Oddsmakers Give Edge To New England Patriots Over New Orleans Saints In 2010 NFL Pre-Season Opener

August 10th, 2010-  By Bryan Cross

The defending Super Bowl champions begin their quest at repeating their title as they open up their 2010 NFL Pre-Season schedule against one of the teams that dominated the first decade of the century.

The New Orleans Saints captured the first-ever NFL Championship for the city and organization with a victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV and now have their sights set on accomplishing that goal again. Quarterback Drew Brees comes back to lead the offense that ranked first in the NFL in 2009, and a defense that had a habit of creating turnovers.  The Saints won the NFC South division in the regular season, tabbing a 13-3 record,

On the other side of the ball looking ahead to the 2010 NFL Season, the New England Patriots come into the year looking to regain the swagger they once had in the early part of the 2000’s, in which they won three Super Bowls. Quarterback Tom Brady led New England to a 10-6 regular season record, and the AFC East title.  Their post-season was cut short however in the opening round, courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens ran the Patriots off of the field in that contest, and left the Patriots with a bad taste in their mouths entering the off season.

New Orleans and New England faced each other in the 2009 regular season, with the Saints winning 38-17 at home.  While it is assumed that each of the team’s starters will play only a few series, oddsmakers believe that the Patriots will win this one, installing them as 1 1/2-point favorites in the opener of the Pre-Season for both.  The over/under for the contest is sitting at 35 points on USA Online Sportsbooks.

New Orleans Offense Vs. New England Defense-

Drew Brees has a variety of weapons on the offensive side of the ball which he can throw and hand off too.  It is a cornerstone behind The Saints’ 2010 NFL Power Ranking heading into the year.  The running back corps of Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and Lynell Hamilton give the offense multiple looks and running styles that opposing defenses must account for. The team averaged 131 yards per game on the ground, which ranked second in the NFC.

Through the air, Brees and back up quarterback Chase Daniel will likely be the two quarterbacks that the Patriot defense sees to begin the game.  Brees’ favorite targets are Marques Colston and Devery Henderson, but the Saints are known for distributing the ball to as many as seven and eight wide receivers in a game. Expect that to be a theme of the game, especially in a pre-season game such as this.

On defense, the Patriots went to the 2010 NFL Draft looking to sew up their secondary.  They got their man in Devin McCourty, a solid defensive back out of Rutgers.  The Patriots run a 3-4 base set, anchored by Vince Wilfork up front on the defensive line at nose tackle.  In a 3-4 set a nose tackle has a very important position and Wilfork possess both the size and talent to hold that line up.

The Patriots were +6 in the turnover department in 2009, while ranking 11th in total defense.  The were very balanced against both the run and pass, ranking 12th and 13th respectively.  Look for head coach Bill Belichik to experiment and mix up coverages to see what may and may not work. There is no better team than a stout offense by the Saints than the use a myriad of defensive schemes and coverages.

New England Offense Vs. New Orleans Defense-

The Patriots offense begins and ends with quarterback Tom Brady.  Brady is the field general when New England has the ball and knows exactly where each of his players is at each different set.  Averaging close to 400 yards per game, the Patriots ranked third in the NFL in total offense and third in the NFL in passing.

The Patriots Achilles heal has been the run game over the course of the past few seasons, though they still ranked in the top-half of the league in 2009.  Still, the combination of Laurence Maroney and Sammy Morris will be the first set of backs that the New Orleans defense will likely see in the first few series in this one. New England averaged 120 yards on the ground last season, while the Saints were prone to giving up some yardage, ranking 21st in the league.

The passing game between the New England offense and the New Orleans secondary should present a good match up between the starters in the opening series.  Safeties Roman Harper and Darren Sharper were turnover machines down the stretch for the Saints.  In the game last year, Brady threw two interceptions.

Special Teams-

On paper, the edge goes to the Saints in terms of return men.  Reggie Bush will be the guy to return punts for the Saints, though it remains to be seen if head coach Sean Payton will put him in their in the first pre-season game.

The Patriots have a good talent at the place kicker position in Stephen Gostkowski, as he is a reliable field goal kicker, and boots them deep on the kick off into the end zone.

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