Packers-Saints: A First Look at Week 12

Carter BierwirthContributor INovember 16, 2008

Following a monumental win over the Chicago Bears, the 5-5 Green Bay Packers travel to New Orleans to take on the 5-5 Saints in what is sure to be a vicious offensive battle.  Despite their identical records, the teams reside in different positions within their divisions.

Green Bay sits tied with fierce rivals Minnesota and Chicago atop the NFC North, while New Orleans finds itself buried last in the very competitive NFC South.

Veteran Drew Brees and a mix of older and rookie runners lead the Saints' on again, off again offense.

Brees has been remarkably productive in his few years with the Saints.  This season, he's on pace to break the single-season passing record and has the the Saints sitting at No. 1 in pass offense this season, averaging 325.7 yards per game.

On the other hand, the Saints also own one of the more dismal running attacks in the league, churning out only 90.6 yards per contest.

The superior passing attack led by Brees, however, keeps them the league's front-runner in total offensive yardage at 416.2, as well as a respectable eighth in points per game at 26.2.

The Saints come off a 30-20 victory over the 1-9 Kansas City Chiefs. New Orleans had a total net of 369 yards with a time of possession of 29:36. Brees was 25-for-36 for 266 yards with one touchdown and an interception.

The rushing attack was led by Pierre Thomas, who rushed for 88 yards on 16 carries. Deuce McAllister was second with eight rushes for 18 yards.

Underscoring the feats of the top-ranked offense is the fact that New Orleans is plagued by one of the more underachieving defenses in the NFL.

Their defense is ranked 26th against the pass and 19th against the run, allowing 238.4 and 109.6 yards per game, respectively. In total yardage, they stand at 348, which is tied for 24th in the league.  New Orleans allows 25.4 points per game.

This weakness in the Saints' gameplan keeps them planted firmly at a record of 5-5.

And New Orleans' defensive issues were clear in its battle against the Chiefs.

The Saints allowed Kansas City to control the ball for 30:24 of the game clock and surrendered 235 passing yards from newly introduced Kansas City quarterback Tyler Thigpen (who is also No. 4, what a coincidence).

Larry Johnson only managed to hit the Saints for 67 yards on 19 carries.

Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers are coming of one of their most impressive wins thus far this season.  Against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, the Packers controlled every aspect of the game.

Overall, Green Bay ranks just ahead of New Orleans in total offense, standing at sixth in overall points. The pass attack and rush game both fall short of the Saints in the standings, sitting at 11th and 23rd, respectively.

Green Bay's defense is the defining factor.

The Packer defense is third against the pass but very weak against the run, ranked 28th. After the performance exhibited against the Bears, Green Bay's defense seems like the least of their worries.

Aaron Rodgers was given all the support that he required to exact vengeance against their hated rivals. Ryan Grant gave his best performance of the season, netting 145 yards on 25 attempts, while Brandon Jackson contributed with 50 yards on 10 carries.

The offensive line also shifted 180 degrees from their performance last week against the Vikings.

Rodgers wasn't sacked once, and clearly demonstrated that if given time, he can effectively pick apart defenses. Rodgers finished 23-for-30 with 227 yards and two touchdowns.  He also threw one interception.

Greg Jennings and Donald Driver led the receiving corps, while nine different receivers caught passes.

The Green Bay defense held the duo of Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman to a combined 17-for-33 and 159 yards and rookie running back sensation Matt Forte to 64 yards on 16 carries.

An interception by safety Nick Collins was nullified by an offsides penalty.

Green Bay also increased its league lead in defensive touchdowns to nine, and special teams also chipped in.  Kicker Mason Crosby was a perfect three-for-three on field goal attempts.

Green Bay needs a victory to break free from the mix with the Vikings and Bears. New Orleans needs the win to simply stay alive in the hunt.

In the huge victory over Chicago, who was one of the highest scoring teams in the league, as well as one of the toughest against the run, Green Bay showed it has the ability to control a game.

Large factors in this week's struggle will be Ryan Grant and the running game. If Green Bay can control the ground attack like they did against Chicago, then Rodgers will be free to harass the struggling New Orleans defensive backfield.

The Packer defense will also be tested to the max.

Brees is the owner of one of the most powerful arms in the NFL, and if Green Bay's defensive backs fall asleep at the wheel, he will have their heads spinning within minutes.

Bottom line, if the Packers control the game for a second consecutive game, victory in the NFC North will be that much closer to reality.

The Packers and Saints face off next Monday night at 7:30 pm.


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