WHEN: Noon Sunday
WHERE: Lucas Oil Stadium
RADIO: WWL-AM, 870; WWL-FM, 105.3 in New Orleans; KMDL-FM, 97.3 in Lafayette; WDGL-FM, 98.1 in Baton Rouge
RECORDS: New Orleans 2-4; Indianapolis 3-3
COACHES: Saints, Sean Payton, 10th season (82-52); Colts, Chuck Pagano, fourth season (35-17)
LAST WEEK: Nearly all of the postgame attention focused on a botched trick punt, but the Colts seem to have found a bit of a rhythm, at least on the offensive side. Andrew Luck threw for 300 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in his return to the lineup, and Indianapolis averaged 5.5 yards per carry — numbers that should worry the Saints defense.
OFFENSE: Early this season, Luck — and the offensive line that failed to protect him — were the story of the Colts. Luck threw seven interceptions in his first three games, and he’s completing just 57.2 percent of his passes. But Luck might have found something against New England. At his best, Luck can buy time and create big plays, and he’s got two home-run hitters in TY Hilton and Donte Moncrief, who both have more than 30 catches so far.
The offensive line remains a problem. Indianapolis has given up 11 sacks, which ranks in the middle of the pack, but the Colts are just 22nd in the NFL in rushing behind their Frank Gore-led attack, and several Luck mistakes early came while taking a huge hit from an oncoming pass rusher. Gore will likely be the key for the Colts against a New Orleans defense ranked 28th in the NFL in yards per carry allowed; Indianapolis needs to get Gore going to avoid exposing Luck to too many obvious pass-rushing situations.
DEFENSE: For the second straight week, a banged-up New Orleans offensive line gets a reprieve against one of the NFL’s worst pass rushes. Indianapolis has just eight sacks on the season, tied for 28th in the league, and no Colt has more than one sack. Veteran free agent Trent Cole is still sackless, and Robert Mathis, on his way back from last year’s season-ending injury, hasn’t been the same player. Without a consistent rush, Indianapolis has given up 289.2 passing yards per game, 28th in the NFL. The Colts do have a talented secondary; Vontae Davis remains one of the NFL’s better corners, and safety Mike Adams has picked off four passes. Without a consistent rush, though, the secondary is fighting a losing cause — and if Brees avoids interceptions, he could have a big day.
Indianapolis is merely average against the run — the Colts give up 4.0 yards per carry, tied for 17th in the NFL — but the Colts get a good matchup against a Saints running game that has been one of the league’s worst. Nose tackle David Parry and rookie defensive end Henry Anderson are promising players, particularly against the run, and they could pose problems for the New Orleans interior.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Adam Vinatieri remains a viable kicking option at 42 years old, although he has missed field goals in each of the past two weeks. Pat McAfee is one of the NFL’s best punters, and the Colts are a dangerous kick return team, although their punt returns have been merely pedestrian. Griff Whalen is averaging 30.6 yards per kick return, and Tyler Varga was at 25.2 per return.