Saturday, October 23, 2010

Week Seven Preview: Saints Host Fujita, Browns

The New Orleans Saints welcome to the Louisiana Superdome the very team that Head Coach Sean Payton defeated to mark the beginning of a new era of Black and Gold football in 2006 when the constantly struggling Cleveland Browns take on the defending world champions on Sunday afternoon.

Most significantly the Saints will face an old friend who had a lot to do with the re-establishment of the New Orleans franchise in linebacker Scott Fujita.

Fujita, who was the first free agent to sign with the post-Katrina Saints and has made the promotion of adoption and restoring Louisiana's fragile wetlands pet causes that he did not leave behind before heading to northern Ohio, has had a great season thus far with the Browns, in addition to the lucrative contract he inked with the team after the Saints didn't show matching interest in retaining his services.

In six games in the 2010 season, Fujita has blocked a field goal, forced a fumble and sacked opposing quarterbacks 2.5 times. In contrast, Fujita, who played in a 4-3 scheme with the Saints but now plays in a 3-4 in Cleveland, hasn't racked up that many sacks since 2007.

While the Saints have had some instability in their linebacker corps thus far this season due to injuries, it would be hard to argue with Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and coach Payton's decision to go in a younger, cheaper direction. Also Fujita brings leadership qualities more in demand in Cleveland than Nola.

In the long run the Saints, the Browns and Fujita are all better off for the move.

Expect fans to give him the welcome and love he deserves on Sunday.

Game Breakdown

Thanks in large part to running back Chris Ivory, the Saints offense has finally started to resemble their previous high-powered selves in last week's road trip to Tampa.

The Saints offense is now 13th in the league in points scored per game (21.7) but 8th in total yards (368.2), the disparity being due to red zone struggles, turnovers and missed field goals. Quarterback Drew Brees has brought the Saints to 5th in passing yards (269.8) and Ivory has almost single-handedly breathed new life to the running game, in which the Saints now rank 21st, after previously being near the bottom of the league a few weeks ago. The offensive line has contributed significantly to both the passing and running improvements.

The Browns might be the weakest team on the schedule, next to last in the NFL in points scored per game (14.7) and 23rd in overall yards (305.7). The Browns running game is about as mediocre as their revolving door passing game. The same applies to their defense. The defense has allowed 20.8 points per game, which is 17th in the NFL.

The Saints defense has been one of the consistent bright spots for the team, improving greatly against the run. The are 8th in points allowed (18 per game), 7th in overall yards allowed (301.5), 7th against the pass (195.5) and 15th (106 yards per game- which is progress). The Saints defense also hasn't been as victimized against the big run as they were last year.

If the Saints have trouble winning this game, then there's something wrong. They're at home and they've proven to themselves that they can play at the high level on both sides of the ball last week. Expect rookie quarterback Colt McCoy, number three for their team in this early part of the season, to play with poise and to make safe throws.

The Arizona Cardinals game proved that being fresh doesn't mean a game is a lock.

What Say the Numbers Man?

USA Today oddsmaker Danny Sheridan has the Saints as a 13.5 favorite. After finally beating the spread in game 6 and the Browns lackluster play in 2010, the Saints should easily win by a minimum of two touchdowns so long as they don't cough the ball up....much. That's on you Mr. Ivory.

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