Sunday, December 07, 2008

Packers - Titans preview

There's only about 30 minutes or so to kickoff at what will be a chilly Lambeau Field. The Packers and Titans are expected to be playing in game time temps of somewhere in the low teens. Nippy, as they say. Which should be to the Packers' advantage over a team coming in from Houston.

The Packers also have more to play for. Even with the mediocre 5-7 record they are currently sporting, the Pack still has a chance at the playoffs. But they have to win their remaining 4 games. And that means they have to win today.

Houston comes in with Matt Schaub returning to the starting QB spot. He's been out 4 games after arthroscopic knee surgery. One would expect him to be rusty. And shaking off rust in bitterly cold temperatures is perhaps not the best place to return to the game. Those hits are going to feel all that much more nasty in the cold and on a semi-frozen field. Schaub won't be very mobile. So the Pack will try to bring not only Aaron Kampman on the pass rush but are also going to be playing Brady Poppinga on some downs at defensive end. Poppinga played some at DE in college and actually played a few downs at that spot in last week's game versus Carolina, as the Packers try to do something -- anything -- to get a pass rush from someone besides just Kampman. The Pack will, however, have to keep Texans rookie RB Steve Slaton in check. He was supposed to be a fill-in for Ahman Green. But when Green went down for the season, Slaton became the featured back. He's exactly the kind of back that has given the Packers fits this season: fast and explosive, especially to the outside. The other big threat for the Texans comes in the form of receiver Andre Johnson. Former Wisconsin Badgers tight end Owen Daniels is also a favorite of Schaub's. With Packers LB Brandon Chillar -- arguably their best cover LB -- out today, Desmond Bishop gets the start in his place. No mistaking it: the Texans do have some weapons if the Pack doesn't do what they are capable of doing on defense.

Speaking of defense, the Texans also have "Super" Mario Williams on their defensive line. He will be moved to both sides of the line, so both Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher will have to be on the top of their games.

What the Packers will need to do, especially in these weather conditions, is run the ball. Ryan Grant came out of the game last week with a thumb injury which caused concern about his ability to hang on to the ball. The thumb is still hurting, and it won't feel any better today. So it will be interesting to see how much work Grant gets versus Brandon Jackson, who filled in quite well for him last week.

We haven't really seen how well Aaron Rodgers plays in cold weather. But we will today. This will be his first really cold cold weather game. Hopefully, he won't have to throw 30-40 times today for the Pack to stay in the game. But if he does, we'll know a lot about him either way.

We also get a chance to check out our new punter, Jeremy Kapinos. Keep your fingers crossed. Also, the Pack moved up three players from the practice squad this week. A signal was perhaps being sent to some of the guys on the kick coverage units that they can be replaced if they don't get their act together immediately. Another game like the last 2 for the kick coverage units and this game could be much closer than it should otherwise be.

Houston is a lousy road team. But the Pack has been so-so at home this season. Still, this is a game the Packers should win. More importantly, it is a game they must win to stay alive. The green'n'gold kool-aide is coming out again, Packer fans. The Packers are favored by 6. I'm taking the Pack 27 - 17 over the Texans.

Go Pack Go!!!