In addition to the playoffs, Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears could have an impact on the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year voting. “Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews is tied for third in the NFL with 12.5 sacks and is the top player on the NFL’s second-ranked scoring defense,” writes Bill Huber of Packer Report. “Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, who has eight sacks, has been the difference-making addition for a team that ranks fourth in the league in points allowed.” Atlanta’s John Abraham and Pittsburgh’s James Harrison are also listed as potential candidates.
James Starks says his practice habits have kept him on the bench this season. “As far as tempo, I need to pick it up and be more consistent,” Starks is quoted as saying by Rob Reischel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I haven’t been doing that all the time and haven’t always practiced very good. Things happen. The best players pick themselves up. I’m just going to keep practicing and keep getting better.” He looks to be active on Sunday, though, with Korey Hall out.
Starks isn’t Option A at kick returner according to Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin. “While Starks could be an option as the kickoff returner if cornerback Sam Shields’ mysterious knee injury keeps him out, special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum indicated the team would likely go with Jordy Nelson or Pat Lee instead,” writes Wilde. Nelson has been fumble prone and Lee hasn’t done anything special this season, Starks should get a chance.
The Packers would have three productive pass rushers on the field at the same time if Cullen Jenkins were healthy notes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “Jenkins has seven sacks in the 11 games he’s played, and if he’s able to return at close to full strength for the playoffs, the Packers will have two productive inside rushers to complement outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who is tied for third in the NFL in sacks with 12½.” Unfortunately, Jenkins looks to be a long shot for Sunday. His official status will be determined today.
A healthy outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews would help as well. “There’s even a chance it could become a fearless foursome if linebacker Frank Zombo (four sacks) picks up where he left off before suffering a knee injury,” writes Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel. Silverstein also notes that Matthews hasn’t been blitzing from different spots on the field since his shin injury. I haven’t even though about that much, but he’s absolutely correct.
A.J. Hawk is featured in an article by Kareem Copeland of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “Hawk leads the team with 121 tackles and ranks No. 2 with three interceptions,” writes Copeland. “This makes a minimum of 121 tackles in four of five seasons.” Hawk has been very productive this season, arguably his best as a pro. I personally didn’t think that could happen, but it has.
John Kuhn’s rising popularity is documented by Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin. “While [Brandon] Jackson (183 carries, 684 yards) has gotten the most carries and quarterback Aaron Rodgers (57 attempts, 335 yards, 5.9-yard average) has been the Packers’ most productive runner on his scrambles, it’s Kuhn that has become a folk hero among the fan base. After scoring three touchdowns in last Sundays’ 45-17 rout of the New York Giants – Kuhn carried eight times for 22 yards and two TDs and also caught a 5-yard touchdown from Rodgers – Kuhn was the talk of the FOX Sports broadcast and the toast of the town.”
Sam Shields looks likely to play on Sunday according to Max Ginsberg of Purple Pants, Green Jersey. “Green Bay’s rookie cornerback Sam Shields missed his second straight day of practice Thursday as his team prepares to face the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on Sunday,” writes Ginsberg. “Shields has not practiced all week; however, head coach Mike McCarthy did not seem overly concerned about Shields missing the regular season finale.” How much he practices today could be a good indicator of his status for the Bears game.
With injuries in the secondary, Melinda Banks of Lombardi Ave. is concerned. “While Woodson is obviously still a Pro Bowler and can be counted upon to step up, it would nevertheless mean more reps for Pat Lee and Jarrett Bush,” writes Banks. “Covering the Bears’ speedy receivers is tough enough with the starters healthy – and this is not to even mention a potential downgrade in the run defense with less help from the versatile Woodson. Losing Shields on special teams would hurt as well.” The Packers should be in good shape as long as they have their starters available. If any more injuries occur, then it would be a cause for concern.
Charles Woodson was voted the team’s Ed Block Courage Award winner by his teammates.
Packer Update has some mea culpas.
A young Packers fan passed away after a battle with lukemia.
Frank Winters and Greg Koch will be signing some free autographs at Lambeau Field this weekend.