By: Derek Havens
After two straight weeks on the road, the New England Patriots return home to host the New Orleans Saints in week six.
The Patriots are coming off a 13-6 loss against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday and now have a 4-1 record on the season. The Patriots struggled immensely on offense and could not get into rhythm throughout the contest. Five weeks into the year, however, and the New England defense has been solid.
If you missed it, here were my grades on the week five game in Cincinnati.
On the flip side, the New Orleans Saints come marching in with an undefeated record. They are coming off a big 26-18 win against the Bears in Chicago. The Saints are one of three teams to be undefeated at this point in the season and have a lot of momentum coming into the matchup.
Here’s a look at how both teams can come away with a victory Sunday:
Devin McCourty and the Patriots defense will likely have their hands full on Sunday against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
(USA TODAY Images)
How the Saints Win:
Start Fast: With this game in New England, a fast start for the Saints would be huge for them. New Orleans could make a statement and take the energy away from the fans in attendance, as well as the players, right out of the equation. A quick score or defensive play would set the tone for New Orleans and level the playing field from the beginning.
Make It A Shoot Out: Unlike years past, the Patriots aren’t exactly burning up the field offensively. New England has become more of a grind-it-out type team with the weapons currently available on their roster. The Saints have the firepower to win in a shootout and it would certainly favor them if this became a high-scoring affair. If both teams start trading scores late in the game, New Orleans would have the upper hand.
Get After Brady: Obviously getting after an opposing quarterback is key for any team. The way this season has started, however, it’s imperative the Saints get after Tom Brady early and often in order to throw off any Patriots momentum. If the Pats offense was playing at a higher level, the unit would bounce back much easier. But with the offensive side of the ball struggling for New England, a few sacks could really be damaging for a unit striving to get on track. So far this season, New Orleans has been getting after opposing signal-callers quite frequently. They look to continue that trend Sunday afternoon.
How The Patriots Win:
Take Away Graham: The Patriots have to take away Jimmy Graham in this game. While this task is certainly easier said than done, it’s an absolute must the Pats don’t allow the Pro Bowl tight end to take advantage of them on a consistent basis Sunday. Graham is one of the best offensive weapons in the league and presents an extremely tough matchup for any defense he faces. It will be curious to see how New England handle him. Perhaps double covering Graham throughout the contest or maybe even putting cornerback Aqib Talib on him one-on-one. Either way, it won’t be easy.
Get Off The Field: We all know the Saints have a strong offensive unit. They have the ability to put up a lot of points and sustain drives on a consistent basis. While the defense has been solid throughout the first five weeks, they will have their hands full in this contest. Running back Darren Sproles is a huge threat coming out of the back field and could be a problem. Getting off the field on third downs could be the difference in the ball game.
Get Into Rhythm: Last week, New England struggled getting into a rhythm. In this game, they must establish the run early and keep the Saints defense honest. New Orleans loves to play aggressive defense, as coordinator Rob Ryan has the unit attacking constantly, so the Pats should look to quick slants or screens in order to move the chains and slow the defenders from moving up field too quickly. If the Patriots can get into a groove and stay balanced, it will be tough for the Saints to play the style they want to.
Prediction: Patriots 24, Saints 20
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