Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints: Are You Ready for Some Football?

Tim SeemanAnalyst INovember 21, 2008

Monday night's game between the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers in the Superdome will be a classic showcase of strength against strength.

Drew Brees, who is on pace to break Dan Marino's single-season passing yardage record, will lead the Saints' pass-happy offense against Green Bay's excellent pass defense.

Recent history and common sense tell us that great defense usually beats great offense, but Brees and his teammates in the pass offense are playing like no great offense has played in the history of the league.  It all depends on how good the Packers pass defense really is. 

Are their numbers against the pass (176 yards per game, good for third in the league) reflective of how good the players are? Or are they a sign of teams choosing to run against a porous run defense (147 yards per game, 27th in the league.)

I believe that the passing defense really is that good for Green Bay. 

Yardage is unreliable when it comes to pass defense because it can be skewed by how much teams run against the same defense. 

When assessing pass coverage, it's important to take into account interceptions, opponent quarterback rating, and opponent completion percentage. 

Green Bay leads the league in all three categories with 16 picks.  Opponents are completing less than 52 percent of pass attempts—which is almost incomprehensible—and have a rating of less than 60.

Brees has been having a season for the record books, but the Packers' pass defense is capable of limiting Brees and the Saints to well below their season averages.

While this matchup will be intriguing to watch, it will not decide who wins the game. 

What the Saints do defensively will end up shaping the outcome.  And the Saints generally don't do much defensively.

They rank in the bottom half of the league in terms of scoring defense (24.9 points per game, 24th), total defense (346 yards per game, 24th), pass defense (235 yards per game, 26th), and run defense (110 yards per game, 19th). 

Count on a revived Packers unit to take advantage.

Ryan Grant finally had the kind of game that warrants a contract extension last week against the Chicago Bears, running for 145 yards and a score. 

Aaron Rodgers finally got some protection last week from the offensive line and completed 23 out of 30 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns against a supposedly good Bears pass defense.

If the Packers can have an offensive performance that even halfway resembles what they had last week, they will win this game in New Orleans and take charge of their own destiny in the NFC North divisional race. 

I think they will.  Green Bay wins, 38-31.