Three things to watch for in New Orleans’ preseason game against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET:
1. How the defense rebounds. It’s only the preseason, but the horrible performance by the defense in last week’s game with Houston is a legitimate cause for concern. The Saints were terrible against the run and the pass against the Texans. You can bet that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams worked his unit hard as the team spent the past week practicing in Oxnard, Calif. Should be interesting to see the results of what undoubtedly was a difficult week for every player on the defense.
2. The injuries. The Saints have had more than their share of injuries throughout camp and the preseason. But they have been on the path to getting healthy. At the moment, it looks like only defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin, running back Chris Ivory and cornerback Johnny Patrick are in danger of missing the start of the regular season. Sean Payton’s an aggressive coach and the third preseason game is the one in which starters usually play into the second half. But Payton’s team has had an extra week of training camp and he might be wise to take his foot off the gas pedal a little bit and not overuse his starters. When healthy the Saints have the kind of roster that could make them a candidate to go deep into the postseason.
3. Another omen? This game in Oakland makes me think back to two years ago when the Saints destroyed the Raiders and looked like a machine. I wrote this item saying the Saints just might go undefeated and win the Super Bowl. The Saints started 13-0 and won the Super Bowl. Many readers took what I wrote literally, told me I was some sort of sage and said I was the only media member to say the Saints would win the Super Bowl. Fact is, I was saying that only jokingly. At that time, the Raiders were a joke and it was a preseason game. No matter what happens tonight, don’t read too much into it. Preseason games in general don’t reveal all that much, and when they’re against the Raiders, they often mean even less.