11

January

2013 NFL Playoffs Predictions, Divisional Round: AllGreenBayPackers.com

GAME PREDICTIONS
2013 NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round
Name Straight Up Against the Spread
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (-7.5)
Kris Burke Seahawks Saints
“Jersey” Al Bracco Seahawks Seahawks
Adam Czech Seachickens Saints
Marques Eversoll Seahawks Saints
Thomas Hobbes Seahawks Seahawks
Cory Jennerjohn Seahawks Saints
Jason Perone Seahawks Saints
Chad Toporski Seahawks Saints
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (-7)
Kris Burke Patriots Colts
“Jersey” Al Bracco Colts Colts
Adam Czech Colts Colts
Marques Eversoll Colts Colts
Thomas Hobbes Colts Colts
Cory Jennerjohn Patriots Patriots
Jason Perone Patriots Colts
Chad Toporski Colts Colts
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers (+1)
Kris Burke 49ers 49ers
“Jersey” Al Bracco 49ers 49ers
Adam Czech 49ers 49ers
Marques Eversoll 49ers 49ers
Thomas Hobbes Panthers Panthers
Cory Jennerjohn 49ers 49ers
Jason Perone Panthers Panthers
Chad Toporski Panthers Panthers
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos (-9)
Kris Burke Broncos Chargers
“Jersey” Al Bracco Broncos Chargers
Adam Czech Broncos Chargers
Marques Eversoll Broncos Chargers
Thomas Hobbes Broncos Broncos
Cory Jennerjohn Broncos Chargers
Jason Perone Broncos Broncos
Chad Toporski Broncos Chargers
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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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4

October

Packers defense: Where will it go from here?

CB Tramon Williams and S Morgan Burnett fight for an interception against the Saints

CB Tramon Williams and S Morgan Burnett fight for an interception against the Saints

Through three games, the Packers defense looked good. Not great, but good.

This past Sunday, however, was a different story. Saints quarterback Drew Brees carved up the Green Bay defense for 446 yards and three touchdowns. For Brees, it was like stealing candy from a sleeping baby.

Just six days earlier, the Packers gave up only 130 passing yards–106, if not for a certain 24-yard play to end the game. But Sunday’s soft defense brought back some painful memories from last season, when the Packers’ leaky pass defense was continually bailed out by its unstoppable offense.

So, why did the defense look so much worse this week?

Well, for one, Brees is really, really good.

But also, Capers tends to err on the side of caution in regards to his play-calling, rushing only three and dropping eight into coverage, especially against top-tier quarterbacks like Brees. And again on Sunday, his “bend-but-don’t-break” philosophy hurt the team.

In a matter of four plays on Sunday, the Packers pushed the Saints backwards on 1st and 2nd down, but then allowed New Orleans to convert a 3rd-and-17, and a 3rd-and-14. The Packers failed to put any pressure on Brees, allowing him to sit back in the pocket and step up to make timely throws to his receivers.

The extra men in coverage were no problem for Brees, given the fact that he is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the game. As long as he has time, he can put the ball wherever he wants.

Let’s take a look at the 3rd-and-17 conversion to Marques Colston.

Now, let’s examine the Saints’ 3rd-and-14 conversion on the same drive.

New Orleans was only able to muster up a 27-yard field goal on the drive, giving the Saints a 27-21 lead over the Packers. But for the defense, getting off the field on 3rd down is the name of the game.

And clearly, Sunday’s strategy of rushing three and dropping eight wasn’t working.

Sure, the Saints have a lot of weapons on offense, so it’s understandable that Capers would try not to get burned by the blitz. But will this “soft defense” continue to plague the Packers throughout 2012? It very well could.

3

October

Packing the Stats: Release Times of Brees, Rodgers

As expected, the showdown between the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers on Sunday was a high-flying affair between two Super Bowl MVPs. Both defenses had a difficult time stopping the pass prowess of Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, who put up a combined 765 yards and 7 touchdowns through the air.

A lot of Packers fans were extremely frustrated with the Packers’ secondary, which seemingly regressed in soft zone coverage after two games of playing a more aggressive man-to-man style. While this has been the scapegoat for fans, Tom Silverstein of JSOnline.com had this explanation:

The big reason was because the Saints used a lot of bunch formations. The Packers had some rules for how to play them when their splits are a certain way. When the splits were narrower than usual, they went to zone so they didn’t get picked. Wider, they went to man-to-man. The Saints are really good in dissecting defenses and making them react to the Saints. With the size of their receivers, you can’t let yourself get picked all day long or you wind up giving up even bigger plays. The problem was no pass rush.

Providing some statistics to back up this claim is ProFootballFocus.com, who mentioned the following in their Re-Focused Game Review: “After being pressured on 53 drop-backs through three games, Brees faced pressure on just six of 56 drop-backs (10.7%) against the Packers.”

Now, I consider the Saints offensive line to be one of the better units in the NFL. Both guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks represented the NFC in the 2012 Pro Bowl, and tackle Jermon Bushrod was a reserve player. When stating this recently on a comment thread, another poster brought up the quick releases of Drew Brees.

With that as the impetus for my research, I took to NFL Rewind with my stopwatch to time the releases of both Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. While there is some human error in the process, I did time each throw at least twice. (The span of time recorded is from snap to release.)

Here is the raw data, split by drive:

BREES RODGERS
2.7 COMP
1.4 COMP
2.2 COMP
1.9 COMP
2.6 INC
1.7 COMP
2.4 INC
4.9 SCRAM TD COMP
1.2 COMP
1

October

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 28, Saints 27

Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy

Rodgers and the offense got back on track while McCarthy’s red flag nearly cost the team a win

Not even Jeff Triplette could deny the Green Bay Packers this time.

The Packers hung on for a wild 28-27 victory over the New Orleans Saints in a game where offenses ruled the day as both defenses gave up a combined for 895 yards and quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees both had stellar days and were able to move the chains almost at will.

The Packers go to 2-2 with the victory after their heartbreaking “loss” to the Seattle Seahawks last Monday evening and will move into second place in the NFC North behind the surprising 3-1 Minnesota Vikings should the Chicago Bears lose to the Dallas Cowboys tonight.  The Saints fall to 0-4 as the team struggles to get going without head coach Sean Payton, who was suspended for the entire season for his part in the Saints’ bounty program.

The Packers offense finally appeared to find its rhythm against the hapless Saints defense that ranked dead last in the NFL entering the game, allowing an average of 477 yards per game. Rodgers picked apart the Saints secondary and Cedric Benson had another solid outing.

So who stood out and who stood down?

Game Balls

QB Aaron Rodgers

All eyes were on the reigning MVP this week after last week’s debacle in Seattle and Rodgers’ strong comments during his weekly radio show on ESPN 540. Many were expecting Rodgers to come back with a vengeance and he didn’t disappoint.

Aside from one interception, Rodgers was surgical against the Saints defense, going 31-41 for 319 yards and throwing four touchdown passes. His offensive line kept him upright and his knack for extending plays was once again on full display.  He finally looked the part of NFL MVP, though again it was against the worst defense in the NFL.

WR James Jones

What kind of bizarre NFL season is this when Jones makes the clutch catch of the game?

Aside from making an incredible catch with a defender literally on top off him late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory, Jones had his best game of the season.  He caught two touchdown passes and finished with five catches for 65 yards.

30

September

Packers vs. Saints – Game Day First Impressions, Unfiltered: GB 28 NO 27

Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints:

My unfiltered game day recap and blog post of comments, observations and first impressions.

Inactive for Packers today:

11 WR Jarrett Boykin
28 S Sean Richardson
31 CB Davon House
44 RB James Starks
56 LB Terrell Manning
84 TE D.J. Williams
94 DE Phillip Merling

Notes:

No one imagined the Packers and Saints would be a combined 1-5 going into this game, but despite their records, it should be a premiere match-up for Sunday afternoon football.

The Packers offense has yet to find its footing or its identity during the first three games. Will the abysmal Saints defense help to get them back on track?

New Orleans may be suffering on defense, but their offense is still the high-powered machine it has been. Dom Capers and the Green Bay defensive unit will have their hands full going against big playmakers like Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, and Marques Colston.

All the Packers players are pretty healthy going into this game. Sean Richardson (hamstring) is the only one ruled out, with Davon House (shoulder) designated as questionable. James Starks’ turf toe has healed up, but he might be a healthy scratch this week.

This marks the beginning of a consistent schedule for the remainder of the season. The Packers have nothing but Sunday games from here on out.

 

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Mike McCarthy Pregame Show on 620 WTMJ:

Offense Struggling: We just have to exercise the game plan. It’s a new week. We can’t let past experiences affect us in any way. We need to pick up the tempo.

Health of Team: I think this is the best we’ve been so far this year. When you’re healthy it makes for tough decisions – who’s up, who’s down.

Impressions of Saints: Offensively very explosive. Plenty of weapons around Drew Brees. Solid offensive line that’s played well. Special teams get after it. Offensively, we need to be balanced and play fast. Their defense has had trouble against the run.

Saints Attitude as Winless Team: I’m not in their locker room, I really don’t care either. We want to get the crowd into it early. We want to make this a high-energy, fast-paced type of football game.

30

September

New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers: Key Matchups

Clay Matthews vs Saints

Clay Matthews helps take down Saints QB Drew Brees

One of the better games in week 4 is tomorrow’s game featuring the New Orleans Saints, who are still looking for their first win, and the Green Bay Packers, who look to get back on track at Lambeau Field.  The game is FOX’s nationally televised game and will kick off at 3:25pm CDT.  Let’s take a look at some of the key matchups in this contest.

On paper, this one looks to be a shootout between 2  teams that feature very good QB’s.  Drew Brees threw 46 TD passes last season and had nearly 5,500 yards passing.  Those gaudy numbers will be tough to duplicate this season, but he’s still Drew Brees.  So far, he has 7 TD passes to 5 INT’s in the Saints 3 losses.  It’s hard to digest the Saints being winless at this point but don’t be fooled.  This team can still light it up and likely will before long.

Aaron Rodgers also had an incredible 2011 season with 45 TD’s in just 15 games and over 4,600 total yards passing.  This year, Rodgers has just 3 TD’s to 2 INT’s through 3 games.  He has faced San Francisco’s, Chicago’s and Seattle’s defenses who are both solid against the pass.  In overall defense, San Fran is ranked 11th, Chicago is ranked 6th and Seattle is 4th, just behind the Packers.  By contrast, Brees has faced Washington, Carolina and Kansas City.  KC leads those 3 in defensive ranking but is 16th.

Here are what I see as the key matchups to keep an eye on tomorrow:

Aaron Rodgers vs. the Saints defense

As Aaron Rodgers goes, so do the Packers.  Despite the team’s “resurgence” in the run game, the Packer offense starts and finishes on the arm of Rodgers.  His stats indicate that he has struggled of late and they surely are down, but the Packers have been in every game they have played.  Some, ok mostly everyone would argue that they should be 2-1.  He has played well enough to win.

The reigning league MVP will face the league’s 32nd (last) ranked defense tomorrow.  Now, keep in mind that the NFL’s defensive ranking is solely based on total yards surrendered.  There is much more to a defense’s makeup than yards.  Last year, the Packers were last in total defense but were also one of the top defense’s in terms of taking the ball away.  The Saints will likely do what they can to get after the ball and mask some of the issues they have stopping teams from moving the ball.

29

September

Week 4: Around the NFC North

Christian Ponder

QB Christian Ponder has led the surprising Vikings to a 2-1 record

It’s hard to believe we’re already talking about week 4 and the NFL season will be a quarter done after this coming Monday Night game.  It’s a busy week in the NFC North with some very good matchups to look forward to.

For the Green Bay Packers, week 4 is a very welcome sight.  Need I even explain the who, what, when, where and why?  They are eager to get that putrid taste out of their mouths after a very controversial loss on the final play in Monday Night’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.  They return home and host the 0-3 New Orleans Saints led by QB Drew Brees.

The Minnesota Vikings ride high into Detroit to face the Lions after having knocked off the previously undefeated and heavily favored San Francisco 49ers in Minnesota this past weekend.  It is the first divisional game for both the Vikes and Lions this season.  The Lions come into this game licking the wounds of a brutal overtime loss at Tennessee after scoring twice in the final :18 seconds to force the OT.

The Bears cap off the week with a Monday Night matchup in Dallas against the Cowboys.  Both teams are coming off wins and strong performances in week 3.  The winner of this one makes a strong statement as to their standing as a contender in the NFC.

And lastly, it must be mentioned that everyone is relieved (well at least everyone not in Seattle) and very happy to welcome back the union referees who agreed, this week, to a new CBA with the league.  They officiated the Thursday night matchup between the Ravens and Browns and will be on hand for the full slate of NFL games this weekend.

Minnesota Vikings (2-1) at Detroit Lions (1-2)

The Vikings have thrown a few surprises at us all so far in this young season.  Adrian Peterson did in fact return in time for the season opener and he is already having a productive season.  He has 230 yards on 58 carries and 2 TD’s.  Riding that production, the Vikes find themselves in first place in the NFC North for the first time since the end of the 2009 season.  They stunned the San Francisco 49ers this past weekend and handed them their first loss of the year.  The Vikes will be a team to watch having found some early success after entering the season as heavy favorites to finish last in the division.