It's once again time for our weekly Q&A session with an opposing blogger. Up this week is a double dose of Packers bloggers. We asked Melinda Banks from Lombardi Avenue and the crew from Ol' Bag of Donuts, a series of questions about The Packers, and they, in turn, asked me a few about the Pats. Their responses are below, followed by a link to Foxboro Blog's Q&A session on both Lombari Avenue and Ol' Bag of Donuts.
1. The big story around the NFL is the concussion suffered by Aaron Rodgers? Do you think he is going to play Sunday and should he play with a key NFC game next weekend?
Melinda: This is the second concussion Rodgers has suffered in four weeks. I know the NFL has a very strict policy on head injuries. Rodgers has been going through the evaluation process. We don't expect to know for sure if he will play until Saturday. But the fact that he hasn't been involved in meetings this week makes me doubtful about a Sunday start.
OBOD: Well, Mike McCarthy said we will find out after his tests on Saturday, so honestly I think it is 50-50 right now. I am leaning to that he won't play, but I have no evidence or knowledge to back that up. Rodgers came back for the next game when he suffered a concussion earlier this year, but a second concussion in the span of about two months is a different beast, especially with how hard the NFL is cracking down on concussions. This game will be tough for the Packers to win even with Rodgers and it is vital he is healthy for the last two games of the season against the Giants and Bears, two teams they are chasing in the playoff race. So, for the aspect it may be better to Rodgers to sit out this week. Not to overreact, but he is also the franchise right now and the quickest way for a career to derail are concussions.
2. With Ryan Grant gone for the season in Week 1, why haven't Brandon Jackson along with the Packers' offensive line been able to run the ball effectively?
OBOD: Playcalling, pure and simple. After Grant went down, McCarthy decided to put even more emphasis on the passing game and that may have to do with trust. A lot of people thought Jackson was more than capable to handle the load at first, but eventually he showed that he is not much more than a good third-down back. Because of that, McCarthy doesn't seem to have much trust in the running game and abandons it too early and too often at times. Jackson has been the starter for 14 weeks now and while he has shown glimpses, he simply isn't a 1,200 yard back like Grant. McCarthy also hasn't done him a favor by giving up on him too early at times, especially when it seems like he might be gaining some momentum.
Melinda: Jackson has disappointed a lot of people who were expecting him to step in for Grant. In my opinion, he doesn't have the vision a great running back needs. His speed is only average. Even when he able to find a hole in the defense, the secondary always seems to catch up to him. We all had high hopes when James Starks got his opportunity to get a couple of touches. He had a great debut against the 49ers, but had less than 10 touches last week against the Lions.
3. The Packers are 19th in the NFL in run defense, do you think that Green-Ellis and Woodhead will be able to have success running the ball Sunday night in the cold weather?
Melinda: You'll probably see some decent runs from both player, but I would be surprised to see anyone break a long run for 20+ yards.
OBOD: It depends. I look at the Patriots passing game as the main tool to open up the running game, so if the Packers has some success with Brady early on, it may be easier to shut down the running game. Woodhead is the back the worries me the most because the Packers' defense is susceptible against the run on the outside. Down the middle, the team is pretty stout so it may all depend on the Patriots' playcalling as well.
4. With all the injuries to Green Bay this season, how would you grade their season thus far?
OBOD: I'm going right down the middle and rate them a B. They are 8-5 and in the playoff hunt, which is pretty remarkable with key starters such as Jermichael Finley, Ryan Grant, Nick Barnett and Brad Jones among a dozen other players on IR. Then guys like Clay Matthews, Donald Driver and now maybe Aaron Rodgers missing time I am surprised this team isn't worse off. That being said, it is disappointing to see the team have five losses by a combined 16 points and had chances to win every game at the end. The team hasn't been able to close this year and it may cost them the playoffs, injuries or not.
Melinda: Factoring the 5 starters on IR with 13 total out. It's been amazing to watch unknown players step into positions and be able to make an impact. I mean, our back up have back ups. To be at 8-5 at this point, and having lost 4 of the 5 games by just 3 points. I'd give the team a B.
5. Will Green Bay's defense being able to contain Tom Brady and the passing game with Clay Mathews' 12.5 sacks and Charles Woodson's great ability at the cornerback position?
Melinda: One thing that I've noticed about Brady is that he seems to have so much protection for your o-line that he spends twice the amount of time in the pocket as most other QB's. Which explains his #1 QB rating. But if he does get pressure, he's vulnerable. He doesn't have great speed when he's being pressured. He's definitely not sack-proof and if anyone can get to him, it will be Clay Matthews.
OBOD: Honestly, can anybody contain Tom Brady at this point? The Packers have the talent in the secondary to make Brady's day tougher than usual because Woodson's counterpart Tramon Williams is playing at a Pro Bowl level, but Brady will still get his numbers because he is playing so well right now. Matthews is a beast, but the Packers have had troubles developing a consistent pass rush outside of him, so he can be neutralized if schemed right. I do think the Packers will take away big plays from Brady, but the underneath plays worry me.
6. What is the one matchup New England can exploit? What is the one matchup Green Bay can exploit?
OBOD: For New England it will be Logan Mankins and Matt Light vs. C.J. Wilson. Cullen Jenkins is normally the starting defensive end that goes against the opponent's strong side opposite of Clay Matthews, but he will miss his second straight week and his absence was greatly felt without him. Even though defensive lineman do not get much pub in a 3-4, Jenkins was the team's best pass rusher outside of Matthews and his replacement Wilson, while has played decent, is only a 7th-round rookie.
Melinda: Obviously, if Rodgers is out, New England will be facing a rookie QB in Flynn. His performance last week was horrible. I am excited to see how our defense steps up against the Patriots WR's. SafetyTramon Williams is having a Pro Bowl season, as well as Corner Nick Collins. When they are firing on all cylinders, we can expect some great plays on the ball. If Rodgers doesn't start, we may need to depend on our defense to get us some scoring opportunities.
7. In the end, will Green Bay be in the playoffs in January?
Melinda: Green Bay going to the playoffs will depend on two things, can we get/stay healthy? And, can we win the NFC North Division. Chicago has to play some bad games and we have to win ours. It may come down to game 17 to know for sure. Of course, I have hope they can pull it out.
OBOD: Yes. I may be showing a bit of homerism, but I think they will find a way. Even if they fall to the Patriots this week, they still get to face off against the Giants and Bears, so they will NEED to win those two to have a chance. The unfortunate thing is that they really need the Vikings to beat the Bears this week, but showing the luck Chicago has had for much of the season they will face a team without a starting quarterback and the game won't be in the Metrodome where the Bears have lost seven of their last eight there. I still am not a believer in Tampa Bay and think Green Bay will get by them for the #6 seed.
8. What is your prediction for the game Sunday Night in Foxborough?
OBOD: With Rodgers, New England 34, Green Bay 27. Without Rodgers, New England 30, Green Bay 10
Melinda: Packers have only given up an average of 14.1 pts per game this year. IF Rodgers plays, I think the Packers stand a chance, I would predict Packers 21 Patriots 19... if Rodgers is out... Packers 7 Patriots 24
9. Since you are a Packers' blog and Brett Favre's streak of consecutive games ending last Monday, I would like your thoughts on Brett Favre and your favorite moment of the Favre Green Bay era
Melinda: I wanted Favre to retire as a Packer. It's no secret, I hate seeing him in purple. Favre was amazing in the Oakland win after his father passed away, but of course winning Super Bowl XXXI against the New England Patriots.
OBOD: I am over Favre, plain and simple. It has been actually quite satisfying to watch this season play out for Favre the way it has. He is the most egotistical athlete in my generation and watching the Packers and primarily Rodgers get their due this season was very fun to watch. Favre has tried to end is career as a hero the last few seasons, but just couldn't walk away when he should have. Unfortunately, for him he won't be able to end his career the way he wants.
As for my favorite Favre moment in Green Bay? That is liking asking what my favorite moment is with an ex-girlfriend. The Super Bowl runs were great in '96 and '97 and the three MVP's, but I would say his last season with Green Bay in 2007 when he took a team that no one expected to do much that year all the way to the NFC Championship and like Favre, blew it with an interception. However, that whole year Favre outplayed everyone expectations and it was such a fun ride because the ol' gunslinger still had it. He then retired and went out on a high note...or at least that is what we all thought at the time.
Click this link to check out my responses about the Patriots over at Ol' Bag of Donuts!
Click this link to check out my responses about the Patriots over at Lombardi Avenue!
Click this link to check out my responses about the Patriots over at Lombardi Avenue!