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Fact or Fiction: Predictions for Sunday

Odell Beckham Jr. will score his first touchdown of the season on Sunday. 

John Schmeelk - Fact: The Saints have faced a few top receivers this year and struggled covering all of them. Against Atlanta, Julio Jones had 96 receiving yards last week, while Calvin Ridley had 146. The week prior against the Browns, Jarvis Landry had five catches for 69 yards. In Week 1 against Tampa Bay, Mike Evans caught all seven of his targets for 147 yards, and DeSean Jackson caught all five of his targets for 146 yards. Even New Orleans’ top cornerback, Marshon Lattimore, who will most likely be assigned to Beckham, has struggled. They have given up a bunch of big pass plays (five of 40 yards or more – the most of any team that has played three games) and there is no reason to believe that will change this week.

Dan Salomone - Fact. If you said fact every week, you would be right 76 percent of the time. Odds don’t get better than that in sports. Beckham has 38 touchdowns in 50 games, and while he has none yet this season, you are looking at a Saints defense that is allowing 34.3 points per game. Beckham’s longest touchdown drought is five games in the regular season, spanning from the 2015 finale until ending it in Week 5 of 2016. Beckham pointed to a play against the Texans last week on which he could have broken a long one but hesitated. He won’t do it again. “I just think that’s part of getting back into it, third game,” said Beckham, who is coming off ankle surgery and playing in a new system. “It’s going to come. When it rains, it pours.”

Lance Medow - Fact: If there’s a game for Odell Beckham to break his drought, it would be this one. The Saints have allowed a NFL-high 10 passing touchdowns over the first three weeks of the season. They’ve also surrendered a number of explosive plays as opponents have collected 14 pass plays of 20 or more yards (fifth-most in the NFL). Add in the fact that the Saints lost their starting nickel corner Patrick Robinson to a broken ankle and this is an extremely attractive matchup for Beckham across the board.

Alvin Kamara is the most dynamic skill player the Giants face this season. 

John Schmeelk - Fact: I like the word dynamic to describe Kamara. He might not be the best skill position player since Julio Jones is still on the schedule, but he can do the most things at the highest level. Kamara will line up in the backfield, in the slot, or on the perimeter. He runs routes like a wide receiver. He can catch the ball down the field, in the screen game, or run it at the line of scrimmage. The way the Saints use him makes it impossible to get the matchup you always want on him. He is the Saints’ version of Saquon Barkley, and other than being smaller physically, Kamara is just as skilled. 

Dan Salomone - Fiction. He’s not even the most dynamic player on his team. Wide receiver Michael Thomas has 38 catches, the most by a player in his team's first three games of a season in league history. He is also the first player in NFL history to record at least 10 catches in each of his team's first three games to start a season. And he is doing it from inside and outside, fulfilling the “dynamic” part of this statement. The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder has lined up in the slot on 50 of his 196 snaps (25.5 percent), according to Pro Football Focus. Want to hear something really incredible? His 38 receptions this season have come on 40 targets. 

Lance Medow - Fact: This comes down to two players: Alvin Kamara and, coincidentally, a player the Giants will see next week in Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey. Both players are just as dangerous as receivers as they are as runners given they each collected at least 80 receptions as rookies in 2017. With Mark Ingram still serving a four-game suspension, Kamara has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the Saints backfield. He’s averaging 22 touches per game this season and has racked up 30 receptions, the most by a running back in the Super Bowl era in the first three games of a season. On top of that, Kamara already has two 100-yard receiving games this year. The former third-round pick is so versatile and dangerous that you have to always account for where he is on the field. McCaffrey isn’t too shabby but, as of right now, Kamara tops the list.

Whichever team records more sacks will win the game.

John Schmeelk - Fiction: This will impact the game, but it won’t be the deciding factor. Neither team has a dynamic pass rush, although the Saints have been a bit better at getting to the quarterback than the Giants. New Orleans’ offensive line has played at a fairly high level this year. Combine that with Drew Brees’ ability to move in the pocket and get the ball out quickly, it will be hard for the Giants to stack a bunch of sacks. I also think both teams will be able to overcome sacks and any subsequent second and third and longs in this game because of their dynamic offenses and skill position players. This game will come down to red zone scoring and big scoring plays. The team that has to settle for field goals is going to lose. The team that can punch it in inside the 20 and score on big plays from outside the red zone will come out with the victory. 

Dan Salomone - Fiction. The Giants lost the sack differential last week and still came away with a win. It’s all about disrupting the timing of Drew Brees and the Saints, not necessarily getting him on the ground. And if it does become a shootout, it’s more about the timeliness than quantity of sacks. 

Lance Medow - Fiction: Getting pressure on the quarterback is key, especially collecting sacks, but to say that stat alone will dictate the outcome of the game is misleading. Case in point, the one game the Giants won this season, they had less sacks than the Texans. The margin was very close (4-3), but it’s more about how you capitalize off the sacks than how many you collect. You can overcome a sack and the loss of yards that usually comes with it by responding with a big play on the very next snap. There’s much more to this matchup than who wins the sack battle. On top of that, both the Giants and Saints haven’t thrived in that category over the first three games of the season. The Giants have four sacks (T-29th NFL) and New Orleans six (T-24th).

The Saints are a different team on the road.

John Schmeelk - Fiction: This comes up every year, and I don’t buy it. Nearly every NFL team plays better at home than on the road, and the Saints are no different. It doesn’t make them some sort of special case. The Saints’ dynamic passing game does not fall apart on the road. These are Drew Brees’ numbers last year at home and on the road: Home: 71.7%, 2,278 yards, 12 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 104.3 rating. Road: 72.3%, 2,056 yards, 11 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 103.5 rating.

The weather on Sunday looks like it will be ideal football conditions. I wouldn’t expect the Saints offense to be anything less than very difficult to stop even if there is no roof on the building. A grass field might make a small difference in limiting their speed, but the surface at MetLife Stadium is almost identical to what is in New Orleans. Don’t buy into this particular narrative.

Dan Salomone - Fact. Since Sean Payton and Drew Brees arrived in 2006, the Saints are 62-35 (.639) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and 52-46 (.531) away from it. It’s not a knock on what they’ve accomplished. In fact, it’s a strength. What team wouldn’t want that type of home-field advantage? But when you get dome teams on the road, especially outdoors, there is an effect on both sides of the ball. It is tougher for Brees to communicate all of his pre-snap adjustments when he’s playing in front of a hostile crowd, and on the flipside, opposing quarterbacks can actually hear themselves think when they’re not in the abyss of the Superdome.

Lance Medow - Fiction: This narrative is getting old. While statistically the Saints may not light up the scoreboard on the road compared to home, they are still an extremely dangerous team regardless of the location of the contest. It certainly didn’t impact them in Week 3 as they put up 43 points on the Falcons in an overtime victory. I know what you’re saying: well that game was also played in a dome. Ok, let’s go back to 2017. In Week 3, they visited Carolina and won; 34-13; Week 7 at Green Bay, they recorded a 26-17 victory; and in Week 10, New Orleans went to Buffalo, of all places, in the middle of November and cruised to a 47-10 victory thanks to 298 rushing yards. In general, it’s harder to win on the road in the NFL, so let’s put a rest to the narrative the Saints are a different team away from New Orleans.

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