The Patriots better beat the Saints on Sunday.
We went over this last week when we said New England’s game against the New York Jets basically was a must-win. Bill Belichick’s team did pick up a victory, leaving the Patriots at 1-1 ahead of their Week 3 matchup with New Orleans at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots currently are three-point favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook, and they should be. The 1-1 Saints are dealing with key injuries on both sides of the ball, and Jameis Winston remains a total wild card at quarterback. He could light it up in New England, or he could throw a bunch of picks. And New Orleans, while still talented on both offense and defense, isn’t quite as loaded as it’s been in recent seasons.
Plus, the Patriots might be getting the Saints at a great time. Sean Payton’s team has been on the road all season due to Hurricane Ida’s impact on the New Orleans area. The Saints were supposed to host the Packers in Week 1 but were forced to play at a neutral site (Jacksonville). They blew out Green Bay but submitted a dud in Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers.
So, they might be tired and road-weary. Heck, their home stadium was on fire the other day.
But make no mistake: New Orleans still is a talented team. And their excellent running attack, led by Alvin Kamara, and stout defensive line could present major problems for a Patriots team that largely lost the trench wars in Weeks 1 and 2. Belichick and his players have praised the Saints all week, and they’re not just being nice. They’re about to face a good, well-coached opponent capable of winning in Foxboro.
However, should the Patriots lose Sunday afternoon — on Julian Edelman’s big day, no less — they’ll enter their Oct. 3 game against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a 1-2 record. We can’t put anything past a Belichick-coached team, but you have to pencil in a loss for that matchup.
Not to be all doom-and-gloom, but a 1-3 record for this group might be a death sentence.
Across NFL history, 473 teams have been 1-3 through four weeks, with only 41 eventually making the playoffs, according to SportRadar. That’s about 8.7%. The 2020 Washington Football Team (7-9) pulled it off, but they played in a historically bad NFC East.
New England, with its defensive talent, improved offense and great coaching, would be capable of such a rebound. But we also are talking about a Patriots team with a rookie quarterback, multiple new pieces still learning the system and a difficult second-half schedule. It simply might take too long for everything to click.
If the Patriots want to avoid being behind the eight ball for much of the campaign, they need to be 2-1 when Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions arrive in Foxboro,