The one-loss New Orleans Saints showed last week that they are a Super Bowl threat by taking down the previously unbeaten Los Angeles Rams, and they may be just getting started. The Saints added Pro Bowl wide receiver Dez Bryant to the fold this week -- though Bryant might not be available to play on Sunday -- giving future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees another dynamic playmaker alongside Michael Thomas. The Cincinnati Bengals come into this tough matchup with some fresh legs after their bye. They nearly blew a big lead to the Tampa Bay Bucs the week before, but ended up winning on a last-second field goal. They currently are in position to claim the second Wild Card spot in the AFC, but there are multiple teams in striking distance.
The Saints are cruising right along at 7-1, but they can’t get too comfortable. The Carolina Panthers are just one game back in the NFC South at 6-2. Michael Thomas is playing like a man possessed, finishing with a franchise-record 211 receiving yards in last week's statement win. Thomas sealed the victory with a sensational 72-yard TD grab and capped it off with an homage to the Joe Horn flip-phone TD celebration. The performance brought his season totals to 70 catches, 880 yards and five TDs, on pace for a casual 140 grabs and 1,760 yards. Now Brees will have Thomas and Bryant to throw to on the outside, along with tight end Ben Watson, who has had a TD each of the past two weeks. Mix that with the backfield of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, and the high-octane Saints offense might drop 40 every week. The Bengals might just be the latest victim.
Andy Dalton has quietly had a nice season in the Bengals' 5-3 start. Now, he will be without A.J. Green for a bit, which means a whole lot of trouble for this Bengals offense. Tyler Boyd, out of nowhere, has been sensational. Joe Mixon has carried the load in the backfield. Gio Bernard will return this week. But without their top receiver, they will have a difficult time on all fronts against this Saints team, even at home. The Bengals do not want to get into a shootout. If they win this game, it’s because it was a defensive battle and they forced some turnovers.