Archive for the ‘NFC North’ Category

Packers vs. Vikings – some not-so-obvious key players

September 30, 2009
  • CB Antoine Winfield – most of you may know by now that I think Winfield is one of the top 4 cbs in the NFL. (In fact, my official list at this moment is Charles Woodson, Nnandi Asomugha, Derrell Revis, Antione Winfield). Winfield is a tackling machine and a very good cover corner. If he can prevent Greg Jennings from getting some big plays while making a few stops on Grant and our running game, that could seriously limit our play options.
  • LB EJ Henderson – Henderson doesn’t get much credit but he is a very good MLB. He is fast and active and hits. His play, largely in coverage, may have a direct impact on the outcome of this game.
  • RB Chester Taylor/TE Visanthe Shiancoe – Taylor hurt us last year. He is a very good RB who has a serious knack for getting open and getting positive yards as a receiver out of the backfield. We all know that when Favre feels pressure, especially on 3rd downs, he likes to look to his check down guys – in this case, I’m guessing Shiancoe and Taylor. Accounting for these 2 guys in particular (especially on 3rd downs) might really help our defensive cause.
  • DE Jared Allen (the run defender) – Jared Allen is known primarily as a pass rusher. But there are questions about his run defense. Remember a couple years ago when opposing teams would game plan to run at KGB all day because he was a weak run defender? The other day, I referenced the LeRoy Butler 5 Questions article that he does with jsonline weekly. In it, Butler mentioned the possibility of running at Jared Allen. Allen is undersized and often very focused on rushing the QB. Despite the Pack having major questions on the O-Line (including LT) right now, it’s possible the Packers could run Allen’s way and get something going on the ground. (And, possibly burn the overzealous DE with a few screen passes over his head. Note: I was trying to decide which word would best describe Allen here and I chose overzealous. Seems accurate, here’s one actual definition: too enthusiastic or eager, especially in carrying out a duty, and usually causing trouble or annoyance as a result.)
  • TE Jermichael Finely – part of the reason I think EJ Henderson’s play will be so pivotal is that I see Jermichael Finley having a huge night, a monstrous night, if the Vike’s LBs aren’t ready for it. Finley is really talented and each week, I think Mike McCarthy seethes on the sidelines when he realizes that the weak O-Line not only hurts the running/passing games in general, but specifically interferes with McCarthy working Finley into the passing game plan more.
  • LB Nick Barnett – Barnett has been mediocre (if that) since returning. He was mediocre last year too. Of course, I would argue Bishop should be in there instead. Anyway, one thing Barnett has done reasonably well over the years is get up for high profile games – mostly I believe, because he loves the attention. Whatever works. I can see Barnett flashing some of his old play-making ability in this game and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has some Favre sacks and/or causes a turnover or two.
  • Officiating – I’m sorry I had to include this, but I have seen some atrocious calls this year that have affected games.
  • RB Ryan Grant – my friend Mike (who was part of the original email group that eventually spawned Packergeeks) made a good point in an email to me the other day: the Packers need to get back to throwing the screen. He knew I’d agree – I love screens. But his point was very sound. He essentially pointed out that screens, even if not executed perfectly, can have the effect of keeping D-Linemen honest. In fact, in the Cincy game, a few screens may have been somewhat easy to pull off considering how focused Antwan Odom was on sacking Rodgers. So I (and friend Mike) would propose the Pack work in some screen plays to Grant for this week. (I say to Grant because I think they’d be most effective on 1st or 2nd down – so often when Grant is in he gets a hand-off, so working in a few screens may at least make the Vikes a little less sure when Grant is on the field). In fact, I’d submit that this may be an especially sound idea against the Vikings because having a huge defensive line is less of an asset when defending against a screen. The Williams duo in particular may have some trouble keeping up with the line motion involved in a well-executed screen play.
  • KR Will Blackmon – Blackmon has been quiet returning the ball this year, but we know he can break one at any moment. While the special teams buzz for the night will surround Blackmon’s counterpart Percy Harvin, it’s possible Blackmon will remind us all why we can afford to be tolerant of his injury issues.

Rodney Harrison: Favre “craps on everybody”

September 17, 2009

Read here for a great Rodney Harrison quote. It’s funny, even though last Sunday’s NBC Broadcast team was a bit awkward (Dungy especially – surprisingly too), I wondered if Rodney Harrison may end proving to be entertaining with his unique brand of…honesty. This comment is entertaining.

Ex-WR Freeman helping the enemy?

September 16, 2009

Ok, that was just an attention-grabbing headline – similar to the one used in the St. Paul Pioneer Press article here. The article talks about Antonio Freeman providing private tutoring for the Vikings’ Percy Harvin – before Harvin’s 2009 Pro Day (so before he was drafted by the Vikings). (Though I must say, author Sean Jensen seems to be trying to confuse the reader into thinking that Freeman more recently provided this assistance to Harvin – especially by using the present tense ‘helps’ in the article title. The facts, as far as I understand them, are the Freeman assisted Harvin well before Harvin was a Viking). It’s still interesting though  – as reading this article reminds me that Freeman indeed was a master at getting open, just a master, especially for someone who was never either the fastest or quickest WR on the Packers’ roster.

Freeman should open up his own training business focused on route running – he should just make sure no Viking WRs are allowed to attend.

Expectations growing for Packers

September 2, 2009

Wow. Read here from NFL.com – 4 of 5 experts picking the Pack to win the NFC North.

Can’t say I disagree – will be posting 2009 NFL season predictions soon.

Peter King reading Packergeeks?

September 1, 2009

Read here from King’s Tuesday version of MMQB – he claims (like I claimed a couple days ago) that the NFC North could be the new power division in football.

Also, he has some interesting thoughts on McCarthy’s push for offseason work-out attendance.

Jay Cutler looking very solid

August 30, 2009

I said a few months ago that I was nervous about the 2009 Bears after they acquired Jay Cutler. After watching tonight’s game, I have to say, I’m a bit more nervous. Cutler is really good. On the last drive of the first half, Cutler threw some bullets, some touch passes and ended the drive with a perfectly thrown low ball pass to Forte for a TD. He’s good, they have a very good RB, their receivers (including TE Greg Olsen) will prove more than adequate and their defense will be strong again. Chicago may be a force in the NFC North this year. (One worthwhile note: Cutler can be rattled, so it will be critical for our 3-4 D to get to him early.)

As a prelude to my annual NFL predictions, I will offer this: in 2009, the NFC North will be the 2008 NFC East. Our division could end up being one of the better divisions in football.

Are you a “true Packer fan”?

August 19, 2009

Read this quote from Favre’s press conference yesterday:

“When people start talking about my legacy – it’s mine,” said Favre. “It’s what I think of it. I know the way I play the game. I know the way I’ve handled myself as a teammate, a leader, in the public. If you’re a true Packer fan, you understand. You say, ‘You know what? He chose to continue playing, they chose to go in a different direction, it’s part of the business.’ I don’t have to prove anything to anybody because what I’ve done – it’s down in the books. . . . I’m in it for the right reasons, and if people can’t understand that, I’m sorry.”

So, are you a “true Packer fan”?



The Cutler-Favre effect

August 19, 2009

I just finished reading the comments from the last couple posts. Lots of great thoughts and ranging opinions on this whole Favre matter.

One thing I didn’t mention in any of my previous posts on Favre-to-Vikings, is that I think the Favre signing will be a significant psychological boost for the Vikings. Earlier this year, when Jay Cutler Favred himself out of Denver (or was pushed out Denver depending on your perspective), lots of folks initially said that the Bears gave up way too much to get him. They did give up a lot, no question. But I think it was a smart move (and a surprising one for Angelo). I figured the Bears signing Cutler would be an instant psychological boost for the Bears. It was and importantly, the excitement has only grown in Chicago since the signing – training camp was wild with Cutler there.

In many ways, the Cutler to Bears situation is similar to the Favre to Vikings situation. Both QBs have the luxury of having fine RBs and good running games behind them. Both will have decent O-Lines. Both will probably have good defenses to support them (if the Williams’ duo aren’t suspended). Both will be throwing to mediocre, at best, receivers. Both are self-centered, clearly. But perhaps the most significant similarity is that both QBs have landed on teams that have struggled to find consistent/quality QBs over the years. And because of this, the positive psychological effect their acquisition will have on the respective organizations, fans, coaches, teammates, will be huge.

Some may dismiss this psychological stuff as “fluff”/as not being a legit factor, but I think psychology is a huge part of football. Before the Cutler signing, I had the Bears hovering around .500 – same with the Vikes. But after these signings, I think both will now compete with the Packers for NFC North supremacy. When the perception is that THE position that has been a question mark for both teams for a while now has been settled, it has the psychological effect of inundating the team with confidence. Even if the reality may be different and even if there may be legit statistical reasons why these signings shouldn’t be a boost, if the perception is that the QB position has been at least temporarily shored up, chances are, that flow of confidence will carry forward and lead to some extra success in the season.

In fact, what I find somewhat interesting is that we’re already seeing the positive psychological effect of Favre’s signing on the Vikings – and yet at this point in his career, I view Favre as a mentally fragile athlete. Will his confidence be restored because of the support from a team that desperately wanted him or will his mental fragility infect his new teammates?

It’s official, Favre signs, Packergeek pukes

August 18, 2009

I hate the Vikings. I hate few things, but I hate the Vikings. This makes me sick. It’s official though, Favre is taking snaps for the Packers biggest recent rival (John David Booty had to give up his #4 jersey so Favre could have it). This is for real. Brett Favre is on the Vikings.

What does this mean? Well, first of all, it means I’m pissed off at Favre. I hate the Vikings, this just pisses me off.

I also think it means the Vikes will be very good. As I’ve mentioned before, because I think Favre is no longer good at handling pressure, he has to be pleased that he will be quarterbacking a team led by the best RB in the league. This will lift tons of pressure off of Favre – and when Favre doesn’t feel pressure, he can be very good. He will also benefit from having a decent line in front of him.

Interestingly, before this announcement today, I was preparing to pick the Vikings to be 7-9 this year, no kidding. I just thought that Childress/Wilf had caste a storm cloud over the organization with their heavy, very public flirtation with Favre and the second either of the 2 QBs screwed up, there would have been chaos. Well, now that Favre has signed, I wouldn’t be surprised to see MN make it to the playoffs, maybe even win a game at home, and then get blown out when Favre folds under pressure.

Jared Allen…revealing

July 21, 2009

Read here from Sam Farmer, LA Times. Of particular interest in this article are 2 things:

  1. Allen calls the Favre waiting game “annoying”. While he is certainly right, it is an interesting choice of words considering Favre is likely to join team any day now.
  2. Allen also offers up something most might overlook:  “It’s easier to play somebody you don’t like,” Allen said. “But it’s that thrill of playing somebody you do like. It’s awesome to hit them in the back of the head. Because then when you see them in the off-season, you can say, ‘Hey, remember when I tattooed your face to the ground.” —–   While most readers may have looked past this and passed it off as tough guy DE rhetoric, to me it supports the growing suspicion among many in the NFL that Allen is simply a dirty player. I wouldn’t bother writing this right now if he hadn’t had several questionable plays last year – and I wouldn’t write it if the NFL hadn’t also expressed concern about these questionable hits. I just think this is one of those loose/free-flow comments that end up revealing more about one’s character than one realizes.

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