Green Bay Packers (0-0, 0-0 ATS) vs. New Orleans Saints (0-0, 0-0), 4:25 p.m., Jacksonville, Fla.
Implied Team Totals:
Spread/Total Movements: Saints -2 to Packers -4.5 to -3.5, 50.5 to 49.5
Weather: 86 degrees, 10-15 mph, 40% chance of rain
Packers Injuries to Watch: LT David Bakhtiari (ACL, PUP), LB Za’Darius Smith (back, questionable)
Saints Injuries to Watch: WR Tre’Quan Smith (hamstring, questionable), DT David Onyemata (suspension), CB Bradley Roby (suspension), K Will Lutz (groin, IR), CB Ken Crawley (hamstring, IR), CB Marshon Lattimore (knee, probable)
Brolley’s Packers Stats and Trends
The Packers finished an NFC-best 10-6 ATS last season.
Green Bay is 7-1 ATS in its last eight September contests.
The Packers played over the total in four straight games to end last season.
Aaron Rodgers guided the Packers to a 13-3 record with an NFC Championship Game appearance for the second straight year. He finished the year as the QB3 with 24.0 FPG as he led the league in touchdown passes (48), TD rate (9.1%), INT rate (1.0%), completion percentage (70.7%), and QB rating (121.5). The Saints allowed the fifth-fewest FPG (17.3) to QBs last season.
Davante Adams out-scored the next closest WR, Tyreek Hill, by nearly four FPG (25.6 to 21.9) last season. Adams led the league in receiving yards per game (98.1), target share (34%), and in receiving TDs (18). He converted a silly 11-of-16 end-zone targets and he registered 6+ catches in each of his 15 full games (playoffs included) last season. Adams has scored a ridiculous 27 TDs in his last 24 games (playoff included) dating back to Week 12 of 2019. The Saints gave up the 14th-fewest FPG to WRs (35.8) last season.
Robert Tonyan matched Travis Kelce for a position-best 11 touchdowns last season on his way to finishing as the TE5 with 11.0 FPG. Tonyan took Jimmy Graham’s old job and he ran with it, easily pacing all players with 50+ targets in catch rate (88.1%) and he hauled in an absurd 18.6% of his targets for a touchdown (11 of 59). He scored touchdowns on an unsustainable 7-of-8 end-zone targets and on 11-of-14 red-zone targets. The Saints allowed the 14th-most FPG (12.8) to TEs last season.
The Packers handed Aaron Jones a new contract this off-season and they elevated A.J. Dillon to the #2 RB with Jamaal Williams heading to Detroit. Jones is coming off an RB4 season with 18.5 FPG and his 30 TDs over the last two seasons are second to only Derrick Henry, who has 35 scores. Most of Dillon’s production came in a blowout victory on Sunday Night Football over the Titans in Week 16 when he rumbled for 21/124/2 rushing with Williams out of the lineup. The Saints allowed the fewest FPG to RBs (17.9) last season.
Brolley’s Saints Stats and Trends
The Saints were one of five teams to finish with 10+ overs last season.
The Saints have played over the total in seven straight season openers, and they’re 1-6 ATS in that same span.
New Orleans ended last season with an 8-3 ATS run and an 8-3 run toward unders.
The Saints are 8-2 ATS as an underdog the last three seasons.
Jameis Winston sealed the starting gig with his excellent performance — and Taysom Hill’s putrid performance — against the Jaguars in their second preseason game. New Orleans will lean more pass-heavy and these receivers will also be targeted downfield. Winston was the only quarterback to have an average depth of target of more than 10 yards in 2018 and 2019. Winston now needs to stay out of Sean Payton’s doghouse if he starts to put the ball in harm’s way — he owns 121 INTs and 3.5% INT rate in 70 career starts. The Packers allowed the third-fewest FPG (17.0) to QBs last season.
Alvin Kamara is going to see heavy targets with Michael Thomas out of the lineup and Winston named the starting quarterback, and he could have a path to more carries after the team released Latavius Murray to trade for CB Bradley Roby. He averaged 7.4 targets per game with Drew Brees in the lineup last season and 4 targets per game with Hill as the starter for four games, so Kamara should be in much better shape with Winston in the lineup. The Packers allowed the fifth-most FPG (27.0) to RBs last season, including the third-most receiving yards (47.8).
Tre’Quan Smith had a quiet August because of a hamstring injury, and Marquez Callaway blew right past him to the top of the depth chart while Michael Thomas (ankle) is out of the lineup. Our Greg Cosell first turned us onto Callaway last year, who went undrafted out of Tennessee in 2020, and the entire world found out about him in the preseason when he ripped the Jaguars for two long touchdowns. Callaway ended his rookie season with 21/213/0 receiving on 27 targets in 11 games, which wasn’t too bad for an UDFA without a preseason last year. The Packers allowed the fifth-fewest FPG (32.6) to WRs last season.
Juwan Johnson appears ready to take over in the Jared Cook role this season next to inline TE Adam Trautman. Johnson posted 3/80 receiving on five targets in the preseason while Trautman got pulled off the field in passing situations. Jared Cook posted 37/504/7 receiving on 60 targets in the passing-TE role last season. The Packers allowed the third-fewest FPG (10.4) to the position last season.
Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 30.4 (32nd)
Plays per game: 64.9 (12th)
When the game is within a score — Pass: 59.3% (12th) | Run: 40.7% (21st)
When the team is ahead — Pass: 50.1% (15th) | Run: 49.9% (18th)
When the team is behind — Pass: 68.2% (10th) | Run: 31.8% (23rd)
Pace (seconds in between plays): 29.1 (T-28th)
Plays per game: 64.6 (15th)
When the game is within a score — Pass: 55.5% (21st) | Run: 45.5% (12th)
When the team is ahead — Pass: 46.2% (24th) | Run: 53.8% (9th)
When the team is behind — Pass: 65.3% (18th) | Run: 34.7% (15th)
HC Sean Payton will have to re-engineer the Saints offense not just because of Drew Brees’ retirement but because of Michael Thomas’ absence. I’m expecting the Saints to structurally bring back a similar run / pass split and rely more on the run game like last year over the course of this season, but they may have to abandon that plan if Aaron Rodgers has his way with the Saints defense. Plus, as Brolley mentioned up top, the Saints have been historically poor in season openers and I could certainly see that trend popping back up with so many new and moving parts in their offense. The over/under (49) here is fair, but I’ll note that this game projects as one of the slowest in terms of pace between these two offenses as both the Packers and Saints were bottom-5 last season. Rodgers and the Packers pushing the scoring ceiling is the pathway for this game to shoot out.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
One thing I’m highlighting right away is Packer TE Robert Tonyan. The Saints bled production to TEs late in the season, allowing the 5th-most FPG to the position over the last four weeks of the season. And Tonyan has some positive history here, posting 5/50/1 against New Orleans in Week 3 last year.
While we would anticipate that CB Marshon Lattimore will shadow WR Davante Adams, he also has popped up on the injury report this week with a knee injury. While he is expected to go, any limitation would be a positive for Aaron Rodgers and this Packer passing game. The Saints are already without CB Ken Crawley (hamstring), and though they traded for Bradley Roby, he is suspended and can’t play this week. The Packers are catching them at the right time.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Packers line up defensively against this very thin Saint receiving corps. Alignment history would suggest Jaire Alexander would align over Tre’Quan Smith and Kevin King over Marquez Callaway. However, Smith has a nagging hamstring injury and was placed on IR. So who is going to get the ball from Jameis Winston in this matchup? Could Green Bay choose to shadow Callaway? That would be a heck of a step up in competition for New Orleans’ preseason superstar.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
For Green Bay, I’m firing up Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, and Robert Tonyan as no-brainer starts.
But there are a couple of things I am watching. While you might think that this isn’t the week to use #2 RB AJ Dillon, because the Saints gave up the fewest FPG to RBs last year, but the status of their defensive tackle position is horrible. Seriously, look at these names (from our friends at Ourlads).
I can endorse Dillon as a FLEX option if you think the Packers can build — and keep — a lead.
Also, what is the WR rotation behind Adams? Rodgers lobbied for the acquisition of Randall Cobb, and he’ll get some run, but will he be fantasy relevant? Deep threat Marquez Valdes-Scantling reportedly had a stellar camp, but he’s more of a best-ball guy. And Allen Lazard is here too. I’m mostly sitting on the sidelines here.
For New Orleans, it’s Alvin Kamara, Marquez Callaway, and nobody else for me. (And Callaway, with the potential that he catches a Jaire Alexander shadow, is merely a low-end WR3.) The weapons are perilously thin for Jameis Winston, especially if Tre’Quan Smith can’t play, and I’m not going to trust Tony Jones Jr. just yet in his first game as New Orleans’ #2 RB.
I will be watching the TE situation, however. I’ve stashed the talented Juwan Johnson everywhere I can in the event that he becomes even 50% of the next Darren Waller, but Adam Trautman will play as the in-line guy.