It’s hard to look forward to week seven when all I want to do is go back and change week six. Losing Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone didn’t only take the wind out of the sails of the surging Packers, but it seemed to, at least for me, sink the ship. I don’t want to know the 2017 Packers without Rodgers leading the way. But here we are and after all, I am a PACKERS fan, not just a Rodgers fan. So I will be at the game this weekend, anxious to see what Brett Hundley can do, what this defense can do and just how Mike McCarthy can get his team to bounce back after such a devastating blow last weekend. Here’s three things (I think) I know…
CONTAIN THE SAINTS RUNNING GAME
After watching the replay of the Saints Week 6 match-up against the Lions, I am not surprised at all that they traded Adrian Peterson to the Cardinals. There simply was not room for him in that back field. The Saints have two very good running backs, one in veteran Mark Ingram and the other in speedy rookie Alvin Kamara. Add Ted Ginn Jr to the mix occasionally working out of the backfield, and there really isn’t room for anyone else.
The Packers defense will have it’s hands full on Sunday facing this running attack. Last week versus the Vikings, the Packers were able to keep the running game to a minimum, holding Jerrick McKinnon to 69 yards rushing and Latavius Murray to 28 yards. McKinnon had a great catch and run on a screen pass that went for a touchdown, and this is where I see things getting dicey for the Packers defense this week versus the Saints. Drew Brees and Sean Payton love to target both backs out of the backfield. The Saints are spreading the ball all over the field. This becomes a problem with the banged up secondary the Packers are playing with. Still, the Packers must stop the run first, forcing the Saints into obvious passing downs and eliminating the threat of the play-action passing. Kevin King and Davon House back in the lineup should help. Bottle up the running backs and bottle up the Saints offense.
FIX THE POOR TACKLING
The Packers played like crap on Sunday. Mike McCarthy said it and we all saw it. Was I surprised? Not at all. The Vikings defense is good, their offense is serviceable and their coach is one of the better in the league. When Rodgers went down, the life and confidence was sucked straight out of this team. You could feel it and you could see it. There’s certainly some bright spots on this Packers defense — Blake Martinez, Kenny Clark, Clay Matthews — but there’s plenty to improve on. Without Rodgers for the foreseeable future, the defense must take some pressure off of the offense. Create turnovers, limit explosive plays, eliminate mental errors and coverage lapses. But first and foremost, the must TACKLE. Fundamentals here. I’m not interested in going over all the missed tackles, but they were all over the place on Sunday. There is no way that we can win if we can’t tackle.
Worth mentioning is that the Saints have also been struggling with tackling. The Packers must take advantage of this with their strong and physical players on offense — Cobb, Adams, Montgomery, Jones — and allow the Packers to simplify their offensive game plan and use their playmakers to move the chains. Speaking of strong physical players on offense, it sure would be nice to see Martellus Bennett make a few plays to help this team win. It seems like every time he makes a play, there is some accompanying penalty or drop that we are trying to forget. I keep telling myself that he must be contributing to the pass and run blocking to allow him to continue to be on the field for so many snaps.
Cam Jordan, defensive end for the New Orleans Saints, is coming off one of his best games of his career. The Saints focused much of their offseason on improving their defense. After starting the season 0-2, many were convinced that nothing was improved on defense for the Saints. But the unit has started to gel. They shut out the Dolphins two weeks ago, and the stifled the Lions in the early part of the game last week. They are as disruptive as they are fast and athletic. But there are places to expose them. If you can weather the storm, they are vulnerable over the middle and certainly slow down in the second half of games. The Packers must utilize Cobb and the tight-ends in the middle of the field, maybe even slide Jordy Nelson into the slot and get him and his veteran savvy into a position to break free in the middle of the field.
This is where Mike McCarthy has a chance to really cement himself as one of the greats. His team needs him to come up with a fool-proof offensive game plan to get this club back on track at home before the bye week. He doesn’t have Rodgers to lean on anymore. Hundley has a skill set different to Rodgers which allows the Packers to mix things up on offense. I really hope Mike is willing to switch things up and take advantage of the situation at quarterback. With the offensive line continuing to be a question mark, getting Hundley on the move and establishing confidence through check-downs and first downs is essential.
These are difficult days for the Packers. There are injuries all over the place and none so devastating as the broken collarbone sidelining Aaron Rodgers. The Packers brass have been touting Brett Hundley and his abilities for a couple of years now. It is do or die time for Hundley. The Saints are a much worse team on the road then they are at home. This is a great test to see if Mike McCarthy and the Packers have a fighting chance for a playoff spot, with or without Rodgers and whomever else may find themselves watching from the sideline this season.
Green Bay – 23
New Orleans – 20