NFL Preseason Prediction: New England Patriots vs. New Orleans Saints
Let the games begin. Yes, it's only preseason but it's never to early to start our speculation.
The defending champion New Orleans Saints come to New England's Gillette stadium for an early test.
What do we hear out of the Saints training camp? Not much. They come back into this season only losing two of their defensive starters from last year.
The truth is the Saints have been having a quiet preseason. No controversy, no discipline problems, no hold-outs, and all their rookies are signed. They do have some players that have forgone salary negotiations which says a lot about the mind set of this team.
They are confidently going about the business of trying to repeat. This is a scary team going into this season and there is a real good possibility that we will see them going deep into the playoffs.
With their No. 1 ranked offense staying together as a cohesive group through the off season with their elite quarterback, Drew Brees, they will once again light up score boards all over the NFL.
The question then is, at this writing, how is it possible that they go into this game as an underdog? In one word, it's the Patriots.
The Patriots have had a few questions going into camp. The front office took care of the big man, Vince Wilfork, who anchors the defense but they have failed to come to terms with the offensive anchor, Tom Brady.
Despite the contract negotiations Tom has held to his team first ways and the Patriots organization stays mum so there is nothing to report.
There is a lot of speculation on the cohesiveness of the offensive front line and for good reason. We will have to keep a close watch on that through the course of these preliminary games.
For the most part it wouldn't surprise me if the O-lines primary duty will be run blocking in this first game. Lawrence Maroney says that he is going to be running downhill instead of dancing behind the line this season.
The Patriots again have a platoon of running backs that they are going to want to exercise. Look for the Pats to run early and often.
That's not to say that the Patriots won't be throwing the ball. Only that they will be throwing when they want to instead of automatically going to the pass.
Tom's favorite target, Wes Welker, is well ahead of projected recovery and rehab for his knee surgery but I doubt that we'll see him taking very many snaps through the preseason. That leaves a lot of passes that can be spread around when the offense does go to the pass.
The defense is the bigger question this year. The Patriots brought in a couple of veterans, Damione Lewis and Gerard Warren, who are competing for starting positions with a bunch of young faces.
The defense does need to solidify the linebacker corps but they have a large group to test in these positions through the next couple of weeks.
For the first time in a long time the backfield looks to be well stocked. This group is of a less concern for me this year.
What the defense does have in it's favor is Bill Belichick will be taking the duties of defensive coordinator this year.
What we get a picture of is the Patriots look to be a team that is doing a partial rebuild but the Saints return this year basically unchanged from their champion team.
There is talk that the Patriots dynasty is over. That's Okay; I'll take a consistently winning team and still be happy for it.
The big edge for the the Patriots going into this preseason game is the fact that it will be played in "The Razor". This is the reason the Saints will play as underdogs this Thursday. The Patriots are tough to beat at home.
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