8

January

Packers Stock Report: We Got a Bye Week After All Edition (with Podcast)

DuJuan Harris

Packers RB DuJuan Harris scores in the first quarter of Saturday night’s playoff games against the Vikings.

I was at Lambeau for the Packers  bye week   NFC wild-card round victory over the Vikings on Saturday night. I have a couple of questions:

1. Should we be excited about the defensive performance? Or chalk it up to playing against Joe Webb?

2. How awesome is Aaron Rodgers?

3. Will the Packers turn in one of their “we’re nobody’s underdogs” performances against the 49ers?

4. What should we do with people (and I was kind of one of them) who thought the Packers defense was better without Woodson?

5. Since when did the Packers replace the Lambeau PA announcer with a guy from the NBA? Too much screaming, too much nonsense. Packers fans are capable of getting loud without gimmicks.

Now I will attempt to answer my own questions:

1. Somewhat excited.

2. Very.

3. Yes.

4. Ban them from blogging.

5. I already kind of answered this one. On to the stock report:

Rising

Aaron Rodgers
How many other quarterbacks can make the throw where Rodgers rolled right and hit Jordy Nelson inside the 5-yard line? Very few, if any. Rodgers has been excellent the last two weeks. If he keeps it going against the 49ers, I like the Packers’ chances.

Clay Matthews
Every week, the size of Matthews’ new contract gets bigger and bigger. Matthews kept himself under control on Saturday and rarely got out of position while rushing Webb or trying to corral Adrian Peterson.  You know a player is on a roll when he gets blocked to the ground, but manages to get a sack anyway because the quarterback trips over his prone body.

DuJuan Harris
I thought Harris might have lost his hot-hand status after he dropped a third-down pass on the Packers’ first possession. But McCarthy stuck with the car salesman turned starting running back in the NFL playoffs and it paid off. Harris runs to daylight and doesn’t make it easy for the other team to prevent him from getting to that daylight. He’s an ideal back to run behind a more powerful line with Don Barclay and Evan Dietrich-Smith (although Dietrich-Smith graded out poorly according to Pro Football Focus).

Steady

6

January

Packers 24, Vikings 10: Wild Card Game Balls and Lame Calls

Clay Matthews

Clay Matthews and the defense stepped up big and the Packers are on their way to San Francisco.

“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” or so the saying goes, and the Green Bay Packers got their revenge against the Minnesota Vikings by winning their NFC Wild Card game 24-10 a week after the Vikings beat the Packers 37-34 which cost Green Bay a first round bye.

The Packers spotted the Vikings an early field goal as the Vikings marched down the field. Some fans began to experience a sense of déjà vu as the Packers went three and out on the following drive.  Thankfully that malaise didn’t last long as the Packers got into the end zone on the next drive and went up 7-3.

Green Bay never looked back as they got to Vikings quarterback Joe Webb and raced out to a 24-3 lead that held throughout most of the second half and gave up a touchdown pretty much in garbage time as the score settled to 24-10 as time expired.

Here are the good and the bad for the Packers in the victory that eliminated the Vikings.

Game Balls

LB Erik Walden

It was not even a week ago that the Packers allowed Adrian Peterson to run all over them, but the Packers put forth a much better effort Saturday and Walden was a big part of it.

Walden was credited with one sack and two tackles for a loss but he was constantly in Webb’s face and had one of his best games in a long time. Walden can be inconsistent but if he can warm up for this playoff run, then the Packers will have yet another weapon to go alongside Clay Matthews at the linebacker position.

He’ll have a tougher time against the 49ers but the game against the Vikings should be a big confidence booster for Walden.

RB DuJuan Harris

Harris’ emergence late this season has all but guaranteed him a roster spot going into training camp this summer, but Harris is now making a case to be the Packers starting running back and there’s really no reason he couldn’t be.

5

January

Now a Veteran, Newhouse’s Play is Key to Packers Playoff Run

Marshall Newhouse and Jared Allen

Marshall Newhouse vs. Jared Allen will go a long way in determining the Packers’ fate on Saturday night.

If the Packers’ offensive line holds up, Aaron Rodgers and his (finally) healthy wide receivers should be able to score at least 30 points against the Vikings on Saturday night.

If the Packers put up 30, do we really think the Vikings – with Christian Ponder at quarterback – can once again score more than 30 and beat the Packers in a shootout for the second consecutive week? This time on the road, outside, on grass, in freezing temperatures?

I doubt it. Even if Adrian Peterson goes off again, it’s still going to take another strong game from Ponder for the Vikings to top 30 points.

But back to the Packers’ offensive line. We didn’t hear Marshall Newhouse’s or Jared Allen’s name called often during Sunday’s game. That’s because Newhouse was quietly doing a good job blocking Allen.

Newhouse has had his bad moments this season, but for the most part, he’s been decent. If what he did on Sunday against Allen is any indication of how he will perform in the playoffs, the outlook for the Packers’ offense is bright.

Don Barclay has boosted the Packers’ running game since taking over at right tackle. Pass protection has been a different story, especially on Sunday when Everson Griffen and Brian Robinson got around Barclay for sacks.

With three sacks, a hit, and a hurry allowed (to go along with two penalites) Pro Football Focus gave Barclay a -3.1 grade, the lone Packers’ lineman to grade out negatively. Barclay also had a -3.1 grade in week 13 against Minnesota.

If Newhouse holds up on the left side, and the pass protection can be shifted to focus on helping Barclay, that should go a long way in keeping Rodgers upright and giving him time to play pitch-and-catch with his healthy receivers against an outmanned Vikings’ secondary.

But if the Vikings’ front four gets to Rodgers and gets to him early, we could see a repeat of what happened against the Giants in last season’s divisional round: an outmanned Giants’ secondary bolstered by a pass rush that overwhelmed the Packers’ offensive line and rattled Rodgers.

To me, it all hinges on Newhouse. Newhouse is no longer the inexperienced guy on the line who is trying to find his way and doing his best to survive. That guy is now Barclay (and Evan Dietrich-Smith, I suppose).

2

January

Packers Drive Rewind: Rodgers Owns the Vikings’ Secondary

Jordy Nelson

Jordy Nelson’s TD catch tied Sunday’s game against the Vikings at 34 in the fourth quarter.

Let’s keep it positive for this week’s Packers Drive Rewind and focus on Green Bay’s game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter.

The Situation
Down 34-27, the Packers get the ball at their own 22-yard line with 7:54 to play.

The result
Aaron Rodgers overcomes a sack and a penalty, and leads the Packers on an 11-play touchdown drive that ties the game at 34. Green Bay’s defense was so impressed with Rodgers’ effort that it decided to let the Vikings march right back down the field and win the game on their ensuing possession.

Play 1: Rodgers to James Jones for 12 yards

This is what happens when Rodgers can just stand in the pocket, find a favorable matchup, and exploit it. It looks so easy. Jones is one-on-one with A..J. Jefferson and it looks like Jefferson doesn’t want anything to do with him. Jones takes advantage of the loose coverage and runs a nice hitch route for the easy catch. If the Packers offensive line can pass block like this consistently throughout the playoffs, Green Bay will win the Super Bowl.

Play 2: Rodgers sacked for an eight-yard loss by Everson Griffen

Remember the last play where the Packers’ offensive line blocked so well? The opposite happened here. Griffen beats Don Barclay on his outside shoulder and Rodgers is a smidge late in recognizing it and stepping up in the pocket before being thrown down by Griffen. There’s no doubt that Barclay has boosted the Packers’ running game, but he’s a liability in pass protection. He’s going to need some help in Saturday’s rematch.

After a two-yard pass to Jermichael Finley, Barclay is flagged for a false start, leaving the Packers with a third and 21 at their own 23.

Play 4: Rodgers to Finley for 20 yards

John Kuhn gives Barclay a little bit of help, which leaves Barclay’s side open for Rodgers to scramble. Rodgers has to scamper around because Jared Allen gets upfield on Marshall Newhouse and Kevin Williams ends up in the backfield after a crazy-looking spin move. It kind of looks like Williams ends up back there almost by accident. From there, it’s all Aaron Rodgers. Not many other quarterbacks can make this play. Finley does a nice job of recognizing where Rodgers is heading, then floating to an open space in the zone. Rodgers lofts a perfect pass over Jefferson, who came up just a little too far and put too much space between him and Finley. Finley does a nice job to catch the ball and get both feet down.

2

January

Packers Stock Report: Playoff Time Edition

Greg Jennings

Packers WR Greg Jennings is rising after Sunday’s game.

For the last three years, I’ve always been confident whenever the Packers play because they had the best player on the field.

No matter who the Packers were playing, what the score was, or how slow the Packers started, I always felt good because I knew that Aaron Rodgers played for Green Bay and would probably find a way to win the game. He was the best player on the field and the best player on the field typically comes through and leads his team to a win. Not always, but usually.

When the Packers play the Vikings in the playoffs on Saturday, Rodgers will not be the best player on the field. That title will belong to Adrian Peterson, and it scares me.

The Packers are better than the Vikings in almost every facet of the game. But as long as Peterson is carrying the ball, the Vikings will have a shot. I shouldn’t be nervous about Saturday, but I am. And it’s all because of Peterson.

Hopefully, for at least one night, Rodgers regains his best-player-on-the-field championship belt. Rodgers can then worry about getting the Packers to another Super Bowl and defending his best-player-on-the-field title next season.

On to the stock report:

Rising

Adrian Peterson
I don’t think I’ve ever put a non-Packers player in the rising category. Usually I put players from the other team in the falling category so I can mock and ridicule them. But as a football fan, I have to show respect to Peterson. He lead his team to the postseason and left several Packers defenders limping off the field. It was agonizing to watch as a Packers fan, but fascinating as a football fan.

B.J. Raji
The finger-wags got a little annoying. Don’t wag your finger, B.J., when the other running back is going for 200 yards on your defense again. Other than that, Raji was a beast. Peterson got a lot of his yards when he bounced outside. He often had to bounce out because Raji plugged the middle. If Peterson wasn’t able to bounce out, it was because Raji grabbed him and wrestled him to the ground.

Greg Jennings
It was nice to be reminded just how silky smooth Jennings is in both his route running and running after the catch. He’s an artist (pronounced ar-teest). He also made himself a boatload of cash.

1

January

If the Packers Want to Stop Peterson, Defense Needs to Be Tougher

Tramon Williams

Packers CB Tramon Williams needs to step outside his comfort zone and tackle Adrian Peterson if the Packers want to win on Saturday night.

People usually think of toughness as some intangible trait, something that can’t be measured by an actual set of skills or statistics. People also use the word toughness as an adjective, a cliche to just throw out there when they really can’t explain why their favorite team can’t make a tackle, catch a pass or win a game.

I hate using words just to use words. Words mean things. And if you use a word, it better mean something.

If the Packers want to avoid another one-and-done in the postseason and beat the Vikings on Saturday, they need to get tougher on defense. Here’s what toughness means in the Packers’ case:

  • Doing things you’re not comfortable doing. This is for Tramon Williams. I know you’re not comfortable tackling. Maybe it’s your shoulder, maybe it’s something else. Either way, you need to get tougher and tackle. Packers fans applaud your toughness when you clamp down on Calvin Johnson or Brandon Marshall. That’s great. But you’re a No. 1 cornerback. Playing the other team’s top receiver is what you’re supposed to do. True toughness comes when you take on Peterson and bring him down before he reels off another big gain on your side. Teams win championships when players do things they’re not comfortable doing and do them well.
  • Owning your gap. The Packers looked very conscious of gap assignments against Peterson Sunday. They seemed to get the concept of maintaining gap responsibility, but had no idea what to do when Peterson came into their gap. If you beat your blocker, or at least fight him to a draw, standing in the gap flat-footed is not good enough against Peterson. You need to own your gap, not just hang out in it for a while. If Peterson comes into your gap — the gap you own! — you need to be in a position to make a play and bring him down. Standing flat-footed and reaching with your hands won’t do it. You also can’t wait for your teammates to come help you out. Peterson gets his big yards when he runs through your feeble attempt at a hand grab and cuts back to where your teammates used to be before they came to help you. Peterson runs aggressively. If you want to stop him, you have to at least match that aggressiveness.
20

December

Breaking Down Packers Playoff Scenarios

With two more regular season games to go, here is an update on the Packers’ playoff situation:

  • The Packers have already clinched the NFC North. They will be in the playoffs, guaranteed at least one home game and no worse than the fourth overall seed.
  • If the season ended today, the Packers would be the third seed and host the sixth-seeded Vikings on wild-card weekend. That’s likely not going to hold up since the Packers play the Vikings in week 17. The Vikings also could win their next two games and still miss the playoffs.
  • The Packers can move up to the second seed if they win out and the 49ers lose once. The 49ers are at Seattle this week and host Arizona in week 17.
  • Whether the Packers move up to the second seed, or stay at No. 3, a second-round matchup with the 49ers looks likely. If the Packers are the third seed and win their first-round game, they would travel to San Francisco. If the Packers are the second seed and the 49ers win their first-round game as the No. 3 seed, San Francisco would visit Green Bay.
  • The Packers can get the first seed if they win out and the Falcons lose their last two games.
  • If the Packers stay the third seed, it’s very likely that their first-round game will be against a wild-card team from the NFC East or the Bears.
  • Let’s assume the Packers stay the third seed, who would you want to play in the first round: Chicago, New York, Washington or Dallas? I’d pick Washington. They can’t guard the slot and I trust Dom Capers to not to get thrown off by RG3 and the Redskins’ funky formations.
  • Chicago seems like the obvious choice, but beating the Bears three times in the same season seems like we’d be asking too much of the football gods.
  • Check out ESPN’s NFL Playoff Machine if you want to try and figure out potential playoff pairings yourself.
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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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