Each week throughout the season, PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush hooks up with a personality who has connections with the Packers and asks him five team-related questions. This week, Dan connects with Packers play-by-play man Wayne Larrivee, who also co-hosts PFW's weekly syndicated radio show with PFW editor-publisher Hub Arkush
1. Is Aaron Rodgers playing as well as any QB you have ever seen at the moment? How do you compare him to Tom Brady and Drew Brees with one month left in the regular season?
Larrivee: Aaron is playing better than any QB I have ever been around. Compared to Brady and Brees, they are all similar in that they are in complete control of their offense, very smart, don't take unnecessary chances with the ball (especially at crunch time) and can make all the throws. However, we have never seen anyone statistically as good as A-Rod has been over the past 18 games (12 this year).
2. What's your opinion of Packers rookie RB Brandon Saine? Is it possible he could provide the same kind of late-season spark that James Starks gave the team last year?
Larrivee: They really like Saine. He has some wiggle to his game and, while he does not have the same talent as Starks, he most certainly can give the club a little lift down the stretch. He is a fine receiver and a pretty good runner — just not at the ability level of Starks. But Starks has missed a number of games due to injury in his brief one-plus seasons with the Packers, and getting him healthy for the postseason is a priority.
3. How badly do you think the team needs to get OLT Chad Clifton back after Marshall Newhouse's shaky effort vs. the Giants?
Larrivee: Newhouse ran into Jason Pierre-Paul last Sunday, and that defensive end is playing about as well as anyone in the NFC at that position right now. Newhouse has been solid overall, not exceptional. Not sure what or how much Chad will have left if and when he comes back.
4. Here's a similar question regarding getting ILBs A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop back in the mix. Is there a significant downgrade in your mind between them and the D.J. Smith-Robert Francois duo?
Larrivee: There is a downgrade in terms of experience with the two young linebackers as opposed to the vets. Bishop has played lights out this season and leads the team in tackles by a wide margin. I have been impressed with the play of Smith. He is small in stature only. He plays downhill and he plays big.
5. Of the four regular-season opponents remaining, which one do you believe poses the biggest threat, at the moment, in terms of ruining the Pack's run at perfection?
Larrivee: I still think the Raiders — if they get Darren McFadden and Jacoby Ford back — have the best shot at upsetting the Packers, even though the game is in Green Bay, and the Raiders are coming off a terrible loss at Miami. They have some ability and the type of ground game that can keep Rodgers and the Packers off the field. Aaron told me Monday the Bears' defense is the best they see, because not only is Chicago good on that side of the ball, they KNOW the Packers. However, if Jay Cutler is not at QB, the Bears are not going to upset the Packers at Lambeau.