Packers win, but Kampman and Harris suffer injuries

With their 30-24 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers leapt back into the playoff hunt in the NFC. But unfortunately for them, they may be without two defensive starters for the rest of the season.

According to beat writer Greg Bedard, outside linebacker Aaron Kampman and cornerback Al Harris have torn ACLs and both will likely miss the remainder of the 2009 season.

At 35, Harris’ could be a career-ender. He was carted off the field Sunday and couldn’t walk in the locker room, and chances are he’ll need reconstructive surgery to repair the damage. Tramon Williams will start at right corner in Harris’ place.

Kampman was in the midst of having a horrible season while trying to convert from defensive end to outside linebacker. Given that he’s a free agent at the end of the year, it’s doubtful that Green Bay will re-sign Kampman. And even if the team had interest, it’s more doubtful that he’d even be interested in coming back to play outside linebacker. He just isn’t a fit for the 3-4.

Save for a brutal effort against Tampa three weeks ago, Green Bay’s defense had been playing well over the past month. Given how poorly Kampman was playing, the Packers defense might not suffer much in the long haul. But it remains to be seen how Williams will hold up when teams start attacking his side of the field more frequently.

As for the game, the Packers held off a late 49ers’ rally to secure victory. Green Bay jumped out to a 30-10 fourth quarter lead, but Alex Smith hit Vernon Davis on a 24-yard touchdown pass with 10:37 remaining to cut the Packers’ lad to 30-17, then running back Frank Gore hauled in a 10-yard touchdown pass with 5:56 to make it a 30-24 game.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had an outstanding game, throwing for 344 yards on 32-of-45 passing and two touchdowns. Ryan Grant rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

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Offseason Blueprint: Green Bay Packers

Notable Free Agents: Atari Bigby, S (restricted); Mark Taucher, OT; Michael Montgomery, DE; Colin Cole, DT.

Projected 2009 Cap Space: $18,000,000

Draft Order: 9

Top Needs: OLB, OL, 3-4 defensive linemen.

Offseason Outlook: After hiring Dom Capers to run the defense, the Packers will move to a 3-4 defensive front next season. That means defensive end Aaron Kampman will move to one of the outside linebacker spots, while A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett will be the team’s starting inside ‘backers. The outside linebacker spot opposite of Kampman will be Brady Poppinga’s to lose, although Green Bay will likely bring in competition to push him for the starting position.

The Packers most pressing need this offseason will be finding D-linemen that can fit the 3-4 defensive front – especially at defensive end. Green Bay is in luck too, because after Julius Peppers (who was franchised by Carolina), the next best defensive ends on the market are Chris Canty (Cowboys) and Igor Olshansky (Chargers) – two relatively young linemen that are used to playing in a 3-4. Either way, they have to address both end positions because neither Michael Montgomery nor Colin Cole are expected to be re-signed and there are serious doubts that former first round pick Justin Harrell can be effective in a 3-4.

Even though they project Ryan Pickett to be the starting nose tackle, the Packers might consider drafting Boston College defensive lineman B.J. Raji, who stands 6’1” and weighs 323 pounds. He has excellent strength, can occupy multiple blockers and could easily play nose in a 3-4 scheme. And considering what the needs are for the teams selecting ahead of Green Bay in the draft, Raji should be available at No. 9.

If the Packers decide to go with Pickett at nose, another option for them in the first round is Florida State defensive end Everette Brown, who is athletic enough to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4. He could immediately challenge Poppinga for the starting outside linebacker position opposite Kampman and hopefully give Green Bay’s pass rush (the Pack finished near the bottom of the league in sacks last year) a major boost.

Read the rest after the jump...

NFL Week 7 Primer

Peyton ManningSunday’s Best: Colts (3-2) at Packers (3-3), 4:15 PM CBS
There are some brutal matchups this week, so this one wins by default. The Colts will try to carry the momentum from last weeks blowout win against Baltimore into Green Bay this Sunday, but will be without running back Joseph Addai. Dominic Rhodes gets the start, but head coach Tony Dungy has said that Clifton Dawson and Chad Simpson will see some opportunities as well. Peyton Manning played his most complete game of the season last week and might get the opportunity to exploit a banged up Packers’ secondary if Al Harris (spleen) continues to be hobbled (although word is Harris might play). The Packers meanwhile, have not had much success running the ball this year with Ryan Grant, which is unfortunate given that Indy’s main defensive weakness is stopping the run. If Green Bay can’t get the running game going, they’ll again rely on QB Aaron Rodgers to make big plays to wideouts Greg Jennings and Donald Driver in the passing game. This is a huge game for both teams, especially for the Colts considering they’re currently looking up at the 5-0 Titans in the AFC South.

Upset Watch: Jets (3-2) at Raiders (1-4), 4:15 PM CBS
It’s incredibly hard to back the mess that is the Oakland Raiders right now, but they still have a ton of talent on their roster and the Jets have been awfully inconsistent this season. One week they look like playoff contenders and the next they’re getting drummed. Even though they walked away with a victory, New York didn’t play that well against Cincinnati and Brett Favre continues to turn the ball over. The Jets haven’t been able to run the ball successfully of late either, managing just 66 yards per game in the last three weeks. If Oakland is going to pull off a victory in Tom Cable’s home debut, they’ll need to run the ball effectively themselves. Because clearly QB JaMarcus Russell isn’t ready to lead this team on his own yet.

Tony RomoIntriguing Matchup: Cowboys (4-2) at Rams (1-4), 1:00 PM FOX
The biggest question on everyone’s minds (especially fantasy owners) is whether QB Tony Romo will play or not. Despite breaking his pinkie finger in the loss to the Cardinals last week, all indications are that Romo will in fact play. He’ll have a new weapon to throw to in Roy Williams, who the team recently acquired from Detroit at the trade deadline. But not only will it be interesting to see how effective Romo can be with a broken finger, it’ll also be intriguing to watch the many personalities the ‘Boys have on offense now that Williams and T.O. have to share looks in the passing game. Dallas has not played well since their Sunday night win against the Packers early in the year and the Rams proved last week in a win over the Redskins that they won’t be pushovers now that Jim Haslett is running things.

Other Notable Games:
Saints (3-3) at Panthers (4-2), 1:00 PM ET FOX
While everyone is focusing on the East being the best division in the NFC, the South doesn’t have any teams below .500 right now. Some still believe the Saints are the best team in the division and they’ll get the opportunity to prove it this week in Carolina.

Browns (2-3) at Redskins (4-2), 4:15 PM ET CBS
What was the bigger fluke from Week 6 – the Browns beating the Giants or the Redskins losing to the Rams?

Titans (5-0) at Chiefs (1-4), 1:00 PM ET CBS
The Titans get to put their undefeated record on the line this week in Kansas City and fortunately for them the Larry Johnson-less Chiefs shouldn’t provide much of a challenge.

What is going on with the Green Bay Packers?

I figured this game against the Falcons would give us a pretty good idea just where the Green Bay Packers currently stand. They were impressive in beating the Vikings in Week 1, they got the job done against the Lions in Week 2, they lost to a very good Dallas team in Week 3 and fell to a good Tampa Bay team on the road in Week 4. If you looked at those first four games before the season started, and assumed that Aaron Rodgers didn’t fall on his face, then you probably could have correctly picked the winner of each one of those games.

But losing to Atlanta at home? That’s a game that a good team should win, and for all intents and purposes, the Packers aren’t a good team. Without Al Harris, Roddy White was able to work over Charles Woodson to the tune of eight catches for 132 yards and a TD in the first half. The Packers held him without a catch in the second half, but the Falcons were able to take advantage of great field position in the fourth quarter to score 10 points and seal the victory.

The truth is, even without Al Harris (and defensive end Cullen Jenkins), the Packers should have enough talent to beat the Falcons at home, but they simply didn’t play a clean game. Green Bay was penalized nine times for 97 yards, while the Falcons were penalized twice for just 15 yards. Time and again the Packers would shoot themselves in the foot with an ill-advised holding or facemask penalty.

Then, with his team trailing by three with 4:42 to play, facing a third-and-19 from its own 21 yard-line, Aaron Rodgers made a crucial mistake by trying to force the ball to Ruvell Martin. The Falcons scored on a Michael Turner 2-yard TD run to go up 10. If Rodgers had the presence of mind to throw the ball away, the Packers defense would have had a puncher’s chance at stopping Atlanta on their side of the field, and the Green Bay offense would have had at least one more chance to tie (or win) the game.

So it’s not Aaron Rodgers’ inexperience, injuries or a lack of discipline that has the Packers on a three-game losing streak; it’s a combination of the three. All in all, Rodgers has performed admirably this season, and injuries can’t really be controlled, so discipline is the only way that Green Bay can vastly improve over the next few weeks. (That, and the team suddenly figuring out how to run the ball again, though I’m not holding my breath.) Unfortunately, the road isn’t going to get easier. The Packers have to travel to Seattle to face an angry team that just got embarrassed against the Giants. Then they host the Colts before visiting the Titans and the Vikings. After that, they host the Bears.

Things could get very ugly very quickly.

NFL News and Notes: Rams bench QB Marc Bulger

Marc Bulger– After stumbling to a 0-3 start and looking atrocious while doing so, the St. Louis Rams have decided to make a change. Veteran Trent Green will reportedly start at quarterback this weekend against the undefeated Buffalo Bills as the Rams have decided to bench Marc Bulger. (

– Willie Parker will miss Monday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens after spraining his knee in last week’s loss to the Eagles. Rookie Rashard Mendenhall is expected to make his first NFL start. (

– Packers’ CB Al Harris could be lost for the entire season with a ruptured spleen, which was the same injury that knocked out former Bucs’ QB Chris Simms for the entire 2006 season. Tramon Williams, a second-year undrafted free agent, is currently Harris’s backup at left corner. (National Football Post)

– RB Brian Westbrook reportedly suffered a high ankle sprain during the Eagles’ win over the Steelers Sunday, a game in which “Westy” had to leave the game in the first half. His status for this Sunday’s game is still up in the air, but Westbrook expects to play. (

– Struggling quarterback Derek Anderson is expected to start in Week 4 for the Cleveland Browns, but the team is prepping second-year backup Brady Quinn to play. Anderson could have a quick hook if he struggles Sunday against Cincinnati. (ESPN’s Chris Mortensen)

– Despite his poor performance in Tennessee last Sunday, Matt Schuab will reportedly keep the starting quarterback job in Houston. Unfortunately for Schaub, things don’t get any easier against Jacksonville this Sunday. (Houston Chronicle)

– After destroying the Patriots with it last Sunday, the Miami Dolphins will keep the ‘Wildcat’ package in their offensive. RB Ronnie Brown shredded New England for over 100 yards and four touchdowns while lining up predominately in that formation last Sunday. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Obviously, the Bulger news is big, but I doubt there were too many owners starting him last week. His numbers are down and I think most of us were expecting him to eventually turn it around and finish somewhere in the top 15. Scott Linehan is apparently desperate and feels like he’s on the verge of getting fired. Trent Green is old, but STL has some weapons so he could be a decent spot starter if he can get in the groove…As for Westy, Correll Buckhalter looks like the primary backup despite all the preseason talk about Lorenzo Booker…Rashard Mendenhall will be a hot pickup this week, but don’t break the bank in Blind Bidding leagues. He faces a tough Ravens defense and Parker could be back as early as next week. But if you can add him cheaply, do so, as you never know with knee sprains…Brady Quinn is a guy to target in larger leagues. The “Bench Derek Anderson” talk seems to be getting louder and louder and Quinn has a chance to be good with all the weapons in the Browns’ offense.

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