November 27, 2014

A Packers / Patriots Crossover Preview Post with NE Patriots Life

This Sunday, the top two teams in the NFL will square off in a mid-season clash of the titans to decide....nothing other than the upper hand in conversation when discussing which team reigns supreme in all of the league.

In any case, here at ATT, we've partnered with the great guys at NE Patriots Life, specifically Mr. Mike Saver to discuss a few key topics that will she light on which team has the best chance of leaving the Frozen Tunrda of Lambeau Field as the NFL's elite team. Enjoy and please tweet your thoughts to both @Titletown_Talk and @PatriotsLife.


Packers and Patriots Keys Stats Through Week 12
Packers and Patriots Keys Stats Through Week 12

Topic #1: Both Green Bay and New England seem to be hitting their offensive strides, with excellent QB play and solid running attacks. Mike, for the few teams that have done it, what’s the key to slowing down Brady,  Gronk and the NE running attack?

Mike, NE Patriots Life: During the Patriots seven game winning streak, it's obviously been pretty rare that a team has slowed down any bit of the Patriots offense. However, despite all of the lopsided scores, the opposing defense has occasionally forced them to play left handed.

The thing with this year's Patriots team is that they are probably one of the most versatile teams in Bill Belichick's tenure. They can do many different things well, which is something Belichick mentioned to the team in the locker room after the 42-20 trouncing of the Indianapolis Colts.
Will Gronk get the best of Green Bay's Secondary?
Will Gronk get the best of Green Bay's Secondary?


That game famously saw SI cover boy Jonas Gray rush for over 200 yards and four touchdowns. What's notable about that of course is that Brady struggled in this game (two interceptions) yet the team was able to overcome that and ride the defense and running game to a blowout victory anyway. That's not something you could say before about the Pats.

In the past, teams have always had success against the Pats offense when they've been able to get consistent pressure when only rushing four and dropping seven back in coverage. The Giants laid out this blueprint in the 2007 Super Bowl, and the Packers actually had a lot of success playing off this strategy in 2010 when they nearly upset Brady and the dominant Pats in Foxborough with Matt Flynn as the quarterback. That New England team was later upset in the divisional round of the playoffs by the Jets and afterwards Rex Ryan credited that Packers game plan for their success against Brady. When a team can execute it, the strategy has pretty consistently slowed down this team.This 2014 team has a legitimate power running game to counteract that strategy though, something that hasn't been present since the early 2000s.

You can also try to take Gronk out of the game, but that tends to just open up things on the outside. Case in point, Detroit just relatively limited Gronk, holding him to a touchdownless day (5 catches, 78 yards). If you told the Lions that going into the game, they'd likely be thrilled. They still lost by 25.

You could also try to focus on slowing down the running game, not something many teams have bothered doing, but that obviously then handicaps your ability to put extra guys covering Gronkowski.

Teams have certainly slowed down either Brady, Gronk or the running game, its just been very hard to stop all three strengths of this offense at the same time. That has been what has made the team so dangerous.

Topic #2: Shane, the Packers ability to score on opponents early has been a key to their 8-3 start, what will Belichick’s game plan be to slow down Aaron Rodgers and avoid getting down early?

Shane, Arman's Titletown Talk: At 10.4 points per first quarter Green Bay owns teams out of the game, 2 points better than any NFL team. At home they average 13.8 in the first, more than 3 points ahead of the next NFL team and a TD better than New England at home.

I guess New England will call a conservative game early and focus on establishing their run game on a suspect Green Bay front. The Patriots best chance of keeping the Packers off the scoreboard is holding onto the ball themselves and stringing together a few 10+ play drives that span 5+ minutes. Tom Brady will look to Rob Gronkowski for the intermediate pass and sprinkle in plenty of RB touches to get the Packers off balance early.
Jordy Nelson made the cover of Sports Illustrated. Cool, huh?
Jordy Nelson made the cover of Sports Illustrated. Cool, huh?

On defense, I gander the Patriots will focus on playing coverage defense and trusting their talented corners to win on the outside match-ups against Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. No doubt, New England has a talented secondary, but what they won't account for is what every other defense doesn't - Aaron Rodgers escape-ability. His knack for extending plays makes it almost impossible for the secondary to shut out receivers, and I think we'll see Rodgers scramble and find his guys ad-hoc for a few big plays early. Green Bay will feed off the home crowd and find a way to make plays early and get a lead.

Topic #3: While both coaches will be working hard on game plans, NFL outcomes usually down which team can win more individual matchups. Mike, what’s one individual matchup you think the Patriots will try to exploit to gain the upper hand on Green Bay?

Mike, NE Patriots LifeAs has been the case so often this season, I have to point to the secondary here and the battles between Brandon Browner, Darrelle Revis and Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson.

Eddie Lacy has come on as of late, but like the Patriots, the Packers bread and butter is their passing game and future Hall of Fame quarterback. As a result the job that the Pats star studded secondary can do in slowing Rodgers down is likely going to determine the outcome of the game.

Revis has mostly looked like his old self, and most recently added Megatron to his growing list of impressive receivers he's limited. Of course the Pats have used Revis a little differently than the Jets did back in the day - electing not to have him line up on one receiver all game - and so Revis will probably see time on both Cobb and Nelson. When he's not covering one of them it'll be up to the likes of Browner to disrupt the timing on the receivers' routes to try and buy the Patriots pass rush some extra time against an impressive Packers front.

The defensive game plan starts with Revis, so that's the matchup to watch from the Pats perspective.

Similarly Shane, what’s a key matchup you think the Packers should focus on to contain Brady and attack the Patriots offense?

Shane, Arman's Titletown Talk: It's Rob Gronkowski, no question. The Packers have been historically terrible at covering tight ends and this year has been no different. I imagine Dom Capers has conjured up a very specific game plan for tracking Gronk's every move with the goal of keeping him under 75 yards and 5 catches. Tramon Williams and Sam Shields are fully capable of holding down Edelman and LaFell, but those matchups can't be ignored because if either guys has a step on the Packers DBs, Brady WILL find them.
Hi, you should follow us on Twitter @Titletown_Talk, thanks!
Hi, you should follow us on Twitter @Titletown_Talk, thanks!

Ultimately, it comes down to protecting the middle of the field. Edelman works the inside routes better than most NFL WRs and Gronk opens up the seams as good as any TE. The Packers inside LBs will be tested and that just happens to be one of the Packers' biggest weakness. Brad Jones or AJ Hawk against Gronk makes me want to throw up in my mouth.

Topic #4: Lastly, let’s both predict what kind of game this will be in the frozen tundra – a high-scoring air affair between two of the game’s best QBs, or a lower-scoring grind-it-out battle won between the tackles. Oh, and a final score prediction.

Mike, NE Patriots LifeThis will be a pretty significant test for the Pats as they are entering a buzz saw in Lambeau. I do ultimately see the Pats pulling this one out. The Pats offense may look to exploit a Packers run defense that has been shaky (-26.9 rush defense rating according to PFF) and that could play right into the hands of the defense as they'll want to keep the red hot Aaron Rodgers on the sideline as much as possible.

I still see it being a relatively high scoring affair, but the Patriots have proven this year that they actually have the personnel to take over a game when they need to with their rushing attack. I think that will ultimately end up being the difference as Rodgers simply may not be able to get enough time on the field to keep up in a shoot out with Brady and company.

Over the last seven games, teams are averaging 19 points against the Patriots. I have to think that Aaron Rodgers and company will be able to best that average, especially at home.
The sight Packer fans hope to see many times this Sunday
The sight Packer fans hope to see many times this Sunday

Patriots 34, Packers 28

Shane, Arman's Titletown Talk: I think this game will be a lower scoring, grind-it-out victory for the Green Bay Packers, Eddie Lacy will continue taking on a larger role in the offense and Aaron Rodgers will hit just the right amount of "home run plays" to keep the Patriots offense off balance. It will be back-and-forth throughout the game, but two Brady INTs will be the difference in a 24-21 win for the Green Bay Packers.

Follow Mike Saver and NE Patriots Life on Twitter and Shane Arman and Arman's Titletown Talk on Twitter.

November 21, 2014

Arman Two Pack Preview: Minnesota Vikings

The Packers play on the road at Minnesota this week, and then have arguably the AFC's best team in New England at home the week. How can the Packers avoid overlooking Minnesota and take care of business on the road?

Shane: They need to take Minnesota seriously and exploit their weaknesses, plain and simple. Teddy Bridgewater gets the ball out quick and is capable of making big plays. Minnesota's run game also isn't anything to sneeze at; at least statistically they are better than Green Bay in that category and we all know the Packers biggest weakness is run defense. The Packers need to exploit Minnesota's lack of balance on offense and tendency for turnovers.

Mitch: This is a good question and a main concern coming up in the next couple of weeks here. The Packers must do three things: stay healthy, protect Aaron Rodgers and continue to be an opportunistic/turnover producing defense. We know the offense is on a monumental roll right now, and if the defense keeps showing up like they have, good luck beating the Pack, anywhere.

How much credit does Dom Capers deserve for the past few weeks' improved defensive performances? And are those aberrations or can the Packers defense maintain their high level of play, perhaps if the offense has an off day?
Green Bay Packers Dom Capers raising his fist in celebration
Green Bay Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers


Shane: Dom deserves a good chunk of credit for the way Green Bay's defense has been playing lately, but the challenge will be if they can keep it up. Teams now have tape and won't be surprised when Clay is lined up everywhere. I'll be particularly interesting to see how the Patriots and Bill Belichick try to neutralize Clay.

Mitch: I think Capers deserves some of the credit, especially with the move of Clay to ILB. Seems to have sparked the defense. Whether the defense can keep it up remains to be seen, but I think if the Packers are able to improve stopping the run, the defense will be given opportunities to make game-changing plays like they have been.

Given the current state of the NFC standings, predict where you think the Packers will finish, including playoff seeding and final record? Also, who would you be most nervous for the Packers to face in their first playoff game, assuming they get in?

Shane: The Packers finish 12-4 and secure the number two seed in the playoffs, earning a first round bye. Games of concern include New England at home, Detroit at home and surprisingly, at Buffalo, which I think will be a tougher game than some Packer fans think. In fact, I predict the Packers will lose that game at Buffalo and beat both New England (in a close game) and Detroit (in a blowout). Either way, the Packers should be poised for a deep playoff run, finishing the season winning 7 out of their last 8. If the Packers happen to falter at home in week 17 to Detroit, I would hate for them to travel to New Orleans in the first round, is a very real possibility.

Mitch: The NFC picture is crazy. A lot of good teams floating around the 4-8 seeds. Here is how I see it:

  • Arizona has Seattle twice (including on the road this week), San Francisco one more time, and a tough game versus a streaking Kansas City team. I still think they are the king of the hill, and will end up 13-3 as the #1 seed. 
  • I mention the above because I see the Packers right behind the Cardinals at 12-4 as the #2 seed. I'm going to tread lightly saying this, but with their two toughest remaining games being at home (New England week 12 and Detroit week 17), I can't see this team losing two more games. 
  • As far as who I would most not like to see in game one (at Lambeau), I would have to say San Francisco if they end up in the playoffs. Just one of those teams who has the Packers number the last couple years. 
  • I will add that if the Packers make the road to the Super Bowl come through the Frozen Tundra, I do not think there is a team in the NFC that can come into Lambeau and walk away victorious.


Predict the Minnesota score and player of the game for Green Bay, not named Aaron Rodgers. 
Eddie Lacy Running Past Oakland Raiders Charles Woodson
Is Eddie Lacy due for a breakout game at Minnesota? 

Shane: Green Bay controls both lines of scrimmage and has a big day running the football on a brisk day in Minnesota. Packers, 34-10. Eddie Lacy is the player of the game, eclipsing 150 yards rushing for the first time this year and adding a few catches with two total TDs.

Mitch: This Sunday at Minnesota I like the Packers 31-17. Player of the game will be a guy who is having a hell of a year, pre free-agency; Randall Cobb.

October 11, 2014

Arman Three Pack Preview: Miami Dolphins

Two big wins in a row, now the Green Bay Packers go on the road to play the Miami Dolphins. What's the one key to avoiding a let down to a team the Packers should probably beat?

Adam: The most important thing to prevent an unexpected loss would be simply to protect Aaron Rodgers. The only scenario where the Dolphins beat the Packers involves their pass rush ruining things for the Packers offense and forcing some turnovers. Throughout the Rodgers era we've seen his ability to torch opposing defenses provided he has reasonable pass protection. The line has played well of late, and if the Packers can start fast like the last two weeks that should open things up for the running game and put the Dolphins mediocre offense under the gun.
Aaron Rodgers Throwing the football

Shane: Third down conversions. The Packers have been well below average in this category. While it has gotten better the last two weeks, this team has too much firepower to be going 3-and-out as much as it is. Getting the running game going and a balanced attack is the key to keeping the defense off balance on third down. If the Packers can stay in 3-and-short all game, they'll be able to move the ball and score.

Mitch: In order to avoid a let down, we must continue to develop the run game and protect Rodgers. I'm not too worried about the Dolphins offense, so protecting Rodgers and the ball will be a key in winning against an opponent we should beat.


We're a little more than 25% done with the season, who is the Green Bay Packers MVP on the season?

Adam: No surprise on offense, it has to be Aaron Rodgers. Despite a few rocky performances he remains the leader of this football team that seems poised to continue improving as we get deeper into the season. On defense I would have to say Julius Peppers. Peppers has shown early that he still has plenty in the tank and has led by example on a defense needing more leadership. He's been exactly what Ted Thompson hoped for; a lethal pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews that the defense has to account for on every snap. He's made several impact plays and has been a main stay on a defense still feeling out some of its rotations.

Shane: Julius Peppers. The man is disrupting offenses, making plays and fueling the Packers improved pass rush. If he can keep this pace up and the run defense even improves marginally, Green Bay has a chance to make a deep playoff run.

Mitch: I think it has to be Jordy Nelson. He has the stats, big plays, and is a touchdown threat on every single play. He's gotta stay healthy for our offense to fire on all cylinders.

What is the Packers biggest flaw thus far this season? Could be a group of players, individual player or technique (tackling, ball catching, etc.).

Adam: Without question...RUN DEFENSE...All accounts had BJ Raji poised for a bounce back season in a contract year and his loss has left the middle of the Packers defensive line undersized. Luckily, the pass rush and secondary has performed extremely well and allowed the Packers to cheat into the box to support the run better lately, but this could prove to be the undoing of the green and gold in December and January trying to advance past the likes of the Seahawks and 49ers in the playoffs. The Packers are well below average compared to the NF'Ls elite in terms of personnel up the middle of their defense. DT, middle linebacker and safety are their worst position groups and it will be difficult for Dom Capers scheme to mask these deficiencies. However, if Clay stays healthy, Peppers continues to play at a pro bowl level and the safeties continue to grow and mesh together, flashes of the 2010 Super Bowl defense that forced turnovers and bent but didnt break could be seen.

Shane: Tight end play. The Packers have zero vertical threat in the middle of the field, nor do they have a safety valve for Aaron Rodgers on short down and distance. The coaching staff seems indecisive and extremely untrustworthy of the current TE group and it shows in the roles they've carved out for the position. Green Bay doesn't have any TE who has a significant advantage in any part of his game - no one with great hands, great speed, great blocking, etc. And that as hurt the Packers ability to move the ball, especially on third down.

Mitch: Middle linebacker position...specifically as it relates to containing RBs who can catch out of the backfield. This has killed us in the past on 3rd downs, and it continues to without a Peppers or Matthews-caliber player at MLB.

What would the Dolphins have to do to make this week's game uncomfortably competitive for Green Bay?

Adam: Rodgers has discussed this week playing his former offensive coordinator who has as much insider info on the Packers offense as anyone in the league. It would take a real disaster in game planing by McCarthy and a terrible offensive line performance leading to four plus sacks and multiple turnovers to lead the Dolphins to a victory here. I expect the Packers to keep it rolling and get the "W" in what could be a closer contest than people think. Fast start with the passing game will allow the Packers to get the ground game going late. Lacy tops 100 yards for the second straight week!

Shane: Force multiple turnovers from the Packers offense and run the ball down the Packers' throat. Green Bay's clear weakness is run defense, so I would expect the Dolphins to rely heavily on their backfield to move the ball. If Miami can score early and avoid letting the Packers get an early lead, this could be a very close game.

Mitch: Dolphins have to force a few turnovers and get to Rodgers. The only way I see the game being within 10 points is if Rodgers is under duress and we lose the turnover battle significantly.

Score Prediction:

Adam:

  • Packers   31
  • Dolphins 20


Shane:

  • Packers: 28
  • Dolphins: 21


Mitch:

  • Packers: 30
  • Dolphins: 17


September 25, 2014

Three Key Match Ups That Will Decide Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears

Heading into a week four showdown at Soldier Field, below find three key match ups that will decide the outcome of Sunday’s game.

Kyle Fuller/Tim Jennings vs. Jordy Nelson
This match up pits the Chicago Bears most promising young talent and 14th round selection in the 2014 draft, against the NFL’s second leading wide receiver.
Jordy Nelson catching a pass vs. Chicago Bears
Jennings will likely start on Nelson, but expect Fuller to also be lined up against Nelson at some point. Chicago would be foolish not to follow the Lions’ game plan of taking Nelson out of the game, but that doesn't mean Mike McCarthy won’t have more wrinkles in place to free Nelson. If nothing else, I expect Nelson will draw a little too much attention, opening the door for another Packers WR to have a big day. But is another Packers WR capable of having a big day? Someone else will need to make plays catching the ball from Aaron Rodgers for the Packers to win on the road.
Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett
Packers Linebackers vs. Martellus Bennett
Bennett is Jay Cutler’s safety blanket. He caught two TDs last week, also proving he’s a dangerous red zone threat. With both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey hobbled, the Packers can’t afford to forget about the Bears athletic tight end. With a few converted defensive lineman now playing linebacker for Green Bay, expect Marc Trestman to attack the middle of the field and challenge the guts of Green’s defense.


Jared Allen vs. Packers’ Tackles
Chicago Bears defensive tackle Jared AllenJared Allen has a long history of terrorizing As a Viking Jared Allen has totaled 15 ½ sacks on Rodgers in just 10 games; in two of those games Allen and 3 and 4 ½ sacks respectively, essentially dominated the Packers offensive line and QB. Allen hasn't put up gaudy numbers this season, but make no mistake, he’s put pressure on QBs and Sunday’s game is just the type of “get-up” game Allen fills up the stat sheet for. If the Packers can keep Allen out the their offensive backfield, Rodgers will have a much better opportunity to make plays down the field.

I’m convinced that whichever team wins the above three battles will have a significantly higher chance of winning the game Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field. So who wins each of the three battles listed? Add your comments below or tweet me at @Titletown_Talk, or post on Facebook.

September 20, 2014

Arman Three Pack Preview: Detroit Lions

In advance of the Packers' first of three consecutive division matchups in 17 days, the Packer head to Ford Field to challenge the Detroit Lions. Last time Green Bay visited the unfriendly confines, they got thrashed 40-10, with Matt Flynn at the helm. Can the green and gold avenge the 30-point loss and get to 2-1? Or will they fall to 1-2 and a game behind the Lions? The three Arman brothers give their perspectives on the biggest issues in advance of tomorrow's game:

Biggest disappointment through the first two games of the season?

Adam: The biggest disappointment thus has been our commitment and execution of the run game. McCarthy addressed this early in the week that he regretted not getting Eddie Lacy more touches. Lacy has shown the ability to carry an offense and with the question marks on defense the Packers can only gain from a successful run game. It's going to require McCarthy's coaching awareness to not lose track of Lacy's usage and an offensive line that has performed below average two games in. Packer fans can be hopeful for improvement based on McCarthy acknowledging the need to involve Lacy more, Bulaga getting back into the lineup and recognizing their first two defensive opponents were among the best in the NFL.


Green Bay Packers Eddie LacyShane: Lack of balance on offense. Why isn't there any production from the TEs? Because they need to block to keep our QB upright, but even that isn't working. The Packers need a TE who can stretch the middle of the field and give Aaron Rodgers a dump off option when he gets pressured. Balance also means giving our RBs a chance to impact the game. But I blame that on our defense who can't get off the field and puts the offense in a hole almost all the time.

Mitch: The effort to run the ball. I know the Jets D line is tops in the league, but the offensive game plan from the get go seemed to involve little to no run game. Gotta get it going this week to open things up for #12.

Detroit Lions are up next. Who is the one player the Packers must contain on that team, who has the best chance to disrupt Green Bay's game plan?

Adam: The Packers have always done well stopping the run and forcing the Lions into difficult down and distance situations that allow the Packers to bracket coverages over Calvin Johnson. Joique Bell is the best chance for the Lions running and Packers have to start their focus on controlling the line of scrimmage. The Packers don't have the personnel to stop teams without the benefit of favorable down and distance situations. Stopping the run on early downs will dictate our defenses ability to keep the Lions in check. The Packers need to continue focusing on getting the ball out of Rodger's hands quickly. If Sherrod gets another start at tackle the biggest disruption potential lies with edge rushers matched up on Sherrod's side. The Packers can neutralize this matchup problem with draws and screens to that side and obvious RB/TE double teams.


Shane: Ndamukong Suh. The Packers offensive line is suspect at best and Suh is a top-5 pass rusher in the NFL. If he's not double teamed, chip blocked and dealt with, he will terrorize Aaron Rodgers in loud environment that is Ford Field.

Mitch: Calvin Johnson. Plain and simple. He could single handedly terrorize us.

The Packers face another great run defense in Detroit. Will their approach change and will they have success running the ball in Detroit?

Adam: I think there needs to be a concerted effort to run ball. Ball security and control is huge on the road and especially with the performance issues of our offensive line. I hope that McCarthy comes out setting the tone and has a game plan to pound the rock right out of the gate. I would still expect a 60/40 pass first approach, but with the right play calling I expect Lacy to put up 90 yards and TD. The Packers have played catch up seemingly all season limiting their ability to develop run/pass equity. The key is to start fast in all three phases. Playing with the lead will make the run/pass mix much more unpredictable and effective.

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy

Shane: Mike McCarthy needs to show a better dedication to the run game. Yes, I know it's difficult when the team is down 21-3, but feed Lacy the ball. He rarely runs for negative yards and frankly, I don't care if the Packers go 3 and out a few possessions; they do best setting up the pass with the run, using play action and throwing 80-yard bombs to Jordy Nelson. And there will be many more bombs if only the Packers could establish a little more balance.

Mitch: It has to change for us to win in my opinion. Just the presence will open things up in the passing game and make it that much easier for Rodgers to do his thing. Even a mediocre secondary can play well when the offense passes EVERY single play. Lacy gets 80 yds and a touchdown.

Game score prediction and game MVP:

Adam: Aaron Rodgers is 9-1 lifetime against Detroit. Difficult game, crucial road division game. I'm sorry Detroit, but the Packers are still your daddy and daddy's hungry for a win. Packers 31-24.

Shane: I just don't think the Packers are physically stout enough to win the battle on either side of the line. The Lions defensive front will cause havoc, pressure Rodgers and stuff the run game. On defense, the Lions are great at protecting the QB and I think you'll see Golden Tate especially have a huge game. And Calvin will have at least one 50+ yard TD catch, obviously. Packers lose 34-24. MVP for the Packers is Randall Cobb with 125 yards and another TD.


Mitch: 30-28 Packers.
Randall Cobb 7 Rec, 90 Yds 1 TD

September 3, 2014

Arman Two Pack Preview: 2014 Season & Seattle Seahawks

Which aspect of the Packers team concerns you the most after the preseason and why? Could be a single player, position group, etc.

Adam: Safety and middle linebacker. Micah Hyde is talented, but out of position. Morgan Burnett seems to consistently be a step late. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix needs time and reps to become a player maker. AJ Hawk is an average linebacker. Brad Jones is undersized. These are pivotal positions for elite defenses to have difference makers and there just aren't any on the roster.

Packers Nose Tackle B.J. Raji being carted off the fieldShane: The defensive line. With BJ Raji out for the season and new faces across the line, the Packers will have a tough time winning against the league's top offensive lines. The strategy of getting more "athletic" and "quicker" on the line is questionable and may seriously hurt the run defense. And we all know being a top defense starts with making the opposing offense one dimensional by stopping the run.

Name one player who you think will surprise Packers fans early this season and why.

Adam: Richard Rodgers. It's been impressive to see him pick up the offense so quickly in a position known to be a difficult adjustment at the pro level. He's got the physical tools to double as a good blocker and an even better pass catcher. Classic Ted Thompson diamond in the rough.

Shane: Micah Hyde. Is Hyde a true safety? Maybe not. But the kid is athletic, instinctive and smells the football like a shark does blood. I'm not saying Hyde will be perfect - most fans would expect him to make some mistakes - but I think he'll also make some BIG plays early. And while he'll split time with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, I think this situation presents the perfect balance for two players adapting to a new environment. Look for Hyde to become the much needed big-play body on the Packers new look defense.

Give an analysis of the Packers defensive performance this preseason and your prediction of where they'll finish in defending the pass and rush. 

Adam: The Raji injury is a blow to the defense that knows stopping the run and limiting big plays are among their biggest opportunities. I'm predicting low- to mid- teens in both categories. The offseason has been focused on the run defense and I would predict that ending up slightly better than the pass defense which is still below average at safety and has struggled to get pressure without blitzing.

Shane: Green Bay's Run defense certainly looked improved, minus a Maurice Jones Drew long TD run against the Raiders. I'll be very interested to see how the preseason success translates to defending a top-five NFL rushing attack in the regular season. Passing-wise, I predict the Packers will finish in the top 12 and in the rush department, top 15. Dom Capers might be out of a job if this unit doesn't take a significant leap forward, given its improved talent and personnel that more closely fit Capers' vision.

Name one thing the Packers MUST do well to have a chance of beating Seattle week one.

Adam: Its all about communication at the line of scrimmage. Limiting the pressure on Rodgers and penalties. Not an ideal situation for rookie fifth-round pick Corey Linsley's debut. Rodgers was sacked eight times last time in Seattle (2012).
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson runs from defenders
Shane: Limit Russell Wilson's effectiveness outside the pocket. Wilson is deadly when passing outside the tackles and is one of the best in the NFL at knowing when to tuck, when to move and when to run. If the Packers can contain him, Seattle's defense will sputter and be unable to keep up with the Packers potent offense. 

August 4, 2014

Green Bay Trifecta of 2010, Also a Winning Formula for 2014

The Green Bay Packers are three full seasons removed from their Super Bowl XLV victory but they know the recipe for a return in 2014-15 is largely the same. A play-making defense, relative health of key players and momentum in December. Let’s take a look into those three areas to assess how well positioned the Packers are for a February appearance in Glendale, Arizona.

Play-Making Defense
Clay Matthews’ painful and long recovery from thumb surgery is nearly over and that’s great news for Packer fans. The Packers get back their most explosive defensive player and perhaps most importantly, a six-year pro who knows what it takes to lead and win on the biggest stage.
Green Bay Packers starting defensive line


“We’ve proven that we can be a top-five defense,” Matthews said, referring to the 2010 unit which ranked second overall in team defense, surrendering just 15 points per game (pro football reference).

But he also knows a lot has changed since 2010 and sees his own role as a key driver in fueling a young and talented defense ready to step up.

“They see someone like me who brings the drive, leadership and passion…it’s infectious,” said Matthews, referring to how great defenses feed off individuals’ great plays.

B.J. Raji in particular could use some Matthews’ infection as he moves back to NT, admitting he didn’t have the right mindset after winning a Super Bowl and making the Pro Bowl in 2010.

Green Bay Packers 2014 starting linebackers“Honestly, I think my biggest hurdle was early success,” said Raji, responding to concerns about his drop-off in production the past few years. “I’m kind of fighting against myself and maybe I was a little complacent.”

But now the 28-year-old is playing for a payday, currently on a one-year contract resulting from a less than luke-warm free agency environment this offseason. Hopefully that and Matthews’ leadership is enough to channel the Raji of 2010.

Relative Health of Key Players
Mike McCarthy’s heightened sensitivity around preserving the health of his football team this offseason has been very apparent. A few steps McCarthy has taken include:


Said McCarthy about the above adjustments he’s made to the Packers program as a whole, “If I was going to grade myself as far as hitting targets in the offseason program, since the new CBA, I think this is the first year that I feel like I got it right." The team’s health going into September 4 will be the first true barometer of McCarty’s new plan.

Momentum in December 
Green Bay Packers momentum in December 2014Green Bay’s December schedule lines up well for a potential winning streak, at least compared to their September schedule. On December 8, the Packers face Atlanta (4-12 in 2013) at home on Monday night, the Packers then travel east to face Buffalo (6-10 in 2013) and then south to Tampa to play the Buccaneers (4-12 in 2013) – all very winnable games. The regular season ends with a showdown at Lambeau Field against Detroit, which has potential to decide playoff positioning. Keep in mind the Packers have won 23 consecutive games against the Lions in Wisconsin and McCarthy is 14-2 overall in his tenure against Detroit.

Given the Packers will be challenged early in the year with games at Seattle, New Orleans and division rivals Detroit and Chicago, you’d expect them to be ready for their December matchups and what will almost certainly be inferior competition. For more interesting notes on the Packers 2014 schedule, visit Fox 6 Now’s website where they break it down in detail.

June 18, 2014

Three Keys to the Green Bay Packers Defensive Success in 2014

First-Round Picks Need to Step Up
Packers defensive end Datone Jones
Packers DE Datone Jones
Photo: packersnews.com
Given Ted Thompson’s build-through-the-draft philosophy, first round picks tend to shape the trajectory of his teams much more than other teams. This year that notion will come into much clearer focus as pressure mounts on a defense expected to make bigger plays and more often. Specifically, first rounders, Nick Perry (28th, 2012) and Datone Jones (26th, 2013) will make or break Dom Capers unit in 2014, which desperately needs a jolt of athleticism, youth and strength both Perry and Jones were drafted to provide. Jones was hampered by a high-ankle sprain most of 2013, didn’t register a single start and played only 22 snaps over the final three games; he finished with 3.5 sacks on the season, two of which came in one game. Perry had a semi-productive year in 2013, given he missed five games with a broken foot. Four sacks and three forced fumbles is evidence Perry has the ability to disrupt. Both have shown flashes of impact, but the question remains whether each can stay healthy and be consistently productive.

Safety Performance
We all know “the stat” about Packers’ safeties last year – only NFL team without an INT from that position. Beyond the numbers, Green Bay simply needs an average, rangy and sure-tackling safety to pair with Morgan Burnett. That alone improves the Packers defense by 10-20 percent, but it’s easier said than done. The Packers would love to have a pro-bowl safety; but I don’t think Dom Capers needs a superstar at either FS or SS. As long as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix can tackle and not give up the big play, I expect Morgan Burnett to benefit most – with 3-4 interceptions and an above-average year in which Packer nation starts to feel better about his big contract. Back to Ha Ha. A lot of pressure will be put on Clinton-Dix right away, so expect mistakes early in the season. Also don’t be surprised if Micah Hyde gets more of an opportunity at safety,  than some may estimate. I see Hyde and Clinton-Dix getting along very well and becoming good friends in helping each other adjust to new positions/environments. Plus, who else would give Clinton-Dix competitio
n?

Need Another Consistent Game-Changer
Clay Matthews has been the Packers only “consistent” playmaker on defense since the 2010 Super Bowl team. Matthews’ injury history suggests he may not even fall into “game-changer” category. In any case, Green Bay’s defense must produce a second fearful, disruptive and reliable player if it expects to make another Super Bowl run. At any given moment, the Packers need a threat who can change the tide of a football game with one play – a pick-six, a strip-sack, a tackle for a loss on fourth-and-short, etc. And not just once in a while, but a consistent game-changer.
Green Bay Packers Sam Shields
Can Sam Shields become the next Packers star?
Photo credit : ESPN.com

My prediction for who steps up this year is either Sam Shields or Datone Jones. Shields approached pro-bowl status last year, tallying four INTs and 61 total tackles, along with displaying flashes of brilliance and near-misses on a few big play opportunities (i.e., playoffs vs. San Francisco). Look for Shields to grow into his role as the Packers #1 corner, fueled by increased aggressiveness, more trust from Dom Capers and a solidified defensive backfield with Clinton-Dix/Burnett.

Datone Jones is the athletic prototype Dom Capers dreams about so look for the Packers to give him every chance to succeed in the DL rotation. As mentioned above, Jones was hampered by injury in 2013 so Green Bay felt like they didn’t get the true view of what the former 26th overall pick can do on the field. If he can find a way to channel his energy, stay healthy and improve his technique, his physicality will put him in position to make big plays.