Green Bay Packers
|LB Nick Barnett||Knee||OUT|
|CB Jarrett Bush||Ankle||Questionable|
|WR James Jones||Knee||Questionable|
|S Charlie Peprah||Calf||Questionable|
|RB DeShawn Wynn||Calf||Questionable|
|OT Chad Clifton||Knees||Probable|
|DT Colin Cole||Elbow||Probable|
|WR Donald Driver||Knee||Probable|
|DE Aaron Kampman||Calf||Probable|
|DE Jeremy Thompson||Groin||Probable|
|C Scott Wells||Shoulder||Probable|
|CB Charles Woodson||Toe||Probable|
New Orleans Saints
|CB Aaron Glenn||Ankle||OUT|
|FB Mike Karney||Knee||OUT|
|RB Reggie Bush||Knee||Questionable|
|WR Marques Colston||Knee||Probable|
|C Jonathan Goodwin||Knee||Probable|
|RB Deuce McAllister||Knee||Probable|
|OT Jon Stinchcomb||Calf||Probable|
Packers Offense vs. Saints Defense
Early in the fourth quarter last weekend, with Green Bay comfortably leading Chicago 24-3, McCarthy called a quarterback sneak on fourth and 1 at the Bears' 36-yard line. Risky, yes. Aaron Rodgers' tender shoulder has been the A-prime injury on everyone's mind for the past seven weeks. Green-lighting him into the heart of arguably the best defense of this decade – with a win all but sealed up, mind you – has Monday Morning Quarterback second-guessing written all over it.
But Rodgers safely burrowed behind Scott Wells and gained the first down by a couple chain links. Although he has still grazed Green Bay's injury list, Rodgers has appeared to clear the biggest hurdles in recovering from a separated shoulder. After the blowout win, McCarthy affirmed, "This is the best Aaron's felt coming out of a football game."
Good timing. New Orleans boasts the NFL's 26th-ranked pass defense. Worse, the Saints' secondary is in flux. Al Harris' former brother-in-dreads, Mike McKenzie, was lost for the season with a broken knee cap against Atlanta two weeks ago – his second major knee injury in two years. For salt in the wounds, 15-year pro Aaron Glenn has been fighting a nagging ankle injury suffered in the same game. The double-whammy forced New Orleans to start maligned veterans Jason David and Randall Gay on the hot spots. Davis particularly is most remembered as a colossal free-agent flop last year, surrendering numerous deep plays after inking a four-year, $15.6 million contract.
Not much has changed this year.
Last week in their first game as a duo, David and Gay allowed Tyler Thigpen – not quite a household name – to pass for 235 yards and two scores. One of Thigpen's scores was a jump-ball lob to Dwayne Bowe on top of Gay's head. David was burnt by Mark Bradley for a wide-open 31-yarder up the right sideline. McKenzie's injury has also vaulted second-year corner Usama Young onto the field more. At K.C., Young – like Gay – allowed a touchdown lob to Bowe. The Packers don't rely heavily on lobs in the red zone, but rather slants and crossing routes. Still, look for McCarthy to finally unleash Rodgers. New Orleans' slew of injuries and ineptitude in the secondary has put massive bull's-eyes on David (5-8) and Gay (5-11).
And last week's sneak call confirmed that Rodgers' shoulder is almost back at full strength.
Saints Offense vs. Packers Defense
Nick Barnett – and his flamboyant post-tackle celebration – is rendered useless on the sideline from here on after he tore his right knee ligament at Minnesota. But in the Packers' 37-3 romp of Chicago, his absence was hardly a kink in Bob Sanders' defense. Rather, the linebacking corps was more active than it's been all season. A.J. Hawk appeared to be a natural at middle linebacker, totaling seven tackles near the line of scrimmage instead of his typical stops 7-10 yards downfield.
The true silver lining in Barnett's season-ending injury is that it has finally promoted Brandon Chillar onto the field. Green Bay's lone free-agent signing is fluid in coverage and unlike any of Green Bay's other `backers, as he has blitzing experience from his days in Jim Haslett's defense at St. Louis. Whereas Hawk and Poppinga are solid and assignment-sure, Chillar showed flashes of being the rangy playmaker Green Bay has lacked at linebacker since Wayne Simmons in the late 90s.
Coaches laud Chillar's instinctive nature to sniff out plays before they develop, slither past blocks and plug holes. At 6-3 and 245 pounds, Chillar has a basketball build. Last Sunday, he showed basketball athleticism, regularly getting into Chicago's backfield. Last week, his 4-yard stuff of Matt Forte on a short pass play preluded Jason Hunter's fumble-recovery touchdown.
Chillar may be the Packers' answer to stopping New Orleans' No. 1 threat. Running back Reggie Bush has missed three straight games with a knee injury, but Thursday head coach Sean Payton said he is "optimistic" Bush will return Monday Night.
It's been impossible for the Packers to prepare for any Saints running back in particular this week. New Orleans placed Aaron Stecker on injured reserve, and fellow backup Deuce McAllister was withheld from practice Thursday due to swelling in his knee – not to mention the steroids investigation clouding McAllister and a few of his teammates. To watershed the casualties, New Orleans picked up Mike Bell and Darian Barnes off the waiver wire this week to join Pierre Thomas in the backfield.
To be sure, Bush will be Green Bay's focus. Nevermind that he's been more Eric Metcalf than LaDainian Tomlinson through two years of hype. Nevermind that Thomas will probably still be the bell-cow back. Reggie Bush will always keep coordinators awake into the AM. If Bush plays, the task of shadowing him will fall on the Packers' new jumble of linebackers. In `06, Bush caught eight passes against Green Bay. Back then, Sanders assigned safety Nick Collins as the rover to track Bush. But considering the Saints' lethal, No. 1-ranked aerial assault, Sanders will probably leave Bush Alert to Chillar, Hawk and Poppinga.
Tyler Dunne writes his Injury Report Analysis feature every Friday exclusively for PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.