Behind Enemy Lines: Part 2

Packer Report's Bill Huber and Roar Report's Nate Caminata continue our three-part preview to Sunday's Packers-Lions game at Ford Field. Leading off: Might the Packers be looking past the lowly Lions? Plus, Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson and more.

Nate Caminata: It's deja vu for Lions fans this week, as the team can play villain once again to an NFC North rival's postseason and division title hopes. The Packers are saying all the right things, but does this game reek of concern/trap to the ball club?

Bill Huber: No, I don't think so. Just go back to the last game: The Packers won 28-26 and, out of the blue for an offense that didn't do a thing in the second half, they ran out the final 6 minutes to escape with the victory. Afterward, coach Mike McCarthy had to remind his unhappy players that they had won the game.

The Packers know that they have zero margin for error. If the season were over, they wouldn't even be in the playoffs. They certainly can't afford to lose this game, not with New England, the Giants and the Bears coming up and this game looming as a conference game for tiebreaker purposes.

Nate: Unlike Chicago, the Packers don't seem to have a bipolar disorder with regard to their play. Have they been as consistently good as their statistical rankings suggest, and can that parlay into a deep postseason run?


Raji sacks Hill in last game.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Bill: Statistically, the Packers are better than the numbers suggest. For the first time all season, this is a top-10 offense (up to ninth), and they're a top-10 defense (up to 10th) for the first time since after Week 3. This team is really on a roll, with five wins in their last six games. They've destroyed Dallas, Minnesota and San Francisco during that stretch, and the only blemish came on a last-seconds field goal at NFC-leading Atlanta. They've turned it over just once in the last five-and-a-half games.

Can the Packers make a deep postseason run? Well, they've got to get there first, which I think they will, since they host the Giants and Bears – two teams ahead of them in the NFC pecking order – to close the season. I think this team is as good as any in football. Of course, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago, the Giants and New Orleans can quickly make that same claim in the NFC alone. In today's wide-open NFL, if you could put the six playoff teams randomly on the bracket, you'd probably come out with a different result every time.

I think that bodes well for the Lions in the long run. There's just so little separating the good teams from the bad teams. Keep Matthew Stafford healthy for most of a season and watch the Lions go from pretenders to contenders in short order.

Nate: Aaron Rodgers posted a QB rating of 135 against the 49ers on Sunday, and hasn't thrown a pick in the last five weeks. Given the return of Mike Vick, the emergence of Jay Cutler, and the Lindsay Lohan of the League (Brett Favre), it seems Rodgers' MVP-type season has flown under the radar. Just how good is this guy, and is he a Super Bowl/MVP-caliber quarterback this season?

Bill: Super Bowl, no doubt. The defense is No. 1 in the league in points allowed and Rodgers has been on an unprecedented roll. He is the only quarterback since the merger in 1970 that has put together four consecutive games of 110-plus passer ratings in consecutive seasons. There isn't a throw he can't make and he's expertly kept plays alive, either throwing the ball or running for first downs.

As for the MVP talk, that's going to be a major story line for next week, when the Packers face the Patriots. If Rodgers can beat Tom Brady, then the MVP talk is going to pick up steam. But Brady is having a brilliant season and the Patriots have the AFC's best record despite a suspect defense. I'd say that makes him the overwhelming favorite with four games to go.

Nate: Charles Woodson has notoriously given Detroit fits since joining the Packers. However, news of an ankle sprain has curbed some of that concern for Lions fans. Will Woodson play on Sunday, and if so, how does that change the complexity of Green Bay's defense; I can't imagine the Pack will line a hobbled athlete -- even one with Woodson's pedigree -- against the likes of Calvin Johnson.


Woodson trips up Best.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Bill: Woodson was limited on Thursday and Friday but he's so smart that he probably doesn't need the full week of work to get ready for a game at this stage of his career. By taking it easy on him, the Packers are giving the ankle ample time to heal for Sunday.

Woodson wouldn't line up exclusively on Johnson, anyway, in part because of Tramon Williams having a breakout season. In two-receiver sets, Williams lines up on the left and Woodson the right. In three-receiver sets, Woodson always goes into the slot, where the Packers like him because he's a physical run defender and sneaky blitzer.

Nate: Despite a lack of wins, Detroit's rookie classes of late have been all the rage in the division. But Green Bay's 2010 class seems a bit special. Tell us about Bryan Bulaga; also, sixth-round pick James Starks had an impressive debut against San Francisco. Is he an answer at running back for the Packers?

Bill: Bulaga has been pretty good. The Packers' first-round pick was selected to eventually replace stalwart veteran Chad Clifton at left tackle, but when veteran right tackle Mark Tauscher went down with a shoulder injury in the first Detroit game, Bulaga stepped in despite never playing on the right side of the line in his life. He's been good – good, but not great – and I think he'll have his hands full with Cliff Avril, who even Rodgers singled out this week.

The second- and third-round picks, defensive end Mike Neal and safety Morgan Burnett – were key contributors until going on injured reserve. Fifth-rounder Andrew Quarless is starting at tight end in place of injured star Jermichael Finley. Seventh-rounder C.J. Wilson will get ample playing time this week with starting end Cullen Jenkins out with an injured calf.

As for Starks, he missed his entire senior season at Buffalo after needing shoulder surgery, then missed most of the offseason work and all of training camp with an injured hamstring that landed him on the PUP list. He made his NFL debut last week against San Francisco's sturdy run defense and picked up 73 yards on 18 rushes. It was impressive work for a guy who hadn't played in a game in 23 months. He's a big guy who gets the ball and goes. What bears watching is his ball-security. He was fine last week but at 6-foot-2 and an upright running style, he's an inviting target.


Nate Caminana is publisher of Roar Report and Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report.


Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.


Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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