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Preview: Packers vs. Saints

Here are four big questions heading into tonight’s game between Green Bay and New Orleans:

1) How good is the Packers’ offense?

Ask me again in about 24 hours. After taking full advantage of inexperienced and injury-depleted defenses the first two weeks, Aaron Rodgers and company will be facing a much tougher test on Sunday night. The Saints, along with a pretty good pass rush led by Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport, boast arguably the best trio of cornerbacks in the league. It’s safe to assume there won’t be as many wide receivers running free this week, even if Davante Adams (doubtful/hamstring) somehow manages to play. As coach Jon Gruden and the Raiders showed last Monday night, the best way to attack the Saints is by pounding the rock. Whether the offense struggles to score 25 points or goes over 40 for a third straight week will likely depend on the effectiveness of Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and maybe even rookie AJ Dillon.

2) How much will the Saints miss Michael Thomas?

A lot. As much as Rodgers depends on Adams, Drew Brees relies even more on Thomas. In 12 games last season, the future Hall of Fame quarterback targeted the All-Pro wide receiver 138 times, and even though every person in the stadium knew exactly what was coming, the dynamic duo still combined for huge numbers (114 catches for 1,244 yards and 6 TDs. Just as importantly, Mike Pettine will now be able to focus even more attention on running back Alvin Kamara, whose unique all-around skills have caused far better coordinators to look befuddled. Along with Kamara, expect coach Sean Payton to make slot receiver Emmanuel Sanders (4 catches) and tight end Jared Cook (7 catches) bigger parts of the game plan. Both veterans could have advantageous matchups against nickel back Chandon Sullivan and safety Adrian Amos.

3) Should Billy Turner start if his knee is 100%?

There are nearly $30 million reasons why he’ll probably return to the starting lineup on Sunday night, but there’s one reason why he shouldn’t – the offensive line has been just fine without him. Rick Wagner has done a solid job at right tackle, and Lucas Patrick has allowed only three hurries and no sacks in 97 snaps at both guard spots. For the sake of comparison, Turner gave up 39 hurries and 10 sacks at right guard in 2019. There’s certainly a chance Wagner will wear down over time, and the athletically-challenged Patrick will get exposed the more he plays, but until that happens, why mess with a good thing? In the meantime, Turner would provide depth at four of the five positions on the line, albeit very expensive depth ($8.1M cap number).

4) Who’s going to win?

Sunday night will be the first time since the middle of last season when the Packers won’t have an advantage on the injury report (unless Adams plays), but at least they won’t be at a disadvantage when it comes to the locale. The Superdome is usually one of the most difficult places to play for a visiting team, but that won’t be the case for the Packers. Running an offense is a lot easier when 75,000 screaming fans are replaced by 750 family members and some fake noise.

The Saints scored 95 points in their last two meetings with the Packers in New Orleans. In both games, Brees had way too much time to throw, and then defensive coordinators Bob Sanders and Dom Capers had no answers for Payton’s creative schemes. Sanders and Capers are long gone, but it’s more than fair to wonder if things will be any different with Pettine. If they aren’t, even the high-powered Packers’ offense will be hard-pressed to score enough points to win – a task that would be even more difficult without Adams.

With no Thomas on the field and only 750 fans in the stands, what looked to be a likely loss in the spring is now a toss-up. Taking the 3.5 points is a no-brainer, but will the Packers actually win the game? I’m not sure, but I ain’t going against a red-hot Rodgers. GREEN BAY 34-30 (Season: 2-0 straight-up/1-1 vs. the spread)

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3 Responses “Preview: Packers vs. Saints”

  1. Bryan
    09/27/2020 at 12:17 pm

    Even with the presence of Sanders and Kamara, I think the loss of Thomas is a bigger deal than the loss of Adams will be for GB. Brees looks rough, and Payton has to be thinking about Hill/Winston if Brees continues to struggle throwing downfield.

    The saints very well could win the game but I don’t understand how they are 3.5 point favorites without Thomas.

  2. Tom Moshier
    09/27/2020 at 2:04 pm

    This game comes down to Brees. Will we see the Drew Brees of yesteryear? Or will we see 41 yr old Drew Brees who very much looked his age against the Raiders.

    For packer fan’s advocating for Aaron Rodgers to still be our QB 5 yrs from now when 12 is in his 40’s. I say watch Brees and Brady play this year and then ask yourself this: Do I still want a 40 something QB or a young, ascending player (possibly Love) playing the most important position on your football team? For me, the answer is clear….

  3. Michael Rodney
    09/27/2020 at 3:12 pm

    Brady won a Super Bowl in his 40s, and Brees was very good last season. Protect our 12 and give him weapons, and I’ll gladly take him for another 4 or 5 seasons.

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About Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for close to 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2006. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.