24

September

Week 3 Key Matchups: Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks

Packers Aaron Rodgers vs. Seattle Seahawks

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers looks for a tough road win in Seattle

Week 3 is here and it’s time to look at some of the key matchups in the Monday Night game featuring the Green Bay Packers at the Seattle Seahawks.  On paper, this has the makings of an evenly-matched contest that will likely come down to who wins the turnover battle.

The Packers are the better overall team but CenturyLink Field and their raucous crowd, aka the 12th man in Seattle, has turned many super powers into chumps.  Let’s take a look at what I see as the keys to who comes out of this one with the “W”.

Russell Wilson vs. the Packer front 7

Rookie QB Russell Wilson won the starting job in training camp over newly acquired and former Green Bay Packer Matt Flynn.  Many were surprised as it seemed Flynn was the clear-cut choice to start after deciding to leave Green Bay where he had become a solid backup QB and had that monster game in week 17 of last season.

Flynn signed a hefty free agent contract with Seattle and was on his way but he finds himself, once again, on the sideline carrying the clipboard.  Wilson played very well during the preseason.  He was 35-of-52 (67.3%) for 464 yds, 5 TDs and just 1 INT.  Wilson also had 10 rushes for 150 yds and a TD.  That was enough to put him under center when the Seahawks opened the 2012 season.

Wilson has, at times, played beyond the typical rookie tendencies.   In watching the game vs. the Dallas Cowboys last week, Wilson was fundamentally sound and well-composed against a pretty good Cowboy pass rush.  He plays within the system and we can’t forget all of the success Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll had at USC with his quarterbacks.  Wilson is not even a full year removed from his playing days at the University of Wisconsin and is still on the low end of his NFL learning curve.

Carroll has helped assemble a team and created an offensive system that doesn’t put it all on Wilson’s back.  Very composed and with a good pocket presence, Wilson is proving to be a key to the defensive game plan.  He plays it safe for the most part, and takes what the defense gives him.  Many of his completions last week were shorter routes with a few shots downfield.  Those high percentage throws can prove detrimental to the defense.  If Wilson is able to sustain long drives and tire the Packer defense, it will shift favor toward the Seattle side.

13

September

Packers vs. Bears: Key Matchups in NFL Week 2

Packers vs. Bears: Week 2 key Matchups

After a tough loss at home to open this season, the Packers gladly move on to week 2 to face their long-time rival Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on Thursday. The good news is that they have a chance to get the bad taste of a week 1 loss to the 49ers out of their mouth. The not so good news is that they have only 4 days rest and prep time before that game. The Bears also will have just 4 days to prepare and travel to Green Bay to face the Pack. They are riding high after a 41-21 week 1 romp over the Indianapolis Colts at Soldier Field.

Both the Packers and Bears have made several changes to their roster during the offseason. The Pack added 6 defenders in addition to free agents Jeff Saturday and former Bear RB Cedric Benson. The Bears traded for standout WR Brandon Marshall, who was a teammate of Jay Cutler’s in Denver. They also added RB Michael Bush and recently acquired D lineman Amobi Okoye. Rookie draft picks Shea McClellin, Alshon Jeffery and Evan Rodriguez have cracked the starting roster and will likely see time against the Packers. Let’s take a look at some of the matchups to watch for in this week’s game.

Brandon Marshall vs. the Packers secondary

When the Bears traded for Marshall, it was clear they were looking to keep pace with their bitter rivals to the North. The Pack have won the last 4 straight contests vs the Bears including playoffs and largely behind the arm of Aaron Rodgers. During the last year, the pass-heavy Pack have put most of their opponents in a quick and deep hole with the potent offensive output and the Bears were sometimes no exception. With the NFC North featuring yet another good QB in Detroit’s Matt Stafford, the mantra is “pass till you die”. Marshall adds a dimension to the Bears’ passing game that has been absent for a while: a big and speedy receiver who can get up and snatch the ball away from defenders or run a solid route and get open downfield for a big play.

9

September

Packers vs. 49ers: 3 Not-So-Obvious Things to watch

Green Bay Packers Center Jeff Saturday

Green Bay Packers Center Jeff Saturday

The Green By Packers and the San Francisco 49ers meet today in a matchup of powerhouse teams with Super Bowl aspirations.

In 2011, the 49ers defense was ranked first in the NFL in rushing defense and fourth overall, while the Packers offense was ranked third in passing offense and third overall.

There are plenty of fairly obvious things to look for in this game, but that not what this post is for.
We’re going to bring to your attention some less than obvious things that could end up being keys to the game. Without further ado:

Jeff Saturday: Being the veteran that he is, Saturday got minimal snaps during the preseason with his new team. While physically he will be an adequate replacement for the departed Scott Wells,  the question in my mind is if he’s been prepared enough to manage the protection calls in this new offense he’s had to learn.

If Saturday is not up to the level of Wells in this department, it could be fatal to the Packers offensive line, who are facing one of the best front sevens in the league and a front four second only to the New York Giants, who the Packers had just a few little problems with last January.

If the 49ers are able to get consistent pressure on Rodgers rushing four and keeping seven in coverage, they’ll be able to mimic the Giants’ game plan to a T, while doing it with better personnel at linebacker and in the secondary. (The 49ers return all eleven starters from 2011, when they had four players named to the Pro Bowl and four others as alternates. Throw in Aldon Smith, the dynamic rookie that should have made it but didn’t and that’s nine Pro Bowl caliber players on that defense).

Jeff, I hope you are ready…

49ers Red Zone Offense: The 49ers were 30th in the league last year in scoring touchdowns in the red zone. They’ve attempted to address that deficiency by bringing in Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs to provide much needed depth.

With the 49ers power running game and new targets for Alex Smith to throw to, I expect them to chew up yards and visit the red zone area  several few times this game. Whether it turns into three points or seven will go a long way towards deciding the outcome.

8

September

Packers vs. 49ers: Key Matchups in Week 1

Let’s cut to the chase and examine some of the key matchups that will play a big role in who wins this Sunday’s showdown of 2 NFC elites at Lambeau Field as the Packers host the San Francisco 49ers.

Marshall Newhouse vs the Smith’s

Unfortunately for Newhouse, I’m  not talking about the band The Smiths.  That would be far preferable than the daunting task of having to keep 12-year vet Justin Smith and 2nd-year man Aldon Smith out of the backfield and near QB Aaron Rodgers on Sunday.  Together last season, the Smith’s combined for 21.5 sacks during the regular season and another 4 during the 2011 postseason.  With the deep talent the 9ers have on defense, D Coordinator Vic Fangio can often have his linemen pin their ears back and get after the QB.  This is a tough task for the top LT in the league, let alone Newhouse, who is entering just his 2nd season as a starting tackle and who has had his share of struggles to contain top D linemen.

The Pack will likely have no choice but to slide help to the left side as the 9ers overload and stunt to the Pack’s weakness.  Hopefully Newhouse isn’t suffering any ill-effects from that concussion he suffered in training camp and his “happy feet” are with him on Sunday.  This will be a big test as to how solidified the Green Bay O line is on the left side.  Behind Newhouse, the Pack would likely have to shuffle their current line to cover the LT and LG spots.  Let’s hope this doesn’t become a need and that Newhouse can hold his own against a very potent attack.

Cedric Benson vs 9ers front 7

If the Pack can establish any sort of run and sustain long drives on offense, they can hope to wear down the 9ers’ front 7.  There are few defensive fronts better than whatSan Franciscoenters this game with and they are likely to bring it all day long.  But the Pack can take advantage of any increased pressure by utilizing Benson to run some draws and screens to keep the 9er’s D honest.  With a very smart QB in Aaron Rodgers who is mobile and able to dissect a defensive scheme well, hopefully that means getting the ball to Benson and taking what the defense gives them.