WEEK #6 PREVIEW: By Barry Hirstius (a.k.a. “HarahanWhoDat”)
ANALYSIS: After the Atlanta Falcons’ last-second loss to the New York Jets on Monday Night, the Saints suddenly find themselves 4 wins ahead of the Falcons and 4 wins ahead of the Panthers. However, that is a stat that they need to avoid celebrating very much; so as not to become complacent or “take their foot off the gas pedal” this early in the season. The Saints have a bye next week, so it’s important that they are focused on winning this game to be able to carry their momentum into the remainder of the Regular Season.
XHarahan WhoDat, AKA Barry, Staff Saints & Pelicans Writer
The Patriots, despite their AFC East Division-leading 4-1 record, have been largely unimpressive so far when compared to other Patriots teams in the past. Still they manage to win games with “smoke and mirrors”. They have experienced a rash of injuries to key players coupled with the departure of other contributing players to either free-agency or retirement. Patriots quarterback (and future Hall of Famer) Tom Brady seems to be uncomfortable with all of the “new faces” (mostly rookies from this past year’s college draft) that have been integrated into the Patriots offensive machinery, and it has shown in his below par (for him, anyway) performance.
Although Brady may have two important offensive weapons return from injury against the New Orleans Saints in All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski and WR Danny Amedola, the Patriots offense remains “out of sync” at the moment. This is a game where defensive coordinator Rob Ryan should be looking to “bring the heat” on Brady with every single chance that he gets. With their running game nearly as ineffective as their passing game, the Patriots are primed for another loss — at yet another venue for the 2nd consecutive week where as the road team, the Saints have had a history of disappointing results.
For the Saints, they need only to continue the formula that has gotten them out to this welcome but somewhat unexpected undefeated start to the season: controlling the time of possession, playing a relatively error-free game, keep penalties to a minimum on both sides of the ball, and continue to improve weekly with the implementation and effectiveness of the new defensive scheme. It currently has them atop of the NFC, a place where they hope to remain when it comes time for the Playoffs in January.
MATCH-UP TO WATCH WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL: Patriots QB Tom Brady vs. the Saints defensive secondary, and TE Rob Gronkowski in his first game back vs. Saints rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro
These two battles are what I believe will win or lose this game for the Saints. In the past, Brady has shown that he gets easily rattled if his receivers are covered; and consequently allows the opponent to apply pressure to him in the pocket. Also, Saints rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro has made quite a name for himself so far, and a not-completely healthy Gronkowski probably won’t be as hard to put tight coverage on as one would expect. If the Saints defense is able to lock down on Brady’s targets and limit any mistakes or blown coverages, their chances of winning will be greatly improved.
MATCH-UP TO WATCH WHEN THE SAINTS HAVE THE BALL: Saints QB Drew Brees (and play-caller and head coach Sean Payton) vs. the entire Patriots defensive unit
Back in 2009 Saints QB Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton DOMINATED the Patriots in the Superdome 38-17 with a nearly unstoppable passing game that embarrassed the Patriots out of the stadium, literally. Unless weather unexpectedly plays a factor, the Saints are playing in the Boston metropolitan area at just exactly the right time to go up there and do it to them once again. The Saints have an opportunity to head into the bye week undefeated and atop the NFC still, with a win — a position that will benefit them greatly as they head into the bye week.
FINAL SCORE PREDICTION: Saints 31, Patriots 20
OTHER NOTES AND INTANGIBLES: The Patriots lead the all-time series vs. the Saints, 8-4…….This will be the 8th time that the game has been played in the Boston / Foxboro area, with the Patriots having won every game there during the previous decade…….
Picture Credit: Pic courtesy of thecountryclubneworleans.com
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