Clint: What will it take to slow down the Packers? Is it even possible?
Ray: The only way to slow down the Packers’ offense is to first shut down the run and then put pressure on Aaron Rodgers. With Jared Allen and Brian Robison combining for 14 sacks already this season, it would appear that the Vikings have the tools to control the edges. Throw in the fact that the Packers lost left tackle Chad Clifton last week and have an inexperienced player, Marshall Newhouse, playing in his place, and it could make for some dicey situations.
However, the intangible in the pressure factor is that Aaron Rodgers has an uncanny escapability when it comes to eluding the rush. In fact, he makes some of his best plays while on the move.
So, is it possible to slow down the Packers? Absolutely. Is it possible to stop them? Probably not. The only way to stop them completely is to take the ball away and given that Rodgers is not Brett Favre, that’s been difficult for teams to do.
Clint: Bonus Question: Is 16-0 a distinct possibility?
Ray: Anything is possible, but over the course of an 18- to 20-game season, including playoffs, the chances that a team goes unbeaten in today’s NFL are pretty slim. Do they have the tools to make it happen? Absolutely. But there are just too many factors that play into it. I would be pleased as punch if it did, but I don’t expect it. In fact, taking a loss here or there is many times a reality check … and helps to put a team back on the road to more wins. With that said, I hope that reality check isn’t this weekend against the Vikings.
Clint: I thought the Steelers exposed Clay Matthews in the Super Bowl and put on film how to slow him down. He has not been the same Claymaker that he was prior to the Super Bowl. Your thoughts?
Ray: I agree to an extent. Matthews came out like gangbusters his first couple of years because teams didn’t know what he brought to the table in energy and speed. Now that teams know who he is, they’ve been able to scheme for him.
That, in itself is a good thing for the Packers because it allows the defense to utilize other means of applying pressure. In addition, though Matthews doesn’t have the sack numbers, his affect on offenses is still immense. He has still been able to apply pressure (I don’t know how many times he has been a half-step away from a sack this season), forced quarterbacks into hurried throws and knocked them down after getting a pass off. Matthews has also been very effective in the Packers run defense, with several tackles for a loss. The bottom line is that though his numbers aren’t as gaudy as in the past, he is still a major weapon for the Packers.
Clint: I have always said that the Packers only run the ball to appease the fans. The blue collar folks dressed in Hunter Orange don’t want anyone to get paid without working. Still the running game remains the red headed step child of the Packers offense. What’s the vibe in Green Bay regarding the run game?
Ray: The feeling about the running game is that it is 100 percent better than it was last year when the team was relying completely on a fullback to be its running back. With the emergence of James Starks late last year and the return of Ryan Grant this season, the Packers now have a two-headed (and not red-headed) running attack. It also seems that if one of those backs isn’t getting the job done, the other picks up the slack.
The Packers running game is nowhere near what Adrian Peterson brings to the field, but if the Packers can get 40-50 yards out of each of those backs per game, that is enough to protect the passing game and enough for the team to win.
Clint: The Packer games I have watched it seems the Packers have had trouble tackling. Is that a fair observation?
Ray: Tackling across the NFL has become a lost art. Everyone goes for the strip and because of that, runners tend to break a lot of tackles. I don’t think it’s only the Packers. However, with that said, the Packers are among the league leaders in the number of big plays allowed and a lot of that is because of missed tackles. I can’t imagine that Mike McCarthy is going to tolerate that for an entire year, so look for that aspect of the game to continue to improve. Needless to say, they will have to tackle Sunday when AP has the ball in his hands.
Clint: So let’s have it. What is the final score of this game going to be?
Ray: I feel the Vikings will come out on fire because of the energy they will bring with the rookie starting at quarterback, the home field advantage and the fact that they are playing the world champs.
However, as the Packers have done all season, they will settle in, play their game, control the clock and score a lot of points by game’s end.
Packers 38 Vikings 20
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