After years of wondering if Favre is “really OK” enough to play, the cynical, delusional part of me is wondering if perhaps Favre is really injured right now. Perhaps he read my post from a couple weeks ago about how he could seriously help the Packers’ playoff chances by playing well down the stretch – so he decided to hang it up and fake an injury, leaving an already reeling Vikings squad to reel even more, if you will. Just sayin’….
Archive for the ‘Packers’ Category
I’m as upset as all of you about our crappy performance against the Lions. Our playoff chances were dealt a serious blow and I’m ticked at how it went down. The head coach and the offense own this loss. Period.
In fact, one thing that has been buried in the aftermath of this loss, is the fact that our defense has been nothing short of dominant in the last 6 games in particular. Yes, we haven’t played offensive powerhouses in that time but we have contained some high quality players. In the last 6 games, we have held opponents to a shocking total of 8.83 points per game. 8.83! That is crazy. And right now, this stretch has helped us attain the #1 ranking overall in the NFL when it comes to points allowed at 14.5 PPG – a not so small achievement.
Dom Capers’ defensive play calling has been phenomenal in the last 6 games. He deserves lots of credit for this impressive run of defensive form – as do some players who have been stepping up like Raji, Bishop, Woodson, Tramon, Collins, Peprah, Jenkins/Pickett (when they’ve been able to play), and Hawk (though he’s faded in the last 2 games). While I’m as intimidated by the Pats offense as most other Packer fans – remember just how well our defense has been playing and frankly, how well we match up with NE’s personnel. Belichick, in a rare actual offering of information earlier today, indicated that the Packers’ defense is different than the ones NE just destroyed (Jets, Bears) and went on to imply that our personnel and scheme is quite a bit better than that of either Chicago or NY. And right now, I think he’s right. They are busy getting all of the attention while we are busy just getting it done. (Though he did also compare it to Pittsburgh’s defense, a defense NE tore apart a few weeks ago).
I know lots of folks are saying that our defense was bad against the run in Detroit. But as I noted previously – Detroit ran the ball 41 times (to 22 passes) and taking away Drew Stanton’s 44 yards on 4 carries, the Detroit RBs averaged less than 4 yards per carry…which is generally considered to be at least decent run defense. And, at some point late in the game (Gregg Easterbrook noted in his TMQ article today), the Pack had given up zero nets yards passing…zero. Cap that off with the fact that Detroit scored 7 points and I think it’s fair to say the defense more than did it’s job.
Let just hope the defense shows up Sunday and that those players who have been fading lately like Hawk and Clay Matthews, play some inspired ball.
(Oh, and just to work this in – since Desmond Bishop entered the starting line-up, the Pack has given up an average of just 12.8 points per game. Coincidence…no.)
Sparked by a quality discussion in the comments section of my last post re what the next 4 games have in store for us – I decided to throw out some thoughts. Generally, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that we win all 4 games. But I think 3-1 is most likely – followed by 2-2. 1-3 and 0-4 are impossible. I think 3-1 gets us into the playoffs but 2-2 could be a problem.
- The thought of Detroit is less scary for me now than it was just a few weeks ago. They are a much improved team with some serious talent that should be concerning. And they have proven this year that they can play with absolutely anyone (should have beaten the Jets, almost beat a Vick-led Philly, destroyed an OK Rams team…) But they are also a mistake prone team with horrible luck and a bad defense (beyond the D-Line). After watching Aaron Rodgers play over the last few weeks, I’m increasingly confident that he can pick apart a team like Detroit. Even if they double up on Jennings, Rodgers is savvy enough to figure out which guys will be open forcing them to not double Jennings – then of course, Jennings will dominate. I think the main differences in this game will be turnover ratio and passing – areas where we are stronger than Detroit. I also have visions of Clay Matthews going crazy in this one for some reason – like 4-5 sacks. Seriously. Two quiet keys to this game will be whether or not James Starks can hang onto the ball and whether or not he can pass block. I hate to even write something like this but one risk of putting a new guy in there at this point in the season is that we just don’t know about things like ball security and pass protection yet. I still think it’s worth taking this risk because his decisive and rather powerful running style is a welcome change from Jackson’s hesitant style (that is, Jackson’s style running the ball – not receiving). And if any of these issues come up Sunday, McCarthy can always put Jackson back in there because we know his ball security and pass blocking is good.
- I am not dreading the NE game. It will be tough – they’re very good and Belichick is brutally difficult to play against. (Anyone else hear about how Brady essentially just looked for things Belichick said would open up last night – because he had seen some holes in the NYJ’s defense in game film. I could QB for NE with coaching like that. By the way, for a defensive coach, Belichick has far more ideas for the NE offense than people know or talk about.) Anyway, there will be a little less pressure for us this game because we won’t be favored and it’s not a division game/conference game. I think there is a chance we play quite freely in this one and may in fact win it. We’re are better team than the overrated Jets and folks like Welker and Branch may have a bit harder time matching up with Tramon who can match their quickness like few CBs can. And Capers will likely mix stuff up enough to make Brady far less comfortable than he was last night.
- The NYG game is probably tied with the Bears’ game as the two games I’m most concerned about – in part because they’ll be tough but also because they will be extra meaningful. We could run into difficulty with their defensive style. They’ll get plenty of pressure on Rodgers (they are the #2 pass defense) and they are a solid run D (#7). Injuries to their two best WRs may help us – but it’s also possible both Nicks and Steve Smith will be back for this game which would make defending them much harder. We will really need Jenkins back for this one – to help shore up the run defense and help put pressure on Eli opposite Matthews. Interestingly, a loss for the NYG at Minnesota this week could help our playoff hopes considerably both mathematically and emotionally as a tough loss to MN it could soften the Giants up for coming to Lambeau on 12/26. Still, this game really concerns me – McCarthy and Rodgers need to be in serious rhythm for us to take out the Giants. (For this one I have visions of Ahmad Bradshaw hurting us until he hurts the Giants with a fumble at a terrible time. Unlike the last Giants game at Lambeau, I’m hoping the costly turnover will be by them.)
- The Bears game is scary for a lot of reasons. Chances are decent that the game will be significant for the playoff race and division title race. (While there is reason to be concerned that the Bears get 2 weaker opponents on the road and the two good ones at home over their final 4 games – the Jets just lost their first road game last night. The Jets are 5-1 on the road and even though I don’t think they’re THAT good of a team, they will probably be playing for something so that could be a decent game.) Add to this the issues we have had beating the Bears since Lovie took over. He has focused on Packers games specifically since coming into the league – the rivalry was the first thing he mentioned in his first press conference as Bears’ coach a few years back and he’s stuck to his word (and been successful). But the Packers ultimately are more talented. Period. If Starks can successfully give us at least the THREAT of a running game, it could really open things up for our offense in the final weeks – making even good defenses like the Bears struggle. And, I just can’t imagine Cutler will continue his streak of high quality starts (he’s been quite good lately). Soon, he will start to struggle.
(And by the way, there are some arguing that losing the division title this year may be the better option compared to winning it because if the Pack loses the title but grabs the wild card spot (which is a big if), we would likely play St Louis or Seattle in round one. While the whole NFC West is an inferior division – no question – neither of those teams are fun to play in their stadiums. And I’d just prefer a home playoff game – so winning the division is key.)
What do you think?
Looks like Cullen Jenkins may be out for “a few weeks” – according to McCarthy’s recent press conference. Not good. Jenkins obviously was awesome yesterday with 2 sacks (and against the run). This hurts – though it also highlight just how important a pick-up Howard Green was a few weeks ago. (My zero inside information opinion? Jenkins returns for the NYG game in 2 weeks.)
Korey Hall will also miss the game this week. While it would seem like it’s not that big of a deal, I believe a huge percentage of the games he actually plays in – the Packers win.
- Some concerning moments – especially in the first half. Just didn’t seem like we came out focused and prepared. Was weird. Though for some reason, I was never THAT concerned during this one. We clearly had the better team and Rodgers put the team on his back again.
- Rodgers was fantastic (except for that strange miss to Driver in the end zone).
- Starks looked pretty good. He looked better than Jackson has for a while and I think it was due to 3 factors: seems like he may have better overall vision/decisiveness, the line opened more holes for him today than it had for Jackson previously and he’s rather hard to bring down. While his speed didn’t appear to be anything special, I was impressed on one kick return he had because he juked a guy out of his shoes.
- As much as James Starks may have earned some playing time over Brandon Jackson after Starks’ performance today – Brandon Jackson is a very good receiving back. I’ve never been high on the guy, but I have to say his pass catching out of the backfield is a real asset. He just runs better and eludes folks better when he’s past the first layer of the defense – and on those short dump off passes he’s past the D-Line and does pretty well.
- Jennings is just impressive lately. His effortless style is really fun to watch. The concentration it takes to haul in deep passes with the defender draped all over him is really something.
- Nice to see Driver get back into the mix.
- Our TE Quarless only had 1 catch for 4 yards. I’m thinking we want to get him a bit more experience with the ball if we’re going to make a late season run here.
- Rodgers did complete passes to 8 different guys – that’s tough to defend.
- The defense had some lapses – especially on Vernon Davis’ long TD. But overall, it’s an active defense that clearly makes it difficult for teams to operate the offense they want to operate.
- Crosby can’t miss a 29 yard FG. No excuses for that.
- The OLine was solid both run blocking and pass blocking today. They were particularly good clearing enough space for short yardage runs. I’m guessing they were treated too nicely after being so bad on short yardage last week. (The pass blocking did have weak moments however, leading to 4 sacks.)
- Offense was 9 for 15 on 3rd downs – key to the win.
- The DLine was active and the attention paid to Matthews clearly opened the door for our other guys to get some sacks.
- Interesting that Clay Matthews led the team in tackles. As I noted a few weeks ago, it does seem as though Capers has been dropping him into coverage a bit more than he had earlier in the year. Leads to Matthews having more tackles and perhaps, fewer sacks.
- Frank Zombo looked reasonably strong today with his sack – but he only had 3 tackles. I’m thinking he needs a few more tackles than that.
- If you thought Takeo Spikes was everywhere today you were right – 13 tackles and 4 assists.
- The Bears were lucky to win. Their streak of luck continues. Hopefully the loss will be as deflating for Detroit as it appeared to be.
Great quote here from Matt Ryan. While I often find myself disagreeing with Pete Prisco (at least over the last 2 years in particular), he has a good column today. Just a great quote by Matt Ryan on Williams:
“He’s a really good player,” Ryan said. “He’s a real pain in the ass to play.”
Not surprising though considering Williams was a good part of the reason superstar WR Roddy White was mostly ineffective against the Pack. One of the things I’ve noticed this year about Tramon, is that he appears to have bulked up some. Speed has never been an issue, but his added bulk seems to help him tackle more effectively. A few games ago, he even had a monster hit – a rarity in his past anyway.
Wow. TT and co aren’t messing around. Read here. Tramon Williams signed a new 4 year extension worth a reported $33 million (though PFT contends it’s worth $41 – I think they’re wrong). He receives a $6 million signing bonus and $11 million is apparently guaranteed. His average of $8.25 million per year will make him the 4th highest paid player on the team.
Sometimes contract issues can cause a divide in the locker room – I don’t think that will happen here. Tramon has had a fantastic year, seemingly getting better with each game. While Jenkins and a few others may feel somewhat unloved, it’s tough to overlook the job Tramon has done at cornerback. Not only has he shut down other top flight WRs, but he’s been a solid return guy, he’s stayed healthy, and I’d even argue that his ability to cover great WRs has opened things up for Woodson to roam and wreak general havoc. Good signing – he’s a good cb. Now, let’s just hope he doesn’t suffer from the contract-just-signed=performance-decline syndrome that affects so many players.
On another note – Chillar and Havner have both been placed on IR. That does hurt our LB depth but I don’t think Chillar was ever fully back anyway, frankly. In fact, Zombo kept his starting job despite Chillar being back – which is an indication to me that the coaches knew Chillar wasn’t 100%. (If he were, he’d have been starting).
In consecutive weeks now, Rodgers has thrown a deep..ish ball in a 3rd down and 1-2 yard situation. Both times it’s worked (and both times I suspected he’d audible to this play). The reason this play works is that usually on short yardage plays like these, 9.5-10 defenders play the run leaving our WR with mostly single coverage. (Sometimes the safety rolls over a bit, but he often only half-commits in case of a run play.) Rodgers knows any of our WRs can pretty much take any DB in one-on-one coverage so in each instance he’s elected to go with the far higher percentage short yardage play. It may seems odd that the percentage would be higher doing this, but it actually makes sense if you think about it. Aaron Rodgers’ completion percentage this year is 65% – but his completion percentage specifically to WRs in single coverage has to be even higher. Meanwhile, our percentage of 1st down conversions by running in short yardage situations, has to be below 50%. (Actually, just verified that our 3rd and 1 combined with our 4th and 1 conversion percentage this year is 48% – and I’ll bet if you take out the successful pass play conversions, that percentage drops quite a bit more.)
In fact, thinking further on this, because McCarthy essentially admitted in a recent press conference that he struggles from time to time with short yardage playcalling, I’d like to offer a recommendation for the next short yardage play:
- Go with 2 WRS split very wide – both of whom have the assignment of running a deep sideline route. Then, bring in one TE on the line, five O-Linemen, Rodgers, and then the RB and the FB in the “I” formation. There could be an audible option for Rodgers to have the TE go out for a short route (or better yet, go on a deeper seam route depending on coverage). The beauty of a play like this is that the safeties in particular would have serious decisions to make. Usually on short yardage plays, they like to cheat up and play the run. But if there are two guys split wide and Rodgers has been known to throw in short yardage situations, suddenly, they wouldn’t know where they should focus their attention. All of this would also serve to unclog the running lanes should Rodgers opt to call a run play or even a sneak. Rodgers could assess all of this once at the line. If the safeties fall back into coverage, handing it off, a sneak or dumping it to the TE (or even the FB) on a short out route might work best. If the safeties don’t respect the pass option enough, Rodgers could throw either of the sideline route or a seam route to the TE.
Try it Mike. Seriously.
- I’ve had this game circled on my schedule for a while now. Not true, I don’t circle important games on my schedule. But I am excited for it and believe it should be one of the best games in the NFL this year.
- I like Atlanta. They are a very good, balanced, and well coached team.
- Mike Smith is a coach I admire. I can’t say I know a huge amount about what he does to manage games or much about what his coaching philosophy is. I just know he gets the job done and appears to have a very good sense for what is happening during the game. I like coaches like that – guys who react on the sidelines when things happen vs the guys who indicate they’ll have to watch the film to know what’s happened. One of the keys to being a quality head coach is being fully aware of what is happening as it’s happening.
- Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers are two guys I’d strongly consider if asked “which youngish QB would you most want to build your team around?” These guys are both very good. Ryan has the same moxie that Rodgers seems to have and he has the raw talent to throw some difficult passes.
- While we all got a little glimpse into why Roddy White may get the ball so much (he chucks defenders to the ground with impunity – see Balt game), the guy is still really good. Somehow though, I like having either Tramon or Charles on him right about now.
- Michael Turner is a guy we could have made a play on a few years ago when he was a free agent. Brother Steve and I lobbied for it – nobody heard. He’s very good. He’s incredibly strong in the legs and has a rather low center of gravity. While we’ve been tough against the run recently, Michael Turner is a guy who seriously concerns me this week.
- One key match-up might be Desmond Bishop and AJ Hawk on Tony Gonzalez. Even though Gonzalez at this point can be considered just plain slow, he clears out space around himself to catch the ball so effectively. I’ve been saying it for years – good basketball players/rebounders make good TEs because they have to clear space for themselves in both sports.
- Atlanta’s pass D has been somewhat suspect this year. We could have some real opportunities through the air – especially if quality pass rusher John Abraham is either unable to play or limited (he missed the game last week).
- Atlanta’s rush D, on the other hand, has been pretty good. They’ve given up the 6th fewest rushing yards this year – perhaps in part because teams know they can throw it against them. Still, we’ll want Jackson to break off a few 6-7+ yard runs if possible just to bring some offensive balance.
- This will likely be a big game for Tim Masthay. Field position will matter in this one so a few nice kicks inside the 20 or a few huge punts from deep in our own territory would really be helpful.
- Play action will be helpful against this defense to make sure that Abraham and Kroy Biermann are kept honest.
- An early pick on Ryan in particular might help. He has the mental make-up to overcome one early pick, but it would really help our defense because I think we all realize that this Atlanta offense is much better than any of the previous 3 teams we’ve shut down.
- A win here would be huge. In the end, unless some wacky special teams things happen, I do think that our passing offense will overwhelm their weak pass defense. Packers 27, Atlanta 20.