The long-awaited NFL regular season has arrived as the Green Bay Packers prepare to fly to Jacksonville, Florida for their week 1 neutral-site matchup versus the New Orleans Saints. We kick off the opening week by looking at the tale of the tape between these NFC playoff hopefuls.
Quarterback – Green Bay
There’s not much debate here.
Aaron Rodgers, although entering his age 37 season, is the reigning MVP and is poised for another stellar season under centre.
The supporting cast might be the deepest he’s ever had and, despite concerns entering the season, his linemen are ready for another top-five season as a group.
Jameis Winston officially takes over his second NFL team and an offense with hefty expectations, replacing 15-year starter Drew Brees.
Winston’s arm talent has never been in question. It’s between the ears that have failed him early on in his career. He’ll need to take care of the football and make good decisions against a ball-hawking Packers defense.
Winston will be without his number one receiver, Michael Thomas, for this matchup, but will be able to lean on stud running back Alvin Kamara.
I’ll take the best in the business in this bout – Aaron Rodgers.
Weapons – Green Bay
The New Orleans Saints have always had playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, but in recent history, they’ve leaned on the play of a legendary quarterback, a dynamite running back, and one of the best receivers in the game.
The team has been top-heavy for a few seasons, relying on head coach Sean Payton to dial-up exotic play calls for his big three.
With Michael Thomas out and Drew Brees retired, the team is much less threatening.
Alvin Kamara will tote a big workload in this one, but the question will reside where the secondary help will come from.
Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, and Deonte Harris are the Saints’ top receivers in week 1 – a lot of speed, but not much experience. They also hope to have breakout candidate Adam Trautman available at tight end.
The Packers’ weapons outside Davante Adams have been scrutinized by media and fans for a few seasons now.
But, in a do-or-die season, this group is looking as dangerous as it ever has in the Aaron Rodgers era.
As a group, this is one of the best sets of weapons in the NFL. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, we could be talking about this undoubtedly being the best set in the league.
I’ll take the experienced group – Green Bay.
Trenches –New Orleans
This might be the best matchup of the game on both sides of the ball.
The Saints field a top-five offensive line in football. The Packers, when healthy, are poised to do the same.
The Packers have a great pass-rush trio but have questions on the interior of the line behind Kenny Clark.
The Saints are optimistic on their pass-rush tandem, but also face questions on the interior of their defensive line.
Both teams also have key absences in this one. David Bakhtiari won’t be available for the Packers at left tackle while defensive tackle David Onyemata is suspended for the Saints.
With Onyemata out, I will lean with the Packers defensive line, but with a couple of uncertainties to open the season on the offensive line for the green & gold, I will give the confident advantage to the Saints.
In all, this will be an entertaining bout all afternoon, but the Saints’ offensive unit is steady enough for me to lean with them.
Special Teams- New Orleans
Year after year, the Saints are among the best in the NFL in special teams.
SI’s Rick Gosselin ranked the Saints as the 5th best special teams unit in the NFL in 2020.
He ranked the Packers 29th.
The Packers are hoping new coordinator Maurice Drayton can fix some of the issues that have swirled the team for years.
There are some new pieces in place to help.
Rookie Kylin Hill will return kickoffs while the punt returner might still be up in the air. Maybe another rookie, Amari Rodgers, will field punts.
A new punter has also arrived. Third-year lefty, Corey Bojorquez will punt for the Packers now as the team moved on from J.K. Scott last week.
The Saints also have a new punter but return all their other core special teamers including returner Deonte Harris, who earned first-team All-Pro honours as a rookie in 2020.
One group has clear concerns while the other looks to keep the train rolling.
The Saints have the advantage in the third phase of the game entering Sunday.
Coaching- New Orleans
This is tough.
On one hand, you have a young coach who’s starting his career 26-6 with two straight NFC Championship appearances.
On the other hand, you have one of the best offensive minds/play-callers and overall coaches of his era.
I’m giving the slight lean to Sean Payton here.
Matt LaFleur has more than proven he’s going to be a long-time coach in the NFL, but Sean Payton has always found a way to get it done with the Saints.
They’ve been one of the most consistent teams in the NFL and you need good coaching for that.
These are two great coaches who’re trying to get their teams to the promise land. Expect a great matchup in this one.
Although I gave Payton the lean, I fully expect LaFleur’s team to come out on top.——————
Joshua Frey-Sam is a journalism student and aspiring sportscaster hailing from Winnipeg, Canada. A Packers fan since 2005, Josh has worked to master the financial and scouting aspect of the NFL over the past few years. Josh remains a firm believer that Dez did not, in fact, catch the ball. You can follow him on twitter at @jfreysam.