Monday, November 17, 2014

Packers' superlative performances at home continue as Eagles play latest victim

The final score of the Green Bay Packers vs. Philadelphia Eagles game at Lambeau Field yesterday was...a bajillion to who-the-heck cares. When a team dominates another -- especially a division leader (7-2 coming into the game) -- like the Packers did, well, scores are pretty irrelevant. Just as was the case a week earlier when the Pack disemboweled an even more pathetic Chicago Bears team. (But just in case you are obsessive-compulsive about this stuff, the final scores were 53-20 and 55-14 respectively.)

The biggest challenge for the Packers over the past two weeks could be said to be having sports pundits and bloggers run out of ways to describe an almost super-human performance on both sides of the ball. We're in the rarified atmosphere of record-setting performances for consecutive weeks. And it doesn't seem to matter whether the Packers are playing a good team, as the Eagles supposedly are, or a division bottom-feeder, such as Da Bearz. We Packer fans better savor these times, because they are rare indeed. Don't ever take them for granted, Packer fans. This stuff is not normal. Really. It is extraordinary.

We won't recount all the stats as your eyes would glaze over. One of note, however, is that for the first time in the looooong history of the Packers the team scored 50 or more points in two consecutive games. In fact, in the history of the NFL, this has only been accomplished four other times. Speaking of four, the Packers are 4-0 when they wear the 1929 Championship team uniforms.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in full-on assault mode.
Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

As fans are also well aware, QB Aaron Rodgers is playing like a man possessed. He has thrown 29 touchdowns at home without an interception (18 this season), the longest such streak in NFL history. He's actually thrown 322 consecutive passes at home without an interception, blowing well past Tom Brady's old mark of 288 and -- wait for it! -- the longest such streak in NFL history. Again, the numbers just become mind-numbing at some point. In the last seven games, Rodgers' passer rating is 132.3. Incredible. He and the Packers offense, with much credit due and given to his offensive line, have been so prolific in the first half of their home games they are outscoring opponents 128-9 over the last four games. This is a good reason why we haven't seen Rodgers play a fourth quarter in the last two games (he did have one series yesterday in the fourth, but still...).

Wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have also been stellar. RB Eddie Lacy is not only a legitimate running threat but has also developed into a trusty receiver this season, actually ranking as the third best on the team in terms of yardage, most of which has come after the catch. Case in point, Lacy's epic screen pass catch-and-run for a touchdown where he would not be stopped.

As good as the offense has been, which we pretty much expected, one of the things we didn't expect was the resurgence of what was a sieve-like defense at the start of the season. They are now dominating other teams, with turnovers a key; the defense has generated 22 takeaways so far this season, including plus-4 in turnover differential yesterday and plus-14 overall (22 takeaways minus 8 giveaways). Also, is it merely coincidence that these last two extraordinary wins have coincided with the move of LB Clay Matthews from the outside to inside where he can freelance a bit more?

If the Packers make a deep run into the playoffs this season, the improved performance of the defense will be key. We know the offense is loaded with talent. They can and will score...big. But 14 points yesterday came directly as a result of a pick-6 and a fumble recovery by the defense. That's huge.

As for special teams...it was a mixed bag yesterday for the Packers: a 75-yard punt return by Micah Hyde, but a muffed extra point hold, a blocked extra point, a missed field goal (long, granted), and a blocked punt. So with all the good bits out of yesterday's game, special teams just shows there is still much to work on. If the Packers ever get back into a tight game -- and reality says they will -- they can't afford those errors; the game and the season could turn on such things.

But for now, Packer fans...let us rejoice and be glad. The Packers are tied for first in the NFC North after Arizona defeated Detroit yesterday. The ViQueens are next up, on the road. Then back home for one of the tougher remaining games on the schedule against New England. There's six games to go. A lot can happen. But what's happening now is the stuff of legend. Yes, it is. And the stats prove it.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Week 11: Packers vs. Eagles Preview and Prediction

The high-flying, 7-2 Philadelphia Eagles pay a mid-afternoon visit today to Lambeau Field for their showdown with the 6-3 Green Bay Packers. Along with New England at Indianapolis and Detroit at Arizona (I still can't believe that last one), this is the game of the day. Obviously, the NFL and TV programmers thought so, too, as the game was "flexed" out of its originally-scheduled noon start to the 3:25 CT start. Make no mistake about it, this game is critical for both teams as the playoff hunt enters high gear. Each team wants this game...needs this game.

The Eagles seem to be rejuvenated in the last week or two (if you can even say that about a 7-2 team) under the similarly-rejuvenated quarterback, Mark Sanchez, he of butt-fumble fame. Getting out from under the dysfunction that is the New York Jets and landing on the roster of Eagles' head coach Chip Kelly may be just what the doctor ordered for Sanchez and his career.

But it's not just Sanchez the Packers defense needs to concern itself with. The Eagles have very good receivers in veteran Jeremy Maclin and rookie Jordan Matthews. RB LeSean McCoy is always a threat, but is averaging more than a yard per rush less this season than in his first five years in the league. And he's not happy about that. For a variety of reasons, the Eagles' running game has gone from first in the NFL last year to 20th in yards-per-carry this season. In a win against the woeful Panthers last week, McCoy rushed for just 19 yards on 12 carries. The Packers defense can't assume that will carry over to this week; with most quality running backs, a game like that will make them angry and anxious to prove a point. The Packers defense will need to make sure they keep McCoy under wraps.

We have to believe the Packers defense will build off last weekend's performance against Da Bearz. Moving Clay Matthews around creates havoc for an offensive line, creating opportunities not only for himself but his teammates to make plays. The Packers secondary will take care of business.

Where the Packers can and probably will be exposed is on special teams where they will have to try to figure out a way to keep Darren Sproles from single-handedly changing the course of the game; he's returned two punts for touchdowns this season.

Packers Guard, Josh Sitton
Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

On the flip side of things, the Packers offense is rolling. How do you keep that going? Protect QB Aaron Rodgers, have the Pack's great receivers get separation as they usually do, and use Eddie Lacy as both the rushing and receiving threat that he is. The Packers injured guards -- Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang -- are both probable again this week ... read: they will play. The Eagles defensive line is good, and the Pack will need another good performance from its line.

The Prediction
This is a fairly short preview and an even briefer prediction. That's because the Pack can't allow a Mark Shanchez-led Eagles team to beat them on their home field. Weather conditions -- cold, in particular -- will play a role today, although the Packers should be the team better equipped to deal with conditions. Also of note: the Eagles' two losses have been on the road.

The Packers are favored by 5-1/2 to 6 points depending upon what source you are looking at, and the game has the second-highest over-under total points of the weekend at 55.

We're calling it 34-24 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!



Monday, November 10, 2014

Packers help Bears hit rock bottom

We were both right and wrong in our preview and prediction of Sunday night's game at Lambeau Field between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. We were right in projecting the Packers to win. We were right in suggesting the Bears QB Jay Cutler is a veritable head case when it comes to playing the Packers. We were right in predicting a point total of at least 55 points. We were wrong in not projecting that the Pack alone would score 55 points. We were also wrong in thinking that Da Bearz would care about playing a football game. We were wrong about Da Bearz, giving them far too much credit.

While we certainly rejoiced in this thorough 55-14 beat-down of Chicago, a victory of epic proportions in the long history of the oldest rivalry in the NFL, you almost had to feel a bit sad for how far this once proud Chicago franchise seems to have fallen, especially this season. Almost.

But back to the Packers.

QB Aaron Rodgers tied Daryl Lamonica's NFL-record six first-half touchdowns. Combine great play by Rodgers, his offensive line and his receivers (including RB Eddie Lacy) with a flat-out give-up performance by Chicago's defense, and the rout was on early. Randall Cobb was quoted after the game as saying that the feeling going into the game was that if the Pack could get up early the Bears would essentially lay down. The Packers did their part to make that happen and, as a result, so did Da Bearz.

The Packers defense also seemed to be playing at a higher level than usual. Whether that was the brilliant and successful move -- at least on this night -- of linebacker Clay Matthews from the outside to the inside or the apparently stirring pre-game locker room speech to the team by veteran and former Bear, Julius Peppers, we may never know. Let's also not forget the return of Morgan Burnett to the secondary.

But the question for the moment is: are the Packers really this good or Da Bearz this bad?
Given how bad Chicago was last evening, with no passion in their play or performance and a typical horror show by QB Jay Cutler (now 1-11 against the Pack, and O-4 at Lambeau Field), we really don't know if the Packers have finally put it together on both offense and defense. We'll get a glimpse this coming Sunday afternoon when the Eagles come to Green Bay. Lest we forget, the Eagles played at Lambeau last season and went home with a victory. We'll take a closer look at this upcoming game later this week, so please check back for updates.

Until then, Packer fans, just revel in the win last evening. Take pity on your poor Bear fan friends and family members. They're embarrassed for their team. All we can hope for on our end, despite that, is that the organizational ineptitude which has gripped Da Bearz for the last two decades continues. Let's hope they keep trotting out the gift that keeps on giving: Jay Cutler. As long as he's at the helm -- and after having just given him a boatload of money to be their main man, he will be for a long time -- the Packers will be in great shape.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Week 10: Packers vs. Bears Preview and Prediction

As the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears look to renew the oldest rivalry in the NFL at Lambeau Field this evening -- this will be game number 190 in the series for those keeping track -- questions arise for both teams as they each come off their bye week.

For the Packers, can the team's 32nd-ranked run defense contain Bears RB Matt Forte? Can its linebackers and secondary cover TE Martellus Bennett? Can the Pack's hobbled offensive line -- possibly minus one if not two starting guards -- protect QB Aaron Rodgers and open holes for RB Eddie Lacy? For Da Bearz, can QB Jay Cutler not throw interceptions? Can a so-so secondary cover the Packers' outstanding receivers? For both teams, will weather conditions play a deciding role?

The preview here is a short one, Packer fans. The Pack has won 11 of the last 13 against Da Bearz. That in itself means little. The fact that the Packers are the better team overall, also means little in this historic rivalry.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers
Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Within the NFC North, the Packers, at 5-3, are in an unfamiliar position looking up at the Detroit Lions holding first place; they can’t afford to fall behind especially having lost to Detroit in their first meeting of this season. Chicago is looking up at everyone in the division, at 3-5. They also can’t afford to fall further behind. Lose tonight and it’s a long road to even have dreams of a wild card spot. Aaron Rodgers noted in a locker room interview this week that Chicago would be coming in playing as a desperate team and the Packers had better be ready for that.

Both teams want and need this game. But in a series such as this, on what promises to be a cold and blustery night in Green Bay, anything can happen. The best way for the Packers to prevent that is to get up early and big on Chicago, and to eat clock with their own ground game. To this point in the season, the Packers have been averaging about 59 offensive snaps, 10 fewer on average than their opponents. Time of possession has also favored the Pack's opponents to the tune of about 3 more minutes per game. The Pack needs to close the gap on both of those stats and tonight would be a great night to begin to do so.

Rodgers' hamstring will apparently be a non-issue, as long as it doesn't get tweaked by the cold or game action itself. If that rears its ugly head during the game, it could very much change the complexion of things. How long guards Josh Sitton and/or T.J. Lang might be able to go -- if they go at all -- will also have a major impact upon tonight's play and game plan. Let's hope none of these situations apply tonight.

Prediction
The Packers are favored by 7 points at the time of this writing. The over-under is 55 points. Clearly oddsmakers are thinking lots of offense and not so much defense. We tend to agree.

We're calling it 31-24 in favor of the Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Bye-Bye Bye Week, Hello Bears Week!

The Green Bay Packers went into their mid-season bye week on a down note last week. After reeling off four consecutive wins, the road trip to New Orleans saw the Pack face a rather desperate Saints team on its home turf where they usually come away with a win. And they did.

Still, at 5-3 at the mid-point of the 2014 NFL season, the Packers are right where we thought they’d be (see our season preview and prediction here).

Monday News
Yesterday, the Packers made several moves, only one roster related. The team extended head coach Mike McCarthy’s contract another five years. Effectively, McCarthy, GM Ted Thompson, and QB Aaron Rodgers are pretty much hitched to the same wagon for the next half-decade. We’ll assume most Packer fans are pretty happy with that arrangement. The one main knock on McCarthy, despite a string of consecutive NFC North Championships, playoffs in six of his eight years, and winning one Super Bowl, is that his defenses under defensive coordinator Dom Capers have been inconsistent to put it mildly and downright dreadful to be blunt. How McCarthy will up the ante in the second half of this season and beyond as regards his defenses may well tell the tale of whether he adds another Lombardi Trophy to his list of accomplishments. Offensively, they have things covered. Defensively…not so much.

The other move of the day on Monday was the release of 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod to make room for the return from the Injured Reserve – Designated for Return list of center/offensive lineman, J.C. Tretter. Tretter’s return will add some much needed depth to a sparse Packers offensive line. While slated to be the starter at center this season, an early injury opened the way for rookie Corey Linsley to take over the job. He has performed so well that replacing him with Tretter at this point is not even being considered. Instead, look for the Packers to use Tretter as back-up at either of the two guard positions, and at center, of course, should Linsley suffer an injury.


Derek Sherrod was released by the Packers Monday
Photo by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

As for Sherrod, three-and-a-half years into his pro career, with roughly two years spent sidelined due to a horrible leg injury, the Packers finally decided to cut bait. There was, according to reports, no shortage of effort on the part of the young man to get back onto the field and be productive. Everyone raved about his character. But as the season opener clearly showed for the world to see, when Sherrod was placed in the role of having to play tackle and protect Aaron Rodgers, he couldn’t do it physically. It was time to let him go and they finally did. We wish nothing but the best for Mr. Sherrod going forward.

Here come Da Bearz!
With the bye week behind them, the Packers find themselves in second place in the NFC North behind the surprising Detroit Lions. First up on the schedule is the foe from south of the border, the Chicago Bears, who now find themselves in last place in the division at 3-5. Desperation will accompany them to Lambeau Field for the Sunday night contest, as a loss will likely doom any outside chance Da Bearz have of making the playoffs barring a miraculous turnaround. Considering the chaos that has been widely reported in recent weeks surrounding the team, a miracle of that nature seems unlikely. This is somewhat of a do-or-die game for Chicago if they hope to stay within spitting distance of the Packers and Detroit.

The Packers can do their part this weekend by keeping Da Bearz down. With only one win in his career against the Packers, don’t expect Jay Cutler to author one on this occasion. Yes, the odds at some point should turn in his favor. Even a blind squirrel finds a few nuts once in a while, as the saying goes. And, granted, Chicago has many weapons on offense. Running back Matt Forte could chew up what has been a miserable run defense on the part of the Packers. If Chicago has any chance for a win at Green Bay Sunday, they should hand the ball to Forte at least 30 times during the game.

On the other hand, if the Packers can figure out a way to minimize Forte’s impact and put the game in the hands of Cutler, the Packers should come away with interceptions and seal a win, particularly if the Pack can get up early and force Chicago to play from behind, a scenario which is clearly not in their favor despite their acknowledged receiving talent.

As we get closer to game time, be sure to visit us again for updates. The Pack is currently listed as 7-1/2 point favorites, with a high-scoring game expected by the oddsmakers. Keep up to date on all the latest by visiting our Amazing 2nd Page! and by following us on Twitter.

Monday, November 03, 2014

High Draft Picks Failing to Make Impact in Green Bay

The following is a special guest article...

Historically speaking, few teams have had as much consistent success in the NFL draft as the Green Bay Packers. Dating back to before the tenure of current general manager Ted Thompson, the Packers have consistently selected players who have contributed immensely to the prolonged success of the organization.

That is, up until 2011. In 2009 and 2010 particularly, Thompson hit grand slams by selecting Clay Matthews, Bryan Bulaga, B.J. Raji, Morgan Burnett, T.J. Lang, James Starks, and a slew of other players who remain in productive roles with the team to this day. Since then, however, Thompson’s drafting has been far less dependable.

The downturn began in 2011 with the selection of Derek Sherrod at the back end of the first round. Sherrod was supposed to be the heir-apparent to longtime left tackle Chad Clifton, but three and a half seasons and a gruesome broken leg later, Sherrod’s only impact for the Packers has been negative—epitomized by allowing multiple sacks to Seattle in the 2014 season opener.

The next season found the Packers ranking 22nd in total defense—a horrendous drop-off from their top ranking the season previous. Green Bay sought the services of defenders Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy in the first and second rounds, respectively. Perry’s development has yet to come and he has been replaced for now with veteran Julius Peppers. Worthy is no longer on the team, as the Packers cut their losses by trading him to New England for a low-value draft pick.

The Packers again went defensive in 2013, and selected Datone Jones, who, in two and a half seasons, has only 36 tackles and 5.5 sacks. He, like Perry, has failed to solidify a starting role in Dom Capers’ defense despite it being all but handed to him on draft day.

Until the recent signing of Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews had been the only legitimate pass-rushing threat for Green Bay since Cullen Jenkins’ departure after the 2010 season. Defensive linemen like Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji have been increasingly ineffective in situational roles, while the aforementioned high-profile draftees Perry, Worthy, and Jones have simply busted.

The secondary has been in a constant state of upturn. Casey Hayward, Davon House, Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings, and Chris Banjo have all tried to make lasting impacts in Green Bay’s secondary to no avail. The loss of Nick Collins in 2011 is still hurting the backfield of the Packers defense.

In 2014, the Packers—for the third season in a row—drafted a defensive player in the first round, in hopes of getting the defense in balance with the explosive offense. This time the pick was Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who, aside from some egregious missed tackles, has played well in tandem with Micah Hyde this season. He is off to a better start than the three first-rounders before him, but only time will tell.

As many of the excellent selections Ted Thompson made in ’09 and ’10 reach contract years, it is imperative that reliable, young talent continues to flow into the depth chart. But the days of Thompson’s near-perfect drafting are quickly and clearly becoming distant memories.

About The Author:
Ron is the lead editor of FantasyFootballOverdose.Com – prime source of NFL news and rumors. You can follow his NFL updates at this Facebook page.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Week 8: Packers vs. Saints Preview and Prediction

The 5-2 Green Bay Packers travel to N'awlins Sunday evening to take on the 2-4 Saints. Despite the records, the Saints are currently two-point favorites given that their two wins are at home this season, and generally the Saints do win at home. It's a tough place for opponents. Even for a team as hot as the Packers, who thoroughly demolished the Carolina Panthers last weekend at Lambeau.

We have to remember, though, that the Saints offense can put up a lot of points if given the chance. Oddsmakers apparently expect this to be a shootout in the Dome, establishing the over-under line at 55-1/2 points, the largest point total of this NFL weekend. One other stat of note for Packers fans is that historically the Packers do not do well the game before their bye week, which is the case with this game. Will the team be focused on football or a week away from football? We'll see.

We won't have to worry about the Packers offense, despite the Dome noise and the defense which the Saints will likely bring hard and often to put pressure on QB Aaron Rodgers. The best way to help offset that pressure will be to get the running game going. That means Eddie Lacy is going to have to have one of his better games of the season. And he's geared to do just that if you take him at his word. We don't know about RB James Starks' availability just yet as the injury list hasn't been put out at the time of this writing. With a good showing in last week's game, he had to leave late with an ankle injury. We think it's likely he's going to be listed as probable for the game, but if he can't go DuJuan Harris might be the main backup to Lacy. That would give the Packers a quickness and elusiveness that neither Lacy or Starks brings, particularly on artificial turf. We'll have to wait to see what shakes out.

Packers DB Davon House has been coming on strong since his injury last season.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

As for the Packers defense, it will likely be missing some key players. Datone Jones is already listed as out, with Morgan Burnett questionable and Sam Shields doubtful. If Burnett can't go, both Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Sean Richardson will get plenty of playing time. You hate to lose Burnett, but Packer fans certainly have to have confidence in the play of both Richardson and Clinton-Dix. From an area of weakness last season, the Packers have arguably assembled one of the best defensive backfields in the league at this point in the season. They are deep and talented. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Packers reporter par excellence, Bob McGinn, is actually proposing that the Pack trade one of their cornerbacks before the 3 p.m. Tuesday deadline...although he admits that's not Ted Thompson's M.O.)

The Packers defensive line will need to pressure Saints QB Drew Brees, not an easy thing to do. He's one of the elite quarterbacks in the game. He has plenty of tools in his offensive arsenal. It's unclear whether TE Jimmy Graham will play or how much. But if he does, he's exactly the type of tight end that gives Packers defenders fits: big, strong and with good hands. He's a coverage nightmare for defenders. Let's hope he stays on the bench.

The Prediction
I'm posting this preview and prediction a bit earlier than usual...so it may be subject to revision before game time.

But as of this moment, I see it this way: Packers 34 - Saints 30.

Go Pack Go!!!