It’s time to begin getting ready for this week’s prime time Monday Night game against the Green Bay Packers. To start things off, I tracked down the editor of Fansided’s Packers affiliate for a quick Q&A. Answering my questions this week is Ray Rivard from Lombardiave.com.
Q. After having such an outstanding 15-1 regular season in 2011, the Packers had a very early exit from the playoffs. With all of that in mind, what are the expectations for this year’s squad?
A. What was most disconcerting heading into last week’s game against the Chicago Bears was that, going back to the end of last season, Aaron Rodgers had lost three of his last four games. You didn’t hear anyone talking about that. However, with the team seemingly getting their running game going (at least for this week) and Rodgers playing better than he has all season, there is hope. With that said, as the season started, the expectations were Super Bowl or Bust. The team made major additions and improvements to its defense and the offense was thought to be as good as last year, so nothing less than a division championship and a trip to the Super Bowl is expected. We know how difficult that journey can be and this week’s challenge in Seattle is just one example of that.
Q. Clay Matthews is off to an amazing start so far this season. Has his play been that much better, or has it just been the scheme helping him generate the stats.
A. I think there are a couple of factors at play with Clay Matthews. For once, he’s healthy. He has played injured a lot in the past, but this year he has no dings – yet. Secondly, the improvement to the overall personnel on the defense has taken some of the focus off Matthews. With rookie linebacker Nick Perry playing opposite Matthews, a better effort from the defensive line and some new looks in the defensive backfield have helped Matthews. Is he playing better? He seems to have stepped up his intensity and seems a step quicker, especially on his outside burst. Packers fans can only hope that defensive coordinator Dom Capers continues to throw interesting and new looks at offenses to not only slow opponents, but to put Matthews in position to make big plays. So far it’s worked.
Q. The Packers have struggled to stop the run so far this year, and running the football is the strength of the Seahawks offense. Do the Packers have the personnel to slow down Marshawn Lynch, or are they going to have to win this one simply with their offense?
A. If this was last year, I would say the Packers should try to contain Marshawn Lynch with their defense and then let the offense win it. This year, I feel the Packers have the tools to stop the run, they just haven’t put together a consistent effort. If the Packers can crowd the line of scrimmage in the early going to take the Seahawks out of their game plan and force them to throw, they will have a chance to corner Russell Wilson into throwing the ball to them – much like they did with Jay Cutler last week. Overall, it will be an interesting matchup and could decide who wins the game.
Q. Who are some young players who fan outside of Wisconsin might not of heard of yet, who are going to make a significant impact on this game?
A. Remember the names of Dezman Moses, Jarron McMillian and Casey Hayward. All of them are rookie defensive players who have not only brought some life to the Packers’ special teams, but have brought a new attitude to the Packers defense. Moses is an undrafted linebacker who is all over the place. Young, raw, and sometimes a bit overzealous, Moses has impressed coaches and fans alike. McMillian is a safety who likes to sneak up and stop the run. He sticks his nose into the line and does a good job in coverage as well. Hayward is a ball-hawking cornerback who continues to play himself into more time on the field. Throw in rookie linebacker Nick Perry and second-year corner Davon House, and the Packers have a solid group of defensive players who could make a difference in the long run.
Q. How do you expect this game to go down, and what’s you prediction for a final score
A. I expect Aaron Rodgers to test the Seahawks with intermediate throws to start the game, test the line with Cedric Benson rushes up the middle and then try for a quick score with long passes to Jordy Nelson if they get out to midfield. The Packers defense will focus on stopping the run first, slowing the Seahawks attack – especially in the red zone – and forcing them into field goals instead of touchdowns. If the Packers can do that, I suspect they will win the game. I think the first half will be close, but I have a feeling the Packers rush will eventually get to Wilson, who will throw at least one interception in this one.
Final score: Packers 27 Seahawks 17