The Green Bay Packers look to get back to the winning track when they host the New Orleans Saints in their home opener. The Packers enter the game with a 1-1 record while the Saints are 2-0. This game is full of important matchups for the Packers and could have possible playoff implications.
The Packers lead the all-time series between these two teams 17-10-0 in the regular season. The series started in 1968. The Packers have lost three of the last four meetings between the teams. These teams have yet to meet in the playoffs.
Here is a look at six key factors that will determine who wins Sunday’s home opener at Lambeau Field:
Packers Key Matchups: Number One: The Packers Must Get Pressure on Derek Carr
The Saints have struggled to protect their quarterback in the first two games of the season. Derek Carr has been sacked eight times and been pressured frequently. When he’s pressured, he’s more likely to make mistakes and even turn the ball over.
If the Saints can’t throw consistently, their already inconsistent offense will likely struggle.
Key Matchups: Number Two The Packers Can’t Abandon the Running Game
The Packers running back has struggled without Aaron Jones. Last week, the Pack gained just 84 yards on the ground with 23 of those coming from quarterback Jordan Love when they didn’t have their number one running back.
A.J. Dillon hasn’t hit the hole with speed and has run with his pads too high. He is also going down too easily. Part of the responsibility is on the Green Bay offensive line which has been inconsistent blocking for the run.
The Packers don’t need to run for 200 yards in this game, but they need to maintain a credible running threat and balance on offense to keep the tough Saints defense honest and to stay out of third-and-long situations.
Packers Key Matchups: Number Three: Protect Jordan Love
The Packers offensive line has done well in pass protection, but injuries hit the unit hard. Last week, the Packers had to play without their two best offensive linemen in David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins.
Jenkins won’t play Sunday, but Bakhtiari’s status is up in the air. If he plays, he will likely be responsible for slowing down Carl Granderson, the Saints most effective pass rusher. Granderson has 2.5 sacks in two games this season. Cameron Jordan is also effective has also gotten good pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Love has proven he can play well when he has time to throw the football. The Packers need Love to be effective against a tough New Orleans defense if they hope to win this game.
Key Matchups: Number Four Take Advantage of the Saints Other Safety
The Saints have an elite safety in Tyrann Mathieu, but they will be without Marcus Maye who is suspended for three games after a DUI. That gives the Packers a potentially favorable matchup against Maye’s replacement. The Saints will likely turn to Lonnie Johnson, Jr., or J.T. Gray in Maye’s absence.
The Packers should be able to get tight end Luke Musgrave or slot receiver Jayden Reed open against the Saints other safety. They could also put Christian Watson in the slot (if Watson is good to go) to create mismatches for their receivers.
This matchup could be particularly important on third down when the Pack needs to keep drives alive.
The matchup between Packers head coach Matt LaFleur calling plays against the Saints head man Dennis Allen and defensive coordinator Joe Woods will be a fascinating chess match.
Key Matchups: Number Five Contain Chris Olave
The Packers defense emphasizes the need to prevent splash plays, particularly long passes. The Saints have some quality deep receiving threats in Chris Olave, Michael Thomas, and Rashid Shaheed.
Jaire Alexander should be matched up on Olave most of the time. The Louisville alum had a subpar performance last week in Atlanta and needs to bounce back against the Saints. The Saints receivers may get their catches, but the Packers need to prevent them from making big gains downfield.
The Packers also cannot allow their safeties, Savage, and Rudy Ford, to be beaten deep downfield by the Saints receiving corps. If he has time, Carr can throw the ball deep downfield effectively.
Key Matchups: Number Six Scheme Open the Packers Receivers
The matchup between LaFleur and the Saints defensive coaches will be an interesting one. The Packers still don’t know if Watson will play and if he does, how much. Romeo Doubs has been limited in the first two games as well. The Packers feature an inexperienced group of tight ends and wide receivers, and the Saints can get to the passer and have a solid secondary.
LaFleur will need to help Love spread the ball around by scheming open his receivers and running backs and making the Saints defend the entire field. This will keep the New Orleans pass defense off balance and create opportunities for the Green Bay passing game.
The Packers are banged up for their home opener and facing a 2-0 team with a stout defense. The Saints may even be one of the toughest defenses Love and company will face all season.
Expect a close, low-scoring game with some juicy matchups between the Packers offense and the Saints defense.
The Pack will find a way to win at Lambeau, but it will go down to the wire.
Packers 17, Saints 13
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