Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers thrives against pressure defenses like Philadelphia's.
1. With national discussion centering so squarely on the Green Bay Packers' postseason chances, we've probably failed to address adequately their far-from-a-gimmee regular-season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Packers have opened on the road only four times in the past 25 years, and their recent history in Philadelphia hasn't been great. In fact, the Packers have lost nine consecutive games there. But that type of history is irrelevant to this game. In reality, the Eagles are a team in flux as they transition from Donovan McNabb to Kevin Kolb at quarterback. And as we discussed earlier this week, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is equipped to nullify the Eagles' pressure defense. We should always account for the inevitable surprises of Week 1, but the fact remains that the Packers will have the better team at kickoff.
2. The Packers should find out whether their pass defense made any progress this offseason. They have made some personnel moves, among them moving B.J. Raji to nose tackle, inserting rookie safety Morgan Burnett into the starting lineup and shifting Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews to the other side of the line of scrimmage. But depth at cornerback remains an issue with Al Harris (knee) and Brandon Underwood (shoulder) sidelined by injury. Rookie Sam Shields could be the Packers' nickel back against an offense that attempted the fourth-most pass attempts of 15 yards or longer last season, according to research by ESPN's Stats & Information. With or without McNabb, the Eagles will try pushing the ball downfield. We'll find out if the Packers can handle it.
3. It's been a while since the Detroit Lions' defense had a notable advantage in any type of matchup. But it's hard to ignore the intensity and production with which their defensive line played this preseason, and if nothing else they'll carry a newfound confidence into Soldier Field. More than anything, I'm interested in seeing whether left end Cliff Avril is able capitalize on the presence of better-known teammates Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams. As we've discussed, the Bears' offensive line didn't inspire much confidence during the preseason. We'll find out if Avril is capable of capitalizing against Bears right tackle Frank Omiyale. I'm also interested in whether Bears left tackle Chris Williams can match Lions right end Vanden Bosch's intensity.
4. It will be interesting to see how heavily the Chicago Bears rely on a passing game that struggled all preseason. It doesn't fit the history of offensive coordinator Mike Martz, but the best way to slow a pass rush is to establish your running game. Tailback Matt Forte appeared to have regained his burst during the preseason, most notably on an 89-yard touchdown run, and backup Chester Taylor had a nice 34-yard burst during the preseason as well. Running the ball straight at the Lions doesn't sound exciting or even a long-term answer, but it might be a good way to eat up yardage, control the clock and keep the Lions' explosive offense off the field while the passing game gets settled.
5. Credit goes to Chris Burke of NFLFanHouse for this one. Technically, the Minnesota Vikings' loss to the New Orleans Saints lifted the Lions out of last place in the NFC North for the first time since December 2007. Let's take it one step further. A win against the Bears would give the Lions a share of first place for the first time since September 2007. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The Lions should have as much pause about their linebackers and secondary as they do excitement about their offense. Middle linebacker DeAndre Levy is struggling with a groin injury and might not play. Safety C.C. Brown and cornerback Jonathan Wade are both playing with bone fractures, and safety Louis Delmas has been limited by a groin injury. That's a lot of limitations to overcome.