It's time to start thinking about when Matthews will make his triumphant return to the gridiron, as before the Packers host the Chicago Bears on Monday night, he is set to get the pins removed from his surgically repaired broken thumb.
Matthews suffered the injury back on Oct. 6 against the Detroit Lions while sacking quarterback Matthew Stafford. He plans to wear a club cast on his right hand to protect the thumb and is aiming to return on Nov. 10 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
But without Matthews, the Green Bay defense has performed admirably, including third-string linebacker Andy Mulumba, who is playing not only in Matthews' place, but also that of Nick Perry. In three full games without Matthews, the Packers are allowing just 246 yards per game and have even managed to accumulate 11 sacks.
Just how tough is Matthews? He wouldn't have thought twice about playing through the injury, but when doctors told him the risks of what could happen if he did so -- such as reduced grip in the hand -- Matthews knew surgery was the right option.
Since Matthews is having the pins removed on Monday, is there any chance he could suit up against the Bears?
That would be a negative, and while even though the game comes against the historic NFC North rival Bears, with Josh McCown at quarterback, the Chicago offense will be hard-pressed to move the football against a resilient Green Bay defense.
Even though the Packers have racked up 11 sacks over the last three games, thanks in large part to the emergence of Mike Daniels, where they have really missed Matthews is in the takeaway department. Green Bay has a -2 differential, the third-worst mark in the NFC, and Matthews had already forced two fumbles in parts of four games this season.
In Matthews' absence, the Packers' defense as a whole has only forced two fumbles.
Then again, just how much will the club on Matthews' right hand limit him? Obviously, Matthews' specialty is pass rushing, but that involves a lot of clawing and grabbing to overpower the offensive lineman. That grip won't be there with one hand, and we aren't sure how long Matthews will be forced to play with that club.
That goes for forcing turnovers as well, something defensive coordinator Dom Capers prides his defense on doing. While the Packers' defense has been performing well as of late, that nose for the football just hasn't been there like in past seasons.
Either way, with Matthews on the field, opposing offenses have to shift more manpower his way, opening up more opportunities for his teammates. With a soft schedule in the coming weeks, it should give Matthews time to become re-acclimated with the defense, and his return will be welcomed in Green Bay.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
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