6 Packers Who Need To Step Up for Green Bay on Christmas Day
The Packers were unable to continue their perfect season last week in Kansas City, as the Packers lost a 19-14 heartbreaker to the Chiefs. It was a game shockingly dominated by the Chiefs, as they controlled the clock and basically every statistical category.
There has been a lot of debate about whether the Chiefs exposed some holes in the Packers proverbial armor, or if the loss was simply a great team having an off day.
With the Bears coming up on Sunday, the Packers have a chance to put all the talk about the Chiefs' loss in the rear view mirror by beating their hated division rivals in Lambeau.
In order to get back on the winning track, a few key players will need to rise up and have big games for the Cheeseheads.
No. 6: OLB Erik Walden
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
It seems like the Packers have been in need of another outside linebacker to compliment Clay Matthews since he entered the league.
Brad Jones, Frank Zombo and Erik Walden have been filling that role, and frankly have done a poor job overall for the past three years.
Walden won the starting job early in camp this year, but has only three sacks on the season and has been a liability both against the run and rushing the passer. In fact, he played so poorly last week that the Packers pulled him from the game late.
In order to keep his starting spot for this year and the future, Walden is going to need to make an impact this week against the Bears. Getting after an inexperienced Josh McCown in the pocket will be a key for the Packers defense, so Walden needs to bring back some magic from last year’s Week 17 matchup against the Bears where he recorded three sacks.
Look for Walden to create some pressure on Sunday against a weak Bears offensive line with his job on the line.
No. 5: RB James Starks
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
With the Packers top three offensive tackles out with injuries, the Bears' best chance at winning is to get to Aaron Rodgers in the pocket and make him uncomfortable.
One way Green Bay will be able to stop the Bears' perimeter rusher from teeing off on Rodgers is by using their running backs, primarily James Starks.
Whether it be pounding the rock, catching screens or chipping defensive lineman, the Packers need Starks to be involved in order to keep Rodgers upright.
James will be coming off a knee injury that has held him out the last few weeks, which means he will have fresh legs and be able to carry the load for a Packers' running game that has had some success as of late.
Starks will hold a pivotal role in this game, as he is one of the keys to making sure Aaron Rodgers stays clean and off his back.
No. 4: DT B.J. Raji
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
With Jay Cutler and the Bear's two leading receivers, Johnny Knox and Matt Forte, out with injuries, stopping the Bears offense comes down to the ability to stop the run. That’s where Raji excels, as he has become an immovable object for the Packers on their defensive line.
Raji eats blocks as well as any 3-4 nose guard in the league, drawing double teams and giving Green Bay's inside linebackers a chance to make plays.
This game presents a big opportunity for "The Freezer" because Chicago has had such a run-heavy offense ever since Jay Cutler went down with a thumb injury.
If B.J. can dominate the line of scrimmage and force the Bears into difficult passing situations, the Packers should have success against this banged up Chicago offense. Should the Bears get the best of Raji, however, Green Bay's defense could have a tough time getting off the field.
No. 3: P Tim Masthay
The Bears offense has had a lot of trouble putting points on the board lately, amassing only two offensive touchdowns in their last two contests.
With the Bears' three best weapons out of the lineup and their offense sputtering, Devin Hester's returning ability has become Chicago's best source of offense. Big returns by Hester have set up 10 of the Bears' last 17 points by giving the Chicago's offense great field position.
Masthay and his coverage team are responsible for taking care of the dangerous Hester, who has had success against the Packers' coverage teams in the past.
The Packers can't allow Devin Hester to take over this game, so Green Bay needs to keep the ball out his hands and force Josh McCown to beat them.
A lot of this responsibility falls on Masthay, as he will need to stay mistake free in order to keep Hester in check.
No. 2: WR Jordy Nelson
Nick Laham/Getty Images
After Greg Jennings went down with a knee injury against the Raiders in Week 14, a hole was left at the Packers' No. 1 receiver spot.
Personally, I thought Green Bay was deep enough at receiver to compensate for the loss of Jennings for a few weeks, but it certainly didn't look that way against the Chiefs. The Packers struggled to beat one on one coverage across the board, and there were a lot of dropped balls and penalties by the receivers.
Jordy Nelson, the man who was filling Jennings’ shoes last week, looked completely outmatched by Brandon Flowers. It was the first time all season Nelson had faced the opposing team's top corner, and he clearly didn't look like a No. 1 wide receiver without the favorable matchups teams gave him when they had to focus on Jennings.
With 984 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season, Nelson has played extremely well in a complementary role to Jennings, but this game gives Nelson another chance to prove he can carry the load as a go-to guy.
Jordy needs to get open consistently on Sunday and give Aaron Rodgers a chance to make some easy throws.
No. 1: OG/OT T.J. Lang
Al Bello/Getty Images
The Packers were dealt a devastating blow last week when they lost starting right tackle Brian Bulaga and first-round pick Derek Sherrod to injury against the Chiefs.
With no other tackles active in the game, T.J. Lang was moved to tackle, while Evan Dietrich-Smith replaced Lang at his normal left guard spot.
Lang will most likely get the start at right tackle this week against the Bears, as Bulaga will miss a few weeks with a bruised knee cap.
With Julius Peppers, Isreal Idonije and Henry Melton, the Bears bring as stiff of a pass rush as any team in the league.
In order to keep Aaron Rodgers alive and well against this scary defense, Lang will need to hold down one side of a banged up line at an unfamiliar position.
While Lang has played some tackle in the past, it will be a major adjustment as he has only played guard this season. Not to mention that the last time Lang was at tackle, he was absolutely dominated by a number of different pass rushers.
The Packers need this Swiss Army knife of an offensive lineman to keep Julius Peppers and company off of Aaron Rodgers if Green Bay wants to win.