Two of the most high-profile and talked about teams in the NFL are the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints. Whether they’re doing good or bad, people gravitate toward these two teams because of who their quarterbacks are, their coaches are, and that each team provides people with a mix of excellence on the field and something, anything, off the field for people to sink their teeth into. Today these two teams meet.
The Patriots’ defense has had a decent season so far, especially compared to their last couple of seasons. In their last two games, quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Andy Dalton were noticeably contained by the Patriots’ D, combining for two touchdowns (both from Ryan) and two interceptions. The fact that Ryan threw for over 400 yards is kind of positive for the Patriots in the sense that Ryan was able to move his team down the field, but wasn’t able to put the points on the board; the Patriots would have had no problem surrendering points to either of those quarterbacks in previous years, even during poor games for Ryan or Dalton.
The only problem is that the Patriots’ D isn’t taking on Ryan or Dalton or any of the other quarterbacks they’ve dealt with so far this season—Josh Freeman, Geno Smith, E.J. Manuel—and are instead taking on one of the game’s most efficient quarterbacks when it comes to putting up yards and points, Drew Brees.
Normally a Brees/Tom Brady quarterback matchup would be the talk of football and have fans everywhere salivating in anticipation of the fireworks certain to go off with these two going back and forth down the field. This year, the timing of the game and the fortunes of the Patriots when it comes to their receiving core have killed off a lot of that anticipation.
The biggest, and most crucial difference concerning this game between what Brees and Brady have to work with is that Brees has his top tight end, Jimmy Graham, in the lineup while Brady’s top tight end, Rob Gronkowski, is still out thanks to injuries and surgeries to a body that has been beaten up over the last couple of seasons. To be honest, I’m not sure when Gronkowski is going to finally step onto the field this season, and I don’t think anyone else knows either at this point. Brees has already made it clear that not only is Graham his favorite target, but he’s worthy of being thrown to as often as Brees throws to him with Graham setting a pace to break all tight end catching records during this season.
This lack of options for Brady should make things much easier for the Saints’ defense in a game where they’re playing against a quarterback of his caliber. Right now, it appears as though there are too many injuries and too many inexperienced parts on this offense for a guy even as good as Brady to make it into something that will be able to keep up with the Saints. The Saints have a fully functioning offense much like the Patriots’ offense when healthy and a defense that is playing back to form with Sean Payton on the sidelines and not like the historically bad defense they had last season.
This game will be more defensive than a Patriots/Saints game would normally, until the second half that is.
The Patriots’ D will eventually succumb after being put in a position where they’re on the field for too long and forced to deal with Brees’ passes all game. This will result in two second half touchdown passes for Brees and another drive or two that ends in points for the Saints. These scoring drives will create a lead that someone like Brady would normally be able to make a comeback from or at least get close to coming back from. Not this week and not with the lineup the Patriots bring into this game on offense.
The Patriots will hold out for as long as they can, but the Saints will eventually overpower them and look impressive while staying undefeated and gaining a big road win.
My Prediction: New Orleans 31, New England (-2.5) 20
Straight Up: 5-0