The Saints hosted the Detroit Lions at the Superdome last week and put them to the sword. An early defensive touchdown set the tone for the day, and soon the Lions were overwhelmed by a fiery Saints defense that belied its history to put in a crushing performance. Touchdowns from Kenny Vaccaro, Marshon Lattimore, and Cam Jordan kept the scoreboard moving and the Lions frustrated all day, and eventually the Saints ran out 52-38 winners.
Green Bay’s key divisional clash with the Minnesota Vikings went wrong almost immediately, as Aaron Rodgers scrambled right, fired a pass down field and then got crushed by Anthony Barr. The result was a broken collarbone and almost certainly the rest of the season on IR. The final score was almost inconsequential to the sight of Rodgers sitting on the cart getting taken off for x-rays. Backup Brett Hundley understandably struggled, throwing just 157 yards and three interceptions as the Packers fell 23-10.
Managing the backup
Hundley comes in with practice reps under his belt this week, which should have allowed Mike McCarthy to build a good game plan to manage his flaws. The Packers won’t get nearly the same spontaneous magic from Hundley, but he has shown to be capable during his preseason appearances. If McCarthy can add some wrinkles during the week and not ask him to throw 40 times to try and keep up with Drew Brees then they should be ok.
The two-headed beast
Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have been brilliant this season. Ingram has pounded out 4.2 yards a carry as the bell cow back, and Kamara’s change of pace has bee electric, picking up 6.3 yards a carry so far.
Both have been able to break big runs and have been useful in the passing game, taking 43 receptions on 58 targets. As much as the Saints offense still leans on the right arm of Drew Brees, their ability to run the ball and release backs on routes is vital to the functionality of the unit. If the Packers want to stymie the Saints, it starts with controlling Ingram and Kamara.
Can I get a blocker?
The Packers offensive line has been struck so severely with the injury bug that it’s a surprise they can still field five on Sunday. Jason Spriggs, Don Barclay, and Kyle Murphy are on IR, Bryan Bulaga is now in the concussion protocol while David Bakhtiari is struggling with a hamstring issue that took him out of last week’s game and Lane Taylor has a knee problem.
That’s six offensive linemen out or questionable to play. Including their top four options at tackle. Against the Saints defense that might not be too much of a problem, but Cam Jordan is playing very well this season and he could be set to feast on whoever the Packers manage to get onto the field on Sunday.
Key Matchup: Saints WR Michael Thomas vs ???
Along with all those offensive linemen on the injury report, the Packers trio of top corners are too. Kevin King is in the concussion protocol while Damarious Randall and Davon House are nursing lower body muscular problems.
There is an expectation that, after missing the Vikings game, King will be cleared and ready to face off against Thomas, but if not then they will have to hope Randall or House are ready to go at full speed against the Saints #1 guy. The thought of having to put Quinten Rollins or Josh Hawkins against Thomas is far from pleasant.
Fantasy Tip: Willie Snead, WR, New Orleans Saints
Snead missed the first three games due to suspension, and then only found the field last week before suffering a hamstring problem. He has just one catch to his name so far, but if he plays then he could well feast on the Packers focusing on the running game and Michael Thomas. Brees is never shy about spreading the ball around either.
Betting Tip: Saints (-4.5)
Rodgers has been so instrumental to the Packers scoring points that it’s nearly impossible to imagine them keeping up on Sunday without him. I think the Saints take this one by double-digits.
Prediction: Saints 36 – 24 Packers
It’s not that Rodgers has been great in the same way that, say, Tom Brady is great. Rodgers isn’t in the pocket slinging bombs around the field, because there is no pocket to work from in Green Bay. The offensive line has been such a mix of injuries and poor play that he has had to roll out and move with incredible regularity. Brett Hundley just cannot do that and maintain consistent accuracy to the same degree as Rodgers. Will be able to score points? Well, there is enough talent with Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson to think that they can, but not enough to think that an improving Saints defense and destructive Saints offense couldn’t easily handle them over 60 minutes.
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