There is nothing wrong with Aaron Rodgers. I repeat: there is nothing wrong with Aaron Rodgers.
Any doubts about issues the Green Bay Packers may have been having on offense were silenced permanently last Sunday as Rodgers threw a franchise record-tying six touchdown passes as the Packers shredded the NFL’s best defense in a 42-24 win over the Houston Texans. The win moves the Packers back to 3-3 on the season and helped alleviate any concerns fans may have had about the direction of the team.
The Packers now move on to face the St. Louis Rams, who also stand at 3-3 and are one of the league’s more improved teams. That said, this is a game the Packers should win and really have no business losing. The Packers lost to one of the league’s best teams in the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, but have lost to the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks* as well. (* is citing the controversial ending to that infamous game).
They’ve beating the Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints and Texans who all are considered some of the better teams in the NFL
Can the Packers get above .500 for the first time all season and finally beat a team they should have no problem beating?
Scouting the Rams
First year head coach Jeff Fisher has done a solid job so far with the Rams who were one of the worst teams in the NFL a year ago. While much work remains to be done on the offensive side, the Rams defense is one of the most improved units in the league.
At quarterback is former number one overall draft pick Sam Bradford. Bradford enjoyed a solid rookie season followed by a sophomore season in which he struggled with injuries and the team had one of its worst seasons in history. In 2012, Bradford has thrown for 1,337 yards for six touchdowns against five interceptions. He is currently missing his favorite target in wide receiver Danny Amendola, who is nursing a shoulder injury.
Bradford also has been sacked 18 times this season behind one of the most porous lines in the NFL. He has been sacked at least once in every game and has been sacked three or more times in three of the Rams’ six games so far this season. Once the pocket collapses, Bradford has a difficult time planting his feet and getting off a good throw when he has to scramble.
The Rams of course also still have Steven Jackson at running back. While he’s not quite the elite running back he once was but he’s still big and bruising and could cause trouble if he can reach the Packers’ thin group of linebackers thanks to injury.
On defense, as was mentioned earlier, the Rams are turning the corner under Fisher’s tutelage. Gregg Williams was initially hired to be the team’s defensive coordinator, but Williams has been suspended indefinitely thanks to his role in the Saints’ bounty program.
Former first round draft pick Chris Long provides much of the pass rush on the Rams defense. He’s record four sacks so far and will be a focal point for a Packers offensive line that has struggled at times keeping their MVP quarterback upright and unharmed. The Packers cannot take the Rams lightly on defense
In the secondary is hard hitting and trash talking cornerback Cortland Finnegan. Finnegan has been fined multiple times by the NFL for unnecessary roughness and has earned a reputation for trash talking and getting into opponents’ heads. With the Packers sometimes having issues with penalties, Finnegan likely will try to take advantage of that and force the Packers into some unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
Keys to a Packers victory
- Run Alex Green
Many thought the Packers running game would struggle with the loss of running back Cedric Benson to a Lisfranc injury, but second-year running back Alex Green held his own against the Texans and should be able to build on that against the Rams.
The Packers also have James Starks healthy once again, but coach Mike McCarthy will ride the hot hand when he has one. If Green can get off to a fast start, that should only open up things more for Rodgers and the passing game, which finally roared to life last week.
-Utilize Randall Cobb
The Packers may have found their own version of Percy Harvin in the second-year wide receiver from Kentucky, and they should continue to find new ways to build on Randall Cobb’s speed and versatility.
Cobb has done everything from lining up as a traditional receiver to taking pitches from Rodgers. A screen pass to Cobb is a nearly fail-safe play as his speed and elusiveness are usually enough to get a decent gain.
Throw in his talents on special teams, and Cobb adds one more dimension to a team that already had a plethora of offensive weapons.
-Hit Bradford often
When he is under constant pressure, Bradford has a tendency to force balls and create opportunities to turn the ball over.
The Packers linebackers are currently ailing with Desmond Bishop and DJ Smith out for the season and rookie Nick Perry suffering an injury against the Texans that will make him hard pressed to play against the Rams on Sunday.
The Packers still have Clay Matthews, who currently sits second in the NFL with eight sacks, and AJ Hawk, who is having the best season of his seven-year NFL career. Rookie defensive end Jerel Worthy also has shown promise as a pass rusher.
Charles Woodson also could be brought in to pressure Bradford on a safety blitz, and the Packers should be able to get enough from linebacker Erik Walden, who will replace Perry.
-Get out of the game healthy
Injuries are piling up for the Packers at a pace that is approaching 2010 levels when the team placed 15 players on injured reserve.
While some of the injuries so far this season have not been worthy of injured reserve, the Packers need to get through a game without any players leaving the field on a cart.
Thankfully, general manager Ted Thompson has built one of the deepest rosters in the NFL. It’s still not an ideal situation to be in, and the Packers are getting very thin at linebacker and running back with backup Brandon Saine lost for the year after the Texans game.
Packers 34, Rams 17
While improved, the Rams are not yet able to keep up with a team like the Packers. The offense should continue to click for Green Bay and the defense is able to overcome injuries as the Packers get above .500 for the first time in 2012.——————
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