Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Packers (10-6) Win The NFC North Title in Detroit, 31-24

Breathe a sign of relief Mr. Run The Table:
No one's been better over the last six games than QB Aaron Rodgers, as the Packers turned a 4-6 record and a long-shot playoff dream into a 10-6 run the table reality. The offense was sloppy in the first half against the Lions, in parts because of penalties and the desire to hide RB Ty Montgomery off the field. In the second half, Montgomery played a lot more and everything started working, even though he didn't end up with a huge stat line (61 yards from scrimmage). The threat of a running game (Aaron Ripkowski doesn't count) is a huge advantage as it opens up the field.

About WR Geronimo Allison. Basically what we saw from him against the Lions was the same thing he's been doing since the preseason. He's not blazing fast, but he runs good routes and he doesn't drop the ball. He's moved into the role the Packers were trying to give to WR Trevor Davis, who hasn't been seen returning punts or running routes for the past several weeks because he couldn't stop dropping and fumbling the ball. Cobb's absence has opened up the No. 3 WR spot temporarily for Allison and he should be a factor in the playoffs if Cobb isn't ready next week.

The defense isn't as bad as it was in 2011 or 2013 (really, those were some dark times) but it's still not good. The pass rush was great early in the season but it's faded over the past few games while two of their best pass rushers have dealt with injuries (LB Clay Matthews will have shoulder surgery in the offseason, LB Nick Perry is playing with a clubbed hand after December hand surgery). The run defense isn't as good as it was back in September but it can be stout when it wants to be with Daniels, Clark and Guion in the middle. Also, DT Mike Pennel is eligible to return. It isn't important to have him back against the Giants (who can't run the ball) but he'll be welcome if they have to travel to Dallas the following week. Of course, the big story is the cornerbacks.

I've been pleasantly surprised by CB Ladarius Gunter this season, and he's had some good moments, but as the only competent cornerback this season, it seems more like he's been avoided because the opposite side of the field has been so poorly defended. It looked scary on Sunday, but CB Quinten Rollins appears to be doing well after his neck injury, though I'm not counting on either him or CB Damarious Randall next week. As poorly as those two have played when healthy, I've been wondering for the past few weeks whether they'd be better of having DB Micah Hyde outside at corner and S Marwin Evans in the dime role. But if Randall and Rollins can't play, they'll need a couple more DBs for depth, which means CB Josh Hawkins will be active and they might have to promote Waters or Whitehead from the practice squad. This group isn't going to turn into a strength over the remainder of the playoffs, but it might hold up against a struggling Giants passing attack.

They've done a great job this season just to hold it all together after a mid-season collapse, and respond with a six game winning streak to advance to the playoffs. But all the remaining playoff teams have problems on their roster at one position or another. If their offense can keep rolling (and keep avoiding turnovers) and the defense can just be decent, then they can make a run in the playoffs.

No comments: