Matthew Postins: It seems as if Aaron Rodgers has settled in at quarterback. Given all the hub-bub with Brett Favre over the summer, what qualities has Rodgers offered the Packers that have allowed them to be successful this season?
Bill Huber: You name it, Rodgers has got it. He can make all the throws, he's athletic, he's tough, he's smart and he learns from his mistakes. All he's lacking is experience, and that inexperience shows on the occasions Rodgers has held the ball too long and gotten himself in trouble. But by and large, the Packers have to be thrilled with how Rodgers has stepped in for the legend.
Will Rodgers ever be as good as Favre? That's highly doubtful, but there's no reason he can't play at a Pro-Bowl level for the next dozen years.
MP: Ryan Grant started slow this season, but it seems his numbers the past few weeks suggest he's starting to come around after a breakout year in 2007. Are the Packers using him any differently, or is it just a matter of getting the injury problems of this summer behind him?
BH: It's a matter of him getting past an injury-plagued summer. While seeking a new contract, Grant took part in all phases of the offseason program but the on-the-field work. So when he finally signed his contract early in training camp, Grant arrived in shape but not in a football groove. A sore hamstring prevented Grant from getting so much as one carry during the preseason. So, in effect, his first four games were his preseason.
He's been getting better and better in the following weeks, culminated by his hard-charging 145-yard effort against the Bears' strong run defense last week.
MP: Every time I turn around, it seems the Packers are scoring a defensive touchdown — I guess I'm more aware because they're my fantasy team's defense. What gives? Is this a big-play defense, or are they cherry-picking certain teams with offensive shortcomings?
BH: I'd say some of each. Certainly, cornerback Charles Woodson — a four-time Pro Bowler — has never played so well. His study habits have rubbed off on safety Nick Collins, who is having a monster season. But there's something to be said about who you play.
The Packers have faced a lot of great running backs but have benefitted from facing the likes of Tarvaris Jackson, Jon Kitna, Charlie Frye, Kerry Collins, Gus Frerotte and Kyle Orton at quarterback. The Packers have faced two elite quarterbacks. Dallas' Tony Romo had a big game, but Indy's Peyton Manning was beyond frustrated by the end of that contest.
MP: It seems like the NFC North is pretty tough this year — or at least close, let's put it that way. But it seems likely that only one team will make the playoffs. What makes the Packers the smart pick?
BH: I'm not sure anyone's a smart pick in this division. One day, it looked like the Packers' season was poised to tumble over the cliff. The next, they looked like the clear favorites. So much of the NFL is based on schedules, and the only gimme on the schedule is the finale against Detroit. But with Rodgers being the North's best quarterback, Grant's emergence, the big-play performers in the secondary and Will Blackmon's prowess on punt returns, the Packers seem like a slight favorite.
If the Packers lose on Monday, though, all bets are off.
MP: Two years ago, Atari Bigby beat out his old high school teammate, Marquand Manuel, for a safety job. Is Bigby the standard bearer for the back line defensively, and what makes him a good player — or bad — in your estimation?
BH: If you had asked me this question entering training camp, I'd wholeheartedly say Bigby looks like an answer at safety. But a hamstring injury sustained late in the first half of the Week 2 game at Detroit kept him out of the lineup for five games, and as tends to be the case with hamstring injuries, it takes even longer for the player to be up to full speed.
Bigby is showing signs of becoming the hard hitting, big-play force he was last year, but he's still yielding some of the reps to Aaron Rouse, who has shown spurts of promise, as well.
Behind Enemy Lines: Part II
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