This could be one of the best games of the season. The Saints have looked like the Saints of old thus far this season. The return of Coach Sean Payton after a season long suspension has revived life into a team that looked lost at times last season. They are among the league leaders I points scored with 134 and they feature one of the most unique running back scenario’s in the league. Pierre Thomas is the traditional tailback, he runs between the tackles and he is capable of catching the ball out of the backfield. Darren Sproles is the other running back, however he could be listed accurately as almost any position because once the Saints break the huddle he is just as likely to line up in the backfield as he is at wide receiver, in the slot, or even at tight end. The Patriots have not looked anything like the Patriots of old. They have played without top wideout Danny Amendola and top Tight End Rob Gronkowski for the majority of the season. They do not have veteran backups, forcing Tom Brady to break in several rookie or second year pass catchers. The running game has not been the same since starting running back Shane Vereen was lost for 10 weeks in week one. They have even cut ties with the tight end that was supposed to fill in for Gronkowski. Despite all of this the team is 4-1 and on top of its AFC East perch.
The Saints have benefitted from a vastly improved defense that is one of the best defenses in the league (73 points allowed) after being one of the worst in the league last season. The offense has its usual cast of wide receivers led by Marques Colston however he is just one of many receivers in a strong unit that is necessary with the multitude of packages that Sean Payton runs. The biggest receiving threat is the man who has evolved into the best Tight End in football, Jimmy Graham. He has surpassed his competition with his ability to make plays despite double and triple coverage. The bottom line is that he is too big and too strong for all defenders and he has tremendous hands that allow him to catch the ball in traffic.
The Patriots defense has been the biggest weakness over recent seasons. Bill Bellichick has built through the draft and while his players may not be household name they have only allowed 70 points thus far this season. The team suffered a devastating injury when nose tackle Vincent Wilfork went down for the season with a knee injury. He has been the elite player at his position for over a decade and it remains to be seen if the defense will be able to keep up without him.
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