1

December

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers Key Matchups

Jordy Nelson scores against the Minnesota Vikings

The Packers are hoping to see this familiar scene on Sunday versus the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings visit Lambeau Field and face the Green Bay Packers for just the first time this season.  The two teams will square off again in week 17 in Minnesota.  Both teams are coming off of a big loss and are fighting to keep postseason hopes alive.

The Packers were handed their worst loss in years at the hands of the New York football Giants while the Vikings were soundly defeated by the first-place Chicago Bears.  Both teams will likely be fired up and looking to get back on track.  At least they should be in a divisional game this late in the season.

Let’s take a look at the key matchups that will manifest themselves this Sunday.

Vikings Defensive Line vs. Packers Offensive Line

In the number one slot is the matchup most critical to Green Bay’s success this week.  As is likely to be the case for the rest of this season, the Packers have to find a way to protect Aaron Rodgers and start winning their matchups up front.

Minnesota features Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen, who will square up on Packers left tackle Marshall Newhouse.  Last season, Allen had three total sacks on Rodgers in the two games and that was when the Green Bay offensive line was playing better than they are now.  Allen is athletic and can get after the ball so Rodgers and the offense need to be mindful of where he is at all times.

My guess is that Green Bay is going to need to provide some extra help on the blind side with either a chip block by the back and release for check down or a straight up double team.

On the right side is Vikings defensive end Brian Robison.  You may recall an incident last season when, after a play, Robison gave TJ Lang a foot shove a la Ndamukong Suh (couldn’t resist the reference) right to the mid section.  Whatever Lang needs to do to find his motivation this week, he needs to do it in a big way.  True, he’s filling in for the injured Bryan Bulaga and is out of position.  But he still has to find a way to neutralize the rush.  Rodgers rolls out right more often than he does left and this matchup will be key.

28

November

Around the NFC North in Week 13

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 13

With just five weeks remaining in the 2012 NFL season, we take a look around the NFC North at the matchups and storylines.

In week 13, a bit of Luck visits the Detroit Lions in the form of the Indianapolis Colts while the Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears tangle for the third time in as many straight seasons.  The Green Bay Packers come home to host their neighbors to the west, the Minnesota Vikings for the first time in 2012.

This divisional race is starting to take shape with the Bears in first place and the Packers breathing down their necks, a close second.  The Vikings are still alive, to the surprise of many, while the Detroit Lions have made their road to a repeat playoff appearance very difficult.

Here’s the breakdown:

Indianapolis Colts (7-4) at Detroit Lions (4-7)

The surprising Indianapolis Colts come into Detroit to face the struggling Lions.  The Colts find themselves in the thick of the AFC Wild Card race.  While many knew Andrew Luck would eventually turn into a solid NFL quarterback, few would have foreseen the success that this team has had so far in 2012.

With that said, let’s also consider that only one of Indianapolis’ wins have come against a team that would currently be in this year’s playoffs (Packers in week 5).  But they are taking steps in the right direction after having won only two games last season.  At least they’re beating the teams that are struggling (Detroit falls into this category) or just plain bad.

While the Lions took the Houston Texans to overtime last week, they were unable to get the elusive Thanksgiving Day win and fell to 4-7.

Detroit’s biggest advantage in this game is that it’s at home.  While much has been made of Detroit’s offensive output this season, Indianapolis isn’t far behind.  The Lions rank 2nd in total yards while the Colts are 5th.  I expect this game to be a shootout.  An indoor game featuring two top offenses and two good quarterbacks.

Each team has had their issues on defense that have prevented them from winning some of their close games.  Both teams also have negative give/take ratios heading into this one. Detroit is at (-7) while Indianapolis is at (-14).

10

July

Packers Fans Begrudging Respect: NFC North Players You Hate To Love

hate/LoveWhen the news broke about the arrest of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson this past weekend, it got me thinking about some things.

Despite not knowing most of the facts about the situation, many fans greeted the news of his arrest with jeers and snickers.  I get it, it’s what fans do.  Whenever a member of a rival team (especially a hated rival team like the Vikings) does something stupid and gets in trouble, it’s natural for fans of the other team or teams to poke fun at the situation.

Look at all the trouble members of the Detroit Lions have been in.  It was obvious Jim Schwartz was leading a team that had many clowns on it last year after the Suh stomping incident, but this offseason has just confirmed it.   It’s despicable and a sign of a bad culture inside that locker room.  The criticism Schwartz and the Lions have been receiving is deserved.

However, Peterson’s incident (which at the moment sounds incredibly sketchy) deserves no such wrath of fans.  Despite playing for “the purple team,” Peterson has been an upright citizen since coming into the NFL and has done nothing wrong previously to earn such scorn from fans.

The only “wrong” he has done is that he made the Packers defense look foolish multiple times and that’s obviously why Packer fans greeted the news with such venom.  That reason however is not an excuse to celebrate a guy going to jail who has previously been squeaky clean.

If it sounds like I actually like and respect Adrian Peterson, it’s because I do.  As I told Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee on Twitter Sunday, as much as I love the Packers I also love the game of football and respect those who have played and currently play it, regardless of what color uniform they wear.

So yes I enjoy watching Peterson play….in those other 14 games in the regular season just like I enjoyed watching not let the color blindness that is team loyalty cloud our sight or our judgment.

In that theme, I present to you, in no particular order, five NFC North (non-Packer) players I hate to love.

Adrian Peterson, RB Minnesota Vikings

Before you rip me a new one, please keep in mind I mean in the other 14 games when these teams are not playing the Green Bay Packers.

1

December

Around the NFC North: Bears Hanging in, Lions’ Attitude, Vikings Irrelevent

Caleb Hanie takes over for Jay Cutler in Chicago.

For a while, it looked like the NFC North might send the Packers, Bears and Lions to the playoffs. There’s a chance that still could happen, but it’s a longshot. With the Packers cruising, the Bears and Lions have some work to do if they want to grab a wild card slot.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings are holding down the bottom of the division while trying to get a new stadium.

It’s time for a trip around the NFC North.

Chicago Bears

Remaining schedule: Chiefs, at Broncos, Seahawks, at Packers, at Vikings.

Biggest issue: Making adjustments. Jay Cutler is out for at least the rest of the regular season, leaving Caleb Hanie to try and lead the Bears to the playoffs.

Analysis: The challenge the Bears face is actually twofold: Is Hanie capable of taking the Bears to the playoffs and is offensive coordinator Mike Martz capable of adjusting his gameplan to maximize Hanie’s strengths and mask his weaknesses?

Hanie was bad last Sunday against the Raiders, but Martz’s gameplan was worse. You know how Mike McCarthy refuses to adjust his gameplan when an offensive lineman goes down, even if the backup lineman is struggling? Martz is the same way, only he is refusing to adjust to a backup quarterback. There’s a big difference between a backup offensive lineman and a backup quarterback.

The Bears have Matt Forte, a great defense and dangerous special teams. They’re more than capable of making the playoffs if Martz does a better job adjusting his offense to the reality of having a backup quarterback instead of Cutler.

Prediction: 10-6. Even if Martz keeps his head buried in the sand, the soft schedule and the aforementioned defense, special teams and Forte result in another playoff berth for the Bears.

Detroit Lions

Remaining schedule: at Saints, Vikings, at Raiders, Chargers, at Packers.

Biggest issue: Attitude. It’s not often you want a football team to relax a little bit, but head coach Jim Schwartz and the Lions need to chill out.

Analysis: When the Lions were rolling early this season, their swagger and bravado appeared to represent a new era of toughness in Motown. No longer were the Lions the doormat of the NFL.

16

November

Week 11 Packers Stock Report: Nelson and Williams Rising, Grant and Sitton Falling

If the playoffs started today, who would have the best chance of beating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC?

The 49ers? If the Packers get ahead by more than 10 points, I don’t think Alex Smith has the arm to bring them back.

The Giants? Their pass rush is scary, but not much else.

The Saints? It’d be high scoring, but the Packers would prevail.

The Lions? Puhleaze.

The Cowboys? They’re talented, but don’t have the cajones to hang with the Packers.

The Bears? They’ve got as good a shot as any.

Packers stock is at an all-time high right now, and I’m not talking about the certificates fans buy to hang on their wall and support the team. I’m talking about the ridiculous level of play we’re seeing from the Packers right now.

These first nine games have been amazing, but the ride is just getting started. We don’t truly find out who the good teams are until after Thanksgiving. Right now, nobody can touch the Packers. But there’s a long way to go.

Lets get to the stock report.

Rising

Aaron Rodgers
I’m sick of always putting Rodgers in the rising category, so lets give him a partner this week. Led by Rodgers, the Packers beat the Vikings Monday night. Led by QB Russell Wilson, the Wisconsin Badgers beat the Minnesota Gophers on Saturday. Rodgers and Wilson combined were 39-for-47 for 428 yards, eight TDs and zero INTs. Their combined passer rating was 144.2 and they threw just as many TDs as incompletions (a perfect NFL passer rating is 158.3). The two teams from Minnesota had no chance (stats courtesy of Judd Zulgad).

Tramon Williams
As Williams’ shoulder continues to improve, so does his play. The CB has interceptions in two straight games and played the sort of tight coverage against the Vikings that we got used to seeing last season.

Jordy Nelson
Which was worse: The mauling Junior Dos Santos put on Cain Velasquez during Saturday night’s UFC fight, or the mauling Nelson put on Cedric Griffin during his touchdown catch and run Monday night? I vote for Nelson.

Steady

Desmond Bishop
Bishop has sacks in his last two games and has recorded fewer than eight tackles only twice this season.

Greg Jennings
The most steady receiver in the NFL has a touchdown in all but two games in 2011.

15

November

Packers vs. Vikings – Unfiltered Game Day Commentary and First Impressions: Green Bay 45, Minnesota 7

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings.

It looks like the wind is picking up at Lambeau and…….wait a minute! Kyle Cousineau just appeared on ESPN. That was cool.

Minnesotans are surprisingly optimistic about their team’s chances against the Packers tonight. Christian Ponder has given this fanbase some hope and the Vikings have shown signs of life since the rookie from Florida State took over as the starter. We’re about to find out if that optimism is warranted.

No surprises on the Packers inactive list: CB Davon House, LB Jamari Lattimore, LB Robert Francois, LB Frank Zombo, OL Ray Dominguez, LT Chad Clifton, DE Mike Neal.

First half:

Packers win the toss, defer to the second half, and force the Vikings to go three-and-out. This is just what the defense needed.

Who needs the NBA when you have Randall Cobb taking a punt to the house, then shooting a jump shot toward the referee. Cobb is becoming the Packers version of Percy Harvin.

So far Matthews has lined up only on his usual left side. It won’t matter much where he lines up if the Vikings keep trying to block him with Toby Gerhart.

Vikings punt again and we go to commercial with Megadeth playing in the background. Props to Monday Night Football for playing some metal this season. I’ve also heard Pantera and Lamb of God in previous games.

Asher Allen is wondering how Driver — a guy twice his age — just out-jumped him on that 3rd-down conversion.

Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings and the Packers lead 14-0. Now lets see if they can put a team away.

Wow. Nice throw by Ponder to Visanthe Shiance for 31 yards. Ponder stepped up in the pocket after Matthews went unblocked.

Rookie QBs are no match for Charles Woodson. He almost intercepts Ponder on 3rd down. Then the Vikings move early, erasing a Ryan Longwell field goal. Longwell misses the 52-yarder. Vikings fans hurl objects at their TVs.

Jared Allen sacks Rodgers and does his silly celebration. I’m all for keeping your emotions high regardless of the score, but wouldn’t celebrating with your teammates be more appropriate when you’re down 14-0 and getting dominated?

Woodson really strgggling to tackle so far tonight.

13

November

2011 NFL Season Week 10: Green Bay Packers vs Minnesota Vikings Preview–In their defense….

Christian Ponder won't have the element of surprise on his side this time.

Didn’t we just beat the Vikings?

Only three short weeks ago, the Green Bay Packers did indeed beat the Minnesota Vikings, 33-27 at the Metrodome.  One bye and a win over the San Diego Chargers later, and the Packers host the Vikings on Monday Night Football.

Though it doesn’t offer Brett Favre’s return to Green Bay, the game still holds plenty of intrigue.  Will the Packers’ perfect season continue to hold up despite a porous defense? Can Aaron Rodgers maintain his level of play?  Is Christian Ponder the next big thorn in the side of the Packers?

It’s also a divisional game which means the records can be thrown out the window when comparing the two teams.  Packers/Vikings games often end up being real close no matter how either team performs against the other 30 clubs.

Key Vikings Players

QB Christian Ponder

Ponder made his presence known immediately in his first meeting with the Packers, completing a 72 yard pass to Michael Jenkins on the very first play from scrimmage.  After that, he still played fairly well though some poor throws wound up in the hands of the Packers secondary and likely ended up costing the Vikings the upset.

Ponder improved in the next game with a 236 yard and zero-interception effort in a 24-21 win over the Carolina Panthers.   So far after two games, Ponder is looking like a very mobile quarterback with an arm strong enough to make most of his throws.  He will only get better with experience.

After getting caught off guard in their first meeting, the Packers will definitely be keeping a close eye on Ponder.  Until they develop any semblance of a pass rush, the Packers best hope is to let their cornerbacks force Ponder into some poor decisions.

RB Adrian Peterson

What else can I say about AP that hasn’t already been said over and over again?

Peterson had another great game against the Packers three weeks ago, rushing for 175 yards and a touchdown.  He’s on pace for another 1500 yard season and is obviously the Vikings biggest weapon on offense.  If they develop even a decent passing attack with Ponder, this will open things up even more for Peterson and make the Vikings one of the biggest spoilers the rest of the season.