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 Packer-related questions. This week Dan connects with PFW editor/publisher Hub Arkush, who was on the sidelines for Westwood One's radio broadcast of the Packers' Week 16 victory over the Bears on Christmas night.
1. If you're Mike McCarthy, do you sit Aaron Rodgers on Sunday vs. Detroit in what really is a meaningless game with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs locked up?
Arkush: I play Rodgers at least the first 30 minutes, and then play it by ear from there. Remember, the Packers won a Super Bowl last year with each of their last four regular-season games and three playoff games being a single-elimination game. And the Packers have often mentioned the admiration they had for the Bears coming into Lambeau in Week 17 last year and playing them straight up, even though they'd locked up the No. 2 seed. The fourth quarter may get interesting, but until then I expect the Pack to play all out.
2. Is Drew Brees doing enough down the stretch to possibly steal league MVP honors away from Rodgers?
Arkush: Not if you vote on the best player over the course of the entire season. If Rodgers maintains his current passer rating of 122.5, he will eclipse Peyton Manning's single-season record of 121.1 set in 2004. The next best ever was Tom Brady at 117.2 in 2007. If the greatest single-season passer in history on the best team in the league — even if the Lions beat the Pack, a 14-2 record would still be No. 1 — isn't the MVP, I don't know who is.
3. The Packers' patchwork offensive line came through with flying colors vs. the Bears (zero sacks allowed). Should that provide reason for optimism for Packers fans? Or was it a case of the Bears not really showing up?
Arkush: Marshall Newhouse did a great job with Julius Peppers, and T.J. Lang was invisible at right tackle, which is perhaps the highest compliment I can give him, so Packer fans have to feel good, but I wouldn't get carried away. Peppers is notoriously up-and-down and has been known to take games off. Did Newhouse show up, or did Peppers fail to? It's a legitimate question. And the rest of the Bears' front is mediocre at best. Henry Melton is an undersized 3-technique who never breathed on Rodgers but did make a few plays against the run in the backfield, so I'd have to go back and see the tape to grade Evan Dietrich-Smith. The O-line's performance against the Bears was promising, but I wouldn't go any further than that. The Lions will be a much tougher test if they show up as Jim Schwartz has promised they will.
4. The Lions all of the sudden look very much like the Packers did a year ago at the same time. Are they looking more dangerous as a potential playoff sleeper in your eyes?
Arkush: Not really. The Lions are a good young football team, but Matthew Stafford is no Aaron Rodgers yet, and while Calvin Johnson could be the best receiver in the game, they really have no one else at wideout to scare you. Greg Jennings is in the conversation among the guys at the top, and Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Donald Driver and Randall Cobb are all better than anyone the Lions throw at you. Detroit has no one to compare to a Charles Woodson or Clay Matthews on defense, and the Lions are just as likely to lose a game with dumb penalties as they are to win one with great plays. Detroit is on the right track, but there is still a ways to go.
5. Does Mike McCarthy warrant consideration for NFL Coach of the Year honors? Or is Jim Harbaugh a lock? Give me your top five candidates.
Arkush: McCarthy has done a great job this year, and a 16-0 season might have made the conversation a lot more interesting. But when you realize how good the 49ers are and how far they've come, and that Harbaugh is a rookie who had no offseason, no minicamps let alone the two extra minicamps freshmen head coaches are granted and an abbreviated preseason, I'd say he's a mortal lock. I'd rank the candidates this year: 1. Harbaugh, 2. Bill Belichick, 3. McCarthy, 4. Sean Payton and 5. Marvin Lewis.