Behind Enemy Lines: Part 2

Viking Update's Tim Yotter returns as we examine the Packers in our lookahead to Sunday's game at Mall of America Field. Among the questions: Who's better, Rodgers now or Favre in his prime? And will McCarthy have to adjust to handle the Vikings' pass rush?

We go Behind Enemy Lines with Tim Yotter of Viking Update.

Yotter: The way Aaron Rodgers is playing right now, it might be time to ask this question: Who would you rather have, Rodgers right now or Brett Favre in his prime and why?

Huber: I was asked this in a radio interview a couple weeks ago. So, thanks for reopening this can of worms.

I've got to go with Rodgers. It's no slight on Favre, who's one of the greatest players in NFL history. But in this league, half the battle is simply not losing games. Favre holds a dubious NFL record for most career interceptions. Rodgers holds the NFL record for lowest interception percentage. To make an obvious point, you can't score points if you don't have the ball.

And it's not like Rodgers is dinking-and-dunking his way into the NFL record books. Since taking over as the starter in 2008, Rodgers leads the league in 25-yard completions. Oh, he's also the NFL's career leader for passer rating and is on pace to set single-season records for completion percentage and passer rating. About the only thing he hasn't done is lead the Packers from behind in the fourth quarter. Then again, in their 12-game winning streak, they haven't trailed in the fourth quarter in any of those games.

Yotter: The Packers are ranked first in points per game, fourth in total offense and third in passing offense, but only 24th in rushing offense. Does this mean that running the ball is overrated these days?

James Starks
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Huber: Interesting point and hard to argue. It's not just in Green Bay. In 2008, eight quarterbacks averaged 250 passing yards per game and only one topped 300. This year, 14 are averaging 250 and six are topping 300. It's a passing league, thanks to the league's Competition Committee and the wide-open style played by my most colleges.

As for the Packers, their running game is more important than the statistics suggest. In their Week 5 win at Atlanta, Rodgers absolutely murdered the Falcons' defense off play-action. James Starks and Ryan Grant have provided a pretty formidable one-two punch. They've combined for 499 yards and 4.2 yards per carry. It's not great but it's been good enough to at least threaten defenses.

Yotter: The Vikings ran into a max-protection wall against the Chicago Bears, effectively neutralizing their pass rush, but the Packers often employ three and four receivers and spread out defenses. Do you think they will switch things up to help protect Rodgers or will his quick release be enough of a counter to any pass rush?

Huber: Coach Mike McCarthy's history is that they'll play full-throttle on offense until they're forced to do otherwise. With five standout receivers and a stud tight end in Jermichael Finley, the Packers think their perimeter players are far better than any defense's back seven.

The wild card here is that second-year player Marshall Newhouse will be making his second career start at left tackle and will have to deal with NFL sacks leader Jared Allen. Obviously, if Newhouse can't handle Allen, McCarthy will have to adjust. The blueprint is probably what happened at Atlanta. In that game, Newhouse started at right tackle in place of Bryan Bulaga. When left tackle Chad Clifton hurt his hamstring, Newhouse moved to left tackle and rookie Derek Sherrod went to right tackle. The Packers went to a lot of quick-hitting passes until Newhouse and Sherrod proved they could handle the Falcons' ends. By the third quarter, McCarthy was calling plays as if he had veteran tackles.

Yotter: We all know about Clay Matthews' effectiveness and relentless pursuit, but the Green Bay defense is allowing a lot of first downs. Where are the cracks in the defense, and do the Vikings have enough to expose those deficiencies?

Clay Matthews
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Huber: There are two major cracks. Apparently, Cullen Jenkins took the entire defense's pass rush to Philadelphia. The Packers have a huge problem getting to the quarterback, and that might be this team's fatal flaw. Matthews has just two sacks and B.J. Raji has only one. Against St. Louis last week, the Packers' defensive line didn't register so much as a pressure against a Rams offense that had allowed Sam Bradford to take a pounding.

So, with no pass rush, the secondary has been exploited. The Packers' pass defense ranks 31st in the league. Three-time Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins sustained a career-threatening neck injury. Pro Bowl cornerback Tramon Williams is playing through a bum shoulder that has eliminated his physical play. Third cornerback Sam Shields probably will miss the game with a concussion. It's a pretty good opportunity for Christian Ponder to get into an early groove.

Yotter: So often, you hear about the Super Bowl hangover. How have the Packers been able to avoid that, and do you think the lockout may have helped because they may have been more refreshed without offseason workouts?

Huber: The lack of player-organized workouts was a major topic around here — the Packers didn't do a darned thing as a team during the lockout. Still, you used the word refreshed and that's exactly right. They played five weeks later than the 20 teams that didn't make the playoffs. With the coaching staff returning intact and the systems already in place, the Packers really didn't need to get together in May and June.

Here's another thing. The Packers had a billion guys on injured reserve last season, including Grant and Finley. Then they drafted 10 players and signed a bunch of undrafted guys — of which, four of them made the final roster. So, the influx of fresh faces heightened the competition and kept players on edge. The offense's performance in the second half last week was the first time this team looked the slightest bit bored.

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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

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