Archive for the ‘Packers’ Category

Packers vs Steelers in the Super Bowl? CHFF thinks so

January 19, 2011

Read here from Cold Hard Football Facts via si.com. Some interesting stats to support this prediction.

Nice article on Tramon Williams by Jason Cole at Yahoo

January 19, 2011

Read here for the full text.

Jason Cole astutely points out that Tramon’s coverage abilities allow for Woodson to roam and wreak havoc either in coverage or by taking on other Dom Capers-conceived roles. That’s very true. In fact, when Rex Ryan goes off about how great Darrelle Revis is, one of the things he often says is that his coverage abilities allow for the defense to do a bunch of stuff that they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. I think it’s the same with Tramon. He’s that good now. And for those who are uncomfortable with me comparing Tramon Williams to Revis – I’ll make you more uncomfortable: this year, Tramon Williams played better than Revis. A quick look at the stats from 2010 gives Tramon the clear edge – though I do realize that Revis necessarily has lesser stats because so many teams don’t even throw in his direction. (By the way, I think teams are quickly realizing just how bad an idea it is to throw in Tramon’s direction now too.) Still, when also factoring in Tramon’s game-changing performances so far in the playoffs, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Tramon has outplayed Revis this season.

The most shocking part of this article though? Tramon’s defensive TD vs Atlanta last week was the first pick-six of his career – going back to high school even. For a guy with his kind of speed and quickness I find this shocking.

The stabilizing presence of Brian Urlacher

January 19, 2011

For a while now, I’ve noticed folks like to argue about whether or not Brian Urlacher is THAT good. I’ve come across a good number of people who believe he’s overrated – the kind of guy with a reputation that no longer fits his talent level. Yet there are plenty of others who believe he still plays at a super high level and is the soul of the Chicago defense. I’m with the latter group. Before this season, I wrote a post about how I thought the Bears’ defense would come back after an off year last year – primarily because Urlacher would be back in the fold. Adding Julius Peppers and Chris Harris helped too, definitely, but Urlacher is the soul of the defense and I believe his healthy presence is the main reason this defense is good again.

As I thought about this though, I felt I needed some numbers to back this up. Knowing that Urlacher’s stats are usually not that impressive, I went searching for the one thing I was pretty sure would separate him from most – the team’s record when he’s not on the field.

  • Since 2004, the team’s regular season record in games Brian Urlacher played was 56-33. That’s a 63% winning percentage.
  • Since 2004, the team’s regular season record in games Urlacher didn’t play was 7-16. That’s a 30% winning percentage.
  • In the year 2004 by itself, Urlacher played in 9 games – the Bears went 5-4 in those 9 games. Their record when he did not play in 2004? 0-7.
  • Since 2004, with Urlacher on the field, the Bears have had a losing record just once – in 2007. (Note: he didn’t play in 2009 when they also had a losing record and in 2004, the Bears were 5-4 when he was on the field…0-7 when he wasn’t.)

These stats may not blow you away but they should adequately highlight the fact that Urlacher’s presence in the lineup is critical to Chicago’s success. He will very much be present in their lineup this weekend and while he may not have the glamor stats like a bunch of picks, forced fumbles, defensive TDs, sacks, he just gets his job done – his job as leader of the defense.

An object lesson in character

January 17, 2011

Mike Florio of NBC’s ProFootballTalk has responded to criticism that he’s received for his irresponsible hit piece on Aaron Rodgers and his alleged mistreatment of Packer fan Jan Cavanaugh. He did not apologize.

Florio’s original post was high on fact-free moralizing and short on actual reporting. He used a three-second clip of Rodgers walking past Cavanaugh to indict Rodgers’ character and draw sweeping conclusions about the character of the Packers’ quarterback. It was a cheap attempt at character assassination. And it failed.

Later, when he was bombarded with news stories about Rodgers’ work with cancer-stricken children, he chose not to link them – not surprising since they undercut the central argument of his ill-tempered rant.

Cavanaugh responded – both to Packergeeks and to WBAY. She noted Rodgers’ voluntarism and confirmed a report from Cheesehead.tv that Rodgers had signed a jersey for her a week earlier. Cavanaugh also criticized those attempting to make a big story out of a minor incident.

Now, in his response, Florio not only refuses to apologize for an embarrassing post based on mistaken assumptions, he further misrepresents Rodgers’ charitable work in order to justify his shoddy work. He writes:

Folks who frequent this site on a regular basis know that we aren’t terribly impressed by the things athletes do while the world is watching.  As one high-level executive with a team other than the Packers (and not an NFC North rival) observed in response the WBAY video, what we do when tired, cranky, busy, etc. reveals more about our true character than what we do when attending a charitable event arranged through the team and/or handlers.

But, as Jan Cavanaugh herself noted, Rodgers is known for doing charity work when the world is not watching. Rodgers, she writes, “quietly has done so much for the community with so many groups.” This is well known. And if Florio had bothered to do any actual reporting, he might have understood this. (One of those groups is the Boys Club, where Rodgers quietly took dozens of children for a Christmas time outing.  See here: http://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/aaron-rodgers-wins-at-life)

Where his post isn’t outright misleading, it’s based on speculation and supposition. So WBAY “has likely spent much of the past 24 hours apologizing” and the fact that Rodgers had previously signed a jersey for Cavanaugh “tends to reinforce the notion that Rodgers” should have known she has cancer. He claims that those of us who have written that Rodgers should have stopped have made that acknowledgement “grudgingly.” And those who have provided much-needed context to Florio’s hit piece did so “possibly to gain some traffic by sparking a public fight.” Florio, of course, doesn’t know any of this. And it’s revealing that his first inclination is to believe that those who provided such context were interested in web traffic rather than accuracy. (Some might call that projection.)

The facts in this matter are simple: Florio indicted Aaron Rodgers for behavior that was out of context and out of character. When he was presented with information that undermined his central claims, he first ignored it, then downplayed it, then mischaracterized it. And rather than provide his readers with context that might help them draw their own conclusions about Rodgers, he left it out so that his own highly-misleading post would stand as the final word.

The important takeaway from Florio’s orginal post – judging from its headline and its conclusion – is that athletes should “show some gratitude” to their fans, “especially when it’s obvious that one of those fans isn’t blessed with good health.” According to Jan Cavanaugh, Aaron Rodgers did just that one week earlier.

Ironically, the entire incident did precisely what Florio intended – it provided a window on one man’s character: Mike Florio.

By Steve Hayes

The real story behind the Aaron Rodgers autograph non-story

January 17, 2011

By Steve Hayes.

Yesterday, Mike Florio at NBC’s ProFootballTalk.com launched an “attack” – his word – on Aaron Rodgers for a video showing the Packers’ quarterback walking past Jan Cavanaugh, an autograph-seeker who is recovering from cancer. Florio headlined his post, “Aaron Rodgers has a lot to learn about where his money comes from,” called Rodgers “an ass” who is guilty of “treating a cancer patient like a panhandler with leprosy” and took a “crap on a rare moment of happiness” in Cavanaugh’s life. No one has ever accused Florio of being too restrained.

From the video posted at WBAY, we thought that Rodgers probably should have taken the time to stop and sign Cavanaugh’s pink hat. But we also recognized that short video clips rarely – if ever – tell the entire story. And unlike Florio, we believe that context matters. So we sent ProFootballTalk several news stories about Rodgers’ community work, including two stories (here and here) about his work with children suffering from cancer. Florio not only refused to share the information with his readers, he sent a tweet acknowledging that he’d seen such contextual information and that it didn’t matter to him.

So, unlike Florio, who is paid by NBC, we actually did some reporting. Packergeeks reached out to Jan Cavanaugh for a comment. And, as you can see in her response below, she was unaware of the controversy until we notified her.

In her response, Cavanaugh confirms something first reported by Aaron Nagler at Cheesehead.tv. “In all fairness to Aaron, he had signed my jersey the week before.” Cavanaugh says that she wishes professional athletes would take more time to sign autographs, particularly when only a few autograph-seekers are present. But, in what seems to be a shot at Florio, she says she doesn’t “want people making more out of this than there is.”

Her email is below:

Dear Steve,
Thank you so much for “tracking me down”.  I had no idea this hubbub was going on and it is very embarrassing to me.  We are big Packer fans and do not want anything to interfere with the Packs game with the Bears next weekend.

We love having Packer parties when they play, have a Packer Christmas tree that we set up every Christmas, Packer clothing, etc., etc.

Aaron did sign a jersey for me the night they came home from playing the Eagles.  But my sister-in-law (a Viking fan) had given me a pink Packers cap when I lost my hair and I wanted Aaron to sign it.  Didn’t get that accomplished, but in all fairness to Aaron he had signed my jersey the week before.

There were only a few of us at the airport the times we’ve been up there in the last month.  It is sometimes hard to understand why the players can’t take a few minutes and sign things when there are so few people asking for autographs.  I can understand not wanting to be held up after a game and an airplane ride if there are lots of people that want you to sign something. However, that hasn’t been the case up to now.

Again, I’m embarrassed and I’m sure it’s embarrassing to Aaron who quietly has done so much for the community with so many groups.  I know that none of us wanted to make so much out of it.  Yes, I’ve had cancer, yes I don’t have hair right now, but I am fine and will be fine and don’t want people making more out of this than there is.

Thanks Steve for letting me know what was happening.  I’m not good on the computer and would never have found out if you hadn’t let me know.

Jan

Packergeeks wishes Jan a full and speedy recovery. We won’t hold our breath that these facts will change Florio’s opinion.

Some early thoughts on Pack/Falcons

January 12, 2011
  • I have been a big fan of Atlanta’s coach Mike Smith. He is smart and importantly, he’s present in the moment while he coaches. (What I mean by this is that as something happens on the field, he reacts to it immediately. he doesn’t need to watch film to have an opinion on something etc etc. His pissed about bad calls, he’s angry at a player’s poor execution, etc. This is a quality of a good coach.) I really like this guy. That said, at the end of the last Atlanta game that mattered (hosting New Orleans a couple weeks ago), Mike Smith made a coaching error. With just a few minutes left (I believe 3-4 minutes), facing 4th and 5 at around the 50 yard line, Smith opted to punt the ball back to Drew Brees and company when Atlanta was down by 3. Atlanta had 1 or 2 timeouts at that time I believe. Many coaches do this. Yes, the Atlanta D had been OK that night, surrendering only 17 points to the high-powered Saints offense. But on the Saints’ previous possession, Drew Brees engineered a long drive (13 plays, 90 yards) that ate up a bunch of clock time (over 7 minutes). Clearly the Atlanta D was wearing down. So, that leads me to my point: punting the ball in that situation is not smart. Yes, you may gain a field position advantage if you happen to stop Brees (and the punt was a good one), but stopping Brees is just not easy especially considering New Orleans actually moved the ball well that night (they just didn’t score much). And, throw in there that predicting what the NO offense will do is a tall order – Payton is so willing to call a huge variety of plays even in tight situations. Even though by punting Atlanta wasn’t totally forfeiting control of the game because their D can affect the outcome – I can’t help but feel like coaches who make this particular decision essentially are taking the lower percentage option. Especially against a quality offense like New Orleans. One first down for NO and the game would essentially be over. Why take that chance? With a QB like Matt Ryan – nicknamed “Matty Ice” because he’s so clutch – it’s obvious to say now that taking a chance on 4th and 5 would have been the smarter decision. Great coaches think aggressively in moments like these. Any doubt about what Belichick would have done? Mike Tomlin? Sean Payton? Great coaches don’t tighten and pull back at moments like this. Mike Smith did.
  • Why does this matter? Because I essentially viewed Mike Smith as one of those awesome coaches who has the stones to make tough decisions – viewed him as a guy who just gets it and rarely makes bad decisions. That to me was a bad decision and it cost his team as NO got a relatively easy first down. And I have since read some other articles that have indicated that he can lean conservative at times when it’s not helpful. My hope is that Smith, due perhaps to a lack of playoff experience as a head coach, pulls back a bit and plays it tight. While we all worry about McCarthy’s tendency to tighten under pressure (he did it a couple times at Philly -though I have to say, it did take stones to feature a rookie RB with virtually no NFL experience), hopefully Smith will be the one to hurt his team by doing it Saturday.
  • Michael Turner is scary, but a little less scary after having a couple questionable games in a row. Yes he scored a TD week 17 vs Carolina, but his numbers weren’t overly impressive and importantly, he lost his 2nd fumble in as many games. He is usually sure-handed, but this recent spate of fumbling might be something our D should key on (Woodson, Bishop, Matthews should be smacking at that ball – though they also need to be careful doing this because Turner can make you pay if you don’t wrap him up right away). Still, as much as I’d like to party because the Pack appears to have a running game now – I’d say there is still a fairly significant difference between the Falcons’ running game and the Pack’s. Michael Turner is an established threat – and when on, he can be nearly impossible to bring down because he has such a strong base/foundation. Raji, Pickett, Jenkins and the LBs will have to be on fire to slow this guy down (and again, forcing an early fumble might really help to do this).
  • One other guy to keep an eye on is Jason Snelling. He is very good and has a brutish running style that together with Turner, can really wear defenses down. I would be a bit surprised if Howard Green is made inactive again for this game as we’ll need big bodies rotating quite a bit up front in order to stay fresh against Atlanta.
  • I like Matt Ryan. I think he’s very good. He has a way of operating that is impressive to watch. He’s headed to the Pro Bowl, he’s confident in most situations, calm demeanor – and I like that he’s not afraid to show emotion if he knows the team has done well. But part of me wonders if all of this may be happening a bit fast for Ryan. He is good and he’s got quality talent around him (especially a robust running game)  – but I’m not so sure just yet that he’s THAT good. I have heard several people compare him to Aaron Rodgers – saying they are about the same. I don’t think so. Ryan is good, but Rodgers is definitely better.
  • Both Rodgers and Ryan have been starters now for pretty much 3 full seasons. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of their career stats. (Keep in mind that the career stats for Rodgers would be higher if the stats from his first 3 years of spot duty under Favre were to be removed and only his 3 years as a starter were considered.) QB rating – Rodgers 98.4, Ryan 86.9. Rodgers throws 2.7 TDs for every Int, Ryan 1.9. Rodgers completes 64.4% of his passes, Ryan 60.8. While I’ll allow that Ryan does have a talent for comeback wins and Ryan also has more wins in his 3 years (33 to 27), Rodgers is the better QB by almost any measure.
  • The fact that Ryan is going to the Pro Bowl over Rodgers is simply not right. However, this may end up being a blessing in disguise for Packer Nation. As I indicated before, I have it on some authority that Rodgers was not happy at all re the Pro Bowl snub. Clearly, he played at a high level last weekend – as though he had something to prove. Don’t think for a moment that it is lost on Rodgers that Matt Ryan beat him out for a Pro Bowl roster spot. Rodgers takes stock of such things. He has already beaten one guy who beat him out (Vick), now he has a chance to beat another. The third QB on the roster, Brees, is already out of the playoffs – and frankly Rodgers should have been selected over Brees too. (Vick deserved the Pro Bowl nod and should start, but Rodgers should have been #2 behind him.) Rodgers has a chip on his shoulder and something tells me that the chip will remain there until he wins the Super Bowl. That’s part of why I think fans are so drawn to him.
  • Despite having the #22 ranked pass D (yards allowed per game), Atlanta does feature 2 CBs who can play – Brent “oddly massive thighs for a small guy” Grimes and Dunta Robinson. Robinson hasn’t been as good as he used to be this year, but he can still play. But Grimes has proven to be a clutch performer this year – including a huge pick at TB to secure a win on the last play. Still, Atlanta had lots of trouble stopping our passing game in Week 12 and with Driver back to being himself (he’s apparently fine after Sunday’s injury), I think the Falcons could have extra difficulty accounting for all of our receiving targets – especially if Rodgers successfully works in RBs, FBs, and TEs again.
  • One other fact that I BELIEVE is true. Around the time the Pack played Atlanta (Week 12), I’m pretty sure Atlanta was the #6 run defense w/respect to yards allowed per game. By the end of the year, they fell to #10. After Week 12, Atlanta gave up 2 100 yard games in a row. James Starks could do some damage Saturday night.
  • I heard McCarthy ordered James Jones to get super hammered Sunday night so that he’d forget about everything that happened last Sunday. There is just something about that particular pass play that Jones struggles with. Even on the 2-3 occasions when he has caught that pass (I think we’ve run it 5-6 times this year to him), he bobbles the ball before catching it.
  • Expect a clean game. Both teams are not penalized very often. However, remember that this is a home game for the Falcons, so be wary of the Leslie Nielsen home team officiating bias (rest in peace).
  • With nice dome conditions it will be interesting to see which kicking game prevails. Koenen and Bryant are solid but Crosby and Masthay have been very good down the stretch at well. Field position will matter in this game.
  • Arthur Blank looks like a villain of some kind until he smiles – then he reminds of a magpie for some reason.
  • Not sure what it is about that one NFL commercial featuring the Falcons – but I just like it. Cool team, nice rhythm to the song. One problem I have is that I don’t dislike the Falcons. I’m not keen on Roddy White and his tendency to push off to get open, but the rest of the team seems to consist of mostly of decent guys. I wish I could hate them, or at least hate their fans (like last weekend with the Eagles).
  • Still mulling over a final score prediction – tough one.

A little more background on James Starks

January 11, 2011

Thanks to reader A-Rodg for pointing out this article about Starks over at National Football Post. Interesting insight – also interesting glimpse into the Bears’ managerial dysfunction.

Game Thought Pack/Eagles

January 9, 2011
  • Wow – close one. I was seriously worried we’d lose and be haunted by the lack of aggressiveness on that last offensive drive (or, for that matter, by the mysterious decision to not try to get a FG at the end of the first half with a timeout left and being in reasonably good position for it).
  • James Starks deserves the game ball. He was absolutely huge. He breaks tackles, he’s decisive and he gets yards on plays where most RBs probably would be stopped for a loss. He ran hard, held onto the ball and even had some nice catches. James Starks MVP.
  • Rodgers was decent but he wasn’t lights out. He was hurt once again by a few key dropped passes. How James Jones dropped that sure TD in the first half I just don’t know. Unreal.
  • The O-Line did have some nice holes for Starks, though Rodgers didn’t have too much time it seemed back there.
  • Driver, despite his drop, came through as Rodgers’ trusted target today. It almost seemed that Rodgers was looking for Driver today more than anyone else. He is the most experienced.
  • I loved the play calling for most of the game, except in the final quarter I suppose. McCarthy had a very good offensive strategy going into this game. It was one that made sense and frankly, one that I also thought we might go to – getting the ball to TEs, RBs, and FBs in the passing game. 7 of our 18 passes were completed to our WRs – the other 11 to RBs, FBs, TEs. But by coaching up James Starks and preparing him to absolutely dominate – McCarthy and staff deserve huge credit for this win. Huge.
  • Capers drew up a great game plan as well. Vick spent much of the game not sure what was coming. We didn’t blitz like crazy like recent teams have done to Vick (with success) and instead we put some decent pressure on him while plugging up his passing lanes. We also held LeSean McCoy in check throughout – only 46 yards rushing and 36 yards receiving. He’s a darn good player who didn’t have much of a role in this one.
  • Erik Walden may be one of the top mid-season free agent pick-ups ever. Honestly. Unreal pick-up by TT.
  • Interesting that Akers was a big reason Philly lost. I know kicking into winds like that is really tough, but he has been one of the best kickers in the NFL in recent years – just odd that he would be the goat today.
  • Why in the world did we get the ball at the 3 yard line after Tramon Williams’ interception? He caught it clearly in the end zone and didn’t try to run out. Made no sense – also didn’t matter at that point, but why did that happen?
  • Philly just looked off tonight and when a team looks like that it’s often because they are confused – Dom Capers gets the credit for setting that up and the players get the credit for executing it.
  • Defensively, we did look like we were wearing down on that last drive there – if Vick hadn’t thrown it deep on that one, I would have been really concerned.
  • I still do have a problem with just cashing out at the end of the first half. We had plenty of time with a timeout to try to make something happen. Even a terrible mistake like a pick six would have left us with the lead. It just don’t like that kind of attitude. Sean Payton would NEVER have done that.
  • I also have a problem with the decision on 2nd and 10, on our final drive, to not try a play action play. Philly was stuffing the box to stop Starks – and while I’ll admit, they had been having trouble stopping him today – 7 guys against 10 guys isn’t going to win most of the time. Meanwhile, there was a favorable match-up on the outside and even with Quarless. Play action could have been money there. I realize that the clock was another factor and we wanted it to keep running but a play action play would have been a very high percentage pass at that point. Just something to keep in mind as we go forward – we need to stay aggressive and go for the kill – not come up short and hope.
  • We seemed vulnerable over the middle tonight. I wonder a bit if Woodson’s roaming, and he was roaming all over the place, may have been a bit of a challenge for his fellow teammates. But for some reason, Vick to Avant was pretty much automatic over the middle tonight.
  • We appeared to win the battle at the line of scrimmage for much of the night. The O-Line’s run blocking was actually a bit better than the pass blocking it seemed.
  • Hawk was noticeably absent tonight. He may have been staying with assignments tonight – like Jenkins…something that does happen when opposing Michael Vick – but he really was quiet tonight and didn’t seem to contribute much.
  • One thing I noticed was lots of shuffling by Matthews, Bishop, Hawk and Walden – lining up on different sides – essentially giving Vick lots of different looks.
  • Overall, solid effort. Again I wish we could close out games better and we’ll have to going forward – but solid effort and quality coaching overall. I’m pleased and looking forward to this next game, a game I think we can win.

Charles Woodson – it’s your time

January 7, 2011

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. When Charles Woodson came to Green Bay, he came to the Packers with the hope of getting to the playoffs and winning a championship. He’s accomplished plenty in his football life, but clearly the one thing he wants more than anything is a Super Bowl ring. Charles Woodson is one guy who will not take these playoffs lightly as this may represent as good of an opportunity for his team to make a deep run. (I remember Woodson being particularly disappointed after the loss to the NYG a few years ago. The man is driven to get this title.)

Woodson may be a quiet guy who mostly just goes about his business, but we’ve all seen moments of passion from the guy – like when he makes one of his diving shoestring, TD-saving tackles and gets up to celebrate a bit. He loves the game and he loves to win. My guess is that few guys on the team dislike losing more than Woodson – especially when it comes to the playoffs.

Woodson knows he has a chance Sunday to have a huge impact on this game. Whether it’s blitzing, fake blitzing and picking off passes, disrupting the timing of pass plays, making great tackles on RB McCoy or the dangerous Vick, stripping the ball from anyone who dares run by him – could be any of a number of things that Woodson does so uniquely well. But there is something that tells me he may want this one as badly as he’s wanted a game any game before. A win here and he knows the Pack has a chance anyway, to get on a run and get to the Super Bowl. As good as the other playoff teams are, no team is much better this year, if at all, than the Packers. And nobody knows this better than Charles Woodson.

Charles – you dominate Sunday and I’ll buy a case of your wine!

Rodgers out for Sunday night

December 18, 2010

Read here from jsonline. Packers declaring he’s out now officially.

This sucks. While Flynn being in there does give us the remote chance for a Miracle on Ice type upset, I’d have to say things don’t look good for the Pack tomorrow night. Flynn isn’t bad and he will surprise some folks I think with his ability to manage the offense. And he has won a national championship so it’s not like he hasn’t played in big games before. But the Pack could really struggle tomorrow night – especially with a lack of running game.

Speaking of a running game, interestingly, this could be our only chance. I wouldn’t be surprised if James Starks gets more work than folks anticipate early as the Pack tries to establish some semblance of a running game. The NE defense is not good despite appearing to be better lately. It’s the Pat’s offense that has made their defense good lately and while that may continue Sunday night, if the Pack can establish the run and keep the Pat’s offense off the field, this could be a decent game yet. Of course, that is asking a lot from a coach with a toddler’s patience for the running game.


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