The similarities between Saints coach Sean Payton and Green Bay's Mike McCarthy are striking. Both men are the same age (47) and are starting their sixth season with their respective clubs, with Payton (49-31) owning one more win than McCarthy (48-32). They were hired six days apart in January 2006 and each man is the 14th coach in the history of their franchises. Oh, and both have a Super Bowl ring as head coach.
A high-octane matchup between the past two Super Bowl winners kicks off the season when the Saints visit the Packers on Thursday night. Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to three playoff road wins en route to a Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last season. The Saints' hopes of repeating were dashed with a stunning playoff loss at Seattle.
With a running game that was decimated by injuries, QB Drew Brees tossed 33 scoring passes but had a career-high 22 interceptions last season. The Saints moved to rectify that issue by drafting former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and signing San Diego's Darren Sproles to take the place of Reggie Bush. They also added a lot of mass on the other side of the ball in defensive tackles Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin.
Rodgers capped a spectacular season by throwing for nine touchdowns and rushing for two more in four postseason games. He gets two big weapons back in RB Ryan Grant and TE Jermichael Finley, who missed much of last season due to injuries. Linebacker Clay Matthews (13.5 sacks) leads a defense that ranked second in the league with 15.0 points allowed per game. Green Bay led the NFC in sacks (47) and interceptions (24) last season.
GREEN BAY - 2010: 10-6, 2nd NFC North
NEW ORLEANS - 2010: 11-5, 2nd NFC South
MY PREDICTION - Packers 33, Saints 30. Rodgers and Brees will light up the scoreboard, but the home field advantage and a stauncher defense will allow Green Bay to barely fend off New Orleans. Not to mention they have a more reliable kicker in Mason Crosby.
Line - Saints +4 / Over 47