Category Archives: 2010 Game Previews

8

January

NFL Wild Card Weekend: Packers-Eagles Preview: Deja Vu in Philly

The Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears 10-3 last Sunday at Lambeau Field to lock down a wild card berth for the second consecutive season.

The Packers enter the playoffs as the number six seed, but in a conference that features a 7-9 division champion, any team could come out of the NFC and head to Super Bowl XLV.

The first stop for the Packers on the road to Dallas is in Philadelphia for an encore match against the Eagles. In the first game of the regular season, the Packers beat the Eagles 27-20 after knocking then-starting quarterback for the Eagles Kevin Kolb out of the game and giving Michael Vick the opportunity to write one of the great comeback stories in NFL history.

Looking back at that game, the Packers had the Eagles well under control until Vick came into the game. He nearly led the Eagles back, but a couple well-timed sacks stopped the comeback just short and the Packers held on the victory.

With an entire week to game plan for Vick, will the Packers fare better against the elusive Eagles quarterback?

Breaking down the Eagles

Vick carried the Eagles this season. You can’t argue any other way.
In a season where coach Andy Reid was under the microscope after dealing Donovan McNabb away within the division, Vick played brilliantly and leads an incredibly explosive offense. With Vick’s dual running and passing threat, the Packers will have their hands full with No. 7.

Now, Vick is reported to be a little less than fully healthy for this game with him as of early this week saying he was only at 75% but will be ready to go Sunday.

Should the Packers be able to somehow contain Vick to the pocket, they will have to take in account speedy receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Vick also can use tight end Brent Celek as a medium distance threat. Running back LeSean McCoy also is very underrated and will provide another option for Vick in the screen game. Of course, this all depends on if the iffy Eagles offensive line can hold up.

Bottom line: Do not underestimate the Eagles offense. They are one of the few units in the NFL than can keep up on the scoreboard against the Packers’ offense.

1

January

NFL Week 17: Packers-Bears Preview: Packing for the Playoffs?

The Green Bay Packers defeated the New York Giants 45-17 last Sunday to set up what is basically a “win or go home” game against the Chicago Bears this Sunday at Lambeau Field.

The Packers can still make the playoffs with a Giants loss to the Redskins and a Buccaneers loss to the Saints if they lose to the Bears, but the Packers and their fans know the best way for them to take care of business is do beat their arch rivals and not rely on other teams for help.

The Bears, meanwhile, have wrapped up at least the No. 2 seed and in theory could get home field advantage should the Saints and Falcons both lose and they beat the Packers. Atlanta plays the Panthers, so that scenario is incredibly unlikely but again “any given Sunday.” You never know.

Breaking down Da Bears

The big, no HUGE, question is how long Bears coach Lovie Smith will play his starters. If he is anything like mentor Tony Dungy, the odds are they will play very little in a meaningless game. That said, when Smith took the Bears job he swore that beating the Packers would be his number one priority so the Packers could see the Bears first unit for a good chunk of if not the entire game.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has never played in a playoff game, so perhaps offensive coordinator Mike Martz will want to keep his arm fresh and have him sit most of the game. Or, on the flip side, Martz wants Cutler to remain hot and will keep him in the game for the majority of it.

Cutler has been playing very smart football as of late and his trademark interceptions have been on the decline. Still, it seems like everyone is waiting for one of those boneheaded Cutler throws that tips the outcome of a game in favor of the opponent. If one defense will do that, it’s the Packers who lead the NFL in scoring defense.
The Bears defense has played lights out all year and it’s highly unlikely Smith would want to subject any of his players to injury. If the starters do end up playing a majority of the game, that’s bad news for the Packers. Defensive end Julius Peppers leads a superb pass rush and linebacker Brian Urlacher is returning to the Pro Bowl after missing all of last season with a wrist injury. The Packers offensive line will have their hands full again. They handled the Giants so they should be able to handle the Bears.

24

December

News and Notes Heading into the Green Bay Packers’ First Playoff Game (the NY Giants)

I hoped to file a couple of posts this week examining the play of Bryan Bulaga and the Green bay Packers playcalling, but then I realized it was almost Christmas, so I proceeded to buy presents and hang out with my family.

Instead of a full-blown analysis, I had to go with some quick thoughts and notes. The playoffs start Sunday, folks. It should be interesting.

  • The Packers’ run game showed some promise against the New England Patriots, but lets not confuse the 2010 Packers with the 2009 Jets. The Packers will go as far as Aaron Rodgers’ arm takes them, not Brandon Jackson’s legs. By all means, Mike McCarthy should try and establish the run early against the Giants. But he shouldn’t handcuff himself into sticking with it for too long if it’s not working. The Giants’ defensive backs are slow. The Packers receivers have a clear advantage and that needs to be exploited.
  • What about the Giants pass rush? Getting the ground game going will help slow down the pass rush, but so will short passes. If the Packers can’t run the ball, McCarthy needs to mix in plenty of quick passes, screens and high-percentage throws. The Packers offense has moved the ball every time they’ve reverted to using more short passes. The problem has been punching through to the end zone.
  • If McCarthy runs another fullback dive this week, I am going to personally travel to Green Bay and destroy that page of the playbook. If you want to gain one yard with John Kuhn, line him up at halfback and give him a running start before he crashes into the line.
  • Calling James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Donald Driver: According to Football Outsiders, the Giants are one of the worst defenses in the league against No. 3 receivers. I’m not sure which one of you is the No. 3 receiver, but whoever it is, you need to step up.
  • Can the Packers beat the Giants if they are not able to force a turnover? I don’t think so. Anyone disagree?
  • Anyone have advice about watching Packers games with small children? I watch most games with my wife. We both yell, scream, swear and punch things when things don’t go the Packers’ way. I have to watch Sunday’s game with my little nieces and nephews running around. How can I control my normally uncotrollable rages? What’s the best strategy for getting the kids to shut up so I can concentrate on the game?
17

December

NFL Week 15: Packers-Patriots Preview: No Boston Massacre…

 mce_href=It was Ugly. Detroit Lions 7, Green Bay Packers 3. Aaron Rodgers goes out with a concussion and is likely out this week.

That’s all I am going to say about last week as that game just raises the blood pressure of ALL of Cheesehead Nation. Lets move on.

This Sunday the Packers travel to Foxborough to face the red hot New England Patriots on a nationally televised Sunday night game.

The past two weeks the Patriots embarrassed the Bears in Chicago in a snow storm and the Jets at home.  Two of the supposed elite teams in the league were beaten senseless by likely NFL MVP Tom Brady and a defense that is maturing faster than most thought.

Now the Patriots get to face an already depleted Packers squad who now has to go with an untested backup at quarterback.

Will McCarthy’s men fall to their knees before the almighty Patriots or will they put up one last valiant effort with their playoff hopes on life support?

Breaking down the Patriots

It all starts with Tom Brady.

Two years removed from major knee surgery, Brady looks like he did during the Patriots near-perfect season of 2007 and without Randy Moss.

With Deion Branch and Wes Welker leading the way, Brady is on a streak of 19 TDs to ZERO interceptions.  The man is playing lights out right now.

That said, he’s never faced a defense like the Packers’ who lead the NFL in defensive touchdowns.

Throw in a much improved rushing attack lead by Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (whose nickname of “The Law Firm” might be the coolest in the NFL) and this offense provides Dom Capers the biggest challenge of his two year tenure as defensive coordinator in Green Bay.

The Patriots offensive line deserves and enormous amount of credit for this success.  Despite Logan Mankins holding out for part of the season, the line keeps Brady upright and creates holes for the run game.  They do their job exceptionally well.

The Patriots defense was expected to be their weak link this season, but as with any Bill Belichick-led squad, they have found a way to beat expectations.

With a defensive line anchored by Vince Wilfork, the Patriots’ young linebacking corps and secondary has grown up rather quickly.  With Jerrod Mayo looking like another Clay Matthews and rookie Devin McCourty playing like Charles Woodson, the defense makes the Patriots a lethal team on both sides of the ball.

11

December

NFL Week 14: Packers-Lions Preview: They’re Focused and Not Lion

As the Green Bay Packers prepare for the Detroit Lions, lets take a quick look back at last week.

The defeated the 49ers by a score of 34-16 to move to 8-4 on the season and remain one game back of the Chicago Bears in the NFC North.

Aaron Rodgers continued his hot streak throwing for 298 yards and 3 TDs and rookie running back James Starks made his much anticipated debut gaining 74 yards on the ground giving the Packers some hope in their lackluster running game.

This week, the Packers head back out on the road to face the 2-10 Detroit Lions at Ford Field.  The Lions are coming off a hard fought loss to the Bears, falling by a score of 24-20.

As easy as it has been to overlook the Detroit Lions the last few years, they can’t be ignored any longer. This is a big trap game for the Green Bay Packers and from what they’ve told local media, they know it too.

Breaking down the Lions

Sam Shields summed up the Lions perfectly this week when he said “2-10 record….10-2 talent.” Indeed, these are no longer the Matt Millen Lions.

Despite the poor record, the Lions have been competitive in nearly every game they have played in including a near-win over the Packers at Lambeau Field earlier this season.  Throw in the fact they’ve done this without quarterback Matthew Stafford and it makes it all the more impressive.

With Stafford still out and second stringer Shaun Hill now injured with a broken finger, the Lions will start Drew Stanton this Sunday.  Stanton is a bigger quarterback than Hill and with weapons like Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson at his disposal, he shouldn’t feel like he has to put the whole game on his shoulders.

Johnson and Burleson are big receivers who aren’t afraid to go over the top to make the catch and can also make plays with their legs.  The Packers secondary, especially if they are without Charles Woodson, will face a challenge with those two.

With Jahvid Best nursing a turf toe injury, the Lions rushing attack will likely be a non-factor.  Kevin Smith could get the bulk of carries, but he isn’t anywhere bear the explosive player Best is.

10

December

Debunking the Trap Game Myth: Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers

Did you know the Green Bay Packers play the Detroit Lions Sunday? With all the talk about the Packers vs. New England Patriots game on Dec. 19, it seems that most people have already chalked up Sunday’s game against the Lions as a Packers victory.

The people that do realize the Packers play the Lions this week are using one of my least favorite phrases to describe the contest: Trap game.

Loosely defined, a trap game occurs when a good team plays a bad team the week before playing another good team. In this case, the trap game concept assumes the Packers are thinking about playing the Patriots instead of focusing on the Lions. This will cause the Packers to play poorly and maybe lose to the lowly Lions.

I think the trap game concept is just a simple way to let a team that lost off the hook. Sometimes a bad team comes together and plays well enough to knock off a superior opponent. And sometimes a good team, for whatever reason, plays terrible against a foe it should beat.

In either case, all of the credit or the blame should go to the two teams that actually played the game, not a third team that had nothing to do with anything.

The Football Outsiders did a study in 2007 and concluded that the entire concept of trap games was a myth. The Outsiders defined a trap game as any game against a sub-.500 opponent slotted between two games against opponents who, on the season, posted records above .500 (this definition means that Sunday’s game against the Lions would not be a trap game, but anyway…).

The study concluded that good teams win trap games as often as they win other games. From 1983-2006, contending teams had an .820 winning percentage in trap games and an .815 winning percentage in all other games against sub .500 teams from. Good teams were actually more likely to win the so-called trap games than they were other games against sub .500 teams.

Even though I don’t believe in the trap game concept, I know some of the fine readers of this site do, so lets take a look at how the Packers have fared in trap games under Mike McCarthy. The Football Outsiders only used teams that finished above .500 for the season in their study. This would eliminate the 2006 and 2008 Packers, so we will change the criteria a bit.

4

December

Green Bay Packers – San Francisco 49ers Preview: NFL Week 13: A Running Start?

Last week the Green Bay Packers fell on a last second field goal, losing to the Atlanta Falcons 20-17 and snapping the Packers’ four-game winning streak. Now the San Francisco 49ers, fresh off of a Monday Night win, come to Lambeau hoping to pull an upset.

While the Atlanta game was by no means a devastating loss, the Packers now likely will not get home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs although they still can get the number two seed and a first round bye should they be able to wrestle the NFC North from the Chicago Bears.

This week, the Packers return home for the first time in four weeks to face the “underachieving” San Francisco 49ers.

I use quotation marks there because somehow the 49ers are only a game out of first place in their division despite their record of 4-7.  That’s how bad the NFC West is this year. A 7-9 record could be enough to make the playoffs.

If the Packers want any motivation, it’s that. They could end up sitting at home for the playoffs with a 10-6 record while a team at 7-9 gets in.

There’s a major problem with that logic, but that’s a debate for another day.

Breaking down the 49ers

For the first time since Week 1, the Packers face a dual threat quarterback in 49ers starter Troy Smith.  Since taking over for Alex Smith (no relation), Troy has provided a spark to an offense that badly needed one.  Troy Smith’s running ability added a whole other dimension to an offense that already featured two talented pass catchers.

Those pass catchers are wide receiver Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis.  Davis is one of the best tight ends in football who plays in a style similar to the Packers’ Jermichael Finley. He’s fast, physical, and not afraid to go up and over defenders to make the catch.

Crabtree is just as big a threat. His speed and soft hands make him a dangerous perimeter receiver. The Packers’ corners will have their hands full with him.

The 49ers rushing attack should have died when Frank Gore was lost for the season this week with a hip injury. However, the suddenly revived Michael Westbrook picked right up where Gore left off. When he’s healthy, Westbrook is one of the best and most versatile backs in the league as he was a favorite target of Donovan McNabb during their time with the Eagles.  He should see plenty of carries as well as passes on Sunday.