Three to Focus on: Saints @ Vikings, Week 14
Saints Receivers vs. Vikings Defensive Backs
With 33 consecutive games completing 20 passes or more and at least one touchdown pass in 40 straight contests, Drew Brees has shown he can pick apart defenses across the league. He could probably do well with worse weapons, but it doesn’t hurt that he has guys like Marques Colston (+9.5) and tight end Jimmy Graham (+18.1 receiving) to throw to. Throw in Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson, and Lance Moore (+4.4) and it’s not difficult to envision a poor pass defense having trouble keeping the stable of receivers in check. Colston is the hot hand after catching seven of seven targets with two touchdowns last week, giving Brees a perfect passer rating throwing to Colston.
Unfortunately,the Vikings have a poor pass defense. Injuries and off-field incidents have ensured that the best talent hasn’t always been out there in the Vikings’ secondary. Cedric Griffin (-4.1) is the Vikings top remaining corner, and he was benched last week after giving up a long touchdown to Titus Young. Benny Sapp (+3.7) replaced him and has been a nice surprise for Minnesota in the 189 snaps he’s been given. If he keeps playing as he has, Griffin won’t get his job back. The biggest problem is on the back end, where Jamarca Sanford (-14.7) routinely blows coverages and Mistral Raymond—a sixth-round draft pick who has no business starting at this point in his young career—has to learn to take cleaner angles to the ball carrier. Raymond has missed four tackles in the two games he’s started at strong safety.
Saints Linebackers vs. Vikings Tailbacks
While the Saints’ passing game vs. the Vikings’ pass defense is an egregious mismatch, it’s not the only unit matchup that may be exploited. The Saints haven’t had the kind of stout run defense they envisioned when they went out and got Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin in free agency, but the big men up front have mostly done their jobs, if not excelled this season. The problem is found at the next level, where no Saints linebacker outside of Ramon Humber can boast a positive cumulative grade, and his +0.2 is nothing to celebrate. Jonathan Vilma (-12.7) has been among the most ineffective inside linebackers in the league and rarely has been able to have any sort of impact in the run game. Most of his tackles have come downfield after a healthy offensive gain. Vilma has recorded a defensive stop only 15 times—six came in one game—and no other inside linebacker with over 400 snaps has produced less than 20.
If Vilma and the rest of the linebackers aren’t able to shed blocks and flow to the ball-carrier against the Vikings, Peterson could be in for a big game in his return. Peterson’s abilities are no secret, but it will be interesting to see how effectively the Vikings are able to spell him. Toby Gerhart has really begun to hit his stride with grades of +4.4 and +3.2 in two 90-yard games and has earned some carries, even with Peterson back. Percy Harvin (+12.9) could also be very dangerous out of the backfield against a linebacking corps that sometimes struggles to track the ball and make an open-field tackle.
Saints’ Offensive Line vs. Vikings’ Defensive Line
After discussing two potential mismatches, let’s turn our attention to a matchup that intrigues by pitting strength against strength. The Saints’ offensive line ranks 10th in our signature Pass Blocking Efficiency rating and none of these linemen are one-trick ponies—they all grade positively in run-blocking as well. None demonstrate that versatility better than left guard Carl Nicks (+23.7), who last year was our top-ranked guard almost solely on the back of his punishing run-blocking. This year, Nicks has almost exceeded his cumulative grade last season and can do so with one or two more strong games. The interesting thing is that his pass-blocking grade is nearly three times that of his run-blocking grade this time around.
Nicks is still young, but he’salready established himself as one of the game’s best and he’ll have to contend with a player who’s earned that same recognition on the other side, defensive tackle Kevin Williams (+16.3). Williams has noticed the loss of the other half of the ‘Williams Wall’ next to him, but he’s still performed better than most defensive tackles could ever dream of. Keep a close eye on Williams and you’ll be sure to witness an excellent battle between him and the interior offensive line of the Saints. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (+6.3) has been one of the league’s most improved players in 2011 and after a perfect game in pass protection last week, he’d be a shoo-in for Team of the Week honors if he can repeat the feat working against Jared Allen (+26.3).
I knew Vilma was having a bad season, but I didn't realize it was that bad.
Me either. He looks good.
Vilma, to me, has not looked good for some time, Dunbar should be in the middle and Vilma on the outside............. He is and always will be the Vildabeast just with a lot less ground to cover and in all reality I think he would secure that position for some time.
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