As a Packer fan, here’s what I’m worried about…

Green Bay Packers fans celebrate after the NFC Championship game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago on January 23, 2011. The Packers won 21-14. UPI/Brian Kersey

Pundits are great. They’re usually knowledgeable and objective. But no one knows a teams like its fans. True fans have watched all 19 games from start to finish and know their team’s ins and outs better than anyone. Informed fans are cautiously optimistic or appropriately pessimistic because they’ve seen their team at its best, and at its worst.

So with that in mind, here are a few things that this die-hard Packer fan is worried about…

1. That Mike McCarthy will play too conservatively with a lead.
We’ve all seen it. The Packers get up by 10 or 14 points in the second or third quarter and Mike McCarthy changes his game plan to try to kill the clock with his running game. Only the Packers can’t line up in the I-formation and run it up the middle with consistent success. I think the Steelers’ vaunted rush defense is actually a blessing in disguise for Green Bay because McCarthy knows he can’t run the ball down Pittsburgh’s throat. While most teams set up the pass with the run, Green Bay will need to set up the run with the pass. The Packers fare pretty well when they spread the defense out and run draws or inside handoffs out of the shotgun, and Brandon Jackson and James Starks could catch the Steelers off guard once or twice and break off a 15-yard run.

Sometimes McCarthy will take his shots downfield with a lead, but it’s usually a deep pass that has a low success rate. What’s wrong with a 20-yard post route that moves the chains and gets the team into field goal range?

2. That the Packers won’t be able to stop Rashard Mendenhall.
The Steelers offensive line is banged up, but Mendenhall scored twice against the Ravens and rattled off 121 rushing yards against a pretty good Jets defense. The Packers have been susceptible to the run all season, but have masked problems in that area with an outstanding pass defense, and teams haven’t been able (or haven’t been willing) to commit to a run-oriented attack.

The last time the Packers were in the Super Bowl, Terrell Davis rushed for 157 yards and three TDs as the underdog Broncos controlled the ball and the tempo. Packer fans do not want to see a repeat performance by an opposing running back.

3. That the Packers won’t play a clean game.
Penalties, turnovers and special teams. These are the areas of a football game that can swing the outcome even if a team dominates both offensively and defensively. And these are the areas where the Packers sometimes struggle. Whether it’s James Jones’ untimely fumble against the Bears in Week 3, the 17 combined penalties in losses against the Redskins and Falcons, or the many problems of the Green Bay special teams, Packer Nation will be holding its collective breath when the ball hits the turf, when the yellow flags fly or when the opponent is setting up a return. If the Packers can play a clean game in these areas, they have a great shot at winning the Super Bowl.

4. That the O-line won’t be able to protect Aaron Rodgers.
It was just last season that the Packers led the league in sacks allowed (51). This was a combination of two things: 1) the Packers’ O-line was getting beat at the point of attack and 2) Rodgers was holding the ball too long. Over the past year, the Packers have improved in these areas, but against a great pass-rushing team like the Steelers, protecting the QB is no gimme. Had the Falcons been able to wrap Rodgers up, that game in Atlanta could have gone very differently. The Steelers are going to throw all sorts of blitz packages to try to rattle Rodgers and his fairly young offensive line, and everyone needs to hold up to the pressure.

5. That the receivers can’t hold onto the ball.
Drops have been a problem this season, but the game is indoors so the weather won’t be a factor. Concentration is key. James Jones, Greg Jennings…even Donald Driver have all had key drops this season, and one nightmare scenario has Rodgers finding the open guy on a game-changing third down only to have the receiver drop the ball. It’s so deflating to see the ball bounce off of a receivers hands. The Packer wideouts need to come up big on Sunday if the Packers are going to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

6. That the Packers won’t be able to bring Big Ben down.
We’ve all seen Ben Roethlisberger extend plays with his incredible strength in the pocket and use that extra time to find an open man downfield. The Packer secondary is great, but DBs can only cover for so long, so it’s crucial that the Green Bay front seven find a way to bring Big Ben down when they get a free shot at him.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts