Monday Night Football: Saints can skin Washington

Drew Brees
Saint or sinner? The split personality of Drew Brees' New Orleans will be tested in this MNF encounter
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Romilly Evans previews another high-octane MNF clash, where he expects Drew Brees to once again show his veteran counterpart Alex Smith who's boss in the storied Superdome

"In short, Brees daren’t hit those brakes, lest his rivals fly right by"

Washington Redskins @ New Orleans Saints
Start-time: Tuesday, 01:15
TV: Live on Sky Sports Action
 

Brees has offensive balance to make Saints winners, not sinners

There are no brakes on the car that Drew Brees drives. And he's only just going through the gears so far this season. Nevertheless, the Saints already rank third in total points per game, averaging a touch north of 34. While Brees himself is routinely clocking up a median of 313.8 yards per game through the air. Essentially, the veteran quarterback remains at the helm of an offense you can't stop. You can only hope to slow it. Especially at New Orleans' home fortress of the Superdome.

All of which means the visiting Washington Redskins are already under the the gun simply to maintain stride with this powerhouse thoroughbred. Skins QB Alex Smith has a history of being out-dueled by Brees, too, even if he famously turned the tables on his veteran counterpart in the 2012 play-offs with the Niners (a classic shootout which witnessed four lead changes inside the last four minutes of action). Unfortunately for Smith, he doesn't have as many aces to play in Washington.

Brees on the other hand has plenty of bullets at his disposal. Whereas the Saints of yore always aired it out, the modern-day version have evolved a run-first, grind-you-down team facility. The thunder and lightning tandem of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram  ran most teams ragged last term, and can do so again, now the latter returns to the fold after serving a four-game suspension.

Ingram is relaxed, rested and ready to roll. So he can take some of the burden off Kamara's twin-threat duties as a tricksome tackle-breaker (fourth in the NFL) and a versatile poucher. And speaking of trickery, let's not forget third-string-QB-turned-utility-wildcard, Taysom Hill, who keeps any opposing defense guessing. All these factors combine to free up the long arm of Brees' law. Ted Ginn's absence is admittedly a loss, but it could only serve to take the wraps off Tre'Quan Smith's explosive potential at wideout.

Skins' overachieving defense will have to step up another gear

Washington's D has been a pleasant surprise this season, allowing just 14.7 points per game, which puts them second in the league. They may opt for a five-man defensive front with a secure safety here in a bid to shutdown Kamara and Ingram. However, that might just open up too many targets for Brees, and his rapier receivers could arguably inflict more damage on the short-lived reputation of the Skins' secondary. Which, in turn, brings us back to Smith and his quest to keep Washington on terms. Many will remind us that the Redskins haven't scored a touchdown in the third or fourth quarter of the current campaign. But that trend will turn here.

After all, New Orleans' defense is no great shakes. That said, their corners can bring the heat and press coverage, making it tougher for Smith to hit his marks through closing pockets and narrowing windows. In 2017, only a handful of teams blitzed more than the Saints (often the last playbook refuge of a scoundrel) so Smith will have his chances if he can stand his ground. He's also got a resurgent Adrian Peterson (operating behind a decent O-line) waiting in the backfield to balance things up. Therefore, for once, this could well turn into the MNF Shootout as billed in your programme notes.

Playing in front of a raucous packed house, though, should serve Smith's head up on a primetime platter to New Orleans. In this Thunderdome, Brees' wrecking-ball spirit can return to send the Saints top of an ultra-competitive NFC South at 4-1.

In short, Brees daren't hit those brakes, lest his rivals fly right by.

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