Saturday, October 25, 2014

Week 8: Packers vs. Saints Preview and Prediction

The 5-2 Green Bay Packers travel to N'awlins Sunday evening to take on the 2-4 Saints. Despite the records, the Saints are currently two-point favorites given that their two wins are at home this season, and generally the Saints do win at home. It's a tough place for opponents. Even for a team as hot as the Packers, who thoroughly demolished the Carolina Panthers last weekend at Lambeau.

We have to remember, though, that the Saints offense can put up a lot of points if given the chance. Oddsmakers apparently expect this to be a shootout in the Dome, establishing the over-under line at 55-1/2 points, the largest point total of this NFL weekend. One other stat of note for Packers fans is that historically the Packers do not do well the game before their bye week, which is the case with this game. Will the team be focused on football or a week away from football? We'll see.

We won't have to worry about the Packers offense, despite the Dome noise and the defense which the Saints will likely bring hard and often to put pressure on QB Aaron Rodgers. The best way to help offset that pressure will be to get the running game going. That means Eddie Lacy is going to have to have one of his better games of the season. And he's geared to do just that if you take him at his word. We don't know about RB James Starks' availability just yet as the injury list hasn't been put out at the time of this writing. With a good showing in last week's game, he had to leave late with an ankle injury. We think it's likely he's going to be listed as probable for the game, but if he can't go DuJuan Harris might be the main backup to Lacy. That would give the Packers a quickness and elusiveness that neither Lacy or Starks brings, particularly on artificial turf. We'll have to wait to see what shakes out.

Packers DB Davon House has been coming on strong since his injury last season.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

As for the Packers defense, it will likely be missing some key players. Datone Jones is already listed as out, with Morgan Burnett questionable and Sam Shields doubtful. If Burnett can't go, both Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Sean Richardson will get plenty of playing time. You hate to lose Burnett, but Packer fans certainly have to have confidence in the play of both Richardson and Clinton-Dix. From an area of weakness last season, the Packers have arguably assembled one of the best defensive backfields in the league at this point in the season. They are deep and talented. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Packers reporter par excellence, Bob McGinn, is actually proposing that the Pack trade one of their cornerbacks before the 3 p.m. Tuesday deadline...although he admits that's not Ted Thompson's M.O.)

The Packers defensive line will need to pressure Saints QB Drew Brees, not an easy thing to do. He's one of the elite quarterbacks in the game. He has plenty of tools in his offensive arsenal. It's unclear whether TE Jimmy Graham will play or how much. But if he does, he's exactly the type of tight end that gives Packers defenders fits: big, strong and with good hands. He's a coverage nightmare for defenders. Let's hope he stays on the bench.

The Prediction
I'm posting this preview and prediction a bit earlier than it may be subject to revision before game time.

But as of this moment, I see it this way: Packers 34 - Saints 30.

Go Pack Go!!!

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