Week 1: Packers v. Saints – @ Jacksonville

Offseason is over, preseason is over, the drama…will be here until it’s not…

With each NFL season being far different than the year prior, for most teams, I still like to look at the entire prior season as a baseline for the next season’s expectations (predictions may be a better word here).  The 2020 New Orleans Saints team was about as complete a team as there was in the NFL.  However, like usual, their QB choked in the postseason and thus they didn’t sniff the Lombardi Trophy, let alone win it.  Same with the Packers.  On to the matchup!

2020GB Offensevs.NO Defense
Rush132.4 (8) 93.9 (4)
Pass256.6 (9) 217.0 (5)
Total389.0 (5) 310.9 (4)
Points31.3 (1) 21.1 (5)
 GB Defensevs.NO Offense
Rush112.8 (13) 141.6 (6)
Pass221.2 (7) 234.9 (19)
Total334.0 (9) 310.9 (4)
Points23.1 (13) 21.1 (5)

As you can see, the Saints rank higher in 6 of the 8 categories from last season.  Obviously, the HUGE difference is Drew Brees retiring, thus leaving New Orleans with turnover-heavy Jameis Winston at the helm.  Also, they’re missing one of the top WRs in the NFL, #13 Michael Thomas, and homerun-hitter, #10 Tre’Quan Smith.  That should really help Green Bay’s defense which had all kinds of issues tackling #41 Alvin Kamara in last year’s week 3 match-up.  Kamara only carried the ball 6 times for 58 yards (an embarrassing 9.7 yds/carry avg.), but caught 13 balls for 139 yards and 2 TDs.  Everyone remembers the 52-yard TD where he broke close to 1,000 tackles on that play alone.  Kamara is – and should be – the focal point.  Stop him, make Winston beat you for 60 minutes and you should get 2-3 turnovers.  Win the turnover battle, per usual, and win the game.

The key for me, aside from QB-play, will be the OL v DL when each team has the ball.  Green Bay is missing all-world LT David Bakhtiari, and I don’t expect much, if any, drop off in play switching to Elgton Jenkins (also a stud), but Jenkins vacating his normal LG spot could create some issues.  Also, rookie Center, Josh Myers, will get a brutal test (just as his predecessor did in 2014) going up against the 5th ranked defense (points) out of the shoot.  Another key injury for the Saints – as I’m writing this – their top CB #23 Marshon Lattimore is listed as “Questionable,” and that could really open up passing lanes and the play book as they’ll have to shift coverage to Davante (whom the Packers were without in last years’ matchup).  This could really slant the field and, like last year, have the Packers playing from ahead, which LaFleur does well in that scenario. 

Look for some points as NO’s OL is solid and should give Winston some time, who regardless likes to heave it downfield and that could lead to big plays and turnovers.

Packers 34
Saints 24

Season: 0-0
Overall: 69-36

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