Archive for January, 2009

A Packergeek Super Bowl Prediction

January 31, 2009

I can’t say this is the official Packergeeks pick because I’m not sure who Brother Steve thinks will win.

While my playoff fantasy picks might lead people to believe I’ve been on the Steeler bandwagon from the start of the playoffs, they are not my pick to win the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh has one of the best defenses…ever. With Polamalu back there in particular, the momentum of any game can be flipped in an instant. I think he may be the best player in football right now. Their LBs are a very disruptive group. Their D-Line is staunch and solid. Their D-Coordinator right now, is the best in football. On the other side, we all know how the AZ offense can really get things going. Fitzgerald could be triple-teamed and still make plays. Edgerrin James is running very angry and running well too (I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a bigger game than most folks are expecting). And importantly, this Cardinal team is one that scored over 30 points on a Jim Johnson defense in the playoffs. This offense is for real (#4 in the regular season for yards per game and #3 for points scored per game – and leading post-season teams with 31.7 points per game).

But there are 3 main reasons why the Cardinals will not only win this game, but win by at least a touchdown:

  1. Arizona’s defense has been the surprise of the playoffs. They have some high level talent that is peaking at the right time. They are playing confidently right now. Players like Adrian Wilson, Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett are all major talents. Even rookie Rogers-Comrartie has stepped up his game. When I woke up this morning, for some reason I was thinking about the Super Bowl and I just couldn’t shake the thought Big Ben and the Steelers’ offense is going to struggle. If the Steelers’ offense gets it going and puts up a bunch of points, I will be very surprised. I tried to see if any stats might back up this hunch and did find some support. Big Ben, during the regular season, was sacked more than any QB in the NFL (46) other than Matt Cassel (47). In 2 post-season games, Big Ben has been sacked 5 times already – 4 times by Balt. Arizona has the second most sacks in the post-season (7) behind Balt. Also, AZ has caused more turnovers in the post-season than anyone, including the turnover crazy Ravens. Roeth can sometimes hang onto the ball too long which can leads to sacks, fumbles and ill-advised throws. I think he may end up turning it over 2-3 times. As the former offensive coordinator of Big Ben and the Steelers, Ken Whisenhunt knows how Big Ben ticks and his strengths and weaknesses. Look for the Cardinals to do well exploiting these weaknesses.
  2. Anquan Boldin. Earlier this year, I lobbied for the Packers to make a move to trade for the disgruntled Boldin. Though I knew we already had a good receiving corps, I became somewhat obsessed with the thought of how dangerous our offense would be with Boldin, Jennings, Driver and Jones lining-up side by side. My grandmother, who just turned 100, could have been an effective QB with this group. Boldin and Jennings alone would have been a brutal match-up for defenses. Anyway, while Fitzgerald deservedly gets a lot of attention (and is probably the 2nd best WR in the NFL behind Andre Johnson), Boldin’s stats from the 2008 season were as good or better because Boldin produced the following stats in just 12 games: 89 receptions, 11 TDs, 1038 yards. Impressive. Look for the Cardinals to go with a heavy dose of Boldin in this game until Pittsburgh adjusts the coverage to better account for him. Then, look for AZ to go to Fitzgerald. Mix in there a bunch of screens and TE check down passes, some long runs by Edgerrin and even the unflummoxable (if you will) Dick LeBeau will be flummoxed.
  3. I don’t trust Ben Roethlisberger. I will admit, he may be one of the best QBs out there in the clutch – he tends to rise up for big games or at least for big moments in big games. But he and the Pittsburgh offense have been so uneven this year. And perhaps most importantly, Big Ben for years,  has had the luxury of staying in games because of his defense. Pittsburgh, due largely to playing in a crappy offensive division, has not had to play hardly any offensively explosive teams this year (except really Indy, to whom they lost 24-20). If the Cardinals can do some damage against the Pitt D early (which I expect), I’m not so sure the Steelers’ offense will do well at all playing from behind.

Possible factors that could undo this pick? If Willie Parker gets going or if someone like Hines Ward, Heath Miller or Santonio Holmes gets hot – especially if Holmes does some kick/punt returning damage. I also think AZ could struggle  if Whisenhunt gets too cute (likes calling 70% running plays or something) and gets away from what works, which is Warner to Boldin/Fitzgerald. Outside of these factors, once again, I think the Arizona Cardinals are the better team right now and will win this game 31-21.

Nice attempt at freedom

January 30, 2009

Check out this funny video linked to by jsonline. Two guys trying to flee only to have their attempt thwarted by a light pole. Guarantee you this will be all over Fox News, both national and local because the favorite stories of all Fox news stations all the time, involve failures by  crooks.

Favre didn’t call Rodgers back

January 30, 2009

Read the following from Don Walker at jsonline re Favre/Rodgers. Sorry – this sucks. I can’t pretend to know how close Favre and Rodgers were before last year, but just not calling Rodgers back sucks. Favre knows that Rodgers just wanted to play – nobody can blame him for that. It really seems that Favre’s anger re all this is misdirected.

(By the way, Don Walker often has interesting brief articles on the business of sports over at jsonline. The first time I came across one of these articles I was reluctant to read it because it looked boring – but it wasn’t boring. They are often quite interesting.)

In addition to speaking to the Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein down in Tampa, Green Bay Packers’ quarterback had interviews with a number of sports-talk hosts. One of those was Michael Irvin, the former Dallas Cowboys star, and his partner, Kevin Kiley. And the main topic: Brett Favre, of course. In the chat, Rodgers said that, after the Packers lost to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship in January 2008, he and Favre left as friends. But there’s been no communications since.

Here’s the transcript:

Kiley: “You must say to yourself, why doesn’t Brett speak to me. What could it possibly be? …”

Rodgers: “I don’t know. That’s a question for him. I’m not going to put words in his mouth…. When we lost to the Giants [in the 2007 NFC Championship], we left as friends, and I haven’t talked to him in a year….”

Irvin: “Why will you not reach out to him?”

Rodgers: “I did.”

Irvin: “So you called him and he did not call you back.”

Rodgers: “Yeah.”

Favre to Vikings?

January 29, 2009

I came across this rumor originally from the St. Paul Pioneer Press. I was starting to enjoy not having to worry too much about Favre’s annual retirement indecision. But if he doesn’t retire and does indeed head to Minnesota, I would not be happy. And not just because I do think he could make that team better (though he’d have few players to pass to), but I worry more about how that would further damage his reputation with Packer Nation. I was not happy when Sharper defected, and especially unhappy when Longwell did it (though I do understand that the Packers had a chance to re-sign them). (By the way, I did like Longwell when he was in Green Bay – seemed like a neat guy. But the guy always did watch his stats and the reason I believe he picked Minnesota, is because he knew he’d have better stats kicking indoors.)

Anyway, my point is this: if Favre goes to the Vikings, many Packer fans will appropriately view that as Favre trying to get back at the Pack. If he went to the Lions or 49ers or something, we wouldn’t care. But if he goes to the Vikings, that would hurt a lot. I hope that doesn’t happen.

Natural Light #5 selling beer in US

January 27, 2009

Found this interesting tidbit today in a brief article at jsonline concerning Miller Lite’s fall from the top of MillerCoors beers. (Still sounds awkward – “MillerCoors”. What they should have done is drop the Miller name in exchange for keeping the headquarters in Milwaukee. That would have been fair, sort of.)

Anyway, the interesting fact I gleaned from this article is that Natural Light is the #5 overall selling brand in the US. I know it is a tremendously popular college beer, especially as one journeys south, but #5! Better selling than High Life, Corona, Heineken and even the king of crap beers, Busch Light!

Darren Perry to coach safeties

January 27, 2009

This hire appears to be another good one. Read here from jsonline for more. He coached at Pittsburgh for 3 years under LeBeau and is credited with at least helping Polamalu and Nnamdi Asomugha develop into the elite players they are today. Perhaps he could help Collins continue to develop and use his physical tools more effectively. And, maybe he could do the same at free safety with Bigby, Rouse, Woodson or some other safety we draft or acquire.

Kevin Greene on board

January 26, 2009

Sorry, we’ve been on a mini-vacation of some sort here due mostly to an incredible NFL lull right now. Thanks to several readers for pointing this Kevin Greene news out. Read here from Tom Silverstein for more. Curious that we now will have 2 coaches for the linebackers. Soon, Mason Crosby will have a kicking foot coach and a plant foot coach. Jokes aside, I don’t mind bringing in a guy like Kevin Greene. He was a fiery player and I’m hopeful he can help light a fire under some of the players to raise our overall level of intensity.

The biggest question, however, may be: will Greene sport a spectacular mullet as a coach too?

Free agent priority list

January 20, 2009

It’s hard to realistically prioritize which free agents are worth pursuing. I agree with many of you who are more concerned right now with getting Jennings and Collins re-signed first. (I might throw Tauscher in there too). Those are things that should happen asap so that we have a better idea for how much cap room we will really have going into this off-season. Anyway here is the most comprehensive list of 2009 free agents I have come across. Below is my attempt to prioritize:

  1. Shane Lechler – it is a rare, rare opportunity to be able to sign one of the best punters in NFL history. I say take it. We all saw Mike Scifres almost win the San Diego/Indy game by himself. Lechler is even better and his ability to give opposing teams worse field position could significantly help the defense succeed.
  2. Julius Peppers – I share some of the concerns about Peppers’ attitude, and his vanishing act in 2007 can’t be forgotten. But his 5 forced fumbles and 14.5 sacks in 2008 can’t be ignored either – not to mention his overall ability to make offenses have to game-plan around him. I think Peppers may have a bit of Randy Moss syndrome – taking plays off etc. But both are just so talented – I think he’s at least worth pursuing. (There are new rumors out there that indicate because Carolina fired their D-Line coach and may can their d-coordinator, they are trying desperately to do whatever they can to keep Peppers.)
  3. James Farrior ILB, Pitt – Farrior is one of the unsung studs in the Pitt LB group. He is very solid, very smart and a sure tackler (had 133 tackles in 2008 regular season). As an older veteran, he likely would not demand the huge contract others will, he could bring some veteran leadership and he would know the 3-4 inside and out.
  4. Terrell Suggs OLB/DE, Balt – Suggs is a great pass rusher and an instinctive player. His addition would add instant credibility to our defense. Think for a moment if somehow the Pack could field a defense including Suggs, Peppers, Kampman and Jenkins – opposing QBs would be terrified.
  5. OJ Atogwe, FS, Rams – Atogwe is likely going to get the franchise tag because he’s that good. While Bigby may have potential, Atogwe is already an elite safety and having a secondary of Collins, Woodson, Atogwe and Harris would make passing against the Pack brutally difficult.
  6. Matt Birk – Birk has been a leader for the Vikings for years and is still one of the better centers in the NFL. He would be an upgrade over Wells, allow Spitz to focus on being a guard and help Rodgers develop as an offensive leader.
  7. Karlos Dansby, ILB Cards – Dansby is a good player, not great yet, but still good. But he is young, plays in a 3-4 and there are some who believe it’s just a matter of time before he becomes a Pro Bowler.
  8. Ray Lewis – rumors are that Balt is close to re-signing him and keeping him there to end his career. If they don’t sign him, Ray Lewis remains one of the best LBs in football and his leadership could really be useful for this team.
  9. Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tenn – I put Haynesworth and Lewis down at the bottom here because “my source” (what I read 10 minutes ago in a public source everyone has access to) indicates that both are likely to re-sign with their present teams. If either ends up being available, I do think we ought to consider signing one of them.

Generally speaking (or generally writing I suppose is more approrpiate), going into this off-season I think it’s very important that the Pack acquire at least one free agent LB who has experience in the 3-4. I also think bringing in a strong D-lineman ought to be a priority – though we may need to look to the draft more for this as the pool of free agent d-linemen is a bit thin outside of Peppers/Haynesworth. I also wouldn’t be opposed to looking specifically at USC LB Ray Maualuga as reader Pmenadue advocates. The guy is a stud. (A decent 2nd or 3rd round pick if he’s still available would be James Laurinaitis from Ohio State – I know many Packer fans may be reluctant to try another OSU LB, but I think this guy will be better than Hawk).

One early draft fear I do have is that TT will stubbornly stick to his “best player available” philosophy when we so clearly need help at certain positions (o-line, d-line, lb, possibly secondary). We need to draft for need this year.

Should the Pack go after Jim Leonhard?

January 20, 2009

Many of us Badger fans aren’t overly surprised that Jim Leonhard is establishing a quality NFL career now. We knew he was gifted athletically despite what some people have said – that he’s just a smart player but not that athletic. The truth is he is very athletic and very smart. (At 5’8″, Jim Leonhard would frequently win the Badger football team’s slam dunk contest…) The Baltimore Ravens’ playoff run has highlighted his talents, so the secret is out.

My question for Packer nation is this: is Jim Leonhard worth pursuing to start opposite Nick Collins? Both Collins and Leonhard are listed as strong safeties, but I think with a new 3-4 defense coming in, Leonhard would be able to move to free safety. Baltimore coaches, according to Nantz, praised Leonhard’s ability to pick up their complex 3-4 defense immediately, so I’m not worried about his ability to adapt to a new system. Anyway, I believe Leonhard is a free agent this off-season, though I’ll bet the Ravens make a strong move to re-sign him because Dawan Landry, the safety whose injury opened the door for Leohnard, is an UFA.

Brian Dawkins, Mike Brown (for 8-10 games before he gets hurt anyway), or Oshiomogho Atogwe could also be nice additions. I haven’t given up on Bigby, but all of these guys would be upgrades.

But now, I need to get back to my excitement for the 3-4 and all of the line-up possibilities I have been thinking about…

Mike McCarthy to embrace 3-4 defense?

January 19, 2009

Read here from Cheeseheadtv.com. Aaron at Cheeseheadtv must have been listening to MM’s 1pm press conference. If indeed McCarthy is on board with moving to a 3-4 as Aaron indicates, suddenly, I like the Capers hire more. I was hesitant to endorse the hire right away in part because at that time, I didn’t have a sense for whether Capers would actually bring a 3-4. Aaron’s a reliable source though, so I believe now the Pack will move to a 3-4. (This has been confirmed now by jsonline, though their article link is not working).

I have outlined my reasoning for wanting to move to a 3-4 in a past post. Many are worried about how a 3-4 scheme will fit with our present personnel. My simple response to that, as I’ve said before, is that a 4-3 certainly hasn’t worked that well with our present personnel. So why not make a change and move to a defensive scheme some argue is better suited to the modern game (thanks Joshy for pointing our this article)? Read here from NFL.com’s Pat Kirwan…an interesting breakdown of 3-4 vs 4-3 and why 3-4 may just be a more effective scheme in the modern-day NFL.

An interesting stat I just looked up – in 2006, as defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins, Dom Capers led their 3-4 defense to a #4 overall ranking, #5 ranking against the pass and a #8 ranking against the rush. Nice.


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