4

January

Packers Beer Mug Perspective: Is this a Super Bowl team?

Can the Packers win Super Bowl XLVII?

Can the Packers win Super Bowl XLVII?

The 2012 season has been a roller-coaster for the Green Bay Packers.

From the early-season “Fail mary” in Seattle to the epic collapse in Indianapolis, the Packers have battled back to put themselves in contention for a second Super Bowl in three years. But is this team really Super Bowl-caliber?

The last time the Packers won the Super Bowl, they were decimated by injuries but Aaron Rodgers carried the team on his back all the way to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas. It was a season to remember, and there are certainly some similarities between the 2010 Packers and this 2012 team.

In the Packers’ first preseason game, starting middle linebacker Desmond Bishop was lost for the season. After Clay Matthews, Bishop may be the Packers’ best defensive player. Second-year player D.J. Smith replaced Bishop in the starting lineup, but he suffered a season-ending injury in week six at Houston.

In total, the 2012 Packers have eight players on injured reserve, including this year’s first-round pick Nick Perry, starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga and starting running back Cedric Benson. Needless to say, the injury bug bit the Packers hard this season.

But through it all, the Packers won the division and played their way to the No. 3 seed in the NFC.

And now, this team is the healthiest its been since the regular season kicked off. Charles Woodson will return to the field this week after suffering a broken collarbone Oct. 21 in St. Louis. Randall Cobb will be back in the lineup as well, giving the Packers their full corps of wide receivers since week four.

Vegas has the Packers at 8/1 odds to win the Super Bowl. They have the third-best odds in the NFC, behind the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons. The Denver Broncos and New England Patriots currently have the best odds to win the Super Bowl.

Is this Packers team capable of winning Super Bowl XLVII?

In the format of the Packers Beer Mug Perspective, let’s look at the issue from both angles, then determine whether our mug is really “half full” or “half empty.”

THE MUG IS HALF FULL

While this team isn’t at full strength by any means, the team that takes the field Saturday night will be arguably the most talented 46-man roster the Packers have put on the field all season.

2

January

Packers News: Worthy out for season, Woodson set to return

Packers DL Jerel Worthy

Packers DL Jerel Worthy

Packers defensive end Jerel Worthy suffered a significant knee injury against the Minnesota Vikings and will not play in the postseason.

Worthy left the locker room Sunday wearing a full leg brace and relying on crutches. The extent of his injury has not yet been released.

The Packers selected Worthy with the No. 51 overall pick in last April’s draft and played in 14 games as a rookie. Worthy tied for sixth on the team with 2.5 sacks in the regular season.

Without Worthy in the mix, the Packers will rely on their normal starting three-man line consisting of B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and C.J. Wilson. Mike Neal and rookie Mike Daniels will be the team’s top reserves moving forward. Neal has proved to be effective as a pass rusher, racking up 4.5 sacks this season, while Daniels has been a pleasant surprise as well.

Jordan Miller, a recent call-up from the practice squad rounds out the Packers’ six defensive linemen on the current roster.

Although Worthy will not play again this season, veteran defensive back Charles Woodson appears set to return against the Vikings this week in the playoffs. Woodson was medically cleared to return Jan. 1 after suffering a broken collarbone Oct. 21 against the St. Louis Rams.

Prior to getting injured, Woodson played strong safety in the Packers’ base 3-4 defense and bumped inside to slot cornerback in the team’s nickel formation. But since Woodson has been out, rookie Casey Hayward has risen to the occasion and could be this year’s NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Now, with Woodson set to return, it’s unlikely the Packers would take Hayward off the field. This could mean Woodson’s role would primarily be the second safety alongside Morgan Burnett, replacing rookie Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings.

Although Woodson isn’t the same, dynamic playmaker he once was, getting him back on the field will certainly be a nice boost for the defense.

Randall Cobb also returned to practice on Tuesday and says he will be “100 percent” for Saturday night’s playoff game against Minnesota. Barring any setbacks, the Packers will have Cobb, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jermichael Finley on the field together for the first time since week one.

30

December

Packers vs. Vikings – Game Day First Impressions, Unfiltered: GB 34 MIN 37

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson

Peterson scores an early touchdown and helps Minnesota secure the win but falls 9 yards shy of the single-season rushing record

Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings:

I’m taking the reins for Jersey Al in today’s Game Day First Impressions.  Here are my unfitered game day running blog post of comments and observations.

Inactive for Packers today:

WR Randall Cobb, RB James Starks, S Charles Woodson, CB Davon House, LB Terrell Manning, WR Donald Driver, DT Jordan Miller

Inactive for Vikings today: 

QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, WR Stephen Burton, CB Brandon Burton, S Robert Blanton, LB Audie Cole, OL Troy Kropog, DE D’Aundre Reed

Game Notes:

Adrian Peterson needs just 205 rushing yards to eclipse Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105 yards set in 1984

Packers can clinch the second playoff seed with a victory today.  Can still clinch #2 seed with a loss coupled with a San Francisco loss and a Seattle loss or tie

WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring) returns for the first time since the December 2nd meeting against the Vikings.  DE C.J. Wilson (knee) returns for the first time since late November

Jeremy Ross will assume kick return duties today with Cobb out

Packers can even their all-time record at Metrodome to 15-15 with a win. Have a chance to win three in a row in Minnesota since ’82 – ’85 seasons

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Mike McCarthy Pregame Show on 620 WTMJ:

Motivation today with playoff implications looming:  Playing to sweep division which is our goal in training camp.  Thursday’s padded practice was sharp

Game prep:  Big game, crowd will be energetic.  Team must be sharp and focus on finishing every play

Fewer big plays given up on defense vs. last season:  Playing good team defense.  Have to credit young guys

Vikings:  They’re a good team.  Have to study film carefully and be prepared.  They are tough at home.  Run the ball very well

Christian Ponder:  He has total command of the offense.  Went through a phase earlier this year, threw some interceptions.  Have to keep him in favorable down and distance from a defensive perspective

Adrian Peterson:  Huge focus today.  Important to focus on tackling and keep big plays to a minimum

Securing second seed in NFC:  Focusing on winning today and playing well.  Important to get highest seed possible but biggest thing is to play well.  Teams that play well can win most any game

26

December

Playoff Scenarios: Who will the Packers see in the NFC?

The Packers are playing well right now. Are they the best team in the NFC?

The Packers are playing well right now. Are they the best team in the NFC?

The Packers have already punched their ticket to the playoffs. And by defeating the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Packers would be the No. 2 seed, earning a first-round bye.

My eyes tell me that the Packers are a better team than the Vikings. And a motivated team heading to Minnesota with a first-round bye on the line should should show up ready to play.

So when looking at the playoff picture, let’s assume the Packers get the win and the No. 2 seed.

Beyond where the Packers are ultimately seeded, there’s a lot still to be determined in the NFC.

Will it be the Washington Redskins or the Dallas Cowboys as the NFC East Champions? Will the Vikings or Bears sneak into the playoffs? Are the New York Giants really done?

There is a handful of teams competing for two playoff spots, so what should you watch for around the NFL after the Packers play on Sunday? Let’s take a closer look at the potential NFC playoff field.

1) Who will win the NFC West?

The 49ers play at home against the 5-10 Arizona Cardinals this week, and the Seahawks will host the 7-7-1 St. Louis Rams. If the 49ers win, they’re the NFC West champions and would have a home playoff game.

If the 49ers lose and the Seahawks win, then Seattle is the division champions, and the 49ers would be playing on the road on wild card weekend.

What should happen: San Francisco should win the division.

Although the 49ers have been struggling, they should win easily against the hopeless Arizona Cardinals. It would take a late Christmas miracle for Arizona to beat the 49ers on the road. And even if the Seahawks beat the Rams, San Francisco would still have a better record.

Now we have five of six playoff teams set. Under this scenario, the Falcons and Packers would have first-round byes, the 49ers would be the No. 3 seed, and the NFC East champion–Washington or Dallas–would be the No. 4 seed, hosting the Seattle Seahawks.

2) Cowboys or Redskins in the NFC East?

Whoever wins Sunday night’s showdown between the Dallas Cowboys or the Washington Redskins will be the No. 4 seed in the NFC.

2

December

Packers vs. Vikings – Game Day First Impressions, Unfiltered: GB 23 MIN 14

James Jones Celebrates TD against the Vikings.

James Jones Celebrates TD against the Vikings.

Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings:

My unfitered game day running blog post of comments, observations and first impressions.

Inactive for Packers today: CB Charles Woodson, RB Johnny White, CB Sam Shields, LB Clay Matthews, LB Terrell Manning, WR Donald Driver, DL CJ Wilson

Inactive for Vikings today:  WR Percy Harvin, QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, CB Brandon Burton, LB Audie Cole, G Mark Asper, TE Allen Reisner, DE D’Aundre Reed.

 

Game Notes:

Greg Jennings returns to the field for the first time in 8 games.

Today’s captains are Josh Sitton, BJ Raji and Jarrett Bush

First of three straight NFC North games for the Packers; currently they’ve won nine straight games against division opponents.

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Mike McCarthy Pregame Show on 620 WTMJ:

Noon game at home: A great day for football…

Control destiny: Any week you line up and have the ability to achieve your goals you set for the year, it’s a great thing.

Loss a motivator:  No doubt, any time you take a shot like we did, it’s an opportunity. Like Paul’s 2nd letter to the  Corinthians. I’m glad of weaknesses, for when I am weak I am strong.

Jennings: Will have to work him in the flow. Decision was made medically – we’re going to be smart with him. We’re taking him more as a situational and we’ll evaluate more at halftime.

Peterson: What he’s been able to accomplish is a credit to his work ethic, his genetics, the medical staff at Minnesota.

Ponder:  He has big play ability. Athletic – can make plays in and out of the pocket. Very good player with his feet.

Minny pass rush: It’s a key matchup today. We have to establish ourselves in the run and the play action.

OLine: You gotta play football. It’s starts with running the football, off of that play action. Sometimes guys have to win one on ones.

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Packers vs. Vikings – First Impressions – First Half:

Vikings win the toss and defer. Unusual for Packers to start the game on offense this year.

Packers showing a good amout of three-wide on the first series – Jennings is not in.

James Jones: ball thief…

Packers favorite play is without a doubt the free play…

16

November

Packers vs. Vikings: 5 Quick Observations from Green Bay’s 45-7 Rout of Minnesota

Photo: Rick Wood, Journal Sentinel

First off, I wanted to apologize for my absence over the past four or five days. Spending five days glued to my bed fighting a nasty head cold was bad enough, but not being able to write and share my opinions on everyone’s favorite team made it exponentially worse. A tiny part of me just wants to think you guys missed me. Now that I’m starting to get better, I’ll share my quick observations from the Packers’ 45-7 rout of the Vikings on Monday night.

1. Randall Cobb will be up and down

There’s a certain amount of risk in sending out a 21-year-old rookie to field each and every kick and punt for an NFL team. Randall Cobb’s three lost fumbles this season, including one against the Vikings that eliminated the Packers’ shutout hopes, are that risk in motion. But it’s the plays like his 80-yard punt return for a touchdown Monday night that make that risk a worthwhile adventure.  He’ll continue to improve in ball security, if only because Mike McCarthy preaches it so often. In totality, however, there’s very few who would say that Cobb hasn’t already exceeded expectations in 2011.

2. Blocking struggles

Marshall Newhouse and his struggles against Jared Allen are somewhat to be expected, as Allen is the premier penetration defensive end in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Newhouse allowed one sack and three quarterback pressures. Guard T.J. Lang wasn’t much better, as he allowed a sack on a stunt by Allen and two other pressures. Those two are still finding their way on the left side of the Packers offensive line. But don’t leave out Josh Sitton and Scott Wells among those who had blocking struggles against the Vikings. Sitton was beat a handful of times by former All-Pro Kevin Williams and Wells had his worst run blocking grade of the season. Only Bryan Bulaga, who has been a rock at right tackle, had a positive grade Monday night. On a night where the offense scored 38 points, the blocking up front is the only nit-pick you can really find.

3. Woodson’s revival

13

November

Packers vs. Vikings Video 3-pack

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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