Green Bay Packers: 11 Players That Could Cause Problems During a Super Bowl Run
Yesterday, the Green Bay Packers lost their first game since this date last year.
Now, the Packers can turn their focus from an undefeated season to the playoffs and getting healthy for another potential Super Bowl run.
Injuries have decimated Green Bay's offensive line. But, with about a month left until they will have to play their first playoff game, the Packers will have some time to rest their big men up front.
The masterminds on the sidelines will have some crucial decisions to make down the stretch.
One thing Mike McCarthy and company need to think about is the possible match-ups they will be facing in the playoffs. There are some great teams with great players that the Packers will need to worry about.
Now is the time to start preparing certain skill positions for who Green Bay will see in the postseason.
Here is a list of some players that could cause potential match-up problems for the Packers.
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He's Matt Ryan's favorite target, and for good reason.
After his Week 15 drubbing of the Jaguars secondary, White has amassed 85 receptions, 1,100 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns.
The numbers don't lie; the man is good at his craft.
Right now, the Packers are having trouble shutting down opponents' top receivers, and White is known to exploit weaknesses in the secondary. The soft zone coverages that Dom Capers played against the Chiefs on Sunday won't do against White, who is a master at finding holes in coverages.
If that wasn't enough, White was given a partner-in-crime through the draft in Julio Jones, who has proven helpful in giving White extra space on the field.
The Packers corners are going to have to play a lot of man-to-man, bump-and-run coverage if they want to slow the Falcons receivers down.
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One of the problems the Packers faced when they played the Falcons earlier this season was a pair of tree trunks in the shape of human legs.
They belonged to Michael Turner.
Atlanta relies heavily upon Turner to move the chains and give the Falcons a chance to control the ball and clock. He is tough to bring down with such a low center of gravity, and if he picks up speed on the outside, he can pick up the first down with his momentum.
The Packers rank 12th in the league in "yards per game allowed," but Turner has proven difficult in the past for small corners like Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson.
If Turner takes a run outside, he more than likely isn't getting tackled.
Aaron Rodgers dug the Packers out of a hole earlier in the season against Atlanta, but with three starting left tackles injured, Green Bay might need to utilize every possession they are given against a ball-controlling offense.
The solution to this is not necessarily easy, but it can seem simple to solve.
Green Bay needs to play aggressive against the run, and bring Turner down for a loss before he gets a head of steam on the outside. Dom Capers is capable of dialing up some creative blitz schemes, but the Packers have been having some trouble getting into the backfield recently.
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It's easy to understand why this guy needs to be accounted for when putting together a game plan, but now things might be worse for Green Bay.
Suh was ejected from the game when the Lions played the Packers on Thanksgiving Day, so that should add some unnecessary fuel to the fire if they meet up in the playoffs. If that wasn't enough, the Packers are losing lineman left and right (quite literally), which could spell trouble if they are forced to try to block this mammoth.
Suh has been known for his questionable play in his short career, but the one person you don't want to see in the playoffs is a 300 pound defensive lineman with a bad reputation. Suh will be playing for his own image and on a national stage.
He will be attempting to reestablish himself as a face the NFL can depend on.
With a chance to prove himself against the Packers, Suh could wreak havoc against a depleted line and cut down on Rodgers' time to throw. Once again, ball control will come into play, and one of the best ways to neutralize a talent like Suh is by running draws and screen plays. For this, Green Bay is going to need James Starks to heal from injury and for Ryan Grant to continue his improving play.
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No matter who he faces, Calvin Johnson is a beast.
When the Lions and Packers played on Thanksgiving Day, a slew of penalties halted the Detroit offense from ever getting something going, yet Johnson was still there.
Matthew Stafford loves the ability to throw one up and let Calvin go get it, and Johnson loves to display his talents. His ability to locate the ball and get it at its highest point makes him a match-up nightmare all over the field.
Hailed as the best receiver to come out of Georgia Tech in years, "Megatron" has been waiting for his chance to showcase his talents in the playoffs. A showdown with a division rival could just add fuel to the fire.
Tramon Williams has been given the task of shutting down opposing teams' number ones, and it would be no surprise if he were assigned to Johnson again.
Green Bay did a good job of using over-under double coverages to minimize Calvin's impact in the November game, but Johnson still found ways to get open.
Williams will have a tall task on his hands, but he is no stranger to the big stage at this point.
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Assuming he is healthy for the postseason, there may not be a better linebacker in the NFL playoffs than Patrick Willis.
He can cover the field from sideline to sideline, and he can make any running game go stagnant in the first half of play.
As we saw in last year's NFL playoffs, the rushing game is one of the most important aspects to the offense when it comes to the postseason. The ability to move the chains and eat up the clock will come into play and there are many times when the team with the last possession will win the game.
Green Bay does not rely heavily on the run right now, but come playoff time, James Starks and Ryan Grant will be called upon.
If the Packers face the 49ers, they will need to find a way to neutralize Willis so they can stretch the field.
Grant's game consists of downhill running, while Starks can find the edge and turn upfield for extra yards. A good mix of the two early on should open up the playbook for play action and allow Rodgers to get the ball downfield.
Taking Willis out of the equation will be a key factor if this game comes to fruition.
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We have already seen it once before, but if the Giants get into the playoffs, Victor Cruz will be a big reason why.
One of the candidates for "breakout player of the year" in 2011, Cruz has suddenly turned into Eli Manning's favorite target and has been unstoppable ever since bursting onto the scene in the wake of a Hakeem Nicks injury.
Cruz tore it up against the Packers three weeks ago, and Dom Capers did not have an answer for him.
There were no coverages to put in to contain him, and Green Bay could not keep up with him in man-to-man coverage. If the Packers face the Giants in the playoffs they are going to need to figure out something else to slow this man down.
Eli Manning does a good job of utilizing his options and spreading the ball around, so obviously one of the best ways to slow down the passing game is by getting to the quarterback. Press coverages might not work if the blitz doesn't get to Manning, but disguising man coverage for zone might throw Eli off a little. Pressing up at the line and then dropping off into zone might allow for more interception opportunities.
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This season, there have been a couple of great break-out candidates in the NFL.
Laurent Robinson has got to be near the top.
In the absence of Miles Austin, Robinson did not miss a beat and quickly became Tony Romo's favorite receiver. With Miles Austin back in the lineup, Robinson has returned to a third receiver role, but has still been able to make an impact in the last two games. He has been a touchdown hound and causes match-up problems for every team that faces him.
The entire Cowboys receiving corps could honestly go here, but if it were just Austin and Dez Bryant, the game plan would be much simpler.
Having to worry about Robinson too makes things more difficult, especially for a Packers defense that is second to last in the league in yards allowed per game.
The X factor in this match up will rely on two players on the Packers defense: Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson. The ability to create pressure on Tony Romo is going to decide whether or not he will have time to find an open receiver, and Matthews and Woodson are the stars in Dom Capers' defensive schemes.
If the Packers get to the quarterback, they don't allow Tony Romo to get into a rhythm.
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The tight end breed in the NFL keeps on evolving, and this season it starts with this guy, Jimmy Graham.
Graham has been phenomenal all season long for the Saints and has been a match-up nightmare for defenses this season. He finds ways to get open with his speed and uses his reach and jump to out stretch defenders.
Graham checks in at 6'7" tall and weighs in at 260 lbs. At the tight end position, the combination of size and speed will cause problems for any team.
The Saints love to use him both on the line and in spread formations for this exact reason. Graham is at his best in the red zone and utilizes his size to reach over smaller corner backs in the end zone.
I'm not really sure that there is a good answer for a player like Jimmy Graham. Bump-and-run coverage at the line would slow him down, but it's almost impossible to double him when the Saints get into the red zone because it will leave another guy wide open.
If Green Bay finds themselves matched-up with the Saints, their best bet might be relying on turnovers and offensive firepower.
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Brees is the one player the Packers have been worried about all season long.
Ever since their match-up to start the season, the Packers have joined the rest of the league in witnessing Brees' magic. On pace once again to break 5,000 passing yards in a single season, Drew Brees has been just as masterful as Rodgers through 2011.
His poise in the pocket and ability to find the open receiver give Brees an edge over even the best secondaries.Since the Packers have one of the worst secondaries, the match up is quite possibly one of the worst they could hope for. Once again, Green Bay is going to have to rely on their ability to create pressure and to get Brees out of his rhythm.
One thing the Packers can do on defense is create turnovers. If they find themselves in a showdown with Brees and the Saints for the NFC Championship, the secondary would behoove itself to create turnovers.
Brees won't give them many opportunities, so they will need to take advantage when they are given.
Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez
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A good tight end is one of the hardest positions to cover in the NFL.
The advantage for the Patriots?
They have two of them.
Much for the same reason as Jimmy Graham, both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are troublesome to cover.
Tom Brady loves his two tight ends because the defense can't cue in on either one of them. At times, it can be a pitch and catch session with the three of them— Brady simply putting it where only his big receivers can catch the ball. To game plan against both of them while also accounting for Wes Welker on the outside makes things even harder.
Brady is a mastermind at utilizing "Gronk" and Hernandez.
He knows that they outsize everyone on the defense, so he puts it over their heads and allows them to make plays. When they get to the red zone, Gronkowski will run a seam up the middle and Brady will place it just over the defenders' head.
Simple pitch and catch.
As for Hernandez, he is much speedier and is often used in the screen game or in the slot. His ability to find holes in the coverage is beneficial to Brady because, once again, he has a big target to aim for. Against the Packers' soft zone coverages, Hernandez could prove a harrowing task indeed.
Safeties Morgan Burnett and Charlie Peprah are going to be crucial if the Packers play the Patriots for the Super Bowl. If they allow Gronkowski and Hernandez to find seams up the middle, it could be a disaster in the secondary all night long.
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The showdown most people were hoping for last year never came to fruition after the Pats were trounced early from the playoffs by the Jets.
If Brady is given the chance for another Super Bowl against the Packers, make no mistake, he will be out for blood.
As he gets older, Brady is showing no signs of slowing down, and he is on pace for a record-setting season of his own. However, one can only imagine that he will want to take advantage of the opportunities while they are available to him. Right now, he is tearing it up and would prove difficult for any defense to plan against at this point.
The recipe for beating Brady and the Pats was outed a long time ago by the New York Giants— Get pressure, get sacks, beat Brady.
Tom is not known for his mobility outside of the pocket, and when he isn't given any time to find the open receiver, Brady grows stagnant and the offense stalls.
Get pressure, get sacks, beat Brady. Simple. Right?