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Patriots-Saints Pregame Notebook: Roster Elevations, Game Prediction and More

Will the Pats earn their second win of 2021 against the Saints on Sunday?

The New England Patriots have returned to the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts as they take on the New Orleans Saints at 1:00pm ET on Sunday, September 26.

While this Week Three matchup has the potential of being a showdown of two strong defenses, the Patriots and Saints are the two highest scoring NFL teams since the 2010 season. In fact, they are the only teams to reach 5,000 points scored during that time frame. New England leads all teams with 5,087 points, with New Orleans right behind them at 5,021 points during that span.

Viewing/Listening:

Television:

This week's game will be broadcast by FOX and can be seen via your local affiliate. Adam Amin will handle play-by-play duties with Mark Schlereth as the color analyst. Shannon Spake will report from the sidelines.

Radio:

98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. A complete listing of the network's 35 stations can be found here. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The game will be produced by Marc Cappello.

Patriots Roster Moves and Elevations:

The Patriots have elevated linebacker Jahlani Tavai to the active roster, from the practice squad for Week Three. Tavai is a sizable linebacker with a plodding playing style that makes him a comfortable fit in New England. The Hawaii product was reportedly a Patriots target in the 2019 NFL Draft. Ultimately, he would be drafted by the Detroit Lions in the second round, playing under then-head coach (and current Patriots advisor) Matt Patricia.The 6-foot-2, 246-pounder played in 31 games (starting 16 games) over the last two seasons with Detroit. During that span, he registered 113 total tackles, two sacks, one interception, two passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Tavai went to training camp with Detroit this past summer but was released on Aug. 31. On Sunday, he should provide the Pats with some depth at inside linebacker, along with assistance on special teams.

New England also announced, on Saturday, that they have released OL Jake Eldrenkamp from the practice squad. Eldrenkamp, who spent part of the 2019 offseason with New England, was signed to the practice squad on Sept. 22. He was originally signed by New England in January 2019 and released in May. Last season, Eldrenkamp spent the majority of the season on the Colts practice squad. He appeared in two games as a reserve after being elevated from the practice squad. Eldrenkamp was released by Indianapolis on Aug. 31, 2021.

Saints Elevations:

The Saints have elevated both WR Kenny Stills and OL Austin Reiter to the active roster from their practice squad for Sunday’s game.

Stills is currently on his second Troy of duty with New Orleans, having been drafted by the team out of Oklahoma in 2013. In addition to New Orleans, Stills has spent time with both the Miami Dolphins and the Houston Texans. Stills is a versatile receiver, who has averaged 2.6 receptions (per game) and 40.7 receiving yards per game throughout his career. The 29-year-old should provide additional depth to a New Orleans receiving corps that has struggled this season with the absence of star wideout Michael Thomas.

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New Orleans also elevated center Austin Reiter from the practice squad. The Saints’ will be without the services of starting center Erik McCoy, who is sidelined with a calf injury. While it is unlikely he replaces McCoy’s replacement, Cesar Ruiz, at the pivot point, Reiter should provide additional depth along the offensive line.

Patriot Maven Game Prediction:

Defensive Essential: Prevent the Big Play

From a defensive standpoint, the Patriots will do their best to limit the production of running back Alvin Kamara. While Kamara should compile an adequate amount of yards, the Pats’ front seven must be intent on keeping him from breaking for big gains, and converting on third down. Should they be effective in doing so, it will force the game into the hands of quarterback Jamies Winston, who has been known to make his share of questionable decisions with the football when under pressure.

With some uncertainty facing the Saints’ offensive line, New England’s pass rush will be aggressive in trying to disrupt Winston’s rhythm. In doing so, they may be able to goad him into making throws with which he is less-than-comfortable.

Offensive Essential: Pick Up the Passing Game

Through the first two games, New England’s passing game has been conservative, by design. While some have lamented this approach, it has served rookie quarterback Mac Jones well, thus far. Jones has completed greater than 70% of his passes in each of his two starts. However, the 22-year-old has yet to truly test his targets downfield, or utilize them in the red zone. Jones is still establishing his trust and synergy with his receivers, as well as his tight ends. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels may look to use the passing game as a means of opening up the run.

If the Patriots are intending to test the Saints’ secondary, the task may be a bit more difficult than originally thought. Defensive backs C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Marshon Lattimore should be good-to-go on Sunday. Their presence in New Orleans’ defensive backfield will provide strong opposition for Jones’ desire to move the ball vertically. As a result, look for the Patriots to utilize Damien Harris in the running game, with James White continuing to be a dual-threat option.

While the Saints and Patriots are two evenly matched teams, destined for a close contest, the home team does just enough to earn their second win of the season.

Final score prediction: Patriots 20, Saints 17