January 12, 2016

Arman Three Pack Preview: 2016 Divisional Playoffs vs. Arizona Cardinals

The Arman brothers dissect the Green Bay Packers upcoming Divisional Playoff  matchup against the NFC's number two seed, the Arizona Cardinals. Two brothers agree on the player of the game, but not all three agree on the final outcome of Sunday's game. Read more for a breakdown on key questions facing the Packers in their big road match-up Saturday night.

The Cardinals are the favorite to win Super Bowl 50 and are 7.5 point favorites against the Packers Saturday night. What are the two keys in this game, that give the Packers a chance at a huge road upset?

Adam: 1)PROTECT AROD. Before Sunday's playoff win against the Redskins where Rodgers was sacked once resulting in a safety, the Packers had the longest streak in the NFL allowing multiple sacks at 13 games. Despite that one sack Sunday resulting in a safety, the offensive line did a great job giving Rodgers time to make plays leading to the team's highest scoring output since week 3.

Any shot Green Bay has starts with protecting Aaron Rodgers
Any shot Green Bay has starts with protecting Aaron Rodgers
2) The Packers need to account for rookie running back David Johnson who had 127 yards from scrimmage in their week 16 meeting. This will be easier said that done with the elusive backs' combination of power, speed and receiving ability. The veteran defense and coaching staff should be able to reformulate the game plan to better account for the Cardinals play maker in the backfield.

Shane: First, protect Aaron Rodgers - I think that's pretty obvious. He was turned into a punching bag in week 16 and had zero time to throw the ball. Hopefully David Bakhtiari is back in the starting lineup to help solidify the blind side and bring full stability back to the offensive line. And hopefully Mike McCarthy took some notes from the Seahawks' 36-6 thrashing of Arizona in week 17. Second, the Packers must force turnovers by making Carson Palmer uncomfortable in the pocket. Palmer is playing at an MVP-level and if he has time to scan the field, he will shred just about any defense. Get some heat on #3 and he is bound to make a few mistakes.

Mitch: It all starts where the issues began in game one versus Arizona: in the trenches. The Packers MUST protect Aaron Rodgers if they have any shot on Saturday night. Getting David Bahkitari back would be a good start. After that, it's all about execution. Second key is pressuring Carson Palmer, on the other side of the ball. With Sam Shields status still up in the air for the contest, the front seven must get pressure and force Palmer into contested passes.

What will the Packers do differently in their offensive game plan to protect Aaron Rodgers from getting sacked eight times like he did in week 16 against Arizona?

Adam: One of the keys to success is the play calling. Against Washington, the Packers were less predictable, which got them into favorable 3rd down situations. Limiting the 3rd and long situations will minimize the pass rush and is why the offensive line had so much success in the final 3 quarters against the Redskins Sunday. Mixing the screen game with WRs on the outside, and an effective run game will help keep the down and distance manageable, leading to a less effective pass rush. Finally, using play action and Rodgers' mobility to bootleg him out of the pocket can free up more time to create big plays in the passing game.

Calais Campbell tore through the Packers' O-Line in Week 16
Shane: The Packers need to establish the run and stay committed to it early. It's tough when you have the best quarterback in the league, but McCarthy needs to know his personnel and stay patient. I doubt Green Bay breaks off huge runs early or even gets in a rhythm early on the ground, but they must stick with it. Force extra cover men to play in the box and it will open up throwing lanes for Rodgers.

Mitch: Well, I think its pretty obvious the Packers need to double-team Calais Campbell. The guy killed us. Whether that is using Kuhn  in the shotgun with Rodgers to help, or just dedicating two guys to him, Arizona's pass rush starts with and is fueled by Calais Campbell. McCarthy should call plays that get the ball out quick and use different read-action formations to throw off the talented Cardinals defensive front seven.

Who is the Packers' single most important offensive player and who do they most need to stop on Arizona's offense?

James Starks will need a big day to fuel the Packers offense
Adam: Aaron Rodgers. If everyone does their job, it allows Rodgers to get into a rhythm, read the defense and direct the offense; that gives the Packers an advantage with the best player in the NFL. Obviously, most of the season, including week 16 in Arizona, Rodgers has been harassed and out-of-sync with his receivers. The Cardinals present a significantly more formidable defense than the Redskins, but if the offense can collectively execute the game plan its exciting to know that the Packers still have the biggest difference maker on the field calling the shots. Comparatively the Cardinals present a much deeper stable of offensive threats. Floyd and Johnson both topped 100 yards in the first meeting and Carson Palmer has been one of the most efficient QBs in the NFL all year. If I had to pick one like I mentioned earlier it would be Johnson, but to channel Mike McCarthy I would say winning the turnover battle and limiting explosive plays will be the biggest keys. I'm confident in Capers' ability to adjust the game plan to put the defense in a position to be successful.

Shane: Eddie Lacy. Get the big boy running downhill, get him fired up and he can put this team on his back. The Packers couldn't win trying to throw the ball week 16 in Arizona and they aren't going to do it this week with Davante Adams out with a knee injury. On Arizona's offense, the Packers need to stop Michael Floyd, who caught 6 balls for 100+ yards in week 16. Time and time again, Floyd made big catches and the Packers need to avoid Palmer getting into a rhythm with him again.

Mitch: I am going out on a limb here and saying James Starks is the most important man on offense with it looking like Davante Adams will not play this weekend. Starks can provide a spark in the run game, and he is deadly in space after catching the ball. I expect McCarthy to use the screen game to get the ball out of Rodgers' hands quickly and to prevent the pass rush. For the Cardinals, it is all about stopping David Johnson. Arizona is very good on play action-passing deep, which is set up by their power run game. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield for huge chunks. Green Bay must keep him in check.

What's Green Bay's best strategy to be productive and score points against the stout Arizona defense?

Adam: Rodgers is at his best in tempo offense. Regardless of when the ball is snapped, using no huddle to give Rodgers time to survey the defense with the option to audible, is huge. This also helps the run game. No allowing the defense to substitute and change their calls gives the offensive line and Eddie Lacy the advantage to get down hill. I loved seeing Cobb back in the backfield against the Redskins and McCarthy mixed his personal groups masterfully to keep the defense guessing with Lacy, Starks and Cobb all contributing in different ways out of the backfield.

Shane: Plain and simple, they need to win at the line of scrimmage. Protect Aaron Rodgers and he will make plays - even if it's with his feet. Push the defensive line back, and Lacy and Starks will find holes to run through.

Mitch: Quick passes, screen game, run the ball effectively early in the game and PROTECT AARON RODGERS.

Game score prediction and player of the game

Adam: Packers 30
Cardinals 24

POG: Aaron Rodgers 25-32, 280 yards & 3 TDs

Shane: The Packers got embarrassed by Arizona a few weeks ago and it's still fresh in their minds. Mike McCarthy shows why he's an elite coach, Aaron Rodgers shows why he's the defending MVP and the Packers stun Arizona in the desert.

Packers 27
Cardinals 24

POG: Aaron Rodgers 19-29, 230 yards & 2 TDs

Mitch: After an impressive thrashing of Washington, I felt very good about this game until hearing about Davante Adams. I don't think we will make enough plays offensively, and there is no way the defense can carry us to a win against such a quality team. You have to have balance. Unless Green Bay can win the turnover battle, they are going to be outmatched in just about every facet of the game.

Cardinals 31
Green Bay 21

POG: James Starks 65 rush yards, 75 receiving yards, 1 TD

January 9, 2016

Playoff Preview: Redskins Host Packers in 2016 Wild Card

The Packers finished the regular season on a rather low note, losing its final two games versus Minnesota and Arizona. Give two reasons, if any exist, why Packers fans can be hopeful entering the postseason.

Shane: First, the Packers have shown the ability to make big plays on defense at times and you'd like to think they're fired up for this one. The defensive line can overwhelm teams and the secondary is aggressive, fast and athletic. Second, both Eddie Lacy and James Starks have playoff experience and the ability to carry our offense, if given the chance.

Mitch: One huge matchup is going to be the Packers receiving corps versus the Washington secondary. Washington's secondary is suspect at best and they will challenge our receivers to beat man to man coverage. This is what teams have been doing since the Denver game. Can our receivers step up and make big plays and get open down the stretch? I sure hope so. A second matchup is going to be the Packers front line versus the running game of Washington. The Redskins have nothing special in Alfred Morris, or whoever is carrying the ball, but stopping the run will help prevent deep play action passes. You stop the run, you limit the explosiveness of the Washington offense.

The Redskins finish the regular season with the 28th overall defense (26 versus the run, 25 versus the pass). The Packers struggled immensely down the stretch offensively, ranking 25th in the NFL in total offense since week 11. Something has to give. What are two key matchups that could end up deciding the game in D.C. this weekend?

Shane: Randall Cobb needs to pick up where he left off last week against Minnesota and stretch the field both vertically and horizontally. No one on the Redskins defense can match up with him and he will have opportunities to make plays. We also need a healthy dose of Eddie Lacy, pounding and wearing out the Redskins defense, to open up throwing lanes for Aaron Rodgers. Balance, balance, balance is what I've been saying all year and Green Bay needs it this week to win.

Mitch: As I eluded to in the previous question, stopping the run is a must. Also, getting pressure on Kirk Cousins will be a major factor in deciding whether or not Cousins will continue streaking. The Packers have struggled at times to bring the heat, so I expect Capers to bring pressure early and often.

Kirk Cousins is among the hottest QBs in the NFL right now. Since the "you like that" game, Cousins has torched defenses, compiling 23 TDs and just 3 INTs. Washington has explosive ability on the outside with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Green Bay might be without cornerback Sam Shields for a fourth consecutive week. What must Dom Capers and the Packers defense do to give this team a chance to advance to the divisional round?


Shane: I expect Dom Capers to blitz Cousins early and often to make him uncomfortable in the pocket.Washington is a one-dimensional offense, with their run game among the worst in the NFL, so Capers knows they will lean heavily on Cousins' arm. The Packers should be able to stop the run with their front seven and force third and long situations, allowing Capers to dial up some pressures that will force mistakes from Cousins.

Mitch:

The Packers found life offensively in the fourth quarter of Sunday's NFC North title game. Rodgers and the offense seemed to play with a "nothing to lose" mentality, airing it out and making plays down the field. Should we see more of this style of football or do the Packers stay committed to the run and try and grind out a win?

Shane: McCarthy needs to be careful not to lean so heavily on the passing game, because the WRs have shown time and time again, they simply can't get separation. Being behind by multiple scores forced the Packers to "air it out" against Minnesota, but let's hope that's not the case Sunday. The Packers need to stay committed to the run early, get Eddie Lacy going and I guarantee the rest will fall into place. This passing attack is not elite right now, so the more Green Bay can pound the ball, the better off they'll be.

Mitch: I think Washington's defense is susceptible to play action passing, so for that reason, I believe we must establish the run early and take some shots. Receivers will to have to get open and hopefully being able to run the ball and go to play action will help that.

Game prediction and Player of the Game & Wildcard Weekend game predictions:

Shane: I don't have a great feeling about this game, but I think the Packers find a way to get it done, by forcing two turnovers and getting a special teams TD from Micah Hyde or Jeff Janis. 24-20 Packers. Eddie Lacy is the player of the game, with 110 yards and a TD.

  • PIT @ CIN: Should be a battle and very close game. Pittsburgh's defense is horrible, but it's hard to bet against Big Ben and Antonio Brown. Steelers win in OT and hand Bengals their 8th straight one-and-done playoff exit, 27-24.
  • KC @ HOU: KC is just too hot right now. They don't turn it over, they run the ball well and Alex Smith is NOT just a game manager, he's a play maker. KC wins easily 21-7.
  • SEA@ MIN: Not a ton has changed since Seattle trounced Minnesota a few weeks ago in their own house - beyond that Russell Wilson is the hottest QB in the NFL. Still, I think Minnesota comes to play and keeps it close for three quarters, but ultimately Seahawks advance, 31-20. 


Mitch: 
Green Bay 27
Washington 23
POG: James Jones 6 rec 94 yds 2 TDs

PIT @ CIN: Pittsburgh 30-17
KC@ HOU: Kansas City 21-16
SEA@ MIN: Seattle 27-10