Redskins at Saints in Week 11: Picks, how to watch and stream on NFL Sunday
Everything you need to know about the Redskins-Saints matchup this weekend
There might not be a hotter team in the NFL than the New Orleans Saints. You can legitimately argue they are the best team in the NFL, even more complete than the 8-1 Eagles. The Saints look nothing like what we expect, serving up a rushing attack that features the lethal combination of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, minimizing the amount of throws Drew Brees has to make each game, and playing high-level defense.
Go back in time three years and tell someone the Saints will be winning by running the ball and playing D and you'll get laughed out of the building.
But here we are, in 2017, and they're dominating teams. The latest victims were the Buffalo Bills, who got eviscerated by the Saints during Week 10. New Orleans routinely opened up massive holes in the running game and just basically spending the afternoon taking the Bills' lunch money.
How to watch, stream
- Kickoff: Nov. 19, 1 p.m.
- TV: FOX (Check local listings)
- Streaming: fuboTV (Try for free)
Can Washington slow down the Saints' run game?
The Redskins' defense has been a surprisingly strong unit this year, ranking No. 13 overall in DVOA. Greg Manusky's unit has showed up multiple times in a big spots, especially early in the season, when they limited the Rams to just 20 points and held the Raiders to a measly 10 points despite being an underdog at home.
In particular, the run defense has been impressive, giving up just 109.6 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry over the course of the season.
Here's the problem though: since rookie Jonathan Allen went down with a Lisfranc injury against the 49ers, the rush defense has struggled to live up to the lofty early season heights. Before Allen went down, the Redskins were allowing just 88 rushing yards per game to opponents, with only the Chiefs going over 100 total rushing yards.
After Allen went down? The Redskins have given up 136.5 rushing yards per game. The opponents they faced after Allen's injury -- Eagles, Cowboys, Seahawks, Vikings -- were certainly a notch up in terms of talent and, in the cases of Dallas and Philly, rushing ability. But it is notable to see that big of a spike in rushing yards allowed.
Especially when the Saints are coming to town, fresh off a 298-yard effort against the Bills. Over the last five games, the Saints have averaged 180.8 rushing yards per game. In Week 4, this matchup would have favored Washington, but it is heavily tilted in the Saints' favor now.
If Washington can't slow down the Saints' run game, this could get ugly.
Is the Saints' defense for real?
This is not me doubting the Saints. They probably are legit. You watch them and they look very good. Cameron Jordan is having an outstanding season and is a sleeper DPOY candidate. Marshon Lattimore has been a tremendous addition for the Saints and currently has the lowest passer rating against in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus.
New Orleans is the fifth-ranked defense in football according to DVOA, although they rank just 25th against the run. They also clearly pass the eye test when you're watching them lock down opponents.
The concerning thing isn't so much statistic-related, it's more about the schedule. And you can only play who you play, but if you want to nitpick on the Saints, you can take a look at who they've played and ask some questions.
For instance, in Week 1 and Week 2 they were beat up pretty bad by the Vikings (who had Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook) and the Patriots (who are one of the most explosive offenses in football). They manhandled Cam Newton and the Panthers in Week 3, but Carolina was not clicking on offense at the time.
Since then, New Orleans shut out the Dolphins (shutouts are impressive, but the Dolphins are a joke), got involved in a weird 52-38 shootout with the Lions (there were tons of defensive scores), limited the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers to 17 points, held the Bears to 12 points, held the Buccaneers to 10 points and smothered the Bills 47-10 last week to the point that Sean McDermott benched Tyrod Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman this week.
All I'm saying is that they haven't really played a great offense since Week 2. The Redskins have an above-average offense, albeit not a great one. Kirk Cousins has been playing very well as of late, shaking off a sluggish start to the season and producing a big stretch from Week 3 through Week 8 (including a bye) where he averaged 304 passing yards and two touchdowns per game, while completing 72 percent of his passes and throwing just two interceptions. He's slowed down a little bit the last three weeks, but matchups against Seattle and Minnesota can do that too you; he's still playing good football.
If the Saints lock down Cousins and Co., there is a good chance they can limit the Rams, Panthers and Falcons in the coming weeks and make a legitimate push for the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Who will win?
My take on this game is that the Redskins keep it close enough to cover the 7.5-point spread, although when I start reading my own writing above re: the mismatch in the Saints rushing game, well, I get a little nervous.
The Redskins are just a an up-and-down team and seem to bounce back in a big way when everyone least expects it. They are also easily the more desperate team, what with the NFC field getting crowded and Washington sitting at No. 11 in its own conference. The Eagles have already pretty much eliminated them from division title contention, but they can still make a run in the wild-card race. They need a win here.
My colleague Pete Prisco sees it a little less close, with New Orleans pulling away thanks to the rushing attack.
The Saints have won seven straight games behind their running game and their defense. They haven't faced many top quarterbacks in that streak, so Kirk Cousins will be a challenge. But in the Superdome, look for the Saints to again come up with an impressive defensive showing. Saints keep rolling.
Prisco sees a 27-17 Saints win. I'll be rooting for the backdoor cover in that case, but I agree with Pete that it's very possible this game ends up going under the projected total of 51 points. You can get all our picks for Week 11 here.
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