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Are The Green Bay Packers Getting It Going At The Right Time?

(photo courtesy of Associated Press)

(photo courtesy of Associated Press)

The Green Bay Packers and the Washington Redskins were going in opposite directions going into the playoffs. The Packers entered the playoffs on a two-game losing streak. They had been embarrassed on national television against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16 38-8. And in the season finale going for the division crown, the Packers lost to the Vikings at home 20-13. The feeling around the Packers were that they had some issues on both sides of the football. Defensively, the Packers were solid up front. But in their secondary, there were some things going on there that were not conducive to good defense. Who can forget how the Cardinals had some fun at their expense in Week 16? But not to be left out, the offense definitely had their share of issues. The running game has been inconsistent all season long for the Packers offense and Eddie Lacy had not been himself. The wide receivers had not been able to get separation so Rodgers could throw them the ball. And the offensive line has been depleted all year. The feeling some in media had was that the hot team, the Washington Redskins, were better than the Packers at this point in the season. And if they were able to come out and jump on the Packers, then the Redskins would be marching on to the next game. But little did we know, the real Packers would come to play.

The Redskins came out and shook up Green Bay at first. The Redskins sacked Rogers in the endzone making it 2-0. And the Redskins took the next possession and drove it all the way down into Packers territory. From there, the Redskins squandered an opportunity while the Packers stood up. The Redskins thought they had scored when DeSean Jackson ran a dig across the field and got free. It appeared Jackson beat the defender to the pylon, but unfortunately Jackson did not stick the ball inside the pylon. That nullified the touchdown and put the ball at one-yard line. From there, the Packers defense made a stand. They stuffed the Redskins three straight times to force a field goal. The result of doing that missed opportunity was the potential four points that was left out there. The Packers had not shown that type of resolve in a few weeks and when put in a tough situation, they responded to the adversity instead of crumbling under the pressure. And as far as the running game, the Redskins had only 84 total rushing yards. That is outstanding rush defense.

But this was not all the Packers defense did. The aforementioned DeSean Jackson is an electrifying player. He can score from any angle on the field and make it look real nice while it’s happening. Against the Packers, it seemed the defense was clued into him and his abilities. And even though tight end Jordan Reed had a great day(9 receptions for 120 yards and 1 touchdown), the Packers were able to hold Jackson to just two receptions for 17 yards, with his longest being that reception that he should have scored on. The Packers communicated with each other and in doing so, helped each other do their jobs and keep Jackson in check. He did test them a few times down the field, but Green Bay was right there to swat the ball away. The young defensive backs of the Green Bay Packers (Quinten Rollins, Damarious Randle) handled the pressure of keeping up with Jackson and the Redskins passing attack quite well. And as a whole, the defense held the duo of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson to under 100 yards total. That kind of defense, along with them putting heat on Cousins all game, will make any offense uncomfortable.

The defense played well, but the offense turned a corner on Sunday. It looked like the fun was out of the game in the last few weeks for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He was visibly frustrated at what was going on. He started off rough, but he soon found his rhythm. He would end up getting it going in the passing game to Randall Cobb, James Jones and Davante Adams. The one that got him even more pumped up was the score before halftime. The defense had held the Redskins before the two-minute warning and got the ball back to the offense. And the Packers took it 60 yards for the score before halftime. That throw and that drive let people know that Rodgers was really feeling good and the confidence the offense was missing had started to reappear. Rodgers would only throw for 210 yards, but he was solid and looked like he was at the beginning of the year. And as far as the offensive line, they held up admirably after giving up the sack for a safety early in the game.

The passing game looked good, but the element of the run was a welcomed addition to this game. All season there has been no consistency there. When Lacy and James Starks were present, the team and the offense looked better and was able to win. When Lacy and Starks were not running the ball well, the Packers faced even more challenges to their offense. Sunday, the Packers’ running backs came out and ran the ball hard and tough. Eddie Lacy ran for 63 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown, including a crucial 30 yard run in the second half. And as for James Starks, he ran for 53 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. When these two are running the football with conviction and toughness, the Packers are a tough team to beat. And with the holes the Packers offensive line was opening, it was definitely a sight for sore eyes to see that size of a hole. But what made their performances even better is they did not have to have the big holes to make yardage. There were a few times that Starks and Lacy had to duck their heads and get what they could get. And both realized that and did what they had to do. Eventually, they helped tire out the defense and make Aaron Rodgers even more lethal. When a passer like Rodgers gets a running game, it can keep the defenses guessing all game long. And that is something you don’t want with Rodgers at the helm.

Overall, the Packers looked like a much different team than they did the last few weeks of the year. And because of the polish they showed, they looked like the team that everyone thought they would be all season long. After this 35-18 win, the Packers head back to the desert to play the Arizona Cardinals next weekend. It will be interesting if they can carry the momentum from this win to next week or if it was just a win against the winner of a pretty bad division.

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The Sky Is Falling In Green Bay

(photo courtesy of Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

(photo courtesy of Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The Green Bay Packers are a team many look to as a contender for the Lombardi Trophy. The offense has arguably the best quarterback in the game in Aaron Rodgers and plenty of weapons at his disposal. And as far as the defense, they have linebacker Clay Matthews and a mixture of veterans and young, talented players. The Packers lost veteran wide receiver Jordy Nelson in the preseason and that made some think their offense would sputter. But after a 6-0 start, there was not many questions about the Packers. The offense was performing beautifully and the defense was causing headaches. That 6-0 start had many thinking the Packers were arguably the best team in the NFL. Well, all that thinking seems like a distant memory. In the last three weeks, the Packers have gone winless. The Broncos, Lions and Panthers took it to Green Bay in consecutive weeks and the Packers now look like a team that has to figure it out again. So what has been the source of the issues the last two weeks with them?

The Packers’ defense has been an issue the last few weeks. But it has not been the front seven that has been the biggest issue. The secondary, led by safety Morgan Burnett, was expected to take advantage of their front seven and the pressure they can create. Well, in the last three weeks, they have been exposed a little. In the game against the Broncos, it seemed like they were going after cornerback Casey Heyward. And every time they went at him, they had great success. Against the Panthers, it seemed like leaks were sprung everywhere and that led to Cam Newton and the Panthers lighting them up in the air. And finally they played better against the Lions, but just could not do enough to silence the Lions and Matt Stafford through the air (Lions scored both touchdowns through the air today). Sam Shields being missing for one of those games is something Packers fans may want to look at, but he was present for two of these games and in the Denver one, it seemed as if he was not there at all. Whatever the case may be with the Packers and their secondary, they must work to resolve it before the season gets away from them.

The Packers have problems defensively, but there are issues offensively as well. The receivers not being able to get separation and beat man coverage is one, but that isn’t the biggest one that is hurting them right now. We all know that Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the game. And over his career, he has carried the Packers offense plenty of times. But for this offense to be Super Bowl caliber, they must have a running game. This season, Eddie Lacy was expected to be the man and carry that burden. But unfortunately, injuries and ineffective play have plagued him. And with his stumble there, the Packers tried James Starks again as the starter. The results have been less than stellar and today Rodgers had to throw the football 61 times to even keep the Packers in the game. And what is even more puzzling is Rodgers and the Packers only put up 16 points. This high-flying team misses veteran wide receiver Jordy Nelson. But what they miss most is a consistent running game. If that is to get on track, then maybe the offensive struggles would not be as bad as they have been. Whether it be Starks or Lacy, one of these young players has to step up and be the man. If not, then everything will continue to be on Rodgers’ shoulders. And it’s not to say Rodgers cannot handle that, but this team has Super Bowl aspirations. That will not happen with Rodgers becoming a gunslinger in the pocket.

With this third loss, the Packers have now lost the lead in the division to the Minnesota Vikings. And heading into next weekend, they are headed up north to see Minnesota. If they play the way they have been playing, they could be in trouble. The Vikings have found themselves and Adrian Peterson is starting to get in a groove. But if they can find a way to get the issues with their secondary and their running game solved, then maybe we get a different team come next Sunday. Whatever the case may be, the Packers have entered a dangerous part of their season and if they are to lose against Minnesota, their season could go in a tailspin. It should be interesting to see what happens next in Green Bay.

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Who’s The MVP?

The season is ending and the time has come to give out the awards. The most prestigious of these awards is the MVP. And this year, the award comes down to two quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Some are yelling that Drew Brees should win it. Some are yelling Aaron Rodgers should. In my opinion, two key statistics make the decision easy. It’s Aaron Rodgers who is the MVP.

The first set of numbers is wins. Drew Brees had 13 wins this year. A lot of people will say that all this was because of Drew Brees. Well, that suggestion isn’t exactly accurate. Brees and the Saints, despite their explosiveness, were a team that could run the football as well. Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas combined for 2013 yards as a whole. Rodgers, on the other hand, sported a 15-1 record, while not having anywhere near the amount of ground support from Ryan Grant and James Starks that Brees had from his foursome(1137 yards). That alone makes Rodgers and his 15-1 record even that more impressive.
Advantage: Rodgers

My next set of numbers is interception-to-turnover ratio. There’s no doubt that Drew Brees had an outstanding year. He eclipsed Dan Marino’s passing yardage record in a season(5476 yards) and he also threw a career-high 46 TD passes. Brees obviously threw the ball a lot to get those numbers. And with throwing a lot, that means interceptions will happen. Brees also had 14 interceptions this year. Let’s compare what Brees did this year to what Rodgers did. Rodgers passed for less yards(4643) and TDs(45) but he also threw only 6 interceptions all year. Looking at Rodgers’ touchdown-to-interception numbers and combining these numbers with the fact that Rodgers didn’t have a running game make his stats look even better.
Advantage: Rodgers.

To me, winning and not hurting your team are the biggest things that lead to making you a valuable piece. Rodgers hurt his team less and he was surgeon-like while he shredded teams on his way to leading the Packers to a 15-1 record. Brees had a great season, but give credit where credit is due. Rodgers was masterful this year.


TEM’s Divisional Playoff Weekend Preview: New York Giants vs Green Bay Packers

The Pack have been the favorite since the beginning of the year. The Giants weren’t even supposed to be here in some people’s eyes. But no matter what we all think, what we do know is that these two teams had a really competitive game in the New Meadowlands. Now we get to see Round 2, except this time, its in Green Bay.

QB Eli Manning was hitting the big play with consistency last week. And no player was bigger for him in the passing game than WR Hakeem Nicks. This week, expect Nicks to have the advantage again in his matchup. He will more than likely be facing CB Sam Shields while CB Charles Woodson will be in the slot. But for as good as the Giants were in the passing game, they must be equally impressive in the running game. If RBs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs are effective, they keep Packers QB Aaron Rodgers off the field. Another thing the Giants have to do is account for LB Clay Matthews. He can wreck a game if the Giants don’t control him and Eli could be under duress all game.

QB Aaron Rodgers is the MVP. Contrary to all the Drew Brees lovers, he’s the man in my opinion. Now with that being said, Rodgers has to come out and carry his offense again this week. For him to do that, the Packer offensive line must protect Rodgers from the Nascar pass rush of the Giants, led by DEs Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck. If the Packers protect Rodgers, then the Giants secondary could be in some trouble. No offense to the Giants, but they don’t have enough DBs to cover TE Jermichael Finley and WRs Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and James Jones. Another player to watch this game when the Packers are on offense will be James Starks. He is the most physical of the Green Bay RBs and he must be somewhat effective to help the offensive line keep some of the heat off of Rodgers.

This game should be interesting and high-scoring. But, like most games, it comes down to defense. Whoever makes more plays defensively will win the game. I will take the team that creates more turnovers to win this game, the Green Bay Packers.
Prediction: Green Bay Packers 34, New York Giants 31

NFL Thursday Showcase: Thanksgiving Special

We all have a lot to be thankful for. For some its family. For some, its friends. For some, its the fact that they were able to wake up today. And for some, Thanksgiving football is what most are thankful for. Without any further, here are my breakdowns for the NFL’s Thursday Thanksgiving specials!

Green Bay vs Detroit
The Packers travel to the Lion’s Den to take on the Detroit Lions. The Pack have been almost invincible this year behind the firepower of their offense. Well, this week, QB Aaron Rodgers and the boys face the front four of the Lions, led by DT Ndamakong Suh. In order to slow the Lion’s front four down, the Pack must run the ball well. That means James Starks(if he plays) or Ryan Grant will have to run with conviction and punish the Lions where their weakest: in the run game. Once the run game is established, expect Rodgers to hit his plethora of WRs all over the field.

The Lions found a running game last week with newly signed Kevin Smith. But the thing is, they were playing against the Panthers, who have been pretty bad against the run. The challenge this week will be if the Lions can run this week. In their spread formations, they must attack the gaps in the Pack’s defense, especially when the Pack is spread across the field when the Lions go to 3 or 4 WRs. If the Lions aren’t able to run, then Lions QB Matt Stafford has to carry the offense, and that won’t work with the likes of CB Charles Woodson, OLB Clay Matthews and crew on the other side. I think the crowd and the atmosphere will be electric in this game, but the Packers will prevail because of their unbelievable offense and some huge key stops. The 1972 Dolphins keep the champagne on ice for another week.
Prediction: Green Bay 31, Detroit 27

Miami vs Dallas 
The upstart Dolphins head to the Big D to take on a Cowboys team sitting in first place in the NFC East. The Dolphins have got solid play out of veteran QB Matt Moore. Moore must continue to play well this week because the pressure of the Cowboys defense will be after him. The Dolphins must continue to find creative ways to get the ball in the hands of RB Reggie Bush. He has really picked it up the last few weeks and can be extremely dangerous with the ball. I expect the Dolphins offensive line to have a few problems trying to keep Cowboys OLB Demarcus Ware out of the backfield. He will make some plays, but as long as the Dolphins can keep him under control, that increases the Dolphin’s chances to leave Dallas a winner.

The Cowboys have had tremendous play out of QB Tony Romo. He’s been hitting receivers in stride and making plays by keeping scrambling outside the pocket. Romo will have another great game if the Dolphins don’t put any pressure on him. Expect the Dolphins to have their secondary tested because they have been the weak link of this defense. Miami will keep this game close for a minute, but expect Dallas to eventually overwhelm the Dolphins.
Prediction: Dallas 31, Miami 17

San Francisco vs  Baltimore
The 49ers head east to take on the Baltimore Ravens. This game should be PHYSICAL! Leading the 49ers into town is QB Alex Smith. Sure, the running game has been outstanding so far, but eventually teams will stack the box against Frank Gore and the San Francisco Gold Rush. Smith must make some plays in the passing game in order to loosen up the Ravens’ D. If that can happen, the 49ers will have some lanes created due to Raven defenders backing out of the box. Also, it should be interesting to see if LB Ray Lewis plays. If he plays, his energy alone will take the Ravens to the next level.

QB Joe Flacco has been very inconsistent. Some of the inconsistencies are because of the lack of commitment to the run game. Well, this week doesn’t get any easier. The 49ers will play physical, smart defense against the Ravens and will be stingy against the run. If this is the case, expect the Ravens to at least attempt to run the ball some. That will put the Ravens outside the realm of predictability. If the Ravens aren’t able to run the football to at least make the 49ers respect that threat, then Flacco will be running for his life behind his offensive line. Expect a tight, physical, intense game. And in that type of game, the toughest team wins. And the toughest team is the 49ers. Expect them to impose their will on the Ravens as the game goes on.
Prediction: San Francisco 23, Baltimore 17

Thanks to all who have read my blog for today. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!


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