New Orleans Saints vs. Green Bay Packers: Brutally Honest Preview

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Now that the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints have combined for only one win in a total of six games, it almost makes you believe that the league has some kind of vendetta against them.

Because of Bounty-Gate, the Saints (0-3) are without key defenders and their head coach Sean Payton which has them reeling at the end of close games. Meanwhile the Packers (1-2) are on the wrong side of a .5oo record due to the replacement refs’ blunder on Monday Night Football.

For these reasons, the match-up on Sunday is pretty much a must-win if either team wants to make the playoffs.



New Orleans Saints (0-3) Analysis:
Everything about this Saints team is worse than it was before. On the offensive side, the biggest difference is in the run game. In 2011, New Orleans averaged 132.9 rushing yards per game which was good for 6th in the league. This year, 92.7 yards per game, all the way down to 22nd in the league. Part of it has been falling behind in games, but it’s also been the offensive line who also has allowed more pressure to get to QB Drew Brees. The running back trio of Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram are way too talented to not let them make an impact. Look for the Saints to establish the run against the Pack.

Defensively, the Saints are in a big heap of trouble. Not only have they struggled through three games (league worst 477.3 yards per game), they will be without linebackers David Hawthorne and Jonathan Cassillas (former Badgers standout, but I digress) as well as defensive end Turk McBride. Even without the injuries, the Saints new defensive front under Steve Spagnuolo has failed to be successful at any kind of blitz scheme. That means more time for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers anxious offense to get going. It could be another long day for this unit at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

Green Bay Packers (1-2) Analysis: By 2011’s standards, the Packers offense in 2012 has been an utter disappointment. However, it has to be noted that the Packers have played some of the league’s better defenses; Seattle (4th in total defense), Chicago (6th) and San Francisco (11th). In the second half of the Seahawks game, a half in which Green Bay dominated, they balanced the running attack by giving Cedric Benson 15 of his 17 carries. Look for Benson to get going early against the Saints who have been downright dreadful against opposing backs (did you see Jamaal Charles last week?). That will set up the play-action pass for Rodgers who should have all day to find Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson down the field.

I talked about all the defensive stalwarts the Packers have faced, but they haven’t looked too bad their-selves. In fact, they rank third behind only the Cowboys and Texans while allowing an impressive 261.0 yards per game. Not bad for Dom Capers’ crew who at times have five rookies on the field. This is a unit who will only get better as the season goes on. They have their work cut out for them on Sunday as they look to stop quarterback Drew Brees and his dangerous weapons. The Saints defense may be really bad, but the offense is still one of the best around. Look for Clay Matthews to wreak havoc on a under-performing offensive line for New Orleans and improve upon his league-lead six sacks.

Prediction: Green Bay Packers 38 New Orleans Saints 24

With the replacement refs gone, it will be nice to finally see a Packers game with more fluidity to it. I’m also expecting Rodgers and company to offer a similar fluidity with the offense as it’s been very up and down so far this season. The Saints are the perfect opponent to help the Packers increase their confidence on that side of the ball. If the defense is indeed able to hold the dangerous Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense to under 30 points, it will be a success. If this game was in the dome in New Orleans, I would consider a different result, but in front of an angry crowd at Lambeau Field, the Packers have to roll, they just have to.

TV Coverage: FOX at 3:25 CT with Joe Buck (play-by-play) and Troy Aikman (color) on the call and Pam Oliver reporting from the sidelines.

Betting Lines: Packers favored by 7.5 points and over/under set at 53 points.

2012 Record straight up: 1-2

2012 Record against the spread: 0-3

2012 Record in over/under: 2-1

What will you be looking for in the match-up between the Packers and the Saints? Does the loser of this game for sure miss out on the playoffs? Let me know by commenting below!

Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice and pretend to be a Golf expert from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best. If social media is not your thing, shoot him an email at grays@uwalumni.com.

Pictures:

Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees (sportsworldreport.com)

Darren Sproles (mysanantonio.com)

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