19

December

Around the NFC North in Week 16

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 16

With just two games left in the 2012 regular season, there is a full slate in the NFC North this week.  Each game carries its own significance as far as the playoff race is concerned as at least one team in each matchup is fighting for better playoff seeding and some are fighting to just get in, period.

Let’s take a look at the implications in each matchup.

Atlanta Falcons (12-2) at Detroit Lions (4-10)

The only reason this game is listed first is because it is the lone Saturday game and takes place before all others.  Beyond that, it all comes down to a very complete Falcons team coming into Detroit to face arguably the most disappointing team in the NFL this season.

Last weekend, Detroit was manhandled by the Arizona Cardinals 38-10.  Arizona had previously lost their last nine straight games.  The Lions have succeeded in one thing this season:  finding many ways to lose a game.  While they won’t be appearing in the postseason this year, they will have plenty of time during the offseason to figure out why.

The biggest question in Detroit right now is who will still be with the team in 2013?  Head coach Jim Schwartz will surely be the topic of those conversations during the winter.

While Atlanta has wrapped up the NFC South and currently has the best record in the NFC, they have yet to secure the first or second seed in the postseason.  They have their eyes set on being the top seed and therefore also securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  The Falcons can do so by winning their last two games, regardless of what any of the other contenders do.

However, a loss by Atlanta would begin to open a door for both the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers, who currently hold the second and third seeds, respectively.

While the Lions have pride to play for and certainly fit the bill of a team that could be pesky during these last two weeks, I don’t expect that pride to get them anywhere near Atlanta’s level this week.  Detroit’s best chance of success this week will probably be the 50% odds they have in winning the opening coin toss.

18

October

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 6 at Texans

I think it’s time to do a Hobbjective Analysis on a group that has always been overlooked: linemen.  I’m guilty of it myself; line play is very complicated and nuanced and I will be the first to admit that I don’t know very much about it; if you want to see what sort of technicians and athletes these guys truly are, I highly recommend you check out the “Word of Muth” column over at Football Outsiders (one of my favorite columns by the way).  Nevertheless, I personally think that while Aaron Rodgers throwing 6 touchdowns probably was a big factor as to why the Packers were able to clobber the Houston Texans, I think the defensive line deserves even more credit than Rodgers in winning the game for the Packers.

The Situation: It’s 11:44 in the second quarter with the Packers taking the early lead in with a 14-0 advantage.  Early in the game the Texans had curiously attempted to get their offense started with a pass-heavy strategy but ended up with quarterback Matt Schaub running for his life.  By the time the second quarter rolls around, it appears as if the Texans have abandoned this idea and go back to their bread and butter strategy of getting good down and distance situations with All-Pro RB Arian Foster, and setting up the play action pass with QB Matt Schaub and All-Pro WR Andre Johnson.

 

 

The formation: The Texans come out in a 2-1-2 formation (2WR-1TE-2RB) with WR Johnson aligned out wide to the left and WR Kevin Walter aligned in the slot to the right.  TE Owen Daniels lines up inline along side the right tackle while RB Foster is 7 yards directly behind QB Schaub with FB James Casey forming a offset I formation.  The Packers respond with their base 3-4 alignment.  The Packers come out with their standard linebacking core of ROLB Clay Matthews, ILB AJ Hawk, ILB DJ Smith and LOLB Erik Walden.  With NT BJ Raji out of the game due to an injury sustained versus the Colts, DE Ryan Pickett takes his place and lines up as the 0-technique (to the open side shoulder of the center), while DE CJ Wilson aligns to the right of Pickett and plays the 4-technique (between the guard and tackle), while DE Jerel Worthy aligns to Pickett’s left and plays the 3-technique (directly infront of the guard; I admit it’s rather hard to judge the defensive line’s alignment due to the camera angle, traditionally the NT plays the 0 technique while the DEs play the 5 technique).    I’ve excluded labeling the secondary as their are extraneous in this play, especially with SS Charles Woodson outside the box.

14

October

Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans: Key Matchups

J.J. Watt

J.J. Watt has been the NFL’s best defensive player so far in 2012

The Green Bay Packers have a big road matchup on Sunday Night Football against the Houston Texans.  It’s a tough matchup following an tough loss at Indianapolis last weekend.  The Texans are clearly one of the best teams in the NFL and are undefeated at 5-0.

The Packers will need to put together their best overall performance in order to get a win.  Doing so would be big step in the right direction for the Pack.  Let’s look at the key matchups that will likely factor into the outcome.

Texans DE JJ Watt vs. PackersBryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton

Normally a QB matchup would lead off this segment but JJ Watt is the most important guy on the field for the Texans right now.  He leads the NFL in sacks with 8.5 and talk of his being Defensive Player of the Year has already begun.

The Texans run a base 3-4 and Watt lines up on the left side of the line.  Because of his skill set, Watt can stunt outside or in and will likely matchup against both Bulaga and Sitton along with C Jeff Saturday.  Houston will likely mix it up in order to keep the Packer OL off balance and create favorable matchups.  Any success by Watt spells trouble for the Packer offense.

Bulaga’s play has dropped off, at least statistically this season.  Our very own Adam Czech breaks it down further.  As mentioned, the Packers are going to have to turn in one of their most technically sound games to come out with a win.  This rings especially true for the O line and Bulaga.  Confidence is a big part of a player’s success on the field.  In addition to the fundamentals, Bulaga needs to come in determined to win his matchups.

Sitton continues to be one of the Pack’s best O linemen, but the line as a whole has not been consistent.  He will surely have his hands full with DT Shaun Cody as well as Watt.  Again, confidence is key to Sitton’s performance.  It’s the one factor he can control and improve between now and game time.  Houston’s pass rush has been effective this year and keeping Watt at bay will help neutralize a majority of it.  It will also dramatically increase Green Bay’s chances of winning this one.