GREEN BAY—Even in Week 2, it's not too early in the season to consider the importance of the game the Packers will play this Sunday against the Jets.
Importance? Let me count the ways.
- At 0-1 and coming of a loss that has the Packers' fan base in a state of panic, the Packers need to win and restore calm.
- Dead ahead are three consecutive NFC North games, the first two of which are on the road – in Detroit and in Chicago. It is of critical importance the Packers take a 1-1 record to Ford Field.
- The Jets are a physical team. They challenge your muscle. It's also of critical importance the Packers respond to that challenge.
This game is also big in a lot of small ways. It's the Packers' home opener, and that's important to a fan base that considers football to be a religion and Lambeau Field to be its temple.
Aaron Rodgers is the engine that drives this team, and the Packers need to get that engine firing on all cylinders heading into a critical stretch of division games.
The Packers defense is at the test. It needs to play the kind of hard-edged, physical football Mike Daniels forecast, or every opponent on the schedule will challenge that resolve until it is proven.
Mostly, this one is about the record. A 1-1 record is no problem. It's called finding your stride. An 0-2 record is called having your back against the wall.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Jets.
1. Feel the importance – Desperation? No. Sense of urgency? Absolutely.
2. Stop the run –You knew that was coming. Rex Ryan is a defensive-minded coach whose idea of wide-open offense is running to set up the run.
3. Pick up the blitz – Rex likes to bring it from everywhere.
4. Make big plays – It's how you take advantage of a blitz-happy defense.
5. Win up front – The Jets have two premier defensive linemen, Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson. They have take-over-the-game potential.
6. Make Smith be a passer – Geno Smith's escapability might be the best play in the Jets' passing attack. He can hurt you with his feet.
7. Count on your fans – The Packers need a loud crowd. They need to feel the 12th man's support.
8. Intercept a pass – It would be especially encouraging if this feat was to be accomplished by a safety.
9. Less creativity, more execution –Win the one-on-ones. That's the best scheme of all.
10. Stay in the moment – Call it one game at a time or whatever coachspeak you like, but winning in this league requires your full attention and dedication to the job at hand. ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - SEPT. 11