Patriots - Saints: Game Plans

Who's hurt, who is in the lineup, and what each team should do to win the game.

PLAYER NOTES

SAINTS

--RCB Tracy Porter will not play Monday night against the New England Patriots because of a sprained MCL in his left knee and will likely be sidelined another 2-to-4 weeks.
--RCB Randall Gay was dressed and ready for practice Wednesday despite an injured right hamstring that he suffered on Sunday. Coach Sean Payton did not give out an injury report Wednesday because the Saints don't play until Monday night.
--RB Reggie Bush, who missed Sunday's game with the Tampa Bay Bucs because of a bruised right knee, was also dressed for practice in the portion of the workout open to reporters.
--LCB Jabari Greer also appeared ready to practice, but Payton would not say whether he worked or not after missing the last two games with a left groin injury.
--WR Lance Moore, who has missed the last three games with a left high ankle sprain, was dressed for practice although it was not known how much participation he had.
--DT Sedrick Ellis, who worked on a limited basis last week, could be ready to return after being sidelined for the last four games with a sprained right knee.
--CB Leigh Torrence was put on injured reserve Monday after injuring his left shoulder in Sunday's game with the Bucs.
--CB Mike McKenzie, who was released in March, practiced with his old team for the first time Wednesday after being signed to take Torrence's roster spot.

PATRIOTS

--RB Sammy Morris has been out since Week 6 with a knee injury, but said he'll be a game-time decision come Monday night.
--G Stephen Neal described himself as "day to day" with a head injury. He did not play last weekend after injuring himself against the Colts.
--DL Jarvis Green, who had knee surgery three weeks ago and has not played since, is optimistic about being back on the field this week at New Orleans, which is close to his hometown of Donaldsville, La.
--S Patrick Chung left Sunday's game with a head injury before returning later in the action. He said "it's not a question" when asked if he'll play Monday.
--LT Matt Light is still a major question mark for Monday, though he has been spotted in the locker room this week. Light's replacement, Sebastian Vollmer, has done a good job since being forced into the starting lineup.


SCOUTING REPORTS

SAINTS

The Saints got more help for the cornerback position on Monday when 10-year veteran Mike McKenzie was signed to take the roster spot of Leigh Torrence, who was put on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

McKenzie played five seasons with the Saints, but was released last off-season after finishing the last two seasons on injured reserve. He tore his right ACL late in the 2007 season and fractured the kneecap in the same knee last Nov. 9.

McKenzie will join rookie Malcolm Jenkins and Chris McAlister in trying to fill in for injured corners Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter and Randall Gay. Porter will miss Monday night's game with the New England Patriots, but Greer, who has missed the last two games, hopes to return for this one.

GAME PLAN: The NFL's top offenses will be on display, which could result in an old-fashioned shootout with Drew Brees and the Saints' top-ranked offense trying to outdo Tom Brady and the Patriots' second-ranked unit. While it will be extremely important to get the passing game going, the Saints could try and open things up with a running game that ranks fifth in the league at 154.3 yards a game. Ball control and ball security could also be a key for the Saints, who didn't turn the ball over in last Sunday's win at Tampa Bay after committing 13 turnovers in the previous four games. On defense, the Saints' injury-plagued secondary will have to keep Randy Moss and Wes Welker in check as much as they can to have a chance.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Saints cornerbacks vs. Patriots WR Randy Moss. It's not known how much Jabari Greer will be able to play -- if he plays at all -- after missing two games with a left groin injury, but the Saints are hoping that he'll be able to return to give them someone who can at least match Moss' leaping ability.

Saints front seven vs. Patriots QB Tom Brady. Defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant have rebounded nicely this season with 13 sacks between them. But they'll have their work cut out for them in trying to get to Brady, who has been sacked 14 times. Applying pressure at least occasionally will give their battered secondary a chance to do what they do best this season -- force turnovers.

Saints RBs Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell vs. Patriots front seven. The Saints rank fifth in the league in rushing while the Patriots rank 15th against the run. If Thomas, who averages 5.6 yards per carry, and Bell, who gets 4.5 yards a pop, get going the Patriots could find them a tough 1-2 punch to contain because of the way Sean Payton alternates them.

INJURY IMPACT: RCB Tracy Porter will miss his second straight game against the New England Patriots with a sprained left medial collateral ligament.
--RCB Malcolm Jenkins will likely make his second straight start in place of Tracy Porter, who has a sprained MCL in his left knee.
--LCB Jabari Greer hopes to return Monday night after missing two games with a left groin injury.
--LCB Randall Gay could get the start if Greer still isn't ready to return. However, Gay is nursing a strained right hamstring as well.

PATRIOTS

The Patriots didn't have to deal with nearly as much pressure the second time around against the Jets as they did in the first game, and they benefitted from having more time to throw the ball, as evidenced by the final score (31-14).

With that said, expect the Saints to be more aggressive Monday night because it's become clear the Patriots can pick anyone apart when given enough time to develop plays. This will be a big test for the Patriots' banged-up offensive line, which may need help from the tight ends and running blocks in blitz pick-up.

The Patriots haven't had too many protection issues, but it'll be interesting to see what the Saints come up with after watching what the Jets failed to do last weekend.

GAME PLAN: This is the ultimate battle of wills. The Patriots will bring their high-powered offense to New Orleans and most likely exchange blows with the equally high-voltage Saints, who are threatening to shatter records set by the 2007 Patriots.

Can the Patriots realistically expect to shut down Drew Brees and this offense? Probably not, so the key to success will depend on what New England's offense does. The Saints aren't great defensively, but they're not porous either, so the Patriots should be able to move the chains.

This is the kind of game that could come down to who has the ball last, so there will be plenty of strategy involved, including field-position battles. Ultimately, this could play out like a chess match normally reserved for a low-scoring game, but with high-powered numbers.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Saints TE Jeremy Shockey vs. Patriots S Brandon Meriweather. Shockey is a tough, physical player who's not afraid to go over the middle and absorb punishment in the process. Whether or not Meriweather can deliver that punishment is debatable, but there's little doubt Shockey will be relied upon to soften the defense, so it's up to the Patriots to hit back and not waver.

Saints LB Jonathan Vilma vs. Patriots RB Laurence Maroney. The Patriots have had some success recently running the ball in the red zone, so the Saints will need to buckle down if the Patriots get inside the 20. Maroney has scored a touchdown in each of the last five games, so the Patriots aren't afraid to go to him in key spots, which means the Saints can't overload defensively on just one facet of New England's offense.

Patriots LB Jerod Mayo vs. Saints RB Reggie Bush. This is a matchup of speed vs. speed. Bush is a multi-faceted player who can hurt the Patriots in a number of ways, even as a wide receiver. The key is keeping someone on him at all times. Mayo should be that guy since he's arguably the fastest and most versatile on defense.

INJURY IMPACT: The Patriots would certainly benefit from Sammy Morris' return to the lineup if the veteran running back is available Monday night. This would add a little more versatility to the offense. However, the real key will be what happens up front if Matt Light and Stephen Neal can't play. Expect the Saints to be aggressive whether or not the Patriots are healthy, so it's imperative they have as many reliable bodies on the field as possible. A lack of protection could limit the Patriots' production offensively.


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