Saturday, October 25, 2014
Sunday, the Green Bay Packers travel down south to take on the New Orleans Saints in a primetime matchup that is sure to provide all the drama of a shoot out. The main matchup that everyone will be watching will be the quarterback duo of Aaron Rodgers vs. Drew Brees. Head to head Rodgers is 2-1 against Brees and has out-dueled him in every matchup besides the loss; a 2008 matchup in New Orleans during Rodgers first year as starter. Rodgers has grown into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL since the debacle in the dome. Rodgers actually comes into the game with 1 interception, and hasn't thrown one since week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks. From an efficiency standpoint this could be Rodgers best season thus far. And it should only get better on Sunday. The Saints have the leagues last ranked pass defense.
It's a matchup that has to have Rodgers and the offense foaming at the mouth. Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Randall Cobb have all stepped up their game during the Packers recent four-game win streak. The trio of receivers could be the best the in the NFL at the moment, and could be a nightmare for the Saints weakened secondary. The Saints could also put much emphasis on stopping the pass, and forget about the Packers talented run game. Eddie Lacy has ran much better during the recent win streak, but still has a lot to improve on. This could be a game in his home state where he can show America that he isn't experiencing the sophomore slump. Apart of it seems to be lack of holes for the second year running back. He is breaking 3 tackles each run, but he's just at the line of scrimmage due to lack of holes opening up. The Packers offensive line could push around the Saints defensive line if they're on their game. And if Lacy doesn't get it going? James Starks will be ready to go. Starks and Lacy make a great tandem that could prove to be too much for the Saints inept defense. But can the Packers defense quiet Drew Brees and his explosive offense?
The past few years the Saints have reminded me a lot of the Packers. Top offense, but weak defense. This season however it seems that the Packers defense has turned a corner. The secondary is finally playing up to its potential. Sam Shields will most likely miss his second game due to a knee injury suffered in week 5. Shields being out shouldn't hinder things that much though. The secondary held their own against Cam Newton last week, but Brees is definitely a cut above Newton at this point. Brees has many weapons at wide receiver that include Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks, and Kenny Stills, but it's not the receivers the Packers should be worried about. Elite tight-end Jimmy Graham poses the biggest threat to the Packers defense. Historically tight-end's have always been a problem for Dom Capers defense in Green Bay.
The middle of the field will be tested, and that's where the Packers are at their weakest. Inside linebackers AJ Hawk and Jamari Lattimore lack the speed and coverage skills to keep up with Graham's talents. They're going to have to find a way to take Graham away from Brees. Pressure on Brees will be a key component in stopping this potent offense. Forcing the Saints to run the ball will be another big key to victory for the Packers. But in the intense atmosphere of the Super Dome it may spell the end of the Packers four-game win streak.
In the end I think the Packers offense will hold their own, and compete in a shootout with the Saints. But the Saints being, at home, a desperate team may be far too much for the Packers to handle on defense. Brees and the Saints will run away with this game late, but it won't spell doom for the Packers season. You can't win them all, and it doesn't seem like the Packers will pull this one out.
Friday, October 10, 2014
Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will be taking their talents to South Beach to take on the Miami Dolphins. This matchup provides some excitement, and a decent test for the Packers going up against an uncommon AFC opponent. The Dolphins are also coming off of a bye and sit at 2-2 which is good for third place in the AFC South.
The Dolphins were winners of their last contest against the Oakland Raiders which was played in London. In that game Dolphins QB Ryan Tannenhill had a breakout game throwing for 271 yards and 2 TDs. That doesn't seem like that great of a game, but compared to struggles Tannhenhill has had after a week 1 win against the Patriots, it seemed to be a huge step in the right direction. The Packers can't take the Dolphins offense lightly. Although they haven't lit the scoreboards on fire, they are ranked 5th in rushing yards and 15th in total yards. That is troubling for a Packers run defense who ranks dead last in the league at defending the run.
Dolphins running-back Lamar Miller has carried the load while starter Knowshon Moreno has been out with an elbow injury. The Packers defensive line must build off the success they had last week against the Minnesota Vikings. They held Vikings running-back Matt Asiata to 72 rushing yards, and it is the only time they've held an opposing rusher under 100 yards this season. Mike Daniels and LaTroy Guion had great performances against the Vikings. Both were great at stopping the run, and accounted for 1.5 sacks. Along with that Julius Peppers also seems to be having a comeback season. He fits in perfectly as a 3-4 linebacker. Peppers intercepted an easy pass, and showed some great athletic ability in returning it for a touchdown last week against the Vikings. He's proven thus far that there is a lot left in the tank. Look for him and Clay Matthews to tee off on Tannenhill all game when he's passing. If the Packers can control the line of scrimmage and take Tannenhill off his mark early then it'll bode well in the long run for the Packers. Then there's the red-hot Packers offense.
after the Packers lackluster 1-2 start, their offense and mainly their quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been unstopable. They didn't punt against the Chicago Bears in week 4, and literally ran away with the game last week. Eddie Lacy finally seemed to get on track last week, and it was much needed. In the rain Lacy ran for 105 yard and added 2 touchdowns. In the process he was putting his head down and laying the wood to defenders trying to tackle him. This really set the tone for the rest of the game as the Packers had their way with the Vikings.
It'll be interesting to see if Lacy can continue the success against the Dolphins 12th ranked rush defense. If Lacy and Rodgers are both on point then this offense is one of the more complete units in the league. Rodgers will look to continue his success after a somewhat slow start to the season. The Dolphins pass defense is ranked 9th, so it will be tough sledding for the Packers talented receiver duo of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Nelson leads the league in receptions and yards and Cobb leads the league in receiving touchdowns. The Packers have one of the best receiver duo's in the league, but they are very undderated. This will be the most talented quarterback, and receiver combos the Dolphins have played thus far. If the offensive line continues their success and gives Rodgers time it could be a long day for the Dolphins, but if the offensive line falters in the heat we could be looking at Rodgers being rushed all day. That never bodes well for the Packers. Look for rookie receiver Davante Adams to get more involved in this game. Rodgers is on record saying Adams is open quite a lot on film, and he just has to find him. If Rodgers can build that trust up then this offense will only flourish.
In the end I think this game will be close early, but look for the Packers to escape Miami with a close win.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Thursday will cap off a short week for the Green Bay Packers as they welcome their rival, the Minnesota Vikings, to Lambeau field. This will be the Packers third straight NFC North divisional game, and their first Thursday night game since the 2012 season. The Packers and Vikings are both coming off of impressive wins against the Bears and Falcons respectively. The Vikings seem to be catching fire, and are clearly better than their 2-3 record says. The Packers have to keep their offense rolling if they want to get to 3-2 and 2-1 in the North.
The short week may prove costly for the Packers defense. The run defense ranks dead last in the NFL, and Mike McCarthy admitted on Tuesday that they look "run down," and that doesn't bode well going into a game on 4-days rest. Most would think the Vikings pose little threat running the ball without the best running back in the game, and Packer killer: Adrian Peterson. Peterson was suspended after week 1 when he was brought up on child abuse charges. Peterson will most likely miss both matchups against the Packers this season, but they still bring a strong running game to the table. Former fullback Matt Asiata is the type of bruising runner that gives the Packers fits.
The Packers defensive lacks the toughness to keep hard-running running backs bottled up. Marshawn Lynch and Chris Ivory have already made the linebackers and safeties look like children. And to switch it up the Vikings have rookie running back Jerick Mckinnon. Mckinnon is a speedy back who can run between the tackles. He posted 135 yard on 18 carries against the Atlanta Falcons in week 4. The other factor that kills the Packers defense is speed. The Vikings pose the perfect threat to rip the Packers apart. The Packers must get psychical if they want to stop the Vikings now underrated running game.
This psychicality starts upfront with Mike Daniels, Josh Boyd, and Latroy Guion. Guion, a former Viking, may have some extra motivation coming into this game. He has to perform better than he has the past four weeks. DT Mike Pennell got a chance last week against the Bears, but he failed as Matt Forte shredded the defense. Jammari Lattimore and AJ Hawk have also been pushed around way too much in the last few weeks. The inside linebackers must get stronger on their run defense, and get that inside pressure on the quarterback. It's been clear thus far that Hawk has lost a step this season. I look for the Vikings to exploit this weakness on Thursday. But the Packers can't overlook the Vikings passing game either.
Rookie Teddy Bridgewater made his first start against the Falcons in week 4, and he lived up to expectations. Bridgewater threw for 317 yards and rushed for a touchdown. He didn't turn the ball over, which goes a long way in showing that he's not your average rookie. Bridgewater seemed to build a rapport with receivers Jarius Wright and, Former Packer, Gregg Jennings. They also have the explosive Coradelle Patterson who can score anytime he touches the ball. Bridgewater showed pin point accuracy, and elusiveness in the win against the Falcons too. The fact that he showed elusiveness should worry the Packers defense. Elusiveness quarterbacks have given the Packers fits since 2011. They must keep a spy on Bridgewater, and try to confuse him with some exotic blitz's.
Dom Capers can never put a great gameplan togegther to confuse rookie quarterbacks. It's maddening to watch rookies, and inadequte QB's alike tear the Packers defense apart. This is going to be even more of a tougher test for the defense though after seeing a full game out of Bridgewater last week. Bridgewater did sprain his ankle in the win, but it seems as if he play on Thursday. The Packers best defense could be their offense though.
If the Packers can get a complete game out of their offense on Thursday it will be a long night for the Vikings. In both wins this season, Aaron Rodgers has been on fire, but the running game was lacking. Last week against the Bears, Rodgers put on an air raid, and basically controlled the game through the air. Eddie Lacy struggled again to break tackles and get to the next level of the defense. With rain in the forecast for thursday the Packers will need to get the run game going. The struggles aren't all on Lacy though. It doesn't seem like the offensive line is getting a good push or holding their blocks long enough. Everytime Lacy gets the ball he's surrounded instantly. You can't expect him to break 4 tackles at a time on every run.
If the run game doesn't get going though, I think Rodgers found his groove last week, and will continue to light it up. The Packers did what they needed to do last week: get all the receivers involved. Plays were called for Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. They opened up the playbook and looked like themselves. Rookie tight end Richard Rodgers even contributed, and looked a little like Jermichael Finley. The Packers need to get that tight end presence felt as they move forward. I think the Vikings secondary is somewhat strong, but Rodgers should be able to have a lot of success if he's given time. Adams needs to be a bigger part of this offense as well. He flashed a lot of signs of great talent against the Bears, and this confidence needs to carry over against the Vikings.
The Packers special teams have also enjoyed a great run recently against the Vikings. In 2011, it was Randall Cobb who returned a punt for a touchdown, in 2012 Jeremy Ross put on a clinic at kick returner, and last season Micah Hyde returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown. Could the Packers weak special teams be poised to break out on Thursday?
I believe being at Lambeau, this game should swing the Packers way all night. It'll be close early, but look for the Packers to pull away late in the third quarter.