Sometimes, the short week is a burden and sometimes, it's a welcome sight.
For the New Orleans Saints, the latter applies after a 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night. The Saints (1-1) wanted to get back on the field as soon as possible, to erase the taste from their trip to Las Vegas. And Sunday night, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against Green Bay (2-0), they'll have that opportunity.
They'll have to do it against a team with the league's best offense (85 points through two games). Here are a few ways in which it can be accomplished:
- Sunday would a good time for the Saints' offense to snap out of its doldrums. Green Bay isn't likely to maintain a 40-point-per-game pace this season, but the Packers can score and if this one turns into a shootout, New Orleans needs to be able to match Green Bay. This is the kind of scenario where Saints quarterback Drew Breeshistorically has responded with a four-touchdown, 300-yard passing game, but the absence of receiver Michael Thomas hurts. Emmanuel Sanders and Brees haven't yet hit a groove; it possibly can happen in this game, but the Packers have allowed just 233 passing yards per game in the first two, and that was with the Vikings and Lions playing catch-up in the second halves.
- The Packers still have Aaron Rodgers as their starting quarterback, so it's obvious the havoc they can wreak in the passing game. But the other Aaron – running back Aaron Jones – has fueled a running game that has averaged 209 rushing yards per game in the first two, with Jones (34 carries, 234 yards, three rushing touchdowns) leading the way. Saints linebacker Demario Davis said the run defense against the Raiders was mediocre; it can't afford to be mediocre against the Packers. Neither can the pass defense, which had three sacks in the first quarter against Las Vegas, then none the rest of the game. The Saints need to affect Rodgers, or it's going to be a long evening.
- The bright spot from the loss to the Raiders was running back Alvin Kamara, who looks like vintage Kamara so far this season. He has scored four touchdowns (tied for the league lead) and has shown the versatility that is his staple (25 carries for 95 yards and three scores, 14 catches for 146 yards and a score). He'll affect the game as a primary target or as a decoy. If the Saints are able to run successfully, they may use the ground game to keep Green Bay's offense off the field.
- New Orleans has to get a handle on the penalties. Now. In two games, the Saints have 16 penalties for a league-leading 248 yards. Twelve of those infractions have been committed on defense, and 11 have resulted in first downs. That kind of play simply can't continue in order for the Saints to be successful. Defensively, it helps keep the unit on the field and often has resulted in opposing points scored.
- There may be an opportunity for the Saints in the return game. The Packers have allowed a 30.3-yard average on three kickoff returns this season, and the Saints have a player – Deonte Harris – who's capable of popping one. Opportunities aren't plentiful when it comes to returning kickoffs, so the Saints have to be prepared to pounce if the chance occurs. A short field is a welcome sight for any offense, and especially for one that has been sluggish so far.
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