Sunday, January 18, 2015

NFC Championship Preview: The Green Bay Packers Vs. The Seattle Seahawks

Sunday, the Green Bay Packers travel to Seattle to play the host Seattle Seahawks for a chance to earn a Super Bowl berth. This is a rematch from week 1, and also serves as a match up of the top two NFC teams this season. If the Packers can beat the Seahawks they can shed the label that they can't compete with the elite teams. You better believe this a label that Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers have been fighting to shed in the last three years. If the Packers want to pull an upset in Seattle on Sunday they'll have to focus on three major aspects.

1. Feed Eddie Lacy:

After so many weeks of featuring this topic I wish I could state it in a different way, but I can't. The Packers must continue to feed Eddie Lacy if they want to  break the Seahawks defense. Seattle has the number 1 ranked defense, and they could go down as one of the best all-time in NFL history. They shut down running-backs with ease, and try to smother the offense. Most times they are successful in doing this. The Seahawks defense settled in after the first quarter in the week 1 and completely shut down the Packers offense. Lacy couldn't get anything going, and actually suffered a concussion in the third quarter. That was a different Packers offense at the time who didn't have an identity. This Packers team will come more prepared than they did week 1, and Lacy will be the featured player on Sunday.

2. Use Randall Cobb In The Slot:

One thing the Packers didn't do much in the first match up was try to feed the slot receiver. It was such a vanilla passing attack that just featured throwing to the left side and away from Richard Sherman. If the Packers want to move on this defense they should use Jordy Nelson as a decoy on Sherman, and line Cobb up where he's most comfortable in the slot. Davante Adams proved against the Cowboys that he play on the outside. Cobb has proved this season he's a beast in the slot. There was a 3 week stretch where he was scoring touchdowns each game out of the slot in the red-zone. The Packers must employ this on Sunday. Rodgers won't be as mobile, because of the calf injury so quick passes to Cobb would work perfectly.

3. Pressure Russell Wilson:

If there is one thorn in Dom Capers Packers defenses it is mobile quarterbacks. Wilson fits the bill as a mobile quarterback, and has given the Packers problems in the past. Week 1 he didn't run much, but when he did he was successful. At that time Julius Peppers was just getting used to the 3-4 defense, and really didn't know his role. Peppers, Clay Matthews and Mike Neal will need to contain Wilson on Sunday. If they force him to pass I believe the secondary should be able to shut down the passing game. The Seahawks receivers and tight ends are underrated, and hold the power to break a game open. If Wilson is under pressure most of the day he won't be able to get into a rhythm. The defense must not let him get into a rhythm. Marshawn Lynch is sure to have a good game, because he can't be held down. If the Packers get the lead early an shut down Wilson it will take Lynch away.

The Packers are once again on the cusp of greatness. They can't let this opportunity slip away, because as we learned during the Favre years you never know when the next chance will come. On Sunday Aaron Rodgers will put the first stamp on a defining postseason in his career. The Packers will prevail, and reach their second Super Bowl in 5 years.

AJ's Prediction:

Packers: 20

Seahawks: 17

Thursday, January 8, 2015

NFL Preview: The Green Bay Packers Vs. The Dallas Cowboys

Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will host the Dallas Cowboys in what could only be dubbed as 'The Ice Bowl 2.' This divisional playoff matchup will determine which team will participate in the NFC Championship next sunday. The Cowboys haven't been this close to a NFC Championship since the 2009 season, and the Packers haven't been able to get past the divisional round since they won the Super Bowl in 2010. If the Packers want to win on Sunday they will need to focus on three aspects to help them advance to their first NFC championship in 5 years.

1. Feed Eddie Lacy:

During the latter half of the season every one of my posts mentions "Feed Eddie Lacy," and as I've stated this is the reason he was drafted. The game time temperature is supposed to be in the low teens, and that isn't counting with the wind chill. It'll be bitter cold, and a perfect game for Mr. Lacy to shine. Lacy is coming off of an impressive week 17 performance in which he became the first running-back to rush for 100 yards against the Detroit Lions number two ranked defense. Lacy showed the toughness and skill that he possess in that game. Running through defenders, and making them miss with his vaunted spin- move. Hopefully Lacy is just warming up, and he can force the Cowboys defenders to make "business decisions" as he puts it. If the Packers can run the ball successfully against the Cowboys it will allow them to set the tempo of the game, and control the clock. It will also keep Dez Bryant and Demarco Murray off the field.

2. Shut The Run Down/ Pressure Romo:

The Cowboys were the NFL's best rushing team this season. Demarco Murray rushed for over 1,600 yards, and had over 2,000 all-purpose yards. This is bad news for the Packers who have the leagues 22nd ranked rushing defense. Although the Packers rankings are pretty much based on them not being able to stop the run in the first half of the season. Since the bye-week the Packers defense as a unit has greatly improved. It isn't at the level it was during the 2010 Super Bowl run, but it also isn't at the low level it was during the 2012 season. If the defensive line continues to step up with Letroy Guion and Mike Daniels starring, and the middle linebackers can continue to plug holes, then the defense has a great shot at shutting down Murray. Now with shutting down Murray also comes pressuring Romo into making mistakes. Romo has the potential to win a game or blow a game with his arm, and the Packers need to find a way to force the latter. The Cowboy have three top notch receiving talents in Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Terrence Williams. They most certainly won't be able to shut down all 3, but if 2 of them can be held down it'll be possible for the Packers defense to swarm. Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and Mike Neal will be tasked with rattling Romo. Those 3 should have no problem getting some kind of pressure on Romo, the defense just has to make it count.

3. Keep Aaron Rodgers Upright:

News broke on Thursday that Aaron Rodgers had a slight tear in his calf, and that he would most certainly not be 100% going into Sunday's matchup. This is nothing new to Packer Nation or really anyone who has monitored the situation for the last two weeks. It was classified as a severe strain which to some capacity is always some kind of tear. This being said it will be up to the Packers offensive line to keep Rodgers upright. Normally Rodgers can beat you with his legs and his arm, but he possesses the ability to beat you with just his arm, if he has the time. Rodgers is an elite QB for this reason. This offensive line has done great for Rodgers this year, and could potentially be his best offensive line in his tenure as starting QB. All of that could be undone with one bad performance on sunday vs the Cowboys. It's up to the offensive line to keep Rodgers straight up, and keep him unpressured. I think they are up to the task, and having a solid run game will help the fact that Rodgers isn't going to be 100%.

Sunday the Packers have a chance to get themselves closer to a Super Bowl. This is one of the better teams they've had since their Super Bowl run, and this team is kind of getting back into "Super Bowl or bust" territory. Rodgers and co. are hungry for another title, and I believe they can get past the Cowboys on Sunday. It'll be a tough battle, but look for the Packers to advance to their second NFC Championship in 5 years.

AJ's Prediction:

Packers: 28

Cowboys 16

Thursday, December 25, 2014

NFL Preview: The Green Bay Packers Vs. The Detroit Lions

On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will look to put an exclamation mark on the final chapter of the 2014 regular season. The Detroit Lions will travel to Lambeau to do battle on the Frozen Tundra with the NFC North on the line. It always seemed like this matchup would come down to the NFC North title from the beginning of the season. In week 3, the Lions shut the Packers down offense and won 19-7 in what was probably the Packers worst offensive performance this season. The Lions defense ranks second overall, and is much improved as the Packers found out in that week 3 matchup. The Packers will be looking for revenge on Sunday, and this is how they'll exact it.

1. Blitz Matthew Stafford Heavily: 

One thing has been for sure this season, and that is that Matthew Stafford is still very mistake prone. During the Packers week 3 loss against the Lions the Packers defense forced 3 Stafford turnovers. Stafford's mistakes seem to become more frequent outdoors and away from home. To force these turnovers the Packers will need to continue their recent success on defense. Last week against the Buccaneers the Packers had a season high 7 sacks. Although that was against a shaky Buccaneers offensive line it was a good confidence builder going into this matchup. Clay Matthews will be the man to watch on Sunday. Since he moved to middle linebacker he has had a Pro Bowl caliber season. It'll be up to him to terrorize Stafford, and get the ball back to his offense.

2. Feed Eddie Lacy: 

Over the last two months Eddie Lacy has gotten back into his Pro Bowl form of a season ago. A lot of it has to do with the improved play of the offensive line, and the offense finding a nice balance. Since the bye week Lacy has averaged 5.31 yards a carry, which is good for fourth in the NFL since that time. The temperature should be in the low teens on Sunday so Lacy will need to get his fair share of carries. Games like this are the reason Lacy was drafted. There needs to be a balance found in this game that will extend to the postseason. The Lions stingy run defense held Lacy to 36 yards on 11 carries. That was a different Lacy, and a different Packers offense. Look for the Packers to pound the rock, and the offensive line to open some holes for Lacy as he puts the team on his back this sunday.

3. Shut Down Calvin Johnson: 

If the Lions want to come away with a win on Sunday their going to have to find a way to get Calvin Johnson the ball. The Packers must prevent that from occurring, or prevent it from occurring often. There is no way to shut down Johnson completely, but the Packers secondary must contain him. They'll have to double team the Lions biggest weapon, and Sam Shields will have to be involved with shutting down Megatron. The safety duo of Morgan Burnett and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix will have to be on top of their game as well. Johnson has had big games against the Packers before, and the Lions have been unsuccesfful. Sunday he'll be looking to have a championship type performance, but it's up to the secondary to put their signature on the game.

Sunday will mark the Packers first objective on their road to the Super Bowl. It would be essential for them to get a first round bye, and get home-field advantage for at least one post season contest. With a little bit of magic they could clinch home-field advantage throughout, but at the moment that's a long shot. In the end I think the Packers will prevail on Sunday. They've played too well the last couple months to let this game slip away from them.

AJ's Prediction: 

Packers: 28

Lions: 16

Friday, December 12, 2014

NFL Preview: The Green Bay Packers Vs. The Buffalo Bills

Sunday, the Green Bay Packers travel to the east coast to pay a visit to the Buffalo Bills in a pivotal match. The Packers need a win to stay ahead in the NFC North, and keep pace with the Arizona Cardinals for the number one seed in the NFC. The Packers have looked like the best team in the NFL, and have been the class of the NFC since October. But all of that could be undone with one loss in a tight race. If the Packers want a win on Sunday they're going to have to focus on three major things that could control the outcome.

1. Stop The Run:

It's not hard to realize that the Bills game plan will be to keep the ball away from Aaron Rodgers and co.  How will they play keep away? By running the ball of course. It's no secret the Packers main weakness on defense is stopping the run. Bills running-back Fred Jackson could be one of the most underrated backs in the last five years. He has missed some time due to injury this year, but still poses a threat to the Packers defense. Jackson is an all-purpose back who can catch and run with the ball. He is the type of back the Packers have trouble with. The defense will need to work on their tackling, which has been the achilles heel so far this year. The secondary will have to step their game up as well.

2. Shut Down Sammy Watkins: 

The whole Packers secondary with embarrassed by Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones last week. Jones did most of his damage in the second half, but burnt the Packers for 259 yards. That is the most this young secondary has ever given up. Jones is an elite receiver no doubt, but it just seemed way to easy the way he was ripping apart the secondary. Everyone gets the blame between Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Morgan Burnett, and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix. This week doesn't get any easier with rookie sensation Sammy Watkins lining up for the Bills. Watkins is a possession receiver who also possesses top flight speed, and is a threat to run after the catch. Sam Shields will most likely be assigned to Watkins, because I don't think Williams possesses the ability to stop Watkins. Capers will need to make sure there is safety help over the top. That was missing when Jones was running wild. Shields will have to redeem himself from last week so I look forward to him having a solid game. The offense will have to do their part too.

3. Keep Running The Ball: 

Last week the Packers controlled the game with a balanced run game. The duo of Eddie Lacy and James Starks combined for 207 total yard and 3 touchdowns. Lacy is undoubtedly the workhorse of this offense, but he injured his hip towards the end of the Falcons game and isn't 100%. Lacy should be able to play Sunday, but he'll have his carries split with Starks and there's nothing wrong with that. The two headed monster of Lacy and Starks could be a big part of this offense going into the post season. It's important to get the run game in a rhythm these last three games. The Bills have a very stingy rush defense, but the run game will have to take some pressure off Aaron Rodgers.

This game on Sunday could possibly be the toughest test for the Packers in these last three weeks. Going to Buffalo and winning is no easy task. They have one of the better home-field advantages in the NFL. One good sign is that the weather is supposed to in the 40's come Sunday so that bodes well for the Packers explosive offense. If the offensive line can hold up against the Bills talented defensive line then the Packers have a good chance of pulling this one off. In the end I think the Packers win a close hard fought battle, and continue their stride towards the number one seed and a NFC North title.

AJ's Prediction:


Bills: 13

Sunday, December 7, 2014

NFL Preview: Green Bay Packers Vs. Atlanta Falcons

The Green Bay Packers will be ready for some home cooking when the Atlanta Falcons visit Lambeau field on Monday night. The frozen tundra will live up to its moniker as the temperature will be in the mid 20's by kick off. That is perfect Packer football, and could give the team more of an advantage over a dome team. Don't doubt the Falcons though. Although they have been underwhelming this season they are still dangerous team. The Packers are coming off one of their biggest wins in franchise history against the New England Patriots last week. Last weeks win cemented the Packers as an elite team, but now they'll have to deal with the hype. There are three things the Packers will have to do to ensure victory on Monday night.

1. Keep The Passing Game Hot:

The Falcons come into this game with the 32nd ranked pass defense. That stat right there has to have MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers chomping at the bit. Although the weather may be cold on Monday night Rodgers should still be able to carve up the Falcons secondary. The emergence of rookie receiver Davante Adams last week against the Patriots makes the Packers passing game even more dangerous. If Rodgers is able to get in his normal groove at home it could be a long night for the Falcons. Look for Rodgers to get all of his receivers involved as well as the tight ends. If this team is going to make a run their going to have to get the tight ends involved more. Rookie tight end Richard Rodgers seems like the best candidate. He's shown flashes all season, and can stretch the field when needed.

2. Get Lacy Ready For January: 

The Packers have ran the ball well since their slow start in September. But if they want to be serious contenders they're going to have to really establish a run game going forward. We all know the Packers have had recent playoff struggles because of their lack of a running game. Teams are able to focus on Rodgers, and shut the offense down. Lacy was brought in to make this team one of the most balanced in the game. The Falcons are 21st in rushing defense so there's no reason Lacy shouldn't go over the 100 yard mark. I expect one of the Packers more balanced games on Monday night. Don't forget Lacy has also emerged as a good pass catching back this season. Look for the Packers to start building Lacy's confidence up on monday night.

3. Stay Hungry On Defense:

Ever since the bye week the Packers defense has been very aggresive. You could make an argument that this is the best the defense has looked since the 2010 Super Bowl run. Some have said the change in defense is due to Clay Matthews III moving to the middle, but I think it goes deeper than that. The change in defense is due to Dom Capers switching up the personnel packages. AJ Hawk has had a cut in play time and deservedly so. Young LB's like Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington have given a shot to this defense. Add a veteran like Julius Peppers in the mix who has become this defenses leader, and it seems to be the perfect mix. Expect the Packers to blitz Falcons QB Matt Ryan heavy on Monday and force him into errors. He's known to crumble under pressure. The secondary will have their hands filled with a talented duo of receivers like Julio Jones and Roddy White. If the blitz's are effective look for the Packers secondary to create a few turnovers through the air.

This game could be close through the first quarter, but in the end I believe the Packers will pull away and stay far away from the Falcons. The Packers seem to be functioning at a high level right now, and with this game being at Lambeau I don't expect a let down. If there are no major injuries this could be a game where the Packers are bringing in Matt Flynn in the third quarter. Look for the Packers to continue to stay hot, and win a laugher on Monday Night.

AJ's Prediction:

Packers: 35

Falcons 13

Saturday, November 29, 2014

NFL Preview: The Green Bay Packers vs. The New England Patriots

In what could shape up to be the game of the year, the Green Bay Packers welcome the New England Patriots to Lambeau Field. This game provides one of the best QB duels in NFL history that surprisningly has never happened before. Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady is a battle of the past and the present of the NFL. Both are playing at a high level this season, and are competing against eachother for the MVP award. This game isn't just about the quarterback matchup though. This game could prove that the Packers do belong with the NFL elite. This game is a measuring stick for the Packers season. We will see how far they have come, and if they are legit Super Bowl contenders. Here are a few things the Packers will have to do to prevail in this potential Super Bowl preview.

1. Packers Must Stop The Run: 

The Packers run defense has been hit or miss each game this season. They currently rank 30th in rush defense, but were dead last a few weeks ago. They started out the season being horrible against the rush. They worked to strengthen the unit until Mark Ingram rushed for 172 yards against them. It seems like this team has a tough time with aggressive runners. The Patriots bring two aggresive runners into this matchup in the form of Jonas Gray and Lagarette Blount. Blount who was just signed last week by the Patriots has given the Packers fits in the Past. Linebackers must wrap up and bring these guys down before they get to the secondary. They can't allow the Patriots to be an even keeled team. Brady will light it up through the air so the run must be stopped.

2. Establish The Run: 

It'll be a game that the Packers will have to play keep away from the Patriots and Brady. Normally teams are trying to play keep away from the Packers offense. For the Packers to do this they will have to establish the run. Eddie Lacy is playing some great ball these last few weeks with his catching and running abilities. His rushing will be needed on Sunday. Lacy is coming off of his best rushing performance of the season with a 125 yard effort against the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday. Lacy iced the game against the Vikings by picking up the last two first downs needed to milk the clock. If the Packers can get a run game going and accompany it with the explosive passing game then the Packers will be unstopable. The Patriots rank 15th against the run which isn't terrible, but it defiinetly suggests that they can be run on. The Packers offensive line may have to play one of their more aggresive games on Sunday.

3. Respect The Patriots Secondary: 

The New England Patriots boast one of the more talented secondary's in the NFL. With Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner they pose probably the biggest threat against the Packers talented set of receivers. When teams have been aggresive with Jordy Nelson he hasn't looked his best. Revis and Browner are two of the most pshyical corners in the game. And it gets better for the Patriots with Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung playing safety. Aaron Rodgers is one of the more safer quarterbacks in the league when it comes to turning the ball over. This trait will come in handy on Sunday when Rodgers will have to play chess on the field against this secondary. Rodgers holds the record for most passing attempts without an interception at home, but will he be able to keep the streak alive on Sunday? I believe so.

Confidence is at a maximum for the Green Bay Packers after their slow start to the season. The same could be said for the New England Patriots who had famillair struggles early in the season. If this game was in Foxborough I think it would be wise to go with the Patriots. But this game will be played at Lambeau, and I think the Packers could be one of the best homefield teams in the league this season. The Packers will pull this game out on Sunday, and continue their quest for the number one seed in the NFC.

AJ's Prediction:

Green Bay Packers: 31

New England Patriots: 28

Thursday, November 6, 2014

NFL Preview: The Green Bay Packers vs. The Chicago Bears

It doesn't get much better than this. The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears will renew their historic rivalry Sunday night at Lambeau Field. This will be the second matchup between the two this season. Both teams come into this game in much different situations than they were for their week 4 matchup. The Packers are 4-1 in their last five, and the Bears are 1-4. Going into the week 4 matchup. Aaron Rodgers assured the Packers faithful to "R-E-L-A-X" and it seemed to work as the QB went on a tear, and is in the middle of one of his best seasons. The Bears probably wish their fans and Chicago media types alike would take Rodgers advice. But to do that they'll have to beat the Packers on Sunday night. At this point I think it's very possible, so the Packers will have to be play like they have been on offense, and continue to improve on defense.

The Packers must not overlook the bears who are very desperate for the a win at this point. Here are a few things they'll need to do to pull off a prime-time dvisional win.

1. Health: The Packers seemed to have shaken off their bad luck with injuries this season, but then they went to New Orleans. The Packers left the Super Dome in week 8 a beat up team. Even after the bye they seem to still have some lingering injureis that could be an issue on Sunday. Guards Josh Sitton and TJ Lang both had significant injuries that have kept them out of practice all week. Sitton tore ligaments in his big toe, and Lang suffered some ligament damage in his ankle in New Orleans. With offensive lineman their legs and feet are a big part of their position. They must be quick off the snap of the ball, and be able to react quickly on their feet. It seems that both will likely miss the game due to the nature of their injuries. In their absence Lane Taylor and J.C. Tretter would step up, and start their first games in the NFL. Taylor played a good portion of the Saints game, and struggled in run-blocking. He'll need to step it up. Tretter will be making his season debut. He was slated to be the teams center, but fractured his knee in training camp. Rookie Corey Linsley has a strangle hold on the center postion at the moment so Tretter will get his shot at guard. Rodgers and McCarthy have a lot of confidence in Tretter. The line must protect Rodgers so look for the offense to be a little more fast paced than usual with the injuries at hand.

2. Defense: During the 4 game win streak the Packers enjoyed much success on defense. They were able to create turnovers, which was a big problem last season. They were getting pressure on the opposing QB, and most importantly stopping the run. All of that was undone with one sour performance against the Saints. Drew Brees carved the Packers secondary through the air, and Mark Ingram gashed them for 172 yards on the ground. The Packers can only hope that this was a small hiccup in the process of fixing a poor defense. The Bears bring a potent offense that has been relatively quiet over the past 5 games. With receiving options like Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Martellus Bennett it could make for the long night for any opposing secondary. Matt Forte is an elite running back who had a massive game against the Packers in week 4. But the Bears offense lives and dies with QB Jay Cutler. Cutler's issues with turning the ball over alway seem to surface against the Packers. The Packers defensive line must shut down Forte, and force Cutler to pass. If Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews can pin their ears back and blitz it could be a long night for Cutler against an injured Bears offensive line. If they're going to force Cutler to pass though it'll be on the secondary to create turnovers. There can be no miscues against Marshall, a psychical threat, and Jeffery, a speed threat.

3. Run The Ball: The forecast for Sunday night calls for a high of 37 and low of 29. That's December football in November. The Packers wanted to build themselves into a team that could play in the winter weather. The addition of Eddie Lacy gave this team that separate dimension to be able to play deep into January at home. The run game has been decent at best so far this season, but as the second half of the season starts it'll be a great opportunity to get the run game going. With the offensive line being beat up it'll be key for the Packers to run the ball to take some pressure of Aaron Rodgers as well. Lacy put up his best game as a pro against the Bears at home last season, and it'll be important for him to build on this home success against the Bears. The Bears defense is in the middle of a rough patch, and the Packers should be able to take advantage of some of the weaknesses. Look for Lacy to put together a solid performance under the lights on Sunday night.

Final Analysis:

I'd be more worried if this matchup was in Chicago due to the desperate nature of the Bears to get a win, but being at home there's no reason the Packers should not be 6-3 by the end of Sunday. Most people will predict that this game could be a rout, but it'll be the opposite. Look for a close tough fought game as I believe both offenses will be quieted by the weather condtions. In the end the Packers are just the better team at this point, and Aaron Rodgers is playing some of the best ball in his career.


Packers: 23

Bears: 16