Like every opening game of the NFL season, I'm stoked! This game is going to be outstanding. I know the stats; I know that no defending Super Bowl champ has lost their season opener under the Thursday night format. I also know the Saints were the first team to ever lose the final three games of a season and win the Super Bowl. Can the Saints beat the odds again? What I've liked the most about watching the team prepare for this week is their focus. I know that word is sometimes carelessly tossed around, but not with this team. You can see it in the locker room; you can tell they have an edge to them. The interviews are shorter, the laughter is less frequent in the locker room, the players are in and out of meetings before and after practice. The Saints have a great chance to upset the defending world champs at home. I think they will. I'll predict the final score in just a minute.
That would be one word to describe Saints players and coaches as this game began looming larger on the calendar. "We see ourselves as a great team and as a contender. They see themselves as a great team and as a contender. The fact of the matter is it's one game and it just happens to be the first game of the season on a Thursday night on national television. But you just try to cut through all that and understand it's just a game and it's just one game," Saints Quarterback Drew Brees said following practice on Sunday. The approach for the Saints and Packers is just that, it's just one game, but man is it big. No defending Super Bowl champion has lost the opener in the Thursday night format.
Brees hopes to find holes in the Packers defense:
Under defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the Packers defense is highly aggressive and full of dynamic playmakers at linebacker. "It's a very aggressive style. He has the ability to do that because he has great players behind it. They pressure a lot. They play a lot of man-to-man, bump in your face coverage. They have the ability to really get after the quarterback. I think they were second in the league in sacks last year, but you just constantly see them disrupting the pocket," said Brees. Notice that Brees says they play man to man a lot. That's typically a coverage that Brees and the Saints welcome "Yes, I do because I like our receivers, I like our backs, and I like our tight ends. I like our skill positions. I feel like we have playmakers just like they do. In the end, if they choose to play man-to-man then it's a lot of one-on-one matchups. Basically what they're saying is we think our guys can match up with your guys. Then you hope that you can get some big plays," Brees explained.
Garrett Hartley is out (hip). Wide receiver Lance Moore is out (groin). Defensive tackle Tom Johnson (calf) and receiver Adrian Arrington (knee) are gametime decisions.
The personality of a team changes from year to year in the NFL. Teams know the basic principles of a team they are playing in week 1, but the Saints have to be prepared for anything against Green Bay. They don't have as much film to study, trends, tendencies and situational football in week 1. Saints Coach Sean Payton explained, "Starting off with the fact that it's the first game, every season with early opponents there are always some adjustments that have to be made during the course of the game. There are going to be things that we see that we haven't had a chance to necessarily card or practice against in the week and vice versa. Then when you factor in personnel in both cases, there are new players for Green Bay involved in what they're doing and there are new players for us. In week five or week six, there's a little more of a bio on each team, a personality as to what they like to do, who's doing what in situations. So early on in the season with each of these games this weekend, there is a little bit of uncertainty and there are going to have to be some adjustments and we're going to have to be ready for some things that look a little different. So whether it's a tight end who didn't appear during the last half of the season in regards to the cut-ups or the film study, it may be a rookie, but that happens especially early in the season."
Kicker John Kasay missed an extra point and missed a 39 yard field goal in the preseason finale against the Titans. Backup quarterback Chase Daniel is the holder for field goals and extra points. Kasay kicks with his left, and Daniel is used to holding for Garret Hartley who kicks with his right foot. He has had to switch around for the left footed Kasay. The Saints have worked on the snap, and hold portion. "I think there is an adjustment for the holder - opposite knee, your handwork is different, and I wouldn't say it's like becoming a switch hitter in regards to baseball," Payton said. "I don't know that we've kicked him more, but certainly the snap-hold process we've worked on a lot more than we would have with the normal work week. That's kind of an ongoing work in progress. Yesterday I thought it looked really good and he kicked really well yesterday so we just have to continue to work on the timing of it and the technique of it."
Who Dat! I'm going with the Saints 24 - Packers 21. Call me a homer if you want, but I just got that feeling. This team is ready.
By the way... Sharper and Brown could be back soon:
Don't look at the Saints current 53 man roster with the mind set that this will be the same 53 players at the end of the season. In fact, I would venture to guess that it will change after week 1. Veteran players on the roster from day 1 cost you money whether if they play every down, or they miss every game. If you sign a guy after week 1, you can pro-rate their salary. In other words, it's cheaper to sign veterans (Darren Sharper and Alex Brown) once the season starts. Make sense? Plus, in three more weeks the Saints have to part ways with someone on the roster when defensive end Will Smith returns from his two game suspension. What's more? Six weeks from now the team will have to decide if they are going to carry 5 running backs when Chris Ivory comes back off the PUP list.