Behind Enemy Lines: Part 1

Will Aaron Rodgers play on Sunday? How big a loss was Ryan Grant? And how good is Clay Matthews? Packer Report's Bill Huber lends his insight as we kick off this series with Dolphin Digest's Alain Poupart.

Alain Poupart, the associate editor of Dolphin Digest, checks in for Part 1 of Behind Enemy Lines.

Alain Poupart: Would you expect Aaron Rodgers to play on Sunday, and realistically how dangerous can the Packers be with Matt Flynn at quarterback?

Bill Huber: I do expect Rodgers to start, but I'm not the NFL-approved neurologist who has to sign off on whether the Pro Bowl quarterback will be allowed to make his 38th consecutive regular-season start. Unlike the "good old days," playing again after a concussion has nothing to do with toughness.

Talking to the offensive assistants on Monday and Flynn on Monday and Wednesday, it doesn't sound like Rodgers is suffering from any lingering aftereffects. Rodgers went through his physical testing on Wednesday, with the mental stuff coming up later this week. If he gets through those and gets the OK to start, I think he'll start. Coach Mike McCarthy on Wednesday said he'd start Rodgers even if he didn't take a snap at practice all week.

As for Flynn, not only do the Packers like him but other teams like him. The Browns, for instance, explored an offseason trade with the goal of bringing in Flynn to be their starter. He led LSU to the national championship as a senior. He's not the most talented guy on earth but he's smart, athletic and just seems to have a knack for making plays. But he's never taken more than a few important snaps in the NFL, so you really don't know what you're going to get.

AP: Can you quantify just how big of a blow it was for the Packers to lose running back Ryan Grant early in the season?

BH: In a word, huge. Guys who can run for 1,200 yards in a season just don't grow on trees. He wasn't a guy to break a lot of tackles or shake and shimmy his way past defenders, but when he got into the clear, you could basically put six points on the scoreboard. He was a selfless, tireless workhorse who never fumbled and consistently got better in November and December. He was the perfect back for a team that had defenses thinking pass first.

Brandon Jackson finally broke loose last week, with a 71-yarder en route to his second career 100-yard game. The Packers simply haven't run the ball often enough to know whether the combination of Jackson and fullback-turned-halfback John Kuhn can pick up the slack. This might be a good week to find out, regardless of who's at quarterback.

AP: Have the folks in Green Bay been surprised at all by the kind of start linebacker Clay Matthews has had?

BH: Not at all. All Matthews did was make the Pro Bowl with 10 sacks in 13 starts as a rookie. 

This guy is just blessed. First, his dad is the great Clay Matthews, who was a dominant linebacker for the Browns. Second, the younger Matthews is an incredible athlete. The Redskins ran a naked bootleg at Matthews last week that worked, except Matthews used his recovery speed to chase down Donovan McNabb for the sack anyway. Third, he's smart. He's not burned or confused too often. And fourth, he's met his kindred spirit in outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene, who is the NFL's all-time sacks leader among linebackers. Greene said recently that Matthews potentially is the best 3-4 outside linebacker in NFL history. No small praise.

Matthews, however, aggravated a hamstring last week that held him out of training camp this summer. He might practice on Friday but, knowing how careful the Packers are with their injured players, I'd guess he won't play.

AP: Is Charles Woodson having the same kind of season he had last year when he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year?

BH: Interesting question and that's a story I'm going to work on for Friday. Woodson hasn't given up many completions but he's been flagged seven times already and probably could have been penalized another couple times but for the officials turning a blind eye. 

Woodson had a pick-six against Detroit a couple weeks ago, though that's hardly news since he's done that three games in a row against the Lions. I'm not sure if Woodson is guessing too often in hopes of making a big play, but he's not nearly as dominant as he was last year. I'd assume he'll match up against Brandon Marshall. Now that's a must-see battle.

AP: The Packers entered the season touted as Super Bowl contenders, but they're only 3-2 and injuries have really piled up; is the optimism level still high or is there a sense that this is going to be one of those years?

BH: Another interesting question. If you're a Packers fan who views the glass as half full, you see a team that's lost two games on the road against first-place teams by a combined six points — both on last-play field goals. If you view it as half empty, you see the offense sputtering and a dizzying amount of injuries. The Packers' three best players are Rodgers, Matthews and Jermichael Finley, and there's a good chance that none of them will play.

Still, they're 3-2. If the offense plays just a little better, those three-point losses are three-point wins. Rodgers and Matthews, if they don't play this week, will be back soon. Finley, the stud tight end, just had knee surgery and hasn't been ruled out for down the stretch. They've still got an elite receiving corps and the defense has kept the team in games. So, no, the season isn't over but Sunday's game sure is big.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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