Tonight, the Packers and the Saints will open up the 2011 NFL Season at Lambeau Field in a matchup of the last two Super Bowl winners. Unsurprisingly, Vegas has made the Pack the favorite in the game, setting the line at Green Bay -4. Let's take a look at which side the smart money will be on.
New Orleans is coming off an 11-5 season that saw them eliminated early in the playoffs by Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch and the Seahawks. That obviously wasn't how they expected their season to end, and they come into this year still seen by many as a favorite to win their division and possibly make a run to the Super Bowl. This team isn't very different than the one that won it all two years ago; Drew Brees is still there, the same receivers are still there, and most of the defense is still there.
Their biggest addition this offseason was Alabama RB Mark Ingram, whom they drafted in the first round. After cutting ties with Reggie Bush, they'll look to Ingram and Pierre Thomas to improve their running game, which ranked towards the bottom of the league last year.
Despite being the defending champs, it still seems quite possible that the Packers could be even better this year. They played all of last year without Ryan Grant, who had put together back-to-back 1000-yard seasons. Jermichael Finley was also lost early on in the season and his potential impact in the passing game is quite exciting for Packers fans. Aside from losing DE Cullen Jenkins, it's hard to find any negatives from this offseason on Green Bay's side.
So, which team is the better bet? To me, it has to be Green Bay. They only lost once at home last year, and that was to the Dolphins in OT, while they were playing without Grant, Finley and Clay Matthews. New Orleans was 6-2 on the road last year, but only 3-5 against the spread. Their free agent additions to their defensive line—Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers—won't be enough to slow down the Pack's new two-headed backfield of Grant and Starks. I don't expect Green Bay to completely stifle the Saints' offense, but to me this is a game where one team has the better offense and the better defense. And that makes them an easy pick with such a low line.
The pick: Green Bay -4
Now let's take a look at the over/under, which is currently set at 47.5 points. In a matchup of two of the best quarterbacks in the league, I expect a shootout. I'm not talking scores in the 50's here, but something like 31-24 seems like a definite possibility. While I think Green Bay's defense is very good and the Saints' isn't bad either, both of these teams are predominantly offensive teams, and that will show in the final score.
The pick: Over 47.5 points
What do you think? Expecting a battle of gunslingers or a defense-dominated grinder of a game? Would you rather have the Saints with the points? Let me know.