Sunday, October 22, 2017

2017 NFL Week 7: Packers vs Saints aka Week 1 of Life After Rodgers

We're in generally unfamiliar territory this weekend, Packers fans, and we will likely be so for the rest of this season: no more Aaron Rodgers. The horror...the horror...

Now we get to see how the other half lives. Or perhaps more accurately, how the other 75 percent of the NFL lives without a top-notch quarterback.

As football fans of every variety know, the Green Bay Packers QB was injured early in last week's loss at Minnesota. A broken right collarbone to make a bookend to the left collarbone broken several years ago. Rodgers was able to come back at the end of that season to help the Pack in the playoffs. This season? It's his throwing arm, folks. He just had surgery this past week, is on injured reserve for the next 8 weeks and all medical personnel are saying he can't begin throwing again for at least 6 weeks, which would coincide with the earliest he could begin practicing with the team because of his IR status. The likelihood of his returning this season is slim. And it would not only depend upon how quickly he is able to recover and regain his throwing ability but where the Packers would stand at the time in the playoff hunt.
Packers QB Brett Hundley got thrown in the deep end
at Minnesota last weekend after the early injury to
Aaron Rodgers. 
Today, he gets his first start
against the Saints.

(Photo: Jim Matthews/USATODAY NETWORK-Wi)

While now-starting QB Brett Hundley has been in the Packers' system for 3 years, has good size, arm strength and athletic ability, this will be his first NFL start today. Can 1 week of practice get him in sync with his receivers? Perhaps it's the case, likely the case, that he will be more so with the back up receivers and tight ends because those are the players he has worked with most. They may become his security blanket today and for a few games to come until he gets timing down with the starters.

Having said that, more than a few sports pundits, including Voice of the Packers Wayne Larrivee, have noted that despite whatever ability Hundley may bring to the position, his success is perhaps even more dependent upon those he has blocking for him. As Packer fans know all too well, the offensive line has been a MASH unit all season long. Today, it appears as both tackles will at least start the game; whether they are able to finish is another thing. There are injuries at every position on the line and having a consistent presence, having continuity in front of him, will be key to Hundley's success this season.

So will a running game. Particularly today, as the weather forecast calls for rain during the game, complicating the pass route timing, etc. Not ideal for one's first NFL start. But it is what it is. Of course that running game needs blockers, as we're back to the issue with health of the offensive line. The upcoming bye week certainly comes at a good time for that group.

The Saints defense isn't as strong as Minnesota's, so that will help some. Unfortunately 38-year-old Saints QB Drew Brees doesn't show any signs of slipping. The Saints offense is average a bit more than 29 points a game through the first 6 weeks of the season. Toss in the fact that he and the Saints have typically owned Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers over the years. With injuries in the defensive backfield for the Pack, trying to contain Brees and his receivers is going to be a huge challenge.

The Prediction

Given all the conditions that are present going into the game -- the weather, a young quarterback's first NFL start, injuries on the offensive line and in the defensive backfield for the Packers, and a someday-Hall-of-Fame QB on the opposite side of the field and Saints' schemes on both sides of the ball to give the Packers problems -- this is going to be a difficult game for the Pack, despite it being played at Lambeau Field. The oddsmakers have determined that the Saints are favored by 3.5 points at the time of this writing.

While we hope that the Packers rise to the occasion across the board, and we hope that Hundley rises to near Rodgers' level performance, we think we will see growing pains this weekend. Give him and the team the bye week and another week to come together and things may be back to close to normal...or as close as they can be until Rodgers is able to return, whether this season or next.

We're calling this one Saints 31 - Packers 17.

Go Pack Go!!! Make us wrong today!