In the past, we here at "Reading the Defense" have mentioned that great defenses usually include some great IDPs. But what about suspect defenses with good individual players? Is that even possible? It is if you're the Green Bay Packers.
"We're playing winter football now," McCarthy said, adding that he thinks the team will play "championship defense down the stretch." If it were that easy, McCarthy should have told his defense December started six weeks ago.
No need to worry about us getting into winter shape. "Reading the Defense" is strong all season long.
First down: Getting CB Charles Woodson (concussion) back for Sunday's game against the Raiders is a big step toward playing "winter football." Nearly every game the Packers have played this season has devolved into a shootout, and this one should be the same. Expect Woodson to line up against Oakland's top receiver -- at least their top healthy receiver. But with a dearth of solid pass catchers, Carson Palmer might have no choice but to throw Woodson's way.
Second down: Amidst the excitement of a divison title, the 49ers should be concerned about LB Patrick Willis (hamstring) and whether he can play Sunday at Arizona. Against the Cardinal's uneven offense, the Niners should be okay even without their second-leading tackler. It's likely that Larry Grant will start if Willis can't go, but don't expect the same level of production. NaVorro Bowman is a nice replacement if he's available.
Third down:Broncos LB Von Miller (thumb) hopes to return this week to face the Bears. Mario Haggan had an awesome day in Miller's absence against Minnesota last week, registering 12 tackles and an interception, which he returned for a TD. Still, Miller has been Denver's best defensive player this season and with Chicago lacking a number of key offensive pieces, the opportunity is there for Miller to make plenty of plays.
Fourth down: There's been little to be excited about with the Bills defense, but a return by George Wilson (neck) for Sunday's game against the Chargers is something for Bills fans and fantasy owners to anticipate. San Diego looked much better offensively last week and will likely want to throw the ball quite a bit against the Buffalo secondary. For a ball hawk like Wilson, that should mean lots of chances to pick one or two off.