Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Packers Sixth Most Likely Team to Win the Super Bowl After 4 Games

Four games into the 2014 season, the Packers, at 14-1 odds, are the sixth most likely team to win Super Bowl XLIX, OddsShark.com reports.

The five teams ahead of them, unsurprisingly, are the 49ers, Chargers, Bengals, Broncos and Seahawks, who are listed at 12-1, 10-1, 9-1, 9-2, and 4-1, respectively.

As for the other NFC North squads, the Vikings (75-1), Bears (40-1), and Lions (20-1), they weren't considered as likely to succeed, something that can probably be attributed to Green Bay also being the favorite to win the division.

According to Bleacher Report, the Pack's line should improve next week if they win Thursday.

Monday, September 29, 2014

An Early Look At the Season's Final 12 Games

Before I say anything, I'll admit it's a little early to assume the Packers will have any real success this year. Nonetheless, since yesterday's blowout of the Bears was obviously pretty fun to watch I have no problem at least making a guess right now, so yeah, here are my predictions for the team's final 12 games. Please respect them:

1. Week 5 vs Vikings: Easy win 

2. Week 6 at Dolphins: Close, but a win

3. Week 7 vs Panthers: Should be a 14+ point win; Not necessarily an easy one, but still a W

4. Week 8 at Saints: A close loss

5. Week 10 vs Bears: Easy win

6. Week 11 vs Eagles: Close, but a win

7. Week 12 at Vikings: Close, but a win

8. Week 13 vs Patriots: Easy win

9. Week 14 vs Falcons: Easy win

10. Week 15 at Bills: Easy win

11. Week 16 at Buccaneers: Close, but a win

12. Week 17 vs Lions: Should be a 14+ point win; not necessarily an easy one, but still a W

Agree with me? Disagree? Just want to be mean? The comments section's right there.

In Historic Win, The Bears Still Suck, and The Packers Win in Chicago, 38-17

No really, it was a historic win. Pretty cool.
As for the 2014 season, QB Aaron Rodgers was almost perfect (99 out of 100 according to ESPN). There are still too few receivers involved in the offense (WRs Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb were targeted on 21 of 28 pass attempts, but it was a great bounce back performance by the offensive line (though LT David Bakhtiari and C Corey Lindsey were each flagged multiple times, and the run blocking is still lacking). As far as the pass protection went, the Bears didn't record a single QB hit on defense, and I can't remember the that last happened.

The key for the offense was the pass protection, but it also helped that the Bears played a lot of zone coverage. It can be an effective scheme, though it's useless when the front four rushers can't get to the QB (see zero QB hits above). Aaron Rodgers just had to wait (he had plenty of time) for Nelson or Cobb to find the hole in the zone, and he zipped the ball to them.

This game also featured the almost unheard of stat: no punts for only the second time in NFL history. It's good for the offense, but it's also a sign that the defense had a lot of problems (496 yards of total defense allowed). And they had been pretty good in their last six quarters (second half vs. Jets, last week in Detroit).

They really didn't have an answer for TE Martellus Bennett but the poor run defense was more disturbing. They tried rookie NT Mike Pennel in the middle this week, but it was more of a problem elsewhere along the defensive line. Defenders aren't getting into the backfield and the lineman aren't clogging up the interior rushing lanes.

It was an impressive game for rookie FS HaHa Clinton-Dix. He was very active, a sure tackler, and had that huge stop on the goal line to stop the Bears from scoring before the half. He also got called for pass interference in the end zone, which was his only negative play. A week after his first career INT, he played what I thought was his best game of the season. The Packers haven't gotten much out of their recent 1st round draft picks, but Clinton-Dix is starting to show up.

Get ready for the short week as the Vikings travel to Lambeau on Thursday night. I'm really starting to hate the Thursday night games because the quality of play sucks. The short week usually favours the better team (the Packers) and they'll get some added help in the fact that the Vikings will be on the road and they might have to turn to QB Christian Ponder because QB Teddy Bridgewater is hurting.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Reaction: Packers Beat Bears 38-17

Alright, who saw that coming? I certainly didn't, and I'm sure most others are with me in that train of thought. But hey, I'll still take it. So with that, here are my reactions to the Packers' 38-17 win over the Bears today at Soldier Field, one that evened up their record at 2-2:

1. Play-calling was a lot better:
Basically, Mike McCarthy just let his good players reach their full potential. That's not hard to do, but I guess it's better than the alternative.

2. Aaron Rodgers is really good:
That was already known to us, but in case you had doubts after last week's disaster here I am to remind you. He's amazing at what he does. Some of those scrambles today were legitimately god-like.

3. This team's dominant again:
14-2 here we come. (?)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

NFL Week 4 Predictions

Here are my picks for this week's NFL games with the exception of Thursday's Giants/Redskins meeting. Leave your thoughts below if you disagree with any of them:

1. Panthers at Ravens
Prediction: Ravens win in a close one

2. Packers at Bears
Prediction: Packers win in a close one

3. Bills at Texans 
Prediction: Bills win in a close one

4. Titans at Colts
Prediction: Colts win easily

5. Lions at Jets
Prediction: Lions win in a close one

6. Dolphins at Raiders
Prediction: Dolphins win easily

7. Buccaneers at Steelers
Prediction: Steelers  win easily

8. Jaguars at Chargers
Prediction: Chargers win easily

9. Falcons at Vikings
Prediction: Falcons win easily

10. Eagles at 49ers
Prediction: 49ers win in a close one

11. Saints at Cowboys
Prediction: Saints win easily

12. Patriots at Chiefs
Prediction: Patriots win in a close one

Friday, September 26, 2014

Packers/Bears Final Prediction

The Packers are playing in Chicago tomorrow, so here's what I think will happen:

Score: Packers 21, Bears 17
Considering the defense has looked alright the last couple of weeks and this offense is just too good to keep struggling so badly, I figure things will have to turn around eventually. No guarantees, though.

Because the Packers defense has been great in the redzone this year and it seems reasonable to believe Mike McCarthy will learn from his mistakes last week. In other words, when Green Bay has momentum tomorrow, I fully expect them to keep it alive by throwing the ball. Not ruining it with idiotic pitches.

Leave your thoughts below on whether or not you think I'm right here.

Preview: Green Bay Packers at Bears

After watching an uninspired performance last week in Detroit, I can't say I'm too optimistic about another road game against another top defensive team. I'm puzzled why the Packers are even listed as a favorite on the road, but it does help that the Packers are in a lot better health than the Bears. In recent years, it's usually been the other way around.

While the Packers only have six players listed on their injury report, and the only player I expect to miss the game is WR Jarrett Boykin (who was injured this week in practice and hasn't done much of anything this season anyway). On the other hand, the Bears are in bad shape. They'll be without four starters (LB Shea McClellin, G Roberto Garza, DT Jay Ratliff, and G Matt Slauson), and while I expect DE Jared Allen and WR Brandon Marshall will play, they shouldn't be 100%. Ratliff's been playing well this season, so this might be a chance for RB Eddie Lacy to break out.

While neither Garza and Slauson are stars, their absence leaves the Bears thin on the interior of their line. C Brian de la Puente might be a better player than Garza, but G Michael Ola is barely hanging onto his NFL career. According to Pro Football Focus, Ola played well in Week 1 against the Bills, but he's struggled in his last two games.

The Bears's offense has slipped a little bit this season, currently ranked as the No. 11 overall unit by Football Outsiders, because of their injuries on the line and at receiver. While the Packers's defense is only ranked No 18 overall by FO, they've played much better over the past six quarters. The Bears will have as much trouble with the Packer D as the Lions did last week.

I know QB Aaron Rodgers is telling me to relax, but the poor offensive line play and the lack weapons other than Jordy Nelson is a real. The Bears's defense is currently ranked No. 4 overall by Football Outsiders, and they're the fourth quality defense they've played against this season (Seahawks, Jets, Bears, Lions). Only the Seahawks's D is currently ranked outside of the Top 10 this season, so they qualify as the weakest unit they've faced so far (go figure). Against the first three, the Packers's offense struggled for long stretches of the game. The only two NFC teams to have scored fewer points this season are the absolute train wrecks happening in Minnesota and Tampa. I don't see how a struggling offense is going to turn it around on the road against a quality defense.

While the Bears have won their last two games, they're not blowing anyone away. They've been averaging 25 points per game in large part because their defense is scoring or giving them great field position. Aaron Rodgers has only 1 INT in his first three games, so as long as Lacy doesn't fumble again, the Packers offense shouldn't be giving them great field position. The Bears are going to have to work down the length of the field for their points so they might be held to 20 points or less. Unfortunately, the Packers are only averaging 11 points in their first two road games, so it's going to be a challenge for them to score 20 points. Bears 20, Packers 14.

Packers Confident Lacy Will Bounce Back From Rough Start

The Packers are confident struggling RB Eddie Lacy will bounce back from his rough start.

"Any positions group is going to feel like it's on me," team RB Coach Sam Gash recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "What can I do to get better? it's just an emotional answer. Eddie has to just keep doing what he's doing and coming to work and preparing the way he's going to and it'll click. He'll get it."

Let's hope that's true. Because if not, it's extremely likely this Sunday's game will just be a repeat of last's, something I'm sure nobody wants. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Packers Listed as 1 1/2 Point Favorites For Sunday's Bears Game

The Packers have been listed as 1 1/2 point favorites for Sunday's game at Soldier Field.

The 1-2 team, who's coming off a disastrous 19-7 loss to the Lions last week, hasn't looked sharp at all lately, getting blown out by the Seahawks and barely beating the Jets in the other two contests they've played.

Nonetheless, due to the Bears', who currently sit at 2-1 following-to-back road wins, known inconsistency as well as the fact their only home matchup this year was a loss to the Bills it's perfectly reasonable why this prediction was made, as close as it is.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rodgers Urging Fan Base to Relax

Since Aaron Rodgers took over as their starting QB in 2008, the Packers have usually been a team who avoids big losing streaks.

With the obvious exception of last season's 0-4-1 stretch, it seems like every year the Pack find a way to put in positive months, a recurrence some fans have begun to doubt will continue with this season's troubling 1-2 start.

Nonetheless, in an article recently published by the Green Bay Press Gazette, Rodgers continued to urge that minority to "r-e-l-a-x," a message we could all probably use right now.

Yes, the schedule's gotten off to a rather ugly beginning, but since it's still been just three games anybody giving up at this point is just ridiculous. Bad games happen. It's unfortunate, but definetely not something to lose hope over. 

The Packer Offensive Line Was Awful Against The Lions

Worrying about the offense is not a concern I've written about often for the Green Bay Packers. This shouldn't be a big concern when QB Aaron Rodgers is healthy and playing, but the other 10 starters on offense have to contribute too.
The good news is that the defense is looking much better. They got big plays from two new faces (LB Julius Peppers and FS HaHa Clinton-Dix) and another one from a player who was seldom used in the past (CB Davon House). Though House's INT was probably the least helpful turnover I've ever seen since it pinned the Packers on the goal line and led to safety. The defense wore out late in the game as RB Reggie Bush ran for a long TD and even WR Golden Tate was running through tackles on the final drive. The defense could have done more, but overall they held a good offense in check.

I wrote last week about the lack of help from the offensive skill players. The Lions double-teamed WR Jordy Nelson (who still managed to lead the team in receiving) and it left the offense without a big play threat. TE Andrew Quarless had a great game, but that can't be said for any of the other receiver or back. However, the big problem was that the offensive line had a bad, bad day.

This isn't the first time they struggled badly trying to stop Suh and Fairley. While neither Lion had a huge stat line, they were shoving lineman out of the way at times and Rodgers was throwing a lot of quick passes. He couldn't take a few seconds to let a route develop. The Packers had done a pretty good job against them in recent seasons but this wasn't one of those moments.

LT David Bakhitari. Pro Football Focus gives him the worst run blocking grade of any lineman this season, and the visual evidence would confirm that. However, he does have a positive pass blocking grade, which might be good enough for Mike McCarthy. Former LT Chad Clifton was rarely an asset as a run blocker, but it didn't matter because of his reliable pass blocking.

LG Josh Sitton. He still has the best overall grade at Pro Football Focus of any lineman despite having his worst game of the season. He usually has one bad game per year (in 2013 it was the home opener against the 49ers). I expect he'll bounce back.

C Corey Linsley. He looked like a rookie trying to fill in for a starter last Sunday. Suh especially was shoving him around. He's probably not a long-term starter and he held up as best he could considering neither of the two veterans playing alongside him played well.

RG T.J. Lang. I lost track of the number of times I saw Lang on the ground. He was the lineman watching LB DeAndre Levy running by him on his way to tackling RB Eddie Lacy in the end zone for a safety. He was the only lineman charged with a sack by Pro Football Focus but he still ended up with a positive grade from them on Sunday. Go figure. It looked like a forgettable game for him.

RT Bryan Bulaga. With his surprising return from a knee injury, I'd expected the line to play well, but that didn't happen. Still, it wasn't his fault and he was the only lineman with a positive grade from Pro Football Focus.

The combination of arguably the best two defensive tackles going up against a line featuring a rookie center ended up going about as bad as you might expect. Hopefully it goes better against the Bears next week, but DT Stephen Paea had a good game against the Jets and DT Jeremiah Ratliff is having a good season (assuming he returns from a concussion). At this point, there's no big fix coming until JC Tretter returns later this season, but Sitton and Lang should bounce back from their poor game against the Lions.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cobb: Offensive Effort Sunday Was "Embarrassing"

Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb called the team's offensive performance Sunday "embarrassing."

Cobb, who caught just three passes for 29 yards in the loss, also gave the defense credit when talking to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel yesterday, but blamed himself and the rest of his side of the ball for doing "nothing."

"Our defense played their butts off tonight," Cobb said. "We did nothing for them. It was kind of embarrassing as an offense, embarrassing myself the way I played."

Yes it was. Nonetheless, since Green Bay's next contest is a winnable one at Soldier Field now appears to be a time for patience if you're a supporter of the Green and Gold, who have started off their schedule 1-2 for the second consecutive season.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reaction: Packers Fall to Lions 19-7

Who thought an interception at the one yard line could be so dangerous?

When it happened, early in the second quarter of a 7-7 game, it seemed like a momentum-changer, although not necessarily in the home team's favor.

Nonetheless, since it somehow was I'll give my reactions to today's 19-7 loss now. So, for your consideration, here they are:

1. McCarthy needs to call more pass plays:
Seriously, how many times did the offense have an opportunity to drive today before Mike McCarthy called a dumb run play. I know Eddie Lacy was good last year, but at least for now he isn't. So McCarthy, when your team has
a chance next week, please let them take advantage. Don't hold them back. 

2. The offense has to be more trustworthy:
When watching today, I can't think of a single first down that didn't surprise me. All day, Aaron Rodgers and his usually-reliable weapons just couldn't help each other out. Either a receiver would drop a nice pass or a nice pass wouldn't be made on a good route. So, I guess they should fix that. Or, you know, they could just lose again next week. Their choice.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Packers/Lions Final Prediction

I'm not going to lie here; I don't like that the Packers are playing in Detroit this early in the season. Nonetheless, since the contest's still happening tomorrow I'll make my final prediction now, one that I imagine most probably agree with:

Score: Packers 27, Lions 20
In recent years, it's been made clear that the Lions are a tough road opponent. But since Jordy Nelson and the defense both looked better than usual last week I can't see the Pack losing, as close as things may get. 

Simply because they're the better team. When it comes down to it, Matthew Stafford is too inconsistent to count on, while Aaron Rodgers is usually a guaranteed contributor. I won't ensure a victory, but one just seems likely. I just can't imagine Green Bay starting off another year 1-2.

Quarless Fined By NFL for Role in Jets Endzone Fight

Packers Tight End Andrew Quarless' role in Sunday's endzone fight with the Jets is apparently not being ignored by the league. 

According to ESPN.com's Mike Mazzeo, Quarless has been fined $8,268 for his actions during the scuffle, the same one that has also led to fines of Jets Defensive Linemen Muhammad Wilkerson ($20k), who was disqualified, and Sheldon Richardson (same amount as Quarless).

Quarless, though he was clearly in the center of the issue, was not penalized on the play, a successful two-point conversion pass from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb in the middle of the third quarter. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Preview: Packers at Lions on Sunday

While the Packers have had a lot of recent success against the Lions (QB Aaron Rodgers is 9-1 against them, the Packers have gone 8-4 at Ford Field, which opened in 2002) they're coming off a 40-10 beating on Thanksgiving in 2013 in Detroit. That's something to build on for the Lions, but their big win was on a short week against a visiting team without their starting quarterback.

So far in 2014, both teams are 1-1 and on similar tracks. Both have lost by double digits on the road against a likely playoff team (Seahawks and Panthers) and both beat a struggling New York team at home. Pro Football Focus currently has the Lions ranked as the No. 4 overall team based on the dominance of their victory over the Giants (currently ranked as the No. 25 team overall) and the Packers at No. 15 because they spotted the Jets an 18 point lead before turning it around. If momentum means anything, the Packers went on a tear in the second half against the Jets as they came back for the win, while QB Matthew Stafford struggled after they fell further behind and the Panthers started getting after him in the second half.

The key to this game might be the Lions secondary. It was a big question mark coming into the season and it's been wrecked by injuries. Though it took the Packers almost the entire first half to get the passing attack going against a struggling Jets secondary. Also, the healthy starters in the Lions's secondary (Glover Quin and Darius Slay) have positive grades from Pro Football Focus and their pass defense is ranked ninth overall according to Football Outsiders.

On the other hand, the Lions have the third ranked run defense so far according to Football Outsiders. This is probably not the week to expect a breakout game from RB Eddie Lacy.

The Packers's defense has been a disappointment so far this season, outside of a dominant game from DE Mike Daniels and solid play overall at cornerback. As usual, the Lions can throw it and WR Calvin Johnson is a dominant receiver, but they still don't have a solid No. 2 receiver (the only receiver other Johnson with a positive receiving grade currently according to Pro Football Focus is TE Joseph Fauria). The Packers are one of the worst teams at stopping the run so far this season, but the Lions are just as bad at running the ball, so no team should have an advantage in that regard. This is probably the hardest area to predict because I don't know what to expect from Stafford. He's had some great games against them (his start against them in Detroit in 2013), but he's also had some stinkers (his start against them in Detroit in 2012).

Is RT Derek Sherrod the worst starting right tackle in the NFL? This doesn't look like it's Bryan Bulaga's week to return, so they're going probably going to start Sherrod again. Surprisingly, I don't think Sherrod is the key to the game. While keeping the quarterback protected is always going to lead to better results on the field, on some plays last week, Rodgers had a ton of time to throw but he was eventually taken down on a coverage sack. Sherrod has to protect better, but it's also time for the receivers other than Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb to get involved, especially if Lacy is likely to be shut down by a great run defense.

If the Packers are going to win, it's going to be a close victory. The defense has to play better. So far this season, the Lion passing attack has been better the Packer passing attack, and that has to reverse. Packers 24, Lions 20.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Matthews Thinks "He Can Do it All" Right Now

Packers LB Clay Matthews thinks "he can do it all" right now.

"I think I can do it all," Matthews recently told FOX Sports in reference to his wanting to expand his role on Green Bay's defense. "I think over the years I've been known as a sack guy, but I think what's been lost in the shuffle is the fact that I can cover, I can play in space and rush the passer as well."

That "sack guy" comment certainly rains true. Nonetheless, if Matthews could do a little more this season I'm sure the Pack would take it, as their defense has been pretty inconsistent over the first two games.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hyde Confident He'll Play Sunday

Packers Safety Micah Hyde is confident he'll play Sunday, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reports. 

According to the Press-Gazette, Hyde is currently experiencing swelling and soreness after suffering a knee injury in last weekend's game against the Jets, although nothing appears to be that serious.

So, in a move that should help the Pack's return game when they head to Ford Field four days from now, Hyde is expected to be ready for the contest, even if doing so may take a little longer than usual.

Hyde, a second year player out of Iowa, sustained the wound while fielding a routine punt.

Where Did All Of Aaron Rodgers's Weapons Go?

Over the past few seasons, QB Aaron Rodgers has been pretty consistent about spreading the ball around. Last season, WR Jordy Nelson led the team with 126 targets (22% of all pass attempts) with WR James Jones second at 16%. It's a little harder to rank TE and the other WR position because Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley each missed 10 games, but WR Jarrett Boykin was targeted on 14% of pass attempts and Finley and TE Andrew Quarless combined were targeted 15%.

I'd expect the top two receivers (Nelson and Cobb) to be targeted on 20-25% of pass attempts, the number three wide receiver at 15-20%, and the number one tight end at about 15%. But that's not at all what's happened so far this season.

Coming into this season, Boykin was expected to be the number three WR and he's only been targeted three times in two games (one reception). The starting TE, Richard Rodgers, hasn't been targeted a single time. Instead, 30 of 75 pass attempts (40%) have been thrown to Nelson. That might not seem like such a bad idea, targeting their best receiver 40% of the time (Cobb's at 20%), but Aaron Rodgers's yards per game are at 242.5 in 2014 (down from 268.8 in 2013) and RB Eddie Lacy's per game yardage is half of what he had in 2013. The offense hasn't been as effective when they can only count on Nelson for yards and Cobb for touchdown receptions.

I don't know why Boykin or Richard Rodgers have been invisible in the first two games, but rookie WR Davante Adams did emerge against the Jets with 5 receptions on 7 targets. Adams played little against the Seahawks in Week 1 (no targets) but if he kept up his Week 2 usage over the course of the entire season, he would receive about 20% of all pass attempt. That's the usage I was expecting from their number three receiver. Maybe Boykin is better suited as the number four receiver and Adams will move ahead of him shortly.

Whatever happens, the Packers have to find away to get more receivers involved in the offense.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Packers Listed as 1 1/2 Point Underdogs For Sunday's Lions Game

In an early prediction that blatantly shows Vegas' home-field bias, the Packers have been listed as 1 1/2 point underdogs for this Sunday's game at Ford Field. 

In their last two games this weekend, as you probably already know, both Green Bay and the Lions looked lousy, with Detroit falling 24-7 to the Panthers and the Pack barely beating the Jets. 

So, with those results now on the record, it's not surprising that the upcoming contest is expected to be close. No, that isn't necessarily the case for the right reasons, but still, since it is in fact true it seems reasonable to get excited for the divsional Week 3 meeting, one that could definetely end up affecting how the year plays out.

What's Going On With The Packers Defense?

In Week 1, against a pretty good Seattle offense, the Packers defense allowed 36 points and maybe that can be excused as one bad game. However, the badness lingered into the second quarter against the Jets, and the clouds didn't lift until DE Mike Daniels started to take over. There are three things on my mind and the first one is addressed by this is a very interesting tweet from former Packer LB Brady Poppinga:
I can recall one play when Matthews was acting like a middle linebacker in pass coverage, and also the one pass down the sidelines that was covered by LB Julius Peppers, who was tied for the team lead last Sunday with two pass defenses. So far, Mike McCarthy is supportive of deploying two of the best pass rushers in the NFL into coverage, but it's obvious the coaches aren't playing to those players' strengths. An occasional zone blitz can be useful to give the defense some unpredictability, but I find it hard to defend dropping Matthews into coverage 35% of the time. Matthews and Peppers are known for making plays at or behind the line of scrimmage, and moving them away from it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Jamari Lattimore or Brad Jones? While Jones was a disaster against the Seahawks (he was probably playing hurt), Lattimore earned a positive grade from Pro Football Focus for his start against the Jets. I'm not a huge Jones fan, but he has played very well at times, and it's hard to believe Lattimore can be anything more than an adequate starter. I'd like to see what Lattimore would do with another start, and I wouldn't mind if they kept Sam Barrington loose in the bullpen either.

Where in the world is Casey Hayward? I did notice during the Jets game that Hayward seemed to be riding the bike on the sidelines instead of lining up on the field. If the Packers were going to improve their defense, I expected Hayward (who was arguably their 2nd best defensive player in 2012 before an injury plagued 2013 season) would be a big factor. There currently seems to be a mystery injury surrounding him, but there could be another couple factors as to why he's on the bench. One of his final plays in Week 1 was a killer 15 yard personal foul that ended their slim comeback hopes against the Seahawks. Also, CB Davon House played very well this preseason and he's clearly outplayed Hayward so far this season (two pass defenses for House against the Jets and a positive rating from Pro Football Focus). The defense needs to force more turnovers and no one has more potential for grabbing INTs than Hayward (6 INTs during his rookie season) but he injuries and more competition might be pushing him to the sidelines.

So the defense is still a work in progress. Despite having the entire preseason to figure everything out, everything is not figured out. There isn't an obvious fix here, expect that it's time to unleash Matthews and Peppers, and it's something to keep an eye on.

Monday, September 15, 2014

McCarthy Impressed After Packers Rally to Beat Jets

After the Packers rallied from an early 21-3 deficit to beat the Jets yesterday, team Head Coach Mike McCarthy was impressed by the team's staying focused. 

"It's a game of adversity," McCarthy told ESPN Wisconsin following the W. "It's a game of momentum swings. It's a game of big plays. We were in a spot, but our players stayed the course."

Yes they did. Though it wasn't an ideal victory by any means for the Pack, it was definitely a good showing of patience, as most clubs wouldn't turn things around in that kind of situation much less eventually win.

Reaction: Packers Beat Jets 31-24

Well, yesterday's game wasn't what we thought it would be.

Going into it, I was pretty confident in an easy, 17+ point victory, a fact that made the Jets' early 21-3 lead a little surprising. 

Still, at the end of the day the Pack got the win, which I guess is all that matters. So, since this is in fact a reaction post, here's two things I'll take away from this weekend's W:

1. It doesn't matter that this game was close:
It's week two right now guys. As long as they got the victory we should be okay. 

2. A lot of games could go like this this year:
It's not news to any of you that the Packers have a great offense and a terrible defense. So then why is it surprising that this happened? In my opinion, when facing the Green Bay D Geno Smith is just as good as Cam Newton. He'll keep his team in the contest, but will still fall in the end due to the Pack's home field advantage.

How Did The Packers Manage To Comeback and Beat The Jets 31-24?

The big story for the Green Bay Packers in their first win of the 2014 season was the monster 200+ yard game by WR Jordy Nelson. He almost single-handedly brought them back. And after a very shaky start to the game, which featured a fumble on the opening snap and bad protection on their second drive, the offensive line settled down and gave QB Aaron Rodgers time to throw. Sometimes too long; at least one sack happened because he held the ball too long. For some reason, the Jets decided to focus on shutting down the Packer running game instead of the passing game, and that too helped make the big comeback possible.
Here's the big question; What the hell happened to the defense? After allowing touchdowns on the Jets' first three possessions, the defense held them to only 132 yards on their final eight drives. Here are a few observations:

The defense is soft up the middle. It seems like Dom Capers is daring the opposing offense to call a running play right up the middle on 3rd and long. I guess the idea is that the defensive players will swarm to make the tackle. Well, early in the game, the Jets had a few big plays right up the middle. A 13 yard pass to WR Jeremy Kerley on 3rd and 11. QB Geno Smith scrambled for 9 yards on 3rd and 6. RB Bilal Powell ran for 11 yards on 3rd and 13 (the Jets converted on 4th down). Eventually the defense adjusted. DE Datone Jones said they stopped a lot of substitutions, and also DE Mike Daniels started to take over. It also looked like DT Josh Boyd held up pretty well inside too. Those plays weren't there for the Jets by the middle of the second quarter.

LB Clay Matthews stopped overrunning plays. It wasn't just Matthews, but the Packers have been terrible at stopping change of direction because they are over pursuing on the fake. Matthews was especially fond of running hard down the line of scrimmage, only to watch Smith roll to the other side. At some time during the 2nd quarter, either the Packers adjusted or the Jets stopped trying to exploit it.

The Jets couldn't run the ball. For a team that is expected to be a good running team, RB Chris Ivory and RB Chris Johnson did little on the ground. So it was up to Geno Smith to make plays, which leads into my last point.

Smith couldn't complete anything. After starting out 8 for 10 passing on the Jets' opening three touchdown drives, he completed only 8 of 22 on their final eight drives. He went on a long drought with several incompletions in a row. He only completed 55.8 percent of his passes in 2013, so accuracy is not his strong suit. Going through a long stretch with no completions and no running game is going to create a come back opportunity. While the defense was improving, Smith seemed to go into a funk at the right time.

So the defense remains a big question mark. After struggling badly Week 1 in Seattle, they looked completely outplayed for over a quarter against an offense led by Geno Smith. The talent/production looks overmatched on the inside of the defense (defensive tackle/inside linebacker) and there aren't enough splash plays/turnovers created by the big playmakers to offset it (only 1 turnover recovered in each of their first two games).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

NFL Week 2 Predictions

I wanted to do this last year, but never quite got around to it. Anyway, from now on I'll make my NFL predictions every Sunday here on the site along with the phrases "easily" or "in a close one" to describe how I think the games will be won. So, without further ado, here they are:

Game: Jets at Packers
Prediction: Packers win easily

Game: Dolphins at Bills
Prediction: Bills win in a close one

Game: Lions at Panthers
Prediction: Panthers win in a close one

Game: Falcons at Bengals
Prediction: Bengals win in a close one

Game: Saints at Browns
Prediction: Saints win easily

Game: Patriots at Vikings
Prediction: Patriots win easily

Game: Cardinals at Giants
Prediction: Cardinals win in a close one

Game: Cowboys at Titans
Prediction: Titans win easily

Game: Jaguars at Redskins
Prediction: Redskins win easily

Game: Seahawks at Chargers
Prediction: Seahawks win in a close one

Game: Rams at Buccaneers
Prediction: Buccaneers win easily

Game: Chiefs at Broncos 
Prediction: Broncos win easily

Game: Texans at Raiders
Prediction: Texans win in a close one

Game: Bears at 49ers
Prediction: 49ers win easily

Game: Eagles at Colts
Prediction: Colts win in a close one

By the way, I know these picks are late since the Steelers and Ravens played Thursday. I'm doing these on Sunday on purpose because this is the day people seem to care the most.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bulaga Questionable For Jets Game

Packers Right Tackle Brian Bulaga is "no better than a 50-50 bet" to play in Sunday's game against the Jets, ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky reports.

In practice this week, according to Demovsky, Bulaga was a limited participant due to knee soreness, something that didn't change on today's injury report.

So, as is customary, the Pack will have to wait and see if the veteran experiences any improvement in tomorrow's short practice, the team's last one before Sunday's game. 

Bulaga, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, will likely be replaced by Derek Sherrod if he can't go.

Lacy Cleared to Play Sunday

In a move that allows us all to breathe a sigh of relief, the Packers have cleared Running Back Eddie Lacy to play in Sunday's game against the Jets, the team's official blog reports. 

Lacy, who won rookie of the year last year, is arguably the second most important offensive player Green Bay has, trailing only Aaron Rodgers.

So, obviously, it's good to see that his concussion wasn't anything serious, especially since the Packers have already had their fair share of injuries this season.

Lacy, 24, sustained the wound in last Thursday's opener in Seattle, a contest the Pack dissapointingly lost by twenty.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Eddie Lacy Was Back At Practice

They would have been fine on Sunday without him, but RB Eddie Lacy is such physical runner that he forces the defense to respect the running game. As much as I like RB James Starks, no defense is going to focus on him. Lacy makes QB Aaron Rodgers better, and I'm glad to see his concussion wasn't serious. It's almost 100% likely he'll play against the Jets.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Packers Listed as 8 Point Favorites for Sunday's Jets Game

The Packers have been listed as eight point favorites for Sunday's home opener against the Jets. 

New York's AFC team, notorious for their mediocrity, beat the Raiders in their first contest of the season last week, winning a close one 19-14.

Still, since they did it in overall difficult fashion and this weekend's game is at Lambeau Field it seems reasonable to think the home team will emerge victorious in it, as they never lost in Green Bay last year when Aaron Rodgers played 2+ drives.

Leave your thoughts below on whether you think Vegas made a good guess here.

The Packers Practiced on Wednesday but Eddie Lacy Did Not

Wednesday is the first chance to see how the injured Packers are doing. Things can change between now and Sunday but it looks like RT Bryan Bulaga is still hurting:
I think we saw the worst of RT Derek Sherrod against the Seahawks, he generally played better during the preseason, but Bulaga's return would be welcomed. Right now, it looks like career start number one for Sherrod will be happening soon.

On the other hand, RB Eddie Lacy didn't practice though he might be back very soon. He's already passed the first concussion protocol step. The Packers aren't going to rush him back, so if he does play on Sunday, I wouldn't have any concerns about him.

It seems like LB Brad Jones played awful last Thursday night because he's playing hurt (he always seems to be hurting) but that doesn't explain why he played all 70 defensive snaps against the Seahawks (one of only four defenders to do so). Maybe he aggravated the quad injury he suffered in late August at some point during the game and the coaches didn't realize it. But he was limited in practice for most of last week. Why would they rely so heavily on a player who wasn't 100%.

Despite all the talk about a big makeover on defense this season, they're still relying on a former 7th round pick who's inconsistent and/or injured and the only two options are another former 7th round pick (Sam Barrington) and an undrafted college defensive end (Jamari Lattimore). Maybe LB Carl Bradford is the answer, but he just made the switch inside a couple weeks ago. Due to missed tackles and penalties in pass coverage, inside linebacker is looking like the weak link on defense.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Rodgers Joked to Seahawks' Sherman After Loss

Since he and his team never threw to Richard Sherman in last Thursday's loss to the Seahawks, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has been heavily criticized for doing so.

No, nothing's been proven yet in the situation, something that'll likely never change.

Nonetheless, after today it definetely appears that the anti-Rodgers folk have some ammo for their argument, with Rodgers admitting on his radio show this morning that he told Sherman after the contest that he "hopes he gets some work this year."

So yeah, he apparently said that during the post-game handshakes. Does it mean that Green Bay really did avoid Sherman in the defeat? That's for you to decide.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Packers Reportedly Work Out Former Redskins RB Lache Seastrunk

The Packers have reportedly worked out former Redskins Running Back Lache Seastrunk, CBS DC reports. 

Seastrunk, 23, was drafted by Washington in the sixth round of this year's draft, putting up a solid preseason for them during the past month.

Still, since the numbers he collected weren't quite good enough for a roster spot Seastrunk was cut by the team last week, the reason why this whole thing happened.

The Packers, 0-1, are currently carrying three running backs (Eddie Lacy, DaJuan Harris, and James Starks) on their roster, a fact that makes their trying out of Seastrunk a little strange.

Is Eddie Lacy Getting Too Much Hype?

This is actually something I noticed when I was talking fantasy football recently and its a lot more relevant now after RB Eddie Lacy suffered a concussion on Thursday night. I'm a big fan of his, but I was really surprised when a non-Packer fan friend told me that he drafted Lacy ahead of LeSean McCoy. The Packers are always going to be a pass-first team with QB Aaron Rodgers and Lacy is only a safety valve receiver, not a legitimate receiving threat like McCoy. 

Below, guest writer Lance Fleury wrote a sponsored article about the inflated value of Lacy.

The Green Bay Packers are set to start the 2014 NFL season, and expectations are obviously very high surrounding the franchise. The hope is that they are going to be not only in the playoffs, but one of the teams battling for a spot in the Super Bowl. There is no doubt that this team is very solid, but one guy who is still at least a little bit of a wild card is Eddie Lacy. Yes, he had a superb season in fantasy football a year ago as a rookie. However, is he really going to be the perfect complementary piece to Aaron Rodgers and the passing offense now that the quarterback is healthy?

At the beginning of his rookie year, Lacy was not exactly receiving high praise. Not only was he considered to be possibly out of shape going into the 2013 season, but he was also dealing with some nagging injuries that actually kept him out of close to two contests. After that, he was able to really turn things up a notch, especially when Rodgers went down with an injury to his collarbone.

It is natural for fans of the Green Bay Packers to be very hyped about the 2014 season, as this will really be the 1st extended time to see Lacy and Rodgers playing comfortably together. There is no doubt that Rodgers is going to open up a lot of opportunities in fantasy football for Lacy, but the second year player out of Alabama will need to improve on his yards per carry. As a rookie, he was only able to average 4.1 yards when he carried the ball. That should improve now that he is a bit more used to how the game is played, but that is at least a little bit of a concern.

From a fantasy football perspective, 11 touchdowns can also be a curse for a 2nd year player. Once a person is able to have that type of success as a rookie, it is expected out of them every single year. Touchdowns can be hit or miss from year-to-year, so expecting him to get double-digit scores every year might not be the smartest idea.

Doug Martin, CJ Spiller, Trent Richardson and others in recent memory have struggled after showing a lot of promise early on in their career. Green Bay is obviously a different situation with one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but it is not a given that Lacy is one of the best running backs in the game. He still has a lot to prove in order for Green Bay to fully reach their potential this upcoming year. He will certainly be tested early with some of the defenses the Packers will be going up against.

"It's Not A One Game Season": Packers Lose To Seahawks, 36-16

It's hard to write about how the Packers lost by 20 points, their 3rd largest margin of defeat in the last three seasons (the Packers didn't lose a game by 20 or more points at all in 2009-2011).

QB Aaron Rodgers wasn't sharp, the defense couldn't tackle or force a turnover, they burned a couple timeouts early due to general confusion, and they had some killer penalties (one on DE Mike Daniels for running into the kicker and a holding penalty on LB Brad Jones that extended Seattle's 4th quarter drive that led to their final touchdown). It was a sloppy mess of a game and this is the best that can be said about it:
On Thursday I wrote about two keys to the game, and the Packers failed badly on both fronts.

The first key was RT Bryan Bulaga, whose game was unfortunately cut short due to a knee injury that could keep him out for a few weeks. Backup RT Derek Sherrod allowed a sack on a 4th down attempt and surrendered the sack that forced a fumble/safety. And to keep up with the sloppy theme, LT David Bakhtiari had a personal foul after the fumble/safety. The line had to protect Aaron Rodgers, and they did a pretty good job for most of the game (3 sacks and 4 QB hits) but those two sacks allowed by Sherrod were such big, negative plays that they overshadowed the rest of the line's good work.

Obviously Sherrod's someone to watch closely over the next few games (depending on the severity of Bulaga's injury). If there is a silver lining, it's that he was pretty inconsistent during the preseason. He was terrible last month in St. Louis, but he was solid in their other three preseason games. Hopefully the Seattle game was his bad week, and he'll look much better over the next few games.

The second key was to attack QB Russell Wilson. He didn't have a monster game, he was held under 200 yards passing and a couple of tipped passes could have easily been intercepted (also a long incompletion to FS HaHa Clinton-Dix probably should have been picked off), but the defense didn't make him pay for his mistakes/bad luck. They only recorded one sack and one QB hit. Basically everything bad from the 2013 defense (terrible run defense, poor tackling, no turnovers, little pass rush) returned for Week 1.

They won't look back (they rallied from a disastrous 30-point loss on Thanksgiving last season to win three of their final four games) and this game in Seattle was their toughest road match-up of the year. I'm looking forward to see them bounce back next week.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

McCarthy Not Dwelling on Opening Loss

As ugly as Thursday's loss to the Seahawks was, Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy isn't letting it haunt him.

"We're not going to sit here and dwell on it," McCarthy told the AP earlier today. "Trust me, I get the disappointment. I felt very good going into the game. But I had to go back and check my preparation, because I think anytime as a coach when you feel your team's prepared and they don't perform, I think the first guy you have to look at is yourself and look in the mirror."

Unfortunately, that last statement is probably true. Still, since next week's contest is just a home one against the Jets I'm sure McCarthy's team will be ready for it, as it simply isn't that scary of a matchup.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

One More Look at the Packers' 2014 Schedule

I know it's only been one week, but still, I feel the need to predict the Packers' schedule right now. So, here are my assumptions for what both the best and worst case scenarios for them currently are: 

BEST: 14-2
This one's pretty obvious. When it comes down to it, Green Bay is really only an underdog in one other game, something that definitely makes them going 14-2 possible.

WORST: 11-5
In my opinion, the Pack won't lose more than once at home this season. Still, since the Lions and Bears are always tough to beat at their respective stadiums it's tough to guarantee those contests as wins, with Week 13's battle with the Patriots also falling into that category. 

Leave your comments below on how accurate you think my thoughts are.

Friday, September 05, 2014

McCarthy Denies Claim that Packers Refused to Throw to Sherman

Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy denied the claim that his team refused to throw to Seahawks CB Richard Sherman in Thursday night's loss.

"I don't think you ever make a conscious decision not to throw to one side of the field," McCarthy told the Green Bay Press-Gazette earlier today. "Frankly, it was more of a decision to put Jordy on the left and see if (Sherman) would come over and play him."

Now obviously, Sherman never ended up doing that, something that should only make this quote look worse. In my eyes, it seems to be nothing but an excuse, a misfortune that will likely make the Pack look weak.

Reaction: Lacy, Bulaga Get Hurt in 36-16 Loss to Seahawks

It was tied at 10, but then things fell apart.

Yep, that title pretty much says it all. Early in yesterday's opener in Seattle, the Pack were hanging in there, only trailing by seven at halftime thanks to a couple of nice scoring drives. 

Nonetheless, eventually the Seahawks became their unrealistically good selves again, forcing a safety and collecting two TDs to easily pull away.

No, their doing so wasn't surprising, but still, it was definetely made worse by Eddie Lacy and Brian Bulaga's injuries, the latter of which isn't thought to be serious while the former could keep Lacy out a week.

I guess we'll find out if it does by next Sunday.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Keep It Positive: How The Packers Can Upset The Seahawks

There's no doubt about it, opening on the road in Seattle is the toughest way to start the 2014 season. The only other regular season game that's anywhere near as difficult as this one will be the Week 8 game at New Orleans, and that one isn't as bad as it looks because QB Aaron Rodgers loves playing in a dome.
The usual formula for success for Mike McCarthy's team is to get the offense in a rhythm and have the defense force turnovers. QB Aaron Rodgers isn't known for winning low scoring affairs. But the Packers are much more likely to win if they keep the score down.

What I want to see on offense. RT Bryan Bulaga has to have a great game. This memory pales in comparison to the not-touchdown pass to end the Fail Mary game in 2012, but Bulaga was terrible. Rodgers was sacked 8 times, most of them coming in the first half, and most of them recorded by the defender who was running at Bulaga. Seattle's secondary is very good, but Rodgers will have some success if they can protect him. To a lesser extent, the first NFL start for C Corey Lindsey is also a factor, but the Packers can help him on the interior and Seattle's outside pass rush is the main concern.

What I want to see on defense. It's all about stopping QB Russell Wilson. The last time these teams played in Seattle, Wilson had a poor game (it was only his third NFL start) and he completed only 10 passes (9 in reality). The Packers only scored 12 points but they held Seattle to 14 (7 in reality). The Cardinals did the same thing to the Seahawks last season in Week 16; keep the score low and win with a late touchdown. The Cardinals put a ton of pressure on Wilson, kept him from scrambling (only 2 recorded rushes), and allowed only 11 completions. They need to hit the quarterback but keep him contained in the pocket. It's time to see why the Packers signed LB Julius Peppers.

This isn't a projection, the formula for beating the Seahawks is easier said then done, but if the Packers do win it'll be in a low scoring game. Packers 17, Seattle 13.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Prediction for Thursday's Packers/Seahawks Game

Since the Packers' season starts tomorrow, it seems reasonable to me to put in my prediction for the contest now. So, here it is.

Score: Seahawks 31, Packers 17:
I don't mean to put Green Bay down with that score, but yes, I do believe something like it will come to fruition.

Simply because the Seahawks are unbeatable at home. If this game was in Green Bay, it'd be another story, but since that isn't the case I just can't imagine the Pack really competing in this one. They're good, but in my eyes just not good enough to succeed in this kind of situation, as unfortunate as that likely fact is.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Packers to Use Cobb on Punt Returns This Season

The Packers will use star Wide Receiver Randall Cobb on punt returns this season, the Green Bay Press Gazette reports.

Sharing the duties of the role with Cobb, excitedly, will be speedy RB DaJuan Harris, who was hurt all of last year but has excelled during the last month.

Cobb, 24, struggled on returns in 2013, often muffing high kicks in a recurring annoyance.

Still, since he is pretty quick on his feet that risk definitely seems to be one worth taking, even if doing so could (again, could; we don't know how much he's improved) occasionally result in turnovers.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Bulaga Excited to Play in Regular Season Game

Packers Offensive Lineman Brian Bulaga is understandingly excited to play in another regular season game. 

The 25-year-old tackle missed the final seven contests of 2012 and all of last year with hip and leg injuries.

"It's great to get back on the field for regular-season football, there's no doubt about that," Bulaga recently told The Green Bay Press-Gazette. "I'm excited about it. This is the best my body has felt in a long time. I'm excited and ready to go. It's going to be a great challenge."

The Packers' 2014 season starts Thursday night in Seattle. Until then, though, it appears Bulaga will have to be excited a little longer.

Packers Defeat Chiefs 34-14 and Announce Their Roster

After a solid showing in all four preseason games, the Green Bay Packers' 53-man roster is pretty much what was expected coming into training camp. All of their 2014 draft choices are on the roster or on season ending I.R. None of the players released were notable and none of them were even drafted. And, as it seems to happen every year, they found an undrafted rookie free agent who made a big splash.
LB Jayrone Elliott. He led the team with 5 sacks and was by far the biggest playmaker this preseason. Some of the tackles assigned to block him were bad players, but some other team would have claimed him if they tried to move him to the practice squad. However, once the regular season starts, I expect he'll be left inactive. But they had a ton of injuries at outside linebacker last season and you never know when he'll be needed.

QB Matt Flynn and QB Scott Tolzien. Flynn's stats were OK, his accuracy was poor (47.4% completion) and he threw the lone INT of the preseason. Tolzien looked sharper this preseason and he should have won the job if it was a straight-up competition. Flynn, however, was better suited as the starter last season and that can't be discounted. But after last season's backup roller coaster of Graham Harrell to Vince Young to Seneca Wallace (all out of the NFL now), they needed some stability and I'm glad they kept both.

WR Jeff Janis. He didn't touch the ball a whole lot, but every time he did it was a big play. His route running looks like a work in process, but he showed good hands and big play potential as a receiver and returner. I hope he plays a lot on special teams even if he doesn't play at all on offense this season.

C Corey Lindsey. A month ago, it wasn't even guaranteed that the rookie 5th round pick would make the roster, and now he opens the season as the starter. I expect LG Josh Sitton will make the line calls on Thursday night, but Lindsey looked like a capable player against the Chiefs.

CB Demetri Goodson. This is a minor disagreement, but I didn't see anything that made me think their 6th round rookie CB should make the roster. But he didn't have a lot of competition, other than undrafted CB Jumal Rolle (who outplayed him this preseason, but was also kept on the practice squad) and Goodson probably won't be active in Week 1 anyway. He remains a project.

LB Andy Mulumba. His retention is minor too, but they needed another defensive lineman more than Mulumba, who didn't make much of an impact this preseason. Maybe he would have been released had not DT Khyri Thornton ended up on I.R.

S Sean Richardson and S Chris Banjo. Both can play on special teams, but Richardson looked better on defense. I'm glad they were able to keep Banjo on the practice squad. They don't have a player the caliber of Nick Collins anymore, but the safety position is as deep as it's been in years.

OT Derek Sherrod. He struggled in his second preseason game in St. Louis but otherwise he's looked solid. It's great to see the former 1st round pick back on the field. With Sherrod and RT Bryan Bulaga returning from injuries, despite the season ending loss of OL Don Barclay, the line with Lindsey, Sherrod and G Lane Taylor is deep.