2012 NFL Week 4 Picks: Green Bay Packers over New Orleans Saints

Jake WestrichSenior Writer ISeptember 25, 2012

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Cedric Benson #32 of the Green Bay Packers runs with the ball against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on September 24, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

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Game of the Week: Saints at Packers

In the words of the immortal Yogi Berra, "It's getting late early."

The Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints have been postseason fixtures this decade, with the franchises capturing two of the last three Lombardi trophies. The current campaign, however, has seen inauspicious starts for both squads, as the Saints stumble into Wisconsin winless, while the Cheeseheads find themselves at 1-2. That certain, ahem, "extraneous circumstances" surround each team's record makes the matchup that much more intriguing and serves as our WhatIfSports.com Game of the Week.

Granted, the Packers should realistically roll into this foray with a 2-1 mark, yet as Bill Parcells once remarked, "You are what your record says you are." Zebra errors aside, Green Bay has other pressing matters at hand. After averaging a league-high 35 points per game in 2011, the Pack has stalled on the offensive end, posting a meager 19 points per contest, tied for 26th in the NFL. Facing three of the conference's toughest defenses in San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle hasn't facilitated the fireworks, but given Green Bay's depth and explosiveness, it's hard to fathom even the most formidable of resistances slowing down Aaron Rodgers and company.

Luckily for Mike McCarthy, his offense receives a bit of a respite this week, as New Orleans enters with the worst-ranked defense in the league, surrendering 477.3 yards per game.

While the air attack has been iced on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau thus far, the Green and Gold defense has proven stout through three weeks, suffocating adversaries to just 261 yards per game, ranking third-best in the league.

Leading this revival has been linebacker Clay Matthews, who has already racked up six sacks in the young season, matching his output from 2011. After getting caught up in the hoopla that followed the Packers' Super Bowl conquest, Matthews seems rededicated to his craft for 2012. Throw in the lingering anger the Packers will harbor from Monday night's debacle, and the Green Bay defense will not be a congenial crew on Sunday.

The Saints can second this animosity, as the organization is reeling from the offseason sanctions levied at the team for a bounty scandal. Without head coach Sean Payton at the helm, New Orleans has sputtered, losing their first three games to less-than-arduous opponents. As aforementioned, the catalyst for this catastrophe has been the defense, giving up a conference-worst 34 points per game.

Gregg Williams might be ostracized by the football community for his heinous part in placing hits on opposing players, yet new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has not replicated his predecessor's success on that side of the ball.

Though the horizon might look bleak for the Saints, hope is never lost when Drew Brees is under center. The perennial Pro Bowler has tossed a touchdown pass in 46 consecutive games, one off Johnny Unitas' record. And though NOLA has struggled with turnovers, the team endures as one of the premier high-octane offenses, evidenced by the unit's 27.7 points-per-game figure. If the team can improve on their conversion of third downs, which sits at a pedestrian 38 percent, the train should find its way back on the track for the Saints.

So who wins this clash of clubs desperately seeking a win? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com simulation engine, the Packers win 75.5 percent of the time by an average margin of 31-22. For the rest of this week's predictions, check below: