Saints vs. Rams Preview
St. Louis, MO - The New Orleans Saints have already equaled last season's victory total, but with half of this season remaining, they don't want the improvements to stop.
New Orleans looks to extend its franchise-best start Sunday against a St. Louis Rams team coming off a bye and its first victory of the season.
The Saints set a franchise record by improving to 8-0 with Sunday's 30-20 victory over Carolina. Trailing by as many as 14 in the second quarter, New Orleans outscored the Panthers 24-3 in the second half to remain one of the league's two undefeated teams with Indianapolis.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SPORTSBETTING.com have made the Saints –13.5 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 88% of bets for this game have been placed on the Saints –13.5 (View NFL bet percentages).
"That's great. I mean, 1967 until now and we're the only (Saints) team to have done that,'' quarterback Drew Brees said of the best start in team history. "That's really special. I feel like we've got a special group of guys, a special team, and certainly we're not satisfied with just being 8-0. We have what it takes to just continue to win.''
That was not the case in 2008 when New Orleans finished with a .500 record and missed the playoffs for the second straight season.
"There are a lot of things that we can point to as to why we were 8-8 a year ago,'' Saints coach Sean Payton said. "The comparison of why we're playing better football this year, I would say we're playing better defense, we're rushing the football better, we're creating the turnovers. Those are the three things that I don't think we did very well a year ago.''
New Orleans leads the league with 16 interceptions this season, including a NFL-best five returned for touchdowns. The Saints picked off 15 passes in 2008.
After recovering three fumbles Sunday, New Orleans has 24 takeaways - two more than last season. Anthony Hargrove's strip, fumble recovery and 1-yard score in the fourth quarter against Carolina was the Saints' seventh defensive touchdown in 2009. They had none in 2008.
Led by Pierre Thomas' 50 rushing yards, New Orleans ran for a season-low 84 on Sunday. The Saints, though, are fifth in the league in that category, averaging 144.6 - up from 99.6 last season. Thomas, who has rushed for a team-high 455 yards and five touchdowns, is second in the NFC with 5.5 yards per carry.
New Orleans' 19th-ranked rush defense will look to slow down Rams running back Steven Jackson, who is tied with Minnesota's Adrian Peterson with a NFC-best 784 rushing yards. Jackson ran for a season-high 149 yards, including a 25-yard score with 1:38 remaining, as St. Louis (1-7) defeated Detroit 17-10 on Nov. 1 to snap a 17-game losing streak.
Jackson's scoring run was the Rams' first rushing touchdown of the season.
"Unfortunately for him, people don't get to see how great of a back he is,'' said quarterback Marc Bulger, who has three touchdowns and four interceptions for a St. Louis team with a NFL-low 77 points. "Win or lose, that's how he runs.''
Jackson, 216 yards shy of 1,000 for the fifth straight season, rushed for 97 and two TDs in New Orleans' last visit to St. Louis - a 28-17 Rams victory on Oct. 23, 2005.
Brees faces St. Louis for the third time in his career, and first since the Saints' 37-29 loss at the Superdome on Nov. 11, 2007, when he completed 25 of 36 for 272 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
With plenty of big-play targets in Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson and Jeremy Shockey, Brees looks for his sixth 300-yard passing game of the season after throwing for 330 against Carolina. He is tied with Houston's Matt Schaub with a league-high 17 touchdown passes, despite playing in one fewer game than the Texans' signal-caller.
Brees and the Saints, who lead the league in points (37.9) and yards per game (426.9), take on a Rams squad that is 29th in scoring defense (27.6) and 28th in yards allowed with 373.4.
New Orleans has lost two straight to St. Louis since a 28-25 overtime victory on Sept. 26, 2004.
The Saints will try to win their first four on the road for the first time since 1991, while the Rams look to snap an eight-game skid at home.
Posted: 11/11/09 9:54PM ET