What was supposed to be the beginning of a somewhat easy (on paper) three game stretch before the big Halloween nigh game with Pittsburgh, turned into the start of a proverbial nightmare. That being said, it's time we look at the next three opponents of the Saints to see just what they're going to be up against in the weeks to come.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) defeated the Bengals 24-21: There is no way you can rightfully say you'd see the Buccaneers walking into this game with the Saints at 3-1 and coming off a victory over the Bengals. Yet here they are sitting second in the NFC South behind Atlanta and looking to bump off the defending Super Bowl champs at home. Quarterback Josh Freeman is getting better each and every week, and that could spell trouble for a Saints' secondary that is currently riddled with injuries. Freeman has a lot of weapons and likes to spread the ball around a lot so guys like Jabari Greer and Malcolm Jenkins will have to be on their toes.
- The Bucs do give up a lot of yards though, especially in the running game. Problem is, the Saints are dealing with injuries there too and it could be LaDell Betts or Chris Ivory running the football and both of them have had trouble holding onto it lately. Maybe newly acquired Julius Jones will have a few packages prepared for him, but that remains to be seen. A balanced attack of pass and run is necessary for the Saints as it will help cut down on the number of passes Drew Brees has to attempt and therefore cuts down on possible interceptions.
- Cleveland Browns (1-4) lost to the Falcons 20-10: Don't sell the Browns short. They took the Ravens to the limit, beat the Bengals, and went toe-to-toe with the Falcons. That 1-4 record is rather misleading because they truly are a good team but just can't finish games. An even bigger problem is that their quarterback situation is a mess. Jake Delhomme started the season but quickly went down with an injury. Seneca Wallace filled in for him not so convincingly but then he got injured and Delhomme stepped back in. Jake isn't quite ready to return full time so rookie Colt McCoy may be starting by the time Cleveland visits the Superdome. Rookie or not, the Saints need to be prepared. That doesn't just hold true for the quarterback either because if the Saints can't stop running back Peyton Hillis then that's all she wrote.
Check out a gallery of images of the Saints next three opponents and more at The Examiner
- Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) had a bye week: Without a doubt, this will be one of the most important games of the season so far for the Saints. Say they are to win their next two games and head into Halloween with a 5-2 record. Another loss would not cripple the team, but it certainly would take any newfound momentum and throw it right out the window. The Steelers are a very good team and they've proven that without Ben Roethlisberger playing a single down yet this season. Big Ben returns this upcoming week after serving his four-game suspension and it will be interesting to see just how the offense responds or maybe improves with him at the helm.
- By the time this game rolls around, the Saints should have a number of players back from injury including Pierre Thomas and possibly even Reggie Bush. Every weapon imaginable is going to be needed against the Troy Polamalu led defense because no team can go in and expect to just run or pass against the Steelers. Mixing it up and keeping them guessing is going to be the only way to beat them and the presence of Bush and Thomas in the backfield will do just that.