Packers vs. Saints: What to watch for
When the Packers have the ball:
The pre-season commitment to the no-huddle offense took carries away from the Packers stable of running backs. Of the players still on team, Ryan Grant lead in carries with 18, rookie Alex Green had 16, and James Starks just 4. The Packers will sling the ball, but look for Mike McCarthy to establish the run early against a rush defense that allowed 112 yards rushing per game last season.
When the Saints have the ball:
You know all about the Saints electric passing game. It will remain their bread and butter tonight, but their new-look running game will also be on display. Reggie Bush is gone, former Heisman Trophy winning rookie Mark Ingram and free agent Darren Sprowles are in. They will join Pierre Thomas to form a multi-dimensional attack that will keep teams honest. Look for Ingram to get the goal line carries.
Packers on defense:
Dom Capers started planning for the Saints the day after the schedule was released. The Packers defense was incredibly basic during the pre-season and will be anything but against New Orleans. The player to watch is DT Mike Neal. He's battled injuries since arriving in Green Bay, but has shown signs of being a disruptive menace when healthy. I spoke with Neal on Tuesday and, although he's listed as questionable on the injury report, Neal indicated he was "ready to go" for tonights game.
Saints on defense:
The Super Bowl version of the Saints had a remarkable 26 interceptions. Last years wild-card-game-losing Saints had just 10. Will the real Saints defense please step up? Jonathan Vilma is the signal calling LB for the Saints who, in his 8th year, is still a relentless play maker.
Which rookies will make an impact in this game? For the Packers it will be WR/KR Randall Cobb. He will have limited targets (if any) in the passing game, but will have a chance to show his electrifying play-making ability on kickoff and punt returns. TE Ryan Taylor could also make an impact on special teams as part of the coverage units. I wouldn't expect to see Alex Green for much more than 7 plays.
For the Saints, first round pick Ingram will be mixed into the rotation with Thomas and Sprowles, and will also utilize his bowling ball style of running near the goal line. He's the rookie most likely to find the endzone in this game. The Saints first 1st round pick, DE Cameron Jordan will also see the field but is listed as the #2 left defensive end on the depth chart.