Packers: Morning Coffee Headlines

Senior writer jclombardi previews QB Flynn show at Patriots.

Flynn likely to start with Rodger’s concussion: Matt Flynn is used to dealing with a lot of reporters on Wednesday afternoons. It was a bit different this week because he was actually talking to them. Flynn’s cubicle is next to Aaron Rodgers’ in the Green Bay Packers’ locker room and Rodgers typically addresses the media on Wednesdays. Sometimes Flynn, rendered all but invisible, has to wait for the interview to break up in order to get to his locker. All eyes are on Flynn, the third-year quarterback from Louisiana State who could get his first NFL start Sunday night against Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Rodgers suffered his second concussion of the season late in the first half of the Packers’ 7-3 loss at Detroit and was not at practice Wednesday. Coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers would not practice Thursday and that there was a “slim to none” chance he’d practice Friday. Rodgers, who has started 45 consecutive games, won’t even be allowed to attend meetings or participate in film study until cleared by doctors. A decision on his status won’t be made until Saturday, but the odds of him playing don’t appear to be good. Flynn got all the practice reps in team drills Wednesday and will go through an intense week of preparation. “I feel good about it,” he said. “It was a good day at practice today and I’m excited. I’m just going to go through the week like I’m definitely going to be playing. “Hopefully, Aaron can get back, but I’m just going to go in there like I’m going to be playing and prepare like it.”

‘The Matt Flynn show’: Green Bay Packers backup quarterback likely to start Sunday against powerhouse Patriots: Rodgers is coming off his second concussion of the season last Sunday and likely won’t be cleared to practice at all this week, so his chances of playing Sunday at New England appear remote. That means third-year pro Matt Flynn probably will be the first Packers backup quarterback to start a game since Brett Favre took over the job from injured Don Majkowski against Pittsburgh on Sept. 27, 1992. Rodgers is well behind in his recovery compared to his previous concussion at Washington. The week following that injury, he went through the NFL’s concussion protocol and was cleared for a cardiovascular workout Wednesday, then cleared to practice Thursday, and when he exhibited no symptoms Friday was cleared for the game against Miami. This week, McCarthy said Rodgers’ chances for practicing by Friday are “slim to none,” which means Friday is the earliest he’s likely to be cleared for the cardio workout. McCarthy left open the possibility of Rodgers being cleared to play Saturday, and if the injury wasn’t a concussion, it wouldn’t be extraordinary for Rodgers to miss the full week of practice and still play in the game. However, the precarious nature of head injuries especially of multiple head injuries in a season and the heightened awareness of concussion recovery mandated by the NFL this year, make it appear unlikely he would play if he couldn’t practice all week.

Patriots scouting report–QB Brady on MVP pace while defense slowly improves: Rushing offense: The Patriots have the NFL’s top-scoring offense, but they run the ball mainly to keep defenses honest. Quarterbacks coach O’Brien’s play calling has produced a pass-run ratio of 56-to-44. Second-year pro BenJarvus Green-Ellis (4.3 yards per carry, 786 yards rushing) is the primary back and more physical than his size (5-11, 215) might suggest. Little Woodhead has been a godsend since Kevin Faulk’s season-ending knee injury. He’s been a good change-of-pace, scat-back type runner who also shows some punch near the goal line. Passing offense: Tom Brady is the game’s best player and at the peak of his powers. As he cruises to the second NFL most-valuable player award of his career it’s difficult to overstate how well he’s playing. He has the intelligence and leadership of Bart Starr and arm talent to match most quarterbacks in the league. He’s won 26 straight games at home, which is an NFL record for a starting quarterback in the regular season. He’s now gone eight straight games and 268 straight passes without an interception. Brady’s passer rating of 109.9 points leads the NFL, as does his 29 touchdown passes. Remarkably, they haven’t missed WR Moss, in part because WR Branch has added a much-needed threat to go with slot receiver Wes Welker in what’s become something of a tight end-centric offense. Welker is a pass-catching machine running his mostly short routes with exceptional quickness and change-of-direction. His 80 receptions ties for third-most in the league. But instead of playing off Moss, Welker now plays off rookie tight ends Hernandez and Gronkowski. Rushing defense: The Patriots are by no means a top defensive team and rank No. 17 in points allowed and No. 27 in yards allowed, though they have a good defensive line and have played the run OK (No. 14 in rushing yards allowed, No. 16 in yards allowed per carry) in Belichick’s 3-4 scheme. Nose tackle Wilfork is their best defensive player and key to stopping the run, along with space-eating defensive end Ty Warren. Passing defense: This is a vulnerability in part because Belichick went unusually young in the starting secondary with one rookie (McCourty) and two second-year players (Arrington and safety Chung). That Patriots’ ranking in pass defense, no. 31 in passing yards allowed, No. 26 in yards allowed per attempt, belies their 11-2 record in a passing league. It helps that they’re the top-scoring team in the league, but they’re also playing a little better than early in the year, and their young secondary has made up for its shortcomings by being ball hawks. New England’s 20 interceptions are second-most in the NFL. The Patriots don’t have any standout pass rushers and get their pressure more with scheme than talent. Special teams: The Patriots are solid all around on special teams. Tate is a pure speedster who’s taken back two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season and ranks No. 8 in the league with a 26.3-yard average. Julian Edelman is a small (6-0, 198), quick punt returner who lacks long speed, though his 14.1-yard average would be No. 3 in the league if he had enough returns to qualify. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, a fourth-round pick in ’06, has a plenty-strong leg and has made 84.3 percent of field goals. Rookie punter Mesko ranks No. 15 net average.

Commentary: In sports Greek black theater, the fluff Packers press went through three days with the transition from losing to lowly Lions, to Rodgers’ concussion, and to backup QB Flynn’s probable start against the (where the Packers should have been under proper management and coaching) powerful scoring, winning, and heading to the playoffs Patriots.  How badly did Flynn play against the Lions? Packers fans were curious to see how QB Matt Flynn (-2.4) would perform. He ended up with a terrible performance, only completing three of his ten passes beyond 10 yards and missing on some shorter passes as well. He was only under pressure eight times as the Packers started to use more blockers as the game went on, but in those pressures he threw an interception and got sacked twice. We guess that Packers management decided to get game experience for QB Flynn before the miserable season and playoff hopes disappear (played out to the end of season) with “key injuries” headlines excuse. Fan can review amusing Packers Carry On Despite Injuries“. Are fans ready for their “super bowl” game against the Bears?

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