Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- Two of the top six teams in seconds per play (NO – 27.3, IND – 26.5) and plays per game (NO – 70.6, IND – 67.1). The Colts have been a breeding ground for solid game environments through seven weeks.
- RB Zack Moss (elbow/heel) and TE Kylen Granson (concussion) did not practice Wednesday for the Colts.
- RB Alvin Kamara did not practice Wednesday for the Saints.
- WR Chris Olave was arrested Monday night for doing 70 in a 35 zone but was processed and released with no further action. Expect him to be out there on Sunday, and it’s unlikely he sees any discipline from the league moving forward.
- Through the air, the Colts’ defense is built to take away the likeliest approach from the Saints, while the Colts are not adept at attacking the weaknesses of the Saints pass defense.
How new orleans Will Try To Win ::
The Saints are a team built from their defense outwards. That makes sense, considering head coach Dennis Allen spent his entire coaching career coaching the defensive side of the ball, but it begs repeating here. As such, what the Saints try and do offensively depends on the game’s flow and carries elevated rates of situational biases. Yes, they are playing with pace this season and have run a lot of plays per game, but the heart of this team very much rests with the defense. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael has had success in the past designing an offense to maximize the talent he has on the field. Still, the truth is that his offenses have looked bland and unimaginative since Drew Brees retired. Put another way; this offense has not averaged more than 21.4 points per game since the 2020 season, ranking in the bottom half of the league in scoring in the previous three years. Adding to those struggles in 2023 are difficulties in the red zone as the Saints currently rank 28th in the league in red zone touchdown rate, finding the end zone on just 37.50 percent of their possessions that end inside the opposition’s 20-yard line (71.62 percent in 2020, 58.93 percent in 2021, and 52.08 percent in 2022). As for the offensive design, only 33 pass attempts have come from play action all year, and the offense rarely utilizes pre-snap motion. The Saints have a man in motion at snap at the fourth lowest rate in the league and a player in motion that comes set prior to the snap at the second lowest rate this year. To hammer the point home a bit more – quite mundane. Yes, quite.
The run game has been hit hard by this more face-up offensive approach, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry behind 1.25 yards before contact this season. Yes, they’ve had an injury-and-suspension-induced carousel at running back, but Alvin Kamara has even been held to under 3.8 yards per tote. The matchup yields just 1.28 net yards before contact against a Colts defense holding opposing backs to 3.8 yards per carry this season. Kamara’s workload remains robust (80.0 percent opportunity share ranks fifth, a filthy 9.8 targets per game, on pace to break the single-season targets record set by Christian McCaffrey while missing three games), but the expected efficiency on the ground is not pretty in this spot. 9.8 targets per game is laughably adequate to offset those concerns, but it is worth mentioning how vanilla this offense has been thus far. Jamaal Williams returned from injury in Week 7 to a 22 percent snap rate and just five carries. Finally, Kendre Miller got in a full practice, while both starting tackles (Ryan Ramczyk and Landon Young) got in limited sessions on Wednesday after missing Week 7.
As was alluded to above, Carmichael’s idea of a forward-leaning offense involves gadget plays via “tight end” Taysom Hill with downfield shots mixed in. Quarterback Derek Carr ranks eighth in intended air yards per pass attempt, and alpha wide receiver Chris Olave has the most targets without a dropped pass this season, but the offense is more “hey you, go beat that man” instead of “hey, let’s do something to get our guys in the best spot to succeed.” As in, the only quarterback with a bigger disparity between IAY/PA and completed air yards per pass attempt than Carr is Jordan Love. Joshua Dobbs and Baker Mayfield rank just behind those two. It’s not the greatest company to find yourself in. Carr’s 48 poor throws are the worst in the league. Apologies if it seems like I’m just ripping this pass offense – but yeah, it hasn’t been great through the first seven weeks of the 2023 season. Even with all that, two players on this offense can succeed despite the mediocrity – Chris Olave and Alvin Kamara. Olave has seen double-digit looks in five of seven games, while Kamara has two games (of four played) with 14 targets. That kind of volume is hard to come by, friends. While Olave has not been utilized in motion much, he has been moved around the formation at a solid rate, seeing a 36.2 percent slot snap rate and running the most routes of any wide receiver this year. His 18 deep targets also pace the league (his 579 unrealized air yards do, too). Everything screams, “This dude is going to have a smash game eventually,” but a matchup against the heavy Cover-3 rates of Gus Bradley’s defense put a slight damper on those expectations. Olave has a solid 29.29 percent targets per route run rate against Cover-3 this season but just a 65.5 percent catch rate and 10.8 yards per reception against that primary coverage (for comparison, Adam Thielen has a similar targets per route run rate and 10.9 yards per reception against Cover-3 this year). Another comparison – Alvin Kamara has a 37.1 percent targets per route run rate against Cover-3 this year. That’s important, considering the Colts play the most Cover-3 in the league.