SCOUTING REPORT: The best way to beat the Packers appears to be gashing them on the ground — not ideal for a Saints squad dinged up at running back
The Green Bay Packers took offense to reporters calling this week’s game a potential shootout between quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.
There’s little doubt the Saints secondary will be put to the test against Rodgers and the Packers offense, and have admitted they expect as much, but the Green Bay defense finds it offensive that people expect Brees to carve them up.
“I think as a defense when you hear it’s going to be a shootout, it’s kind of disrespectful,” safety Micah Hyde told Green Bay reporters. “But it is what it is. They’re going to say what they want to say and the media is going to say what they want to say, but we know we have a job to do, to go there and do what we’re capable of doing and play tough defense. We know what we’re capable of doing it.”
Perhaps Hyde has a point. While Rodgers and the offense gets all of the attention, the defense has quietly been stout this season against the pass. The Packers allow an average of 215 passing yards, sixth-best in the NFL, and have logged 10 interceptions, placing them second in the league.
It appears the best way to beat Green Bay is on the ground. If New Orleans can keep this one close and isn’t forced to constantly try to keep pace with the Packers, there could be an advantage to exploit on the ground.
The Packers have allowed 147.9 rushing yards per game, which means Mark Ingram and whoever else is healthy enough could have plenty of lanes to choose from.
Know your opponent
Sean Payton gushed when asked about Aaron Rodgers this week — for good reason.
The Packers quarterback has played nearly flawless football this season. The last interception he threw was during a Week 1 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Since then, he has played so well that it’s almost become notable when he throws an incomplete pass.
The Saints are going to have their work cut out for them this week.
It’s hard to locate any possible areas of vulnerability in Rodgers’ game, because they simply do not exist. He’s great at extending plays, picks apart the blitz and isn’t forced into mistakes.
The best way to beat him, it seems, is to create pressure. The Green Bay offensive line does a good job of protecting him, but Rodgers has posted a 48.9 completion percentage during the 66 plays he has been under duress this season.
Three and out
1. Jimmy or no Jimmy: Jimmy Graham was on the field last week after suffering a shoulder injury, but he wasn’t exactly part of the passing offense. Graham played 30 snaps and was only targeted twice. Will he get involved this week or remain relegated to serving as a decoy?
2. Ingram time: Mark Ingram did not do much in his first game back from hand surgery, but he may no longer have the luxury of easing back into action. Neither Pierre Thomas nor Khiry Robinson will suit up Sunday, which means Ingram will need to step up and carry the load at running back.
3. Corner help: If Corey White is again given the start at cornerback opposite Keenan Lewis, he’s going to have to step up his play in a big way if he hopes to retain that job. His performance against Detroit loosened his grip on the job, if he hasn’t already lost it. If given the opportunity to atone, he needs to do so in a big way.
OUT: RB Khiry Robinson (forearm), RB Pierre Thomas (rib/shoulder), C Jonathan Goodwin (knee/ankle), LB Kyle Knox (ankle)
-- Robinson, Thomas and Goodwin were injured in the loss at Detroit last week. Robinson and Thomas have combined for 693 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns. Goodwin had started all six games at center. Mark Ingram and Travaris Cadet will see increased workloads at running back with the injuries at that position, and Tim Lelito will start in place of Goodwin.
QUESTIONABLE: CB Keenan Lewis (knee/shoulder), LB Ramon Humber (ankle), TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder), DT Brodrick Bunkley (concussion)
-- All were limited in practice all week.
PROBABLE: CB Patrick Robinson (hamstring)
-- He fully participated in practice all week after missing the Detroit game.
OUT: DE Datone Jones (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: CB Sam Shields (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: S Morgan Burnett (calf)
PROBABLE: RB James Starks (ankle)
Ramon Antonio Vargas: Saints 31, Packers 28
The Saints were close to breaking through at Detroit before losing 24-23. It counts for a lot that the Saints are back to the building and time of day when they’re at their best on Sunday night — and, building on what was close to a winning effort, they’ll extend their home prime-time winning streak to 14 and keep this roller coaster of a season alive.
Nick Underhill: Packers 34, Saints 31
I’ve been patient with this team, picking it week after week, but that strategy hasn’t worked out so well for me. So it ends this week. I still think the Saints can save their season, which might be foolish, but they’re going to have to start proving they deserve my faith before I pick them again.
Scott Rabalais: Packers 31, Saints 23
Just what the Saints needed: the tough part of their schedule. The Packers’ visit precedes games with Carolina and San Francisco that may define the season. Avoiding the start of a death spiral means avoiding the execution issues that cropped up even when they’ve managed to win. Even that might not be enough against Green Bay.