Senior writer jclombardi highlights Packers headlines.
Fox says Packers will win Super Bowl: When we made our preseason picks on our weekly FOXsports.com “Cosmic Schein” show, we picked the Green Bay Packers to raise the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLV (FOX pregame at 2 p.m. ET; kickoff at 6). There’s no reason to back off now. Here’s why Green Bay will win it all, Schein 9 style. 9. The Packers’ defense is hot and unpredictable–The Packers’ defense has been on fire down the stretch. Green Bay stops the run and the pass. There is no way that Rashard Mendenhall enjoys the success he had against the Jets. Dick LeBeau rightly gets the accolades for being the best defensive coordinator in the sport. But Capers, from the same tree, does an incredible job getting his club ready, with multiple looks and pressures. 8. The Maurkice Pouncey injury–The fantastic Pittsburgh center suffered a high ankle sprain and a broken bone on Championship Sunday. The Steelers have dealt with a rash of injuries up front all year, putting the line in shambles. Pouncey was the lone rock. If Pouncey can’t go, Raji, Jenkins and company are going to destroy the Pittsburgh line. Green Bay will force mistakes. 7. The Charles Woodson factor–He is a great, multi-dimensional megastar on defense. Woodson will make a couple of game-changing plays on Super Bowl Sunday. Write this one down: Woodson will create at least one turnover via a pick or a forced fumble and record a sack of Big Ben. Woodson and Williams will match up very well with the Steelers’ excellent receivers Mike Wallace and Hines Ward. While his teammates engage in “picture-gate” on Twitter, Woodson is exerting his leadership and preaching focus. 6. Underrated game changers on defense–Let’s assume for a second that Raji and Williams finally are getting the credit they have deserved all year. Jenkins is now healthy. He can help disrupt the Pittsburgh offensive flow. Desmond Bishop makes plays at linebacker with his speed and knack for the ball. A.J. Hawk has enjoyed a renaissance. And Sam Shields was dominant on Championship Sunday. 5. Green Bay has the better quarterback–Give me my guy Aaron Rodgers with his arm, accuracy, footwork, outstanding decision making and flair. He is playing at a fantastic level. Rodgers has dealt calmly and brilliantly with being the Brett Favre replacement in Green Bay. Thus, there is no chance he melts in the “big spot” on Super Bowl Sunday. Forget about the moment being too big. Precedent says he will own it and rewrite it. Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy are in an awesome zone together as a player and play caller, seemingly three steps ahead of the opposition. 4. Rodgers’ weapons match up very well with Pittsburgh–The genius of how Ted Thompson put together the Pack is on display every Sunday. The Packers’ receivers are dynamic and diverse and have been able to survive a major injury at tight end when the explosive Jermichael Finley was lost for the season. Greg Jennings is the star of the group. But McCarthy likes to tell us, and he’s right, about Rodgers’ incredible knack for making the open receiver his favorite receiver. Donald Driver is the cagey veteran. James Jones, while feast or famine at times, is very athletic. And Jordy Nelson had strong hands. The weakness on the Pittsburgh defense is the cornerback position, compounded by the injury to Bryant McFadden. I think the Packers’ receivers will put an instant, first-quarter dent into the Pittsburgh defense. 3. The Green Bay offensive line is strong–James Harrison is a star. LaMarr Woodley is his perfect complement. LeBeau brings heat. But this Packers offensive line has jelled nicely. And think about the challenges in huge, must-win games down the stretch. 2. The threat of the run–Nobody runs on Pittsburgh. James Farrior, Casey Hampton and company are too good. McCarthy won’t be like Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and stubbornly stick with it early. James Starks will get some carries to give Pittsburgh something to think about, to give these great athletes a pause. It is much more effective than totally being one-dimensional. Rodgers, as a result, will hit a big home run to Jennings or Jones off play action. 1. Good karma–Let’s go through it. Brett Favre’s “Q” rating has never been lower as the Packers get set for the Super Bowl. You know it kills the ego maniac. If Rodgers wins on Sunday, his first three years as the Packers quarterback will be as good or better than any three-year stretch Favre put together. McCarthy, Thompson and President Mark Murphy, all excellent at what they do, finally will be given the kudos forever. “Lombardi” is the hot play on Broadway. Green Bay has endured so much this year, including 17 players going on injured reserve. They are too good, too well-coached and too compelling. It’s Green Bay’s year. The Packers will beat the Steelers by a touchdown.
Confident in team, McCarthy ready for SBXLV: Like McCarthy’s confidence has not changed one iota. The Green Bay Packers coach wrapped up the team’s final practice in advance of Super Bowl XLV on Friday feeling just as good about his club as he did when the team’s charter flight left Green Bay four days ago. “We’ve had an opportunity to go over every situation twice for our game plan, so we’re ready to go,” McCarthy told the NFC pool reporter, Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter, before departing Highland Park High School’s indoor practice facility. “The one thing you want to see in your football team is that the players have maintained confidence throughout the process. Our guys have done that. They totally believe what’s in front of them. They believe in what they’ve seen on film. “We respect Pittsburgh, but we feel that this is our time. And Sunday will be our night.” If it is, the Packers will likely do it without right outside linebacker Erik Walden, who had a setback with the sprained ankle he suffered in the Jan. 23 NFC Championship Game in Chicago. Walden did not participate in any meaningful way in practice and is listed as questionable. Rookie Frank Zombo, who started eight games before a Dec. 12 knee injury at Detroit, would regain his starting role. “We’ll take Erik up the game and see what happens,” McCarthy said. “I have a good feel for what he can and cannot do. Sunday I’m going to trust him and the medical staff to make that call.” Zombo, LT Chad Clifton (knees), C Jason Spitz (calf) and WR Donald Driver (quadriceps) are all listed as probable.