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.

3

October

Packers vs. Broncos: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 49-23 Romp Over Denver

Rick Wood, JSOnline

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for four touchdowns and ran two others in, as he led the undefeated Packers (4-0) to a 49-23 win over the Denver Broncos (1-3) on Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. He’s pretty good

It’s almost hard to put into words how well Rodgers played against the Broncos on Sunday, but let’s try our best: His 408 yards were four more than his previous career high of 404 against the Giants, which also marked the start of the Packers’ current 10-game winning streak. The six total touchdowns were a personal best. The four passing touchdowns tied a career high, and he became the first Packers’ quarterback to run for two touchdowns in a game since Brett Favre did it in 1995 against the Cowboys. He became the first quarterback in NFL history with 400 yards, four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in one game. If a ball that went off the hands of James Jones in the fourth quarter falls to the turf, Rodgers would have finished with a passer rating of 145.5. That would have been the second-best rating in a game in his career, behind only his 155.4 showing vs. Cleveland in ’09. Still, his 134.5 rating against the Broncos was his fifth-best career rating and will bump his NFL-leading rating in 2011 to 124.6. Peyton Manning has the NFL record for passer rating in a season at 121.1. Rodgers is on pace for 56 total touchdowns (48 passing, 8 rushing) and 5,300 passing yards in 2011.

Finally, take a look at Rodgers’ stat line during the Packers’ 10-game winning streak: 3,052 yards, 26 passing touchdowns, five interceptions, four rushing touchdowns and a passer rating of 117.6. Yeah, I think that Rodgers guy is pretty good.

2. Six pack

You didn’t really think I was done gushing over Rodgers’ performance on Sunday after one observation, did you? Not even close. Let’s break down his six touchdowns.

Rodgers to Nelson, 50 yards: It was a tremendous route by Jordy, as he ran past the cornerback and then got safety Brian Dawkins to turn his hips the wrong way. It was over at that point, but Rodgers put an absolutely perfect ball on Nelson for the score. He couldn’t have thrown it any better.

2

October

Packers vs. Broncos Preview: 5 Things to Watch

Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers (3-0) and Denver Broncos (1-2) face off in Week 4 of the NFL season Sunday.

The basics 

When: 3:15 CST, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011

Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI

TV: CBS, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms with the call

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee); Packers Radio Network; Siruis Satellite Radio (Ch. 91)

Series: Packers lead, 6-5-1 (Packers won last regular season meeting, 19-13 (OT), on Oct. 29, 2007 at Denver.)

Five things to watch

A New House on the right side

With Bryan Bulaga on the sidelines this week recovering from an ankle and knee injury, second-year tackle Marshall Newhouse will make his first career NFL start. Remember, this is a guy who was inactive for every game he was healthy during his rookie year. But when Bulaga went down in Chicago, the Packers offense didn’t back off or change the gameplan. As we’ve seen so many times in the past two season, the beat simply went on for the Packers after an injury at an important position.

Still, you’d have to expect the Broncos to test Newhouse early and often, and they have the horses to do it. Aaron Rodgers compared Elvis Dumervil—who is still questionable for Sunday—to pass rushers like Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, and if Newhouse isn’t faced with him, then he’ll likely get rookie Von Miller. The Broncos’ No. 2 overall pick in April has impressed with his first step and natural pass rushing skills. Newhouse passed his first test last Sunday, but he gets a whole new challenge against the Broncos.

Rodgers vs. the blitz

Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has blitzed as much as any defensive coordinator in football through three games. That’s not surprising considering he came to Denver after serving three years under Gregg Williams in New Orleans as the secondary coach, but it’ll be interesting to see how Allen attacks the Packers offense. Williams went after Aaron Rodgers early in Week 1, and the Packers quarterback responded with three first quarter touchdown passes and a 158.3 rating after 15 minutes of football.

That isn’t surprising either, as Rodgers has been the best passer in the NFL against the blitz since taking over in 2008. He can recognize blitz looks in his pre-snap reads and will hit the hot appropriate hot read before the blitz gets home. Will Allen trust the stat sheet and tone down his blitzes? Or will he stick to what he’s shown through three weeks?

30

September

Know Your Packers Enemy: Breaking Down the Broncos vs. Packers with Sayre Bedinger From Mile High Report

In our second installment of “Know Your Packers Enemy,” we sat down with Sayre Bedinger of Mile High Report to breakdown the Green Bay Packers (3-0) upcoming contest with the Denver Broncos (1-2) in Week 4.

Here’s the Q&A:

ZACH KRUSE:  The Broncos returned both Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey to practice on Wednesday. Do you think they’ll play on Sunday? And how important are these two to what the Broncos want to do on defense?

SAYRE BEDINGER: I know that Elvis Dumervil is playing, he said as much at practice yesterday. Champ is a little more uncertain to me just because straining a hamstring can take up to a month and a half to fully heal from, but he’s one of the toughest players on the team and if he feels like he can contribute at a high level, there is no way he is missing this game. When they are on the field, the whole defense is a different looking unit, and to be honest, they help us match up much better with the Packers who are primarily a passing offense. They are both such dynamic playmakers and I would argue they are the two best players on the entire team.

ZK: What’s the confidence level in Kyle Orton in Denver? We all heard the chants for Tim Tebow in Week 1, but I think the rest of the NFL understands Tebow’s limitations. Is there a trust level with Orton still?

SB: I threw out a figure on my radio show last week that the amount of Broncos fans still confident in Kyle Orton has gone from about 50-50 to maybe 85% of people no longer believing he can play at a high enough level consistently. You mention that the league knows Tebow’s limitations–I highly disagree. I don’t think anyone knows his limitations because he hasn’t seen extended time on the field. Due to him being a relative unknown, the fans are willing to place an enormous amount of pressure on Kyle to be perfect because we know there is at least an alternative. At this point, a majority of Broncos fans have already moved on from Kyle Orton and simply believe the coaching staff is delaying the inevitable, waiting for the season to be lost to put Tebow on the field.