27

December

Around the NFC North in Week 17

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 17

In week 17, The NFL is getting what it always hopes for when they create the schedule each spring.  Each of this week’s NFC North matchups have playoff implications and there is another NFL record in jeopardy.

After the Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s single-season receiving yardage record last week, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has the single-season rushing record in his sights.  Peterson needs just 208 yards to break Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105 yards.

Peterson’s Vikings host the Green Bay Packers and that game has been flexed by the NFL to the 3pm CDT time slot.  It is setting up to be one of the better matchups around the league.  Green Bay can secure the second seed with a victory or both a San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks loss.  For the Vikings, it’s simple:  win and they’re in.

The Chicago Bears are still alive in the wild card race after beating the Arizona Cardinals.  Chicago travels to Detroit and must win to keep any hopes alive of securing the last wild card spot.  The Bears also are in the precarious position of having to cheer for their arch enemy Packers.  Should Bears win and the Packers beat the Vikings, the Bears would claim the sixth and final seed in the NFC.

Let’s look at the matchups and playoff scenarios a bit more closely.

Chicago Bears (9-6) at Detroit Lions (4-11)

The Lions got pounded by the Atlanta Falcons this past Saturday to make official what we already knew:  Detroit is horrible.  The only bright spot in the game, and really their entire season, was Johnson  surpassing Rice’s previous total.  Rice established the record of 1,848 yards with the San Francisco 49ers in 1995.

Johnson and the Lions can deliver a huge jab to the gut of Chicago by pulling off the upset this week.  A Chicago loss would eliminate the Bears from playoff contention.  While it’s not likely given the recently level of play by both teams, crazy things have happened this season and Detroit has at least an outside shot of pulling off the win.

23

December

Packers vs. Titans – Game Day First Impressions, Unfiltered: GB 55 TEN 7

Clay Matthews vs. Tennessee TitansGreen Bay Packers vs. Tennessee Titans:

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

 

Inactive for Packers today: 

WR Jordy Nelson, RB James Starks, S Charles Woodson, TE Tom Crabtree, RB Alex Green, DL CJ Wilson, DL Jerel Worthy

Inactive for Titans today:  

QB R. Smith, WR K. Wright, CB R. Mouton, LB C. McCarthy, C K. Matthews, T M. Otto, DE S. Solomon

 

Game Notes:

Ryan Grant gets the start at running back for the Packers today. Who’d a thunk it?

Evan Dietrich Smith starts at center for Jeff Saturday. Saturday’s body just breaking down.

Donald Driver is active for what will probably be his final regular season start Lambeau Field.

Packers are playing for a 2nd seed and a first round playoff bye. They need help from Seattle tonight (how ironic) to beat the 49ers.

———————————————

 

Mike McCarthy Pregame Show on 620 WTMJ:

Does clinching the NFC North impact your preparation: It really doesn’t. Today’s win is very important to our football mode. Chance to move up or at least clinch the 3rd seed.

Different from last year?: A totally different mindset. You don’t have to listen to the 0utside voices because there are none. Last year, there was the subconscious of “hey we’re in”.

EDS at center: It was a conversation that started earlier in the week. jeff has been fighting through, giving us everything he ha. A bit of a projection here with EDS.   EDS on a short leash… Jeff Saturday has been a consummate professional.

Rodgers better this year?: Last year was smooth sailing. It’s been a different ride this year. He’s had to be very disciplined and deal with the constant change around him. Has been a great year for him to grow and he’s a rock. he always goes out and gives us his best.

Chris Johnson: You talk about a home run back, he and AP are the two best at taking it to the house when you give them a crease.

Jake Locker: Excellent athlete, can make all the throws. We need to keep him in the pocket.

Titans D: They have to be excited about the way they’re playing the last month. This is going to be a hell of a contest today.  This will be a bigger challenge than I think people think.

23

December

Keys to the Game: Green Bay Packers vs. Tennessee Titans

Chris Johnson and Tramon Williams

The Packers need to bear down on Johnson this Sunday and keep him from running free

I’m going to depart a bit from the usual Key Matchups format because the Tennessee Titans are an unfamiliar opponent of the Green Bay Packers and also due to the injuries on both sides.

We will return to our regularly scheduled “Key Matchups” next week when the Packers visit the Minnesota Vikings to round out the 2012 regular season.  For this week, it’s more of a “What to Watch For”.

Titans Running Back Chris Johnson

Johnson gets hidden, sometimes even forgotten, in Tennessee because they are one of the smaller markets.  And let’s be honest, the Titans have been very forgettable the past four seasons.  But 1,200 yards and five touchdowns is nothing to overlook this week for the Packers.

Johnson had a 94 yard touchdown run in Tennessee’s Monday night’s dismantling of the New York Jets.  With that run, Johnson set a new NFL record with six career touchdown runs over 80 yards.

He’s still a very good running back and clearly has the ability to break a long run at any time.  Green Bay struggled to contain another great running back three weeks ago when Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had a long scoring run and ran wild all day.

It’s asking a lot of any defense to contain a top back, but Green Bay has had recent success defending the run and can again this week.  It comes down to the one-one-one matchups at the line, specifically with Ryan Pickett and BJ Raji.  Each played very well last week against Chicago and Matt Forte.

Tennessee’s offensive line grades out better than does the Bears’ but with top wide receiver Kendall Wright out this week, the Titans won’t have as many options in the passing game. Green Bay may be able to focus more on loading up the box, as they say.

If all else fails, just tackle.  The Packers have had more than their fair share of tackling issues over the past two seasons and it cost them in the Vikings game.  Fortunately it didn’t cost them the game, but in a close contest, a missed tackle can be the one play that prevents them from getting the “W”.

22

December

Packers vs. Titans Week 16 Game Predictions from AllGBP.COM (with Podcast)

GAME PREDICTIONS
Week 16: Green Bay Packers vs. Tennessee Titans
Name Record To-Date This Week’s Pick Score Prediction
Kris Burke 10-4 Green Bay Packers 27-10
Now that we know the Mayans were wrong, here’s a sign the world still may end: the Packers will put this thing away early.  With the pressure of winning the division off, the Packers return to an aerial attack and put this one away early. I think we’ll even see Graham Harrell in the fourth quarter.
“Jersey” Al Bracco 9-5 Green Bay Packers 31-17
NFC Champions Baby! The Packers host the hapless Titans, so surely that must mean a Packers win, right? As we’ve seen in the past, the Packers can play down to the level of their competition, but I don’t think even that would be enough to lose to the Titans. Wacky prediction: Crosby goes one for five on field goals and is mobbed by his teammates on the one he makes. Yeah, that’s where we are…
Adam Czech 11-3 Green Bay Packers 28-13
I was going to predict 34 points for the Packers, but then I remembered Mason Crosby is our kicker. The goal in this game should be to avoid more injuries. I watched the Titans vs Jets game on Monday because I had money on the Jets. Now I’m scarred for life after witnessing that debacle. The Packers need to get ahead early so the Titans quit playing and start thinking about what last-minute gifts they need to buy for their wives and mistresses.
Marques Eversoll 11-3 Green Bay Packers 31-6
I’m usually hesitant to predict a blowout, as every NFL team has talent and it takes a full team effort to completely control a game. But that’s exactly what I expect this week. The Packers defense is playing its best ball of the season, and I think they’ll shut down the Titans offense. Even if Alex Green is out, I expect the Packers to be able to run the ball with success. And oh yeah, Aaron Rodgers figures to have a field day. Packers win easily.
Thomas Hobbes 10-4 Green Bay Packers 23-10
19

December

Around the NFC North in Week 16

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 16

With just two games left in the 2012 regular season, there is a full slate in the NFC North this week.  Each game carries its own significance as far as the playoff race is concerned as at least one team in each matchup is fighting for better playoff seeding and some are fighting to just get in, period.

Let’s take a look at the implications in each matchup.

Atlanta Falcons (12-2) at Detroit Lions (4-10)

The only reason this game is listed first is because it is the lone Saturday game and takes place before all others.  Beyond that, it all comes down to a very complete Falcons team coming into Detroit to face arguably the most disappointing team in the NFL this season.

Last weekend, Detroit was manhandled by the Arizona Cardinals 38-10.  Arizona had previously lost their last nine straight games.  The Lions have succeeded in one thing this season:  finding many ways to lose a game.  While they won’t be appearing in the postseason this year, they will have plenty of time during the offseason to figure out why.

The biggest question in Detroit right now is who will still be with the team in 2013?  Head coach Jim Schwartz will surely be the topic of those conversations during the winter.

While Atlanta has wrapped up the NFC South and currently has the best record in the NFC, they have yet to secure the first or second seed in the postseason.  They have their eyes set on being the top seed and therefore also securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  The Falcons can do so by winning their last two games, regardless of what any of the other contenders do.

However, a loss by Atlanta would begin to open a door for both the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers, who currently hold the second and third seeds, respectively.

While the Lions have pride to play for and certainly fit the bill of a team that could be pesky during these last two weeks, I don’t expect that pride to get them anywhere near Atlanta’s level this week.  Detroit’s best chance of success this week will probably be the 50% odds they have in winning the opening coin toss.

17

December

Packers Coach Mike McCarthy: What Is He Thinking?

Mike McCarthy

Some of McCarthy’s decisions have led to many questions about whether they will help or hurt the Packers from here on out

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has a track record that speaks for itself:

73 wins

37 losses

.664 winning percentage in regular season

5-3 record in playoffs including a Super Bowl Championship

Two appearances in the NFC Championship game

Three NFC North division titles

Not bad, right?  Even by the sky-high standards of the Green Bay Packers and their fans, those numbers exude success.  But McCarthy has become somewhat of an intrigue lately.  As we know, he calls the offensive plays for the Packers during games.  He has done so since his arrival in Green Bay.

At times, especially this season, he has had fans and analysts alike scratching their heads with some of his decision making.  Now, I realize that he gives quarterback Aaron Rodgers some freedom to alter the play at the line if Rodgers sees something he thinks he can take advantage of.  It’s hard to say exactly whether some of these offensive failures were McCarthy calls or Rodgers check-out’s.  Whichever is the case, McCarthy is responsible for all of it as head coach.

Despite having clinched the NFC North division with today’s win over the Chicago Bears, the Packers still have a chance to improve their playoff seeding over the last two weeks of the season.  They return home to face the Tennessee Titans next week which screams (and I mean a blood-curdling scream) “trap game”.  Any lapse in that game and even worse, a loss, will fall squarely on the shoulders of McCarthy and how he prepares the team this week.  In week 17, they will face the Minnesota Vikings in what will surely be a tough game as the Vikings are now in great position to reach the postseason.

Any Packers player or coach who is asked will tell us:  “We believe in coach McCarthy and what we are trying to accomplish”.  And that’s not a bad thing.  I’d rather have that type of team culture than some others that I see (the Philadelphia Eagles come to mind).  At the same time, I think Packers nation is starting to grow anxious as we watch McCarthy baffle everyone from fans to the TV analysts (even Joe Buck and Troy Aikman) with some of his play calling.  And specifically late in games when the Packers have a decent lead and their destiny is in their own hands.

31

October

Around the NFC North in Week 9

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 9

Week 9 brings us to the start of the 2012 season’s second half.  Quick trivia:  Which is the NFL’s only division with three teams over .500?  You’re correct if you guessed the NFC North.  Let’s dive into the matchups around the division this week.

Chicago Bears (6-1) at Tennessee Titans (3-5)

The Bears are rolling, the Titans are not.  About the only thing in Tennessee’s favor this week is that it’s a home game.

The Bears narrowly escaped with a home win over Carolina while Tennessee came up just short against the Indianapolis Colts in overtime.  As the saying goes, good teams find a way to win and Chicago keeps doing it week after week.  They find themselves alone in 1st place atop the NFC North.

Tennessee has had solid play from backup QB Matt Hasselbeck in place of injured Jake Locker.  Hasselbeck will start Sunday against the Bears.  Unfortunately, Hasselbeck is the only Titans player who has played well consistently and the team has not been able to string consecutive wins together.

Titans RB Chris Johnson has flashed some of his vintage self lately, but not enough to put the team on his back.  The Bears are giving up a stingy 77 yards/game rushing and Johnson will be the focal point of their defensive game plan.

The big focus for the Titans and Hasselbeck is taking care of the football.  Chicago has mustered 16 interceptions in 7 games this season and they lead the league in takeaways.  They are also a top-scoring defense so they are making those turnovers count.  Hasselbeck has thrown four interceptions compared to six touchdown passes.  His task will not be an easy one this Sunday.

For the Bears, the game plan is simple:  run to daylight.  Tennessee is surrendering 140 yards/game on the ground and the Bears happen to have a guy named Forte on their side.  I’m no fantasy football expert but I say: start Forte!  If Chicago builds a solid lead, you’ll see a good dose of Michael Bush as well.

While the rest of the North needs the Bears to slow down a tick, it likely doesn’t happen this week.