NFL Kickoff Features Packers Versus Saints

What’s the best way to kick off the 2011 NFL Season?  Let’s start with a Thursday night matchup featuring the last two Super Bowl champions.  Maybe set the game at legendary Lambeau Field, once the home to coach Vince Lombardi whose name graces the Super Bowl Trophy.  And if the game itself weren’t enough, the NFL has thrown in a season opening extravaganza worthy of a Super Bowl halftime show.

Gates to the kickoff concert open at 3:15pm local time, with Maroon 5 scheduled to open the show about an hour later, followed by Kid Rock at 5:00, and Lady Antebellum 6:15.  The NFL estimates that 20,000 people will attend the concert plus another 20,000 watching from outside the concert venue.  The concert will be broadcast inside the stadium on TundraVision.

The national anthem will be performed by former American Idol winner Jordin Sparks and will feature a flyover by four F16s, followed by a brief fireworks display.

Oh, yeah, and let’s not forget that there’s also a football game scheduled for later in the evening.

The first game of the 2011 season matches the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers against the 2010 Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.  The game features two of the marquee quarterbacks in the league, and the last two Super Bowl MVPs, in Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.

One significant difference between the two teams is their offseason preparation this year.  During the NFL lockout, the Saints had almost perfect attendance at player-organized workouts that were arranged by Brees with Brees running the offensive drills and defensive captain Jonathan Vilma running the defense.  Video from the workouts showed a committed, professional-looking offseason program.

In contrast, the Packers were one of the few teams not to hold any player-organized workouts during the lockout.  Rodgers commented on it back in July:  “I’ve been throwing enough to where I’m not worried about if I’m going to be ready for when this thing shakes down,” he said to the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

“We did have a great gathering in Green Bay,” Rodgers said of the ceremony where the team received their Super Bowl rings. “Other than that, we haven’t had anything official.”

In spite of the Packers approach to the offseason, Rodgers hasn’t seemed to miss a beat.  He has been on a roll the last two years that puts him in the highest echelon of NFL quarterbacks.  His efficiency rating has been above 100 for the last two years running.  After a regular season last year where he completed over 65 percent of his passes for 3,922 yards with 28 TDs and 11 INTs, he actually got better through last year’s playoffs.

His playoff run was exemplary, completing over 68 percent of his passes for over 1,094 yards with 9 TDs and 2 INTs, for an efficiency rating of 109.8.  So far, he has looked just as solid this preseason, over four games amassing a QB efficiency rating of 130.1, going 37 of 47 (78.7 percent) for 395 yards, with 4 TDs and no INTs.

In spite of the extra preparation the Saints put in, Brees has not shown much in the preseason, completing just 56 percent of his passes with no TDs and no INTs.  He is coming off a very strong 2010 performance where he threw for over 4,600 yards with 33 TDs.

But the preseason is over and its finally time for the games that actually count.  Let’s get the ball in the air and play some football.

The game can be viewed on NBC at 8:30pm Eastern, or listened to on Sirius XM Radio 93.

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