James Starks will play an important role in getting today's running game going. He and his teammates will also wear their 1929 throwback uniforms in today's game. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Lombardiave takes a look at today's Packers vs. Rams matchup

Justin Stine of Ramblin’ Fan queried Lombardiave.com about today’s game against the St. Louis Rams.

Here are Stine’s questions and our answers:

1. The Packers are the defending champs and are undefeated thus far in 2011. Would you call them the favorites again this season, or is there a weakness you see that could cause a problem?

Through five games, I would have to say the Packers performance so far gives them a great chance of repeating their championship from a year ago. It’s a team that’s focused and ready to take it to the next step … another Super Bowl title.

But to get there will be a huge challenge … especially with the many breakdowns so far by their defense. Though the team seemed to pull it together last week after the two early touchdowns by the Falcons, the Packers’ defense needs to show consistency in stopping the big plays and the big players.

They did that last week and if the D can continue to show that type of performance, then they will have a very good shot at repeating. The only ones who can stop the Packers’ offense is the Packers offense. They’ve had some injury issues on their offensive line, but have been able to limp through those difficulties.

So, yeah, this team has as good of a shot at repeating as any Super Bowl winner in the past decade.

2. I have been a big Aaron Rodgers fan for years. Break down what exactly makes him so good.

That’s easy: head, heart and feet.

If there’s a smarter quarterback out there who understands the system and players around him any better, I don’t know who it could be. Maybe Brady. It’s Rodgers’ intelligence that keeps him from making the stupid mistakes that “he who should not be named” made continuously throughout his career in Green Bay.

Rodgers’ desire and heart are his base. He competes as much as the next guy and approaches the game with the confidence needed in a winner … and that’s what he is … he’s been to the mountaintop, knows how difficult it is to get there, and uses his heart and competitive spirit to continue to be one of the best, if not the best quarterback in the entire league.

His feet – Rodgers’ ability to escape from the pocket and keep plays alive, as well as his ability to run complete his skill set. Combining his smarts, his desire and his ability to move makes Rodgers special.

What about his arm? Well, I don’t think we even have to go there. That’s a given. The guy can throw … and complete … any pass to any part of the field at the drop of a hat.

3. The Packers passing game is well-known, but talk about what they can do on the ground.

One of the most underrated parts of the Packers attack this year is the running game. Remember last year when the team had absolutely no running game – aside from the bruising stylings of John Kuhn? We can fast forward to this year and the importance of James Starks and Ryan Grant. The two complement one another very well. When it seems one is struggling, the other picks it up.

When the Packers are able to grind out 100+ yards per game between the two of them, they usually win. It certainly helps the passing game, gives the Packers possession control and allows the defense to be rested and off the field.

4. Defensively, where are the weaknesses? We know about the big names like Woodson and Matthews, but are there any glaring holes?

The loss of safety Nick Collins has had a significant effect on the face of the defense. In his place is Charlie Peprah, who started on last year’s Super Bowl team. In addition, Safety Morgan Burnett broke his hand in practice this week, meaning he will be playing with a club. It will be interesting to see if the Rams target him early in the game.

If there is one player that we could point to as a weakness, it would be Jarrett Bush. Though he has played well in spots, he does get burned.

Many would say the lack of a pass rush has been a weakness. However, this team’s pressure packages have caused disruption in the backfield, while not always getting the sack. So many times Matthews has been a half-step away from a sack, but is still causing hurries and knockdowns.

I think the Rams will also test the Packers run defense, which wasn’t as solid last week against the Falcons as it was in the first four games, but is still one of the best in the league. That should be a very interesting aspect of this game. Whichever team wins in the trenches, of course, will probably have the best shot at winning the game.

5. Give us an injury report. Who do you expect to be out, and who could suit up that might be dealing with an injury?

Though he hasn’t played at all in the regular season, the loss of defensive lineman Mike Neal is affecting this team’s defense probably more than we realize. Offensive tackle Chad Clifton’s absence will also be felt. He pulled his hammy last week and is expected gone for several weeks. It’s time for the Packers to reach down into the depths of their bench. It sounds like right tackle Bryan Bulaga will be back this week, so Marshall Newhouse, who has been playing in the absence of Bulaga, may be moved over to left tackle. The Packers also have rookie Derek Sherrod waiting in the wings.

Also of note will be the return of OLB Frank Zombo, who has been out with a broken scapula. That should help with depth at the linebacking position.

6. Do you think there’s a chance the Packers are looking past this game and could be vulnerable?

It’s rare that a Mike McCarthy-coached team is not ready to play and I don’t expect this game to be any different. I don’t feel the Packers will look past the Rams. This IS the NFL and we all know that the difference in talent levels between players is miniscule. What this game comes down to is coaching and preparation. That’s Mike McCarthy’s greatest skill … getting a team ready to play … at home and on the road.

So, to answer the question, no … the Packers will not be looking beyond the Rams. They will come to play.

7. Game prediction (Please, be kind)

Packers trap game of the year? Many feel so. I don’t. The Packers will be happy to be back in the familiar confines of Lambeau Field.

I feel both teams will feel one another out in the early going, the Packers will allow some big plays on the ground and through the air in the early going, but will settle in, get a couple of turnovers and turn a close first half game into a solid win by game’s end.

Packers 38 Rams 17

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Tags: Aaron Rodgers Bryan Bulaga Chad Clifton Clay Matthews Derek Sherrod Frank Zombo Green Bay Packers James Starks Jarrett Bush John Kuhn Justin Stin Lombardiave.com Marshall Newhouse Mike McCarthy Morgan Burnett Nick Collins Ramblin' Fan Ryan Grant St. Louis Rams

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