It’s finally here. The weekend many of us Packers bloggers and fans have been waiting for: Throwback Weekend! No clue what I am talking about? Look here for all the details from our friends at CheeseheadTV.
Lost amongst all the hype for the festivities is that there is an actual game to be played at Lambeau Field on Sunday! The 5-0 defending world champion Green Bay Packers take on the 0-4 St. Louis Rams. The Packers will be wearing their 1929 throwback jerseys that they wore against the 49ers last season, hence why it is called “Throwback Weekend.”
Last Week in Review
The Packers got off to sluggish start against the Atlanta Falcons on national television, trailing 14-6 at the half. After the break however, the defense came alive and Aaron Rodgers kept doing his thing as the Packers shut out Atlanta in the second half and won 25-14. Rodgers completed 26 of 39 for 396 yards and two touchdowns while throwing to 12 (12!) different receivers.
The Rams mercifully had their bye week.
Rams players to watch
QB Sam Bradford
With the arrival in the offseason of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, it was expected that he would take Bradford’s game to the next level after his stellar rookie season a year ago.
We’re still waiting.
Bradford has all the tools. He’s smart, he’s accurate, and he’s poised. Of course, no quarterback can put up big numbers while on their back.
In four 2011, Bradford has completed 49.7% of his passes for three TDs and one INT. The glaring statistic is that he has been sacked 18 times (that’s more than four times a game).
With an aggressive Packers pass rush, Bradford’s life won’t be getting better any time soon.
RB Steven Jackson
Jackson does not run around you. He runs over you.
One of the most bruising backs in the league, Jackson has gone over the 100 yard mark each of the last two times he has faced the Packers. With a passing game that is struggling badly, Jackson will need to carry the load if he hopes to lead his team to victory.
While he has been hobbled by a quadriceps injury most of the season, the bye came at the perfect time for the running back. McDaniels said this week that Jackson has his “burst” back and should be at full strength for the game on Sunday.
If the Rams want to have any chance of pulling the mother of all upsets, Jackson needs to have a big game.
DE Chris Long
Perhaps the lone bright spot on the Rams defense, Long has proven his worth since his drafting second overall by the Rams in 2008. He was named a presumptive starter by then coach Scott Linehan in 2008, but Long rejected that saying he needed to earn that. Talk about strong work ethic.
Long has shown a knack for getting to the quarterbacks and with a Packers offensive line missing Chad Clifton and getting back from injury Bryan Bulaga, he could get in Rodgers’ face a fair share of times on Sunday.
CB Al Harris
With six members of the Rams secondary out with injury, Harris will get the start against his former team in what will be an emotional homecoming for the cornerback.
Harris is 36 years old now, but the Packers know firsthand what he is capable of doing. He knows the Packers offense very well and it will be interesting to see how he fares against Rodgers and company.
For the Packers to win, they must….
On offense: Do what they do. With a badly wounded Rams secondary, Rodgers and his plethora of weapons must be salivating at what they can do on Sunday. I really don’t want to expect record breaking numbers, but nothing would surprise me.
On defense: Bradford is an open target. If they can get to him and force the Rams to be one dimensional with the run, then the game is won. Jackson is the only part of the Rams’ offense that truly concerns me.
For the Rams to win, they must….
On offense: I hate being arrogant, but pray for one of the biggest “come to” moments in NFL history. The Rams offense has been anemic to this point and unless someone discovered something magical during their bye week, there is no reason not to expect more of the same.
On defense: Contain Rodgers. The Falcons showed a blueprint on how to stop the Super Bowl MVP in the first half last week, but they still couldn’t shut him down for a full game. The Rams won’t fare much better, even if Long plays out of his skull.
Storylines to watch:
- IT’S A TRAP! I hate to bring up the 2009 Buccaneers game again, but this game has all the markings of a trap game except this one is at Lambeau. There is legitimate concern for a letdown, but this team is so much better than the 2009 version and much more battle hardened.
Don’t look for the Packers to take the Rams for granted on Sunday. Admiral Ackbar warned them!
- Harris returns Again, it will be emotional for both Harris and the Packers. He very well could end up in the Packers Hall of Fame someday and he’s made so many plays that will live on in Packers lore.
I also would not underestimate his impact in the game. While he wasn’t present when all the weapons the Packers have on offense began to emerge, he still knows a fair amount about McCarthy’s system.
- Who Rodgers targets McCarthy got animated this week when during a press conference it was implied the Packers had so many weapons they couldn’t keep everyone happy by getting them targets each week. McCarthy discarded the notion as “garbage” but it is a question many have had since before the season began.
Who will be the star this week? Your guess is as good as mine.
Packers 38, Rams 13
I had concerns about the Broncos game and the Rams are a far worse team so I think this one will be a blow out.
Bradford gets pounded and Rodgers has another field day. Not much else we can say.
The Packers go to 6-0. Enjoy it, and to anyone attending the tweetup Saturday night I will see you there.
GO PACK GO.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke