All of the focus on Monday night will centre on the New Orleans Saints offence.
One of the most efficient units in the league is set to get an integral piece back, while their leader is expected to break a monumental record.
Drew Brees needs just 201 yards to become the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader, with his 71,740 yards trailing only Brett Favre’s 71,838 and Peyton Manning’s 71,940.
The Saints quarterback will have the chance to set the new benchmark in front of his home fans at the Superdome, where he has delivered several memorable moments since he arrived to the franchise in 2006.
With the way Brees and New Orleans’ attack have operated through the first four weeks, the record is almost a foregone conclusion. The 39-year-old continues to be near the top of his game as he ranks third in the league in passer rating at 115.3, while having eight touchdowns to no interceptions.
Against Washington, however, the Saints’ passing game should face more resistance than usual. Washington’s defence is allowing the lowest expected points added per pass play in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, while ranking third in both passing yards allowed at 187.3 and passer rating at 77.0.
Though Brees will remain the focus point of the offence, New Orleans’ game plan could incorporate more of the run game this week with running back Mark Ingram returning after serving his four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
Alvin Kamara has been unstoppable as a receiver out of the backfield, but the Saints’ ground attack hasn’t been nearly as effective in Ingram’s absence as it was last season, when they ranked second in the league with 4.7 yards per rush and fifth with 129.4 yards per game. So far this season, they rank 10th with 4.4 and 18th with 104.5, respectively.
With Ingram back on the field, not only will New Orleans feel more confident running between the tackles. But it should ease the burden on Kamara, who is averaging 23 touches per game this season.
Kamara has gotten those touches for a reason as he’s leading the league with 611 yards from scrimmage, so Ingram may not force an equal split in work – at least not in his first game back. But eventually, the Saints should strive to look closer to last year’s offence, which will afford them greater balance and alleviate pressure on Brees.
And with Washington’s defence stingy against the pass heading into Monday’s match-up, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Ingram utilised heavily right off the bat.
There will be plenty of attention on Washington’s running game as well, with Adrian Peterson facing his former team, with whom he saw few opportunities with in all of four games last year before being traded.
Between Ingram and Kamara, New Orleans felt their backfield was crowded enough and that Peterson wasn’t needed. Now, the future Hall of Famer will have his chance to exact revenge and prove why he deserved more of a chance than he received.
At 33, Peterson is averaging 78.6 yards per game and 4.2 yards per rush to look like he still has some juice left.
Though he could be leaned on to eat up the clock and keep Brees on the sidelines on Monday, Washington may instead try to attack the Saints through the air. New Orleans’ run defence is allowing the fewest rush yards per attempt at 3.2, while surrendering the most pass yards per attempt at 9.6.
That could mean a healthy dose of Chris Thompson, who is Washington’s third-down back and change-of-pace option.
Considering the opponent, environment and context on Monday, Washington’s offence will need to deliver.
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