A week removed from saving his team’s season with a convincing and unexpected beat down of their division rival, quarterback Drew Brees and the 2-4 New Orleans Saints get to do it all over again versus Andrew Luck and the 3-3 Indianapolis Colts in Week 7’s matchup Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Facing a potential 1-5 start that would’ve nixed any shot at a postseason return, Brees and the Saints lit up previously undefeated Atlanta for 14 points in the first quarter and followed up with 17 more in the second half for a 31-21 victory in last week’s Thursday night game.
Surprisingly it was a new season-high scoring threshold for New Orleans, with Brees notching 312 yards and one touchdown pass, running back Mark Ingram storming the end zone twice, and tight end Benjamin Watson running routes with surgical precision for 10 receptions for 127 yards and a score.
And the Saints defense, which still ranks among the league’s worst against the pass and rush, held Atlanta to its lowest scoring output of the year and forced three turnovers. With injuries decimating their secondary in the first quarter of the season, the Saints had generated only five takeaways in their first five games.
New Orleans had missed key contributors like cornerbacks Jairus Byrd and Keenan Lewis and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe in the first three weeks of the season, but they continued to round into form against Atlanta and provide some stability in their third games of the year, while Brees dealt with injuries along the offensive line and was sacked once.
But while things appear be on the upswing for the Saints, another loss could again pummel any postseason hopes with NFC South leader Carolina entering the week a perfect 5-0 and Atlanta still three games better in the standings.
Also, the Saints are 4.5-point road underdogs to a Colts squad that came close to upending perfect New England in Week 6.
Indianapolis’ two-game winning streak without Luck under center was snapped in a 34-27 loss to the Patriots, but the Colts hung tight and held a one-point heading into halftime before the offense sputtered with only six points in the second half.
Luck returned from a torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder to launch two of his three touchdowns in the first half and his 312 passing yards was his highest total this season and since Week 13 last year. It also marked the first time Luck wouldn’t throw an interception this season after chucking seven picks in his first three starts.
But 11 penalties for a loss of 103 yards and four punts on the final seven drives unfortunately negated Luck’s work, and the rushing attack success in keeping possession and New England off the field. The Colts are No. 22 in the NFL in rushing offense, but veteran Frank Gore contributed 78 of the squad’s 120 yards on the ground and Indianapolis had the ball for five more minutes than New England.
Gore in particular has found his groove in the Colts schemes, rushing for 4.5 yards per carry or better in three of the last four games, and providing some balance to an offense that’s dropped from the fourth-highest scoring group in the league with 28.6 points a game last season to No. 23 with 21.0 points per game.
Like the Saints, on defense is where the Colts need to do more heavy lifting. Indy’s No. 29 in the league in total defense (401.8 yards per game), and the secondary’s letting up 289 yards per contest to opposing quarterbacks due in large part to the pass rush’s very low 8.0 sacks.
Betting Odds: Colts -4.5 points
Over/under: 52 points
Prediction: Saints over Colts, 37-30