The ultimate sport of the 2021 Thanksgiving Day slate pits the Buffalo Payments towards the New Orleans Saints. Each groups have been up and down of late, and for various causes. They’re every nonetheless in playoff place heading into Thursday’s video games, however solely barely.
This can be a matchup of two groups at totally different factors of their respective contender life cycles, with the Payments getting into the bodily prime of their star quarterback and the Saints having simply moved on from a future Corridor of Famer. They’re each well-coached, although, albeit by coaches who specialize on totally different sides of the ball. That ought to all make this matchup an interesting one, so let’s break it down.
However first, this is how one can watch the sport this night.
Date: Thursday, Nov. 25 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: Caesars Superdome (New Orleans)
TV: NFL Community | Stream: fuboTV (click on right here)
Observe: CBS Sports activities App
Odds: Payments -6, O/U 45
When the Payments have the ball
The Payments have been frustratingly inconsistent on offense all season. From play to play, drive to drive, and sport to sport. The highs have been very excessive, and the lows have been awfully low. Their week-by-week averages in yards per play, EPA per play, and factors per drive inform the story fairly nicely.
Very like they’ve with the Chiefs, opponents have been daring Buffalo to maneuver the ball downfield by both operating it or constantly finishing brief passes beneath.
The Payments have seen zone protection on 69% of passing performs this season, per TruMedia. That is up from simply 55% final yr. Josh Allen will not be actually a type of quarterbacks that throws his receivers open. He must see the man break into house, and he can then rely on his arm energy to get the ball the place it must go. However that is harder when defenses are protecting extra gamers in protection, and utilizing these gamers in zones the place they will break on the ball, versus having it’s thrown away from them and to a receiver in stride. (He is at 0.08 EPA per dropback towards zone and 0.17 per play on all different performs, so he has been almost twice pretty much as good when defenses play one other protection. He had an analogous cut up final yr: 0.15 EPA per play towards zone and 0.32 per play in any other case.)
One factor which may assist is popping to Stefon Diggs extra typically. Diggs brings the route-running talent of Cole Beasley on beneath routes with a capability to get open additional down the sphere, and he has arguably been under-utilized in Buffalo’s offense this season. Diggs final yr was focused on 27.2% of his routes run; this yr that determine is right down to 25.1%, however his snap charge is down from 89% to 80%. Maybe going again to treating him as a real, alpha No. 1 receiver can be good for the Payments, as it could give their offense a bit extra focus than it at the moment has.
This week, Diggs will probably see quite a lot of Marshon Lattimore, who’s having a greater season than he did a yr in the past however will be inconsistent. Lattimore does are inclined to stand up for giant video games, although, and a Thanksgiving evening sport towards one of many NFL’s greatest wideouts would seemingly qualify on that rating. If Lattimore is each shadowing Diggs and on his sport, that can once more push the Payments to run their offense via Beasley, tight finish Dawson Knox, and their operating backs. That is not essentially the best way they wish to do issues.
The Payments’ offensive line has additionally sometimes been a difficulty this season, which may trigger some issues towards a Saints defensive entrance that’s taking part in fairly nicely. That is most likely not the week for the Payments to get their run sport again on monitor, as an example, contemplating New Orleans ranks first in rush protection DVOA at Soccer Outsiders. As a substitute, it is extra probably the Payments should rely on Allen to rediscover final season’s accuracy and matriculate the ball downfield via the beneath protection.
When the Saints have the ball
Loads about what’s going to occur on this aspect of the ball is up within the air in the intervening time. We all know Alvin Kamara and Ryan Ramczyk are out for the Saints, depriving them of their greatest offensive weapon and one of many key items of the most effective general unit on their crew. As well as, Mark Ingram and Terron Armstead are every listed as questionable.
Ingram had a midweek apply downgrade from restricted to DNP, which isn’t an excellent signal. He was again to restricted on Wednesday, however it’s robust to examine him being 100% wholesome for this contest. Armstead has missed every of the Saints’ final two video games, and was restricted in apply all week. The Saints do not get the same old 10-day break following a Thursday sport; they welcome the Cowboys to New Orleans subsequent Thursday evening. So, Armstead will not have fairly as lengthy to relaxation and get better as he would possibly if this have been a daily Thursday contest.
If Ingram is ready to play, he ought to be anticipated to function because the lead again and be closely concerned within the offense. Within the two video games Kamara has misses, Ingram has performed 104 of 132 snaps, and touched the ball 40 occasions on these performs. (30 carries and 10 receptions.) If Ingram cannot go, we may see some kind of time share between Tony Jones, Dwayne Washington, and/or Ty Montgomery. None of them can be in a very good scenario towards a Buffalo protection that’s tops within the NFL in each yards and EPA allowed per play.
It is wanting like Trevor Siemian will stay below heart for the Saints, although it is attainable Sean Payton may flip to Taysom Hill at any time. Siemian no less than has not buried the Saints with turnovers, having thrown simply two interceptions in his 4 appearances; however he is additionally not created many explosive performs (6.4 yards per try) or achieved a very good job extending drives (14 first downs on 42 third-down cross makes an attempt).
Buffalo’s cross protection leads the NFL in Soccer Outsiders’ DVOA, additional clouding the outlook for Siemian, who additionally doesn’t take pleasure in working with top-flight weapons. The Payments have shut down a lot better quarterbacks than Siemian to this point, and there are usually not many passers who’ve gone off towards them. As a substitute, it has been energy runners like Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor who’ve given them bother. The Saints do not seem to have a type of guys at their disposal.
New Orleans Saints
Prediction: Payments 24, Saints 17