Around the NFC North in Week 9

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 9

Week 9 brings us to the start of the 2012 season’s second half.  Quick trivia:  Which is the NFL’s only division with three teams over .500?  You’re correct if you guessed the NFC North.  Let’s dive into the matchups around the division this week.

Chicago Bears (6-1) at Tennessee Titans (3-5)

The Bears are rolling, the Titans are not.  About the only thing in Tennessee’s favor this week is that it’s a home game.

The Bears narrowly escaped with a home win over Carolina while Tennessee came up just short against the Indianapolis Colts in overtime.  As the saying goes, good teams find a way to win and Chicago keeps doing it week after week.  They find themselves alone in 1st place atop the NFC North.

Tennessee has had solid play from backup QB Matt Hasselbeck in place of injured Jake Locker.  Hasselbeck will start Sunday against the Bears.  Unfortunately, Hasselbeck is the only Titans player who has played well consistently and the team has not been able to string consecutive wins together.

Titans RB Chris Johnson has flashed some of his vintage self lately, but not enough to put the team on his back.  The Bears are giving up a stingy 77 yards/game rushing and Johnson will be the focal point of their defensive game plan.

The big focus for the Titans and Hasselbeck is taking care of the football.  Chicago has mustered 16 interceptions in 7 games this season and they lead the league in takeaways.  They are also a top-scoring defense so they are making those turnovers count.  Hasselbeck has thrown four interceptions compared to six touchdown passes.  His task will not be an easy one this Sunday.

For the Bears, the game plan is simple:  run to daylight.  Tennessee is surrendering 140 yards/game on the ground and the Bears happen to have a guy named Forte on their side.  I’m no fantasy football expert but I say: start Forte!  If Chicago builds a solid lead, you’ll see a good dose of Michael Bush as well.

While the rest of the North needs the Bears to slow down a tick, it likely doesn’t happen this week.



Packers Film Study: Expanding the Running Game

Evan Dietrich-SmithWhile reviewing the game book and watching the film of the Green Bay Packers’ 24-15 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, I noticed something strange. Well, it’s not strange from a football standpoint, but it is very much out of the ordinary for Mike McCarthy’s offenses. He added backup C/G Evan Dietrich-Smith as a sixth offensive lineman on four running plays.

Someone will have to let me know if he’s done this before, but I don’t ever remember McCarthy adding an offensive lineman as an eligible receiver for the running attack. He came to this team with the idea of implementing the zone blocking scheme, and it’s been nothing but a point of contention among fans ever since. Our fearless leader, “Jersey” Al, pointed out the fact that he’s been pulling guards lately, making this new development a rather interesting expansion of the running game.

Here are the four plays where Evan Dietrich-Smith (#62) reported as eligible against the Jaguars:


This is the only time in the first half where EDS plays as eligible. My guess would be that, before going back to it, McCarthy wanted to get a look at not only the execution, but also how the Jaguars would respond to it.

In this instance, the Packers are lined up in a Unit Wing formation before EDS motions left and puts them into a formation that I’m not sure what to call. He’s playing a wingback role, but lined up inside behind the tackle and guard.

The results of this play is less than desirable, though it’s hard at first to tell where it went wrong without knowing the play call. EDS looks like he might initially take his block inside but continues to go outside the right tackle. Green, meanwhile, looks like he could have gained a little more yardage had he cut to the outside and followed EDS around.

Looking further, though, the culprit might really be Bryan Bulaga. Not only does he provide no help to Crabtree before moving to the next level, but he completely whiffs on the linebacker. Green initially heads towards the inside of the right tackle, leading me to believe this is where the play broke down.




Packers vs. Jaguars – Game Day First Impressions, Unfiltered: GB 24 JAC 15

Packers Morgan Burnett vs Jaguars, Packers - Jaguars recap, score result

Morgan Burnett tackles Cecil Shorts

Green Bay Packers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars:

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

Inactive for Packers today: CB Sam Shields, WR Greg Jennings, S Charles Woodson, WR Jordy Nelson, RB John Kuhn, LB Nick Perry

Inactive for Jaguars today: RB Montell Owens, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, DE D’Anthony Smith, S Dwight Lowery, DT Jeris Pendleton, CB Derek Cox, WR Laurent Robinson

Game Notes:

Packers roster takes a hit today in the defensive backfield and the wide receivers corps. Youth shall be served…

Today’s captains are WR James Jones, LB Erik Walden and LS Brett Goode.

Wow – 44% of #Jaguars offense since 2010 has been from Maurice Jones Drew


Mike McCarthy Pregame Show on 620 WTMJ:


Noon game at home: Love it. Get up early, smells like football. ..

Woodson loss: We’re talking about someone who has been an impact player every year here. When you lose a guy like Charles, you have to use the next group of players to their strengths. I’m looking for our defense to generate turnovers, create fumbles.

Replacing Woodson: Charles plays in a lot of roles. We’ll individuals focus more on ione position in as opposed to charles playing one, tow three, sometime four

Jennings, surgery: We’re all hopeful it’s going to go well. They don’t think it’s a major issue.

Cobb: He’s a playmaker and gives us versatility. He doesn’t just line up in one spot.

Rodgers last 2 weeks: He’s played very well. I think we all got spoiled by last year. There’s a lot of things we probably wouldn’t do if we didn’t have Aaron Rodgers.

Maurice Jones Drew: He’s a fun player to watch – glad I’m not watchng him today. Dynamic, unique guy you can build an offense around

Gabbert:  First thing I’ve always been impressed with is his ability to throw the football. He’s taken big steps from year one to two. He’s in a system that plays to favorable down and distance. Much improved player.

Jaguars: Fundamentally sound team. It’s going to be  challenge.  We look for their DBs to challenge our receivers. This  game will be a lot more competitive than people realize.

Jordy out: Pre-game workout went very well, but then going back out on the field later, he just didn’t feel quite ready.



Packers vs. Jaguars Week 8 Game Predictions from AllGreenBayPackers.com

Week 8: Green Bay Packers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Name Record To-Date This Week’s Pick Score Prediction
Kris Burke 4-3 Green Bay Packers 31-21
Not going with the blowout here.  The bitter taste of the Colts game is still lingering.  Until I see the Packers bury an opponent and have Dom Capers standing on the gas for 60 minutes, caution is the word.
“Jersey” Al Bracco 3-4 Green Bay Packers 35-6
If in any way, the Packers don’t win this game by at least 3 touchdowns, then either something is very wrong or they just got bored.
Adam Czech 4-3 Green Bay Packers 30-13
This is going to be one of those games that’s never really close, but isn’t necessarily a blowout, either. At no point will we feel like the Jaguars will win, but every now and then we might grumble that the game shouldn’t be as close as it is. The Jags d-line is scrappy and will probably frustrate the Packers running game a bit, but ultimately, that won’t matter much once Aaron Rodgers cuts loose.
Marques Eversoll 4-3 Green Bay Packers 34-13
Attention, fans of running the football: this is the week. I think Alex Green will become the Packers’ first 100-yard rusher since October 2010. Aaron Rodgers will build a comfortable halftime lead, allowing the run game to take advantage of a weak Jacksonville run defense. The Jags are without Maurice Jones-Drew, so the Packers win this one easily.
Thomas Hobbes 4-3 Green Bay Packers 31-9
Maurice Jones Drew is responsible for 41% of the Jaguars offensive yardage and at an average of 235 yards over 6 games, the loss of MJD should result in 139 yards against the Packers (naturally Rashad Jennings will make back some of those yards but you get the point).  Furthermore the Jaguars go about 16 yards per point so in rough estimate they should gain 9 points.  The only thing I can think of that’s in their favor is that traditionally the Packers don’t do as well with opponents that they don’t know well or against players they didn’t account for, and the Jaguars are definitely that type of team.
Jason Perone 2-5 Green Bay Packers 35-7


2012 NFL Regular Season Week 8: Packers vs Jaguars Preview

Aaron Rodgers

The Packers offense and Aaron Rodgers should keep rolling against the Jaguars

The Green Bay Packers seem to be on a roll.

One week after their statement victory over the Houston Texans, the Packers followed it up with a 30-20 win over the improved St. Louis Rams.  Aaron Rodgers continued his recent hot streak, going 30 of 37 for 342 yards and three touchdowns.  The offense seemingly has emerged from doldrums it was in early in the season.

This week, the Packers go into a game that by all signs appears to be a cakewalk against the Jacksonville Jaguars.  The Jaguars very likely will go into the game without their star running back Maurice Jones-Drew and their improving but still struggling starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert.   In their places will be Rashad Jennings at running back and Chad Henne at quarterback.

The Packers come into the game without Greg Jennings and perhaps without Jordy Nelson, who is nursing a hamstring injury.  This would leave a receiver group of James Jones, Randall Cobb, Donald Driver and Jarrett Boykin.  The Packers will also not have Charles Woodson on defense who will be out for six weeks with a broken collarbone.

Scouting the Jaguars

On paper, it looks like the Jaguars don’t have a fighting chance against the Packers but it’s still the NFL.  They still have to play the games and anything can happen.

With Henne likely at quarterback, it bears revisiting that Henne beat the Packers at Lambeau Field in 2010 when he was with the Miami Dolphins.   Yes, he had Brandon Marshall at receiver but Henne also took care of the ball and didn’t cost the Dolphins a chance to win the game.  Sometimes that’s the best an underdog can hope for from a mediocre quarterback.

Rashad Jennings has 34 carries for 90 yards and one touchdown.  He’s definitely no MJD and the Jaguars will definitely miss him more than they will miss Gabbert.

At receiver, the Jaguars hoped Justin Blackmon would be the next superstar receiver in the AFC South when they selected him with the fifth pick in this spring’s NFL Draft.  So far, not so good for Blackmon. 14 catches for 126 yards and zero touchdowns.  Maybe he will have some better luck with a veteran like Henne throwing the ball, but so far it seems like Blackmon is in the running for poorest performance by a top five draft pick.



Around the NFC North in Week 8

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 8

Week 8 is upon us which means the season is almost half over!  Let’s take a look around the NFC North and at the matchups to come.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) at Minnesota Vikings (5-2)

This game kicks off NFL’s week 8 as the Thursday night matchup.  It’s a rare meeting between these two teams since the Bucs left the old NFC Central and became part of the NFC South.  Tampa has won the last three with the most recent being last season.

Minnesota comes in a surprising 5-2.   They beat the Arizona Cardinals behind a good defensive performance and with the continued contribution of RB Adrian Peterson.  Tampa had seemingly pulled off a last-second TD by QB Josh Freeman for the win over the New Orleans Saints but the catch was later ruled invalid.  Tampa dropped to 2-4.

Anytime a team is working on a short week, it adds an additional challenge for teams to prepare and for players to get past the bumps and bruises from the week prior.  Both teams are fortunate that they are not dealing with many health issues at the moment.

The Vikings have been winning with defense this season.  They had nine sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown this past Sunday by their top rookie S Harrison Smith.  And having struggled offensively over the past few weeks, Minnesota was able to muster two scores on a vintage run by Peterson and a Christian Ponder pass to Percy Harvin.  Harvin leads the NFL with 53 catches.  The Vikings lethargic offense may get a jumpstart this week as they face a Tampa defense that ranks 25th overall.

Tampa has had a hard time keeping up with their opposition this year, largely due to the 329 passing yards they are giving up each week.  If Minnesota’s struggles in the passing game continue and they go heavy in the run game, it may benefit the Tampa defense as they are surrendering just 76 yards/game on the ground.  Of course, they are facing the elite Adrian Peterson and a Vikings ground attack that is averaging just over 130 yards/game.  How Tampa counters the Viking rush attack will be a key in this game.

The Vikings are winning games and are at home on a short week.  I give them the edge.



Week 5 Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North

We head into week 5 and thus begins the 2nd quarter of the 2012 season.  A season that has already brought plenty of interesting story lines in the NFC North.  There’s the 3-1 Minnesota Vikings who have decisive wins against San Francisco and Detroit Lions on the road to at least raise the question of whether or not they can contend.

The Chicago Bears continue to roll with a big win on Monday Night at Dallas and not-so-surprising are the antics of Bears QB Jay Cutler on the sideline.

The Lions, who were thought by many to be strong contenders in the division have underwhelemd so far and limp into their bye week on a 3 game losing streak.

The reigning divsion champion Green Bay Packers seemingly turned things around last week with a tough win at home against the still-winless New Orleans Saints and evened their record at 2-2.

With the Lions off this week, let’s look at the upcoming games for the Vikings, Packers and Bears

Tennessee Titans (1-3) at Minnesota Vikings (3-1)

The Vikings return home to face the Tennessee Titans after handing Head Coach Leslie Frazier his first divisional win since taking over the team late in the 2010 season.  Hard to fathom:  1st divisional win in almost 2 years!  But that’s how much the Vikings had fallen off since their NFC Championship game appearance after the 2009 season.

The Vikes continue their early roll and this past week, followed up an impressive win vs. the previously undefeated San Francisco 49ers in week 3 with an upset win on the road at Detroit.  With that win, we must now at least entertain the question as to how good they really are.

One big reason for the Vikes’ success has been RB Adrian Peterson, who against the Lions had his 1st 100-yard game since October of 2011.  Peterson has seen an increased work load each week since returning from offseason ACL surgery and doesn’t appear to be hampered by the injury at all.  In fact, he has only 2 less carries so far this season than he did through 4 games last year and is only about 50 yards behind last year’s total during that same span.