Chiefs Patriots Football

New England Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks watches play from the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Michael Dwyer

WHEN: Noon Sunday

WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome


RADIO: WWL-AM, 870; WWL-FM, 105.3 in New Orleans; KMDL-FM, 97.3 in Lafayette; WDGL-FM, 98.1 in Baton Rouge; en español, WGSO-AM, 990

2017 RECORDS: New England 0-1; New Orleans 0-1

COACHES: Saints, Sean Payton, 11th season, 94-67; Patriots, Bill Belichick, 18th season, 201-72 (23rd season, 237-116 overall)


LAST WEEK: Amid a rising bubble of hype that another run at an undefeated season was possible, New England stumbled right out of the gate, unable to keep up with Kansas City in a 42-27 loss on the same night the Patriots officially their Super Bowl LI banner. 

OFFENSE: Ageless wonder Tom Brady looked a little off his game in the opener, completing just 16 of 36 passes for 267 yards and failing to throw a touchdown pass, but he's still dangerous at 40. New England also does an incredible job of highlighting the strengths and minimizing the weaknesses of the weapons around Brady, and that means a lot of different skill players see the field. Chief among those weapons is Brandin Cooks, the speedster New Orleans traded for a first-round draft pick this offseason, coming off of a three-catch, 88-yard performance against the Chiefs. New Orleans may be able to focus on Cooks, because the Patriots are thin at receiver after injuries to Julian Edelman (ACL), Danny Amendola (concussion) and Malcolm Mitchell (knee). Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett are burners, but the Patriots don't have the slot receiver Brady has always used so well. Rob Gronkowski remains a devastating big-play threat at tight end. At running back, Mike Gillislee is the short-yardage specialist, James White the third-down type and Rex Burkhead an all-around threat. Kansas City sacked Brady three times and hit him six more times, led by Justin Houston against right tackle Marcus Cannon.

DEFENSE: An awful lot hinges on whether or not Dont'a Hightower, who reportedly suffered a minor ACL sprain against the Chiefs, is able to play Sunday against the Saints. Hightower, who is lining up on the line of scrimmage this year, is a powerful player capable of playing a versatile role, and he's the heart and soul of a New England front seven that has very little proven among the rest of the players available. Defensive end Trey Flowers, who had two sacks against the Chiefs, is an up-and-coming edge rusher, but the Patriots struggled to get consistent pressure on Alex Smith or contain Kareem Hunt, who rolled to 148 yards on the ground. In the secondary, free safety Devin McCourty is an All-Pro-caliber player, but the rest of the group is still growing behind him. New England had two major coverage busts against the Chiefs, including one that involved highly regarded cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who is a powerful player at the line but isn't as quick as other defenders. Malcolm Butler is tenacious on the other side, but the Patriots defense is coming off of a terrible performance that yielded 537 yards to the Chiefs. 

SPECIAL TEAMS: Veteran kicker Stephen Gostkowski remains one of the best in the league, and former Louisiana Tech punter Ryan Allen has a leg strong enough to flip the field. With Amendola likely unavailable because of injury, running back Dion Lewis, who returned three kicks against Kansas City, may also handle punt return duties.

Follow Joel A. Erickson on Twitter, @JoelAErickson.