Love is in the air. Well, for some of us it might seem that way. The New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys are the two closest teams to the Houston Texans geographically and Houston has a ton of Louisiana transplants after Hurricane Katrina decimated the Big Easy. Saints/Texans is a grudge match in my home and it is the same for some others on the masthead. The games are always close and the two teams are seemingly evenly matched. Luke Hubbard from Canal Street Chronicles was kind enough to join us to catch us up on what is going on with the Saints.
Battle Red Blog: The Saints signed Derek Carr in the offseason. Does this settle the QB position in your mind or do Saints fans see him as more of a stopgap? How would you rate him so far?
Luke Hubbard: I think it’s a bit of a stopgap, but I think he’s expected to hold the QB position down for at least 2-3 seasons while the Saints find his eventual replacement. He’s had his ups and downs this season so far. First couple games he made some big time throws late in the game that helped us seal the deal, then in week 3 he obviously went down with a AC joint sprain after getting us out to a 17 point lead. Week 4 I feel like he forced himself to play when he maybe wasn’t ready to, and in turn, he had his worst game of the season. After a week of full practice, Carr went back out against the Patriots last Sunday and had maybe his best game as a Saint so far. If I had to give him a rating from 1-10, I would say he’s floating around a 6-7, but if he never got hurt, I think he could flirt with that 8 range.
BRB: It looks like Alvin Kamara is finally back in the swing of things. The Saints have a nice stable of backs (Kendre Miller is a fellow TCU Horned Frog). How is the running game as a whole shaping up?
LH: They’re slowly improving every week. It’s been a roller coaster so far. No Kendre or Alvin in week 1, then no Alvin in week 2, then no Alvin or Jamaal in week 3 and it just keeps going on from there. Having Alvin back has certainly helped our run game, but another key has been our offensive line. They started off very shaky in both the run and pass game, but they have been improving every week. Once Jamaal gets back and the offensive line is fully healthy, this run game could be really, really scary.
BRB: The Saints defense appears to be the stronger unit. What/Who are they keys to making that defense go and how do you see them attacking the Texans?
LH: It all starts with the secondary. Isaac Yiadom (who’s hardly even played) and Alontae Taylor are tied for first in passes defended, and Marshon Lattimore is tied for fifth. They have also forced seven interceptions, so this unit is playing at an extremely high level. Rookie safety Jordan Howden has been learning on the job, but he’s done a nice job filling in for Marcus Maye (who’s coming back this week) and Tyrann Mathieu made a huge play against the Pats with a pick six last week. They’ve been carrying this defense while the defensive front figures things out, but I think they’re finally coming into their own too.
As for how we’ll defend the Texans, I think Dennis Allen is going to try to disguise some coverages to confuse C.J. Stroud. The rookie has done a great job protecting the ball to this point, but he’s going to have to be extra careful against this opportunistic secondary. Carl Granderson and Bryan Bresee have been leading the way in terms of QB pressures, and I expect they’ll be able to get after Stroud, even if they don’t get him on the ground a bunch, he’ll see some pressure in his face.
BRB: The NFC South is a wide open division with three teams bunched on top. How do you see the division shaking out? Who do you think presents the most headaches for the Saints?
LH: I still believe the Saints have the best team and will ultimately win the NFC South, but I’m not going to lie, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scare me. They’re playing much better than my expectations with Baker Mayfield at QB. Their defense is still very good and their offense seems to still be pretty high powered. They obviously smacked the Saints around the other week, but with an injured Derek Carr, the Saints offense was stagnant.
As for the Atlanta Falcons, they don’t really worry me. I think they’re a fluky team and Desmond Ridder won’t be able to take them very far. They have an elite run game, but when you don’t have very many weapons on the outside, it’s easy for a team to key in on stopping the run.
BRB: DraftKing Sportsbook currently has the Saints as 1.5 point favorites. How do you see the game shaking out? Do you feel confident in the Saints? Are there other prop bets you feel comfortable recommending?
LH: I think it’ll all come down to the Saints offense. Will we get the same one that showed up a week ago or will we get the same one that played Weeks 1-4. If Pete Carmichael can call another good game, I think the Saints could win this one by double digits. They have the defense to hold the Texans to less than 20, and if the offense is at full power, they could score in the high 20’s. If our offense comes out and performs like they did in Weeks 1-4, then the Saints will have some trouble.
As for prop bets, I haven’t been able to find any lines on DraftKings yet, but I would sprinkle some money on a Chris Olave TD and his over on yards. He’s had back-to-back disappointing weeks, but I think this is a get right game for him. Depending on what Michael Thomas’ line is at, I’d be willing to throw some money on it. If it’s sitting at 50-55, I’d take the over, but once it gets up to 60-65, I would take the under. So far this season, he’s gone for 61, 55, 50, 53 and 65 yards in that order.
We want to thank Luke for joining us for five questions. The grudge match against the Saints is an affair where a few of us have divided houses going in. It is always a competitive game and both teams are fighting tooth and nail for playoff berths in their respective conferences. We want to wish Luke and the Saints the best of luck for the remainder of the season. That is after Sunday of course.