Commentary

Salisbury: No Bush, no problem

Updated: December 10, 2007, 5:50 PM ET
By Sean Salisbury | ESPN

Every Monday, ESPN football analyst Sean Salisbury provides his picks and keys to the game for ESPN PlayCaller. Want to put Sean's advice to work? Think you know better? Join now and let's see what you've got.

Predictions

Quarterback with most passing yards: Drew Brees
And it's not close. The Saints will throw the ball 45 times with Reggie Bush out, and I look for Drew to put up at least 300 passing yards.

Quarterback with most touchdown passes: Drew Brees
He can make the big play as long as the Saints' receivers hold on to the ball. They have dropped lots of balls this year that should have been caught. The Saints are a team that will throw in the red zone, considering their deficiency at running back.

Running back with most yards: Warrick Dunn
The Falcons must control the game by running the ball, maybe even to the point they become a one-dimensional team. Dunn should get plenty of touches.

Running back with most touchdowns: Aaron Stecker
Because Warrick Dunn comes out in short-yardage situations, I think Aaron Stecker will get the most red zone work. He should have plenty of shots at the end zone. And who knows, maybe he can break off a long one? We've seen he has speed from his return role. It'd be a big boost for New Orleans if Stecker could ably fill Reggie Bush's role.

Wide receiver with the most receiving yards: Roddy White
White has been the Falcons' only consistent receiver this year, and I expect a good game from him tonight.

Most field goals: Olindo Mare
More times in the red zone means more field goal opportunities.

First player to score a touchdown: Marques Colston
Even though they're on the road, the Saints will strike first. They like to throw in the red zone, and I have a feeling Colston will get the call.

First team to score a touchdown: New Orleans Saints
Considering I just said Colston would score the first touchdown …

Keys to the game for the Saints

  1. Avoid the big-pass play
    The Saints must force the Falcons to become a one-dimensional team.

  2. Cut gimmicks
    The Saints have tried to get a little too cute of late. Stop the gimmicks and get back to the basics; leave the double-reverse pass in the playbook. Trust your skill players to get the job done. The Saints are a better football team than the Falcons and they don't need gimmicks to prove it.

  3. Get to the quarterback
    The Saints must pressure, pressure, pressure the quarterback. The Falcons' quarterbacks don't move well and the pass-rush pressure will turn them into a one-dimensional team.

Keys to the game for the Falcons

  1. Establish the run
    The Falcons have led the NFL in rushing the last three years and they must get back to their running ways if they want a shot at winning this game (or any other game, for that matter). Also, a dominant running game will keep Drew Brees and the Saints' offense off the field.

  2. Consistent quarterback play
    The Falcons have been very inconsistent at the quarterback position this year. Tonight, all they need is a steady performance -- no turnovers, some continuity on offense …

  3. Protect the quarterback
    If they want consistency and stability at the position, they must protect Chris Redman (or whomever) and give him an opportunity to make plays. They give up way too many sacks, and the Falcons quarterback corps as a whole does not move well. Protect him!

Sean Salisbury is an NFL analyst for ESPN.