This was supposed to be one of those marquee NFL games that would be dominated by the quarterbacks.
New Orleans Saints vs. Green Bay Packers. Potential Hall of Famers Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers facing off at Lambeau Field.
At least Brees will still be playing Sunday.
As for the depleted Packers, they must begin life without their two-time NFL MVP. Third-year pro Brett Hundley will make his first NFL start in place of the injured Rodgers when Green Bay hosts the rejuvenated Saints.
There’s not much regular-season film on Hundley, other than his three-interception outing in the loss to Minnesota last week after Rodgers broke his right collarbone . This leaves New Orleans (3-2) preparing a bit for the unknown.
“I’d rather do that than prepare for Superman,” said Kenny Vaccaro, referring to Rodgers and his penchant for late-game heroics.
The offense will have to change for the Packers (4-2), though it’s unclear yet by how much. Hundley’s most extensive action has come in the preseason, when he has shown mobility and a strong arm. He spent a little extra time this week with coach Mike McCarthy helping to put together the game plan.
But he still has a ways to go to replicate Rodgers’ uncanny knack to catch defenses off-guard and adjust on the fly.
“So he clearly won’t carry the responsibility into the game that Aaron Rodgers carries into it. I think that’s obvious. I’d be an idiot if I asked him to do that,” McCarthy said. “I think that’s really for the other young guys who are playing. We don’t ask all our younger players to do all the things that our veteran players do because they don’t have the experience.”
The 38-year-old Brees has plenty of experience. The Saints won their third straight game following an 0-2 start after beating 52-38 last week, when Brees threw two touchdown passes but also his first two interceptions of the season.
But an improved defense that forced five turnovers helped New Orleans win. Brees wants to get back to playing cleaner football.
“Offensively, I think we’ve done a pretty good job of (limiting turnovers) with the exception of this Detroit game , and yet thankfully the defense had so many, it offset ours,” Brees said. “I think that’s obviously the No. 1 step in football.”
As if Hundley didn’t have enough to worry about, the Packers might have to start a patchwork offensive line again. Left tackle David Bakhtiari (hamstring), left guard Lane Taylor (ankle) and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (concussion) were all on the injury report at midweek. All three starters left the Vikings game , and the results were awful for Hundley after he took four sacks and felt under pressure several other times.
The Packers’ battered front will be challenged by Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, a menacing presence and easily the team’s best defensive player this season. Jordan had two sacks and an interception in a stat sheet-filling outing last week against Detroit. With five sacks and eight quarterback hits this season, Jordan now has his sights set on a signal caller making his first start.
New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers
When: Noon Sunday
Where: Lambeau Field
Radio: 870-AM, 105.3 FM