Category Archives: Game Previews

8

December

Falcons vs. Packers: Keys to the Game

Steven Jackson Eddie Lacy

Which of these running backs would you rather have? It was a valid question for the Packers earlier this year

After a 10-day layoff, the Green Bay Packers return to action this Sunday at Lambeau Field against the Atlanta Falcons.  This game was originally scheduled to be a Sunday night matchup, but after the early decline of the Falcons and the recent plummet of the Packers, the NFL wisely flexed this game into a Sunday afternoon time slot.

Atlanta is 3-9 and has already been eliminated from postseason contention.  Their sole purpose now is to ruin everyone else’s party.  It’s hardly a party in Green Bay, however.  The Packers, once 5-2, have not won in five straight games and sit at 5-6-1.  But the Packers always seem to be in the thick of divisional races down to the wire and despite their horrid play over the past month, are still just a game and a half out of first place.

The big question this week is whether or not Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be cleared to return.  As of Wednesday, Rodgers was practicing with the team (in pads), but still had not been cleared to return to game action.  Matt Flynn was taking reps with the starters in practice and will start if Rodgers can’t go.

Earlier this week, I dubbed this game the “Horrible Bowl” and I stand behind that moniker.  Whichever team emerges the loser this week can officially call themselves “horrible”.  It would give the Falcons double-digit losses for the first time since 2007 when they finished 4-12.  It would drop the Packers to 5-7-1 and with eight wins the highest total they can achieve this season.  It would be the team’s worst finish since 2008 when they went 6-10.

This could be the shortest “Keys” post to date by simply stating “Score more points than the Falcons” but let’s attempt to dive a little deeper into this contest and what we will likely see.

Green Bay’s Offensive Line Health

Missing practice this week for the Packers were center Evan Dietrich-Smith and left tackle David Bakhtiari.

4

December

Around the NFC North: Week 14

Around the NFC North

With only four games left, the Lions are in sole possession of first place with the Bears and Packers still in contention

Last week brought about two divisional games, one of which went into overtime and nearly ended in yet another tie.

The Green Bay Packers faced the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day and in the end, the only thing Packers fans were thankful for was that the game was over.  The Lions thumped the Packers to the tune of a 40-10 beat down that epitomized just how low the Packers have sunk since losing quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The Minnesota Vikings came back and scored an overtime win against the Chicago Bears, who had what seemed like a solid lead heading into the fourth quarter.  Minnesota tied the game on a Blair Walsh field goal to force overtime.  In the overtime, the Bears drove down and set up their usually-reliable place kicker, Robbie Gould, for a 47-yard attempt for the win.  Gould’s kick sailed right and on the ensuing possession, the Vikings rode Adrian Peterson down field and set up the eventual game winner by Walsh.

The Lions now have sole possession of first place in the North with a record of 7-5 and a one-game lead over the Bears.  The Packers fell to 5-6-1 and are two games back.  With the Carolina Panthers (9-3) and San Francisco 49ers (8-4) rolling, the only way a NFC North team is getting into the playoffs is likely by winning the division.

This week’s slate features four separate games.  The Packers will host the Atlanta Falcons in a game that was originally slated for Sunday night.  It was flexed out a few weeks back due to the decline in both teams’ level of play.  The Panthers and New Orleans Saints will now play in the Sunday night slot.

The Detroit Lions will head to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles, who have suddenly remembered how to win at home.  The Minnesota Vikings will take to the road to face the Baltimore Ravens and the week culminates with the Bears hosting the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

With that, let’s take a quick look at each matchup and the implications for this week.

27

November

Packers vs. Lions: Keys to the Game

Matt Flynn

“Matt, we both need you to do this one more time!”.  Flynn will make his third lengthy appearance against the Lions in the past four seasons

Wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving and while this past month hasn’t been what many had hoped, at least we only have to wait a short four days between games!  That also means our schedule at ALLGBP.com is accelerated so this is our version of the two-minute drill.

The Green Bay Packers have been tabbed for yet another Thanksgiving Day showdown with the Detroit Lions.  Since 2001, the Packers have faced the Lions in this matchup in every odd year with the exception of 2005.  Green Bay has won all but one of those games, dropping the 2003 contest to the Mike McMahon-led Lions.  Since then, the Lions are winless on Thanksgiving Day.  So here we are, ten years later and the stage could be set for Detroit to break their Turkey Day slump.

The Packers made yet another quarterback change this past week, inserting Matt Flynn over Scott Tolzien, in order to spark the Green Bay offense.  It worked.  The Packers came back from a 23-7 deficit to tie the game and force overtime.  Both teams managed only a field goal and the game ended in a tie.  It was the first game, under the new overtime rules, that both teams kicked a field goal.

With the Lions falling to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (more like collapsing), the tie actually moved the Packers a half-game closer to the division lead.  That makes this week’s matchup all the more important for both teams.

Let’s look at some of the major headlines that will likely emerge in this week’s contest.

Matt Flynn until Rodgers is Ready

After signing a free agent contact with the Seattle Seahawks, being beaten out for the starting job by rookie Wisconsin boy Russell Wilson, being traded by the Seahawks to the Oakland Raiders, losing his starting job to Terrell Pryor (Big 10 conspiracy?), being cut and signed by the Buffalo Bills only to be cut weeks later, Flynn is right back where he began his career.

What a carousel and through the process, Flynn made a lot of money but raised many questions about his ability and health.  Why was he unable to maintain a starting role or stick with some of these teams who have not had much recent success?  Even Reggie McKenzie, who was very familiar with Flynn from his days in Green Bay, pulled the plug on the experiment in Oakland.

26

November

Around the NFC North: Week 13

Around the NFC North

The Bears and Lions remain in first place with Detroit hosting the Packers on Thanksgiving.

The NFC North had a lackluster showing in week 12 with none of the four teams winning their respective games.  As such, the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears remained tied atop the division with matching 6-5 records.

The Green Bay Packers moved to within a half game of the division lead with a tie against the Minnesota Vikings.  And the Vikings?  Their biggest remaining question mark is how badly they want to finish this season and in preparation for next year’s draft.

The Packers and Vikings tie was Green Bay’s first such result since 1987.  If nothing else, it ended the Packers’ three-game losing streak and also gave the Vikings a moral victory.  Win-win, right?  Not really, but just trying to find some good in it all.

I am not a fan of a tie game and wish the NFL would allow teams to play until there is a winner.  But I digress.

This week, there are two divisional matchups to look at, starting the Thanksgiving Day matchup between the Packers and Lions.

Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) at Detroit Lions (6-5)

I have long wondered how I would react to a Packers tie game.  I can now cross that off of my “life’s mysteries” list and gladly so.  Green Bay was able to mount a comeback against the Vikings after entering the fourth quarter down 23-7.  The Packers, looking for a spark, benched starting quarterback Scott Tolzien in favor of backup Matt Flynn.  Many had been clamoring for Flynn after watching Tolzien struggle to move the ball most of the day.

It was Flynn’s first action since returning to the Packers two weeks ago.  In his last appearance at Lambeau Field in 2011, Flynn started a week 17 game against the Lions and set a Packers franchise record with 480 passing yards and six touchdown passes.  While Flynn’s performance against the Vikings fell way short of those totals, he was able to rally Green Bay to even up the game and with a chance to win.

24

November

Vikings vs. Packers: Keys to the Game

Marshall Newhouse

Newhouse will start at right tackle in place of Don Barclay on Sunday and is a key to the Packers pass protection

For the second time in less than a month, the Green Bay Packers will face the Minnesota Vikings.  The last time the Packers won a game, it was against the Vikings in their last trip to Mall of America Field (The Metrodome).  Since then, Green Bay has lost three straight and are seeing their postseason chances wane with each.

The stage is Lambeau Field, where the Packers have lost two straight.  They haven’t lost three straight there since the early 1990′s so needless to say, it has been a long time.  Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has already been ruled out of Sunday’s game with his collarbone injury and Scott Tolzien will make his second straight start.

For the Vikings, this season continues to be a disappointment.  After appearing in last year’s playoffs as a wild card, this year’s team has managed just two wins in 10 games.  Quarterback Christian Ponder has been named the starter this week and he will make his third career start at Lambeau Field.  He has lost his previous two and did not play in the playoff game last season.

For the Packers, this game is a virtual pivot point.  Win and there remains hope for what their season can become as they head into a short week before meeting the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving.  Lose and they face a very difficult road to any chance of winning the NFC North and making their fifth straight postseason appearance.

There has even been some speculation that Rodgers’ return and the team’s overall strategy with some of their injured starters may depend largely on the result of this week’s game against the Vikings.  Whether or not that is true remains to be seen, but one truth that cannot be ignored is that Green Bay would fall under .500 with a loss.

With that, let’s look at the keys this week that will likely play out in determining the winner of this contest between the Pack and the guys in purple.

Turnovers

The Packers need them and they can’t afford to give up any.  In last week’s game against the New York Giants, Tolzien had been faring better in taking care of the ball and moving the Packers offense down the field.  They weren’t able to convert many points, but they showed signs of an offense that could move.

20

November

Around the NFC North: Week 12

Around the NFC North

Just one game separates the top three teams in the NFC North heading into week 12.

Despite the recent slide that the Green Bay Packers have gone through, they are just one game out of first place in the NFC North at 5-5.  The Packers dropped their third straight this past week to the New York Giants.  It was also Green Bay’s third straight loss to the Giants, including playoffs.

The Minnesota Vikings were no match for the NFC-leading Seattle Seahawks and fell to 2-8.  This week, the Vikings will head to Lambeau Field to round off their season series with the Packers.  For Green Bay, Scott Tolzien has already been named the starting quarterback.  The Vikings have announced that Christian Ponder will get the start for them.

The Detroit Lions were on the losing side of a wet n’ wild one in Pittsburgh as the Steelers thwarted some of Detroit’s trickery to preserve the win.  This week, the Lions host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have won two straight after losing their first eight.

The Chicago Bears weathered the storm and squeaked by the Baltimore Ravens in overtime.  That game was delayed due to weather shortly after kickoff.  The Bears will travel to St. Louis and face the Rams this week.

Chicago Bears (6-4) at St. Louis Rams (4-6)

The Bears get another “battle of the backups” this week as Josh McCown will start the Chicago and face backup Kellen Clemems for the Rams.  McCown will be making his third start of the season and in relief of Jay Cutler, who is now nursing an ankle injury.  McCown is 2-0 in his previous two starts.  Clemens came on at quarterback for the Rams when starter Sam Bradford suffered a season-ending ACL injury last month.

St. Louis is coming off of their bye week and after upsetting the Indianapolis Colts the week prior.  That win snapped a three-game losing streak and was Clemens’ first win as a starter.  Clemens needed only 16 passing attempts and nine completions, two for touchdowns, to defeat the Colts.

Both the Bears and Rams have running backs who have been playing well this season.  St. Louis’ Zac Stacy has three touchdown runs in the last two games.  Chicago’s Matt Forte has averaged just over five yards per carry and has three touchdowns against the Rams in three career matchups.  Forte ranks sixth in overall rushing with 774 yards and nine touchdowns on the year.

17

November

Packers vs. Giants: Keys to the Game

Scott Tolzien

Tolzien makes his first NFL start on Sunday and is the Packers’ third starting quarterback in as many games

The Green Bay Packers will hit the road after two straight home games and head to New York to face the Giants.  This marks the fourth straight season that the Packers and Giants have met during the regular season.

The Packers are 2-1 in those last three games, but the Giants also scored a playoff win against the Packers following their 15-1 regular season in 2011.

Since that playoff loss, the Packers pass rush woes have been on display and continue to plague the team.  Without quarterback Aaron Rodgers in these past two games, Green Bay has been unable to overcome a lack of pressure on the quarterback.  It has placed added stress on the secondary as they have given up large chunks of yardage and valuable time of possession enroute to two losses.

What are the chances that the pass rush is a key this week?  Let’s dive in and see.

Scott Tolzien’s Maturity in Packers Offense

This was a key last week, too.  I just swapped out Seneca Wallace’s name for Tolzien’s.  Obviously anytime a new quarterback steps in, there are going to be many eyes on his performance.  Also many questions about how he will perform and handle the spotlight.  For Tolzien, there are few bigger stages than in New York City and against a nemesis to the Packers over the past two years.

After Wallace went out during the first series last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, Tolzien came in and played the rest of the way.  This just days after being promoted from the team’s practice squad.  Tolzien did make a few bad throws and had two interceptions that were costly, but overall, he did not fare too poorly.

One of the reported reasons that the Packers signed Tolzien just prior to their week one game against the San Francisco 49ers is because of his football IQ.  During his weekly radio show with ESPN Milwaukee, Aaron Rodgers described Tolzien as a perfectionist who is always inquiring about the offense.  The Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Pete Dougherty also wrote about Tolzien’s good preparation habits.  The hope is that after playing a full game and with another full week of practice with the starters, Tolzien will take at least a small step forward in his play this week against the Giants.