So the Rams are back off the bye week and jumping back into shark infested waters by playing football with people watching. And as luck would have it for the 2011 Rams, their welcome back into the fold? The Super Bowl Champion and nearly-unanimous BTIFRN (Best Team in Football Right Now) Green Bay Packers.
Everything points to this being an unwinnable game. We're bad, they're good. We've lost key players, they're dealing with temporary injuries to replaceable components (though you could argue the OT situation is pretty brutal). They score touchdowns at nearly a 60% clip. We, I guess, prefer not to.
A Super Bowl earlier this year. A quintet of demonstrative victories. Is there anything going wrong in Packerland right now (besides the OL injuries)?
With the injuries at tackle, and at safety with the loss of Nick Collins (probably a career ending neck injury), depth is a problem at both positions. But the scouting department and GM Ted Thompson do such a good job at loading the roster with talented young players that they have some in-house options that are filling in just fine. The biggest concern is that the pass defense is giving up a lot of yards.
The rest of the Q&A after the jump.
So as alluded to, Chad Clifton is now to be sidelined for a while. Bryan Bulaga isn't back to 100%. How much faith is there in the OT depth? Is it cause for legitimate concern for the next few weeks?
Second year LT Marshall Newhouse should be the second tackle off the bench, and he's certainly had some struggles each preseason, but he's been good so far. He was nearly perfect against the Bears and Falcons, and he did well against the Broncos but gave up two sacks to Von Miller. Rookie 1st round pick Derek Sherrod isn't quite ready, but he's got a load of talent and he did OK against the Falcons. It's not an ideal situation, but it's not a disaster either.
Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley. How long can the front office keep this quartet happy? And given Driver's age, is he headed for retirement after next year, his final season under contract?
Jennings isn't leaving until his career is over. Nelson was just recently locked up to a long term extension. It looked like the old Donald Driver had returned this preseason, but he's been quiet in the first five weeks and this should be his last year as the starter. Right now, I expect Jermichael Finley to leave in free agency after this season, and he should be one of the best players available. The Packers let some good players go this summer and that's the reality of having a successful team: it's hard to keep them all together.
What is the weak point on defense? Is there one?
The pass defense has struggled stopping tight ends and running backs. Tramon Williams is nursing a bruised shoulder and isn't being as aggressive as he'd like, but he did a fine job last week against a hobbled Roddy White. Second year cornerback Sam Shields is effectively a starter on the opposite side (Charles Woodson plays like a slot nickel/safety but he's on the field all the time too), and Shields looked like a shutdown corner last week. While Williams and Shields are playing in man coverage on the sidelines, the Packers play a zone in the middle that gives up a lot of yards. A huge game receiving from Lance Kendricks or Cadillac Williams could be the key for the Rams offense.
This is a kind of coda to the first question. Is there a sense of the impermanence of superiority yet? Right now, no team in the league is playing as well as the Pack, and that's in the overture of a championship defense. These things don't last. Is there more a sense of enjoyment at what has transpired or a demand to extend the successes as long as possible? Or both? (You greedy cheeseheads, you)
I'm always stressed when the Packers fall behind, but I didn't blink when they went down 14 to the Falcons last week. They had some rough patches in 2010 when they kept losing close games that they could have won (less than one score) but now they've won their last 11 games and any problems on defense or special teams is usually covered up by a near perfect performance from Aaron Rodgers. It won't last, though I don't currently see the end on the horizon, because these streaks never last. But as someone who grew up as a fan of the hopeless teams that lost their way through the 1980s, I'm just enjoying the good times now.
Thanks again to Brandon from APC for the veritable cheese plate of knowledge.