This is a Playoff Game

Review – This was one of the more complete games, again, by the Packers.  There was a time where it was in doubt, when it was tied 7-7, Houston had the ball and was driving on Green Bay’s side of the field late in the 3rd quarter.  A Hopkins dropped pass keyed a defensive hold and prompted all-world punter, Shane Lechler, to pin the Packers at the 2 yard line.  If the Packers go on to do anything of relevance this year (aka win the Super Bowl), this will be looked at as the Drive of the Year, potentially.  The defense showed up in a defensive-type game – the weather conditions proved to help, but it was very encouraging to see the secondary have their best game.  The two TDs were a bit alarming, but Rollins was pushed off by TE Ryan Griffin, and the other was Micah Hyde reverting to his old/bad self.

The players I said to look out for, didn’t really factor into this one…Lamar Miller (Hou’s HB) actually played, but didn’t make much of a difference.  The other key was to watch Clay Matthews, who still shows to be worthless.  It’s alarming and very worrisome that Julius Peppers is light years more productive than #52.

From my eye, there were quite a few players that stood out, most notably: Jordy Nelson.  He didn’t show speed or great route running, but incredible hands and body control that he can still produce in a tight-end style where he’s a mismatch v smaller corners and speedier than most safeties.  Because its objective and they tie numbers to it…let’s take a look (ranked according from highest grade to lowest).

CB LaDarius Gunter 92.0
WR Jordy Nelson 87.3
DE Mike Daniels 84.6
LG Lane Taylor 84.2
LB Joe Thomas 83.0
CB Quinten Rollins 82.7
FB Aaron Ripkowski 82.3
RT Bryan Bulaga 80.7

There were more listed, but any grad at/above 80.0 is a solid performance.  Anything above 90 is truly an incredible performance, and Gunter was a much-needed sight for sore eyes.  If he can continue to improve, I’m not expecting him to be the next Richard Sherman, to a point where he can be a reliable #2 corner – that would help give this defense the boost they’ve been looking for!  Rookie DL Dean Lowry made a burst with a sack and a solid game as well…again, not expecting him to continue, but any production he gives should be treated as a bonus.

All in all, just a great game where the defense held and offense that a good defense should when at home in those conditions.

Preview –Seattle Seahawks…we’re familiar with them by now, aren’t we?  Seattle comes in with an 8-3-1 record, in 1st place of the NFC West, and holding the 2nd seed in NFC playoffs.  They can lock up the NFC West with a Win and an Arizona Loss.  They possess the 15th overall offense and 8th overall defense.  As many know, the Seahawks have the best home-field advantage (based on record of recent years)…however, can be had when playing on the road.  The biggest factor I’ve been struggling with is their road record (2-3-1).  They don’t look good away from Seattle, but there’s 1 victory I can’t figure out: week 10 @ New England.  So I dove deeper and compared their road victories versus their road losses.

In Seattle’s wins (2- week 4 at Jets, week 10 at Patriots) they have a +5 turnover ratio.  In their 3 losses they’re -2.  As is the time with 80% of games in the NFL, the team that wins the turnover battle should win the game.  Meanwhile, the Packers are +3 in their six wins and -8 in their six losses.  Again, Green Bay MUST win the turnover battle, not tie it, if they want to come out on top.

Seattle isn’t great running the ball, especially on the road.  They eclipsed the 100 yard mark once on the road, and it was 2 weeks ago at Tampa, 127 yards rushing.  But Tampa showed the blueprint how to slow, and damn near shut down Seattle’s offense.  Keep Russell Wilson in the pocket, play tight man coverage and if you do get pressure, make sure it’s from the middle and your ends keep contain.  Essentially the same defense one would want coming into a game v Aaron Rodgers.  The 2nd key to the game is generating pressure from within (Mike Daniels) and keeping contain (Julius Peppers and Jayrone Elliott).  It’s a HUGE, an absolute HUGE loss that Nick Perry will miss with broken fingers.  He’s had a great season v the run and a solid season pass-rushing.  Considering Seattle’s weakest spot on their team is the Offensive Line, where the Seahawks are 20th in rush offense and their leading rusher is currently wearing #32 on the Packers…Christine Michael (10 rushes, 23 yards with GB).  I think the key matchup will be the Seahawks’ pass defense (9th in the NFL) against the Packers’ 10th rated pass offense.  I’ve been critical of Aaron Rodgers, and the entire fan base should be as well…he’s been his old self, which is what he should be doing weekly.  Rodgers has been completing passes at a 72.5% clip, avg. 261 yards, and 2TDs in the past 2 wins, with no turnovers.  That’s key b/c the Packers’ offense lives through #12 and is aided by, arguably, the 2nd best offensive line in the NFL (behind Dallas).  The Packers have 3 offensive linemen rated in the top 25 of the NFL, the only other team that can say that are the Oakland Raiders.  Those Packers are LT David Bakhtiari (88.8), RT Bryan Bulaga (85.9), and RG TJ Lang (83.3): 6th; 19th; 22nd respectively.

Around the League – the only game that really matters to Green Bay is at Noon at Ford Field: 3-9 Chicago at 8-4 Detroit.  The Packers need Detroit to lose at least 1 more game before their week 17 matchup.  The Lions are favored by 8, so for Chicago to go into Detroit and get a W is a bit far-fetched.  Either way, it’s a game for Packer fans to watch before the 325p kick.

Other great matchups around the league are Dallas (-3) at New York.  If Dallas wins, they clinch the NFC East and a BYE in the playoffs.  Other than that, Monday night is Baltimore at New England (-7), where the Ravens have given the Patriots fits over the past few seasons.

Overall— if you’re still with me, after all that “analysis,” here are things I watch for and how I think it’ll go down.  On Kickoffs, if it’s not a touchback I hope the Packers return it past the 25 (touchback) and that it’s Ty Montgomery or Trevor Davis as the return man.  If the other way, I hope for a touchback or a tackle prior to the 20.

Hold on to the ball.  Any possession that ends in a kick, for the Packers, should be considered moral victory.  I’m not condoning 3 & outs, but punts, field goals, and extra points will be essential to winning this game…along with taking the ball away from Seattle.

Seattle is average, at best, on the road.  They’re missing their vocal defensive leader, Earl Thomas, and in order to generate pressure, they’ll need to bring linebackers which should open up the middle of the field for Jared Cook, Davonte Adams, and Randall Cobb.  Hopefully Green Bay can run enough to utilize play action and keep Seattle off balance.  Russell Wilson, over the last 2 matchups v Green Bay, has been downright bad.  Combining for 33 of 59 passing (55.9%), 405 yards, 3TD and 5INT.  Look for GB’s defense to key on Baldwin (#89) and Graham (#88) and holding them under 120 yards combined.

Seahawks 20
Packers 23

 *Record is 17-13*

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