Every game comes down to crucial matchups on each and every play. In today's NFL, matchups are always exploited to try and take advantage of the oppositions weakest point. The Jets and Packers are both currently built in different ways, so it is best to focus on who is going to be difficult for each team to stop. First, the 5 biggest matchup nightmares for the Green Bay Packers, and then the 5 biggest matchup problems for the New York Jets.
5. David Harris, Middle Linebacker
Harris has been a tackling machine for the New York Jets for several seasons now. Since he first joined the team back in 2007, he has recorded 769 total tackles, including 124 in 2013. The Packers are going to try to do a run game with Eddie Lacy and James Starks, and they may have trouble if Harris is hitting the hole at the same time. Just like Bobby Wagner had 14 tackles against the Packers in the opener, and did not allow the Packers to break open any long runs, Harris will be the man in the same position to try and keep the Packers running game from going to the next level.
4. Nick Mangold, Center
He is the man who is calling the protection for Geno Smith and making sure the blockers are all in the right place for the runs from the backfield. Despite the issues the Packers had last week against the Seahawks, they were able to get some pressure on Russell Wilson on obvious passing downs with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. Depending on what kind of blitzes are drawn up by wily defensive coordinator Dom Capers, Mangold will have to be careful to notice all of them to make sure that Geno stays upright in the pocket. But the Packers are most worried about him getting offensive lineman down field to block A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones. The Packers are currently ranked 31st against the run after Marshawn Lynch tore them up on the ground last week, and the Jets exploded in their running game against the Raiders, making them the best rushing team after one week. Mangold is the man in charge of the blocking.
3. Chris Ivory/Chris Johnson, Running Back
This has to be one of the best running back by committee teams in football. Only a few seasons ago they were using Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson, a young strong player and an older veteran who is able to break more tackles. They have probably found a similar tandem in Ivory and Johnson. Ivory is more of a power back who breaks tackles by just running through them, while Johnson is known for being a speed guy who is able to just run by the defense. After the issues the Packers had with wrapping up the Seahawks last week, both of these men make the list, and it seemed best to list them as one item, because they will not be on the field together.
2. Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle
Richardson is one of the young defensive tackles in the league that is getting ready to emerge onto the scene as an elite level defensive lineman. He had 78 tackles last year, but did not get any last week as the Raiders tried to avoid the young defender. He's 23 years old, 6' 3", and 294 pounds. He is going to become a household name in a short period of time, if people are not already familiar with the young man out of Missouri.
1. Muhammad Wilkerson, Defensive End
A first round pick out of Temple, Wilkerson has not disappointed in his three seasons in the NFL to date. Last year was the year he appeared to break out more though, getting 10.5 sacks. It remains to be seen if Wilkerson is going to be lined up on Bakhtiari or Sherrod, or if Bulaga will perhaps try to play through injury on the right side of the line. But Wilkerson is the matchup nightmare to keep Aaron Rodgers upright.
As it is now clear, the strength of the Jets is in the middle of the field. Their run game behind their offensive line is top notch. Their defense is stout up the middle. It is a difficult to approach a way to defeat the Jets, but doing so involves the outside portion of the field. Let's look at the 5 matchup nightmares that the Jets have in Sunday's contest.
5. Randall Cobb, Wide Receiver
He has lined up in the backfield before, but he usually lines up in the slot. Either way he knows how to get his hands on the ball, and especially knows what to do when he has it. Despite being early in his career, he already has several memorable plays for the Packers. The initial one would be his 108 yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the season opener against the New Orleans Saints, to start the 2012 regular season. The most recent one is the one that landed the Packers a playoff spot, when he caught the ball on the fourth down against the Chicago Bears for a game winning touchdown. His best season to date was the 2012 season, because last year was cut short with an injury. He already has 6 catches for 58 yards and a touchdown this season, and that was against the NFL's best secondary in the Seattle Seahawks. Imagine what will happen against the Jets decimated secondary.
4. Sam Shields, Cornerback
Shields has been a bright star in the Packers secondary ever since he came on strong in their Super Bowl run in the 2011 season. Shields had two interceptions in the NFC Championship Game against the Chicago Bears, including the one off of Caleb Hanie in the game's final moments. He is a speed guy and does have a tendency to be exposed to weaknesses with potential pass interference calls. But he has good ball skills and a nose for the ball, having been a wide receiver for three seasons at The University of Miami before transitioning to cornerback for his Senior season. Shields will likely be on recent costless agent acquisition Eric Decker for most of the game. He is not a shut down corner, but he could easily capitalize on a Geno Smith mistake.
3. Clay Matthews, Outside Linebacker
This man knows how to get after the quarterback. Smith is athletic, and it is just because of Matthews having more experience at outside linebacker that he was picked for this list instead of his new teammate, Julius Peppers. Matthews had 7.5 sacks last year and 3 forced fumbles. Geno did fumble the ball twice last week, and if the Jets get pushed into some third and long situations, then they will struggle to contain the pass rush of the Green Bay Packers.
2. Jordy Nelson, Wide Receiver
The man who goes by the nickname "White Lightning," Jordy has been excellent for the Packers since they selected him out of Kansas State University. He had a good game against the Seahawks, with 9 catches for 83 yards against them. But the one he probably regrets the most was the ball Rodgers threw right into his hands and it slipped through for a Seahawks interception. Nelson is clearly Rodgers favorite target and routinely makes sideline catches look like a piece of cake. The Jets secondary really is hurting, with Dee Milliner and Kyle Wilson looking to be the top two cornerbacks in the game, and the Packers will be looking to pick them apart through the air in this game.
1. John Kuhn, Fullback
Who can forget about Kuhn, the multi-faceted Green Bay Packers fullback since 2007? He had a rushing touchdown last week, and will look to do so again, but he is not going to give the Jets nightmares though.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback
Yeah, there was never any doubt about who was going to be at the top of this list. Aaron Rodgers has an NFL MVP award and with the Jets secondary having issues, he is definitely going to try and take major advantage of that, with help from Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and anyone else.
The prediction at this point is that the Packers will walk out of Lambeau Field having defended their home turf, with a final score of 24-14.