Over the last four seasons, the New Orleans Saints are a perfect 4-0 after a bye week, winning each game by an average of 17 points.
The 3-4 Buffalo Bills look to snap that streak and hand the Saints their first home loss of the season on Saturday afternoon at the Mercedez-Benz Superdome.
Drew Brees and the 5-1 Saints had two weeks to stew after their first loss of the season, a 30-27 thriller at New England that came down to the final five seconds of play. Brees posted his worse game of the year, going 17-for-36 for 236 yards two scores and a pick, and star tight end Jimmy Graham was held without a catch for the first time since his rookie year.
Tops in catches, yards, and touchdowns, Graham was clearly hampered by a foot injury against New England, and missed practice on Wednesday. He could miss the Bills game entirely, with Benjamin Watson expected to fill in. Watson has eight catches for 110 yards and one touchdown this season.
Graham's injury may mean more work for running back Darren Sproles, who's second on the team with 32 catches for 366 yards.
However, Brees woes could continue against a talent-rich Buffalo defense that leads the NFL with 12 interceptions and is tied for fourth in sacks with 23. Defensive end Mario Williams is a half sack away from equaling his total from last season with 10.0, and rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso is in a five-way tie atop the league with four picks.
The Bills forced three turnovers in last week’s 23-21 victory over AFC East rival Miami, and allowed a stingy three third-down conversions.
Saturday marks the third straight start for second-year Buffalo quarterback Thad Lewis. In his previous starts, Lewis has been impressive, completing almost 65 percent of his passes for 418 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
The Bills haven't asked much of Lewis, and have instead relied on their fifth-ranked rushing attack of running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, but injuries could take away the Bills main weapons. Spiller hasn’t practiced all week with an ankle injury, while Jackson was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice.
The ankle injury has bothered Spiller since Week Four, and head coach Doug Marrone may exercise caution and reportedly sit his young back against New Orleans, according to NFL.com. That’s good news for the Saints front seven, who have improved but are only 22nd against the run.
Other than Graham, the Saints do have a few injury concerns as well. Starting safety Roman Harper has missed practice all week with a knee ailment, as has reserve defensive end Tyrunn Walker. A hip injury also forced corner Rod Sweeting to sit out Thursday’s practice.
Point Spread: New Orleans favored by 12.5 points.
Over-Under: 49 points
Kickoff Time: 1 PM Eastern Time
Where To Watch Online: NFL Game Access
TV Channel: CBS
Prediction: New Orleans 27, Buffalo 17
Currently covering NBA, NFL, MLB, along with Real Madrid and Barcelona, focusing on trades, controversy, and injury updates. Joined IB Times in August 2012.