Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham and the New Orleans Saints travel to Foxborough on Sunday to take on Tom Brady, a finally healthy Rob Gronkowski and the New England Patriots. Sean Payton's Saints go into this matchup as a one point underdog against Bill Belichick's Patriots. These coaches are two of the best in the game and with their excellent play calling abilities, this contest should be pretty well-balanced.
The Saints are coming off of a huge win in Chicago last week and the Patriots were given a tough loss at Cincinatti where Tom Brady failed to get the ball into the endzone. The record of 54 consecutive games with a touchdown pass held be Drew Brees (which probably would have been broken by Brady this weekend) is safe for now.
The Pats' receiving core has been fairly weak this season with the absence of Rob Gronkowski and current Broncos wideout Wes Welker. However, this Sunday should be a completely different story with the return of Gronk. The Saints will need to do their best to contain the Pro Bowl tight end if he truly is back to full health.
This is indeed the game of the week in my book and here are three bold predictions for the intriguing matchup between these two powerhouses.
1. The Saints ground attack dominates with Vince Wilfork out of the picture.
New Orleans, as a team, is only averaging 77.8 yards on the ground so far in 2013. They have had to run at some relatively impervious front sevens this year when facing Arizona, Miami and Chicago. New England is no cake walk, but they are allowing 116.4 yards on the ground and with Vince Wilfork placed on injured reserve for the rest of the season with a torn Achilles tendon, there is going to be a rather large hole left up the middle. Saints' running back Pierre Thomas possesses excellent inside running ability, so look for him to be pounding away. Darren Sproles will get some carries as well, but he will be used more in the screen game just like he usually is, especially with New Englands' linebackers struggling to cover this year. Pierre Thomas will be the x-factor in New Orleans' ground attack on Sunday.
2. Rob Gronkowski has not touched a field since last Januray, but will still manage to Gronk it up.
The Patriots face the sixth overall ranked defense this Sunday, but just like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski is one of a kind and almost impossible to cover. He may not be in tip-top football shape just yet, but he will find ways to get open and be Tom Brady's number one guy. Brady has been desperately seeking a trustworthy target all season and finally has his big man back. Gronk's ability to read defenses and catch the ball in double and sometimes even triple coverage is off the charts. He finishes the game with over 100 yards receiving and a score or two.
3. The Saints figure out a way to stop Brady and return to New Orleans victorious.
Tom Brady will pass for two touchdowns and both of them may be to the big man wearing number 87. However, the Saints will figure out a way to shutdown the rest of the Pats' receiving core and running game. New Orleans has demonstrated exceptional defense against some rather distinguished offenses this season. They are definitely up for the task to take on the powerhouse that New England is. It will be difficult to contain Gronk, but he can't do it all by himself when facing such a stout defense. The Saints will allow 23 points (which will be the most they've given up so far), but answer back with 27. The Black and Gold will remain undefeated when they return home to the Big Easy after Sunday's meeting.
It will be a stellar matchup between two of the best, but I do believe New Orleans will reign supreme. Drew Brees is on point this season as always and the Saints finally have that defense that they've been lacking since their championship run. The Pats are favored, but I would not consider a New Orleans win an upset. It seems as if the Saints are the real deal this year and with Sean Payton's return, they mean business.