Jameis Winston and the New Orleans offense seek to rebound versus Mac Jones and the revitalized New England Patriots. Sean Payton's 32nd ranked NFL offense will be marching into Gillette Stadium against a defensive master in Bill Belichick. Games like this one are who Payton loves, especially on the road.
Since 2018, New Orleans has an impressive road record, dropping only five games - only one without Drew Brees under center.
Saints fans are not as confident that the team can pull off a win in Foxborough. Only 63% voted on Twitter gave New Orleans' offense a vote of confidence. After last week's performance against the Carolina Panthers, I read through the transcripts and listened to this week's press conferences. Nothing struck as if the team doesn't have a vote of confidence in Jameis Winston - still, I wondered if they did.
Nonetheless, last Sunday's debacle against the Carolina Panthers wasn't solely on Winston.
A solid performance today from Winston and the offense would have them press the reset button ahead of the Giants' visit to Ceasars Superdome on Oct. 4.
Today's contest against the Patriots is a winnable game. New Orleans cannot afford to go down 1-2 behind Carolina (3-0) and Tampa Bay (2-0) and third place in the NFC South.
New Orleans' defense is the key to this game, as a matter of fact, all of the games this season. Mac Jones, the national football champion from Alabama, is cool under pressure - but can become rattled. Jones has only one touchdown pass on the season. His passing is ranked 22nd in the NFL. The Saints defense is ranked 13th against the pass and 10th in passing percentage allowed.
The Saints must force Jones to throw the football as the Saints' rush defense (No. 3 in NFL) is continuing its great play from the past two seasons. Pats RB James White is Jones' safety valve and leading receiver. New Orleans linebackers Demario Davis and Zack Baun must be ready for the screen passes.
Dennis Allen will dial up the pressure for his edge rushers Cam Jordan, Payton Turner, Carl Granderson, and Tanoh Kpaassagnon against Jones. The Patriots retooled their offensive line but allowed four sacks of Jones on the season.
New Orleans' first-round pick Payton Turner recorded his first sack on Sam Darnold and forklifted Panthers' offensive linemen on attacks most of the afternoon last week.
The Black and Gold's secondary may see the return of two critical pieces - Marshon Lattimore and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Lattimore may be wearing a cast on his surgically-repaired thumb, and the pesky Gardner-Johnson will defend those tough Patriot tight ends.
Offensively, the only significant change will be the addition of veteran wide receiver Kenny Stills to the lineup. He was elevated from the Saints practice squad and can help find open areas for Winston to target. The other receivers were inconsistent and anemic through the first two games. Marquez Callaway must become the No. 1 receiver. Chris Hogan, Deonte Harris, and Lil' Jordan Humphrey may find it difficult versus the Patriots' secondary, ranked 6th in pass defense.
The most important key for New Orleans is Alvin Kamara. The Black and Gold faithful need to witness the All-Pro running back's return to form. The Saints' offense runs through Kamara and Michael Thomas. Without Thomas' availability for another few weeks, Sean Payton has to find an x-factor player. Expect tight ends Adam Trautman and Juwan Johnson to fill in the void and the zones of the Patriots defense. I wouldn't be too surprised if Taysom Hill would have a highly productive game.
Can the Saints rebound? Yes. Sean Payton has not lost consecutive road games in years. Also, after drubbings, the Saints typically win, especially on the road.
We shall see.
Prediction: New Orleans-27, New England-20
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