NFL Week 8 – Star QBs Square Off as Saints host Packers
John BensonNo comments
Going into this season, the New Orleans Saints (2-4, 2-0 home) were favored to win the NFC South. Sure, the Carolina Panthers were expected to challenge, but we are talking about Sean Payton and Drew Brees – a proven winning combination.
However, the Saints struggled out of the gate this year, losing their first two and three of their first four. The culprit? A horrific defense that is allowing 27.5 points per game. This forces Brees and the Saints offense – which is currently missing TE Jimmy Graham – to have to air it out every week in hopes of winning. The Saints nearly won on the road last week against a solid Detroit team, but Brees through a late pick that to seal their fate. The loss was the Saints third on the road by three points or fewer.
After the Detroit game, Brees said, “We did a lot of good things and yet, we have to finish. We have to finish, especially today. It’s not like this thing was back and forth. We had a 13-point lead with however much time was left.”
As a result of the Saints’ miscues, the Panthers (3-3-1) lead the division heading into week 8. But, at 2-4, the Saints are not far behind and know there is still a lot of football left to be played.
Said coach Payton, “That’s a ton of football. Basically we’re finished (with), I believe a third of the season, a little bit more than that. But the focus for us will be right on Green Bay.”
Those Green Bay Packers (5-2, 2-2 away) also started out shaky but, recently, have turned around their season under the guidance of Aaron Rodgers. Even by his own standards, Rodgers has been impeccable lately. Last week against Carolina, Rodgers posted the second-highest passer rating of his career at 154.5.
Rodgers’ brilliance is not lost on his current teammates. Packers guard Josh Sitton said, “It’s funny. I talk to old friends who have been here and are with other teams, and they don’t really realize how good Aaron is until they go and play for someone else. It’s hard to realize, I guess, when he’s all I’ve known. I expect that week in and week out.”
Still, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy knows that the Packers will need to execute perfectly on both sides of the ball to beat Drew Brees in his own house.
McCarthy said, “I would like to think our whole team clearly understands we’re getting ready to go into a hotbox down there in New Orleans. I mean, this is going to be a big-time environment, big-time game. These are the kind of games you love to play in. Everybody wants to go get this one and get to 6-2, especially after where we were four weeks ago.”
It’s tempting to call this game a “must-win” for the Saints – as falling to 2-5 looks really bad – but Drew Brees was correct when he said that the Packers game is not a must win contest. After this week, the Panthers will be, at best, 4-3-1. Even if the Saints fall to 2-5, they will only be two wins behind Carolina with a game in hand and two head-to-head matchups with the Panthers remaining.
Everyone is expecting a shootout come Sunday. But look for both teams to focus on the run to shorten the game – as each team is equally scared of the other’s premier pivot. This means the under at 56 is in play.