The New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints are set to meet up for what might be the most anticipated Week 6 matchup on Sunday. That is to say, it's the most anticipated matchup if you're not attracted to one-sided beatdowns, given that the Denver Broncos take on the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday as well.
New Orleans is 5-0, and is showing no signs of slowing down. The matchup doesn't have quite the allure as it did a week ago, though, as the Patriots lost their last game. While a matchup of two undefeated teams is always interesting, you can't argue with Tom Brady versus Drew Brees.
Let's take a look at both teams below, starting with the home team:
Meet the Patriots
The Patriots of 2013 are vastly different from the Patriots of years past. Quarterback Tom Brady doesn't have any receivers to speak of (hyperbole, but given that Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson are getting more than significant snaps, it's hard to avoid) and he's not lighting up the scoreboard.
New England having the No. 21 passing offense in the NFL seems ... wrong, somehow. But they do, as Brady averages just 227.0 passing yards per game. New England has won three games by a single score, and lost another by the same amount. But they do have the No. 14 rushing offense in the league, with 116.4 rushing yards per game, and that might play a big factor in this game.
Stopping Brees and the Saints will be the tall ask. They have the No. 14 pass defense in the league, and will most certainly be putting all of their efforts into stopping tight end Jimmy Graham.
Meet the Saints
The Saints may have to worry about a tight end as well, as the Patriots could end up with Rob Gronkowski back in action. Right now, Graham is the top tight end in the NFL, but that matchup would be very interesting. New Orleans has the No. 2 passing offense in the NFL, with 326.8 passing yards per game on average.
Many of those yards have went to Graham, the team's leading receiver. He's caught 37 passes for 593 yards and six touchdowns. The Patriots will probably take away Brees' wide receivers, meaning Graham will have to do what he's done all season: take control and beat whatever scheme the opponent throws at him.
Of course, the Saints can't just overlook Brady, especially if he has Gronkowski back. Their pass defense has been pretty good, though, at No. 12 in the league. It should be a good one.
Local Takes: Patriots
Kevin O'Connor of Pats Pulpit thinks the Patriots could use the same strategy they used against Tony Gonzalez on Graham:
Two weeks ago the Patriots tried something unique when they had two linebackers jam Tony Gonzalez at the line of scrimmage when Atlanta Falcons were in the red zone. It was like the defense was defending a gunner on special teams, which is why Gonzalez was unsuccessful when defended that way. Perhaps, the Patriots will try to use that on Sunday, because nothing else has worked thus far when it comes to containing Jimmy Graham.
Local Takes: Saints
Over at Canal Street Chronicles, they think the Saints won't -- and shouldn't -- abandon the running game, and that the yards will come:
As long as Payton keeps calling running plays and mixing them in with his passing game, the rushing yards WILL eventually come. Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles are far too good at running the football. All they need is the touches. That's the thing about the running game. You keep hitting it. You don't stop just because it's difficult in the beginning of the season. Payton knows this. He understands the stakes involved. He also knows that if he takes a one-dimensional passing team into the playoffs, his chances of getting a second Lombardi are not good.
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
If Gronkowski really comes back this week, what am I going to write about on Saturday's in lieu of the "Gronk ruled out" post?— Greg Knopping (@patspulpit) October 8, 2013
Film Breakdown: Saints defense shows it hasn't forgotten how to blitz. http://t.co/UARnd03rLb— Canal St. Chronicles (@SaintsCSC) October 9, 2013
The SB Nation experts were surprisingly in agreement on this close matchup, with four of the five picking the Saints to win it. The lone dissenter was Joel Thorman. You can find the full Week 6 picks here.
The Patriots opened as 3-point favorites, but the line has narrowed throughout the week, according to OddsShark. New England is getting a narrow nod due to home-field advantage it would seem, as bettors seem to think these two teams are pretty evenly matched.