New England’s running game also has been inconsistent with injuries to Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.
“It’s hard for me to comment on someone else’s struggles,” Payton said of the Patriots, who led the NFL in yards and points last year. “Certainly, it’s been a team that’s been very explosive.”
Five things to watch for in Saints-Patriots:
TOP TIGHT ENDS: The Saints and Patriots have probably the NFL’s best tight ends. But only one has played this season.
Jimmy Graham was tied for second with 37 catches after making 10 in New Orleans’ 26-18 win over the Chicago Bears last Sunday.
“Jimmy Graham is as good as anybody we’ve seen all year or will see in the passing game,” Belichick said. “He is fast and quick and is a hard guy to match up to no matter who you put on him.”
So is Gronkowski, and Saints rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro was eager to face him.
“He’s one of the best tight ends in the league, and that’s one of my favorite things to do,” he said, “to just match up and play against the best.”
LONG DRIVES: The Saints lead the league in time of possession at 34:37. So New England needs some long drives to keep the ball away from Brees.
“I think we’ll try to put together any drive at this point to score points. Long, short, it doesn’t matter. We’ve got to score touchdowns,” Brady said. “We’ve got to try and score quickly, methodically, whatever it takes, because they have a good offense.”
The Patriots had one drive of more than 35 yards against the Bengals.
HOLD THAT LINE: Getting into the end zone against these two teams is tough. The Patriots have allowed 14 points per game, second fewest in the NFL, while the Saints have given up an average of 14.6, fourth fewest. New England limited Cincinnati to 13 points without defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, sidelined for the season. New Orleans has won its last three games while safety Roman Harper has been out with a knee injury.