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Raiders P Shane Lechler vs. Packers P Tim Matsthay
The punting games could be a key element on Sunday at Lambeau Field with the weather starting to get a lot colder, and Lechler and Masthay are both at the top of their games.
Lechler, who played under Packers special-teams coordinator Shawn Slocum at Texas A&M, is widely considered one of the best punters in the game today. A six-time first-team All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler, the NFL's all-time leader in career punting average enters this game with a league-leading gross average (50.8). The Raiders' last win two weeks ago vs. the Bears was primarily due to the kicking of PK Sebastian Janikowski (six field goals) and Lechler. Lechler showed off his cannon leg in that game with an eye-popping 80-yard punt. He also completely neutralized Bears return ace Devin Hester with three of five punts landing inside the 20-yard line (49.2-yard net average for the day).
Masthay was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after placing four of his five punts inside the 20-yard line (44.2 net) in the Packers' Week 13 win over the Giants. He allowed zero return yards while averaging 4.51 seconds of hang time on his five punts, and it was the second straight week he nailed 4-of-5 punts inside 20.
Can he keep up the good work with the possibility of frost on the football in the Packers' four remaining regular-season games (three at Lambeau, one at K.C.)? Masthay had few problems handing wintry conditions last year, as he was terrific down the stretch and made Hester a nonfactor in the Week 17 regular-season finale and the NFC title game.
But just before getting red-hot in the cold, it's worth noting Masthay's not-so-good outing at Lambeau last year against the Niners on Dec. 5 in cold, windy conditions. In that game, another excellent Bay Area punter, the Niners' Andy Lee, made Masthay look like Tiny Tim (33.0 net).