NFL Week Six Preview: Saints @ Patriots
After a frustrating loss last Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals, in which the Patriots were unable to score a single touchdown, they return home to play the undefeated New Orleans Saints on Sunday, at Gillette Stadium.
This week will be the first time the Patriots have faced the Saints in the regular season since they were beat up against the Saints, 38-17, in New Orleans, on Monday Night Football in 2009. The Saints went on to defeat the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl that year, as the Patriots were knocked out in the Wild Card round by the Baltimore Ravens.
Here’s what to look for in this week’s matchup:
1.) Will Gronk be a Factor?
Although the team and fans have been expecting Rob Gronkowski to return this week, its still not definite. On Thursday, WEEI’s Mike Petraglia reported that the Gronkowski family had “Serious Concerns” about the surgery performed by team doctor, Tom Gil.
Head Coach Bill Belichick, as always, has not been mum about whether or not Gronk will be active this week. Belichick has said Gronk is day-to-day. At this point, its anybody’s guess as to if Gronkowski will play this week. If he does play, there’s no telling how effective he may be for the Patriots, as he hasn’t had any real game experience since last season. Even if he does come back, and is not his old self, he will still be better than most of the other Patriots receivers and tight ends who have struggled through the first five games.
2.) The Defense Needs to Continue to Make Stops
Over the past three years, the Patriots biggest problem has been its defense and making big stops. This year the team has done a complete 180, as the Offense has been the problem, and the defense has helped them win games. Last week the defense only allowed 13 points to Andy Dalton and the Bengals, but this week will be its biggest challenge yet, as they face Quarterback Drew Brees. The Saints have scored at least 22 points in all but one game this season, so the defense will need to be effective to keep the team in the game, and give Brady and the offense a chance to win the game. The Patriots are off to one of their best starts defensively for a season. The only other seasons in which they’ve given up less points through the first five games was in 2007, and 1974.
3.) The Patriots Run Must be Effective
When a team has an effective run game, it opens the field to make passing plays. The Patriots will need to make some nice runs; therefore they can open up the field for Brady to hit his receivers. The Receiver’s need all the help they can get, and the more open they get, the easier it will be to make catches. Stevan Ridley, who sat out last week with an injury, has not yet been ruled out for this Sunday, and if he does play this week, the Patriots will need to rely on him, as well as LaGarrette Blount, who had 51 yards on 12 carries against the Bengals, which led the Patriots Running backs.
Although the Patriots and Saints are the two top scoring teams since 2010, I don’t expect this to be an offensive shootout. The Patriots have nothing to show they are capable of putting up a lot of points in a game.
I predict New Orleans to defeat the Patriots 24-14 this Sunday.