Top five questions for the Packers-Sains game

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:38 AM ET

GREEN BAY - 1. Will Ryan Grantís return allow the Packers to run the ball? Last season Grant got knocked out in the first game of the season and that was pretty much it for the Packers ground game until James Starks popped up in the playoffs. The Packers plan to split the duties between the two this season. ďEvenly dispersed? I canít guarantee it,Ē Packers running backs coach Jerry Fontenot told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. ďBut Iím certainly going to try to get each one of those guys an equal opportunity to carry the football.Ē Last year the Saints ranked 16th against the run. 2. Can the Packers vaunted pass rush put pressure on Drew Brees? This is sort of like the unstoppable force going against the immovable object. The Packers, led by linebacker Clay Matthews, who had 13.5 sacks, finished second in the league last season with 47 sacks. The Saints O-line, meanwhile, allowed Brees to hit the first just 26 times to rank fifth best in the league. The Packers will be going all-out to rush Brees. If they donít itís going to be a long night. 3. Do the Packers have to respect the Saints running game? They better. Last season the Packers were just 18th against the run and the Saints will open up with what promises to be a superior running game to last yearís which ranked 28th. Pierre Thomas is back but instead of the underwhelming Reggie Bush, he is flanked by stud rookie Mark Ingram from Alabama and veteran Chargers back Darren Sproles. It could prove decisive Thursday. 4. Can the Saints handle Packers tight end Jermichael Finley? Probably not but then, when he is healthy, who can. Finley is big and physical and aggressive and will once again be one of Aaron Rodgers main targets. Last year his season ended in the Packís fifth game when a knee injury sidelined him for the season. The Saints linebackers arenít the best at pass coverage which should play into the Packers hands. If Finley is running wild in the secondary, itís curtains for the Saints. 5. Can the Saints apply pressure to Aaron Rodgers? Last year the Saints didnít overwhelm in applying pressure and finished with just 33 sacks. It doesnít help their cause Thursday that veteran defensive end Will Smith has been suspended for two games. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will no doubt have his share of blitz packages ready to fire in an effort to get Rodgers off his game. The Packers O-line isnít rated as among the best and itís imperative they get to the Packers quarterback.

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