Football is back on Thursday at Gillette Stadium, as the Patriots battle the Saints in their first preseason contest of the 2010 season.
For the past few days, both teams have been practicing with one another, but now it is time to see what each squad has learned about their opponent.
Patriots fans will want to watch how quarterback Tom Brady fares in his second season since injuring his ACL and MCL in ’08. In August of ’09, Redskins defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth forced Brady to the ground and the end result was a few broken ribs, so hopefully, no one will hurt the Patriots signal caller.
Brady will have a few new targets to throw to, which includes Tori Holt, (former Rams and Jaguars receiver) and Brandon Tate (who was injured most of his rookie season in ‘09), but don’t forget his go-to guy, Wes Welker. All eyes will be on number 83 to get a sense of how much he has overcome his injury, as well as if he will be ready for the upcoming season.
Their defense should be somewhat improved, but still, they have some question marks. Having Vince Wilfork clog the middle to stop the run will be important, but look for other guys, such as Gary Guyton, Jerod Mayo and Brandon Meriweather to take on an important role during the first few series. All four of these defensive players will be critical once the season begins in September.
On the other side of the field will be the Saints, who continue to be favored to win the Super Bowl again. The Saints averaged 31.8 points a game last season, so one thing to watch will be if they can continue to blow out their opponents, especially in the preseason.
Also, quarterback Drew Brees had a terrific season in ’09, but will he be affected by the “Madden curse” (videogame)? Last season, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu was one of two player featured on the game’s cover, but suffered an injury during the Steelers regular season opener against the Titans.
Their defense will rely heavily on Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma, who need to pressure Brady. The Saints may not be known for their defense, but playing against the Patriots will be a good test to see if their back seven can defend a deep pass from Brady to Randy Moss.
Overall, it should be an intriguing matchup, but being the first preseason game, all I can say is that Patriots and Saints fans will be happy to see their two teams back in action for another season.
Prediction: New Orleans Saints 30 – New England 24