Two Weeks into the season, the Packers are preparing to take on the Chicago Bears.
But where do the other NFC teams on our schedule stand? The Packers have taken 2 hard-fought W's over NFC South teams, with 2 remaining, but have not played an NFC North opponent...until this Sunday.
In their season opener, the Chicago Bears played an excellent game against the Atlanta Falcons and came away with a handy 30-12 win. There were warning signs despite the win; the Bears gave up 5 sacks on offense and the run D surrendered 100 rushing yards to Michael Turner (on 10 carries, which is frankly a little ridiculous considering how normally solid Chicago's D is against the run). However, the Bears were able to take immediate advantage of their turnovers, as they recorded a fumble recovery for a touchdown by LB Brian Urlacher, as well as a 3 play, 81 yard drive for a touchdown after Urlacher intercepted Matt Ryan.
The next week, the Bears wound up on the opposite end of a blowout, losing 30-13 to the New Orleans Saints. Their problems in pass protection were blown wide open as the Saints sacked Jay Cutler 6 times; making matters worse for the Bears was the loss of T Gabe Carimi to injury. Carimi officially suffered a dislocated knee, and as Rotowire put it:
The recovery time for a subluxation of a knee is generally four-to-six weeks, so Frank Omiyale will be starting at right tackle during that time frame.
The Packers are going to have to put Jay Cutler on his back repeatedly and keep Aaron Rodgers relatively clean in this game. Limiting Cutler's completions is going to be a must, and if the Packers can rattle him with blitzes and the coverage schemes that have made Jay's life miserable before. Think of the 2009 season opener where the Packers picked Cutler off 5 times, and the season finale last year where he was sacked 6 times and threw 2 INTs as the Bears tried and failed to keep the Packers out of the playoffs.
The New Orleans Saints, victims of the high-powered Green Bay offense on Opening Day, came up big with a 30-13 win over Chicago in Week 2. The Saints take on the Houston Texans in the Superdome this weekend, looking to hand Houston their first loss of the year and improve to 2-1.
What New Orleans has to do to get a win: play efficiently and effectively on offense. New Orleans must attack Houston's secondary. The Texans had the worst passing defense in the league last year, but they hired Wade Phillips and installed a 3-4 defense in the hopes of stopping the bleeding. Thus far, it's worked, as Houston has held opposing QBs to 51% and 40% completion percentages, respectively, and gotten 5 sacks. In addition, the Texans haven't given up a 200 yard passer this year (of course, they've played Kerry Collins and Chad Henne, so that may not be saying too much).
On defense, the Saints must limit the damage that Houston's star WR Andre Johnson is sure to inflict. Matt Schaubis one of the best QBs in the league and will likely feed Andre pass after pass. If New Orleans can contain Johnson and stop up the middle against Ben Tate and Arian Foster, they should be in good position for a win.
What New Orleans can do to get a loss: allow Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels to rip the secondary apart. They were able to effectively shut down Chicago's receivers and held Jay Cutler to a sub-50 completion percentage, but Houston's receiving options are much, much better than Chicago's.
The Carolina Panthers, who had a 13-0 lead over the Packers evaporate thanks to 4 turnovers and the stellar play of Aaron Rodgers, take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars are traveling to Charlotte, and Carolina is looking for their first win of the year.
What Carolina has to do to get a win: start running the ball effectively. Yes, Cam Newton's play was pretty incredible in terms of yards, but he put the ball in the air so often that mistakes became inevitable. The Packers utterly stifled Carolina's running backs, forced Carolina to pass, and Newton obliged...by throwing INTs to Charles Woodson and Morgan Burnett. If Carolina can get their dormant ground game going against a pretty solid-looking Jags run defense (hint, Jacksonville hasn't even given up a 50-yard rusher this year), they can likely control the tempo of the game and get a W.
Carolina must also limit the mighty Maurice Jones-Drew on defense. Blaine Gabbert will get the start for the Jaguars, and he did not look particularly good in either the preseason or against the Jets defense.
What Carolina can do to get a loss: pass like crazy. Jacksonville's secondary has forced 3 INTs over their first two games; CB Rashean Mathis can and will make Newton pay for bad reads into coverage. Jacksonville's run defense has been fairly solid thus far, but Carolina must challenge them. They haven't been able to win games by passing the ball; they need to take control of a game for once this year (That 13-0 lead against Green Bay never felt safe, considering the Packers had all of one offensive drive in that span).
Nest two NFC opponents for the Packers: Atlanta Falcons, St. Louis Rams
Thoughts and Criticisms are Welcome!