Week 3 of the 2020 NFL season brings so many great matchups of good teams and quarterback battles, from the Patriots vs the Raiders, to the Cowboys vs the Seahawks, to the Chiefs vs the Ravens. And that's just to name a few of them.
My official Week 3 matchup of the week, however, leads me back to Sunday Night Football with the Green Bay Packers vs the New Orleans Saints. Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are two of the top five quarterbacks in the league, and they’ll be ultra-focused for this breakdown.
Breaking It Down - Is Rodgers "Elite"?
The Packers are off to a 2-0 start, and Rodgers has been playing well. In my opinion, however, the Packers haven’t been good enough to receive the overreaction of praise they’ve been getting. The market has overreacted.
It wasn’t too long ago that the Packers were crowned the most overrated 13-3 team in recent memory, and they earned that title in large part to the play of Aaron Rodgers, especially in the 2019 NFC Championship against the 49ers.
The Saints defense, on the other hand, is currently ranked 10th in DVOA. Rodgers last year went up against five defenses that ranked 10th or better in DVOA and he was a below average quarterback in this contests, completing only 59.4% of his passes to go along with187 YPG, 5.5 YPA and a 33.9 QBR. The Green Bay offense in those games also scored just16.6 PPG.
Rodgers has dominated the first two weeks of 2020, sure, but it has come against the Lions defense that ranked 30th last year in DVOA and is currently ranked 31st this year, as well as a Vikings defense that was ranked 4th in DVOA last year but have tons of new faces on their defense, which is currently ranked 20th.
Breaking It Down - Is Brees "Washed"?
The media has been calling Drew Brees old and washed up from his performance on Monday Night Football against the Raiders, and I kind of felt that way too, but after going back and re-watching some of that game, that simply wasn’t the case. It was actually the defense that let him down, giving up 34 points, 377 total yards and committing 10 penalties to the tune of 129 (!) yards. This isn't on Brees.
Brees actually completed 68% of his passes while nearly throwing the ball 40 times. He also added 312 yards with a QBR of 61.4, which is pretty good if you ask me. Doing this all without his number one receiving option in Michael Thomas is even more impressive, given that this offense is centered around the Brees-Thomas connection and that the Saints have a slew of unproven pass-catchers on their wide receiver depth chart.
While the Packers offense has been putting up points on below-average defenses this year, capable offenses should also have the opportunity to put points up on Green Bay as well, as they rank 26th defensively in DVOA.
Drew Brees last year faced two defenses that were ranked 25th or worse in DVOA and he completed 69.5% of his passes in those games while averaging 282 yards per contest with a 84.1 QBR. He also scored 38 PPG in those games, so needless to say, I fully expect Brees to take major advantage of this Packers defense with or without Michael Thomas on Sunday Night Football in Week 3.
Breaking It Down - The Backfields
Another key matchup to keep an eye on for this game is the battle of the explosive backfields. Both teams have at least one running back that can control the game with the run or pass, as well as make it easier on their quarterbacks, in Aaron Jones for the Packers and Alvin Kamara for the Saints, two of the NFL's best.
It’s well documented that a strong running game can be a quarterback's best friend, but the duo of Kamara and Latavius Murray has actually proven to be more reliable than Jones and Jamaal Williams for the Packers. Last year, while facing three opponents that were ranked 25th or worse in defensive DVOA, the RB tandem of Kamara and Murray went over 100 yards twice while scoring three times.
Look for Drew Brees to be able to move the ball downfield in the passing game as well as the running game, all the while keeping Rodgers and his offense on the sidelines. The Packers were also ranked 23rd last year in rush defense efficiency and struggled defending teams that run most of their plays out of both 11 personnel and 21 personnel, which the Saints successfully ran last year for a majority of their plays - passing out of11 personnel and running out of 21 personnel. Although the Packers' Jones is coming off a Week 2 monstrous performance, it is the Saints backfield which holds the edge in this Sunday night showdown. Kamara, and Murray for that matter, simply have the better matchup.
I already gave out my best bet on the Betting Predators' NFL Week 3 Preview Podcast this week, with the Giants +4, but I also like the Saints -3 here as well. The line opened up -6 and with the market overreacting to how well the Packers have played through the first couple weeks compared to how bad the Saints looked last week, it has been bet down. I see a ton of value on New Orleans in this spot.
My Pick: Saints -3