Offensive line expects big challenge vs. Bills
Aaron Rodgers felt good Wednesday. Not just about his team's place atop the NFC standings, or his offense's blistering pace. Physically, from head to toe, the Green Bay Packers quarterback felt good.
His jersey has been mostly clean over the past month. The Packers have allowed just six sacks in their five games since the bye week. On Monday night, Rodgers had an average of 3.43 seconds to throw the football inside the pocket, according to Pro Football Focus.
That was the second-most time last week, behind only Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson's average 3.81 seconds inside the pocket.
"We're playing the best that I've seen since I've been here, for sure," left guard Josh Sitton said. "We're playing well together. All five of us are playing as one. It feels good."
Sitton's quarterback agreed.
On his weekly radio show Tuesday, Rodgers said he's getting the best pass protection he's ever had since becoming the Packers' starter in 2008. Which is good, because Green Bay's offensive line may get its toughest test since September when it travels to play the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
The Bills lead the NFL with 48 sacks this season. They're the only team in the league with three players among the NFL's top 12 in sacks: Mario Williams (sixth with 12 sacks), Marcell Dareus (tied 10th with 10) and Jerry Hughes (tied 12th with 9.5).
All three players are former first-round picks. Williams was the No. 1 overall pick in 2006, Dareus the No. 3 pick in 2011.
"They really get after you with their four-man rush, which is the typical Jim Schwartz defense," Rodgers said, referencing the first-year Bills defensive coordinator and former Detroit Lions head coach. "He's always been able to get pressure with his front, and they've been able to play multiple things behind it with some different change-ups at times. He's a very talented coach and always has some schemes that put pressure on the offense."
While Green Bay only plays in Buffalo once every eight years, Rodgers said the familiarity with Schwartz could be beneficial this week. The Bills defense is the same scheme the Lions ran under Schwartz the past five seasons, with similar personnel.
Like Detroit, Buffalo is led by pass rushers up front.
"You see some of the same things they were doing in Detroit," Rodgers said. "We always had some great matchups going up against them, some tough ones. Especially offensively, trying to move the ball against their defenses. So this is the kind of defense he wants to play, obviously. And they're playing at a really high level, doing a great job against the run and the pass."
The Packers' offensive line is also playing at that "really high level," which should make for a compelling matchup.
"I definitely think it's probably one of our biggest challenges of the year," Sitton said. "Tough environment, and a really good D line. I think that it's definitely up there."
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