MATCHUPS TO WATCH: PACKERS OFFENSE VS. SAINTS DEFENSE
After a slow start, Grant has rushed for at least 75 yards in each of his last five games, and he's coming off a 145-yard performance against Chicago. The Packers hum on offense when Grant is a big part of the game plan, so the Saints have to limit his effectiveness. And that starts with Vilma.
OTs Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher vs. DEs Will Smith and Bobby McCray: The biggest challenge of playing in a dome is crowd noise, and the Packers' offensive line didn't handle it well two weeks ago in Minnesota. The big problem with a loud crowd is pass protection on the perimeter, so the onus will be be on offensive tackles Clifton (vs. right defensive end Smith, who has three sacks) and Tauscher (vs. left defensive end McCrary, who has four).
Give Aaron Rodgers time, and he should have success against a suspect Saints secondary that is without former Packer Mike McKenzie (broken kneecap) and standout rookie Tracy Porter (wrist) at cornerback.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: SAINTS OFFENSE VS. PACKERS DEFENSE
The Packers secondary isn't great, but it does have a big-play element with S Nick Collins and CB Charles Woodson. I would expect Colston to get a lot of attention early in the game. He'll need to use his size to create some separation, make some early catches and get into a rhythm with Brees, something he could not do last week. The Saints' playoff hopes are against the wall, and they need their big-play threat to be involved.
QB Drew Brees vs. Green Bay Secondary: In one of the most intriguing matchups in the NFL this season, the prolific Brees takes on the Packers' stingy secondary. Brees isn't the most talented quarterback in the league, but he's certainly among its smartest and most accurate. Even though top threat Colston has started only three games because of a thumb injury, Brees is on pace to smash Dan Marino's single-season record for passing yardage. Helping him is an offensive line that has yielded only eight sacks.
But Brees hasn't faced a defensive backfield with this much depth. There might not be a team in the league that can match Woodson, Al Harris and Tramon Williams at cornerback, and Collins is having a breakout season at safety. Then again, the Packers' resume has been built largely against bad quarterbacks. Something has to give.
THE SAINTS WILL WIN THIS GAME IF ...
THE SAINTS WILL LOSE THIS GAME IF ...
THE PACKERS WILL WIN THIS GAME IF ...
THE PACKERS WILL LOSE THIS GAME IF ...
Bill Huber: I think the Packers turned a corner last week. I think the Packers' pass defense is good enough to slow the Saints' high-powered attack. I think the Packers will be able to run the ball good enough. I think the Packers will give Rodgers enough protection to allow him to take advantage of Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson vs. the Saints' secondary. I think the disparity in turnover ratio — the Packers are plus-7 while the Saints are minus-5 — will make the difference. But with what we've seen out of this team for the first 10 games, who can say for sure? ... PACKERS 30, SAINTS 27.
Behind Enemy Lines: Part III
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