27

October

Packers vs. Vikings: Keys To The Game

Christian Ponder

Ponder will step in for last week’s Vikings starting quarterback Josh Freeman. The Vikings have started three different quarterbacks so far this season.

The Green Bay Packers bring their three-game winning streak into Mall of America Field to face the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night football.  Maybe it’s just the old school in me that “Mall of America Field” doesn’t roll easily off the tongue.  It’s the Metrodome, the Humpty Dome, The Dome or in some instances, “Hell”, right?

Either way, this is the last time that the Packers will face the Vikings in that building.  The plan, after this season, is for Minnesota to play their home games at TCF Stadium for two years while their new stadium is expected to be built in the same spot that the Dome currently sits.

The Vikings have to be hoping that a change in venue might lead to some improvement in their play.  They currently sit at a disappointing 1-5 and just handed the previously-winless New York Giants their first win of the season this past Monday night.

While this has the makings of an easier game for the Packers, divisional matchups always carry an added element of competitiveness and especially on the road.  Let’s look at the keys for Green Bay to leave Minnesota with the win that many are expecting for them.

Fast Start, Dictate the Tempo

The Vikings have struggled in nearly every area so far this season.  They have trotted out three different starting quarterbacks and have not been able to establish any type of offensive rhythm at all.  Defensively, they have not been much better and they are now without safety Harrison Smith, who is dealing with a toe injury.  If there is one area of deficiency that can most disastrous against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, it’s the secondary.

While the Packers will continue to showcase their more physical side and establish the run, Rodgers should be looking for the deep ball early on.  Rodgers is one of the league leaders in completed passes over 25 yards from scrimmage.  While Green Bay isn’t likely to find their 2011 stroke, they have had more success in pushing the ball downfield over their past three games.  A quick, early strike and a quick score can set the tone and put the Vikings on their heels right away.

23

October

Around the NFC North: Week 8

Around the NFC North

The Bears have a much needed bye and the Packers face the Vikings on Sunday night in prime time

The Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings all lost their games while the Green Bay Packers were victorious.  That puts the Packers in first place in the North and heading into their first of two straight Prime Time games this season.  They will be in Minnesota for a Sunday night tilt against the Vikings with a home game against the Bears the following week.

The Lions will host the Dallas Cowboys and look to get back on track after dropping a close one to the Cincinnati Bengals at the end of regulation.

The Bears have a bye week and it could not have come at a better time.  During their loss to the Washington Redskins, the Bears lost quarterback Jay Cutler to a torn groin that will sideline him at least a month.  They also lost veteran linebacker Lance Briggs for up to four weeks.  This seems to be the story with the Bears each year after a hot start.  Coming out of the bye, the Bears draw a road game in Green Bay so things don’t get any easier for them.

With the Bears on a bye and a divisional matchup, there are only two games this week.  Let’s dive into each.

Dallas Cowboys (4-3) at Detroit Lions (4-3)

The first-place Cowboys are coming off of two straight wins and face a Lions team that is reeling a bit from a nail-biting loss to the Bengals.  The Cowboys won their first road game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles.  The Lions are now one game behind the division-leading Packers and can gain some ground on the Bears, who are idle this week.

Offensively, these two teams are very even in terms of their production.  The quarterback play has been close, with an edge going to the Lions in the running game.  Each team features a top-flight wide receiver in that of Calvin Johnson for the Lions and Dez Bryant for the Cowboys.  The Cowboys rely heavily on their running back DeMarco Murray while the Lions mix it up with both Reggie Bush and Joique Bell.

19

April

Packers Schedule Analysis: The March to 16-0 (but probably 11-5 or 10-6)

Ryan Pickett

Look how happy Ryan Pickett is about the Packers 2013 schedule being released.

The 2013 NFL schedule was released Thursday night and it included three Sunday night games and a Monday night game for the Green Bay Packers.

You can view the entire Packers 2013 schedule here. You can view the entire NFL 2013 schedule here.

Here’s everything else you need to know about the Packers 2013 schedule (or at least everything I could think of and lift from other people on Twitter):

  •  The Packers once again open the season against the 49ers, this time on the road. We’ll find out right away if Dom Capers has learned how to stop Colin Kaepernick and the read-option.
  • Need an excuse to eat turkey for breakfast? The Packers play the Lions at 11:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving. I say stuff your face with food early, watch the game, then eat leftovers for dinner.
  • Let’s hope the Packers injury luck is better than last season. Green Bay’s bye comes in week four. That’s early.
  • We’ll find out a lot about the Packers right away. Their first three games are against 2012 playoff teams (@49ers, vs. Redskins and @Bengals).
  • After those first three games, the Packers get a bye, play a non-playoff team (the Lions, who are barely an NFL team, let alone a playoff team) and get right back into the grind with a week six matchup against the Super Bowl champion Ravens.
  • Plenty of variety in kickoff times. The Packers have seven noon games, four night games, four 3:25 p.m. games and 11:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving.
  • The Packers play three night games in 22 days (Oct. 27 @Vikings, Nov. 4 vs. Bears and Nov. 17 @Giants).
  • There are no back-to-back road games for the Packers.
  • Greg Jennings will return to Lambeau Field wearing a Vikings uniform in week 12 on Nov. 24.
  • The last three games could be brutal for the Packers: @Cowboys, vs. Steelers and @Bears.
  • The last seven Super Bowl champions played the NFC East. The Packers play the NFC East this season. Hmmmm….
  • Based on the schedule, it sounds like Packers training camp will open on Friday, July 26.
  • My wife and I are supposed to have our first child on Oct. 5. It looks like we may have to induce labor during the bye week to ensure that we don’t miss any Packers games.
9

December

Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers Key Matchups

 

Aaron Rodgers and Ndomukong Suh

The Packers are hoping Suh won’t get this close to Rodgers on Sunday

We’re back to the Detroit Lions already?  It seems like just three weeks ago I was breaking down the key matchups between these same Lions and the Green Bay Packers.  That’s because I was.  Due to the fate of the 2012 scheduling, the Green Bay Packers ended up with five divisional games in their final seven and didn’t see either the Lions nor the Vikings for the first time until week 11.  That means there will be a short time in between each matchup.  In the case of this rivalry, it was a mere 21 days.

With not many changes in the game’s key matchups, I’m going to drill down on the top three and spend more time on them.

Packers Offensive Line vs. Lions Defensive Line

No, not an earth shattering proclamation and yes, it’s a repeat from the first matchup.  But alas, it’s still a key in this game.  Since the last matchup, the Packers are dealing with yet more injuries on the line.  Starting guard/tackle T.J. Lang did not participate in practice on Wednesday and Packers head coach Mike McCarthy did not seem too optimistic with his progress early on this week.  I don’t expect Lang to play on Sunday which clears the path for rookie undrafted free agent Don Barclay to make his first NFL start at right tackle.

Barclay will be matched up against Lions left defensive end Cliff Avril.  Avril has had another solid year for the Lions and has 8.5 sacks on the season.  His quick initial burst will immediately test Barclay’s footwork and I expect the Packers offensive game plan to slide some help to that right side.  In a one-on-one matchup, I would expect Barclay to struggle.  For the football junkies out there, keep an eye on this matchup throughout the game as there will surely be a few mano-a-mano opportunities.  This will tell us a lot about what the Packers have in Barclay.

One source that may provide that much-needed assistance to the right side is newly acquired veteran running back Ryan Grant.  Grant was signed after it was determined the James Starks would miss quite some time with a knee injury.  While not the fleetest of foot, Grant is solid in his pass protection and should provide a boost there.  He knows the offense and should be able to step in and contribute right away.

23

November

Around the NFC North in Week 12

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 12

Well, I dropped the ball my friends.  My apologies to all for not getting this post up sooner and in light of today’s matchup between the Detroit Lions and Houston Texans.  I am feverishly writing this on Turkey Day and I won’t take a single bite until this is up for your reading pleasure.  With that, I want to wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving weekend!

This week brings a full slate of NFC North football starting with the Thanksgiving day matchup.  The Chicago Bears square off against the Minnesota Vikings for the first time this season and the Packers round off the weekend with the Sunday Night game at the New York football Giants.

Let’s look at the matchups a bit more closely and see what’s to come.

Houston Texans (10-1) at Detroit Lions (4-7)

Well, Houston pulled it out in another overtime thriller.  I could have tried to pass myself off as a prophet and claim that I knew the Lions would take the 9-1 Texans to the brink, but all it takes is a glance at my record in the prediction posts.  It’s clear that I don’t own a crystal ball.  Or at least an accurate one.  So on we go. . .

Minnesota Vikings (6-4) at Chicago Bears (7-3)

The big question in this game for the Bears is once again the health status of starting quarterback Jay Cutler.  Cutler has been cleared to practice in a limited capacity but still has not been cleared by an independent neurologist to resume full play.

Jason Campbell would start at quarterback if Cutler can’t play.  Campbell has been barely decent in relief duty and when asked whether Cutler would be able to play this week, Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Tice was quoted as saying “God, I hope so”.  Not a whole lot more needs to be said there.  The Bears themselves know their best chance to win is with Cutler playing.

Minnesota’s tough defensive unit would theoretically pose a bigger problem to Campbell than Cutler.  Chicago’s offensive line struggles continue and there have even been some rumblings that Chicago is less-than-thrilled with the play of 2nd year tackle and 2011 first round pick Gabe Carimi.  This could become a big problem if the Vikings pass rush wins the battle up front and forces Campbell to make quick decisions and throws.

16

October

Packers Turn in Right Direction

Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers celebrates one of his 6 TD’s vs. the Texans

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Packers being at a turning point in their season.  The Pack turned in the right direction on Sunday night.  They answered the bell  with a convincing 42-24 win over the previously undefeated Houston Texans.  That it was a road win only  added emphasis to the fact that the Packers are still a very good team.

Are they a great team?  That remains to be seen but the possibility is very much there within the team’s grasp.  Everything the Packers needed to do in this game, they did.  Yes, they made some mistakes and suffered a number of injuries, but this is a team sport.   They showed in 2010 that if they play as a team, good things will happen.

This win puts the Packers back at .500.  When you consider that they have already faced the 49ers, Bears, Saints and Texans, that’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Added to that is the fact that they could easily be 5-1 and there should be a lot of reason for optimism in Green Bay.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy has shown a great ability to grab ahold of the team and keep the locker room tight.  While other teams may buckle under the pressure of losing close games or games they should have won, the Packers get back to work and fight.

During the postgame interview, NBC’s Michele Tafoya mentioned to Packers QB Aaron Rodgers that outside the locker room it’s been said that “the sky is falling” and asked him what this win said to the critics.  Rodgers simply and calmly responded “Shhhhhhhhhhh”.

It doesn’t get any easier with another road game at St. Louis next week, the Packers’ third in a row.  But if history is any indication, the Pack will be ready and confident that they can head back to Lambeau Field above .500 for the first time this season.  In 2010 at this same juncture the Packers were 3-3, hit hard by injuries and facing a tough game against Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings.  I’m sure we all remember what happened from there.

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

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