The New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints are currently both dealing with significant injuries. The defending world champions, for example, have lost two core wide receivers to injured reserve in the last few weeks and will likely miss two of their most important players against the Saints: wide receiver Danny Amendola and linebacker Dont'a Hightower.
The injuries which the Patriots' opponent has suffered recently are also potentially damaging. If the last two practice reports are any indication, the Saints will likely be without their starting offensive tackle pair: Both Terron Armstead (shoulder) and Zach Strief (knee) have been held out of practice this week and appear to be longshots to be ready on Sunday.
In their respective places, New Orleans is projected to start first round rookie Ryan Ramczyk on the left side with Bryce Harris on the opposite end of the offensive line. Both are obvious downgrades from the players whose spots they will fill: Ramczyk, who was drafted with the pick the Saints obtained in the Brandin Cooks-trade, started last week's game against the Minnesota Vikings as well.
While he was flashing his talent at times, he also showed some rookie growing pains. What Ramczyk lacks in experience, Harris lacks in playing time. The 28-year old did appear in 36 career games since entering the NFL in 2012 but has not played in a regular season or postseason contest since early in the 2015 season. He was released by the Saints on Monday week but brought back one day later in light of Strief's injury.
Playing against New Orleans' backup tackles certainly gives an advantage to the Patriots. While the team opted to go with their typical contain strategy against the mobile Alex Smith last week, the team will be more inclined to use a classic rush against pocket passer Drew Brees on Sunday. And even if Dont'a Hightower is indeed out, New England has some talent in this area.
Trey Flowers is the Patriots' undisputed top pass rusher while rookies Deatrich Wise Jr. and Adam Butler have looked good during summer and week one. When it comes to stopping the Saints' high-powered aerial attack, the young trio could therefore play a key role and it would not be a surprise to see them come up big. Frankly, they need to.