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New Orleans Saints defensive end John Hughes III (92) and New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (98) pressure Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) during the first half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La.

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD
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The Saints have had some issues on the opening drive of games. The team has given up four touchdowns and four field goals on these drives. They've also blocked a punt, intercepted a pass, caused a fumble and forced one punt. 

And that interception by Ken Crawley ended a strong first drive by the Dolphins in London.

Overall, New Orleans has surrendered eight scores and allowed the opening drives to go an average of 50.67 yards.

This is interesting because the Saints have forced a punt 50 percent of the time on the second drive. On the third drive, the opposition punts 66.7 percent of the time, and so on. New Orleans doesn't appear to struggle anywhere else in games.

And this isn't an issue that existed early on and has gotten better. The Saints have allowed a touchdown or field goal on the opening drive in each of the last four games.

It's probably just a matter of settling in and getting things sorted out. But this is certainly an interesting development and something worth keeping an eye on moving forward.

There are people on staff who will start looking ahead and gathering information for the coaching staff before the start of the new week. But, by and large, the coaches focus on things one week at a time. The focus was on the Panthers last week, and now the focus is on the Falcons.

That's why these games are often so sloppy. There's only so much you can scheming you can do in such a short period of time. A lot of times, teams will rely on the things they've done in other games and use a more simplified game plan during Thursday games.

The good news is that defense and running often do well in these games, and those are two strengths of the Saints.

You never say never, but that's a pretty tall task. Marshall Faulk only accomplished the task once. 

At his current rates, Kamara would need 140 carries and 100 receptions to reach the mark. He has 86 carries and 60 catches. 

It would take a lot more volume for him to achieve those heights. And, odds are, if he were carrying that often, he wouldn't average 7 yards per carry. He'd probably drop down closer to around 5 yards per carry, which means it would take many more touches to reach the mark.

Kamara has been incredible, and I wouldn't put anything past him, but it would take a lot for him to get there one day.

I think the way the Fox broadcast portrayed Sean Payton's feelings about Taysom Hill were overblown.

They obviously really like him. Otherwise, he wouldn't still be on the roster, but I'm not sure they've decided that he's the heir to Drew Brees or anything like that. From conversations I've had, it doesn't sound like the third-team quarterback even gets many snaps in practice.

So, I think it's going to take more time before the team feels it is set at that position.

As far as trading up, my feelings on this will never change: Make the move if you feel that passionate about the prospect. It doesn't matter what position it is. If he's the guy, then go up and get your guy.

My only issue with moving up would be that the team doesn't have a second-round pick this year (using it to get Kamara was pretty wise), so it might be hard to make a move.

The odds will be a lot better if the Saints win this week.

There are a lot of scenarios that have to play out. Losing to Minnesota and Los Angeles doesn't help. If the Saints end up tied with either of those teams, they will lose the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Where things get interesting is if there's a three-way tie. At that point, the head-to-head won't matter and will go on to other things. All those scenarios can be sorted out at a later date.

Right now, the Saints have to take care of business. And, if they win this week, it would be a surprise if they don't finish 12-4 or better. That's good enough to earn a bye in most seasons.

Follow Nick Underhill on Twitter, @nick_underhill.​

This article originally ran on theadvocate.com.

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