The New Orleans Saints come to town to test a Packers squad riddled by injury, most recently and most importantly to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Here’s what you need to know before Sunday’s 12 p.m. CT kickoff at Lambeau Field.
Storylines to watch
- Hundley at the helm: Before Packers fans get up in arms about Hundley’s less-than-stellar Sunday showing (18-of-33 passing for 157 yards, a score and three interceptions), recall what he did in the 2015 preseason. Hundley led the NFL with 630 passing yards, competing 45 of 65 passes for seven touchdowns and only one pick; his 129.6 passer rating was third-best in the league that preseason. Hundley was drafted back in 2015 for this exact -- albeit worst-case-scenario -- purpose, and Ted Thompson & Co. have invested three years in their system for this moment for Hundley. Watch for running backs Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery to generate yards on the ground, giving Hundley a bit of a crutch as he’s running for his life against the Saints’ aggressive blitz, featuring end Cameron Jordan, who has five sacks and eight quarterback hits, in addition to a pick last week against the Lions. That being said...
— Kelly Price (@thekellyprice) October 18, 2017
- Losing even more from the line: Hundley didn’t get much protection in Minneapolis, and it looks like Sunday will be a challenge piecing together the Packers’ offensive line yet again - but with two different pieces. C Corey Linsley (back) was added as a limited participant on the Packers’ Friday injury report and is questionable for Sunday’s contest. In addition, left guard Lane Taylor is doubtful with an ankle injury sustained last Sunday. Tackles David Bakhtiari and bryan Bulaga figure to start Sunday, but it’s possible they could drop out mid-game like against the Vikings due to their nagging injuries. If Taylor and Linsley don’t start, that would leave the Packers with just one starting lineman - RG Jahri Evans - to protect their backup-turned-starter quarterback. That’s… Not great.
- Pass-happy Pack: For all the hypotheses that the Packers will run more Sunday, their offense is still a pass-centric one at its core. With targets like Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Lance Kendricks and Martellus Bennett, Hundley must find ways to find his receivers. It’s not looking good, though, considering the decimated offensive line matches up against a Saints defense whose stats look like this through their last three games: 13 sacks, 7 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries and 3 defensive touchdowns. The Saints are still just 28th in the league in passing yards allowed, but their opponents’ completion percentages have dropped to under 57 percent during the three-game winning streak.
- Saints come marching in: The Saints’ rushing attack has been a big part of their offense. New Orleans ranks fourth in the league in rushing points per game (29) and is tied for sixth overall in average yards per carry (4.4). Mark Ingram leads the team in rushing yards (284) and total yards from scrimmage (445). Rookie running back Alvin Kamara has been impressing in his first year as well, with 158 yards on 25 carries, good for a whopping 6.3 average. More impressively, his receiving stats almost mirror his rushing ones: 24 catches for 159 yards (6.6 average) and another touchdown, which makes him the Saints’ second-best receiver. Green Bay has to make New Orleans uncomfortable on the ground and force a one-dimensional game, wherein the Packers can only pray that future Hall-of-Famer Drew Brees will make a mistake. The Packers will also hope for help from ILB Blake Martinez, who has been killing it in the backfield with key stops on third downs, two passes defended, a sack, and a team-leading 48 tackles.
- What's my age again?: Although Brees 38 years old, he isn't playing like it. The New Orleans QB has compiled a 103.3 passer rating - fourth-best in the league. He's only tossed two picks and ranks ninth among passers with 10 touchdown passes already, even with a bye week. Maybe most impressively, Brees, who's an infamous statue in the pocket, has been sacked only four times this season, which is three fewer sacks than any other NFL squad has allowed. Meanwhile, the Pack is near the bottom of the league in sacks, with only 11 on the season. In addition to stymiying the run game, Green Bay has to bring the pressure and make Brees uncomfortable in the pocket, their only chance at forcing errors from him.
- Nailbiter with New Orleans?: The Saints are above .500 for the first time since 2013 but have yet to play a close game, as all of their contests have been decided by double digits. The Packers pulled one out in overtime against the Bengals and Rodgers orchestrated a perfect two-minute drill to top the Cowboys, but the key element in those victories is now on injured reserve. In a game that would have been a marquee matchup of two future Hall of Fame QB’s, now only Brees remains to give his team a chance in a close game.
Numbers to know
+32: Green Bay’s point differential at home this season, best for second in the league
9: How many games the Packers have played since 1992 without Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers at the helm
+6: Saints’ turnover differential, which is tied for fourth-best in the NFL
1: Defensive touchdowns by the Saints in the last four years combined before this season
2013: The last time a QB not named Rodgers started a regular-season game for the Packers (Matt Flynn vs. Pittsburgh on Dec. 22, 2013)
Brett Hundley is the first player not named Aaron Rodgers to throw a TD pass for the Packers since Matt Flynn in Week 16, 2013. pic.twitter.com/f71ehpvym1
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 15, 2017
- Green Bay leads the regular-season series, 16-8
- Last regular-season meeting: Oct. 26, 2014, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Saints won, 44-23
- The Packers are 16-8 all-time against the Saints and 10-2 at home against New Orleans.
- Green Bay hasn’t hosted New Orleans since 2012, a 28-27 win for the Pack
What they’re saying from NOLA
- Bill Barnwell takes a deep dive into how this Saints defense is finally helping the legendary Drew Brees and helping the Saints’ comeback
- Consistency, consistency, consistency is what the Saints seek, writes Nick Underhill
- The Saints have also had some OL woes this season, but the future is bright, according to Roy Anderson
- Nick Underhill analyzes how the shifty Saints defensive line provides nightmarish for QB’s and opposing offenses (ie, bad news for Hundley)
What they’re saying in Titletown
- The guys at the Press-Gazette examine a winning formula for Brett Hundley
- Who exactly is Brett Hundley? Kendra Meinert finds out with 10 fun facts
- Remember Taysom Hill, the former Packer who lit up the preseason? Michael Cohen breaks down how he made his way to the Big Easy
- Rob Demovksy writes that Jahri Evans wants to show his former team that he’s still an elite guard
Injury report: Packers
Expected to play: LT David Bakhtiari (hamstring), RT Bryan Bulaga (concussion), CB Kevin King (concussion), RB Ty Montgomery (ribs), DT Quinton Dial (chest), LB Nick Perry (hand) and CB Lenzy Pipkins (concussion),
Questionable: C Corey Linsley (back), CB Davon House (quadricep) and CB Damarious Randall (hamstring)
Doubtful: LF Lane Taylor (ankle)
Out: QB Aaron Rodgers (right collarbone), S Morgan Burnett (hamstring), LB Ahmad Brooks (back) and LB Joe Thomas (ankle)
Injury report: Saints
Questionable: T Terron Armstead (shoulder) and WR Willie Snead (hamstring)