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Packers at Saints: Five things to watch

Saints-Packers play on "Sunday Night Football"

  1. The New Orleans Saints secondary will be tested by Green Bay like it hasn't been tested since the season opener in Atlanta. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgershas 18 touchdowns and one interception this season, including 13 touchdowns and no interceptions during Green Bay's current four-game winning streak. His ability to buy time and to throw on the move are impressive, to say the least. But, too, the Saints are coming off their best defensive game overall (including interceptions by Keenan Lewisand Kenny Vaccaro). Safety Marcus Ballfit well in the three-safety defensive alignment, and cornerback Patrick Robinsonshould be full go after missing the last game with a hamstring injury. New Orleans will need a healthy defensive backfield to chase Green Bay's receivers, led by Jordy Nelson. The Packers are going to hit on some plays – they always do. The key for the Saints, as always, is to minimize the big strikes. The secondary can't afford the kind of mental slip-up it had in Detroit on Golden Tate's73-yard touchdown catch. That one mistake totally shifted the momentum in a game the Saints appeared to have under control.
  2. The Saints have nine sacks this season; only linebacker Junior Galette (four) has more than one, and two have been recorded by defensive backs. Long story short – the defensive line can make life in the secondary a lot easier if pressure can be applied by four, rather than having to blitz regularly. As usual, it's not so much the sacks (although that's a great statistical byproduct) as it is applying pressure, making the quarterback uncomfortable and disrupting his timing.
  3. In Drew Brees, the Saints have a counter to Rodgers. But whereas Rodgers only has one interception this season, Brees has seven. He admits that he has to be more cognizant of protecting the football and that sometimes, taking a gamble isn't prudent. But then, Brees wouldn't be who he is – one of the most successful and productive quarterbacks in NFL history – if he dialed back too much. Numbers-wise, the Packer defense isn't especially impressive, save this – Green Bay is plus-10 in turnover ratio, including 10 interceptions. Brees and the Saints' offense don't want to give the Packers any more offensive opportunities than they have to. Green Bay is good enough without the extra chances. Brees has shredded the Packers in their previous three meetings (a combined 87 of 129 for 1,188 yards and 10 touchdowns, with no interceptions). Something along that average will do fine for the Saints.
  4. Mark Ingramreturned at running back against the Lions, but it didn't result in a great output by the Saints on the ground. That was understandable – Detroit entered the game allowing a league-low 73.5 rushing yards per game, and only gave up 73 against the Saints. This week, though, the running game could (should?) be more productive. Green Bay allows 148 rushing yards per game and 4.6 yards per attempt. New Orleans may be without Pierre Thomasand Khiry Robinson, which means that Ingram's production – and, likely, an increased role by Travaris Cadetin the passing game – will be huge. Cadet was targeted nine times and caught six passes against Detroit. He'll be the Saints' best receiving running back if Thomas is a no go.
  5. The Saints are riding on a 13-game home winning streak in prime time, including six straight on Sunday night. It's no coincidence. The Saints play better at home, best at home under the national television spotlight (all but one of those victories has been by at least 10 points). Coach Sean Paytonand players specifically noted this week how the Saints receive extra juice from the home crowd, and they need it. New Orleans is 2-4, with every loss coming on the road and three of them by three points, two points and one point, respectively. Green Bay enters with the league's third-longest current winning streak. A little Mercedes-Benz Superdome magic – the Saints have one of the most distinct home field advantages in the league – could get the Saints back on track.
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