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Unconventional Preview: Patriots-Saints

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  October 10, 2013 07:44 PM

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His days as a collegiate "star" in another sport are part of his burgeoning legend, but have no doubt, Jimmy Graham is much better at catching a football than shooting a basketball. The Saints tight end was a decent college basketball player -- he averaged 4.2 points per game in four seasons at Miami. But his true athletic calling has come in the NFL, where he's becme as good as it gets at tight end, leading the NFL in receiving yards (583) while ranking second in touchdowns (6) and third in receptions (37). Actually, let me modify that "as good as it gets" part, because that's where my grievance comes in. Graham is a brilliant pass-catcher, virtually unstoppable, an extraordinary combination of height (6 feet 7 inches) and range. But as an all-around tight end, he is not close to a healthy Rob Gronkowski, and I hate that I'm really beginning to wonder when or if we'll see a completely healthy Gronk at the height of his powers again. I'll take that guy over Jimmy Graham every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Chuck Muncie, who apparently knew a thing or two about fashionable eye-wear long before Dwyane Wade and friends made it a goofy NBA trend, was actually my second choice here. But I just couldn't seem to find a card of Guido Merkens, who I wanted for this spot because, you know, his name is Guido Merkens. So Muncie it is. Chosen third overall in 1976 -- two spots before the Patriots chose Mike Haynes -- he's evidence that that the narrative that Manning never had any talent around him isn't entirely true. Muncie ran for 1,198 yards and 11 touchdowns in '79, when the Saints offense also featured Manning, third-down back Tony Galbreath, and receiver Wes Chandler. Traded to San Diego, his career was derailed by drug problems, as detailed in former teammate Don Reese's 1982 cocaine tell-all to Sports Illustrated. He eventually turned his life around, becoming a counselor for troubled youth, before dying of a heart attack in May at 60.

The Saints are ninth in the NFL in scoring, averaging 26.8 points per game. The Patriots, as unfathomable as would have seemed not that long ago, are 24th at 19 ppg. That sounds like the vicinity of the final score to me. Saints 27, Patriots 20

(Last week's prediction: Patriots 24, Bengals 21. Final score: Bengals 13, Patriots 6. Season record: 3-2.)

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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