Butler's Breakdown: Packers vs. Jaguars


Well, it will be the coldest day of the year on Sunday. The high temperature may reach the teens when the sun is out, but since it's a late afternoon game, most of the game will be played after the sun has gone down, so it will be even colder than that. Plus factoring the wind chill, this is perfect Green Bay Packer weather.

This is the weather that makes football great in December. Coach Sherman's record is a great 18-3 after December 1 and Brett Favre has only lost one game in his career with the temperature under 40 degrees. With that advantage in mind, you couldn't pick a better opponent to play in the freezing conditions at Lambeau Field than a team coming up from Florida, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

A win Sunday will put the Packers into the playoffs and one step closer to locking up a division title. The Jaguars are another team that is looking to reach the postseason, so this game has big playoff implications on both sides.

The Jaguars' offense will pose a great threat to the Green Bay defense. They have a number of weapons - Jimmy Smith, one of the most prolific receivers in NFL history, Fred Taylor, a running back who is a tough runner and a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, and Byron Leftwich, one of the top young quarterbacks in the league.

Even though Smith is in his 30s, he's still a very consistent receiver. He runs great routes and is a great target for Leftwich to throw to. Leftwich has a very strong arm, which will help him as he tries to throw the ball through the strong winds in Green Bay on Sunday.

Taylor benefits from a big offensive line that opens up holes for him and he uses them help him be a great cut-back run. He's another 1,000-yard runner who is capable of breaking a big play at any time.

Leftwich also has a couple of other big targets in the passing game. Rookie receiver Reggie Williams is a tall receiver with good hands and Ernest Wilford, their third wideout, has some size as well. Their tight end Kyle Brady is a huge target and helps them in the passing and running games.

The one thing the Jaguars specialize in on offense is spreading the field and run draw plays to Taylor or throw the ball deep. This defense loves to throw the deep ball, so the Packers cornerbacks will have to be extra careful not to commit any big pass interference penalties.

The Green Bay defense has to take it upon themselves to win this game for the Packers. They've got to make plays on the ball because I see some chances to pick off passes that will get hung up in the wind.

The key to the defense, though, will be shutting down the run. You've got to do your best to make Jacksonville's offense one-dimensional. If they can shut down Fred Taylor and put it all on Byron Leftwich to win the game, I see a good day for the Packers.

I've been reading in the Jacksonville newspapers that the Jaguars want to get their bigger receivers matched up on Ahmad Carroll, who's not the tallest cornerback. What Ahmad will have to do is move his feet and stay in front of the receivers and be very physical at the line of scrimmage.

For the Packers on offense, they've got to keep the pressure on the Jacksonville defense. The Jaguars come in with two of the better defensive tackles in the league in John Henderson and Marcus Stroud. Those tackles help their linebackers move around a little more freely because of all the attention they demand up front.

The linebackers are very athletic and very physical. Daryl Smith, a rookie, has been making a lot of plays lately from his outside linebacker position. Mike Peterson is very athletic in the middle of the field. He does a great job of running to the ball, especially if no offensive lineman is able to get up field and slow him down.

The Jacksonville secondary sometimes has a habit of being caught out of position. Dewayne Washington is a guy that the Packers' receivers can exploit on the perimeter. Donovin Darius is a safety that is fun to watch. He's a guy that can hit, run, and cover. He's a play-maker, as we saw when he picked off a Brett Favre pass in the preseason game back in August.

The Jaguars play a lot of traditional cover-two defense, so look for Bubba Franks to be open in the middle of the field, especially in the red zone. Look for all three receivers, Donald Driver, Javon Walker and Robert Ferguson to really cause some match-up problems for Jacksonville. I can see Javon Walker really having a big day if he gets lined up man-to-man against Dewayne Washington.

All in all, the Packers should be looking at this game as the start of the playoffs. If they win this one and keep on winning, they will earn at least one more game in front of the home crowd at Lambeau Field in the postseason.

I think those 70,000 people who will be there this Sunday to cheer on their Packers in the freezing cold will be enough to make the difference in this game. I expect the Packers to get rallied together and clinch their spot in the playoffs this week.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is again providing exclusive analysis to Packers.com beginning with training camp and later with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays, followed by a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays during the preseason and regular season.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website, leroybutler36.com.*

LeRoy serves as the host on the new DVD, 'Brett Favre - On and Off the Field'. Click here for more information on the DVD.

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