Patriots vs. Saints: 3 keys to the game, fun facts, prediction

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The Patriots will return home this Sunday to host the Saints.

Both teams enter the matchup with 1-1 records. It will be the first time New Orleans has come to Gillette Stadium since Oct. 13, 2013 when the Patriots won 30-27 on a late Kenbrell Thompkins touchdown. It was also the same day the Red Sox had a thrilling win over the Tigers in the ALCS that included a David Ortiz grand slam.

Bill Belichick noted how the Saints are one of the best coached teams in the league with Sean Payton, so things likely won’t be as easy as they were last week against the Jets.

New Orleans is coming off a blowout loss to the Panthers, 26-7.

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Saints vs. Patriots
Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021
1:00, FOX
Patriots -2.5, over/under 42.5

3 keys to the game

Win turnover battle

This is one of the keys every week, but even more so with Mac Jones at quarterback. It seems like the Patriots’ gameplan for the majority of the weeks will be to not lose the game and have their opponent make the key mistakes. This game will likely come down to how Jameis Winston plays. If he plays well and doesn’t turn the ball over, the Saints have a good chance of winning. But, if the Patriots can force a few turnovers that dramatically increases their chances. Payton noted this past week that the Patriots are 108-7 at home since 2001.

Get tight ends going

Through two games, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith have been relatively quiet. They have combined for 14 catches for 143 yards and haven’t made huge impacts in any of the games. Injuries may be part of it, but the offense needs more from these two. It’s also worth noting that in seven red zone trips the pair have just three combined targets.

Improve run defense

This is another big area of the game as the Saints have one of the best running backs in the league in Alvin Kamara. The Patriots are 16th in the league allowed 4.2 yards per carry, but it’s worth noting the offenses they have faced (Miami and New York) and the two worst in the league through two games. If the Patriots play like they have in this area Sunday, it could be a long day at the office.

Fun Facts

1. The Patriots are 59-17 against NFC teams since 2002, the best inter-conference record in the NFL during that time.

2. In Winston’s last 22 games as a starter, he’s thrown an interception or fumbled in 20 of them.

3. Since 2018, the Saints have a 20-5 record on the road and have outscored opponents 698-471.

4. Damien Harris is tied for second in the NFL with 135 yards after contact (per, Pro Football Focus). No surprise, Derrick Henry leads the league with 201.

5. According to Pro Football Focus, since last year Josh Uche has a 22.4% pass-rush win rate, which ranks fourth behind Aaron Donald, Joey Bosa and T.J. Watt.

Prediction (Season record: 1-1)

Patriots 17, Saints 13

This figures to be a low-scoring defensive battle and likely will come down to which team makes the fewest mistakes. We’re going with Jones performing better than Winston in that regard and therefore the Patriots will be able to sneak away with a close win. The Saints have also gone through a ton the last month or so being away from their facility due to Hurricane Ida and had COVID issues with their coaching staff last week.