Well Packers fans, the Packers week six game against the Vikings is finished, and it is a day that will live in infamy. By now it should have sunk in that the Packers will be without Aaron Rodgers for quite some time and possibly the remainder of the 2017 season. As we all know Rodgers is a transcendent talent who very well might be the most difficult player to replace in the entire NFL. Do not give up hope though! Brett Hundley will be taking over under center for the time being and he has the trust of the coaching staff and the team for good reason. The entire team will need to step up in Rodgers’ absence but with some solid play from Hundley and good game planning from Mike McCarthy this team is still very much capable of winning some football games. And it all starts with this week’s matchup against the Saints of New Orleans.
3 BURNING QUESTIONS
How will the offense look with Brett Hundley running the show?
This is the question on all Packers fans minds, and the most important question for this week. Hundley is stepping into what could be a very unfavorable position for a young, inexperienced quarterback because of how thin the Packers offensive line currently is. This is not a perfectly ideal situation but it is something that can potentially be addressed with the correct game plan. If I had to venture a guess I would assume that McCarthy will try to lighten the load from Hundley a bit by running the ball often and trying to get the ball out of his hand quickly. With a full week to install a game plan and to get Hundley a little more comfortable running the first team offense look for Hundley to look much better against the Saints.
Can the Packers shut down Michael Thomas?
The Saints offense during the Drew Brees era has been and will continue to be based on his ability to throw the ball. He is one of the more prolific passers in NFL history but even he can be slowed down if you take away his favorite target. So far this season not many have been able to handle second year man Michael Thomas. He has a total of 28 catches for 321 yards and two touchdowns. The more important stat might be his number of targets relative to the other receivers on the team though, Thomas sits at 43 and the receiver with the next most is Ted Ginn Jr. who has only 20 targets (although both running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram have 32 and 27 targets respectively)
Kevin King is expected to be back this week after being cleared from the concussion protocol which could be huge in limiting the opportunities Drew Brees has to throw the ball the direction of his favorite target. King has taken a few lumps as a rookie defensive back is expected to but he has also shown some flashes of brilliance. A solid performance against another up and coming star of this league could very much be in the cards for the Packers new number one cornerback!
Will the running backs bounce back?
This season has been very up and down for the rushing offense of the Green Bay Packers, both Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones have at different times looked very solid. Unfortunately though, there have also been times where neither of them looked particularly great. Last week against the Vikings was one of those times, Montgomery had only 10 carries but managed a meager 28 yards off of those carries. Jones did slightly better on a few more opportunities he toted the rock for a total of 41 yards on 13 carries. Neither of those stat lines are inspire a ton of confidence which means they are due for a bounce back.
And for this week especially a bounce back will be very much needed. The Saints rank 8th in the NFL in run defense with 504 yards allowed on the ground. However if you look at yards allowed per carry they actually rank in the bottom half of the NFL. If the Packers are put in a position to commit to the run and pound the rock the Packers young running back duo could have a very good day. Having a good run game will be very important this week because as we have seen with some other young quarterbacks around the league; a strong run game is the best friend of an inexperienced signal caller. Will Jones and Montgomery help their young new leader out this week? Only one way to know!
2 KEY MATCHUPS
Whoever is healthy enough to play tackle vs Cameron Jordan
The Packers O line situation is far from enviable. By the time last week’s game was through there was only two of the original starting five left standing. Neither of which were a tackle which doesn’t bode particularly well for Brett Hundley. Brian Bulaga and David Bakhtiari were both limited participants at practice on Wednesday but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the coaching staff keep them out for the week to hopefully have them at full strength after the bye.
However injuries are a part of the NFL as we have all been reminded what seems like a cruel amount of times this year and someone will need to protect the edges. Whoever ends up getting those duties will be matched up against Cameron Jordan which is not going to be a particularly fun task. Jordan has 5 sacks on the season but three of those have come in the Month of October which is only about half done. He’s been on fire lately and it will be vital to the success of the offense to keep him out of the pocket.
Packer front seven vs The Saints offensive line
The Saints offensive line is one of the more underappreciated units in the NFL. Drew Brees has been sacked only a total of four times this season and they have been paving the way for both Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara who have been averaging 4.2 and 6.3 yards per carry each. The Packers ability to shut down the run game and force Drew Brees into uncomfortable long third downs be critical to keeping the Saints offense from getting into a rhythm on offense.
Even more important than that though will be getting to Drew Brees on passing downs. Pressuring him and forcing him to get the ball out quick will stop the long bombs to top receivers Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. Its going to take a big effort from Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Mike Daniels and second year man Kenny Clark who has looked phenomenal as of late. If they are able to dominate the line of scrimmage this could turn into a very long afternoon for the Saints offense.
1 BOLD PREDICTION
This week I think the defense really gets after it with the front seven leading the way. But I don’t think they are the ones who really star this week. The secondary is going to take advantage of the front seven pressuring Drew Brees all afternoon to come up with a couple of huge takeaways to put the Packers in control of the game. Ha-Ha Clinton Dix has had a little bit of a let down after a very strong season last year but this week he’s going to get back on track. I think he has at least one big pick and that he also gets to Drew Brees one time on a safety blitz. Kevin King is also going to come up big this week and steal one of Drew Brees passes to really put the Saints down in a hole which they will not be able to crawl out of!
Packers – 23
Saints – 17
GO PACK GO