The nationally televised (NBC, Ch. 6) game will begin at 7:30 p.m. with the temperature in the 60s. The Packers are 4 points favorites.
The Saints entered the offseason wanting to establish roles at key positions, including tailback, receiver, tight end and the defensive front. Most of the weaknesses were strengthened as the Saints are preparing for a Super Bowl run against the Super Bowl champions Packers.
Pierre Thomas will start at tailback, but rookie Mark Ingram will get more carries to keep the Packers offense off with his running for first downs. Jimmy Graham is the real deal at tight end and he'll be running routes all over the field. All-Pro Charles Woodson will draw the assignment of covering the 6-foot-6 Graham.
Brees and Rodgers are the two best quarterback in the NFC and will easily be the main attractions.
Brees struggled during the preseason, completing 23-of-41 passes (56 per cent) .304 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions.
The Packers can be assured they will be nicked for at least 320 yards. The Saints have generated 300 or more yards 70 times in the regular season since Sean Payton became their head coach in 2006. They are have averaged 5.88 yards per play since 2006, one yard short of the NFL-leading Colts.
Packers linebacker Clay Matthews will try to put pressure on Brees by running through tackles Jeron Bushrod and Zack Strief. Injuries have been a concern for the Saints. No. 1 wide receiver Marques Colston is recovering from a third knee operation and didn't see much action in the preseason. Lance Moore, who is scheduled to take some snaps in place of Colston, missed a week with a groin pull.
Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin missed a chunk of camp with a sprained MCL, and cornerback Tracy Porter has eased back into the lineup, recovering from knee surgery.
The Saints will have two new starters at defensive ends because Will Smith is out with a two-game suspension and Alex Brown was released.
The Saints have a roster better than just about everyone in the league and a coaching staff proven to be among the league's elite.
The Saints' world-class production starts at quarterback and features one of the best in Brees, who is entering his 11th season, and is the 10th highest-rated passer in history.
The Packers have the most talented and deepest roster. There's no good reason to pick against them as repeat Super Bowl champs.
But I am in this game. Prediction: Saints 24-23. Take the 4 points.
by Ed Staton
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