1. Through two weeks, the Packers have been one of the worst teams when it comes to protecting the quarterback. Just how big of a concern is protecting Aaron Rodgers, and what are your thoughts on the offensive line in general?
Protecting the quarterback has been an issue for Green Bay for the past several seasons. Thus far in 2014, the issues have resided mainly at right tackle, where starter Bryan Bulaga played a total of 20 snaps before the helmet of teammate Richard Rodgers collided with his knee, sidelining him for the majority of the season opener and the following week. Derek Sherrod, the former first-round pick who replaced Bulaga, endured a dreadful day in Seattle, where the fast track allowed Seahawks defensive ends to jet around the slow-footed tackle. The rest of the line has actually held up well against the pass rush, but one glaring weakness can unravel even the best-laid plans.
The coaching staff has expressed optimism that Bulaga can play this Sunday, but assuming he's unavailable, Sherrod will once against start at right tackle. While he performed better last week at Lambeau Field, the prospect of him playing on the artificial turf of Ford Field has to concern the Packers. Bulaga's availability might very well decide the outcome.
2. Speaking of Rodgers, he appears to be as dangerous as ever, especially when the ball is thrown in the direction of Jordy Nelson. What is the best way for defenses to contain Rodgers and the Packers' passing game?
Teams that can pressure Aaron Rodgers without bringing extra blitzers have had success against the Packers. Obviously, that's a big ask against any elite quarterback, but it's something Detroit might be able to do. If Ndamukong Suh, Ezekiel Ansah and the rest of the Lions' talented defensive line can force Rodgers to make quick throws, the defense will have a chance.
The counter to this is Rodgers' track record in domes. In perfect conditions like those at Ford Field, he has consistently torn apart defenses, with only his concussion-shortened showing at Detroit in 2010 standing out as being anything less than exceptional. Even against an improved secondary, Rodgers may just blow the Lions defense out of the water
3. Eddie Lacy was hyped up quite a bit coming into this season after an outstanding rookie year, but he's gotten off to a bit of a slow start. His concussion in Week 1 certainly didn't help, but what kind of production should fans expect out of Lacy on a weekly basis? (Full disclosure: I ask this as someone who has Lacy on his fantasy team.)
While his stat line doesn't leap off the page, that's been largely the result of poor blocking in front of him. Against Seattle, Lacy registered a staggering nine missed tackles. Once the Packers' run blocking improves -- another area where the availability of Bulaga plays a role -- those broken tackles might be four or five yards down the field rather than behind the line of scrimmage. Even if the blocking doesn't change considerably, playing against run defenses that aren't the Seahawks or the Jets will help his numbers.
4. How has the Packers defense looked so far this season? What would you say is the biggest weakness right now?
I'll give my lawyer answer and say it depends. After five seasons of playing a 3-4 defense, the Packers have shifted this year to a hybrid approach that has involved a lot of different looks. Against the Seahawks, defensive coordinator Dom Capers utilized mainly a traditional "even" 4-3. He used the same alignment on the Jets' first three possessions in Week 2, resulting in three touchdowns for New York.
However, following the Jets' third score, the Packers shifted into a 4-3 under, a defense that is similar in execution to their old 3-4 but with great personnel flexibility. With the 4-3 under serving as Green Bay's base for the final two and a half quarters of their last game, the defense yielded only a field goal.
As promising as the 4-3 under looked, the sample size is too small to draw any meaningful conclusions. It's unclear at this point whether or not the Packers will continue to use it rather than their other packages. However, it provides some hope for a rejuvenated defense.
5. Going into Week 3, there's a four-way tie for first place in the NFC North with every team at 1-1. How do you think the division will shake out this season?
Going into the season, I felt the NFC North was the Packers' division to lose, with the Bears representing their most dangerous threat for the crown. After two weeks I can't say I've shifted my opinion in any significant way, but I've been very impressed with both the Vikings and Lions. Because Minnesota has a quarterback change in its future, I see them as an under-.500 squad with the potential to knock off good teams who underestimate them. Detroit, meanwhile, appears to be a tough out at home and a better road opponent than its 24-7 loss in Carolina suggests.
Still, when the Packers are on they possess the best offense in the division. Their defense needs to improve, but even in years where it wilted, Green Bay has managed to win the NFC North. At least for the time being, they remain my pick.
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