Call me crazy, but I have reason to think that the Pats and Saints are two teams going in opposite directions in 2017.
One one hand, you have the Saints, whom over the past 3 years have jettisoned offensive talent in favor of building a defense and offensive line to help close out Drew Brees’ career. On the other, you have the Patriots who have jettisoned defensive talent over that same span in favor of stacking up offensive talent to help close out Tom Brady’s career.
In both cases, coaches known for their prowess on their respective sides of the ball are betting that they can cover up any deficiencies in their area of expertise and build up the opposite side of the ball.
So far for both coaches, the results haven’t been as expected, but I think the Saints have the upper-hand in this week’s matchup. Let’s see what Sean Payton might look to correct on the Saints end and simultaneously take advantage of against the Patriots to get a win in the dome.
Witness Protection Program
This is still a Sean Payton and Drew Brees lead team. So, much like last week, it will be up to the Saints offense to carry the majority of the load. They’ll likely get a bigger assist from a more aggressive defense this week (Dennis Allen is much more blitz happy at home), but If Brees is seeing ghosts again and doesn’t feel comfortable in the pocket, it won’t matter much. The Saints have worked out a few right tackles as of Wednesday, but no word on any signings. And being that we lost a day in preparation (short week), it’s unlikely at this point that we bring anyone in to start so it looks like Bryce Harris is up.
The good news is that the Patriots pass-rush looked anemic vs. the Chiefs, as they no longer have guys like Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones around to give them consistent options. To top it off, the guy every Saints fan loves for sacking Matt Ryan in the Super Bowl looks to be a candidate to miss Sunday’s game after suffering an injury vs. the Chiefs. The Saints offensive line needs to do their job and give Drew enough time in the pocket to stand in there and get the ball to his open receivers.
Avoid Smelling what Brandin is Cooking
In reality, it doesn’t matter what his name is because the Saints gave up multiple big plays against the Vikings, and Brandin Cooks is a huge one waiting to happen. Whether it be from getting behind the D and making a play on the ball or forcing holding/PI calls on defenders unable to keep him check, Cooks is a threat that needs to be contained. Every player has a little extra incentive to dominate when going against a former team, and Cooks isn’t the exception. He wasn’t happy about his role prior to being traded, and I doubt he was happy about the trade when it happened so it’s safe to call this a “revenge” game for the archer.
The Saints can stop him by simply taking away anything deep. He’s not a WR that’s going to take a screen the distance and they don’t have to worry about him as a special teams threat. Put a safety over the top of him in bracket coverage and call it a day. If he goes off for 100 yards and a TD on 4 catches on plays like the one below consider the defense demoralized.
Reference Miami and Bring The Heat
Plenty of people felt like we should have blitzed more against the Vikings. And while I can see why fans would come to that conclusion, it’s really not Dennis Allen’s MO to blitz heavily during away games. Last year’s defense established a track record of being Jekyll and Hyde-ish in home games versus away games. The real reason you blitz at home (and probably the main reason) is because crowd noise makes it really hard on opposing offenses as far as communication. This plays into the defense’s hand immensely, as they can use any bit of miscommunication to their advantage to get home. We saw plenty of gaffes in zone coverage against the Vikings, but the Patriots cast of WRs outside of Cooks is lacking, so DA should have confidence in the CBs to man up while sending the blitz frequently. Everyone knows the best way to rattle Brady (or any QB for that matter) is to hit him and hit him often!
Player to Watch vs. New England
Marshon Lattimore, CB
Cooks has 4.3 speed and Lattimore has 4.3 speed. What better way to test the mettle of your 1st round corner than to stick him on a WR the caliber of Brandin Cooks? I’m not sure that’s what the game plan will be, but as far as matchups are concerned, there is no better option on the roster than @shonrp2. Coming out of Ohio State, he excelled in man coverage, but has been subject to a steep learning curve with regards to zone defense and playing with his eyes. This was apparent during the Vikings contest, as he gave up a few plays in his area causing him to draw the ire of PFF, who suggested he had a worse game than De’Vante Harris. I’ll be looking for him to be put in better positions to succeed so he can rebound and show why he was considered the consensus #1 CB in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Random Thought I: The Patriots front 7 is no longer a strength, and they gave up a plethora of yards on the ground to the Kansas City Chiefs. While Belichick is known to fix things from week to week talent makes the scheme, and I’m not sure the Pats have enough of it at LB or along the D-line to stop the bleeding.
Random Thought II: There isn’t a big chance that the Saints blow out the Patriots, which means Adrian Peterson could be standing on the sideline quite a bit again on Sunday. I’m curious to see how he’ll react if this is indeed the case. Perhaps we’ll see him whisper more sweet nothings in Sean Payton’s ear.
This game has the 2009 feel to it when the Patriots mystique was at an all-time high (just like it is now), and all of the talking heads assumed we were walking into a buzzsaw. While that potentially may be the truth, I didn’t see anything in their game vs. the Chiefs last week that suggested they’d figure out what ails them in 7 days. Not unless they can make a few trades to get some of their old talent back.
Anything you guys want to add? I can’t hit every angle but would enjoy hearing from you in the comments below.
Can the Saints hand the Patriots their 2nd loss of the season?
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