The Patriots will welcome the New Orleans Saints to Gillette Stadium for the first time since 2021 in an interconference battle that will pit two teams both in need of a win against each other. The Patriots are coming off a 35-point defeat at the hands of the Cowboys while the Saints have dropped two straight games, setting the stage for an early season dogfight to remain in the playoff contender conversation.
Here's what the writers of Patriots Unfiltered see as the key players and factors that will decide the outcome.
After a pair of significant injuries to their two best defenders last week, who will you be looking at to pick up the slack without Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez?
As it always is when your best talent goes down, it's not one person who needs to step in and up. Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Deatrich Wise, etc., will need to up their collective game and fill Judon's void. No one is going to have the lockdown potential that Gonzalez was starting to show so the onus is on the coaches to come up with a defensive gameplan each week that puts players in a position to succeed. -Fred Kirsch
Neither will be easy to replace, especially Judon who works in a variety of roles. I'd like to see Keion White get more opportunities to fill some of those roles but I would assume we'll also see more Jahlani Tavai and Anfernee Jennings as well. In the secondary the corners just need to get healthy. JC Jackson was brought back but they need Jonathan Jones and Jack Jones back soon. -Paul Perillo
Josh Uche and Kyle Dugger both had great seasons last year. With both playing in a contract year, it's a huge opportunity for them to step up and make plays on defense for not only this team, but their futures. -Alexandra Francisco
Without Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez, I hope that Jalen Mills is making the switch from safety back to corner to able to help fill some of the void that Myles Bryant and Shaun Wade are trying to fill. It would also be great to see Jon Jones return from injury or see J.C. Jackson back in action. With his familiarity with the system, even though he's only practiced a few days this week, the Patriots could really use him this weekend. In place of Matthew Judon, it's time to see Josh Uche play more than just situational third downs, this is the time where he needs to see more snap counts along with rookie Keion White. -Tamara Brown
Other than J.C. Jackson, the Patriots need Jon Jones back healthy to upgrade the secondary. In the front seven, I'm looking for Josh Uche and Christian Barmore to carry the load. Obviously, we all want to see Keion White play well, but those two are the experienced players who need to lead the way. Uche is going to get more attention now without Judon, so I'm looking at Barmore to win his 1-on-1s. -Evan Lazar
There aren't a lot of choices here, it's got to be Jennings and Tavai with a dash of Trey Flowers making up for the loss of Judon. I just wonder who's going to bring the pass rush juice. It's easy to see how they can manage early downs but on third-and-long they'll need to get to the quarterback like Judon does. J.C. Jackson's return made perfect sense, but is he the same player as when he left? Jonathan Jones' return would be a huge boost, otherwise, even with Jackson, I see them having a tough time matching up against a deep receiving corps like the Saints. -Mike Dussault
There are plenty of questions surrounding the Patriots offense right now, but a great game from __ would provide the biggest boost. Please choose one and explain.
- Offensive Line
- Running Backs
- Mac Jones
It's a toss-up between Mac and his line but I'll go with the line because its performance affects every play. -FK
Mac Jones remains the key to any offensive improvement. If Jones can regain the poise he showed in the pocket as a rookie I believe the rest will start to improve as well. A great game from Jones overcomes a lot of shortcomings elsewhere. -PP
B. I know it all starts with the o-line, but a big game from Mac would be huge for everyone's confidence level. And hopefully would lower some of the outside noise. -AF
A great game from the running backs would provide the biggest boost to a struggling Patriots offense. Taking some of the pressure off of Mac Jones in the passing game would eliminate some of his need to create plays and also help move the ball down the field more effectively. The Patriots bread and butter in the past has largely relied on the run game and without that the offense cannot get in a good rhythm. -TB
The offensive line. I'm not sure they'll do much of anything offensively unless they start to improve up front. Mac Jones is who he is, so they'll need to get the running game going and keep Mac clean so he stays poised and makes throws from clean pockets. -EL
Let's go with the offensive line because that's where it all starts both for the quarterback and the running backs. If the O-line can come together, open some holes and give Mac some time we could see this offense finally turn a corner. -MD
Three players returned to practice this week from IR, Riley Reiff, Trey Flowers and Cody Davis. What kind of potential impact do you see any of them having this weekend if they're able to return to the game field as well?
With his years of experience, Riley Reiff could get the nod at right tackle. Perhaps that experience can settle things down over there, at least for Sunday against a Saints team that hasn't been generating a ton of pressure so far. -FK
I think Reiff has a chance to be part of the offensive line, which has struggled. If he can provide some veteran stability at either tackle or guard I think that would be a big boost. -PP
At this point we'll take all the depth we can get anywhere, but especially the offensive line. Mac has played under a ton of pressure this season and if Riley Reiff and Trent Flowers can take some of that edge off I'm all for it. We'll see. -AF
If any of the players return from IR and are able to have an impact it would likely be Riley Reiff. The offensive line has struggled this season with depth issues and the lack of consistency in starting five has been a major contributor in why the offense has struggled especially with running the football. -TB
Sticking with a similar theme, Riley Reiff can't be much worse than what they've tried at right tackle so far. Vederian Lowe has allowed 17 quarterback pressures in his last two games and struggled to run block in Dallas. If healthy, give Reiff a chance to play right tackle, or kick Onwenu outside with Reiff at RG. They have to do something to shake up the line. -EL
Reiff was at guard when we last saw him and didn't look like they had designs on him playing tackle anymore, but the performances through four games might change that perspective. No matter what, his return is a boost for the depth and gives the team some options they haven't had. Flowers should be a rotational piece up front but one who could alter how they attack quarterbacks, perhaps with more even fronts. Davis' return might be a sneaky bonus, possibly allowing Adrian Phillips to pick up a greater role on defense. -MD
What concerns you most about the Saints? Please choose one and explain.
- Thomas, Olave and Shaheed
- Cameron Jordan/Demario Davis
I'll go with A, considering the state of the Patriots defensive backfield. If QB Derek Carr is a little healthier than last week, there's no doubt he can put up numbers. If the Saints get into the mid-20s on the scoreboard, the Patriots will have to go places with its offense it hasn't been this season. -FK
I'm going with Alvin Kamara because of his versatility. He can serve as a key part of both the running and passing games, and with Derek Carr's shoulder causing him problems his presence allows the quarterback some easy completions that won't be restricted by the injury. -PP
Alvin Kamara is certainly a concern no matter who he's playing against, but where the Patriots stand in terms of depth with their secondary, I would expect the New Orleans attack to exploit that, just as Dallas did, with the help of Thomas, Olave, and Shaheed. -AF
My largest concern with the Saints is the offensive weapons, the opposing teams are finding a way to exploit Myles Bryant and Shaun wade and I could see them targeting those two again this week if J.C. Jackson and Jon Jones are not available. In result of Derek Carr's shoulder injury, I expect to see a lot of dump off passes to Kamara and he is an explosive back that could give the defense a lot of trouble. -TB
The answer is probably Davis and Jordan, but I'm going with the offensive weapons. The Saints offensive production is similar to the Patriots. However, they're underperforming offensively more than lacking talent. My fear is this is the week that the Saints started clicking on offense, and the Patriots won't have the firepower to keep up. -EL
I'm going with Jordan, Davis and the Saints front. If they're dominant it's hard to see how the Patriots produce points, at least enough to keep pace with a Saints offense that has more explosive players as well as more depth. Of course, the weapons aren't far behind, as a couple big scores could quickly put New England in a hole that changes the dynamic of the game. -MD
What is your biggest key to how the Patriots can recover from last week and get a much-needed win?
Forget last week. Focus on the task at hand. -FK
Obviously it starts with protecting the football but more importantly to me is the need to consistently move the ball and put points on the board. That hasn't happened all season and it's the main reason why the team is struggling. -PP
This really needs to be a 'get right game' for the offense. They have a lot to prove still and to see them finish drives and score more than 20 points would be a step in the right direction. -AF
The Patriots can avoid a hangover and get a much-needed win by running the football, not forcing plays that aren't there and having great ball security. Facing a team that is offensively challenged with a stingy defense, there aren't going to be many opportunities to score therefore it is crucial that the Patriots take advantage of every series and try to put points on the board. -TB
Play better along the offensive line and start getting this running game going. The Patriots aren't improving offensively without improving their rushing attack. They need to get Rhamondre and Zeke going. If they can do that, they can take some pressure off Mac and the passing game, and maybe that will lead to more success. Run, run, run the ball. -EL
The offense must get in gear and start producing drives and points. They've been on a slow descent since Week 1 as far as those things are concerned. The defense lost two of their best players so the margin for error has shrunk this week. The offense can't rely on the defense to pitch shutouts or contain teams under 20 points so it's kind of now or never if they're going to start clicking. -MD
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