11

December

Packers Stock Report: Shooing Away the Lions, Bringing on the Bears Edition

Packers CB Casey Hayward played his way onto the rising list this week.

Since the Packers handled the Lions on Sunday, they should be able to handle the Bears this week, right?

Think about it. The Lions have:

  • A talented but erratic QB
  • One dominant receiver
  • A tough defensive line
  • A cover-2 strategy designed to contain the Packers

Sounds very similar to the Bears. The main difference is the Lions have a better offensive line and the Bears have a better secondary and running back. The Bears are also beat up.

That’s my preliminary analysis, anyway. Very in-depth, right?

We’ll see if my perception changes later in the week, but I don’t see many reasons to pick the Bears, especially when you factor in the hopeful return of Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson and (maybe) Jordy Nelson.

It was good to get the Lions out of the way. They annoy me for multiple reasons.

On to the stock report:

Rising

Casey Hayward
For some reason, Tony Scheffler was giving the Packers some trouble on Sunday. So the Packers called on Hayward and soon Scheffler wasn’t a problem any more. The rookie played all 84 snaps and had another strong game despite dropping another interception late. Now if he could only get home on blitzes like Charles Woodson used to….

Mike McCarthy
Bashing McCarthy’s decision-making and infatuation with calling downfield passes is a very popular thing to do during games. I do it myself. Every fan gets mad at the head coach of his favorite team on ocassion. But if you’re going to bash, it’s only fair to praise when praise is deserved. McCarthy seems to have the Packers living in their own world, a world where throwing in the towel because of injuries and bad breaks is not acceptable. Having Aaron Rodgers as your quarterback helps make this world a better place to be, but McCarthy still deserves a ton of credit. Getting the most out of reserves and young talent has become the norm with McCarthy. Whatever you’re doing behind the scenes, Mike, keep it up.

10

December

Packers Shovel Their Way to First Place in NFC North

 

Packers defense

The Packers defense, grinding out another win on Sunday night. (Photo from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Like many of you who are reading this, I had to go out and shovel snow before the Packers game on Sunday night.

Notice how I said shovel. Not blow or push with a skid loader. Shovel.

I refuse to get a snow blower. I’m 31 years old. I’m more than capable of operating a shovel. I see way too many men under the age of 35 using snow blowers and skid loaders for snow removal these days. Further evidence of the downfall of society, I say.

A shovel is reliable. You don’t need to worry about it not starting after a blizzard.

A shovel is low maintenance. You don’t have to worry about filling it with gas, changing its oil or taking it in for a tune-up.

A shovel is inexpensive. You can pick up a good snow shovel for a couple bucks at just about any store.

A shovel is a great teaching tool. If you have kids, making them shovel snow builds character.

A shovel can be used as a weapon if someone attacks you, or if a Bears fan starts talking trash.

The Packers are a team of shovels right now. We all want them to be the latest fancy model of snow blower, but they’re not. And that’s just fine.

As I was shoveling over a foot of snow off my driveway on Sunday, I couldn’t help but notice a few of my neighbors and their snow blowers. Sure, they were exerting less energy and moving at a faster pace than I was, but I was earning the right to maneuver my car out of my garage without getting stuck.

I had to work harder for it, so I appreciated it more (at least, that’s what I was telling myself as my fingers went numb and my eyes started freezing shut).

The packers have shoveled their way into first place in the NFC North. With the exception of the Giants’ game, guys like Don Barclay, Brad Jones, Casey Hayward, Ryan Pickett, Mike Daniels, DuJuan Harris and Tom Crabtree have helped hold this injury-ravaged team together and put it in position to make a late-season run.

21

November

Packers’ Victory over Lions had Plenty of Style

Ryan Pickett

Packers DL Ryan Pickett made some stylish plays on Sunday against the Lions.

Kevin Seifert had the following headline on his ESPN NFC North Blog post following the Packers 24-20 win over the Lions on Sunday: “Packers: Substance of 2012 > Style of 2011.”

Kevin went on to write how the Packers grind-it-out victories over the last five weeks might be more impressive and have them better prepared for the postseason than the string of blowout wins they had en route to a 15-1 finish in 2011.

For the record, I agree with Kevin. His post was spot-on. I just didn’t care for the headline.

The Packers had plenty of substance in 2011. You don’t go 15-1 on style alone.

And the Packers have had plenty of style so far in 2012. It’s just a different style than what we saw last season.

To casual football fans, style means long passes, beautiful catches, ankle-breaking runs and exciting punt/kick returns. Those are the plays that make Sports Center and go viral on the Internet.

The more hardcore football fans appreciate those types of plays as well, but also find plenty of style in other areas of the game.

To me, this third-and-goal play from Sunday highlights the type of style that hardcore fans appreciate and the type of stylish play that the Packers have been coming up with over the last five games.

A touchdown there gives the Lions a 7-0 lead and the Packers young and beat-up defense probably hangs its head a bit. Who knows where the game goes from there.

Instead, Ryan Pickett — who is in there in case the Lions run it — busts through the line and chases Matthew Stafford right to Morgan Burnett for the sack.

The defense holds the Lions to a field goal and the defense’s confidence goes way up. That’s style, in my opinion.

Here’s another one:

Tim Masthay is punting from midfield in the first quarter and drops a perfect corner kick that gets downed by Jarrett Bush on the Lions’ 2.

Now, that seems like a simple enough play, right? Three years ago, that ball probably flys into the end zone and the Lions would get the ball at the 20. Not this year.

29

June

Around the NFC North: Lions in Jail, Vikings Trade Requests, Bears Roaring Quietly

Percy Harvin

Vikings WR/KR has requested a trade.

We know what the Packers have been up to, but it’s been a while since we checked in on the other teams in the division. Let’s take a trip around the NFC North.

Detroit Lions
The Lions will give the Packers all they can handle in the NFC North as long as they stay out of prison. Running back Mikel Leshoure, defensive lineman Nick Fairley, tackle Johnny Culbreath and corner Aaron Berry have had run-ins with the law this offseason. Everybody is clamoring for Lions’ management to take a stand against this stuff, but really, most of it will be forgotten if Detroit plays up to its potential and contends for a division title. Winning makes the fact that your team is filled with morons a secondary story.

 

Minnesota Vikings
Percy Harvin reportedly requested a trade. There’s no way the Vikings will trade him unless they’re able to get 100 percent return on his value (unlikely). If Peterson remains hurt, Harvin is the Vikings best player on offense, and it’s not even really close. Harvin is due to make $915,000 this year, about half of what Jerome Simpson, the troubled and not-very-good WR signed by the Vikings this offseason, is set to make. Harvin is underpaid, and I don’t blame him for being mad, but I think he’d make more money if he just shut up and continued producing. He gained no additional leverage by requesting a trade, in my opinion. Harvin showed up at minicamp a day after requesting the trade, so who knows where his mind is at this point.

 

Chicago Bears
Matt Forte still hasn’t been signed to a long-term deal and could hold out once training camp starts. Other than that, the Bears are quietly getting healthy and going about their business. With Jay Cutler healthy, Brandon Marshall on the team, and Mike Martz gone, this offense should do more than enough to keep up with the Packers and Lions high-powered attacks. The offensive line remains shaky, but I think the sack and pressure numbers will get better with Martz gone.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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18

May

Looking at the Packers’ NFC North Rivals: How the Lions, Bears and Vikings did in the NFL Draft

NFC North DivisionPigskin Paul analyzes the 2012 NFL Draft Class of the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings.

 

LIONS

The LIONS made the Play-Offs with 10-Wins and but for a few less injuries, and a bit more talent at certain positions they might have been able to make a solid run at a Super Bowl appearance. Lots of teams could say the same thing, but those other teams weren’t setting a League record for futility by going 0-16 but a few years ago. The team has truly come a long way since the FORD family parted ways with MATT MILLEN, and turned most of the personnel matters, including the DRAFT, over to MARTIN MAYHEW. The 2011 DRAFT didn’t even yield much immediate help because of serious injuries to NICK FAIRLEY & MIKEL LESHOURE.

The 2012 LIONS DRAFT looks promising on paper. RILEY REIFF may be the most talented OL that the team has drafted in the past decade. Whether he takes over at LT or RT he almost certainly guarantees that MATTHEW STAFFORD will take less hits in the pocket starting now. He’s a good athlete and comes from the FERENTZ school of OL play, which means he’s fundamentally sound and tough already. He’s a great value at Pick 23. The team took a slight flier in Round 2, by picking OKLAHOMA/WR/RYAN BROYLES. He’s coming off a serious knee injury and will most likely start the season on the PUP list. But if he returns to pre-injury form he’ll make NATE BURLESON an extra piece by season’e end. He’s only the NCAA D1 all time receptions leader, and is a dangerous Return Man as well. Healthy, he was a marginal late first rounder only lacking in great speed.I like the calculated gamble.

Rounding out their Top 100 Picks at No. 85 was DWIGHT “BILL” BENTLEY/CB who may have been a slight unknown to those who only study Top 25 Boards on the internet, but is well regarded overall as potential starting CB, who should be ready for sub-package work at the least, immediately. These three Picks represent some very solid work by the end of Friday Draft Night.

29

November

Packers’ Undefeated Regular Season Coming into Focus

Before the Green Bay Packers 27-15 win over the Detroit Lions, dialogue surrounding a 16-0 regular season was nothing more than anticipative thinking. Odds say that Green Bay would slip up at some point, and a Thanksgiving game in Detroit represented the contest that most thought would be the one.

But after watching the Packers dismantle the up-and-coming Lions on national television, the possibility of this team getting through the regular season unscathed has become more than fantasy.

In fact, it might be a bigger shock now if the Packers don’t head into the playoffs with the NFL’s third perfect regular season in history.

Let’s take a look at the Packers final five games to see where a potential ‘L’ could come from.

Dec. 4, at New York Giants

Why the Giants could win: Like the Lions, New York theoretically has the defensive line to pressure Aaron Rodgers without bringing extra guys on the blitz. On offense, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw (who should be back from injury) represent a tough running back tandem, and Green Bay has had trouble tackling bigger backs. Quarterback Eli Manning is having a career year statistically.

Why the Packers will win: You don’t have to go back far to find the Packers’ 45-17 drubbing of the Giants in 2010. In fact, that win kicked off the Packers current 16-game winning streak. Rodgers threw for over 400 yards in that contest and the Packers offensive line contained the Giants’ front four.

Manning was a turnover machine last season and can still be counted on to give it away, especially against a Packers defense that leads the NFL in interceptions. The schedule also shapes up nicely for the Packers. New York will be coming off a Monday night beat down in New Orleans and have an important trip to Dallas following the Packers visit. The Packers, on the other hand, have a mini-bye week (10 days) to get healthy and prepare to take on the Giants.

Dec. 11, Oakland Raiders

Why the Raiders could win: The addition of Carson Palmer has helped stabilize an offense that possesses some explosive weapons. There is plenty of speed on the edges with receivers Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Darius Heyward-Bey. In Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, the Raiders’ No. 3 ranked rushing offense features one of the top 1-2 punches in the NFL. Oakland is currently 4-1 on the road in 2011.

21

November

McCarthy: Packers RB James Starks Could Play Thursday

Packers RB James Starks may still be play Thursday in Detroit.

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that running back James Starks will likely practice Tuesday and could even play on Thursday in Detroit if all goes well during the week.

Starks was hurt during the fourth quarter of the Packers’ 35-26 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. He was bent back in the middle of a pile and needed assistance getting off the field. After the game, McCarthy called the injury a “knee sprain,” which hasn’t exactly been the kindest of injury assessments recently.

On Monday, the somber mood seemed to change. McCarthy called Starks “sore” but seemed optimistic that his second-year running back would test out the knee Tuesday at practice. If Starks passes the tests during the week, McCarthy said he’s “hopeful” that Starks would play against the Lions on Thanksgiving.

Other highlights from McCarthy’s Monday press conference:

  • Receiver Greg Jennings has a knee bruise but should practice on Tuesday. All indications pointed to him being ready for Thursday.
  • McCarthy didn’t seem worried about the schedule, and he also pointed out that Detroit is now on the exact same schedule. He feels good about where the Packers are at health-wise, too.
  • Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel asked a good question about the Lions’ defensive line and their ability to win upfront against the Packers late last season. McCarthy said that the Lions’ play in the trenches was one of the major factors in their win in December of 2010. He also said that the Packers have focused mostly on tape from this season because the Lions have different players upfront, including rookie defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
  • McCarthy said that mental preparation was the most important part of this week. The Packers will spend limited time on the practice field to ensure the physical aspect of the game is intact. McCarthy said he won’t lose this game on Tuesday and Wednesday with grueling practices.
  • McCarthy wasn’t worried about the punt protection issues that Tampa Bay may have exposed on Sunday. He said the special teams had an up and down day but that everything was correctable.
  • He seemed very impressed with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. He noted that the most important stat for a young quarterback is games played, and the experience is clearly starting to pay off. Stafford is having “a heck of a year.”