BOSTON (CBS) — Patriots-Saints is no longer the Brady-Brees matchup we only saw on rare occasion, but at least we still have a Bill Belichick-Sean Payton battle of the minds on tap for Sunday afternoon in Foxboro.
Two of the NFL’s best head coaches have their work cut out for them this season with new quarterbacks at the helm of their respective teams. It’s a big transition season for both teams, with the Patriots in the second year of the post-Brady era and first with Mac Jones, and the Saints adapting to life without Brees.
Both defenses are pretty solid, while both offenses carry plenty of question marks. It should make for an interesting Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. Here’s what we’ll be watching for when things kick off.
Patriots Doing Their Job Against Kamara
Alvin Kamara has been one of the best running backs in the NFL for the last four seasons. But he was a no-show last Sunday against the Panthers. The odds of that happening two straight weekends are not high.
Kamara is what makes the New Orleans offense goes, and he leads the team in both rushing (88 yards on 28 carries) and receiving (33 yards off seven catches and a touchdown), albeit with very un-Kamara-like numbers over the first two weeks.
But he can do everything, which is why Payton can throw out such a diverse offense each and every week. Patriots defenders called this a “Do Your Job” game earlier this week, which means everyone needs to be near perfect if they want to keep Karama from producing.
“We’ve just got to do what we do up front. It all starts up front, we all know that. So if we do our job up front and our job on the back end we should all be set,” defensive tackle Lawrence Guy said on Wednesday. “You ain’t trying to do too much. You ain’t trying to be a superstar. You’re trying to play good, complementary football and play as a unit.”
If Kamara is on his game, it will be a long day for a Patriots defense that has had issues stopping the run so far this season. The only real issue the Patriots had against the Jets last weekend was on the ground, as New York rushed for 152 yards and averaged nearly five yards per carry. The Dolphins had less success overall in Week 1, but Myles Gaskin averaged 5.4 yards on his nine carries, and Miami was able to keep the ball away from the Patriots at the end of the game because of New England’s inability to stop the run.
Making Jameis Make Mistakes
Winston’s five-touchdown day in Week 1 feels like months ago, after he fell back to earth and threw a pair of picks and was sacked four times last weekend in Carolina. He can torch teams with the long ball, but he also likes to throw it to opposing defenses quite a bit.
If the Patriots pass rush can apply pressure like they did last week against New York, when they sacked Zach Wilson four times and forced the rookie to make some terrible passes, then the New England secondary could have a feeding frenzy on Winston. They may not come down with four picks like last week, but they should have ample opportunities to get the ball back to the offense.
More Dinking And Dunking On Offense
There are a lot of folks clamoring for Josh McDaniels to remove Mac Jones’ training wheels and let the rookie chuck the ball downfield. Mac is averaging just 3.1 air yards per pass attempt, which is how many yards the ball actually travels in the air. That is… not a lot. He’s averaging just 9.2 yards per completion, which is 30th in the NFL. At least he’s making the most of all those short passes, completing 74 percent of them.
So don’t expect many deep shots from Jones this weekend. The Saints defense is actually pretty darn good. They are great against the run, and have a solid secondary that takes away deep threats. So expect more short passes from Jones this weekend.
The longest play the Saints defense has surrendered this season is 32 yards — a catch-and-run by Christian McCaffrey. They gave up receptions of 32 and 31 yards to Green Bay, but they also pummeled Green Bay, so Aaron Rodgers was angrily throwing downfield quite a bit.
New Orleans has given up only five plays of 20-plus yards. Expect the dink-and-dunk approach to continue for New England this weekend.
Breakout Game For Jakobi?
Hopefully that means a big game for Jakobi Meyers, who through two weeks had just 10 catches off 15 targets. He’s still looking for his first career touchdown.
What better weekend to get off that schneid than with Julian Edelman, his former mentor, in the house.
WBZ-TV gets you ready for Patriots-Saints on Sunday morning with Patriots GameDay at 11:30am, and after the game switch over to TV38 for full reaction and analysis on Patriots Fifth Quarter!