PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush presents the fifth of five key matchups in the Packers' Week Eight game this Sunday against the Chargers in San Diego.
Packers RBs James Starks, Ryan Grant and John Kuhn vs. Chargers LB corps
Ideally, the Packers would prefer that their high-powered passing game quickly gets the Chargers defense back on its heels Sunday, with the Green Bay ground game ultimately delivering the dagger as the game wares on, keeping the chains moving and getting to the second level the same way it did in the last game in Minnesota. In that game before the bye week, Starks stepped forth admirably, cranking out 55 yards in six carries with the game winding down and effectively putting the nail in the Vikings' coffin. While Grant has started all six of games he's been healthy for, there's no denying Starks has become the primary ball carrier. In his latest effort, he displayed excellent vision, was patient finding his holes and consistently moved the pile with the benefit of technically strong run-blocking. But the Chargers better not forget about Grant, who has run very well for the most part, nor Kuhn, who Aaron Rodgers is on record as saying knows the offense as well any other player aside from C Scott Wells.
Green Bay's runners could have an edge going up against a San Diego LB corps that is likely to be missing its best player, OLB Shaun Phillips, who did not practice the entire week due to a foot injury and is listed as doubtful for Sunday. In addition, veteran reserve Na'il Diggs did not practice all week due to a knee injury and is listed as questionable.
ILBs Takeo Spikes and Donald Butler figure to take the bull by the horns in an effort to stop the Packer ground game dead in its tracks. Spikes, the Chargers' leading tackler, is an accomplished run defender, but at the age of 34, he is beginning to show down. Butler, who had a team-leading eight tackles and one tackle for loss vs. the Chiefs last Monday night, runs well but is probably better-suited to play on the outside. Former Raven Antwan Barnes will probably replace Phillips. He is lightning-quick but can be a liability vs. the run, as can fellow OLB Travis LaBoy.