We are one day away from the season, and for Packer fans everywhere, September 13 will be consumed by our beloved team. With our biggest rival across the gridiron, this game means much more than most opening week games, this is personal.
And with the regular season here, it’s time for a new series. Every Saturday morning, and the occasional Tuesday, you will get from me:
- 3 key key players in the game.
- 2 bold predictions for the game
- And 1 key stat that Green Bay needs to own to win the game.
And just to be clear, while their names will pop up occasionally, we all know that Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, and Clay Matthews are huge factors in the games, so they aren’t excluded from my keys, but more of a certainty.
Without any more fanfare, here is the first edition of 3…2…1…of the 2015 Regular Season.
3 KEY PLAYERS
- BJ Raji
- The big nose tackle is back from his bicep injury and is in the best shape of his NFL career. The 330 pound lineman looks to rebound in another “prove it” year and he will be vital against Matt Forte and the Bears running game. The rivals to the south don’t have the aerial attack to keep up with A-Rod and company, especially with injuries to their top 2 receivers, so they will rely on Forte. The all-around nature of their workhorse makes him extremely difficult to stop and while the Packers have done a solid job against him in the past, they can’t ever take the focus off of him.
- Sean Richardson
- The Bears are known for their special teams, have been for years, and the Packers need to take that away. And that means that this is the coming out event for the new ace in the hole, Sean Richardson. Taking the role from Jarrett Bush, Richardson isn’t as fast, but his size and power more than make up for it, as does his football IQ. The Vanderbilt product has shown the work ethic and perseverance necessary to excel in this facet of the game and if he can lead the kickoff and punt coverage teams to slow down the Bears than the Pack is on their way.
- Richard Rodgers
- The Bears have some decent talent in the secondary with Kyle Fuller and Brock Vereen and the Packers are working with some young talent at receiver behind James Jones and Randall Cobb. That is where Rodgers comes in. Having gained some chemistry with the other Rodgers, Richard will look to be the safety net that the team has been looking for since Jermichael Finley went down with his neck injury. When I see Richard Rodgers, I see a more talented version of Mark Chmura of Donald Lee. Some older Packer fans might see some of Paul Coffman in him, and that also makes sense. If he can deliver on that this week, than the offense will hum along smoothly in September.
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
- The Packers defense will hold Matt Forte to under 75 yards.
- This is the definition of bold to me. For the last four or so years I have been touting Forte as the best all-around running back in the NFL, and I still hold that to be true. But with that comes the fact that teams will key on you, especially when you have injuries to your other skill positions. Throw in a mediocre offensive line and a hungry defense and that equals a slow game for the star back.
- The safeties get at least 2 interceptions
- We all have seen the memes about Jay Cutler and the Packers, how he is our second best quarterback. It would be even funnier if it wasn’t so accurate. With all his talent, he just hasn’t been able to figure out Dom Caper’s defense and has struggled with the secondaries of the Packers. Mix that with the growth of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as a ballhawk and Morgan Burnett’s intelligence and that creates mismatches all around for the Packers defense. I project that each player gets one pick and Ha Ha gets potentially 2.
1 KEY STAT TOWARD VICTORY
- Green Bay needs to score on one of their first two drives.
- I almost went with the time of possession argument, which is also valid. You want to keep Forte off the field and get Aaron Rodgers on. But the best way to neutralize a great running back is to make his offense one dimensional. And the way to do that is to score and score early. If the Packers can get an early lead and force John Fox to adjust his gameplan, than the team will win. It’s that simple. Score on at least one of your first two possessions and you’ll force Jay Cutler to beat you, and he hasn’t shown that he can. The only time he as ever beaten Green Bay was with Seneca Wallace playing for most of the game. That streak should continue Sunday.
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.