The Saints hold one of the NFL's three remaining unbeaten records and Neil Harvey just can't wait to back them ahead of what is a standout fixture from the week six schedule...
"The Saints are unbeaten after five games. Along the way, they’ve defeated teams of varied ability, ranging from the defensively gifted Tampa Bay to the offensively prolific Chicago. And the manner of their victories has been emphatic, with only one of them achieved by a margin of less than six points."
New Orleans Saints @ New England Patriots
Start Time: Sunday, 21:25
TV: Live on Sky Sports 2
I've been waiting all week for this game, not only because it promises to be highly entertaining, but mainly because I consider New Orleans to be the standout bet of the week, to beat New England.
The Saints are unbeaten after five games. Along the way, they've defeated teams of varied ability, ranging from the defensively gifted Tampa Bay to the offensively prolific Chicago. And the manner of their victories has been emphatic, with only one of them achieved by a margin of less than six points.
Drew Brees is having another outstanding season at quarterback. Last week he inflicted the death of a thousand passes upon Chicago. Well OK, there were actually only 29 of them that connected, but each left a tiny razor-like wound, as Brees kept his focus on short-range passes to the running backs and tight ends.
Speaking of tight ends, what about Jimmy Graham? The man is an offensive beast averaging more than a hundred yards, plus a touchdown, per game, this season. Just to put his achievements into context, Graham has an extra 200 yards and four more touchdowns to his name, than any of the Patriots' wide receivers this season. He plays a key role in a New Orleans offence that's rated as the second best in the NFL, behind Denver.
But for all that talk of the Saints offence, it's actually their defence that's impressed me most this season. Considered the laughing stock of the NFL last year, the Saints D has improved beyond all recognition since the arrival of new coordinator Rob Ryan and is currently rated in the top half of the league against both the pass and the rush.
As for New England, they're sitting pretty at 4-1 at the top of the NFC East. But that's despite an obvious lack of harmony in the camp. New England's answer to Jimmy Graham, that's Rob Gronkowski, has yet to return from a broken arm, while their other prolific tight end, Aaron Hernandez, remains in custody, having been charged with murder.
With no standout receiver to turn to, the brilliant Tom Brady has been left looking not so superhuman anymore. Consequently, New England now have a passing offence that's ranked just 21st out of the 32 teams in the league. Add to that a running game that's never amounted to much more than a support act for the Tom Brady show, and suddenly the Patriots find themselves, as an attacking force, at probably their weakest point in almost a decade.
Luckily for New England though, their defence has rallied to the call, with a mixture of turnovers and sheer good fortune helping them to narrow wins over Buffalo and the Jets. Finally their luck ran out though, last week, when Cincinnati turned them over 13-6, holding Brady to a mere 197 yards in the process.
Brady was again put under lots of pressure in that game. New England's playcaller has already been sacked six times this season which puts him on course for a career record. With the Saints linebackers sure to be close behind him, I expect Brady to be handing-off a lot more of the ball than he throws, especially given that the Saints' achilles heel is their weakness at stopping the run, for which they rank 26th in the league.