Expect video arcade numbers as Drew Brees and Tom Brady duel on Sunday afternoon when the New England Patriots host the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium.
Second in yards and touchdowns, Brees and the Saints' offense have lit up opposing defenses for 327.2 passing yards a game, and at 5-0 are one of three undefeated teams left in the NFL. While breaking in new receivers, Brady is 17th in the league in passing yards, (1,211), but he still has the Patriots sporting a 4-1 record.
Among active quarterbacks, Brees and Brady are No. 2 and 3, respectively, in career passing yardage. Brady holds the edge in career passing touchdowns, 341 to 336, but Brees holds the 65.7 career completion percentage advantage.
All those numbers translate into a nightmare for New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and his Patriots counterpart Matt Patricia. Both have dragged their secondarys from near the bottom of the NFL last year to a respectable level in the middle. The Saints have notched seven picks to New England’s six, but the Patriots have surrendered four passing touchdowns to New Orleans six.
Enjoying his first full season in New England, corner Aqib Talib is tied for the NFL lead with four picks this season, and has the Patriots ranked 14th overall against the pass.
The Patriots were hoping Rob Gronkowski would make his return this week from back and forearm surgeries, but he still hasn’t been cleared by doctors to play on Sunday. There are still plenty of questions surrounding the hulking 6-foot-6 tight end who has totaled 38 touchdowns in three pro seasons. He’s even participated in practices and been tackled, but there is no clear indication as to when he will take the field again.
With Gronkowski out, and a number of roster moves and non-moves made by New England this offseason, Brady’s made fifth-year receiver Julian Edelman his top target for 36 receptions, 354 yards, and two scores. Rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins have shown flashes of talent on the field, but are still developing a rhythm with Brady.
On the flipside, Brees’s top target is tight end Jimmy Graham, who currently leads the NFL with 593 receiving yards and is second with six touchdowns. The 26-year-old former Miami star has two 10-reception games, and has caught for at least 100 yards in four straight.
One outright edge the Patriots hold is on the ground. LeGarrette Blount is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and has tallied New England's only rushing score of the season. The Saints counter with speedy Darren Sproles and between-the-tackles rusher Pierre Thomas, but both have proven more effective in the passing game compared to New Orleans 26th ranked rushing offense.
Coverage of the game starts at 4:25 p.m. ET and will be broadcast by FOX, or watch a live online stream by purchasing NFL Game Access here.
Betting Odds: New England favored by 2.5 points
Over/Under: 51 points
Prediction: New England 34, New Orleans 30
Currently covering NBA, NFL, MLB, along with Real Madrid and Barcelona, focusing on trades, controversy, and injury updates. Joined IB Times in August 2012.