30

December

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 33, Bears 28

Eddie Lacy and Aaron Rodgers make the Packers a dangerous team in the playoffs.

Eddie Lacy and Aaron Rodgers make the Packers a dangerous team in the playoffs.

In what began as a promising year and at one point took a dive into early NFL draft talk, the Green Bay Packers’ regular season ended Sunday exactly how they’d always hoped it would. With a division championship and a spot in the NFC playoffs.

It really has been a roller-coaster year for the Packers. After two losses in their first three games, the panic button seemed to be within arm’s distance. Then, suddenly, they were 5-2 with a favorable second-half schedule. But when Aaron Rodgers went down and Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn were forced to start games for Green Bay, the team’s playoff aspirations were in serious doubt.

But the team kept playing, stayed alive and played well enough to win the division, and it’s now time for a new season to begin.

This season–the postseason–is different than the regular season. It’s a five-week season with four possible games. It doesn’t matter who was starting for each team in September or who’s been lost along the way. Right now, there are 12 teams sitting at 0-0 while the other 20 teams reflect on their season and look ahead to the offseason.

The Packers are one of those 12 teams still alive. And they have a guy who wears No. 12 who makes them a contender to win the whole thing.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers were unspectacular if not just good enough. They’re not the Seattle Seahawks, nor the Carolina Panthers or San Francisco 49ers, but they have an offense that could score enough points against any defense in the postseason.

Right now, Rodgers is leaning on one of the NFC’s most consistent running games behind Eddie Lacy and an improving offensive line, and Randall Cobb has returned to the lineup to once again give the Packers one of the league’s top receiving corps. Jarrett Boykin has stepped up in a big way in his second NFL season, and Nelson has been able to handle some slot duties, but Cobb is undoubtedly the Packers’ best playmaker in the middle of the field–an area the Packers haven’t gotten much production out of since Cobb and Jermichael Finley were injured in October.

24

December

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Steelers 38, Packers 31

Eddie Lacy had his way with the Steelers' defense and could be in for a bigger day against the Bears if he's able to suit up.

Eddie Lacy had his way with the Steelers’ defense and could be in for a bigger day against the Bears if he’s able to suit up.

After the Green Bay Packers lost a home heartbreaker to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Packers’ playoff destiny fell out of their control.

But Jay Cutler and the division-leading Chicago Bears were blown out by the Philadelphia Eagles later Sunday night, and now it’ll be Packers-Bears in the final week of the regular season for the NFC North crown and a spot in the playoffs.

And for the umpteenth week in a row, a good portion of ALLGBP’s Game Balls and Lame Calls post will be centered around the increasingly unknown status of Aaron Rodgers, which got even cloudier when ESPN’s Chris Mortensen cited potential tension between Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy on NFL Countdown prior to Sunday’s game. Mortensen tweeted Rodgers remains at “extraordinary risk” with his fractured collarbone.

But the whole will-Rodgers-play-or-won’t-he-play debate or the why-isn’t-Rodgers-playing question seems kind of pointless, doesn’t it? Clearly, Rodgers isn’t ready to play right now. He hasn’t played since November 4, and he wants to play. Whether the final call falls with Rodgers, McCarthy, Ted Thompson or Dr. Pat McKenzie, the fact still remains: Rodgers isn’t ready to play right now.

During the pregame segment, Mortensen said Rodgers pushed the “organizational decision” narrative that he and McCarthy used so often last week as an attempt to defend his toughness in hopes of fending off comparisons to Brett Favre, who undoubtedly would have played through a broken leg and a freshly amputated throwing hand.

But while I think the Rodgers debate really comes down to semantics, the Countdown segment raised some questions to me. Rodgers is who he is. He’s probably the best quarterback in the NFL, and he’s probably better in 2013 than Favre was at any point of his career, in my opinion. Naturally, comparisons will exist between Favre and Rodgers just as they did with other eternally-linked quarterbacks such as the 49ers’ Joe Montana and Steve Young and last year’s draft class that produced Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. People like to compare people to other people.

21

December

Cory’s Corner: Packers’ 12 Days of Christmas

Aaron Rodgers hasn't played since Nov. 4.

Aaron Rodgers hasn’t played since Nov. 4.

On the first day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the second day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me two offensive linemen and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the third day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me three Festy Burgers, two offensive linemen and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the fourth day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me four healthy hamstrings and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the fifth day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me five straight playoff appearances! Four healthy hamstrings, three Festy Burgers, two offensive linemen and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the sixth day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me six retired numbers and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the seventh day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me seven sideline snags by Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the eighth day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me eight fumble recoveries and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the ninth day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me nine tackles for a loss by A.J. Hawk and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the 10th day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me 10 rushing touchdowns by Eddie Lacy and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the 11th day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me 11 new defenders from the 26th ranked defense and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the 12th day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me 12 beer brats sizzling on the grill and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

 

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn

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7

December

Cory’s Corner: Thompson must lock up Jolly from 14

There's been a spring in Johnny Jolly's step after missing three years due to a codeine addiction.

There’s been a spring in Johnny Jolly’s step after missing three years due to a codeine addiction.

As if Ted Thompson hasn’t been stressing enough about this season.

Fourteen Packers’ contracts expire in the offseason and Thompson has to make some important decisions.

This season has been one of the worst of recent memory. I’m not saying that purely based on Green Bay’s record but also based on competitiveness of the entire team. There have clearly been moments when players mailed it in and took plays off this season.

The first expiring contract that comes to mind is James Jones. He’s been stricken with alligator arms ever since he became a Packer in 2007. Despite Aaron Rodgers’ insistence that Green Bay sign Jones in 2011, Rodgers still has been known to verbally dress down Jones for running the route or not hauling in a catchable pass.

Now I realize that ever since Jones was a Packer he has had to battle for catches. When he first got here out of San Jose State it was Donald Driver and now it’s Jordy Nelson. But he’s a 6-foot-1, 208-pound wideout and I’ve always said that he has to be more assertive in the offense instead of just letting the defense or the situation dictate how he plays.

Another guy that caught my attention was Andrew Quarless. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Jermichael Finley will not be a Packer in 2014 after suffering a devastating head injury that bruised his spinal cord. Most people thought that would leave the door open for Quarless to grab the tight end reins. But he has started six games this season and in those games he has caught just 12 passes. Very underwhelming numbers for a guy that had so much promise coming out of college as the career record holder for receptions by a tight end at Penn State.

When Finley was healthy, he proved how much this offense can thrive with a solid pass-catching tight end. The Packers do not have a dynamic tight end currently on the roster, which means Thompson is going to have to address that.

The final guy that Thompson needs to think about this offseason is Johnny Jolly. Now I didn’t think Jolly was going to produce after being out of the game for three years thanks to his codeine addiction. But he has been a big part of the defensive line and has exceeded expectations by starting six games.

25

November

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 26, Vikings 26

Matt Flynn led a fiery comeback for the Packers. And in some ways, the tie is a win.

Matt Flynn led a fiery comeback for the Packers. And in some ways, the tie is a win.

Despite playing to a 26-26 tie, the Green Bay Packers gained ground on the division-leading Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears. And as far as the NFC North title is concerned, that’s a win for the Pack.

Without quarterback Matt Flynn’s late-game heroics, it’s hard to imagine the Packers pushing the game to overtime. But Flynn, down by 16 in the fourth quarter, led his team back and tied the game at 23.

And the game was played on my 23rd birthday, so of course, yours truly had something to do with the comeback. Duh.

Some players just fit in a certain system. And there’s no way around it–Matt Flynn’s ceiling is as a backup with the Packers.

Some–myself included–overestimated Flynn’s value when he hit the free agent market after the 2011 season. Sure, he’s been traded from the Seattle Seahawks and cut by the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills since leaving Green Bay, but at this point it’s pretty clear that the Packers’ system is good for Flynn and Flynn is good for the Packers.

“We were looking for a spark,” head coach Mike McCarthy said of Flynn after the game. “We had a history with Matt. He went out there and played football.”

Sounds simple. And it is. Flynn went out there and played football. He made the throws he had to make and took what the leaky Vikings defense was giving him.

At the very least, Flynn gives the locker room a shot of confidence as they head into a season-altering game Thursday against the Detroit Lions. The last time Flynn played in Detroit was when he entered the game in relief after Aaron Rodgers left the game with a concussion. The offense sputtered, and the Packers lost that game 7-3.

Now, the Packers head into their Thanksgiving showdown with the Lions needing a win, which would put them in first place in the division. The only question is: Will they have Aaron Rodgers?

Game Balls

Eddie Lacy

Teams know they’ll be getting a heavy dose of Lacy when they play the Green Bay Packers, but it doesn’t matter. Stacking the box can only do so much against a bruising back who routinely breaks through arm tackles. Lacy finished the game with 110 yards on 24 carries and proved his worth in the passing game, totaling 48 yards on six catches. The guy is really, really good.

22

November

Packers Stock Report: Time for a win Edition

T.J. Lang has been one of the few rising players for the Green Bay Packers recently.

My two jobs, a newborn baby and extended visits to family hours away from where we live has made it very difficult to write about the Packers this season. The way the Packers are playing also makes it difficult to write about the Packers.

I don’t have time to do the in-depth and comprehensive posts that I’d like to do, so I do what I can in the free hour I can manage to find here or there. As I type, my kid has been up screaming for the last 2 hours. Why is he screaming? Who knows.

All I know is that my wife is feeding him to see if that gets him to calm down and I got a few minutes to bang out a stock report, so let’s get to it:

Rising

Jordy Nelson
When in doubt, just launch a pass somewhere in the vicinity of Jordy Nelson. Nelson is quietly having one of the best seasons of his career. I wish some of his toughness could be transferred to the defense.

T.J. Lang
Teams have been stacking the box against the Packers with Aaron Rodgers injured, but the interior of the offensive line has held up well. Lang showed his versatility two weeks ago by taking over at center and had another solid game against New York even though the Packers couldn’t gain much traction running the ball.

Steady

Jarret Boykin
Can Boykin replace James Jones in 2014? That question doesn’t sound nearly as ridiculous as it did at the beginning of the season.

Josh Sitton
See the write-up about Lang above. The same applies to Sitton.

Mike Daniels
Daniels is the only defensive lineman who has provided some consistency in getting after the quarterback. If Datone Jones continues showing signs of life, it’s a step forward in transforming the d-line from a bunch of space eaters to a more dynamic and diverse unit.

Falling

Marshall Newhouse
Why. Is. Marshall. Newhouse. Still. On. This. Team?

B.J. Raji
Who made the worse decision: Raji turning down $8 million per year from the Packers or the kid who founded SnapChat turning down $3 billion in cash from Facebook? Raji is not worth $8 million per season. He’s way too inconsistent and he’s stuck in one of his disappearing spells again.

21

November

Numbers up for Packers receivers, down for Vikings corners

Packers receiver Jordy Nelson is really good. Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes is alright, but his fellow corners are not.

Packers receiver Jordy Nelson is really good. Vikings rookie Xavier Rhodes is alright, but his fellow corners are not.

Numbers never lie. Except when they do.

Numbers lied when they said that Robert Griffin III had a big day against the Packers. After all, 320 yards and three touchdowns isn’t a bad day at the office, but in reality, Griffin really just benefitted from a garbage-time stat stuffer.

But thanks to new-age stats sites like Pro Football Focus, anyone and everyone can access in-depth stats at the click of a mouse. So if I want to see how good/bad a player does in coverage, it’s pretty easy.

And the numbers say Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson is bad. Awfully bad.

Opposing quarterbacks have completed 56 of 66 targets on Robinson this season. That’s 84.8 percent of their passes–the worst mark in the NFL for a cornerback, along with a league-high 716 receiving yards. Add three touchdowns and no interceptions, and you’ve got yourself a 127.0 cumulative passer rating.

Robinson’s partner in crime, Chris Cook, has allowed 19 completions on 26 targets–again, a staggering 73.1 percent. Cook has been a sieve as far as allowing touchdowns, as he’s been responsible for four scores, despite being thrown at only 26 times. That’s not good for him, but really good for opposing offenses.

Xavier Rhodes, one of the team’s three first-round picks from last April, has shown flashes of why he was a Day 1 pick, although he’s certainly been exposed. The secondary’s lone bright spot will likely see a heavy dose of Jordy Nelson on Sunday, as the Packers will likely move him all around the formation, including the slot which is where he caught both of his touchdowns when the teams met in the MetroDome Oct. 27.

Of 107 cornerbacks that have played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps, the Vikings have three players who rank 83 or lower on the list, according to Pro Football Focus. Here’s a closer look at how they’ve fared so far this season:

83. Xavier Rhodes (60.8% completion, 293 yards, o TD o INT. 79.3 QB rating)

84. Chris Cook (73.0% completion, 241 yards, 4 TD 0 INT. 141.2 QB rating)

101. Josh Robinson (84.8% completion, 716 yards, 3 TD 0 INT. 127.0 QB rating)