Early Bird Breakdown Week 16: Steelers @ Packers
Early Bird Breakdown Week 16: Steelers @ Packers
Before we dive in to this week’s breakdown, we’ll take a look at last week’s game:
The Good: Matt Flynn
This game was a tale of two Flynns. In the first half Flynn looked like he did in Detroit, and that it was going to be a long and hard Sunday. Something changed in Flynn for the second half. He came out and looked like Rodgers, leading Green Bay to a franchise-tying comeback of 23 points. Flynn for the game was 26 of 39 for 299 yards, 4 touchdowns, and one interception on the day. Eddie Lacy was very good as well, giving Flynn a lot of short yardage situations, but Flynn has had a lot of ups and downs since he took the reins and deserves recognition for this performance.
The Bad: The Run Defense
It seems so long ago this was such a strength for Green Bay. At one point they were the fifth ranked run defense and now they are the 25th. As good as Green Bay was in the second half, the only reason they won was because Dallas inexplicably stopped running, despite the fact that Demarco Murray was averaging 7.4 yards per carry when the game ended. In fact, Lacy had more carries in the second half than Murray even though Green Bay was trailing. Murray ran all over Green Bay for 134 yards and it would have been worse if they gave him more touches.
The Ugly: The Jekyll-Hyde Packers
Ever since Rodgers went down this team has played very schizophrenic. One quarter the team looks fine the next they are down 23 points and need a miracle comeback. Rodgers covered up a lot of holes this team had, but there are a lot of problems recently on defense and in pass protection. If the team can cut down on the mental lapses, they can continue to win with Flynn.
How I did:
“31-28 Green Bay over Dallas” – I expected a close one but not because Green Bay had to claw back from a 23 point half-time deficit. It was a big win for Flynn and the Packers, keeping their divisional and playoff hopes alive.
Last week Pittsburgh hosted their division-leading-rival the Cincinnati. Pittsburgh piled on early with a 21-0 lead through the first quarter and up 30-7 going into the fourth. Cincinnati was able to bring it back to ten but Pittsburgh controlled it throughout winning 30-20.
Packers’ Offense vs. Steelers’ Defense:
First and foremost, I am sure everyone has heard but yes, Rodgers will sit this week still recovering from a broken collarbone. While not the defense of old for the Steelers, they still play good defensive football in Pittsburgh. The Steelers enter the game with the 11th rated defense overall, which is buoyed by a top-10 pass defense (rated 8th in the league, surrendering only 222.4 yards per game in the air). While historically good against the run, this year they are only 19th in that regard. This is just another lunchpail week for Eddie Lacy, who will look to get the ball early and often to open things up for Flynn. Good news for the Packers is that Pittsburgh has not been effective at getting to the quarterback overall, ranking tied for third-to-worst in that category (28 overall). While the Packers offensive line has not been great recently (Flynn has been sacked 21 times in four games versus 18 for Rodgers in eight games), the Steelers’ rush has been ineffective enough that Flynn should be given enough time to make plays.
Packers’ Defense vs. Steelers’ Offense:
If Green Bay wants to get back on track against the run, this is the week to do it. While Pittsburgh has talented rookie Le’Veon Bell, the team has been unable to move the ball on the ground all season, ranking 31st in rushing gaining only 79.4 yards per game. To make up for this, they have been 11th in passing (260.9 yards per game). Ben Roethlisberger has played pretty well on the season, but the same cannot be said for the offensive line. Unlike Green Bay, which can run block well but struggles keeping a sturdy pocket, Pittsburgh cannot do either. They not only are poor at freeing holes for the running game, Roethlisberger has been sacked 40 times, which is the fourth-most in the NFL. Green Bay is fifth in sacks with 42 on the year. Green Bay should be able to pressure Roethlisberger today but will need to finish the play, either hitting him for errant throws to waiting corners or bring down the large quarterback or else it will give them the openings to make big plays against Green Bay.
The Weather Factor:
It will be a winter wonderland in Green Bay this weekend. The weather will slow the game down and while both are very used to these conditions, Green Bay is better equipped with their run game than Pittsburgh is.
Flynn comes into this game with a lot of swagger after his historic comeback in Dallas. Add in the fact that he can turn around in and hand it to Lacy all day in the snow makes his situation better. Green Bay has the better pass rush and, despite recent struggles, still has the edge on offensive line, though that is not saying much. Pittsburgh will play Green Bay tough and will probably play well. The question is which Flynn shows up, first half in Dallas or second half? I am leaning towards the latter and think Green Bay gets there. Final score 27-20 Green Bay over Pitsburgh.
Eddie Lacy – with the weather slowing the pass, your best bet in this game is Lacy and frankly is the only for-sure 10 point player this week.
Le’Veon Bell- as bad as Green Bay has been recently against the pass, Pittsburgh has been so bad running it they might abandon the run at the first sign of trouble.