Aikman: Defenses Buoying Packers, Lions


"Ahman Green is just a tremendous football player. He is one those players that I truly enjoy watching perform."

(Fox Sports analyst and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman will again offer exclusive insight and analysis of a particular game for This week, Aikman previews the Lions-Packers matchup at Lambeau Field.)

I had their first matchup in Week 3, and at that time, it was Joey Harrington's first start. The Lions actually almost won that game; Harrington brought the team back and they had a chance to win late.

At the time, the Lions hadn't won a game, but since then, they've gone on to win three times. They have yet to win on the road, but I feel that Harrington has infused some life into the club.

While Harrington has struggled the past couple of games, the defense has picked it up. The unit had not created a turnover or a sack going into the third week of the season, but since that time, they've done a much better job of getting pressure on the quarterback and creating turnovers. They've been able to keep their team in games while the offense has been trying to find a rhythm.

This week, the Lions defensive front four is going to have to get pressure on Brett Favre and they need to be able to stop the run with seven players. The reason is because if they have to commit a safety to the run game to create an eight-man defensive front, it will allow Green Bay's receivers to work one-on-one with Detroit's secondary -- a matchup that would clearly favor the Packers. The Packers, on the other hand, were really struggling defensively earlier in the season; they couldn't slow anybody down. The past several games they've been playing extremely well. Their play during that time is especially impressive when one considers how many players missed time due to injuries -- guys like Vonnie Holiday, Joe Johnson, Antuan Edwards and Darren Sharper. These players mentioned are not only outstanding football players, but they also provide tremendous leadership for this team. The fact that the unit has continued to play at a high level speaks volumes for the coaching staff and the backup players that have filled those vacancies.

Of course offensively, Brett Favre, Ahman Green and company have been rolling along all year.

Brett Favre continues to impress with his play week after week. After all of the success that Favre has had during his career, it's difficult to imagine him playing any better, yet that is exactly what he's doing this year. Statistically speaking, Favre is having the best year of his career.

Credit Favre's Supporting Cast

Favre receives so much attention, and rightfully so, for his play that often times his supporting cast goes unnoticed. Green Bay's offensive line has played very well this season. They, too, have had their share of injuries, but have weathered the storm pretty well. Chad Clifton has missed time at left tackle, but Mike Flanagan has provided stability by making the switch from center when needed. Mark Tauscher has been down for most of the season, but Earl Dotson has filled in nicely. Overall, the O-line play has been solid.

The same can be said for the receiving corps. That position was a relative unknown going into the 2002 campaign. Gone from last season are Bill Schroeder, Antonio Freeman and Corey Bradford. They've been replaced by Donald Driver, Terry Glenn and Javon Walker. What was originally thought to be a position of weakness has turned into a real strength. This group is young, hungry and talented. Not to mention playing very well.

Ahman Green is just a tremendous football player. He is one those players that I truly enjoy watching perform. He combines strength, speed, balance and vision. I don't think it's a coincidence that the Packers became contenders about the time that Green joined the club. Probably the one who has received the least amount of credit for the success of the Packers is the man most responsible, Mike Sherman. As general manager, Sherman is responsible for all of the personnel moves that have been made. He has taken some risks, but each move has been well thought out. Few coaches are capable of serving both capacities of head coach and general manager. Sherman has shown that he is one of the few that can.

Harrington is the real thing

Harrington has impressed me with his resiliency as a quarterback. It is a quality that I think is very important for a quarterback to possess. Harrington came out and played well in his first several starts. In the past couple of games, his performances have not been quite as impressive. In fact, he has struggled quite a bit. For some, that would be cause for concern, but for anyone that has lined up under center in the National Football League as a rookie, it is just part of the maturation process. There is no way around the struggles that accompany playing as a rookie. Especially one that joins a team that does not have a great supporting cast, as is the case with the Lions.

The most impressive thing to me is that in spite of it all, Harrington has been able to find a way to win games. He is 3-3 as the starting quarterback. I know Harrington would be the first to tell you what really matters...winning football games.

Harrington is going to have an outstanding NFL career. When watching him play, it doesn't take long to know that he likes to compete. He also does it with a smile on his face. In a lot of ways, he's very similar to the guy he'll be competing against on Sunday, Brett Favre. I'm sure he hopes his career is as successful as ol' No. 4.

Mornhinweg's men

I think Marty Mornhinweg has done a good job of holding the team together after the Lions began the year 0-3. Combine that with the lack of success the club had last year, and it would have been easy to lose the team. Yet Mornhinweg has been able to hold the team together...not an easy task.

When you play a young quarterback, unfortunately, the veteran players have to go through the same growing pains with the quarterback. It sets the club back a bit because it's the one position where the youth at that position affects everybody. Give Mornhinweg credit for making the move, though. It was the right move and fortunately for everyone, they've been able to win some games in the process.

Are the Packers the best team in the NFL?

I don't know about the NFL. I don't even know about the NFC. It's just so hard to really know anymore. They're clearly one of the best teams in the league, but I think San Francisco is starting to play very well, the Eagles don't have many holes on their team and they're pretty solid across the board in all areas. I think that goes for Green Bay, too. They're pretty solid on defense, offense and special teams -- I think that's the key.

I like Denver in the AFC. We have San Diego next week, but I'm still kind of waiting to see a few more games before I put a stamp on the Chargers as contenders, just because of how far they've come from a year ago.

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