The Place for Packer Fans With Dave Sinykin: Packers Near Perfect StartPosted:Sep 25th, 2020 2:07 am
OK, there are two ways to read that headline.
On one hand, the Packers are off to a near perfect start, with an offense that's in midseason form and a defense that seems to right itself after giving up points early. But now they have to head to the Superdome, where they haven't won in 25 years.
As for the Saints, they're a perfect 10-0 at home on Sunday Night Football with Sean Payton and Drew Brees and they're 9-3 together following a prime time loss. On a short week, with a couple of key injuries, maybe it's time for those streaks to end.
One thing's for sure: we'll learn a lot about these Packers on Sunday night. This is an opponent with similar stars in their eyes, one with an aging quarterback and a Super Bowl window starting to close. They're coming off a poor performance in Las Vegas, one where that future Hall of Famer behind center looked like he's about ready to spend his Sundays eating beignets with his family. His defense got shredded on third downs and in the red zone against a mediocre offense.
I hate to face a team that's coming off a bad prime time performance, because you know you will get an angry, focused team that is looking to show the world that that was an aberration. There is no question that Brees looks like a shell of his former self, jittery in the pocket and unwilling or unable to throw the ball downfield. The end can come quickly for 40-something QBs and it looks to be near for Brees.
But he can still dink and dunk with the best of them, if he has time. The Saints' offensive line is solid and you rarely see Brees on his back. He's making a living throwing to his backs and tight ends these days, especially with his star receiver sidelined. It looks like Michael Thomas will miss this game, he's still not practicing while dealing with a high ankle sprain.
That game plan will likely stress Mike Pettine's defense, whose strength in coverage is on the outside with Alexander and King. His unit will need a big night out of slot corner Chandon Sullivan and the linebackers who will be tasked with trying to corral Alvin Kamara.
Obviously, Aaron Rodgers and company won't have to deal with 'Who Dat' nation on Sunday night, but the Superdome has been a house of horrors for the Pack over the years. This needs to be a night to let Aaron Jones do his thing, especially if Davante Adams is unable to go. We've gotten mixed signals on #17: Matt LaFleur said Adams was lobbying to get back in the game last week after tweaking a hamstring. Yet, he hasn't practiced all week. I assume they'll be extra cautious here, but they could sure use him against a group that rushes the passer a lot better than the Pack's first two opponents.
The Saints are led by Cam Jordan, who will have an edge over RT Rick Wagner, even if Wagner has gotten off to a solid start. That's a battle to watch closely. The Saints are a little banged up on the other side. Marcus Davenport just returned to practice on Thursday after injuring his elbow early in camp. He may or may not be ready; his backup, Trey Hendrickson, is dealing with a groin.
The Saints are also much more solid on the back end than the Vikes and Lions, featuring veteran corners Malcom and Janoris Jenkins and Marshon Lattimore--a good test for Lazard and MVS. Where they really struggled Monday night was dealing with Raiders tight end Darren Waller. But if you've been watching the Pack you know they don't have a tight end that can take advantage of that matchup.
Rodgers has looked refreshed, confident and in rhythm through two weeks. It will be interesting to see if that continues or if we see him holding onto the ball, extending plays waiting for someone to get open against the Saints tough secondary. I expect LaFleur to continue to run lots of misdirection and jet sweeps to try to keep them off balance. It's not easy to run on the Saints so LaFleur may need to dive deep into his playbook to keep them guessing.
The good news is that Kenny Clark returned to practice on Thursday and if he's able to go it completely changes the look of the defense and provides some hope that the run defense will be solid. But Kamara is dangerous all over the field, with speed to get to the sidelines and as dangerous a receiver out of the backfield as there is in the league.
Maybe the end is near for this version of the Saints. Maybe the Taysom Hill era or the Jameis Winston era will begin at some point this season. My hunch is that Brees and Payton will use all this noise about the QB's diminished abilities as a challenge. At home in prime time, they've been unbeatable. It will take a near perfect Packer effort to take them down.
Saints 30 Packers 28