We are counting down the hours until Sunday's NFC Championship Game against Green Bay. Here is this week's '5 Questions' segment, with Brandom from Acme Packing Company.
Big Blue View: When the season began did you honestly think the Packers were capable of this? What has made this season so special?
Acme Packing Company: No. I read Pro Football Prospectus back in August and they predicted a NFC North title over Chicago because the defense was outstanding over the last month of 2006 and Favre is a very consistent above average QB (he might have seemed inconsistent/declining, but it was really a decline with the offense overall). I was expecting a good season, but the offense really looked bad the last month of 2006. The offensive line featured one first-year starter and two rookies in 2006 and I was expecting they would improve this season, but the biggest shock of this season has been how well Favre works with his receivers. He has six quality receivers (Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Koren Robinson, Ruvell Martin, and Donald Lee) and you can see that he has a lot of faith in them. He has never had such depth at his disposal.
BBV: The Giants are, obviously, beat up in the secondary. Kevin Dockery probably won't play, and Sam Madison and Aron Ross won't be 100% even if they do play. How do you expect the Packers to attack the Giants?
Acme: This is continuing from number one. Sometimes the Packers send out five receivers, but usually four. Driver and Jennings are almost always in on the play with a mix of the rest of them. Lee is a tight end, but you will see him lineup in the backfield a lot for pass protection and as the checkdown receiver. That highlight of Favre falling to his right and flipping a little underhand pass to Lee against Seattle was after Lee had first stayed in to block. You can't double any of these guys. Teams spent the first half of the season doubling Driver and Favre was killing them with Jennings, Jones, and Lee. Against Seattle they looked to exploit whatever lineman drops back on a zone blitz, whatever CB tries to cover Jennings without safety help, and short quick passes to Driver to let him gain yards after the catch.
BBV: The forecast is calling for extreme cold. How have the Packers fared so far this season in bad weather, and what impact do you expect the conditions to have on the game?
Acme: The Packers have fared poorly in bad weather when it's windy. The snow and cold didn't seem to bother them at all. They lost 35-7 at Chicago when it was gusting winds and -15 with the wind chill. The wind really messed with Favre's throws, although from what I saw of the Buffalo game, I doubt it would do Eli any favors either. Right now it is not expected to be windy.
BBV: Ryan Grant is a guy you got from the Giants. Why has he been so successful?
Acme: I love his vision. He knows right where he wants to go. When he gets past the first level of lineman and linebackers, he reacts quicker than the corners and safeties. Despite his two very early fumbles against Seattle, he's also been very good at protecting the ball. His speed is really surprising for a big guy.
BBV: Keys to the game Sunday? Key matchups? Key players to watch on the Green Bay side? Key Giants you need to control?
Acme: The keys to the game will be if the Giants can run the ball and turnovers. For whatever reason, the Packers run defense is much better at home. You'll have to win the game with Manning and the defense, but when good, one-dimensional offensive teams have played at Lambeau, the Packers have crushed them (Minnesota 34-0, Seattle 42-20). The Giants will have to be able to throw and pass the ball to keep the defense off balance. The only team that was able to make much of a game of it at Lambeau since October was Carolina - Vinny actually had a good game so they passed and ran well against them. The Packers lost at Dallas while committing only two turnovers, but lost both games against Chicago where in part because they had over two turnovers/blocked punt. My recollection is that the only games the Packers had more than two turnovers were the games against Chicago.
Thanks, Brandon! This Q&A, as well as my answers to his questions, are already posted over at Acme Packing Company.