By Dan Zeigarnik, Patriots Daily Staff
This Monday night game featuring the unbeaten Saints versus the dangerous Pats will surely be a barn-burner. Look for the Patriots to try to get the upper hand in these 5 matchups:
1. Bill Belichick vs. Sean Peyton
Bill Belichick is the proven guru. He comes up with ingenious game plans specifically tailored to each opponent, and he has littered the football world with his staff. Sean Peyton is young and still relatively unproven; will he crumble under the pressure of this win streak? Will he be intimidated into making risky calls, or trying to play a “too perfect a game”? Will he be able to handle the building anxiety inside the locker room? It was clear to everyone who was paying attention to the 2007 Patriots that the winning streak was taking its toll, and if it could affect that veteran group, it will surely impact the Saints. Interestingly, both coaches were assistants under Bill Parcells prior to their jobs.
2. Patriots Receivers vs. Saint Secondary
Wes Welker is putting up Hall of Fame numbers and seems to be completely unstoppable. Randy is doing his gazelle-like thing, forcing opposing defenses to cover him over the top with a safety. These guys make the rest of the skilled position players better. As a result, Julian Edelman, Ben Watson, and Chris Baker roam freely in the secondary. Meanwhile, the Saints secondary is beat up with Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter, and Randall Gay all possibly out for this contest. Even if they play, their effectiveness comes into question. The Patriots offense has to capitalize on this weakness in order to have a successful outing.
3. Laurence Maroney vs. Saints Defensive Line
The Saints are 19th in rushing defense, giving up 115.7 yards per game. This is an incredible amount considering that they are 10-0 and they rack up so many points that opposing teams have to give up on the run and start airing it out. The Patriots have to take advantage of this. This task lies on the shoulders of the much maligned, Laurence Maroney, who is quietly picking up steam; he seems to be ‘dithering’ less and plowing over people at the end of his runs.
4. Patriots Secondary vs. Saints Receivers
As any fantasy footballer knows, the Saints have a very potent offense, but they like to spread the ball around and on any given Sunday any particular receiver can have a big day. With Lance Moore out, the Saints still have Marquis Colston, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson and Jeremy Shockey. Needless to say, this will be a big game for the Patriots young secondary and hopefully they can avoid any big gaffes on Monday night.
5. Saints Rushing vs. Patriots Linebackers
Apparently blitzing Drew Brees doesn’t really work; He is too smart and as a result the Saints are the least-blitzed team in the league. This coupled with the fact that the Patriots don’t have any elite pass rushers pretty much eliminates that possibility out of the game plan. So the more likely scenario is that Bill Belichick will try to contain the potent Saints rushing attack.