The Green Bay Packers (1-2) host the New Orleans Saints (0-3) at Lambeau Field on September 30th. This is the 23rd time the two teams have met, and the Packers lead the series 15-7. Last year, Green Bay won a wild shootout with the Saints in the NFL season opener by a score of 42-34.
It's hard to believe that the Packers and Saints have combined for only one victory through the first three weeks of the 2012 season, but that is indeed the case. The Saints are scoring an average of just under 28 points per game, but their defense has allowed 34 points per game. Green Bay suffered a shocking loss to the Seattle Seahawks 14-12 on Monday Night Football, a game featuring one of the more famous blown calls in NFL history. The Packers must put that behind them and stay focused on the task of beating the Saints.
The Saints will match their prolific passing game against the number one passing defense in the NFL. That's right; after the first three games of the season, the Packers have allowed an average of 125.3 pass yards per game, the lowest average in the league. In 2011, Green Bay was last in the NFL with 299.8 yards per game. It's still early in the season, but this improvement is very encouraging. The play of the secondary has improved, and the pass rush has produced 12 sacks already, compared with 29 all of last season. Even with this improvement on defense, anytime Saints' quarterback Drew Brees takes the field there is the potential for big plays and lots of touchdown passes. Despite New Orleans' 0-3 record, this game is the biggest challenge to date for the Green Bay secondary, and a continuation of the newly effective pass rush is essential.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked eight times in the Seahawks game. Obviously the offensive line will have to play better than that, but Seattle has had one of the league's better defenses (averaging 13 points allowed and 272.3 total yards per game) in the early going, while New Orleans' defense has allowed 34 points per game and a league worst 477.3 total yards per game. That includes a whopping 215 rushing yards allowed per game, which is 60 more than the next worst team average. There probably won't be a better opportunity this season to establish the run than in this game, and I'd like to see the Packers establish it early. Anytime these two teams with their pass oriented offenses get together a shootout is expected, but there's nothing wrong with some ball controlling, time consuming drives for touchdowns.
When he does take to the air, Rodgers should have some success against a Saints defense that has allowed 262.3 yards passing per game. I think the Packers will try to utilize Randall Cobb more this week after he was generally shut down by Seattle's defense last week. I am beginning to wonder what the plan is for Donald Driver this season. He's been on the field for just 19 plays through the first three games.
A Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network, Mark Hudziak has been a fan of the Green Bay Packers since the Vince Lombardi era.
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