Consider this while you have a match up with the nerd in your fantasy football league.
Last week was a rough one for the Packers, without a doubt, but I feel that the matchups I identified last week were critical to the game. They just didn't go the Packers' way. Cullen Jenkins had a sack, but he was nowhere near the impact player he was against the Bears. Meanwhile, the Packers' receivers were bottled up and had limited yards after the catch-though that was likely influenced more by the Bengals' D-line affecting Aaron Rodgers' timing with his receivers than the play of the secondary. Either way, the matchups didn't favor the Packers, who lost a stinker.
Now, on to this weekend's game with the St. Louis Rams. My keys to the game are these:
1. Mike McCarthy's Playcalling
Mac gave up on the run in the second half of the game. When Ryan Grant gets three carries for seven yards in the second half of a game, you know that McCarthy is partly to blame, especially in a close game. There needs to be a commitment to the run in this game, especially given the struggles of the Rams' defensive front, which has been discussed with Rams fan 3k lately. With the strength of the Rams' defense being in their safeties, McCarthy needs to run the ball consistently to draw 8 men in the box, then use slant routes to get the athletic Packers' receivers the ball with room to run.
2. The play of the Packers' linebackers
Instead of the well-documented issues at the safety position, I see the LB corps as the key to this game on defense for the Pack. Steven Jackson is, in my mind, the second-best running back that the Packers will face this season (behind some guy who wears purple). That said, the offensive line he's running behind is somewhat suspect. My hope is that the d-line can take up most of the Rams' linemen's attention while the linebackers flow to the ball to tackle this potentially explosive runner.
3. ENOUGH WITH THE @#$%ING PENALTIES!
Whew. I needed to get that out of my system. I understand that the Packers have the youngest team in the NFL (according to the opening week roster) and the least-experienced team in the NFC, but 11 penalties against the Bengals is completely unacceptable. There are penalties that I can tolerate, like the occasional illegal contact call on Al Harris (when it's not on third and short). Or a holding penalty by a tackle who just got burned and is trying to protect his QB. But when you're giving away an entire football field over the course of a game, you can no longer make the youth argument as an acceptable excuse. I hope McCarthy put a special emphasis on discipline this week to minimize these mistakes.
Do I think the Packers will win this game? Yes. But I was dead wrong about the result of last week's game, and I won't be comfortable calling any game an easy win the rest of this season. Packers win 27-20.