Sunday's game against the Cardinals just might be the biggest game of the year for the Green Bay Packers for many reasons. First, this may be the first game of the year where they are really expected to win, and they must win it. Mike McCarthy and is staff did a great job during the bye week preparing the team to go into Miami and get a win, and they played like they were ready. The problem is that if they don't follow that performance up by beating the Cardinals it's like taking two steps forward and three steps back.
Over the bye week I saw serious adjustments made on the defensive side of the ball and I saw an aggressive game plan on offense. I saw the players get rewarded for believing in the scheme and the result was a well needed win on the road. But this game against the Cardinals is home. The Packers have to re-establish that this is their house and that nobody comes into it and walks away with a win. When Mike McCarthy was hired one of the things he talked about was that very thing – he wants to get that "Lambeau Mystique" back. This is a golden opportunity to get a piece of it.
Don't get me wrong it's not going to be that easy. The Packers can't just walk on the field and the Cardinals are going to lay down. The Cardinals are wounded animals and their coach, Denny Green, is fighting for his NFL coaching life because if he loses he just might be fired. The Cardinals had the ability to shock the world against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football and choked. They let a golden opportunity slip through their hands. Then they lost to the worst team in the NFL, the Raiders, a team that is slipping into the black sea. But against the Bears everyone was impressed with what the Cardinals did the first half. The Packers have to believe that that's the team that they will see because as good as the defense played last week against the Dolphins they are nothing like the Bears defense, and look at what the Cardinals did to the Bears when they were playing like they wanted to win.
Don't get me wrong I expect the Packers to win, but I'm not sure that they understand how important this game is to the direction this team wants to go. With a win they go to 3-4 with Buffalo coming up next, meaning that in two weeks they could be at 4-4 which would be awesome for this team. We all know this is a team in the rebuilding stage, but if in the process it can win and be respectable and get a winning streak going, think about what that would do for the coaches and the players. Talk about gaining momentum and creating a winning climate! That's why this week's game is so important. There is so much at stake.
With a win this week it would put the Packers in position to be one game away from their record last year with some more games on the schedule that they can easily win, such as the Bills, 49ers, Lions, and Jets. A win would put their record with just these wins at 7-9, which would be a great accomplishment for this staff and players. I hope the players understand just how important this game is. I hope Brett Favre can continue to move the ball around and trust the young receivers, even though one of his favorite targets might not be there in Greg Jennings because of his sore ankle. Hopefully, the offensive line will continue to give Ahman Green room to run as well as continue to protect Brett Favre the way they have for the most part of this early season.
On defense this unit needs to pick up their game, especially upfront. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila needs to show up. It's time for him to earn his money. As a matter of fact Aaron Kampman needs to pick up his game as well. As I see it there is no better time than now because they need this win and it's time for the defensive line to help this team out. I don't think we can ask for any better play from the linebacker position. A.J. Hawk I don't think can play any better than he has of late. Even Nick Barnett and Brady Poppinga have turned it up. The secondary, especially the cornerbacks, are playing at high levels. Al Harris and Charles Woodson are becoming the shutdown corners I thought they could be going into training camp. Even Patrick Dendy has made us forget about Ahmad (WHO?) because of his play.
With all good things, there are some bad as well, and that's the play of Marquand Manuel and Nick Collins. They aren't living up to the expectations that any of us had for them going into this season. Even though the defense has given up a bunch of passing yardage, last week against the Dolphins it turned the game around with the interception by Charles Woodson and took the wind of the sails of the Dolphins.
So, as I have said, this game is crucial for the season. This is A DEFINING MOMENT.
Editor's note: Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.