PATRIOTS (4-1) vs. SAINTS (5-0)
Today, 4:25 p.m., at Gillette Stadium, Foxboro
TV: Ch. 25 (Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver)
Radio: 98.5 FM The Sports Hub (Bob Socci and Scott Zolak)
The series: Patriots lead 8-4
Last meeting: Saints 38, Patriots 17; Nov. 30, 2009 at Louisiana Superdome Latest line: Pats -2.5; Over/under total: 50.5
2013 STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
1st, AFC East%Standings%1st, NFC South
343.4 (18)%Offense%405.0 (4)
116.4 (14)%Rushing%78.2 (26)
227.0 (21)%Passing%326.8 (2)
345.0 (16)%Defense%330.4 (11)
116.4 (23)%Rushing%108.6 (18)
228.6 (14)%Passing%221.8 (13)
BY THE NUMBERS
8 -- Eight Hall of Famers have had sons drafted? They are Bobby Bell, Tony Dorsett, Bob Griese, Russ Grimm, Howie Long, Don Shula, Kellen Winslow and Jackie Slater, whose son Matthew, the Pats’ special teams ace, hopes to return to the lineup today.
9 -- Career 100-yard receiving games by tight end Rob Gronkowski, equalling Ben Coates’ team record. The Saints’ Jimmy Graham has 10. Pats fans are hoping Gronk makes his return today from offseason back and arm surgeries.
209 -- Bill Belichick’s win total (209-110) is tied for 5th all-time with Hall of Famer Chuck Noll.
.697 -- Drew Brees’ completion percentage this season. Brees’ passer efficiency rating is a stunning 107.4 on all downs, 100.7 on third down only.
.710 -- New Orleans (49-20) owns the NFL’s third-best winning percentage since 2009, trailing the Pats (53-16, .768) and Packers (49-19, .721).
2 -- Times in franchise history the Saints have started the season 6-0. In 2009, Drew Brees and Co. started 13-0. In 1991, New Orleans won its first seven games.
Keys for the Patriots
1. Ball control to Major Tom -- How many times do you hear the network mouthpieces talk about those Brady swing passes being just like a run. Time to attack the outside with short, quick throws to the edge. Spread them out and let the young kids roll up the yards after catch with little at risk.
2. More chances in the back -- Yeah, the secondary has to start gambling a little bit. Get into the game, Devin McCourty. Take better angles, Steve Gregory. And attack these receivers off the line with Alfonzo Dennard, Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington.
3. Win the turnover/penalty game -- New Orleans is one of the few teams on the planet who turns the ball over less on offense and more on defense than the Patriots. The team that doesn’t protect the football is dead. What scares me is penalties. The Pats were not hit with a flag on the road at Cincinnati last week. You think Sean Payton has let the NFL know about that?
Hector Longo’s prediction: Saints 27, Patriots 13 (4-1 straight up; 1-4 vs. the spread)
Analysis: A rare two-game skid for Bill’s kids. New Orleans is not a great road team, but the arsenal is simply too much. Ninety-nine times out of 100, I will tell you the Foxboro crowd would have no impact in the game. They will today. They need to take Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense out of their element. The past couple weeks have not been steps forward for the Pats defense. Let’s see if a hostile crowd can help New England buck the recent trend. It’s on the secondary and pass-rush today.