Payton vs Belichick may be the real story when the Saints and Patriots meet.
Ordinarily when I pick my NFL tickets of the week it involves a crucial division game or conference game. This week it’s a little different because I’m picking the New Orleans Saints vs New England Patriots. Here’s why:
The Saints offer a unique situation in that nobody saw them coming. Certainly we knew that the Saints would be effective offensively because of Sean Payton coming back and Drew Brees under center. This has been the most potent offense in the NFL for years now. But I don’t believe anyone saw the Saints defense being anything near as good as they seem to be. Rob Ryan has this unit, which is basically the same unit that was the NFL’s historically worst unit last season, playing at a very high level. He’s moved some players around, added a young safety in Kenny Vacarro, and mixed and matched his schemes to fit the opponent. New Orleans is 5-0 and that record can be attributed in a large part to some fine defensive play. The Saints are a complete football team except possibly in the running game which is still struggling. So far New Orleans has been able to overcome that.
The New England Patriots are 4-1 having lost their last game to the Cincinnati Bengals in a game that saw Tom Brady fail to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in four years. Have the Patriots lost their edge? The 2013 NFL season has been a strange one for New England beginning with the preseason controversy, injuries, allowing Wes Welker to leave, and injuries. Somehow New England is still winning. But are they good wins against solid teams? Not really.
But, the Patriots will be bringing a very good defense, ranked at #2 in allowing only 14 points per game in 2013. The Saints are allowing slightly more than that but New England isn’t scoring like they have in the past. Brady is having, statistically, his worst season ever.
More to the point is going to be the mind game between Brady and Belichick on offense versus Rob Ryan and Sean Payton and Belichick overall. These are two coaches regarded as high level schemers. Both know their opponent will come with a few twists in their game plan. Neither wants to lose. Payton will take chances, Belichick may also, given the lack of offensive threats he is fielding. This game will be won the field but the strategy behind the win, the mind games and scheming, may be the ultimate factor as two chess masters move their pieces on the board.