Archive for the ‘Game Preview’ Category

Packers/Dolphins Preview

October 11, 2014
  • The Packers are well-rested, have momentum and are playing an iffy team. This should be a comfortable victory.
  • But there are a few reasons why this may not happen.
  • While much of the focus for this game appears to center on Philbin’s knowledge of Rodgers and the offense and whether that will be an advantage of some kind, my concern is a bit different. I think Philbin had a few years to gain a sense for Dom Capers defenses and the Packers defensive personnel. In other words, I think he knows full well that it is a defense that can be attacked and torn apart with an effective offensive game plan. I also think he knows, for example, that Hawk is a liability and that the middle of the defense should be exploited. I can see him running Lamar Miller (and Moreno if he plays) up through the middle a bunch and lots of passes to TE Clay. While I think our CBs line up well against Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tannehill have a good game.
  • Miami is 5th in rushing yards per game but toward the bottom in passing offense. Tannehill has not had that good of a year. But I think instead of us going into this game expecting a crappy passing offense, we should be worried about a quality passing game that has been underperforming. I think Tannehill is good and will get better as the year goes on.
  • Miami’s defense is 6th overall in terms of fewest yards allowed per game. Miami’s pass defense is 3rd in fewest yards allowed and 8th in run defense. This is a quality defense and it will take a good game plan to unlock it. I think it can happen and I think the offense will do just fine especially once Lacy gets going – it’s our defense I’m more concerned about.
  • One thing I’d really like to see is getting more WRs/TEs/RBs involved in the passing game. We need to distribute the ball to more players each game so that there isn’t so much focus on Nelson, Cobb and Lacy. (Interesting that I just came across an article talking about Jermichael Finley likely making the move to cash in his $10M insurance policy).
  • This will be a good game – better than people might expect – for 3 quarters. I expect the Packers to pull away in the 4th quarter.
  • Packers 34, Dolphins 24.

Packers/Seahawks Preview

September 4, 2014
  • Difficult team and difficult environment for the Pack’s first game – but maybe it’s better that way.
  • Seattle is very good. I don’t like them. I don’t like Pete Carroll (even though I’m on record a few years back claiming he’d be a good NFL coach his second time around. I should restate that – I don’t like Pete Carroll overall because I think he’s shady. The reason I thought he’d be a good coach is because of the energy and positivity he brings…despite his shadiness.
  • My guess this year for Seattle is that their defense will still have moments of suffocating brilliance, but they will also have far more moments of surprisingly poor performance than many people right now are anticipating. And I’ll even go so far as to say we’ll see a few of these moments tonight. Seattle has lost some major players on that Super Bowl winning defense, the refs are apparently going to be calling more touch fouls on defenders (which could really cause problems for Seattle’s secondary), the NFL has probably given a warning to the refs not to “totally screw the Packers again” and the Packers have had an entire offseason to prepare for this game – we will have a very good game plan to beat what is an intimidating but ultimately, slow secondary.
  • I’m guessing the no huddle will be a big weapon for McCarthy tonight.
  • Pete Carroll is positively stupid if he’s going to allow Earl Thomas to return punts. That is absurd. He is one of their very best players – just asking for an injury. (Of course McCarthy better not let Cobb do it…just not worth it).
  • Marshawn Lynch is a beast and yes, we should have picked him up a few years ago at my urging. But I think he’s going to ware down this year – he was too much the featured part of their offense last year. For tonight, I’m expecting a pulled hamstring as justice for his silly little holdout. (Though he’ll get some yards and a TD before he ducks out.)
  • I don’t know anything about Wilson’s receiving targets except Harvin. Harvin is an obvious, legit threat. And if Wilson/Seattle figures out that they can just throw over the middle, my 2 year old could be a WR for them and they’d do some damage. But his targets are either young, obscure and/or unproven – lining up against what could be a seriously improved Packers secondary. Wilson is always a scary guy for defenses because he can make something out of nothing – and he’s enormously confident now after winning the Super Bowl. But I just don’t think the passing game will be that good.
  • I think Aaron Rodgers has a fire burning in him right now that many just don’t think is there because he’s outwardly a nice, seemingly friendly guy. He hates Seattle and I know he is incredibly pissed about how we lost last time we were there. His also pissed about the Packers losing at home in the playoffs last year. And he doesn’t like all the attention Seattle is getting – especially the defense. I am guessing that Rodgers does some special things tonight and opens up some doubts about Seattle’s defense.
  • Lacy will get some yards and keep that defense more honest than they want to be and a few longer passes to our considerably faster WRs could really break this game open. But it could be Starks and Harris that really cause fits for Seattle (as I think psychologically they are gearing up for Lacy).
  • Watch for Richard Rodgers tonight. I think he and Janis (if he plays) will have quality games – taking Seattle and many fans watching by surprise.
  • I am excited to see what Peppers and Matthews can do in their first big game together. I’m guessing they end up with 3-4 sacks between them, but I’m also guessing that Wilson will hurt us with big runs when he’s flushed out.
  • In the end, I see the Packers winning this game 27-24. I think Seattle’s offense will do reasonably well against our D but their vaunted D won’t be able to slow down Rodgers.

Packers/Bears Preview

November 4, 2013

For the first time in years, the Bears have a coach I worry may be competent. While Lovie was admittedly good at setting up a defensive game plan against us in his day, his teams seemed to melt down a lot offensively against the Packers. And his in-game coaching was suspect. But I worry that Marc Trestman has the capacity to create a solid enough overall game plan to keep this game uncomfortably close. And Forte, Marshall, Jeffrey, Bennett and Devin Hester – these are very good players that can turn the game on one play. And they still have Julius Peppers who enjoys sacking Rodgers….Ok, the truth is I’m just trying to conjure some worry here so this preview doesn’t sound too biased and cocky. Even though I picked the Bears to win the division before the season, I’ve seen enough this year to think that’s not going to happen anymore. Especially with Cutler and Briggs out. If those two were playing tonight, I’d be a lot more concerned. Anyway, here are some other game thoughts:

  • Josh McCown actually stepped in admirably after Cutler went down in Washington a few weeks ago. He’s a veteran who has had 2 weeks to prepare and he’s been prepared by a guy whom I believe knows what he’s doing in Trestman. However, one factor that I don’t think is a small one, is that mentally for McCown, it’s a lot easier to be thrown into the mix of a high-scoring game on the road as McCown was a few weeks ago in DC, than a heated rivalry with 2 weeks lead time and the build-up and hype of Monday Night. At Wash there were very limited expectations when he came in there and he delivered for the most part. But with the hype of Monday Night Football at Lambeau, I think the mental circumstances for McCown are much different. Frankly while I think he may end up generating some positive offense, I am guessing he will also make a bunch of mistakes (sack/fumbles, a couple picks) that help shut the door on the Bears.
  • If Tillman and Tim Jennings play to their potential, Rodgers could have a bit more trouble in the passing game than he normally does. He already does not like facing the Bears and their particular brand of cover 2 (especially Tillman). I don’t have a stat to quote but I’m pretty sure Rodgers lifetime QB rating against the Bears is quite a bit worse than it is against other teams. And if our WRs are having trouble getting open/getting separation, things could be extra challenging, especially without Finley in there to create match-up headaches. But this won’t end up happening…here’s why.
  • Chicago’s pass defense has been near the bottom this year – giving up 273 yards per game. I listen to Chicago’s AM 670 the Score a fair amount mostly because I’m entertained by the huge mood swings Bears fans go through (headed to Super Bowl one minute and going winless the rest of the season the next). Anyway, one of the concerns former Bear Alex Brown often talks about is the weak, weak play of the D- Line. Because they’re not getting any pressure on opposing QBs, the secondary is left to fend for itself which in part explains the 273 yards a game they’re giving up in the air. The Bears lead the league in fewest sacks with an embarrassing total of 9. That’s terrible. Packers have 23 and the Chiefs (where did that come from) have 36.
  • And the Bears run D has been just as bad believe it or not – giving up 117 rushing yards per game. If they keep their safeties back too much to prevent big plays to Rodgers, the Pack could run on them all night the way our O-Line has been run blocking.
  • Speaking of running, that’s going to be a big factor in this game. It has been a decade or so since the Bears have faced a Packer team with a reasonably scary running game (going all the way back to Ahman Green’s dominating days from 2001-2004…). Preparing for this more balanced offense would be very difficult for any D-Coordinator and despite the Bears success with the cover 2 against Rodgers, I think with Lacy/Starks running and our O-Line run blocking effectively, we could really expose the weaknesses of the cover 2 through the running game – and keep them off balance. This said, one possible drawback of focusing TOO much on the run is that it could slow down the tempo of the game enough to essentially allow the Bears to hang around within striking distance even if they have no business being within striking distance.
  • The Bears will also find it rather odd to suddenly have to worry about another dimension of our game that hasn’t caused worry for a long time – the return game. Micah Hyde could be a legit factor in this game returning punts etc.
  • As I started writing this post, I was thinking hard for reasons why I should be worried tonight about the Bears. I know that this is an important NFC North game, I think Trestman is a decent coach and I know the Bears historically get more pumped for the Packers than any other opponent. At one point I even considered the wild, unpredictable nature of Week 9 NFL games – and how this could possibly carry over to tonight. But  the truth is I just don’t see how the Bears can compete tonight. They are outmatched.
  • Packers 38 Bears 16.

Packers/Bengals Preview

September 20, 2013
  • While I am definitely NOT a believer that the Bengals are as good of a team as many football pundits seem to think – I am finding after a couple weeks that I may need to revise my preseason picks for the AFC North. I picked Pitt to win the division – what is going on there? (I do think they’ll win this week though.) Balt to finish second – they don’t even resemble last year’s Super Bowl champion team. The Cleve third – they’ve clearly given up on the year already, dealing Trent Richardson like that. And then I picked Cincy to finish last. While I’m not sure as of this moment that I truly believe Cincy will finish last, I do think they are only playing OK now because everyone THINKS they are supposed to be good, not because they really are good. Soon the real Bengals will come out and mediocrity with reign.
  • For as long as he’s been a head coach, I have believed Marvin Lewis is one of those guys with a limit as to how far he can take a team. In this way, I think of him like I thought of Norv Turner, Wade Phillips, Lovie Smith and Mary Shottenheimer – for the entirety of their careers I never once believed they could win a championship. (Sorry, just learned that Shottenheimer did win a championship – the 2011 UFL Championship, as coach of the Virginia Destroyers…after playing a shortened 4 game regular season for which Shottenheimer got paid $0 despite a personal guarantee by the team owner of a $1.1 million salary.) But what makes the situation in Cincy particularly odd, is that I see Andy Dalton as the opposite of Marvin Lewis – a guy with the tools mentally and physically to win championships. Maybe I just can’t let go of how incredibly poised and effective Dalton was in his dismantling of the Badgers in the 2011 Rose Bowl. I’m not sure. But the bottom line is that I can see Dalton winning a Super Bowl some day, but I absolutely can’t see it happening with Marvin Lewis in charge.
  • The Bengals didn’t look especially good last Monday vs the Steelers. Neither team in fact looked good. Ugly game.
  • Dalton relies too heavily on AJ Green. The guy is super talented and a great option and he may quietly be the league’s best WR. But in the first two games, Dalton has thrown to Green 14 times and 13 times respectively – for a total of 27 targets. That is a lot of targets in 2 games. When there is a nearly 35% chance Dalton’s going to throw to Green, a defense should be able to do SOMETHING to slow that down.
  • The above point made, the TEs for Cincy are also quite involved in the passing game. Jermaine Gresham has had 14 targets in 2 games and promising rookie Tyler Eifert has had 10 targets – for a total of 24 TE targets. So if he’s not throwing to Green, Dalton will probably be throwing to his TEs.
  • Interestingly, Dalton does not appear to be interested in throwing to his RBs (Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard), as they have a total of 4 catches in 2 games.
  • Dalton has thrown the ball 78 times in 2 games to 48 rushing attempts – so the balance of plays definitely favors the pass.
  • I think the Packers need to jump out to an early lead again in this game. I keep saying that I know but I just think for this particular Packer team, playing with the lead is WAY more important than it has been for years. Playing catch-up, even with Rodgers at the helm, will be a particular problem for our defense.
  • I would like to see James Starks go nuts Sunday. Yes, last week was nice and he totally deserves all of the praise thrown his way for being the team’s 1st 100 yard rusher in what seems like decades. But to me, this week is the true test. I think strange/outlier type things can happen once in a great while but to go right back and duplicate his effort would indicate something legit may be brewing. I never thought Starks was a BAD running back, but I’ve just never thought he has the moves to set him apart from the “just another guy” category. If Starks can go into Cincy and do some damage on the ground for the second week in a row, we could be seeing the start of a very important development for this team – the addition of a long-missing offensive dimension.
  • I think Cincy will do well putting pressure on Rodgers but I also think in the end, Rodgers will carve them up.
  • The Bengals do have a couple CBs who can play (or at least have shown they could play in the past) in Terrance Newman (former Cowboy) and Leon Hall. But with 4 Packer receivers/Finely to have to worry about plus now Starks catching some balls – I think the Bengal defense will be overwhelmed.
  • I worry some that if Cincy gets its running game going and can manage to control the clock (assuming they are not TOO far behind), they could pull out a victory.
  • But I don’t think that happens. While I’m still iffy on the 2013 Packers, I’m far iffier on the 2013 Bengals.
  • Packers 33, Cincy 23.

Some thoughts on the Redskins

September 12, 2013
  • The Eagles offense was fun to watch and pretty much exactly what I expected. The Eagles will be very good this year because Chip Kelly is an innovator. Bill Belichick wouldn’t have reached out to him in the past if he weren’t. He’s the real deal.
  • I think LeSean McCoy is one of the least respected RBs in the NFL. I’d go so far as to say that if I were starting a team right now and could add anyone, it would be a legit debate for me between adding the younger/shiftier McCoy and Peterson. He’s special – the kinds of jukes he had Monday night haven’t been seen since the days of Barry Sanders. He’s that good.
  • The Redskins were nearly embarrassed at home by an Eagles team that was simply more ready for the game. But the Redskins showed some real mental fortitude in the comeback effort – as well as an ability to move the ball down the field quickly. The comeback effort is what has me concerned as a Packer fan.
  • RGIII looked rusty early on and I think Gruden was right, he was not planting and throwing normally because he didn’t seem to trust his knee (and was likely worried about it getting hit). It was apparent that he hadn’t seen any live action for a long time. But as the game nearly got out of hand and a comeback was needed, RGIII kicked into gear and ended up having a quality second half. I don’t think he’s too far away now that he’s had a taste for real action again but I think there may still be some lingering rust yet for Week 2. I’m guessing he’s got a turnover or two in him for Sunday.
  • Santana Moss isn’t the threat he once was but you can’t leave him alone. I’m not convinced Hankerson is as good as his stats indicated on Monday. Garcon is a threat especially to the Packers weak secondary, but I think if we go man with Tramon on him he shouldn’t do THAT much damage. (I hope we don’t go with that ill-fated zone crap we tried against San Fran and get chewed up again – though I suppose this is possible if we focus on stopping the run again.) Fred Davis is just OK but the truth is any TE looks good playing against the Packers and our 5.8 – 40yard-dash-running-LBs.
  • Eddie Lacy won’t run over the Redskins like McCoy did. They are very different backs. While I expect Lacy to be better than he was last Sunday, I think the Pack will lean on Rodgers in this one…per usual.
  • There will be 2 major factors that will determine the outcome of this game: the Redskins ability to run the ball and the Packers ability to jump out to a lead. If the Redskins can maintain a slower pace to the game, if Morris can get into a rhythm and run effectively and if they can avoid falling behind early – there is a real chance the Redskins could win. I think that mostly because I don’t trust the Packers defense (even if Burnett returns). But if the Redskins fall behind early, the game will be over in a hurry.
  • I remember the glory days of Holmgren and Favre when the Pack would often score on the first drive. (This was after the early Favre years – the years of the Heart Attack Pack.) In addition to the obvious advantage of starting with an early lead, for the 1990s Pack, it set up a mental dynamic that other teams had real trouble overcoming. Opponents already knew we were good and by jumping out to an early lead we’d just reinforce that notion of good…ness right away. It was intimidating. One hallmark of the McCarthy era seems to be just the opposite: the Pack often starts out slowly, seemingly not ready for the game which sometimes results in the team falling behind. If we fall behind early a lot this year I worry it could lead to a surprising number of losses because our defense will not be good enough to be put in that position too much. (Reminds me of my golf game – always seems like I need to start with a bogey or even a double to get me to focus on the right things. Annoying.)
  • For some reason despite the previous bullet point, I see a fast start for the Packers on Sunday and a second, quality comeback effort by Wash falling short.
  • Packers 34, Wash 24.

Packers/Lions Preview

November 24, 2011
  • This is a big game. I’ve heard many Packer fans try to preemptively soften the blow from a possible loss today by saying we could essentially use a loss to take the pressure off the perfect season. I disagree. Detroit is good and they could beat us if they play their best and we don’t. No question this is a possibility. And no, a loss shouldn’t derail our team (depending on how it happens and depending on if there are any injuries). But I think winning this one is important. We have played a relatively soft schedule this year so when we play quality teams like Detroit, it is our best opportunity to measure just how good we are. I hope we keep the pedal down the whole time today and take it to this rising team.
  • Aaron Rodgers will be one guy who will be fired up to play today. He got hurt last year in Detroit and it cost the team a victory as well as Rodgers being able to play in prime time at New England the next week. While I don’t think the hit on Rodgers was bad (Rodgers’ fault for not sliding), I think he has a bad taste in his mouth re Detroit and I imagine he wants go in there and score some serious points. I would guess he also felt somewhat embarrassed that the offense was sputtering before his injury – giving the brash Detroit D some bragging rights for this rematch in Detroit.
  • I’m not sure at this moment if James Starks is playing. I think part of the reason both he and (I’m sure not so quietly) the coaches are really hoping he can play is that Detroit’s vaunted D-Line is just not that great against the run. How bad are they? 27th in the NFL. This D-Line was built to rush the QB and they have lived up to that hype at least with the #5 pass D ranking. But I’ve watched several Lions games this year and have noticed that they are simply not a good run defense. (Remember that embarrassing game in Minnesota when The Vikes had the Lions beaten badly in the first half? They ran Peterson a lot and the Lions simply couldn’t stop him. Then in the second half the Vikes mysteriously abandoned the run and Detroit fought back to win.) The LBs are average in both coverage and stopping the run and their secondary is just not that good. Still, their whole defense it seems is predicated on pressuring the QB on pass plays. So when a team runs they aren’t good and when the D-Line can’t pressure the QB they aren’t good. While I’m not suggesting we run the whole game, I do think a good balance of run/pass will be a key to victory today – and a key to keeping Rodgers upright.
  • If Rodgers has enough time, which is a big if, Detroit’s D will struggle to stop our passing attack. Rodgers owns turf fields, especially in climate controlled domes. He is a California boy after all. Last week again, it seemed to me that Rodgers and the rest of the guys were really having trouble adapting to the colder weather as it was really the first cold weather game. Back in a dome this week, I see Rodgers getting back on track, spreading the ball around and having a success.
  • One massive factor for Rodgers today is that he needs to be extra careful re deciding when to run. Detroit has been unofficially tabbed a “dirty” defense. Whether deserved or not, this concerns me because at the least they have factually demonstrated that they are willing to hit late or make questionable hits. I don’t want Rodgers getting injured in this one because he chooses to run and gets nailed by someone. If he runs, they will nail.
  • Field position is always important, but it will be extra important in this game. While both offenses are electric and both defenses are suspect, forcing an offense to work a longer field could be a difference maker. And for a change, I can say confidently, we have the better punter for this and the better punt returner, so we should have a significant advantage.
  • This game strikes me as a game for a forgotten guy like Donald Driver or James Jones. Jennings and Finley always get attention and Jordy has been stealing the headlines recently. So in keeping with our offensive philosophy of having a different offensive star each week, I see the star this week being a different guy than we’ve seen this year. Detroit’s secondary has poor depth so Driver/Jones will be going against scrubs.
  • Today I think a lot of people will see just how good Matthew Stafford is. He can throw all the passes. It was interesting, the other day I was listening to Phil Simms talk about Andrew Luck and how it didn’t seem that Luck could throw all the passes. (Or at least he hadn’t seen him throw them.) Stafford can. He has touch passes, dump passes, deep passes and especially the feared fade pass to Calvin Johnson. He is a very good young QB – and to make matters worse he’s not a jerk or anything. Pretty nice dude. While I hope our D can force some mistakes, don’t be surprised if you start having an infusion of pessimism feeling every time he drops back.
  • We can’t defend Calvin Johnson too well – nobody can. My guess is that Woodson lines up on him a fair amount. Problem with that matchup is that Johnson is faster and can beat Woodson deep. But problem with Tramon taking Johnson is that Johnson can easily outjump Tramon for just about any pass.
  • Guys I’m particularly worried about are Kevin Smith (on screens in particular), Brandon Pettigrew/Scheffler and Titus Young. I don’t see Burleson being the guy to be worried about as I think Titus Young could be more of a problem.
  • Tough game to predict. I go back and forth between thinking this will game surprise and be a super low-scoring defensive affair (because there is a lot of pressure on both offenses heading into this one) – and thinking this game will be the high scoring kind of game most people expect. In the end, I go with something sort of in between – in part because I think there will be some defensive TDs.  Packers 41, Detroit 31.

Packers/Broncos Preview

October 2, 2011
  • This should be a game the Packers win easily.
  • The Packers have significantly more talent than the Broncos. Our offense should be overwhelming for a dinged up and already poor Denver defense. It’s key that we start with an overwhelming drive – just make sure that any adrenaline they have coming into the game is shut down right away. Make they realize immediately that this is going to be a long afternoon.
  • Champ Bailey is a guy who can do some damage as is a healthy Elvis Dumervil. My guess is that if Champ plays and covers Jennings, Jennings could be somewhat limited today. Bailey is still decent.
  • This could be a big day for James Starks. Denver will be focused on defending the pass and probably particularly focused on Jennings and Finley. My guess is that Starks ends up having gaping holes to run through today.
  • I also think this will be a Driver, Jones, Nelson and Cobb game. These are the guys that Denver simply won’t be able to account for adequately.
  • Peprah was OK last week filling in for Collins. It’s nice to be able to put an experienced guy back there who knows the defense and generally knows what he should be doing. Replacing Collins is really difficult, but Peprah kept it together last week pretty well.
  • Morgan Burnett is an exciting player and I’m beginning to think we have a Collins Jr. developing back there. He is a good hitter and he makes plays. He did miss some plays last week and I noticed a couple bad angles, but that is to be expected.
  • We need to watch the middle of our defense – between Hawk and Bishop – in pass coverage. This is a major liability, so much so that an announcer (Aikman I believe) called it out. It’s interesting because you’d think that with a 3-4 defense, the defense would be LESS vulnerable to passes over the middle simply because there are 2 guys who could fill that space in coverage vs 1 in the 4-3. Somehow, this needs to be figured out as it’s an evident weakness.
  • Our run defense will need to have another good game – McGahee is still pretty good and Moreno can get it going at times.
  • Kyle Orton is not a bad QB. He can also get it going. They have some weapons in the passing game (Lloyd, Eric Decker) and if Orton gets going, they can actually be somewhat difficult to stop. I don’t think they’ll get it going today though.
  • Packers 38, Denver 16.

Packers/Bears Preview

September 23, 2011
  • The Nick Collins loss hurts. Peprah did fill in nicely last year for Burnett when he went down. And Burnett has flashed some moments already of serious talent. But Burnett is not Collins and the Packers will miss Collins. Collins is fast, a good hitter, generally takes good angles and has a  knack for causing turnovers. He will be missed.
  • That said, it’s not all doom and gloom in the secondary. In fact, when considering the present state of the pass defense – a fair argument could be made that it’s simply not possible to play any worse as a pass defense. It can only get better from here. Tramon being back will help.
  • So far the Bears have given up 11 sacks in two games. That’s really bad. Now that Gabe Carimi is out, that could make them even more vulnerable. However, if Martz and Cutler truly do change the offensive game plan (like they’ve said they would) to run more and to throw quicker/shorter passes, they may be able to reduce the damage a bit. Only problem with that is that I’m not sure Cutler is well-suited to a quick passing game. There is just something about Cutler’s style – he doesn’t seem to play with the sense of urgency the great QBs of today play with. I think, at least sometimes, Cutler isn’t thinking/deciding quick enough and that’s part of the reason he gets sacked so much.
  • This is a strange game. I can see the Packers losing or the Packers winning comfortably. The thing I can’t see is a close, exciting game. If the Pack loses, the team will shrug it off and quickly move on. A loss for us would be far less damaging to the Pack than a loss for the Bears. And a blowout by the Packers, which is very possible, would result in the Bears being done for the year. As you may remember, I have the Bears going 5-11 this year. One of these weeks their team direction (down) will become very apparent.
  • Dom Capers needs to step up his game some. Not only has the D looked ragged, but already in just the first 2 games there have been some specific defensive play calls that were really bad. In game 1, with the Saints driving at the end he called a blitz for two of his most exhausted defenders (Hawk and Bishop) – one of whom continues to prove he’s too slow to EVER get a blitz call (Hawk). The call led to an easy completion by Brees of 20+ yards keeping the drive alive. At that moment, it was an incredibly bad call. But the horrendous pass defense needs to be figured out asap. I know Collins’ injury hurts but like I said before, it can’t possibly get any worse. Capers needs to figure out different blitz/rush packages to take advantage of the attention paid to Matthews. And/or he needs to start lining Matthews up all over to throw offenses off. If S’oto were healthy I think he’d fill this role nicely. But I’m not sure if he’s playing Sunday and the other guys aren’t cutting it. We may need to bring more regular pressure from Woodson and the CBs and safeties. Last week Cam Newton had a few plays where he had so much time back there that anyone could have completed a pass. If there is such a thing as a coverage sack, there ought to be such a thing as a no-pass-rush-completion.
  • If there is such a thing as a coverage sack, there ought to be such a thing as a no-pass-rush-completion. (I restated this as a separate bullet point because I like it.)
  • Forte is a huge part of the Chicago offense. Last week, we let RB Jonathan Stewart catch 8 passes for 100 yards. While we totally shut down the running game, we didn’t shut down the short passing game to Stewart. Forte can do this same thing to us and we need to do everything possible to wrap him up. I almost think we should consider having Woodson or Bishop or someone shadow Forte/have primary responsibility for him. Let the other guys beat us if they can, but don’t let Forte beat us.
  • Considering that the Bears play a cover 2 that for whatever reason seems to give Rodgers a bit of trouble (at least w/re to getting his WRs involved), I’d recommend that MM work particularly hard early on to get Starks and Grant involved in the passing game. Some running plays, play action, screens, RBs in the slot, fake handoffs – whatever. Get these guys involved to bring the safeties in and condense the field. Then take advantage of the inevitable cheating by the Bears’ safeties and take some shots deep – expanding the field.
  • Final prediction: Packers 31, Bears 13.

Packers/Panthers Preview

September 18, 2011
  • What Cam Newton did last week was impressive. I watched a good chunk of that game. Yes, there were coverage breakdowns on Steve Smith and yes there were some passes heaved up like Favre in Oakland where the WRs just made great plays. But Newton also accumulated hundreds of passing yards legitimately. The guy looked really good and the Packers better come ready to play assuming that what Newton did last week was standard and not flukish.
  • RT Jeff Otah being out for this game could be a real problem for Carolina. The key will be how Capers chooses to take advantage of this. Rookie Byron Bell will be replacing Otah and will no doubt be given lots of help in managing Matthews. Last week Matthews was double and triple teamed – rendering him mostly ineffective. But Matthews’ ineffectiveness wasn’t really the problem last week. The problem was that Capers and the defensive personnel did very little to take advantage of the disproportionate attention being paid to Clay. As I learning at basketball camp in 8th grade: two men on me, one must be free. Walden, Bishop, CBs, safeties all need to be brought in to take advantage of the extra attention Matthews will get – and to create chaos for Newton. (Not Hawk, he’s too slow.)
  • Despite being a bit nervous that Carolina may indeed have a quality passing attack, I’m more concerned today about Carolina’s running game. AZ is not a tough defense but they did a surprisingly good job stopping DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart last week – 56 yards on 19 carries total. While I think Pickett and Raji are stout run stuffers and I realize our defense is much better overall than AZ’s, I do worry about how well Jarius Wynn and the right side of our defense will do stopping these two. I would think it’s quite possible today that Howard Green will get a bit more playing time during the early downs. Somehow, the defense will really need to key on stopping these two because I’m convinced that most of this past week, Carolina’s practice was dedicated to getting the run game going.
  • While I expect Carolina to put quite a bit of effort into getting their running game going there are two factors that could disrupt this: the Packers jumping out to an early lead and Newton having success throwing to Steve Smith (and TEs Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey) early. Smith was tremendous last week, but he could pose particular match-up issues for the Packers if Tramon Williams doesn’t play (or plays at substantially less than 100%). Williams is not only fast but very quick and one of Smith’s greatest assets it his quickness. Yes, Shields is pretty quick too and could help out some if Williams can’t play, but I’m not keen on having Woodson or Bush defending Smith.
  • I don’t think Carolina can stop our passing game. Jon Beason’s injury is big and leaves a huge void in the middle of the defense. But the rest of the Carolina defense is not too intimidating. Yes, Ron Rivera is a defense dude, but I don’t think the personnel on defense should be able to do enough to deter our passing attack. I’m guessing that Rivera may call a bunch of blitzes or try other less conventional options to try to rattle Rodgers. But fortunately for us, Aaron Rodgers doesn’t rattle.
  • It will be interesting to see how much we use the running game this week. Considering Carolina plays a 4-3 defense, they’ll be a bit more vulnerable against the pass (assuming we can keep the pressure off Rodgers). And we shouldn’t be afraid to take advantage of that until we either get tired or we’re up by a lot.
  • While I don’t expect another return TD by Cobb necessarily, a few solid returns could seriously demoralize Carolina and squash any hopes they may have of pulling off the huge upset.
  • This game is an away game and the longer Carolina sticks around, the more the crowd gets into it and the harder it is for the Packers to pull out the win. So, I am hoping we start really fast (like last week) and not be afraid to be aggressive early on. That means no huddles, deep passes that stretch the field, throwing it to anyone and everyone and going for it on close-call 4th downs.
  • The Packers are the better team by a mile here but this is the NFL and Carolina was more competitive in their first game than many predicted. I don’t see the Packers running away with this one necessarily.
  • Packers 34, Panthers 24.

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