I can only imagine what it feels like to be a Packer player this week, how difficult it is for them to let go of what happened on Monday night. I’m only a fan and blogger for the team and the ending of that game is still gripping me. I have to admit that I haven’t completely focused on the Saints as a result. But the Packers are professionals so hopefully they have the emotional distance needed to let go of that biter, biter taste and keep their eye on the task at hand.
Last week my under riding theory was the Packers needed to start fast and stress the Seahawk secondary as best as possible on offense and on defense stop the run and force the game into Russell Wilson’s hand. My five Packer picks reflected that. This week my vision of the game is a bit different and so my picks will reflect that difference. The Saints are almost the polar opposite of the Seahawks on both offense and defense, and so the game plans and theories have to shift accordingly. Now ball control, and by extension clock control, become essential. The good news is that the Saints offense fits neatly into the way our defense is designed…pressure the passer and stop the pass.
Five players that will be critical to this sort of strategy….
RB Cedric Benson
Is the Packer offense becoming more Benson centric or just balanced as compared to what was run last year? I’m not sure the answer to this question is that important as long as the Packers can start the game running the football and establish that threat early in order to soften the pass rush and open up the deep pass. The good news for Packer fans is that Benson has been as good as advertised, an upgrade from what the Packers have had at running back since 2007, and a reliable back who can carry the ball 20-30 times a game and get respectable yardage.
NT/DE B.J. Raji
Once upon a time the Saints were said to have the best guards in football, but I’m guessing that’s not the common thought circulating around NFL circles right now. Hopefully this apparent weakness can be taken advantage of by Raji who is having a good, but quiet year. Raji’s performance is going to be important to the Packers for two reasons: 1.) the Packers need some interior pass rush to help Clay Matthews and Nick Perry pressure Drew Brees, and 2.) the Saints have a good rotation of large physical running backs that they will want control the clock with as well….a strong performance by Raji can close down those running lanes between the tackles.
TE Jermichael Finley
One of these days Finley has got to step up right? Really Finley is having an okay, but not great year. He makes plenty of great catches but seems to drop that one key catch late in the game. This causes people to conclude that it’s the same old overrated Finley. It’s too bad. This week the Packers could use him to stress the struggling Saint linebackers. The emergence of Finley could also kick start the Packers offense needs in order to be the high scoring unit we were all expecting.
S Jerron McMillian
Not going to lie, McMillian is my favorite rookie defender of the season so far. His solid play has been the real secret to the improvement to the Packer defense as of late. He has been making plays deep in the passing game as well as short in run support and man on man coverage. McMillian’s ability to cover as well as provide run support is going to be essential in helping to stop the various mismatches the Saints offense can create with their variety of playmakers.
CB Casey Hayward
The Saints are all about offense, but this year the Packers have actually found a defense. Last week I believed the key was about how the depth of the Packers receiving corp could stress the depth of the Seahawk secondary. This week a similar match up is going to be key but on the other side of the ball….how well can Hayward and Shields handle that deep Saint receiving corp? The good news is that these two have held up well. Right now I don’t have questions about Shields. Hayward has been a pleasant surprise but can he keep that up? Could this be the week that he starts to flash some of those ball skills that he was able to show in the preseason and caused him to be drafted so high?