Category Archives: Jeff Saturday

30

December

Packers at Vikings: Keys To The Game

Aaron Rodgers vs. Minnesota Vikings

Rodgers in a baseball cap and waving a celebratory towel would be a welcome sight on Sunday. Green Bay can clinch a playoff bye with a win

Here we are in week 17 and another season is nearly in the books.  The Green Bay Packers end their regular season schedule with a trip to Minnesota to face the Vikings.  A few years back, the NFL changed its schedule making such that the last week of the season would be a divisional game for all teams.  This was in the hopes that the games would be meaningful and teams wouldn’t rest slews of their starters in preparation for the postseason.

The NFL has gotten its wish this year and with this game.  Each team has something on the line.  The Vikings need to win to secure a playoff spot.  The Packers can clinch the second seed in the NFC with a win.  Should the Vikings win, the Packers can still gain the #2 seed with a San Francisco and a Seattle loss.

Last week’s format was a success so I’m going stick with a “Keys to the Game” theme.  Let’s see what will likely determine the outcome of tomorrow’s contest.

Vikings Running Back Adrian Peterson

I feel like a broken record with the thoughts I share about Peterson but given the season he is having, they bear some repeating.  According to ESPN, Peterson has 1,898 yards in 15 games.  102 yards shy of 2,000 yards, an accomplishment only six other running backs can claim.  Peterson is also 208 yards shy of the 28 year-old and all-time single-season rushing record set by Eric Dickerson in 1984.

Peterson is surely going to win a major award after this season.  Whether it’s the Comeback Player of the Year, Most Valuable Player award or Offensive MVP, Peterson deserves at least one of those.  I watched some of the tape of Peterson’s first game at Green Bay this season.   He is running as quickly and as hard as ever.  Many of the yards he picked up on long runs in that game came after contact.  Nowadays, we see more and more backs running out of bounds or diving to the ground before the big hit.  Peterson is a throwback and reminds me a lot of Walter Payton.

28

December

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 16 vs. Tennessee Titans

My, where should we go for Hobbjective analysis this week?  I mean the entire game was essentially a highlight reel for the Packers, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure how accurate much of the second half is in terms of execution because it’s pretty obvious that the Titans have stopped trying at some point and just want to go home.

One play that I think hasn’t gotten as much attention as perhaps is warranted is Ryan Grant’s first TD in the 4th quarter.  The reason why I say this is because it’s one occasion where the Titans should be 90% sure that it’s going to be a run but they still manage to get blocked out of the play.

The Situation: The blowout is almost over at 41 to 0 and the Packers just need to burn 12 minutes as the Titans stopped trying back in the 2nd quarter.  To make matters worse, WR Jeremy Ross (he of the “punt, pass and puke” play from last week) rips off a 58 yard return subbing in for an injured Randall Cobb.  The Packers start the play off at the 7 yard line.

The Formation: The Packers are in a “jumbo” 1-2-2 formation (1WR-2TE-2RB) where OG Greg Van Roten (64) is eligible and has lined up as a tight end inline with the right tackle.  Offset to the right of OB Van Roten is TE DJ Williams (84), one of their better run blocking tight ends.  RB Ryan Grant (25) is lined up 7 yards behind QB Graham Harrell (6) with FB John Kuhn (30) lined up directly behind the right tackle.  WR James Jones (89) is the lone receiver split out wide left and isn’t in the screen cap, and for all intents and purposes for this play is irrelevant.  On the offensive line, a further permutation has emerged with LT Marshall Newhouse (74), LG TJ Lang (70), Evan Dietrich-Smith (62), RG Josh Sitton (71) and RT Don Barclay (67) going from left to right.

27

December

Pro Bowl Rosters Set: Rodgers, Matthews, Saturday Will Represent Packers

Rodgers and Matthews at Super Bowl XLV

Rodgers and Matthews are becoming Pro Bowl perennials. Rodgers will start for the NFC

The NFL Pro Bowl rosters were announced on December 26th and among them were three Green Bay Packers who were voted in outright.  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, linebacker Clay Matthews and center Jeff Saturday will represent the Packers at this year’s contest.  Here is a look at each and what got them here.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers is having yet another phenomenal season.  He is obviously the face of the team and their fate rests squarely on his shoulders.

A look at the numbers tells us all that we need to know about why Rodgers will be the NFC’s starting quarterback in this year’s Pro Bowl:  3930 yards, 67% completion percentage, 35 touchdowns (just eight interceptions) and a quarterback rating of 106.2.  And those are Rodgers’ average numbers over the course of his career as a starter.

Just when it seems that there has to be some sort of drop-off in Rodgers’ play, he comes out and puts up more great numbers and the Packers, again, find themselves strong contenders to reach another Super Bowl.  Despite the issues that the team has had with the offensive line and in pass protection, Rodgers has continued to find ways to make plays and win games for this team.  A very well deserved Pro Bowl start for #12.

Linebacker Clay Matthews III

Matthews is having another stellar season.  He has 12 sacks and needs just one and a half more to tie his career high set back in 2010.  After a bit of a dropoff last season, Matthews has re-emerged as the pass rushing threat that was so key in Green Bay’s success during their Super Bowl season.  That he has posted those numbers despite missing four games is even more noteworthy.

Matthews just continues to play with such a high motor and has elevated his run defending skills.  He is the epitome of what describes a true “difference maker”.  When he was out the Green Bay pass rush took a major step back and struggled at times.

He seems to be fully back and healthy from the hamstring injury that forced him out earlier this season and the Packers will need Matthews at 100% for the postseason push.

23

December

Keys to the Game: Green Bay Packers vs. Tennessee Titans

Chris Johnson and Tramon Williams

The Packers need to bear down on Johnson this Sunday and keep him from running free

I’m going to depart a bit from the usual Key Matchups format because the Tennessee Titans are an unfamiliar opponent of the Green Bay Packers and also due to the injuries on both sides.

We will return to our regularly scheduled “Key Matchups” next week when the Packers visit the Minnesota Vikings to round out the 2012 regular season.  For this week, it’s more of a “What to Watch For”.

Titans Running Back Chris Johnson

Johnson gets hidden, sometimes even forgotten, in Tennessee because they are one of the smaller markets.  And let’s be honest, the Titans have been very forgettable the past four seasons.  But 1,200 yards and five touchdowns is nothing to overlook this week for the Packers.

Johnson had a 94 yard touchdown run in Tennessee’s Monday night’s dismantling of the New York Jets.  With that run, Johnson set a new NFL record with six career touchdown runs over 80 yards.

He’s still a very good running back and clearly has the ability to break a long run at any time.  Green Bay struggled to contain another great running back three weeks ago when Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had a long scoring run and ran wild all day.

It’s asking a lot of any defense to contain a top back, but Green Bay has had recent success defending the run and can again this week.  It comes down to the one-one-one matchups at the line, specifically with Ryan Pickett and BJ Raji.  Each played very well last week against Chicago and Matt Forte.

Tennessee’s offensive line grades out better than does the Bears’ but with top wide receiver Kendall Wright out this week, the Titans won’t have as many options in the passing game. Green Bay may be able to focus more on loading up the box, as they say.

If all else fails, just tackle.  The Packers have had more than their fair share of tackling issues over the past two seasons and it cost them in the Vikings game.  Fortunately it didn’t cost them the game, but in a close contest, a missed tackle can be the one play that prevents them from getting the “W”.

21

December

Packers News: Dietrich-Smith to start over Saturday

Packers C Evan Dietrich-Smith

Packers C Evan Dietrich-Smith

Packers center Jeff Saturday has been benched in favor of Evan Dietrich-Smith.

“We’re at two totally different points in our career,” Saturday said. “His is on the up ramp, mine is on the way out.”

Saturday, 37, has not been playing up to his normal high level this season. Pro Football Focus ranks him 30th among 37 centers who have played at least 25 percent of their team’s offensive snaps.

Dietrich-Smith started four games this season after Bryan Bulaga went on the injured reserve with an injured hip. Left guard T.J. Lang bumped over to right tackle, while Dietrich-Smith filled in at left guard.

Saturday has started all 14 of the Packers’ games this season, but it appears the team is ready to go in another direction in the middle of the offensive line.

Saturday had been dealing with a neck/shoulder injury, and head coach Mike McCarthy says he’ll likely be available to play Sunday against the Titans. However, Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee says Saturday confirmed Friday that Dietrich-Smith will be the team’s new starting center.

Saturday has struggled particularly in the running game this season–ranking dead last in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. However, in the passing game, Saturday grades out as PFF’s third most-effective center.

Dietrich-Smith figures to be the team’s best option at center for the future. And Sunday against the Titans figures to be Dietrich-Smith’s audition for the starting job in 2013.

From left to right, the Packers’ offensive line will be Marshall Newhouse, T.J. Lang, Dietrich-Smith, Josh Sitton and Don Barclay.

With Alex Green questionable to play on Sunday, it will be interesting to see how the ground game fares against the Titans. This will be Green Bay’s first game with a new offensive line and perhaps either DuJuan Harris or Ryan Grant handling the majority of the team’s carries.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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16

December

Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears Key Matchups

Brandon Marshall

Well, here we are.  It’s Bears week and the Green Bay Packers have a chance to clinch another NFC North divisional title with a win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.  These are the types of matchups that the schedule makers and NFL hope for this late in the season.

When earlier this year it seemed that the Packers would be facing seemingly insurmountable odds to surpass the Bears in the North, all of the chips have started to fall into place.  The Bears have lost four of their last five games and are staring at a good possibility that their playoff chances will be reduced to a wild card chase.

Should the Bears lose Sunday, the Packers could clinch the division win and that is the only way Chicago can get into the postseason.  Should the Bears win, the Packers can still control their own destiny and win the division by simply winning their last two games.

There has been some jarring in the media between both teams with some subtle and some not-so-subtle barbs.  Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall acted like he didn’t know how to pronounce Packers cornerback Tramon Williams’ name and said that none of the Green Bay defenders should take any credit for severely limiting him in the teams’ first matchup.  Packers tight end Jermichael Finley commented that the Bears defense may be better off without the “slow” and future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, who is out with a hamstring injury.

But all of that is nothing but entertainment leading up to another huge game between these long-time rivals.  Let’s hone in on the key matchups that will play a big role in the outcome.

Bears Wide Receiver Brandon Marshall vs. Packers Secondary

As was the case in the first matchup, this is probably the most key matchup in the game.  Marshall is, by far, Chicago’s biggest offensive threat and he is currently the second leading receiver in the NFL in terms of yardage.  He’s a big body who is a tough tackle and can pick up some yards after the catch.  He has the speed to stretch out the defense and run the deep route too.

14

December

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 14 vs. Detroit Lions

If they did that thing they do ESPN where they track how many yards that you actually run, and the speed…I hope they wouldn’t put the speed up on there but maybe the distance that I ran; had to be close to 50 yards, that’s a long sprint, I haven’t been doing a lot of those lately. – Aaron Rodgers, Tuesday’s with Aaron 2012/11/12

Challenge accepted! But first the hobbjective analysis.

The Situation: The Packers are trailing the Lions 14 to 10 with 12 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.  The Packers offense has been a little off, while Rodgers and company have managed to move the ball fairly well against the Lions, they haven’t had many opportunities, several 3 and outs, a fumble and some clock-killing drives from the Lions means that the offense hasn’t had much of a chance of getting settled.

The Formation: The Packers come out in a 3-1-1 formation (3WR-1TE-1RB) with WR James Jones (89) split out wide left followed by WR Randall Cobb (18) in the left slot.  WR Greg Jennings (85) is split out wide right while TE Jermicheal Finley (88) is about a yard outside of the offensive line to the right tackle. Finally, QB Aaron Rodgers (12) is in the shotgun with FB John Kuhn (30) to the right of him.  The offensive line is composed of LT Marshall Newhouse (74), LG Evan Dietrich-Smith (62), C Jeff Saturday (63), RG Josh Sitton (71) and RT Don Barclay (67).  In response the Lions come out with a 4-3 cover-2 defense that everyone has been playing against the Packers offense.  Take a notice of how far back the Lions safeties are set, a good 20 yards away from the line of scrimmage.  In this case, it looks like the mike linebacker is going to rush through A gap instead of dropping into coverage.

The Snap: Things don’t go smoothly for the Packers.  Needing only 4 yards for a 1st down, QB Rodgers first read is probably TE Finley who is running a flat pattern (1), but either trips or gets caught up with the defender which causes the play to fall apart.  Both DEs manage to get great penetration into the backfield and at this point, Rodgers is getting ready to take a hit.  Take note of what the secondary is doing, no one has left their man and the safeties are still covering their halves.