Finley is Packers X-Factor vs. 49ers All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Packers TE Jermichael Finley
Rodgers to Finley will be a key to the Packers offense on Sunday

If you have been following the Green Bay Packers over the past week, you are surely familiar with all of the attention that the backup quarterback position is getting.  The team let go of last year’s back up in Graham Harrell, leaving BJ Coleman and Vince Young to battle for the backup spot.  As it turned out, neither won the job and both are looking for new teams while veteran Seneca Wallace will backup Aaron Rodgers, at least for now.

Prior to the game of musical chairs at quarterback, much attention was being given to the team’s running game.  Who would the Packers keep on the final roster?  Who would start?  How often will Green Bay really run the ball this season?

With those hot debates seemingly settled, it’s time to turn the attention to this week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.  Hopefully the backup quarterback position does not become a topic of conversation.  If it does, something bad has happened in the city by the bay.  As far as the run game, it’s the first game and against a tough 9ers defense.  I don’t expect a breakout debut by Eddie Lacy or even by the committee of backs that the Packers will likely utilize.

My X-Factor for the Packers in this game is tight end Jermichael Finley.  I’ll be returning my regular weekly “Keys To The Game” post later this week and this will surely be one of them.  Much of the attention on this rematch has centered around the Packers defense and how they can avoid another embarrassment at the hands of 9ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the read option.  Let’s not, however, forget that the Packers’ biggest weapon is Rodgers and a quarterback’s best friend against a tough defense is often his tight end.

While San Francisco returns studs in cornerback Carlos Rogers and safety Donte Whitner, they will rely on Tarell Brown, CJ Spillman and rookie Eric Reid to fill in at the other corner and safety spots, respectively.  The 9ers secondary is still good, but it is also the softest spot in the team’s defense.

In last year’s opener, Finley was targeted a season-high 11 times.  He caught seven balls and had a touchdown.  The Packers still lost the game, but Finley was able to get open and find the end zone.  Finley has had good preseason and seems as focused as ever.  He is entering a contract year and if he’s not going to be in Green Bay beyond 2013, he wants to get paid wherever he does end up.  He surely wants to get off to a fast start this year.

Earlier this week, Rodgers said that one of his priorities is to find a way to get the ball to 88, that being Finley.  While my first thought was not to telegraph your offensive game plan, my next though was “how does a defense stop Finley, Cobb, Nelson and the run?”.  It will be a tough task for the 49ers, but they have risen to many challenges in the recent past and have won two in a row against the Packers.

Can Finley be the biggest key to this game and get the Packers past their recent nemesis?  I’m sure we will see Rodgers and the Packers do everything they can to answer that question.  Let us know your thoughts.


Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on

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    “how does a defense stop Finley, Cobb, Nelson and the run?”.

    Simple, by overwhelming our inferior Oline with thier all pro front 7….this is the key to our offense scoring. Our oline has to block well. The problem is, 4 of our 5 Olineman would be back ups on the 49ers team. I hope we beat these A$$ holes some how.

    • Oppy

      totally picking nits, here, but..

      I don’t think SF wins by overwhelming out Oline with their all pro front seven. If the 9ers have to send extra rushers to overwhelm our oline, the Packers move the ball at will. Rodgers is beastly vs. the blitz.

      So, no; the 9ers will not stop Finley, Cobb, Nelson, and the Run with by overwhelming the packers OL with their front 7… They have to overwhelm the Packers Oline with their front 4. If they end up needing to send 5 or six men, Rodgers will slowly shred them apart.

      • Mandarichbestpickever

        This is all dependent on MM and A-Rod deciding to get the ball out quick. No 7 step drops this year!!!

        • I really hope you are right Oppy. I think they’ll be able to get to ARod with 4…. Until the OL proves otherwise, they’re below average.

    • John Zoul

      GBRDan, I hope your fears are allayed by the O-Line. I have the same trepidation. The defensive line appears stronger, as does the Linebacker corps sans Hawk, who is slower than any LB in the NFL and can’t cover anyone and never makes any key plays nor stops…Hoping that Banjo starts and turns out to be a stud hoss…As far as the O-Line, by comparison it is weak…am hoping Bakhtiari is an improvement over the pedestrian Newhouse, that Barclay shows improvement over last year…and both Lang and EDS must improve, as they were below average players in 2012…The only way we beat San Fran is by having a semblance of a running game, stopping their read option, and by being +2 in takeaways…

  • Razer

    You are so right about Finley’s potential impact and I am hoping that he steps up in this big game. He has the size, speed and skills to command a major adjustment by the SF defense. Absolute game changing capabilities. After so many years of under performing, I am not holding my breath. Let me just say that it would be a pleasant surprise if he finally arrived.

  • Slim11

    I hope the 49ers’ defense begins the game by “begging” the Packers to run the ball against them. This means they will give up something short. If they do, Rodgers can make some adjustments to get some screens and a short passing game going. I know this goes against MM’s strategy of “throw first…run if we have too!” play calling and game planning. He has to adopt a differnt approach to his game planning and play calling to make this happen.


    • Oppy

      I really do wish MM would do what most coaches do to slow down a pass rush and get the ground game going.. which is run screens and draws.

      Unfortunately, MM hasn’t done that in the past. Aggravating.

  • Savage57

    Does this mean that now ‘X marks the drop?’

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  • Big T

    Can’t wait until his first 3 yard gain and he acts like he just won the superbowl…

  • I’ve thought for most of the offseason that we’d win this one. Since TC started I’ve done a 180. Our OL is going to get slaughtered and we’ll struggle to score because of it.

    On the bright side, the D should do fine against SF’s running, and they have no one to throw to that our CB’s can’t cover.

  • Epy

    I truly, honestly feel that the Packers Offensive Line isn’t as bad as people make it out to be.

    Rodgers was sacked 1 time, and the team averaged 6.5 yards rushing.

    That was with Newhouse in there. Bakhtiari is better, and Barclay has some experience under his belt along with an offseason to improve.

    The problem with that game was the defense, not the offense, particularly the offensive line.

    The preseason without Rodgers in the line-up, with scrub QBs not even on the team because they are SO terrible is not what you should judge the Packers offensive line off of.

    • Oppy

      I agree, first team offense, line included, looked pretty good during the preseason.

      For that matter, first team defense also looked good.

      I think the 1’s are better off than some think this season. Either way, it should be a tough contest. I think the Packers are in this game to a larger extent than most think.

      People forget the Packers played the 9ers twice last year.. They were pretty competitive during the first match up last year, did not look overmatched. Kap+Co. caught the Packers with their pants completely down in the playoffs.. That will NOT happen again.

      • Epy

        Exactly my thoughts oppy! I think the other thing to remember is a lot changes if Ross didn’t fumble, that truly was the beginning of the end for the pack.

        The 49ers may still win, they are a good team, but I think the Packers have a good shot as any to take the game off of San Fran this Sunday.

  • tim

    Who’s TC?

    • Epy

      Training Camp good sir

  • Archie

    Packers defense (Capers) lost the playoff game last year, not the offense. DuJuan Harris was effective as was Rodgers. Defense should do much better this time around and Lacy/Starks will be a decent 1-2 punch on the ground. I think Starks will be our secret weapon in this game. I also think play action will help both the run and the pass. Oddsmakers see it as a 5 point spread. 3 of that is home field advantage. The remaining 2 points is the difference in talent. That’s one big play or TO or missed FG etc. I’m very much looking forward to the game. If Pack lays an egg, it could be 0-3 into the bye. That would probably mean no playoff berth. So, it really is a big game. If we lose a close one, that will be taken as evidence of a big improvement, especially if run/pass is relatively balanced and defense plays stout. A win and it’s Super Bowl or bust!

  • Kurt the Turk

    How will the 49ers stop the mighty Packer offensive combination of Finly, Cobb, Nelson, and a running game? They won’t. I can say that with very high confidence.

    But that does not mean the Packers will win. The NFL has turned into the 1970s NBA. All offense all the time. Frankly, it’s getting boring. 42-37 anyone?

    • I agree in general. But I think this particular game has the mark of a low scoring slobberknocker. I don’t think the GB OL can handle SF’s front 7. Nor do I think GB’s DL will budge. And SF can’t pass. Where are the targets?

      • Kurt the Turk

        Well, here’s hoping we see that slobberknocker. Cheers!

  • Since ’61

    If we are defining Finley as our difference maker, I am very concerned. He has dropped way too many passes in the past. The number if drops relates to how often he is targeted but we can establish an over/under for drops by Finley. I going to put Finley’s over/under drops at 3 for this game. Any takers for the under? See ‘ya Sunday. Thanks, Since’61

    • Epy

      Well I think they’re going to use Finley more shallow with opportunity for YAC this season with Eddie Lacy being back there.

      I’ll take the under on the drops! I hope you’re wrong for the packers sake, but enjoy the game regardless!

    • The whole dropsies issue and Finley is old hat. Sure, he may drop one here and there, but he finished last season very strong and was one of the team’s best receivers. It’s breakout or bust this year for Finley, with his contract up at year’s end. He had a solid camp. No reason to think he can’t step it up early and often.

      • Epy

        Don’t forget Jason that Finely was top 10 for receptions/yards last season despite ‘not playing well’ in the eyes of most Packer fans.

        He’s not playing poorly in my opinion, he really came on at the end of the season. His last two seasons he’s accounted for about 1500 yards and 10 TDs, that’s not too shabby.

        He’ll come around, he’s more mature, has his QB/Coaches confidence and he’s got a lot to prove.

        Thanks again for the article

    • Stroh

      I’ll absolutely take the under. Finley’s drops are related to how little he is used, not how much. The more integrated he is in the offense the more focused he is. That’s how it USED to be. Finley is a different player/person than a couple years ago. That’s not just lip service by McCarthy either! More targets = less drops. Finley drops 1 or 0 vs SF. I’ll call 5 rec on 7 targets for 70 yds and a TD!

  • tim

    Thanks Epy, I’m not so good on catching that stuff.. I kind of like the situation the packers are going into. Everyone will GB as underdogs, but we are better in just about everyway since the last meeting. The biggest differences will be the running game for the packers is a bigger threat to the 49ers, and kappernick should not be as big a factor as he was last time. Hope that’s enough to give us a win.

    • Epy

      No worries tim! I totally agree with you by the way, the gloom and doom I’m seeing around packer forums/comments is embarrassing and slightly misguided, granted anything can happen on sundays, I think the Packers will play pretty well.

  • Tarynfor12

    The defensive play is the X-FACTOR in this game….they will decide the level of dedication MM gives to the run game which will decide Finleys factor with Rodgers facing 7-8 man covers.

    If SF and Kaep are allowed to run free again…our run game plan is immediately tossed in the trash can…

  • Since ’61

    I’m happy to see the support for Finley. Let’s hope the good vibes carry through to Sunday. Go Pack Go !