CB Antoine Winfield – most of you may know by now that I think Winfield is one of the top 4 cbs in the NFL. (In fact, my official list at this moment is Charles Woodson, Nnandi Asomugha, Derrell Revis, Antione Winfield). Winfield is a tackling machine and a very good cover corner. If he can prevent Greg Jennings from getting some big plays while making a few stops on Grant and our running game, that could seriously limit our play options.
LB EJ Henderson – Henderson doesn’t get much credit but he is a very good MLB. He is fast and active and hits. His play, largely in coverage, may have a direct impact on the outcome of this game.
RB Chester Taylor/TE Visanthe Shiancoe – Taylor hurt us last year. He is a very good RB who has a serious knack for getting open and getting positive yards as a receiver out of the backfield. We all know that when Favre feels pressure, especially on 3rd downs, he likes to look to his check down guys – in this case, I’m guessing Shiancoe and Taylor. Accounting for these 2 guys in particular (especially on 3rd downs) might really help our defensive cause.
DE Jared Allen (the run defender) – Jared Allen is known primarily as a pass rusher. But there are questions about his run defense. Remember a couple years ago when opposing teams would game plan to run at KGB all day because he was a weak run defender? The other day, I referenced the LeRoy Butler 5 Questions article that he does with jsonline weekly. In it, Butler mentioned the possibility of running at Jared Allen. Allen is undersized and often very focused on rushing the QB. Despite the Pack having major questions on the O-Line (including LT) right now, it’s possible the Packers could run Allen’s way and get something going on the ground. (And, possibly burn the overzealous DE with a few screen passes over his head. Note: I was trying to decide which word would best describe Allen here and I chose overzealous. Seems accurate, here’s one actual definition: too enthusiastic or eager, especially in carrying out a duty, and usually causing trouble or annoyance as a result.)
TE Jermichael Finely – part of the reason I think EJ Henderson’s play will be so pivotal is that I see Jermichael Finley having a huge night, a monstrous night, if the Vike’s LBs aren’t ready for it. Finley is really talented and each week, I think Mike McCarthy seethes on the sidelines when he realizes that the weak O-Line not only hurts the running/passing games in general, but specifically interferes with McCarthy working Finley into the passing game plan more.
LB Nick Barnett – Barnett has been mediocre (if that) since returning. He was mediocre last year too. Of course, I would argue Bishop should be in there instead. Anyway, one thing Barnett has done reasonably well over the years is get up for high profile games – mostly I believe, because he loves the attention. Whatever works. I can see Barnett flashing some of his old play-making ability in this game and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has some Favre sacks and/or causes a turnover or two.
Officiating – I’m sorry I had to include this, but I have seen some atrocious calls this year that have affected games.
RB Ryan Grant – my friend Mike (who was part of the original email group that eventually spawned Packergeeks) made a good point in an email to me the other day: the Packers need to get back to throwing the screen. He knew I’d agree – I love screens. But his point was very sound. He essentially pointed out that screens, even if not executed perfectly, can have the effect of keeping D-Linemen honest. In fact, in the Cincy game, a few screens may have been somewhat easy to pull off considering how focused Antwan Odom was on sacking Rodgers. So I (and friend Mike) would propose the Pack work in some screen plays to Grant for this week. (I say to Grant because I think they’d be most effective on 1st or 2nd down – so often when Grant is in he gets a hand-off, so working in a few screens may at least make the Vikes a little less sure when Grant is on the field). In fact, I’d submit that this may be an especially sound idea against the Vikings because having a huge defensive line is less of an asset when defending against a screen. The Williams duo in particular may have some trouble keeping up with the line motion involved in a well-executed screen play.
KR Will Blackmon – Blackmon has been quiet returning the ball this year, but we know he can break one at any moment. While the special teams buzz for the night will surround Blackmon’s counterpart Percy Harvin, it’s possible Blackmon will remind us all why we can afford to be tolerant of his injury issues.
It was obvious that Blackmon had not fully recovered. His was at tleast a step slow and his cutting ability was not sharp. Nelsen runs north and south, maximizing his returns.
My continuing fear is the O line. If MM can’t get them up for this game, they are a lost cause. If MM can’t adapt his game plan to the weaknesses this week, he never will. It’s game four guys, no more excuses.
Amen Ron–2-3 years ago screens were one of our best plays. Been wondering where they went. Now would be a good time to bring them back. MM’s got to be creative in this game but not gimmicky creative. Visanthe scares me greatly. As I’ve said before our defense & O-line play make or break this game.