Saturday, October 25, 2014

NFL Preview: Green Bay Packers Vs. New Orleans Saints

Sunday, the Green Bay Packers travel down south to take on the New Orleans Saints in a primetime matchup that is sure to provide all the drama of a shoot out. The main matchup that everyone will be watching will be the quarterback duo of Aaron Rodgers vs. Drew Brees. Head to head Rodgers is 2-1 against Brees and has out-dueled him in every matchup besides the loss; a 2008 matchup in New Orleans during Rodgers first year as starter. Rodgers has grown into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL since the debacle in the dome. Rodgers actually comes into the game with 1 interception, and hasn't thrown one since week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks. From an efficiency standpoint this could be Rodgers best season thus far. And it should only get better on Sunday. The Saints have the leagues last ranked pass defense.

It's a matchup that has to have Rodgers and the offense foaming at the mouth. Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Randall Cobb have all stepped up their game during the Packers recent four-game win streak. The trio of receivers could be the best the in the NFL at the moment, and could be a nightmare for the Saints weakened secondary. The Saints could also put much emphasis on stopping the pass, and forget about the Packers talented run game. Eddie Lacy has ran much better during the recent win streak, but still has a lot to improve on. This could be a game in his home state where he can show America that he isn't experiencing the sophomore slump. Apart of it seems to be lack of holes for the second year running back. He is breaking 3 tackles each run, but he's just at the line of scrimmage due to lack of holes opening up. The Packers offensive line could push around the Saints defensive line if they're on their game. And if Lacy doesn't get it going? James Starks will be ready to go. Starks and Lacy make a great tandem that could prove to be too much for the Saints inept defense. But can the Packers defense quiet Drew Brees and his explosive offense?

The past few years the Saints have reminded me a lot of the Packers. Top offense, but weak defense. This season however it seems that the Packers defense has turned a corner. The secondary is finally playing up to its potential. Sam Shields will most likely miss his second game due to a knee injury suffered in week 5. Shields being out shouldn't hinder things that much though. The secondary held their own against Cam Newton last week, but Brees is definitely a cut above Newton at this point. Brees has many weapons at wide receiver that include Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks, and Kenny Stills, but it's not the receivers the Packers should be worried about. Elite tight-end Jimmy Graham poses the biggest threat to the Packers defense. Historically tight-end's have always been a problem for Dom Capers defense in Green Bay.

The middle of the field will be tested, and that's where the Packers are at their weakest. Inside linebackers AJ Hawk and Jamari Lattimore lack the speed and coverage skills to keep up with Graham's talents. They're going to have to find a way to take Graham away from Brees. Pressure on Brees will be a key component in stopping this potent offense. Forcing the Saints to run the ball will be another big key to victory for the Packers. But in the intense atmosphere of the Super Dome it may spell the end of the Packers four-game win streak.

In the end I think the Packers offense will hold their own, and compete in a shootout with the Saints. But the Saints being, at home, a desperate team may be far too much for the Packers to handle  on defense. Brees and the Saints will run away with this game late, but it won't spell doom for the Packers season. You can't win them all, and it doesn't seem like the Packers will pull this one out.

AJ's Prediction:

Packers: 31

Saints: 42

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