10

January

How the Packers Should NOT Guard Randy Moss on Saturday

Randy Moss

There’s no reason to treat 2013 Randy Moss like 1998 Randy Moss

When the Packers play the 49ers on Saturday night in the NFC divisional playoffs, they need to remember that it’s 2013, not 1998, and treat Randy Moss accordingly.

Here’s video from the Packers vs. 49ers from week one. That’s Moss at the top of the screen. That’s Jarrett Bush lined up across from Moss, waaaaaaaayyyyyyy across from Moss.

In 1998, Moss’s rookie season — the season where he torched the Packers and altered Green Bay’s future draft strategies — Bush was 14 years old. He very likely has little or no memory of Moss’s dominance over the Packers from 1998, but you would never know that based on how Bush treats Moss on this play.

Bush lines up 10 yards off the now 35-year-old Moss, and starts back-pedaling as soon as the ball is snapped. It’s like Bush thought Moss must have taken a bath in the fountain of youth before the game.

Alex Smith connects with Moss for an easy 20-yard gain.

I know it’s Jarrett Bush, the same Jarrett Bush who will not be playing any coverage (hopefully) on Saturday night. But I don’t care who it is: There’s no reason to be scared of 2013 Randy Moss. Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Sam Shields. Hell, even Charles Woodson if it comes to that. Regardless of who guards Moss, they need to get on him and not worry about getting beat over the top. No 10-yard cushions and immediate back-pedaling.

Moss is old. He’s still serviceable, but he’s no longer scary. There is no reason to poop your pants when matched one-on-one with Moss.

Dom Capers has said before that he gives his corners the option of playing press or playing off whomever they’re guarding. There’s a chance that the Packers’ corners are still buying the myth of Moss as a big, bad, scary deep threat, and don’t want to be embarrassed by getting torched deep on national TV.

That is nonsense, and Capers needs to make sure his corners know that this week. If any of them talks about giving Moss a big cushion, Capers needs to hit the offender with a stick.

I don’t expect Moss to be a major factor on Saturday. Hopefully the Packers don’t turn him into a factor by being scared of him.

9

January

Packers Spread Formations can Keep 49ers’ Willis off the Field

Patrick Willis

49ers LB Patrick Willis might spend a lot of time on the sidelines if the Packers spread things out.

The Packers best bet to to overcome the physicality and viciousness of the 49ers’ defense in Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game might be to go with four and five wide receivers and spread things out.

Yes, the Packers’ running game has shown signs of life in the last month. But do you really think the Packers will win Saturday because they line up against San Francisco and blow them off the line in the running game? Doubtful.

You know how teams say the best way to slow down the Packers is with long possessions on offense that keep Aaron Rodgers of the field? The best way to attack the 49ers’ defense might be to try and get one of their best players off the field.

If the Packers use a bunch of four- and five-wide sets, it likely means that San Francisco’s all-pro middle linebacker Patrick Willis will spend a lot of time on the sideline. The 49ers will need another defensive back, probably Perrish Cox, on the field to deal with the Packers receivers instead of Willis.

What gives the Packers a better chance of winning? Running at a stout 49ers defense with Willis manning the middle of the field? Or using four or five receivers and putting the game in the hands of Aaron Rodgers while Willis watches from the sidelines? I vote for the latter.

All the Packers receivers are finally healthy (or at least healthy enough to play). Might as well use them, right?

Of course, the Packers should mix in run and power plays when needed. This isn’t Madden on the PS3. But spread sets and passing should set up those traditional formations and running plays, not the other way around.

Justin Smith, San Francisco’s mauling defensive lineman, will be slowed by a shoulder injury, which should reduce some of the stress on the Packers’ offensive line. Either way, there will be a lot of pressure on the offensive line to hold up and on Rodgers to make decisive throws if a receiver gets just an inch of separation.

The chess match on Saturday night will be interesting.

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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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9

January

Are the Packers Underdogs Against the 49ers? Depends What you Think of Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers

Can you really call a team with Aaron Rodgers at QB an underdog?

Las Vegas has the Packers as three-point underdogs against the 49ers in Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game. The vibe I get from most NFL pundits and talking heads also points to the Packers being underdogs.

There’s nothing wrong with thinking the Packers are underdogs. The 49ers are better on both lines, have an elite group of linebackers, an athletic tight end, and a bruising running back. All of these things typically give the Packers fits.

But I’ll be picking the Packers to win. I don’t think a team with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback is an underdog.

If we get the Rodgers from week one against the 49ers on Saturday night, well, then yes, the Packers will likely lose and I’ll look like an idiot. Rodgers was under siege and indecisive in the season-opener. He didn’t look prepared for the 49ers’ speed and the whole offense looked lost because it couldn’t march down the field like it did so easily throughout 2011.

A lot has changed since that opening-week letdown.

  • New faces on the offensive line and in the backfield have sparked the Packers running game.
  • The defense, especially the secondary, is more aggressive and improved.
  • Rodgers recovered from his shaky opening week and went on to have another MVP-type season, even if he flew under the radar compared to 2011.
  • Rodgers now realizes that he has to make plays under duress, whether that means scrambling or navigating his way around a hectic pocket and making plays downfield.
  • Rodgers is aware of what winning in the playoffs means for his legacy. Winning a wild-card game at home against Joe Webb doesn’t do much for his legacy. Winning a road divisional game against the team that passed him in the draft does.

Greg Cosell from NFL Films said on Tuesday that Aaron Rodgers is not playing “particularly great football.” Here’s the full quote:

“I’m not saying this to be bold or controversial, but I don’t think Aaron Rodgers is playing particularly great football. I think he’s so physically gifted — he can throw it on the run better than anyone in this league — but he’s leaving an awful lot of plays on the field. I think he’s indecisive and tentative in the pocket. He’s not pulling the trigger on throws that are there. I think this has been an ongoing thing all throughout the season. Some people would say I’m nitpicking because of his numbers, but he’s so physically gifted that there are times that he still makes plays. The biggest concern with Aaron Rodgers and their pass offense right now is not the rhythmic flow of it, it’s the extension of plays. That’s where he’s at his best right now.”

14

January

Packers – Falcons Playoffs Preview: Second Time the Charm?

Bring on the Falcons! The Green Bay Packers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 21-16 in an NFC Wild Card matchup and now move on to the Georgia Dome to face the Atlanta Falcons this Saturday night in the divisional round.
One down, three to go, Packers fans.

In what is becoming a common theme in the Packers’ postseason opponents, they faced the Falcons earlier in the season. On November 28th, the Packers fell to the Falcons 20-17 on a last second field goal. It was arguably the poorest tackling day by an otherwise stout Green Bay defense as Falcons running back Michael Turner gained 110 yards on the ground and scored one touchdown. Quarterback Matt Ryan was also brilliant throwing only four incompletions out of 28 attempts.

You’ve heard it ever since the playoffs began: “Anything in can happen in the playoffs. Everyone’s record is 0-0 and it’s every team for itself.” Perhaps now more was this evident in the 7-9 NFC West champion Seahawks’ upset of the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints in Seattle last weekend.

The Packers stand one win away from their second trip to the NFC Championship Game in four years. This one will be on the road, playing either in Seattle or Chicago depending on the outcome of Sunday’s game at Soldier Field.

Breaking down the Falcons

It’s only been seven weeks since these two teams squared off so the Falcons’ tendencies should still be rather fresh in the mind of the Packers.

On offense, the Falcons boast one the premier young quarterbacks in Ryan. With a nickname like “Matty Ice” you know Ryan remains as cool as a cucumber and he has only lost two home games in his three seasons as the Falcons’ starting quarterback. Ryan remains one the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL.

Ryan’s favorite target is wide receiver Roddy White. Once one of the NFL’s problem children, White has matured into an elite receiver that will give the Packers fits all day. He is able to get the ball downfield but still isn’t afraid to go over the top to make the catch. He is truly a complete receiver.

Don’t forget tight end Tony Gonzalez either. While his “catch” in the first matchup will forever live in Packers infamy, he’s still one of the best tight ends in the game. He’s especially dangerous in the red zone so Dom Capers must keep tabs on where number 88 is at all times inside the 20.