Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Packers Name 2014 Playoff Captains, Three Weeks Before Postseason Even Starts

It's January in Green Bay, before it's even Christmas.

That's the message the Packers appear to be sending with today's announcement of their 2014 playoff captains, in spite of the fact they are yet to clinch a Wild Card Berth and the postseason won't start for another three weeks. 

According to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky, their captains on offense will be Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson, while the defense is set to be represented by Julius Peppers and Morgan Burnett and the special teams Randall Cobb and Jarret Bush. 

Sort of a strange story here, but since Nelson apparently thinks it's already playoff time, I guess it's understandable. Not to mention, it'll take a lot for the Packers to miss at this point, seeing as they are currently 10-4.

Packer Injury Watch: Bryan Bulaga's Concussion

RT Bryan Bulaga appears to be on the path to being cleared by Sunday, but his absence could lead to JC Tretter's first NFL start.
It wasn't pretty when Bulaga went to the locker room and Tretter surrendered the strip sack to DE Mario Williams that went for a safety. Except Williams is an elite pass rusher while the Buccaneers don't have much in the way of a pass rush. DT Gerald McCoy is one of the best players in the NFL, but he's done for the season. That leaves them with DT Clinton McDonald (who was good in 2013 with the Seahawks too) and DE Jacquies Smith (who's only had two good games this season) as their top rushers according to Pro Football Focus.

The Bucs have a pretty good run defense, led by LB Lavonte David and former Packer LB Danny Lansanah, but Tretter might be better as a run blocker at this point. Either way, even if Bulaga's unavailable, they should be in good shape to protect QB Aaron Rodgers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Packers Listed as 10 Point Favorites For Sunday's Battle of the Bays

It seems like the Packers can never beat the Buccaneers when the two play in Tampa, but Vegas apparently thinks things will be different this year.

The odds for this week's NFL games have been released, and this time around the Packers are 10 point favorites to improve to 11-4. Granted, on Monday that line read a few points higher at 12, but nonetheless, it's a pretty sizable one.

Anyway, I'm not sure much more insight is needed here, as the Bucs are just 2-12 right now and are likely no threat to the inconsistent powerhouse that is the Packers. Expect Green Bay to win as long as they show up, though I'll admit, I don't see a blowout happening.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Nelson: "We Had All Sorts of Chances" to Win Sunday

Jordy Nelson is acknowledging his role in yesterday's loss.

The star Packers WR told Madison.com after the defeat he and the team didn't capitalize on their opportunities, specifically referring to his touchdown-costing drop late in the third quarter.

"We had all sorts of chances and just didn't make them for whatever reason," Nelson said. "My drop could've won the game for us, so I've gotta make those no matter how easy or hard they are."

The missed catch likely would've given the Packers a 17-16 lead, completely altering the course of the game. Instead, though, Green Bay stayed behind until the clock hit zero, dropping their 2014 road record to 3-4.

Packers Upset By Bills in Buffalo: 21-13

It was surprising that they only lost by 8 points considering all the turnovers (2 INTs plus you have to consider the recovered fumble that went for a safety a turnover), bad special teams (Buffalo's punt return for a touchdown) and penalties (9 for 70 yards).
For me, all hope of a come from behind win vanished when WR Jordy Nelson dropped that likely 90+ yard touchdown pass pictured above. They had an amazing amount of dropped passes (every targeted receiver except RB Eddie Lacy had a drop) and it was the most drops in any game by any team since 2008. The offensive line did a very good job in pass protection against a potent Bills pass rush, but QB Aaron Rodgers didn't get enough help from his receivers.

I wasn't expecting the Packers to run the ball well against the Bills's defense, but instead they did a fantastic job. Lacy had multiple 10+ yard carries and average 6.5 ypc overall. He's a load to bring down and showed great vision, but he had some huge rushing lanes thanks to his offensive line.

On the other side of the ball, it was quietly a fantastic game for the defense. They did miss some tackles and left receivers uncovered at times, but the Bills didn't take advantage of it. The Bills ran for under 4 yards per carry and QB Kyle Orton's stats (ESPN QBR of 17.2) was just as bad as Rodgers. The defense only allowed four drives that led to field goals which would have been enough to win almost any other game this season.

The special teams were awful. They have always been OK to bad under Mike McCarthy and Shawn Slocum, and this season they're starting to slip into the bad territory. It was ironic that they fell apart during the game after they promoted special teams ace S Chris Banjo from the practice squad. There's nothing to do at this point except work on cleaning up their mistakes from this game.

The last time Aaron Rodgers had a game this bad was in November 2012 against the Giants when the entire team fell apart and they lost 38-10 on the road. Back then, the defense wasn't playing well and the offense couldn't run the ball (RB Alex Green was the starter). Even against a lesser opponent, it's tough to win on the road late in the season (the 2011 loss at Kansas City, which ended their unbeaten season, also comes to mind). This loss isn't a big concern unless you believe Rodgers and Jordy Nelson are going to play this poorly for the rest of the season.

They are still the No. 6 seed and it's still possible for them to win the No. 1 seed, but I've written off any chance of winning home field advantage throughout the playoffs because of this loss. Maybe that's just as well; the Packers have lost two of their last three home playoff games.

However, the road to the NFC North championship and the No. 2 seed is pretty straight forward; just win their final two games (at Tampa, Detroit in Lambeau). If they win out, they'll beat the Cowboys on tiebreakers and we won't even talk about how far behind the NFC South winner will be from the No. 2 seed. They just have to forget about this week and focus on winning their next two games.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Reaction: Packers' Road Struggles Reach New Low With Loss to Bills

My takeaways from today's 21-13 loss to the Bills, which drops the Packers' record to 10-4:

1. Aaron Rodgers Can Have Bad Days: 
The Packers QB completed just 17/42 for 185 yards, 2 interceptions and no touchdowns, proving he is in fact human.

2. Road Struggles Not Getting Any Better:
It used to be the Packers just couldn't blow out bad teams, but now I guess they can't even beat okay ones.

3. Still Just One Game:
I wanna be mad right now, but really, it's not easy to be. The Cardinals won't hold onto the one seed, nor will the Eagles compete for it. Everybody relax.

Leave your thoughts below.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Packers/Bills Final Prediction

My final prediction for tomorrow's Packers/Bills game:

Score: Packers 27, Bills 21
I don't see the Packers losing this one, but I don't see them exactly playing to their full potential either. They'll probably just hold a slim lead throughout and then run out the clock.

Why?
Because their defense was terrible last week and their offense has never been good on the road this season. Again, I don't think Kyle Orton will make enough to plays to pull off the upset, but nonetheless, he'll keep things close.

Leave your thoughts below on how accurate you think mine are.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Facing Orton, Packers Expect Sunday's Game to be Close

Kyle Orton has given the Packers some trouble over the past few years, so it's that surprising they're expecting him to give them all he has Sunday.

"I've always thought he's been very productive," team Head Coach Mike McCarthy recently told ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky. "We've obviously played against him in Chicago, Denver, Kansas City. Played very well against us in Kansas City down there in 2011. He has complete understanding of the offense. He can make all the throws. He can still sling it. I think he does a very good job with their offense." 

Orton's led his overall-unamazing Bills to a 7-6 record this season, so it's only reasonable to expect him to keep things close this weekend. How close is expected by many to be the only mystery, though, as the Packers have won each of their last five by a total of 88 points (a 17.6 per game average). 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lacy a Limited Participant in Practice Thursday, But "Making Progress"

Packers RB Eddie Lacy is still recovering from a hip injury he suffered in Monday's win over the Falcons, but may be nearing a recovery.

According to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky, Lacy was limited participant in the team's practice Thursday, something that's not necessarily good considering how late in the week it is.

He is, however, "making progress" in the words of Mike McCarthy, which can't be bad. Lacy was one of the biggest reasons the Packers won their last road game over the Vikings November 23, rushing for two first downs in the final minutes to run out the clock.

Let's hope he gets a chance to do so again this Sunday, when the Packers play arguably their toughest contest left on the schedule in Buffalo.

Packers On The Road: Comparing The Bills to The Vikings

The Packers are only 3-3 this season on the road, so visiting an opponent (even one not as good and not likely to make the playoffs) can turn any game into a close one. The Packers are currently ranked No. 4 overall by Football Outsiders but the Bills are a respectable 10th because of their great defense.
Of the defenses currently ranked in the Top 10 by Football Outsiders, the Bills will be the 6th Top 10 defense the Packers have faced this season (Lions, Bills, Seahawks, Eagles, Dolphins, and Patriots). They've previously faced three of these defenses on the road (Lions, Seahawks, and Dolphins) and scored an average of 16 points. The Bills haven't allowed more than 17 points in their last three home games but that has come against a collection of weak offenses (Browns, Chiefs, and Vikings).

Before that streak, the Bills hosted three offenses ranked as above average by Football Outsiders (Dolphins, Chargers, Patriots) and they allowed an average of 23 points. They allowed 37 points to the Patriots, which is the offense that most resembles the Packers. Despite their great defense, they do allow points against better offensive teams and the Packers's offense has no signs of weakness at the moment. They should be able to score in the mid-20s against the Bills, similar to what they scored on the road against the Vikings.

The second half defensive collapse against the Falcons is the Packers's big story at the moment, but that damage was mostly confined to an unstoppable Matt Ryan to Julio Jones combination. The Bills have WR Sammy Watkins, and I'm a big fan, but he's no Julio Jones yet. Watkins is currently ranked No. 42 overall by Football Outsiders (Jones is No. 8) which is about the same ranking as Packer rookie WR Davante Adams (No. 50 overall). Watkins is basically having Adams's season with twice the number of targets and twice the yards and touchdowns. The next highest ranked receiver for the Bills is Robert Woods at No. 62. So they don't have any receiver like Julio Jones to attack the Packers's defensive weakness.

And Kyle Orton is certainly not the same as Matt Ryan. Ryan is similar to Drew Brees (both are QBs the Packers have struggled against this season) while Orton more closely resembles Mark Sanchez. Orton's QBR is 42.1, which is similar to Teddy Bridgewater (46.0), but those two QBs have almost nothing in common. Bridgewater ran for 32 yards against the Packers on November 23rd, but Orton's only ran for 21 yards for the entire season. Maybe the Bills can score 20 or 21 points like the Eagles and Vikings did against the Packers, but they're no threat to go for 37 points like the Falcons or 44 points like the Saints.

This isn't as simple as comparing the Vikings to the Bills, those are two different types of teams, but their overall efficiency is similar. The Vikings also beat the Bills in Buffalo by a score of 17 to 16 back in October. When the Packers played in Minneapolis, the final showed that the Vikings only beat the Packers by 3 points, but it wasn't as close as the score. The Packers led the entire game and clearly looked like the better team. I expect the same will happen when the Packers play the Bills.