New Orleans Saints (3-2 SU, 3-2 ATS) vs. Green Bay Packers (4-2 SU, 3-3 ATS)
NFL Week 7
Date/Time: Sunday, October 22 at 1PM EST
Where: Lambeau Field
by Evergreen, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NO -5.5/GB +5.5
Over/Under Total: 47.5
What do you do when you lose the best player on your team, possibly the best player in the league? I dont know for sure but Green Bay is about to find out now that Aaron Rodgers is out for the foreseeable future. Most prognosticators have the Packers in dire straits without their MVP signal caller and a likely bet to miss the playoffs even with a 4-2 record as a start. Most think the Packers are good for only three or four more wins throughout 2017 and they are not counting this week when the Saints head into Lambeau. New Orleans enters as a winner in three straight and they stand a good chance to get a win this week, one they could not have counted on when the schedule came out. The obvious story is what the Packers offense will look like with Brett Hundley at the helm but the Green Bay defense is also on notice as New Orleans has averaged 35 points per game in the last three games against the Pack.
This one had all the potential to be a game of the week but the shine came off when Rodgers broke his collarbone and the online betting sites are in agreement the Green Bay is a 5.5 point underdog. New Orleans is 11-2 against the spread in their last 13 games on the road and while the perception is they are not a good team off the turf, they have won eight of their last nine ATS on grass. Green Bay had been 6-1 ATS in their last seven home games and 7-3 against the spread in the last ten against the NFC but, of course, any stats or trends need to be looked at differently now without Rodgers running the show. The offense-defense method created by the Sagarin metrics have the Saints winning 36-26.
The loss of Rodgers is incalculable, and it stretches to every facet of the team. The defense has not been great this season but now they will be asked to be on field more and allow less with the offense likely to be under established averages. Brett Hundley has three years in the Green Bay system and will get a full week of practice snaps but the same shoddy O-Line still exists in Green Bay and that is bad news for anyone under center. The running game was already 26th in the league and will now face a lot more eight-man boxes as defenses dare Green Bay to pass. Field position, time of possession, turnover margin. Everything is scheduled to be upset now that #12 is sidelined. Mike McCarthy is a great coach and a fantastic QB doctor but will he be able to spin enough production out of Hundley when there are so many other issues plaguing the Packers right now.
Nearly all of the Packers ills are injury-related as the players that are actually in the lineup have been performing. Fourteen Packers were on Wednesdays injury report and the most troubling for this week are the three offensive lineman listed as questionable. The Packers could have zero offensive tackles available and would have to turn to a right guard at left tackle if all fail to suit up. Add in three injured members of the starting secondary and two more question marks at linebacker and that old MASH-unit analogy may not even properly explain just how bad things are. New Orleans has just two injuries to report and they are not to current key contributors. Hundley may be able to see some success against New Orleans 28th ranked passing defense, but will Green Bays ailing defense provide any resistance to Drew Brees?
Brees is suddenly the best passer in the NFC and an MVP candidate behind 69% completions, 10 touchdown passes and a 103.2 rating. New Orleans knows how to keep their QB upright with Brees being sacked an NFL-low four times this season. Green Bay has allowed the most sacks in the league and that will make it even harder for Hundley to keep up with the veteran Brees. The Saints defense is allowing a 48.5% conversion rate on third down, which is the worst mark in the league so the over appears a good play as neither defense appears ready to stop anyone at any point. Overall, New Orleans brings the 7th best offense in terms of total yards and averages a 4th best, 29 points per game. Hundley was only able to muster one scoring drive in relief of Rodgers last week but things should be a bit easier as the Vikings defense is far superior to the Saints and now Hundley will have the benefit of a full install in practice.
Outside of the Brees/Hundley matchup, Green Bay likely has the better set of skill players overall. Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are about as good as it gets for wide receiving groups and Martellus Bennett is a plus-athlete at tight end. They should see plenty of opportunities against a Saints passing defense that is allowing 268 yards per game and the Nelson/Adams combo are deadly in the redzone with both catching five touchdowns a piece so far. Brees spreads it out a lot more with six different receivers at 20 receptions or more and six with at least one touchdown grab. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara were the better two backs even when Adrian Peterson was in New Orleans and they both see an increased role now that Peterson is in Arizona. Ingram will handle most of the run duties while Kamara has emerged as a nifty pass-catcher in the old Reggie Bush/Darren Sproles kind of role.
You hate to make any one game about a single issue as there are so many things that can happen in an NFL game but the Rodgers injury is just too big to ignore. He was figuratively holding that team together and covering up for so many deficiencies that I worry it will all fall apart in Green Bay immediately. I think the Pack will come out with some good energy to start but injuries have left them so thin that passion alone will only take them so far. This is a bad matchup for them as Brees and Sean Payton know how to play it close to the vest and give Green Bay no freebies. There is too much diverse offense for the Packers depleted defense to see success all day and New Orleans is in control throughout, winning 30-20.
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