coleryan Posts:12149 Followers:20
On 10/08/2013 07:07 PM in NFL

New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots: Preview and Pick

New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots: Preview and Pick

One of the best games of the week in the National Football League is the game that features two of the best quarterbacks in the league. Drew Brees brings a 5-0 record and his New Orleans Saints into Foxboro to take on Tom Brady and the one loss New England Patriots. Something has to give as these two talented teams square off to see who can secure a victory and continue to pave a path towards the playoffs.

New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots Odds

The NFL betting line for this game opened up with the Patriots listed as three point favorites. This line quickly adjusted as 70 percent of the early betting action is on the Saints to stay unbeaten on the season. With this influx of betting action, the line has adjusted and can now be found at (-2.5) at several of the top rated sportsbooks. This line move is due to the poor performance by the Patriots against the Bengals combined with the Saints beating the Bears on the road.

The Patriots will need to have all of their weapons for this game and they got some good news. The Patriots are finally about to get Rob Gronkowski back. Gronkowski, the tight end who has missed the first five weeks of the season while recovering from back surgery, is expected to be cleared this week, a league source tells PFT. While it’s not definitely that he’ll play, it’s likely.

That means Gronkowski should be good to go on Sunday against the Saints, as the Patriots attempt to avoid their second straight loss. The Saints improved defense will be up to the challenge and will have to try and find an answer for this Patriots high powered offense.

The latest football betting trends for this game reveal some surprising wagering angles for this marquee matchup. The total has gone over in 6 of New England's last 8 games when playing New Orleans and over in 4 of New England's last 5 games when playing at home against New Orleans. New England is 14-3 straight up in its last 17 games overall and the Saints are a perfect 5-0 straight up on this season. However it is important to note that New England is 1-4 against the spread (ATS) in its last 5 games when playing at home against New Orleans.

New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots Pick

With plenty of time to go before kickoff of this week, I will wait to announce my pick when we get closer to game day. Check back the day of the event for my pick on this great game.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12149 Followers:20
10/09/2013 11:19 PM

Considering that New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham leads the NFL with 593 receiving yards, is second with 37 receptions and 6 receiving TDs, and is being paid just $1.3 million, he may be the best deal in the entire league. That won't last for long, though, because he will be an unrestricted free agent during the offseason.

That will put the Saints in a bit of a bind, because they already are amongst the top couple of teams when it comes to salary-cap commitments for 2014. There was a recent report that the Saints have an offer to Graham on the table, though, not surprisingly, he is focusing on the season at hand. And with every big game he posts, Graham is increasing the leverage he will have in offseason negotiations.

The Saints have some leverage in their ability to use the franchise tag, but Graham may counter that by claiming that, despite officially being dubbed a tight end, he's really being used as a wide receiver. When it comes down to where he is actually deployed on offense, he'll have a legitimate case. After five games this season, Graham has run routes as a tight end 41 times. Meanwhile, he has run routes in the slot 67 times and out wide 52 times. Graham has been targeted more as a receiver, too: 14 TE targets, 22 slot targets and 16 targets out wide. He has also lined up 166 times in the slot and wide, compared to just 105 as an in-line TE.

This is a big distinction, because the 2013 franchise tag salary for wide receivers ($10.5 million) was significantly greater than it was for tight ends ($6.1 million).

In the end, we know that the Saints will do everything possible to keep Drew Brees' favorite and best weapon on the team, but there is no doubt that it's going to cost them a pretty penny to do so. In 2012, GM Mickey Loomis played hardball with Brees for months before finally giving him a five-year, $100 million deal, which spread out his signing bonus over the length of the contract to help assuage the short-term salary-cap hit. Loomis likely will need to use a similar technique to get keep Graham in the fold and stay under the cap in 2014.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12149 Followers:20
10/09/2013 11:20 PM

"The New England Patriots are optimistic doctors will clear Rob Gronkowski to play this week and that the tight end will make his season debut Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, according to league sources," wrote ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder.

Will Gronk be able to make an immediate impact in his season debut? Due to coach Bill Belichick's well-documented habit of not doling out information, we likely won't have a good read prior to kickoff regarding how many snaps the tight end will get. On the other hand, Gronkowski may not need that many snaps to make a statistical impact, so long as the Pats can get the ball into the red zone against the Saints.

Of the 38 career touchdowns that Gronkowski has pulled in as a pro, 29 of them have come in the red zone. That's nine more red-zone scores than Jimmy Graham or Tony Gonzalez tallied between 2010 and 2012. Despite the general scoring issues the Pats have had this season, it hasn't been due to an inability to get into the red zone; only the Atlanta Falcons (70), Denver Broncos (58) and San Diego Chargers (53) have had more red-zone snaps than the Patriots (52) in 2013.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12149 Followers:20
10/09/2013 11:23 PM

The New Orleans Saints (5-0) have made no secret over the years about their admiration for their upcoming opponents, the New England Patriots (4-1). The Saints have long pointed to the Patriots as a model for sustaining success, year in and year out, while continually reshaping the roster.

Players from 2009 Super Bowl Season Still on New Orleans Saints' Current Roster:
QB Drew Brees
WR Marques Colston
WR Lance Moore
WR Robert Meachem
RB Pierre Thomas
G Jahri Evans
OT Zach Strief
CB Jabari Greer
S Roman Harper
S Malcolm Jenkins
K Garrett Hartley
P Thomas Morstead
*OLB Will Smith
**LB Jonathan Vilma

*On injured reserve
**On injured reserve, designated for return
That’s something the Saints are trying to emulate this year. The Saints have only 12 players on their current 53-man roster who were around for their Super Bowl run in 2009 (with two others on injured reserve).

Four years may not seem like a long time, but it can mark an entire life span for a NFL roster.

Just look at the Patriots, who only had seven players on the roster who were on both their 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl appearances. Only three of those players are still left on their active roster today (quarterback Tom Brady, guard Logan Mankins and kicker Stephen Gostkowski, plus defensive tackle Vince Wilfork on injured reserve).

Heck, a lot can change in just two years -- even with the NFL’s most stable franchises. The Saints only have 26 players on their current 53-man roster who were around for their last playoff run in 2011.

That means more than half of the current roster is playing under coach Sean Payton for the first time, after he served a season-long suspension in 2012.

To Payton’s credit, that’s something he quickly learned to appreciate when he met his team this past spring and realized how many new faces were in the room.

“Each year, look, there’s a cliché, ‘It’s a different season.’ And a lot of that’s true,” Payton said when asked about the Saints’ leap from an 0-4 start in 2012 to a 5-0 start this year. “Obviously circumstances are different this year than a year ago. ...(But) there’s constant change. The thing I noticed most being away one year is you missed out on a draft and free agency class. Then you come back and get another draft and free agency class. That first team meeting there’s 40 new faces.

“So we went back to kind of putting the tape on the helmet with the names, because there’s a lot of new players. And oftentimes as a coach you think that they’ve heard your message before, when a lot of ‘em by and large haven’t. But this group’s worked hard. They’ve been very eager to please.”

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12149 Followers:20
10/09/2013 11:25 PM

During his weekly news conference Wednesday, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was asked about the importance of sustaining drives against the New Orleans Saints this Sunday, and his response reflected his overall frustration with the unit's production.

“I think we’ll try to put together any drive at this point to score points -- long, short, it doesn’t matter. We have to score touchdowns,” he said.

The usually high-scoring Patriots are in unfamiliar territory, averaging just 19 points per game, which ranks them 24th in the NFL. Last year, the offense averaged 34.8 points per game, the top mark in the NFL.

Brady said earlier this week on sports radio WEEI that “we have to start making the plays that NFL players make.” He expounded on those remarks Wednesday.

“You know it when you see it; it’s executing at a very high level on a consistent basis, especially in critical situations,” he said. “When you play good teams, good defenses, the windows are small, the throws are tight, the catches are tight, and you have to be at your best. We haven’t done a great job of that this year. We haven’t scored as many points as we’re capable, for a number of reasons.”

The return of tight end Rob Gronkowski, reportedly this Sunday, could help. But Brady isn’t riding the emotional roller-coaster on Gronkowski’s status.

“We’ve kind of talked about it a lot the last five weeks. If he’s there, he’s there. If he’s not, he’s not. We’re going to try to go win anyway,” he said.

“I’m just kind of waiting like everyone else. Whenever it is, it is. We’re 4-1. We’ve won four games without him. If he’s not there this week, we have to try to go to 5-1 anyways. So hopefully when he does get back out there, we’ll be more productive.”

Later, Brady said of Gronkowski: “He’s been a great player for us since he got here. He always looks the same to me. He’s Gronk, that’s what he is – he comes in every day, works hard, he’s got a lot of excitement and brings a lot of energy to the team. He’s a great player. So what he’s shown over the last few years, that’s what he is.”

In the end, Brady focused on the bottom line.

“I just want us to score points. Whatever it takes us to score points, that’s what matters,” he said. “You let your emotions get into it, your feelings, but realistically you have to come up with a plan. We have to figure out how to score points. I said after [Sunday's loss the Bengals], you’re not going to win many games scoring six points. If we score six points this weekend, we probably won’t win. We have to do a lot better than that.”

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12149 Followers:20
10/09/2013 11:26 PM

Veteran defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, who left Sunday's loss to the Bengals with a right knee injury and didn't return, was not present for the start of practice Wednesday.

This highlights why the Patriots signed free-agent defensive tackle Andre Neblett on Wednesday, as depth is thin at the position, especially after the club lost veteran Vince Wilfork to a season-ending Achilles injury on Sept. 29.

After Sunday's game, Kelly said everything was good with the knee, and he walked out of the stadium under his own power and no noticeable limp.

After Kelly, the Patriots have rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones, along with Neblett, at defensive tackle.

Also at practice Wednesday, rookie defensive end Michael Buchanan and veteran running back Leon Washington (ankle) were not spotted.

Running back Stevan Ridley was back at practice after missing all of last week, and Sunday's game, with a knee injury.

Players were in shorts and light shoulder pads.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12149 Followers:20
10/10/2013 01:30 PM

Last week, as a tropical storm was moving toward New Orleans, the Saints packed their stuff up a day early and went to Chicago.

It worked — the Saints won. And so they’ll be doing it again this week.

Per a league source, the Saints will leave on Friday instead of Saturday for the Boston area.

The main factor is the distance to be traveled, but the Saints were also influenced by the fact that traveling early last week helped the team show that they can play as well away from the Superdome.

If they win again, don’t be surprised if they keep traveling a day early.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12149 Followers:20
10/11/2013 11:53 AM

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's streak of 52 consecutive regular-season games with a touchdown pass ended last week. He'll gladly accept another streak coming to an end Sunday.

Brady is 0-3 in his NFL career against Drew Brees, who will play at New England for the first time as a member of the New Orleans Saints.

Brady's only win against Brees came just over 14 years ago when he was a senior at Michigan and Brees was in his junior year at Purdue.

Brees has since topped Brady and the Patriots twice with San Diego and once in New Orleans. Brady, though, is focused more on executing the basics with his struggling offense, which could feature tight end Rob Gronkowski for the first time this season.

Gronkowski has been recovering from offseason surgeries on his broken left forearm and back. He participated in practice on a limited basis Wednesday.

"Our job is to go out there and score, so we're not doing a great job of that," Brady said. "Our execution has to be a lot better, and that's what we're working on. We're trying to improve in all areas. It's frustrating when we don't score, but we're going to try to do better this weekend."

A year after leading the league in scoring and yards per game, the Patriots (4-1) are 24th in points (19.0) and 18th in yards (343.4) after last Sunday's 13-6 loss at Cincinnati.

It was Brady's first regular-season game without a touchdown pass since Jan. 3, 2010, against Houston.

Five games before that, he played Brees and the Saints in New Orleans and also failed to pass for a TD in a 38-17 loss Nov. 30, 2009. Brees threw five touchdown passes in that meeting, the last between the teams.

While Brady has been without Gronkowski, Brees and tight end Jimmy Graham are more in tune than ever for the Saints (5-0).

Graham leads the league with 593 receiving yards and is tied for second with 37 catches and six touchdowns.

"I'm just blessed to be with such a great quarterback and a guy who has so much trust in me," Graham said.

Brees' next two most frequent receiving options are also not wide receivers. Running backs Pierre Thomas (28) and Darren Sproles (26) are second and third on the team in receptions.

It's something Patriots coach Bill Belichick sees as a part of an offense that makes teams defend the whole field.

"I think they're definitely a hard team to prepare for," Belichick said. "... They attack the width of the field and they certainly attack the depth of the field. They run vertical routes. They run deep seem routes. They run check-downs and screens and those types of patterns, too.

"So you've got to defend from sideline to sideline. You've got to defend from the line of scrimmage really pretty much to the back end line. That's a lot of space defensively to account for, but that's basically their attack."

Defending is what the Patriots have done well this year with the second-best scoring defense in the league at 14.0 points per game.

The Saints aren't far behind in fourth (14.6), which might have something to do with their offense holding onto the ball. Their average time of possession is a league-best 34 minutes, 37 seconds.

"You want to score every time you have it, so we're not purposely trying to create long drives," coach Sean Payton said. "But be efficient with your plays, and if you're winning on third down, for instance, you're staying on the field. If you're turning the ball over, conversely, all of a sudden the drive ends. There's a lot of things that factor into it."

They had the ball for 36:00 in last Sunday's 26-18 win in Chicago, where Brees went 29 of 35 for 288 yards and two touchdowns while not throwing an interception for the second straight game.

The Saints have given the ball away an NFC-low five times and have a plus-6 turnover differential.

The Patriots have given it away just six times with a plus-4 differential, but their drives are stalling.

Brady's passer rating of 80.5 and completion percentage of 56.6 are his lowest since taking over the starting job in 2001.

"I think we'll try to put together any drive at this point to score points," Brady said. "Long, short - it doesn't matter. We've got to score touchdowns."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12149 Followers:20
10/11/2013 12:03 PM

The are both short- and long-term concerns about Rob Gronkowski, who has been out all season while recovering from surgeries on his back and forearm. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported Friday morning that Gronk's status for Sunday's tilt with the New Orleans Saints remains unclear.

"There is less optimism today than there was earlier this week that Rob Gronkowski will play Sunday vs. New Orleans. Still not cleared by Dr.," Schefter tweeted.

Futhermore, there are concerns about the durability of his thrice surgically repaired forearm.

"One source with knowledge of the initial forearm surgery told WEEI.com Thursday night that there is 'serious concern' about the integrity of the bone where the implement [used to expedite the recovery process] was placed and the surrounding nerves," wrote WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia. "The source indicated that if the bone had healed on its own without an implement, there might have been no infection. However, there now are concerns that an abscess developed, causing infection and likely weakening the bone. This prompted three more surgeries in the offseason on the forearm, separate from the procedure on his back."

For all of the mind-boggling statistical upside that Gronk brings to the table, keeping his body at full speed has been an ongoing issue for years now -- prior to his forearm and back issues, he was hobbled by a high-ankle sprain in 2011 that limited him severely in that season's Super Bowl loss. If you are a fantasy owner who drafted and stashed Gronkowski away but secured another high-end tight end like Jordan Cameron or Julius Thomas, you may want to consider trading Gronk to fill other roster needs as soon as he posts a big game. That would limit the long-term risk that Gronkowski's health seems to bring to the table and maximize the value you'll get from him this season.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12149 Followers:20
10/12/2013 10:47 AM

Safety Roman Harper (knee) and defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker (knee) won’t play for the Saints. Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (calf), linebacker Ramon Humber (calf), running back Mark Ingram (toe), safety Malcolm Jenkins (neck), cornerback Keenan Lewis (knee), wide receiver Lance Moore (hand) and tackle Zach Strief (ankle) are all questionable.

The Patriots have ruled out defensive tackle Tommy Kelly (knee) and running back Leon Washington (ankle). Tight end Rob Gronkowski (back, forearm) is questionable once more, as are running back Stevan Ridley (knee), wide receiver Danny Amendola (groin) and center Ryan Wendell (concussion) are all questionable.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0