Why Sunday's Game Is the Most Important Game of the Year

I realize that there's a large portion of the Packers' fan base that has given up on the season. But if you're reading this, you're either a fan who is interested to watch this team compete in the face of adversity, or you're a Vikings troll.

Until the Packers announce that Rodgers is lost for the season, we can hold on to the hope that if the Pack can remain competitive with Hundley behind the wheel, we can dream that Rodgers could make a triumphant December return and take command of his team down the stretch.

If Rodgers is out till 2018, count me among those who realizes the Super Bowl dream is dead, but I'm interested to see how Hundley performs, three years into his tutelage under McCarthy and Rodgers. I'm also curious to see how the players around him handle their new 2017 reality.

Make no mistake, this week's game will be this season's pivot point as the team heads into its bye week. I understand that the team will play two key divisional games after the break, but with a couple of weeks to catch their breath, get healthier and have enough time to process and tweak the game plan both offensively and defensively, I think the team will be prepared to deal with the season's second half.

But first there's this Saints game against a team that's found its footing after an ugly 0-2 start, winners of three straight and sporting a defense that found the end zone multiple times against the Lions. Sean Payton has feasted on the Pack in recent years, averaging 38 points a game (with more success at home, however) and the Saints will come to Lambeau smelling blood.

Brett Hundley will make his first start and at this point there's no reason to believe that the three starters on the offensive line who dropped out against the Vikings will be ready to play in this game. If that's the case, the Pack will be down six of the nine linemen they started the season with. It will completely alter what McCarthy wants to do offensively and force him to make sure that Cam Jordan isn't in the Pack's backfield all day.

On the other side of the ball, this is a time the defense needs to rise up, something this unit has done in key spots in recent years. But they will need to get healthier at cornerback to deal with Drew Brees. If House and King return, the defense would be close to healthy and have no excuses. If they miss another game, along with Rollins on IR, the trio of Randall, Hawkins and Pipkins will be in over their head. The pass rush must improve against an immobile Brees. The inability to get to Case Keenum was the second most disappointing aspect development last Sunday (granted, it was a distant second).

If the Pack can find a way to beat the Saints on Sunday, they go into their bye at 5-2, still unbeaten at home, filled with confidence and still firmly in the NFC North picture. A loss drops them to 4-3 and there will be a lot of question marks as the team looks to pick up the pieces and prepare for the Lions and Bears the next two weeks.

If the line can get healthy, I believe Hundley can lead this offense effectively, especially at home. But I doubt the tackles will be ready this Sunday, which will make his job infinitely tougher. A win this Sunday will give us some hope that this team, still unbeaten at home, is ready to fight to hang on to their title. A loss will sap their confidence and reduce their margin for error over the last nine games.

This Sunday's Saints game is the most important game of the year.


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