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Film Review: Packers’ Toughest Individual Opponents 2018

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Film Review: Packers’ Toughest Individual Opponents 2018

One of the first things that I look at every year when the schedule is announced, is which marquee players will Green Bay be matched up against in the upcoming season. Every year there is a new batch of players who are primed to try and make the Packers’ bend to their will while Green Bay furiously gameplans against them.

This upcoming season is no different. You could make a very strong argument that Green Bay will face the top three players in the NFL not named Aaron Rodgers this upcoming season. These top players who are set to face off against Green Bay will help make some of these matchups must see TV. Today I’ll take a look at some of Green Bay’s toughest individual matchups for the 2018 season.

Honorable Mentions

Deion Jones – Atlanta Falcons LB – Week 14

It was incredibly difficult to leave Jones off of the top ten list as he’s a special player and the ideal middle linebacker in Dan Quinn’s defense. Jones is fast, aggressive, and equally talented against the run and pass. If he’s free to run and chase he will make the entirety of the game a living Hell for the opposing offense.

Tre’Davious White – Buffalo Bills CB – Week 4

If I thought White would continue at the same level of his rookie season I would absolutely have him in my top ten. I believe White, while an incredible player and athlete, will take a bit of a step back in his sophomore campaign and therefore he just missed the list. That said, he has the ability to make Davante Adams’ life difficult for four quarters in week four.

Ndamukong Suh – Los Angeles Rams DL – Week 8

The tandem of Suh and Donald are sure to give every offense fits and Suh certainly hasn’t been shy of making an impact in games against the Packers (usually in some illegal fashion). With offenses focused on Donald, Suh is primed for a monster year. If he performs up to his talent the sky is the limit for Suh this season and he could see plenty of one-on-one matchups—which is a scary thought.

Trent Williams – Washington Redskins OT – Week 3

Nick Perry, Clay Matthews, and the rest of the Packers' edge rushers will have their hands full when they go head to head with one of the true behemoths of the NFC. Williams is tough, aggressive, physical, and a nightmare to play against for 60 minutes. Green Bay will need to find a way to get pressure in other ways because Williams usually shuts his side of the field down pretty well.

Darius Slay – Detroit Lions CB – Weeks 5 & 17

For my money, Darius Slay is one of the most underrated players in all of the NFL. He is as consistent a corner as there is and he will go against the opposing teams’ number one wide receiver more often than not. Much like Tre’Davious White, Slay will be tasked with locking down Davante Adams in what’s sure to be one of the more fun cornerback-wide receiver rivalries to watch this upcoming season.

Stefon Diggs – Minnesota Vikings WR – Weeks 2 & 12

Much like Darius Slay, Stefon Diggs has garned a tremendous amount of respect from me over the course of the past few seasons. Few run routes with the grace of Diggs and his ability to cut on a dime and run corners off the field is just shy of Antonio Brown in my opinion. Diggs is ridiculously still only 24 years of age and it should be a great battle between he and Adams for which WR is “King of the North.”

Xavier Rhodes – Minnesota Vikings CB – Weeks 2 & 12

Rhodes is an ideal cornerback in today’s NFL as he is quick enough to stay with the more agile wide receivers, while still physical enough to hold up against players the likes of Julio Jones and A.J. Green. Rhodes has been a pain in the Packers side for some time now and that is likely to continue into this season.

Grady Jarrett – Atlanta Falcons DT – Week 14

If you watched the Super Bowl from two seasons ago against New England than you have a pretty decent idea of what Jarrett is capable of. He may not quite have the name recognition yet of some of the other players on this list but Jarrett is right there with the likes of Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels as dual threat interior players who can do damage both in run and pass defense.

Akiem Hicks – Chicago Bears DL – Weeks 1 & 15

The Chicago Bears haven’t exactly been a team to watch over the course of the past few seasons, but one player who has gone out of his way to make a name for himself is Akiem Hicks. Hicks has been downright dominant at times for Chicago and he’s poised for another huge year in 2018. Here’s hoping that Green Bay’s interior offensive line is up to the task because we’ve already had Hicks, Jarrett, and Suh on this list and we haven’t even reached the top 10 yet!

Top 10

10(tie). Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons QB – Week 14 & Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks QB – Week 11

You can put either of these two quarterbacks in whichever order you’d like but there’s no denying the talent and quarterbacking skills that both players possess. The Packers have actually had fairly decent success against Russel Wilson over the years but the same certainly can’t be said for Matt Ryan. These two quarterbacks will test Mike Pettine’s new system from start to finish in their respective games and when you play quarterbacks the caliber of Wilson & Ryan you know you’re going to be in for a 60 minute battle. The results of these two games could go a long way in deciding playoff seeding in the NFC this season.

9. DeForest Buckner – San Francisco 49ers DL – Week 6

Buckner had his breakout season in 2017 and he’s poised for huge things once again in 2018. I expect Buckner’s dominance this past year to be just the beginning for him, and as Solomon Thomas gets better, Buckner has a chance to be even more dominant. Buckner lead the league for all interior defenders with 19 quarterback hits a season ago, and the last thing you want is a 6’7” – 290 pound defensive monster getting a clean hit on Aaron Rodgers. Watch out for Buckner when Green Bay faces San Francisco in week six.

8. Alex Mack – Atlanta Falcons Center – Week 14

The Falcons' offense just runs at an entirely different level when they have a healthy Mack on the interior. Whether he’s helping Matt Ryan with the blitz calls, opening holes for Freeman and Coleman, or being the anchor on the interior against the league’s best pass rushers, Alex Mack can do everything. He’s a consistent All-Pro caliber center and arguably the best center in the game. If Green Bay wants to have success against Mack and the Falcons, Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels will need to be at their best to neutralize Mack and get pressure on the interior.

7. Earl Thomas – Seattle Seahawks Safety – Week 11

Earl Thomas recently demanded either a new contract or a trade, but it’s tough to imagine Thomas going anywhere at this point. That said, he is really the last remnant of the Legion of Boom and you could argue that Thomas’ best days are behind him. In the NFL a player of Thomas’ build can only play so fast and so aggressive for so long before they begin to break down. Even if that’s the case, Thomas is still unequivocally one of the best football players in the NFL and capable of single handedly changing how the Seahawks play defense, and single handedly changing a game with one big play. You can bet that Aaron Rodgers will have an extra eye out for Mr. Thomas when these two teams matchup in week 11.

6. Bobby Wagner – Seattle Seahawks LB – Week 11

Simply put, Bobby Wagner is one of the absolute best defenders in all of football coming into this season. He matches his freaky athletic profile with a veteran demeanor and never quit attitude to make up one of the most imposing, difficult to scheme against, inside linebackers in the NFL. Wagner and Thomas have lost just about all of their dominant defender teammates from their Super Bowl run, but the Seahawks were wise to keep the two best of the group. It will be incredibly fun to watch Jimmy Graham go up against Bobby Wagner in a matchup of former Seahawk teammates.

5. Harrison Smith – Minnesota Vikings Safety – Weeks 2 & 12

If Harrison Smith wanted to demand his way out of Minnesota and on to say the Chargers or Browns or some far off AFC team that the Packers only play once every four years I’d be just fine with that. Smith is so ridiculously good in all facets of the game, and he’s the engine the makes the Vikings defense really play at an entirely different level. The Vikings have a ton of really impressive pieces on defense, and we’ve already touched based on Xavier Rhodes, but Smith brings everything together. Green Bay needs to find a way to neutralize him in their matchups this season and Ty Montgomery could be just the player to throw him off with his versatility; especially with Aaron Jones out in week two.

4. Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots TE – Week 9

How do you matchup with a Rob Gronkowski? He’s simply too big, too fast, too physical, and too Gronk for anyone to truly matchup with him one-on-one. The last time these two played Gronkowski had 7 catches for 96 yards and was always a threat to make a play. How Green Bay matches up with Gronkowski will go a long way in determining the outcome of the game. I’m sure Mike Pettine is going to mix things up as best as possible but Green Bay doesn’t have that perfect chess piece to lineup across from the elite tight end. They ultimately may need to try and double team him or play a safety over the top as often as possible. Could Oren Burks be the player who helps defend Gronk? Time will tell.

3. Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons WR – Week 14

Julio Jones has just absolutely had his way with the Packers for far too long and Green Bay has really been trying to find the solution to their Julio Jones problem at CB for the past few off-seasons. Green Bay is hoping that by drafting Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson as well as bringing back Tramon WIlliams that they will now have enough corners to cause some problems for Jones. Whether that’s the case or not remains to be seen. Kevin King actually showed some positive signs against Jones a year ago and if he can take a big step in year two it could go a long way towards mitigating one of the Packers’ biggest nightmares.

2. Tom Brady – New England Patriots QB – Week 9

This is the matchup everyone’s dying to see this upcoming season. Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers. Of course it’s always ridiculous to matchup two players who won’t ever be on the field at the same time, but nonetheless the matchup is as sexy as it gets. Rodgers won the first round in 2014 in Green Bay and now Brady gets a chance at redemption on his home turf. Brady is bound to start slowing down eventually but he’s still so talented that even small signs of decline don’t seem to faze him or the New England offense. Green Bay has its work cut out trying to defend Brady but the best way to slow down Brady is with an intense interior pass rush. Here’s looking at you Kenny Clark & Mike Daniels.

1. Aaron Donald – Los Angeles Rams DL – Week 8

All the best football players in the world have the first name Aaron… it’s just science. In this case, Aaron Donald will be doing everything in his power to try and make Aaron Rodgers a non-factor in their week eight encounter. Aaron Donald is dominant in all facets of the game and is quite arguably the best football player on the planet at the moment. It’s tough to argue an interior defender for best player over a quarterback but Donald is so dominant at his position that he’s in that discussion. Donald will soon be the NFL’s highest paid defender and he deserves every penny. If you have a chance this season, when the Rams are playing in a primetime game, just watch Aaron Donald and don’t watch anything else. He’s a joy to watch, at least when he’s not trying to maim Aaron Rodgers. Watching these two Aaron’s square off will be one of the highlights of the season and the interior line of Taylor, Linsley and McCray will have their hands absolutely full with the tandem of Suh and Donald.


Andy is a graduate of UW-Oshkosh and owns & operates the Pack-A-Day Podcast. Andy has taken multiple courses in NFL scouting and appears weekly on 107.5 The Fan in Green Bay to breakdown film. This past season he was an analyst on Green Bay Nation on WFRV TV in Green Bay. Andy grew up in Green Bay and is a lifelong season ticket holder; follow him on Twitter at @sconniesports.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (18) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

The TKstinator's picture

You had me at “too Gronk”!

Nice work as always, Andrew, much appreciated!

Handsback's picture

I like the read, but it's not an individual match-up. Aaron Donald may win his one-on-one, but he can still be neutralized for the game. As a team match-up (where one team's 11guys are better than your 11 guys) looks like the Falcons, Patriots, and the Vikings will give the Packer's defense their hardest match-up. Of those teams, which ones can also neutralize the Packer's offense? The Falcons and the Vikings have proven to be problematic. You can add the Rams and Bills as defenses that could stop a Rodger's led offense, but their offense isn't as overwhelming. So IMHO, I see 2 maybe 4 losses this year for the Packers.

Individual players can be disruptive; just don't see them able to determine the game's outcome.

kevgk's picture

Packers defense played very well against the Vikings last year considering longer time on the field and unfavorable turnovers. I expect them to play a run first checkdown offense that protects the ball and owns the game clock. Run that into the PFF's graded number 1 run defense, and Cousins tendacy to crumble under pass rush (especially with that oline), I think the vikings will be one of the easier offenses against us. I'm more worried about the Rams and 49ers frankly.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I am not sure if the highlight reel is for Brady or for Cooks. In 8 of the 10 plays shown the completion is to Cooks. And BB had the stones to trade Cooks before Cooks earned his $16M per year. We will see what sort of offense NE can display this year without Cooks.

As for covering Gronkowski, Buffalo put Hyde on Gronk. Buffalo Ramblings thinks Hyde did well, but Gronk still had a huge day - 147 yards receiving. Link below.

The TKstinator's picture

I think Gronk’s gotta be a team effort.

PatrickGB's picture

As others have noted, it’s a case of limit not beat. A chess match where we don’t expect to beat a player just limit his success. Good coaching can put good players in that position and individual effort at key moments can stem the tide. Also, our team needs to enhance our strengths in order to beat the other team using what we do best. Last years SB showed that it’s the team that fights to the end and scores more points will be the winner. I think we can do that.

Tarynfor12's picture

The Packers or perhaps the game plan, always seemed to play down to the opponents level every season, except for the exceptional regular season of 2011. It has been either the defense making 3rd string QB's look like HOF's, the offensive play calling or expecting certain players to be healthy, play and lastly, simple consistency at even an average level...roller coasters of this type aren't fun.

This season is no different as yet and the optimism is as high for reasons I cannot align to until it happens on the field and grows week by week.

We know and could never dispute what Rodgers does for the team, but it's time the team starts doing for Rodgers, from play calling, defense and just flooring the gas on both sides of the ball period.

Lastly, I promise to be as consistent and relentless in not simply adoring all Packer players,some with special attention I'm sure will be warranted, which is the truest form of fan a team can have...cheering, demanding and not settling for Division Titles or playoff entries don't make it to the end. Wasting a great QB's years is never success. : )

4thand1's picture

The injury bug will be the toughest opponent. Lets squash him this year,

croatpackfan's picture

The only important opponent...

TheBigCheeze's picture

getting sick and tired of people talking up those LOSER vikings.....take away that dirty cheap shot, and the PACKERS win the division.....they will dominate.......BOOK IT!!!!

kevgk's picture

The rest of the Packers played to win both matchups. With Rodgers, suddenly the Vikings are an 11-5 team getting bounced in the wildcard round.

Koosh's picture

Did...did someone finally not over value Adam Thielen, and realize Diggs is the real threat!

croatpackfan's picture

Did Earl Thomas announced retiring? Or I missed something?

Bearmeat's picture

Man, the Vikings were so darn lucky with injuries last year. I don't root for injuries, and I feel bad for the players regardless of uni color when they happen. But I will rejoice when I can say at some point over the interwebs "SEE UR PASS DEFENSE SUX!" to team purple's fans because their 8th string CB gets shredded. They've only been doing it to us for 10 years. Bastards.

Man, I hate that team and their fans. Soooo. Dirrrrty.

ricky's picture

How could you forget the biggest, baddest, manest, most feared opponent in Packers history? That would be the monster man, RICHARD SHERMAN! Even though the way many people look at this guy, he should be not called "He who shall not be named".

Samson's picture

Some of you need to get real.
The Vikings have more experienced talent than the Pack will have for at least another 2 or 3 years.
The Pack are in a transition year with a new hierarchy & eventually a new HC (after season 2018).
All NFL teams go through a transitional phase.

The best the Pack can hope for in season 2018 is for AR to stay healthy & play well & slip into the playoffs as a wildcard.

Leave your bias emotion out of the equation & actually evaluate based on the facts.

Oppy's picture

The fact is, the Vikings are perennial bed sh****rs.

Nick Perry's picture

Hmmm.... I think your being overly generous in your 2 or 3 year window. The Vikings have talent, no doubt about it. But they've had talent before and did nothing with it.

The Packers went through a transition in 2005 and half of 2006 but it was short lived and they were in much worse condition then than now...Much worse.

I think a lot of us are basing this off their history since the late 70's. They've won back to back division titles just once since the late 70's. I'll be willing to bet (and will) the Packers win the division this year because the Vikings had EVERYTHING go right last season and still choked it away. Not to mention they were SHREDDED for the last 5 quarters their defense took the field.

Better question is do you expect the QB who's gotten worse the last 3 years in a row, has a losing record, has a history of choking, and is 0-2 in the playoffs to get them over the hump and be that much better than Keenum was last season?

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