Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Rodgers: Possibility of Bye Week Motivated Me to Come Back in Lions Game

Aaron Rodgers knew he was hurt Sunday, but wanted the bye week for rehab.

At least that's the reason he gave The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Tom Silverstein for why he came back from the calf injury, one which bugged him last week as well. Here's his full quote, courtesy of Silverstein:

"As bad as I felt, I thought if I can go out there and be able to do some things and we win, I get another week to rehab. That was definitely in my mind. Obviously, that doesn't enter the minds of the medical staff. They're thinking about what's in the best interests of the player. But Doc and I have a great trust between each other and we did a little fist pound, and after I told him I felt good and Mike said OK, he just trusted that I was not going to do anything stupid."

Avoiding The Upset: Assessing The Packers

It's a good point that the top 2 seeds in both conference haven't advanced to their respective championship games since 2004. The odds favor at least one of the eight teams playing next weekend will make it to a championship game. Should the Packers be worried they might be the team that is upset this year?
Greg Bedard thinks the Broncos should be worried because they haven't beaten a 2014 playoff team since October (the Cardinals) while the Packers could have trouble stopping the Cowboy offense (he appears to assume they'll beat the Lions, which is a pretty safe assumption, and they won't face either the Cardinals or Panthers). I don't follow the Broncos closely so I have no idea about them. For the Packers, I'm looking at their last two home playoff losses (2011 and 2013) though they only had the bye week after the 2011 regular season.

The 2011 home playoff loss was really a weird game. QB Eli Manning went on an almost turnover free playoff run (only 1 INT vs. 9 TDs in 4 playoff games) that was unheard of in his usually turnover filled regular seasons. On the other hand, the 2011 Packers only had 14 turnovers in 16 regular season games before committing 4 turnovers in their one playoff game against the Giants. Also, the 2011 Packer pass defense was the worst in NFL history and they couldn't step up when the offense struggled. If whatever QB the Packers face this season goes off like Manning did in that game (and outplays Aaron Rodgers) and the Packers have a turnover margin of minus 3, then they'll probably lose to any playoff team they face at home. Both of those things are uncharacteristic for the 2014 Packers and unlikely to happen again.

The 2013 home playoff loss was Rodgers's second game back from his broken collarbone and he didn't look like himself in either of his last two games in 2013. He hadn't played in the previous several weeks and it looked like it. Also, it didn't help that WR Randall Cobb was still on a limited snap count after suffering a mid-season knee injury and the 49ers were the better team statistically (No. 7 overall according to Football Outsiders) and in terms of wins and losses. Rodgers's current calf injury doesn't compare to returning from a broken collarbone and whichever team they face in two weeks will have a worse or the same win-loss record and be statistically ranked below them overall according to FO. Also, his injury somewhat distracted from the fact that the Packer defense in 2013 was terrible (2nd to last that season according to FO). While the defense has been inconsistent this season, it's much better overall and a respectable No. 16 overall according to FO.

None of the factors that caused problems in recent home playoff losses should show up again this year. So long as Rodgers plays similar to as he's played in every other home game this season and the defense is respectable, they should be safe from any early playoff exit.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Reaction: Packers Take NFC North Again With 30-20 Win Over Lions

(View from my Seat)
My thoughts after watching the Packers beat the Lions yesterday, clinching for the former a fourth straight NFC North title:

1. The Dreaded Goal Line:
The Packers still can't punch it in from inside the 10, so that was annoying. Hopefully Lacy will just start jumping over the line again once the playoffs start.

2. Rodgers is Hurt:
The stadium died when he left and lit up when he returned, but nonetheless, he's still kind of hurt. Definitely not favorable at this time of year.

3. Another Strong Outing From the Defense:
They gave up a pair of touchdowns when Rodgers was out, but besides that they were very good at killing Detroit's momentum. 

Leave your own takeaways below. 

Packers Repeat As NFC North Champs, Beat Lions 30-20

It probably happens to me once a year, but this game kept me up last night and I couldn't sleep. It was totally irrational but that's what Packer fandom does to me. I wasn't nearly as nervous during the game; even QB Aaron Rodgers's calf injury didn't phase me (I expected he'd return). That probably came from the fact that the Packers have looked like the best team in football this season in Lambeau.

This wasn't Rodgers's best game statistically (his two demolitions of the Bears were better) but overall this was his best one. It did remind me of last season when he came back from injury in the final week to lead them to a victory. This season, his calf injury wasn't as significant as a broken collarbone, but he was nearly flawless against a great Lion defense. I don't know what thoughts go through the mind of MVP voters, and I have a lot of respect for DE J.J. Watt, but this sure looked like an MVP performance.
I liked that the offense came out running. Maybe the Lions were expecting their top ranked run defense would hold up fine and they focused on stopping them through the air. Unfortunately the Packers didn't gain anything from it. Once they got to the goal line, they tried two short passes before getting stuffed on 4th down at the two yard line. On the next drive, RB Eddie Lacy fumbled the ball in Lion territory. No matter the opponent, they'll have to bring that same running game in the playoffs.

Before the game, I was complaining that the Packers don't have a good No. 3 option for Aaron Rodgers. WRs Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb deliver almost every game, but WR Davante Adams has been playing like a rookie (misreading routes, dropped passes) in between flashes of what he can become. WR Jarrett Boykin has received some playing time in recent games, but Rodgers doesn't seem to look for him. Against the Lions, only Nelson, Cobb, TE Richard Rodgers and Lacy caught passes (TE Andrew Quarless had a couple targets, no receptions). They called for more running plays (36 run to 26 pass) with only 23 pass attempts, which explains some of the reason why no one else was involved in the passing game. But I don't think it's a problem. If the Lions had used double-teams to take Nelson out of the game, as has happened at times this season, Rodgers would look for his other receivers.

The defense played well (they held the Lions to 4.7 yards per play and 4 for 11 on 3rd down) but they couldn't stop the Lions in the red zone (3 trips for 3 touchdowns) and they had problems stopping RB Joique Bell from running off left tackle. They seemed to rotate more players in and out on defense than they had in any game this season. But they also had a strong pass rush from nearly everyone in the front seven and the secondary was tight in coverage, missing out on a couple of interceptions. Megatron had two touchdown receptions but they did a very good job of limiting him to 39 yards on 11 targets. Many players made individual plays but no one player really dominated. It was a team defense effort.

The only player I'd unfortunately have to single out is inside LB Brad Jones. He's rarely played this season but he keeps getting another chance because they don't have a lot of options inside. In this game, he had a 15 yard penalty for hitting Matthew Stafford in the head that extended one drive. Sam Barrington played well inside and Clay Matthews played there some again (there's no point in going back to A.J. Hawk for any long stretch) but otherwise they don't have any other answers at this time.

The special teams had an up and down game (a punt return TD from Micah Hyde and a blocked FG attempt) and came into the game ranked No. 23 overall by Football Outsiders. The Packers left RB DeJuan Harris inactive and let Cobb return kickoffs (none returned on the game) but that had no effect. It's the seventh kick that's been blocked this season and hopefully this is the last time it's a problem. The special teams can't be a problem in the postseason.

With Rodgers coming off an injured calf, the first round bye is a big deal for the Packers this year. The Lions now travel to Dallas, and if they can pull off they upset, they'll return to Green Bay in two weeks. I'm finding myself taking this division championship for granted, which I shouldn't because it is a big deal to establish and keep this culture of winning. It's been a great regular season.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Lions/Packers Final Prediction

My final prediction for today's NFC North decider between the Packers and Lions:

Score: Packers 35, Lions 17
I don't think the Lions are bad, but I can't see them winning at Lambeau. The Packers are just too good there and will find a way to score 30+ points.

Why?
Because Aaron Rodgers is better at home and Matthew Stafford's worse on the road. That may be an unfair reason, but I'm going with it. Modern history says it'll happen, and I don't see the trend ending anytime soon.

Leave your thoughts below, and remember that I'll be at this one. Expect pictures.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Rodgers (Calf) Probable vs. Lions

Packers fans everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief. Aaron Rodgers will play Sunday, or at least he should.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Tyler Dunne reported so, tweeting Friday afternoon the star QB is probable for this weekend's game against the Lions. The contest decides this year's NFC North winner (both teams are currently 11-4), so obviously Rodgers' playing in it matters.

We can talk about other stuff now I guess, but just remember, this isn't exactly best-case scenario. Rodgers is still said to not be 100 percent, so who knows, maybe he'll still struggle.

We'll have to wait and see.

McCarthy Assures Media: Adams' Recent Drops Not Part of Him Hitting Rookie Wall

Packers WR Davante Adams has no doubt struggled with drops lately, but team Head Coach Mike McCarthy doesn't think he's hitting a rookie wall.

Here's his full quote, courtesy of The Green Bay Press-Gazette's Ryan Wood:

"Rookie wall? I would think with the CBA and this new schedule we're on, it doesn't exist. I think the education that's in place with today's rookies gives them the chance to get through that first year, which when you break it down, it's remarkable what a rookie goes through. He finishes his (college) season and he's training for the combine, and then he goes from the combine and then he's training for the draft, and then he gets drafted and he goes right through."

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Matthews Named NFC Defensive Player of the Week

Packers LB Clay Matthews has been named Week 16's NFC Defensive Player of the Week, ESPN Wisconsin's Jason Wilde reports

Matthews recorded 2.5 sacks in Sunday's 20-3 win over the Buccaneers, giving him 10 on the season. Of that total, 5.5 have come in the last three weeks alone, leading some to consider this year to be the best of his career. 

And that's apparently a belief at least somewhat shared by the fans, who selected Matthews to his fifth Pro Bowl Tuesday. Indeed, this week's definitely been a good one for Matthews, whose Packers will battle the Lions Sunday for the NFC North crown. 

Packers Listed as 7 1/2 Point Favorites for Sunday's Lions Game

The Packers have been listed as 7 1/2 point favorites for Sunday's NFC North championship game against the Lions.

The contest will be played at Lambeau Field, so it's not a huge surprise the line is so one-sided. The Packers are 7-0 at home this season, while the Lions have never beaten an above-.500 team on the road in the Matthew Stafford era. 

The meeting is the second Week 17 divison decider in as many years for Green Bay, who visited the Bears last December in similar context. The Packers won that matchup, 33-28, on a last-minute touchdown, securing for them first place despite their 8-7-1 record.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Five Packers Make NFC Pro Bowl Team

Five Packers players have been named to this year's NFC Pro Bowl team, ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky reports.

QB Aaron Rodgers, who ranked number one overall among the fan balloting, will return to Hawaii for the fourth time, accompanied by FB John Kuhn (second selection), WR Jordy Nelson (first selection) and G Josh Sitton (second selection) on the offensive side of the ball.

As for Green Bay's defense, it willl be represented by LB Clay Matthews (fifth selection), who has 10 sacks this season. 

WR Randall Cobb is considered by snubb by Demovsky, having not been selected in favor of Cincinnati's A.J. Green. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Packers Easily Beat Bucs, 20-3, Clinch Playoff Spot

I had some concerns as I watched the Green Bay Packers beat the Buccaneers, which looked silly in hindsight. The Bucs were within one score for the entire first and third quarters, and I wanted at least a two score cushion. But in the end, the defense was so dominant that I shouldn't have had any concerns. It might not have felt like a great win, but they won by 17 points on the road and clinched a playoff spot. That makes it a good game.
QB Aaron Rodgers, who had been battling the flu all week, pulled a calf muscle early in the game, though he expects to play next Sunday. It looked like he had injured his foot or ankle, the trainers were adding some cushion to his shoe and he didn't record a single carry for the game. He usually converts at least one first down with a scramble per game, so his inability to run might have stalled some drives. RB Eddie Lacy didn't play in the fourth quarter due to cramps, but that shouldn't be a concern for next week.

The penalties and dropped passes weren't as big a problem as they were last week in Buffalo, but WR Davante Adams dropped at least two more passes and at least one drive was stalled by a penalty (an iffy holding penalty on C Corey Lindsey wiped out a 20+ yard run by Lacy). But WR Jordy Nelson was perfect, he caught all 9 passes thrown his way with multiple 3rd down conversions and a touchdown, which was big for him after he dropped that likely 90+ yard touchdown pass in Buffalo.

It wasn't the best game for the offense, but the Packer defense was in complete charge. To end the first half, the Bucs went on a 56 yard drive for a field goal, and they only had 53 yards of offense for the rest of the game. The pass rush on QB Josh McCown was brutal and they didn't get anything going in the running game to slow the rush down. The Bucs offense is bad, but they were averaging over 300 yards of offense and 18 points per game before they faced the Packers. The defense has had some dominant performances earlier in the season against bad quarterbacks, they were pretty good last week in Buffalo too, but this was their best game of the season in every aspect.

The defense has been inconsistent all season (everything was doom and gloom after they got torched by the Falcons) and this is just another curve on the roller coaster. They could go back to their bad ways as soon as next week against the Lions.

Bottom line, the Packers took care of business in Tampa and set themselves up to win the NFC North and the No. 2 seed with a win next week against the Lions.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Reaction: Packers Beat Buccaneers in Uneventful Game

My thoughts after Sunday's 20-3 win over the Buccaneers, the most boring game to watch in recent memory:

1. Packers Still Can't Play on the Road:
The defense was not the reason why Tampa Bay only made a field goal; Josh McCown was.

2. Crosby Again Not Looking Great:
He made a 42-yarder and a 25-yarder, but his second quarter miss of a 48-yarder is what I'll remember.

3. At Least it was a Win:
It wasn't an exciting contest to watch, nor was it a fun blowout. But I'll take it.

Leave your own reactions to this victory below.

Packers/Buccaneers Final Prediction

My final prediction for today's Packers/Buccaneers game:

Score: Packers 31, Buccaneers 17
I like the Packers' chances in this one, but to say they'll win easily might be too much of a stretch.

Why?
Because I don't trust the Packers when they play away from Lambeau. I tried to last week when they faced a seemingly-easy opponent in the Bills, but instead they put up their worst performance of the year. So, though the Buccaneers are just 2-12, I can't see Green Bay dominating. They'll score more points; that is all.

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

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Packers CB House Likely Out Until Playoffs

Packers CB Davon House (shoulder) will likely be out until the playoffs, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Tom Silverstein and Tyler Dunne report.

House suffered the injury after colliding with Falcons WR Julio Jones December 8. House landed on Jones' knee, but played through the pain to finish off the victory. 

He's now in the midst of a slow rehab process that doesn't really guarantee anything, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have hope if he wants to return. The Packers seem destined for at least a #2 seed right now, and if they can hang on to get it House will have a nice five weeks to heal.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Rodgers Gives His Take On Cutler Drama

Aaron Rodgers isn't a fan of Bears Offensive Coordinator Aaron Kromer's recent criticism of Jay Cutler.

He said so Tuesday at Lambeau Field. Here's his full quote, courtesy of NFL.com's Michael Silver.

"I would have a major problem if somebody said something like that. I think anybody that plays the position, you can't help but empathize with Jay for that situation. You talk all the time about being connected, being a unit, believing in each other. But if you have unnamed sources, people out there cutting you down, and then you find out it's the person calling the plays -- that would be really hard to deal with, to look at him the same way."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Bucs Make Derek Anderson Look Like Aaron Rodgers

I was looking at Jay Cutler's stats (it's schadenfreude, but I enjoy watching the Bears's organization collapse), basically he's having comparable seasons to both Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson (except he doesn't get to play with a real NFL defense), and I noticed the Top 3 quarterbacks according to ESPN's QBR: No. 3 is Peyton Manning, No. 2 is Aaron Rodgers, and No. 1 is Derek Anderson. In Football Outsiders's DVOA rating, it's flipped around with Rodgers still at No. 2 and Manning at No. 1 and Anderson at No. 3. Derek Anderson's a Top 3 QB!
Of course the secret of his success is that he's started two games this season and both of them came against the Buccaneers. I doubt there's anyone out there who will defend him as the best QB in the NFL, but the case can be made that any QB could be an MVP candidate if they played 16 games against the Bucs. If Anderson can look like Aaron Rodgers when he plays the Bucs, imagine what the real deal can do.

The Bucs defense has played against some of the best QBs in the NFL this season (Roethlisberger, Brees (twice), Ryan (twice), Flacco) and they've been pretty much shredded by every one of them. The lone exception was a game in New Orleans when they picked off Brees three times and pushed the Saints into overtime. The Bucs won their game in Pittsburgh but Roethlisberger still played well.

If the Bucs have any chance against the Packers, it'll come from their offense pushing the Packer defense. Despite some struggles, the defense is ranked a respectable No. 17 by Football Outsiders while the Saints and Steelers (two teams the Bucs played well against) have defenses at the bottom of the rankings (No. 30 and No. 31).

Rodgers will have a big game against a depleted, struggling Bucs defense, and if the Packer defense has a solid game, it'll be a blowout.

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.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Packers Listed as 4 Point Favorites For Sunday's Bills Game

The Packers have been listed as four point favorites for Sunday's game in Buffalo.

The Packers are on a five-game win streak right now, but haven't looked great the last two weeks. In both of those games, victories over the Patriots and Falcons, they started fast but struggled in the second half, making them somewhat a mystery team as they hit the road.

As for the Bills, who are currently 7-6 overall and 4-3 at home, they're 2-1 in their last three, playing well in each of those weeks. They blewout the Jets and Browns, and lost last Sunday in Denver by just seven.

Expect their meeting with the Packers to go down to the wire, as better as Green Bay is on paper.

Peppers Defends Defensive Struggles After Win Over Falcons: We Got the Win

The Packers' defense gave up 465 total yards in Monday night's win, but Julius Peppers seems to only care about just that: it was a win.

“That’s the most important thing, getting the win. There were obviously a lot of things we could have done better, but at the end of the day, you play to win,” Peppers told ESPN Wisconsin's Jason Wilde after the victory. “It’s good. We won. That’s what we wanted to do – get the win. So it’s on to next weekend."

Next weekend the Packers visit the Bills, so it's not like this isn't still something to be concerned about.



Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Reaction: Packers Struggle in Second Half, But Still Find Way to Beat Falcons

Last night's 43-37 win over the Falcons wasn't perfect, but still, it was a win. Here are my thoughts on it:

1. The Defense Struggled:
I'm not sure this will become a recurring problem, but it's definitely something to take note of. The Packers' defense looked awful yesterday, and that can't be a good sign with the postseason just around the corner. 

2. Starks Played Pretty Well:
Not as well as Lacy, but certainly solidly. Can't hurt anything if he keeps it up.

3. At the End of the Day, It Was Just a Monday Night:
Maybe the Packers just weren't used to not playing on Sunday. Who knows?

Leave your own takeaways below.

Packers Hang On and Beat The Falcons: 43-37

The Packers took a 31-7 halftime lead and the game looked over. Unfortunately no one told WR Julio Jones to go and start the bus. Here are some pictures from the first half when everything was awesome.
So I know the Falcons defense stinks, but the Packers offense still took care of business against them. Even in the second half, when all the wheels were coming off, the Packers scored on three of their five possessions, they only punted once (and comically couldn't figure out how to line up properly because it was only like their 10th punt in the last 6 games), and they would have scored on their final possession except they ran out the clock instead. Eddie Lacy (who's hip injury doesn't seem serious) and James Starks torched the Falcons on the ground while Aaron Rodgers was almost perfect in the air. WR Randall Cobb didn't blow up the stat line, he only had a third of Jordy Nelson's 146 yards receiving, but he made some big 3rd down receptions in traffic. The offensive line was outstanding, again. The only blemish was some poor communication with rookie WR Davante Adams, who remains inconsistent as he adjusts to life in the NFL, and I would appreciate it if Rodgers slid more instead of taking some hits.

Should you worry about the defense? No more than you should have last week. This was the first game in which the defense got torched since their loss to the Saints (something about the NFC South). The defense has been inconsistent all season long, and the bad side of it showed up again on Monday night. The good news is that they only had two problems.

For the second week in a row, the defense struggled in the red zone but they did force the Falcons into going for it twice on 4th down near the goal line (they unfortunately scored touchdowns on both opportunities). As bad as it's looked, two weeks of red zone opportunities is a small sample size. This problem will probably go away on it's own.

The second problem was WR Julio Jones. He was a monster and the Packers had no answer for him until DE Datone Jones knocked him out of the game with a hip injury. It wasn't until they dusted off 4th CB Davon House that anyone stopped him.

Otherwise, the defense did what they had to do. The Falcons couldn't run the ball. Their next leading receiver after Jones was WR Roddy White who only had 42 yards receiving. A super star receiver went off on them (just as he did the week before against Pro Bowl CB Patrick Peterson). I'm sure they'll watch the film and make some corrections but getting toasted by a super star receiver in one game isn't going to de-rail their season.

And the defense is going to look like a bunch of rock stars over the next two weeks as they face up against two of the worst offenses in the NFL (the Bills and then the Bucs) on the road.

Maybe the Packers lost some of their Super Bowl inevitability mojo with this game. But the Packers and Seahawks are still the best two teams in the NFC. As long as the Packers keep winning and force Seattle to travel to Lambeau for a playoff game, they'll be in good shape. Even if they'd hung on for the blowout win, they wouldn't have gotten any style points. A win only counts as one win. The important thing to do is to keep on winning.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Falcons/Packers Final Prediction

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

Score: Packers 55, Falcons 21
The Falcons are decent, but I don't think they have much of a chance in this one. The Packers haven't lost at home all year, and Atlanta just doesn't seem like they kind of team who'd stop that.

Why?
Because the Packers are a different team at Lambeau Field. On the road, they're okay, but at home, I'm 100% sure they can't be beaten. Last week's meeting with the Patriots seemingly proved that, as New England couldn't take the lead no matter how close they got.

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

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Packers Injury Updates: Shields Questionable, Perry Probable For Monday

Injuries probably won't affect how the Packers play that much Monday, but nonetheless, there's a few of them. Here they are, courtesy of ESPN Wisconsin's Jason Wilde.

Out – LB Jamari Lattimore (ankle), DE Luther Robinson (calf).
Questionable – CB Sam Shields (concussion),
Probable – DT Josh Boyd (knee), G T.J. Lang (ankle), LB Nick Perry (shoulder), G Josh Sitton (toe), DT Mike Daniels (back), G Lane Taylor (illness).

According to Wilde, Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy thinks Shields "still has a chance to play," and will if everything goes right.

If he can't, though, Davon House will be the one who takes his place, Wilde writes.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Masthay: This Has Been a Weird Year

Packers P Tim Masthay is beginning to notice that he's punted less (37 times) than anyone else in the league this season.

"This has been a weird, weird year, but particularly weird the past month for me and for our punt team," Masthay recently told The Green Bay Press-Gazette. "Minnesota, the game at Minnesota, was a fairly normal rhythm. We had four punts, and they were scattered throughout the game. At least in my time here, we've never been a team that's punted heavily, because we've always had a strong offense. So having four or five punts a game, scattered, that's kind of the normal."

Masthay has a point, as the Packers have had two games this year in which both they and their opponents never punted. Prior to this season, that had only ever happened once, proving its unusualness. 

Preview: Packers Host The First Place Falcons

I wouldn't have picked on the Falcons for being in first place despite a 5-7 record, but this picture I posted below already had it mentioned in the caption (without pointing out what a joke it is that they're in first place in the weak NFC South).
The Falcons aren't quite as bad as their record would indicate. They've only been outscored by 8 points this season which would be more indicative of a .500 team. And they would be 7-5 or 6-6 if Mike Smith hadn't botched their clock management during close losses to the Lions and Browns. Atlanta has a terrible defense, currently ranked as the worst by Football Outsiders, but QB Matt Ryan is having a solid season, currently ranked No. 8 overall by FO, despite their lack of a rushing attack. They remind me a little of the Rodgers-less 8-7-1 2013 Packers that snuck into the playoffs through a weak NFC North.

They also came within a couple plays beating the Packers in Lambeau last December, eventually coming up short by one point, against many of the same players (though, obviously, QB Aaron Rodgers missed the game last season with a broken collarbone). They're also coming off a comfortable win over the Cardinals, who are currently ranked ahead of the Packers for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. They could take this in and find a reason to believe they'll be competitive on Monday night.

However, the Packers are playing much better as a team this season, and with their win over the Patriots last week, they now have a strong case for being the best NFL team. That's almost the exact opposite from where the Packers were last December, when they needed a close win against the Falcons to snap a five game winless streak.

The only thing that kept the Packers from running up the score against the Patriots last week was their struggles in the red zone. Overall, they've been scoring touchdowns on 58% of their red zone trips this season, and they're not going 0-4 in the red zone against the Falcons. The score should be similar to recent victims at Lambeau (Bears, Eagles).

Packers 41, Falcons 14.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Packers Favorites to Win Super Bowl Going into Week 14

All that hard work is finally paying off.

The Packers' odds to win February's Super Bowl (7-2) this week, released by the popular online sportsbook Bovada, are the highest in the league, ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky has pointed out. This isn't a huge surprise considering the Packers just beat the previously-thought-to-be-best Patriots Sunday, but nonetheless, it's interesting.

The rest of the list's top eight:

1. Packers, 7-2
2. Patriots, 15-4
3. Broncos, 17-4
4. Seahawks, 13-2
5. Eagles, 12-1
6. Colts, 18-1
7. Lions, 25-1
8. Cardinals, 28-1

Anybody else have any thoughts? If so, please share them in the comments section.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Packers Listed as 13-Point Favorites for Monday's Falcons Game

The Packers have been listed as 13 point favorites for Monday's Falcons game.

The Packers have won eight of their last nine, and are a perfect 6-0 at home this season. The Falcons, meanwhile, are 3-1 in their last four, and 2-4 on the road.

Those two away victories came in Carolina and Tampa Bay, though, two relatively easy places to play. Therefore, it seems likely the Packers will come out on top in this one, especially considering they just beat the much-better Patriots Sunday.

Let's hope that observation's right, as the Packers need all the W's they can get right now if they want to finish #1 in the conference. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Falcons Expect Roddy White to Play Monday

Falcons star WR Roddy White missed a couple of practices and a game last week, but now it appears he'll be fine come Monday.

Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith told ESPN.com yesterday White's anticipated to return this weekend when the Falcons visit the Packers at Lambeau Field, a contest which will likely have huge implications for both sides. The Packers are currently tied for the top spot in the NFC with the slumping Cardinals and red-hot Eagles, while the Falcons, despite being just 5-7, are looking to hang on to their lead in the south.

We'll see how much White's presence affects things when the competition kicks off, but keep in mind, the Falcons scored 28 points last week without him. Expect them to improve even more before making the trip to Green Bay, regardless of whether or not the scoreboard shows it.

Monday, December 01, 2014

McCarthy Praises Packers After Win Over Patriots: "This is the Most Consistent Team in My Years Here"

Yesterday's win over the Patriots wasn't perfect, but nonetheless, it improved the Packers' record to 9-3.

Mike McCarthy had this to say in response to that fact, courtesy of ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky.

"I think this is clearly our most consistent football team in my nine years here," McCarthy said. "Just from the fact that the way they prepare, you don't have a bunch of personalities that go up and down. It's a very focused, disciplined group." 

The victory was McCarthy's 97th as the head coach of the Packers, the third most in franchise history. Vince Lombardi is second on that list with 98, so it's very likely McCarthy will pass him by the end of the year. 

And really, he should, as the Packers remaining games take place against relatively-beatable opponents in the Falcons, Buccaneers, Bills and Lions. 

Reaction: Packers Hang on Versus Patriots for Fourth Straight Win

It wasn't as pretty as I thought it would be, but I'll take it. Here are my takeways from yesterday's win:

1. The Packers Are Actually Stoppable At Home:
At least kind of. They still emerged victorious, but it wasn't like they did it easily. Say goodbye to games like the ones against the Bears and Eagles, I guess.

2. McCarthy Almost Blew it Again:
Seriously, he's gotta work on getting the last first down late. For the second week in a row, he almost found a way to go three and out with Green Bay up by less than a touchdown in the final minutes, but again, he was bailed out by a nice play. Last week it was Eddie Lacy who made it, this week it was Randall Cobb. Thank you for that.

3. We Can Expect This Winning Streak To Continue:
The Falcons won't beat the Packers on Monday Night Football next week. Enough said (?).

Leave your thoughts below.

"It Was A Huge Game" Packers Beat Patriots 26-21

The quote above was from Green Bay Packers S Micah Hyde confessing that he wasn't being honest earlier in the week when he said this was just another game. This was a special game but the Packers didn't win it in the way I was expecting.
I guess I shouldn't complain, but I was surprised that the Patriots didn't run the ball more often. They were productive (4.7 yards per carry) but only called 17 running plays to 37 passing plays. If they had run it more, then maybe they would have done better with time of possession (23:25 to 36:35) but the Patriots also struggled at getting their defense off the field (the Packers were 10 for 17 on 3rd downs). The best way to stop Tom Brady is to keep him on the sidelines, and both the Packer offense and defense did their parts to make it happen.

The Packers dominated this game when it was being played within the 20 yard lines. When the Patriots moved their offense into the red zone, they scored touchdowns on their first three trips. It wasn't until late in the game when the rush got to Brady for the sack (picture above) on third down to end their final red zone trip with a missed field goal opportunity. On the other hand, the Packers kept settling for field goals in the red zone (both touchdowns were on 32+ yard passes). It's a credit to the Patriots for making plays near the end zone that kept them in this game, but this game wasn't as close as the score made it seem.

On offense, it was a complete team effort. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb ended up playing key roles, but when they were shut down early, Eddie Lacy, Davante Adams and Richard Rodgers stepped up in their place. The offensive line had a few break downs against the pass, and a few more against the run, but they also gave Aaron Rodgers all day to throw on several plays and opened some huge running lanes for Lacy.

On defense, I knew they would have to do something at inside linebacker in place of A.J. Hawk and for the times when Clay Matthews would move outside, I thought they might go back to Brad Jones, but instead they gave Sam Barrington an expanded role. It wasn't an MVP game, but he made some plays (1 pass defense, 1 QB hit) from a position where they really needed an upgrade. It wasn't a flawless performance for the defense either, Tramon Williams and Davon House had some forgetable moments in coverage, but Williams also led the team with nine tackles and Mike Daniels was huge (3 QB hits and the sack in the picture above). It was a very good game against an offense that's been on a tear in recent weeks.

With the Lions beating the Bears on Thanksgiving, it was important to win and keep the NFC North lead. They shouldn't have much trouble with the Falcons next week (if the game was in Atlanta, it might be a dangerous trap game, but a dome team isn't winning in Green Bay in December) before two potential road trap games at Buffalo and at Tampa. If you don't believe in the danger of either of those games, I'll point out a December 2011 loss at Kansas City as a recent trap game that caught an unbeaten Packer team. Their final home game on December 28th is against the Lions and its still looming as the one to decide who wins the NFC North and potentially secure the top seed in the playoffs.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Patriots/Packers Final Prediction

My final prediction for today's Patriots/Packers game:

Score: Packers 38, Patriots 27
I don't expect there to be much defense in this one, but the Packers will still probably win.

Why?
Basically just because of the home field advantage. I know that's kind of an akward reason, but I think we can all agree that if this contest was in New England instead, we'd see things a lot differently. 

Hopefully I'm right about that, but then again, the Patriots are still good. I wouldn't be shocked if they found a way to come out on top, as much as I don't like to admit so.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Preview: Patriots at Green Bay Packers

It could be below freezing at game time but all the snow it going to be cleared away. Even for QB Aaron Rodgers, the extreme cold takes away some of his accuracy.
While Football Outsiders has currently ranked these two teams overall as the No. 2 and No. 3 teams, I'm expecting one of them to establish themselves and take control of the game. As good as the Patriots have been playing lately, the Packers have been playing great football too. Either one of them could emerge, and both teams have the offensive firepower to stage a comeback. No lead will be safe.

When I've had doubts about the Packers this season, they've usually shown up with a dominant game and proved me wrong. But I do see two particular problems with the Patriots.

Rob Gronkowski. Don't spend too much time reading the articles on how to cover him. The short answer is that's nearly impossible. The guys who can run with him are too small and the guys with size can't keep up. The Patriots have had a lot of trouble in pass protection this season, though they've been playing better in recent weeks. The best way to stop Gronkowski is to pressure Tom Brady. The Packers will need big games from their top pass rushers: Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and Mike Daniels.

Jonas Gray/LaGarrette Blount. Actually, any running back who steps onto the field for the Patriots. Their run game hasn't been that effective this season (ranked No. 20 by Football Outsiders) but they lined up RB Jonas Gray and a sixth offensive lineman early and often against the Colts and ran it down their throat. The Packer run defense has been better lately as some teams haven't had the luxury of being able to run the ball while getting blown out (Bears, Eagles) but I don't take that as a sign that they've solved their run defense problems. It can't hurt to have Clay Matthews at inside linebacker, but they need him to line up outside and rush the quarterback too. I don't have any faith in their run defense to get a stop.

I have no prediction because this game could go either way, but the Patriots have a couple of edges that the Packers don't seem to have. However, the one major edge the Packers have is home field advantage, which cannot be taken lightly. I'd lean Patriots on a neutral field, but their two losses this season came on the road and the Packers are a completely different team at home and that's why they'll win on Sunday.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Packers Injury Updates: Adams, Bostick Probable for Patriots Game

Some Packers injury updates for Sunday's game against the Patriots, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
  • OLB Nick Perry (shoulder) questionable
  • WR Davante Adams (heel) probable 
  • CB Jarrett Bush (groin) questionable 
  • RG T.J. Lang (ankle) probable
  • LG Josh Sitton (toe) probable
  • TE Brandon Bostick (hip) probable
Speaking to the media today, team Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Perry is "making progress", and that more information on him will come tomorrow.

Perry has 12 tackles this season, the third of his career. He had 20 all of last year, so a good last five games could certainly give him a new personal best. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Cobb: Packers and I May Negotiate New Contract During Season

While it's been the popular opinion all year that the Packers and Randall Cobb won't negotiate an extention until the season ends, the latter has come out and said otherwise.

"I think that [the Packers and my agent] could have conversations right now," Cobb recently told Cheesehead TV. "That's on them. That's the business side. He can handle all that. I've told him, hopefully things work out for the best, and I would love to stay here next year and be a part of this organization. But it's a business, and I understand that, and it works both ways. At the end of the day, (I) just have to make the decision that I feel is best for me, and the team is going make the decision that they feel is best for the team."
Cobb is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason, but considering the way the Packers have treated Aaron Rodgers, Clay Mattews, and Jordy Nelson recently, it seems unlikely he'll leave them. 
Let's hope that observation is right.

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.