21

December

Packers Drive Rewind: Defense Takes a Stand

Sam Shields

Last week’s Packers Drive Rewind highlighted how a seven-play drive that featured all running plays buried the Lions. Watching it made you want to pound your chest and yell. Loudly.

This week, we’re going to stay with the tough-guy theme and highlight how the Packers defense stood tall with a goal-line stand after Ryan Grant fumbled.

The Situation
Third quarter. Packers 21, Bears 7. Grant just fumbled away a chance to blow the game open. The Bears are on the Packers’ 5-yard line after a 53-yard pass interference penalty against Morgan Burnett.

The Result
Matt Forte can’t get in the end zone on three straight runs and a touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery on fourth down is nullified by offensive pass interference. The Bears settle for a field goal.

Play 1: Forte up the middle for 4 yards


Ryan Pickett gtets stood up by Chris Spencer, but doesn’t get erased from the play. Forte ends up basically running back toward Pickett and getting swallowed up by the big guy. Forte had James Brown pulling to the outside. Morgan Burnett and Sam Shields do a nice job of setting the edge. However, I wonder if Forte would have had better luck following Brown to the outside and taking on Shields near the goal line instead of running back into the teeth of the Packers’ defense?

Play 2: Forte up the middle for no gain

Great stick by Brad Jones. He flows to the other side of the line and meets Forte head on after Dezman Moses occupies two blockers. Pickett torpedoes his gap and B.J. Raji blows up Edwin Williams, taking away any hope for a cutback. Once again, it looked like Forte might have had better luck trying to keep going around the end and taking on Jarrett Bush instead of plowing into the pile.

Play 3: Forte up the middle for no gain

A.J. Hawk fills the gap and Jones comes free to stand up Forte before he can get into the end zone. Everybody up front for the Packers does a nice job of fighting their way to a stalemate, allowing Jones to come in untouched and prevent the touchdown. Another nice play from Jones here. Who knew he would look so smooth flowing to the ball inside?

Play 4: Alshon Jeffery catches a 1-yard touchdown, nullified by offensive pass interference

16

December

Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears Key Matchups

Brandon Marshall

Well, here we are.  It’s Bears week and the Green Bay Packers have a chance to clinch another NFC North divisional title with a win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.  These are the types of matchups that the schedule makers and NFL hope for this late in the season.

When earlier this year it seemed that the Packers would be facing seemingly insurmountable odds to surpass the Bears in the North, all of the chips have started to fall into place.  The Bears have lost four of their last five games and are staring at a good possibility that their playoff chances will be reduced to a wild card chase.

Should the Bears lose Sunday, the Packers could clinch the division win and that is the only way Chicago can get into the postseason.  Should the Bears win, the Packers can still control their own destiny and win the division by simply winning their last two games.

There has been some jarring in the media between both teams with some subtle and some not-so-subtle barbs.  Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall acted like he didn’t know how to pronounce Packers cornerback Tramon Williams’ name and said that none of the Green Bay defenders should take any credit for severely limiting him in the teams’ first matchup.  Packers tight end Jermichael Finley commented that the Bears defense may be better off without the “slow” and future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, who is out with a hamstring injury.

But all of that is nothing but entertainment leading up to another huge game between these long-time rivals.  Let’s hone in on the key matchups that will play a big role in the outcome.

Bears Wide Receiver Brandon Marshall vs. Packers Secondary

As was the case in the first matchup, this is probably the most key matchup in the game.  Marshall is, by far, Chicago’s biggest offensive threat and he is currently the second leading receiver in the NFL in terms of yardage.  He’s a big body who is a tough tackle and can pick up some yards after the catch.  He has the speed to stretch out the defense and run the deep route too.

13

December

Around the NFC North in Week 15

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 15

It’s already the NFL’s week 15 and let’s cut to the chase in the NFC North.  This is a week that most Packers fans had circled on the schedule as soon as it came out.  Is there a more intense week in the Packers universe than “Bears week”?

The Green Bay Packers travel to Chicago to take on the Bears in this highly-anticipated game that will be the marquis matchup not just in the NFC North, but in the NFL.

The Packers can clinch their second straight North division title with a win.  The Bears would re-enter the divisional race as a strong contender should they emerge victorious.  The early line this week favors Green Bay by three.

The Minnesota Vikings will travel to St. Louis to take on the Rams.  This ends up being an interesting game because neither of these teams wants to go away quietly this year.

The week is rounded off by the Detroit Lions visiting the Arizona Cardinals in the “futility bowl”.  Nothing more than pride is on the line in that contest.

Let’s dive into the matchups and the storylines alike.

Green Bay Packers (9-4) at Chicago Bears (8-5)

Because of the major playoff implications, I’m leading off with this matchup and will go more in depth with this game.

This game has changed shape immensely in the past month.  What was being billed as possibly one of the biggest game on the NFL schedule this season has turned into somewhat of a last stand for the Bears.

After starting the season 7-1, the Bears have lost four of their last five games including two in a row since the return of quarterback Jay Cutler.  After suffering a concussion during a loss to the Houtson Texans, Cutler was forced to miss a key game against the San Francisco 49ers.  The 9ers beat the Bears handily for a second straight loss.  They beat the Vikings but then suffered a tough overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks and followed that up with this past week’s loss in the rematch with Minnesota on the road.

Chicago will be without defensive playmakers Brian Urlacher who may end up on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, and cornerback Tim Jennings who leads the NFL in interceptions with eight.  Jennings dislocated his shoulder late in the loss to the Seattle and is currently doubtful for this week’s game.

7

December

Around the NFC North in Week 14

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 14

For the first time this season, there are two divisional matchups in the NFC North.  The Chicago Bears travel to Minnesota to round out their season series against the Vikings.  Both of those teams are coming off of tough losses last week and cannot afford another in this game.

The Detroit Lions come to Lambeau Field where they haven’t logged a victory in over 20 years to take on the Green Bay Packers in the Sunday night football matchup.  Detroit suffered a gut-wrenching and last-second defeat at the hands of Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.  The Packers were the only victorious team in the North this past week.  The win helped them reclaim sole possession of first place in the divsion.

Here’s a sneak peak at each matchup and some storylines heading into the games.

Chicago Bears (8-4) at Minnesota Vikings (6-6)

The Bears are starting to feel the effects of their hard-fought season.  They learned that they will be without long-time veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher for at least the next three weeks due to a hamstring injury.  While Urlacher has been hampered by some bumps and bruises this season, there is no question the Bears defense is better with him on the field.

Chicago’s starting cornerback Tim Jennings was also injured in last week’s game vs. the Seattle Seahawks when he collided with another player and hurt his shoulder.  As of Tuesday, it was still not known how serious the injury was and more tests were expected later in the week to determine if there is any structural damage.  Any such news would mean Jennings will miss some time which would be a huge blow to the Bears’ secondary.  Jennings has been the team’s top defender this season and leads the team with eight interceptions.

The Vikings are also awaiting some news on the health of one of their star players, wide receiver Percy Harvin.  Harvin has missed the team’s last four games with an ankle injury and has battled health issues since coming into the league as a rookie in 2009.

Minnesota and Chicago are both in need of a win to make a strong run at the postseason.  The Bears and Packers have the same record at 8-4 but Green Bay holds the tie-breaker, having beaten Chicago head-to-head earlier this season.  The Vikings dropped to .500 and are trying to stay alive in the Wild Card race with an outside chance at a division win.

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).

24

November

Who Should Packers Fans Root For: Vikings or Bears? (with Podcast)

Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears

Vikings or Bears?

With many NFC North divisional games approaching, I thought this might be a good opportunity to ask an intriguing question about this weekend’s matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears:  Who do most Packers fans typically want to win this game?  Let’s pretend that we’re in the land of make believe and that the natural answer of “neither” is not an option.

Listen in using the player below or download the podcast from the Packers Talk Radio Network on Itunes.

Listen to internet radio with Packers Talk Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio

 

Bear Down or Skol Vikings??

It would seem logical to think that the largest determiner is “which scenario helps the Packers most?”  Obviously, the Bears are closest to the Packers in the divisional standings so it would seemingly benefit Green Bay more if the Vikings were to win.  The Bears are the better team of the two as long as they have a healthy Jay Cutler at quarterback.  They pose the bigger threat to the Packers’ chances of winning the division and with no guarantee of a wild card spot, getting into the playoffs at all.

Another argument could be made that the Vikings are already having a much better season than most thought and the Packers don’t want to have to contend with a hot Minnesota team when they finally meet in two weeks.  Minnesota is still over .500 and has shown that they can play with any team on any given day.  I cite their impressive win over the San Francisco 49ers earlier this season who, at the time, were undefeated and playing better than any other team at that point.  The Vikes have also swept the Detroit Lions already this season.

Matchup-wise, the Bears still seem to pose the biggest challenge for Green Bay.  The Bears defense is channeling their inner “Packers of 2009-2011” and taking the ball away at an astonishing rate this season.  They would give the Packers a dose of their own medicine if they were to seal a key victory with a turnover.  The Chicago defense is scoring almost as many points as their offense is and the offense hasn’t exactly been horrible when Cutler is behind center.  The Packers have faced the Bears already and fared well in that game so Green Bay knows they can go toe-to-toe with the Chicago.

23

November

Around the NFC North in Week 12

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 12

Well, I dropped the ball my friends.  My apologies to all for not getting this post up sooner and in light of today’s matchup between the Detroit Lions and Houston Texans.  I am feverishly writing this on Turkey Day and I won’t take a single bite until this is up for your reading pleasure.  With that, I want to wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving weekend!

This week brings a full slate of NFC North football starting with the Thanksgiving day matchup.  The Chicago Bears square off against the Minnesota Vikings for the first time this season and the Packers round off the weekend with the Sunday Night game at the New York football Giants.

Let’s look at the matchups a bit more closely and see what’s to come.

Houston Texans (10-1) at Detroit Lions (4-7)

Well, Houston pulled it out in another overtime thriller.  I could have tried to pass myself off as a prophet and claim that I knew the Lions would take the 9-1 Texans to the brink, but all it takes is a glance at my record in the prediction posts.  It’s clear that I don’t own a crystal ball.  Or at least an accurate one.  So on we go. . .

Minnesota Vikings (6-4) at Chicago Bears (7-3)

The big question in this game for the Bears is once again the health status of starting quarterback Jay Cutler.  Cutler has been cleared to practice in a limited capacity but still has not been cleared by an independent neurologist to resume full play.

Jason Campbell would start at quarterback if Cutler can’t play.  Campbell has been barely decent in relief duty and when asked whether Cutler would be able to play this week, Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Tice was quoted as saying “God, I hope so”.  Not a whole lot more needs to be said there.  The Bears themselves know their best chance to win is with Cutler playing.

Minnesota’s tough defensive unit would theoretically pose a bigger problem to Campbell than Cutler.  Chicago’s offensive line struggles continue and there have even been some rumblings that Chicago is less-than-thrilled with the play of 2nd year tackle and 2011 first round pick Gabe Carimi.  This could become a big problem if the Vikings pass rush wins the battle up front and forces Campbell to make quick decisions and throws.