By kickoff Saturday night the Packers were playing meaningless football.  For all intents and purposes, the Packers know what they have in their young players, and it’s becoming more and more evident that Brett Hundley is either incapable of being an average starting quarterback in this league or that the game has passed Mike McCarthy by.  Aside from a questionable pass interference call, the Packers’ defense showed up to the challenge without many of their starters.  As referenced above, we know a few of the young players are good: Kenny Clark.  Actually one of his below average performances as he was pushed a couple times in the run game, but still made plenty of plays stuffing the run and generating a pass rush – he’s going to be fun to watch and a player the Packers should build around.

Review—the Packers actually outgained the Vikings 239 v 236 yards, but the interception in the red zone thrown by Hundley to a double-covered Kendricks was ultimately the deciding factor early in the contest.  The promising thing is that McCarthy actually calls a fairly balanced game when Hundley is behind center, and while there’s no way to figure out how many runs Rodgers checks out of, I’d still love to see a true west coast offense and use the arguably best run-blocking offensive line in the NFL and two newfound rushers (Williams and Jones) to set the tone of the game.  Just think about this….the Packers are able to outrush their opponents and can fall back on the arm of Aaron Rodgers to always be in 2nd and 3rd & short situations.  That’s a recipe for ball control, which will keep the defense off the field and can only help.  However, until McCarthy adjusts or there’s a new coach, it’s close to insanity to expect that to change – ultimately relying on #12 to win every game with his right arm and decision-making which isn’t the best plan for any player, Tom Brady included.

Preview – enter the 8-7 Detroit Lions, whom too have nothing to play for.  This is an opportunity to get young players like Michael Clark (#89) and Trevor Davis (#11) 50+ snaps to see what they have.  The Lions rank 13th in yards, 8th in points as for offense & 27th/25th on defense, respectively.  This could end up being a shootout or a one-sided affair with Matt Stafford loading up on some stats. Hopefully the Packers don’t play their key players as there’s literally no value to do so, and actually helps them in the big picture by losing this game.  Although it’ll be tough for any fan to root against the packers during the game; again even if it’s for the greater good J

Recap—again, whether the Packers decide to cut and move on from Randall Cobb and/or Jordy Nelson, we know what they’re capable of and after signing Davante Adams to a 4-year $58M deal, he’ll be the new #1 (if he wasn’t already) target entering 2018.  Center Corey Linsley too signed a contract extension Saturday afternoon, which means there will be 2 returning starters to the line next year; LT David Bakhtiari being the other.

Hoping for a loss for multiple reasons:

  1. Maybe someone will be replaced aside from a special teams coach.
  2. Better draft pick.
  3. Team is fueled even more from being 7-9? (I’m really stretching here)

Stay tuned for the season recap next week and to begin talking draft prospects!

Packers 21
Lions 34

31-20: now hoping I’m right for the reasons listed above!

Maybe Rodgers Saved the franchise, in the long-term?

The disaster of a season finally came to an end, well at least figuratively.  The Packers still have 2 remaining games to play out.  Hopefully used to get the young players some much-needed snaps.  There are the young players we already know that can contribute: Blake Martinez; Kenny Clark; Jamaal Williams; Aaron Jones.  The unfortunate thing is 1st pick Kevin King is missing out on reps that could really help him improve for next year and moving forward.

Review—the return of Aaron Rodgers mattered moot.  He showed a couple of plays of why he’s the most-talented QB, but regardless of excuse is also the reason they lost the game.  Those 3 interceptions were absolutely killer and even though the defense held them to 3 points off those interceptions, but the main one was the underthrow to Cobb up the seam that – with a good throw – would’ve been a touchdown.  Either way, the Panthers exposed the Packers with decent mismatches of Christian McCaffery and Greg Olsen.  The Panthers’ DL really didn’t give too many issues to the Packers, however the main point of frustration for many was the lack of rushing attempts in the game by Green Bay.  19 total attempts, but 6 by the quarterback leaving 13 rush attempts by the Packers’ Williams and Jones.  Jones showed extreme production in his limited carries (3 carries for 47 yards) and Williams was doing an OK job of wearing down the Panthers’ D (10 carries for 30 yards), but McCarthy either didn’t call enough runs or Rodgers checked out of a bunch (essentially every quick pass outside was a RPO – run/pass option).

The Packers’ playoff hoped went down the toilet when Matt Bryant’s kick split the uprights on Monday night as time expired in Tampa Bay.  Now, the Packers find themselves in a position they haven’t been in since 2008, when they finished 6-10 (Aaron Rodgers’ first year starting) and missed the playoffs.  They can use this as a progression/growth period for the youth of this team and have some key development reps.

Preview—the Vikings hold the 2 seed and are pretty locked in for that.  They’ll be looking to win this game from a rivalry standpoint, mainly because I think they care about that since it’s been one-sided.  While holding the overall record of match-up is fun and not losing at home is key, it’s likely a good thing if the Packers lose – better draft pick status, change could result (someone gets fired, maybe?), and there will be additional hunger if the Green Bay finishes 7-9 v 9-7.  Either way, during the game I’ll be rooting for the Packers to win, but if they don’t it may actually be a good thing.

Players to watch—every rookie & Brett Hundley.  Josh Jones could be used, learn, and get quite a bit better in these final two games in preparation for 2018.

Vikings 27
Packers 17

30-20: again, I’m kind of hoping I’m right in the prediction of losses these final two games, but we’ll see.

#12 isn’t the only one to keep an eye on today!

Wrong again!  Well Brett Hundley may not be good, but he’s certainly clutch.  Even though it’s against bad teams he kept the Packers in the playoff race.  With the return of Aaron Rodgers, the Packers find themselves needing to win their remaining 3 games (5 total including Tampa Bay and Cleveland) to go 10-6 to just give them a chance to make the postseason.  Let’s recap and move on!

Review—the coaching staff was out-schemed coming out of the half, but made up for that by outplaying/planning Cleveland in the 4th quarter and overtime.  Mike Daniels continued to his consistent play, but with the return of fellow interior lineman Kenny Clark, the defensive line should’ve produced better v Cle’s rush game.  The Packers surrendered 136 yards on the ground, giving up 5 yards/rush, which is horrible.  The Packers secondary, highlighted by Josh Jones’ OT interception, played improved in the 4th quarter and OT after making DeShone Kizer look like Tom Brady in the 1st half.  All in all, it was a team win that needed extra time to beat the worst team in the NFL.  Moving on…

Preview—ahh the fun part of crunching #s.  This might get a little geeky or allow a peak into my true interest of looking at, what many may think is, worthless stats.  So here we go…

GB Car
Off y/p 25th/17th 18th/14th
Def y/p 26th/19th 5th/10th
T/O (rank) 7 (4)

As you can see, the Panthers have a better offense and a top 10 defense.  I’ve also looked into their 4 losses on the season.  Carolina has lost to the Saints twice, Eagles, and the Bears…yep, Chicago.  The common theme for these losses is Carolina gained 300 total yards of offense once in those losses (305 v Phi in week 6).  Since all of my arguments with my close group of texting friends comes to points (as for defensive ranks), that’s what I’ll use.

  • Week 3 v New Orleans (11th ranked D): 288 yards and -3 t/o differential
  • Week 6 v Philadelphia (5th ranked D): 305 yards and -2 t/o differential
  • Week 7 @ Chicago (14th ranked D): 293 yards, -3 t/o differential
  • Week 13 @ New Orleans (11th D): 279 yards, 0 t/o differential

As you can see, aside from their last loss 2 weeks ago in New Orleans, the Panthers turned the ball over 2+ times more than their opponent.  A pretty good indicator for the Packers in order to win today.  The Packers (as you can see on the chart above) hold the 19th ranked defense, giving up 23.2 points/game.  Meanwhile the Panthers are ranked 14th in offensive points, scoring an average of 23.1 points/game.  If the Packers can win the turnover margin by 2 and hold Carolina to 23 points or less, one would have to think that should be enough to give an Aaron Rodgers-led offense (with a newfound rushing attack) to score 24+.

Let’s look at this way, the Packers were scoring an average of 27.4 points/game with Rodgers as quarterback v defenses that averaged 12.2 in ranking.  With just basic numbers the Packers with Rodgers should score 26+ v Carolina who possesses the 10th ranked defense.  Adversely, the Panthers are putting up 23.1 points/game v an averaged ranked D of 14.9 (opponents played so far).  The basic numbers show that the Panthers likely will score a tad more than their avg.  So apparently the Packers should win 26 to 24…then again, if it were that easy, wouldn’t everyone look at it this way?

As for ProFootballFocus ratings, I looked at all the starters for each team and their respective rankings on the season.  Carolina brings 8 players with an 80 rating or better on the season compared to the Packers who have 10.  The major difference?  The Panthers have two players ranking in the 90’s: DT Kaiwan Short (90.2); Luke Kuechly (94.6).  Both are premier players in the NFL and is the reason I believe the Packers need to establish the run game and KEEP WITH IT!  Even with Rodgers back, he could be devastating with a great ground game and the play-action pass, almost impossible to stop.

Matchup Nightmare? – my cousin brought up a good point earlier this week…”Who will cover McCaffery?”  He brings up a good point, for those that don’t know, Christian McCaffery is the very talented rookie HB from Stanford, son of Ed McCaffery (one of Elway’s favorite targets from the 90’s Broncos) and little brother of Packers wide receiver, Max.  Christian McCaffery (82.1 pff rating) has amassed 838 total yards and 6 TDs this season, while not being the premier back (splits time with Jonathan Stewart).  #22 could pose major problems for the Packers’ defense…just think when McCarthy would bring Cobb, Adams, and Monty out of the backfield.  It poses such a matchup problem because their usually more athletic and faster than a linebacker and bigger/stronger than a defensive back, however I think the Packers have the perfect weapon to shadow him: Josh Jones (my man!).  Jones is bigger, faster, and stronger than McCaffery…but McCaffery is a bright young player that knows how to use leverage and produce.  I’ll be keeping my eye on him and how Capers defends him, as well as the Packers’ DL (Clark and Daniels) v Carolina’s OL.

In a weird year for the NFL, the Packers may actually have a shot, but they need to win this game (just like all the rest).

Packers 27
Panthers 23

30-19: Hopefully I get on the correct-predicting trend here!

Might as well root for the playoffs…

The Packers find themselves in a tough situation, still.  With the win last week they’re caught in the position of Win today and Rodgers likely comes back for the final 3 games, however since they don’t control their own destiny, 10-6 may not be good enough to make the playoffs.  While it’s crazy to think the Packers can win a super bowl without changing anything major- then again this is an odd year in the NFL, once which I believe the Packers can win with Aaron Rodgers and an average defense.

So let’s root for the Packers to make the playoffs, considering even a loss to Cleveland won’t result in Ted Thompson or Mike McCarthy losing their jobs…here we go.

Playoff Picture—the Packers enter 6-6 looking up at Detroit (6-6) and Atlanta (8-5) which Green Bay has both lost to, so they need to finish with a better record than each.  The Packers have another crack at Detroit in week 17 to best them, however the Falcons need to finish 9-7 or 8-8 in order for the Packers to finish ahead of them.  The more likely scenario for the Packers to reach the playoffs are to have Carolina (8-4) lose two more games, with one of them being next week v Green Bay (to hold the head-to-head tiebreaker) and Seattle (8-4) to lose two more games (with Green Bay already holding the head-to-head tiebreaker).  Meaning Packer fans should be rooting for the Vikings v Panthers and the Jaguars v Seahawks today.

Green Bay O v Cleveland D
-25th offense (20th in points, 21.5 pts/game) going up against Cleveland’s 10th ranked defense (26th in points, surrendering 25.7 points/game).
Green Bay D v Cleveland O
-24th defense (17th in points, 23.4/game) v 24th offense (32nd in points, 14.7 points/game).

Yet another match-up of two bad teams.  Cleveland also has talent, however their execution is atrocious.  They have the 10th best defense, but surrender a bunch of points in the red zone, similar to their offense, they can move the ball and turn it over (-19, worst in the NFL in t/o differential) eventually.  The Packers’ defense will be tested by the return of Wide Receiver, Josh Gordon.  He’s an incredible talent that loves smoking weed.  He’s a big play producer, consistently, regardless of his quarterback.  If the Packers win this game, they’ll have to keep Cleveland under 20 points and that means keeping Josh Gordon in check.  In his return v Casey Hayward and the Chargers, who’s rated as the best cornerback in the NFL by PFF, and Gordon had 4 catches for 85 yards (21.3 yards/reception).  The other issue is the Packers will be forced to play Demetri Goodson, who was essentially out of the NFL this year and is now going to receive a ton of playing time v a bad QB (Deshone Kizer) but an awesome WR in Gordon.

Hopefully my trend of being wrong continues….

Packers 20
Browns 23

30-18—I was wrong last week!

Tampa Bad?

Just like that the Packers not only no longer control their own destiny and now need a ton of help to even think about the playoffs.  There are two schools of thought now:

  1. The Packers need to win these next 2 games (v Tampa Bay, @ Cleveland) and return Aaron Rodgers to attempt to win out the regular season and finish 10-6.
  2. The Packers lose out (5-11) and that’s enough to get some major change in the front office at 1265 Lombardi Ave, meaning Ted Thompson and or Mike McCarthy and other coaching and front office personnel are fired.

Regardless, something needs to drastically change in order for this team to become a legitimate contender again.  If you’re of the school of thought that the Packers should win out in hopes the right teams lose enough to allow them a playoff spot and see what happens, at least the NFL seems “down” this season so that almost any team has a shot.

Review—Green Bay actually made that a competitive game which begs the question Truly how good are the Steelers? v Are the Packers actually making strides?  Pittsburgh may have been looking ahead to New England in a few weeks, but to blow multiple coverages allowing huge plays for TDs against a team where you want to make them drive down the field is uncalled for.  Credit the Packers for taking advantage of turnovers and hitting those big plays—even so Green Bay couldn’t pull off the much-needed upset.  This game showed the talent disparity between the two ball clubs.  I’ve claimed the Packers have talent, however the top-end talent of Green Bay doesn’t compare to the top-end talent of Pittsburgh.  The Steelers have arguably the best running back and wide receiver in the NFL along with a very talented DL in Heyward and speedy MLB in Shazier that all came to play last Sunday night and make enough plays to win.

Preview—there used to be a time (1990’s) when Tampa Bay coming to Green Bay in December was an automatic win (and likely would be with Rodgers at QB), the Buccaneers bring the 14th offense (23rd in points/game: 20.3) and the last-ranked defense (32nd in yards, 21st in points allowed: 23.8/game).  This game, if you’re not a die-hard fan of either team, will be tough to watch.  These are two bad football teams as of today, but the Packers believe they have something to play for and until they’re mathematically eliminated, I guess they do.

Gerald McCoy (#93) is one of the top defensive lineman in the NFL, and will pose as a problem for this banged up Packers offensive line.  For Green Bay to win this game and put Brett Hundley in favorable 3rd down situations, they’ll need to establish and keep with the run.  The other issue is Tampa’s solid WR Mike Evans (#13), the 6’5” Texas A&M standout is a productive wideout that could wreak havoc in the Packers banged up and soft secondary.  He’s a down-field threat which the Packers struggle with, especially if they’re unable to generate a pass rush.  If the Pack can get to Jameis Winston and force a turnover (Winston hasn’t thrown an INT in a Tampa win) that might be the key to winning the game today.  Either way, the Packers struggles on the offensive line and a banged up secondary may be too much to overcome against a bad Tampa team…

Buccaneers 24
Packers 21

30-17: sadly my loss predictions are correct.