Saints get first crack at Packers without Aaron Rodgers

METAIRIE, La. -- Everybody in the New Orleans Saints locker room was saying the right things Monday about how the Green Bay Packers are still a talented, well-coached team even without Aaron Rodgers.

But Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan couldn't help but laugh when he was asked if he is almost disappointed or feels cheated that he won't get to face the all-world quarterback, who broke his collarbone Sunday.

"Nooo," Jordan said after an animated eyebrow raise. "You know, you hate to hear somebody with such immense talent get hurt and be down for the year. But at the same time, we have a game to win, so hopefully this makes it push in our favor.

"But we don't know to what extent. I mean, Brett Hundley has been sitting behind Aaron Rodgers for what, three years? ... I mean, he's had a lot of tutelage from one of the greats of our era. So that being said, I'm sure he'll be well ready."

Hundley, 23, struggled a bit Sunday when he replaced Rodgers and saw the first extended action of his three-year career. He threw an interception on his first pass attempt and finished with three picks in a 23-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

But Hundley also threw his first career TD pass and led the Packers on a field goal drive. And everyone in both the Packers and Saints buildings is confident that Hundley will fare better after he has a full week to prepare with first-team reps in practice and has the game plan tailored to his skill set.

"You can't sleep on Hundley, man," Saints defensive end Alex Okafor said. "In this league, if somebody prepares better than you, they'll come out and beat you. So you can't underestimate anybody."

Hundley (6-foot-3, 226 pounds) is an athletic QB who can do damage with his legs as well as his arm. He is the all-time leader in passing touchdowns at UCLA, and he ranks second in school history in both passing yards and rushing yards by a quarterback.

"He has poise and he has athleticism. And those are the two things that are probably most important for a backup quarterback to be not just a deer in the headlights back there," said Saints fullback John Kuhn, who was with the Packers during Hundley's rookie year in 2015. "He definitely impressed me his rookie year."

Kuhn also said he knows from experience that the Packers have managed to scrape by without Rodgers in the past.

In 2013, Rodgers broke his other (non-throwing) collarbone and missed seven games. Green Bay started 0-4-1 in his absence but won its final two games with backup Matt Flynn and wound up winning the division after Rodgers returned.

"Being on that team, I remember we held it together good enough so that we could win the division and make it to the playoffs," Kuhn said. "So that goes to show you there's ingenuity up there, there's still some firepower and the ability to get the team prepped and win football games and play competitive football without him is still there.

"So you can't ever take 'em lightly."

Certainly not with one of the NFL's most dynamic trio of receivers (Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb) and a decent run game. However, the Packers' offensive line has been ravaged by injuries recently -- not to mention the defensive secondary.

Meanwhile, the Saints defense has been one of the NFL's biggest surprises over the past month, surviving an abysmal 0-2 start to become downright dominant.

After a 20-0 shutout win over the Miami Dolphins in London in Week 4 (and a bye in Week 5), the Saints defense scored a franchise-record three touchdowns in Sunday's 52-38 victory over the Detroit Lions.

The defense has been an aggressive, attacking unit in recent weeks, one that forced five turnovers Sunday, sacked Lions QB Matthew Stafford five times and batted down nine of his passes at or behind the line of scrimmage (the most ever recorded by a NFL team since the statistic started being tracked in 2006).

Suddenly, this matchup between the Packers' offense and the Saints' defense is starting to look like the exact opposite kind of mismatch that it seemed like just one month ago.