Thursday, September 8, 2011

The NFL is BACK! Thoughts on Packers-Saints

Tonight kicked off the start of the 2011 NFL season, and if tonight's game was any indication, we're in for a great one. In a wild shootout at Lambeau Field, the Packers defeated the Saints 42-34 on a game that ended with a goal line stand by Green Bay's defense. Here's five quick observations on tonight's game:
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1) Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are both ridiculously good.

It's no small wonder that these guys are the last two Super Bowl MVPs. The #1 and #2 defenses in the NFC last season got their butts handed to them tonight. Brees completed 32 of 49 passes for 419 yards and 3 touchdowns against the defending Super Bowl Champs and nearly rallied the Saints back from a 15 point deficit in the 4th quarter. Rodgers meanwhile completed 14 of 15 passes for 199 yards and 3 touchdowns in just the first quarter and finished with 312 yards of his own. The Packers and Saints allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for just 194 yards per game last season. If these two guys could shred these two vaunted defenses like this, just think what they might be capable of doing against the rest of the league.

2) Darren Sproles is a great fit in New Orleans.

I'll be honest. I really thought the Saints were going to miss Reggie Bush this season. Not necessarily for what he contributed in the box score, but because of the attention he commanded from opposing defenses. I know you can't draw too many conclusions from just one game, but Darren Sproles already has people saying 'Reggie Who?' down here on the bayou. Sproles was a human highlight reel catching 7 passes for 75 yards, returning a punt 72 yards for a touchdown, returning a kickoff 57 yards, and drawing a pass interference penalty on the game's final play giving the Saints one final chance to tie the game after time expired. If Sproles can make those kind of contributions on a regular basis, you're going to see a lot of #43 jerseys around New Orleans.

3) The Packers offense is not one dimensional.

Last year, the Packers running attack suffered significantly following the loss of Ryan Grant for the season. Brandon Jackson led the team in rushing last year, but managed just one 100 yard game (aided by a 71 yard touchdown run). However James Starks' emergence during last year's Super Bowl run, Ryan Grant's return from injury, and big John Kuhn returning at fullback have the Packers showing that they can run the ball as well as pass it. The Packers ran for 103 yards and 2 scores tonight against the Saints helping open up the field for Rodgers. They also picked up 10 first downs on the ground.

4) Mark Ingram was outplayed by another rookie from the SEC.

There's been a lot of talk about Ingram this preseason. And rightfully so. The former Heisman Trophy Winner will be a huge part of the New Orleans offense and tonight he received over 60% of the team's carries. However, Ingram was stopped at the 1 on the game's final play, and it was a different SEC rookie who really left his mark on this game. Randall Cobb, the second round pick out of Kentucky, caught a 32 yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers and returned a kickoff 108 yards for another score for the Packers. For you fantasy football players out there, Cobb is owned in just 10% of yahoo leagues right now compared to 94% for Ingram.

5) New Orleans needs to figure out things on defense.

If you include last season's playoff loss to Seattle, New Orleans has now lost back to back games in which Drew Brees threw for over 400 yards and the offense scored at least 34 points. The Saints defense also looked shaky in the preseason other than in their opening win against San Francisco. Gregg Williams is too good of a coordinator to let this continue, but the Saints can't be excited by what they've seen so far. Granted Green Bay's offense is going to make a lot of good defenses look bad, but you can't give up 40 points per game and expect to win. Even if Drew Brees is your quarterback.

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