Hey, does anyone even know it's Packer week? Me either. With all the turmoil that's gone on this year, and with the 3-6 record, it's tough to get motivated to get my level of hate up to the required level. Let me try...nope, ain't happening.
BUT IT'S TIME TO BRING THE HAAAAAAAAATE!!!! AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Nope, that didn't do it either. Sigh...I hate the 2010 season. I almost want to blind myself with a stick so I don't have to watch the last half of the season, but then I could never watch German niche porn again. So I endure, for you, the fine people of DN.
Well, we still have 7 games to talk about, and this is our most bitter rival, and it is, more than likely, Brett Favre's last appearance against his old team. So with that in mind, here's five questions with the Acme Packing Company. One of the writers over there, texwestern, was gracious enough to exchange a Q and A and not to be too smug about it. My answers to his questions will be posted over there.
DN: The Packers have dealt with one injury after another, yet they are are 6-3 and in the thick of the NFC North race. How have they done it, and who has stepped up and filled in for an injured starter that's made you take notice?
The key has been the defense, and on defense, the biggest factor in my mind is the scheme. Dom Capers has designed his defense around Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson, who mercifully have missed only one game between them (Matthews was out for the loss against the Dolphins). If the players around them play solidly within their roles and let those two do their job and make impact plays, the D will be effective. When players like new starters ILB Desmond Bishop and SS Charlie Peprah make big plays as well, it's icing on the cake. Those two have impressed immensely since taking over for injured starters, and they're a big reason for the defense's recent success.
DN: How do you see the second half of the season playing out for Green Bay? The schedule seems tougher, and injuries are still hurting your team (Mark Tauscher, for example). Can they hang in until the end, or will a tougher schedule and lack of roster depth catch up to them in the second half?
The schedule certainly gets more difficult, with the games at Atlanta and New England and at home against the Giants being the toughest tests. The defense will need to continue forcing turnovers at big points in the game for this team to win those games against well-coached teams with talented defenses. The offense can function even without the key players it has lost, but it needs some help in the field-position game from the D and the special teams. I still feel that this is the best team in the division, and I expect the Packers to make the playoffs despite the tough schedule the rest of the way. Their success to this point speaks to the depth the team had at the start of the year...I just don't want to see that depth tested any further.
DN: Ted Thompson has been really brutalized by Green Bay fans because of his dogmatic philosophy to build the roster through the draft and not sign big free agents or make a trade for a position of need. With Green Bay's success in the post-Favre era, has he been vindicated, or can his philosophy only get the Packers so far?
There's only one way for Thompson to convince all Packers fans of his philosophy, and that's obviously for the Packers to win a Super Bowl under his watch. In general, I tend to support Thompson's overall philosophy, though I seem one of few Packers fans who feel that way. What really frustrates me is his unwillingness to tweak his tendencies when the situation dictates it--especially his lack of effort in trading for a running back once Ryan Grant went down. Overall though, he's made a number of great draft picks--Rodgers, Matthews, Jennings, and Raji, who's really been impressive this year--but draft picks take time to develop. The problem is that this team seems ready to make the big jump to being a Super Bowl-caliber team, and Ted needs to acknowledge that and look to improve the team in the short-term as well as the long-term.
DN: Clay Matthews has been the headliner on defense this year, wreaking havoc over most every team he has faced. What can the Vikings do to neutralize his impact on the game?
Sneak into his hotel room and give him some sleeping pills? Because he's been a beast against all kinds of offenses so far. Frankly, the Vikings seemed to do a reasonable job of containing him last game--he put pressure on Favre, but couldn't quite get to the QB quickly enough and ended up with one tackle and no sacks. The problem is that now when you double-team him, the defense is finally starting to get pressure from other players. One thought is to get him off his rhythm by using the running backs or tight ends to chip him at the line of scrimmage. That's easier said than done though, and it's no guarantee that he'll be ineffective.
DN: Aaron Rodgers has put up some impressive numbers as a starting QB. However, there's one number that baffles me, and that's zero (maybe one). And that refers to the number of fourth quarter come from behind wins he has engineered with the game on the line. Is that a big deal, (and possibly over-magnified considering his predecessor's knack for it), or is this something that you think is a legitimate problem?
I only found one, as he connected on a 50-yard catch and run to Jennings with a minute or so left in the first Bears game last year. (I don't count the second Bears game in 09, when he threw a TD to take a 21-14 lead with 12+ minutes to go). In 2008, his first year as a starter, I thought that Rodgers played very well late in games; the Packers' defense just couldn't hold it down for him. The Pittsburgh game last year was another instance where his defense couldn't hold up after he led a marvelous fourth quarter. The Pack trailed 24-14 entering the fourth and took a 36-30 lead with two minutes to go before Ben Roethlisberger's ridiculous touchdown to Mike Wallace stole the game. So in general, it hasn't been Rodgers that has failed late in close games so far in his career, it's been his defense. I believe that he has been good, and that I have no doubt that he'll rack up his share of comeback wins in the years to come.
Thanks to tex and ACP. We hate them, but maybe we can tap into it next year. I've just been beat down this year, and we're barely halfway through.