The Saints (0-0) are set to travel to face the Packers (0-0) tomorrow in the NFL’s first regular season game of 2011. It’s a contest that will pair the last two Superbowl winning teams together in what should be a game filled with plenty of big plays on both offense and defense.
Getting “behind enemy lines” we exchanged questions with Ray Rivard, the editor of FanSided’s Green Bay Packer site lombardiave.com, to ask him some questions about the upcoming game and the team he covers.
Ray had a few questions of his own for WDD, check them out at this link.
1) What kind of a season are you expecting from the Packers?
A. Looking at the Packers schedule, they have a realistic shot at going 11-5 or 12-4. They should do well within the division, even against the Lions who are expected to make the biggest improvement. They do have some tough games, though, and an unusual schedule. They have to play on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s and have tough games on the road out west against the Chiefs and Chargers. They also have tough conference games against the Bucs and Atlanta.
2) How much has the “Superbowl hangover” affected the team?
A. Because of the lockout, the Packers haven’t had the opportunity to get drunk on the Super Bowl. In fact, it was a mere couple of weeks after the Super Bowl that the teams were locked out. I don’t expect the Packers to experience a hangover not only because of the lockout but also because of the number of players who were injured and didn’t have a chance to play in the big game and now have the hunger to be a part of a Super Bowl run.
3) Do you expect Jermichael Finely to start against the Saints? Why did he feel that he needed to speak out against the Eagles and Saints?
A. I expect that Finley will start. He is one of those players who has the hunger to get the team back to a Super Bowl and he will also be a free agent next year and will do anything to get on the field. As for speaking out, Finley has never been one to shy away from saying what’s on his mind.
4) What are your thoughts on the Packers repeating as champions and what do you think will be their biggest hurdle in doing so?
A. If there’s been any team as poised as the Packers to repeat I’m not sure which team it could be. The Packers have added some pieces that will improve the team immensely and have also done a great job in discovering undrafted free agents who have made the team. In addition three key players, Finley, Ryan Grant, and Morgan Burnett, have had solid camps in coming off injuries and look ready to take this team to new heights. The biggest hurdle will be having to defend their title every week. Aaron Rodgers said it best when he said the team will have to play the Super Bowl every week. As you know, its a huge target they have on their back.
5) What has Mike McCarthy done this off-season to ensure a winning culture continues in Green Bay?
A. McCarthy has provided leadership and focus on the season at hand. He’s made it a point, from day one in camp, to make sure this team understands that this is a new season and last year is over. He also has done an excellent job, just like Coach Payton for the Saints, in bringing in players who fit his mold and his system. He expects to win every game and expects his players to perform at their highest level week-in and week-out.
6) What players have stood out in training camp and made the roster? Any names we should know about?
A. Look for rookie Randall Cobb to make his mark early and often. WR Cobb will have a big impact on special teams, but could also get some reps at receiver. Another rookie, LB Vic So’oto is an undrafted rookie who made a huge splash during the preseason with big play after big play, but was injured Tuesday while lifting weights. He, unfortunately is out for the Saints game. Packers fans are anxious to see how he performs under the bright lights of the regular season, but will have to wait at least another week. The Packers have 10 new faces on the squad, all rookies – seven drafted and three undrafted. They will have to step up, especially on special teams …
7) Ryan Grant has fallen out of favor with the Packers, or so the rumor mill suggests, what do you know about this? Does the emergence of James Starks have anything to do with it?
A. I don’t think he’s fallen out of favor at all. He’s still the starter but will be utilized in tandem with Starks as well as rookie running back Alex Green who could see some touches on third down. Grant and Starks could combine as a duo much like the Packers had in 1996 when they had Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens out of the backfield.