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Packers vs. Steelers: Three Questions to Ponder Ahead of Week 16

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Packers vs. Steelers: Three Questions to Ponder Ahead of Week 16

A team once left for dead—and who really should be all but finished—now has the enviable opportunity of winning the last two games of a raucous 2013 season and guaranteeing both a divisional title and a home playoff game.

It's not the script the Green Bay Packers (7-6-1) hoped for back in September, but it's a scenario this team will take after the first 14 games produced a rollercoaster ride of entertainment and despair. Now, a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at Lambeau Field will set up a Week 17 clash with the Chicago Bears that would decide the division champion.

Few inside or outside the Packers organization could have foreseen such an opportunity as recently as three weeks ago.

Once 5-2 and a clear-cut contender, Green Bay went five games (0-4-1) and 43 days between wins. The Packers lost back-to-back games by two touchdowns, tied the hapless Minnesota Vikings and then played one of their worst games in recent memory in the national spotlight of Thanksgiving. Yet here the Packers sit, with a chance to beat the Steelers and Bears and stamp their spot in the NFC playoffs.

Here's three questions the Packers need to answer in Week 16 Sunday:

1. How Will the Packers Play Ben Roethlisberger? 

Veteran quarterbacks have historically had their way with Dom Capers and the Packers pass defense. Roethlisberger presents another test for that unit, and it could be a stern one considering how well the Super Bowl-winning quarterback is playing over the last five weeks. Since Week 11, Roethlisberger has 12 touchdowns passes against just one interception, and his passer rating of 106.4 is the sixth-best in the NFL. Overall, the Steelers are averaging 28.4 points and 346.2 yards with only two total turnovers over the last five games. This is an offense that is finally clicking late in the season, mostly because of strong quarterback play and the avoidance of big mistakes. The Packers will inevitably give up yards and a few big plays, but the current turnover streak—eight in the last three games—has to continue Sunday.

 2. Who is the Real Matt Flynn?

Facing the bottom-ranked defenses of Minnesota (31st in points, 31st in yards), Atlanta (27th, 29th)and Dallas (26th, 32nd), Flynn produced big results and looked like a competent NFL quarterback. The one defense he faced that could play—from Detroit—manhandled him and the rest of the Green Bay offense. The Steelers defense might not be one of Dick LeBeau's greatest, but it's still more Detroit than Dallas. Pittsburgh is 15th in points (23.7), 11th in total yards (338.0) and 8th against the pass (224.2). Expect to see an extensive blitz package and zone coverage behind it from LeBeau. We should find out a lot about whether Flynn's recent success is mostly opponent driven or if he's actually making strides within the offense.

3. Can the Packers Run the Football?

No one statistic ever decides a game, but the Steelers have consistently lost this season when opponents have rushed for more than 100 yards. Eight teams have done it in 2013, and Pittsburgh is just 1-7 in those games. Here's the win-loss splits for the Steelers against the run: In six wins, Pittsburgh has allowed 79.8 rushing yards a game. In the eight losses, teams have averaged 142.5 yards. That's a striking difference. The Packers have followed a similar trend since Aaron Rodgers went down on Nov. 4. In the six games since, Green Bay is 2-0-1 when cracking 100 rushing yards, and 0-3 when held under 100. The Packers' splits are 152.7 rushing yards in the two wins and one tie, and 59.3 in the three losses. Sunday's outcome will very likely come down to whether the Packers can consistently win at the line of scrimmage on offense.

Prediction: Green Bay 23, Pittsburgh 21 (8-6)

Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covered prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (50) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Arlo's picture

You've hit all the key points.

Big Ben is very capable of having a monster day even in the snow.
The real Matty Flynn? In my book, JAG.
Run Lacy run is the key to GB's chances.
Winning the TO battle will decide GB's 2013 fate.

Your score will be close but I have no idea who comes out on top.

Idiot Fan's picture

Both of these teams are capable of good and truly terrible football. I wouldn't be shocked with anything between 20-point loss and 20-point victory.

Lucky953's picture

Yes, can Lacy get 100+? And then turnovers decide this game. Big edge for the Steelers at QB. I hope it's very cold and snowy.

scott's picture

If Pittsberg can succefully blitz Flynn the offense will struggle and Green Bay will losse. I hope the "D" has a big game they will need it.

SOL's picture

Zach, you forgot to touch on the battle between Defensive Coordinators. Since Capers used to work for LeBeau I'm sure there's some intense competition. I'm not a Capers fan and believe that though his schemes may work on paper, they maybe too technical for the average player. And there will always be a good amount of average players on defense in this league especially in the back 7 and non-starters. The skilled offensive players are desired more by teams and are so rewarded.
Capers teaching his schemes to the "Wonderlic" bunch on defense is like Einstein teaching Quantum Physics to the average person and asking them to demonstrate it on a weekly basis. Not going to happen....JMT

Buster's picture

Hard to believe that the Pack are even in this position. 9-6-1 is not a bad record with a home playoff game at Lambeau. Could still happen. Just hope the weather doesn't mess up their chances.

Arlo's picture

The latest for gametime on Sunday---

"Snow with areas of blowing snow. The snow could be heavy at times. High near 26. North wind 19 to 24 mph decreasing to 11 to 16 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 33 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of around 5 inches."

kurtMc's picture

Capers v LeBeau isn't a Q. LeBeau is a clear cut above and highly respected coordinator.

Zach hit the main point of Big Ben v Secondary. I think everything else in the game is a wash. If we can play even respectable D, use our run game (heavy dose of Lacy AND Starks), we have a chance.

Go Pack

Stroh's picture

On the NFL network they were talking about Capers being under pressure about a week ago. They said in NFL circles Capers is considered among the top 10 DC's in the NFL. I would agree LeBeau is better but its not as different as you seem to think. They said if Capers gets fired he'll have a couple teams that would hire him. Once scout on a team said his team would hire him for sure.

RunAndHyde's picture

I really worry about guys like Neal when they get to.the qb. We can get there but don't always finish. Ben is one.of the harder qbs in the NFL to bring down. I really hope we eat our wheaties Sunday morning....

cLowNEY42's picture

The Packers will be breathing fire.
Snow helps GB (they have the lesser QB).

The team which uses their backs and TE's best in the passing game will win.

steven's picture

Lacy will lead us to the win. Mark it.

Nerd's picture

Flynn struggled in Detroit, because of crowd noise. That won't be a problem at Lambeau. He should be able to run the no-huddle he enjoys so much.

I think Lacy will get 100 too.

Zub's picture

How MM uses Starks in this game is key. IMO MM has not used Starks enough and has gotten too predictable with his play calling running Lacy. I would like to see Lacy get 60 % of the snaps with Stark getting the remaining 40%

antonio's picture

I think that if the Packs don't get this W both MM and DC should get fired.
Also, TT needs to learn that, yes, great franchises are built through the draft these days, but a couple of VERY good FA's don't hurt either, if you want to be competitive at a high level.

4thand1's picture

Come they told me, pa rump pa pum pum,
I want a new coach now, pa rump pa pum pum,
I want some free agents,pa rump pa pum,pum, rump pa pum pum, rump pa pum pum........
I want a new record player, pa rump pa pum pum.


Stroh's picture

You guys wanna get rid of one of the top 7 or 8 HC in the NFL? And if you get your way, you'll more than likely get saddled w/ a much worse HC who really WILL waste Rodgers career! McCarthy even w/ Rodgers missing 1/2 the F'in season still has his team in control of their playoff destiny. McCarthy kept the team together when most team crumble. And even w/ Rodgers missing 1/2 the season still has the 4th ranked offense in the NFL!

All that and you want to have him fired? Really?! I mean REALLY?!! Get a freakin clue!!!

RC Packer Fan's picture

Yeah, but...

Stroh can we also add the Packers are on their 4th string QB... Let that sink in to those that want to fire coaches. 4th string QB...

QB is the most important position on every team. Rodgers is arguably the best QB in the league. For the Packers to control their own destiny is pretty good considering Rodgers has missed as many games as he has played in.

cLowNEY42's picture

If Rodgers isn't going to come back at all this year - does any of this really matter?

RC Packer Fan's picture

For the Playoffs... no not really. Packers have to have Rodgers in the Playoffs to succeed.
But the fact that a lot of people want McCarthy fired based on the record is so damn stupid.

Arlo's picture

HCs lose the team when they stay too long. Even Holmgren left after 7 years. Mac is in his 8th year.

New blood would help not hinder. I've never read anywhere that Mac is rated top 7 or 8 in the league. Sounds made up.

Stroh's picture

Arlo... Has McCarthy lost the Packers? I certainly don't see it... Have they not recovered from losing the best player in the game to keep their playoff hopes in their own hands?

Please enlighten me how McCarthy has lost the team.

Some coaches lose teams if they stay too long, not all of them do! McCarthy hasn't lost the Packers, that's for DAMN sure!

Stroh's picture

SportingNews rating #4.

"He came in as a master of the passing game. But McCarthy is much more than a great schemer; his even-keel personality keeps his players on the same page with passion for the Packers' tradition."

Would you like me to continue?

Stroh's picture

NFL... #6

"The NFL's most relentlessly aggressive play caller has been nothing but a success in Green Bay. The Packers haven't finished out of the top 10 in scoring since 2006, McCarthy's first year running the show."

CBS... #6 "Another coach who calls a game with confidence."

Athlon Sports.. Ranks McCarthy #3.

Want me to continue?

4thand1's picture

I was being sarcastic Stroh, hence the broken record player beating the fire everyone drum. To Antonio's ridiculous post.

Stroh's picture

McCarthy IS among the best. NFL rated the HC prior to the 2013 season. McCarthy was 6th. FoxSports rated the organization by QB, HC, GM, and other ratings. McCarthy had 8.5 out of 10. Only Belicheck was given a 10 and McCarthy was among a group of 4 or 5 HC w/ 8.5 tied for 2nd best after belicheck. CBS rates McCarthy #6 also.. Ever hear of google? try it!!!

Yeah really made up... If anything I underrated him!!

Arlo's picture

All you've mentioned in your attempts to get Mac an extension are just some opinions. There are many more that exist. However, any negative opinions rarely see print (at this time) because GB still hasn't floundered completely. If GB misses the playoffs this season & next season is even worse (could easily happen with all the player turnover coming up) then all the negatives will then be front & center. This is a common scenario when HCs see the end of the line with a team. Some of the very best HCs in NFL history were let go because a change was needed by the organization.

My guess: Mac & AR will continue to NOT be on the same page going into next season. After 2014, AR will still be in GB. Mac won't.

packeraaron's picture

Stroh. I'm deleting your vulgar posts. Clean it up or you'll be banned.

Stroh's picture

Just using his term. I showed him up and he's pissed.

Stroh's picture

Please tell me how its OK for him to use that term on someone who isn't here to defend himself, but not OK when its turned on him but he can defend himself?!! Comeone man...

Arlo's picture

Sorry, but, you just simply don't know as much as you pretend you know. (How's the great run D that you constantly hyped all year?)

You've been booted from more blogs & forums than most here combined. Here's another gem for you --- Most don't believe you were ever a 'strength & conditioning coach'. Only in your imagination. You're a sad old man.

Stroh's picture

The run D is why I want Capers replaced. McCarthy isn't calling defensive calls is he? All the informed opinions say McCarthy is a very good HC! Nice attempt at changing the subject. Lose an argument so change it snd you still lose!

Stroh's picture

Arlo I gave stats and expert opinions what have you given? You gave one fans idiotic opinion even tho its been proven WRONG? Great keep making that kinda sense... Or is that NO SENSE?!

Stroh's picture

I know a lot more than is in your pea brain. I said McCarthy is in the top 7 or 8 HC. Then PROVED to you that I underestimated him since the lowest any ranked him was #6. But you keep spewing your hatred of the Packers...

Packers under McCarthy have one of the best winning % since he's been HC. Whats it been, going on 8 yrs now?! Come back w/ your pea brain ramblings and I'll keep shooting them down!

I OWN you!!

MarkinMadison's picture

McGinn is predicting this will be the year TT dips into FA. I tend to agree, but if Raji and Shields both re-signed to premium contracts then there will not be any room to do it. As much as WE all think $8M for Raji is crazy, I don't think any of us have any solid information regarding where TT is at right now.

There are a couple of great safeties who are on really bad teams who could hit the market. Get a safety, hit the draft hard at LB, and hope that we have enough beef left on the DL when the smoke clears.

Stroh's picture

Raji is about middle of the NFL as a starting DL. Honestly he should be purely a NT and if he was he's probably even better. 8M is actually below the franchise tag of a DT and that is the average of the Top 10. 8M is not an outrageous contract for Raji.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Yeah, I agree that Raji should be NT. That's what he was drafted for. And honestly, if you watch Pickett play of late he has been getting pushed around a lot. If it were me these last 2 games I move Raji to NT, and put Pickett at DE.

Arlo's picture

Are you Stroh's little brother?

Arlo's picture

You are a disgusting person. Go away.

Stroh's picture

And your nothing but a TROLL!! I proved you wrong and I'll keep doing it... Keep bringing your weak shit!

RC Packer Fan's picture


Did, I say your name at all in your post? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!!

If you want to come after me for posting my thoughts, fine, I will come after your every post. you moron...

Lou's picture

One thing Thompson/Ball do well is manage the CAP - they will have a plan that will never put us in jeopardy like the Cowboys. We took Datone Jones at 26 and the Ravens took safety Matt Elam at 32 - he should have been OURS. He tackled like Willie Wood and covered like Nick Collins against the Lions on Monday night and there is no argument that SAFETY was and is the teams biggest problem area. Jones may develop into a solid starter but Elam is a "difference maker" right now.

Stroh's picture

Elam, a difference maker RIGHT NOW? RIGHT NOW Elam has 1, ONE, INT, no Forced Fumbles and No sacks! How in THE hell do you consider than difference maker?!

Lou's picture

His tackle (perfectly wrapped up) for a loss stopped the Lions 2nd last drive forcing a punt(led to the winning field goal) and his interception on the Lions last drive of the game SEALED THE WIN. I would call that making a difference even in a high school game but this one kept their playoff hopes alive - a major difference.

Stroh's picture

Making tackles are his job. So he's doing his job... Difference makers make game changing plays. He has one and a couple good tackles. Not what I call difference maker.

Is he better than Jennings? Sure no problems w/ that, but he hasn't been a game deciding difference maker.

Arlo's picture

He's better than any safety GB has on its roster including Mr. Big Bucks Burnett.

RunAndHyde's picture

Elam is a total let down. I liked him before the draft as well, but he is not playing nearly as well as I imagined. There are plenty of good safeties out there this draft worries we will snag one by the 3rd round.

SOL's picture

Just a reminder about difference makers. If you covering a receiver or a zone like a blanket and the QB isn't throwing there for that reason, that's a difference maker also. Albeit, that type of difference maker is hard to quantify without assessing game films and detailed stats.

James's picture

Thank you TT for our loosing season. Your decisions made us lose. We'll remember you next season. Not even a SB will make us forget.

packeraaron's picture

Don't be dense.

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