Sunday night sees the Green Bay Packers visit the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to take on the New Orleans Saints in prime time. As usual the oddsmakers put both franchises amongst the top contenders in the NFC, however, the Saints at 1-1 have yet to get their offense firing on all cylinders.
It is a different story for the 2-0 Packers, however, as they have put up over 40 points in each of their first two games. So far it appears that the Packers have become more used to second year Head Coach, Matt LaFleur’s offense, compared to last season.
Last time out
Despite Drew Brees throwing for 312 yards and Alvin Kamara’s 79 rushing yards (174 total scrimmage yards) they weren’t able to overcome the Raiders and find themselves ranked 22nd in the NFL in total offense.
A big factor in this defeat was the Saints’ inability to stop Raiders tight-end, Darren Waller. He finished with 105 yards and a touchdown from 12 receptions. Waller was Derek Carr’s go-to receiver as far as moving the chains goes. It remains to be seen whether Packers tight-end duo, Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis can have anywhere near the same impact tonight.
The Packers had a far better time of it, defeating the Detroit Lions 42-21 last Sunday, despite going down 14-3 early in the match. After that bad start the Packers came into the game as their defense held the Lions scoreless in the second and third quarters, while running-back Aaron Jones ran riot, finishing with 168 yards rushing and two rush TD’s from just 18 carries.
Jones was also top receiver for the Packers with 68 yards, and a further receiving TD from four catches. Aaron Rodgers threw for 240 yards and two TD’s.
Jones, the NFL leader in rush yards (234), will want to continue his fine form so far. With the Packers leading the league in rushing, second in overall offense, and seventh in passing, dare we say Aaron Jones will be just as pivotal as Aaron Rodgers to the Packers’ Superbowl chances this season?
Two quarterbacks in their twilight?
For 41-year-old Brees, this will be an opportunity to knock off an NFC contender early and prove to any doubters that there are no signs of decline.
Brees finds himself near the bottom of the table in passing yards (472) with only Tom Brady (456) and Mitchell Trubisky (432) propping him up. However, it is far too early for this writer to consider writing off the all-time leader in passing yards and TD’s.
Brees’ main target, Michael Thomas, has been ruled out of this game after also missing out last week due to an ankle injury. Thomas contributed 1,725 receiving yards to lead the NFL last season. This could be a very valid reason for Brees’ low production so far.
Rodgers has had a decent start to the season, throwing for 604 yards, six TD’s and in typical Rodgers fashion, no interceptions. With a passer rating of 119.4, Rodgers has been efficient with the ball and is clearly more in tune with LaFleur’s offensive scheme, compared to last year.
The Packers though could also be without their top receiver, Davante Adams. After a big 156-yard performance in week one he picked up a hamstring injury last week. If Adams does miss out the Packers look better equipped to cope with losing their star receiver than the Saints.
The Packers spread the ball out to Marques Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard last week, whereas the Saints relied on Tre’Quan Smith (86 yards) with their next best receiver after him, former Packer Ty Montgomery, only posting 25 yards.
Both offenses though sport running-backs in Kamara and Jones who can make an impact on the passing game when needed.
Both defenses find themselves ranked in the Top 10 so far, albeit quietly. However, this game will produce points, with or without Thomas and Adams.
It is only week three but, in an NFC, packed with contenders the Saints will not want to fall to 1-2 in a division where Tom Brady now resides. The Packers will want to keep their unbeaten start to keep pace in the NFC with the likes of the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams.
Final Score: Packers 38 – Saints 20