The Green Bay Packers (1-2) will return Sunday afternoon to face the New Orleans Saints (0-3) at Lambeau Field after having a win stolen from them in Seattle.
It will be interesting to see how they react. Either band together or fall apart, men!
Here’s what you need to know and what to watch for.
Who’s not going to play?
Surprisingly, the Packers are relatively healthy for a 1-2 team. Rookie safety Sean Richardson will be out for Sunday’s game, but he wasn’t going to be seeing the field much anyway. Cornerback Davon House, who’s been working with a shoulder sling, could see his first action of the season, but isn’t a sure thing. The Saints will be thin on defense. Linebackers Jonathan Casillas and David Hawthorne and defensive end Turk McBride are all out. Oh, and coach Sean Payton won’t be on the sideline. He got suspended for the season for something or other.
Who should I bet on?
The Packers opened as five-point favorites. They’re now nine-point favorites. The Saints have lost by eight, eight and three in their first three games. They have the offense to keep up with the Packers, but their defense is beat up and giving up a lot of points. Expect the Packers to make a statement on Sunday and win by double digits. For the record, we’re 1-2 on the season in this department, although we should be 2-1.
What to Watch For
The Packers running game
What? The Packers have a running game? Well, they do when Mike McCarthy actually chooses to use it. Look at the times the Packers offense has been successful this season. Against Chicago, the team ran a season-high 28 times and won handily. The only time they ran on a consistent basis against Seattle was in the second half. That’s also the only half they scored any points. The Saints are last in the NFL in rushing defense (and they’re banged up). They’re giving up 215 yards per game, which is over 50 more yards per game than the 31st ranked team. In addition to Cedric Benson, the Packers will also have a healthy James Starks for the first time this season (at least until he gets injured in the second quarter). Pound the ball and run play-action and you’ll win handily, Mike.
Bryan Bulaga’s bounceback
The Packers right tackle had a terrible game last week, giving up three sacks. Even he admitted it. He looked like Herb Taylor out there. Fortunately, he won’t be facing Bruce Irvin again anytime soon. The Saints have six sacks on the season. By comparison, the Seahawks had eight last week alone. This game is tailor made for Bulaga to bounce back, regain some confidence and remove his head from his ass.
The rookies’ evolution
Safety Jerron McMillian is starting to look like the real deal. Linebacker Nick Perry notched his first sack last week (although Erik Walden is still clearly the better pass rusher). Cornerback Casey Hayward is contributing in defensive sub-packages. Defensive end Jerel Worthy shows up every once in a while. So does defensive tackle Mike Daniels. You can already see the considerable strides (some more than others) these guys have made since the preseason. It’s about time they started to make the jump from occasional contributors to playmakers.
The fan reaction
Last week, the Packers got jobbed. We also got jobbed and the NFL is at fault. Will Lambeau Field be empty in protest on Sunday? We highly doubt it. We’re sure there will be more than a few signs with choice words for Roger Goodell, though. Someone also suggested to me that people might walk in 15 minutes late in protest of the great train robbery in Seattle. Whatever happens, if you’re going to game and feeding the beast by throwing a bunch of your hard-earned money at the Packers and the NFL, you had damn well better make your displeasure about last week’s NFL coverup known in some fashion.