November 27, 2013

Packers Keys To Victory in Season-Deciding Game at Detroit Lions

By: Shane Arman

Green Bay Packer fans had to know this moment was coming, after watching their team go winless the last four weeks with a revolving door at quarterback. It’s win or home for the Green Bay Packers; a win gives them the NFC North division lead and maintains the “control your own destiny” path. A loss makes it VERY difficult to win the division, the only likely path to the postseason. So what do the Packers need to do to beat the Detroit on Thanksgiving? See below for three keys that will help give Green Bay the best chance to steal a win.

Feed the Beast
(Photo: Benny Sieu Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)
Detroit surprisingly ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing yards surrendered per game at just 88 yards, while the Packers average 139.9, good for fifth best in the NFL. The Packers need to give Eddie Lacy a chance to break down the Lions defense, even though they’ll likely load the box with eight. Flynn should also look to Lacy as a pass-catcher, much like he did last week when Lacy was able to make some nice open field plays.

Score Early
Playing on the road and especially on Thanksgiving means Ford Field will be very loud. Getting off to a fast start is so important for the Packers, given they’ll look to control time of possession and keep the ball on the ground as much as possible. Over the past four weeks, the Packers have usually dug themselves early holes that have forced them to play from behind. The Packers have been outscored 50- 17 in the first half of the last four games; that can’t happen Thursday at Detroit. This Packers offense without Rodgers operates much better with a lead.

Make Big Plays When They’re Available
At various points through the last four weeks, the Packers have been in position to make big, game-changing plays—mostly on defense. From Davon House’s dropped interception against Minnesota, to Tramon Williams and Morgan Burnett’s missed interception on the deep TD pass in the Eagles game. Matthew Stafford will give the Packers a few turnover opportunities and whether the Packers make them will go a long way toward deciding the game's outcome. On offense, Matt Flynn will need to hit a few big, down-field passes to stretch the Lions defense. If there’s no threat of a deep ball, the Lions defense will feast on Lacy and make it very difficult to get the ground game going.

November 17, 2013

Arman Three Pack Preview: New York Giants

This week Adam and I head to MetLife Stadium to watch the Packers in live action against the New York Giants. Below we take a look at three key issues that will go a long way in deciding who wins this pivotal NFC matchup.

Scott Tolzien will start for the Green Bay Packers as they take on the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. How will McCarthy cater the game plan to put Tolzein in the best position to succeed? 

Shane: McCarthy will do much of the same thing he did with Seneca Wallace against the Eagles, when Wallace started 5-for-5. McCarthy will call designed quick-hitters to sure handed receivers Jordy Nelson and James Jones. Expect to see short drop backs, a few WR bubble screens and plenty of Eddie Lacy. Anything McCarthy can do to gain 3-5 yards on both first and second down, will be a recipe for success. The Packers can’t afford to put Tolzein in 3rd-and-long situations and McCarthy will do his best to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Adam:  Tolzien seemed to have success with the short passing and screen game to help move the chains. The inconsistency at the quarterback position has seen the Packers struggle to finish drives and threaten teams with the big play. I don’t expect McCarthy’s gameplan to be too conservative. I would like to see them take a few shots down the field in response to the heavy fronts they’ve been seeing without Rodgers.

Pick the one most important group on the Packers that will have the biggest effect on the outcome of Sunday’s game and tell us why: the QB, offensive line, running backs, WRs, defensive line, linebackers, secondary, special teams coverage, special teams kicking or the coaching staff.

Shane: This is a tough one, but I’ll go with the Packers secondary for a few reasons. Eli Manning has thrown the most interceptions in the league, so there will be more opportunities than usual for the secondary to create turnovers. It’s absolutely crucial Green Bay takes advantage. I said this last week and I’ll say it again, the Packers defense needs to make a big play if the Packers have a chance of winning. I think that play does come from the secondary—they’re due. The tackling has been especially awful the past two games, so if the secondary can limit Cruz and Nicks’ yards after the catch Green Bay can more easily contain the Giants offense.

Adam: I would say the Packers offensive line will have the most effect on them winning Sunday. The Giants pass rush has stepped up with 8 sacks in their last two games and seems to be returning to form. Tolizen needs to be protected for any chance to get a win in his first NFL start and controlling the line of scrimmage with the run game is crucial to a Packers win. Unfortunately, like with many areas of this Packers team there are question marks and uncertainty.

Which New York Giant player(s) should the Packers be most worried about heading into Sunday’s matchup at MetLife Stadium?

Shane: Without a doubt it’s Andre Brown. He has breakaway speed and the Giants will likely give him plenty of touches to soften up the Packers defense. Green Bay must make the New York one-dimensional and taking away the run is the best solution. If Brown gets in a groove early, the Packers secondary will be in for a long day trying to cover Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.

Adam: The Packers need to start with stopping Andre Brown and the Giants run game. Dom Capers builds his defense around stopping the run to create third and longs and unleash his blitz packages. The Packers have failed to win the battle in the trenches lately and need to stop Brown first.

Score prediction

Shane: This is a must-win game for the Packers. Coupled with the fact that the Giants left a sour taste in Green Bay’s mouth the past few meetings, I expect Green Bay to make the necessary plays to win the game. The defense plays better and gets to Eli, while Tolzein appropriately manages the game just well enough to eeek out a victory, 20-17.

Adam:  20-14 Packers. The defense needs to step up and force a turnover or two in this one combined with a methodical ball control style offense from the Packers.

November 9, 2013

Arman Three Pack Preview: Philadelphia Eagles

Everyone is talking about Seneca Wallace and how different the passing game will be without Aaron Rodgers. Discuss how Rodgers' loss might affect the Packers successful running attack (if at all). Keep in mind T.J. Lang will also likely miss this game with a concussion, meaning Marshall Newhouse moves to RT and Barclay to RG.

Adam: The Packers will still be able to run the ball effectively. The key will be staying in 3rd and manageable situations and Seneca Wallace being able to convert in the short passing game. The Packers were 1 for 9 on third downs against Chicago with Wallace at QB despite rushing for 170 yards. I expect McCarthy to design some boot legs and screens to help Wallace stay in favorable positions. I'm confident McCarthy will put Seneca in the best position he can to succeed.

Shane: I think the Packers will really have to stick with the run game this week, more than ever. The Eagles aren't stupid and they'll likely hedge their bets and dare Seneca Wallace to beat them. Expect the Eagles to overcrowd the box with eight-man fronts, especially early and possibly for the entire game. If I'm Chip Kelly, the only way I get beat is if one of the Packers RBs go off. He won't let that happen. Lang out definitely adds an extra blow and Newhouse is still the same old dud. I'd be a little scared if I was Wallace dropping back.

Mitch: Yikes. With Rodgers gone, the Eagles will most certainly challenge Wallace's ability to make a few throws. They will probably stack the box and make Wallace beat them. That is what I would do at least; and I'm not an NFL coach.

Was last week's defensive debacle an aberration or should we be concerned about the defense's ability to stop opponents, like say, the Philadelphia Eagles? How will the Packers defense fare this week?

Adam: You can't underrate the correlation one side of the ball has to the other. The Packers inability to sustain anything offensively and convert on third downs kept the Packers defense on the field more than usual against the second ranked scoring offense in the NFL. Part of the Packers recent success has been their dominance in time of possession. Their ball control covered up a lot of inadequacies of their beat up defense. I think the defense will be fine this week if the offense can sustain some long drives and have a reasonable third down conversion percentage. It will help getting some playmakers back in the lineup at linebacker to help a pass rush that was ineffective against Chicago.

Shane: I agree with Adam in that the offense's inability to sustain ANY kind of drive and not convert third downs, made the defense look worse than it was. Capers was simply out-coached in the Bears game and I don't see that happening again. If the Packers have a chance at winning this game, they will absolutely need to force multiple turnovers. If they don't, I just can't see them being successful enough on offense to keep their defense off the field. I think A.J. Hawk will have another stellar performance, as Capers uses him up the middle while the defense keys on Clay Matthews. I expect Hawk to make a big play in this game.

Mitch: I think it was a one week oopsie. The performance of the defense until last game I think surprised us all and was stout. Getting Matthews back this week, and hopefully Perry in the near future, leads me to think our D will win us a few games coming up.They will HAVE to.

The Packers get Clay Matthews back this week and possibly Nick Perry. How effective can Clay be with a club on his hand and will his presence make a difference?

Adam: The Packers are a conservative team when it comes to letting players come back from injury so I expect Clay to be ready to make an impact. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Packers limit his snaps and get a nice rotation that includes Perry on the opposite side. I'm sure there was an emphasis this week around tackling especially going up against a team with the shifty LeSean McCoy that likes to use the screen game. The Packers will need to be on point in terms of tackling if they want to keep this offense in check. Packers fans need to come to the realization that any wins over the next few weeks without Rodgers are going to be a grind and take great execution particularly on defense and special teams to compensate.

Shane: More than anything, Clay will draw the Eagles attention. I wouldn't be surprised if the Eagles still double team him which will free up other players to make a difference. I worry about Nick Perry coming back this early from a foot injury and I'd feel better if he didn't play. If the Packers can limit the Eagles big plays, they'll have a chance to win the game.

Mitch: I think whenever you have a specimen as talented as Clay is, there is no doubt he will have some sort of impact, club or not. Just his presence will change some of the Eagles game planning, and I personally think he will be effective.

Score prediction:

Adam: Packers 24-20...Seneca will have to be much improved in this one for the Packers to get the win. 200 yards 1 TD and 40 yards rushing is about the needed stat line and only one turnover. If he can be in that range I think the rest of the team performs well enough to squeak out the win, but the room for error without Rodgers is scary thin. Go Pack Go!!

Shane: Sorry but I just don't think the Packers defense can hold down LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson. Coupled with the fact that Seneca Wallace will lead many, many three-and-outs on offense, this will be a frustrating day for Packer fans. Unless Green Bay's defense or special teams can score a TD or make a HUGE couple of plays, the Packers lose this game 31-23.

Mitch: 
Packers:20
Eagles:13

November 7, 2013

Surviving Life Without Aaron Rodgers

Just when Packer fans thought the mounting injuries couldn’t possibly get any worse, doomsday hit Monday night at Lambeau field when Aaron Rodgers hit the turf. Wincing as he slowly got up, an empty feeling was surely in the stomach of thousands of Green and Gold bleeders. Four to six weeks is the prognosis, so now the million dollar question is, what will life be like without Aaron Rodgers? Here’s a sampling of how the Packers can mitigate the damage and stay afloat in the NFC North.
Aaron Rodgers Breaks Collarbone on Shea McClellin Hit

It’s ALL about defense
Perhaps most concerning is the Packers utter collapse against the Bears’ number two scoring offense in the NFL on their home turf. Given the Packers haven’t faced an elite offense in the last four weeks (Cleveland, Minnesota, Calvin-less Detroit and Baltimore) it’s not a shock they struggled so much. The Bears finally exposed the Packers depleted defense in every way.  No pass rush led to open receivers in the secondary, which the Packers simply weren’t used to. Consistent third down conversions tired out the entire unit and it simply fell apart. In the time Rodgers is out, the defense MUST get off the field on third down and start to force turnovers. Green Bay is near the bottom of the NFL in forcing fumbles and interceptions, and it can’t continue. With Clay Matthews and Nick Perry both eyeing potential returns this Sunday against Philadelphia, the Packers should pick-up the pass rush. Given Green Bay's injuries, the team is simply not constructed to win a shootout or come back from a large deficit.

Added Emphasis on Special Teams
Green Bay’s current healthy offense is a borderline average team. Probably below average without Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley and Bryan Bulaga. That means moving forward, kick/punt return coverage needs to be disciplined. No big returns. Field position will be extremely important throughout the course of every game so return yardage needs to improve. Seneca Wallace will need all the help he can get and the Packers simply won’t be able to afford surrendering yardage in this manner.

Offensive Game Plan Adjustment
Seneca Wallace can hardly see over the line of scrimmage and everyone saw that Monday night when multiple passes were batted down—and one intercepted. For this reason and for comfortability, Mike McCarthy needs to design more suitable plays for his backup quarterback. Designed roll-outs, short slants, screen passes and delayed handoffs should dominate the offensive play calling. Maximizing other talent on the offense will be another key to keeping the ball moving  and putting up points. Expect more Jordy Nelson in the slot, expect shorter screen plays to quick players like Jonathan Franklin and expect a heavy dose of Eddie Lacy and James Starks.

Overall, every aspect of the team will need to pick up the void created by the Rodgers loss. While the above three areas represent key areas of focus, much more will need to be done if the Packers expect to play winning football as their MVP quarterback heals over the next four to six long weeks. I simply don’t see the Packers winning more than two or three games out of the next five or six, and that could be as good as it gets. Expect Rodgers to return for the week 15 matchup when the Packers travel to Dallas and play a pivotal road game with their record at 7-6.

November 2, 2013

Chicago Bears Pregame Report: What To Watch For

Green Bay Packers versus the Chicago Bears. As far as rivalries go, it's doesn't get much better than this. Even the usually vanilla and cliche ridden Mike McCarthy pointed out, "This is the game every year. In my humble opinion, this is the game in the NFL.”

Most Packers and Bears fans would agree, as would many other fans, pundits and players around professional football. Let's take a look at three key areas to watch during Monday night's game that will likely go a long way in deciding who wins in this prime-time divisional match up at Lambeau Field.

Creating Turnovers
Historically, the Chicago Bears have been one of the best teams in the NFL at forcing turnovers. Whether its their defensive line pressuring QBs without blitzing or their secondary punching out fumbles, Chicago feeds off turnovers and uses them to suck momentum out of teams. While this year's Bears defense is depleted and looking old, they've still forced 15 fumbles (recovered eight) and picked off opposing QBs 10 times, accounting for three defensive touchdowns. The Packers meanwhile have forced just 10 fumbles (recovered 4) and intercepted QBs only three times for one defensive TD. The point is, Green Bay needs to focus on protecting the football and winning the turnover battle. In four wins the Bears have forced 14 turnovers and in three losses have only forced four. Simple equation.

Finishing on Defense
Eighty points. It's the amount the Green Bay Packers have given up in the fourth quarter this season. While the Packers defense ranks 4th overall is rush defense, their finishing of games has been unacceptable. The offense meanwhile has only put up 43 points and has let teams hang around and in one game (Cincinnati), they lost because of it. This team has yet to show the "foot on the throat" mentality, but Monday night at home might be a chance to make that statement, loud and clear. Getting separation in the NFL (and especially in division games) isn't an easy thing but GREAT teams don't just beat their inferior opponents, they CRUSH them. The Bears are a much inferior team and are without their offensive and defensive signal callers; time for the Packers to crush.

Getting Even on Special Teams
Another area the Bears always seem to steal momentum is special teams. Hester hasn't been as potent at scoring TDs lately, but he's still a dangerous threat to give his team exceptional field position at any time. The Packers MUST limit Hester's effectiveness and limit the Bears return yardage on punts and kickoffs. On the flip side, Micah Hyde flashed a burst of surprise on his 93-yard punt return TD against the Vikings last week. The Packers don't need that every game, but they need more consistency out of their kick returners. Field position is important and the return game needs to do its part in setting up the offense in better starting drive position.

Score Prediction
Packers 45, Bears 20

The Bears are ranked 25th or worse in both rush and pass defense. Aaron Rodgers is lethal anywhere, but at home is simply filthy. Expect a healthy balance of Starks and Lacy coupled with early and often TDs from Rodgers to Nelson. The Bears simply won't be able to keep up with the scoring.

October 26, 2013

Arman Three Pack Preview: Minnesota Vikings

James Starks is back in the mix at RB this week. How much time (i.e., carries) does he see and will he be effective after missing a few weeks? How, if at all, will that affect Eddie Lacy's rhythm in the offense since he's used to 20+ carries the past three weeks?

Adam: I think there's still enough to go around in terms of easing Starks into the mix. I expect Lacy to still see 17-22 carries and Starks to maybe get 5-7. With Lacy's production the team has the luxury of bringing him back progressively and utilizing him to spell Lacy including some third down situations.

Shane: I think it all depends on Starks' early production and burst. McCarthy will ride the hot hand--he's not impartial to Lacy just because he's been the starter; he's impartial to productivity. The Vikings run defense is one of the worst in the NFL, so I predict Lacy gets around 15 carries and Starks 8-10, with both having success. We might just see 200+ yards rushing in this game from the Packers backfield.

Adrian Peterson hasn't had a ton of success this year, but is still top-5 in rushing yards in the NFL. Is there any reason to believe he'll have a breakout game against the Packers?

Adam: Christian Ponder has a lot riding on this performance and the idea of him stepping up to try and save his job is a little worrisome. However, the book still reads loading up the box to stop Peterson and dare the Vikings to take shots down the field is the way to go. The Packers seem to realize with the abundance of injuries that game planing and playing assignment sound football is a must to continue winning. I expect the Packers to live up their 1st ranked rush defense billing and hold Peterson under 100 yards.

Shane: Peterson is dealing with some lingering injury issues but in divisional play he brings a different level of intensity. If the Packers clog up the middle, expect Minnesota to try screen and short pass plays to get Peterson in the open field. The prospect of any of the Packers linebackers trying to cover AP is very scary. This is how the Packers COULD get burned.

The Packers are pretty heavy favorites again this week, but they're playing at the Dome. How will the Vikings keep this contest close? Conversely, how can the Packers run away with a big win?

Adam: Rodgers realizes the value of starting fast on the road in this hostile environment. I look for GB to sustain some long drives early and continue their upward trend of efficiency in the red zone. Jumping out to early lead is the best way to neutralize the crowd and limit the amount of touches that Adrian Peterson will have. I hope the injuries continue to leave the Packers hungry and focused to shutout any chance of a letdown. Go Pack Go!!

Shane: The only way this one stays close is if the Packers lose the turnover battle. They must play fundamentally sound and the rest will take care of itself. Last year Ponder made some plays down field on the Packers secondary, but with Green Bay's improvement those opportunities will be few and far between. Big plays is how the Packers can open this one up. In each of the last few games the running game has helped open up down field throwing lanes and we'll see that happen in a bigger way Sunday night. I predict Rodgers will connect with both Nelson and Boykin on 40+ yard plays.

Score prediction:

Adam: 31-17 Pack!
Shane: 27-7 Packers

October 19, 2013

Arman Three Pack Preview: Cleveland Browns

The Packers are dangerously thin at LB. What is the defensive game plan for Sunday's game and can the Packers still get pressure on the QB?

Adam: The Packers will have to maintain their gap discipline against the run and mix up their looks with some different blitz packages to try and confuse Brandon Weeden into making mistakes. Luckily, Weeden has proven to be an inexperienced turnover prone passer. The defensive line really needs to step up and free up the young linebackers to get to Weeden. Raji, Pickett and Jolly all understand they need to bring their A game in the trenches for the defense to have success Sunday. I think this is a great match up for Dom Capers to feel his way through utilizing his new inexperienced personnel. The young LBs have great athleticism and if they can be assignment sound, they should be able to limit Cameron's production. A.J. Hawk has played like a pro bowler all season and will be relied on to make some more big plays Sunday. Yes, I said Hawk is a pro bowler, check the tape.

Shane: Dom Capers will stick with his game plan from last week and use A.J. Hawk and corner blitzes, from Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward (if he plays) to try and get pressure on Weeden. Capes should play conservative and take his chances giving Weeden time in the pocket to hopefully make terrible decisions. That's what Weeden has done all year, no reason to think that changes this week.

Mitch: I believe we still can get pressure on a poor browns offensive line. We will continue to stop the run and make Cleveland beat us down field passing.

Who steps up on offense with Cobb out and Jones likely out Sunday?

Jarrett Boykin scores his first career TD against Cleveland
Credit: Jim Biever, Packers.com
Adam: It's hard to predict where the extra production will come from, but I expect McCarthy and Rodgers to be more synced up on the offensive game plan. McCarthy needs to be flexible in how we approach the game offensively. I'm interested to see how the Browns play the Packers. Are they expecting the Packers to pound the ball with the WR injuries or do they stick to the normal cover 2 shell that many teams run against the Pack. I think they'll gamble and cheat towards the run game daring Rodgers to test his young weapons. If the Packers are patient with the run I think there could be a few big plays from Jermichael Finley and Jarrett Boykin off the play action pass. I've loved what I saw against the Ravens once Green Bay was forced to lineup in more traditional formations. I trust the offensive adaptability of McCarthy and his ability to game plan with what he has.

Shane: Jarrett Boykin. In the off-season coaches and media talked up Boykin's growth and potential--it's time for him to step up and show what he can do. Last week was embarrassing and he'll be out to prove something. I predict he catches 6 passes for 85 yards and a TD.

Mitch: Jermichael Finley is the guy today. He'll catch six passes for 90 and a touchdown

The Browns have some talented pass catchers in Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. How effective will they be against the Packers defense and what kind of impact will they have on the game?

Adam: I think stopping the run and keeping a safety over the top of Gordon will be key factors in limiting the browns offense. Special teams will also play a huge role in the game. Field position will be important for the Packers on both sides of the ball with the injuries. I hope there was a focus in practice regarding special teams coverage because the Browns have broken some long punt returns. The injuries leave the Packers coverage teams shorthanded and vulnerable. McCarthy loves to talk about the three phases of the game and special teams is extra critical in this match up.

Shane: I predict either Gordon or Cameron will have a big day. The Packers just don't have the coverage in the middle of the field to shut down both. I predict Cameron goes off for 100+ yards and a TD, matched up on one of the Packers 8th string TEs. It won't be deadly or game-breaking if only one of them go off, but if both do it could be a long day.

Mitch: I think Cameron will get his touchdown and 60 yards. Not worried about Gordon. Packs secondary playing well.

Score prediction:
Adam: I don't expect this to be pretty. The Browns have an underrated defense and nothing comes easy Sunday. Injuries or not the Packers need a win at home against an inferior opponent to keep this train moving in the right direction. I expect Rodgers and McCarthy to rise to the challenge extremely shorthanded.

27-17 Packers

Shane: This will be a grind it out game for sure. Packers win in a close game 17-13.

Mitch: 28-10 Packers.

September 21, 2013

Arman Three Pack Preview: Cincinnati Bengals

This week Adam and I look at three key questions facing the Green Bay Packers this week, as they head south to play the up-and-coming Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Our analysis includes talk of the Bengals defensive line, the Packers running game and A.J. Green.

1. The Bengals defensive line is said to be one of the best in the NFL, while the Packers boast one of the smallest and youngest offensive lines in the league. How many times does Rodgers get sacked and how concerned should fans be about this clear advantage for Cincinnati?

Will this image be a reoccurring theme Sunday?
Adam: I would expect McCarthy's game plan to focus on the short passing game to get the ball out of Rodgers hand early. Once Rodgers gets into a rhythm the no huddle offense is another pass rush neutralizer that can limit substitutions and wear the Bengals down. I think Rodgers get sacked 3 times on Sunday. I'm not really concerned about the pass rush. Despite their elite pass rush the Bengals haven't shown the ability to get stops in key situations this season and I expect Rodgers to make plays when he has to. Furthermore, if the Bengals think they can get away with as much man coverage as they played against the mediocre Steelers receivers Monday night, they're in for a long day. This is a game where McCarthy reminds Packer fans that he's one of the elite coaches in the NFL with a winning game plan against a strong team on the road.

Shane: The Packers shouldn't be taking this defensive line lightly. Especially being on the road with two very young and inexperienced tackles, expect Rodgers to be on the run tomorrow. I wouldn't be surprised to see him have 3-5 carries for 25-50 yards. Hate to say it, but the Packers are over matched and if Rodgers doesn't have time to throw, nothing else will matter. At the same time, if McCarthy can adjust the game plan to include more short throws, the Green Bay wide receivers could have another huge YAC day. I'd like to see Randall Cobb line up in the backfield a little more and I think it's something we could certainly see in this game. Rodgers gets sacked three times, but is hurried and hit a few more times than fans would like.

2. Assess the Packers running game going into Sunday and how they'll perform. How much action will Franklin see and will Lacy even suit up?

Adam: If Lacy is cleared to play I think the Packers would activate him with the intention of only playing him if something happened to Starks. Starks earned the opportunity to carry the load and I don't think the Packers want to rush Lacy back in a tough situation. Best case scenario Lacy gets 30% of the snaps and touches the ball 7 times. Franklin hasn't shown any explosiveness or reliability in pass protection. Considering the aforementioned Bengals pass rush, it's not the best game to test the waters with Franklin. I don't expect the Packers to have much success running the ball in this game.

Shane: It will be a tough day for the Packers running game. But they have to stick with some level of balance to keep the defense honest. I think the plays that will work are delayed hand-offs from the shot gun and pitch out plays meant to get our RBs to the edge and speeding past the Bengals big defensive line. That being said, I think Jonathan Franklin gets a surprising amount of snaps in this game as more of a flanker back. Franklin can't block for a lick so they won't ever leave him back to protect Rodgers. Franklin will fly out for a few screens and look to turn the corner on outside runs, similar to the way UCLA used him in college. This is the game to use Franklin and fans might be surprised to see him be productive in this offense. Lacy suits up but isn't used except in an emergency situation.

3. How will the Packers approach A.J. Green? Will they stick to their "new philosophy" of keeping CBs to their sides, or will Tramon draw the 1-on-1 assignment? Either way, predict Green's production and how effective you think the Packers can be in stopping him.

Adam: I'm interested to see the game plan here. I trust Tramon to make things difficult and shadow Green across the field. A.J. Green is a freak of nature and is going to get his. I fully expect Green to go for 100 yards and touchdown. I think the key to consistently stopping the Bengals offense will be preventing Dalton from attacking the middle of the field with his two pass catching tight ends. The Bengals have run a huge percentage of offense plays this year with both Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert on the field. The Packers linebackers and safeties will have their hands full down the middle of the field and need to limit Dalton's effectiveness throwing between the numbers in order to get off the field on third downs.
Sam Shields is the Packers best cover corner back 

Shane: I'd actually like to see Sam Shields get the 1-on-1 assignment on Green all day.  Shields has been the Packers most impressive secondary player and he's already surpassed Tramon as the Packers number one cover CB this year. But I don't think that will happen. Both Tramon and Shields will get their shots on Green, but the Packers won't exclusively shadow Green with a single guy. That will be a mistake. Green will be especially productive out of the slot and working the soft zones in the middle of the field--the Packers' biggest weakness. I predict Shields has a least one INT and probably a few more pass-breakups, but Green still goes for 8 catches and 100+ yards.

4. Game score prediction

Adam: 27-17 Packers
Shane: 31-27 Packers

September 14, 2013

Arman Three Pack Preview: Washington Redskins

Each week we'll take a look at three key issues/questions facing the Green Bay Packers and get three perspectives on each question from all three Arman brothers. We bring similar but distinct personalities to discussing Packers football, having grown up die-hard fans of the green and gold. This Sunday, the Packers face RGIII and the Washington Redskins so here's a three pack of questions answered by each brother:
The bros at Solider Field for the 2010 NFC Championship

Which Redskins player should the Packers should be MOST concerned about beyond RGIII (offense or defense)?

  • Adam: Pierre Garçon is their big play wideout. They rarely lose when he goes for 100 yards and a touchdown. 
  • Shane: Alfred Morris. He's a big play back who could help the Redskins control the time of possession and keep the ball out of Rodgers' hands. Expect a hefty workload from him and for Shanahan to stick with the running game. 
  • Mitch:  Pierre Garçon. After what Boldin did, could see a big game out of him if RGIII gets back on track

What's the key to stopping the Redskins offense?

  • Adam: Need another strong performance in the trenches to control the ground game and Alfred Morris. The Redskins offense is predicated on the pass-run option out of the read-option. If the Packers can limit the ground game I'd like to think RGIII isn't ready to throw for 400 yards without making some mistakes like he did against the Eagles in week one.
  • Shane: Stopping Alfred Morris and the Redskins running game. To do this, Green Bay needs to score early and often. They must get a lead early and force the Redskins to pass the ball. It's a difficult task considering Mike Shanahan is pretty dedicated to the run game.
  • Mitch: Put pressure on RGIII. Take pressure off our secondary.

Name one surprising thing we'll see this week from the Packers offense and how it might impact the game

  • Adam: I think Lacy showed he's ready for 20 plus carries and around a 100 yard performance. Ball control hasn't been the Packers strong suit the last few years because of an ineffective run game. Pound the rock, control the clock and keep the D fresh to lay the wood to RGIII.
  • Shane: Jermichael Finley bounces back from his fumble to catch at least two big plays (30+) down the middle of the field, tallying 100+ yards for the game.
  • Mitch: James Jones catches two touchdowns. Run game will still be iffy.


Game Predictions

  • Adam: 31-17, Packers. Lacy goes for 90 yards and a touchdown. Redskins have an aggressive pass rush. I'd like to see Lacy with a few nice screens slipped in behind an over-pursuing defensive line. 
  • Shane: 34-14, Packers. Aaron Rodgers is relentless throwing the ball down field and connects for multiple big plays to Finley, Cobb and Jones in throwing four TDs and 350+ yards in an early season beating of the unproven Washington Redskins. The Packers have won 20 of their last 21 at Lambeau and that record will improve Sunday.
  • Mitch: 30-20, Packers.

September 11, 2013

Kaepernick and The 49ers Burn the Packers in Season Opener

By Andrew Megow

Vernon Davis caught 2 TDs for San Francisco Sunday
Questions concerning the Packers roster were answered during their 34-28 loss to the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. No matter how many times the Packers made a statement on the field, the 49ers were able to reply in a repeat fashion of last years playoff loss last January. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was 27 of 39 for 412 yards and 3 TDs in a shoot-out with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers who was 21 of 37 for 333 yds.

The Positives

Protecting Rodgers

  • Probably the best positive for the Packers was how well Rookie OT David Bakhtiari protected Rodgers’ blind side. Linebacker Aldon Smith did create pressure on Bakhtiari throughout the game and did sack Rodgers twice. For a weak offensive line to handle what is arguably the best defensive front in the League was somewhat encouraging.

The Defensive Line

  • The Packers defensive line is the most positive story out of the defense. Johnny Jolly, Datone Jones and B.J. Raji were able to put decent pressure on Kaepernick and kept Frank Gore to only 44 yards rushing. This opened up holes for linebacker Clay Matthews to make sacks and tackles behind the line of scrimmage and in the end prevented the 49ers from using the read-option effectively.

The Negatives

The Secondary

  • Oh boy… the secondary. Let me start by saying that the Packers defense was successful at stopping the 49ers read-option. They were, however, unable to stop Anquan Boldin.; the 11-year veteran had 13 reception for 208 yards. Boldin was running laps around Safeties Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings for the entire game. Embarrassing as it was, the Packers secondary was never able to adjust. Fourth year veteran Safety Morgan Burnett and second year play-maker Casey Hayward were greatly missed in this game and it hurts to think what these two might have done differently in the situation.

Eddie Lacy’s Fumble

  • Let’s stop for a moment and realize that Packer’s running back Eddie Lacy is a rookie and he is bound to make mistakes. But the fumble was a game changer. The Packers offense was starting to pick up the pace when Lacy made a crucial fumble recovered by the 49ers. This offset the score and the Packers played catch-up for the rest of the game.

3rd Down Conversions

  • Both the defense and the offense need to work hard at making plays on 3rd downs. Yes, the offensive line was pressured the whole game and prevented many sacks, but the receivers need to catch the balls. Wide receiver James Jones was targeted twice and failed to catch either of the passes when it mattered. The 49ers best plays occurred when they were facing a 3rd down against the Packers defense. The 49ers played extremely well between the 30’s and were able to convert more than half their 3rd downs. 

Five key takeaways from the game:
Packers WR Jordy Nelson was not slowed down by injuries 

  1. If Jordy Nelson and Clay Matthews can stay healthy, they’re both going to have career years.
  2. I expect the sack numbers to fall for Aaron Rodgers if the Packers offensive line can hold up to defenses as good as San Francisco’s. 
  3. We have a run game in the works. Even with no holes at all, Rookie Eddie Lacy was able to grab yardage. If this offensive line can make slightly bigger holes for Lacy, he might be unstoppable. Expect Lacy to only improve as the year goes on.
  4. The run defense is much improved, but the secondary is not. Expect opposing quarterbacks to continue to have great passing games against the Packers throughout the season, if Burnett and Hayward are out for extended periods of time
  5. The offense shook off its rust and proved it’s still as dangerous as ever. If the packers lose games this season, they will be very close games. The 49ers are possibly the best team in the NFL and if the Packers can keep it this close with the best, fans can look forward to many wins against the rest of the league.


September 6, 2013

Why Packers vs. 49ers will dictate Green Bay's entire season

Watch and learn Sunday afternoon because Packer fans will get answers to many of their offseason questions and concerns. The 49ers are the most complete, talented and physical team in the NFL and this matchup will directly dictate the entire fate and trajectory of Green Bay’s season. Here’s how and why.

We’ve all heard, read and seen what the Packers deficiencies are:
Can the Packers offensive line keep Aaron Rodgers upright?

  • Will they be able to defend the read option and running quarterbacks?
  • Will be able to block for Aaron Rodgers?
  • Will the defense be able to stop anyone?
  • Will they find a solution at running back?


The 49ers will push Green Bay in each of the above categories, giving Packer fans a sense of the progress (or lack thereof) the team has made in the offseason. What I’m most interested in though beyond these specific factors, is the coaching matchup. Week one is the culmination of thousands of hours, hundreds of days and multiple months of preparation.

Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers are square in the spotlight, after an embarrassing lack of preparation was evident the last time these teams met. Personnel issues are one thing, but this football team better be prepared appropriately and there better be a sense of nasty in the eyes of Packers defenders.

If the Packers fall flat at San Francisco again, the season story line will constantly shadowed by the idea that the Packers can’t play with the NFC elite. If the Packers play well, the team will have a renewed sense of hope and confidence as it moves forward into the league’s 6th most difficult regular season schedule.

Green Bay doesn’t need a victory for their performance to be a success. It sure would help, but I’m looking for significant progress from last year’s matchup. More specifically, the Packers need to show:

  • They can tackle a running quarterback and limit his out of pocket effectiveness
  • A hint of explosiveness in the running game and commitment to a balanced attack
  • Hard hits and a swagger on defense 
  • Ample protection so Rodgers doesn’t feel like he’s running for his life

No matter the outcome, if I see all of the above Sunday afternoon I’ll feel pretty good about this team. That being said, here’s my game prediction.

Game Prediction
Green Bay’s defensive line proves surprisingly stout against the league’s best offensive line and forces Colin Kaepernick to be a true pocket passer for 90% of the game. He still torches the Packers with one 30+ yard TD run, but also throws two INTs, fumbles once and is unable to find enough open receivers to pull ahead of the Packers.

Rodgers gets the ball back tied with less than a minute on the clock and leads his crew on an impressive drive, mainly targeting Jermichael Finley to get Mason Crosby a 51-yard FG attempt to win at Candlestick. Crosby drains it and the Packers start 2013, 1-0 with a 27-24 defeat of the defending NFC champions.


August 25, 2013

Packer pass-catchers have talent, but leadership?

By: Shane Arman

The consensus is clear among fans, media and the Green Bay PackersGreg Jennings is expendable. Young talent waiting in the wings, the Packers let their number one WR leave in free agency and will now build their offense around Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jermichael Finley.

Is James Jones ready to be a #1 WR? 
Talent isn't the question with this group; they've all proven to be play makers for moments in time. But perhaps the unexplored story-line is if this group maintain continuity and consistency wi
thout their ring leader and veteran play maker. Don’t think the Green Bay Packers are merely losing an “injury-prone” 29-year-old WR whose biggest strength is route running.

For all of Jennings’ superb play-making abilities he has an equally impressive character, engaging personality and innate leadership mentality.

As a Green Bay Packer, Jennings always said the right thing (unlike his very vocal off-season this year) and was praised for his mentorship of younger WRs. Hence why Leslie Frazier and the Minnesota Vikings saw Jennings as a perfect fit on a team that desperately needs a “father figure” to teach its young WRs and QB how to succeed. It’s a tall order considering how unproven and raw Minnesota’s next three WRs are; plus patience is beginning to dwindle with starting QB Christian Ponder.
Will Jennings help balance the Vikings offense?


But if anyone is willing and able to elevate a group’s play just by his demeanor and presence, Jennings just might be the guy. Time will tell whether the Packers underestimated this quality in Jennings. The performance of the Packers WRs this year will certainly help us understand Jennings' value.

Green Bay’s trio of WRs are 24, 25 and 26 years young respectively, and Finley is 25. So who steps up and takes the reigns as a vocal leader?  The problem is you could make the case for any of the four. Each has the potential to be the #1 option. Everyone can argue that it doesn't matter who is or isn’t the #1 WR, but it’s certainly a conversation that will bubble up if injuries sideline one or more Packers WR and if one WR doesn't separate himself as Aaron Rodgers' new go-to.

When the number one WR leaves, the next logical question is who replaces him? Everyone assumes Randall Cobb will step up; but don’t think the jump from good to great is easy or that it happens in one season. Cobb is a special talent, but he’s under a flurry of pressure to produce big, early in his career. I’m not saying he won’t rise to the occasion, I’m just saying that raw talent doesn’t always translate into greatness in the span of three years.

August 15, 2013

Packers Will Survive Without Bryan Bulaga

By: Andrew Megow

Aaron Rodgers was sacked a total of 51 times in 2012. Amazingly, Rodgers was able to play all 16 games last year, which is a testimony to Rodgers “iron-man” ability to stay on the field. Having only missed one game due to an injury in his entire tenure as the Green Bay Packers starting quarterback, it will become more likely that Rodgers could miss a game or two, as he gets older.

Packers OT Bryan Bulaga // courtesy // hawkcentral.com
That being said, it will become increasingly important for the Packers offensive line to be stable and healthy. Bryan Bulaga certainly isn’t helping that cause, as he tore his ACL and is out for the season.  He was the Packers intended answer to take over at left tackle, where Marshall Newhouse struggled last year. While the Packers' coaching staff did shuffle various pieces hinging on Bulaga's health and switch to LT,  Packer fans shouldn’t necessarily panic because this situation has happened before (see below).

2010 – Played 16 games
2011 – Played 12 games
2012 – Played 9 games 

The Upside:
This team didn’t see a significant drop-off in win/loss when Bulaga was in the lineup, compared to when he was not. While this is one isolated stat, it shows the Packers can win football games without Bulaga.
  • Total Win/Loss in 2012 with Bulaga on the Offensive Line: 6-3
  • Total Win/Loss in 2012 WITHOUT Bulaga on the Offensive Line: 6-3

Possible Consequences:
The problem with this injury is that the Packers simply may not have the personnel to safely protect Rodgers. The coaches don't really trust Marshall Newhouse on either side of the line, but he'll probably get playing time by default and based on his experience. The other topic that hasn't been discussed is Bulaga's injury on the Packers' running game. A great RB can solve some problems behind a makeshift OL, but no RB can be a star or be an impact player behind a bad OL. The big guys still need to pave lanes for the Packers' RBs and those lanes may not be big enough for the running game to take off.

Probable Outcome:
One potential player who will need to step up on the line is 4th round rookie OT David Bakhtiari, who has shown great strides so far in camp. Defensive End Mike Daniels told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Bakhtiari, “…is a long guy. Strong kid. You can tell he’s been well-coached. He reminds me of Sitton. He’s got that real nice, cool personality, but when he gets on the field he turns into a psychopath.”

Packers OT David Bakhtiari
courtesy lombardidave.com
If the current starting five OL can stay healthy the entire season and if the running game can ease the pressure on Rodgers, I don’t see the Bulaga injury putting a damper on the Packers’ Super Bowl aspirations.

Bakhtiari’s First Game
  • The August 9 preseason match up against the Arizona Cardinals was our first glimpse of David Bakhtiari playing at left tackle for the injured Bulaga. Suffice to say, he was one of the better players in what was a rather putrid display of football from the Packers backups. Bakhtiari played throughout the first half of the game and had no obvious bad plays. 

Bakhtiari told reporters Friday night, “I just didn’t feel overwhelmed, that’s probably the best way to put it….I didn’t feel overwhelmed at all.”

Aaron Rodgers who passed for 62 yards Friday night said, “I didn’t get touched tonight……We had a few drop backs, I think five attempts, so I’m sure he (Bakhtiari) was pretty good over there. It’s nice when you’re not worried about him, and tonight I wasn’t worried about him. He’s a confident kid. I think he’s got a bright future for us.”

Conclusion:
No matter who is at left or right tackle, Green Bay still has 16 games to play and as long as the line can find some continuity, they should hold up. The 2012 Super Bowl winning team saw Rodgers get sacked 31 times. The 2011 Packers team gave up 36 sacks and went 15-1. Last year the team went 11-5 but seemed to struggle throughout the year because of the lackluster running game and lack of QB protection. 


Let us hope that a broken Bryan Bulaga is not the end for the Packers season and that Bakhtiari is good enough in a full game to be his replacement. A lot can happen between now and the playoffs but I predict most of us will forget this happened by November.

August 6, 2013

What to expect from Packers’ crowded and young backfield

By: Ryan Jensen

It has been 4 years since the Green Bay Packers had a 1,000 yard rusher. After Ryan Grant's 1,253 yard season in 2009, he was injured in the first game of the 2010 season sending the Packers running game on a downward spiral. Brandon Jackson led the team in rushing in 2010 with 703 yards with just a 3.7 yard average. James Starks was the leading rusher in 2011 with 578 yards and a 4.3 yard average, and Alex Green led the team last season with 464 yards and a dismal 3.4 yard average. I can't help but daydream about the days when the running game was the most consistent part of the Packers offense, specifically in 2003, when Green Bay had 3 running backs who averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry: Ahman Green (5.3), Najeh Davenport (5.5), and Tony Fisher (5.0). I believe the Packers are ready to drastically improve with the addition of rookie running backs Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin.

Eddie Lacy is Packers’ best RB option
Lacy is the best option for the Packers offense. He will compliment QB Aaron Rodgers perfectly by converting the 3rd and shorts and punching in the short distance touchdowns. There have been some unfair questions about Lacy's weight due to an unflattering picture, but he will surprise people with how light he is on his feet. Listed at 5'11'' and 230 lbs, the strength and power he brings to the table is a given, but it's how well he maneuvers his size that makes him so dynamic. He knows when to be patient and will let blocks develop, but will also lower his shoulder and power over defenders for extra yardage. Lacy's role will be most prominent in the redzone. He unofficially ran for 65 yards on 8 carries at the Packers Family Night Scrimmage, showing his ability to get up field in a hurry off of a good block and a nice cut.

Will Franklin earn the third-down RB job?
There has been some speculation that Franklin will emerge as the starter before the season ends. He has impressed early on by bursting out of his cuts with tremendous speed. At 5'10'' and 205 lbs, he is smaller than Lacy but his acceleration will compliment Lacy's style perfectly. He is not afraid of running through the middle, but has had a history of fumbles. With the right coaching, he should be able to clean that up. His pass protection was questioned before the draft, but has been very physical in training camp and is clearly working hard to earn the role of the 3rd down back.

Are Starks, Green (and Harris?) relevant?
Alex Green and Starks are also in the mix. Both players have had opportunities to be the featured back in this high octane offense, but generally have not had much success because both have struggled to stay healthy. Starks has been the most consistent back in camp so far this year, but he also has the most experience. He started with the number ones on Packers Family Night, and looked like the running back from the 2010 playoffs. Alex Green will have his work cut out for him trying to earn touches, but he does look better than he did last year when he was still recovering from the knee injury which held him out of the 2011 season.

Another player that cannot be forgotten about is DuJuan Harris. He earned a chance to make the team with what he did at the end of last season by averaging 4.6 yards per carry and being effective in the passing game. He has a very high motor and a low center of gravity (5’8’' and 203 lbs). He has been out early in training camp due to a knee injury, and is also recovering from surgery in which he had a large fist-sized cyst removed from near his lung. As DuJuan Harris' agent, Dave Lee, pointed out, "The cyst was pressing against his lung, and now he has full capacity with his lungs so he should have even more endurance and speed, so it was a blessing in disguise."

If DuJuan Harris does in fact bounce back in better shape with a year of experience under his belt, it would be hard to keep him off the field. We have seen the ceiling from Starks and Green and know what we are getting with those guys, and it's time to see what these young runners can do.

Green Bay has also been impressed by undrafted rookie free agent, Angelo Pease. He performed well at the Packers' rookie orientation in May, showing the ability to make decisive cuts. He managed an impressive touchdown on the Packers Family Night scrimmage. He has also done a good job in pass protection which could earn him a spot on the practice squad, or even the 53-man roster.

What should we expect from this crowded backfield?
I expect to see a lot of Starks throughout the preseason and early in the regular season because he has the most experience on the roster. He keeps the defense honest, because he is more of a passing down threat than a rusher, but can easily get his average above 4.0 yards per carry.

Lacy will earn most of the redzone touches, and could become a 20-25 touch per game player, but it will be difficult to keep the dynamic Franklin and Alex Green on the sideline. Look for Lacy to get about 15 touches, Starks with 5, Franklin and Green each with 2-3. Harris and Pease could have success if the opportunity presents itself, but they are buried behind a lot of talent. Coach Mike McCarthy will stick with the hot hand, which will be Lacy by October.


July 27, 2013

Titletown, Meet Ryan.

By: Ryan Jensen

I remember the first time my father took me to training camp. It was prior to the 1996-1997 season, and the Packers had been projected to reach Super Bowl XXXI. I was just a young 8-year-old kid who loved playing football, but it would be this year that I would passionately watch the green and gold dominate opponents week in and week out. For every game, I would sit down with a pen and paper and record passing, rushing, receiving, kicking and scoring statistics for the Green Bay Packers, despite the fact that the newspaper would print them all the next day.

I was enamored with the culture of Green Bay, but there was one player that I looked up to more than the others. As a young wide receiver for my junior tackle football team, I was determined to be the fastest player on the team. I quickly identified with the Packers' speedster, Don Beebe, after seeing him turn quick passes into long touchdowns by outrunning every defender on the field. After just two years with the Packers, Beebe retired and I no longer wanted to be a receiver. I made the switch to quarterback when I was 10 and tried to model my play after Brett Favre. As you would expect, I threw my fair share of interceptions and met my quota of lost fumbles, but also played the game with passion until the speed and size of the game had passed me up at Millikin University, a Division-III program in Decatur, IL. At 5'10'' and 160 lbs, even the kicker had me beat on size.

So I moved past playing football and began focusing on my personal future as well as the Packers. Today, I am 25 years old. I work with children with autism, and I love what I do. I haven't missed a Packer game since 2009 (and that wasn't by choice). I have been to 5 games in my lifetime, and the Packers are 3-2 in those games. I'm on a 2-game winning streak, however, and I plan on watching that streak extend to 3 this year up in Lambeau. I am excited to dissect the strengths and weaknesses of the 2013 Packers as we head into training camp, and I am thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.

July 19, 2013

Titletown, Meet Andrew.

By: Andrew Megow

Hello out there Titletown readers, long time Packer fan Andrew Megow here to, introduce myself as the newest staff writer for Arman's Titletown Talk.

Ever since I can remember, my family has been talking about the Green Bay Packers. My earliest football game memory is watching the Packers take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI in 1997. Since then, the Packers have always been a part of my life in some form. In school, I always knew when my team played poorly because certain High School teachers would be in terrible moods come Monday.

I consider myself to be the luckiest fan ever because I didn’t become fully invested with the Green Bay Packers until the start of the 2010 Super Bowl winning season. Before that season, I never invested a lot of time in watching football because I was busy being a teenager, playing in a garage band and working. I had all but assumed that once I left home for college, football would become more of a nostalgic memory of Thanksgivings, family get-togethers and one terrible cold night on January 20, 2008.

But as it turned out, college life had only brought me closer to the Packers and I became a consistent Packer-party-attendee with bars becoming my new home on Sunday morning’s. Watching the Packers became an obsession. It still is an obsession for me today especially considering how easy it is to connect with other Packer fans through social and digital media. Through connecting with other fans and the plethora of media outlets that exist today, I keep a close pulse on every move the Packers organization makes and will pass that insight along to you in this blog.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask via the comments or via Twitter. Looking forward to the conversation.


Go Pack Go!

January 3, 2013

Packers vs. Vikings: Three Keys for a Packers Victory


Following a regular season loss to the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome last week, the three-seeded Green Bay Packers will again play their divisional foe, but this time at the Frozen Tundra and in a win-or-go-home game. The winner punches their ticket to San Francisco to take on the 49ers. While the Packers are favorites in the game, the taste of defeat is fresh and the NFC North Champions know they’re in for a challenge. But, if Green Bay can accomplish the below three keys Saturday night, they’ll have less of a problem with the Vikings. 

Lambeau FieldScore early
There are about 20 key decisions/topics Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff talk through each week during their game planning—the coin toss is one of them.

“We’ll talk about the importance of starting fast and we’ll talk about the match-ups and make a decision,” said McCarthy.

Given how the Vikings scored on each of their first three drives of last week’s game and how important scoring first can be from a momentum standpoint—you have to wonder if McCarthy may take the ball if given the opportunity.  

At the same time, McCarthy promised, “We won’t let last week’s performance have an effect on how we feel about this game.”  Either way, the Packers need to put points on the board and early, to force the Vikings out of their game plan of handing the ball to #28 every time.

Control time of possession
Next on the list of keys is to dictate the tempo of the game by owning time of possession. Surely, the Vikings want Aaron Rodgers on the sideline as much as possible, which they accomplished last week.

The Vikings held the ball for 31:55 or 54% of the game, limiting the time the reigning MVP had the ball. In the first game against the Vikings the Packers controlled the ball 64% of the game (38:30). They’ll want to be closer to that number if they expect to hold Peterson in check.

The simplest way to limit Adrian Peterson is to keep him off the field. As effective as Aaron Rodgers and the no huddle offense was in both games against the Vikings, the Packers may want to consider a healthier dose of DuJuan Harris and the running game.

Win the turnover battle
It’s no secret that winning playoff football games is directly correlated with winning the turnover battle. Heck, ask the Packers about that in their last six home playoff games, in which they’re 2-4.

In four of those previous six games, the Packers turned the ball over 4+ times and in total, their turnover ratio is -13 (17 giveaways, 4 takeaways). You won’t win football games doing that.

“We turned it over once and they didn’t,” said Rodgers in his weekly radio show Thursday, referring to the Packers week 17 loss to Minnesota. “We didn’t create any and we had one turnover that turned into seven points for them. That determines who wins and loses.”

Beyond the above three keys, Aaron Rodgers has seven career playoffs appearances (record 5-2) and understands how to win when everything is on the line.

"You make your pay during the regular season and you create your legacy in the post season," Rodgers said. “You have a great team, a great opportunity in front of you and you just want to make the most of it, get back to the Super Bowl and have more of those moments." 

Packer fans are hoping for many more of those moments, starting with Saturday night’s game at Lambeau Field against the Minnesota Vikings.