New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots
SEARCH FOR MATCHUPS
Points should be valuable when the Patriots and Saints face off on Sunday at Foxborough.
When the Patriots run – Edge: Saints
Heading into the season, the Patriots were expected to rely heavily on the run and play behind their dominant offensive line. In the first two games, that wasn’t exactly the case. One of the reasons for this was the loss of right tackle Trent Brown due to calf strain suffered in the opening set of Game 1. Without Brown, the Patriots haven’t been able to consistently generate rushing yards. Damien Harris ran hard and was tough to face, but his production was sporadic. He had a pair of long runs – a 35-yard one in Game 1 and an impressive 26-yard touchdown on Sunday at the Meadowlands. Otherwise, the sledging was difficult. Taking out the 61 yards he picked up on those two attempts, Harris carried 37 times for 101 yards. Those two carries count, however, and overall he’s averaging 4.2 yards per carry for the season – solid but unspectacular. New Orleans is exceptional against the run, allowing 66 yards per game (third in the league) and just 2.8 yards per attempt (second). Those numbers include a solid effort against Christian McCaffrey of Carolina, who was limited to 72 yards on 24 carries (3-yard average) last week. The Saints front includes Cameron Jordan, Christian Ringo, Shy Tuttle and Carl Granderson ahead of linebackers Demario Davis, Zack Baun and Andrew Dowell. That front seven has dominated despite the absence of defensive tackle David Onyemata, who will not play against the Patriots as he continues to serve his suspension to open the season.
When the Patriots Pass – Edge: Saints
Mac Jones was pretty efficient in his first two starts, completing almost 74 percent of his passes. But his 6.2-yard pass only ranks 23rd in the league, and the Saints’ stingy secondary will make it difficult to improve that total. However, New Orleans is struggling with significant health issues in the rear. Marshon Lattimore (hand) and CJ Gardner-Johnson (knee) missed the Panthers game and will play under 100 percent if they come back for the Patriots. Additionally, Marcus Davenport, one of the Saints’ best passer, is on the injured list with a shoulder injury. It could help boost the Patriots’ passing game. Nelson Agholor hasn’t built his strong first game and Kendrick Bourne has been limited to three catches this season. Jakobi Meyers leads the spreaders with 10 catches but for just 82 yards. James White is Jones’ favorite target with 12 receptions in two games. The Patriots might need to have tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry more involved against the Saints’ tough pass defense. PJ Williams, Paulson Adebo and newcomer Bradley Roby join Lattimore and Gardner-Johnson with veterans Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins safe. It’s a deep high school that can take the ball away, and New Orleans also have the highest-ranked red zone defense in football, which isn’t good news for a Patriots offense that has struggled. to mark.
When Saints Run – Edge: Patriots
New England have just had a tough outing against the run in New York. The Jets’ limited rush offensive generated 152 yards on 31 carries, leaving the Patriots front vulnerable throughout the day. But the Saints haven’t been able to generate much on the pitch in two weeks. Alvin Kamara is averaging just over 3 yards per carry with 88 yards on 28 attempts, though those numbers are a bit skewed by his eight carry, 5 yard performance in Carolina on Sunday. Tony Jones had 57 yards on 14 attempts, and head coach Sean Payton also enjoys using Taysom Hill as a runner on occasion. The Patriots will need to tighten their run early to get the ball back into the hands of Jameis Winston. Kamara is a game breaker and he figures as the focal point of New England’s defensive game plan. He’s had a slow start this season, but that can change quickly if the Patriots linebackers aren’t ready to deal with him as a runner and receiver. The Saints offensive line also suffered injuries as center Erik McCoy missed the Panthers game and was replaced by right guard Cesar Ruiz. Even at full strength, the Saints struggled to handle the ball effectively and the Patriots should be able to improve their performance in Week 2.
When the Saints Pass – Edge: Patriots
Winston was the ultimate quarterback for the first two weeks. He threw five touchdown passes in just 20 attempts in Game 1, but threw up a pair of picks while passing for just 111 yards in Carolina the following week. Winston is last in the league for passing yards and the Patriots made life miserable for rookie Zach Wilson on Sunday. JC Jackson chose a pair while Adrian Phillips and Devin McCourty each had one. Saints All-Pro spreader Michael Thomas remains out after undergoing ankle surgery, leaving New Orleans with limited weapons. Kamara is the main receiver with just seven catches. Marquez Calloway, Deonte Harris, Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Chris Hogan make up the enlarged body, but have combined just nine catches during the season. Tight ends Adam Trautman and Juwan Johnson are also involved, but this is a very limited passing game. Winston has the ability to throw shots and get hot, but he’s also prone to mistakes and seems like the type of quarterback Bill Belichick likes to face. Winston faced the Patriots once when he was quarterback in Tampa, completing 26 of 46 passes for 334 yards and a non-intercepting touchdown in a 19-14 loss. Look for Belichick to put pressure on Winston a bit to force a few stray shots, which has been a problem for the former No.1 overall pick throughout his career.
Special Teams – Edge: Patriots
Nick Folk continues to score field goals and the Patriots needed every one of them. He’s 7-for-7 this season and has now made 33 straight games to set a franchise record for consecutive field goals. His last failure came last year in Seattle in Week 2 when he missed the shot from 51 yards. It must also be effective given the difficulties of the attack in the red zone. Saints kicker Wil Lutz is in IR, so veteran Aldrick Rosas has taken his place. Rosas made his only field goal but is also 6-for-6 on the PAT. The punters are both solid with Jake Bailey putting four of his seven attempts into the 20s while the Saints Blake Gillikin sport an impressive 44.5 yards on his eight kicks. Harris was dangerous on the kicking returns, averaging 31.2 yards with a length of 39. The Patriots’ coverage against the Jets was a bit loose, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bailey go for touchbacks this week. Harris also manages the punts for New Orleans. The Patriots haven’t taken much away from their second leg with Brandon Bolden (kicks) and Gunner Olszewski (punters) kept under wraps so far.