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Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; The New Orleans Saints are an optical illusion; it just depends at which side of the picture you’re looking. One on hand, they’re a top-10 offense in any number of categories, like points per game (10th), first downs per game ...

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Old 10-24-2014, 11:15 PM   #1
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Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints are an optical illusion; it just depends at which side of the picture you’re looking.

One on hand, they’re a top-10 offense in any number of categories, like points per game (10th), first downs per game (1st), third-down percentage (4th), yards per play (1st), rushing DVOA (2nd) and yards per game (2nd).

On the flip side is a team tied for 29th in turnover differential with an average lead per offensive drive of negative-2.21 points and an offensive line that’s on track to give quarterback Drew Brees lasting nightmares.

It all adds up to a 2-4 record, disappointing for most teams, but a mass panic for a Saints franchise many expected to compete for a trip to the Super Bowl. The issues on defense are obvious – the best part about it is pass-rusher Junior Galette, cornerback Keenan Lewis and a run defense that’s about league average. Yet it’s Brees’ outfit that confounds most. The only time this season it looked truly dominant was a season-opening loss to the now-terrible Atlanta Falcons. Last week against the Detroit Lions, Brees finally rediscovered the Saints’ vertical passing game, only to throw the game away with a brutal interception under pressure in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.

That’s become a trend for Brees this season. He’s on pace for 19 picks, which would tie his total from 2012 – the infamous BountyGate season and the only time the Saints missed the playoffs since winning the Super Bowl in 2009. The issues start with Brees under constant duress. Although the Saints’ offensive line ranks second in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate, that’s largely due to Brees’ ability to get rid of the ball quickly enough to avoid taking the sack. The Saints’ starting guards, Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs, have been a particularly big concern. Last season, the duo of Evans and Grubbs combined to allow 32 quarterback hurries and just nine QB hits, per Pro Football Focus. This season, those numbers are up to 25 hurries and nine hits through just six games, a staggering pace of 67 combined hurries and 24 combined hits.

While Brees can deal with and evade edge pressure, his lack of height makes protection from the interior of the line crucial. Pressure up the A-gaps not only muddies his pocket but also blocks his throwing lanes, both of which happened prior to the crucial interception late against Detroit. It doesn’t help matters that Brees essentially starts almost every game knowing he has to account for a defense that’s allowing opponents 27.5 points per game, ahead of Carolina, Atlanta, St. Louis and Tampa Bay.

In the face of all this pressure, Brees and the Saints are still moving the ball and scoring points, as evidenced by their performance last week against the Lions. With tight end Jimmy Graham basically useless due to a shoulder injury, Brees utilized receivers Marques Colston and Kenny Stills far more and was able to push the ball down the field consistently for the first time all season. The Saints’ 335 passing yards, 408 total yards and 25 first downs were the most the Lions have surrendered in a game this season, while the 23 points were one shy of tying the season high.

Brees and several other Saints have said repeatedly this week that the offense is on the verge of breaking out and it’s not that crazy of a thought. Yes, Brees is still going to be pressured up the middle and he’s probably going to have to account for 26-27 points allowed all season, but Colston appears to be waking up from a brutal five-game stretch while Stills played a role for the first time all season. If that continues and Graham heals up, it could create room for Brandin Cooks to make the type of plays coach Sean Payton envisioned him making in training camp.

The pieces are there to overcome the flaws. It just depends which way you want to look at it.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

Perfect QBR (100) vs. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Many a sonnet could be written about Rodgers’ last month of football. Since the Packers lost to the Lions in Week 3, Rodgers has played better than any other quarterback in the league – and it’s not close. In three of those four weeks, Rodgers completed more than 70 percent of his passes, threw for at least three touchdowns (and no interceptions) and posted a QBR over 93. The other week, against the Dolphins’ underrated defense, Rodgers scuffled under constant pressure before leading the Packers to 10 points and a win in the game’s final 4:09. So, yeah. He’s really good. The interesting thing about Rodgers this season is how brutally efficient he’s been. He's on pace for just 482 attempts, which would be the lowest full-season total for him since 2010. He’s also throwing deep less, as evidenced by the fact that only 8.1 percent of his attempts this season are for 20-plus yards compared to 12.4 percent last season. Part of this is due Green Bay’s increased reliance on play-action (28.8 percent of Rodgers’ throws), but it’s the health of his receiving corps and the ability of those receivers to make plays after the catch – Jordy Nelson is third in the NFL in yards after the catch and Randall Cobb is 10th – that has made Rodgers so dangerous this season. It’s also no coincidence that Rodgers’ three best games of the season (Chicago, Minnesota, Carolina) have come against defenses that were unable to pressure him. That doesn’t bode well for a Saints defense that has the NFL’s third-worst pass-rush and second-worst pass defense, per PFF.

Saints CB Corey White vs. Packers WR Randall Cobb

This is the second straight week White has been the focus of a matchup to watch. Against the Lions last Sunday, White was one of the big reasons the Saints blew a 13-point lead in less than two minutes. The third-year corner allowed eight catches on nine targets for 148 yards and two touchdowns, including a horrendous misplay on a quick out by Golden Tate, which led to a rally-sparking 73-yard touchdown catch and run late in the fourth quarter. White’s job gets no easier against Cobb, a player who until last week had done much of his damage on broken plays and in short bursts. Matched up with a sorry Carolina secondary, Cobb caught six balls for 121 yards, 89 of which came after the catch. Cobb also scored and caused four missed tackles while lining up almost entirely from the slot – the same spot from which Tate scored and played the majority of his snaps. White likely won’t draw Cobb duty all night, but when he does, look for Rodgers and Cobb to exploit the matchup as much as possible.

Saints RB Mark Ingram vs. Packers DE Mike Daniels

The Saints couldn’t run the ball to save their season last Sunday against Detroit, but that’s hardly surprising given the caliber of the Lions’ defense. The job should get easier against Green Bay, which is allowing opposing running backs to gain 4.6 yards per carry, 147.9 yards per game and a league-worst 59 first downs on the ground. Ingram returned to the lineup last week after missing four weeks with a broken bone in his hand. He’ll have to carry the load for the Saints this week because Pierre Thomas isn’t expected to play and primary backup Khiry Robinson, who got most of the carries with Ingram sidelined, may also sit out due to a forearm injury. Daniels has been Green Bay’s best run defender and one of their best players on defense overall. The problem for Daniels is a second level that has been much maligned stopping the run, particularly linebackers A.J. Hawk, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. Last week, the Saints’ inability to pick up first downs on the ground cost them in the fourth quarter. On Sunday night, look for New Orleans to feature Ingram heavily to help keep Rodgers off the field while wearing down one of the league’s more vulnerable defenses on the ground.

Saints LB Junior Galette vs. Packers RT Bryan Bulaga

Both of these players rebounded last week, making this matchup all the more interesting. Bulaga played his best all-round game of the season against Carolina and allowed just one quarterback hurry, a marked improvement from the rough go he had against Cameron Wake in Miami. Galette isn’t on Wake’s level, but he’s the next best pure pass-rusher Bulaga’s seen this season. What makes this one intriguing is it’s very much a matchup of strength on strength. Bulaga is as talented as anyone on Green Bay’s line and if last week’s game is any indication, he appears healthy and physically able to dominate at the point of attack. Meanwhile, there’s no debating that Galette has become New Orleans’ best player on defense this season. Look for the Saints to try to mimic the Dolphins’ game plan against the Packers from two weeks ago. If Galette and defensive end Cameron Jordan can get after Rodgers the way Wake and Olivier Vernon did, it could go a long way to shutting down the NFL’s hottest offense.

Saints TE Jimmy Graham vs. Packers S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

The big question here is whether Graham will suit up and the answer is probably, although at what strength remains to be seen. Bothered by a sprained shoulder for going on three weeks now, Graham played just 30 snaps in last week’s loss to the Lions and saw a season-low two targets. Brees says Graham’s shoulder is healing up and it should be pointed out that Graham has succeeded in spite of injury throughout his brief NFL career several times, including a painful foot injury most of last season. At the very least, Graham should be a red zone threat for Brees, where he becomes an immediate problem given his basketball size and leaping ability. Expect the Packers to try to bracket him there, giving Graham the Tony Gonzalez treatment, so to speak. In between the 20s, Clinton-Dix will draw at least some of the assignment for slowing down Graham. The rookie safety had a rough start to the season before rounding into form the last few weeks. With veteran safety Morgan Burnett in doubt for Sunday night, it’ll be interesting to see whether the Packers continue to play Clinton-Dix as the single-high safety or whether they move him closer to the line of scrimmage to match up with Graham.

FINAL PREDICTION

Saints 31 – Packers 28

The Saints are an interesting matchup for the Packers. Outside of the Detroit game, New Orleans has run the ball well all season and a healthy Ingram should help sustain that, even if Robinson and/or Thomas sit out. Also, the injuries in Green Bay’s secondary – Burnett and top corner Sam Shields could both sit out – favor a Saints passing attack that appeared to finally gain some steam last week against one of the league’s better defenses. And then there’s the fact that the Packers have struggled to get the ground game going consistently all season. Of course, the Packers’ “NASCAR package” could create major havoc for the Saints’ beleaguered offensive line and Nelson, Cobb and rookie receive Davante Adams are a handful for any secondary, let alone this one. If Brees continues to attack vertically with Colston and Stills and Ingram can milk the clock and cornerback Keenan Lewis can at least limit Nelson, the Saints should be able to stay in it. Plus, New Orleans has won 13 straight primetime games at home and their season is actually, totally, 100 percent, seriously on the line this week. Call this one a hunch – possibly a very dumb hunch, but a hunch nonetheless.

Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints - NBC Sports | NBC Sports

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Old 10-25-2014, 01:59 AM   #2
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Re: Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints

Don't think the Saints win this one if I am taking my bias hat off. The pack are heating up and on a roll, and we do everything in our power to lose games. I see this being more on the embarrassing side of things (Cowboys game but at home).

This is a huge game for us. If we win then the season could be turned around, but going 2-5 with losing in the superdome... I can see Payton losing the locker-room if this one doesn't go well.

2-5 with your hardest stretch of games to come will be tough to pull the team out of the gutter.
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Old 10-25-2014, 08:04 AM   #3
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Re: Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints

Originally Posted by blackangold View Post
Don't think the Saints win this one if I am taking my bias hat off. The pack are heating up and on a roll, and we do everything in our power to lose games. I see this being more on the embarrassing side of things (Cowboys game but at home).

This is a huge game for us. If we win then the season could be turned around, but going 2-5 with losing in the superdome... I can see Payton losing the locker-room if this one doesn't go well.

2-5 with your hardest stretch of games to come will be tough to pull the team out of the gutter.
1-1 in the division.

Not even close to the gutter.
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Old 10-25-2014, 08:14 AM   #4
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Re: Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints

Originally Posted by blackangold View Post
Don't think the Saints win this one if I am taking my bias hat off. The pack are heating up and on a roll, and we do everything in our power to lose games. I see this being more on the embarrassing side of things (Cowboys game but at home).

This is a huge game for us. If we win then the season could be turned around, but going 2-5 with losing in the superdome... I can see Payton losing the locker-room if this one doesn't go well.

2-5 with your hardest stretch of games to come will be tough to pull the team out of the gutter.
I don't have a bias hat. Or own one. But I always go into the game KNOWING we CAN win.
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Old 10-25-2014, 08:44 AM   #5
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Re: Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints

'IF' the Saints play a COMPLETE game, there isn't a team they can't beat; and I know that if IF was a fifth we'd all be drunk!
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Old 10-25-2014, 09:04 AM   #6
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Re: Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints

2 - 5 here we come.
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Old 10-25-2014, 01:14 PM   #7
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Re: Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints

Tough match up with C White on R Cobb.
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