Green Bay Packers at Saints: Getting to Know the Opponent

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 22: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints walks across the field in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 22, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 22: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints walks across the field in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 22, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Before the Green Bay Packers take the field on Sunday night, here are five questions answered by a Saints writer to help you get to know this New Orleans team.

Through two weeks, the Green Bay Packers have been the most productive offense in the NFL, but tonight, they face their first true test as they head to New Orleans to take on Drew Brees and the Saints.

So as we sit here just waiting all day for Sunday Night, my newest edition of “Getting to Know the Opponent” is the perfect article to help you prepare for this primetime matchup. This week I was joined by Nathan Beighle of Who Dat Dish, where they cover anything and everything about the New Orleans Saints.

Nathan was kind enough to answer five of my questions to help provide us with some insight into this somewhat uncommon opponent. But before we dive into our Q&A along with my takeaways, here is a quick look at the Packers and Saints’ injury reports.

1. What do you make of Brees’ performance on Monday? Was it just an off day along with no Michael Thomas, or is Father Time catching up?

Nathan: The Saints have done a close Week 1 and a let-down Week 2 multiple times. While Brees was partly to blame, if the team had stopped Darren Waller, they’d have been fine. Father Time will catch up to him as he’s now 41, but he should still have plenty left in the tank. It was an off week, and it’s also a week that just proves how crucial Michael Thomas is to Brees’ late-career success.

Takeaway: While much has been made about Brees’ Monday night performance, he certainly isn’t someone to take lightly as he still has the ability to torch defenses. Now, with that said, the intermediate and deep balls have been an issue for him this season. The Green Bay Packers’ defense needs to take away the easy throws and force Brees to throw downfield, as odd as that is to say.

2. Who is a player that Packer fans may not be as familiar with, but could make an impact in Sunday’s game?

Nathan: Packers fans should get to know Tre’Quan Smith. While Taysom Hill has made a name for himself, Smith hasn’t since being drafted in 2018. He was targeted often last week, leading the wide receivers with seven targets. He should see that plus some this week as Emmanuel Sanders will draw the Packers No. 1 cornerback.

Takeaway: Tre’Quan Smith was a third-round pick by the Saints in 2018, and during his first two seasons, he has totaled 661 yards at over 14 yards per catch, with a catch rate of nearly 67 percent. He also has ten touchdowns.

This season he has been targeted just ten times, but as Nathan points out, he should see plenty of opportunities on Sunday with Michael Thomas out. I’d expect Jaire Alexander to take Emmanuel Sanders, so Smith may end up being Kevin King’s responsibility for much of the game.

3. What is the biggest strength and weakness of this Saints team?

Nathan: I’d say the strength is the offensive line. They’ve shown some flaws this season, but at large, they’re still the best unit on the team with multiple players having received recognition last season. Protecting Brees will be important for him to bounce back, and he should get that.

Also, after last week, defending a capable tight end should be their biggest cause for concern. Waller had 16 targets and 12 receptions. He went over everyone from Malcolm Jenkins to Demario Davis. They’ve proven they can limit legendary quarterback and elite running backs this season, but an athletic tight end in the prime of his career may be a tough cover for them.

Thankfully, I wouldn’t say Green Bay has one of them. Penalty yardage is also huge. They had 100-plus yards given to their opponent. If Davante Adams is able to play, he may feast with the Saints’ inability to defend without being penalized.

Takeaway: Like the Green Bay Packers, the Saints offensive line has given up only one sack this season, and their adjusted sack rate – which is sacks allowed per pass attempt – from Football Outsiders of 1.7 percent is the best in the NFL. However, while the Saints’ OL has been excellent in pass-pro, they haven’t been very productive on the ground. New Orleans’ RBs are averaging just 3.48 yards per carry, the fifth-lowest average in football.

Meanwhile, tonight is a great opportunity for Robert Tonyan to have a big game. While expectations shouldn’t be that he puts up Darren Waller numbers, Tonyan’s athleticism and size can be used to take advantage of the middle of this Saints’ defense. In Week 1, Tampa Bay’s tight ends also found success against New Orleans.

4. If a team is going to beat the Saints, what does that path to victory look like?

Nathan: It’s about finding your mismatches with the defense. New Orleans is going to score points, but if the Green Bay Packers can get Adams and their other receivers in a position to go one-on-one with either Chauncey Gardner-Johnson or Janoris Jenkins, they’ll have a chance for either those big-yardage plays or flags. Waller was a beast in the middle of the field, so targeting there may also be important.

Takeaway: Offensively, the Green Bay Packers will have to eliminate the drops, but I don’t see them having a ton of issues. Now, I’m not saying that they’ll put up 40+ points again, as this is a much better secondary and pass-rush group that they’ll be up against, but I believe Rodgers and LaFleur will find success.

My biggest keys to victory, however, come on the defensive side of the ball. This defense will have to contain Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook while taking the easy pass away from Brees, as I mentioned above.

Packers at Saints: Primetime Predictions. dark. Next

5. What is your prediction for Sunday’s matchup?

 Nathan: At home, I’m still going Saints in a shootout, 35-28.

Takeaway: I am very torn on this game, but if you want to see my prediction, click the link above.