It's game day, Who Dats! First up, 5 things that must happen for the Saints to win:
1. Saints must run the football! The old saying in football is when you are on the road you better be able to run the football. If New Orleans can move the ball with success on the ground against the Packers, that would bode well. First, it would mean that the Saints O-Line is doing a good job against a very stout Green Bay front. And, being able to run the ball would also keep the Packers offense off the field. Games like this are the reason why New Orleans moved back into the first round of the draft to select rookie RB Mark Ingram!
2. Stop the run! If Green Bay can run the football at will, it could be a very long night for the Saints defense. QB Aaron Rogers is good enough by himself in moving the ball on the ground, and if his running backs get into a groove, that could spell trouble for the Saints. Defensive linemen Sedrick Ellis and Shaun Rogers must help plug the middle. The Saints gave up an average of more than five yards per rush in the preseason. That can't happen vs. the Pack!
3. Where will pressure come from? Coach Greg Williams loves to dial up the blitz, and he loves to do it often. However, the more pressure the Saints can get with their front four, the better it would be for the back seven. But without DE Will Smith where will the Saints get pressure up front? Will it be from the middle of the defense? Will it be from rookie DE Cam Jordan, or blue-collar worker Jeff Charleston? If New Orleans has to blitz more often to get pressure by using their DB’s and LB’s, that could be a big risk with a mobile and accurate QB like Rogers.
4. No Will, Lance or Garrett – The Saints will find a tough time in dealing with the absence of their best pass rusher Will Smith, and their most sure-handed receiver in Lance Moore. Plus, will kicker Garrett Hartley be missed in this big game?
5. Turnovers! Of course you knew I had to bring up this area of the game. Both teams are virtually unbeatable when they win the battle of turnovers. The Saints must force a turnover or two to win this game. Green Bay is an impressive 20-3 under Coach Mike McCarthy when they don’t commit a turnover. The Pack is 16-3 overall since 2006 when they are +1 in the turnover battle, but they’re just 6-6 when they are even. Bottom line: New Orleans must be even or on the plus side of the turnover battle in order to have a shot at winning the game.
NFL Kickoff Weekend Notes
The New Orleans Saints will open the NFL season in the leagues’ featured game for the third time in five seasons, playing at the Green Bay Packers tonight in a primetime match-up that pits the previous two Super Bowl Champions.
In the past, the Saints did not have an impressive opening weekend record, but under Coach Sean Payton the Black and Gold are 4-1 on opening day. Overall, New Orleans is 16-28 in games on opening day, but the Black and Gold have won their last three opening-day games.
For that opening-date stat, only three other teams in the NFL have won more than three straight games, with the Packers being one of those teams - four straight wins. The Pittsburg Steelers have won a league-leading eight straight on opening weekend.
The Saints are 1-1 in the NFL’s Thursday Night season opener. In 2007 the Saints lost to the Colts 41-10. But last season, the Black and Gold opened the 2010 NFL Season as the defending champions to claim a 14-9 win over Minnesota in the Louisiana Superdome.
Only two teams have been featured on the NFL’s opening day stage in back-to-back seasons. The New England Patriots did it in 2004 and 2005, while the Saints were featured last season and again this season. And, yes, the Black and Gold has now become the first team to be featured on the opening Thursday Night Kickoff three times since the league began the Thursday Night Kickoff back in 2002.
We always hear about how important it is to get off to a good start. Well, that statement is ever so true in the National Football League. Since the NFL went to a sixteen game schedule back in 1978, teams that are victorious on opening day do extremely well.
Since 1978, of the 474 teams that won their opening games, 251 teams went on to the NFL playoffs, and 147 went on to win their division. On the flip side, the losers on opening day didn’t fair nearly as well. Of the 474 teams that lost their first game, only 106 went on to the post-season, and only 63 captured their division title. Of the twelve playoff teams from last season, eight won their first game of the season.
A year ago, the NFL once again proved to be the leader among the major professional sports leagues when it comes to being competitive. In 2010 there were a total of six new division title winners. Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Kansas City were all new division winners in 2010, tying the stat for the most since the NFL realigned in 2002. And that’s more good news for Black and Gold Fans.
Since 2001 only two teams in the National Football League that went from worst to first in their division and then went on to win the Super Bowl. The New England Patriots were 5-11 in 2000 and improved to 11-5 in 2001 and won their first Super Bowl.
And of course our own New Orleans Saints accomplished that very same feat. The Saints were 8-8 in 2008 and went on to a 13-3 regular season record in 2009, going on that year to win the Super Bowl.
Going into the season, the NFL breaks down the leagues strength of schedule for each of their thirty-two teams. This year the Saints have the 14th-toughest schedule. The Black and Gold’s opponents won 130 games in 2010 and lost 126, for a .508 winning percentage.
The Saints will face nine teams that were .500 or better in 2010. New Orleans will take on five teams that went to the post season in 2010 as well. Surprisingly the Carolina Panthers have the toughest schedule, while the Arizona Cardinals have the easiest schedule.
The Panthers’ opponents winning percentage is .555, while they will face seven playoff teams. The Cardinals play a schedule that pits them against teams with a combined .441 winning percentage… and the Cards will face only five playoff teams from a year ago!
Who Dat Nation – TODAY…it’s Christmas—finally! NFL regular season football! The Saints and the Packers will battle it out in Green Bay. Join us here on the flagship for 10 hours of extreme Saints coverage:
3 o’clock – Fans First Take with former Saints offensive lineman Steve Korte & Todd Menesses.
5:30 p.m. The Bud Light Countdown to Kick-off with Bobby Hebert & Deke Bellavia, live from Deanie’s Seafood in the French Quarter.
7:30pm is GAME TIME with the best play-by-play team in football--Jim Henderson, Hokie Gajan & Kristian Garic!
After the game, join the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert & Deke Bellavia for The Point After until 1:00 a.m….and maybe even later!
Add it up: That’s 10 hours of wall-to-wall Saints coverage on SAINTS radio–WWL - AM 870 & FM 105.3 and worldwide at WWL.com!