Friday, January 30, 2015

Packers fire ST Coordinator Shawn Slocum

In a move you can't call surprising, the Packers have fired ST Coordinator Shawn Slocum, reports Pro Football Talk. 

Slocum, who has worked with the team since 2006, struggled mightily when coaching his guys during the recent conference championship game, letting the Seahawks turn a fake field goal into a touchdown while failing to recover a late onside kick that would've ended it.

Slocum was wished well by Mike McCarthy when the announcement was made Friday, but again, it wasn't at all strange to hear he had been let go. Speculation of Slocum's termination began the moment the Packers lost to Seattle, the reason they obviously aren't playing in the Super Bowl this weekend. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

McCarthy "agrees with the intent" of Burnett's title game slide

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy probably doesn't like that Morgan Burnett slid on his NFC Championship Game interception, but he is still okay with it. 

In an article recently published by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, McCarthy said he "agrees with the intent" of Burnett's decision, which appeared to end the contest at the time. 

Taking place with just over five minutes on the clock, Burnett's now-infamous takeaway likely would have set up a long touchdown if the Packers safety had kept running, not that it was all his fault. 

Green Bay DE Julius Peppers could be seen giving Burnett the "go-down" signal on the play, so he is at least partially to blame for the mistake. Still, it's not like you could really point to it as the sole reason for the loss, as the Packers had plenty of opportunities afterwards to pull away. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Should The Packers Bring Bryan Bulaga Back in 2015?

I didn't expect there would be much of a free agent market for RT Bryan Bulaga this offseason because of his recent history of season ending injuries, but when I looked at the weak free agent market for offensive tackles, I've reconsidered. There's almost no chance he'll be back next season.
I'd like to see him return next season because he's much better than their current in-house alternatives (JC Tretter and Don Barclay). Tretter wasn't given much of a chance at tackle after he lost his starting center job to Corey Lindsey but he didn't look great during in a few late season snaps and he gave up a big sack to Mario Williams against the Bills. Barclay was solid in 2013 but he's coming off an ACL injury. Bringing Bulaga back is clearly the best choice, however there are a couple reasons why that's not going to happen.

They're already paying big bucks to Josh Sitton and TJ Lang. As it currently stands, according to Over The Cap, Sitton and Lang carry the 5th and 6th largest cap charges on the team. The Packers can't afford to tie up all their salary cap room at one position (offensive line), and neither Sitton or Lang should be considered for release since they're both arguably better than Bulaga.

He's not their biggest priority in free agency anyway. Cobb and Tramon Williams are more important, but that's a topic for a later post.

The free agent market for tackles stinks. I mentioned this earlier, but Bulaga is at the top of Walter Football's list of free agent tackles. He's proved that he's healthy now and he's been a good to great player during every season (when healthy) after his forgettable rookie campaign. All the other top players listed have been inconsistent (Free, Dunlap) or are coming off a major injury (Roos). Any team that's making left or right tackle a priority should be camping out on his doorstep the moment free agency begins.

GM Ted Thompson has been known to let his offensive lineman walk. After their Super Bowl win in 2011, it wasn't a big surprise when he let Daryn Colledge leave in free agency, but it was a bigger upset when Scott Wells left the following year. Then Evan Dietrich-Smith was allowed to leave last offseason. Though it is different because those three players are interior lineman while Thompson was quick to re-sign LT Chad Clifton and RT Mark Tauscher up until the moment they both decided to retire.

It'll be sad if he leaves, but successful teams can't afford to bring back every player. Maybe I'm wrong about this and both Bulaga and the Packers can find common ground, but I'm mentally planning for the worst.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Packers Sign Former Alabama Punter Cody Mandell

The Packers have signed former Alabama Punter Cody Mandell, the team's official website reports.

Mandell, who joined Alabama in 2010 as a walk-on, was pretty good in college, averaging 42.6 yards per punt while solidly landing 58 inside the 20 yard line. 

He was first-team All-SEC as a senior, as well as finalist for a pair of awards. 

He will wear number 9 with the Packers after a brief stint with the Cowboys last offseason, presumably doing so while competing with Tim Masthay for the starting job. 

The move to acquire him was announced by general manager Ted Thompson. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Several Packers Played In The Pro Bowl on Sunday

I'm still hurting from their playoff loss, so watching Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, John Kuhn, Josh Sitton, Clay Matthews, and Sam Shields playing in the Pro Bowl is like more salt on the wound. They should be getting ready for the Super Bowl! Not playing in the Pro Bowl! Anyway...

At least Kuhn was the leading rusher for Team Carter. Who knows how many Pro Bowl's he might make if the NFL leaves fullback in as a position separate from running back.
I'm really glad to see Nelson make his first Pro Bowl. It's been deserved for a while, and I'm really glad the Packers signed him to an extension before he made his first Pro Bowl. Unfortunately they didn't do the same for Cobb, but maybe there's nothing to worry about since "he's a Ted guy."

Obviously Kuhn's the biggest Pro Bowl surprise (not by too much when you consider how few teams use a fullback anymore) but the next biggest surprise was CB Sam Shields. His 2014 season was solid, but he didn't stand out under the conventional stats (2 INTs and 9 pass defenses). The recognition was more a sign of respect for him after his 2011-2013 seasons.

2014 was also a down year for Clay Matthews, but that's more a matter of perspective. Matthews was so good in 2009-2012 (too many injuries in 2013) but he was still 2nd team All-NFL according to the AP in 2014. That's certainly a season worth of a trip to the Pro Bowl.

So that's the last we'll see of any Packer in uniform until spring, and the last time they'll play in a game until early August. That's too long.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Shields convinced Bryant made controversial catch

Packers CB Sam Shields isn't exactly taking the side he probably should on Dez Bryant's NFC Divisional incompletion. 

Shields believes Bryant caught the ball, according to a recent article.

Shields called the controversial play a catch in the article, adding it was a "helluva" one at that. The overturned catch, coming on a late 4th-and-2, essentially doomed the Cowboys in the contest, one which they would eventually lose 26-21.

Bottom line: it appears common sense is continuing to trump technicalities when it comes to the play, though said technicalities are in fact part of the league's rule book. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Matthews fined $22K for block on Wilson

Packers LB Clay Matthews has been fined $22,050 for his hit on Russell Wilson in last week's NFC Championship Game, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports. 

Coming after Wilson had a pass intercepted by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the second quarter, Matthews blocked Wilson pretty aggressively, and the league has apparently thought it was excessive. 

The knock has been labeled a cheap shot by some, but Matthews doesn't think so.

"I was just blocking whoever and it turned out to be the quarterback and obviously calls are going to go in their direction whether it was a blind-side hit or whatever," he told Rob Demovsky. "I'm just looking to pick up a block and unfortunately that's just how the game played out."

The Bears Have Replaced Just About Everyone

There will be a lot of offseason moves to write about for the Green Bay Packers, especially in regards to their free agents. But it's been a really surprising past couple of weeks for the Chicago Bears, who are coming off a disastrous 2014 season. This tweet sums up my thoughts.
This all got started a couple weeks ago when they hired GM Ryan Pace. His real test will come in the draft, but recruiting an impressive collection of experienced coaches who were in demand is a great start. Even if it turns out that he isn't a star in the draft evaluation process, their former GM struck out in the 2014 draft, so the organization had to try someone else.

John Fox is obviously a head coach who's had a lot of success in Carolina and Denver, and to bring along his OC Adam Gase, who was rumored for nearly every head coaching vacancy, is a major bonus. They don't get to bring Peyton Manning with them, but they were successful in Denver before Manning came to town. Fox and Gase are probably bringing a smash mouth style of football to Chicago which doesn't require a great passing quarterback either. However, that style doesn't seem to fit their current personnel, so a lot of changes might be coming soon except they probably won't eat $15.5 million guaranteed for Jay Cutler in 2015. Plus he's probably untradeable (he did get beat out by Jimmy Clausen last season).

On the other hand, there are reasons why Fox was allowed to leave Denver. And he's not exactly the best in-game manager.

Since Fox is best known as a defensive coach, I was surprised to see former 49ers DC Vic Fangio hired to the same position in Chicago. He didn't get the HC job with the 49ers so it should be expected that he's leaving the bay area, but he must have had other opportunities. A star DC isn't going to transform a defense if they don't have good players on the field, and the Bears are starving for talent on defense, but I can't imagine a better candidate at DC for the Bears than Fangio.

As an interesting side note, they also hired former Packer DC Ed Donatell to coach the defensive backs. Welcome back to the NFC North.

Overall, this is a much stronger group of coaches than I expected the Bears to hire. That doesn't always translate to success on the field. But bringing stability after a chaotic 2014 season will be a big relief for them and it might be a sign the Bears will be better sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Packers deny Rams' request to interview Van Pelt

The Packers have a denied a request by the Rams to interview team quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, ESPN Wisconsin's Jason Wilde reports. 

Van Pelt, who served as Green Bay's running backs coach for two seasons before changing jobs last year, is currently a candidate for St. Louis' open Offensive Coordinator position, according to Wilde.

Still, this doesn't mean Van Pelt's out of the running by any means, as the Giants were also denied the right to interview then-Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo last offseason before hiring him later. 

Expect more to come of this story in the near future. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Rodgers to sit Pro Bowl, be replaced by Bengals' Dalton on roster

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has decided to sit out this year's Pro Bowl, according to Bleacher Report.

Rodgers will be replaced by the Bengals' Andy Dalton on the roster. Rodgers has been nursing a calf injury for the last month, and must not have found further injury worth risking for the essentially-worthless exhibtion.

Besides him, it was also reported today that Randall Cobb and Sam Shields will head to Hawaii after two more elected guys chose to stay home.

The Packers will now have six representatives in next weekend's game, with Jordy Nelson, Josh Sitton, John Kuhn and Clay Matthews being the other four.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sitton Understandably Upset After Loss to Seahawks

Now that the team's season is over, Packers Guard Josh Sitton is pretty upset.

Here are some of his postgames from yesterday's loss, courtesy of's Kevin Patra. They're kind of harsh:

"Anytime you feel like you should have won, it's tough to get over. And when it's the last one, it's very difficult to get over. You feel like it's a waste of seven, eight months. What's the point of getting this far? I'd have rather not even made the playoffs." 
"We kicked their ass up and down the field all day. And there's no reason we shouldn't have won the game. Literally one of 10 plays you can pick that if we get it, we win the game. It's frustrating when you should have won the game and you're the better team. And I thought we were the better team all day except for three minutes."

Packers Lose In Seattle: Heartbreaking 28-22 in OT

I was OK during the game, maybe it was too much like a bad dream while I was watching it live, but after the game I was a wreck. I went for a drive, I had to choose between binge eating or drinking (I chose eating, since I was driving), and then I couldn't go to sleep until 3 a.m. because I couldn't turn off my brain from thinking about it. I'm surprisingly alert after getting little sleep which probably goes to show how wired I still am.

Below is the worst of the worst moments that went wrong down the stretch. There's no dancing around it, if you're a fan of Bill Simmons then I'd put it at Level 3 (the Guillotine) because there wasn't one unbelievable play that lost it for them (see below about Brandon Bostick, the thought that he would blow a key play is completely believable), so I've posted below the worst video moment I could find.
Mike McCarthy. I understand his coaching decisions down the stretch, even if they look terrible in hindsight. Maybe he would have more aggressive if he knew Aaron Rodgers wasn't limited with his calf injury but his passive run out the clock, punt the ball strategy kept giving the Seahawks one more chance. The key coaching moment was at the 6:51 mark in the 3rd quarter when the Seahawks converted on 3rd and 19. It was the first drive of the game when the Seahawks' showed any signs of life, and with them backed up (and they should have been backed up even further except a poor call by the refs forced the Packers to decline a 15 yard penalty) the Packers played coverage (which was OK considering the down and distance) but then three pass rushers didn't make much of an effort to get after Russell Wilson. With plenty of time to throw, the eight defenders in coverage completely forget about the Seahawks' leading receiver, Doug Baldwin, and that's when I knew the defense was gassed.

To the defense's credit, they still stopped them on that drive, forced them to punt two more times before Morgan Burnett grabbed an INT (I haven't seen the reason why he slid instead running for more yards). But then Clay Matthews sat out with what appeared to be a leg injury, before returning for the final drive in OT (no idea about that one either) and the defense appeared lifeless. When they lost the coin flip to start OT, I knew they'd never get the ball because Seattle would score a touchdown. McCarthy seemed to believe in his defense, which gave him good reason for 3+ quarters, but he should have seen they were against the ropes. On their 4th quarter possessions, he should have told his MVP quarterback to make some passes, convert some 1st downs, and put the game away.

A.J. Hawk and Sean Richardson. While it looked like Richardson deserved blame for getting back into coverage late on the fake field goal, he did have to run from the other side of the formation. On the other hand, Hawk put himself into no man's land and decided too late to run at punter Jon Ryan. With 10 other teammates on the field and absolutely none of those teammates behind him, he should have been thinking coverage first and defended the goal line. Also, despite forcing a fumble in the first half, it gives another reason in a series of reasons why the Packers will release LB Brad Jones as soon as possible.

Offensive drive at the 6:53 mark in the 4th quarter. Run, run, pass incomplete, punt. They just had success on the previous drive with a big run from James Starks, so this doesn't look like a bad decision. TE Andrew Quarless could have caught that pass on 3rd down too. Getting a 1st down should have been a priority, but the play calling wasn't terrible (yet).

Burnett takes a knee with 5:13 to go. See above. Maybe it's OK if there's under a minute to go but this was bad coaching/decision/something.

Eddie Lacy carries the ball (three times) with 5:04 to go. There were too many timeouts left, the field position was too good, and Seattle's was doubling-down on playing the run. How much damage could Rodgers's have done with a play action pass? Instead they gave Seattle that another chance to turn the tide. Plus the drive ended with an awful punt from Tim Masthay as the special teams continued to unravel down the stretch.

Brandon Bostick. I didn't consider this an unbelievable play because it was a bad decision by a player who's been a disappointment for the past couple seasons. It was bad play from a guy who was in over his head. This will always stand out as the one moment when they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but it wasn't on the coaches (other than for putting Bostick out on the field in the first place). I would have loved to have seen Justin [Settlers of Catan] Perillo out on the field instead. It's clear that Bostick was one of the guys asked to block while WR Jordy Nelson stood behind them to grab the onside kick and he would have caught it if Bostick hadn't gotten in his way. He let his instincts get the better of what his coaches were telling him. I'm surprised they didn't release him immediately after the play. I'm never happy to see this happen to any player, but his NFL career was on thin ice before and now it's officially over.

Aaron Rodgers. He needed to make some plays for them to win and he instead delivered one of his worst games in years. Though they won in Chicago four years ago, Mike McCarthy has led his quarterbacks into three NFC championship games they've played poorly each time. Rodgers's calf injury was a major reason for it, along with the great Seattle defense, but they should have challenged Seattle's CBs more. Especially after Richard Sherman's shoulder injury left him with only one arm. CB Byron Maxwell is a good corner too, but he's also been known to draw a pass interference flag (he had one during the 1st half).

When they did finally attack for the game tying field goal, Rodgers looked sharp. Seattle had been focused on stopping the run on their previous two possession so this drive made me think back on how deadly a play action with a few minutes left in the game could have been.

Find the ball Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He had an amazing game, that 2nd INT of his was a thing of beauty, but he dropped a 3rd INT (maybe it would have been a pick-six) and then he couldn't find the ball on their desperation two point conversion. It's not all on him, the two previous possessions had been a disasters for the defense, but this was just the final of many blown plays at the end of regulation.

Bottom line, this was their first trip to the NFC championship game in four years and a great season. For the first 3+ quarters they outplayed and were more physical than the best team in the NFC. This was a terrible, heart breaking loss, but this is not a bad team or a terrible season. I haven't been this down since either of the home playoff losses to the Giants, but I will bounce back as a strong Packer fan as I imagine everyone else will too.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Reaction: Packers give up with seven minutes to play in crushing loss to Seahawks

You guys already know what happened today, so I'm not going to explain it. Still, this is a Packers site, and on it today must be discussed.

Today, the Packers played perfect football for 53 minutes. They picked off Russell Wilson four times, kept the Seahawks to just seven points, and led by 12. They had the ball after a Morgan Burnett interception, and for a second it was all over.

In my own household, there were cheers. Plans for a Super Bowl party were already being made while discussions on the upcoming AFC game took place. For a second, everything was perfect. The Packers, with a half-injured QB in Aaron Rodgers, had upset the mighty Seahawks on their homefield, and memories of Rodgers' famous "relax" comments came to my mind.

Then, all the sudden, something struck the Packers. The team who seconds ago had all the momentum in the world seemed to just turn off. Their attitude could be compared to what always happens with them: they stop playing prematurely, and almost blow the game.

Key word there is almost, because this time they actually did it.

Wilson led Seattle downfield at will to make it 19-14 and the usual nerves began to fill me. As always, I didn't expect the Packers to make it easy for themselves, but still, I was sure they'd find someway to finish it off.

Then Bostick dropped the onside kick, and I, probably along with the rest of the Packers' fanbase, knew it. The Packers were screwed, or any other word you would like to substitute there. 

Seattle scored again without trouble and went for two. Fortunately, on this play, Wilson ran back to the 20, so it could be assumed he had no chance of converting the play. However, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, having the game of his life, thought differently, and decided to play what can only be described as stupidly for the first time all afternoon. He let a receiver catch a lob pass the receiver had no business catching, and the score became 22-19. Game over, right? Nope, the Packers still weren't done screwing with our heads.

Because Rodgers, refusing to let his uninterested defense ruin his season, amazingly got the Packers all the way into field goal range within the next minute, setting up a Mason Crosby 48-yarder to tie things. Hope, I thought then. Maybe this'll just be a really awkward victory that we'll still appreciate.

No, because by chance the Packers then lost the coin toss (not sure which genius thought that idea up 100 years ago, but that's another story), and the Seahawks had the ball. I wasn't happy about this, but I tried to be optimistic. The Seahawks had had multiple worthless possessions up to that point, so maybe the Packers could force another. 

But remember, this is the Packers, and consistency is not one of their values. Indeed, after somehow forcing the Seahawks to face a 3rd-and-6, Green Bay gave up a pair of deep pass plays, the latter of which put six points on the board. And just like that, the dream was dead. The idea of watching TV personalites talk about the Packers' brilliance became nothing. The two weeks in which I was looking forward to writing about every aspect of the Super Bowl: nothing as well. 

Basically, the Packers let me down in this one. I appreciate the division title and the Cowboys win and all, but really, I don't. Had they lost this game in the first quarter, I'd be fine. They gave it their best shot and got this far and all, but just weren't good enough in the end. 

Only they were good enough. Maybe that's why I'm so upset right now. They had a chance to write a story. They had a chance to shock the bandwagon fans of the Seahawks, (Yeah, I'm calling you out. There were not this many Seahawks fans before last year) and play Tom Brady for their own trophy. But no, they traded it all away, essentially all their hard work since the summer, because they thought it was over. 

Bottom line: this season should be remembered for Rodgers' greatness, Davante Adams' emergence, Eddie Lacy's refusals to go down, and the 12-4 record. But it won't, at least not in the minds of Packers fans. Instead, it'll be seen as the lost season, somewhat of a forgettable one.

And after today's fourth quarter, maybe it should be.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Packers/Seahawks Final Prediction

My final prediction for tomorrow afternoon's NFC Championship Game:

Score: Seahawks 28, Packers 21
I want to see the Packers win this one, but then again, I have to be realistic here. The Seahawks are the better team, therefore they'll probably score more points.

Simply because the Seahawks are unbeatable at home and the Packers are just okay on the road. Not to mention, we still don't know how well an injured Rodgers will perform against Seattle's defense, good as he was last week. I still think it will be close, but that's about it. 

Let's hope I'm wrong.

Lacy probable for conference championship game

Packers RB Eddie Lacy has been listed as probable for Sunday's conference championship game in Seattle,'s Rob Demovsky reports.

Lacy has been experiencing soreness in his right knee this week, according to Demovsky. However, team Head Coach Mike McCarthy isn't concerned about his health, assuring the media Friday "he'll be ready to play."

Lacy rushed for 101 carries on 19 carries in last week's divisonal playoff against the Cowboys, including one on which he ran for 29 yards. As for his entire season, he recorded 1139 yards on 246 carries, reaching the endzone nine times while fumbling thrice.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Lang fined by league for hit in Cowboys game

Packers OL T.J. Lang has been fined $8,268 by the league for his personal foul penalty in Sunday's divisional playoff against the Cowboys,'s Rob Demovsky reports.

Lang knocked Cowboys DT Nick Hayden over in the contest's third quarter, resulting in a flag and a 15-yard loss for Green Bay. The incident sparked a minor scuffle between the two teams, though Lang was the only one to get penalized on it.

The play essentially ruined the Packers' drive, and can be blamed for the fact they were forced to settle for a field goal on that possession.

Lang, however, has claimed he didn't think the hit was late.

NFC Championship Preview: Packers at Seahawks

I'll be honest and say that I'm pessimistic about the Packers' chances in the NFC Championship game in Seattle on Sunday. Of course they can win, but everything I've looked at leads me back to major problems. The biggest one is that they've been much worse on the road this season. I wrote about it last week that Aaron Rodgers's best road game of 2014 (at Dolphins) is statistically worse than his lowest rated home game of the season. That's not all on him, but it does show in one stat how they've struggled on the road.

So instead of predicting a score, if I'm honest I'd give more points to the Seahawks, or spending too much time on their road woes, I'll focus on how they can win the championship.
Aaron Rodgers has to play like it's a home game. For most of this season, Eddie Lacy has ran well at every venue he's played in. Despite a poor first half against the Cowboys, Rodgers did something at halftime to stretch his calf into a second gear and he was lethal down the stretch. It also helped that WR Davante Adams also started making big plays. In Rodgers's worst statistical game of the season, at Buffalo in Week 15, he wasn't the one dropping every pass in sight. He's only going shine if his teammates play their best. Maybe it's better said that the entire offense has to play like it's a home game, but as their field general, Rodgers is going to be front and center in that effort.

It's Mike Daniels time. The Packer defense got some big plays last week from Julius Peppers, but the coaches are being careful with his snap count and he's just as likely to be lined up outside as Mike Neal (who stinks). Clay Matthews has to be careful about committing a personal foul, but he's capable of making a big play too. When the defense came to life in the second half against Dallas and held them to 7 points, it was in large part because of Mike Daniels. No defensive lineman plays more snaps then him and he's twice the playmaker of anyone else on the line, against the run or the pass. The defense has been at it's best this season when Daniels is wrecking havoc at the line of scrimmage.

While the special teams have gotten burned at times this season, the good news is that Seattle's special teams aren't anything special either. A big punt return from Micah Hyde isn't absolutely necessary for them to win, but a return touchdown would have a bigger impact then usual because the Packers's offense might struggle to score over 20 points on it's own. I never expect too much from this unit, but they can't be on the wrong end of a big play on Sunday.

This isn't the best set of circumstances, a hobbled Aaron Rodgers facing the defending champs on the road, but the most important thing is that they've made it this far and given themselves a chance. Seattle's a great team, but the Packers have the ability to out play them. Now they've got to get it done.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Can Eddie Lacy Run Against The Seahawks?

The Seahawks have a formidable run defense and Eddie Lacy was not a factor (12 carries for 34 yards) when they last played Week 1 in Seattle. While that game is from this season, a lot has changed since (one example, Corey Lindsey isn't making his first career NFL start) and what's happened in recent weeks is more relevant than a game from September.
What's true for Lacy is probably the same for Lynch; they're both a load to take down and arguably the two most physical runners in the NFL.

The last time the Packers played a run defense this good was just two games ago when they played the Lions, who are ranked No. 1 overall by Football Outsiders (the Seahawks come in at No. 2). Lacy ran 26 times for 100 yards against them in Week 17, but his per carry average was dragged down by several late 4th quarter carries when the Packers were up by two scores and trying to run out the clock. Otherwise, Lacy hasn't been held to under four yards per carry since their November 9th blowout against the Bears. He's been able to run against every defense he's faced over the past couple months and he should be able to run against the Seahawks.

While nearly every player on the Lions defense has a positive run defense grade according to Pro Football Focus, the Seahawks have a negative grade from every member of their defensive line except Michael Bennett, who's been a monster on run defense. Since Bennett isn't a giant nose tackle (274 lbs.) he's probably doing most of his damage when he beats a block and makes a tackle in the backfield. The lineman are going to have to maintain their blocks on Bennett to keep him in check.

Though their defensive line is overall a negative against the run, almost every other defender at linebacker and in the secondary has either a positive run defense grade or is playing at an elite level. Lacy might be able to break through to the second level with regularity but he might not be able to break a tackle against their second level. Lacy's had a run of greater than 20+ yards in each of his last six games, but that streak might end against the Seahawks.

So the Seahawks have a great run defense that isn't going to allow many (any) big runs but the Packers should have some success on the ground. I don't expect they'll ignore the ground game, but as long as they stick with it should be productive.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

PFWA Names Rodgers 2014 NFL MVP

In the first league MVP award announced this season, Packers QB Aaron has received the honor from the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA), according to the team's offical website.

Rodgers, 31, completed 341/520 passes for 4,381 yards and 38 touchdowns for the Packers this fall, helping them go an NFC North-best 12-4. 

He's been nursing a calf injury since Week 16, yet has managed to still go undefeated since then. He even led the Packers back from a 21-13 second half deficit to beat the Cowboys Sunday, clinching for  them a spot in this weekend's NFC Championship game.

They'll be taking on the top-seeded Seahawks in it, as you all likely know.

How The Packers Can Attack Seattle's Secondary

This comment doesn't take away from Seattle's great defense, but I was surprised at how few great quarterbacks they've faced in recent weeks. To start the season, they won against Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning but lost to Phillip Rivers and Tony Romo. Over their past eight games, they've faced Cam Newton, Shaun Hill, Ryan Lindsey, Colin Kaepernick (twice), Mark Sanchez, Drew Stanton, and Alex Smith. Their defense has been fantastic over those last eight games, but that's not the greatest quarterback challenge either. Aaron Rodgers, even with a bad calf, is better than those last seven quarterbacks.
His article is written like something that a former NFL safety would love, and it's a bit heavy on concepts and formations, but he found three examples of big plays against the Seahawks's defense (which he admitted were hard to find). Two of them were passes to tight ends, and twice it showed how to exploit a linebacker in coverage. Just as TE Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers were surprise helpers in their win over the Cowboys, the Packers are going to have to use them again to exploit Seattle's linebackers in coverage.

The last time a quarterback had a good game against Seattle's defense was arguable on November 9th, when Eli Manning wasn't too bad in a 38-17 loss. Unsurprisingly he got a big game from WR Odell Beckham Jr. but he also got a career game out of third string WR Preston Parker. So another big game out of WR Davante Adams is important. In the season's opener, no Packer wide receiver other than Nelson and Cobb caught a single pass and that can't happen again.

For something completely different, the last team when the Chiefs beat the Seahawks, they did it in large part by calling more running plays for Jamaal Charles than pass attempts for Alex Smith. Maybe that was just what the Chiefs had to do because of their quarterback and lack of decent wide receivers, but it's something to consider when the Packers have Eddie Lacy available.

In the end, no pass heavy or run heavy attack is the answer. The Packers will need a combination of both, and every receiver on the team is going to have to deliver.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It's Time to Forgive the Fail Mary Ref

A story came out today that should disturb everyone who reads it: the Fail Mary ref, Lance Easley, is suffering from depression.

The cause: the infamous blown call he made.

Now I get it was an awful decision, and I'm still sure the Packers would've at least gone to the conference championship game that season had they gotten the #2 seed that'd come with one more win, but still, it's very unfortunate that news has come out. I'll admit, I wanted Easley to feel guilty about the game when it first ended, but for it to ruin his life is a whole different thing. 

So, to everyone who reads this and the earlier-linked article, let's just agree to forgive and forget. This is football, it shouldn't cause these kind of issues.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Lang Attempts to Explain Personal Foul Penalty Versus Cowboys

We all saw how unintelligent Packers OL T.J. Lang's personal foul penalthy was in Sunday's second half against the Cowboys, but still, Lang's trying to explain it. 

Here's his full quote regarding his seemingly random knocking down of a Dallas player early in the contest's third quarter, courtesy of The Green Bay Press-Gazette's Mike Woods:

"I was jogging down there, saw Davante fighting for extra yards, saw a guy wrapping him up still trying to take him to the ground and I thought I heard the whistle as soon as I made contact with the guy. I didn't think it was late, that's not the kind of game I play. I just try to take care of my guy."

NFC Divisional: Packers Rally To Beat Cowboys, 26-21

It was ironic that the final score was 26 to 21 because that was the same score as in their earlier home win against the Patriots. While I expected the Packers to have an edge against the Cowboys because they were playing at home and the Packer defense was a better unit, a poor first half from the Packer defense and a strong game from the Cowboy defense turned it into a matchup of two even opponents. It was such a close game that one judgment call from the referees turned out to be the difference.
It was arguably the correct call though it's easy to find other examples when the refs gave a receiver a catch under similar circumstances. It really helped that CB Sam Shields got the tip of his finger on the ball and made WR Dez Bryant shift the ball in his hands. I remember when WR Greg Jennings had a touchdown catch reversed back in 2010 and it was overturned because the ball moved around a little bit in his hands. The receiver has to keep the ball from moving at all, no matter how awkward his grip. On this play, the ball moved around in Bryant's hands before he hit the ground and then popped up when he hit the ground. There was never a point when the ball wasn't moving around. It defies common sense because he did snatch it out of the air and stretched out towards the goal line, but I agree with the call based on the NFL's rules. I can't imagine this non-catch won't be discussed about at length when the rules committee meets again in the spring.

As for the rest of the game, it was going to be QB Aaron Rodgers's responsibility to win it despite his injured calf muscle. He ended up with a QBR of 83.1 (anything over an 80 is elite, MVP level stuff) and his only turnover was a fumble after a botched snap that was as much C Corey Lindsey's fault as it was his. The offensive line deserves extra credit for giving him time to throw when he's in no condition to run, but the Cowboys don't have good pass rushers on their defensive line and it probably wouldn't have helped had they blitzed more. Rodgers is arguably better at beating single coverage when he sees the blitz coming.

I've been concerned about their lack of a reliable third receiving option behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Nelson wasn't a factor, I haven't watched the All-22 film but I assume the Cowboys were bracketing him with double-coverage (CB under, S over) all game (just as the Packers did a lot against Dez Bryant). Cobb still had a big game against mostly single coverage but they needed another other receivers to step up. Instead of one, three unlikely receivers had big games and touchdown receptions (Davante Adams, Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers). Adams was obviously the key with a team leading 7 receptions and 117 yards. It was a surprising performance from Adams when you consider that he was a non-factor for the entire month of December. Aaron Rodgers had seemed to have lost faith in him last month, but he's back in his good graces now.

It was a mixed day for the Packer defense. They played much better in the second half and got huge games from Julius Peppers (two forced fumbles) and Mike Daniels, who was a beast in the middle. But the linebackers weren't a factor (not much from Clay Matthews, except what could have been called roughing the passer, and a holding penalty for a first down against Brad Jones) and the secondary was a borderline mess. CB Tramon Williams had a couple of penalties for first downs and some missed tackles. SS Morgan Burnett looked like a missed tackling machine in the first half, especially on special teams. Both Micah Hyde and Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix took bad angles on the long TD pass to Terrance Williams. No receiver topped 100 yards but it could have been much worse if Tony Romo had attempted more than 19 passes. The Cowboys are a good offense and they can make defenses look bad, but the Packer defense can play better.

For the second time in three seasons, the Packers won their playoff game at home and now head west to take on the NFC West champ. Two years ago it was a divisional game but this time it's for a trip to the Super Bowl. There will be a lot to talk about this week.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Reaction: Rodgers rallies Packers to playoff win over Cowboys

Not trying to brag, but I called this score perfectly. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the Packers' 26-21 win today over the Cowboys, which gives them a spot in next week's conference championship game in Seattle:

1. Aaron Rodgers Knows How to Play Hurt:
He didn't for the first half, but once Demarco Murray reached the endzone to make it 21-13 he finally figured it out. Just watch the replay of that touchdown pass to Richard Rodgers to see what I mean. 

2. Andrew Quarless and Davante Adams are better than we think:
Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb didn't do much this afternoon, but at least Quarless and Adams were there to pick up the slack.

3. Karma: 
Go ahead, Cowboys fans. Blame the refs for this loss. You know very well the ball hit the ground there, not to mention that your team only played this week because of that picked up flag against the Lions.

On to the Seahawks.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cowboys/Packers Final Prediction

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

Score: Packers 26, Cowboys 21
I expect this contest to go the same way as the Patriots one earlier this season, so that's the score I'll take too. 

Because while I don't think Rodgers will play to his full potential, I do think he'll do enough to win. Or, to put it more realistically, I don't think Romo will, so the Packers will hang on for a slim and stressful victory. 

Leave your own thoughts on this one below, and keep your fingers crossed that I'm right here. I'm admittedly not as confident as usual.

Rodgers' Calf Won't Affect Packers' Game Plan

Well, this is pretty relieving.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers' calf won't affect the Packers' game plan in tomorrow's divisional playoff against the Cowboys, according to The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Bob McGinn

Here are some quotes from team Head Coach Mike McCarthy, courtesy of McGinn:

"We have a game plan and he looks like he's moving fine to me. Right now, we're not going to change anything in our approach on how we want to attack Dallas' defense."
"Aaron came through the practice everything OK. He feels good today. He's progressing forward and I feel he will be available for the game."

Friday, January 09, 2015

It's All On Aaron Rodgers Against The Cowboys

I've been holding my breath as I waited over the past several days while Aaron Rodgers didn't practice and then word leaked out that his calf injury might not be getting any better. The good news is that he did return to practice on Thursday though I don't put much faith in any comments from his teammates after a closed doors practice session. His calf muscle might only be 50 percent but it's near 100 percent certain that he'll play on Sunday.
He might get a boost from Eddie Lacy on the ground, or from a strong defensive performance, or even another big punt return from Micah Hyde, but the most likely situation is that it'll all come down to whether he can carry his team to victory on Sunday. That's a lot of pressure for anyone, especially when that anyone is dealing with a double dose of calf injuries, but he's the New Joe Cool and he's going to have to R-E-L-A-X. If anyone can handle the pressure, it would be him.

When the Packers went on their 2010 playoff run to the Super Bowl, the offense played great but they also had their best defensive team of the last five seasons. This year's defense isn't as good (I still miss Nick Collins) but it's better than it was in either 2011 or 2013. Even though it's been said a thousand times that defense wins championships, it can also be said that in recent years a great quarterback can carry an imperfect team to the Super Bowl. While the Seahawks won it last year with their defense, an amazing run from a quarterback has been the more common path to the championship in recent years.

Rodgers has a QBR of 82.6 this season according to ESPN (only Tony Romo was better at 82.8). When the Packers won, his lowest QBR was 79.2 (at Dolphins), and when they lost, his best QBR was 64.1 (at Saints). Even in his "worst" performance during a win, 79.2, would qualify as the 3rd best quarterback rating in the NFL pro-rated over an entire season. That pretty much proves that their 2014 victories have been delivered by his arm. He's going to have to deliver that same 79.2 QBR or better performance over their final three games just as these four quarterbacks have done on their recent Super Bowl runs.

2009 Drew Brees. 79.6 QBR in 3 games, 8 TDs and 0 INTs. During the 2009 playoffs, he was slightly below his QBR for the season (80.4) but he was playing at an elite level any way you look at it.

2010 Aaron Rodgers. His QBR in 4 postseason games was 83.5 even though he threw 2 INTs in the cold championship game at Soldier Field. For all four 2010 playoff games in total, he had 11 TDs (9 passing, 2 rushing) and 2 INTs. As good as he was during the regular season, he leveled up in the postseason and greatly improved on his regular season QBR of 70.7.

2011 Eli Manning. 68.5 QBR in 4 games, 9 TDs and 1 INT. During this stretch from 2009-2012, he was the least impressive of the championship QBs, but throwing only one interception in four games was huge victory for him because he's usually so turnover prone. He put together an excellent streak of ball control right when his team needed it most.

2012 Joe Flacco. 84.4 QBR in 4 games, 11 TDs and 0 INTs. During the 2012 regular season, he was widely inconsistent; mixing in a few elite games between some terrible stinkers. He is always capable of playing like this but he put it all together for a four game championship run.

While Seattle did ride their defense to a championship last season, everyone knows the Packers don't have that type of defense. What they do have is a quarterback who's capable of going on a championship run, and who's done it before. If they're going to make a Super Bowl run, they're going to have to get there on the back of an awesome three game run by Aaron Rodgers, no matter how his ailing calf is feeling.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Packers Listed as 6 Point Favorites For Sunday's Divisional Playoff

The Packers have been listed as six point favorites for Sunday's divisional playoff game against the Cowboys.

The Packers have not lost at home this season, but neither have the Cowboys on the road. Dallas rallied late for a 24-20 victory in last weekend's wild card game against the Lions, but for the most part, still struggled in the contest.

As for the Packers, they're obviously coming off a bye week, so they're the more rested group of the two. Still, it should be noted that their offensive line was great when they beat the Lions in Week 17, so expect Aaron Rodgers to be well protected in this one.

Rodgers (Calf) Assures Media: "I'm Going on Sunday"

For all those worrying Aaron Rodgers won't play this weekend, you can put those fears to rest. Rodgers will be on the field for Sunday's game against the Cowboys, or at least that's what he's saying.

"I'm going on Sunday," Rodgers told's Rob Demovsky Wednesday. "It's just a matter of how."

"It just kind of depends on how (my calf) feels. I met with Doc. I've seen him every day. Nothing really changed on the schedule. This was kind of the plan from the start. It's progressing, but we'll see how it feels tomorrow."

Good. Now we can focus on the game instead. 

Monday, January 05, 2015

Sunday's Cowboys/Packers Game Won't Be as Cold as the Ice Bowl

Sunday's NFC Divisional Playoff Game between the Cowboys and Packers will be cold, but not quite as cold as the Ice Bowl.'s Rob Demovsky reported so Monday, writing that forecasts for the noon contest have kickoff temperatures reaching 15 degrees. The Ice Bowl, the 1967 NFL Championship Game between the two at Lambeau Field, started at -13 degrees, according to Demovsky.  

Kind of a let down I guess, but still, expect the Cowboys to feel a little weird this weekend. They play in a dome after all, and even struggled in one when they beat the Lions yesterday.

Reaction: Cowboys Rally Late to Beat Lions in Wild Card Game

I'm not that upset the Lions didn't hang onto beat the Cowboys yesterday, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't have liked to see it happen. 

Had Detroit held on to win, they'd head to Seattle, where I figured they'd at least have a chance. No, the Seahawks wouldn't have gone down without a fight, but obviously, the Lions would still play better than the Panthers. 

So while I don't necessarily see the Cowboys as much of a threat to the Packers, I'm definitely concerned that Green Bay's now going to have to go through the Seahawks if they want to reach the Super Bowl. You should be too, much as I want to believe the Packers are the best.  

Cowboys Win: Cowboys at Packers Next Sunday

The first round of the NFC playoffs went as I expected and the Cowboys and Panthers both came out winners. They're flawed teams (poor Cowboys D and a bad Panthers offense) and it'd have been easier to have faced the Panthers instead, but it really doesn't matter who they face. This is a really good Packer team (especially at home) and they weren't going to sneak into the Super Bowl.
I hadn't thought of that until I saw this tweet. During the 1993-1995 seasons the Cowboys knocked the Packers out of the playoffs during three playoff games played in Dallas. They also lost to the Cowboys in Dallas during the 1996 season. I too hoped the Packers would have one shot at beating the Cowboys in Green Bay. They kind of had that moment when they finally got host the Cowboys at Lambeau and crushed them 45-17 in November 1997. But the Cowboys haven't played in a lot of playoff games since 1997 and the Packers never got a shot at beating that 90s era Cowboys team during the playoffs. Sure that doesn't mean anything leading up to next Sunday's game, but looking back to the 1990s is a lot closer to home for me than memories of the Ice Bowl.

It's hard to compare how the Lions played in this game against the Cowboys because the Lions have such a good defense and such a mediocre offense. Also the weather conditions will be a lot different (way below freezing) versus inside at Dallas. But the pass protection was interesting.

The game basically ended on a strip-sack of Matthew Stafford, but for most of it the Cowboys had trouble getting to the quarterback despite the fact that the Lions were missing arguably their two best pass protectors on the offensive line (Warford and Waddle) due to injury. The Packers's offensive line has been outstanding this season in pass protection. If the Cowboys can't get to Aaron Rodgers or have to blitz to generate any pressure, he'll slice them up.

On the other hand, the Lions were all over Tony Romo, especially during the early parts of the game. Romo didn't respond too well to the blitz and the Cowboys weren't missing any of their Pro Bowl offensive lineman. The Packers can rush the Cowboys just as well as the Lions did and Packer defensive coordinator Dom Capers certainly knows how to dial up a blitz. It'll be key to keep ineffective pass rushers like Mike Neal secure on the bench and ride the defensive starters harder now that they're into the playoffs.

Overall, the Cowboys have to be drained after rallying from a 13 point second half deficit to beat a tough Lions team. The Packers got the matchup I was expecting (even if I was hoping to face the Panthers instead) and they should be much better shape than the Cowboys.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Lions/Cowboys Final Prediction

My final prediction for today's Lions/Cowboys wild card game, the only one this weekend we Packers fans should really care about:

Score: Cowboys 27, Lions 17
I think Stafford will keep it close, but to say he'll actually win is just too unrealistic. He's never beaten an above-.500 team on the road in his career, and it's tough to see why he suddenly would now. 

Because while the Cowboys may not be the best when they're at the home, they certainly seem to have the location advantage in this contest. I'm not saying they'll definitely emerge victorious because of that, but I do think it's very likely. 

Let's hope I'm wrong.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Rodgers, Kuhn Named First-Team All-Pros

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and FB John Kuhn have been named 2014 NFL First-Team All-Pros, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Tyler Dunne reports. 

Rodgers received 44 of 50 media members' votes for his position, according to Dunne. As for Kuhn, he got 18 at fullback, enough for the accolade.

Besides them, WR Jordy Nelson and Guard Josh Sitton both made the second team, solidly garnering 15 and 22 votes, respectively. Sitton's total left him just short of the first team, writes Dunne.

The Packers are coming off a 12-4 campaign this fall, one which proved good enough for the NFC's no.2 seed after Sunday's win over the Lions.

Hearing Officer Who Turned Suh Suspension into Fine Not Convinced He Was Completely Innocent

Ted Cottrell, the hearing officer who turned Ndamukong Suh's suspension into a $70k fine, isn't convinced the former was completely innocent.

Here's what he wrote in a recent letter to Suh, courtesy of Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith

“Although I accept that your feet may have been cold on a late December day in Green Bay, it is difficult for me to believe that you did not feel Aaron Rodgers’ leg under you as you stepped on him twice. While you may not have consciously intended to cause injury to the opposing player that you stepped on, I nonetheless believe that you could have avoided—and had the responsibility to avoid—making such dangerous contact with your opponent’s leg—twice. Your conduct was a clear violation of the Playing Rules and was outside the normal course of the game of football. It must be emphasized that illegal acts that jeopardize the safety of other players, as was certainly the case here, will not be tolerated in this League.”

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Odds For Wild Card Weekend Released

The odds for this weekend's Wild Card games have been released, and though they're interesting, not much about them is too surprising.

In both NFC games, the home team is favored by 6 1/2 points, with the Panthers being picked to beat the Cardinals and the Cowboys the Lions. In the AFC, meanwhile, the hosts are each favored by 3, the Steelers over the Ravens and the Colts over the Bengals.

So yeah, nothing too weird. But hey, at least you know, and now we can all accept even further that the Packers' next opponent will probably be the Cowboys.

Two Packers Win NFC Weekly Honors

Packers CB Micah Hyde and QB Aaron Rodgers have been awarded NFC weekly honors.

Hyde, one of the team's returners, has been named the conference's Special Teams Player of the Week, and Rodgers its Offensive Player of the Week. 

Hyde brought a punt back 55 yards for a touchdown in Sunday's first quarter, giving the Packers an early 7-0 lead. Rodgers, meanwhile, completed 17/22 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, leaving shortly before halftime with a calf injury before surprisingly coming back later. 

The Packers won the game 30-20 over the Lions, clinching for them the NFC North and a first-round bye in the playoffs.