It's that time again. We talked to Jason Hirschhorn (@JBHirschorn) about the state of the Packers in this, the most important game of the season. We exchanged these questions and answers Wednesday night, so at the time we didn't know that AARON RODGERS WILL PLAY on Sunday.
1. The big one - does Rodgers play, is it worth it, or would you prefer he not take any more hits this season?
By the time your readers see this, the answer to this quesstion will already be known. Unlike in prior weeks where the Packers waited until Friday to announce a decision, the team has decided to announce a decision on Aaron Rodgers Thursday. There's little new information to offer. The Packers released their injury report on Wednesday that listed Rodgers as "limited." However, it's worth noting that on that same report Clay Matthews was ruled out, perhaps suggesting that the chances of Rodgers playing are real.
As for whether it's a good idea for Green Bay to play him, I think the answer is yes so long as he's healed enough to take contact. Most assume, perhaps correctly, that the Packers are being even more conservative than normal with the health of their star quarterback. It's possible that another team would have cleared him to play by now. However, it's just as likely that Rodgers' collarbone isn't ready for contact. Any suggestion one way or the other by me or anyone not privy to his medical scans is mere conjecture.
2. Per NFL.com, the Packers have the 26th ranked defense. I've seen some rumblings of fans who are "over" the Dom Capers thing. What're your thoughts? Should he be retained?
The majority of the torch and pitchfork wielding mob don't understand the difference between schematic problems and personnel issues. Dom Capers' scheme worked extremely well in 2009 and 2010 when the defense was stacked with players capable of carrying it out. However, due to injuries and some personnel decisions, the defense doesn't have the horses to run it. That's not to say Capers is blameless for the problems his unit has experienced this year, but when your top three pass rushers, multiple starting defensive backs, and other key contributors all miss significant time, there's only so much a coordinator can do. I'm sure Bears fans can sympathize given the injuries Chicago's endured along the defensive line. There's only so many times the "next man up" can be expected to produce.
3. Sticking with the defense, is there anyone on the team who is currently the "next" Raji, Matthews, or other such up-and-comer? Who is the next defensive player that Bears fans are going to loathe for a decade?
That player is probably Mike Daniels, a second-year defensive linemen out of Iowa. Like most linemen, Daniels' made little impact his first year outside of a splash play or two. However, he's come into his own this year, most significantly as a pass rusher. Daniels is undersized by any standard for the position he plays (6-0, 291 pounds), but like Geno Atkins he possesses a keen understanding of leverage and powers through blockers to pressure the quarterback. He's currently second on the Packers in sacks, and with Matthews ruled out for Sundays game Daniels stands a chance to move into the team lead.
4. After the Green Bay quarterback debacle of 2013, do you see a quarterback being drafted to try and avoid another Seneca Wallace situation?
Under former GM Ron Wolf, the Packers would draft a quarterback in the later rounds every year or so. This strategy produces several quality backups who later moved on to starting positions with other teams: Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Brooks, and several others. Ted Thompson was an assistant under Wolf, and early during his tenure as Packers GM, he continued this practice. Matt Flynn was one such late round investment that paid dividends during the 2010 and 2011 season.
However, Green Bay has made few investments at backup quarterback since Flynn's selection. From 2009-2011, Thompson declined to draft any QBs. That changed in 2012 when the Packers used a 7th-round pick on B.J. Coleman, a Tennessee-Chattanooga gunslinger who hasn't sniffed an NFL job since his release in September. In the most recent draft, Green Bay only added Matt Brown, an undrafted passer from Illinois State who like Coleman is out of the league. It's worth wondering if given these poor returns Thompson might consider revisiting Wolf's strategy.
The Packers will certainly have the opportunity to re-sign Flynn this offseason. They also seem committed to giving Scott Tolzien another shot at winning the backup job. However, with what projects as a very strong quarterback class coming out this year, I wouldn't count out a middle-round investment in a quarterback if the right player falls to Green Bay.
5. Two parter:
A: Score prediction and why?
B: Seriously, though, LOLions, right?
A: It's impossible to pick a score and/or winner without knowing if Rodgers will play. If he does, I think the Packers win 27 - 21 and take the division. If not, and especially if Eddie Lacy can't suit up, I expect a Bears win 24 -14.
B: May the Schwartz be with them. Always.
A big thanks as always to Jason and the folks at Acme Packing Company. Here's to a healthy game where hopefully the good guys win!
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