A House Divided: Can Pack Rise Once More With Flynn?Posted:Dec 20th, 2013 9:46 pm
Just guessing here, but if I'm Dr. Pat McKenzie, I'm not expecting a Holiday gift from Mike McCarthy...or Aaron Rodgers for that matter. When the head coach faced the media on Friday, moments after Rodgers was declared out for Sunday's game, he looked annoyed, irritated and disgusted. Not necessarily in that order. He was wearing the face he probably wore when a driver drove off without paying, back in his Pennsylvania Turnpike days.
Clearly the decision was a divisive one. One one side you have Rodgers and McCarthy. On the other, McKenzie and GM Ted Thompson. One side is most interested in the here and now, the other in the long-term. For us Packer fans, 2014 is a long way off and the possibility of a post season run is foremost in our thoughts (though the path through the NFC even with Rodgers looks like a perilous one).
For all we know, the good doctor has no intention of clearing Rodgers this season. But if the Packers take care of business on Sunday, setting up a likely clash for the NFC North next Sunday at Soldier Field, you have to think it would be virtually impossible keeping off the field for that one.
For now let's focus on the task at hand. In come the proud, physical Steelers who, for all intents and purpose,s are out of the playoff conversation at 6-8. A home loss to the Dolphins a couple weeks back took them out of the race. Here's how they qualify: win out and hope the Ravens and Dolphins lose twice, the Chargers lose once and the Jets win out. That simple. They're facing a roster purge, with serious salary cap problems beginning next year, so the group is set to be dismantled.
Despite their disappointing season, they'll likely come to Lambeau ready to battle. They're well coached and some of the guys may remember the last times these teams met, a little game we like to call the Super Bowl. Dashing the Pack's playoff hopes wouldn't erase that memory but it would make for a merry plane ride home.
Offensively, they'll be more than a handful for the Pack's overly generous defense. Big Ben is having one of his best seasons statistically, despite playing behind a patched up offensive line that has gone through six combinations this season and has allowed the sixth most sacks. Rookie back LeVeon Bell was injured for most of the first half of the season, but is healthy now and has fresh legs. Job number one is to contain him on Sunday. The passing attack hasn't missed Mike Wallace. Antonio Brown has emerged as a star and guys like Heath Miller, Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders make hit hard to pay Brown too much attention.
It's the Steelers defense that has changed the most since their Super Bowl season. They no longer have DT Casey Hampton and their line is not anywhere near as dominant as it used to be. LB LaMarr Woodley was placed on IR this week and James Harrison is plying his trade in Cincinnati these days. Their secondary remains intact from the Super Bowl year. It's very good, but aging. Troy Polamalu remains a vicious hitter but still gambles too much and it tends to cost him in big moments.
So Matt Flynn will need to grab hold of the confidence he gained after his big second half in Dallas and hope it carries over to Sunday. He'll need to be sharper than he was against the Falcons. It looks like Eddie Lacy will be able to go, after sitting out a couple of days of practice. With snow in the forecast and temperatures in the low 20s, the Pack will likely lean on the rookie to carry a good chunk of the offense. Andrew Quarless will also need to continue his emergence as a primary weapon. With Brandon Bostick out for the season, Quarless will be relied upon to move the chains and be a red zone target.
This one can go one of two ways: the Pack takes the early Christmas (or late Hanukkah) gifts from the Cowboys and Ravens and uses that momentum to clobber the Steelers and move one win away from the division title. Or they fall flat after the high of last Sunday night and can't muster the focus needed to take care of business.
A win like the one we saw in Dallas, followed by the 61 yarder that knocked off the Lions on Monday night, leads me to believe there's a wee bit of fairy dust sprinkled on this team right now. It may not be pretty and it may not be easy, but I say the Packers live for another week.
Packers 23 Steelers 20