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New Orleans Saints vs. Buffalo Bills: Prediction, preview, pick to win

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The Sports Xchange
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints pay a visit to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints pay a visit to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI | License Photo

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (6-2) AT BUFFALO BILLS (5-3)

GAME SNAPSHOT

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KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, New Era Field. TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Kristina Pink (field reporter).

SERIES HISTORY: 11th regular-season meeting. Saints lead series, 6-4, including a 35-17 victory in the last meeting in 2013 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. New Orleans has won three of the four meetings in Buffalo, including a 27-7 win in the last meeting there in 2009.

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KEYS TO THE GAME: For the Saints, it's run the ball and contain the run. The Saints will face their coldest and perhaps windiest conditions of the season, though relatively mild (40-something degrees) compared to Buffalo late in the year. If Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have success rushing, it would lessen the burden on Drew Brees passing in the elements. On the other side of the ball, the Saints have been susceptible to big runs. If they can limit LeSean McCoy and force Tyrod Taylor to try to win the game through the air, it will be to New Orleans' advantage.

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The Bills need to get their running game working again after another down game against the Jets. LeSean McCoy was held to 25 yards by a Jets defense that still ranks only 23rd in the league. The Saints have improved on defense across the board, but they are still getting gashed on a per-carry basis; their 4.7 average ranks 29th.

Buffalo needs to control the ball and keep Brees off the field. Whether it's by rushing or the short passing game, the Bills have to win time of possession and make good use of each offensive series by either scoring or flipping the field.

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New Orleans will probably test the Bills' pass defense, which has struggled in recent weeks -- yielding three 300-yard passing games until stopping that streak against the Jets' Josh McCown on Thursday. Brees is having a magnificent year, and he could feast against Buffalo's mostly non-existent pass rush. The Bills have only 14 sacks and are 28th in sacks per attempt. If Brees has time, he will pick the young Buffalo secondary apart, even if CB E.J. Gaines returns.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Bills WR Kelvin Benjamin vs. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore. This will be Benjamin's debut with the Bills, and he'll probably see the rookie Lattimore across from him on multiple plays. Lattimore has had a solid rookie season, and he'll be helped by the fact that he and the Saints' secondary have already studied Benjamin extensively from his time in the NFC South with division rival Carolina. On the flip side, that could work to Benjamin's advantage, too.

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--Saints passing game vs. Bills secondary: The Saints have one of the best passing games in the NFL and the Bills have playmakers in the secondary. Buffalo is second in the league with 51 passes defensed, led by rookie No. 1 draft choice Tre'Davious White's league-leading 12, and Micah Hyde is second in the league with five interceptions. Michael Thomas has been steady and Ted Ginn Jr. has made big plays in recent weeks, but New Orleans has had trouble finding a third wide receiver to complement them.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Saints RB Mark Ingram. Though rookie Alvin Kamara has received a lot of attention for his immediate impact, Ingram remains the Saints' primary running back. He has more than twice as many carries as Kamara, accumulating 541 yards and a team-high four touchdowns while averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He has six fewer receptions than Kamara, grabbing 31 for a 6.2-yard average. His 733 yards from scrimmage are 10th in the NFL.

FAST FACTS: The Saints are the third team in the Super Bowl era to follow an 0-2 start with at least six consecutive wins. The previous two teams (1993 Cowboys and 2007 Giants) won the Super Bowl. ... Saints QB Drew Brees completed 26 of 34 passes (76.5 percent) for 332 yards, five TDs and no interceptions in the last meeting, one of his seven career games with five-plus TD passes and no interceptions. In four career meetings, he has nine TDs and no interceptions. Brees needs 11 completions to become the third quarterback in NFL history to accumulate 3,000 away from home. ... RB Mark Ingram has 719 scrimmage yards (102.7 per game) and four TDs in the past seven games on the road against AFC teams. ... DE Cameron Jordan had a sack, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in the last meeting. He has six sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception in the past six games on the road against AFC teams. He has three sacks and two forced fumbles in the past four games on the road. ... The Bills have scored at least 20 points in their last 13 home games, the longest active streak in the league and the longest stretch in franchise history. ... Bills QB Tyrod Taylor completed 29 of 40 passes (72.5 percent) for a season-high 285 yards, two TDs and no interceptions and rushed for a TD in Week 9. He is 0-5 when totaling at least 280 yards. He ranks third in the NFL with a 0.8 interception percentage (two interceptions in 236 attempts) in 2017. He has a 1.5 career interception percentage, lowest among active NFL QBs with 1,000 attempts. ... RB LeSean McCoy has 100 scrimmage yards and a rushing TD in two of the past three games. In his past two games against New Orleans (including playoffs), he has 225 scrimmage yards (112.5 per game) with a rushing TD. In his past 10 games at home, he has 1,337 scrimmage yards (133.7 per game) and 14 rushing TDs. ... LB Preston Brown has eight-plus tackles in five of the past six games.

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PREDICTION: Something has to give here, as the Bills are unbeaten at home and the Saints have won six straight. That something will be the Saints' winning streak as the Bills get back on track after laying a mutant egg last week in the Meadowlands for the Jets' benefit.

OUR PICK: Bills, 27-24.

--Bucky Dent

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