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Saints vs. Browns: Week 16 Preview and Prediction

Saints vs. Browns preview

What is at Stake?

Crazy as it sounds, the New Orleans Saints and the Cleveland Browns’ playoff hopes are still alive. They are slim, but they are still alive. Both teams have records that are under .500 right now. Despite losing in a gut-wrenching fashion to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 13, the Saints still have an opportunity to win the NFC South title. They must win their final three games of the season and hope that Tampa will fall short in at least two remaining games. As for the Browns’, the only route to the postseason is through the wild card.

They are currently the 12th seed in the AFC playoff picture. Cleveland must win the rest of their games combined with help from other conference teams. The loser of this game can prepare vacation plans because their postseason aspirations will most likely be over. Here are a few things to watch in Saturday’s big game.

Identity Crisis

We are 16 weeks into the 2022 campaign with two games remaining, and we still need to find out the true identity of the New Orleans Saints. You’ll hear head coach Dennis Allen say, “they have to figure ways to get Alvin Kamara more involved in the offense,” or state, “we have to clean those things up.” If a team is 16 weeks into the season and still needs to figure things out on offense, that’s a bad look for a team with aspirations of qualifying for a postseason berth. But for Saturday’s game against Cleveland, they must take on the identity of a highly efficient ground-and-pound attack.

The Browns’ rush defense is allowing 133.1 yards per game. With the cold weather conditions that are supposed to be in effect for Saturday’s contest, the Saints must be the team that can impose their will first. It’s not a contest where New Orleans can establish a highly effective passing attack. With players like Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry being out, it won’t be easy to establish anything through the air. Expect a heavy dosage of Alvin Kamara, Taysom Hill, and Eno Benjamin to be featured in the running game throughout Saturday’s matchup. Also, it would be beneficial if the Saints could get TE Juwan Johnson in a few favorable matchups in the passing game.

The Ability to Stop Cleveland’s Ground and Pound Attack

The Saints used to be recognized as one of the league’s best units that could stop the run. In 2022, that’s no longer the case. There have been several games this season where the Saints’ rush defense looked overmatched against an opposing ground game. In Week 15 against the Atlanta Falcons, the Saints rush defense allowed 231 rushing yards.

They cannot allow the same type of performance against the Cleveland Browns’ vaunted rushing attack. The Browns’ ground game is led by Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb. So far, Chubb is ranked third in the league with 1,252 rushing yards. The Saints’ defense must account for Chubb’s position to neutralize what the Browns do best. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is also a player that can escape from the pocket and make things happen with his legs.

Final Prediction

As much as the odds are stacked against the Saints winning this game, there is a chance of it happening. They are playing a Cleveland Browns team with a quarterback still not back to his 2020 form. If they can force Chubb and Kareem Hunt to be ineffective in the running game, they will have a chance to win. Does a victory this Saturday change the future outlook of head coach Dennis Allen? We will have to wait and see. The Saints win by three.

Saints 20, Browns 17

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Meet Derrick Branch, the founder and chief wordsmith at Strike 7 Sports. With a sharp focus on the NFL and the NBA, Derrick's expertise in sports is matched only by his passion for sharing it with others. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from the prestigious University of Arizona Global. Let his insightful and engaging writing take you to the heart of the action.

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