Happy Thanksgiving From NE Patriots Draft!
I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving feasts, but at the same time, I hope you saved some room for your Pre-Game Meal. This week we look to bring Christmas a little bit early when we take on the unbeaten New Orleans Saints. Unless you live under a rock, you probably know that Sean Payton’s squad is steamrolling through the NFL opposition behind Drew Brees’ arm. Coach Bill Belichick spoke earlier this week on how the Saints are the most ‘complete’ football team in the league because of their potent offense and stifling defense. If the boys from the Big Easy know that the path to perfection goes through New England and that it is not going to be a walk through the park by any means. The Patriots are hungry to prove themselves against the best team in the land; especially the defensive backs who are foaming at the mouth, hoping to snatch down one of Brees’ missiles.
I have to admit, it feels strange to be approaching a game with such magnitude that doesn’t have any trash-talking, rivalry, Joey Porter, or Rex Ryan. The previous three weeks leading up to the game were filled with billboard material, historic rivalry, or bitter playoff memories. Now finally, we come to a game where both teams are focused on playing, have no bad blood, and fully respect each other. I am so excited for this Monday Night Football game, I can’t even begin to explain. Every time I see the Flying Elvis with the Fleur-de-lis, I get all nervous and excited and it’s great. I don’t hate the Saints, I actually enjoy watching Drew and Reggie and Colston. However, depending on the way this game plays out, my feelings are always subject to change.
While listening to all the premature talks about the Saints achieving a 16-0 undefeated season, I picked up one fatal flaw in their method of approach. They are seriously considering the possibility of being the second 16-0 regular season team, yet they have only played ten games. With six games left in the season… anything could happen. I was always taught to not count my chickens before they hatched (pretty morbid when you think about that expression). I believe that when the Saints’ 11th little golden egg hatches, it is going to be a big, fat L-shaped chicken. If you know what I mean.
Not to start downplaying the Saints record… but when I was checking out their stats, one crazy thing popped out. Out of the 10 teams that they have beaten to pulps, eight have records of .500 or worse. Their tougest opponents, and I use that term lightly, based on record were Philly and the Giants. Not to mention they almost lost to Miami and St. Louis. These guys do not look untouchable. And if memory serves me correctly, week 10 was exactly when games began to get a little closer for the 2007 Patriots… just sayin’
The Homemade, Deep Fried, Southern-Style Weekly Match-Ups:
* Tom Brady vs. Darren Sharper – I’ll never understand why the media addresses match-ups like “Brees vs. Brady” or vice-versa. Don’t they know that quarterbacks don’t actually play each other. Tom Brady probably isn’t sitting in a room watching film of Drew Brees, that’s is what SportsCenter is for. Right, Tom? Tom Brady has spent the last week sitting in a dark room watching thousands of hours of film on Darren Sharper. While the New Orleans defense as a whole is playing extraordinarily, Sharper is playing out of his doggone mind. He has 7 interceptions and 3 returned for touchdowns. His return yardage (317) is exponentially higher than any other DB in the league. That is what makes D-Sharp the most formidable adversary for Tom Brady. Tommy has been playing very well himself these days. In his last 5 games, Brady has thrown for 300+ yards, 14 TDs, and 4 INTs. His passer rating is 100.4 and he is completing almost 70% of his passes. Man, it sure feels good to forget about the beginning of the season. Now having said all of that, it’s time to make some points. Unbiased. Of course. Darren Sharper has not caught an interception in his last two games, and hasn’t brought one back to the house in his last three. By the way, this just makes me feel better, he’s still amazing. BUT I want to look at the QBs Sharper has picked off: Matt Stafford, Mark-the-pick-machine-Sanchez, The Chad Henne, and Matt Ryan. Now we all know Mark and Matt love throwing interceptions, both have thrown 4 in their last performances, Henne isn’t great, and Ryan was in a slump of some sorts. This secondary has not faced an elite QB this year. If Tom gets some time in the pocket, he will continue to complete smart passes and score touchdowns; that is a fact. Darren is going to have to play some serious football to take one of Brady’s passes out of the air, unless he under throws Moss or some other fluke.
* Randy Moss vs. Jabari Greer – Greer is coming off an injury only because he is ready to play. Moss is coming off a disappointing 34-yard, 1 TD game against New York. These two to be engaged in quite the battle for 60 minutes on Monday. Moss will have to be very tough off the line in order to get by Greer; but even if he does you can bet we’ll see Sharper shadowing him at all times. Jabari has 2 INTs on the year and at 5’11”, 180 lbs, he will test Moss’ physicality and skills all night long. Play-action passes would appear to be the best bet for the deep ball if New England can get the running game going early. Only Greer and the Saints know if his knee is back to 100%, but as the great Hoodie once said: this is the NFL, no one is playing at 100% and everyone is suffering from one kind of injury or another… or something along those lines. I feel like Moss accumulate 95 yards and a score by the end of regulation.
* Drew Brees vs. New England Defense – This NE D is playing with a chip on it’s shoulder. The guys are playing with an intensity against; they are playing like they have something to prove. And I like that. It reminds me of the old days. Drew is entering Monday Night’s game with 2746 passing yards, 22 TDs, and 9 INTs. It’s going to be up to the defensive line to penetrate Brees’ protection and force him in to mistakes, because if Brees gets time to throw, the Patriots are going to have a long day. Hopefully the defense will look a little healthier this week with a couple guys coming off of injuries. I strongly believe that our secondary will come out wanting it more on Monday. The Saints don’t have to prove that they are good, they don’t have to prove that they can score and win games. However, the guys across the line of scrimmage from Brees and Colston feel that they have something to prove. They want to show that they can finish games, stifle the most prolific offense OF 2009, I stress that. Mayo and the boys are just tired of hearing that they don’t play well in the second half. We don’t want this to be a shootout; ESPN might, but we don’t. We wan’t our defense to step up and keep the Saints out of the end zone long enough for the Patriots to take a commanding lead.
* Wes Welker vs. No One – There it is. Plain and simple. No one can cover this man. He is just too quick, too smart, and too good. While he may not rack up 192 yards, he will get his ten receptions and play a crucial part in the passing game; especially on third downs. Kevin Faulk will also play a large role in third downs as usual.
* Jeremy Shockey vs. Brandon McGowan – Another week, Another all-star for Brandon McGowan. I hope he enjoyed his week of rest (Dustin Keller), because it’s time for BM to take on his latest tight-end opponent. Jeremy Shockey has reinvented his career in New Orleans and it looks like he fits in pretty well. His 461 yards and 3 TDs in 2009 aren’t the best by any means
, but his numbers don’t tell the story of how much he produces on the field for them. He can make the big play, can run routes like a receiver, and can stay in for pass protection. After Shockey gets bumped by a linebacker, McGowan will have to chase him all around the field and not let him get behind the defense. Unless B-Mac forgot how to cover a tight-end, I just don’t see how Shockey has a big game.
* Marques Colston vs. Leigh Bodden – Leigh is still pumped from his outstanding performance last Sunday and probably will be for the rest of his season. That is unless Brees to Colston traumatizes him. During the few times that I have watched these two play ball together, Colston has gone out of his way to make some unbelievable catches. Hopefully Brandon Merriweather can give Bodden some help up top if he’s getting worked by the other #12. Marques Colston has 172 of his 687 yards and 1 of his 6 TDs against all other AFC East teams. That’s an average of about 60 yards per game and 0.33 TDs. So if Leigh Bodden can just do his job half as well as he did last week, Colston may end up with somewhere around 50 yards and a score. At most. Realistically, I predict 70 yards and no score.
* Reggie Bush vs. Bill Belichick – Along with Jeremy Shockey, Reggie Bush is someone that Coach Belichick is thinking about how to stop every day leading up to the game. Earlier in the week, Belichick compared Bush to Marshall Faulk and the similar roles they both play in their offenses. Belichick is going to make sure that Reggie can’t sneak out of the backfield and beat the Patriots on little dump passes or short routes. There will most likely always be someone there to make sure that Bush and Shockey get picked up if they leave their blocks and run into the defense. Reggie Bush is still a good back and he’s fast as hell. If he shows up and is allowed to steal passes and yards on dump passes, the Patriots are going to get annoyed and flustered. It is imperative that we keep Bush from getting hot. Aside from the passing, the Saints are fourth in the league in rush attempts. Their offense is way more versatile that most people notice. Bill is also going to have to keep Bush, Thomas, and Bell from creating a running attack. Vince Wilfork will have to eat up the middle and although the Patriots won’t be blitzing all the time, they really should blitz on obvious running downs. Pierre Thomas is the guy between the 20’s and he always gets his yards. It inside the 20’s when the Saints sub in Bush and Bell where we have to come in and make stops. As long as the Patriots are scoring, keeping the Saints to field goals would be very comforting.
If the Patriots can pull off this prime time win, they will silence their critics and establish themselves as a dominant team in the NFL this year. It feels like everyone wants the Saints to win outside of New England and they are favored by Vegas. The Patriots will be underdogs again in the Superdome come Monday, so here’s to history repeating itself and the Patriots giving the Saints their first loss of the season.
Now you’re full,
Tags: Pre-Game Meal