28

September

2012 NFL Regular Season Week 4: Packers vs Saints Preview

Aaron Rodgers

Will Aaron Rodgers finally get it going against the Saints?

As tough as it is, we need to move on and get back to legitimate football.

After the Green Bay Packers “loss” to fall to 1-2 against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night, the Packers somehow must regroup and play the New Orleans Saints Sunday at Lambeau Field.  The Saints enter the game a somewhat surprising 0-3 on the season.   With the loss of head coach Sean Payton for the entire season thanks to the Bountygate scandal, the Saints seem to be a team without a direction.

The Packers “lost” to the Seahawks 14-12 on perhaps the most controversial call in NFL history. With the regular referees back on the field, the officiating hopefully won’t be something the Packers need to keep an eye on.  The Packers defense kept the team in the game after the offense once again sputtered, mainly in the first half when Aaron Rodgers was sacked eight times.

The Saints enter the game after losing on a last minute kick at home to the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24.   They currently have the worst defense in the league, giving up a whopping 477 yards per game and 216 on the ground.  On top of that, quarterback Drew Brees seems to be struggling without Payton calling the plays.  Brees has thrown seven touchdowns in three games but also has five interceptions.

Both teams had incredibly potent offenses in 2011 but seem to be lacking the same explosiveness in 2012.  Is this the game both offenses break out of their shells?

Scouting the Saints

This was expected by many to be a marquee game this week but thanks to the Packers’ offensive issues and the Saints struggles overall, this matchup seems to be more of an enigma than expected.

Don’t let the stats fool you, however. Brees is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league and has a strong group of wide receivers.  Devery Henderson and Marques Colston are a lethal tandem that will present the young but talented Packers secondary.

Pierre Thomas is a decent running back for the Saints but the even bigger threat in the backfield is Darren Sproles. If Brees for some reason can’t connect with his wide receivers, he has another potent weapon in the screen game with the speedy Sproles.  He’s been known to break a short dump-off into a big gain including taking the ball all the way to the end zone.

8

September

2011 NFL Week One: Packers vs Saints Preview: The Saints Go Marching In….And Crawling Back Out

Absurdly long lockout: over.

An abbreviated free agency period: completed.

A preseason that dragged on longer than War and Peace: finished

It is time.  IT. IS. TIME……for Green Bay Packers regular season football.

The last time the Packers played a game of any meaning was that game against the Steelers in February.  For just over seven months, the Packers have been the reigning Super Bowl champions.

After the opening kickoff against the New Orleans Saints on national television, the reigning ends and the defending begins. It has been said by players on teams lucky enough to win back-to-back Super Bowls that the only thing tougher than chasing the crown is defending it.

The Packers’ opponent ought to know.

Last season, the then-defending champion Saints got off to a sluggish 4-3 start and never were able to catch the Atlanta Falcons for the NFC South title.  Instead they had to settle for a wild card and a trip to the 7-9 NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks where they were defeated 41-36 and done in by a bruising Marshawn Lynch touchdown run.

Like the Packers’ Super Bowl triumph, the disappointing end to the Saints’ season is a thing of the past.  The slate is clean and everyone for one week has the same record.

Let’s take a look at New Orleans.

Breaking down the Saints

As defending champions, the Packers don’t ease into their regular season schedule.  Instead they face team they could very well meet again in January for a trip to Super Bowl XLVI.

When discussing the New Orleans Saints, you have to begin with Drew Brees.  The calm and cool leader of the Saints offense is one of the most lethal quarterbacks in the game.  He isn’t as mobile as the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers but he is about as accurate and throws a pretty good deep ball.

While he doesn’t have the buffet of weapons that Rodgers does in the receiving corps, Brees still has chemistry with his playmakers.  With Marques Colston leading the way and Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem on the other side, Brees has a variety of targets to choose from.  With a creative play caller in head coach Sean Payton, the Saints passing attack rivals the Packers in terms of overall deadliness.  Throw in new stud TE Jimmy Graham and it’s almost like a mirror image of the Packers.

7

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?