Sorry gang, I’m just not feeling it.
I’m pretty sure that in the 14 years I’ve been writing about the Pack, I’ve never picked them to lose in back-to-back weeks, but here we are.
I understand that many things are working in the Pack’s favor on Sunday. It’s the home opener, with all the excitement and pageantry that comes with it. Meanwhile, the Saints are playing their second straight road game and are coming off a short week after playing on Monday night.
On top of that, the Saints can’t attack Green Bay where they’re most vulnerable: on the ground. Alvin Kamara is still suspended, and old friend Jamal Williams is out with a hamstring injury. That leaves them with Tony Jones, Kendre Miller (making his season debut), and everyone’s favorite former Packer, Swiss army knife QB/TE Taysom Hill. After last week’s debacle, the run defense is a top priority, but the Saints look to beat teams through the air.
The Saints have also struggled to pass block in the first two games, and Derek Carr is an entirely different quarterback under pressure. The Pack’s pass rush has been lights out in the first two games, and that’s with Rashan Gary playing limited snaps as he returns from the torn ACL. That’s a point in Green Bay’s favor, and if they win this game, it will be because they turn Carr over a couple of times.
But the injuries and the schedule make me pessimistic. The Pack has to turn around and play a huge divisional game against the Lions on Thursday night, and they’ll likely be extra careful with guys who are less than 100% ready to go.
Sure, there’s a chance that Aaron Jones and Christian Watson suit up on Sunday; both returned to practice in a limited capacity this week. Still, I can’t see either playing a full complement of snaps. We know the Pack will likely be without the Pro Bowl left side of their offensive line. Elgton Jenkins is definitely out (he says he doesn’t think he’ll land on IR with the sprained MCL, but I’d be surprised if we see him until after the Week 5 bye).
The Packers have officially listed David Bakhtiari as questionable, and I don’t think even he knows right now if he’ll be good to go against the Saints. Their best pass rusher, Cam Jordan, typically lines up on the left side, which means Zach Tom will draw that assignment. But their defense is rock solid, and replacements Rasheed Walker and Royce Newman face a difficult assignment on Sunday.
As for the defense, rookie Lukas Van Ness is questionable with the elbow injury he sustained last week. However, he practiced in a limited fashion. Most concerning: Jaire Alexander suffered a back injury in practice on Friday and is also questionable. After a wretched performance last week, he’s looking to bounce back and shadow stud receiver Chris Olave while Rasul Douglas deals with speedster Rashid Shaheed. Their slot guy, the oft-injured Michael Thomas, has looked more like his old self and will be a handful for slot corner Keisean Nixon.
Through two games, Jordan Love has looked like the real deal, protecting the football and getting great results in the red zone. At some point, the Pack will turn the ball over and fail to convert when they get near the end zone. The defense they’re facing on Sunday is world’s better than any they’ve seen so far this season.
Finally, there’s this stat: Over the last 20 years, teams that play their first home game in Week 3 cover the spread only 36% of the time. The Packers are one-point favorites on Sunday. With all the health question marks to key players and with a big game coming up four days later, I just get the feeling the Pack comes up a little short on Sunday.