Packers Periscope: Eyeing the Enemy (Bengals)

After easily dumping the Washington Redskins last Sunday in their home opener, the Green Bay Packers once again hit the road and tomorrow face the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bengals, like the Packers, are 1-1 and are tied for first place in the AFC North with the defending world champion Baltimore Ravens.  Cincinnati was the chic pick by many to win the AFC North and after an opening day loss to the Chicago Bears, they bounced back nicely against the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday night, defeating their archrival by a score of 20-10.

Despite some accuracy issues by quarterback Andy Dalton, the Bengals were able to move the ball in the second half and a depleted Pittsburgh team just couldn’t keep up.  Rookie running back Giovani Bernard took some of the pressure off of Dalton and helped put the Steelers away.

The last time we met

The last time the Bengals and Packers met, the game ended in heartbreak for Green Bay.  During their Week 2 game in 2009, the Bengals edged the Packers 31-24 after Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers failed to stop the clocked in a frantic last minute drive to score the game-tying touchdown.

This also was the same game former Cincinnati receiver Chad Ochocinco/Johnson performed the Lambeau Leap he was promising/threatening all week. Carson Palmer was able to move the ball down the field almost at will with Green Bay still adjusting to their new 3-4 defense.

The Bengals lead the overall series between the two teams, 6-5.

What’s up in the ‘Nati

The Cincinnati offense has tremendous potential, especially with the acquisition of Bernard in the draft, but like many NFL teams it has a question mark at quarterback.  Since the team went its separate ways with Carson Palmer the Bengals have placed their faith in Andy Dalton, the third year quarterback out of TCU.

Dalton’s performance thus far has been rather, well, average.  To date, he has thrown 50 touchdown passes in his career to 31 interceptions.   Dalton is one of those solid yet unspectacular quarterbacks, much like Kyle Orton when he was with the Chicago Bears.  There remains a lot of doubt about whether or not Dalton can take the Bengals to the next level, especially with how much talent is now around him on the offense.



2012 NFL Regular Season Week 1: Packers – 49ers Preview

Clay Matthews Alex Smith

This is our first chance to see if the Packers pass rush is truly improved.

It’s here. Finally, it’s here.

The draft? Done.  Training camp? Finished.  Preseason? Completed.

The dress rehearsals are done and the games that count are upon us.  The curtain on the 2012 NFL season has been raised and the march to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans begins in earnest this weekend.

The Green Bay Packers kick off their 2012 campaign Sunday at Lambeau Field against the San Francisco 49ers.  Many thought when last season’s playoffs began that this would be the NFC Championship Game, but thanks to the New York Giants the Packers’ season ended prematurely.

The regular season opener is the first big test to see if the Packers have fixed their defense, the Achilles heel that doomed their run at a second straight Super Bowl title a year ago.  It’s also a chance for reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers to begin to make his case for a second straight award and that the Packers offense is still as lethal as ever.

How do the Packers stack up against 49ers? Let’s first take a look at their opponent

Scouting the 49ers

Last year, the Packers faced one of the top offenses in the league during their season opener in the New Orleans Saints.  This year, they face one of the best defenses in the 49ers.

When you talk about the 49ers’ defense, you start with linebacker Patrick Willis.  Willis anchors a linebacker group that is one of the best in the NFL against the run. He was an All-Pro selection along with NaVorrow Bowman and helped the 49ers allow only 77.3 rushing yards per gain.  With defensive end Justin Smith leading the group up front, the 49ers figure to again have a very stout rush defense.

A strong defense allows the 49ers to make their opponents one dimensional which in turn allows their secondary to go on the hunt for interceptions.  San Francisco finished 16th in pass defense last season despite decent years by safety Dashon Goldson and cornerback Carlos Rogers whom both were selected to the Pro Bowl.

Despite coach Jim Harbaugh’s background, the offense remains the weak link for the 49ers.  Alex Smith was re-signed by the team only after a secret attempt to sign Peyton Manning became public.  The 49ers still don’t quite know what they have in Smith despite having a career season in 2011 and nearly leading the team to the Super Bowl.



Packers – Browns Preview: Shaking Off The Shaky Start

Packers vs BrownsIs it possible for a preseason game to suck?

If it is, then the Green Bay Packers experienced it last Thursday in their 21-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in their preseason opener.  Not only did the Packers lose, the starting offense came out flat with reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers posting a quarterback rating of 0.0 (yes, it’s a meaningless stat, but the offense looked putrid regardless).

Throw in a possible season ending hamstring injury to starting linebacker Desmond Bishop and the 2012 season opened with a rather loud thud for Packer Nation.

That said, it’s a new week and football returns to Lambeau Field tonight when the Green Bay Packers take on the Cleveland Browns.

The Packers enter the game a little healthier than in the game against the Chargers, they still have a ways to go before they can be declared ready to go before the regular season starts.  Greg Jennings is still out with a concussion and the Packers must be more worried about his health than they are letting on.  Marshall Newhouse finally returned to practice and should see his first game action of the season.

With the starters likely seeing very limited action once again, here are some things to look forward to as the Packers’ preseason schedule hits the halfway point:

James Starks has been put on notice

That’s the first thing that crossed my mind when I read the Packers signed veteran running back Cedric Benson to a one year contract earlier this week. Starks got off to a horrible start last week as his dropped pass sent the first team offense into a tailspin from which it never recovered.

Throw in Starks’ disappointing 2011 and his inability to remain fully healthy and the Packers had no choice but to bring someone in to light a fire under his rear end.  Mike McCarthy has said he wants to “fundamentally change” how the Packers run the ball which was a not too subtle shot across the bow for Starks.

It’s a good sign that the Packers seem intent on getting a run game going, but do they have the proper personnel to help take some pressure off of Rodgers?  Stay tuned.  Benson won’t be playing in the game, so this is a golden opportunity for Starks to show he can be the man.



2011 NFL Week One: Packers vs Saints Preview: The Saints Go Marching In….And Crawling Back Out

Absurdly long lockout: over.

An abbreviated free agency period: completed.

A preseason that dragged on longer than War and Peace: finished

It is time.  IT. IS. TIME……for Green Bay Packers regular season football.

The last time the Packers played a game of any meaning was that game against the Steelers in February.  For just over seven months, the Packers have been the reigning Super Bowl champions.

After the opening kickoff against the New Orleans Saints on national television, the reigning ends and the defending begins. It has been said by players on teams lucky enough to win back-to-back Super Bowls that the only thing tougher than chasing the crown is defending it.

The Packers’ opponent ought to know.

Last season, the then-defending champion Saints got off to a sluggish 4-3 start and never were able to catch the Atlanta Falcons for the NFC South title.  Instead they had to settle for a wild card and a trip to the 7-9 NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks where they were defeated 41-36 and done in by a bruising Marshawn Lynch touchdown run.

Like the Packers’ Super Bowl triumph, the disappointing end to the Saints’ season is a thing of the past.  The slate is clean and everyone for one week has the same record.

Let’s take a look at New Orleans.

Breaking down the Saints

As defending champions, the Packers don’t ease into their regular season schedule.  Instead they face team they could very well meet again in January for a trip to Super Bowl XLVI.

When discussing the New Orleans Saints, you have to begin with Drew Brees.  The calm and cool leader of the Saints offense is one of the most lethal quarterbacks in the game.  He isn’t as mobile as the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers but he is about as accurate and throws a pretty good deep ball.

While he doesn’t have the buffet of weapons that Rodgers does in the receiving corps, Brees still has chemistry with his playmakers.  With Marques Colston leading the way and Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem on the other side, Brees has a variety of targets to choose from.  With a creative play caller in head coach Sean Payton, the Saints passing attack rivals the Packers in terms of overall deadliness.  Throw in new stud TE Jimmy Graham and it’s almost like a mirror image of the Packers.



Packers-Bills Preview: 2010 NFL Week 2: Avoiding the Trap

After a tougher than it should have been win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the Green Bay Packers face the Buffalo Bills this Sunday to kick off their slate of home games at Lambeau Field this season.

One week of games is not enough time to cause any NFL team to press the panic button, but we still got some early indications of how this season will pan out for the Green Bay Packers.

If you are looking for a team that is the polar opposite of the Eagles, the Buffalo Bills are that team. The Bills have not made the playoffs since 2000. They drafted another franchise RB after their last one failed to pan out which also includes some questionable off the field decisions.

After coming oh so close to beating the Miami Dolphins last week, the Bills enter this game thinking they are not quite as bad as everyone thought they might be. Thus, they could sneak up on the Packers and upset them at home. The Packers, in turn, sometimes have issues with games like these and I don’t need to remind any fans about what happened in Tampa Bay last year.

Despite it being only the second game of the season, this game cannot be overlooked for its importance by the Packers. By handily defeating the seemingly hapless Bills at home, the Green and Gold will exorcise any demons remaining from that brutal defeat to the then-winless Buccaneers last season.

Breaking down the Bills

The Bills offense seems to be as sluggish as the Packers offense is explosive. Quarterback Trent Edwards won the starting position by default and has shown little ability to be a franchise quarterback since his supposed “breakout” season a few years ago. Wide receiver and former Wisconsin star Lee Evans is the lone bright spot on the Bills offense.

That said, there is hope for the future. Rookie RB C.J. Spiller comes out of college highly touted and could be a big contributor this year if the shaky offensive line holds up for the Bills. Don’t underestimate Fred Jackson either. He has shown great explosiveness and could give the Packers fits in certain situations.

On defense, the Bills dumped their best player (Aaron Schobel) overboard this offseason, once again placing this unit into solid rebuilding mode. The scariest player in their secondary would have to be second year safety Jarius Byrd who had nine interceptions last year and was selected to the Pro Bowl as a reserve.