Steffen: Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson may not know it, but Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins may be the most important game of their careers. Surely they’d tell you that it’s just another game on the schedule and they may even believe that, but make no mistake about it — how they respond after a week of bad news will dictate how the Packers perform for the rest of the season.
This week will set the tone. Is this the scrappy and talented team destined for Super Bowl glory, or just another preseason paper champion?
The team is reeling after a humiliating victory against the Lions (apparently there is such a thing), mounting criticism, a crushing overtime loss to the Redskins and more injuries than I’ve ever seen a Packers squad suffer in one season. And we’re not even half way through, so it could get worse. Let’s just say that morale is low.
This is a team that needs a win and they need it now.
NFL champions are defined by how they deal with adversity. Every team experiences injuries and it’s up to the GM to maintain depth and the coach to maintain morale and focus. I don’t have a lot of confidence in Thompson and McCarthy to do any of these things. I feel like they are able to field a talented team, but as soon as things don’t go according to plan, they ignore the problems and stubbornly stay the course.
They don’t hit the panic button, they hit the snooze button.
How else to explain our current halfback tandem of Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn? And focus is hardly a hallmark of Mike McCarthy’s tenure as head coach. Just ask any number of the Packers’ oft flagged offensive linemen and they’ll tell you just how unimportant focus and discipline are for this team.
McCarthy needs to recognize that his team is at a crossroads. His hands-off approach is no longer an option. Thompson also must realize that after five years, this team is no longer a long-term project. This team simply must win now and that means he needs to address the injuries with more than practice squad players. There is absolutely no urgency with either of these guys and I have to think this is demoralizing for the players.
If the Green Bay Packers still fancy themselves as Super Bowl contenders, it’s time for them to step up and prove it. They limp into this Dolphins game with a lot of questions on the defensive side of the ball, an offensive line on the brink of collapse and no running game. Still.
Amidst all of this is a growing, out of left field hate fest being heaped upon quarterback Aaron Rodgers. ESPN radio’s Colin Cowherd, who may be the absolute worst sports radio host in the country, is leading the charge. As part of a misguided and confusing rant against fantasy football, Cowherd has been slamming Rodgers for his lack of so called “signature wins.” While I’d argue that every one of Rodger’s victories is a signature win when you consider the scrutiny he endures every week, here is an opportunity for Rodgers to bounce back from his concussion and shut up idiots like Cowherd.
For Green Bay to win this week, McCarthy and his staff simply must make dramatic adjustments. Even without tight end Jermichael Finley, the Packers still have one of the best receiving corps in the game. The offense must run through Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.
On defense, Dom Capers will have to get tricky… I mean, I really don’t know what they are going to do. Last week, we saw how anemic the defense became when Clay Matthews went out. Basically, if you have any of the Dolphins on your fantasy squad, you should be starting them. While the Packers will devote a lot of time trying shut down idiot wide receiver Brandon Marshall, I am more concerned about Davone Bess, who is quietly having a breakout season.
Rodgers will bounce back with a big game – but so will Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne. If injured defensive ends Ryan Pickett and Mike Neal sit out, the Dolphins potent run game will get itself established early on. The Packers will be unable to generate a pass rush without Matthews in the lineup and Henne will have lots of time to throw.
Again, and I say this every week, the difference will be penalties and special teams. The Packers still have enough talent to win this game and they may very well jump out to a lead at some point, but special teams breakdowns and penalties will kill them in the end.
Dolphins 24, Packers 17
Sarah: The good news for the Green Bay Packers is quarterback Aaron Rodgers is recovered from the concussion he suffered last week and is expected to play against the Dolphins.
The bad news is…well, the bad news is just about everything else. Tight end Jermichael Finley, poised to have a breakout year as one of Green Bay’s most potent offensive weapons, is now lost for at least eight weeks and the Packers’ remaining injuries are best viewed with an Excel spreadsheet. It’s overwhelming.
Enter the Dolphins who, at 2-2, aren’t exactly Super Bowl material, but are much healthier going into this weekend.
Head coach Tony Sparano also now has a new special teams coach and thinks quarterback Chad Henne will be much better than he was in Week four versus the Patriots, when he threw three picks.
The Packers have been killing themselves with penalties and costly turnovers even before the injury bug hit, and the combination of the two isn’t going to go well this week.
Although they’re at home, expect the Packers to struggle to overcome this latest rash of injuries.
Dolphins 21, Packers 17
Monty: Although I can’t stand either of the numb skulls running the Green Bay Packers, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy don’t play the game.
Men play the game — men like Aaron Rodgers and Charles Woodson.
The Packers’ offensive and defensive heart and soul step up when their team needs them and their team needs them now. Sunday’s game against Miami could go a long way towards determining the course of this season. The Packers are battling more adversity than they have in the McCarthy era, but I fully expect Rodgers and Woodson to not only rally their team, but play lights out.
Don’t expect a work of art. The Packers special teams have been especially hard hit because of injuries, so there will be some breakdowns in that facet of the game.
However, in the end, big-time players come to play when it matters most.
Rodgers and Woodson are big-time players and they will be the difference.
Packers 31, Dolphins 24