Week 2: Cleveland Browns @ New Orleans Saints
What the New Orleans Saints were able to pull off last year was in large part due to the absolutely loaded class the team was able to draft in 2017. Getting the NFL’s Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year in running back Alvin Kamara and cornerback Marshon Lattimore were just the highlights of a class that has completely changed New Orleans’ outlook on the coming seasons. Even with his inevitable Hall of Fame induction, Drew Brees’ future was unknown coming into 2017, in which the team was coming off three straight 7-9 seasons.
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With the infusion of young talent, mixed with Pro Bowl veterans, New Orleans has returned to being one of the elite teams in the NFL, so long as they can continue to keep Brees healthy with a balanced offensive attack. The defense has been the biggest improvement, getting back to levels of play where they were at the peak of the Sean Payton and Drew Brees era.
This week two matchup wasn’t going to be easy even if it were played in Cleveland. The fact that it’s in the Superdome makes it a much harder contest for Cleveland. The big point of emphasis for Cleveland will be to force Drew Brees into making bad throws and have Tyrod Taylor not making bad throws.
The latter is almost a given, as Tyrod is one of the league’s best at protecting the football, throwing only 4 interceptions in 2017. Forcing Brees to throw a few interceptions will be the key to winning.
If Cleveland’s front seven can shut down the New Orleans backfield, a feat that is more manageable with the four-game suspension for Mark Ingram, they can rely on their new look secondary to try and swarm to the ball. The defense will need to show up and make itself known.
After finishing 2017 with a -28 turnover margin, the only way to win this game will be to force a few and capitalize on the extra chances they get. In the end, New Orleans is still a little much for a team that still needs to get chemistry working together in the Browns.
Prediction: New Orleans wins 31-20