The New England Patriots have not started a season 0-2 since 2001, a streak they hope to keep intact when they visit the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night. Quarterback Tom Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champions have had 10 days to rebound from a stunning season-opening defeat, when they were mauled 42-27 at home by the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Saints are also coming off Week 1 setback, falling at Minnesota 29-19 on Monday night, and are attempting to avoid losing the first two games of the season for the fourth consecutive season. “A sense of urgency has been created,” acknowledged New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees. “It’s very important. It’s our home opener, and we want to get back on track.” For historical context, Brady took over as starter following the first two losses in 2001 and guided New England to its first of five Super Bowl championships — winning that first time at the site of Sunday’s venue. Brady’s matchup against Brees and Co. also marks the first time in league history that two quarterbacks with at least 10 Pro Bowl selections each will square off in the regular season.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Patriots -6.5. O/U: 56
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (0-1): Brady is ranked last in the league with a completion percentage of 44.4 and has glaring issues at wide receiver with Julian Edelman out for the year, Malcolm Mitchell is on injured reserve and Danny Amendola is in the NFL’s concussion protocol. It was be a homecoming of sorts for wideout Brandin Cooks, who had three catches for 88 yards in his New England debut after he was acquired from the Saints in the offseason for a pair of high draft picks. Another offseason acquisition, running back Mike Gillislee, rushed for three touchdowns last week but the Patriots were also stuffed on three short-yardage situations. Not only were 42 points the most allowed since coach Bill Belichick arrived in New England, but star linebacker Dont’a Hightower (knee) was injured in Week 1 and his status for Sunday is unclear.
ABOUT THE SAINTS (0-1): New Orleans struggled to get untracked offensively at Minnesota but the team is a different animal when playing on the fast track of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome — Brees is averaging 357.7 yards in his last 15 home games. Playing without wide receiver Willie Snead, Brees finished with 291 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings, with tight end Colby Fleener (touchdown), wideout Mike Thomas and running back Mark Ingram each hauling in five receptions. The ground game was stagnant as Adrian Peterson tied for the team high with 18 yards on six carries in his debut with New Orleans. The Saints likely will try to establish the running game to take the pressure off a defense that surrendered 470 total yards to Minnesota and was among the league’s worst in 2016 with averages of 375.4 yards and 28.4 points allowed.
1. New England, which is 42-6 following a loss since 2004, was a perfect 8-0 on the road last season.
2. Brees tossed five TD passes and had a perfect passer rating (158.3) in New England’s last visit to New Orleans in 2009.
3. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, who has an NFL-best 68 TD catches since 2010, had two catches for 33 yards in Week 1.
PREDICTION: Saints 33, Patriots 30