With no Packers blog in the Bloguin network, it looked as though we would have to do without what has become the most interesting read of the week. Thanks to Adam Somers from Ol' Bag of Donuts, though, who reached out to me a couple days ago, we have some quality insight into the Dolphins' opponent for the fifth straight game. Be sure to check out the questions I answered for Adam right here.
Phins Phocus: How optimistic are you that Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews will be able to suit up on Sunday? In Rodgers case in particular, how confident are you in Matt Flynn's ability to step in and lead the offense?
Ol' Bag of Donuts: I am more optimistic about Rodgers starting then I was at the beginning of the week after he has started practicing. However, that doesn't necessarily mean he will be cleared to play Sunday. Original reports were that the concussion was not too bad, but still the NFL takes head injuries very seriously, as they should, so I would say right here, right now I would give Rodgers a 50-50 chance to play. If he doesn't play, it wouldn't upset me too much because that means he is given another week to recover and avoid another potential concussion. Then steps in Matt Flynn, a former seventh-round pick from a few years ago. Flynn has developed very nicely in the Packers system that they waived the other QB from that draft class Brian Brohm. If the right game plan is in place that is a little more conservative and predicated on short passes, I think Flynn can win some games. He is a proven winner (national championship at LSU) and makes smart decisions. However, Mike McCarthy hasn't shown anything but stubbornness so far this year in his gameplans and playcalling.
As for Clay Matthews, it is looking more and more that he will not play. The hamstring injury he suffered is the same that kept him out of almost all of training. However, the injury is not as serious as it was this summer and knowing Matthews demeanor he will try to tough it out at all costs. It can be argued that Matthews is just as valuable as Rodgers this year, but not to underestimate the Dolphins, the team needs him close to 100% against the Vikings in two weeks. You never want to drop a game in the NFL, but if Rodgers and Matthews are not fully healthy, but can be in two weeks, Sunday's game carries a lot less importance than the one in two weeks.
Phins Phocus: Heading into the season, it seemed like the Packers were a trendy pick to come out of the NFC. While they still are certainly capable of doing just that, they probably haven't lived up to most people's expectations. What were your expectations for them heading into the year, and how have they changed after the first five games of the season?
Ol' Bag of Donuts: Expectations were extremely high and so were mine, I picked the Packers to win the NFC. Might have been a bit of a homer pick, but there was so much to like about this team. They haven't met the level of those expectations yet, but the argument can be made that no one in the NFC has yet. However, through the first five games I do expect them to still win the NFC North. Injuries have played and will play a major factor in all of this, but as long as some of the key cogs - Rodgers, Matthews, Ryan Pickett come back healthy in a couple weeks, there is still plenty of talent on this team to win the division and win a playoff a game or two, even without Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant. NFC champions might be a bit of a reach right now, but no one has looked that great so far in the conference and the team that gets hot in the final month will probably be the favorites and I still believe that could be the Packers.
Phins Phocus: If Rodgers does end up playing, how exactly would you go about stopping the Packers' high-powered offense if you were an opposing defensive coordinator?
Ol' Bag of Donuts: I feel like we say this every week, but you need to get pass rush on the edge early and often. In the Packers' two losses this year Julius Peppers and Brian Orkapo had monster games. The offensive line is not any better than they were last year and without a commitment to the run teams are starting to tee off on Rodgers again. His mobility can curb an inside rush fairly well, but if you can get him on the outside and keep him from rolling out, you should be pretty successful against the Packers.
Phins Phocus: The defense finished second overall a year ago, but find themselves 13th so far this season. Obviously, still a respectable ranking, but what has been the cause for the slight slippage?
Ol' Bag of Donuts: I never want to use injuries as an excuse, but I will here. The Packers were already down 3 starters heading into last week - LB's Nick Barnett and Brandon Chillar and rookie safety Morgan Burnett and now will probably be down two more Sunday with Pickett and Matthews sidelined. There isn't much depth in the secondary with Al Harris and Atari Bigbyon the PUP list and nickel back Sam Shields (from the U!) injured as well. Sometimes the injuries are just too much take and you are seeing that on defense. The team is still pretty solid against the run, but can struggle against the pass with no secondary depth beyond Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Nick Collins and also Matthews is the only consistent pass rusher the team has seen so far.
Phins Phocus: Finally, who do you see winning this Sunday and why? Final score?
Ol' Bag of Donuts: It comes down to if Rodgers and/or Matthews can play. I wouldn't be surprised either way if they did or didn't. I think Matt Flynn can sneak out a win IF, and that is a big if, they can control the clock and win the turnover battle. Miami's offense isn't elite yet, but is good enough against a depleted Packers defense. The loss of Matthews will probably be greater than Rodgers this week because the team has no pass rush so far besides him. If someone can step up and get to Henne that would go a long way, but I don't see that happening.