The Green Bay Packers were the favorites to win the Super Bowl going into this season after posting a record of 15-1 in 2011, but losing in the Divisional Round of the playoffs to the New York Giants. After a slow start to the season, the Packers are now one of the hottest teams in the league and can clinch the NFC North this weekend with a win over the Chicago Bears.
However, even with all the recent success the Packers have had, they still have some big flaws on the team that may prevent them from winning a second Super Bowl in three years. The biggest problem now is the inability to stop the run.
The last three games Green Bay has allowed three of its four highest rushing totals of the season, which included a 200-yard performance from Adrian Peterson. As the weather gets colder, more teams are going to run the ball more, especially in the playoffs, and if the Packers keep showing their inability of stopping the run, teams won’t be scared to call a majority of running plays.
There is some good news for the defense starting this weekend, as star linebacker Clay Matthews will be returning from a hamstring injury that has caused him to miss the last three games. Matthews is still the team leader in sacks with nine despite missing those three games and the Packers have missed his presence greatly.
Since Matthews has been out, the team has only been able to get two sacks in three and a half games. While Green Bay won two of the three games without Matthews, it is clear that for them to have success on the defensive side of the ball, they will need Matthews to be on the field. Matthews has been smart about coming back from this injury realizing his importance to the team and will take it slow when returning this weekend.
“I feel good, I’ll be good,” said Matthews, who went on to emphasize that he still needs to be smart out there. “I have to be my biggest coach in that if I start to get fatigued or tired, instead of pushing it, maybe take myself out for a play here or there. But when I’m in the game, it’s going to be full speed.”
With Matthews coming back, the Packers defense is almost back to full strength. The only big piece that is missing now is cornerback Charles Woodson who has been out the last eight weeks with a broken collarbone. He was scheduled to comeback this week, but doctors insisted that he sit out one more week. Woodson is another great run-stopper and will help the Packers get back to where they were at the beginning of the season defense.
Green Bay is in a prime position to make a deep run into the playoffs and the defense that is on the field is capable of holding up throughout the playoffs. The biggest concern from here on out will be injuries. When the defense is at full strength they are a solid group that can create turnovers and are better equipped at stopping the run. The depth might no be there, but the starters are good enough to get the job done and help the Packers return to the Super Bowl.
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