1.) Like everyone else that watched, what the heck happened with the Packers Week 1?
Bill Huber: Well, they got their you-know-whats kicked.
If you’re looking for something a bit more in-depth, it was kind of a weird game. The Saints started the game with the ball and scored a field goal, and the Packers failed to respond and punted. The Saints then embarked on back-to-back touchdown drives of 15 plays. So, it was 17-0 late in the first half, and Green Bay’s offense had run 12 plays. A two-minute drill before the half cut it to 17-3. But, the Packers, whose offense is predicated on running the ball, had only four running plays.
Green Bay got the ball to start the second half, and was in position to make it 17-10 when Aaron Rodgers threw a rare red-zone interception. His pass was a mile behind Davante Adams. And for good reason. He got hit with a “double nut shot,” as he told The Pat McAfee Show, and a re-watch of the game backs that up.
None of that is an excuse. The defense, mostly manhandled by the Saints’ front, has to get off the field so the offense can get back on the field. The protection, pretty good for most of the game, was terrible on the interception. Rodgers admittedly didn’t play well.
One other thing worth noting: The Saints, who had to figure out their starting quarterback, played their starters during the preseason. The Packers, with the goal of staying healthy, did not.
2.) What has the mood of the team been since the lopsided loss?
Huber: Surprisingly good. Adams talked on Thursday about how there were smiles on the bus on the way to the airport. All that stuff that I just wrote about is why he said this on Thursday: “It was just such a weird game, to where it’s hard to even look at it like we got completely defeated. I found that my teammates were able to shake this one better than what I’ve seen in the past. We’ve just got to make sure we actually do something about it.”
The Packers are coming off back-to-back seasons with 13-3 records and trips to the NFC Championship Game. Just about everybody is back from last year’s team, which led the NFL in scoring and earned the No. 1 seed. This is a really good team. They know it. And that’s why the sky isn’t falling.
I think the lesson from Sunday is even a really good team like the Packers can’t just roll out their helmets and expect to win. For what it’s worth, coach Matt LaFleur is 6-0 after a loss. Rodgers has thrown four touchdowns in each of the last four of those games.
3.) Is Aaron Rodgers too much of a distraction?
Huber: No. He’s not a distraction at all. Generally speaking, there are two types of players. They either want to win or they want to get paid. Rodgers’ presence helps with both. Rodgers has talked about his future with the team, because he’s been asked about it. He spoke with us for 25 minutes on Thursday. We didn’t ask about his future; he didn’t talk about it.
Besides, some of the veteran players made it clear who they supported during the offseason stand-off. And it wasn’t the people who sign their paychecks. Since he arrived for the start of training camp, Rodgers has been Rodgers. He’s led. He’s coached up the young guys. He’s taken all his reps. He’s joked with the coaches and even general manager Brian Gutekunst. What happened against the Saints had nothing to do with Rodgers’ uncertain future.
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4.) What are the two-three matchups to watch on Monday Night Football?
Huber: This isn’t an individual matchup, but the Packers have got to run the football. So much of LaFleur’s offense starts with the running game. Running Play A looks identical to Passing Play B. Well, if you can’t run the ball – or, as was the case against the Saints, you don’t try to run the ball – then it’s really hard to throw it. So, I’d expect to see a heavy dose of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, so LaFleur can get back to running his offense.
How will the Lions try to defend Adams, and will it matter? Obviously, losing Jeff Okudah was a major blow to the defense. The Saints limited the All-Pro receiver in the opener; do the Lions have the cover guys to do the same?
The interior of the Packers’ offensive line includes two rookies (center Josh Myers and right guard Royce Newman). The one veteran is left guard Lucas Patrick; he’s in the concussion protocol, and presumably would be replaced by former Michigan left tackle Jon Runyan Jr. I’d think that’s the group the Lions want to target.
Last week, the Packers gave up a couple easy touchdowns to Saints tight end Juwan Johnson. Obviously, T.J. Hockenson is a focal point of the Lions’ attack. The Packers can’t let him duplicate last week’s stat line of eight catches for 95 yards. And, finally, I’d assume Jamaal Williams’ energy level will be over its usual 10. The Saints controlled last week’s game, with running backs Alvin Kamara and Tony Jones. Williams and D’Andre Swift is a darn good tandem.
5.) Who wins this nationally televised NFC North contest between the Packers and Lions?
Huber: The Packers … by a lot.
A lot of fans here are panicking. But, I see a team that was really, really good the last two years. There’s no reason why they won’t be really, really good this year. It’s a veteran group with a lot of pride. I’d be shocked if they don’t come back with a vengeance and really put one on the rebuilding Lions.
I’ll go Packers 37, Lions 17.
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