Sunday, December 22, 2013

Gameday: Green Bay Packers

Lambeau Field
Radio: WDVE and other affiliates

What to Watch For

1. Let It Snow

It's going to snow in Green Bay on Sunday. A lot. There is a Winter Storm Warning in effect for most of Wisconsin for Sunday and there could be upwards of 5 inches of snow on the field for this game. Neither team has played particularly good defense this year and the game could devolve into an Eddie Lacy vs. Le'Veon Bell affair.

2. Antonio Brown

Last week, AB tied Hines Ward's mark of 95 catches (2003, 2009) that put him second on the Steelers single-season receptions list. The franchise record for receptions in a season is Ward's 112 (set in 2002). It's unlikely that Brown will get 17 catches this week, but a big performance against Green Bay could set him up to break or tie the mark at home next week in the season finale. Look for the Steelers to try to get him some easy catches on WR screens to boost his numbers. On the yardage front, Brown currently has 1307, which puts him 5th on the Steelers single-season yardage list and only trails Yancey Thigpen's franchise record 1398 yards by 91, which he could break this week against Green Bay's weak secondary.

3. That Time Zone Thing

I bring it up every time the Steelers leave the Eastern Time Zone, because the stat is just so startling. Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers are 74-44 (.627) overall and 69-28 (.711) when the game is played in the Eastern Time Zone. But when the Steelers leave the Eastern Time Zone, they are just 5-16 (.238). To make matters worse, the Steelers have now lost 8 in a row outside of EST, dating back to December 2011. The last time the Steelers won a game outside of EST was against the Tyler Palko-led Kansas City Chiefs 13-9 on Monday Night Football on November 27, 2011. It's not like the Steelers have been toppled by great teams. Their current 8-game losing streak features losses to Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning, Matt Hasselbeck, Tony Romo, Matt Cassel, and Terrelle Pryor. Don't think for a minute that just because Aaron Rodgers isn't playing that Matt Flynn isn't capable of adding his name to that list.

4. Matt Flynn

Aaron Rodgers will miss this week's game and Matt Flynn will start his fourth game of the season for the Packers. Flynn has a habit for keeping games close - he is credited with Game Winning Drives in each of the last two weeks (though arguably Tony Romo deserves more for the Packers winning last week than Flynn). Flynn has been decent the last two weeks and the Steelers secondary is only a shell of their former selves. As usual, it all starts up front with getting pressure, as Flynn is significantly less mobile than Rodgers.

5. Finish Strong

I'm not going to talk about the playoffs, even though we are not mathematically eliminated. What I am going to say is that the Steelers have an opportunity to build some momentum heading into the offseason and into next year. They came into this season as a team that didn't know how to win. This was painfully obvious with an 0-4 start in the preseason followed by an 0-4 start in the regular season. Slowly, this team has begun to put it together, albeit too late in the season. But a strong finish to the season can close out 2013 on a high note (possibly even finish at 6-2 in the second half).

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