Tag Archives: Green Bay Packers

Predictions and Preview for NFL Wild Card Playoff Round

By: Jon

 

Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

4:35 PM Saturday

Two weeks ago, the Colts and Chiefs played in Kansas City and the Colts came out victorious in a low scoring game. The Colts were able to control the game and comfortably won the game 23-7 on the road. The Colts dominated the game after the Chief’s first drive of the game. The two teams are heading in opposite directions. The Colts are playing their best football of the season, especially on the defensive side of the ball, while the Chiefs are playing horribly. Outside of their win against the Raiders, the Chiefs have won once in the last 8 games and have lost two straight games. Kansas City was great during the beginning of the season because they ran the ball effectively, did not turnover the ball, and played great defense. However, the team has not played great defense since the injuries of Houston and Hali, their two best pass rushers. Without an effective pass rush, the Chiefs’ defense has been vulnerable and has allowed more than 20 points per game. Their porous defense has forced Smith to throw the ball more often and force more passes into tight windows. Besides for the offensive clinic against the Raiders and the late explosion against the Redskins, the Chiefs do not play well in high scoring games and have lost three of the last five games when they score more than 24 points. While the Chiefs have tried to become more dynamic because of their poor defense, the Colts are playing better defense and have simplified the offense. The Colts have won their last three games and have allowed a combined 20 points in those games. Although the Colts lost their best offensive weapon in Reggie Wayne, they have run the ball more effectively and have become more efficient in the passing game. Also, players, like D’Rick Rogers and Greg Whalen, have risen from the bench and have produced for the team. The Colts will be benefited by playing at home on the turf and in front of their home crowd. The Colts are 6-2 at home and use the speed of the turf to play better defense. At home, they have beaten the Broncos and the Seahawks. The speed of the turf improves the Colts pass rush, especially Robert Mathis, and allows their speedy linebackers and secondary to track down opposing running backs. In this game, the Colts should be the favorite. They are playing better, at home, and have the better quarterback. Although Smith is older than Luck, he has only one more playoff appearance and does not have the skill or leadership like Luck. The game should be close, but Luck has been great in close games this season. The Colts will be looking to stop the run, which will make Smith pass the ball more frequently. Unless Charles is able to beat 7 or 8 men box, the Chiefs will have difficult scoring against the athletic and feisty Colts defense. The game should come down to the last few minutes, but Luck should be able to pull out a big win and garner his first playoff victory in his career.

Prediction: Colts win 24-20

 

New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles:

8:10 PM Saturday

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

The Saints will attempt to win their first road game in their franchise’s history when they head to the City of Brotherly Love to play the Eagles. Although the Saints have been one of the most dominant teams since the addition of Drew Brees, the Saints do not play well on the road, especially in the cold. All five of the Saints’ losses have been on the road this season. The three Saints’ wins on the road have been by a combined 14 points against the lowly Bucs, Bears, and Falcons, neither team is above 500. Also, the Bears’ game was the only contest that was not in a warm weathered climate or in a dome The Saints have trouble on the road because they are built for the fast turf field and the controlled climate in the Superdome. Although the Saints do not play well or have the team set for the cold weather, they are extremely dangerous and have Drew Brees, who always gives them a chance in a game. The Saints have lost two of their last three because the offensive line has not played well. The Saints are forced to start a rookie left tackle, who should be abused and over matched against Trent Cole and Mychael Kendricks. The key for the Saints will be Jimmy Graham. Last week, the Eagles could not stop Dallas’ tight end, Jason Witten, who is not on the same tier as Jimmy Graham. If Graham can explode and Brees’ limits the amount of turnovers, the Saints will have a chance in Philly. While the Saints play poorly on the road, the Eagles have played well at home, winning their last four games. The Eagles have been extremely fortunate this season that Nick Foles has put forth one of the best statistical seasons in NFL history. Although Foles has been great because he does not turnover the football, he is given a lot of help from Shady McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, the talented tight ends, and the stable offensive line. The Eagles running game has been the best in football because McCoy has been great this season and they cannot crowd the line with the skill of Nick Foles. Although the players have been playing well, Chip Kelly deserves a lot of credit for turning around the third worst team in football, last season. His offenses has been constructed because of the speed and talent. He has given McCoy the opportunity to run and catch the ball out of the backfield, which has made him the best non-quarterback in the NFL. Along with the offense’s success, the defense has improved throughout the season. Although the defense allows plenty of yards, they have adopted the “bend don’t break” philosophy and have been great in the red zone. As seen from their last 7 games, the Eagles hold teams to field goals and frequently cause turnovers, which has been a formula that wins championships. The Eagles should be able to force a few turnovers this weekend because Brees does not have the same accuracy in cold weather games and the ball is harder to grip, which causes more fumbles. The Eagles have been on fire of late and should be able to continue their winning ways against the Saints. The Saints will have trouble scoring because of the cold and the deficiencies on the offensive line. While the Saints have improved at stopping the pass under Rob Ryan, the Eagles are a great running team and should rely on McCoy, Brown, and Foles to lead them to a win in Kelly’s first playoff game.

Prediction: Eagles win 31-27

 

San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals:

1:00 PM Sunday

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

In another rematch, the Chargers will be heading into Cincinnati in hopes of extending their season. Although the Chargers should probably not be in the playoffs, they are a dangerous team and played very well toward the end of the season. The Chargers are a dangerous team in the playoffs because Phillip Rivers is playing like a top quarterback again under Ken Whisenhunt. Phillip Rivers has decreased his number of interceptions and has increased his completion percentage, touchdowns, and yardage. Rivers has been aided by the emergence of rookie Keenan Allen and Ryan Matthews. Matthews has added a running game that San Diego has not seen since Tomlinson. Allen has filled the void left by Vincent Jackson when he went to Tampa two seasons ago and recorded over 1000 yards. The Chargers have Woodhead and Gates, who are great situational receivers and provide safety blankets for Rivers. The Chargers have won 4 of their lat 5 games, but the one loss came to the Cincinnati Bengals in sunny, warm San Diego. However, this game will not be played in the sun or the warmth. The temperature is going to start at 37, but is intended to drop to 1 with a 100% chance of rain in the forecast. The rain, snow, and cold could affect Rivers’ ability to throw the ball against the stout Bengals defense. The Bengals’ defense is ranked 5th in both yards per game against the rush and the pass. The Chargers were unable to master the Bengals’ defense in week 13 and scored only 10 points. The Bengals were able to pick off Rivers and force two fumbles in the contest. The Chargers may turn the ball over again because the poor weather is conducive to slippery hands and off target passes. Along with the Chargers’ offense, the Bengals’ offense will be negatively affected by the weather as well. The Bengals have the 8th best passing attack in the league because Dalton has dramatically improved and AJ Green is one of the three best wide receivers in the league. In the past two playoff match ups against the Texans, Green did very little, which dramatically decreased their ability to score and move the ball. Unlike the Texans, the Chargers do not have the shut down secondary or the pass rush to stop quarterbacks from succeeding. The Chargers are currently 29th against the pass. Like their week 13 matchup, Green and Dalton should connect for 100 yards and at least one touchdown. If the Bengals can establish their ground game and account for over 150 yards, like week 13, the Chargers will have a difficult time scoring enough points against the Bengals’ stingy defense. Also, the running game in the snow will allow the Bengals to throw less frequently and not risk turnovers. The Bengals’ defense and the weather should be able to hold down the Chargers’ potent offense, while doing enough on offense to get their first playoff win in Marvin Lewis’ tenure.

Prediction: Bengals win 24-17

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers:

4:40 PM Sunday

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

The fans going to the game should wear their gloves, a hat, a scarf, a coat, and about eight more layers of clothes. The weather Green Bay is set to be around 0 degrees at the start of the game and go toward -18 as the sun drops and game ends. However, the weather does not include the wind chill, which should make the fans even happier. The TV companies that want to black out the game because of poor attendance should go out and sit in the stands before condemning the fans. Like 2 of the other three match ups, the Packers played the 49ers in week one in San Francisco. Although it was a long time ago, the 49ers won and won in the previous playoffs, which should give them confidence against the Packers. Although the Packers are playing at home and are more “used” to the cold, if one can be used to the weather, the cold probably benefits the 49ers and their ground and pound style of play. However, the Packers should be happy that they made the playoffs after losing Aaron Rodgers for seven games during the middle of the season. In normal situations and weather, the Packers would want to throw the ball about 35 times because their wide receiver core is one of the best in the league and not many teams can  limit Rodgers’ skills. Although the Packers will always have a chance with Rodgers, they need Eddie Lacy to play effectively, if they are going to challenge the 49ers. Currently, Lacy is listed questionable, but the Packers needs him because he bruises the opposing defense and adds an extra element to the Packers’ offense. Aaron Rodgers will probably have trouble with the accuracy because it is very difficult to handle the ball when it is cold, let alone -18 cold. Even if Rodgers wears a glove, it will affect his accuracy and ability to drive down the field. While the Packers’ offense should be fine, the defense will be challenged against the 49ers offense. The Packers defense currently ranks 24th and 25th respectively in passing and rushing yards allowed. Although the 49ers have what many believed was one of the ten best quarterbacks in the league before the season, the 49ers rank 30th in passing yards, but 3rd in rushing yards. Although the 49ers have not achieved much from their quarterback, the team is incredibly hot. They have won 6 straight and 11 of their last 13 games, which bodes well for their playoff future. The key to 49ers is their ability to play great defense and run the ball, which can translate into any weather. The 49ers rank 7th in passing yards and 4th in running yards allowed this season because they have great linebackers, Bowman and Willis, and their secondary is very good. The 49ers, like the previous two games, should be able to control the pace of the game and time of possession with their running game. Although Kapernick has not been great this season, two of his best games of his career has been in his last two games against the Packers. However, the cold will probably stop Kapernick from running wild, but his strong arm should allow him to throw through the cold and possible snow. Without Clay Matthews providing a pass rush and assisting against the run, they will not be able to stop the improving 49ers offense. The Packers will need to cause turnovers, like their 2010-11 title run, in order to keep the 49ers off the field and give more touches to their All-Pro quarterback. Although the last two match ups have been high scoring, the weather should disrupt the offense and make it a low scoring game.

Prediction: 49ers win 24-23

 

pics and stats from ESPN.com

2013-2014 Minnesota Vikings Preview

By: Prad

 

Projected Record: 9-7

NFC North Rank: Tied with Bears for 2nd

The Vikings made the playoffs last season in Week 17 after a win against their division rivals. Although Minnesota ruined the undefeated mark that the Green Bay Packers held in the NFC North, that wasn’t the biggest story line. The story line of note that every NFL fan followed in the final week of last season was RB Adrian Peterson’s attempt at breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record. Even though, Peterson fell eight yards shy of tying Dickerson’s mark, the Vikings clinched a playoff berth, something they hadn’t done since 2009. Ultimately though, they were futile in their efforts of advancing to the Division Round, a wild card loss coming at the hands of coincidentally, the Packers. This year, the Vikings will finish the season above .500, but will fail to reach the postseason because of a deep NFC.

The Minnesota Vikings will become better contenders when QB Christian Ponder refines his talent Courtesy of Sports Illustrated
The Minnesota Vikings will become better contenders when QB Christian Ponder becomes more refined
Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

In order for the Vikings to compete at a high level in one of the most difficult divisions in the league, their quarterback needs to develop into a more complete one. QB Christian Ponder isn’t required to be responsible for the majority of the offensive burden, which is a nice feeling for a QB. The position has become relied on heavier in the NFL during recent times and the majority of team’s are going with the aerial attack far more frequently than the rushing game. Ponder finished 24th in quarterback rating (81.2) last season among starting quarterbacks. Obviously, not every quarterback has a rusher that attains 2,000 yards, but for Ponder not to even surpass the 3,000 yard mark in passing is embarrassing. It’s rare in the NFL that the disparity in yardage between the passing game and rushing game is less than a 1,000 yards. The Vikings secured a viable backup when they got QB Matt Cassel this offseason. Perhaps, Cassel could even spark some competition for the role and Ponder could potentially use this as motivation to keep his starting job and increase his production immensely.

WR Greg Jennings will be the #1 receiver Courtesy of Zimbio
WR Greg Jennings will be the #1 receiver this upcoming season
Courtesy of Zimbio

Unfortunately for him, his leading receiver from a season ago, WR Percy Harvin was traded this offseason to the Seattle Seahawks. But, the Vikings did a decent job replacing him by acquiring WR Greg Jennings this offseason, who inked a 5 year-$47.5 million deal. In seven seasons with Green Bay, Jennings caught 425 passes for 6,537 yards and 53 touchdowns. He is a proven deep threat, who can boost Christian Ponder’s TD numbers from last season, which stood at a mediocre 18. This attests to his general underachieving nature, since the average starting QB threw for 27 last year. Peterson didn’t even take a drastic amount away from Ponder, getting only 12 TDs all of last season. If Ponder can develop a better pocket presence in the redzone, it would tremendously improve the versatility of this offense.

RB Adrian Peterson will go for the 2,000 yard club again Courtesy of ESPN
RB Adrian Peterson will attempt to go for the 2,000 yard club again
Courtesy of ESPN

AP is the best running back the game has seen in a while, some even say the best since Barry Sanders, which would effectively make him the best since the turn of the century. To prove people wrong who say that last season’s numbers was a fluke, Peterson’s goal is for 2,500 yards this season. While I don’t believe that 2,500 is attainable, 2,000 yards is plausible. This will make NFL history as nobody in the game has ever reached the 2,000 yard rushing mark more than once. That would prove the people who aren’t already believers in Peterson, which is a tiny minority. In his six year career, Peterson has averaged 1,475 yards a season, which makes his career total 8,849 yards. In that time period, Peterson has rushed for more yards than any other halfback in the league. These statistics should prove his naysayers wrong and secure him an entrance to the Hall of Fame in Canton by the age of 28.

The Vikings' defensive prowess will have to be on full display this season Courtesy of Associated Press
The Vikings’ defensive prowess will have to be on full display this season
Courtesy of Associated Press

A major reason for the Vikings going 10-6 last season despite a lack of touchdowns through the passing game and a rushing attack that wasn’t top tier in regards to rushing touchdowns, was their lock-down defense. All-Pro DE Jared Allen highlights this defensive unit, which ranked in the top 10 in rushing defense and 5th in sacks. They allowed only 105.8 rushing yards per game and sacked opposing quarterbacks 44 times throughout last season. Their defensive line is a proven presence that can poke holes in opposing offensive lines and make them look inferior. Although this is probably the best part of the defense, their linebacker group is impressive as well, which is led by LB Chad Greenway. Greenway led the team in tackles last year with a whopping 148, which stands at a tie for second in the league with San Francisco’s LB NaVorro Bowman and behind only Carolina’s LB Luke Kuechly (164).

Former FSU CB Xavier Rhodes Courtesy of SB Nation
Former FSU CB Xavier Rhodes
Courtesy of SB Nation

An issue with this defense seems to be the secondary. They didn’t force enough takeaways last year through the air, only intercepting 10 passes all of last season. To make matters worse, the Vikings released, CB Antoine Winfield, who signed with the Seahawks and was released by them too and subsequently retired. Winfield amassed 101 tackles last season, leading the cornerback group, but three tackles behind FS Harrison Smith. The Vikings have not taken adequate measures to fill the void left by Antoine Winfield. GM Rick Spielman drafted CB Xavier Rhodes, who could not possibly match Winfield’s production because of a lack of experience despite much potential. Rhodes is set to be #3 or #4 on the depth chart, but has a lot of room to improve in this secondary. Overall though, this defense needs to be as effective as it was last year for the Vikings to stay in postseason contention until late in the season.

Last year, the Vikings held a 4-2 mark in the NFC North. Look for them to repeat that record this year with one loss coming to the Chicago Bears and another at the hands of Green Bay. Adrian Peterson is the best player in the NFL, but he can’t single-handily will his team to the postseason again without support from QB Ponder. This defense can maintain the proficiency they were known for last season, in spite of the departure of a leading cornerback in the secondary. The Vikings are capable of dethroning the Packers and surprising the NFC North, but much of their success is contingent upon the competency of QB Christian Ponder.

2013-2014 Green Bay Packers Preview

By: Prad

 

Projected Record: 10-6

NFC North Rank: 1st

The Packers have won the NFC North the last two seasons behind one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Last year, Green Bay had a 5-1 NFC North record en route to finishing the season off 11-5, but they eventually succumbed to the 49ers in the Divisional Round in a high scoring bout, 45-31. Their record will take a small hit as a result of some losses of veteran players, but they ended up doing very well in April’s draft, which gives them a bright future. They’ll most probably clinch a playoff berth sometime in Week 16 or even Week 17, but only that late because of their difficult schedule. 10 of the 16 games their slated to play this season, have teams that owned a winning record a season ago.

James Jones Courtesy of Telegraph Herald
James Jones
Courtesy of The Telegraph Herald

Aaron Rodgers has been among the league’s best quarterbacks for the last three years and has the accolades to back it up. He won the 2011 MVP award, the Lombardi Trophy the same year and snagged the Super Bowl MVP too. Essentially, the triple crown for football. Although he hasn’t lost any luster, his receiving corps suffered a blow following the departure of WR Greg Jennings to the Minnesota Vikings. Jennings was injured for a large part of last season, but when healthy was a dominant presence. He has topped the 1,000 yard receiving mark three of the last five seasons and has hauled in 12 TD receptions two times in his career. WR James Jones and WR Jordy Nelson will have to make up for the significant loss of production, which they have proven they can do. Jones filled in very nicely for Jennings last year grabbing 14 touchdown passes.

OT Bryan Bulaga has left a void at offensive tackle Courtesy of SB Nation
OT Bryan Bulaga has left a void at offensive tackle
Courtesy of SB Nation

Rodgers has been known for getting sacked frequently throughout his career. In fact, last year, the Packers offensive line gave up 51 sacks, which is the second highest total in the NFL, behind the Cardinals. To make matters worse, they lost their best offensive lineman in Bryan Bulaga, who is out for the season with a torn ACL and lost C Jeff Saturday, who decided to retire. Although Rodgers is an above-averager scrambler when under pressure, he’ll have to do much better this upcoming year to make up for the key losses. Bulaga was a left tackle, which means Rodgers is going to be vulnerable on his blind side. As a result, he has to be cognizant about his numbers in the fumble department throughout the season. However, it’s a good thing GM Ted Thompson selected two offensive lineman, OL David Bakhtiari and OL JC Tretter in this year’s draft. They’ll prove to be helpful in providing good blocking for the rushing attack but I can’t say with certainty whether they’ll aid in providing Rodgers more time in the pocket. Only time will tell their immediate impact.

Former Alabama RB Eddie Lacy Courtesy of ESPN
Former Alabama RB Eddie Lacy
Courtesy of ESPN

This April, Green Bay drafted two halfbacks, RB Eddie Lacy and RB Johnathan Franklin, who can bolster a previously mediocre rushing attack. Even though this has the potential to be a dynamic combo in the backfield, the more talented and athletic Lacy will take most of the rushes this year. Hopefully, with some young legs, Rodgers and the aerial attack don’t need to take on a massive chunk of the offensive burden this year, something they’ve gotten accustomed to in the past few seasons. Last year, the rushing game had 1,702 yards throughout the season, while the passing game was responsible for 4,049 yards. Although it is common for a team’s passing attack to outperform its rushing game in terms of yards, the disparity between the two with Green Bay is one of the greatest in the NFL. If the rushing game has good production in the first few weeks, that bodes well for the team and Rodgers for the rest of the season, since he’ll be more of a threat with a degree of uncertainty.

Packers Defense Courtesy of Bleacher Report
Packers Defense
Courtesy of Bleacher Report

The Packers defensive unit has been one of the league’s best in recent times. They sacked an opposing quarterback 47 times last season, which ranked them 4th in the NFL. Their secondary was tremendous as well, ranking inside the top 10 for both yards allowed and points allowed. Charles Woodson was a pivotal element on the Packers for seven seasons, attaining 38 interceptions during that time. He got elected to the Pro Bowl four times as a Packer and was considered amongst the league’s best safeties just a couple seasons ago. Although his departure to the Oakland Raiders is disappointing, the aging Woodson, 36 was injured for half of last season and probably would’ve become more injury prone in future years. The team’s D still remains excellent with linebacker Clay Matthews as the centerpiece. To round out their linebacker crew is rookie first round selection Nick Perry, LILB AJ Hawk, and MLB Brad Jones. This four man group is set to be a top 5 linebacker unit in the NFL next season. Their defensive line has also excelled, which is led by DT BJ Raji and DT Ryan Pickett, both Pro Bowl caliber players. The only concern on this defensive unit seems to be the secondary. They haven’t done enough to replace Woodson and his production. The Pack didn’t acquire a safety during this offseason. Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers seems to simply be starting MD Jennings at strong safety and Morgan Burnett at free safety, both of whom lack starting experience. Yet, nobody can argue against the potent cornerback duo of Tramon Williams and Sam Shields. So, this defensive will NOT inevitably fail without the veteran Charles Woodson leading the secondary.

Clearly, GM Ted Thompson has addressed many concerns on the offensive end with this year’s draft and much of the defense remains intact despite a few alterations. The Green Bay Packers, a fixture in the postseason, are a formidable threat to any opposing team on their schedule, but will not be able to advance past the Divisional Round again this season due to a highly competitive NFC.  However, Green Bay will remain NFC North Champions, because nobody in their division has enough versatility on both sides of the ball to dethrone them.