' Power Rankings and second behind the New York Jets in CBS Sports'. And while these arbitrary assessments tend to shift on a weekly basis, they do reflect what the currently reality is: the Steelers are the team to beat.
The Steelers offense improved with the return of two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback and league enfant terrible Ben Roethlisberger from his suspension. In the two games he's played in the 2010 season, Big Ben has thrown five touchdowns and an interception.
And though their offense's stats are not overly impressive, largely due to Roethlisberger's MIA status, the Steelers have done well on the ground, ranking 11th in the NFL in yards per game (118.8). It's their defense that has them on top of the league: 1st in fewest points allowed, 1st against the run and 4th in yards allowed per game. Their only weakness, relatively speaking, has been against the pass, 24th overall surrending 235.7 yards per game. And bear in mind that number is high because opposing teams HAVE TO throw against them as their run defense is too tough.
Expect to see Saints quarterback Drew Brees passing a lot on Sunday night, especially since the Saints' two top running backs, Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, are still out with injuries.
The fate of the Saints' hopes to turn the spiraling season around in what is billed to be the world's largest costume party will be on the offensive line: can they keep the Steeler defense away from Brees? So far this season, the O-line has played like the NO-line.
USA Today oddsmaker Danny Sheridan has the Saints...please don't spit up your coffee...as a one point favorite. Either the boys in Vegas know something I don't or they're just trying to stimulate the economy by putting more money in the hands of the wagering class.
Take the point and start thumbing through Christmas ads.