John Lepore | September 9th, 2019
Tonight the New Orleans Saints open up their 2019 season against the Houston Texans. The last time these two teams met was in November of 2015. In that game in Houston, the Saints managed only two field goals and the Texans got two touchdown passes from Brian Hoyer (to Ryan Griffin and Cecil Shorts) and a touchdown run by Alfred Blue to secure the 24-6 victory. New Orleans also hasn’t won their opener since 2013. Tonight will be a bit different.
First of all, the Saints are at home this time and itching to get last year’s taste out of their mouths and move on. In the game tonight, the Texans will have Deshaun Watson at quarterback, and the Saints will have the services of Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. Although there is enough star power to go around in this game, individal matchups and performances can often determine the outcome. Here are a few to keep an eye on.
Jared Cook vs. Texans Linebackers
The new tight end for the Saints put up career numbers last year going 68-896-6. Although Cook is 32 years old, let’s not forget that Ben Watson put up 74-825-6 in 2015 at age 35. It will be interesting to see if the Saints use Cook up the seam and if guys like Zach Cunningham and Benardrick McKinney can hang with him. Last season the Texans allowed 90-1,013-8 to TEs so this could be a great matchup for Cook to endear himself immediately to #WhoDatNation.
J.J. Watt vs. Saints Offensive Line
Without Jadaveon Clowney, Watt will surely be double-teamed. Even if he isn’t, Ryan Ramczyk has shown in his two years in the league he should be up for the task. Now Watt moves around and could line up over left tackle rather than on Ramczyk’s side. That only means the Texans pass-rushing end will have to deal with Pro-Bowler Terron Armstead. Either way, it will be crucial to both sides who wins this battle. If the Texans can’t get pressure on Drew Brees we know what he can do, and if Brees is hit early and often, the game plan of the Saints changes.
Lattimore has established himself as a shutdown corner in the NFL. Hopkins is easily a top 5 wide receiver in the league and some would argue THE best. This is a true heavyweight matchup especially if, in fact, the Saints CB follows Hopkins around the field, which I think will be the case. If Hopkins burns Lattimore a few times early then the Saints will be forced to double up on Nuk. If not, and Lattimore can hold his own, then that frees up a guy like Vonn Bell to blitz and possibly spy Watson.
New faces to watch:
Kenny Stills – The new Texans WR is coming home to New Orleans where he set career highs for catches (63) and yards receiving (931) in 2014 for the Saints. He may want a little revenge after being traded in 2015 for Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round pick.
Laremy Tunsil – The Texans acquired the big tackle along with Kenny Stills from the Miami Dolphins. He will likely have to deal with Cameron Jordan which is no easy task. Tunsil was a first-round pick in 2016 and will be tested immediately with his new team.
Latavius Murray – After Mark Ingram II signed with the Baltimore Ravens, the Saints brought in Murray to replace him. While Murray is 29 years old, he has only just over 1,000 touches in his NFL career. The Saints may use him mostly as a pounding RB as he is bigger (6’3 230) than Ingram (5’9 215) and doesn’t have the pass-catching prowess as the former Saint.
Prediction: Saints 30-17
Questions and comments?
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