Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's in like Flynn for Packers

Late this morning it was made official: Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is out for Sunday night's game against the Patriots and third-year backup Matt Flynn will get his first NFL start. Practice squad QB Graham Harrell will reportedly be activated to the 53-man squad and defensive back Anthony Smith put on injured reserve to make room for Harrell.

Rodgers apparently did not receive the medical clearance required to be allowed to play. Given this was Rodgers' second concussion in about two months, the protocol is reportedly a bit different than with a first concussion. And even though head coach Mike McCarthy said that Rodgers was outfitted with a new helmet to provide him with greater protection that only matters if Rodgers can play. And he won't, at least for another week.

If there were any game where Rodgers' presence would be needed to even be in the game, this is it. Given what the Patriots have done to their competition over the last several weeks, a healthy Aaron Rodgers would give the Pack a fighting chance of staying in the game.

We'll get a chance, instead, to see what Matt Flynn can do. He's been on a big stage before, winning a National Championship while at LSU, and being named the MVP of that game, in fact. In reports out of Green Bay all week, Packers players to a man were saying they had full confidence in Flynn and what he can do. No doubt, being able to work with the first unit offense all week and get his timing down with the receivers will be an advantage he didn't have when he had to jump into the Detroit game last weekend.

But unless the Packers can somehow generate a semblance of a running game, it could be a long night for Flynn. McCarthy's play calling cannot rely upon Flynn to be the throwing machine he's asked Rodgers to be all season long. The offensive line -- which was embarrassed by their poor level of play versus the Lions -- must create holes for running backs to get a few yards every once in a while. The best defense against Pats' QB Tom Brady is keeping him on the bench with long possessions. That works against McCarthy's typical mode of operation. Let's hope that he at least acknowledges the situation he and his team is in and does what's necessary to perhaps, maybe, possibly pull an upset. If he implements the same type of game plan that's been on display of late the game could be over for the Packers before the first half is out.

That's not to minimize the Packers' defense, which is the number one scoring defense in the league (if memory serves). It's just that they've been playing on fumes for quite a while, too. Injuries have plagued that unit all season long and this weekend is no exception. While S Atari Bigby might see some action, DE Cullen Jenkins is still out and LB Frank Zombo -- who himself was a starter by virtue of the injury parade -- is also likely out for the game and will be replaced as a starter by street free agent Erik Walden. Oy.

The players and coaches know that they put themselves in severe jeopardy of missing the playoffs as a result of the egg they laid in Detroit last Sunday. They lost ground on Da Bearz, not because of the loss as Chicago lost as well, but in terms of a second loss in the division, which comes into play should any tiebreakers be needed for playoff seeding. The Pack basically needs to look at winning out, winning their three remaining games. If the Pack loses Sunday night, even if Da Bearz lose versus the ViQueens on Monday night, Da Bearz win the NFC North and the Pack's playoff chances are as close to being on life support as it gets.

It's a big challenge for Matt Flynn and the Packers to rise to the occasion Sunday night. Is it possible that they will beat the Patriots? Sure. Is it probable? No.

Check back here tomorrow for a gameday preview and prediction.

Go Pack Go!!!