Next Monday night, the Saints play arguably the toughest game of their season against a team that they have attempted to mimic. The 7-3 Patriots, who have been highly touted as the team of the decade, come into the Crescent City to play the 10-0 New Orleans Saints in a MONSTER game on Monday Night Football. Now, personally, this game is so important to me that I am willing to skip the turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce of Thanksgiving just so I could fast-forward to next Monday. But enough of all that—here are some thoughts:
The Saints go into the game with NFL’s #1 offense—6th in passing yardage with 266.2 YPG and 5th in rushing yardage with 154.3 YPG. This newfound balance that Sean Payton has committed to has simply made this offensive attack unstoppable. When teams commit to shutting down the New Orleans passing attack by playing two-deep safety the entire game, the Saints gash the defense with Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, and Reggie Bush. When teams try to slow down the running game, the Saints will air it out on them. The challenges that the 6th ranked Patriots’ defense will face are magnificent. Because they play a 3-4 defense, the Patriots will be able to throw some different looks at Drew in an attempt to confuse him and slow him down. I truly believe that Bill Belicheck will try to attack the left side of our offensive line, which includes second-year pro Carl Nicks and backup left tackles Zach Strief and Jermon Bushrod. He will send run blitzes early and often in order to force the Saints into third-and-long and force Drew Brees to make long throws in order to convert those third downs.
The Saints’ receiving corps goes into the game with a major advantage over the Patriots’ youthful secondary. The Saints will likely go into the game with three healthy receivers: Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, and Robert Meachem. I feel that these three will continually get down field because the Patriots’ corners—Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs—are much more suited to bump-and-run coverage. Also, the Patriots’ safeties—Brandon Meriweather and Brandon McGowan--are very young guys who may be a little too aggressive and jump some routes. I feel that if the offensive line can give King Drew enough time to make his reads and get the ball downfield, the Saints will be able to torch the Pats’ secondary all night.
The Patriots go into the game with the NFL’s #2 ranked offense and stopping that unit will be a backbreaking attempt. The Patriots, going into the Jets game this past Sunday, were down to their second-string left tackle Sebastian Vollmer; but during the game, he faced and injury and his status in the Saints’ game is in doubt. This means that Will Smith, who has come on as of late, should be able to apply pressure to Brady’s blind side throughout the game. Gregg Williams will also see this advantage and will likely send several blitzes to the left side of the Patriots’ offensive line. Another key to the Saints slowing down the Patriots attack will be Sedrick Ellis. If Ellis returns healthy during this game and can get a consistent push in the pocket, not allowing Tom Brady to step up, this will give our defense more opportunities to hit Brady and maybe even get a couple of sacks. His return will also help shut down the running game of Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk, forcing the Patriots into a more one-dimensional approach.
The layout of the secondary will be another key for the Saints’ aspirations of winning this game. If Jabari Greer returns, that will be big in slowing down Randy Moss because he has world-class speed and great ball skills; and maybe with a little help from Roman Harper from time to time, the Saints can prevent Randy Moss from ruining the game. The rest of the layout, however, is a little bit more obscure. Tracy Porter and Randall Gay likely will not play and Leigh Torrence has been placed on the Injured Reserve. This means that the two new signees—Chris Mcalister and Mike McKenzie—will likely be pushed into action after spending very little time in Gregg’s system. Playing Usama Young and Pierson Prioleau is another option for the Saints, but whatever they do; they ABSOLUTELY MUST prevent Wes Welker from doing what he did against the Jets.
I believe the Saints go into the game with a clear advantage because of their offensive balance and aggressive defense. The crowd-noise will be a major factor in this game because, just as it did in the Giants’ and Falcons’ games, it will make calling audibles and hard counts very difficult on Brady. It may also force the defense into several neutral zone infractions that may give the Saints a few free plays. In order to win this game, the Saints need to play the perfect game that they have been claiming they are capable of. No sacks, no penalties, no big plays for the Pats, and most importantly—NO TURNOVERS!