Colts face another stingy defense as Saints make a rare trip to Indianapolis

Colts face another stingy defense as Saints make a rare trip to Indianapolis

Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) scores on a 5-yard touchdown run during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew (10) fumbles the ball as he is hit by Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) in the end zone during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Indianapolis.

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara tries to score but is run out of bounds at the 1-yard line by the Jacksonville Jaguars defense in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Derek Carr (4) throws a pass as he is pressured by the Jacksonville Jaguars defense in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023.

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr., left, dives for extra yardage against New Orleans Saints linebacker Pete Werner (20) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023.

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Chris Olave (12) runs for a first down before he is tackled by Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Montaric Brown (30) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023.

Indianapolis Colts running back Zack Moss (21) is tackled by Cleveland Browns defensive end Ogbo Okoronkwo, left, and linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. (5) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Indianapolis.

Indianapolis Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II (23) celebrates after a sack during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Indianapolis.

Josh Jacobs’ declining production for the Raiders continues a trend from late last season

SERIES RECORD: New Orleans leads 9-5

LAST MEETING: Saints beat Colts 34-7 on Dec. 16, 2019, in New Orleans.

LAST WEEK: Saints lost to Jaguars 31-24; Colts lost to Browns 39-38.

SAINTS OFFENSE: OVERALL (17), RUSH (22), PASS (12), SCORING (21)

SAINTS DEFENSE: OVERALL (4), RUSH (12), PASS (4), SCORING (7)

COLTS OFFENSE: OVERALL (10), RUSH (9), PASS (10), SCORING (6T)

COLTS DEFENSE: OVERALL (22), RUSH (21), PASS (19), SCORING (30)

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Saints plus-3; Colts minus-2.

SAINTS PLAYER TO WATCH: LB Pete Werner. Normally, All-Pros Demario Davis or Cameron Jordan are the focal points of the Saints defense. This week, it’s Werner. The former Indy prep star leads the Saints in tackles (47) and his track record at Lucas Oil Stadium is virtually unbeatable. He won four straight Big Ten title games in the facility and his high school won 2013 and 2014 state titles there.

COLTS PLAYERS TO WATCH: RBs Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss. Last week, the 2021 NFL rushing champ and this year’s No. 2 rusher each logged 18 carries on 35 snaps. Taylor seems to be rounding into his pre-injury form, showing the power and burst that made him an All-Pro. Moss (523 yards) trails only Christian McCaffery in rushing totals despite playing one fewer game. His breakout season will make it interesting to see how the Colts balance their ground game this week — and every week.

KEY MATCHUP: Saints RB Alvin Kamara vs. Colts run defense. Like Taylor, the five-time Pro Bowler is ramping up his workload after missing the first three games. He’s been limited to fewer than 70 yards in three times, is averaging 3.6 yards per carry each of the past three weeks and has averaged 4.2 yards on 104 total touches. The Colts, meanwhile, allow 118.7 yards rushing per game.

KEY INJURIES: Saints: OL James Hurst (ankle) missed practice time this week after sitting out Week 7. TE Juwan Johnson (hamstring) hopes to return this week after missing the past four games. RT Ryan Ramczyk (concussion protocol) returned to practice this week after sitting out the Jacksonville game and S Marcus Maye (hamstring) has been limited by a hamstring injury. … Indy’s biggest concern is RT Braden Smith (hip, wrist), who has missed the past two games. Rookie Blake Freeland replaced Smith in the lineup with mixed results. The Colts hope TE Kylen Granson clears the concussion protocol and may not make a decision until later this week about starting CB JuJu Brents (quad) or DT Eric Johnson II (ankle). Moss (elbow, heel) did not practice Wednesday.

SERIES NOTES: The Saints have won four straight in the series, a streak that began with New Orleans’ Super Bowl victory on Feb. 7, 2010. … In three of the past six meetings, the winner has topped 40 points. The victory margin has been 27 points or more in four of those six. … Yes, the Saints won their only game at Lucas Oil Stadium, 27-21 in 2015. It’s not their only appearance in the facility. Hurricane Gustav prompted the Saints to move their practice inside the retractable roof stadium before their 2008 season opener and they considered using the venue for a Monday night game in 2020 because of the threat posed by Hurricane Delta.

STATS & STUFF: New Orleans has lost two straight and four of five. It is coming off a mini-bye week following last Thursday’s loss to Jacksonville. … QB Derek Carr took the Raiders on a game-winning drive in the final two minutes of his most recent appearance in Indy (January 2022) then wrapped up a playoff berth the following week. He’s expected to make his 150th start Sunday. He has two straight 300-yard games. … Kamara has 35 receptions in four games, the most of any NFL running back, and at least seven receptions in three of his four appearances this season. … WR Chris Olave was arrested for reckless driving earlier this week. He had seven catches for 57 yards in Week 7. … DE Cameron Jordan has a franchise-record 116 1/2 sacks. … Punt returner Rashid Shaheed ranks second in the NFL in averaging 18.3 yards. … New Orleans already has more interceptions this season (eight) than all of last season (seven). … Rookie K Blake Grupe has missed three field goals (on eight attempts) during the Saints’ two-game skid. This is the third consecutive week Indy has faced a top-10 defense. … The Colts are the only NFL team to score 20 or more points in all seven games this season after averaging just 17.0 last season. … Since taking over for injured rookie Anthony Richardson, QB Gardner Minshew has thrown four interceptions, lost four fumbles, been sacked seven times and lost twice. … WR Michael Pittman Jr. needs 111 yards to surpass his current coach, Reggie Wayne (3,109 yards), No. 4 among Colts receivers in their first four seasons. … As LB Zaire Franklin continues to lead the league in tackles (88) and double-digit tackle games (six), CB Kenny Moore II is coming off his best game of the season — 10 tackles, seven solos and 1 1/2 sacks.

FANTASY TIP: Taylor. OK, so this is a bit of a flier given Moss’ emergence and New Orleans’ defense. But Taylor seems primed for a breakout game. His workload has steadily increased since his Week 5 season debut and he’s shown the speed and skills that made one of the league’s most successful rushers. Last week, he also reached the end zone for the first time since Nov. 28, 2022. His next step is delivering a big game — so take a chance this week.

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