The Green Bay Packers (1-1) and New Orleans Saints (2-0) will meet Sunday for the third time in the last four seasons. The NFC battle will serve as the home opener for the Packers after back-to-back road games to open the 2023 season.
While Matt LaFleur’s team is disappointed after letting an opportunity to get to 2-0 slip away in Atlanta, Week 3 provides a chance to right the wrong and get back in the win column against a team that might be in the NFC playoff race come December and January.
First things first, let’s get to know the Saints, who are in Year 2 with coach Dennis Allen and Year 1 with quarterback Derek Carr. Through two weeks, the Saints are 2-0, with close wins over the Titans and Panthers.
John Sigler, the managing editor at Saints Wire, helped us preview Green Bay’s opponent in Week 3 by recapping what happened in Week 2 vs. Panthers while also looking ahead to Sunday:
Week 2 recap (Won, 20-17 at Panthers)
The Saints defense was in top form against the Panthers last Monday night, holding the Carolina offense to a series of long field goal tries and sacking Bryce Young four times (really five, with a coverage penalty erasing a quick sack-fumble by rookie defensive tackle Bryan Bresee). They let off the gas on the Panthers’ final drive in garbage time which led to a touchdown pass to make this one closer than the box score suggests.
The same can’t be said of the Saints offense. Derek Carr made a couple of poor decisions in this game including an ugly interception and too many off-target passes that soared behind his receivers or over their heads. He was impacted by the underrated Panthers pass rush, sure, but plenty of his mistakes were his own fault. He has to play better.
Our thoughts: The Packers struggled against Desmond Ridder in Week 2, so nothing can be assumed about the opposing quarterback. Can Jordan Love outplay Carr? Put another way, can the Packers make Carr’s life more difficult than Love’s against the Saints defense?
What went right, what went wrong for Saints in Week 2
The Saints finally began to run well in the second half with Taysom Hill leading the team in rushing yards while practice squad running back Tony Jones Jr. scored his first two touchdown runs in the NFL. The defense was on top of its game, too, bringing a ton of pressure and winning many of their battles.
But it wasn’t all perfect. This team has real flaws offensively. Derek Carr isn’t producing as well as someone with his assortment of weapons would be expected to perform. Better protection would help, but three of the five offensive line starters gave up sacks on Monday night. To circle back to the defense, untimely penalties have been an issue; third-year cornerback Paulson Adebo has been fouled three times in two games, costing some critical stops and wiping out a huge turnover deep in Carolina territory.
Our thoughts: The Saints are terrific on defense and will present the young Packers offense a lot of issues. On defense, the Packers must win the line of scrimmage consistently and take advantage of a possible weakness along the offensive line for the Saints.
Week 2 standout to know for Saints
Defensive end Carl Granderson has developed into a very impressive pass rusher off the edge. He’s already up to 1.5 sacks with a dozen quarterback pressures through the first two games, moving with great flexibility and a relentless motor. He’s a dangerous presence at the right end spot opposite Cameron Jordan, and he’s making the most of this opportunity in a contract year.
Our thoughts: The Packers need David Bakhtiari back this week. Granderson and Jordan are an excellent defensive end duo.
Week 3 player to watch for Saints
WR Michael Thomas. Thomas is looking more like his old self by the week, and he had a great game against the Panthers even if his final line doesn’t reflect it. He converted several important first downs and got the Saints into scoring position with an acrobatic catch falling backwards down the sideline. With Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed demanding more attention, coverage is going to shift away from him, and he should benefit from it.
Our thoughts: If Jaire Alexander takes the majority of his coverage snaps against Olave, the Saints’ No. 1, it’ll fall on Rasul Douglas and Keisean Nixon to keep Thomas covered up. Thomas vs. Douglas is an intriguing veteran vs. veteran battle.
Biggest thing to watch in Week 3
Rookie running back Kendre Miller is expected to make his debut this week after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury, and the Saints could really use a big game from the third-round pick. Alvin Kamara is still suspended. Jamaal Williams is down with his own hamstring injury. The Saints just waived backup RB Kirk Merritt, leaving Miller and a couple of backs on the practice squad as their only options — unless Taysom Hill is going to have a heavy workload as a runner, which we can’t rule out.
Our thoughts: The Saints are shorthanded in the run game, so the Packers won’t be facing incredible talent level at running back like last week. Can they play better up front and keep the Saints from controlling the game on the ground?