New Orleans Saints vs. Green Bay Packers: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Oct. 19, 2017 at 4:13 PM
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NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (3-2) AT GREEN BAY PACKERS (4-2)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Lambeau Field. TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver (field reporter.)

SERIES HISTORY: 25th regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 16-8. Green Bay is 10-2 at home, including 4-1 at Lambeau Field and 6-1 in Milwaukee. The Saints won the last meeting, 44-23, in 2014 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Packers won the last meeting at Lambeau Field, prevailing 28-27 in 2012.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Green Bay is about to find out what life is like without quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Brett Hundley, a fifth-round draft pick out of UCLA in 2015, takes over for the future Hall of Famer, who broke a collarbone last week in a loss to Minnesota.

Hundley's arm strength is above average and he is athletic. He has all the tools (4.63 speed in the 40, 36-inch vertical jump) to be a winner, except for experience. In the first meaningful action of his career, Hundley threw three interceptions and finished with a 39.6 quarterback rating.

"I mean, he needs to turn it up," a not-so confident coach Mike McCarthy said. "There's no doubt about it. The whole team needs to turn it up. I told them everybody needs to clean their house up right now. I don't like the way it looks."

The Packers still have explosive weapons on offense, and it will be up to the O-line to give Hundley time to make reads and correct decisions.

New Orleans is on a three-game winning streak and, as shocking as it might sound, the defense has been stellar -- forcing nine turnovers, scoring three touchdowns and recording 13 sacks against the Lions, Dolphins and Panthers.

The offense is no longer 100 percent reliant on the arm of QB Drew Brees. The Saints are coming off their best rushing performance of the season as Mark Ingram cracked the 100-yard mark and ran for two touchdowns last week against Detroit.

New Orleans has been weak on third-down conversions -- they were just 2 of 12 against the Lions -- and Brees knows they must improve on that stat. "I think we have been into an abnormal number of third-and-long situations. I think that's due to penalties and some negative plays that we probably could've avoided," he said.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Saints RB Alvin Kamara vs. Packers linebackers. Kamara is the Saints' second-leading rusher with 158 yards and he's averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Additionally, he is the second-leading receiver, with 24 catches for 159 yards. With the Packers' linebackers beat up, Drew Brees figures to look for Kamara frequently in both the running game and passing game.

--Packers RT Bryan Bulaga vs. Saints DE Cameron Jordan. Jordan has a team-high five sacks and could be facing a backup right tackle this week. Green Bay's Bryan Bulaga is in the concussion protocol, and it's uncertain whether he will be cleared by Sunday.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Saints CB Marcus Lattimore. The rookie No. 1 draft choice has become a starter and the team's top cover corner in the absence of injured Delvin Breaux. Jordy Nelson (six touchdown receptions), Davante Adams (five) and Randall Cobb (one) comprise the most challenging receiving corps the Saints have faced, and Lattimore will lead the coverage.

FAST FACTS: Saints QB Drew Brees has thrown for 1,499 yards (374.8 per game) and 13 touchdowns in the past four meetings. He has not thrown an interception in those games. ... RB Mark Ingram had 150 total yards and two touchdowns last week, his seventh career multi-touchdown game. In the last meeting against Green Bay, he rushed for career-high 172 yards and a touchdown. ... Rookie RB Alvin Kamara rushed for career-high 75 yards in Week 6. He has touchdowns in two of the past three games and is tied for third among NFL rookies with 24 catches. ... WR Michael Thomas is gunning for his third straight game with at least seven receptions, 85 yards and a touchdown. ... Packers QB Brett Hundley threw his first career touchdown pass in a Week 6 loss to Minnesota. ... RB Ty Montgomery has six touchdowns (five rushing) in the past nine games. ... WR Jordy Nelson is tied for the NFL lead with six touchdown receptions. ... WR Davante Adams has scored a touchdown in three straight games. ... LB Clay Matthews has two sacks and two forced fumbles in his last four games at Lambeau.

PREDICTION: Is there a tougher place than Lambeau for a road team to pick up a win? The Saints can buck that trend if the defense keeps the heat on Aaron Rodgers' replacement, Brett Hundley.

OUR PICK: Saints, 31-17.

--Dennis Rudner

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