A ‘Giant’ Step Backward?

Review~ what an absolute ass-kicking.  While I don’t think San Francisco is THAT good, it may be more telling that the Packers may not be as good as their record suggests…albeit, they’re still 8-3 and destined for the 3rd, 5th, or 6th seed in the NFC playoffs.  Should Green Bay win out, they’ll likely get the 2 seed, possibly the 1, but that would be assuming they’d win in Minnesota, which they’ve yet to do since opening that new stadium.  Also assuming Seattle and San Francisco would lose twice more (SF would have to lose thrice more).

What was once considered the Packers’ strength; offensive line…was once again relegated to severe weakness.  Then again, they were dominated in every phase of the game.  The off-putting part of this is Green Bay had 2 weeks to prepare for the biggest game in 3 years and could not have played worse.  The defense somewhat kept them in the game for about 1.5 quarters, but all of the 3 and outs were too much to overcome and the D gave away eventually.  Credit to San Francisco for being well-prepared and kept their foot down to blast the Packers back to an average to maybe above-avg. team.  The next test for Green Bay won’t come until week 16 in Minneapolis, where they’ll likely drop that game too.

Current Standing~ The Packers have an uphill battle (and need some help) to not only get the 1 seed, but just to get a first round BYE.  That’s how big that game was last Sunday.  Instead of being the 1 seed, the Packers find themselves as the 3 seed and a must-win at Minnesota to just keep that.

As it sits right now here’s the current playoff standings:

1 San Francisco 10-1
2 New Orleans 10-2
3 Green Bay 8-3
4 Dallas 6-6
5 Seattle 9-2
6 Minnesota 8-3

There’s a monumental matchup next week when the 49ers travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints. The winner will be in the driver’s seat for the 1st seed, until the 9ers travel again to Seattle, in week 17 for a rematch with the Seahawks—whom delivered SF’s only loss.

All in all, SF seems like the class of the NFC along with Seattle and possibly New Orleans.  The Packers have a chance to solidify themselves up there if they were to win out and garner a BYE.  San Fran likely has 2 losses coming, but that would mean Seattle needs to find a way to lose 2 more too, assuming the Packers win out- otherwise there’s no hope for the 1 seed.  However, should the Packers win out (finish 13-3), that would be an incredible 1st season for a rookie Head Coach, and would give the Packers an inside track to the NFC title game.  And who knows, if Rodgers and LaFleur forget Adams is on the field, it may not matter because the offense was ROLLING when #12 had no legit weapons, aside from his running back, Aaron Jones.

Preview~ enter a perfect remedy, the New York Giants.  The Giants are arguably the 2nd or 3rd worst team in the NFL.  The Giants rank 30th in turnover differential with -11 and their defense isn’t any better, ranking 29th in points given up: 28.0/game.  The Packers can key on sensational running back, Saquan Barkley (#26) and force rookie QB Daniel Jones (#6) into beating them, which there should be no way in that happening.

After getting a couple of interceptions and/or strip sacks, the Packers should punch in and capitalize on short fields for much of the day and hang at least 31 on this team.  All gearing up for another easy test against the other crap team from the NFC East, the Washington Redskins.

Packers 34
Giants 17

Season: 6-5
Overall: 49-30

How ‘Good’ is San Fran?

Current Standing—the Packers find themselves tied for the 2nd best record in the NFC, however hold the tiebreaker over New Orleans (currently) with a better record vs. NFC opponents.  Again, the 49ers have a daunting schedule coming up, beginning on Sunday Night vs. Green Bay.  While you shouldn’t look ahead (fans can do whatever), you can bank on San Fran dropping at least another game or two- or 3- before the year finishes out.  Winning this game would pit you vs. New Orleans and Minnesota for a 1 seed…and if you can’t beat Kirk Cousins in a Primetime game and are a good opponent, you’re not a real contender.

Preview—are the San Francisco 49ers for real?  So far, they certainly seem so, however they can only play who they play, and have done a really nice job putting themselves in this position.  It does seem that both teams could be considered playing with “House Money.”  However, as a Packers fan this is an opportunity to win a Super Bowl without having to have a feeling of “luck” or “destiny” be tagged to them.

The rankings in the chart below are up-to-date prior to the kickoff from the Thu night game of Ind v. Hou.  The Packers are the epitome of a “Bend but Don’t Break” team/defense, as the rankings suggest when compared to their 8-2 record.  Adversely, San Francisco’s rankings fit their 9-1 record.  When you look at strength of schedule played so far, the Packers have played the 9th toughest schedule vs. San Frank playing the 3rd easiest.  I believe there’s something to be said for all of that.  Does this mean the 49ers aren’t as good as their record?  Probably, but it will be proven out come Sunday night.

Team Total Off (rank) Pass Yds Rush Yds Pts STs
GB 356.0 (17th) 253.9 (11th) 102.1 (18th) 25.0 (9th) 0.5% (14th)
SF 386.6 (5th) 237.6 (15th) 149.0 (2nd) 29.5 (2nd) 0.3% (16th)
Total Def (rank) Pass Yds Rush Yds Pts T/O
GB 384.7 (28th) 257.8 (23rd) 126.9 (25th) 20.5 (16th) 9 (T-2nd)
SF 253.0 (2nd) 142.5 (1st) 110.5 (20th) 15.5 (2nd) 5 (T-7th)

The matchup I typically look at will be the OL vs. DL when both teams have the ball.  The 9ers possess a solid DL headlined by rookie standout, Nick Bosa, brother of Joey Bosa who gave Bulaga all sorts of fits in the Packers’ 2nd loss of the season in Los Angeles.

Keep an eye on the line surge (if the line of scrimmage moves forward or backward, either way) and overall turnover battle.  I thought the Packers would lose a close game for the last 2 weeks, but may have talked myself into picking them.

Packers 27
49ers 20

Season: 6-4
Overall: 49-29

In the Driver’s Seat @ the Pit Stop

The Packers enter their week 11 bye in the driver’s seat for the 1 seed in the NFC.  Meaning Green Bay controls their own destiny for home-field advantage, which is a great indicator of whom represents each conference in the Super Bowl.  The importance of earning, not only a bye but, home field advantage is HUGE!

Green Bay currently is tied for 3rd best record in the NFL at 8-2.  The only teams ahead are New England and San Francisco, both at 8-1, and each losing their last time out.

  • Side note—both have been critiqued a bit on whether they’ve actually played “tough competition” so far. Well, we do know that San Fran has their hands full in their remaining 7 games, after they get a decent opponent in Arizona, they welcome another tough opponent in the Packers to prime-time and the Packers will be coming off a bye.

Over the last 15 seasons (30 teams to make the Super Bowl) only 7 teams have made the Super Bowl with 6 of those 7 teams winning the Super Bowl.  What does this mean?  Essentially 77% of the participants of the Super Bowl either had a 1 or 2 seed.  What’s even more telling, is the 1 seed made the Super Bowl 53% of the time, winning 20% of the time.  So just by pure math, over the last 15 years, earning a 1 seed gives you a 1/5 chance of winning the Super Bowl, which isn’t bad considering 12 teams make it—weighing the odds in your favor.

Lastly- the importance of the 1 seed, especially of recent, since 2013 only teams with a bye have made the Super Bowl and all but 3 of those teams (12 teams total) have been 1 seeds.  The nice thing about the Packers potentially getting home field is their finally built (both with players and coaches) to win in the cold.  When Davante Adams went out, the Packers (mainly Rodgers) seemed to follow a true West Coast offense with short passes and a run game to control the clock, which when he’s in rhythm is damn near impossible to stop, regardless of his receiving corps…evidenced by that 4 game stretch where they were blowing teams out and getting off to fast starts.

Rooting interest this weekend without Packer football????  Here’s who WE want to win to help the Packers, again, if the Packers win out none of these matter much, but should Green Bay stumble along the road, these would help.

  • Falcons > Panthers
  • Lions > Cowboys
  • Broncos > Vikings
  • Buccaneers > Saints
  • Cardinals > 49ers
  • Patriots > Eagles





Coming Off Complete Disinterest– Should Run Carolina, but…

There’s losing/getting beat, then there’s what the Packers did—not show up.  Without even looking at body-language, just the effort and execution (or lack thereof) were very apparent and the Chargers Beat They Ass.  This is what happens when you Roll The Helmets Out vs. a very talented and hungry team, on the road.  Ultimately this falls on the Head Coach, and it’s almost expected to happen with a new coach, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

I figured the Packers would have a letdown, but didn’t think it was coming in this game and didn’t think it would be this drastic.  Hopefully this is a wake-up call, but it doesn’t get any easier as in the next 3 weeks (2 games) are legitimate teams with huge ramifications on playoff seeding.  So, to take away, the “positives” from this game are:

  1. If you’re going to lose, might as well be a road game vs. an AFC opponent (tiebreakers don’t come into play).
  2. With as low an effort (none) as Green Bay showed, they did not commit a turnover at all.

Review—Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram were able to get to Rodgers, sometimes without even getting touched by either Bakhtiari or Bulaga.  The odd thing is the tackle combo (considered the best in the NFL) has been just awesome all year and completely didn’t show up this game.  They’re not the only ones at fault, but they had the worst game of anyone else.

The positives?  There weren’t any turnovers and usually everyone has a “clunker.”  However, it’s rare that good teams have one this bad, but it does happen…i.e. the Patriots on Sunday Night Football in Baltimore.

Preview—moving on…a rematch of the 1996 NFC Championship game: Carolina Panthers.

Yds/Gm Pass Rush Points SoS
Panthers O 339.8 (22) 206.9 (25) 132.9 (7) 26.1 (10) 0.9 (11)
Packers D 382.9 (26) 255.2 (21) 127.7 (24) 21.0 (11) 1.5 (4)
Panthers D 360.4 (19) 227.0 (9) 133.4 (26) 25.5 (21) +6 (5)
Packers O 352.4 (17) 257.1 (12) 95.3 (22) 25.1 (13) +7 (T-3)

Carolina is good.  They’re just a solid team.  They possess every bit as much talent as the LA Chargers, but it’s in different spots.  Their top two players are in solid spots: HB #22 Christian McCaffrey; MLB #59 Luke Kuechly.  Those two are certifiable studs and that doesn’t bode well since the Packers struggle vs. the rush.  In fact, looking at the table above, the Packers don’t have really any advantages yet they’re favored by 5.   However, the Panthers don’t seem to be a real contender, and the Packers need to prove that out come Sunday.

  1. The Panthers rank 1st in the NFL with 34 sacks and 4th in opponent QB rating: 77.5. The positives are the Packers rank 14th in sacks given up (20), and 7th in QB rating with 104.4.  Couple that with playing at home, in an ideal fall weather, coming off an embarrassment and in a damn near must-win game (that is if you have Super Bowl aspirations), it’s the Packers’ game to lose.
  2. Per usual, this game will come down to 2 things, QB-play and turnovers. I’ll throw in a 3rd, O-line play.  Bakhtiari and Bulaga need to step their game back up to the standard they’ve set this year vs. a formidable front 7: McCoy; Poe; Butler; Addison; Thompson; Kuechly; Irvin.  Those guys can’t take over like the Bosa/Ingram combo did last week.  So running the ball is imperative!
    1. The Panthers were able to give QB Kyle Allen a clean pocket vs. Tennessee, last week, and he proved to be very accurate. Let’s see what the Smith Bros. can drum up in terms of consistent pressure.
  3. The Panthers’ Kicker, Joey Slye, had some issues last week in perfect conditions. He missed a big extra point (to increase the lead to 17, a 3-score game), and missed a 49-yard FG.  The Packers should have a distinct advantage in the kicking game, considering Green Bay has 2 of the best (Crosby and Scott) and are used to kicking in Lambeau which is a tricky wind stadium.

Huge Game—the only opponents remaining on the schedule reside in the NFC.  Three of those teams have winning records, and it all begins with Carolina.  Hopefully the Packers aren’t looking ahead to the BYE or to the following week @ San Francisco.  Take care of business at home, and get rested at 8-2 heading into the Bye.  After that, the season will really be in Ramp Up time, and really start to get fun.  Lose?  Then it’s another Just get in the playoffs and see what happens type season…we know how that all works.

Panthers 28
Packers 31

Season: 5-4
Overall: 48-29

Don’t Take the Chargers Lightly, They’re Loaded

What should be most-alarming about the game is a backup QB along with a Chiefs team missing 5 other starters (their MVP QB and top 2 pass-rushers) had the lead at halftime and gave the Packers everything they could handle.  It seemed the patience of Mike Pettine paid off and it resulted in another Packers win.

At least to me, Pettine seemed to play the game of Your QB has to outplay mine.  Neither QB turned the ball over, however Rodgers did get away with 2 throws that very easily should’ve been intercepted—conversely, he made up for those 2 bad throws with 2 of some of his best throws…ever.  Both throws came on 3rd down, and each resulted in the drive ending in a Touchdown.  Rodgers won that game, again.  He made the throws when they mattered, even to close out the game on 3rd and 5, to Aaron Jones.

My concern is with the potential return of Davante Adams, Rodgers and the offense may key on him vs. keeping the balance which they’ve showed since his exit.  LaFleur and Hackett have done a great job showcasing the talent of Aaron Jones, as he’s been super productive and has been borderline unstoppable.  The optimist in me thinks that with the insertion of Adams, the offense will get another boost from a dynamic playmaker, thrive, and be even more difficult to get off the field.

Tom Silverstein wrote a great article this week, about how the Packers’ offense (LaFleur and Rodgers) has hit strides w/o the presence of Adams.  My thinking is that it forced the QB to trust other players and forced the other players to produce or get cut (i.e. Shepherd).

Review—the Packers won, yet again, playing far from their best.  This could be looked at two different ways: A. they found a way to win when not playing well – OR – B. they didn’t play their best, again.  Why not be optimistic here?  No team ever plays a (or near) perfect game. The Packers keep finding ways to close out games.  This was a team closeout win.  The defense forced a punt, with the lead and 5+ minutes left.  The offense never relinquished control…love it.  Always love the Victory formation, best formation in football.

Current Status—at the midway point of the season the Packers find themselves at 7-1, which is somehow good enough for only the 3 seed in the NFC playoff picture.  Yes, it’s not too early to begin looking at the playoff picture as gaining as many home playoff games is essential to getting to the Super Bowl.  How has Green Bay gotten here?

After Davante Adams went down in week 4 (Thu vs. Philadelphia) with turf toe, the Packers struggled to find an offensive threat for the remainder of that game.  However, since then, the Packers have gone 4-0 averaging 32.5 points/game over that stretch.  Aaron Jones has been woken and has been the primary target of the offense avg.: 19.25 touches; 138 yards; 1.75 TDs over that same span.  Ideally the Packers getting Davante back will only add to the dynamic vs. reverting back to forcing him to get the ball.  Either way, Adams isn’t a Diva, or as long as Rodgers keeps running the offense as efficiently as he’s done over the last 4 weeks, this team is going to give their opponents fits.  Tom Silverstein wrote a great article explaining this in great detail.

Preview—don’t let the Chargers’ 3-5 record fool you, this team is loaded with talent and are a season removed from being 12-4, tied for the best record in the AFC, but lost out to KC for the division (and 1 seed) based on tiebreakers.  They eventually fell in New England in the playoffs, but this team has had talent up and down the roster since the days of Drew Brees and LaDainian Tomlinson, to now.  It’s no different.  They have pass catchers that can kill: WR Keenan Allen #13, Mike Williams #81, and Hunter Henry #86, and out of the backfield is Austin Ekeler #30.  On defense they have the older Bosa (Joey Bosa #97) whom already has 7 sacks and a forced fumble.  The guy is a problem, on the other side of the D is Melvin Ingram #54, whose recent return from injury has further helped.

While I was way off on the score last week, I still figured it’d be a tough game, this seems no different.  Again, per usual, this should come down to the QB-play, and the Packers have the better one.  Lastly, this might be a home game for Green Bay- should be 75%+ Packer fans in the stands, even more than the Rams game last year.

Packers 27
Chargers 24

Season: 5-3
Overall: 48-28