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September

Packers vs. Saints: 5 Things to Watch in Green Bay’s Week 1 Matchup

By the time the dust had settled on the second half of a Monday night onslaught, the scoreboard at the Louisiana Superdome read as follows: Saints 51, visitors 28.

Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints had turned a 21-21 tie into an old fashioned blowout, scoring four touchdowns in the final 30 minutes of play against a Packers defense that had held up so well just a year before. Brees was deadly efficient that entire night in Novemeber 2008, completing 20-of-26 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns—two of which went for 70 yards.

The 51 points was the beginning of the end for both Packers defensive coordinator Bob Sanders, who was fired after the season, and the Packers playoff chances. After coming into the game 5-5, the Packers left New Orleans beaten and battered at 5-6, limping to a 6-10 finish in Aaron Rodgers’ first season under center.

While the mastermind behind that disastrous performance is gone, the memory of that debacle in New Orleans still remains fresh in the minds of most of the Packers defenders who suffered through that Monday night embarrassment.

Thursday night’s Packers vs. Saints opener doesn’t serve as a rematch, per se, but the Packers are determined to prove that their new defensive scheme under Dom Capers is more than capable of stopping a Saints’ offense that’s still led by Brees and still as explosive as it was in 2008, just a year before they were to become world champions.

Here are some other things to watch in the Saints-Packers matchup:

Dealing with the hoopla

With hosting the NFL’s season opening Thursday night game comes all the bells and whistles of a defending Super Bowl champion. It’s the only game on for the national audience, who by now is starving for regular season NFL action. There is the pregame concert, with Kid Rock and a number of other entertainers scheduled to perform in front of stadium. The Packers will unveil another championship year on Lambeau Field’s facade. Jordin Sparks will sing the National Anthem. There is a ton of fanfare and media reporting before and after the contest.

All this could lead to an overwhelmed team that’s just seven months removed from reaching the peak of the NFL. And of course, the Saints have been there and done that after winning the Super Bowl the year before the Packers. They played the Vikings last September in the Thursday night opener and beat Minnesota. That experience should give the Saints a definite advantage in terms of dealing with the spectacle of the game, right?