Saints vs. Packers: 5 New Orleans Players to Watch

Scott Boehm - Getty Images

As Sunday nears, Tex examines the key players for New Orleans in their battle at Lambeau Field. Not surprisingly, the Saints' offense gets the brunt of the attention.

Who's ready to get back to football? Well, besides the referees, of course.

TE Jimmy Graham

Graham has become the second coming of Antonio Gates. He's a big, ridiculously athletic target who played basketball in college and uses those skills to go up and catch jump balls at their highest point. This makes Graham a top red-zone target, but his sheer athleticism makes him a threat between the 20s as well. In all honesty, he's the kind of tight end that the Packers hoped Jermichael Finley would become. The Packers defense must account for him and limit his touches to win Sunday's game.

RT Zach Strief

Streif will see a heavy dose of Nick Perry and Erik Walden on Sunday, and his performance will determine whether the Saints can consistently send another blocker to help Jermon Bushrod double-team Clay Matthews. Perry looked better rushing the passer on Monday night, and finally got his first sack of the year; if he can beat Strief with any regularity, that will open things up for Matthews to put Drew Brees squarely in his crosshairs.

RB Darren Sproles

I touched on Sproles' fantasy potential earlier this week, and he's a slippery little guy. He has alternated between being a factor in the passing game (5 catches for 35 yards and a score in week one and 13 receptions for 128 yards in week two) and the running game (7 runs for 67 yards in week three). Then add his special teams contributions into the mix and you see that Sproles can be a factor in just about any way imaginable. It's a testament to the Saints' offense that they find ways to get him the ball when he's being shut down in one phase; undoubtedly the Chiefs focused on limiting his receptions last week, but that opened him up in the run game. The Packers' defense and special teams will both need to bring their A game to prevent Sproles from wreaking havoc on Sunday.

DE Will Smith

Smith will be lined up opposite Marshall Newhouse this week, and he is probably the Saints' best pass-rusher. His impact on the pocket will go a long way to determining whether or not the Packers' receivers will be given time to work their way open in the secondary. Aaron Rodgers has been sacked way, way, way too much so far this season, and Smith must be contained to ensure that does not happen again this Sunday.

CB Patrick Robinson

Robinson is a solid young corner who showed good ball skills last year, with four interceptions. The Saints' nickel and dime backs are fairly unknown and unproven, while the safeties graded out very poorly by Pro Football Focuslast season; there will therefore be a lot of positive matchups for the Packers against those depth players. They'll need to pick and choose the shots they take towards Robinson carefully.


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