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.

28

November

Week 13 Packers Stock Report: Rodgers and Williams Rising, Finley and Lee Falling

Families across Wisconsin sat down to watch Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and Greg Jennings try to lead the Packers past the Lions on Thanksgiving.

They got what they wanted, and a little bit more.

Little-known backups Evan Dietrich-Smith, D.J. Smith and Robert Francois all came up big for Green Bay. After Francois picked off Matthew Stafford, my family jumped for joy, then said in unison: “Who’s that guy?”

The Packers Next Man Up mantra was on display once again on Thursday and the result was 11-0.

Onto the stock report:

Rising

Aaron Rodgers
If not for dropped passes from Andrew Quarless and Randall Cobb, Rodgers would’ve had four TDs. Nothing wrong with two TDs on 22 of 33 for 307 yards and no interceptions, though.

Tramon Williams
Tramon Williams 1, Megatron 0.

Ted Thompson
I’ve listed Mike McCarthy in the stock report before, so it’s only fair to include Thompson. The GM’s knack for finding reserves that fit the Packers system was displayed again on Thursday. D.J. Smith, Robert Francois and Evan Dietrich-Smith all entered the game after injuries to the starters and made an impact.

Steady

Charles Woodson
Normally, an up-and-down CB like Woodson is too inconsistent to get a spot in the steady category. However, Woodson consistently makes big plays, even if he gets beat more than he used to. I’m not sure if those previous two sentences make sense, but I’m not sure how else to explain it. I guess I’m trying to say that Woodson might not be the most steady of CBs in coverage any more, but he’s steady in his ability to make big plays.

John Kuhn
Another week, another Kuhn TD, another week of enraged fantasy football owners with James Starks on their roster.

Falling

Jermichael Finley
That’s two weeks in a row that Finley dropped a pass. Throw in a false start and Finley lands in the falling category.

Pat Lee
The refs missed everything that happened leading up to Lee taking a swing at a Lions player, but that’s not an excuse. You can’t get let a team like the Lions get to you and you can’t get kicked out of a game. Period.

Ndamukong Suh
See the photo at the top of this post. No further explanation necessary.

 

26

November

Green Bay Packers Show Value of Teamwork in Statement Win

Going into the Thanksgiving showdown between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions on Thursday, my prediction for a Lions upset victory was admittedly tenuous. I knew the Packers had more skill, more talent, and more depth; nevertheless, I was wary about Detroit’s ability to stun opponents with their comeback play. Green Bay has consistently been unable to drive the dagger deep into most of their opponents, and I thought that would come back to bite them against an emotionally-driven team in such a hostile environment.

Boy was I wrong.

Part of the concern for most fans and even beat writers was the list of match-up problems playing against the Packers. The Lion’s infamous front four would be squaring off against an offensive line that had been giving up some pressure in recent games. And Matthew Stafford with his corps of receivers (led by Calvin “Megatron” Johnson) was more than capable of putting up yards against a Packers secondary who found most of their success in turnovers rather than consistent stops.

At face value, it seemed like such a perfect recipe for Green Bay’s first potential loss of the season. The Detroit Lions apparently had the fire and wild energy to disrupt the cool focus of Aaron Rodgers and his teammates.

Fortunately, there was one thing we seemed to be glossing over. One thing that can turn match-up problems into mostly non-issues. One thing that can mean the difference between a hard-fought victory and a heart-breaking loss.

And that thing is teamwork.

Now, I’m not talking about just the players, because this level of teamwork extends all the way up to the coaches and even the front office.

In reality, the Detroit Lions showed that they are largely the antithesis of what the Green Bay Packers have become. What used to be the Minnesota Vikings’ role as the characteristic foil of the Packers has now been bequeathed to the Lions. They have become the “yin” to Green Bay’s “yang.”

For starters, the injuries sustained by both sides on Thursday were handled in bright contrast.

When the Packers lost both of their inside linebackers (and the ability to communicate to the defense by radio), back-up players D.J. Smith and Robert Francois made their presence known with some big plays. Smith landed a number of big tackles, while Francois snatched a game-changing interception out of the air. It’s also hard to ignore the efforts of Evan Dietrich-Smith and Brandon Saine on the offensive side of the ball.

25

November

Paper Lions and Boy Named Suh No Match for the Packers

N-DUMB-ukong; Not a man, just a "Boy Named Suh"

I overestimated the Detroit Lions. I though they were a good football team that would play the Packers even on Thanksgiving day.

And I was wrong…

I can’t say I saw the entire game. A house full of over 20 Thanksgiving guests and my turkey-carving duties saw to that. But I really didn’t need to.  What I did see:

I saw the Packers as steely, methodical and under control (except for Pat Lee – although I haven’t seen that play yet). The Packers made few mistakes, committing zero turnovers and eight penalties, only two more than their season average of six per game in what was definitely a chippy contest.

I saw the Lions as young, dumb, and mentally numb. One could say the Lions choked a bit in a big spot. Stafford threw 3 interceptions (should have been a pick-six fourth, Tramon…). The Lions came into the game averaging 8.5 penalties per game and committed eleven in this game. In the first quarter, they basically stopped themselves with penalties on several drives. And of course N-DUMB-ukong Suh showed the world he is still an immature little boy playing with men, and gave the Packers seven points in the process.

I saw the Lions coach then have a polite conversation with the “Boy Named Suh” as he came off the field after being ejected..  Personally, I would have chewed him out right there on National TV in front of all of tryptophan-filled America. And then I would have kicked him in the ass all the way to the locker room. After the game, Suh denied he intentionally tried to stop on Dietrich-Smith, giving some lame-ass excuse about just trying to extricate himself from Smith. Of course, if that was his intent, it might have helped if he had stopped pounding Smiths’ head into the ground. As TJ Lang said after the game, “His explanation is crap.”

I saw the Packers offense once again find the hot hand and ride it. This time it was forgotten-man James Jones. When the Packers drafted Randall Cobb, I wrote that defensive coordinators would be starting a petition to have the Packers’ offense declared illegal.  Seriously, how can you prepare for an offense with such a diverse group of offensive weapons? And it’s only going to get worse for them, as Cobb starts to see more action (he was thrown to four times in this game).

24

November

Packers vs. Lions: 5 Instant Observations from Green Bay’s 27-15 Win over Detroit

Aaron Rodgers rebounded from a slow start, James Jones caught his fifth touchdown pass and the defense played arguably its finest game of 2011 season as the Green Bay Packers took down the Detroit Lions, 27-15, on Thursday at Ford Field.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. Defense states their case

On a day in which the Packers lost Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk and Erik Walden at various times, the defense may have played their best game of the 2011 season. Despite giving up over 400 total yards again, the Packers intercepted Matthew Stafford three times and held a shutout into the fourth quarter against an explosive offense on the road. Calvin Johnson, one of the NFL’s best receivers, was held to just four catches for 49 yards and a meaningless garbage time touchdown. Backup inside linebackers D.J. Smith and Robert Francois played surprisingly well in emergency duty. Considering everything involved on Thursday, you could make a strong case this was the Packers most impressive defensive performance of 2011.

2. Suh’s stomp changes game

Terry McAulay’s officiating crew were bad for both sides on Thursday, but they absolutely got it right when they ejected Ndamukong Suh in the third quarter. Not only did he stomp Evan Dietrich-Smith’s arm, but Suh also banged Dietrich-Smith’s head off the ground multiple times before the stomp. There’s simply no place for that kind of behavior in football, and Suh deserves to sit a couple of games, especially considering his history. Luckily for the Packers, Suh’s dirty play gave them a new set of downs at the Lions’ 1-yard-line, and John Kuhn promptly turned the break into a 14-0 lead 9:06 left in the third quarter. It wasn’t the decicing factor in the game, but Suh’s ejection and penalty turned the tides in what was a close contest at that juncture.

3. Rodgers rebounds

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers started slow on Thursday, but the Lions were unable to hold him down for a full four quarters. After being held under 100 yards passing and failing to convert a third down in the first half, the NFL’s best signal caller caught fire in the second half and finished with another stat line that Packers’ fans have come to expect. By the time the game was over, Rodgers had completed 22 of 32 passes for 307 yards and two scores, including a 65-yard strike to James Jones that put the Packers up 21 points. His 120.2 passer rating extended his NFL record streak for games over 110.0 passer rating to 11 straight. Rodgers was especially deadly on back shoulder throws in the second half. Anytime the Packers needed a big play, he found a receiver being covered by a corner with his back to the play. At that point, it’s stealing for Rodgers and this group of receivers.

24

November

Packers vs. Lions: 10 Quick Things to Watch, Score Prediction

The Green Bay Packers (10-0) travel to Detroit to take on the Lions (7-3) Thursday. The following 10 are things you should watch during the first Thanksgiving contest between the two teams since 2007:

1. Right side of the offensive line

A lot of the talk on Thursday will be about right guard Josh Sitton and his ability to keep Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh out of the Packers backfield. While that is obviously an important matchup, don’t forget about right tackle Bryan Bulaga. He had his worst game as a professional last December in Detroit, allowing two sacks, one quarterback hit and four pressures. Bulaga needs to play better against the Lions’ edge rushers on Thursday.

2.  Stay disciplined

The Lions have gained a reputation as a “dirty” team this season, and Suh—the leader of bunch—has already ran his confident mouth this week. The Packers have done well in 2011 to avoid lowering themselves to such tactics (see: Atlanta Falcons week). I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Lions didn’t try to get under the Packers skin on Thursday. All 46 of the men on the gameday roster need to keep their heads in a tough atmosphere.

3. Kevin Smith’s resurgence

Lions running back Kevin Smith was sitting at home without an NFL job two weeks ago, but he burst back onto the scene with 201 total yards and three scores against the Carolina Panthers last week. The Packers have been susceptible against both the run and running backs catching the ball out of the backfield this season. They need to make sure Smith isn’t the guy who beats them on Thursday with his legs.

4. Availability of James Starks

The Packers have officially listed Starks as questionable for Thursday, which gives him a decent chance of playing against the Lions. You’d think the Packers would need him, too. Not only is he a physical presence running the football, but he’s also improved leaps and bounds in pass protection. Not having him available, and potentially having to lean on rookie Brandon Saine in spots, could leave the Packers vulnerable.

5. Megatron engaged

23

November

2011 NFL Season Week 12: Green Bay Packers vs Detroit Lions Preview: A Bump In The Road To Perfection?

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It’s finally here. The game Packer fans have circled since the Green Bay Packers ‘ season began.

Detroit Lions. Ford Field. Thanksgiving.

As the Packers knocked off opponent after opponent, fans kept glancing nervously at the schedule each week. Now the game is finally here.

Will the dream run continue or does the magic end here? Let’s look at the Lions first.

Key Lions Players

QB Matthew Stafford

This season has left little doubt: when healthy Stafford is the second best quarter in the NFC North. He has put the Lions on track for their first playoff berth in what seems like forever.

Stafford distributes the ball around to his plethora of weapons. While they don’t have the Packers’ depth, it’s still a plenty potent offense with Stafford at the helm.

With his strong arm, Stafford can make all the throws. That said, he still tries to force the ball to his big receivers. The Packers will need to take advantage of that if they want to win tomorrow.

WR Calvin Johnson

Megatron has definitely earned his nickname. Whenever the ball is thrown his direction, he usually comes down with it.

Johnson’s size and overall power are a nightmare for any defender. Given the Packers’ recent struggles with communication in the secondary, Johnson could singlehandedy take over the game.

DT Ndamukong Suh

Dirty player or not, Suh as emerged as one of the best defenders in the league in just his second year. Though he has been warned by Commissioner Roger Goodell for being too rough, Suh still plays with fire.

He is nearly unblockable. He has beat double teams all year and Suh will have Aaron Rodgers on the run most of the day if the offensive line can’t contain him. Rodgers has been getting hit far too often and won’t need the reminder that he suffered a concussion at this stadium last year.

Three matchups to watch

Rodgers vs Stafford

Not since Week One when Drew Brees arrived in Green Bay will anyone have seen an aerial duel like this. It’s fully possible both QBs could combine for over 800 yards. The Lions offense has proven to be one of the few that can seemingly keep pace with the Packers.

Suh vs the Packers offensive line