New England Patriots Favored Over New Orleans Saints In First Pre-Season Game

August 9, 2010- By Jonathan Lowell

A team that has lost its dynasty status will meet a franchise trying to create one Thursday night in Gillette Stadium. It will be the first preseason game for both teams as they try to get back to the Super Bowl. The two teams finished at opposite ends of the spectrum last season, and will try to start the 2010-2011 NFL Season with a victory.

The Saints have a huge target on their back this year while trying to defend their Super Bowl XLIV championship. They finished with an impressive 13-3 record last season (4-2 in the NFC South). They defended their home field through the playoffs against the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings before beating the Indianapolis Colts in the championship game 17-13.

After posting a 10-6 regular season record (4-2 in the AFC East) the New England Patriots are looking to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl for the first time since 2007. The Patriots suffered a disappointing first-round playoff loss at home to the Baltimore Ravens last season.

The Saints are favored according to 2010 NFL  Weekly Betting Lines to repeat as Super Bowl champions at +900. The Patriots accomplished that feat in 2003 and 2004, but haven’t made it back to the championship game since they were upset after going undefeated in the regular season and playoffs. New England’s line to win Super Bowl XLV is set at +1200. In Thursday’s game the Patriots have been set as the slight favorite by 1 1/2 points over the Saints. The over/under for total points scored by both teams is set at 35.

The Patriots offense was bolstered with the drafting of Devin McCourty out of Rutgers University in the 2010 NFL draft. The former Scarlett Knight receiver is expected to fill in the void left by Wes Welker if the two-time Pro Bowl selection cannot return from ACL and MCL surgery. According to the Patriots 2010 season preview, the offense still ranked third among NFL teams in total offense a season ago. The Saints defensive backs will need to be reading the eyes of Tom Brady if they want to stop the three-time Super Bowl champion from spreading the ball around the field. Patrick Robinson out of Florida State will be the new blood looking to make an impact in his first game as a pro. Scott Fujita’s absence will be felt in the linebacking corps, but veteran Jonathan Vilma will start in front of a beavy of new talent looking to make the starting roster.

The Saints’ offense was tops in the NFL a season ago, and quarterback Drew Brees will be setting the tone as a leader again in 2010-2011. The running back trio of Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and Lynell Hamilton won’t garner many Pro Bowl votes, but are proving to be an effective part of the best scoring offense in the NFL last year. The Saints’ 2010 NFL preview lists the offensive line as one of the top units in the league. The addition of linebacker Brandon Spikes out of the University of Florida helps a Patriots unit that is in need of improvement after losing Junior Seau to reitrement, and Adalius Thomas to free agency. Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork will other players to step up if they are looking to put effective pressure on Brees.

The special teams for the Patriots depend on the adjustment of Zoltan Mesko to the NFL. A cult hero at Michigan State, Mesko is a master of directional punting. Stephen Gostkowski is one of the best place kickers in the league because of his accuracy. Brandon Tate will be charged with returning kicks for the Patriots next season. Saints’ kicker Garrett Harley is just as effective in the kicking game, and proved himself by kicking the game-winner in the NFC championship game a year ago. The weakness on the Saints special teams is punter Thomas Morstead, who struggled with his consistency.  Courtney Roby will deep to return kicks for the Saints, and Reggie Bush might get some touches as well.

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