Packers vs. Saints preview: Predictions, 5 things to watch
TEAMS: Green Bay Packers (4-2) vs. New Orleans Saints (3-2).
WHEN: Noon Sunday.
WHERE: Lambeau Field.
RADIO: AM-620 in Milwaukee, AM-1360 in Green Bay; Packers Radio Network.
SERIES: Packers lead, 16-8.
LINE: Saints by 6½.
WEATHER: Low 60s, chance of rain.
SURFACE: DD GrassMaster.
COACHES: Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy (128-71-1) vs. New Orleans' Sean Payton (118-63-1).
LIVE GAME BLOG: Join Tom Silverstein for analysis and lively discussion during the game.
NFL: Live scoreboard, box scores
ROSTERS, STATS: Packers | Saints
5 THINGS TO WATCH
1. Step by step: There’s no way quarterback Brett Hundley will be able to make all the changes at the line of scrimmage that Aaron Rodgers did, so players are going to have to be patient and follow his lead. “Aaron can cover a lot of things up,” receiver Jordy Nelson said. “He knows the playbook in and out. He knows the defenses in and out. He knows what he wants. So, if something doesn’t sound right, it triggers in his head, and he can change it to what he wants.” Hundley knows many of the same things, but they won’t come to mind as fast and so don’t be surprised if there’s less no-huddle and fewer run-pass option plays.
2. Keeping up with Jones: The injuries in the secondary have not helped the development of rookie safety/linebacker Josh Jones. The coaches had a lot of plans for Jones, but with safeties having to play cornerback and cornerbacks rotating in and out, they’ve had to stay basic. It means when Jones has been in the game, he has had to play a standard linebacker position. “It’s probably not a position where he can be as effective and he can be the playmaker we want him to be and he wants to be,” inside linebackers coach Scott McCurley said. “But that stuff will come.” The likely return of Kevin King and possible return of Davon House should allow Jones to be turned loose more against the Saints.
3. Right on the Mark: The trade of Adrian Peterson to Arizona has returned Mark Ingram to the undisputed No. 1 running back position. He responded to the move by rushing 25 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns against Detroit last week. He and backup Alvin Kamura have proved to be an excellent combination for the 14th-ranked rushing attack. “He’s got a combination of good size, speed and really good vision,” Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said of Ingram. “He can make that jump cut. I think he’s got the whole gamut. Then they bring the other guy in and he’s just kind of like a good complement to him.”
4. Containing Cam: It’s no secret among offensive linemen that Saints end Cam Jordan is one of the best in the league at his position. Jordan is off to a great start for the opportunistic Saints defense. He has five sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and four passes batted down. He can line up anywhere across the defensive line so it’s a challenge to keep him double-teamed. “Cam is a great player,” said guard Jahri Evans, a former teammate. “He never gives up, he’s relentless. He’s always countering a move even if he’s blocked, he’s always into his second and third move countering. He’s just very active.”
5. The Randall dilemma: With the season-ending injury to Quinten Rollins, the defense is down to Damarious Randall and Lenzy Pipkins in its “star” (slot) position. For now, Randall must be on the field in nickel situations. He has two interceptions the last two weeks, and while anyone could have caught the two deflections, he has the best ball skills of anyone in the secondary. “Some guys have to track the ball into their hands,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. “He doesn’t have to track it. He can catch the flash of it and catch the ball.” But how much can the Packers really count on him? He’s going to get challenged in the weeks to come and he has not been reliable. “Just what I want to see from him is consistent play,” Whitt said. “You know, not just these one or two games. Let’s make a season of consistent play and play inside or outside, wherever we need you to play.”
The Saints have all nine of their takeaways this season during their three-game winning streak. If Brett Hundley can avoid turning the ball over, the Packers might be able to keep it close. But that’s a lot to ask for a guy making his first start, and if the Packers fall behind early, the likelihood of Hundley pressing will increase. Saints 27, Packers 23
Brett Hundley has had all the practice reps this week and a game plan built around his skill set, and he won’t be facing the Vikings’ defense, so he has a lot more in his favor than when he replaced Aaron Rodgers last week. But Drew Brees at age 38 still can get it done, so the guess here is he puts up enough points to prevail. Saints 30, Packers 23
Expecting Brett Hundley to outduel Drew Brees is a tall task. Even if Hundley plays well, count on his veteran counterpart to handle pressure situations with a bit more poise. Saints 31, Packers 20
There’s a decent chance Sunday’s game will morph into a shootout, and usually a high-scoring game inside Lambeau Field automatically goes to the Packers. But Aaron Rodgers won’t be in the stadium as he recovers from surgery to repair his fractured right collarbone. Instead, the Hall of Fame quarterback will be standing on the opposite sideline. If Sunday develops into a back-and-forth game, the Packers will see what their opponents endure most weeks. Expect Drew Brees to find a way to make the winning play at the end. Saints 35, Packers 27
The Packers most likely will lean on their running game in the hopes of limiting possessions for Saints quarterback Drew Brees and their offense, and for good reason. Saints head coach Sean Payton and Brees have owned Packers defensive coordinator Don Capers. Don't look for that to change. Brett Hundley will be in the spotlight, but the story of this game will be the inability of the Packers' defense to slow down Brees and the Saints. Saints 37, Packers 24