Archive for the ‘Packer Opponents’ Category

Packers vs Cowboys pre-game thoughts

November 14, 2009


  • Romo has been playing well and the Dallas offense has a good number of guys to turn to.
  • 2 more WRs have emerged for Dallas in Miles Austin and now even Ogletree. Roy Williams is still decent, but not the threat he used to be with Detroit.
  • the 3-headed rushing attack. Barber packs a punch, Felix Jones is just difficult to track down to bring down and T Choice may in fact be the best all-around back of the 3. When they split the carries in a manner that fits with the game flow, these 3 are scary.
  • The Dallas O-line is huge and it’s possible they could end up dominating line play and pushing our D around at will. In light of this possibility, I will be starting Marion Barber for fantasy.
  • Jason Witten. He’s really, really good. I did read something about Romo converting 3rd downs 100% of the time he threw the ball Witten’s way this year. Scary. Clearly, we need to be all over him on 3rd downs. (It will be interesting to see if they bring Woodson over to keep tabs on Witten – he lined up opposite Kellen Winslow last week a few times and it seemed to work.)
  • DeMarcus Ware. I saw him switching from the right to the left in the Philly game and that could spell trouble – especially if TJ Lang gets the start at RT without having played there much before. I expect Ware to have 2-3 sacks.
  • Confidence. Dallas has it, the Packers don’t.
  • Special teams. Dallas ST has been on fire this year. The Pack’s ST is a joke. This could be a problem.

Potential Positives:

  • Romo, while playing well, is a somewhat fragile player mentally. He got a huge win for him last week – huge. And he needed mental strength to pull it off. But I think the reason many people feel the Cowboys aren’t a top tier division leader right now is because of Romo’s apparent inability to string together difficult victories. I expect to see him make some mistakes and my hope is that some of those mistakes are encouraged by some aggressive blitzes.
  • The Cowboys’ 3-headed rushing attack. When Jason Garrett (Dal O-Coordinator) gets into the game flow moving these 3 guys in and out at the right times, this is usually a very effective run game plan. However, I’ve seen a couple Cowboy games where the balance with the run and the timing of substitutions hasn’t worked well. If we can disrupt their running rhythm early, that could lead Romo to eventually force some passes.
  • Outside of Jason Witten and screen passes to the RBs, I’m not too afraid of the Cowboys’ passing attack. Yes, they’ve had some success this year, but mostly against crappier teams. If our secondary can get up for this one, I won’t be too worried about the passing game. One warning: watch the bubble pass – that immediate pass to the WR at the line of scrimmage followed by lots of WR blocking in front of the guy. Ogletree, Crayton, Williams all had great plays on that last week.
  • Aaron Rodgers has, for the most part, managed to stay above the criticism of the rest of the team mostly due to his consistently high QB rating and good play in general. But last week, Rodgers wasn’t good and his puke effort in the waning minutes didn’t help silence those who believe he struggles in the clutch. I think this game is critical to Rodgers’ QB development. We often talk about him as though he’s a veteran because he’s stepped in quite naturally and he carries himself confidently, but the fact is, he’s only started for 1.5 years. Like any young QB, he still needs big victories to help grow his confidence in both himself and his team.
  • The Packers run game. As poor as Mike McCarthy’s sense of game flow has been this year (abandoning the run at odd times in particular), our O-Line has done a progressively better job of run blocking. Hidden behind the torrent of negative press for their shoddy pass blocking, the O-Line has managed to finally open up quality holes for our RBs. (And, I should add, our RBs would have had some huge days if they could have made people miss.) If McCarthy lets Grant and Ahman Green run, the Packers might get back to setting up the pass with quality runs and in the process, control the clock. If our RBs can get past the Dal D-Line, their 2nd and 3rd level tacklers don’t scare me much.
  • By the way, look for Ahman Green to take on a bigger role this week both running the ball and a lot of 2nd and 3rd down help with pass protection.

Packers vs Vikings Game Keys

November 1, 2009
  • Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson, (Ahman Green??), John Kuhn and Quinn Johnson. I particularly like reader RayMidge’s suggestion that the Pack try to work in Brandon Jackson a bit more (but still get Grant 20+ carries). I think McCarthy may go heavier with the run than he has before and it will pay off. I think McCarthy is aware of the declining reputation of Minnesota’s once vaunted run defense – they’re just not as good as they used to be. Also, I know my praise for Antoine Winfield borders on ridiculous, but his absence is huge and not just for the passing game. Winfield does more from his CB position that just about any CB in the league, including stepping up and stopping big runs. Couple Winfield’s absence with EJ Henderson either not playing or playing hurt and that makes the tackling at the second/third level suspect. Look for Ryan Grant to rack up some big yardage tomorrow.
  • If I were McCarthy, I’d start early on with a few run plays right at Jared Allen, with Quinn Johnson leading the way. Johnson flattening Allen would show immediately that being hyper doesn’t always win out. I’d also chuck a few screens over his head early on. Anything we can do to slow the guy down and/or limit his impact. He’s a total idiot yes, but he’s a good football player.
  • Work Greg Jenning early until he gets too much attention, then shift to…James Jones. (Go to Driver throughout.) Jones could be a quiet factor in this game. The Vikes are down their best corner in Winfield, so that would leave their #4 corner trying to stay with Jones. That shouldn’t be close. It might be smart for McCarthy to throw in a play or two for new #4 WR Jake Allen, by the way. Chances are MN won’t know the first thing about him and he might be able to create a match-up problem here and there (he’s 6’3″+ and has decent hands).
  • Two significant Packer players didn’t play much (or at all) in game 1 against Minnesota – Clay Matthews and Atari Bigby. Matthews did play and of course had that great strip/TD. But he’ll be on the field for far more time in this game than he was in game 1 and that’s good news. Atari Bigby, like friend Mike has said before, adds stability to our secondary because he can be trusted to be in the right place, if nothing else. Favre and co will be facing a less vulnerable defense tomorrow.
  • AJ Hawk and Nick Barnett. It’s easy to be active against crappy teams like Detroit and Cleve, but both of these guys were active and looked focused/sharp. Getting production from Hawk in particular when he’s in there could be a quiet bonus.
  • Cullen Jenkins. Even though his role in the 3-4 is said to be one of taking up blockers/gaps, Jenkins still manages to get stuff done. We could use a solid effort from him tomorrow. (I’ll throw in Raji too – not many really know what he’s capable of, this may be a good time to start showing it).
  • Assuming McCarthy starts TJ Lang at LT, it will be a huge advantage in this game (especially compared to the first game) for the Packers to have two quality veteran players backing up the young starting RT and LT in Tauscher and Clifton.
  • Jeremy Kapinos. He will have to punt at least a few times and field position will be important tomorrow.
  • I’d take my chances by letting Favre beat us again. If we can shut down Peterson, but still manage to at least get some pressure on Favre when he throws, I would be absolutely shocked if the Vikes pull out the win on the strength of Favre’s play like they did in game 1. Shocked. Our defensive line-up will be stronger than it was in game 1 and their defensive line-up will be considerably worse, it’s not at Mall of America Field (still can’t get over that), and I just don’t think Favre will be mentally dialed in tomorrow. Because he’s played well in a few big games this year, for some reason, lots of people are talking about how clutch Favre is and essentially, how mentally strong he is. As great as Favre was while a Packer, one concern we did blog about toward the end of his career in GB was this tendency to seemingly check out of games mentally. You’d see it on the sidelines when the cameras showed him standing around – he’d wear this somewhat vacant “we probably can’t win this game” look. He’d do this after he made a mistake later in a game or at least when the offense had a bad turnover later in the game.¬† I realize that this is a totally subjective comment, but I encourage you to look for this look in the 4th quarter tomorrow because I’m pretty sure we’ll see it.

D’Qwell Jackson out for the season

October 23, 2009

While this news may not seem too relevant to Packer fans, it is. This Cleveland Browns’ LB already had 59 tackles in 6 games and typically leads the team in tackles each year. I’m not sure who will be taking his place, but I am pretty sure that this loss will seriously hurt the Browns going forward. His absence SHOULD help us in both the run game and the pass game.

Bears’ QBs – unreal

October 16, 2009

Like Jay Cutler or hate him, the following stat cited by Clark Judge in his article today, helps to explain why Chicago gave up so much to acquire the guy:

Cutler has a passer rating of 100 or better in his past three starts, the first Bears’ quarterback to achieve that since the statistic was first introduced in 1973. When Cutler has a passer rating of 100 or better, his teams are 13-0.

Amazing no Bears’ QB has done that for 36 years, amazing.

Cincy pass D putting the clamps on #1 WRs

October 15, 2009

Greg Jennings may have been frustrated after the Cincy game, but he should take some comfort in knowing that there are other stud #1 WRs who had a similarly frustrating experience against the unheralded Cincy pass defense.

Thanks to a friend of mine I’ll call Steve, because that’s his name, for mentioning that Cincy’s pass D had been good against #1 WRs. It inspired me to do some amateur statistical sleuthing to see just how good they’ve been. Here is what I’ve come up with:

  • In 5 games, depending on whom you consider to be Pittsburgh’s #1 WR (Hines Ward or Santonio Holmes), the Cincy defense has given up either 109 TOTAL PASS YARDS to the opposing teams’ #1 WR (if you consider Ward to be #1) or 45 TOTAL PASS YARDS yards (if you consider Holmes to be #1). That’s TOTAL PASS YARDS – unreal for 5 games.
  • In 3 of those games, they have shut out the #1 WR completely, meaning zero catches, zero yards.
  • Week 1 – Brandon Marshall 4 rec 27 yds; week 2 – Greg Jennings zero; week 3 – Hines Ward 4 rec 82 yds/Santonio Holmes 1 rec 18 yds; week¬† – 4 Braylon Edwards zero; week – 5 Derrick Mason zero.

While other WRs on these teams have made plays and even had decent days (Donald Driver 6, 99, 1TD for example), Cincy has apparently been focusing on shutting down the #1 WR and succeeding at it. I can’t help but wonder what role succeeding at this has played in their winning.

I am very interested to see what they do this week against the guy I consider to be the best WR in the NFL: Andre Johnson. If they shut him down, I’m pretty sure other NFL teams will start watching every second of game film on Cincy’s defense to figure out what they’re doing.

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

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

Jay Cutler looking very solid

August 30, 2009

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

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

Childress growing frustrated with Favre?

July 16, 2009

Sorry for the short break from Packer coverage – though I must say, Packer world has been dull lately. Anyway, I hate to quote another anonymous source, but another anonymous source passed on some quality info to me today: apparently, Childress said Favre is on the Vikings if Favre wants to play there. But this source also indicated Childress expressed frustration about trying to prepare for the season without the QB position firmly determined.

I still believe Favre has already signed with the Vikings and that he really is just waiting to announce it. The part of me that still has respect at least for what Favre did to help the Packers win, wants to point out that it’s possible that the timing of Steve McNair’s sad death came right around the time Favre planned to announce his return. Favre and McNair were somewhat close so Favre may have decided to postpone his announcement until things settled a bit. On the other hand, the bigger part of me that is really just ticked at Favre, wonders if the delay is due to Favre wanting to make sure his announcement comes at a time when it will capture the maximum amount of attention. (Actually, Favre saying he’ll decide by July 30th would support the idea that Favre just wants to wait until closer to the time that fans tune back into the NFL – the start of training camp).

Not sure why 2 RB set isn’t considered more often

July 6, 2009

Read this brief update from profootball weekly:

The Cowboys are playing around with using Marion Barber and Felix Jones — something it did sparingly last season when the two were healthy — on the field at the same time. It doesn’t have to be in traditional, two-back sets, either; Jones has the flexibility to split out and motion into or out of the backfield.

Normally such an insignificant off-season bit piece, especially about the Cowboys, wouldn’t register on my NFL radar. But this just makes sense to me and I wonder why more teams don’t do it. It seems that in the last 15-20 years at least, teams have quietly obeyed some unwritten rule that they should NOT play 2 RBs at the same time. Now, I’m not including FBs here, just RBs – and I’m not referring to the now popular sharing of the running load by 2 RBs (Chris Johnson, Lendale White, etc). My question is: why don’t more NFL and even college teams consider putting 2 talented backs on the field at the same time? Just think of the match-up issues it could cause for the defense? Imagine for a moment…when the QB drops back and 2 talented RBs are lined up in the I formation behind him – a defense would immediately have to account for a variety of play possibilities for just the 2 RBs – not to mention any talented WRs or TEs or even a sneak or roll-out by the QB. With the traditional FB and RB backfield, defenses can almost count out the possibility of a FB getting a hand-off or pass and even if they do, FBs are usually too slow to do much damage. But having to account for 2 play-making RBs would be a very different story.

It got me thinking of the trouble a defense would have accounting for Jason Witten, Roy Williams, Barber and Jones on the same play; or, Jerious Norwood, Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White on one play; or Darren Sproles, LT, Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson on one play. This idea isn’t necessarily new – we’ve already seen this 2RB game plan have some success with Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and the Saints and even Darren McFadden and Felix Jones when at Arkansas – it’s just not used as much as it should be.

I am a big proponent of any offensive philosophy that focuses on creating mismatches and being unpredictable. That may be an obvious offensive focus, but few offenses are able to consistently create mismatches and be unpredictable over time. I’m a bit surprised Mike McCarthy hasn’t experimented with something like this 2 RB set. Perhaps putting Grant and Wynn or Wynn and Jackson out there for the same play would cause coverage issues for defenses. (Or Lumpkin and Tyrell Sutton – who knows). Granted, a present Packer 2 RB set wouldn’t be the nightmare that defending Barber and Jones simultaneously would be, but it could be a needed creative boost that at least makes other teams have to account for more play options. McCarthy already has introduced (or perhaps re-introduced) the novel idea of using 5 WRs at the same time – so I could see him warming to an idea like this.

Vikes’ brass messing with crack?

July 6, 2009

While many NFL fans/bloggers/media-types (including Packergeeks) have focused on Favre/Vikings news, I am growing more and more interested in another Viking story – the holdout by Antoine Winfield. I read recently (forgive me, I can’t recall the source), that Winfield is simply asking to be paid as a top 10 NFL cornerback. If this is even close to being true, the Vikes must be on crack for not having this figured out yet. In my opinion, Winfield is one of the top 2 or 3 corners in the NFL right now behind Asomugha and maybe Charles Woodson. Despite his shorter stature, he plays big, he hits hard, he is a stellar open-field tackler, has tremendous instincts and often draws the most talented WR from the opposing team. I realize he is 32 years old, but he can still play at a very high level. I would be surprised if Vikings’ management didn’t give a little in these negotiations soon – a Vikings’ defense without Winfield would be a lot easier for opposing offenses to attack.