NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (0-3)
at GREEN BAY PACKERS (1-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. EDT
Line: Green Bay -7½, Total: 53
Two teams desperate for a win will meet on Sunday when the winless Saints visit the 1-2 Packers.
These teams played a classic in the 2011 opener, a 42-34 Packers win that came down to the last possession, but so far in 2012 the teams have combined for one win. New Orleans hasn’t missed Sean Payton on the offensive side of the ball, but they can’t tackle, allowing 200-plus rushing yards in each of the past two weeks (including 273 to the Chiefs last week). Green Bay had serious problems in pass protection in last week’s bizarre last-second loss in Seattle. The Packers have scored just 57 points on the season, but have faced three excellent defenses so far. The Saints might be the worst defensive team in the NFL.
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Drew Brees has thoroughly enjoyed facing the Packers in his career, throwing for 1,458 yards (365 YPG), 11 TD and 2 INT in four meetings. In last year’s contest, he completed 32-of-49 passes for 419 yards, 3 TD and 0 INT. Six different players had at least four catches in that game led by WRs Devery Henderson (6 rec, 100 yds, 1 TD) and Marques Colston (6 rec, 81 yds), RB Darren Sproles (7 rec, 75 yds) and TE Jimmy Graham (4 rec, 56 yds, 1 TD). Brees (7 TD, 5 INT) has not been particularly sharp this season, with a 54.7% completion rate falling well below last year’s record-setting 71.2% rate. The ground game has averaged a healthy 5.0 yards per carry, but New Orleans has rushed the football just 56 times, the lowest total in the NFC. Pierre Thomas (7.3 YPC) and Sproles (8.9 YPC) have both been tough to bring down, but Mark Ingram has just 79 yards on a team-high 27 carries (2.9 YPC). On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints are allowing a league-worst 215 rushing YPG and their 262 passing YPG allowed ranks 25th in the NFL. The one positive is that they’ve forced four turnovers in the past two games.
Like Brees, Aaron Rodgers also had a huge performance in last year’s season opener, completing 27-of-35 throws for 312 yards, 3 TD and 0 INT. The scoring passes, all in the first quarter, went to WRs Greg Jennings (7 rec, 89 yds, 1 TD), Jordy Nelson (6 rec, 77 yds, 1 TD) and Randall Cobb (2 rec, 35 yds, 1 TD). And also like Brees, Rodgers is off to a slow start with just 217 passing YPG, 3 TD, 2 INT and an 87.0 QB rating. These numbers represent a huge drop-off from last season when he finished with 310 passing YPG, 45 TD, 6 INT and an NFL-record-setting 122.5 QB rating. The Packers have the fourth-fewest rushing attempts in the league (63), which is why they have the fifth-fewest yards on the ground (78 YPG). The Green Bay defense has played pretty well, leading the league in passing defense (125 YPG). It has certainly helped that OLB Clay Matthews has six of his team’s 12 sacks (T-3rd in league). Green Bay’s run-stop unit has also improved greatly since allowing 186 rushing yards and 5.8 YPC in Week 1. In the past two games, the Packers are surrendering just 221 yards on 52 carries (4.3 YPC).