3TFO: Saints @ Raiders, Week 11
After a woeful 0-4 start, the New Orleans Saints have bounced back to win four of their last five as they inch closer to .500. They are feeling especially hot coming off a win against the previously undefeated Falcons in Week 10.
Drew Brees has continued to do what he does best: torch defenses. He is currently our fifth-ranked quarterback and second-most efficient deep passer with eight touchdowns to only three interceptions on passes traveling more than 20 yards. The Raiders’ defense will certainly have its hands full when Brees drops back to pass.
As for Oakland, they come into this contest at 3-6 with not as much to be confident about. Their past two games have resulted in losses, having allowed a whopping total of 97 points in the two contests. The surprisingly excellent linebacker Philip Wheeler had a day to forget last week. He made our ‘Had a Bad Day’ Team, but still has managed a solid +8.2 grade on the year, good for second on the defense behind Richard Seymour.
Saints Offensive Line vs. Raiders Defensive Line
A large part of the Raiders’ struggles on defense is due to the lack of pass rush. Defensive ends Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy have been tremendous run defenders, but have not factored in much in getting to the quarterback. Houston ranks 38th out of 62 qualifying defensive ends in Pass Rushing Productivity, managing only 24 QB disruptions on 254 rush attempts. Shaughnessy ranks even closer to the bottom at 55th with only 13 pressures in 229 attempts. Wheeler has actually been the team’s most effective pass rusher, gathering 17 pressures in 71 attempts.
If Oakland was looking for a week to finally get the pass rush going, this will be a tough game to do it. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod is the team’s weak link — with a Pass Blocking Efficiency of 93.4, good for 50th among offensive tackles — but the rest of the line rates positively in pass blocking. Charles Brown filled in nicely for the injured Zach Strief, allowing only a single hurry the entire game. With the exception of guard Ben Grubbs, the Saints’ offensive line also grades out very well against the run. If the line can keep on its season pace, it will be a long day for Oakland’s defense.
Raiders Receivers vs. Saints Secondary
The best chance for the Raiders coming out with a win is by taking it in a shootout. Quarterback Carson Palmer looks more comfortable in his second year with the team and is capable of leading an efficient passing attack with help from his receivers. Denarius Moore leads the team with 2.02 Yards Per Route Run. Darrius Heyward-Bey has not quite lived up to the hype his early draft pick, but has improved over the past couple of seasons and Palmer also has a decent option at tight end as — despite his abysmal blocking — Brandon Myers has become a valued outlet.
The Saints will counter with one of the lowest-rated coverage groups in the league. Safeties Malcom Jenkins and Roman Harper have combined for a -10.8 grade in coverage, which doesn’t give any help to the pass rush or cornerbacks. Speaking of cornerbacks, Patrick Robinson has surrendered 1.90 Yards Per Cover Snap, more than all but one player. The main bright spot of the secondary is Jabari Greer, who has only allowed 1.22 YPCS.
Saints Running Backs vs. Raiders Linebackers
Even though Brees continues to put his elite status on display week-in and week-out, there is no doubt he gets a lot of help from the team’s running backs. Darren Sproles is nursing a hand injury, but if he can return they will look to go his way. He is tied for the running back lead with 46 targets and is second in receiving yards with 323. Pierre Thomas continues to be the team’s most well-rounded back, as he has graded positively in all categories we grade. Lost in the Saints’ backfield was Chris Ivory, who finally had his chance to shine in Week 10 with a hard-fought 56-yard touchdown run. Combined with last year’s first-round pick Mark Ingram, it makes for one of the deepest position groups in the NFL.
For Oakland, the previously mentioned Wheeler has had a strong season and will look to help neutralize the running backs in the passing game — an area that hasn’t been a strength for him in 2012, without a significantly positive coverage grade in any game since Week 3. Though he has lost snaps recently (ousted from nickel duty in favor of rookie Miles Burris), Rolando McClain is showing relatively well in run D as his 20 stops on 188 run plays ranks him 12th among inside/middle linebackers in Run Stop Percentage. His early-down play against the run this week will be an important factor in the game.
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