5

January

Now a Veteran, Newhouse’s Play is Key to Packers Playoff Run

Marshall Newhouse and Jared Allen

Marshall Newhouse vs. Jared Allen will go a long way in determining the Packers’ fate on Saturday night.

If the Packers’ offensive line holds up, Aaron Rodgers and his (finally) healthy wide receivers should be able to score at least 30 points against the Vikings on Saturday night.

If the Packers put up 30, do we really think the Vikings – with Christian Ponder at quarterback – can once again score more than 30 and beat the Packers in a shootout for the second consecutive week? This time on the road, outside, on grass, in freezing temperatures?

I doubt it. Even if Adrian Peterson goes off again, it’s still going to take another strong game from Ponder for the Vikings to top 30 points.

But back to the Packers’ offensive line. We didn’t hear Marshall Newhouse’s or Jared Allen’s name called often during Sunday’s game. That’s because Newhouse was quietly doing a good job blocking Allen.

Newhouse has had his bad moments this season, but for the most part, he’s been decent. If what he did on Sunday against Allen is any indication of how he will perform in the playoffs, the outlook for the Packers’ offense is bright.

Don Barclay has boosted the Packers’ running game since taking over at right tackle. Pass protection has been a different story, especially on Sunday when Everson Griffen and Brian Robinson got around Barclay for sacks.

With three sacks, a hit, and a hurry allowed (to go along with two penalites) Pro Football Focus gave Barclay a -3.1 grade, the lone Packers’ lineman to grade out negatively. Barclay also had a -3.1 grade in week 13 against Minnesota.

If Newhouse holds up on the left side, and the pass protection can be shifted to focus on helping Barclay, that should go a long way in keeping Rodgers upright and giving him time to play pitch-and-catch with his healthy receivers against an outmanned Vikings’ secondary.

But if the Vikings’ front four gets to Rodgers and gets to him early, we could see a repeat of what happened against the Giants in last season’s divisional round: an outmanned Giants’ secondary bolstered by a pass rush that overwhelmed the Packers’ offensive line and rattled Rodgers.

To me, it all hinges on Newhouse. Newhouse is no longer the inexperienced guy on the line who is trying to find his way and doing his best to survive. That guy is now Barclay (and Evan Dietrich-Smith, I suppose).

25

October

Week 8 Packers Stock Report: Crosby and Jennings Rising, Walden and Low Blows Falling

Aaron Rodgers has been rising all season and has the Packers 7-0 heading into their bye week.

It was my niece’s baptism on Sunday, so I watched the Packers beat the Vikings with my parents and my brother’s family — all Vikings fans. It was a rough first half, and my parents would not stop trash talking. You know you take this silly game of football far too seriously when you start getting annoyed with your parent’s trash talk.

Anyway, at halftime my dad decided to go deer hunting and my brother went on a hike with his wife. Even though their team was beating the Super Bowl champs 17-13, they said the hell with it and went and did other things.

Those are Vikings fans in a nutshell.

On to the Week 8 stock report:

Rising

Aaron Rodgers
No further explanation needed. Just look at the box score. Then the season stats.

Mason Crosby
Crosby hasn’t missed a field goal since clanking one off the upright in week 13 last season. He’s made 21 straight since, and nailed a 58-yarder on Sunday that would’ve been good from much longer.

Greg Jennings
Jennings seems like an ideal fit for the steady category every week, but I think it’s time he’s elevated to rising. No. 85 is sometimes undervalued because he’s not a WR that routinely makes highlight-reel catches, does a dance, then demands more passes from his QB. He has three games over 100 yards receiving this season and only one below 80. Welcome to the rising category, Mr. Jennings.

Steady

Charles Woodson
Yeah, he’s not what he used to be in coverage, but didn’t you get a sense early in Sunday’s game that he had at least one interception in him against the rookie?

Clay Matthews
He has sacks in his last two games and looks like his motor is revving up again. We could see him in the rising category before long (Side note: Matthews was flagged for a horrible roughing the passer call on Sunday. The NFL needs to quit making a mockery of the game and address these ridiculous roughing calls now instead of after the season).

Scott Wells
I haven’t re-watched Sunday’s game, but I’m putting Wells in the steady category because I don’t remember the name of Vikings DT Kevin Williams being called often. I’m guessing that when I do re-watch the game, Wells will be a big reason why Williams was quiet, especially on the Packers final drive.