Welcome to The Scouting Report. Each week this season, we're going to take the opportunity to interview an opposing team's blogger/podcaster/insider to gain insight into the team we're facing. Al from Packernet.com, a Green Bay Packers Web site, joins us and takes a look at week 5.
Chicago's Offensive Line (COL) - Let me start by saying that it's been difficult for us to come up with a set of civil questions because we dislike the Packers so much. Do you think that the level of animosity between the two fan bases can be chalked up to a simple divisional rivalry or does it go deeper?
PN - I think much of the animosity stems from the Mike Ditka/Forrest Gregg days. Those two coaches hated each other and it trickled down to the players and to the fans. Gregg once told his players "you take care of the Bears, I'll take care of Ditka". Then the 1989 Instant Replay Game is still a sticking point in the Bears craw and Packers fans love to rub it in.
COL - Brett Favre has been having a great year so far. So far this year he's taken the career passing attempts, wins as starting QB, and touchdown passes and he's also on pace for career passing yards. The important question is, when will he break the NFL career interceptions record?
PN - Certainly it could happen this week, with weather likely to be a factor at game time, but this year's version of Brett Favre is different than the throw-it-up-for-grabs days of Mike Sherman as head coach. Favre is not given that leeway any longer and his play this year indicates that. Favre will end up with the most interceptions all time, but given his career it is only fitting. You don't get to be great by not taking chances, and No. 4 has made way more good plays than bad in the last 16 years.
COL - Seriously though, Favre and the Packers have been on a tear since the end of last season. What do you attribute this reversal of fortunes?
PN - First of all the defense got its act together the end of last year, which in turn as made Favre better because he's not playing from behind all the time. Also the Packers are building from the ground up under head coach Mike McCarthy and the young team has bought in to his method of coaching. McCarthy has done wonders with the offense this year by winning without the benefit of the running game and his pass-as-good-as-a-run approach is very reminiscent of the early Mike Holmgren days in Green Bay. General manager Ted Thompson believes in building a strong defense first and that has happened for the most part. And the Packers are gaining confidence in themselves as well. While the Packers are lacking in the running game, I believe they have an excellent receiving corp in Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and James Jones. Favre has weapons now, and if he stays healthy will have a huge year with these guys.
COL - Through the first four games of the season, the Packers are dead last in the NFL in total rushing yards. Where has the run game gone and how long can you continue to win without it?
PN - I do believe that part of the running game problem has been who the Packers have played thus far. The Eagles, Chargers and Vikings are stout against the run and for the most part they have tried to run the ball. I will be more concerned if the time comes when the Packers need to run the ball and can't, if that happens. I still think Vernand Morency will be a big factor in the running game's improvement once he has back to full speed. That may be laughable, but I think Morency is at least workable.
COL - Does it bother you that your best linebacker is married to Brady Quinn's twin brother?
PN - Maybe some day they will meet in the Pro Bowl. All I really know is, she's hot!
COL - Favre tends to draw most of the media coverage when it comes to Green Bay. Who would you say is the most over looked, or under the radar, player on the Packers?
PN - This year I would have to say linebacker Nick Barnett. Last it was Donald Driver, but he got his just due when he made the Pro Bowl. Now it's Barnett's turn. He has been a demon so far this year making big plays left and right. Barnett led the team in tackles every year until A.J. Hawk beat him last year. I think Barnett wants to get that crown back.
COL - Other than the rushing situation, is there an area of the team that you would most like to upgrade?
PN - I'm worried about the offensive line. The zone-blocking scheme doesn't seem to working like it does in Denver and Atlanta and if the Packers scrap it they don't have the type of offensive lineman to play a power running game, so they are very limited that way. If the running game doesn't pick up this year, all but Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher may be gone.
COL - Final question, what's your prediction for the game this Sunday?
PN - Clearly at this point in time, factoring in injuries, the Packers are the better team. Brett Favre is 22-8 against the Bears but has struggled at home recently against them. Still, Cinderella lives another week. Packers 19, Bears 13.
Thanks again to Al from Packernet.com for the interview.
Chicago's Offensive Line (COL) - There was a Matt Millen protest last year and he tends to be a punching bag for other fan bases. Has the Lions success this season taken any fan pressure of Millen or is there still a feeling that he needs to go?
Lions Locker (LL) - Matt Millen still must go. A 2-1 start doesn'tmake up for the 24-72 record under Millen's watch.It's really stunning how bad the defense is when youconsider that Millen was a good, nasty linebacker as aplayer.
COL - I know when Millen drafted another wide receiver with the Lions' first pick we all got a chuckle over here in Chicago. Calvin Johnson has proven that he's a capable receiver and potential game changer in the first few games of the season. How did Lions fans react to the pick and how he's been performing so far?
LL - Calvin Johnson was by far the best playeravailable at the #2 pick in April's Draft. OffensiveCo-Ordinator Mike Martz definately has a lot of say inthe organization as offense is not the Lions problem.They would have been better off trading down andgetting a boatload of picks to use on the defense.
COL - I would say that Jon Kitna holding on to a starting job for an extended period of time is more a miracle than recovering from the concussion he had against Minnesota. Is he the real deal for Detroit and is he a quarterback the team and the fan base can really get behind.
LL - Jon Kitna is not the QB of the future for theLions. He turns the ball over way too much eitherfumbling it away or throwing pickoffs. Drew Stantonis the hope for the future when he returns from hisknee injury next season. But, Kitna's by far the bestQB the Lions have right now.
COL - After getting 56 points dropped on them the vulnerability of the Lions secondary was put on display. What's the situation with the DBs and how much of this was caused by the trade of Dre Bly to the Broncos in the off season?
LL - The Lions have decided that they will try tooutscore everyone and that's why the Bly tradehappened. They needed help at running back andoffensive tackle so the Lions didn't think they couldafford not to take George Foster and Tatum Bell forBly. The Lions secondary has a pretty poor collectionof players. CBs Fernando Bryant (16 tackles) andStanley Wilson (14 tackles) can't stop a cold letalone opposing receivers. Safeties Gerald Alexander(14 tackles, INT) and Kenoy Kennedy (11 tackles)aren't really playmakers but they can hit.
COL - After three weeks the Lions are ranked third in over all offense but 29th in over all rushing. Why such a disparity?
LL - The basic answer here is that Mike Martz hates therun. They would run the ball more if Kevin Jones werehealthy. The Lions don't have a lot of faith in TatumBell as they named a fumbling drill in practice afterhim.
COL - Rod Marinelli was Lovie Smith's first choice for defensive coordinator when he became head coach here in Chicago. How has Marinelli fit in the Detroit locker room and is Mike Martz secretly licking his chops waiting to take over the head coaching position?
LL - I think that Marinelli is a good motivator andtactian but he doesn't have the horses on defense.Mike Martz would love to be the head coach of theLions after the raw deal he got from the Rams who gotrid of him while he was sick.
COL - Last question, what's your prediction for the game this Sunday?
LL - I like the Bears to win this game 27-24 as I havea feeling Griese will inspire your offense.
Thanks again to Joe from LionsLocker.com for the interview. Be sure to check out part two of the interview, where we answer the questions.