By Gregory Hunt
For the first time this season, the New England Patriots will face a serious Super Bowl contender when the New Orleans Saints come to Gillette Stadium Sunday for Week Six. Although the Patriots are carrying an impressive looking 4-1 record, their offense has struggled to score points all year (19 PPG), and their 13-6 loss last week to the Cincinnati Bengals was their worst offensive performance yet. Unless the New England offense gets better in a hurry, the Patriots could be looking at a blowout loss.
The Saints come into this game with a 5-0 record, making them one of three remaining undefeated teams in the NFL. New Orleans trails the all-time series against New England 4-8, but the Saints won their last meeting 38-17 in a Monday night game in 2009. The Saints went on to win Super Bowl XLIV that season. Last year, with head coach Sean Payton suspended for the entire season thanks to the “bountygate scandal,” the team struggled to a 7-9 record under interim coaches Joe Vitt and Aaron Kromer.
Saints on Offense
Given the kind of career Saints quarterback Drew Brees has experienced since leaving San Diego, the Chargers must be wondering if they made a mistake ditching him for Philip Rivers after the 2005 season. Brees is an elite QB with seven Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl MVP to his credit, and at age 34 he is showing no signs of slowing down. His current passer rating this season is an impressive 107.4, which would be the third highest of his career if he maintains it. The only bad thing you can say about his performance this year is that he’s been sacked 14 times.
One thing that is unique about the Saints offense is that Brees does not throw to his wide receivers very often. His top three pass catchers are tight end Jimmy Graham and running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. The team is ranked only 22nd in the NFL in rushing, but 2nd in passing and 4th in total offense.
Saints on Defense
Statistically, the Saints defense is very similar to the Patriots defense. New Orleans has given up only 14.6 PPG, compared to New England’s 14 PPG. New Orleans is ranked 11th in total defense, compared to New England’s ranking of 16th. New Orleans has forced 13 turnovers, while New England has forced 12.
The biggest pass rushing threats are defensive end Cameron Jordan with four sacks, and linebacker Junior Galette with three. Those two are the only players on the team with more than one sack. As a team, the Saints have seven interceptions, each by different players.
This game is a wash if you compare the Saints defense to the Patriots defense, but on offense there is no comparison. This late in the season, the Patriots offense has crossed the threshold from being a work in progress to being just plain bad. There was always hope as long as the Patriots were still winning games, but now that the Pats have been exposed by a very average Bengals team, it remains to be seen if the Patriots will win any more games against teams with winning records. Expect the Saints to win this one easily, forcing the Pats to lick their wounds and regroup before their rematch with the New York Jets in Week Seven.
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Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He’s also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women’s college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on Examiner.com.