They're mirror images of each other. The teams that will meet at Lambeau Field on Thursday in the NFL's 2011 "Kickoff Game" are, in effect, the same team.
Last season, the Packers offense was ninth overall, 24th in rushing and fifth in passing; the Saints offense was sixth overall, 28th in rushing and third in passing. In other words, both teams threw the ball real well, but didn't run it well at all.
Defensively, the Packers were fifth in the league, 18th against the run and fifth against the pass; the Saints were fourth overall, 16th against the run and fourth against the pass. In other words, both teams are best against the pass; if you're gonna beat 'em, you do it with the run. Oh, by the way, both teams' defensive coordinators, Dom Capers (pictured) and Gregg Williams, are pass-rush gurus.
This is a matchup of teams of contemporary style. These teams are built to play the way the NFL wants its teams to play, which is to say in open space and with the spotlight trained on the quarterback.
Which team will win the game? That's an easy question to answer: the team whose quarterback plays the best.
The effectiveness of each team's pass-rush will go a long way toward deciding whether it's Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees that will emerge victorious on Thursday. Rodgers is going to see blitz schemes from Williams the Packers won't find on any of the Saints tapes they've watched, and Capers will no doubt have a surprise package for Brees.
"Since it's the first game of the season, I'm sure we'll see some things that are different. We're preparing for pressure. We could get a pressure game, we could get a coverage game," Packers Quarterbacks Coach Tom Clements said.
If you care to guess which it will be, it is this reporter's opinion that you should favor a pressure game. Pressure is Williams' game and he no doubt spent a lot of time studying the tape of the Packers' preseason win over the Colts.
Now, here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Saints.
1. Protect Rodgers—He's the Packers' star and the star must be protected. That'll be a constant for every game, but it'll be especially true for this game.
2. Stick like glue—That's what Packers defensive backs do to opposing wide receivers, and it'll never be more important than it will be on Thursday, against a quarterback that likes to throw short. You don't beat Brees by giving big cushions.
3. Block Shaun Rogers—He's a big addition to the Saints defense. When his size has been too much for opponents to handle, he has been as disruptive as any interior defensive lineman in the game.
4. Run at the ends—It's better than running at Rogers and Sedrick Ellis in the middle.
5. Get in Brees' face—He's on the short side. Pressure up the middle forces him to throw outside the numbers.
6. Make big plays on defense—Brees threw 22 interceptions last season; it was the second-most in the league.
7. Use the no-huddle—To up the tempo and create energy.
8. Feed off the crowd—Lambeau Field will be on fire on Thursday.
9. Look at the schedule—It says 2011; this is a new season.
10. Play like champions—The world will be watching. They wanna see the Super Bowl-champion Packers. Show 'em who you are. Additional coverage - Sept. 6