19

January

2013 NFL Playoffs Predictions, Conference Championships: AllGreenBayPackers.com

GAME PREDICTIONS
2013 NFL Playoffs: Conference Championships
Name Straight Up Against the Spread
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (-5.5)
Kris Burke Broncos Patriots
“Jersey” Al Bracco Patriots Patriots
Adam Czech Patriots Patriots
Marques Eversoll Broncos Patriots
Thomas Hobbes Broncos Patriots
Cory Jennerjohn Broncos Broncos
Jason Perone Broncos Patriots
Chad Toporski Broncos Patriots
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-3.5)
Kris Burke Seahawks 49ers
“Jersey” Al Bracco Seahawks 49ers
Adam Czech 49ers 49ers
Marques Eversoll 49ers 49ers
Thomas Hobbes Seahawks 49ers
Cory Jennerjohn Seahawks Seahawks
Jason Perone 49ers 49ers
Chad Toporski Seahawks Seahawks
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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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19

January

Packers, Capers really missed Casey Hayward in 2013

Casey Hayward wasn't the Packers' only missing link in 2013, but he was certainly missed. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

Casey Hayward wasn’t the Packers’ only missing link in 2013, but he was certainly missed. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

As a rookie in 2012, Packers cornerback Casey Hayward was one of three finalists for the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-best cornerback–the second-round pick trailed only established veterans Antoine Winfield, Richard Sherman and Charles Tillman.

After Hayward intercepted a team-best six passes and holding opposing passers to an abysmal 31.1 passer rating, the Packers had high hopes for Hayward, as they cut ties with their veteran leader and turnover-creator Charles Woodson following the 2012 season.

But Hayward’s encore was disrupted by a recurring hamstring issue, limiting him to appearing in just three games. He played 88 snaps.

With Woodson playing in Oakland and Hayward on the sideline, the Packers were left searching for a solution in the slot early last season. Sam Shields and Tramon Williams had fine seasons, but both are better suited for the perimeter. Micah Hyde didn’t play like a rookie, as he took over as the primary punt returner while proving to be a reliable run defender and a versatile cover man.

All things considered, the Packers’ cornerbacks fared well, but they were seriously lacking in one area.

For as long as Dom Capers has served as defensive coordinator in Green Bay, the Packers defense has relied heavily on takeaways. Woodson intercepted 19 passes and forced 11 fumbles during Capers’ tenure, which began in 2009. When Capers served as defensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1992-1994, he had another Woodson (Rod), who intercepted 16 passes in three seasons with Capers.

But for the first time since taking over in Green Bay, Capers was without his X-Factor in 2013. He didn’t have a play-maker. He certainly didn’t have a Woodson.

For a defense that had grown accustomed to bending but not breaking, losing its turnover-creating wild card would be like throwing Capers in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean without a raft. Hayward’s 88 snaps were a makeshift life vest, but Capers and the defense remained stranded and searching for answers.

It would be foolish to assume Hayward’s career will unfold like Woodson’s, but you don’t let go of your high-school sweetheart without a winner on deck. The Packers had a plan for Life After Woodson, but that plan (Hayward) fell by the wayside thanks to the injury bug.

11

January

2013 NFL Playoffs Predictions, Divisional Round: AllGreenBayPackers.com

GAME PREDICTIONS
2013 NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round
Name Straight Up Against the Spread
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (-7.5)
Kris Burke Seahawks Saints
“Jersey” Al Bracco Seahawks Seahawks
Adam Czech Seachickens Saints
Marques Eversoll Seahawks Saints
Thomas Hobbes Seahawks Seahawks
Cory Jennerjohn Seahawks Saints
Jason Perone Seahawks Saints
Chad Toporski Seahawks Saints
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (-7)
Kris Burke Patriots Colts
“Jersey” Al Bracco Colts Colts
Adam Czech Colts Colts
Marques Eversoll Colts Colts
Thomas Hobbes Colts Colts
Cory Jennerjohn Patriots Patriots
Jason Perone Patriots Colts
Chad Toporski Colts Colts
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers (+1)
Kris Burke 49ers 49ers
“Jersey” Al Bracco 49ers 49ers
Adam Czech 49ers 49ers
Marques Eversoll 49ers 49ers
Thomas Hobbes Panthers Panthers
Cory Jennerjohn 49ers 49ers
Jason Perone Panthers Panthers
Chad Toporski Panthers Panthers
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos (-9)
Kris Burke Broncos Chargers
“Jersey” Al Bracco Broncos Chargers
Adam Czech Broncos Chargers
Marques Eversoll Broncos Chargers
Thomas Hobbes Broncos Broncos
Cory Jennerjohn Broncos Chargers
Jason Perone Broncos Broncos
Chad Toporski Broncos Chargers
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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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8

January

Packers Outplayed, Not Outcoached in Loss to 49ers

Packers 49ers Wild Card KaepernickAs we become farther and farther removed from the Super Bowl XLV championship season, the microscope on Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, and Dom Capers becomes increasingly magnified. And for a good reason. The Green Bay Packers have arguably the best quarterback in the league on their team, yet for the past three postseasons, they have come up far short of the Super Bowl. They haven’t even reached the NFC Conference Championship in that time span.

I even wrote a controversial post back in November about how Dom Capers is under-utilizing the talent on the defense, suggesting that he be let go in the offseason in favor of someone new. And many of us were carefully scrutinizing the defense during the Wild Card game against the San Francisco 49ers, since they had been the weak link in many of the postseason failures. Could Capers redeem himself and finally put a stop to Colin Kaepernick?

The strange thing about this game, though, was that blaming the coaches for the loss just didn’t seem right. In fact, it wouldn’t be right, because this game came down to missed opportunities by the Packers. There were a number of times where they could have taken control of the game, yet failed to.

We’ll start with the final drive by the 49ers, because it’s where the biggest and most costly miscues were made.

On 2nd-and-10 at the San Francisco 31-yard line, Micah Hyde makes the most heart-wrenching drop of the game, because that interception would have easily been taken to the house. The Packers would have been up 27-20, and the final four minutes would have unraveled much differently. But even on the ensuing 3rd-and-10, Kaepernick is able to escape the pocket and hit Michael Crabtree for 17 yards.

Then, with just over a minute left, the 49ers once again convert a 3rd-and-8 when Kaepernick escapes a Cover 0 blitz and runs for the first down. Jarrett Bush fails to contain, Ryan Pickett gets pushed to the inside, and Andy Mulumba just can’t run fast enough to save the play.

Those were the missed opportunities that stick in our head the most; however, there were others throughout the game that made a difference.

7

January

Game Balls and Lame Calls: 49ers 23, Packers 20

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers couldn't get past the 49ers, so their focus now shifts to 2014.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers couldn’t get past the 49ers, so their focus now shifts to 2014.

It was a different final score but the same result for the Green Bay Packers when their season clock expired Jan. 5 against the San Francisco 49ers.

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick didn’t have 181 rushing yards, as he did in last year’s playoffs. But he had 98 on just seven carries.

Kaepernick fell short of the second 400-yard passing day of his career after racking up 412 in September’s season opener. But he moved the chains through the air and threw a dart to Vernon Davis for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter en route to extending his record against Green Bay to 3-0.

As things currently stand, the San Francisco 49ers of the 2010s are to the Green Bay Packers what the Dallas Cowboys were in the 1990s. Sunday’s game was a nail biter. In fact, it wasn’t decided until Phil Dawson’s field goal snuck through Davon House’s arms and inside the right goal post as time expired. But the win over the Packers was the 49ers’ fourth in two seasons. It was Green Bay’s second postseason loss to the 49ers in as many seasons.

But, top to bottom, the NFL is probably the most competitive of the major sports on a weekly basis. Anyone can beat anyone, and the Packers–yes, the same team that has allowed 132 points in its last four games against San Francisco–can beat Kaepernick and the 49ers.

They just haven’t yet.

While much of Packer Nation continues to reflect on the 2013-14 season and wonder what might have been, let’s look ahead at the future. And despite some obvious holes on the defensive side of the ball and the likely reappearance of Packer the Injury Bug, the team’s future is bright.

Because the offense has the potential to be phenomenal.

The Packers took a giant step forward this season by relying on a steady running game behind Rookie of the Year candidate Eddie Lacy. The Packers’ second-round pick shouldered the load all season, as he carried the ball at least 20 times in 10 games. Due to injuries at the quarterback position, Lacy became the focal point of the Packers’ offense, and they managed to squeak into the playoffs.

3

January

Packers vs. 49ers Wild Card Round Game Predictions from AllGreenBayPackers.com

GAME PREDICTIONS
Wild Card Round: Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers
Name Record To-Date This Week’s Pick Score Prediction
Kris Burke 9-7 Green Bay Packers 24-21
It’s going to be brutally cold. Advantage: Packers. It’ll probably be a little uglier than expected but 2013 can become an even more special season if the Packers can exact revenge upon San Francisco in the brutal cold. The legend that is Aaron Rodgers grows stronger after the win.
“Jersey” Al Bracco 8-8 Green Bay Packers 28-27
Packers must be deadly efficient in the red zone scoring TDs not field goals. Defense has to force a few Niner field goals in the red zone.
Adam Czech 10-6 San Francisco 49ers 33-24
How are the likes of Andy Mulumba and M.D. Jennings supposed to stop Vernon Davis, Frank Gore and a bruising 49ers offense? Like they have all season, the Packers will fight until the end, but I don’t see this one ending well for the (frozen) home team.
Marques Eversoll 9-7 Green Bay Packers 30-27
This is the fifth time that a team (Packers) will host a playoff game against a team (49ers) with at least four more regular-season wins. The home team (with the worse record) came out on the winning side the previous four times. Who am I to pick against history? The Packers win and live to see another week.
Thomas Hobbes 8-8 Green Bay Packers 27-21
For all that the Packers rely on Aaron Rodgers, this game really is about Eddie Lacy; the Packers have tried 3 times to beat the 49ers through the air without a real semblance of a running game and the 49ers defense is good enough to cover their secondary weakness when an offense is one dimensional.  If Lacy can keep the defense honest, the Packers will have a shot winning.
Cory Jennerjohn 12-4 San Francisco 49ers 31-23
The 49ers have the distinct advantage on the offensive and defensive line. And since this game will be played in biblical polar conditions, the big boys up front will win or lose the game. The biggest nightmare for Dom Capers should be Vernon Davis. He is healthy and virtually unguardable, especially with the linebackers the Packers have. The Packers must play mistake-free football to stay close.
2

January

All eyes on Packers’ linebackers against Kaepernick, 49ers

Although not on the radar before the season, outside linebacker Andy Mulumba is playing a key role for a beaten-up Packers defense as the playoffs are set to begin.

Although not on the radar before the season, outside linebacker Andy Mulumba is playing a key role for a beaten-up Packers defense as the playoffs are set to begin.

A year ago, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick set a single-game NFL record for a quarterback by rushing for 181 yards against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Kaepernick totaled 444 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, as the Packers were perplexed by the 49ers’ offense throughout the game, allowing 45 points to the 49ers despite a Sam Shields pick-six in the first quarter.

The Packers’ secondary, too, had its fair share of problems, as did the defensive line, but perhaps no position group was overmatched against the 49ers’ offense more than Green Bay’s linebackers. Erik Walden signed a four-year contract worth $16 million with the Indianapolis Colts this offseason, but money can’t buy instincts, and Walden is still looking for Kaepernick almost a year after last season’s dud in the playoffs.

Entering the 2013 season, the Packers were determined to be better prepared for the 49ers offense–and specifically, Kaepernick–as a rematch was scheduled for opening weekend in San Francisco.

And the Packers got mixed results. While Green Bay was able to contain Kaepernick to just 22 yards rushing, the quarterback racked up a career-high 412 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry started for the Packers at outside linebacker that game and helped keep Kaepernick in the pocket, but four months later, Matthews is out with a (re)broken thumb and Perry, due to battles with injuries and subpar play, is now merely a rotational player.

Last January, Walden’s debacle against the read-option left many clamoring for Perry’s return to the lineup after he suffered a season-ending wrist injury as a rookie. Because, at the very least, the 270-pound Perry would be a significant upgrade over Walden setting the edge against the run, right?

As one Lee Corso might say, “Not so fast, my friend.”

Perry played a season-high 57 snaps (of a possible 81) against the 49ers in the season opener, but he played just 12 snaps last Sunday against the Chicago Bears in a must-win game. Mike Neal–still in his first season at outside linebacker–played 47 of 51 snaps against the Bears, and undrafted rookie Andy Mulumba played 43.