This may not be my only one this week, but I really want to thank Brian Higgins from Pocket Doppler for taking a few minutes out of his day to talk about this weekend’s game between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. You can also follow Brian on Twitter at MilwaukeeBrian. Away we go…
Jonathan: With Nick Collins out and potentially Tramon Williams also being sidelined, what does this mean for the Packers defense? Who will fill in?
Brian: Building secondary depth is hard enough in this league, but it is twice as hard to replace a guy who plays as recklessly as multi-Pro Bowler Nick Collins. 6-year veteran Charlie Peprah was an injury fill in for most of 2010 at strong safety, and will now be asked to take over at Collins’ free safety spot. Peprah is serviceable, competent, knows his game and where he needs to be. He doesn’t always make the tough plays, but can impress from time to time.
As for Tramon Williams’ spot, it sounds like he’ll be ready to go. Things get dicey with him out of the lineup. Nickel back Sam Shields dropped all the interception opportunities that have come his way this year, but he has been shut down in his coverage, especially in the red zone. He’s young but has some experience under his belt. If Shields is bumped up the cornerback chain, the nickel and dime backs that fill in behind him can be cause for concern. All of them are quality backups but have never demonstrated consistency as a regular. The Packers play a lot of snaps in the nickel, so this is something to watch.
Jonathan: You know I think Clay Matthews III is one of the most overrated players in football. Convince me why I’m wrong…
Brian: Speaking of overrated players, we’d have to agree on Cam Newton right? The national folks are all over his yardage totals, but the negatives heavily outweigh the positives. Not a big fan of the guys that just hurl the ball downfield (see question 4).
Onto your question. Yes, Clay Matthews III gets a ton of love by the media, and I can see why other teams’ fans can’t stand it. Would he get all this attention if he didn’t come from a famous football family? For all the sons of successful athletes (Ken Griffey Jr. is always the first to mind) there are a few dozen that are just riding coattails. But Matthews has put in the work, and has the statistics to back it up. To be technical, Matthews is on pace to beat Bruce Smith’s sack record. I don’t think Matthews will survive in the NFL as long as Smith did, but beyond the media-love, any time an offense constantly doubles-up on one guy, the respect follows naturally.
Jonathan: Any changes that Bears fans should look for on Sunday?
Brian: A lot has been written about Aaron Rodgers’ work on accuracy during the offseason. He’s shown how deadly he can be so far this season, but it is just a matter of the offense staying on top of its game, which it doesn’t always do. Both sides of the line have new faces and the jury is still out on their progress. Looking at depth, the offensive and defensive lines might be the Packers’ worst areas, so they need to hope for some luck in the injury department.
The defensive schemes are just as unpredictable as last year, but watch for the amount of pressure the Packers bring up front. They’ve struggled at that a bit in the first 2 weeks.
Jonathan: It is my belief that Aaron Rodgers is better than Brett Favre. Do you agree?
Brian: Brett Favre had one of the best arm-cannons in football history. The problem with Favre, beyond the off-the-field stuff, was that his accuracy wasn’t always perfect, and he became a terrible decision-maker as the years wore on. The “gun-slinger” too often did just that; hurl the ball downfield to see what plays could be made. His biggest strength was that he could read a defensive scheme better than the vast majority of quarterbacks.
On the flip side, Aaron Rodgers is one of the most accurate passers in recent NFL history, is quick with his throws when he wants to be, and can “thread the needle” at any spot on the field. Favre has his iron man statistics, but if you play long enough you will naturally end up with all the career records, including interceptions. Rodgers is much smarter on the field and makes fewer mistakes than Favre did. Like Favre, Rodgers puts in the work studying film, studying schemes, etc.
This is a toss-up. I feel like Rodgers needs to put in a few more years at this level to be considered above Favre. Find me in 3-5 years and we’ll get back to this.
Jonathan: What does this rivalry mean to you?
Brian: Like most people in this part of the country, the rivalry between the Packers and Bears is legendary, something I grew up around. The players might tell the media it is just another game on the calendar, but on the field it’s nasty, it’s bloody, it’s physical football in its purest form. The respect is there between these teams, players and fans. With so much history, there has to be. But the fans will eat each other up. The build-up to last years’ NFC Championship was the longest week of anticipation I’ve ever experienced as a football fan.
Jonathan: Game prediction…
Brian: Prediction time. Injuries are starting to creep up on both teams, but it looks to be worse for Chicago. The Packers’ defense is too erratic to plan for, and even the best defenses in Packer or Bear history would have trouble accounting for Jermichael Finley. The Bears will put plenty of pressure on Rodgers, but as long as he doesn’t hold the ball too long, he shouldn’t have much trouble. I see the Packers taking an early lead, and Jay Cutler having to force too hard to catch up.
Final score: Packers – 35 Bears – 17
I am not quite sure about the final score, but he’s earned a right to feel the way he does. You can follow me on Twitter at ChicagoBearJew and read this link for some details on a really cool contest I am doing with another Packers blogger.