Saints playoff primer

Posted Jan. 05, 2011 @ 2:53 a.m.
Posted By PFW staff

PFW examines the Saints as they prepare for the playoffs, identifying the keys to the offense and the defense, a player to watch, and what they have to do to win the Super Bowl.

New Orleans Saints
11-5 / Second place in NFC South

Keys to offense: QB Drew Brees will carry the offense at times — he had 33 TD passes and threw for 4,620 yards — but the attack has been most effective when there is balance between the pass and the run. Striking that balance has proven to be a more difficult task for New Orleans than it was last season, but if the Saints get back to clicking in both facets, they'll be one of the tougher teams to stop in the postseason. Brees is usually precise when connecting with a deep group of talented receivers and tight ends. However, he made more mistakes than usual this season, setting a career high with 22 interceptions. Getting healthy also will be crucial for the offense, as WR Marques Colston (knee) and RB Pierre Thomas (ankle) sat out in Week 17, and RB Chris Ivory was placed on injured reserve after suffering a foot injury in the finale.  

Keys to defense: When the Saints tackle well, put pressure on quarterbacks and play opportunistically, the defense can be suffocating. Achieving all of those tasks at the same time is what defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his players will be seeking in the postseason. They have not forced turnovers at the rate they did last season and didn't tackle well when Ravens RB Ray Rice rushed for 153 yards against them in Week 15. Their postseason stay could be short if they get far away from playing the physical, punishing style that Williams emphasizes.

Player to watch: Rookie TE Jimmy Graham has emerged late in the season, scoring four touchdowns in the final three games. The former basketball player's unique athletic ability gives him an edge in certain matchups, and he's someone defenses have to pay close attention to if the ankle injury that knocked him out of the Saints' Week 17 game doesn't keep him out longer.

They'll win the Super Bowl if ... they play more like they did a season ago in certain areas. Limiting turnovers and forcing a lot of them could be what leads New Orleans back to the top.