A few weeks ago nobody could have predicted that this match-up between the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers would be make or break for both teams (4.25pm ET, Sunday September 30).
With the Packers sitting at 1-2 and the Saints sitting at 0-3, these two teams, that won each of their divisions, could be sitting unhappily at 1-3.
What Have They Done With the New Orleans Saints?
The Saints faced the Washington Redskins, the Carolina Panthers and the Kansas City Chiefs in the first three weeks of the season. Last year these teams finished with 18 wins combined and all but Carolina finished last in their division. The Saints meanwhile dominated their division finishing with 13 wins in 16 games.
On paper, there is no reason for the Saints to be 0-3 on the season. They scored 547 points last year which was second only to Green Bay. Their offense was dominant. They were 8-0 at home.
This season, well, to put it into context, if the Saints want to match their 2011 record they would have to win out. With 13 games left, they need 13 wins including this one against the Packers which certainly won’t be easy.
In fact, as the season continues, it only gets worse for the Saints who with the Cleveland Browns loss last night, have the second worst record in the league at 0-3. Left on the schedule for New Orleans includes Denver, Philadelphia, Atlanta, NY Giants, Dallas, San Francisco and another game against Carolina. Before the season started, these were the on paper games that were going to be the toughest but with how the Saints have played their games against Oakland and Tampa Bay could even cause trouble.
Even though the Saints are 0-3, there is a pretty significant silver lining in all of the turmoil. Despite giving up 40, 35 and 27 points in their last three games, the New Orleans offense spearheaded by QB Drew Brees and his passing attack has continued the recent New Orleans tradition of high scoring affairs. The Saints have scored 32, 27 and 24 points in the three losses and Brees has thrown for at least 240 yards in each game.
The biggest problem has been the defense. Although last year this defense was also a liability, the Saints offense managed to outscore them and were able to win the close and high scoring affairs. This season however, they have been on the opposite side of these games losing by scores of 8, 8 and 3.
For Brees, facing off against Green Bay’s defense won’t provide much of a reprieve. This season the Packers boast the NFL’s best passing defense allowing the opposing quarterback just 125.3 yards a game. That said, they haven’t really gone up against a marquee QB yet facing just Alex Smith, Jay Cutler and Russell Wilson. Brees will provide a much tougher challenge.
Where Did the Packers Offense Disappear To?
Just like the Saints, the Green Bay Packers could benefit from a bit of a revisit to the 2011 season.
In what became known as the “Year of the Quarterback,” Aaron Rodgers was the best of the best and the Green Bay offense was one for the ages. The Packers were the league’s best team in the regular season. They finished 15-1 on the season and scored a remarkable 560 points. They scored over 40 points in six games last season and only scored less than 20 in their one loss.
Needless to say, the Packers offense last year was not just good, they were great.
This year however, the same offense that scored 560 points has become dormant. They have yet to score over 30 points and have only broken the 20 point margin twice. In their loss against the Seattle Seahawks, Rodgers and his normally lethal offense managed to get in the end zone just once as the Packers lost 14-12.
At 1-2 on the season and in third place in the NFC North, the Packers are sitting near the bottom of the pile when it comes to offensive performance on the season. They are ranked a very poor 27th in rushing yards with 78.3 and even more surprisingly, 21st in passing yards with just over 225 per game.
Although the missing offense has served to be a big problem for the Packers, an even bigger hole was revealed last week in the loss to Seattle.
In the first half of the game, Rodgers was sacked an incredible eight times. The Seahawks front four made it look easy as they got to the quarterback on nearly every play. Each of the players were made to look like Demarcus Ware, Jason Babin, Justin Tuck, Von Miller and the Packers own Clay Matthews by how simply and frequently they were able to get to Rodgers. It disrupted the QB and the Packers offensive attack. Even though a last minute bad call by the referee was ultimately what did the Packers in, the offensive line didn’t allow Rodgers to develop a rhythm. As a result, Green Bay was never really in position to win this game.
None of this bodes well for the rest of the season for the Packers who have yet to face some of the NFC’s best defenses. That said, against New Orleans the match-up won’t be defensively inclined. The Saints defense is dead last in opponents’ rushing yards giving up over 215 a game and they are 25th in passing yards, yielding over 260 to opponents that have included Cam Newton, Matt Cassel and Robert Griffin III.
None of these quarterbacks have even close to the ability Rodgers has when it comes to the passing game. Although it hasn’t shown much this season, if Rodgers is at his best, he will tear this defense apart.
Saints v Packers Betting Picks
Since last season’s results don’t really apply if a team can’t back them up, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the winless Saints are 8 or 9 point underdogs to the Packers (depending on sportsbook).
At Lambeau, where the Packers have dominated, the Saints have failed to cover the spread in four of the last five meetings. Now this spread gives the Saints a little more leeway but if their defense continues to give up points so easily, they might struggle to win even with even a +9 point advantage.
- Luckily enough for the Saints, Drew Brees should be able to keep the game close even if the defense doesn’t do enough to get the win. For that reason, take the Saints +9 points on the spread with BetOnline Sportsbook @ odds of -135. It is +8pts @ -115 with Bovada.
- Combine Brees and his lethal passing attack with Rodgers against one of the league’s worst defenses and you should get a shoot-out similar to last year’s that ended in a 42-34 score. The way these two teams have been scoring and playing defense this season, the game should be a breakout of offense. So take the over at 53.5 on the total points @ -110 with BetOnline Sportsbook (alternatively it is slightly better at -105 with Bovada).
Place Your Bets with these Online Sportsbooks:
- All Americans: BetOnline Sportsbook.
- All Americans except Utah, NY, Washington & Maryland states: Bovada Sportsbook.
- Non-Americans: Place these bets with Bet365.