Behind Enemy Lines: Part I

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Todd Korth of Packer Report, break down Sunday's game between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. Let's begin this three-part series with five questions from John to Todd.

John Crist: Since I just can't handle another ode to Brett Favre and how he's the greatest human being on the planet – nothing personal, of course, just enough already – let's discuss Aaron Rodgers. He's been in the league three years and is still yet to make his first start because Ironman is in front of him on the depth chart, but he played very well in a Week 13 loss to Dallas after Favre left the game with an injury. Since it certainly appears that No. 4 is going to return again next season, will the Packers entertain offers for Rodgers and what might he be worth at this point?

Todd Korth: It would be extremely surprising to see the Packers trade Rodgers away at this point. They have a lot of time, money and effort invested in him. Unless they got a crazy deal they just couldn't refuse, look for Rodgers to stay with the Packers. He has been tutored under Mike McCarthy the past two seasons, and in the Nov. 29 game at Dallas, he showed everyone how far he has progressed despite never getting a chance to practice with the regular starters.

If Favre returns to the Packers, and he probably will, Rodgers will have to ride it out again on the bench and continue to wait his turn. But he's getting used to it and, more importantly, has accepted his role. Also, Rodgers just turned 24 years old on Dec. 2, so it's not like he's getting gray hair and arthritis.

JC: The Green Bay running game was going absolutely nowhere with the likes of Brandon Jackson, Vernand Morency, and DeShawn Wynn getting the ball, yet Ryan Grant entered the fray after injuries to the aforementioned three and has been on a tear ever since. Why is he having so much success when the others didn't, and does this mean that the Packers have scratched running back from their list of offseason priorities?


RB Ryan Grant
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

TK: Yes, I think Grant has emerged as the answer to Green Bay's running back problems and proved that he can be the featured back for years to come. However, I still see the Packers trying to improve the position in the off-season, either through free agency or the draft. However, instead of using a first-day pick on a running back, the Packers can now wait till the second day to pick a back because of Grant.

Jackson is more of a third-down back, as is Morency. Wynn has all kinds of questions surrounding him, beginning with work ethic. He had a golden opportunity to seize the position but wasn't in the best shape, and that cost him.

JC: Donald Driver is naturally the leading pass-catcher on this team and has now eclipsed 1,000 yards for the fourth consecutive season, but this receiving corps was supposedly lacking playmakers entering training camp. Greg Jennings has made a ton of big plays and rookie James Jones has also done pretty well, so what's been the biggest factor in their development this year?

TK: Brett Favre, and here's why: Instead of taking mid-range to deep shots for his receivers, Favre is throwing more slants, screens and curls than ever before and allowing his receivers to do the rest.

The Packers lead the league in yards after the catch because their receivers are strong and have a good ability to run and break tackles after making a catch. The Packers even lined Driver up at quarterback for a play this season just to get the ball into his hands.

JC: The Packers are a very respectable 11th in total defense this season at 320 yards allowed per game, yet they don't truly excel stopping the run (15th) or defending the pass (14th). Nevertheless, they surrender just 17.4 points per game to the opposition, which is sixth in the NFL and perhaps the only statistic that really matters. Are they great in the red zone? Have they forced a ton of turnovers? Is it just plain luck?


LB A.J. Hawk
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

TK: Green Bay's defense has bended at times but hasn't been snapped in two very often. The Packers have a solid front seven, led by ends Aaron Kampman, Cullen Jenkins and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Nick Barnett has been playing at a Pro Bowl level at middle linebacker, and A.J. Hawk has been solid.

The Packers defense has made big plays at opportune times. Cornerback Charles Woodson has returned two interceptions for touchdowns when games were still in doubt. The interior of Green Bay's defensive line has been hurt by season-ending injuries to top backups Johnny Jolly and Colin Cole, but the Packers had a lot of depth at that position, perhaps the most of any position entering the season, so it hasn't hurt them too badly. First-round pick Justin Harrell has finally had a chance to play, and he is gradually feeling his way. There have been times when the Packers defense has been plain lucky with either a penalty on the opposing offense or a deflected pass landing into the hands of a defensive back 10 yards away, but the defense also has created a lot of its own luck by pressuring opposing quarterbacks.

JC: In what has the making of a truly interesting matchup, Green Bay only allows 5.9 yards per punt return, tied for fourth best in the league, and 21.1 yards per kickoff return, which is ninth. Everybody knows that Devin Hester is a game-changing player on special teams, so are punter Jon Ryan and rookie kicker Mason Crosby – both are having solid seasons – accurate enough to keep the ball away from him and neutralize the Chicago return game?

TK: The Packers did a pretty good job of taking Hester out of the game in the Oct. 7 matchup, but they also sacrificed field position. I would look for Green Bay to do the same on Sunday, though. The Packers' kick and punt coverage units have improved since early in the season, so there may be times when they kick toward the sideline in the direction of Hester and try to pin him.

All depends on that Windy City weather on Sunday.

To read Part II of Behind Enemy Lines, where John answers five questions from Todd, Click Here.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report. Todd Korth is the Publisher of Packer Report.


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