Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Playoffs

Well, it's that great time of year again where the Packers are in the playoffs.  I really wish that we weren't playing the Vikings or playing this weekend at all, but maybe that's what is better for us since byes haven't really worked out so great for people so far.  Well let's take a look at each team that is in and how they have done so far this season.

NFC 1. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
The Falcons were undefeated the longest on the season before they lost to the New Orleans Saints.  During their undefeated run they beat both of the playoff teams they played this season, the Washington Redskins (24-17) and the Denver Broncos (27-21).  This might be the year that Matt Ryan can finally win a playoff game, because every time he has lost to a team going to the Super Bowl (Cardinals, Packers, Giants).  I honestly think that it is going to come down to a matchup game for them, and it remains to be seen if they can stay up with a playoff team at this time in the season.

AFC 1. Denver Broncos (13-3)
We all know the story of their offseason, they traded Tim Tebow to the Jets (how is that working for you Jets fans?) and they had signed Peyton Manning.  Manning simply looks like his old self, plays in much more difficult conditions (who wants to go play in mile high to get rid of Manning?) And the Broncos haven't lost since week 5.  Granted that was the toughest part of their schedule.  They are 2-3 against playoff teams this season with losses to the Falcons (21-27), Texans (25-31), and Patriots (21-31) and wins over the Bengals (31-23) and Ravens (34-17).  Broncos are certainly hot at the right time of the year.

NFC 2. San Fransisco 49ers (11-4-1)
The 49ers have had an extremely interesting season, with Alex Smith getting hurt and Harbaugh deciding to play Kaepernick the rest of the year.  A move that could pay great dividends.  Despite their overall great record, the 49ers were just a puzzling team to me this year, seeming to have inconsistent play.  The 49ers went 3-2 against playoff teams with wins against the Packers (30-22), Seahawks (13-6), and Patriots (41-34).  Their losses were to the Vikings (24-13) and Seahawks (42-13).  I think that they will have difficulty in the playoffs, and I hope that they play the Packers next weekend and promptly get eliminated.

AFC 2. New England Patriots (12-4)
The Patriots have not been their usually selves this season.  Usually they are unstoppable in December, but they lost to the 49ers at home this year.  Their ground game has been better than normal, and they did just get Gronkowski back from an injury, which makes all of their fans about 30x happier.  The Patriots are only 3-3 against playoff teams this year.  Wins coming over the Broncos (31-21), Colts (59-24), and Texans (42-14), and with losses to the Ravens (30-31), Seahawks (23-24), and 49ers (34-41).  If there is anything to be seen in those scores, it is that the Patriots have struggled in close games against teams with a strong defense.  They need to hope to keep blowing out their opposition in the postseason.

Wild Card Games:

Bengals (10-6) at Texans (12-4) 4:30 PM EST on NBC.
Most of the season people have been talking about how the Texans are the best team in football.  Meanwhile, the Texans have dropped 3 of their last 4 games.  The Bengals have also won 6 of their last 7.  I think that there is a great chance for the Bengals to win this game, which is quite a high respect for the Bengals considering I picked the Texans to go to the Super Bowl before the season started.  I just cannot continue to pick the Texans because Matt Schaub looks worse than he did last season.  I don't know if they hid his injury through their great rushing attack this year or what.  But I am going to pick a ginger and say that Andy Dalton and the Bengals get an upset win in Houston (34-21).  (If the Bengals win they play the Broncos, Texans win they play the Patriots).

Vikings (10-6) at Packers (11-5) 8 PM EST on NBC.
There are a lot of things I can say about the Packers this season.  We have played well through injuries.  We have gotten a lot of experience for our younger players, which is great.  That being said, Adrian Peterson is the NFL MVP (IMO), he came back from his ACL tear and tore up the NFL this season.  I live in Oklahoma so everyone here loves Peterson and a lot of them even cheer for the Vikings because of him, and because the regional team is Dallas, and who wants to cheer for them.  That being said I think the key to this 3rd meeting between our teams is the turnover battle.  The Packers forced 2 turnovers in the first game with interceptions by Ponder and that was the last game the Vikings have lost.  Vikings protected the ball better and didn't allow a single turnover yesterday, although I believe that Peterson non-fumble was an incredibly close call.  Truthfully I think the Packers win a tight game 31-27.

Colts (11-5) at Ravens (10-6) 1 PM EST on CBS
#ChuckStrong.  I really have enjoyed the Colts this season and everything that has happened with Chuck Pagano, except for when they beat the Packers in week 5.  But I think they will beat the Ravens and I'm not terribly convinced that it will be too close.  Ravens just haven't been themselves this year.  Their defense isn't as good, Flacco is still inconsistent.  I think Andrew Luck leads them to a playoff win in his first season, and based on his td pass to TY Hilton yesterday, probably deserves to be the ROY.  Colts win 34-17.

Seahawks (11-5) at Redskins (10-6) 4:30 PM EST on FOX
This is the most excited I have been for a wild card game in quite some time.  RG3 and Russel Wilson.  If this game was in the state of Washington, I wouldn't even give the Redskins a shot.  But there is no way I am picking against the Seahawks, even with the Redskins winning their last 7 games to win the NFC East.  Lynch is running strong, their defense is playing great.  I just think that they have a defense that can shut down RG3 and Alfred Morris.  Seahawks win 41-20.

If these picks are correct then in 2 weeks we will see
Packers @ 49ers
Seahawks @ Falcons
Colts @ Patriots
Bengals @ Broncos

Thanks for reading this and I hope you have a Happy New Year.  Go Pack Go!!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Neal Redeeming Himself

By: Matt Bove

When Mike Neal was suspended for the first four games of the 2012 regular season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy it looked he was going to end up being a bust.

The 6-foot-3, 294 pound defensive lineman was selected by the Packers in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Neal was considered a reach at the time by most NFL Draft analysts. He was viewed as having great potential, but he never really lived up to it at Purdue, mostly due to injuries.

Neal only played in two games as a rookie before injuring his shoulder vs. Washington and having to have season-ending shoulder surgery. Neal had a sack in that game and Washington head coach Mike Shannhan raved about him after the game, so it was a very disappointing injury as he seemed to be progressing.

The Packers had so much confidence in Neal heading into the 2011 season that they let Cullen Jenkins go to the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency. Jenkins was a key member of the 2010 Super Bowl team and the Packers were counting on Neal to replace his inside pass rush. That decision backfired, as Neal had to have knee surgery after injuring his knee in a non-contact drill in training camp.

Neal returned Week 11 vs. Tampa Bay, but was never 100% the rest of the season and made only a minimal impact. The Packers were never able to replace Jenkins' pass rush last season and that was the downfall of their whole season.

With Neal's injury history the Packers certainly could not trust him again heading into this season. The Packers drafted Jerel Worthy in the second round and Mike Daniels in the fourth round in last April NFL Draft to bolster the defensive line. They also brought in free agents Daniel Muir, Anthony Hargrove and Phillip Merling to add competition as well.

Once Neal got suspended it was very easy to see him getting lost in the shuffle with all of these new players. He would have to stay healthy in training camp and produce or risk being cut. Neal told Zach Heilprin of ESPN that he didn't even think he was going to stick around.

"After I got suspended, and I saw the way that the draft went and all the guys that they brought in, I knew my chances of making the team were probably slim, Neal said. "That's just how I looked at it from my perspective. They may not have thought that, but that's pretty much how I looked at it."

Neal earned his roster spot in camp and once he returned from his suspension in Week 5 at Indianapolis he has not looked back. He earned his first sack in about two years in his first game back and has been a solid pass rusher for the Packers ever since.

Neal has not missed a game due to injury this year, which is a huge accomplishment for him. Not only has he been on the field, but he has been producing as well. According to Pro Football Focus, Neal has 18 pressures in 178 pass rushing snaps this year, which is the fourth best rate among all 3-4 DE's in the NFL. Also, Neal is second on the team with 4.5 sacks in 10 games this season.

Neal was used almost entirely as a pass-rushing specialist in sub-packages until two weeks ago. Injuries to C.J. Wilson and Worthy have forced Neal to take on a larger role in the base defense. Neal has turned into an even bigger force with Clay Matthews back in the lineup. According to Pro Football Focus, Neal has three sacks and three quarterback hurries in the last three games with Matthews back. Having Neal and Matthews pass rushing and running stunts together has become deadly in the past two weeks, much like it was with Matthews and Jenkins.

Neal is one of the most athletically gifted players on the team, especially for his size. His upper-body strength is absolutely amazing  and when you combine that with his athleticism you get a pass rushing force. This is what Ted Thompson saw when he selected him in the second round in 2010. Neal has completely turned his career around this year and he is a prime example of why you should never give up on a player to early.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

NFC North Dominance Starts With Rodgers

By: Matt Bove

After Sunday's win at Chicago, the Green Bay Packers have now won an astounding 12 consecutive games against their NFC North division rivals. This is really an incredible accomplishment because of how well the division teams know each other and how hard they play against each other.

The NFC North is a solid division this year and has been for the last few years. So what separates the Packers from the Bears, Lions and Vikings? Simply put, it is the fact that the Packers have Aaron Rodgers and the ither quarterbacks on the other three teams range from mediocre to poor. It is no coincidence that the last time the Packers lost a division game was when Rodgers got hurt in a 2010 game at Detroit in Week 14.

If you look at the rosters of these four teams, the only clear advantages the Packers have over their division rivals are at quarterback and wide receiver. Also, the Packers probably have a better secondary than the Lions and Vikings, but the Packers' defense as a whole is not far and away better than what the Lions and the Vikings have. All four NFC North teams have very solid front sevens that feature elite pass rushers. Also, none of the teams in the division have a great offensive line. As as usually is the case on most NFL teams, the quarterback makes all the difference.

The difference between Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler was on display again on Sunday, just as it is every time the Packers and Bears have matched up. The Packers and Rodgers have owned Cutler and the Bears recently, as the Packers are 8-1 vs. the Bears since Cutler took over as quarterback in 2009 (Cutler did not start in the Packers' Week 16 victory over the Bears in 2011). Cutler has thrown seven touchdowns to 18 interceptions in his eight career starts against Green Bay. Also, he has been sacked 30 times and has a 56.9 passer rating in those game

Rodgers is the antithesis of Cutler as a leader and as a player. Rodgers will not make the same dumb decisions and he will not throw the dumb interceptions that Cutler does. Also, he has a much better personality on and off the field and he will not throw his teammates and coaches under the bus the way that Cutler has during games. Both Rodgers and Cutler have had to deal with offensive line issues this season, but one player has been able to overcome them while the other hasn't.

Rodgers had one of his best games of the season on Sunday, while Cutler did what he usually does. Rodgers had a bunch of "wow" throws that made it seem like it was 2011 all over again. He made amazing throws to beat the Bears' Cover-2 defense to Jermichael Finley and Randall Cobb down the middle of the field for completions of 31 yards and 29 yards respectively.

On 3rd-and-6 from the Packers' 34 yard line,  Rodgers got pressured up the middle, rolled out to his right and threw an absolute dart to Cobb on the sideline for a 31-yard gain. He threw it where only Cobb could catch it in between two defenders and that play got the offense rolling. Also, Rodgers threw three touchdowns to James Jones, including an unstoppable back shoulder throw.

Meanwhile, Cutler only completed passes to one wide receiver, was sacked four times and threw what was really a game changing interception right into Casey Heyward's chest right with 1:36 left in the first half. This allowed the Packers to get a score at the end of the first half and on the opening drive of the second half to take a 21-7 lead.

The quarterbacks have also been the difference in the games against the Lions and Vikings this season. Matthew Stafford has some similarities to Cutler. He had a great season last year, but has majorly regressed this season. Stafford has great talent, but often locks in on Calvin Johnson to much, makes poor decisions, has accuracy that comes and goes and he is not a great leader.

In Packers and Lions' first meeting in Detroit on November 8th this season, Stafford had three turnovers, including a pick-six to M.D. Jennings. After Rodgers led the Packers on a drive late in the fourth quarter to take the lead, Stafford had plenty of time to tie the game with a field goal or win it with a touchdown. He ended up doing neither, as he did not even get a first down or even attempt a pass to Johnson on all four plays. The Packers won because Rodgers made the plays late that Stafford didn't make and Rodgers didn't make the mistakes that Stafford made with turnovers throughout the game.

A similar game took place 10 days ago at Lambeau Field between Green Bay and Detroit. Detroit had a 14-0 lead and was dominating the Packers in every facet of the game. Then in the second quarter, Stafford inexplicably fumbled when he was attempting a pass and Mike Daniels ran it back for a touchdown. The Packers never looked back and won 27-20. Rodgers didn't have a great game, but he didn't make the big mistake that Stafford made yet again.

Comparing Rodgers to Christian Ponder is obviously laughable, as Ponder may not even be a starting caliber NFL quarterback. However, even if the Vikings just had a competent quarterback, they could have beaten the Packers in their Week 13 matchup at Lambeau. Adrian Peterson ran wild on the ground for an astounding 210 yards, yet Ponder could not even complete a single pass to a wide receiver until late in the fourth quarter. He threw a killer interception to Morgan Burnett in the end zone when the Vikings were ready to go ahead 21-10. Ponder threw another interception to Burnett with the Vikings driving and only trailing 20-14. The quarterback difference between these two teams is obvious.

The Packers' run of 12 consecutive division wins is pretty overlooked considering how remarkable it is. Mike McCarthy deserves a lot of credit as well, as he has out-coached all of his division head coaching counterparts. However, without Rodgers this win streak would not have been possible. Until the Lions, Bears and Vikings can compete with the Packers at the quarterback position, the Packers will continue to rack up division wins. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

NFC North Champions

Well, life has been crazy so it's been a little while since my last post.  But here is what everything looks like heading into the postseason.  Right now the Packers have the 3rd spot in the NFC which means that we will probably have to play a hot team coming into the playoffs as well, since Minnesota, Dallas, Chicago, Washington, & New York Giants are all 8-6.  I don't know about everyone else, but I do NOT want to play host to the Giants to start the playoffs again, and I definitely do not want the Seahawks, just because they seem to have improved so much late in the season.  I'm not sure if I want the 1st round playoff bye, or if I want us to have an extra week since we have had so many injured players.  But lets take a look at some positive notes from our current team.

-Last divisional loss was on 12-12-10 to Detroit.
-We have currently won 13 NFC North games in a row.
-Back to back NFC North Champions.
-Randall Cobb is currently on pace for a 1000 receiving yards season.
-Turnover Ratio is currently at a +6
-We are 8-1 in our last 9 games
-Rodgers is on pace for 4100 passing yards
-Charles Woodson is coming back soon.

Go Pack Go!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hope Remains Despite Disaster

By: Matt Bove

I had the misfortune of being at MetLife Stadium on Sunday night for the Giants' 38-10 drubbing of the Packers. I can't believe I had to sit in the cold and watch a team that was uninspired and didn't seem to care about the game at all. From the coaching errors to the execution errors, it was an all around disaster. However, the Packers still have all their goals in front of them and remain capable of reaching them. 

I had a feeling that this would be a really toughs spot for the Packers to win in. The Giants were the much healthier,desperate and motivated team. The game wasn't vital to the Packers in the standings and they played like it. The Giants on the other hand needed the game, as they were in a slump, and if they had lost the hot Washington Redskins would have been right on their tail. However, you would have liked to have seen the Packers play better. 

The Packers need to get healthy. Against the middling teams they can get by but against elite teams like the Giants not having Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Sam Shields, C.J. Wilson, Greg Jennings, Desmond Bishop, Cedric Benson and Bryan Bulaga is going to really hamper you. There is no way around that. 

Once Matthews, Shields, Wilson, and Woodson come back the defense should be fine. They got absolutely blown off the line against the Giants. There is no way around that and it was a pitiful effort. However, that has not been the norm for them this season and Wilson being out was an underrated loss against the run. No one player means more to a defense in the NFL than Matthews and he will make a world of difference. However, Bulaga is not coming back, so this season will come down to protecting Aaron Rodgers. 
Per ESPN Stats & Info Rodgers been under the 10th-highest amount of duress on the season out of 34 quarterback qualifiers, having been sacked, hurried or hit on 26 percent of his dropbacks this season. Over the last two games with T.J. Lang at right tackle and Evan Dietrich-Smith at left guard that percentage has ballooned up to a staggering 39.1%. Albeit it came against two great defensive lines, that number is completely unacceptable and you cannot expect to win that way. 

How can this be fixed? It needs to happen with scheme and Mike McCarthy needs to take a look in the mirror and make some adjustments. McCarthy stated for the second week in a row that his play calling was suspect, but actions speak louder than words. 

With the Packers down 17-7, McCarthy got away from the running game and nearly got Rodgers killed. He called no screens or draws to slow down the rush and allowed the Giants' rushers to pin their ears back and come after Rodgers. Also, he did not call for any slants or quick passes, instead he called long developing routes with little extra protection that were doomed to fail on this night. 

McCarthy has been a great coach for the Packers and has a great offensive mind, but his stubbornness can kill him at times. The thing that disturbs me the most is that we are now coming up on almost a calendar year when the Chiefs defeated the Packers by rushing four, being physical with the receivers and playing two safeties deep in Cover-2- and McCarthy has yet to figure out how to beat it consistently. They have had some success, but they haven't gotten it done against defenses like the Giants and 49ers. 

To combat this problem McCarthy and the Packers will have to be able to run the ball more effectively, call more patterns that gets the ball out of Rodgers' hands faster and keep more players in to block. Lang's feet are to slow and his arms are to short to be a really good right tackle. Meanwhile, Deitrich-Smith has gotten mauled in his two starts. I would not even be opposed to moving Lang back to guard and giving Don Barclay a shot at right tackle. Then at least you do not have two weak spots and how much worse can it get? 

Jennings coming back should be a big help against the Cover-2. Jennings is still a huge threat and it is not a coincidence that the offense was not as solid in his absence. He has been a great slant runner, so maybe McCarthy will get back to that with him. He knows how to get open better than any other Packers receiver and if they can protect better his presence will be felt. 

The Packers still control their own destiny and have everything in front of them. You hope that a loss like this can be used to bring the team together for the stretch run of the season. The keys will be getting healthy and protecting the quarterback. If the Packers do those things, they can still achieve all of their goals for this season. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Day After

By 68md

It's the day after a very humbling loss to the Giants and there are some very frank issues that need to be discussed.

First let me direct you to this thread before the season :

And this little quote : Personally think we could get in a pickle if injuries hit any of our DL/OL early... this should be watched closely.

As of right now we are in a pickle because we have no depth and a very if OL and our DL is getting handled... not just this week but each week the past 3 it's been getting worse.

I have no advice as to how we overcome this other then finding a serviceable LT...push Newhouse to RT and Lang back to Guard (where he belongs).

I also think and will say it's time to dump ZBS once and for all. We have never ever been a great rushing team with it.... time to move on.

DL just can't seem to hold their ground and our LB are getting engaged by OL down field. I bitched all off season and will again... your backers can't do their job when there fighting off OG every down. !

I have no comment this week on the rest of our team other then coach... stop the 50 plus yard FG and punt the damn ball !


Here we go again

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tramon vs. Megatron

Packers cornerback Tramon Williams has done some out of character talking before Sunday's huge matchup against Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. According to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Willams sees himself as Optimus Prime.

"I'm definitely Optimus Prime," Willams said. I'm the leader of the Autobots. "I'm the leader of the young guys right now and when it comes down to tough battles, I'll lead those guys out there."

Williams may not have changed his twitter name to Optimus Prime, like Seattle cornerback Rich Sherman did, but the Packers will need him to live up to being Optimus Prime to beat Detroit on Sunday. With cornerback Charles Woodson and outside linebacker Clay Matthews on the sidelines, Williams will be one of the veteran leaders of the defense.

Williams will be sparring with Johnson yet again this Sunday. Johnson is the best wide receiver in the NFL, as nobody possesses his combination of size, speed, athleticism, hands and leaping ability.

Last season, it was a mixed bag of results for Williams against Johnson. On Thanksgiving Day, Williams completely shut Johnson down, as Johnson had only four receptions for 49 yards. Williams got safety help over the top and Johnson was as invisible as you will ever see him. However, in Week 17 Johnson torched Williams, as he compiled 244 receiving yards - the most ever allowed by a Packers opponent.

This year has been a completely different season for Williams than 2011 was. He was playing with nerve damage in his shoulder in 2011, so he could not play the physical game he had grown accustomed to. He was not able to jam receivers at the line or be aggressive in making tackles. Williams was forced into giving receivers big cushions at the line, which resulted in a bad year for him.

This year he has been back to the old Tramon Williams, so it will be interesting to see if he is up to the task of defending Johnson. He will shadow him all over the field, unless Johnson goes into the slot, which he has been doing far more frequently this season than ever before.

The Packers would be wise to shade Morgan Burnett to Johnson's side as much as possible, just like they did when he and Williams shut down Brandon Marshall in Week 2 vs. Chicago. Marshall only had five catches for 24 yards in the game- both season lows for him.

Williams may be forced to cover Johnson longer than he wants to because the Packers will be without Matthews. Matthews is an irreplaceable player and the Packers will sorely miss him in this game. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers will have to get really creative to create pressure on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford has a tendency to hold onto the ball to long, so that should help.

The key for Williams in defending Johnson will be to maintain inside leverage against him. Forcing Johnson to the outside will make it easier on Williams and the safety over the top. It will force Stafford into a much harder throw, which he has the arm strength to make, but his accuracy comes and goes.

Also, Stafford will force it to Johnson no matter how many players are on him. The Packers will get opportunities for interceptions and they need to take advantage of them. Dropping interceptions has been a bad tendency for them so far this season.

After getting torched the last time they faced off Williams might have an added chip on his shoulder for Sunday's matchup. According to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal- Sentinel Williams is confident that he will come out on top. 

"No doubt about it, he said." That's the way it's going to be."

This is an elite corner going up against the best wide receiver in the NFL. Williams will be out for revenge and Johnson will be trying to save the Lions season. Whoever wins this matchup may ultimately determine which team comes out on top on Sunday.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Five Biggest Packers Questions Down the Stretch

The Green Bay Packers entered their bye week on a four game winning streak to go from 2-3 to 6-3. They are currently the 5th seed in the NFC and are 1.5 games behind Chicago for first place in the NFC North. Five out of their next seven games are against NFC North foes, so it will be a very tough stretch. The Packers have the talent to compete for a championship, but it will not be an easy road. The NFC is the superior conference to the AFC with the 49ers, Giants, Falcons, Bears and Packers all very talented teams that could win the Super Bowl. Here are the five biggest questions the Packers face heading down the final stretch of their season.

1. How will Clay Matthews' hamstring hold up?

Clay Matthews is a player that simply cannot be replaced. He, along with Aaron Rodgers, are the only two players on the Packers that you can say that about. The Packers have been able to survive many injuries this year, but if Matthews is not healthy they can kiss their Super Bowl hopes alive. He is tied for second in the NFL with nine sacks and leads the NFC in quarterback pressures. Matthews hurt his hamstring during Sunday's victory against Arizona and missed pretty much the enitre second half. Mike McCarthy said that he expects Matthews to "miss a couple of weeks". He did not specify whether that meant two, three or four. The next two games after the bye are road games in Detroit and in the Meadowlands to take on the Giants. Both have high powered offenses that the Packers would be hard pressed to stop without Matthews in there creating havoc. Matthew Stafford struggled early in the year and Eli Manning is in a slump now, but both of those quarterbacks are much better than the quarterbacks the Packers have played lately. Matthews has missed significant portions of training camp in 2009 and 2010 due to his hamstring and missed one regular season game in 2010 because of it. The Packers should wait until he is 100% healthy to play him because he has tried to play through hamstring injures before and he has not been the same player. I believe Matthews means more to his defense than any other player in the NFL means to his. If he misses the games in Detroit and New York the Packers will have a tough time winning those games.

2. Will Lack of Offensive Line Depth Hurt?

The Packers had kept their enitre offensive line intact for the whole season until Bryan Bulaga went down with what appears to be a serious hip injury in Sunday's victory over Arizona. It is unknown how long Bulaga will be out, but Mike McCarthy said they "were gathering more information", which is usually never good. T.J. Lang kicked out to right tackle to replace Bulaga and Evan Dietrich-Smith replaced Lang at left guard. The Packers did not miss a beat with those lineup changes and should be able to survive with them going forward. However, the problem will come if another Packers offensive lineman goes down with an injury. Their backup offensive linemen at this point are undrafted rookies Don Barclay and Greg Van Roten. It is safe to say they don't want them playing in any game. They just activated Derrick Sherrod of the PUP and he has a three week window to practice before they have to activate him, place him on injured reserve or release him. The Packers probably would have just put him on IR if Bulaga had not gotten hurt, so I doubt he can help much.

3. Can the Packers Run?
The Packers' inability to run the ball has been their Achilles heel for years now. It looked like they had solved that problem earlier this season with the addition of Cedric Benson. However, Benson went down with a Lisfranc foot injury in Week 5 against the Colts and the Packers have not run the ball the same since. Benson was placed on injured reserve with designation to return, so the Packers hope they can have him help later on in the season. Alex Green has shown explosiveness in Benson's place, but has been ineffective for the most part. Green has lacked vision and has missed too many holes. He has also had trouble running inside the tackles. James Starks got his first extensive action of the season against Arizona and ran for 61 yards on 17 carries. Starks has much better vision than Green and fits the one cut and go running style the Packers like better than Green. However, Starks fumbled vs. Arizona and was terrible in pass protection, while Green has excelled in pass pro. Green and Starks split carries against Arizona and the Packers ran for a season high 176 yards against a good defense, so hopefully they can build off that.

4. Can the Packers Stop Elite Offenses?
The Packers' defense has made major strides so far this season. They rank 11th in the NFL in points per game allowed (20.8), 12th in yards allowed (341.9), 20th in pass yards allowed (243.6), 10th in rushing yards allowed (98.30), 1st in sacks (28) and 4th in interceptions (10). This is a huge step forward from last season  but they have not played very many great offenses. The Saints were by far the best offense they played  and they struggled against them. These next two games will be a huge test against the Lions and the Giants. Again, whether or not they have Matthews is a huge factor. Will the young defensive backs in Casey Heyward, Davon House Jerron McMillian and MD Jennings continue to perform as they have? How can they get pressure if Matthews is out or has to play hurt? Can they avoid mix ups in zone coverage? We will see the answers to those questions. 

5.  How Will Greg Jennings Fit in the Offense?

The Packers have found their groove offensively without Greg Jennings, so it will be interesting to see what will happen when he returns. Who will lose playing time? They can't afford to take Randall Cobb off the field like they did when Jennings was healthy. Jordy Nelson is unlikely to lose much playing time, assuming he is healthy. James Jones does not deserve to lose any, although he probably will. Jermichael Finley could be the one to lose the most, as his snaps have already been cut into. However, Finley has been playing more in the traditional tight end spot rather than in the slot or out wide, so Jennings returning would not have an effect on his snaps at the tight end spot. Jennings playing in the slot with Cobb with Nelson and Jones on the outside would be very scary for a defense.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Packers MVP

On this election day I was trying to figure out exactly what to blog upon.  First I need to give a shout out and my prayers to the people on the East Coast who were/are being effected by Hurricane Sandy.  I'm used to Tornadoes and Ice storms, but Hurricanes do seem to scare me, because we don't get them in Oklahoma where I live.  Everyone is already asking you to vote, because our election is something that truly matters.  So I thought I would take a different twist on things and see who is the Packers MVP at this point in the season.  But first I just want to start off with some stats.

-The Packers currently lead the league with 28 sacks this season.  We had 29 all of last year.
-The Packers have 10 INT's through 9 weeks, we had 31 last year.
-The Packers have 26 passing TD's and 2 rushing TD's.

I just thought that those were interesting, and my guess is that we are playing it safe more often on defense, which is why we have less picks.

MVP Candidates:

Randall Cobb--It's easy to tell why Rodgers loves having this guy on the team.  He is simply a beast at catching the ball and he is the go to guy on 3rd downs.  What I love about him is how he has stepped up in Greg Jennings absence, and has pretty much filled the role that we had for Jermichael Finley as well.

James Jones--I'll admit, I was fine trading him to someone before the season started, but Jones has been much more reliable and has dropped the ball way less this season than he normally did.  He is our leading touchdown receiver with 8 TD's.

Morgan Burnett--Right now he is our team's leading tackler.  45 individual and 67 combined with assisted tackles puts him higher than everyone else on the team.  You have to be able to tackle in order to win games.

Clay Matthews--9 of our 28 sacks on this season he has on his own, let alone how many times have you seen the opposing QB look at Matthews and get hit by someone else.  Hopefully his hamstring feels better after the bye week.

Aaron Rodgers--He was last year's NFL MVP.  He is still doing a great job this year.  What other team can go 6-3 with injuries to it's top 2 WR, starting RB, starting TE, and have their offense still doing what they normally do?  It's easy to get frustrated with Aaron or our offense for "lack of production" this season, but they had super high expectations and right now Rodgers is projected for 44 passing TD's which would lead the league.  I have to admit it, my vote goes right with this guy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mid-Season Power Rankings

Right now I am still having a tough time trying to figure out this league.  The Giants got a pretty fortunate win on Sunday with Dez putting his hand down out of bounds on the game winning touchdown.  The Bears kicked a last second field goal in order to beat the Panthers.  San Fransisco has looked good at times, and downright horrible at times.  Houston seems to be pretty consistent, but the Packers destroyed them in back in week 6.  So this is just my opinion of how I would rank the teams, because it is not an exact science of a clear cut favorite this season.

1.  Atlanta Falcons--They have beaten everyone that they have played.  Their early victory against the Denver Broncos keeps getting more and more impressive each week.  They are very stacked on offense and on defense.  Roddy White & Julio Jones may be the best 1 & 2 WR in the league for any team.

2.  New York Giants--They keep finding ways to win.  They have their strong defensive line, Victor Cruz and Eli Manning.  Right now they are the team that nobody would want to play, simply because they find a way to win and seem very scrappy.

3.  New England Patriots--They have the best offense in the league.  Despite his injury, no one has been able to stop Gronk.  Tom Brady seems like he just wants to quiet all of the critics.  They still have one of the best coaches in the league.

4.  Chicago Bears--It may not be their offense that is simply amazing, but their defense has been non-stop awesome this year.  They probably should have lost to Carolina, but their defense kept them in the game and got another defensive touchdown.

5.  Houston Texans--Great running game and a great passing game.  Owen Daniels is underrated and so is Matt Schaub.  JJ Watt has simply changed the face of the defense and that is why they could let Mario Williams leave last season.

6.  Green Bay Packers--The reason that I don't have them higher is because of the fact that they seem to scare me.  We should have beaten the Jaguars a little bit better, we seemed to have the Rams put away but they kept trying to come back.  Our defense is much better, but our offensive injuries worry me.

7.  San Fransisco 49ers--They beat the teams they are supposed to, except for the Vikings.  The seem like a team that can dominate, and then they have those horrible struggles against the Giants and Seahawks offensively.

8.  Denver Broncos--Same good defense, Peyton Manning is doing well.  John Fox left Carolina at just the right time.  John Elway knows how to put together a team.  Things could be good for quite some time in Mile High Country.

9.  Pittsburgh Steelers--They seem to be getting things put back together, and quite handily beat the Washington Redskins on Sunday.  Those jerseys do not ever need to be worn again.

10.  Minnesota Vikings--Did anyone expect Adrian Peterson to be so good so soon after coming back from his ACL surgery last December?  He is leading the league in rushing.

11.  Baltimore Ravens--Too many defensive injuries.  Were blown out by the Texans, lost to the Eagles.  Should have lost to New England and Dallas.  Now they have to play without Webb.  Things are just going to go downhill from here, but they do have Ray Rice.

12.  Indianapolis Colts--I don't think anyone expected them to be playing this well so early in the year.  They beat the Packers for their big upset.  And I think everyone is praying for Chuck Pagano.  Bruce Arians may be a head coach somewhere else rather quickly.

13.  Miami Dolphins--So, it's time to give Joe Philbin some love.  Right now these Dolphins are projected to go to the playoffs, and I was pretty certain they were the worst team in the division.  I am almost certain I picked the Bills to go to the playoffs instead.

14.  Seattle Seahawks--They have played pretty good at home and bad on the road.  They have some impressive wins against the Packers (let's not get into that) and the Patriots.  They also have lost to the Cardinals and the Rams.  They have a good defense but I'm hoping that Sherman (Optimus Prime) will not keep trash talking.

15.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers--They looked really good on a short week against the Vikings.  Their new coach Greg Schiano has them playing disciplined football.  I'm pretty sure Ronde Barber is still one of the best corners in football.

16.  Cincinnati Bengals--This is where I think there is a complete dropoff in talent and I'm just going to list some teams.

17.  Detroit Lions
18.  New York Jets
19.  Dallas Cowboys
20.  Philadelphia Eagles
21.  Arizona Cardinals
22.  Buffalo Bills
23.  San Diego Chargers
24.  Oakland Raiders
25.  Washington Redskins
26.  St. Louis Rams
27.  Tennessee Titans
28.  New Orleans Saints
29.  Cleveland Browns
30.  Carolina Panthers
31.  Jacksonville Jaguars
32.  Kansas City Chiefs

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Woodson Only A Minor Loss

By: Matt Bove

Two years ago an injury to Charles Woodson would have been devastating to the Packers Super Bowl chances. Now, with Woodson projected to be out for about four to six weeks, the Packers should be able to get by without him.

It would seem irrational to say this, since Woodson should be a future Hall of Fame player, and he has been an incredible player for the Packers since they signed him as a free agent in 2006. However, Woodson has just not been the same player this season.

Woodson is known as one of the toughest players in the NFL, so the Packers are hoping he can be back sooner rather than later. Aaron Rodgers, speaking on his weekly radio show with Jason Wilde on 540 ESPN and, expects that to be the case.

"I was just hoping it wasn't what they told us, I would still bet on the low end of the range," Rodgers said. "If they're saying four to eight weeks, I would bet closer to four with Charles. It's tough. He and I are obviously close, and I've always appreciated his support, his leadership and friendship. Not to mention the way he plays on the field, he's an incredible player. But this gives guys like (Jerron) McMillian, M.D. Jennings an opportunity - a Casey Heyward and (Davon) House as well - to get some playing time now and expectations are going to be high."

Woodson's Packers career has been on one of the most decorated careers in the Packers history to this point. He has 38 career interceptions for the Packers and 55 for his entire career. He has 11 career interceptions returns for touchdowns, which is second all-time behind Rod Woodson. Also, his eight defensive touchdowns for the Packers are a team record. Woodson won NFL Defensive MVP in 2009 with with 74 tackles, two sacks, nine interceptions and three touchdowns.

Dom Capers' defense used to be build around Woodson and his playmaking ability. His ability to read quarterbacks, create turnovers, to be put anywhere in the defense and to blitz off the edge was paramount for the Packers defense. This season, Woodson has been almost invisible compared to what he used to be.

Woodson only has one interception this season in seven games. He has lost a step in coverage, so he has resorted to using his hands more, and he has four defensive penalties this season. Also, when Woodson has been sent on blitzes this season, he has been mostly getting blocked.

It is probably a stretch to say that Woodson will not be missed at all, but it is a possibility. They will miss his physicality in run defense and in defending the screen game. What they will miss most is his veteran presence and leadership. It was Woodson who gave the major motivational speeches before the NFC Championship game and at halftime during the Super Bowl, after he broke his collarbone during the second quarter. Woodson should still be able to lead in the meeting rooms and from the sidelines.

The Packers are much deeper in the secondary this season than they have been in recent years. Rookie Casey Heyward has been one of the best rookies in the NFL this season.  Head coach Mike McCarthy raved about Heyward this week to reporters.

" I just think he's a heck of a football player," McCarthy said. "For a rookie to come in here and play as many positions and to pick it up the way he has, he just needs to play, so I'm very happy with the progress he's making."

Heyward is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions (four) and is second on the team in pass breakups (eight) despite playing only playing in the dime for mot of the season. According to Pro Football Focus, Heyward also leads the NFL in quarterback rating into his coverage (23.7).

Heyward only became a full-time player last week when Sam Shields missed the game due to a shin injury and will remain one at least as long as Woodson is out. Heyward's coverage in the slot should be a step up from Woodson. When Shields comes back from his short-term injury, him and Tramon Williams form a very good tandem on the outside. The other young defensive backs who will see an increase in playing time are Davon House, Jerron McMillian and MD Jennings.

House is the Packers biggest ( 6-feet-1 and 195 pounds) and most physical corner, and he was well on his way to beating out Shields for the starting cornerback spot before injuring his shoulder in the preseason opener. He made his season debut last week vs. St. Louis and was solid. He blanketed his man in coverage most of the time, and broke up a pass to Chris Givens on a critical fourth-and-2 quick slant early in the second quarter. House did allow a 3-yard touchdown to Austin Pettis with the game already decided, which was his only error.

McMillian, a rookie selected in the fourth-round, will split time with Jennings at safety and play Heyward's former position as slot cornerback in the dime. McMillian has had his ups and downs this season, but he has shown that he is capable of making plays and being physical.

With Woodson's declining ability and the Packers' great depth in the defensive backfield, the Packers are more adept to handle Woodson's injury than ever before. This could even turn into a good thing for Woodson, as his body should be fresh down the stretch for the Packers.

The Packers will gladly welcome Woodson back when the time comes, but for now the Packers should be able to survive without him.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Blind Resumes

So, another week has gone by and the Packers have looked quite impressive once again.  On Monday Night Football, the Bears continued to lead the division and are now at 5-1.  I think that for a moment we need to look outside the records and see exactly what each team has done in specific games by looking at some things without the name of the team present.  There are 11 teams with winning records and right now we will look at those teams accomplishments to date this season.

1.  Team A (5-2)

Best win:  44-13 over Cincinnati
Worst Loss:  13-43 against Houston
Wins by more than 7:  1
Road Record: 1-2
Home Record: 4-0
Wins over teams with a winning record: 1
Currently in the playoffs: Yes

Team A is the Baltimore Ravens.

2.  Team B (4-3)

Best win: 24-23 over New England
Worst Loss: 13-19 against St Louis
Wins by more than 7:  1
Road Record: 1-3
Home Record: 3-0
Wins over teams with a winning record: 2
Currently in the playoffs: No

Team B is the Seattle Seahawks

3.  Team C (5-2)

Best win: 24-13 over San Fransisco
Worst Loss: 28-36 against Washington
Wins by more than 7:  2
Road Record: 1-2
Home Record: 4-0
Wins over teams with a winning record: 2
Currently in the playoffs: Yes

Team C is the Minnesota Vikings

4.  Team D (6-0)

Best win: 27-3 over San Diego
Worst Loss: None
Wins by more than 7:  2
Road Record: 3-0
Home Record: 3-0
Wins over teams with a winning record: 0
Currently in the playoffs: Yes

Team D is the Atlanta Falcons

5.  Team E (4-3)

Best win: 31-21 over Denver
Worst Loss: 18-20 against Arizona
Wins by more than 7:  3
Road Record: 2-2
Home Record: 2-1
Wins over teams with a winning record: 0
Currently in the playoffs: Yes

Team E is the New England Patriots

6.  Team F (5-1)

Best win: 41-21 over Indianapolis
Worst Loss: 10-23 against Green Bay
Wins by more than 7:  4
Road Record: 2-1
Home Record: 3-0
Wins over teams with a winning record: 0
Currently in the playoffs: Yes

Team F is the Chicago Bears

7.  Team G (4-3)

Best win: 20-18 over New England
Worst Loss: 16-19 against Buffalo
Wins by more than 7:  1
Road Record: 1-2
Home Record: 3-1
Wins over teams with a winning record: 2
Currently in the playoffs: No

Team G is the Arizona Cardinals

8.  Team H (5-2)

Best win: 30-22 against Green Bay
Worst Loss: 3-26 against New York Giants
Wins by more than 7:  4
Road Record: 1-2
Home Record: 3-0
Wins over teams with a winning record: 2
Currently in the playoffs: Yes

Team H is the San Fransisco 49ers

9.  Team I (6-1)

Best win: 43-13 over Baltimore
Worst Loss: 24-42 against Green Bay
Wins by more than 7:  3
Road Record: 3-0
Home Record: 3-1
Wins over teams with a winning record: 1
Currently in the playoffs: Yes

Team I is the Houston Texans

10.  Team J (4-3)

Best win: 42-24 over Houston
Worst Loss: 22-30 against San Fransisco
Wins by more than 7:  3
Road Record: 2-2
Home Record: 2-1
Wins over teams with a winning record: 2
Currently in the playoffs: Yes

Team J is the Green Bay Packers

11.  Team K (5-2)

Best win: 26-3 over San Fransisco
Worst Loss: 17-24 against Dallas
Wins by more than 7:  3
Road Record: 2-1
Home Record: 3-1
Wins over teams with a winning record: 1
Currently in the playoffs: Yes

Team K is the New York Giants

If there is anything to be learned by this exercise this morning, it's that there really is no dominant team in the NFL this season.  I feel like the media keep trying to put up different teams and say they are the most complete or best team.  We still do only have 1 undefeated team in the Falcons, but their best opponents have been Denver and San Diego.  The Bears and Texans both have one loss, but the Bears haven't beaten any good teams and the Texans just beat a Ravens roster decimated by injuries.  Right now I am very confident in the roster that the Packers have and think that we will continue to improve.  We have the Jaguars and Cardinals at home the next 2 weeks in games that we need to win so that we can try to win the division.  I just think it's important to be clear that the Patriots aren't as bad as people are saying, but the Bears, Texans, and Falcons are not that great either.  There is still a lot of season to play.  Go Pack Go!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Packers in Transitition?

I write this realizing that with any organization or team, you have to constantly be changing to keep up with progress, and you cannot play every game the same.  It just seems like the Packers have come up with a game plan that could feature several different players than what we have been accustomed to seeing over the last few years.

1.  Randall Cobb/Greg Jennings

Cobb is a smaller version of what Jennings has been for us for so many years.  The guy who will catch the 10 yard pass and then turn upfield and make a few guys miss.  I know Jennings is in a contract year and has been hurt much of this season.  I'm not necessarily saying that he's replaceable, but the Packers have been known to let some big money free agents go and sign elsewhere.  If Jennings demands too much, I wouldn't be surprised to see him sign somewhere else, although it would be difficult because Driver is still on the team and we have had so much receiver loyalty since the Javon Walker holdout from 2004-5.

2.  Tom Crabtree/Jermichael Finley

First off, I don't care how talented you are, you don't come out and blast comments about the NFL MVP from last season.  Aaron Rodgers has won over the hearts of Green Bay fans after the Brett Favre saga that we had to deal with from 2007-2009.  Rodgers showed a lot of character and poise becoming the starter of our team, and if you don't have chemistry with him, then my blame would go to you.  Also, Crabtree has 2 receiving touchdowns this year.  The one off of the fake field goal with the Bears, and then the one Sunday Night against the Texans where they just didn't guard him.  Of course this cannot be discussed without mentioning that lastly, Finley drops so many passes.  I don't know what it is about Finley or Dez Bryant, largely considered two of the top talents in the league, but they drop passes.  I don't know if it is mental, if they just take if for granted because of how talented they are, if they think they are bracing for a hit that doesn't always come, but you have to catch the football when it hits you in the hands.

3.  Casey Hayward/Sam Shields

I'm sure everyone noticed Sam Shields down at the end of the game on Sunday night.  I was a little frustrated and I don't even know how bad the injury was.  But clearly Matt Schaub had his mind set on I'm going to show this rookie cornerback how it's done.  Casey Hayward is now leading our team in INT's, and he was injured to start the season.  He had a beautiful deflection to defend a touchdown and then a interception on back to back plays.  I don't really know what else it is but we need to start seeing Hayward on the field more.

When I was writing our season preview earlier this year, I knew this was going to be the toughest part of our schedule to start the season.  3-3 is not a bad spot for us to be in.  Yes, we could have played better, but I think that by the end of November we need to be at least 7-4 if not 8-3 because of our opposition coming up during that time.  Here are those next 5 games: @Rams, Jaguars, Cardinals, BYE, @Lions, @Giants.  I'm not really sure why we have road games back to back between the Lions and Giants again, but our schedule certainly went down a notch when those teams right now have a combined record of 14-14, and our previous opponents have a record of 20-13, it certainly does look a lot brighter ahead of us.  No matter what happens, I just hope the Packers can keep winning, and I'll sleep better if it is big wins like Sunday night.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Packers vs. Texans Offensive Preview

The Green Bay Packers are at a crossroads in their season. If they beat the Houston Texans, the best team in the NFL in my opinion, they can ride that momentum to propel them the rest of the season. If they loose, they can be three games back of first place and their playoff chances would be hanging on by a thread. It will be a tall order to go into Houston and win. Their offense will need to play at an elite level in order to do it.

The Packers' offense has been nowhere near as good as the all-time level it played at last season. Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 21 times, which outs him on a pace near the incredible 51 times he was sacked in 2009.

Part of it has been the play of the offensive line, part of it has been that the receivers are not getting open and part of it has been that Rodgers has simply held onto the ball for to long.

The regression of Bryan Bulaga has been scary. Hopefully, it is because his knee is injured worse than the Packers are letting on. According to Pro Football Focus, Bulaga has allowed 21 hurries, three sacks and three hits through the first five games. Bulaga will somehow have to block J.J. Watt on Sunday and that could be trouble.

The Packers' wide receiver core is known as one of the best in the NFL, but they have played nowhere near that level so far this season. Part of it is scheme and part of it is that they are not beating man coverage and not making enough plays.

Mike McCarthy has not yet adjusted to the two deep safeties and man under look that teams have been throwing at the Packers. Greg Jennings being injured has been huge as well. He is by far the best wide receiver on the team at beating man coverage. Only James Jones has been effective at it this season. Also, the receivers have had way too many drops and too many plays that were made last year that have not been made this year.

Rodgers is the third part of this issue. He has developed happy feet in the pocket, something I have not seen from him since 2009. The added pressure has made him go through his reads to fast and he is missing people open that he hasn't before.

Another problem with Rodgers is the he has not gotten out of the pocket nearly enough. Last year when a play broke down, he would get out of the pocket with ease and either make a play or throw the ball away. This year he has spent to much time in the pocket. Also, he has felt phantom pressure at times and has ran into sacks way too much.

Rodgers might need to start taking more chances down the field, like dare I say Brett Favre. Rodgers is the opposite of Favre, as he hates throwing interceptions. However right now, it may be working against him with all the sacks he is taking. He has been afraid to challenge the two deep safety look. He doesn't need to be reckless like Favre, but just take a few more chances. He has the arm talent to make some throws that he is not attempting.

If the Packers don't fix the sack issue it will be a long game against Houston. 3rd and longs are death against Houston. The Packers will need a balanced attack to keep the down and distances manageable. McCarthy will need to show trust in Alex Green like he was in Cedric Benson. Once they lost Benson, McCarthy got away from the run after being balanced with Benson. Josh Sitton send McCarthy a message after the game that he didn't like it. 

"We have to make sure we can run the ball, Sitton said. We have to have that variety. We're not the same team as last year, obviously. We can't sit back there and throw the ball 20 times in a row to be successful."

"We have to run the ball and have the confidence in the play caller to call the run and we need to run the ball."

Houston's defense is one of the best in the NFL. The Texans rank third in yards (275.6), fourth in points (14.6) and tied for fifth in takeaways (11).

It all starts up front with J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith. If the season ended today Watt would be the NFL's defensive MVP and is absolute beast. He has 8.5 sacks, 12 QB hits, 11 tackles for loss and eight passes batted down so far this season.

The Packers need to scheme to somehow contain him and the rest of Houston's pass rush. Wade Phillips may blitz than other defensive coordinators have against the Packers. If they can pick them up it should help the Packers.The key to containing the rush is using heavy formations and running the ball. With the no- huddle offense this year, the Packers have stayed in the same formation too many times and have not used enough multiple formations.

Alex Green does his best running with screens and draws. Those should be perfect to slow down this rush. McCarthy must call more screens, as the Packers screen game seemed to leave them when Mike Sherman did. Green also must prove that he can run inside and read the holes and the lanes like Benson did. Vision has been his weakness thus far.

The weakness in the Texans defense is in the middle of the field. That is where McCarthy and Rodgers must attack it in the passing game. Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson are solid on the outside, but Danieal Manning and Glover Quin are weaker at safety and Brian Cushing's injury is a huge blow to their inside linebackers. Cushing was their dime linebacker, so the Texans may have trouble covering the middle without him.

It really hurts the Packers that Jermichael Finley and D.J. Williams may not be able to play in this game. If Finley could hold onto the ball he could make a lot of big plays in this matchup. Also, the less tight ends McCarthy has the less he can go to heavy formations. If those tight ends cannot play, and even if they can, McCarthy must go back to getting slants in the game plan, as they also left with Sherman and Favre. They finally ran a successful slant in the second half in Indy, so hopefully it is a sign of things to come.

The Packers will need to execute, run the ball, protect the passer, attack the middle of the field and avoid turnovers in order to beat Houston. It is a tall task, but it is not impossible if they can execute. They have the talent, they just need a solid game plan and they need to execute it in order to turn their season around in Houston.

Packers vs Texans: How To beat Them Defensively

The packers draw the Texans this weekend, a tough task to handle defensively  Let's look at our defensive keys to the game.

1. Control the run game. If you can't stop the run game it's over before it starts
2. Take away the big play WR threat.
3. Make Schaub get happy feet.... force him to win it.

I would  like to see Green bay use base on 1st down and go nickle after that. Roll coverage to Andre Johnson and make sure a Safety like Woodson takes the TE.

If you allow Schaub to get comfortable or the run game to crank it's a long night.

On a ST note Keshawn Martin a rookie from Michigan state will return punts and KO.  This could be  something Green Bay exploits.

We can NOT have coverage gaffs this weekend as they will end up as 6 points. Pursue the football....Tackle and play assignment sure.

Let's go to Houston and get the W !   Go Pack Go !!!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Special Teams Have Been Special

Since he began as the Packers' special teams coach in 2009, Shawn Slocum has come under a ton of fire and vitriol. Fans were screaming for his head as the Packers had no special returner and to many times had gotten burned by allowing big returns. However, last season Slocum's special teams started to turn it around  and have really taken it to another level to start this season.

Part of the reason Slocum's special teams struggled was coaching, but a lot of it was personnel as well. One of the biggest mistake's during Ted Thompson's tenure so far has been cutting Jon Ryan in 2008. Two awful punters followed him in Derrick Frost and Jeremy Kapinos, before they finally found a suitable replacement in Tim Masthay.

The Packers had been searching for an actual threat as a returner for years until Thompson finally addressed the issue and drafted Randall Cobb in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft.  Cobb broke the record for the longest kick return in NFL history in his NFL debut by returning a kick 108 yards.

The Packers have also greatly improved their personnel on their coverage teams. The Packers have really started to take special teams into account when deciding their roster spots. If you are a player on the roster bubble you better be able to contribute on special teams.  An NFL players' dream obviously is not to be a gunner on special teams, but you have to get them committed. Mike McCarthy and Slocum have done a great job of driving that message home.

In a close game special teams can a lot of times be the difference in the game. Field position is always a key in a game and a punt or kick return for a touchdown is always a huge momentum shift. Also, getting a turnover on special teams is always huge, as teams who have forced a special teams turnover are 8-1 this season (it's really 9-1 but the refs didn't count the one the Packers got last Sunday).

The Packers' two wins on the season are in large part due to key special teams plays. In Week 2 vs. Chicago, the Packers offense was struggling and the team needed a spark. On fourth-and-26 on the Chicago 27-yard line, Tom Crabtree scored a touchdown that gave the Packers a 10-0 and they rolled from their. It was beautifully designed and executed, as Crabtree ran across the formation and took a toss from from holder Tim Masthay and ran for a touchdown through a hole that was the size of Lake Michigan.

There was another huge fake on special teams that was a key to Sunday's victory over the Saints as well. The Packers led 14-7 midway through the second quarter and lined up to punt on fourth-and-17. The Saints double teamed the gunners, looking for a big return from Darren Sproles, which led to them having only six defenders in the box. It was to easy for John Kuhn as he took a direct snap and went up the middle for an easy five yard gain and a first down. The Packers coasted to another touchdown following that play when Aaron Rodgers threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to James Jones to put the Packers up 21-7.

The Packers have held two of the most dangerous returners in the NFL in Devin Hester and Darren Sproles to no big returns. Mason Crosby is perfect on field goals this season and Masthay is tied for the league lead with 11 punts downed inside the 20. Also, Cobb is 6th in the league in punt return average (15.4). Combine that with the two fakes, the fumble they really forced and that they have allowed no back crushing returns, this unit has been spectacular.

The Packers' season has been riddled with inconstancy. Their offense has struggled to put up points for the most part and their defense has been good against the average offenses but bad against the good offenses they have faced. Their only consistent unit has been the special teams. It will take the rest of the units to play at the level that the special teams is now to get the Packers to New Orleans.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Keys to beating New Orleans, and other thoughts.

There have been posts that have addressed the whole Seattle situation.  I don't really want to get into that because my goal is to try and stay professional when I write and I'm pretty sure that I won't if I discuss that.  But other things that have caught my attention throughout the league.

1.  The Texans offense is starting a change in the cycle of offenses.  I know that for so long that every offense was ahead of the defense when it came to the super pass happy shotgun offenses.  But it appears that defenses have caught up with more 3-4, different looks, faking blitzes, and getting better in coverage.  The other thing that this does is when all of the defensive ends are getting faster to try to pass rush.  They also are probably getting smaller and easier to run block.  The clearest example of this was Minnesota beating San Fransisco last week.  They got the lead, fed their running back, and forced Alex Smith to pass.  So I think that all of the big contracts to running back may soon pay off for their teams, except for maybe Chris Johnson, because he's just been awful.

2.  The "elite" team era seems to be over with the fall of the Patriots to 1-2.  Yes, I know that the Packers, Saints, Ravens, & Steelers have all been an automatic check in the elite column the last few years and that everyone automatically assumes that they will go to the playoffs.  But when they all have a combined record of 5-10 after 3 weeks, clearly the NFL is showing us once again how much parody plays a part in football.

3.  The NFL Head Coach might be the most important person on the field.  Sean Payton's absence has hurt the Saints in a serious way.  And for the record, I don't recall anyone having Drew Brees as a an elite quarterback in San Diego, otherwise Miami would have definitely signed him instead of Daunte Culpepper in the Summer of 2006.  Seriously, think about that for a while.  So then you have Payton showing that coaches are probably more underpaid then they should be.  I expect to see coaching salaries on the rise in the NFL over the next 5 years to a different pay scale entirely.

Now to focus on Packers @ Saints

1st Key to Victory:  Feed Benson

Why exactly have the Packers signed free agent running back Cedric Benson if he is going to get a grand total of 2 carries in the first half on Monday Night Football.  I mean, I know that the Packers are not typically a strong running team under McCarthy, but 2 carries is just sad and absurd.  46 carries through 3 games for 144 yards hardly screams starting running back.  And Yes that is 3.1 Yards per carry.  I know that he hasn't been amazing this year.  But Jamal Charles, his Texas alumnus, ran for 233 yards on them just last Sunday, and their defense is giving up a horrible 215 yards per game through 3 games.  This is the worst in the NFL by 60 yards per game.  The Bengals are at 155.  Feed Benson the ball and let him work.

2nd key to Victory:  Knock the ball down

I would love to have some turnovers in this game, but I just want to see our defense knock the ball down a few times to get things underway.  The Saints have already attempted 137 pass attempts through 3 games, with 75 completions for a total of 854 yards.  The Saints have a total of 56 carries for 278 yards this season, and don't seem to care about how many touches Ingram or Sproles gets when handing the ball off.  Watching them play the Chiefs last week, they just kept trying to pass to put the Chiefs away instead of thinking about running at any point.

Final Key to Victory:  Get ahead early

This may seem like a moot point, but teams are getting the early lead, forcing the other team to pass, and then stopping them.  Until this year, top quarterbacks haven't been getting shut down by opposing defenses.  I mean, our undefeated teams are not quarterbacked by Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.  It's Kevin Kolb, Matt Ryan, and Matt Schaub for crying out loud.  None of which have proved their greatness.  I just want us to Feed Cedric and then get some play action in to maybe take a look deep.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

NFL Screws the Packers and the Fans

By: Matt Bove
I hope Roger Goodell is happy with himself. He and the NFL owners have managed to turn the most popular sport in the U.S. into a sport with as much integrity as the WWE right now.

The Green Bay Packers got screwed out of a hard earned win on Monday night in Seattle. There is no other way to put it. Wins are very hard to come by in the NFL and in a sixteen game season one loss can make a huge difference. It can be the difference between a division title, a home playoff game, a playoff bye or the difference between making or missing the playoffs.

Goodell and his billionaire owners have been willing to ruin the integrity of the NFL over a few million dollars when their league is worth billions. They were waiting until a team got screwed out of a win to get back to serious negotiations and the Packers drew the short straw and were that team. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports that a deal with the referees could happen soon and they could return as early as Sunday That is great but it makes it seem like the Packers were just pawns and what happened to them made the NFL cave. 

I am normally not one to complain about officiating and say it is the reason as to why the Packers lost. However, in this case there is no question that it was, and what infuriates me is that it could have been avoided if Goodell and the owners weren't greedy pigs.

Obviously, you all know what play I'm referring to that cost the Packers the game. On the last play of the game Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson fired a prayer from the Packers' 24 yard- line that fell right into the hands of Packers safety M.D. Jennings, with Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate trying to rip it out. There was a point on the ground when Jennings had the ball pressed up against his chest and Tate had one arm in the air and the other around Jennings' neck. One official with a good view of the play called it a touchback, while the other official, who was fifteen yards in front of the play with not view of it, overruled him and called it a touchdown. The officials didn't even have a discussion on the field about it and the replay official was probably to scared of the home crowd's reaction to change the call.

The argument that if the Packers played better in the first half they would have won is flawed.  Their are two halves of football and the Packers completely dominated the second half. They scored on three of their four drives and dominated time of possession. The Packers out gained the Seahawks 217-90 in the second half and we know that 24 of Seattle's yards were bogus.

Seattle is a very hard place to win and you are not going to just go in there and blow them out. Yes, they were brutal on offense in the first half. Mike McCarthy waited way to long to make adjustments. He needed to keep extra blockers in, call shorter pass patterns, run the ball more, and work in more screens and draws to slow down the pass rush. With all that being said the Packers did more then enough to win the game and the officials took it away from them.

The Hail Mary "catch" was not the only egregious call that cost the Packers the game. On the drive before that, Wilson threw what would have been a game ending interception to Jerron McMillian, only to have the refs call it back on a phantom rushing the passer call on Erik Walden. Then, later in the drive on 1st and 25, Sam Shields played textbook defense to break up a pass intended for Sidney Rice, only to be called for pass interference when Rice was the one mugging Shields. That call gave Seattle the field position to set up the Hail Mary on their next drive.

The NFL was not the only thing I was sick about after the game. Watching Pete Carroll jump up and down like he won the Super Bowl next to the ref as he made the call was a joke. During his weekly radio appearance on 710- KIRO in Seattle Carroll said, "They called it and the league backed it up, and game over, we win." Nobody would expect anything less from Carroll, as everybody knows he is just a flat out imbecile. He was in charge of a cheating program at USC and left right when he knew they were going to get busted. It would be nice if him or some of his delusional players would man up and come out and say that they caught a break, but apparently that will never happen.

There was a lot of chatter on Twitter about Goodell possible overturning this call. That was never and should never have happened because of the Pandora's Box it would open. However, it would have been nice if the NFL had admitted that their was a mistake instead of releasing the garbage statement that they sent out.

Here is their statement: In Monday's game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, Seattle faced a 4th-and-10 from the Green Bay 24 with eight seconds remaining in the game.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a pass into the end zone. Several players, including Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate and Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings, jumped into the air in an attempt to catch the ball.

While the ball is in the air, Tate can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game. It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay.

When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown.

Replay Official Howard Slavin stopped the game for an instant replay review. The aspects of the play that were reviewable included if the ball hit the ground and who had possession of the ball. In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable. That is not the case in the field of play, only in the end zone.

Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood. The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review.

The result of the game is final.

You would have to believe that pigs can fly in order to buy this statement. It would have been nice  if the NFL had apologized to Green Bay, but the bigger deal is how they try to make you believe that it was a simultaneous catch. It is a pretty cowardly move and now their actions of trying to get the real refs back onto the field speak louder than those words. 

One of two things will happen to the Packers in the aftermath of this travesty. Either they will let this linger and crash and burn or they will use this as motivation and go on to have a great season. We now get to see what the Packers are really made of. The biggest screw you the Packers can give to Goodell and the owners is to go on and win the Super Bowl. Let's see what they got.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Seattle Debacle...My View

It's the day after the big mess in Seattle so I want to share my view point on this whole blown up mess.

First let's cover some key game points :

1. The Offensive Line had some issues but Aaron Rodgers has to stop holding the football.
2. MM must run the football... the 5/4 wide stuff is passe and DC have it pegged. Once Benson started pounding things opened up.
3. The "extra" rest after lay offs  is BS. Under MM we suck when we do it.
4. Prevent defense... crap city yet again.

Let's get into officiating for just a second. I have bigger  issues with the sum of all 3 lousy calls . ( PI on Shields, Roughing that negated a INT and the last call )  more then just the end alone.

The officiating is bloody awful league wide this just brought it to the front.

Let's talk about league accountability and the rules shall we ?

Unfair Acts

Commissioner’s Authority

The Commissioner has sole authority to investigate and to take appropriate disciplinary or corrective measures if any club action, nonparticipant interference, or emergency occurs in an NFL game which he deems so unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of a game.

No Club Protests

The authority and measures provided for in this section (UNFAIR ACTS) do not constitute a protest machinery for NFL clubs to dispute the result of a game. The Commissioner will conduct an investigation under this section only to review an act or occurrence that he deems so unfair that the result of the game in question may be inequitable to one of the participating teams. The Commissioner will not apply his authority under this section when a club registers a complaint concerning judgmental errors or routine errors of omission by game officials. Games involving such complaints will continue to stand as completed.

Penalties for Unfair Acts

The Commissioner’s powers under this section (UNFAIR ACTS) include the imposition of monetary fines and draft choice forfeitures, suspension of persons involved, and, if appropriate, the reversal of a game’s result or the rescheduling of a game, either from the beginning or from the point at which the extraordinary act occurred. In the event of rescheduling a game, the Commissioner will be guided by the procedures specified above ("Procedures for Starting and Resuming Games" under EMERGENCIES). In all cases, the Commissioner will conduct a full investigation, including the opportunity for hearings, use of game videotape, and any other procedures he deems appropriate.

Green Bay had no chance by rule to win this because the league absolves it's self of "judgmental errors" keep in mind that applies with regular refs not just the replacements. While I agree their awful the meat of the issue is the league is not culpable regardless.

But Mark we have to do something ? You have loudly but the Packers can not dwell on this loss. New Orleans is a team with their back against the wall.

It's a long season that just started. Want to show the league who's boss??? Let's win out and bring home another crown.

Don't bring yourself down to the level of "other" teams fans. Overcome and persevere this debacle.

Let's clean up the O and then crush the Saints !

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lineup Changes Key A Defensive Turnaround

By: Matt Bove
After their opening season loss to San Francisco Dom Capers had a lot to fix with his defense. He didn't have a lot of time to make them, but Capers made the decisions he should have made to begin the season.  

First, Capers Sam Shields inserted for Jarett Bush and Casey Heyward took over the dime corner, which meant Bush was back on the bench. Also, Jerron McMillian wast at safety in the nickel and dime for M.D. Jennings. It took a lot of faith for Capers to make these changes on such a short week. Then again, the defense really could not get much worse than it was with Bush and Jennings playing major time. 

Shields finally got the message about being more physical and tackling, so he earned his starting job back. Shields' huge tackle on Frank Gore on 3rd and 2 gave the Packers new life in week one, in which Aaron Rodgers gave right back with his interception to Navarro Bowman. However, it also gave Shields great confidence in himself and the coaches great confidence in him. 

Shields is much better than Bush in coverage, which is still the most important thing for the defense. Shields shut out Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey and was only targeted once in 60 plays. Jeffrey is 6'4", so one would think a physical guy like him would be a bad matchup for Shields, but he excelled. He was also only targeted once in the San Francisco game. This means his coverage has been very solid so quarterbacks have not thrown his way. Meanwhile, against San Francisco Bush was targeted seven times for four catches and 63 yards. 

McMillian and Hayward also received much expanded roles vs. Chicago and excelled. Pro Football Focus rated McMillian as the Packers' second best defensive player vs. Chicago after Clay Matthews. His grade of + 3.7 was the second highest grade Pro Football Focus had given out to a safety through the first 17 NFL games. McMillian had his fist career interception and dropped another. We have seen before how physical he is at the line and against the run. If he keeps improving in the back end in coverage like he did on Thursday, he can be a very good player. Hayward had three tackles, was used a blitzer, and was solid in coverage as well. 

Rookie Mike Daniels and Dezman Moses also saw big increases in playing time. Daniels recorded his first career sack and showed inside pressure. He should see more playing time in Seattle. Jerel Worthy also improved in this game, as he recorded his first career sack, albeit a coverage one. He was the lone lineman in the "Psycho" and seemed more active this game. 

The Packers had a great pass rush Thursday that netted seven sacks. Even though Clay Matthews was an unstoppable force, some of the sacks were coverage sacks. Tramon Williams had as many interceptions as Brandon Marshall had catches and Morgan Burnett did a great job of helping Williams. However, the main difference in the secondary that helped the coverage get so much better so fast was the increased roles of Shields, McMillian, and Hayward. 

In just one week, McMillian went from playing 15 snaps to 44; Hayward from 0 to 23; Moses from 4 to 18; and Daniels from 0 to 18. Davon House is talking like he is ready to return soon, which will make things very interesting in the secondary. He may not be able to get much playing time if Shields and Hayward keep their solid play up. It will be interesting to see in a very tough environment in Seattle, if these young players will continue to take steps forward.