4

January

2012 NFL Playoffs Predictions, Wild Card Round: AllGreenBayPackers.com

GAME PREDICTIONS
2012 NFL Playoffs: Wild Card Round
Name Straight Up Against the Spread
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans (-4.5)
Kris Burke Texans Texans
“Jersey” Al Bracco Texans Texans
Adam Czech Texans Bengals
Marques Eversoll Texans Bengals
Thomas Hobbes Texans Bengals
Jason Perone Texans Texans
Chad Toporski Texans Texans
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-7.5)
Kris Burke Packers Packers
“Jersey” Al Bracco Packers Packers
Adam Czech Packers Packers
Marques Eversoll Packers Packers
Thomas Hobbes Packers Packers
Jason Perone Vikings Vikings
Chad Toporski Packers Vikings
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens (-6.5)
Kris Burke Colts Colts
“Jersey” Al Bracco Ravens Ravens
Adam Czech Ravens Colts
Marques Eversoll Colts Colts
Thomas Hobbes Colts Colts
Jason Perone Ravens Colts
Chad Toporski Ravens Colts
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins (+3)
Kris Burke Redskins Seahawks
“Jersey” Al Bracco Seadogs  Seadogs
Adam Czech Seachickens Seachickens
Marques Eversoll Seahawks Seahawks
Thomas Hobbes Redskins Redskins
Jason Perone Redskins Redskins
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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24

August

Packers Film Study: Cedric Benson Boosts Play Action Game

Cedric Benson Preseason Debut

Packers RB Cedric Benson could provide a boost to the Packers play action game.

In the Green Bay Packers’ 27-13 preseason victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday, Cedric Benson proved some of his worth to the offense. Though he didn’t see the field until the Packers’ second series, his influence on the defense was immediate, especially when it came to the play action fake.

In fact, the Packers went with a play action pass on the first three consecutive downs played by Benson. The first down resulted in an incompletion deep to Jordy Nelson, who probably should have drawn a defensive pass interference flag for getting knocked down when going for the ball. Greg Jennings hauled in the next two play action passes for 19- and 18-yard gains respectively.

Here is a video of the 18-yard completion to Jennings:

You’ll immediately notice that Bengals safety Reggie Nelson (#20) makes a nice fake at the line as if dropping into coverage before coming on a blitz. He even almost tips the pass intended for Jennings.

But go back again and this time keep your eyes on Bengals cornerback Leon Hall (#29), who is lined up across from Jennings in what appears to be a zone coverage. What the play action fake does here is draw him in to the center of the field, not only keeping Jennings wide open but also giving him room to run. (I particularly love how Jennings makes Hall completely whiff on the tackle.)

In the wake of two play action passes, the defense still bites on the fake for a third time. Even the blitzing safety had to adjust his target from Benson to Rodgers.

On the start of the third series, Benson remains in the game, and the Packers immediately lead off with a play action pass. It’s called incomplete on a tip-toe catch from Nelson along the sideline (though I would argue he was able to keep his feet in). But what I want to focus on now is the play that immediately follows:

Benson gets a good 8-yard run here in part due to the play action game. Keep your eyes on Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson (#93) here. He stops his pass rush when he identifies the offensive line run blocking, but his attention hesitates on Rodgers just long enough after the handoff to allow Benson some driving room inside the tackle.

24

August

Packers vs. Bengals – Game Day First Impressions, Unfiltered: GB 27 CIN 13

Terrell Manning Packers Bengals

Terrell Manning

Green Bay Packers vs. Cincinnati Bengals:

My unfitered game day recap and blog post of comments, observations and first impressions.

Inactive for Packers today:

Shaky Smithson, Du ‘ane Bennett, Davon House, Brandon Saine, Jon Hoese, James Starks, DeMarco Cosby, Desmond Bishop, Frank Zombo, Johnny Jones, Ray Dominguez, Andrew Datko, Derek Sherrod, Andrew Quarless, DJ Williams, Jermichael Finley

Notes:

The Packers travel to Cincinnati for the first time since 2006; Mike McCarthy’s first season as Packers’ head coach.

Most memorable game in this series was 1992, when Brett Favre came in for an injured Don Majkowski and led the Packers to a 24-23 comeback win. Favre completed a 35yd TD pass to Kitrick Taylor with 13 seconds left to earn the win.

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Mike McCarthy Pregame Show on 620 WTMJ:

 

Dress rehearsal game:  It’s not just the game, it’s really the whole week leading up to the game. You have a set schedule, how you breakdown your opponent, run meetings…    The actual game, you have objectives to hit… play first group for a half and then let the competition begin in the second half.

Getting first team reps:  Hopefully we can six possession in the first half. Finley is not with us…   This is a chance for us to get in a rythm and practice the things we want to do when the season starts.

Cedric Benson: Our offense isn’t going to change. He gives us another weapon. He’s been a productive player in the NFL. I’ve been impressed with his inside running ability and instincts.

Greg Jennings:  He looks good. We have to be smart with Greg tonight. We’ll watch him throughout the half. I don’t see him getting a ton of reps, but he will take the lion’s share.

Dalton/AJ Green: One of the more exciting young QB/receiver duos in the league. Great test for our defense tonight.

Cinci defense: Marvin Lewis is an outstanding coach. Fundamentally sound defense, you’re not going to get too many big plays.

Roster Decisions: This is getting down to where you have to make hard decisions. Injuries have affected the evaluation process. Important for those players who haven’t had a lot of evaluation time to do well tonight.

 

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Packers vs. Bengals – First Impressions – First Half:

Even holding couldn’t help Marshall Newhouse. Beaten badly with an inside move.

23

August

Packers – Bengals Preseason Preview: The Dress Rehearsal

Cedric Benson

This time, RB Cedric Benson will be suiting up in Green and Gold.

The third week of the preseason is upon us, which is also known as the “dress rehearsal” for the starters before the real games begin in earnest.

That means we will get to see a full half of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers’ starting offense tonight as they face off against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.  The starting offense showed some signs of life last week against the Cleveland Browns, but still struggled in some areas.

Same goes for the Packers’ starting defense.  Tackling seemed to be improved, but the defense still was swallowed up in coverage by rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden.  This week, they face off against Andy Dalton and a Bengals offense that struggled at times in the 2011 season.

As for the backups, this is a big game for Graham Harrell.  Confidence in him as the backup behind Aaron Rodgers hit an all-time low after the 35-10 loss to the Browns in which Harrell failed to lead the offense to a touchdown in roughly three quarters of action.

Here’s what to look for in tonight’s game:

Turnovers

It’s starting to sound like a broken record, but the Packers must start taking better care of the football.

As a team that is traditionally near the top of the NFL in turnover ratio, the ball handling the Packers have displayed in the preseason has been one of the biggest surprises to the start of the 2012 season.  Wide receivers coughing up the ball (here’s looking at you, Randall Cobb) and running backs putting the ball on the ground are inexcusable.  Having the best quarterback in the game will get the team nowhere if you can’t hang onto the football.

This game is the last chance the starters have to alleviate fears of many fans.  While not all the turnovers have come from the first unit, there have been enough to at least raise some eyebrows.

The debut of Cedric Benson

With James Starks and Brandon Saine not playing in the game, this is a chance for Benson to show he still has what made him a consistent 1,000 yard rusher.   Some took the signing of Benson as putting Starks on notice and many believe Benson will supplant Starks as the Packers’ starting running back.

22

August

Packers Running Backs: Cedric Benson in the 4th Quarter

Cedric Benson

Fourth-quarter fumbles can turn the Packers low-risk signing of Cedric Benson into a disaster.

For a team that doesn’t run the ball much, the Packers sure like to talk about the importance of running the ball.

Yes, a good running game is nice to have, but it’s not necessary, especially with a QB like Aaron Rodgers and the Packers talented WRs.

It would be nice to see the Packers get more production in the run game during the fourth quarter, though, especially when preserving a lead and killing the clock. That’s one of the reaons Ted Thompson plucked Cedric Benson off his couch and brought him to Green Bay.

Thompson probably had visions of Benson crashing up the middle late in games, moving the pile forward as the lead built on the arm of Aaron Rodgers became more insurmountable and precious seconds ticked off the clock.

That’s a cool vision and all, but how close is it to reality?

Benson in crunch time
Last season with the Bengals, Benson had 67 carries for 289 yards in the fourth quarter. That’s an average of 4.31 yards per carry.

Not bad.

When the Bengals were ahead in the fourth, Benson had 24 carries for 110 yards and a 4.6 average.

Again, not bad.

The first of those run-the-clock-with-a-lead carries was a 39-yard TD in the season opener against the Browns to ice the game. If you take away that long run, Benson’s average drops to 3.1 per carry.

Ball security was an issue with Benson when trying to preserve late leads. He fumbled three times with his team ahead in the fourth and lost two of them (on consecutive runs against the Cardinals in week 16).

With the game tied in the fourth, Benson had 14 carries for 41 yards, a 2.9 average.

When the Bengals were behind in the final quarter, Benson had 29 carries for 138 yards, a 4.6 yard average.

If you take away Benson’s 39-yard scamper, his overall fourth quarter numbers fall to 66 carries for 250 yards, a 3.8 average.

Final thoughts

  • These numbers should not be used to make a final judgement on how Benson will perform in the fourth quarter this season. I’m simply presenting this information for discussion. Put Benson behind the Packers’ offensive line in Mike McCarthy’s offense and maybe he’ll explode into a fourth-quarter juggernaut. Or maybe he’ll be so bad that the Packers cut him. We’ll see.
14

August

Packers Video: Newest Packer Cedric Benson

While we work to get you more information about the newest Green Bay Packer, running back Cedric Benson, please enjoy the following highlight reel from when he played with the Cincinnati Bengals. (WARNING: Explicit music used in video.)

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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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10

January

Five Reflections from Wild Card Weekend

The strength of the Giants' defensive line is just one observation from the 2011 NFL Wild Card weekend.

With four teams out of the playoff race and the New York Giants scheduled to take on the Green Bay Packers next week, I thought it might be prudent to take a look back at the weekend and reflect on the results. The games mostly went as expected, minus the Pittsburgh Steelers getting “Tebowed” in Denver.

Let’s get right down to it, then. Here are some observations from the four Wild Card games and how they might relate to the Packers going forward:

1. Regular season records don’t mean anything. This weekend, we saw two division champions take down Wild Card teams who held a better record in the regular season. The New York Giants (9-7) practically shut out the Atlanta Falcons (10-6), and the Denver Broncos (8-8) stunned the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) with an overtime bullseye strike.

Yes, the Packers made an impressive run this season going 15-1, but don’t let that alone give you any sense of false hope. It won’t afford Green Bay any advantage on the field, because the only thing that matters is how well they are playing right now.

2. Opportunities must be seized when they are presented. Anyone who watched the New Orleans Saints take on the Detroit Lions knows how much that game could have changed if the Lions would have simply taken advantage of their opportunities. I counted three passes by Drew Brees that could have easily been interceptions if the defender would have simply held onto the ball. Turnovers can be huge game-changers is the playoffs, mostly because the games are usually so close to begin with. Not only can they swing the scoreboard, but they can redirect the momentum and quiet a noisy crowd.

The Green Bay Packers have made turnovers their mantra this season. Not only is protecting the ball of utmost importance, but taking it away has become the keystone of their defense. The Packers lead the league this season in interceptions (31) and were second only to the San Francisco 49ers in turnover differential (+24). They will need to continue taking advantage of these opportunities, because they will get fewer and farther between against playoff-caliber opponents.