- Should be an exciting game. I expect both offenses to be difficult to stop – though the Packers’ defense is better than the Saints’ defense so ultimately I think the Packers offense will be harder to stop.
- Tonight will be a big test for Mike McCarthy. The pressing question I have heading into tonight’s game is this: can McCarthy effectively organize and coordinate all of the healthy offensive talent we’ll have available? Last year, when Finley was healthy, the WRs weren’t excelling. My concern heading into tonight again is with healthy RBs, WRs, and like 15 healthy TEs – how will McCarthy balance this offense and establish rhythm while at the same time, spread the ball around and remain creative and unpredictable. Talent everywhere is definitely a nice problem to have, but balancing an offense and effectively coordinating talent can be a difficult task.
- Sean Payton scares me. I don’t know of many coaches I’d say that about. But the guy’s guts, his planning and in-game adjustments scare me. I took particular satisfaction in the Pack winning the Super Bowl last year because it meant I no longer needed to wonder what the Pack would be like with Payton at the helm. He is an excellent coach.
- Randall Cobb could play an important role in this game. If he can get us in better field position than we’re used to especially on punts, that could be a huge advantage for Rodgers and company.
- One particular guy I’m concerned about on the Saints is Darren Sproles. He was good in San Diego where Norv Turner used him somewhat effectively. But I think Sean Payton is going to figure out more and better ways to use Sproles. I worry that with Jenkins gone, Payton may figure out how to exploit that side of the D using Sproles. And once Sproles is in the open field, he’s tough to tackle.
- TEs David Thomas and Jimmie Graham are two other guys to watch. While Brees will still throw plenty to his WRs, I can see Payton and Brees intentionally working the center of our defense in an effort to attack the second level of our defense (LBs) where we’re softest in coverage. As much as I love Bishop, he’s not an extraordinary cover guy – and Hawk is not very good in coverage either. (Actually, none of our LBs are great in coverage come to think of it.) The key to plugging up the middle and complicating this may be Nick Collins and Morgan Burnett. Of course, these two also have to be mindful of the possibility that Payton/Brees will set up short pass decoys to create space for the homerun – especially to WR Robert Meacham.
- I don’t like the Saints’ defense very much even though they were actually ranked one spot higher than the Pack’s defense last year (they were #4 overall). I know Gregg Williams is regarded highly throughout the league but I see the Saints’ D having considerable trouble slowing down the Packers’ offense in this game.
- A huge key to stopping the Saints’ D will be to keep Rodgers upright. If Williams can figure out a way to really harass Rodgers, the Packers could lose this game. But doing this will be extra challenging for Williams and the Saints’ D not because we have an impenetrable O-Line, but because our offense when it clicks, moves quickly and Rodgers usually doesn’t need to hang onto the ball.
- I’ll be very interested to see how Grant and Starks are used. My guess is that they will be quite involved in the offense – and not just running the ball. I think both of these guys will be catching passes out of the backfield.
- I’d like to see 2 things in particular tonight that I think could really cause headaches for New Orleans: the no huddle offense and screens. The Pack has worked on the no huddle a few times in the preseason and it seemed fairly apparent from interviews that Rodgers is a big fan of it. Stopping a talent-loaded, high-powered offense that is on fast forward should be virtually impossible. I also want Rodgers/McCarthy to call some screens. Against NO tonight screens could be particularly effective because the defense will already be pulling its collective hair out trying to figure out which pass target to focus on.
- Final Score: 37 – 24 Packers.
Archive for the ‘Packers’ Category
Ouch. That sounds bad. Read here from PFT.Sounds like he’ll be out for a while too (which I take to mean well into the season).
This could be trouble. Not because Zombo is a critical piece to the defense, but because he’s a decent guy to have available in case of injuries. Apparently Brad Jones is out as well with a knee sprain. Jones has not looked good to me at all so far – but again, depth issues.
I think the Pack ought to consider trying DJ Smith at OLB. As I wrote during the preseason game last Fri night, I think Smith has instincts that could help him become Bishop-like out there. I believe Smith is an ILB, so OLB would be a bit different – but he’s young and instinctive and I’ll bet he could do it (despite being a bit short for OLB). In fact, I remember going through a similar line of reasoning 3-4 years ago when Bishop was sitting on the bench and McCarthy and co were insisting on starting Poppinga at OLB – they should have tried Bishop there. Anyway, we may need to get creative here now – though I suppose it’s also possible TT goes shopping at the grocery, finds a particularly strong bagger, turns him over to Capers/Greene and Capers/Greene turn him into a All-Pro.
You know, one thing I’ve noticed especially tonight, but a bit in the first game too, is that the team is not playing with the tension that it has in the past few years. The guys are playing with intensity, but just not with tension. You can see it in their faces and in their collective demeanor. I know it’s just preseason but they appear loose – a healthy kind of loose. So often in the last few years, the players and coaches seemed insecure – like they were playing a bit concerned about getting ripped in the press afterwards. In the march to the Super Bowl, I noticed that this tension seemed to fade some – again the intensity was there but the tension had diminished.
Winning a Super Bowl does that. Perhaps that’s obvious. But it just makes the tension melt away and lets players play freely. A lot of it is confidence to be sure. The coaches and players have all received a jolt of confidence after taking down some seriously good teams last year en route to the Super Bowl. They trust each other and perhaps most importantly, they trust themselves. This is going to help this team execute in tight situations.
Read here from Tom Silverstein at jsonline. Silverstein has an interesting breakdown of how Walden looks so far in camp and the battle for the OLB position opposite Matthews. I think Walden should start – for a reason Silverstein doesn’t pay enough attention to in the article: he makes plays. Period. I said the same thing 3-4 years ago about Desmond Bishop. Both Walden and Bishop have the gift of football instinct. Zombo and Jones, not so much. Zombo is OK, but not special (yet). And I disagree with Silverstein – Zombo is not a better pass rusher. Walden had 4 sacks in 4 games last year including 2 incredibly huge ones against the Bears. Jones is a guy I’ve never thought too highly of in particular because he has 1 pass rush move that doesn’t work and he doesn’t make many big plays. He didn’t seem to be a liability against the run or anything, but overall, I think he’s #3 right now behind Walden and Zombo.
Read here. I know a number of you have weighed in on the Jones situation – some for trying to retain and others ready to see Jones and his drops go. I’ll say it again – I’m glad we kept him. I think Jones is a good WR and I think this mostly for an odd reason – he moves weird. I mentioned this last year in a post – but the way Jones moves his body before and after the catch is really unusual. It’s hard to put my finger on it but there is something about his movement that I think makes it hard for defenders to figure out what he’s doing. With the addition of Cobb and DJ Williams, Finley being back, and of course Jennings, Drive and Nelson – Rodgers has the weapons he needs.
The passing game won’t be the issue this year.
I expected this, though I have to say I’m in the camp of those who don’t think Crosby is THAT good. And this is a nice contract for a guy who isn’t THAT good. Crosby, interestingly, has never had a year when he’s made more than 80% of his field goals. For a kicker, that is not good. By comparison, other free agent kickers like Ryan Longwell and David Akers have not had a FG percentage BELOW 80% in the last 3 years.
Now, Crosby isn’t terrible though and one reason I think McCarthy wanted to get this deal done is because of the new rule moving kickoffs up to the 35 yard line. Crosby has a stronger leg than both Akers and Longwell and several of the other free agent kickers and this could be pretty huge for field position this year.
Read here for an article quoting Teddy Bruschi who criticizes the Packers for not having had organized team activities. If he truly means “activities”, then he’s just off the mark. The players have gotten together for multiple activities including the Donald Driver softball game, golf outings, etc. And they will have the ring ceremony next week. Maybe they haven’t had organized team “workouts”, but I’m not too concerned about that. While I am hoping that their individual workouts are gradually increasing in intensity to prepare them for the possible season, I have no problem with the players on this team taking this time to heal and to enjoy life a bit. They worked their tails off from last June to February of this year. They deserve to enjoy this time.
Of course, Bruschi also conveniently left out mention of the lockout. This year is different than any year he played and this team has a very different character from the ones he played on. Yes, players should be keeping themselves fit and preparing for the possibility that the sides come to an agreement. But this Packer team doesn’t need quite the bonding time that all the other non-Super-Bow winning teams may need. The main reason why I have been relatively quiet posting this offseason is because there is just not much happening because of the lockout. I think this is an example of guys like Bruschi and the folks at PFT just running out of things to say. So they try to create something out of nothing.
I say have another beer Donald.
From here. Below is full text:
Jay Cutler proves naysayers wrong by defeating sh–tiest team ever to make playoffs
“CHICAGO—Silencing once and for all the multitude of critics who said he did not have what it took to be a postseason quarterback, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler led the Bears to the NFC Championship Game last Sunday by defeating the 8-10 Seattle Seahawks, by far the worst team ever to make the playoffs. “I think I’ve demonstrated what I’m truly capable of when I’m playing to my strengths,” said Cutler, who threw for two touchdowns against Seattle’s godawful 27th-ranked defense and had a four-game interception streak snapped only because Seahawks safety Jordan Babineaux inexplicably muffed a pass thrown at the goal line. “People got to see my true potential today.” Cutler will play his first postseason game against an opponent with a winning record Sunday.
Just a couple days away from one of the most anticipated games in a long time for Packer fans. I’m confident but still nervous.
- The Packers have been playing well lately. In their last 5 games, they have lost once – to NE at NE with a back-up QB…and they almost pulled off the upset. They have won 4 in a row since then – knocking off teams with a combined record of 44-20. They beat the Giants to essentially knock them out of the playoffs, the Bears with all their starters in Week 17, the NFC East Champion Eagles and the #1 seeded Atlanta Falcons – in Atlanta in a blowout. The Packers have been the hottest team in the playoffs.
- I’ll keep saying it – ever since the Detroit loss, something has changed in Mike McCarthy. The way he talks, the way he responds to the press, his demeanor – and most importantly, the way he coaches. The guy is a changed man. His coaching has been top-notch lately – particularly his play-calling. I think what happened is that he was so upset by the Detroit loss that he stopped caring about what people were saying about him. That loss hit him personally. In a sense, he kind of became like Peter Gibbons in Office Space. He very suddenly seemed far less concerned about what people were saying and less defensive in his press conferences. He even became less guarded when he was talking – speaking a bit more freely. McCarthy has simply grown more confident in himself – and this has manifested itself in his confident play-calling, his willingness to take a chance on the inexperienced Starks and even in plays like the onside kick vs NE. His confidence has spread to his team and this is a big reason the Packers have made it this far.
- Good Jay vs Bad Jay – I wrote about this in my picks column at http://www.dailycaller.com too. The evidence is quite convincing – when he’s good he’s really good and when he’s bad he’s really bad. The difference between his average QB rating in wins vs losses is huge. Before the season I thought the Bears would be good and I thought the Cutler/Martz duo would work out eventually. It has. But Cutler himself is still prone to the multiple turnover game that can really drag the Bears down. Which Jay will show up Sunday? My guess is Bad Jay (not right away, but eventually).
- Cutler’s Mind vs Rodgers’ Mind – next to stopping Forte, this is most important factor in the game. Rodgers has developed his confidence and has improved his body language out on the field. He had moments of frustration this year and he didn’t always hide it well. But over the last 4-5 games in particular, from what I’ve noticed (because I watch for things like this), he has really improved his body language and by extension, his mental approach. I actually think it helped him to stand on the sidelines and watch the NE game – ever since then he just appears to be so comfortable back there. One clear example of his elevated confidence was how he responded after Atlanta scored first last weekend – and then again how he responded when Weems ran back the kickoff. He didn’t hang his head, look doubtful, act concerned. He simply put his helmet on and confidently drove his team down the field for a TD in each instance. Then, of course, he went on to have one of the best playoff games a QB has ever had. On the other side, Jay Cutler has had a few very good games lately and I would even say that he has demonstrated improved body language over the course of the season. But looks of obvious dejection and frustration after a mistake are still just too much a part of who Cutler is. Bottom line is that if one of these QBs makes a mistake (or his team makes a mistake), I think Rodgers will recover mentally from the mistake more effectively than Cutler. And this could be a not-so-small factor in this game.
- Stopping Matt Forte. As I indicated above, I think this may be the most important factor in this game. When Forte plays well and contributes – Chicago usually wins. When he’s quiet and not so involved, the Bears often lose. (Forte was noticeably not involved in 4 of the Bears 5 losses this year – interestingly, the only exception was his 151 yards against the Packers Week 17). Forte is a huge safety option for Jay Cutler. He is an exceptional receiver out of the backfield and someone Cutler looks to both for designed short pass plays and in emergency situations. When Cutler panics, he tends to throw balls away, get sacked or throw picks – just like most QBs prone to panicking. When Forte or Chester Taylor are not available as the safe option, Cutler is likely to panic. My guess is that if Capers successfully gets the D to diminish Forte’s contributions, Cutler will turn it over 2-3 times.
- The Hester/Masthay factor is well documented and I’d skip it except that there is something I need to point out. Chris Kluwe had a fascinating mini-article within one of Peter King’s articles a few weeks back. He was responding to King after King ripped him for punting it to Hester the previous week. While some of it appeared to be Kluwe making excuses, he did get into some of the technical pieces of directional punting and why it’s so difficult. He said that he often hears that punters should just kick it out, but doing this is much harder than common fans realize. He said if it were easier, more punters would do it well. Assuming he’s right here, Masthay did a really good job of at least pinning Hester near the sideline using good hang-time in the last meeting at Lambeau. If he can do that again, I think the Hester factor could be diminished. But one line drive punt to Hester and the game could change quickly. Odd for a punter to feel the pressure he must be feeling heading into this game.
- On the other side – though I’m not keen on Tramon Williams returning punts, he is massively talented and fast and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that in a game of this magnitude, he could step it up a notch and give the Bears a taste of their own special teams medicine. I’m not going to bet on it, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if a determined Tramon did some return damage himself.
- Our O-Line needs to play pretty close to their potential Sunday. These guys are going to be called upon to run block at least decently and to pass block like they never have before. If they can give Rodgers enough time back there and force Chicago to blitz and bring safeties/LBs up, that could seriously open up the passing game. If they allow the Bears’ 4 D-Linemen to penetrate too much, the Packers could be in real trouble.
- The work of our LBs is important as well. I expect the LBs to take the lead role in shutting down Forte, but also Greg Olsen. The Bears don’t use Olsen much, that was an aberration last week, but he can be another safety option for Cutler in a game when I’m imagining Cutler will be quicker than usual to look for his safety options.
- Raji getting pressure from the middle will be big. He ended up with 6.5 sacks on the season – impressive for a DT (though not as impressive as the Lions’ Suh who had 10). Raji is a force and could be extra disruptive poking a hole in the pocket.
- Mike Martz’ play-calling. I think it would be a huge success if the Packers can lure Martz away from the run early. Martz was criticized throughout the season for abandoning the run and setting Cutler up for lots of sacks/picks because of deep drops. Martz responded by actively working Forte back into games and it paid off. But we all know Martz has an instinct, similar to McCarthy in fact, to pass first, run second. Though Cutler could surprise, I would think a pass first offense for the Bears Sunday would most likely result in a decisive Packer victory.
- Clay Matthews – this could be the kind of game when Matthews makes a lot of noise. While Mike Tice and co have likely been working overtime to scheme against Matthews, something tells me this guy is going to be fired up Sunday and tough to slow down. (If Chicago were smart, they’d dump a few screens over the head of or just around Matthews to keep him honest – the same thing the Pack should do to keep Peppers at bay.)