Five reasons to watch Colts-Saints

A quarterback showdown between the Saints' Drew Brees and Colts' Andrew Luck highlights Saturday night's nationally televised preseason game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The New Orleans Saints (2-0) visit the Indianapolis Colts (0-2) in an NFL preseason game at 8 p.m. Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium (CBS-TV). Here’s five reasons why this game is worth watching.

1. It’s the third exhibition for both teams, which means starters are expected to play one half and possibly a series or two into the third quarter. It’s always the most the starters see the field in preseason. The one deviation from that coaches’ script in the past has been if one team has the distinct upper hand by halftime. When that happens, the team ahead often earns the night off at the break. From a fans’ perspective, this is usually the strongest indication of how your team is shaping up for the regular season, for at least a half anyway.

2. Both the Colts and Saints were playoff teams that reached the divisional round in their respective conferences a year ago. Indianapolis finished 11-5 in the regular season, then rallied from a 28-point, third-quarter deficit to knock off visiting Kansas City 45-44 before losing 43-22 at New England in the AFC. New Orleans also finished the regular season 11-5, then won its first career road playoff game 26-24 at Philadelphia on a last-play field goal before falling 23-15 at Seattle, the eventual NFC and Super Bowl champion.

3. There’s nothing like seeing two great quarterbacks in primetime, the Colts’ Andrew Luck and the Saints’ Drew Brees. Luck, in his third NFL season, has played well in two preseason games, completing 16-of-23 passes for 142 yards and 1 TD. The Colts’ first-team offense has scored 16 points in roughly two quarters. The 35-year-old Brees has set numerous NFL passing records and made the Pro Bowl in eight of his 13 seasons. Colts fans don’t need to be reminded Brees was Super Bowl XLIV MVP after leading the Saints to a 31-17 victory over Indy in Miami in 2010. The past two seasons, he’s passed for 10,339 yards and 82 TDs. Brees is making his preseason debut after sitting out two games with a strained oblique muscle. While he’s from Texas, this is kind of a homecoming for the former Purdue Boilermakers star. The Saints have never played a game at Lucas Oil Stadium, although the team used the facility for four days in 2008 after evacuating the Gulf Coast due to Tropical Storm Gustav.

4. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, rewarded in July with a four-year, $40-million contract ($21 million guaranteed) is one of the NFL’s best at his position and a matchup nightmare. Linebackers struggle to match his speed. Safeties typically don’t have the strength to prevent him from getting open. Commit two defenders to him and that creates mismatches elsewhere that Brees knows how to exploit. And he’s still talented enough to beat double teams — he caught 86 passes for 1,215 yards and 16 TDs last season. Graham makes his share of headlines for other reasons. When offseason contract negotiations bogged down after the Saints used the franchise tag, Graham appealed an arbitrator’s ruling that he should be classified as a tight end. On the last day a new multi-year contract could be agreed upon under league rules, the two sides came to terms. In last week’s preseason game, Graham upset coach Sean Payton when he violated a new NFL rule that forbids celebrating a score by dunking a football over the crossbar. The NFL fined him $30,000.

5. The Colts’ first-team defense has allowed just three points, on a 51-yard field goal, in about two quarters of work. But the Saints ranked No. 2 in passing offense a year ago at 307.4 yards per game. Colts coach Chuck Pagano has already said NFL reigning sack champion Robert Mathis will sit this one out. Mathis has been suspended the first four games of the regular season for taking a fertility drug that violated the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. So the Colts will be looking for outside linebackers Bjoern Werner and Erik Walden, among others, to step up in the pass rush against Brees. Colts safety Mike Adams, who played for Denver last season, is expected to get his second consecutive start because Delano Howell is seeing specialists about a lingering neck problem.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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