Behind Enemy Lines: Part I

Our Scout.com experts, Bill Huber of Packer Report and Doug Farrar of FootballOutsiders.com, go Behind Enemy Lines to take a closer look at Sunday's Week 9 matchup between the Packers and Titans at LP Field. Let's begin this three-part series with five questions from Doug to Bill.

Doug Farrar: Half a season in, was Ted Thompson right in playing hardball with Brett Favre? Aaron Rodgers seems to have what it takes to make a real dent in the NFL – he currently sports a much higher DYAR and DVOA than his predecessor, though some of that has to do with his amazing receivers. All in all, did the Packers make the right move?

Bill Huber: I've thought it was the right move from Day 1. Favre admitted to being mentally drained after last season, and that mental stress is showing up already in New York. Beyond that, if Thompson had brought Favre back, what would the Packers have done with Rodgers, who is set to be a free agent after 2009? If Favre played 2008, the Packers would have had, what, eight or 10 games to make a long-term decision on Rodgers? And who's to say Rodgers, feeling jerked around by an organization that caved into the legend, would have wanted to come back anyway?

A vocal minority of the fanbase is still ticked off at Thompson for the way he handled the situation, but at least Rodgers is proving Thompson's faith correct.

DF: On to those receivers. We know that Greg Jennings is as good as anyone in the NFL, but tell us about the rest of the pack, from veteran Donald Driver to rookie Jordy Nelson. How will Rodgers and his pass catchers weave their way through Tennessee's outstanding pass defense?


WR Jordy Nelson
Greg Trott/Getty Images

BH: The 33-year-old Driver was a Pro Bowler last season and just seems ageless. He's not the go-to guy anymore, but Rodgers doesn't play favorites. If defenses put extra attention on Jennings, Driver will become more of a focal point.

As for the others, Nelson beat Pro Bowler Marcus Trufant a couple times at Seattle. He looks like quite a find. The 6-4 Ruvell Martin is Rodgers' best friend on the team. There's a definite chemistry between them. If powerful second-year pro James Jones is finally over his knee problems, the Packers can take the "Fab Five" alignment out of the mothballs.

DF: Green Bay's offensive line will face a very stern test from the Titans' front seven. I've been impressed with left tackle Chad Clifton's play this season, especially when he shut Dwight Freeney down a couple of weeks ago. But what's up with the rest of that line, and why has the running game been a problem this season?

BH: After watching the Packers' blockers move the line of scrimmage repeatedly against the undersized Colts, it looks like the problem is running back Ryan Grant. Grant, seeking a lucrative contract after bursting onto the scene last year, skipped the offseason workouts and, upon getting his payday, injured a hamstring during one of his first training camp practices.

He says he's healthy, but after missing all of camp and the preseason, he just doesn't seem like the tackle-breaking menace he was last year.

DF: The Packers' defensive line has been decimated by injuries. How is that unit holding up now, and how do you anticipate their gameplan will look against the combination of speedy Chris Johnson and burly LenDale White?


CB Tramon Williams
Matt Stockman/Getty Images

BH: I'd be shocked if the Packers don't use the Colts' plan: Put eight in the box with safety Atari Bigby or an extra linebacker and dare Kerry Collins to beat them through the air. Collins had a good game against Indy, but the Colts don't have Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Nick Collins and, presumably, Al Harris.

Circling back to the first part of that question, the Packers' run defense was much stronger against Seattle and Indy. Now, was that because the Seahawks were playing a third-string quarterback and the Colts were down two of their three running backs? We'll learn more on Sunday.

DF: I don't think there's much doubt that the Green Bay coaching staff and front office ranks among the best in the league, but the Packers currently have a 4-3 record in an iffy division. What has bedeviled this team, and how can they pull out of it to repeat as NFC North champions?

BH: The run defense was the No. 1 problem to start the season. They were gutted on the ground in losses to Dallas, Tampa Bay and Atlanta. If that run defense really is improved — and getting last year's top pick, Justin Harrell, back would help — then there's no doubt this is the team to beat in the NFC North.

The rest of the Packers' schedule is loaded with good running games, so that will be the key.

Be on the lookout for Part II of this three-part series, where Doug answers five questions from Bill, on Thursday.

Bill Huber is the Lead Analyst for Packer Report. Doug Farrar is a Staff Writer for FootballOutsiders.com.


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