Thursday, December 25, 2014
On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will look to put an exclamation mark on the final chapter of the 2014 regular season. The Detroit Lions will travel to Lambeau to do battle on the Frozen Tundra with the NFC North on the line. It always seemed like this matchup would come down to the NFC North title from the beginning of the season. In week 3, the Lions shut the Packers down offense and won 19-7 in what was probably the Packers worst offensive performance this season. The Lions defense ranks second overall, and is much improved as the Packers found out in that week 3 matchup. The Packers will be looking for revenge on Sunday, and this is how they'll exact it.
1. Blitz Matthew Stafford Heavily:
One thing has been for sure this season, and that is that Matthew Stafford is still very mistake prone. During the Packers week 3 loss against the Lions the Packers defense forced 3 Stafford turnovers. Stafford's mistakes seem to become more frequent outdoors and away from home. To force these turnovers the Packers will need to continue their recent success on defense. Last week against the Buccaneers the Packers had a season high 7 sacks. Although that was against a shaky Buccaneers offensive line it was a good confidence builder going into this matchup. Clay Matthews will be the man to watch on Sunday. Since he moved to middle linebacker he has had a Pro Bowl caliber season. It'll be up to him to terrorize Stafford, and get the ball back to his offense.
2. Feed Eddie Lacy:
Over the last two months Eddie Lacy has gotten back into his Pro Bowl form of a season ago. A lot of it has to do with the improved play of the offensive line, and the offense finding a nice balance. Since the bye week Lacy has averaged 5.31 yards a carry, which is good for fourth in the NFL since that time. The temperature should be in the low teens on Sunday so Lacy will need to get his fair share of carries. Games like this are the reason Lacy was drafted. There needs to be a balance found in this game that will extend to the postseason. The Lions stingy run defense held Lacy to 36 yards on 11 carries. That was a different Lacy, and a different Packers offense. Look for the Packers to pound the rock, and the offensive line to open some holes for Lacy as he puts the team on his back this sunday.
3. Shut Down Calvin Johnson:
If the Lions want to come away with a win on Sunday their going to have to find a way to get Calvin Johnson the ball. The Packers must prevent that from occurring, or prevent it from occurring often. There is no way to shut down Johnson completely, but the Packers secondary must contain him. They'll have to double team the Lions biggest weapon, and Sam Shields will have to be involved with shutting down Megatron. The safety duo of Morgan Burnett and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix will have to be on top of their game as well. Johnson has had big games against the Packers before, and the Lions have been unsuccesfful. Sunday he'll be looking to have a championship type performance, but it's up to the secondary to put their signature on the game.
Sunday will mark the Packers first objective on their road to the Super Bowl. It would be essential for them to get a first round bye, and get home-field advantage for at least one post season contest. With a little bit of magic they could clinch home-field advantage throughout, but at the moment that's a long shot. In the end I think the Packers will prevail on Sunday. They've played too well the last couple months to let this game slip away from them.
Friday, December 12, 2014
Sunday, the Green Bay Packers travel to the east coast to pay a visit to the Buffalo Bills in a pivotal match. The Packers need a win to stay ahead in the NFC North, and keep pace with the Arizona Cardinals for the number one seed in the NFC. The Packers have looked like the best team in the NFL, and have been the class of the NFC since October. But all of that could be undone with one loss in a tight race. If the Packers want a win on Sunday they're going to have to focus on three major things that could control the outcome.
1. Stop The Run:
It's not hard to realize that the Bills game plan will be to keep the ball away from Aaron Rodgers and co. How will they play keep away? By running the ball of course. It's no secret the Packers main weakness on defense is stopping the run. Bills running-back Fred Jackson could be one of the most underrated backs in the last five years. He has missed some time due to injury this year, but still poses a threat to the Packers defense. Jackson is an all-purpose back who can catch and run with the ball. He is the type of back the Packers have trouble with. The defense will need to work on their tackling, which has been the achilles heel so far this year. The secondary will have to step their game up as well.
2. Shut Down Sammy Watkins:
The whole Packers secondary with embarrassed by Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones last week. Jones did most of his damage in the second half, but burnt the Packers for 259 yards. That is the most this young secondary has ever given up. Jones is an elite receiver no doubt, but it just seemed way to easy the way he was ripping apart the secondary. Everyone gets the blame between Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Morgan Burnett, and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix. This week doesn't get any easier with rookie sensation Sammy Watkins lining up for the Bills. Watkins is a possession receiver who also possesses top flight speed, and is a threat to run after the catch. Sam Shields will most likely be assigned to Watkins, because I don't think Williams possesses the ability to stop Watkins. Capers will need to make sure there is safety help over the top. That was missing when Jones was running wild. Shields will have to redeem himself from last week so I look forward to him having a solid game. The offense will have to do their part too.
3. Keep Running The Ball:
Last week the Packers controlled the game with a balanced run game. The duo of Eddie Lacy and James Starks combined for 207 total yard and 3 touchdowns. Lacy is undoubtedly the workhorse of this offense, but he injured his hip towards the end of the Falcons game and isn't 100%. Lacy should be able to play Sunday, but he'll have his carries split with Starks and there's nothing wrong with that. The two headed monster of Lacy and Starks could be a big part of this offense going into the post season. It's important to get the run game in a rhythm these last three games. The Bills have a very stingy rush defense, but the run game will have to take some pressure off Aaron Rodgers.
This game on Sunday could possibly be the toughest test for the Packers in these last three weeks. Going to Buffalo and winning is no easy task. They have one of the better home-field advantages in the NFL. One good sign is that the weather is supposed to in the 40's come Sunday so that bodes well for the Packers explosive offense. If the offensive line can hold up against the Bills talented defensive line then the Packers have a good chance of pulling this one off. In the end I think the Packers win a close hard fought battle, and continue their stride towards the number one seed and a NFC North title.
Sunday, December 7, 2014
The Green Bay Packers will be ready for some home cooking when the Atlanta Falcons visit Lambeau field on Monday night. The frozen tundra will live up to its moniker as the temperature will be in the mid 20's by kick off. That is perfect Packer football, and could give the team more of an advantage over a dome team. Don't doubt the Falcons though. Although they have been underwhelming this season they are still dangerous team. The Packers are coming off one of their biggest wins in franchise history against the New England Patriots last week. Last weeks win cemented the Packers as an elite team, but now they'll have to deal with the hype. There are three things the Packers will have to do to ensure victory on Monday night.
1. Keep The Passing Game Hot:
The Falcons come into this game with the 32nd ranked pass defense. That stat right there has to have MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers chomping at the bit. Although the weather may be cold on Monday night Rodgers should still be able to carve up the Falcons secondary. The emergence of rookie receiver Davante Adams last week against the Patriots makes the Packers passing game even more dangerous. If Rodgers is able to get in his normal groove at home it could be a long night for the Falcons. Look for Rodgers to get all of his receivers involved as well as the tight ends. If this team is going to make a run their going to have to get the tight ends involved more. Rookie tight end Richard Rodgers seems like the best candidate. He's shown flashes all season, and can stretch the field when needed.
2. Get Lacy Ready For January:
The Packers have ran the ball well since their slow start in September. But if they want to be serious contenders they're going to have to really establish a run game going forward. We all know the Packers have had recent playoff struggles because of their lack of a running game. Teams are able to focus on Rodgers, and shut the offense down. Lacy was brought in to make this team one of the most balanced in the game. The Falcons are 21st in rushing defense so there's no reason Lacy shouldn't go over the 100 yard mark. I expect one of the Packers more balanced games on Monday night. Don't forget Lacy has also emerged as a good pass catching back this season. Look for the Packers to start building Lacy's confidence up on monday night.
3. Stay Hungry On Defense:
Ever since the bye week the Packers defense has been very aggresive. You could make an argument that this is the best the defense has looked since the 2010 Super Bowl run. Some have said the change in defense is due to Clay Matthews III moving to the middle, but I think it goes deeper than that. The change in defense is due to Dom Capers switching up the personnel packages. AJ Hawk has had a cut in play time and deservedly so. Young LB's like Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington have given a shot to this defense. Add a veteran like Julius Peppers in the mix who has become this defenses leader, and it seems to be the perfect mix. Expect the Packers to blitz Falcons QB Matt Ryan heavy on Monday and force him into errors. He's known to crumble under pressure. The secondary will have their hands filled with a talented duo of receivers like Julio Jones and Roddy White. If the blitz's are effective look for the Packers secondary to create a few turnovers through the air.
This game could be close through the first quarter, but in the end I believe the Packers will pull away and stay far away from the Falcons. The Packers seem to be functioning at a high level right now, and with this game being at Lambeau I don't expect a let down. If there are no major injuries this could be a game where the Packers are bringing in Matt Flynn in the third quarter. Look for the Packers to continue to stay hot, and win a laugher on Monday Night.