9

January

Packers Spread Formations can Keep 49ers’ Willis off the Field

Patrick Willis

49ers LB Patrick Willis might spend a lot of time on the sidelines if the Packers spread things out.

The Packers best bet to to overcome the physicality and viciousness of the 49ers’ defense in Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game might be to go with four and five wide receivers and spread things out.

Yes, the Packers’ running game has shown signs of life in the last month. But do you really think the Packers will win Saturday because they line up against San Francisco and blow them off the line in the running game? Doubtful.

You know how teams say the best way to slow down the Packers is with long possessions on offense that keep Aaron Rodgers of the field? The best way to attack the 49ers’ defense might be to try and get one of their best players off the field.

If the Packers use a bunch of four- and five-wide sets, it likely means that San Francisco’s all-pro middle linebacker Patrick Willis will spend a lot of time on the sideline. The 49ers will need another defensive back, probably Perrish Cox, on the field to deal with the Packers receivers instead of Willis.

What gives the Packers a better chance of winning? Running at a stout 49ers defense with Willis manning the middle of the field? Or using four or five receivers and putting the game in the hands of Aaron Rodgers while Willis watches from the sidelines? I vote for the latter.

All the Packers receivers are finally healthy (or at least healthy enough to play). Might as well use them, right?

Of course, the Packers should mix in run and power plays when needed. This isn’t Madden on the PS3. But spread sets and passing should set up those traditional formations and running plays, not the other way around.

Justin Smith, San Francisco’s mauling defensive lineman, will be slowed by a shoulder injury, which should reduce some of the stress on the Packers’ offensive line. Either way, there will be a lot of pressure on the offensive line to hold up and on Rodgers to make decisive throws if a receiver gets just an inch of separation.

The chess match on Saturday night will be interesting.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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22

June

Packers Tough Opponents More Worrisome than Quirky Early-Season Schedule

Packers Training Camp

There is not much structure in the Packers early-season schedule.

I’m one of those people that shows up early to work and tries to get as much done as possible before other people start filing into the office and my phone starts ringing.

Yeah, it’s no fun dragging myself out of bed at 5:15 a.m., but once I get to the office and get rolling, it’s nice to have a few hours of relative quiet time so I can get my busy work out of the way before tackling the tasks that require me to interact with other human beings.

With the Packers first four games starting at 3:15 p.m., 7:20 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 3:15 p.m., rising early is not an option.

The training camp schedule also is a little different. After a week of practices starting at 8:15 a.m., the Packers will have seven consecutive practices at night, followed by a week of practices that start at 11 or 11:15 a.m.

McCarthy originally thought about eliminating night practices this season, but changed his mind once he saw the quirky start times for his team’s first four games. From PackerReport:

“The fact that we come out of the gate and play Sunday afternoon on national TV at home, then play Thursday night at home and then go away 11 days later on a Monday night, and then on a short week here at home, I wanted to make sure our players were challenged from the fact of the regularity is going to be a little up and down to start the season,” McCarthy said.

Many Packers fans might be asking why start times and dates of games are such a big deal. To us, it probably isn’t that big of a deal. And in all likelihood, it probably won’t be that big of a deal to the Packers, either.

But this is the kind of stuff that drives an NFL coach crazy. Coaches want their teams to get into a routine. Players like routine, too. Routine helps coaches control their players and it helps players develop positive work habits and structure.

If the Packers were an unproven team filled with players that had questionable levels of maturity, this lack of an early-season routine might be cause for concern. But they’re not. They’re a team with a lot of talent and very few players that won’t be able to handle a quirky schedule (as far as I know, anyway).