After a brutal loss against the Vikings, the Saints will look to get their first win of the season against the New England Patriots. We’re going to look at five things that could determine the outcome of the battle.
1) The Bounce Back Effect
The New England Patriots have been one of the most dominant sports franchises in the past decade-and-a-half. They don’t lose too often, and when they do, they tend to bounce back. According to ESPN, the Patriots haven’t started a season 0-2 since 2001. To add to the challenge the Saints are facing, Bill Belichick and the rest of his coaching staff have had extra time to prepare as they played on Thursday Night Football to open the season. On the other hand, the Saints are coming off a short week as they played on Monday Night Football.
An embarrassing 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Patriots’ players, coaches, and fans. They’re going to come into the Superdome hungry for redemption.
2) Brandin Cooks
Few things in life taste better than revenge, and there’s no doubt that Brandin Cooks would like to stick it to the team that traded him away this past offseason. Cooks enjoyed a successful tenure in New Orleans, but the young receiver was traded to the Patriots for a first and third-round pick. Against the Chiefs, he caught three of seven targets for 88 yards. His game-changing speed poses a significant threat, and if the Saints’ secondary replicates their performance against the Vikings, Cooks will make their day miserable.
3) Kenny Vaccaro vs. Rob Gronkowski
Rob Gronkowski used to be one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the NFL. He’s looking to return to form as an injury kept him out most of last year. He’s an athletic tight end who has strong hands and an impressive catch radius. Safeties generally aren’t physical enough to compete with him, and linebackers tend to struggle with his speed.
Last week, Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen had Kenny Vaccaro play a significant amount of his snaps as a deep safety. It’s no coincidence that he struggled. Vaccaro is at his best near the line of scrimmage, and he appears to be the only defensive back capable of matching Gronkowski’s physicality. If the Saints want a chance of limiting New England’s passing attack, Vaccaro will need to have an exceptional game.
4) Saints’ Rushing Attack
Going into the season, there was a lot of talk about how the Saints would become a more balanced team on offense. There was a clear commitment to running the ball against the Vikings, but the team had very little success. Adrian Peterson was the team’s leading rusher with 18 yards on 6 carries. On 21 attempts, the team only gained 60 yards. Luckily for the Saints, the Patriots don’t have a dominant defensive line as the Vikings do. Needless to say, the Saints must establish their running game early on against the Patriots.
5) Dennis Allen
It’s pretty rare that I list a coach as one of the most impactful people on the field in one of the previews, but Dennis Allen deserves a spot on the list this week. The Saints defense was awful against a Vikings team led by Sam Bradford. Some of the plays called were questionable at best, and it seemed as if he didn’t play to the unit’s strengths (if they have any). Dennis Allen must be able to manufacture a pass rush against Tom Brady. He’ll likely have to take some chances he’d rather not take, but if the Saints’ past says anything, an 0-2 start spells out doom.
- Patriots win a high-scoring affair by a score of 38-31.
- The Saints rush for more than 150 yards.
- Brandin Cooks has a touchdown catch of 60 or more yards.