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Watch out for Packers LB Walden on Sunday

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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Posted Jan. 20, 2011 @ 2:21 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

As was the case in picking out an offensive “Hot Spot” selection on Wednesday, there are a number of red-hot Packers defenders that deserve special attention heading into this Sunday’s game in Chicago.

For instance, you can’t go wrong with Packers LOLB Clay Matthews, who registered two sacks and a fumble recovery against the Falcons after being named the Pro Football Weekly/PFWA Defensive MVP earlier in the week.

Or CB Tramon Williams, who has three interceptions in the postseason  — all of which were big difference makers — and is arguably playing as well as any cornerback in the league at the moment.

But with apologies to Williams and the “Claymaker,” PFW’s defensive "Hot Spot" choice is ROLB Erik Walden, who ended up playing the game of his life in the Packers’ playoff-clinching victory over the Bears in Week 17 with three sacks and a team-leading 16 tackles.

Walden has returned to his under-the-radar status since that game, holding his own in place of the injured Frank Zombo in the starting lineup, but hardly setting the world on fire.

The prevailing thought among most daily team observers is that Zombo probably would be a better alternative on the right edge this Sunday than Walden, who has more speed but isn’t as stout as Zombo at the point of attack. But Zombo's knee still isn't right, which ensures Walden's continued starting status. in the last game, Walden was a most pleasant surprise. In the game Sunday, there will be nothing whatsoever surprising about Walden, one of many Packers substitutes this season who have filled the bill above and beyond the call of duty.

Will that stop Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers from using Walden as much as a blitzing weapon as he did in Week 17? At the very least, Walden’s pursuit of Bears dual-threat RB Matt Forté figures to be a subtle factor worth noting.

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