Patriots: Three things to watch this Sunday against the 5-0 Saints

Tom Brady Drew Brees
Elite quarterbacks Tom Brady and Drew Brees will square off this Sunday in Foxboro. Credit: Getty Images

After back-to-back games on the road in Atlanta and Cincinnati, the 4-1 Patriots return home to host the 5-0 Saints (4:25 p.m., FOX).

But for New England, returning home means playing in front of a stadium packed full of fans that are expecting a big improvement over what they’ve seen – at least offensively, anyways. The Pats expect better too, and with the possible return of Rob Gronkowski to the lineup on Sunday, that expectation could certainly become a reality. Here’s what you should be looking for as the Patriots look to improve to 21-1 in October since 2003.

Gronk sighting?
Assuming Gronkowski plays, just how much he plays will be interesting to watch. He’ll have to earn his playing time back from fellow tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan. Kidding! But don’t expect Gronk to play every snap, either. Danny Amendola played 38-of-63 total snaps in his return last Sunday, and while the players and injuries are completely different, you can expect the Pats to take it slow on Gronk, especially if “Camp Gronk” has any say in things. Still, just having him back on the field – even as a decoy, or to block – will do wonders in opening up the passing game. But we’re predicting Gronk finds the end zone in his first game back anyways.

Thin on the D-line
The Patriots are already without Vince Wilfork for the rest of the year. Now, fellow D-lineman Tommy Kelly has missed practice all week with a knee injury suffered against the Bengals, putting his status for Sunday in jeopardy. It’s a good thing the Saints offense stinks . . . oh wait, it’s awesome. Missing those two linemen not only opens things up in the running game, but also gives Brees even more time to pick apart the Patriots secondary. The linebacking unit of Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and Dont’a Hightower will be key in this game.

Meeting of the minds
Ask any knowledgeable NFL fan to rank their top five current NFL head coaches and all of them will have Bill Belichick and Sean Payton in there. It’s been that way for quite some time, too. There’s plenty of respect between the two as well, as they held joint practices in Foxboro two years ago. At the same time, it makes preparing a game plan that much tougher. Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich has played for both coaches, having started his career with the Saints. He noted that both coaches stress being mentally tough and smart.

“I think that both coaches really try to hit home on and get every single player in that mindset of playing three phases, taking care of the football on offense and creating turnovers on defense,” Ninkovich said.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…

International

U.N. nuclear inquiry on Iran seen making slow…

The U.N. nuclear watchdog appears to have made only limited progress so far in getting Iran to answer questions about its suspected atomic bomb research, diplomatic sources said on Friday,…

National

Violence-weary Missouri town sees second night of calm

By Nick Carey and Carey GillamFERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - The violence-weary town of Ferguson, Missouri, saw a second straight evening of relative calm on Thursday…

National

Journalist James Foley's parents, after call with pope,…

The parents of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq, on Friday called for prayer and support to free the remaining captives held by Islamic…

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

Movies

Michael Chiklis on his football past and 'When…

Michael Chiklis remembers playing football in high school and how that prepped him to play a coach in "When the Game Stands Tall."

NFL

3 things we learned about the Giants in…

The Giants claimed the Snoopy trophy in a battle of MetLife Stadium tenants Friday night. But more importantly, the offense finally showed some life in…

NFL

3 things we learned about the Jets in…

The Jets lost the Snoopy Bowl, 35-24, to the Giants, losing the trophy and local bragging rights.

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

Wellbeing

Asics is giving away free gear around NYC…

Asics wants to see you on the court - and in the stands for the U.S. Open, which begins Monday - by giving away free…

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…