The New Orleans Saints are the only undefeated team left in the NFC. On Sunday they will face off against the New England Patriots in a matchup that is slated to kick off at 4:25 PM ET at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA.
This game matches up two of the game’s most accomplished quarterbacks, as Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, who holds the record for most touchdown passes in a season (at least for now) goes up against Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees, who holds the record for most passing yards in a season (at least for now).
The Saints are the leaders in the NFC South division, while the Pats are in first place in the AFC East, despite losing to the Cincinnati Bengals last week.
In the NFL odds that have been posted on this game at Bovada, the Patriots are slight favorites at home:
New England Patriots -3
New Orleans Saints +3
Over 50.5 Points -115
Under 50.5 Points -105
These teams have not met since 2009, when Drew Brees was on fire. He had five TD passes and a perfect passer rating, and things got so bad for the Pats during the 38-17 defeat that Brian Hoyer even saw some action after Brady was yanked from the game. In head-to-head matchups, Brees has a 4-0 career record against Brady.
Needless to say, the Pats want to avoid something like that happening again. but the Saints have known nothing but victory. and they went into a tough place to visit last week when they beat the Chicago Bears. It is acknowledged that New Orleans has improved itself defensively under Rob Ryan, the defensive coordinator they hired this year. But they still allowed Bears WR Alshon Jeffery to catch ten passes for 218 yards.
But keep in mind that Rob’s brother Rex has played the Pats this season with his New York Jets’ team, so don’t think there weren’t some texts and phone calls exchanged this week over strategy.
New England does not have the high-powered offense it has shown in recent years. Without a full complement of receivers, Brady has had to do some improvisation. He’s got Julian Edelman playing the role of the short-route slot receiver, and he’s responded with 36 receptions. Kendrell Thompkins has averaged 15 yards a catch. Danny Amendola is back and had four catches last week. And there could finally be a Rob Gronkowski sighting. Then again, there may not be. No official word had come down as of Saturday night, but the report was that Dr. James Andrews was recommending that Gronkowski sit out because the forearm that has suffered through complications due to infection.
For some reason, LeGarrette Blount has to do something extra to get everybody’s respect, but he didn’t seem to be in New England’s plans at the season’s outset, and it has taken injuries to Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley for him to have an increased role. He’s responded with 4.5 yards per carry. In terms of running from scrimmage, he can do more than anyone the Saints have. Coming back from a toe injury, Mark Ingram (only 31 yards on 17 carries so far) would like to change some of that. Something to remember – as New England was playing for the first time without nose tackle Vince Wilfork, they yielded 162 yards rushing to the Bengals. Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, who is also important to defending the run, is doubtful with a knee injury.
The perception on the part of some people might be that the Saints (priced at +650 to win the Super Bowl at Bovada) are more of an “indoor team” that needs neutral weather conditions in order to prosper. But you can’t play too many places that are more erratic than Chicago, and Brees was deadly accurate last week, hitting 29 of his 35 passes.
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