1:00 PM ET, October 2, 2011
EverBank Field, Jacksonville, FL
Already the highest-scoring team in the NFC, the New Orleans Saints are about to get a key member of their offense back on the field.
The Jacksonville Jaguars hope they won't need to continue to rely so heavily on their star running back to shoulder the offensive load.
With receiver Marques Colston set to return from injury, the Saints seek a third consecutive victory in their first visit to Jacksonville in eight years Sunday.
New Orleans (2-1) has averaged 34.7 points through three games, highlighted by a 40-33 comeback victory over Houston last week. Despite throwing his first two interceptions of 2011, Drew Brees tossed two of his three touchdowns in the fourth quarter as the Saints overcame a 26-17 deficit.
Since the start of the 2008 season, the Saints have scored 30 or more points in 26 of 51 regular-season games -- the most by any team.
"If you do things the right way, good things are going to happen," said Brees, who has thrown a TD pass in 30 consecutive games to tie Dan Marino for the third-longest streak in NFL history.
Brees is glad he can throw to Colston, who was cleared to play after breaking his collarbone in a season-opening loss at Green Bay. Colston, who had at least 70 receptions in four of his first five seasons, caught six passes for 81 yards against the Packers.
"It's huge," said Brees, who has thrown eight TDs and no interceptions while going 2-1 versus Jacksonville. "He's a big part of our offense. I'm excited to have him back."
Brees has also formed a strong on-field bond with tight end Jimmy Graham, who caught four passes for 100 yards and a touchdown against the Texans. The budding second-year star is eighth in the NFC with 235 receiving yards on 14 catches.
While the news on Colston is positive, offensive lineman Zach Strief (leg) and Olin Kreutz (knee) could miss this game. The statuses of linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) and cornerback Tracy Porter (calf) are uncertain.
The Saints may face a challenge in a Jacksonville defense that ranks fourth in the league with 280.0 yards allowed per game, but scoring could continue to be a problem for the Jaguars (1-2), even against a New Orleans team that's giving up 29.3 points per contest.
Despite a strong start from star running back Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars have totaled 29 points, second fewest behind Kansas City's 27. They rank last in the league with 126.7 passing yards a game and 28th in total offense at 261.0.
"I've always been a fan of scoring more and scoring a lot," said coach Jack Del Rio, whose team has made one trip inside the red zone. "And, yeah, I would like to see that part of our football team improve dramatically."
Jones-Drew, who has scored one of the team's two touchdowns, is third in the NFL with 307 rushing yards after running for 122 in rainy conditions during a 16-10 loss at Carolina on Sunday.
Since Oct. 31, Jones-Drew has rushed for a league-high 1,121 yards. He's also averaged 123.3 while recording three straight 100-yard games against NFC opponents.
Jones-Drew, however, ran five times for 28 yards in the teams' most recent meeting, a 41-24 New Orleans home victory Nov. 4, 2007.
"They're successful at running the ball," Saints cornerback Jabari Greer said. "The running back they have has been a pivotal part of the success they had. That's a challenge we're going to have to address. They do it well and they're committed to it."
While Del Rio is pleased with Jones-Drew's effort, he hopes to see more progress from rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who was 12 for 21 for 139 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his first career start last week.
These teams have split their four most recent meetings, with the Jaguars winning 20-19 in the most recent matchup in Jacksonville on Dec. 21, 2003.
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|Avg Points Allowed||24.5||21.3|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||NO|
|Rush Yds Allowed||NO|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|New Orleans leads 2-1|
|Nov 4, 2007||NO 41, JAX 24|
|Dec 21, 2003||NO 19, @JAX 20|