Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Packers Listed as 3-Point Favorites For Sunday's Patriots Game

The Packers have been listed as three point favorites for Sunday's game against the Patriots.

The Packers have won seven of their last eight after starting the season 1-2, including their last two contests at Lambeau by 30+. However, last week in Minnesota they didn't look too great, limping their way to a 24-21 victory. 

The Patriots, meanwhile, have a similar story. beginning the year roughly before going on a hot streak. They're currently 9-2 after being 2-2, and are 3-2 on the road.

Nonetheless, since the Packers are the ones with the home field advantage here it seems more likely they'll find a way come out on top, as tough as New England is.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Predicting What the NFC Playoff Picture Will Look Like With Five Games to Go

Why not? Let's guess what things will look like:

1. NFC North:
The Packers clearly have control of the North right now, having a winnable five games ahead of them. The Patriots may give them problems, as is the case with the Buccaneers and Bills (the two road teams they still have to play), but nonetheless, I expect them to eventually come out on top with a 13-3 record, beating the Lions in Week 17.

2. NFC South:
This division's terrible, with the Saints and Falcons currently leading it at 4-7 each. 

Still, since somebody has to win it I'll take the Saints at 8-8, as they seem to have the easier schedule.

3. NFC East: 
I'd like to see the Eagles take this one, but as long as Mark Sanchez is starting against the Seahawks, it just doesn't seem likely. Expect the Cowboys to claim it at 12-4.

4. NFC West:
The West will go down to the wire, but in the end, I see the 12-4 Cardinals emerging as its champs. The 49ers will be right behind them at 11-5, while Seattle will fall to 9-7.

Wild Card Teams
The Eagles, Lions, and 49ers will all be 11-5, so two of those three. I'm not sure exactly how they would decide that, so I'll just leave it there.

Leave your thoughts below.

The Ongoing Musical Chairs At Linebacker

The linebacker core is the one unit that always seems to be undergoing some sort of shuffle. While Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews have excelled this season, it's been terrible times for Brad Jones, Mike Neal and A.J. Hawk.
In my recap of the win over the Vikings, I wrote that it was a quiet game for Matthews, who seemed a step slow as he played and practices through a groin injury. It looks like he's feeling better now, but in case his groin injury remains a problem, they'll need DE Mike Daniels and Peppers to make plays against the Patriots.

According to the ESPN playing time breakdown, rookie Jayrone Elliott was given some meaningful snaps for only the second time this season, without making much of an impact one way or another. Unfortunately he was only taking away snaps from Matthews outside, as Neal played as many snaps (59) as he's played in any game this season and received his worst game grade of the season from Pro Football Focus. Hopefully Nick Perry feels better this week and can take away snaps from Neal.

It was interesting that Brad Jones played his first meaningful snaps (13) on defense since a terrible performance against the Dolphins a few weeks ago. Against the Vikings, he received a slight positive grade from Pro Football Focus, which is a massive improvement for him. I'm not expecting too much from Hawk, but he's looking slow in coverage against the tight end, and it's forced them to reconsider Jones, who has the potential to be their best linebacker in coverage though he's been awful this season. The Patriots rely heavily on their tight ends and the Vikings game might be a prelude to a bigger role for Jones next week.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Rodgers Admits He Didn't Mean to Throw Unusual Touchdown Pass to Richard

The unusual touchdown one-yard touchdown pass Packers QB Aaron Rodgers threw to TE Richard Rodgers might've been cool, but that doesn't mean it was intentional.

Aaron admitted so to the Green Bay Press-Gazette yesterday.

"Well, that was a little bit of freestyle, if you will," he said. "The play is not designed that way. It's a play-action with (Andrew Quarless) as the first look in the right flat and there's only two guys in the route. Richie is the other option."

That's too bad, as it's fun to think that something like that could be on purpose. 

Still, the play was pretty unique, as the ball is said to have traveled 39.4 yards through the air on it.

Recap: Packers Hold Against The Vikings, 24-21

It was a very close game but the Green Bay Packers never trailed either. The best the Vikings could do was hang around. It never felt like the game got away from them.
The Vikings had a good game plan on defense. Their safeties played deep which allowed their cornerbacks to play tight coverage all over the field, knowing they'd have safety help deep if they got in trouble. It did leave them vulnerable against the run. Despite RB Eddie Lacy's illness, he was effective rushing for 5 yards per carry and dangerous as a playmaker who scored two touchdowns. They weren't able to get a lot of pressure on QB Aaron Rodgers either, who had an efficient game with a high completion percentage and no turnovers. It wasn't one for the highlight reel, since the Vikings did their best to take the deep passing game away, but he did took what the defense was giving him.

On offense, it was another game to learn from for LT David Bakhtiari, who struggled against DE Everson Griffen (as many have this season) and it also was a learning experience for WR Davante Adams, who isn't always on the same page as Aaron Rodgers. The Packers struggled early when Lacy wasn't as effective on the ground and WR Jordy Nelson was battling the Vikings's physical corners, so they might have sustained more drives if Adams could have gotten himself more involved in the passing game.

QB Teddy Bridgewater struggled badly with accuracy early on but he was able to sustain two long first half scoring drives with an effective running game (mostly when he scrambled) and some costly penalties. The Packers had been averaging 5 to 6 penalties per game this season, but they had eight in this one, including a costly hold by Micah Hyde that negated an INT. It was a quiet game for both Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews (no sacks, one QB hit for Matthews) though the Vikings struggled in pass protection the previous week against the Bears. Hyde ended up redeeming himself with a sack and an INT later in the game, and they needed that because he was the only stand out playmaker against the Vikings on defense.

I'd worry about a performance like this with the Patriots coming up next week, but the Packers are a different team at home this season. Just as the giant blowouts at Lambeau only count for one win, the same can be said for the close road victories. This one pushed them into the NFC North lead and the No. 2 seed for the playoffs (and the one seed moved closer because of Arizona's loss in Seattle). This was a very good weekend to give them some momentum before they face one of the best teams in the NFL next week.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Reaction: Packers Road Struggles Continue vs. Vikings, But They Still Win

The Packers didn't play that well today in Minnesota, but still, they won 24-21. Here are my takeaways from it:

1. Road Struggles:
They're not an illusion. This team is just not the same outside of Lambeau, and they need to fix that.

2. Eddie Lacy Can Make Big Plays:
On the last drive of this one, Lacy carried the ball five times in a row, and picked up the necessary two first downs to run out the clock. Not bad.

3. First Place:
With this and the Lions' 34-9 loss to the Patriots, the Packers are in sole possession of the top spot in the North for the first time this season. Finally.

On to the Patriots. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Packers/Vikings Final Prediction

My prediction for tomorrow's Packers/Vikings game.

Score: Packers 34, Vikings 17
I've learned my lesson here. The Packers are better than good, and will play as such. They might not necessarily win by 30, but still, this one won't be close.

Why?
Because the Vikings just aren't a proven offensive threat. Since the Packers defense tends to struggle on the road, I wouldn't be surprise if they puts up 21+, but that still doesn't mean they'll win. The Packers will score at least 35, and that's being generous.

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

Packers OL Tretter Fined $16,537 For Leg Whip Vs. Eagles

Packers Offensive Lineman J.C. Tretter has been fined $16,537 by the league for his leg whip late in Sunday's game against the Eagles, The Green Bay Press-Gazette's Weston Hodkiewicz reports.

Tretter swung his leg at Eagles LB Trent Cole with four minutes left to play Sunday after apparently missing a cut block. The move knocked Cole over, and drew a 15-yard penalty for unecessary roughness.

However, the league doesn't seem to think that that punishment was enough, taking away 56.8% of Tretter's weekly salary. Tretter, though, is expected to appeal.

This is the second time this season a Packer has been fined for an in-game incident. The first came back in Week 2, when Andrew Quarless was punished for grabbing the face of the Jets' Sheldon Richardson. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Matthews: I'll Play Without Limitations Sunday

Packers LB Clay Matthews said that the groin injury that's limited him in practice this week shouldn't affect his involvement Sunday.

"I was a little sore after the game in regards to the injury with my groin and everything," Matthews told The Green Bay Press-Gazette today. "I was able to do a lot more today than I was yesterday and obviously we don't work on Friday, that's our rehab day. I feel good. So, I don't think there were will be any limitations going into this weekend."

Hopefully that statement is true, as Matthews has collected 13 tackles and two sacks in the team's last two games. He's also recorded three assists, helping the Packers stay undefeated at home.

What Should The Packers Expect From Teddy Bridgewater?

According to Football Outsiders, the Vikings offense is currently ranked No. 29 overall, which probably would be a whole lot worse if you pro-rated out an entire season's worth of QB Christian Ponder's performance for the Vikings in Lambeau back on October 2nd. QB Teddy Bridgewater has played in seven games this season, but this will be his first start against the Packers.
According to ESPN's QBR, Bridgewater's ranking for the season is a bad 40.9 but (not surprising from a rookie) he's been very inconsistent. He was very good in three games this season (Falcons, Buccaneers, and Team From Washington) and very bad in three others (Lions, Bills, Bears) with his game against the Saints in the middle. It's probably no coincidence that his three good games came against three of the four worst pass defenses according to Football Outsiders, though he stank last week against the Bears's 28th ranked unit.

The big problem for Bridgewater is that he's been struggling in the deep passing games. He missed a couple of potential big plays against the Team From Washington. It doesn't help him that the Vikings had to go with a conservative attack against the Bears last week because they can't pass block. It wasn't until former Packer draft choice WR Charles Johnson got active in the second half did Bridgewater get his wide receivers involved in the game plan at all. A short passing attack, which might be necessary if Clay Matthews is constantly running unblocked around the left tackle, isn't going to get it done against the Packers. Ponder averaged only 5.0 yards per attempt in their last meeting and it led to blowout.

The Vikings do have an effective running attack (Matt Asiata averaged 4.8 yards per attempt in their last meeting, with one fumble) but injuries to Asiata and Jerick McKinnon have forced them to claim Ben Tate from waivers as they search for a healthy body at running back. And Tate's been awful, averaging 2.2 yards per carry over the past few weeks for the Browns. I don't expect Dom Capers will show any sign of respect to their running game unless the Vikings can prove it's deserved. So there should be even more pressure on Bridgewater to move the ball through the air while the Packers are lining up an extra back or two in coverage.

Bridgewater might be fortunate to lead the Vikings on a meaningful scoring drive or two before the fourth quarter rolls around and it's Matt Flynn time. Even if that happens, Bridgewater hasn't shown the ability to lead the Vikings in a shoot out against a non-awful defense at any time this season.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Packers Listed as 9 1/2 Point Favorites for Sunday's Vikings Game

The Packers have been listed as 9 1/2 point favorites for Sunday's game at the Vikings.

The Packers have won six of their last seven, including each of their last two by 30+. However, they are just 2-3 on the road this season, with that pair of victories coming over the Dolphins and Bears.

The Vikings, meanwhile, have gone 4-6 this year, and 2-2 at home. They were blown out by the Packers at Lambeau 42-10 back in Week 5, but didn't have Teddy Bridgewater available to start that  contest.

Nonetheless, it's still unlikely that they'll find a way to come out on top this time around, regardless of how interesting Bridgewater may make things.