13

December

Around the NFC North in Week 15

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 15

It’s already the NFL’s week 15 and let’s cut to the chase in the NFC North.  This is a week that most Packers fans had circled on the schedule as soon as it came out.  Is there a more intense week in the Packers universe than “Bears week”?

The Green Bay Packers travel to Chicago to take on the Bears in this highly-anticipated game that will be the marquis matchup not just in the NFC North, but in the NFL.

The Packers can clinch their second straight North division title with a win.  The Bears would re-enter the divisional race as a strong contender should they emerge victorious.  The early line this week favors Green Bay by three.

The Minnesota Vikings will travel to St. Louis to take on the Rams.  This ends up being an interesting game because neither of these teams wants to go away quietly this year.

The week is rounded off by the Detroit Lions visiting the Arizona Cardinals in the “futility bowl”.  Nothing more than pride is on the line in that contest.

Let’s dive into the matchups and the storylines alike.

Green Bay Packers (9-4) at Chicago Bears (8-5)

Because of the major playoff implications, I’m leading off with this matchup and will go more in depth with this game.

This game has changed shape immensely in the past month.  What was being billed as possibly one of the biggest game on the NFL schedule this season has turned into somewhat of a last stand for the Bears.

After starting the season 7-1, the Bears have lost four of their last five games including two in a row since the return of quarterback Jay Cutler.  After suffering a concussion during a loss to the Houtson Texans, Cutler was forced to miss a key game against the San Francisco 49ers.  The 9ers beat the Bears handily for a second straight loss.  They beat the Vikings but then suffered a tough overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks and followed that up with this past week’s loss in the rematch with Minnesota on the road.

Chicago will be without defensive playmakers Brian Urlacher who may end up on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, and cornerback Tim Jennings who leads the NFL in interceptions with eight.  Jennings dislocated his shoulder late in the loss to the Seattle and is currently doubtful for this week’s game.

26

October

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 7 at St. Louis Rams

Like Darren Sharper and Nick Collins, there are defensive backs coming out of college that just seem to get it and can contribute right away.  This year it’s rookie cornerback Casey Hayward, who actually is tied for the lead in interceptions with 4.

Hayward has been a very good slot cornerback behind Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Charles Woodson, but with Sam Shields out after being kicked in the shin against the Texans, Hayward was shifted out to the outside.  How would he respond in his first start and being left on a island?  Pretty good.  While fans will gush at his acrobatic interception, I would probably suggest that everyone take a step back; Hayward is solid cornerback, just not a playmaker…yet

The Situation: The score is 17-6 in favor of the Packers with 1:25 left in the 3rd quarter.  Needless to say things haven’t gone so well for the Rams in the 2nd half.  For the first 30 minutes of football, the Rams had managed to keep the game close by using a steady diet of ground control football with running backs Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson.

The Rams also managed to keep the ball out of Aaron Rodgers hands by controlling the clock and as a result the Rams had a significant advantage in the time of possession.  However, the 3rd quarter was all about the Packers, who not only managed to flip the time of possession in 1 quarter, but had managed to do it with a methodical passing game which included 3 passing first downs capped off by a touchdown.  Obviously the Rams are beginning to feel the pressure and need to answer back.  This is the first play after the kickoff.

 

The Formation: The rams come out in a 2-1-2 formation (2WR-1TE-2RB), one of the old school staples of any offense.  WR Brandon Gibson is aligned out wide to the top of the screen while WR Chris Givens is aligned out wide on the bottom of the screen.  TE Lance Kendricks is inline next to the left tackle while TE Matthew Mulligan is aligns like an offset fullback.  RB Steven Jackson rounds out the group by lining up 7 yards behind the scrimmage forming a standard offset I formation.  The look is very biased towards running and presumably the Rams hope to catch the Packers off guard with a play action pass and a shot down the field.

20

October

2012 NFL Regular Season Week 7: Packers vs Rams Preview

Aaron Rodgers

Can Aaron Rodgers keep the offense on a roll against the improved Rams?

There is nothing wrong with Aaron Rodgers. I repeat: there is nothing wrong with Aaron Rodgers.

Any doubts about issues the Green Bay Packers may have been having on offense were silenced permanently last Sunday as Rodgers threw a franchise record-tying six touchdown passes as the Packers shredded the NFL’s best defense in a 42-24 win over the Houston Texans.  The win moves the Packers back to 3-3 on the season and helped alleviate any concerns fans may have had about the direction of the team.

The Packers now move on to face the St. Louis Rams, who also stand at 3-3 and are one of the league’s more improved teams.  That said, this is a game the Packers should win and really have no business losing.   The Packers lost to one of the league’s best teams in the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, but have lost to the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks* as well. (* is citing the controversial ending to that infamous game).

They’ve beating the Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints and Texans who all are considered some of the better teams in the NFL

Can the Packers get above .500 for the first time all season and finally beat a team they should have no problem beating?

Scouting the Rams

First year head coach Jeff Fisher has done a solid job so far with the Rams who were one of the worst teams in the NFL a year ago.  While much work remains to be done on the offensive side, the Rams defense is one of the most improved units in the league.

At quarterback is former number one overall draft pick Sam Bradford.  Bradford enjoyed a solid rookie season followed by a sophomore season in which he struggled with injuries and the team had one of its worst seasons in history.  In 2012, Bradford has thrown for 1,337 yards for six touchdowns against five interceptions.  He is currently missing his favorite target in wide receiver Danny Amendola, who is nursing a shoulder injury.

Bradford also has been sacked 18 times this season behind one of the most porous lines in the NFL.  He has been sacked at least once in every game and has been sacked three or more times in three of the Rams’ six games so far this season.  Once the pocket collapses, Bradford has a difficult time planting his feet and getting off a good throw when he has to scramble.

20

October

Green Bay Packers at St. Louis Rams Key Matchups

Jordy Nelson

Jordy Nelson will be a focal point of the Rams defense

The Packers head to St. Louis to take on the Rams this Sunday.  Both teams are 3-3 and seem to match up evenly on paper.  Let’s take a look at the key matchups this game will bring.

Rams CB Cortland Finnegan vs. Packers WR Jordy Nelson/Randall Cobb

Finnegan has been a good free agent pick up for the Rams and is reunited with Jeff Fisher, who was Finnegan’s head coach in Tennessee.  According to ProFootballFocus, Finnegan has been targeted 40 times this season and averages just 8.8 yards/catch.

I have Finnegan matched up on both Nelson and Cobb because Finnegan is likely move over to the slot in the Rams’ nickel package.  Packers QB Aaron Rodgers passed just 29 times in last year’s game so depending on how many 4-5 wide sets the Pack use will determine who Finnegan lines up on.

In last season’s matchup between these teams, Nelson had just 2 catches but the most memorable was a 93 yard catch and run on a slant for a TD.  Of course, St. Louis didn’t have Finnegan or this same quality secondary.  Whoever Finnegan is blanketing will definitely be earning every ball caught.

With the Rams secondary needing to respect Nelson, Cobb and James Jones, one of the three should put up some good numbers.  My bet is on Cobb as it’s just plain dumb to leave Nelson one on one, even against the trusty Finnegan.  The Rams can only offer so much help over the top so they will have to pick their poison.

Packers OLB Clay Matthews vs. Rams LT Joe Barksdale

It was noted via Twitter on Friday that Rams LT Wayne Hunter has not practiced at all this week and is doubtful to play on Sunday.  Hunter was already in to replace the injured Roger Saffold who was the Rams’ opening day starter at left tackle.

Getting the start in Hunters’ absence would be Barksdale.  Barksdale was just recently awarded to the Rams after being waived by Oakland in late September.  He is a backup tackle at best and only has to come in and face one of the best pass rushers in Matthews.  With the Rams extremely thin at left tackle, they are forced to play Barksdale despite the fact that he has virtually zero experience on the left side.

16

October

Packers vs. Rams Preview: 5 Things to Watch

Second-year quarterback Sam Bradford leads the winless St. Louis Rams (0-4) into Lambeau Field to face Aaron Rodgers and the undefeated Green Bay Packers (5-0).

The basics 

When: 12:00 CDT; Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011

Where: Lambeau Field; Green Bay, WI

TV: FOX; Chris Myers and Tim Ryan with the call, Jamie Maggio on the sidelines

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee), Packers Radio Network, Sports USA Radio, NFL Sunday Drive (Sirius Radio)

Series: Rams lead, 43-46-2 (Packers won the last regular season game, 36-17, in St. Louis on Sept. 27, 2009)

Five things to watch

1. Throwback jerseys, throwback offense?

For the second time in as many seasons, the Packers will wear their 1929 throwback jerseys. Some love the brown-on-blue-on-yellow-on-tan color combination, some hate it. But like the ’29 team that went 10-0-1 and won the NFL championship, the Packers could look to the ground game on Sunday to move the football against the Rams. While it won’t be Verne Lewellen or Johnny “Blood” McNally lining up in the backfield, the Packers will likely use a heavy dose of their own duo of James Starks and Ryan Grant against the NFL’s worst rushing defense. St. Louis is giving up almost 180 rushing yards a game, which is a ridiculously high number in this age of football and 34 yards higher than the next best team. The opposition is averaging 5.3 yards every time they run the ball on the Rams defense.

The Packers are still a passing team and will want to throw it plenty against the Rams banged up secondary, but there’s nothing wrong with attacking such an obvious weakness in an opponent. An effective running game could also take pressure off the Packers offensive tackles. Marshall Newhouse will be making his first career start at left tackle on Sunday, and Bryan Bulaga might have some rust after missing two games with a knee injury.

2. Mistake prone

Few teams in the NFL have self-destructed at such critical points like the Rams have this season. Take the Rams 17-10 home loss to the Redskins in Week 4, for example. St. Louis had nine penalties, seven sacks allowed and six dropped passes in that contest. St. Louis was probably lucky that Rex Grossman played so poorly, because the final easily could have been 35-7 or worse with the way the Rams played through the first three and a half quarters.

15

October

Know Your Packers Enemy: Previewing Packers-Rams with Ryan Van Bibber

In this week’s installment of “Know Your Packers Enemy,” I talked with Ryan Van Bibber of Turf Show Times, the Rams SB Nation blog, to preview Packers-Rams.

Let’s get to the questions.

14

October

2011 NFL Season Week 6: Green Bay Packers vs. St. Louis Rams Preview–IT’S A THROWBACK TRAP!

Admiral Ackbar has a warning for the Green Bay Packers

It’s finally here. The weekend many of us Packers bloggers and fans have been waiting for: Throwback Weekend! No clue what I am talking about? Look here for all the details from our friends at CheeseheadTV.

Lost amongst all the hype for the festivities is that there is an actual game to be played at Lambeau Field on Sunday! The 5-0 defending world champion Green Bay Packers take on the 0-4 St. Louis Rams.  The Packers will be wearing their 1929 throwback jerseys that they wore against the 49ers last season, hence why it is called “Throwback Weekend.”

Last Week in Review

The Packers got off to sluggish start against the Atlanta Falcons on national television, trailing 14-6 at the half.   After the break however, the defense came alive and Aaron Rodgers kept doing his thing as the Packers shut out Atlanta in the second half and won 25-14.  Rodgers completed 26 of 39 for 396 yards and two touchdowns while throwing to 12 (12!) different receivers.

The Rams mercifully had their bye week.

Rams players to watch

QB Sam Bradford

With the arrival in the offseason of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, it was expected that he would take Bradford’s game to the next level after his stellar rookie season a year ago.

We’re still waiting.

Bradford has all the tools.  He’s smart, he’s accurate, and he’s poised.   Of course, no quarterback can put up big numbers while on their back.

In four 2011, Bradford has completed 49.7% of his passes for three TDs and one INT.  The glaring statistic is that he has been sacked 18 times (that’s more than four times a game).

With an aggressive Packers pass rush, Bradford’s life won’t be getting better any time soon.

RB Steven Jackson

Jackson does not run around you. He runs over you.

One of the most bruising backs in the league, Jackson has gone over the 100 yard mark each of the last two times he has faced the Packers.  With a passing game that is struggling badly, Jackson will need to carry the load if he hopes to lead his team to victory.