Will the defensive line become a strength for the Packers? It certainly looked the case this past Sunday against the Chicago Bears. The big men up front won their match ups often, clogged up the running lanes and put pressure on Jay Cutler. Then again, it was against the Bears who have an awful, awful offensive line. It may be the worst offensive line in football. For those who want to claim that the Bears have a better line than the Packers keep this in mind, midway through the game the Bears benched their starting RG, Gabe Carimi because of his piss poor play. It still didn’t help. Now the Packers line struggled, yes…but not one of those guys were benched and the line was able to bounce back and put together a rather respectable day in the end….which is more than what you can say for what the Bears did with their offensive line.
So this week’s Working Class Hero nominations is dominated by the big men on defense, but a few other players make appearances as well. Let’s meet the nominations….
NT/DE B.J. Raji – Raji has taken criticism because his pass rush is not what it was in 2010. Fair, but by doing this we have not noticed that his play has picked up significantly the past couple weeks and he is becoming a force in stopping the run. This week Raji was blowing up play after play. His play was probably the reason Carimi was benched…and if you can get a guy benched you are going to be nominated here or MVP.
NT/DE Ryan Pickett – This really should be called the Pickett award because he gets nominated just about every week. Pickett ended the day with 4 tackles 3 solo and was a big reason why the Bears running game shut down midway through the second quarter.
DE Mike Neal – I was so close to nominating Neal for MVP….so close. He had an impressive day with 1.5 sacks a tackle for a loss and a QB hit. He was blowing up the line and getting pressure on the QB most of the game. The main reason why Neal gets the nod here instead of MVP is because Neal’s performance went a bit under the radar with Clay Matthews in the spotlight. Getting the job done as well as Neal did and not getting much notice qualifies you for Working Class Hero nods…especially when the MVP discussion will be dominated by the QB and star LB.
CB Tramon Williams – Williams has spent most of the year locked up with some of the best WR’s in football. His job is to limit how effective they are and make a play when able…and he’s done his job each and every week. He’s not going to be in the league wide discussions for best CB like Darrell Revis, but perhaps he should be. Look at who he was able to contain this year….Brandon Marshall (leading the league in receptions) twice, Calvin Johnson (on pace to break the single season receiving yards record) twice, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, and Andre Johnson. He may not get a Pro Bowl nod this year, but doing the dirty work this week against Marshall will get him a WCHW nomination.
Jermichael Finley – Finley has not had many eye popping plays lately, but he has been a very good target in the middle of the field. Once again he was able to be a solid reliable target…and only did his stupid fin dance after one play….which since it was a 31 yard catch it’s a bit more excusable. Really what earns him this nomination is that he put aside the reports that he is going to be cut or traded and did his job. He didn’t sulk or live up to the diva reputation he had…rather he pounded the Bears and racked up the second most yards receiving for the Packers.
No honorable mentions this week. There was a few more good players who came close to a nomination, but not quite enough to raise their performance above what is expected and what is special but still under the radar. If you disagree and think there should be someone else nominated take a moment and write in your candidate in the comments section.