WHEN THE COLTS HAVE THE BALL
The Colts are 6-3 against the NFC under Caldwell, while in three starts, Painter has completed 51-of-91 passes for 746 yards, five touchdowns and a 96.7 passer rating. Running back Donald Brown recorded his first rushing touchdown of the season last week and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry in his past two games. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne, also a New Orleans native, had seven catches for 115 yards with two touchdowns in his last regular-season game against the Saints, which occurred in 2007. Fellow wide receiver Pierre Garcon tied a career-high with eight receptions in last week’s loss to Cincinnati and his past four games, has 21 catches for 405 yards and four touchdowns. Including the Super Bowl, tight end Dallas Clark has 10 receptions for 145 yards with a touchdown against New Orleans for his career.
Since entering the NFL in 2006, Saints safety Roman Harper has 13 sacks, the most in the league by a defensive back. Cornerback Tracy Porter had a 74-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, which sealed New Orleans’ victory that night. Rookie defensive end Cameron Jordan has 16 tackles and linebacker Scott Shanle has 27 stops on this year’s defense.
The Colts are near the bottom in every offensive category, including scoring (17.3 ppg, 28th), total yards (284.7 ypg, 31st), passing yards (200.7 ypg, 28th) and rushing yards (84.0 ypg, 28th). Meanwhile, the Saints are middling on defense, having allowed an average of 25.2 points (26th), 365.5 total yards (17th), 256.3 passing yards (19th) and 109.2 rushing yards (14th) per game.
WHEN THE SAINTS HAVE THE BALL
Brees was the MVP of the Saints’ Super Bowl win over Indianapolis after completing 32-of-39 passes for 288 yards, two touchdowns and a 114.5 rating. He has passed for 350-plus yards in four consecutive games, the longest such streak in league history, and has 20-plus completions in an NFL-record 26 games in a row. Running back/return man Darren Sproles is the only player in the NFL with a rushing, receiving and return touchdown this season. Including the playoffs, he has five career touchdowns against Indianapolis (two rushing, one receiving, one punt return, one kick return). Running back Mark Ingram leads NFC rookies with 238 rushing yards this season, while backfield mate Pierre Thomas had a receiving touchdown in Super Bowl XLIV. New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham is the second tight end in NFL history with 100-plus receiving yards in four consecutive games in the same season, joining Tony Gonzalez in 2000. He also leads all tight ends with 39 catches and 620 yards this year. Wide receiver Marques Colston had seven receptions for 83 yards in the Super Bowl win over Indianapolis.
Defensively for the Colts, end Dwight Freeney needs 1 1/2 sacks to become the 26th player with 100 in a career since the stat became official in 1982. Fellow end Robert Mathis had a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the Colts’ last regular-season game against New Orleans. Middle linebacker Pat Angerer has 73 tackles and a fumble recovery to lead the defense, while free safety Antoine Bethea has 47 tackles and a forced fumble.
New Orleans is ranked sixth or better in scoring (29.5 ppg, sixth), total offense (452.2 ypg, second) and passing yards (344.3 ypg, second) and ranks 18th in rushing yards (107.8 ypg). On defense, the Colts are 29th in points allowed (27.2 ppg), 27th in total yards allowed (392.5 ypg), 18th in pass defense (255.8 ypg) and 30th versus the run (136.7 ypg).
KEYS TO THE GAME
The Colts have been vulnerable to high-end passing and even running games. Expect Brees to go for the throat early on.
New Orleans, at least statistically, has the same advantages on defense, where it averages a little better than the Colts in all categories. Dominance is possible on both sides of the ball if the Saints play sound in all phases.
The Saints have to be irritated with the loss to Bucs, and will need to have their eye on the prize as it relates to hitting this opponent hard before worrying about the Rams and Bucs in the next two weeks.
Prediction – The fact this is going to be the fourth time in 2011 I have seen the Colts is downright nauseating. They are awful, can’t do much moving the ball, and while their D isn’t the worst in the league, they can’t score enough to make it close. The Saints are going to put on a prime-time show, and Drew Brees should have well over 300 yards and score 2-3 touchdowns. Saints in a blowout. New Orleans 27 Indianapolis 10