Sparked by a quality discussion in the comments section of my last post re what the next 4 games have in store for us – I decided to throw out some thoughts. Generally, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that we win all 4 games. But I think 3-1 is most likely – followed by 2-2. 1-3 and 0-4 are impossible. I think 3-1 gets us into the playoffs but 2-2 could be a problem.
- The thought of Detroit is less scary for me now than it was just a few weeks ago. They are a much improved team with some serious talent that should be concerning. And they have proven this year that they can play with absolutely anyone (should have beaten the Jets, almost beat a Vick-led Philly, destroyed an OK Rams team…) But they are also a mistake prone team with horrible luck and a bad defense (beyond the D-Line). After watching Aaron Rodgers play over the last few weeks, I’m increasingly confident that he can pick apart a team like Detroit. Even if they double up on Jennings, Rodgers is savvy enough to figure out which guys will be open forcing them to not double Jennings – then of course, Jennings will dominate. I think the main differences in this game will be turnover ratio and passing – areas where we are stronger than Detroit. I also have visions of Clay Matthews going crazy in this one for some reason – like 4-5 sacks. Seriously. Two quiet keys to this game will be whether or not James Starks can hang onto the ball and whether or not he can pass block. I hate to even write something like this but one risk of putting a new guy in there at this point in the season is that we just don’t know about things like ball security and pass protection yet. I still think it’s worth taking this risk because his decisive and rather powerful running style is a welcome change from Jackson’s hesitant style (that is, Jackson’s style running the ball – not receiving). And if any of these issues come up Sunday, McCarthy can always put Jackson back in there because we know his ball security and pass blocking is good.
- I am not dreading the NE game. It will be tough – they’re very good and Belichick is brutally difficult to play against. (Anyone else hear about how Brady essentially just looked for things Belichick said would open up last night – because he had seen some holes in the NYJ’s defense in game film. I could QB for NE with coaching like that. By the way, for a defensive coach, Belichick has far more ideas for the NE offense than people know or talk about.) Anyway, there will be a little less pressure for us this game because we won’t be favored and it’s not a division game/conference game. I think there is a chance we play quite freely in this one and may in fact win it. We’re are better team than the overrated Jets and folks like Welker and Branch may have a bit harder time matching up with Tramon who can match their quickness like few CBs can. And Capers will likely mix stuff up enough to make Brady far less comfortable than he was last night.
- The NYG game is probably tied with the Bears’ game as the two games I’m most concerned about – in part because they’ll be tough but also because they will be extra meaningful. We could run into difficulty with their defensive style. They’ll get plenty of pressure on Rodgers (they are the #2 pass defense) and they are a solid run D (#7). Injuries to their two best WRs may help us – but it’s also possible both Nicks and Steve Smith will be back for this game which would make defending them much harder. We will really need Jenkins back for this one – to help shore up the run defense and help put pressure on Eli opposite Matthews. Interestingly, a loss for the NYG at Minnesota this week could help our playoff hopes considerably both mathematically and emotionally as a tough loss to MN it could soften the Giants up for coming to Lambeau on 12/26. Still, this game really concerns me – McCarthy and Rodgers need to be in serious rhythm for us to take out the Giants. (For this one I have visions of Ahmad Bradshaw hurting us until he hurts the Giants with a fumble at a terrible time. Unlike the last Giants game at Lambeau, I’m hoping the costly turnover will be by them.)
- The Bears game is scary for a lot of reasons. Chances are decent that the game will be significant for the playoff race and division title race. (While there is reason to be concerned that the Bears get 2 weaker opponents on the road and the two good ones at home over their final 4 games – the Jets just lost their first road game last night. The Jets are 5-1 on the road and even though I don’t think they’re THAT good of a team, they will probably be playing for something so that could be a decent game.) Add to this the issues we have had beating the Bears since Lovie took over. He has focused on Packers games specifically since coming into the league – the rivalry was the first thing he mentioned in his first press conference as Bears’ coach a few years back and he’s stuck to his word (and been successful). But the Packers ultimately are more talented. Period. If Starks can successfully give us at least the THREAT of a running game, it could really open things up for our offense in the final weeks – making even good defenses like the Bears struggle. And, I just can’t imagine Cutler will continue his streak of high quality starts (he’s been quite good lately). Soon, he will start to struggle.
(And by the way, there are some arguing that losing the division title this year may be the better option compared to winning it because if the Pack loses the title but grabs the wild card spot (which is a big if), we would likely play St Louis or Seattle in round one. While the whole NFC West is an inferior division – no question – neither of those teams are fun to play in their stadiums. And I’d just prefer a home playoff game – so winning the division is key.)
What do you think?