Continuing our Week 6 Preview, we turn to what may end up being the Game of the Week: New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots. Could this top-ranked match-up be a precursor to this season’s Super Bowl? Both of these teams have excellent numbers, elite quarterbacks, brilliant coaches and the skills to make a win happen despite adversity.
New Orleans Saints @ New England Patriots
After rampant speculation earlier this week that New England Patriot’s tight end Rob Gronkowski would play in Week 6, sources now state Dr. James Andrews has not yet cleared Gronk to return to play. Dr. Jesse Jupiter, who performed surgery on Gronk’s left forearm, is also being consulted, and has not declared the tight end ready to return either.
The absence of the Patriots’ star tight end has been felt, and never more deeply than in the loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last week (13-6). The evidence: no touchdowns, limited time of possession and a stifled running and passing game all contributed to the loss. Quarterback Tom Brady has never had such dreary numbers.
This was New England’s first loss of the season, and Coach Bill Belichik is certain to have pushed his team as he is wont to do. Mistakes are very rarely repeated in New England, and there is no panic at the Patriots’ disco. With or without Gronk, New England is sitting atop the division, and there are no signs they plan on giving up the spot without a fight.
That being said, the New Orleans Saints have rolled over opponents from opening day. Coach Sean Peyton’s self-assurance translates to his team and they are confident and cohesive. The defense has contributed as much as the offense to their winning streak and it stands to reason they will continue. The Patriots will prove a good test for the team in Week 6, but the inconsistencies among the Patriot rank and file may continue to run contrary to their desire for seamless scoring drives this season.
Tight end Jimmy Graham is having a year for the books, leading the NFL with 593 yards off 37 catches to his credit. Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles are a double-pronged rushing threat to any team’s defense, and Mark Ingram adds options to the mix that all five of the Saints’ previous opponents could not keep up with.
Given the stats, the Saints are outdoing the Patriots on almost all counts. Despite this dearth of numbers, the teams are well-matched and have been for quite some time. If Brady can again pull his young team together and keep them focused, they can become the first team to make a mark in New Orleans’ Loss column. With the Saints house back in order and minimal casualties to injury, we could see a continuation of their unblemished season.
This game is another close call. We will put our money on New Orleans this time, however, simply because they are a more intact team than the Patriots coming into Week 6. Expect one of two extremes. This will either be another fast-paced high scoring game with the offense in the spotlight or these defenses will put on a clinic and limit the scoring drives of their opponents for a startlingly low total score. There is no middle ground when the Saints meet the Patriots.
Written by: Brandi Tasby