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New England Patriots: 4 bold predictions for Week 3 vs. Saints

Patriots, Saints, Mac Jones, Jameis Winston, Bill Belichick, Sean Payton

The New England Patriots return home to begin a two-game stretch against NFC South opponents at Gillette Stadium. Before next week’s showdown against the Tom Brady-led Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Patriots (1-1) first play host to the 1-1 New Orleans Saints.

In recent Saints-Patriots matchups, high-scoring affairs were to be expected with Drew Brees and the aforementioned Brady leading their respective squads. Nowadays, both teams rely upon the strength of their defenses.

In year one of the post-Brees era, the Saints are guided by quarterback Jameis Winston. Entering the second season since Brady bolted for Tampa Bay, the Patriots feature rookie Mac Jones under center.

The Patriots have enjoyed plenty of success against the NFC in recent years. Since the NFL’s realignment in 2002, the Patriots are a league-best 59-17 against nonconference foes.

Ahead of the Week 3 matchup between New Orleans and New England, let’s make four bold predictions for this NFC-AFC showdown.

1. Patriots hold Jameis Winston to under 200 yards passing, collect two interceptions

The Saints are coming off an abysmal performance to the division-rival Carolina Panthers. They mustered a mere 128 yards and just six downs. Jameis Winston threw for 111 yards with no TDs and two interceptions in a 26-7 defeat. Remarkably, this came on the heels of a 5-touchdown effort in Week 1.

Winston could have a tough time getting things going against New England’s retooled defense. The Patriots rank third in points allowed (11.5 per game) and yards permitted (297.5 per contest). Against the pass, the Patriots have been dominant—yielding just 184.5 yards per game.

Facing a Patriots’ defense that has given up only one passing touchdown and produced an NFL-best five interceptions, Winston should be expected to struggle mightily. The turnover-prone quarterback fails to eclipse 200 yards and will throw two interceptions.

2. Alvin Kamara rushes for 100+ yards

It wasn’t just Winston who struggled against the Panthers in Week 2. Star running back Alvin Kamara had one of the worst games of his career, rushing for just eight yards on five carries. He added 25 yards via four receptions.

Kamara is by far the Saints’ best offensive player—especially with Michael Thomas (ankle) sidelined—and head coach Sean Payton will do everything he can to get his halfback going.

Despite New England’s success defensively early on in 2021, the rush defense has been leaky. In Week 2, the Patriots made life hell for New York Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson—intercepting him four times in a 25-6 blowout. However, the Jets had a productive day on the ground, gaining 152 yards on 31 carries.

Kamara has accumulated only 88 rushing yards through two weeks. He has to pick up the slack for a Saints team that has transformed to a run-first offense. The Patriots’ defensive front has been shaky and Kamara takes advantage in Week 3, darting for over 100 yards.

3. Mac Jones throws a pair of TDs

Rookie quarterback Mac Jones has been ultra-efficient in his first two pro games. He has completed roughly 74 percent of his pass attempts with a passer rating of 96.7, the best among rookie quarterbacks.

However, Jones ranks 23rd in the NFL with 6.2 yards per attempt. The Patriots have not taken many chances in the passing attack. They may have to unleash Jones against the Saints, who are exceptional against the run.

The Saints have held opposing running backs to a paltry 2.8 yards per attempt this season—despite facing superstar running backs Aaron Jones and Christian McCaffrey in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively. Thus, it could be tough sledding for Patriots running back Damien Harris on Sunday afternoon.

With the Patriots going up against a stingy Saints’ defensive front, it is time for Jones to fire away. Jones has taken care of the football thus far, having yet to commit a turnover. He has thrown just one TD in two games, however, and the Patriots will need him to air it out in Week 3.

Jakobi Meyers is a player to watch for. While his numbers through two contests—10 catches for 82 yards—are pedestrian, it’s important to remember just how conservative the Patriots’ offensive plan has been. Also of importance, Meyers is unlikely to be lined up against Saints talented cornerback Bradley Roby, who is expected to primarily defend Nelson Agholor.

Jones should look Meyers’ way plenty against the Saints. He will throw two TDs, and don’t be surprised if one of them is caught by Meyers.

4. Patriots (-2.5) cover spread, under (o/u 42.5) hits

The Patriots are listed as the betting favorites for the third consecutive week. They lost in heartbreaking fashion at Gillette Stadium in the season opener to the Miami Dolphins. Looking to avoid an 0-2 start at home, the Patriots will defeat the Saints in a defensive showdown.

While Kamara should get back on track against the Patriots, Winston will have another unproductive outing. The Saints lack reliable receivers, and Winston’s gun-slinging, sometimes careless play under center could spell disaster against an elite New England secondary.

The Patriots, who are 2.5 point favorites, cover the spread and the under hits (o/u 42.5), as they defeat the Saints, 20-13.