By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots are back in action on Sunday to face the Saints at Gillette Stadium. Here are Five Things for you to look for in this match-up.
1. Can the Patriots offensive line protect Tom Brady in this game? Protecting Brady was key against the Bengals last week, and unfortunately the Patriots failed miserably. Brady was sacked four time, and hit eight times during the game.
Well, this week Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has the reputation of bringing the pressure so expect the line to get tested once again. For the Patriots to win this game, it does start in the trenches, and the line needs to give Brady time in the pocket to find the open receiver.
2. Can the Patriots run the ball to control the tempo of this game? Sometimes establishing the run is not about what you do on offense, but what other offense you keep off the field.
A key in this game could be controlling the clock, and keeping Drew Brees off the field as much as possible. Also, with an aggressive defense, a way to slow them down is to run right at them. The Saints are currently 18th in the NFL in rush defense giving up over 108 yards per game.
With Stevan Ridley returning to practice this week, hopefully he will be available for this game. However, if he is not, it will be up to the other running backs to get the job done on Sunday.
3. How do the Patriots contain tight end Jimmy Graham? He has been the number one option for Brees in the passing game, and already has 37 receptions for 593 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Head coach Bill Belichick likes to take away the one thing that an offense does the best, and for the Saints it is getting the ball to Graham. Do not be surprised to see Aqib Talib covering Graham. You might think it is strange to have a cornerback covering a tight end, but Graham plays like a wide receiver.
Talib has the body type, and speed to potentially make life harder for Graham. If they do not go the Talib route, then I would expect a safety to cover him, and possibly double team him.
4. Can the Patriots prevent big plays from running back Darren Sproles? The Patriots have struggled with covering the running backs catching the ball out of the backfield. If Sproles gets some daylight, it could be real trouble for the defense.
I would think a linebacker would be covering him out of the backfield, and this could be a bad match-up for the Pats. I think it is very important to stop Sproles before he gets into open space.
5. Can the Patriots stop the run on defense? Now, the Saints are more about the passing game, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Saints test the Patriots defensive tackles by running the ball. With Vince Wilfork out for the season, and the status of Tommy Kelly in doubt for Sunday, this could be a serious worry on Sunday.
The Saints are possibly the best team in the NFL right now as they are very balanced on offense and on defense. With the Patriots struggles on offense right now, I think it is going to be hard for them to stay with the Saints over the entire game. Unfortunately, I think this is a tough spot for the Pats, and see them losing this game by ten points.
If you are looking for more of an extensive preview of this game, please take a listen below to Patriots Fourth And Two.