10

October

Around the NFC North in Week 6

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North

Here’s a look at the Week 6 matchups around the NFC North.  The Chicago Bears are on a bye and do not play.

Detroit Lions (1-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)

The Lions emerge from their bye to face the Eagles in Philadelphia.  Detroit needs a win to halt a three-game losing streak.  Their last loss was at home to the Minnesota Vikings.  They haven’t won since week one.  Having been to the playoffs last season and coming into this season with high expectations, they would be digging a big hole with a loss.  It would leave them at least 3 games behind division leaders Bears and Vikings.

The Eagles dropped a close game at Pittsburgh last week.   The Eagles are looking for more consistency.  After a close week 1 win over the underdog Browns, Philadelphia came home and beat the Baltimore Ravens.  They followed that up with a loss at Arizona and then a win at home against the New York Giants.

Eagles QB Michael Vick is also looking to establish some consistency.  He has six TD’s and six INT’s on the season.  Vick has been sacked 14 times and has endured a few dings.  He is not taking off and running at will as he once did and the Eagles offensive line hasn’t been great.  They have to find a way to protect Vick against a potent Detroit defensive line.  Despite the Lions’ struggles, they still feature very good pass rushers in Ndomakong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch.

The Lions will rely on QB Matt Stafford to lead their offense.  Stafford has three TD passes to four INT’s on the season.   His top receiving target, Calvin Johnson has just one TD catch all season.  Johnson needs to make more of an impact in this game to give Detroit a chance to win.

These teams are evenly matched on defense and statistically, the Lions hold an edge on offense.  But I have to give the overall edge to the Eagles as they’re at home.  That can all shift in either direction if either team can force a takeaway or two.

 Minnesota Vikings (4-1) at Washington Redskins (2-3)

The Vikings continued to roll with a win on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.  The Titans didn’t score until the 4th quarter and the Vikes rolled over an opponent they ultimately should have.  They continue to raise eyebrows in the NFC North race and are tied for 1st place.

7

September

Packers vs. Saints: 5 Things to Watch in Green Bay’s Week 1 Matchup

By the time the dust had settled on the second half of a Monday night onslaught, the scoreboard at the Louisiana Superdome read as follows: Saints 51, visitors 28.

Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints had turned a 21-21 tie into an old fashioned blowout, scoring four touchdowns in the final 30 minutes of play against a Packers defense that had held up so well just a year before. Brees was deadly efficient that entire night in Novemeber 2008, completing 20-of-26 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns—two of which went for 70 yards.

The 51 points was the beginning of the end for both Packers defensive coordinator Bob Sanders, who was fired after the season, and the Packers playoff chances. After coming into the game 5-5, the Packers left New Orleans beaten and battered at 5-6, limping to a 6-10 finish in Aaron Rodgers’ first season under center.

While the mastermind behind that disastrous performance is gone, the memory of that debacle in New Orleans still remains fresh in the minds of most of the Packers defenders who suffered through that Monday night embarrassment.

Thursday night’s Packers vs. Saints opener doesn’t serve as a rematch, per se, but the Packers are determined to prove that their new defensive scheme under Dom Capers is more than capable of stopping a Saints’ offense that’s still led by Brees and still as explosive as it was in 2008, just a year before they were to become world champions.

Here are some other things to watch in the Saints-Packers matchup:

Dealing with the hoopla

With hosting the NFL’s season opening Thursday night game comes all the bells and whistles of a defending Super Bowl champion. It’s the only game on for the national audience, who by now is starving for regular season NFL action. There is the pregame concert, with Kid Rock and a number of other entertainers scheduled to perform in front of stadium. The Packers will unveil another championship year on Lambeau Field’s facade. Jordin Sparks will sing the National Anthem. There is a ton of fanfare and media reporting before and after the contest.

All this could lead to an overwhelmed team that’s just seven months removed from reaching the peak of the NFL. And of course, the Saints have been there and done that after winning the Super Bowl the year before the Packers. They played the Vikings last September in the Thursday night opener and beat Minnesota. That experience should give the Saints a definite advantage in terms of dealing with the spectacle of the game, right?

6

November

NFL Week 9: Green Bay Packers-Dallas Cowboys Preview: Back in the Saddle

The Green Bay Packers beat the New York Jets 9-0 in a game that not even many diehard Packer fans expected them to win.  Even with five starters out, the Packers defense put together a superhuman effort against the Jets’ vaunted rushing game and the Packers got their first road shutout since 1991.

A win that could be a springboard to a title.

But before the Packers can start planning on a February trip to Dallas, the Packers first must beat Dallas in Green Bay. The Cowboys come to town Sunday night at 1-6 an seemingly self-destructing after losing starting quarterback Tony Romo for six to eight weeks.

All the more reason for the Packers to take the Cowboys seriously. No one needs to be reminded of the Tampa Bay game last season.

Breaking down the Cowboys

Actually, it seems the Cowboys are broken down enough already.

With the Wade Phillips Firing Squad on standby, the Cowboys are reeling.  Jon Kitna steps in for Romo and if the last game against the Jaguars is any indication, the Cowboys offense is in even worse trouble than when Romo was healthy.

Of course, the Cowboys offense still has weapons. Their three-headed rushing attack of Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice still packs some punch.  With Romo gone, the running game will have to carry the team.

The Cowboys have talented receivers in Jason Whitten and rookie Dez Bryant, but without Romo they don’t have a quarterback with a strong enough arm to move the ball downfield consistently.

On defense, the Cowboys seemingly can’t stop anyone, which makes this game as good as any for the Packers’ offense to try and get back on track.

Still, with Terrence Newman leading the way for the secondary, the Packers receivers, now sans Donald Driver will have their hands full. DeMarcus Ware will also provide a challenge for Brandon Jackson as well as the short to intermediate passing game.

When the Packers have the ball….

The broken record continues: the Packers need to establish the run. With a weak defense coming to town, the Packers will have every oppoortunity to do so.

Still, coming off the Jets game, it’s important for the Green Bay passing game to get its groove back. While he hasn’t been in a slump per se, Aaron Rodgers knows he has to play better. With him having a sprained ankle, Rodgers mobility could be limited so the Cowboys will likely blitz heavily.