Even with our offensive performance last week and the loss of Ryan Grant, it’s still a great week to be a Packers fan. Look at some of the other teams and fan bases around the league; Dallas, Minnesota, the Jets, Indy, San Diego and San Francisco. All of the build up, the expectations, the HBO specials and they all stunk in more ways than one and are all sitting at 0-1. We’ll take 1-0 and a 13 point spread in the home opener against a team with no expectations of success.
Stats of the Week
1) The Packers are the only NFC team to win their last four season openers
2) Under McCarthy, the Packers are 5-0 in their opening road game of the season
3) In week 1, the Bills had 166 total yards and never visited the red zone
4) The Packers joined the Ravens and Bears as the only teams to win with a negative turnover margin in week 1.
Keys to the Game
1) Keep the Flags Hidden– The Packers, flagged often in the McCarthy era, saw only two penalties against them in Philadelphia Sunday. In contrast, the Eagles were hit for 10 penalties for 80 yards. Hopefully the two turnovers were a fluke and the flag-free football was a trend. The Packers shouldn’t have to cheat to win Sunday.
2) Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight– The Bills offense was brutal. 23:07 of offensive possession, 166 yards, a stable of running backs who managed 50 yds rushing, and a quarterback who looked like he showed up at the wrong party. There is no way the Packers’ defense should let the Bills breath. This is a complete mismatch…on paper.
3) Welcome to the Show Mr. Jackson– My guess is the Packers are going to get Brandon Jackson involved immediately Sunday. I’m thinking a couple runs and a screen pass right off the bat. Get him going early so he’s in the flow of the game. 22-25 touches for Jackson.
4) The Pick to Click– The Packers O is in for a big day. Perfect weather, home-field, and a chance to get the swagger back. I’m expecting a quick six-play drive and Rodgers TD pass to Finley to start out the afternoon and keep rolling from there.
5) Home, Home on the Range– Like Bill Simmons said in his post this week, “Super Bowl contenders blow out crummy teams at home.” Not much else to say on this one.
Prediction: Green Bay 44 Buffalo 9
If you remember back to the early 90’s, the Packers slowly worked their way up the playoff ladder. Divisional game to NFC Championship game to Super Bowl. They took their painful playoff losses and it prepared them for the next time. 2009 was step one of the playoff ladder for the Aaron Rodgers Packers. Is 2010 the next rung on the ladder, or do they jump all the way to the SB rung?
2010 is quite a different animal than last year’s model. Last year, the NFL’s 2nd ranked defense was the key to success in Green Bay. This year, the starting defense has yet to play a snap together while the Packers’ offense is the talk of the national circuit and Aaron Rodgers is a media darling. Is he a sure thing? Let’s see…
1) Aaron Rodgers- Of course he’s a sure thing! He’s your steady 12% return on investment. No severe ups and downs in his portfolio. He is in complete control of this offense and all of its parts. It’s no surprise that many NFL writers have picked Rodgers as the 2010 MVP.
2) Charles Woodson- Being a year older will do Woodson no favors, but you can still close off whatever part of the field Woodson is on. His ability to make plays in the running game and off the blitz are what separate him from Revis Island.
3) Jermichael Finley in Honolulu in January. He’s a manchild. There’s gotta be an option route for Finley dependant on who lines up across from him. Corner= jump ball, Safety= anything, Backer= anything to the nth power.
4) The end of the line for Shawn Slocum- I understand the failure to go get someone in the return game is not Slocum’s fault, but we continue to see the Packers give up field position in special teams. What does it say about your special teams when a guy finally takes it the house on a punt return and is cut nine days later. Ouch babe. If Greg Jennings is out there on Sunday, I’m going to close my eyes. I would say Slocum’s gone during the bye in week 10, more because of issues in the coverage game.
5) 11 wins- When you look at the 2010 Packers, you look at one thing. Who can outscore them? I see issues against Minnesota, Dallas, Atlanta, and New England. They’ll win some of these and my sure bet is 11-5. I hope they win more, but remember, this schedule is BRUTAL.
1) The O-Line- Someone needs to explain to me how Clifton and Tauscher get out of bed in the morning. Seriously, when Tauscher runs out of the tunnel for starting lineups, I always wonder if he’s going to make it. He moves like an 80 year old man. The line was a disaster the first half of last season, and I can’t make them a sure thing for 2010.
2) Al Harris and the rest of the secondary not named Woodson- There’s a lot to be concerned about in the defensive backfield. Even if Harris is back full strength after his stay on the PUP, the thought of Brandon Underwood or “the one who shall not be named” seeing the field at crunch time makes me nauseous.
3) Brandon Jackson- We keep four tight ends, three fullbacks and only two halfbacks. OK? I’ll give you that Jackson has shown flashes of brilliance, but he’s going to be on the field A LOT. I think he’s an above average 3rd down back, but he’s going to be asked at some point this season to be a 1st and 2nd down back. That puts him on the not so sure list.
4) Good field position- Our punter is unproven, our coverage teams can’t live up to their name, and a return is deemed successful in Green Bay if we still have the ball when they blow the whistle. Again, we will only get field position through defensive turnovers. How dangerous would the Packers be with a short field every once in a while?
5) A Super Bowl appearance- It’s quite evident over the years that you need home field to get to the SB. Of course, the Giants proved to be the exeption a couple years ago, but that was unexplainable. I remember in 1996 and 1997 that it was a sure thing and everyone believed it. They were the best team. We will find out if the 2010 Packers are the best. Can’t wait to find out.
Mike McCarthy has spent the last few years trying to create a culture of consistency. You can see this in the way he structures and runs his practices, game preparation, film work and gameday. Over the last two months, it has definitely paid off. There is an expectation of consistent success in the locker room. You can see it in the comments made by McCarthy and the players. That’s why they did what they did to the Cardinals last week. And I truly believe it was a springboard to a repeat performance this Sunday.
Keys to the Game:
1) Disrupt Warner and their timed passing game. Kurt Warner is one of the best QB’s in the NFL when it comes to the blitz. He has zero mobility, but his ability to get rid of the football is unparalleled. The Packers need to utilize different fronts, looks, blitz and coverage packages to keep Warner guessing. The Cardinals are 28th in rushing. It starts and ends with Warner.
2) Ryan Grant needs 125. This will slow down the Cardinals pass rush and really put pressure on the shaky defensive backfield of Arizona. The Cardinals were middle of the pack this season in rush defense at 113 yds per game. Grant and the O-Line have been solid in the second half. I’m seeing at least two rushes of 20+ for Grant Sunday.
3) Keep the Cardinals out of the Red Zone. They’re automatic this season at 70.4%, first in the NFL. This may be the key of the game. If the Packers can limit the Cardinals to field goal attempts, I love their chances.
4) Make the play. No drops, no missed tackles, etc. We always look back at games and wonder, “Boy, if so and so would have only made that play…” It could be special teams in the 1st quarter or an offensive play in the 3rd. You never know the play that could be the catalyst to a victory.
5) Do what you do. I see a team that knows they are very good, and wants to be great. There is no reason to deviate from the last two months. Play Packers football and we will be moving on.
Prediction: Green Bay 34, Arizona 23
Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas weekend. I was all over the place and never had time to throw a pregame post together, but on the way up to the game, I told my brother-in-law 38-3, so I was in the ballpark. Quite honestly, I would have to say that the Packers are the hottest team in the NFC right now. They’ve won 6 of 7, and are playing good football. If you look at the other teams in the NFC, the Saints and Vikings are going the wrong way, the Eagles have been playing well, but they almost tanked it at home Sunday, the Cowboys have won two games in a row (and the win in NO doesn’t look so great anymore), and the Cardinals haven’t went on a streak all season. I’m liking the Packers chances.
Also congrats to Rodgers, Woodson and Collins on being selected to the Pro Bowl. We all feel Matthews got screwed, but he could still make it. How Orakpo got in over Matthews is beyond me. Their stats are almost the same, but GB is 2nd in total defense and 9th in scoring defense. Washington is 11th and 16th. Must be the high draft choice. Also, how does the #1 run defense in the NFL have no one from the DL or LB crew on the roster? Just wondering. Hopefully, none of this matters, and no Packers play in the Pro Bowl.
Observations from Sunday…
1) Seattle is an embarrassment. I give kudos to Tampa Bay and Cleveland. They are getting better as the season goes along and have shown a tremendous amount of improvement. Seattle has gotten worse. Much worse. Worse than Detroit worse. We really didn’t learn much this week about the Packers.
2) The DB who shall not be named got toasted again, then gets a pick and runs his mouth after the game. He basically said “many more to come.” The word of the day is “humility.” Look it up DB WSNBN.
3) How about the K WSNBN? A perfect day. Now do it when it matters, not when it’s 38-3. In all seriousness, hopefully this gets him going.
4) Ryan Grant is over 1200 yards, is averaging 4.4 yds per carry and has 10 touchdowns. Pretty solid body of work, don’t you think?
5) After all the crap this season, isn’t it nice to be a Packers fan instead of a Vikings fan right now? We’re excited for the playoffs to start and feel we can make some noise. Vikings fans might as well compare it to a root canal. Two words for you…He he.
Wow, there’s a lot to talk about. Heck of a game. Probably the most talked about game on the national circuit today. Heartbreaking finish, but not backbreaking, although as I’m writing this, the Giants are about to go up 14-0 over the Skins. I’m taking a different slant on my postgame today. This game answered some questions but also brought up some new ones.
1) Mason Crosby is a full blown train wreck at this point. The Redskins shipped their kicker, the Cowboys theirs (and ironically, picked up Suisham). Crosby’s quote, “I don’t know what’s going on. I’ve just got to keep watching the film, and hopefully we get out of it here.” The film??? Here, let me breakdown the film for you. You suck.
2) Jarrett Bush couldn’t cover an 84 year old woman with a walker. End of story. Instead of pointing and yelling “56 is the mike” I swear I saw Roethlisberger point and say “24 is on the field, 24 is on the field” about 6 times Sunday.
3) Tom Silverstein from the JS needs to settle. He wrote that the game Sunday showed the Packers’ defense is clearly not ready to go to any of the four NFC divisional leaders. Come on. First off, it was just one of those games. You could tell in the first 10 minutes. I wonder if the Eagles’ beat writers wrote the same thing last week after the Eagles gave up 38 to the Giants. Doubt it. Secondly, you just have to outscore ’em by one. One would think Capers will get aggressive the next time.
4) Donald Driver is in full blow up mode. Seriously, he becomes the Packers leader in catches and all of the sudden can’t catch a damn thing.
5) I’ve wondered if the opponents read ROTQ. Obviously they do. I mentioned some players from the Steelers offense in my pregame post. They all had monster games. Everyone of them.
6) We already knew, but Rodgers and Matthews. Holy crap.
Questions that need answering…
1) Why are Crosby and Bush still employed with my season ticket money? At this point I would rather see Gus, the kicking mule trot out onto the field. At least I wouldn’t close my eyes on extra points.
2) Why didn’t we bring in some fresh defensive linemen once the Steelers crossed the 40? It looked like the first episode of “The Biggest Loser” out there.
3) Does Edgar Bennett get paid for this week? We ran the ball 8 times and scored 36 points. Should have been enough.
4) Why not put Collins or another safety at backer instead of Hawk or Barnett in obvious passing situations? We have nickel and dime packages. What do you call 8 defensive backs…besides prevent?
5) Will the Packers make the playoffs? At this point, you can’t hope for the Giants to lose. You have to expect New York to win out. They hold the tiebreak over the Packers. We have to win out. One at a time. Bring on the Seahawks.
One last thing. Crosby and Bush are not to be named from this point on at ROTQ. They are now known as “The one(s) that shall not be named.” One last question that needs to be answered. Do either of them have a dog?
One of Packers’ staff writers wrote a piece yesterday on the Packers needing to improve in the red zone. HELLO! I’ve been saying it for weeks now. It almost cost them a game Sunday. Let’s see…which is more damaging to the Bears: down 21-0 or 13-0? They were 0-2 in the red zone in the first half and had to settle for field goals. Eventually, Crosby is going to start missing field goals inside of 30 yds, and then we’re in real trouble.
On a different tone, let’s put the game in perspective. The NFL is a short season. Wins are at a premium. We shouldn’t ultimately care if it’s a good looking win or an ugly win. Especially with the playoffs in the near future, it’s all about survival. Be happy with a road win against a divisional rival. Let’s see how my keys of the game played out.
1) Make the Bears drive the field. Give the Bears credit. Their two drives were over 60 yards. We gave up three 3rd down conversions of over 9 yards on the first drive. Unacceptable. BUT…they had 12 drives, all of which started in Chicago territory. I’d count this as a win.
2) Contain Greg Olsen. They tried to get him the ball in the 2nd half, but the Packers held him to 2 catches. On a side note, I was impressed with Aromashodu. Big, aggressive receiver. More of a #1 then Hester.
3) RZ offense. Already covered it. They were 1-4 in the RZ, one of them being the kneel down to end the game.
4) Quick start. Up 10-0 in the first, could have been more, but they really dominated the first half.
5) Learn from the Steelers. The Packers were pretty solid over all, although it was closer then it should have been. Too many mistakes. Thankfully, Cutler turned into Cutler in the 4th quarter.
A couple of other things…
1) My brother-in-law texted me after the Packers first play from scrimmage. “Between the tackles”. Good to see the Packers brass is also reading ROTQ.
2) Good to see another team have penalty problems. The Bears had 13 for 109 yards.
3) Donald Driver needs to pick it up. He was out of it against the Ravens, and seemed out of the game plan Sunday.
4) Two officials comments. First, that was a touchdown to Jennings. They would have called it a fumble if it happened on the 30. It’s no different then guys losing the ball after they cross the goal line and it’s still a TD. Second, the Bears were called for a false start prior to their 4th down play at the end of the game. They had no timeouts. Where was the 10 second runoff and why didn’t they start the clock? The Bears were allowed to huddle up. Huge mistakes that could have helped the Bears. Inexcusable.
5) Does Lovie Smith really know the rules of football? Every time I watch the Bears, he does something that makes you wonder what is going on in his head. The new rule is quite clear. Olson, when hitting the ground, has to maintain possession. He wasted two timeouts on that play.
6) Anyone else lose their lunch when they saw Woodson laying on the ground with what seemed like a separated shoulder or torn pectoral? WHEW!
7) The Packers signed Brandon Chillar to an extension Monday. Note to TT- You better take care of Nick Collins. NOW.
8) Play of the game- 13:39 in the 4th, 14-13 Bears. The pick by Collins on 3rd and 5. Capers called the corner blitz at least 4 times Sunday and Tramon Williams forced a bad throw. HUGE PLAY. In my opinion, one of the biggest plays of the year. The score by Grant put the Packers up for good and ultimately put the Packers in the playoffs.
The stat of Week 13 involves the Packers’ opponent, the Chicago Bears. Last Sunday, Jay Cutler had 131 yards passing in the first quarter. He finished with 143 yards for the game. 12 yards! In 3 quarters! Against the Rams! At home! Somebody tell the Packers D to settle. Down boy.
On paper this is no contest. Emotionally, this is no contest. The Bears have nothing to play for. The Packers still have an outside shot at the NFC North, but more importantly, are trying to lock up a wildcard. The Bears are a statistical nightmare at this point, while the Packers have really put it together.
Keys to the Game
1) Make the Bears drive the field. Johnny Knox is averaging 29.4 yds per kickoff return. Take care of him. I don’t see the Bears capable of putting together a 12 play, 86 yard drive at this point. They don’t have the weapons. Forte is averaging 3.4 yds per carry, and Cutler has no weapons and even less confidence. Crap such as long returns, fumbled kickoffs, and dropped passes deflected into interceptions are the only ways Chicago will stay in this game.
2) Contain Greg Olsen. Yep, the tight end. He is great talent, a big target and the only guy Cutler will be able to look for. We may even see Woodson on Olson more than on their wideouts.
3) Red Zone offense. The Packers are getting some national attention as a Super Bowl contender. Their RZ ineptitude will keep them out. They will have to outscore Minnesota or New Orleans. You know what I mean. Field goals will not work.
4) Quick start. The last two road games (Tampa Bay and Detroit) have seen the Packers let inferior opponents stick around. Would love to see a 14-0 start going into the 2nd quarter.
5) Learn from Thursday night. Pittsburgh was in a must win situation. On the road. Against a lesser opponent. Within their division. They lost to the Browns and are basically out of the playoff picture. Don’t let it happen Sunday.
Some other interesting facts…
1) The Packers remain #1 in total defense, #1 vs. the pass, #1 in TO margin, and #2 vs. the rush. The last time the Packers D was ranked #1 this late in the season was 1996. Omen?
2) Clay Matthews was named Week 13’s Defensive Player of the Week. He becomes part of the first father/son duo in NFL history to each be named Player of the Week.
3) Since 2000, the Packers have the 3rd best December/ January record in the NFL at 31-12. Only the Patriots and Steelers have better records.
Prediction- Green Bay 27, Chicago 9
Was that the worst officiated game in NFL history? Granted, you had two of the most aggressive defensive backfields in the game today going at it, but that was ridiculous. Some were legit, but the two on Williams in the end zone should lead to a suspension for the officials who made the calls. Without those two calls, the Ravens don’t score. Huge statement game for the Packers. They were even getting props from Vikings fans on the message boards. WOW. Let’s look at how my keys to the game stacked up…
1) Contain Ray Rice. A dominant win in this category. He had 33 yds on the ground going into the last drive and only 17 yds receiving. Toughest running back they will have to face until the 2nd round of the playoffs.
2) Woodson on Mason. Good Lord. 6 targets. 2 catches for 13 yds. Give him the award now. On a related note, Tramon Williams is becoming a STUD. He was locked up on Clayton, who had 1 catch on 7 targets.
3) Run the ball. Team-wise, not bad. Ryan Grant’s stats were terrible. I don’t understand McCarthy’s fascination with the stretch play. Grant is not a stretch runner, he’s a between the tackles, lower the shoulder runner. His longest runs were between the tackles. I put most of the blame on McCarthy…and the Ravens D.
4) Take care of the ball. We came out on the positive side of this stat, but 3 turnovers is unacceptable. The first Rodgers pick was a Favre. Don’t mind it on 3rd down, but that pick was on 1st down. Thankfully, our D stepped up.
A couple of other observations…
1) At the game Monday, I told my brother-in-law after the 2nd Finley TD, “This is usually the time we give up a huge KO return.” As it was happening, he turned and just stared at me. What can I say, except, if I can call it, Slocum needs to go.
2) One of the staples of our offense is the quick slant. Over the last few weeks, Rodgers has been terrible on this pass. He’s behind, low, ahead; everything but in stride. This needs to get fixed. He missed some big plays Monday.
3) I have a man crush on Clay Matthews. The guy just makes plays. 6 tackles, 2 sacks and a forced fumble Monday night.
4) Is Finley the next Gates, the next Gonzalez? I say YES!
5) Red Zone continues to be a struggle. 6 drives, only 3 touchdowns.
6) Anyone on the face of the earth have the slightest bit of confidence in Mason Crosby right now? You can’t even watch at this point.
7) Play of the game- 24-14, 9:46 left in the 4th. Woodson’s tackle on McGahee on 1st and goal at the 1. He had NO ANGLE, and somehow made the play. It forced the Ravens to throw on 2nd down and Williams picked it off in the endzone, deflating the Ravens’ chances.