If there was ever a trap game for the 2009 Saints, this is it.
The Saints face five more NFC opponents in the regular season. Three are division games. One is against the Cowboys on a special nationally-television Saturday home game - also the only game against a team with a winning record.
That leaves Washington, where the Saints fly towards out of New Orleans today. An away game, against a 3-8 team, on a short week because of Monday night football. It's also the Saints' first "weather" game, temperatures are forecast in the high 30s. The Redskins, only mathematically alive in the playoff hunt, have nothing left to play for other than handing an undefeated team their first loss.
Its also the first regular season game for Saints DC Gregg Williams to face his old team, where he spent four years as defensive coordinator from 2004 to 2007. (He faced them in preseason last in 2008 while with the Jaguars.) Williams' Redskins beat the Saints in 2006, a 16-10 upset when Brees was limited to 21 of 38 passes and an interception.
The Saints need to grasp at whatever focusing issues they can this week in order to beat the dangerous Redskins in chilly Washington.
Washington is without their top two runningbacks, as Clinton Portis (concussion) and Ladell Betts (knee) are out. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall is also likely to miss the game, though DT Albert Haynesworth and his record-setting $100 million contract are expected to return to the field.
The Redskins are 0-2 the past two games without Haynesworth, but those losses were hotly contested against the Cowboys (lost 6-7) and the Eagles (lost 24-27).
Its the first time in NFL history there have been two 11-0 teams, and that may end this week. The undefeated Colts also face a tough challenge against fast-rising Tennessee.
As for the Saints injury status, it is still a lengthy report.
- RB Reggie Bush is expected to return to action after missing time with an aggravation of a prior knee injury.
- CB Jabari Greer continues to be limited in practice and is listed as questionable. The Saints may have to play another game without both starting cornerbacks, as Tracy Porter is listed as out. CB Randall Gay (hamstring) continued to miss practice and may also be out.
That means the Saints would be down to their #4 and #6 options at cornerback, considering that dimeback Leigh Torrence has already been lost for the season. Malcolm Jenkins and Mike McKenzie would be expected to start if Gay cannot go, with free safety Usama Young also sharing time at cornerback.
That cornerback lineup, minus Greer, Porter, Gay and Torrence, did a fine job against Tom Brady last week.
- Backup MLB Marvin Mitchell picked up a hamstring injury against the Patriots and is now doubtful. Mitchell got playing time on special teams and when the Saints shifted to a four-linebacker set, which the creative Williams tends to do.
- WR Lance Moore is not expected to return to action yet.
- Other injuries include starting right guard Jermon Bushrod (thumb), starting strongside linebacker Scott Fujita (knee), starting center Jonathan Goodwin (ankle), starting runningback Pierre Thomas (wrist), rotation defensive end Bobby McCray (back). All are expected to play despite being limited in practice.
- UPDATE: Scott Fujita, Randall Gay, Jabari Greer and Marvin Mitchell have been ruled OUT.
Fujita is a pretty big surprise, since he played Monday night, recording seven tackles and a forced fumble. This could be a sign of a bigger problem with Fujita's knee injury, who already missed time with a calf injury this season.
With both Fujita and Mitchell out, undrafted rookie LB Jonathan Casillas should be active and safety Pierson Prioleau will see more time as a passing down linebacker.