Archive for the ‘Game Preview’ Category

Preview Packers/Seahawks

January 18, 2015
  • It’s not often any team (sort of except New England) gets to the conference championship game. So this is a big deal. One game away from the Super Bowl.
  • Seattle is a very good team. I may not like the team and the fans and the overall hype surrounding them right now. But this is a very good team. They are well coached, they have one of the most disciplined, intelligent QBs in the game, a beast of a RB, an aggressive, confident defense and a considerable home field advantage. This is going to be a difficult game no question.
  • That said, I don’t necessarily see the comfortable victory so many football writers are predicting. In fact I’m a little surprised by how easily the Packers have been dismissed by most writers. The Packers, even with a limited Rodgers, have one of the best and most explosive offenses in the NFL. And the team that will take the field in this game, will be quite a bit different from the one that took the field Week #1. The Packers have won the vast majority of their games at 13-4 and their most recent victory was against a team that beat the Seahawks in Seattle (while the Seahawks struggled for a while with a Carolina team that the Packers blew out in a half).
  • As I said, I think Seattle is a very good team and there does exist the potential for them to get early momentum and rip apart our Packers. It is possible but not likely. While I fear the things many others fear – their defense and Lynch running against our iffy run D – as I wrote last week, I think their may be a few other factors in this game that surprise some.
  • I’m guessing Lacy has a big game. He’s in his second year and still has the taste of an ugly home playoff loss from last year in his mouth. While he’s a nice, mild-mannered person, I think Lacy has a nasty streak in him – which is what helps him plow weak tacklers right over. I see Lacy unleashing a bit of Lynch’s beast today. I see him having a solid game (and it may come initially in the passing game).
  • While I think the Pack will really try to get Lacy going early, Brother Steve thinks the Pack should open up with tons of passing to get Rodgers in rhythm and catch Seattle off guard a bit. This may not be a bad idea. Only thing I’d add is that Lacy should still be involved – catching passes and serving as a safety option for Rodgers.
  • As I write before every game it seems – key will be distributing the passes. The more guys that get involved catching passes the more the Packers gain the simple psychological advantage of leaving Seattle wondering “where is the ball going next?” It is often why the team wins when we win. If we were to go back and look at our losses, I’m guessing we’d notice that in each one there were a limited number of contributors.
  • I agree with friend Mike and others that have talked about how key the offensive line is in this one. Not just for protecting Rodgers but for opening up running lanes too. They have been playing really well in recent weeks and I expect this to continue – but I also don’t think we can expect Rodgers to go completely without pressure today. This is one of the top defenses in terms of bugging the QB so we should expect a sack or two – and if it happens we shouldn’t think of it as the end of the world.
  • This is the kind of game where we could really use a huge play from Hyde on special teams. That is the kind of thing that could shut up the Seattle fans quickly and give the Packers momentum.
  • I think this could be a THE game for our defense to show up. Capers has been hit or miss this season, with a few more hits in the second half of the season. And when he’s hit, the D has been stifling. It was interesting to read about Capers/MM’s horrible/failed gameplan for Week #1 when Seattle rolled us. And I suppose there is 3a similar risk in that Capers might get too cute again only to get lit up. But he seems to have a better read on opponents in the last few weeks and I’m guessing the D shows up. While it may seem like a silly, hyped fan kind of thing to say, I actually think the fact that Peppers has never won the Super Bowl (and that it’s his birthday today) is a big deal. I’m guessing he causes some problems today. But like I said a few days ago, it is Matthews, Burnett, Tramon, Barrington, Ha Ha and the middle of the D-Line – these are the guys we need to show up today. If these guys show up and Peppers, Shields and Perry continue to wreak havoc like they have I think THE PACKERS defense could end up being a big factor in this game.
  • Once again, much of the outcome of this game rests on the shoulders of Aaron Rodgers. He is the best player in the NFL and the MVP. Yes he’s injured and it’s limited and problematic, but he is so good at what he does that sometimes no matter how well prepared a defense is, he can still make teams pay. His accuracy is so other-worldly that even the trash-talking Richard Sherman can absolutely blanket a guy but leave open 10 inches – enough room for Rodgers to beat him.
  • Lastly, this game will be a huge mental test. How will the team come out in the beginning – fired up and ready to go or overwhelmed by the emotion of the crowd and the opponent? How will the team shake off mistakes or less than ideal plays? How will the team roll forward after they gain momentum from a score or a series of good plays? If the team takes the lead, will MM and Rodgers have the courage and mental toughness to stick with what’s working and go in for the kill? While I do think one of Seattle’s greatest strengths is the teams’ overall mental toughness, this is a Packers team that has surprised me at times with its show of mental toughness.
  • Packers 27, Seattle 23.

A few ideas for Sunday

January 15, 2015
  • Not sure why I keep thinking this but I think lining up James Starks essentially as a WR out wide a couple times might pose a bit of a matchup issue for Seattle. If he could catch a few short passes lined up like this I like his chances after he gets past their first line of defense (the D-Line). I know the entire Seattle D is quite good at tackling but Starks is quite a bit harder to tackle when he has some extra body momentum – as he does when catching passes.
  • At the same time and for similar reasons, I think MM should be working on a few screen pass plays for Lacy. Seattle’s D is so aggressive and that pass rush is often so aggressive that a few well-executed screens might really make the D Line and LBs think twice before just blindly bull rushing up field.
  • I want to see Randall Cobb throw a pass. I know our offense doesn’t necessarily need to resort to trick plays as it’s already good enough, even with Rodgers injured, to take down Seattle. But one way to really throw this particular defense for a loop (and instill instant fear in an otherwise fearless D) could be a well-designed option pass for Cobb. Line him up in the backfield and let him decide to run or throw after getting the ball. Or do what Brady-Edelman did against Balt (lateral pass behind  the line – easy TD pass from Edelman).
  • While there will be those who say “no trick plays – too risky” (which to some extent, is true), letting Cobb do it makes it much less risky because he’s such a smart player. But the real reason I suggest this particular kind of play against this particular team is that the Seattle secondary takes (way too much) pride in diagnosing plays instantly. Sherman, Chancellor – all of them talk about recognizing and anticipating plays before they happen. And just watching them you can see how confident they are in their diagnoses because they make quick, decisive moves based on their diagnoses. Well, play action passes, screens, option pass plays, delayed hand-offs – these are the kinds of plays that force defenders to at least pause a moment before being able to diagnose a play – so why not give them a try.
  • And if the Pack really wants to show it’s not afraid of this D, they would line up Kuhn and Cobb in the backfield and let Cobb chuck it on the very first play of the game. Would be awesome to see a stunned, quiet 12th man trying to absorb the fact that Jordy or Adams has just caught an 80 TD pass because their defense reacted too quickly!

Mid-week thoughts Packers/Seattle

January 14, 2015

As I read more about this game I am noticing that the story lines are mostly about Rodgers, the calf, the Packers passing game, Richard Sherman, the “vaunted” Seattle D, Seattle’s 12th man, Lynch knocking people over, Seattle being at the beginning of a dynasty, Seattle being unbeatable, Seattle essentially already being awarded the Lombardi Trophy. But I have a few thoughts about some other potential post-game story lines:

  • Carolina RB Jonathan Stewart averaged 5.4 yards per carry and ran for 70 yards against Seattle last Saturday night. Seattle’s unstoppable defense struggled to contain the guy. (Actually all 3 Carolina RBs averaged over 5 yards per carry.) Eddie Lacy is a better RB than Stewart – though Stewart has been very good the last 5-6 weeks. While it may seem like Lacy could struggle against a speedy/aggressive defensive style like Seattle’s because he’s not fast, I’m guessing MM and staff are putting quite a bit of time into making sure the O-Line is prepared to open holes and Lacy is ready to give Seattle a taste of its own medicine (won’t just be Lynch knocking guys over). This would be advisable both for time of possession reasons and to open up the passing game. I think there is a real chance Lacy has a career game Sunday. Also worth noting, his asthma shouldn’t be much of an issue. I have asthma too and can attest to how difficult it can be to run in cold weather – really does make it worse. But forecast is for 51 degrees and rain – he should be fine with that. Lacy had 100 yards rushing against Detroit, the NFL’s #1 run defense, in Week 17 – in a meaningful game. And Detroit was only giving up about 60 rushing yards per game at that point. Against Dallas, the #8 rush defense on the year, Lacy had 101 yards. Look for Lacy to assert himself and deliver a quality game. This will be a real test for the O-Line as Seattle has to know the Pack will try to run a fair amount. I’m guessing Chancellor will be playing a condensed field – which should eventually help Rodgers. But if the O-Line can win this battle, there is a good chance Lacy could be a bigger factor than people are talking about now.
  • Seattle gave up 377 yards to Carolina last weekend. Carolina is not an offensive powerhouse so at the least, this kind of defensive performance does not align well with the reputation of Seattle’s D. I watched the game and came away thinking that D is not as flawless as the media makes it out to be.
  • The Packers defense was not great last week. Dallas had their way for much of the game. Romo and company were solid, the playcalling was solid and the clock management was solid. But the defense woke up a bit in the second half. Peppers got in there with a few huge plays and the D seemed to step up some. Still, I would not rate the overall defensive performance very highly. Clay Matthews was just plain absent. Tramon Williams had a poor game (except for some decent man coverage on Dez at times…though Shields I think should get more credit for that). Morgan Burnett was also absent, barely contributed. Yet, this defense has shown over the course of the second half of the season that it can play at a high level. And many of these guys who were absent last week have had some monster games this year. Yes, I am worried Seattle’s quality O-Line will handle our D-Line like the Cowboys line did for a while. Yes, I am worried about Marshawn Lynch being a beast. And of course, I worry about Russell Wilson’s special ability to make the exact right decision on the football field nearly every time. These are scary things. But I think the Packers defense – much maligned for their poor playoff performances in recent years – may be ready to spring a surprise. Seattle’s offense is well-balanced and they play smart but there have been a few games in the last 6-7 weeks when Capers has drawn up exquisite game plans. I’m not going to guarantee anything here, but I think it’s actually quite possible that our defense, a quiet and often not-talked-about piece of this team, makes a statement and rises up to help the offense in a game when the offense will probably need a bit more help than usual. And importantly, there isn’t a whole lot of pressure on the Packers D right now as I think most expect a fairly pedestrian performance. If Peppers is himself, Matthews makes a difference and Tramon and Burnett play like they can play, there may be a few articles about the Packers defense come Monday morning.

Packers/Cowboys Preview

January 11, 2015
  • Huge game and not just because it’s well…a huge game. The Packers have been iffy in the playoffs in recent years. Yes they won a Super Bowl in 2010 but they have simply not delivered in the face of postseason pressure since. This is a big game for the team and the organization overall as it will help us gain a solid understanding of the true direction of the franchise going forward. That may sound a bit dramatic…I suppose because it is.
  • This is a legit team in Dallas. Outside of having a running game that very much concerns me, I think Romo is playing better than he has played at any point in his career this year. I have long been in the camp that believes Romo is quite a bit better than his reputation would indicate. He has moments when he flashes a scary kind of talent level and when he’s thinking right, he has instincts for the game that rival some of the great QBs historically. And the Dallas defense this year has surprised a lot of people, including me. I don’t want to go overboard here (especially because I think it will be the Dallas defense that ultimately does them in today), but the defense at least has a chance to make this game difficult for us. In the end, those picking an upset here aren’t being ridiculous. Dallas could win this game.
  • However, I think this Packers team will be hungrier today and here’s why. Like I mentioned before, the Packers have had a relatively embarrassing collective showing in the playoffs over the last 4 years. After winning the Super Bowl, the Packers record in the playoffs has been bad. From our defense not holding anyone, to losing home playoff games, the team has just not looked good in the postseason. And perhaps most concerning, the team hasn’t looked as good as it has during the regular seasons of those years. If MM is smart they will show a highlight film of some of the more embarrassing moments of the last few playoff games with the simple accompanying message of: this year will be different. I am guessing the team comes out today VERY fired up and ready to take it to Dallas – making sure that the tone of the game is set early and set by the Packers, not the Cowboys.
  • I do have concerns about Rodgers health and how effective he’ll be. While he’s an amazing QB who is still better than 90% of the rest of the QBs when limited, one of my concerns is that Rodgers and MM will dial things back so much that it could make the offense too vanilla. They still need to roll him out some even if he can barely walk, go to no huddle, work screens in there, offer up a trick play or two (perhaps a fake punt or FG!). Even with an injured leg, the Packers are definitely the better team here.
  • Look for moments in this game when Jason Garrett makes the wrong, overly conservative decision. While he may be feeling a bit more secure about his job now that they’ve finally won a playoff game, I’m guessing he won’t be able to shed his true identity: which is a coach who gets tight in big moments/big games and plays it too safe (really in defiance even of statistics and probability).
  • Also, look for Garrett to drop the running game if/when the Packers take a lead. He has historically been WAY TOO QUICK to abandon the run and it’s often super costly for the Cowboys. It would be especially costly if that happened today given how good Murray is and how inconsistent the Packers D has been defending the run.
  • It is absolutely critical that the Packers get an early lead today. As great as it was to watch Rodgers pull off the Miami win earlier this year, I don’t want to play from behind. Rodgers and the Packers are WAY better than most teams when playing with the lead. It ultimately, really intimidates opponents.
  • One reason the team needs to get the lead early is that our defense has become a fairly opportunistic one over the second half of the season. Between sacks, forced fumbles and picks, this defense woke up in the second half of the season. And they seem to be especially wide awake after the Packers take the lead. It’s likely that the play of the Packers defense ends up being one of the main story lines after the game. I think this defense has felt slighted and perhaps a bit frustrated that they don’t get much attention.
  • I see Dallas having several turnovers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Murray fumble, a Romo sack/fumble or two, and a pick. I also think Dallas special teams could turn it over.
  • This is one of the rare games when I think special teams could be a factor. While I don’t think their returner Harris is THAT good, I do think that Hyde could be a factor. Whenever a guy has a big time return TD like Hyde did against Detroit, it can plant a seed of “oh crap, we can’t let that happen” which psychologically can make the players tense up. Ok, I’m getting a bit ridiculous here – but I still think Hyde and our special teams help out today. (And by the way, it would be nice to see DuJuan Harris do something with a kickoff return. I loved that guy as a RB – great story – but he has been a serious disappointment as a kick return guy.)
  • Ultimately, I think this game is decided by coaching and Aaron Rodgers. We should be somewhat nervous as Dallas is a good team, but I’d take McCarthy any day over Jason Garrett and despite Romo’s year, I just don’t think Dallas will be able to stop Rodgers.
  • Packers 38, Dallas 19.

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.

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