GPA Conference Championship Preview

Gregor’s Packer Analysis

Conference Championship Weekend

In this issue

The Ravens play the Patriots, again
The 49ers head to Atlanta

The re-match of the week 3 game, a one point win for the Ravens in Baltimore, looked unlikely when the Ravens trailed by 7 with under a minute to go and 70 yards from the goal line. But Joe Flacco made another big play, sent the game into OT (with the Broncos electing to go to OT rather than try to move the ball in regulation), and the Ravens came out with a 3 point win. The Ravens D held Denver’s offense to 21 points over 5 plus quarters. Joe Flacco has the highest playoff quarterback rating of the 4 remaining quarterbacks.

The Patriots gave up a big kickoff return and an early field goal, but led the rest of the way in an easy 41-28 win that was a 25 point lead at one point. But they lost Rob Gronkowski to a broken forearm, and he was placed on injured reserve. Still, they showed the ability to exploit their opponent’s weakness and make it look easy. And with Tom Brady, they have a chance against anyone. But he hasn’t done well against Baltimore over the years, even though they are 5-2 against the Ravens in game he started.

The Patriots are a 9 and a half point favorite. Not sure why, since last year’s championship game was a 3 point win for New England, the earlier game this year was a 31-30 Baltimore win, the Ravens got back 5 defensive starters at the end of the season including Ray Lewis, and the Pats lost one of their key guys in Gronk. Last year in the Super Bowl Gronk was a non-factor with an injury and the Patriots fell to the Giants. Baltimore is a similar team—tough defense, good running game, good quarterback. Obviously with turnovers either team could win by double digits, but most likely this is another close game. With the comments about a “gimmick offense” and “Spygate”, New England will find a way to run it up if they can. Not only does Baltimore stay within 9 and a half, they win the game.

The 49ers look pretty good when they aren’t playing games within their division. Seattle and St. Louis both caused them problems. But they showed in the regular season they could go on the road and beat playoff teams like Green Bay and New England. Colin Kaepernick was featured much more than expected last week, so the game plan will probably change this week. It looked way to easy against Green Bay. The offense has Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis.

The Falcons had a good record and played pretty well, excluding the week 17 game against Tampa Bay. Matt Ryan was Matty Ice bringing Atlanta back in the last minute after blowing a 20 point lead to beat Seattle. Atlanta has some receivers for Ryan to throw to—wideouts Roddy White and Julio Jones, and tight end Tony Gonzalez.

The 49ers have been more impressive this season and are a 4 point favorite on the road against the number one seed. Most years that would make sense—the Falcons were 0-3 in the playoffs under Mike Smith until last week. My head says this is an easy win for San Francisco. The gut says maybe not as easy as people think. But teams can run on Atlanta and the 49ers will get the ball to Frank Gore early to set up Kaepernick and the pass. Obviously Kaepernick will have a chance to do some damage with his feet as well. This is more of a tossup than I thought. Niners by 3 to set up a Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh Super Bowl.

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GPA Divisional Round Recap

Gregor’s Packer Analysis

Divisional Round Recap

In this issue:

The Ravens surprise the Broncos in the second overtime
The Falcons blow a 20 point lead before coming back
The Patriots cruise
The 49ers end the Packers season

It looked pretty likely that Denver would make it to the AFC Championship Game with under a minute to go until Joe Flacco found Jacoby Jones on a 70 yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 35 and send the game into overtime. Which begs the question—how do you let someone behind you when only a touchdown can hurt you? The kickoff came with 31 seconds left, Denver had 2 timeouts and elected to go to OT. Peyton Manning was picked off, and Baltimore’s Justin Tucker made a 47 yard field goal in the second overtime to win 38-35. The Ravens defense did a good job, especially in the second half. Of Denver’s 5 touchdowns, 2 were special teams touchdowns, a 90 yard punt return and a 104 yard kickoff return by Trindon Holliday.

As stated in the preview, Peyton Manning has not been good in cold weather games 40 degrees or colder. Before the game, he was 0-3 with one touchdown and 7 picks. He added to the touchdowns (3), the interceptions (2) and the losses (1). But if Denver doesn’t let Jones get behind the defense, it’s unlikely the Ravens tie it in regulation.

The Broncos managed 398 total yards, the Ravens got 479. Denver had 125 yards rushing, Baltimore had 155 rushing yards. But Flacco had more yards than Manning (mostly because of the 70, 59 and 32 yard TD passes) and no picks. The Ravens will be heading to New England to play Tom Brady and the Patriots in the AFC Championship game next Sunday.

The Seahawks were down by 20 twice, took the lead with 31 seconds left, and lost 30-28. It was all Atlanta in the first half and 20-0 late in the second quarter. Seattle was driving just before halftime. They took a timeout, their second, with 30 seconds left, 3rd and 1 at the 10. They gain 2 yards to set up first and goal and took a timeout, their last, with 25 seconds left. Nobody was more than 12 yards downfield, so they easily could have lined up for a play without the timeout. After an incomplete pass on first down, a false start, and an incomplete pass on second down, they had 3rd and goal with 17 seconds left. Russell Wilson was sacked and they couldn’t run another play. Earlier in the half they had 4th and 1 inside the 15 and didn’t make it. Two lost scoring opportunities in a 2 point loss.

The logic was easy to understand. On 4th and 1 in the first quarter, show some confidence in your offensive line and running game. If you don’t make it, Atlanta has a long field and you play field position. Even if Atlanta scores (they did), you still have 3 plus quarters to come back. With the timeout just before halftime, you drop back and throw 3 times. Get rid of it quickly and it’s either a touchdown or an incompletion. An incompletion stops the clock and lets you set up for a field goal. It takes away a running play on third down so Atlanta knew it had to be a pass. And got to Wilson before he could throw it away. So with no chance to get the field goal, they tried to run a play on 4th down but couldn’t get it off. The danger of not having a timeout left.

The Falcons looked like they’d run away with it, ahead 20-0 and 27-7. But with under a minute to go, they trailed 28-27. Then Falcons coach Mike Smith called a timeout with a first and 10 at the Seattle 32 with 13 seconds left. If they weren’t going to run another play, then let the clock run down to 5 or 6 seconds. Then if the snap is bobbled, they can down it, take a timeout and try it again. If not, there is little or no time left. But the clock doesn’t go to zero if you snap it with 13 seconds left and kick a 49 yard field goal. The kickoff didn’t go very far and Seattle had a chance. The first play was a short gain, the second was a throw into the end zone that was intercepted by Julio Jones, who is normally a receiver, not a DB.

The Patriots jumped out to a 38-13 lead and Houston couldn’t get closer than 38-28 before losing 41-28. The Pats won the game but lost Gronk, who broke his forearm again. Tom Brady had a big game and the defense forced turnovers. At times they looked unstoppable, especially on the quick snap after a big gain. They had 457 total yards to 425 for Houston, although much of Houston’s offense came late when they were down 25 and New England played softer. Danny Woodhead was also hurt in the first quarter. Brady said that there were plays in the game plan for Woodhead and Rob Gronkowski. Shane Vereen and others stepped up.

Baltimore linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo got things rolling for next weekend when he said the Patriots have a “gimmick” offense and brought up “Spygate”. That didn’t go over well in New England. Not that the Pats wouldn’t have been ready, but why give them a reason to come out fired up? This should be a close game, a few plays will make the difference.

The Packers season ended Saturday Night in San Francisco as the 49ers beat Green Bay 45-31. While scoring 31 isn’t bad, one of the scores was a Sam Shields pick 6. And while the offense wasn’t bad the defense was awful. Even when San Francisco looked at 3rd and long, Colin Kaepernick had plenty of time, and when he couldn’t find an open receiver, he found plenty of room to run. On the night, Kaepernick ran for 181 yards (178 before contact). Nobody touched him on most of his runs, he either scored or slid. The 49ers had 579 total yards to 352 for the Packers.

You could say that San Francisco had a 21 point lead and the Packers scored late to make the score look better. You could say that the Packers gave the 49ers an easy touchdown with a muffed punt by Jeremy Ross inside the Green Bay 10, and an Aaron Rodgers interception at midfield. But after playing close in the first half the 49ers ran away with the game in the second half and it didn’t come down to a bad play or a bad call. It was a convincing win by the 49ers. It showed that personnel wise, the Green Bay O line isn’t as good as the San Francisco D line. That the San Francisco O line does a good job and the Packers D line has a lot of what should be NFL backups who are starting in Green Bay.

Other than BJ Raji, the D line needs to be upgraded. When they won the Super Bowl, they had Cullen Jenkins and Ryan Pickett to go with Raji. Jenkins left after that season, and Pickett isn’t the same player two years later. But the linebackers and the secondary looked bad too. Other than Clay Matthews, there are some questions at linebacker. Will Desmond Bishop and Nick Perry come back from injury and be effective in 2013? Will AJ Hawk be back? Will the Packers look to upgrade with at least one new linebacker as a high draft pick? Will Charles Woodson come back next year? He also isn’t the player he was in 2010. The secondary might have given up yards, but that’s due in part to lack of pressure on the quarterback. Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, and Casey Hayward usually look good in coverage. Morgan Burnett has looked good and MD Jennings and Jerron McMillan are improving, but there is no Nick Collins in the group.

And the O line had a backup playing, but still could be upgraded. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga missed part of the regular season and the playoffs. How many are at or close to Pro Bowl players? Marshall Newhouse is considered average at best by some, a weak spot on the O line by others. Josh Sitton and TJ Lang are considered good by most, and Evan Dietrich Smith has only started a few games at center.

What about Donald Driver (age) and Greg Jennings (salary)? Unlikely that either will be back. But that still leaves Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones coming back. Jermichael Finley could be gone. DuJuan Harris played well at the end of the season, but can he be effective over 16 games? Will James Starks stay healthy and contribute or be replaced? Will Cedric Benson be back? What about Alex Green’s role? There has to be another kicker to compete with Mason Crosby. Will there be coaching or coordinator changes? Hard to blame the coaches when other than your playmakers (Cobb, Rodgers, Raji and Matthews) most units are stuck with average players, or worse.

With the salary cap there won’t be a lot of stars, but there needs to be more good players, especially on the D line. Aaron Rodgers is the best in the NFL. He keeps the Packers in games, and the win total would be down at least a few without him. But it’s hard to see the Packers taking the next step until both lines improve. Maybe that comes as rookies like Mike Daniels and Jerel Worthy take the next step. Hard to see Marshall Newhouse developing into a Pro Bowl left tackle. Maybe these guys don’t improve and different players are needed. They clearly don’t match up with the elite teams with the performance they got this year. And they can’t take the next step until they can hold their own, especially on the lines. That needs to get fixed before Rodgers gets hurt and they have another position to worry about.

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Divisional Round Preview

Gregor’s Packer Analysis

Divisional Round Preview

In this issue:

The Ravens head to Denver to play the Broncos (again)
The Seahawks fly east (again) to Atlanta
The Patriots host the Texans (again)
The Packers play the 49ers (again)

In déjà vu weekend, three regular season games are being re-played although the location is changing in two of them. The other game isn’t a re-match, but the Seahawks had to go to the eastern time zone (Washington DC) last weekend, and are back in the East, this time in Atlanta. The fans and the networks want Peyton vs. Brady and that should happen. In the NFC, you could see either team win in both games. Gotta love playoff football.

In the first re-match, the Baltimore Ravens try to change the results of the first meeting against the Denver Broncos. That game was in Baltimore, and the Broncos had no problem in a 34-17 win in week 15. This time, they play in Denver. A few things that could make the game closer—Ray Lewis will play for the Ravens this time. And the temperature is expected to be in the 20s. Peyton Manning isn’t usually as effective in cold weather—no surprise there since most quarterbacks aren’t. But the neck injury / surgery has reportedly had an impact of his ability to grip the ball in the cold, he has been practicing in gloves, including his throwing hand, and played wearing gloves in week 17. As well as he has been playing it’s hard to see him having a bad game, but keep in mind he is 0-3 in playoff games played below 40 degrees with one touchdown and 7 interceptions.

The line is Denver by 9. Peyton Manning is going to have to have an awful game for the Ravens to stay close. The Broncos have won 11 in a row, and they have been solid on defense, the running game is still doing fine with Noshon Mareno taking over for Willis McGahee. But Manning is the key. If he’s on the Broncos roll. If he struggles the Ravens hang around. There was a bye week because the Broncos are the 1 seed so he could be a little off, it is cold, he’s playing with gloves on. Things could go against the Broncos, but even if they do the Ravens scored 32 points at home and just 18 on the road during the regular season. This is a road game. Peyton Manning versus Joe Flacco. Broncos by 8.

The Seahawks continue to rack up the air miles as they head to Atlanta to play the Falcons after beating the Redskins in Washington, DC on Wild Card Weekend. The Falcons are the 1 seed and are coming off a bye. For much of the season, Atlanta was winning, but some games were closer than expected. Still, they managed to put together the best record in the NFC.

Weather won’t be a factor in the dome. Seattle is on a roll and is the “hot” team in the NFC. Atlanta is good at home, but hasn’t been stellar in the playoffs. Mike Smith is 0-3 in the playoffs as head coach of the Falcons. Both teams can throw, but Seattle is a better running team. At home, Atlanta scores 24 and give up 18. Seattle on the road scores 21 and gives up 19. The line is Atlanta by 2 and a half. It’s hard to go against Seattle and it’s easy to see them winning this game, maybe big. But I’m going to play a hunch and take the Falcons in a close one. Atlanta by 4.

The New England Patriots host the Houston Texans Sunday afternoon. The first meeting was also in New England and it was all Patriots, 42-14. What’s changed? Well, it’s 2013 now. Oh, and Gronk is playing again. So we have a dome team from Texas that got blown out the first time come to the Northeast in January to play the second seed with one of their go-to receivers back.

There really isn’t a way Houston wins this unless they are at least plus two in turnovers, and Tom Brady is abysmal. Don’t think that will happen. But they did look bad against the 49ers when they committed 4 turnovers and trailed 31-3. And came back to tie it, before eventually losing. Without turnovers and with Gronk, this might not be 42-14, but it’s an easy win for the Pats. The line is New England by 9. Pats by 13.

The Green Bay Packers head to San Francisco to take on the 49ers in a week 1 rematch, this time in San Francisco. The 49ers won 30-22, but there have been some changes. Quarterback Alex Smith missed some time with a concussion, and when he was cleared to play medically, he wasn’t cleared to play by his coach. Jim Harbaugh elected to stay with Colin Kaepernick. The Packers look a little different with Cedric Benson no longer the running back. The defense is playing better, and Charles Woodson returned last week from a broken collarbone.

The 49ers are similar to the Giants, the type of team the Packers have trouble with A good defense, a good running game, and an efficient quarterback. Now a running quarterback. The key to the game is pressure. Can the Packers contain and get to Colin Kaepernick, and can the 49ers put pressure on Aaron Rodgers. With Justin Smith back and rookie Don Barclay starting at right tackle, it’s tough to say the 49ers don’t have the advantage. But Clay Matthews will disrupt the San Francisco offense.

The Packers have a bad matchup, but have shown that they can put things together. The defense has looked good (except for the 37 points the Vikings put up in Week 17), and while Charles Woodson isn’t as good in coverage as he once was, as a safety he can blitz and stuff the run. That’s key because the 49ers will try to run Frank Gore like the Vikings did Adrian Peterson. The big question is can the Packers O line give Aaron Rodgers time. With Justin Smith back, the guess is no. But with some help, probably a tight end staying in to block, the receivers will get open and make plays. And DuJuan Harris and others (maybe James Starks or Ryan Grant) have to move the ball and Mike McCarthy has to stay with the run.

The line is San Francisco by 2 and a half. This is such a coin flip, a great case can be made either way. Unless one team is plus 2 turnovers or more, it’s hard to see either team win by more than 7. But it’s hard to ignore the losses to the Giants (similar style to the 49ers) and the earlier loss to the Niners. I’ll be cheering for the Packers knowing this is a game they can win. But the pick is San Francisco by 3. I really want to be wrong on this one.

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GPA Wild Card Recap

Gregor’s Packer Analysis

Wild Card Weekend Recap

In this edition

Houston moves on to face New England after beating Cincinnati
Baltimore beats the Colts, making travel arrangements for Denver
Russell Wilson moves past RG3, Seattle moves 3 time zones again to Atlanta
The Packers beat the Vikings, off to San Francisco

The Houston Texans had been struggling at the end of the regular season losing 3 of 4, but are 1-0 in the playoffs after a win over the Cincinnati Bengals 19-13. The Texans limited the Bengals to 198 total yards and no offensive touchdowns. Arian Foster gained 140 yards himself for Houston. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 playoffs. With the win, Houston goes back to New England. The Pats won easily, 42-14 in the regular season meeting there.

The Baltimore Ravens wanted to win one for Ray, and the defense came up huge in a 24-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts. Baltimore struggled on offense much of the game, including two Ray Rice fumbles. They put up 24, Joe Flacco threw for 108 yards in the first half, and 174 in the second. No TD passes in the first half, 2 in the second. Indy OC Bruce Arians was hospitalized before the game. The play calling of QB coach Clyde Christenson abandoned the run in the second half, even on third or fourth and short. Total yards were pretty close, 441 for Baltimore to 409 for the Colts. Indy ran it 30 times and threw 54. Yes, 84 plays is a lot of plays, and all they had to show for it was 9 points and a missed field goal. The Ravens will head to Denver. In the regular season meeting in Baltimore, Denver won 34-17.

The Seattle Seahawks fell behind 14-0 but scored 24 unanswered points to win 24-14 over the Washington Redskins at Fed Ex Field. In a game hyping rookie quarterbacks Russell Wilson of Seattle and Robert Griffin, III of Washington, the numbers favored Wilson. The knee injury didn’t do RG3 any favors, and finally in the 4th quarter his knee gave out. On a bad snap, he couldn’t get to the loose ball and his knee buckled. Early reports are several ligaments are damaged.

Seattle had 380 yards of total offense to just 203 total yards for Washington. After 2 early scores, the Redskins never threatened. Kirk Cousins came on late and looked pretty good, but his receivers didn’t do him any favors. Seattle had the ball about 10 more minutes, and was plus one in turnovers. The Seahawks need to go back to the Eastern Time Zone next week when they take on the Falcons in Atlanta.

The Green Bay Packers took the 2012 series 2-1 against the Minnesota Vikings with a 24-10 victory Saturday Night. The teams split during the regular season with each team winning at home. When the inactives were announced, the game was basically decided when Christian Ponder didn’t play. While Ponder hasn’t been great, Joe Webb hadn’t thrown a pass all season. It showed. He ended up 11 of 30 for 180 yards, 1 TD and 1 pick. It’s amazing he had 180 yards, with 50 coming on a TD pass to Michael Jenkins. He bounced numerous throws, and this isn’t basketball. He did a pretty good job running, with 68 yards on 7 carries, a 9.7 yard per carry average.

But the Vikings struggled on the road this season, losing 5 of 8 regular season games. And while Ponder has a pretty good completion percentage, passing yards have been light all year. The 8 road games have resulted in passing yards of 245, 111, 352, 44, 159, 119, 131 and 174 (an average of 167 yards per game). So while Ponder has the experience and probably wouldn’t have struggled as much, the facts are he hasn’t been good on the road. He has improved, and not having a number one receiver (Percy Harvin was the Vikings best receiver and he’s been out for weeks) has clearly limited Minnesota’s offense. But his first playoff game, on the road, and in the cold probably wasn’t going to go very well. The Packers were probably going to win regardless of the quarterback. They were definitely going to beat Webb unless they turned the ball over—a lot.

Aaron Rodgers played well, 23 of 33 for 274 yards and a TD. While the running game wasn’t great, the Packers stuck with it. And didn’t turn the ball over. The Vikings were minus three in turnovers, two fumbles and a pick.

Moving on, the Packers have Charles Woodson back. There was concern about some of the offense being available this week, but it’s too early to know if anyone is out officially. They’ll need everyone to play against the 49ers.

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GPA 2012 Wild Card Weekend

Gregor’s Packer Analysis

Wild Card Weekend

In this issue:

The Bengals go to Houston
The Ravens host the Colts
The Seahawks leave (Seattle) Washington and go to Washington (DC)
The Packers host the Vikings again

First, thanks for the comments you are sending. A few things to point out, a Green Bay win last week would knock the Vikings out of the playoffs. A Green Bay loss / Vikings win would knock the Bears out. It’s the same result—a Minnesota win or a Green Bay loss when they play each other. Go back to the Week 3 recap, I never said one play decides a game. You have four quarters to prove who is the better team. One missed call, bad throw, fumble, etc. can be overcome. The Seattle game had a series of bad calls in the 4th quarter, but that’s not even the point. The Packers still get the 2 seed if they beat Minnesota last week and they didn’t, so it’s on them, not the Seattle game. Finally, I agree that a team shouldn’t lose a review when a challenge flag is thrown on a play automatically reviewed (scoring play or turnover), but they should know the rules and a penalty should be enforced.

The Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) take on the reeling Texans (12-4) in Houston this week. When Houston plays better competition, it hasn’t gone well. The Packers crushed them 42-24 in Houston, the Patriots beat them in New England 42-14, the Vikings beat them 23-6 in Week 16 in Houston, and in a must win Week 17 against the Colts to keep home field advantage they came up short 28-16 at Indy. All four losses were double digits. They did beat the Broncos but that was early in the season. The other playoff teams they beat were Baltimore and Indy in the home game. The other wins were against non-playoff teams.

The Bengals split within their division (3-3) going 1-1 against Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Regarding playoff teams outside their division, they beat Washington, lost to Denver and Dallas. So neither team has been consistently good against top competiton.

This is essentially a coin flip. Can Andy Dalton and the passing game do enough to help the law firm (Benjarvis Green Ellis) get his yards? Or will JJ Watt put pressure on the Bengals? And can the Cinci defense stop Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster? The line is Houston -4.5. The guess is this is a close one, and the Texans move on, but after two straight losses to end the regular season don’t be shocked to see Cinci get the win. Houston by just 2.

The Baltimore Ravens host the Indianapolis Colts in what could be the last game for Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who announced he will retire after this season. The Colts got an emotional lift when head coach Chuck Pagano returned to Lucas Oil Stadium after being treated for leukemia, first as a visitor and then resuming his role as head coach last week against the Texans.

The Ravens were a different team at home, more specifically really good at home and not so much on the road. As a result, the Ravens scored at average of 32 points at home and only 18 on the road. Andrew Luck and the Colts also played better at home. While the points scored isn’t much different (23 points per game vs. 21), the big difference is in the defense: 19 ppg vs. 25.

The line is Baltimore by 6 and a half. Baltimore is a pretty good home team, Indy isn’t that good on the road. And this time it’s an emotional game for Baltimore. Ravens by 8.

The Seattle Seahawks head to DC to play the Redskins in a battle of rookie quarterbacks. Washington has Robert Griffin, III, the Heisman Trophy winner last year and 2nd overall draft pick in the April 2012 draft. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan cleared out the quarterbacks they had last season including Rex Grossman, going with RG3 as the starter and fellow rookie Kirk Cousins as the backup. Russell Wilson lasted until the third round of the same draft because of concerns about his height. There weren’t questions about his arm strength, his intelligence or his leadership. Coaches, players, broadcasters, writers, everyone around the Wisconsin Badgers said he has “it”. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll agreed, and started Wilson over free agent quarterback Matt Flynn.

Both teams have a quality running back: the Seahawks have Marshawn Lynch (3rd in rushing) and the Redskins counter with Alfred Morris (2nd in rushing). The difference seems to be the defense. The Seahawks have a very good one, the Redskins not quite as good. Seattle allows a little over 15 points per game: about 12 points a game at home, 19 on the road. The Redskins give up about 24 points a game, 22 at home, 26 on the road.

The line is Seattle by 3. Seahawks by 6.

This was supposed to be a week off for the Packers, but the Vikings made them come to work this weekend after winning 37-34 on Sunday. The Packers won the first meeting at Lambeau, the Vikings won in the Metrodome, and the third game will be in Green Bay Saturday night. Adrian Peterson had 210 yards rushing in the first game and 199 yards rushing in the second game. If those games are any indication of what’s to come, Peterson should come in around 200 yards rushing this week.

The wild card in this Wild Card game is Christian Ponder. He had a few turnovers in the first meeting and just 119 net passing yards. The second game went better for Ponder—no picks and 227 yards passing. With a passing game, the Vikings are tough to beat. With no passing game and / or turnovers, even Peterson can’t do enough to win the game. The Vikings score 26 points a game at home, 21 on the road. They allow 21 points at home, 23 away.

The Packers are on a roll offensively scoring 55 and 34 in the last 2 games, and averaging just over 29 points a game at home (and 25 points on the road). The defense gives up just under 18 points a game at home, and about 24 and a half points on the road. Charles Woodson has been cleared to play, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb should be back, and James Starks probably won’t be ready for at least another week. Jerel Worthy is done for the year.

The Packers are 7 and a half point favorites. Green Bay is 7-1 at home. Minnesota is 3-5 on the road. The defense will be fine on a cold January Night. The Packers need the offense to run the ball and hit a few passes. Having Cobb and Nelson back will definitely help with that. Too many weapons with Jennings, Finley and Jones, assuming the weather allows a passing game. The Vikings don’t have enough d backs and Rodgers is on a roll. Packers by 9.

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GPA Week 17 Recap

Gregor’s Packer Analysis

Week 17 Recap

In this issue

Chicago wins, then loses
Packers blow the two seed, but they do knock out the Bears

The Chicago Bears needed to beat the Detroit Lions on Sunday, then get some help from the Packers. They did their part beating the Detroit Lions 26-24. It shouldn’t have been close, but missed opportunities let Detroit back in. The Bears dropped passes, missed a field goal, and blew coverages. Take the Lions first touchdown. The Bears decided to drop into coverage rather than put pressure on Matthew Stafford. Normally giving quarterbacks time in the NFL is a bad idea, but coverage can work. The key is to cover ALL eligible receivers. Chicago apparently decided to cover most receivers, but leave Durham wide open for a 25 yard touchdown. That score just before halftime cut the lead to 20-10 and kept the Lions in it.

They almost completely blew the 17 point lead after not connecting in the red zone. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall seemed off all game. Actually, Cutler played well, it was Marshall that found a way to drop the ball, or not come up with tough catches, including in the end zone. And while they settled for 5 field goal attempts, making four (and missing one from 43 in a dome) left a lot of points on the field it looks even worse when the distances are considered. The distance (and line of scrimmage) are 33 (16), 40 (23), 28 (11), 20 (3) and 43 (26). They scored TDs from 60 and 1 yard out. Red zone efficiency was not good. Offensive futility and failure to make the playoffs in recent years cost coach Lovie Smith his job.

The Green Bay Packers could have had a bye on Wild Card Weekend by beating the Minnesota Vikings, but couldn’t get the job done, losing to the Vikings 37-34 in Minnesota. Adrian Peterson needed 208 yards to set the NFL single season rushing record, but Eric Dickerson got his wish and kept it at 2105 as the Packers held Dickerson to “only” 199 yards on the ground. But the defense looked bad with blown coverages, penalties and especially missed tackles. While Peterson had a few carries for no gain or a loss, there were numerous other chances the Packers didn’t cash in. Tramon Williams is a very good cornerback, but made little to no effort to try to tackle Peterson near the line of scrimmage. The Vikings had 217 yards rushing, 227 net passing yards, and no turnovers. The Packers had 72 yards rushing, 333 net yards passing and an Aaron Rodgers fumble at midfield.

There were mistakes by the officials (a pass that should have been ruled incomplete but the Packers didn’t have a timeout left so they couldn’t challenge). There was a mistake on a challenge (Mike McCarthy challenged a turnover which is automatically reviewed and became a Green Bay touchdown but the Packers were penalized on the kickoff). Jordy Nelson did his best to pick it up before the officials saw it but it was too late. There were three and outs in the first quarter and the Packers fell behind 13-0. Green Bay played catchup throughout the game, and while they could tie the Vikings they couldn’t take the lead.

Give Minnesota credit, they played harder and wanted it more. Especially Peterson. And because of that the Packers have to play on Wild Card weekend instead of getting a week off and home field in the Divisional round. Now they have to beat the Vikings on Wild Card weekend, and then go to San Francisco for the Divisional Round if they get past Minnesota. And if they win those games, they still have to win in the NFC Championship game, either on the road or against Seattle, to get to the Super Bowl.

The blown calls in the Seattle game (one call doesn’t decide the game, there were multiple blown calls in the 4th quarter) did impact the playoffs. The Packers would have been the 2 seed if they win in Seattle even if they lost to Minnesota, but the Packers could have got the two seed if they do their job in week 17. They could have been a hot team that nobody wanted to play. After losing week 1 against San Francisco and week 3 against Seattle, they could have been 12-1 in the last 13 games other than a week 12 loss against the Giants. They lost momentum. They lost home field in the Divisional Round. They lost the bye. And now they play a running team with an improved defense in the cold. There’s a pretty good chance that by losing to the Vikings they lost the season.

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GPA Week 17 Preview

Gregor’s Packer Analysis

Week 17 Preview

In this issue:

The Bears need a win and are big fans of the Packers
The Packers need a win, the Vikings need one more

Oh the irony of it all. The Chicago Bears need a win and then they need help. Help from the Green Bay Packers. If they win and the Packers win, they are in the playoffs. Chicago has some injury issues. Matt Forte, Tim Jennings and Brian Urlacher all missed practice during the week. One or more of them could miss the game on Sunday.

Not that it will matter. Detroit didn’t play for four quarters last week and that was when they were trying to get Calvin Johnson (who also missed practice) the single season record for receiving yards (they did). This week, the Bears are desperate for a win. The Lions are desperate to pack up and get out of town. Their season is already over, but it’s official after the game on Sunday.

The line is Chicago by 3. It could stay close because both teams have key injuries. Calvin Johnson is the only reliable wide receiver the Lions have left (Stafford also looks for tight end Tony Scheffler). If he doesn’t play, it’s an easy win for the Bears. If he does, then the Chicago injuries are a bigger problem. They’ll try to pad his numbers. But even with backups, the Bears are motivated to win the game. And cheer for the Packers. Bears by 7.

The Green Bay Packers take on the Vikings in Minnesota this week. The Packers will get the second seed and a first round playoff bye with a win. Even if they lose the Packers will be the 3rd seed (they’ll still be the second seed if Seattle and San Francisco both lose—highly unlikely), but that means playing on Wild Card weekend instead of the bye. They would also have to travel to the second seed, either San Francisco or Seattle if they win on Wild Card Weekend. To beat those teams on the road would be extremely difficult. It was close in Seattle on the Monday Night game. Seattle is at a different level right now.

But the Packers are in. The Vikings probably have to win to get in. They could lose and get help to get in, but with a win they are sure to be in as a Wild Card. They also want Adrian Peterson to get 208 yards to break Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record. While that sounds like a lot, he got 210 yards in the first game at Green Bay. The Vikings won’t get much through the air so Peterson will need a big game, including at least a few runs that end up in the end zone to stay close.

The Packers are getting Jordy Nelson back this week and Josh Sitton is coming back from a concussion, but won’t have Charles Woodson or James Starks. The offense will depend on the offensive line, especially tackles Marshall Newhouse and Don Barclay. If they can keep Jared Allen and the Vikings pass rush off Aaron Rodgers the Packers will be fine. If not, they’ll need to keep tight ends or backs in to block and that limits what they can do.

Teams will usually play their starters most or all of the last game of the regular season if they have a bye week coming, but will pull out their starters much earlier or sit some key players the whole game if they have to play again the next week. At this point the Packers don’t know where they are at. The game figures to be close and Mike McCarthy has said that the 2nd seed is more desirable than the 3rd seed. So the Packers will likely play their starters most or all of the game unless it’s a blowout one way or the other.

The line is Green Bay by 3. That sounds about right, but if the Packers have a double digit lead in the second half it will be tough for the Vikings to come back since they don’t pass well, especially without Percy Harvin. Throwing to the tight end is reliable, but seldom results in big plays. Peterson is the guy who can get chunks of yardage. Hard to go against a team in a must win situation, and while Minnesota has the better running game, Green Bay has a far superior quarterback and receivers. This is a passing league and the game is in a dome so weather won’t be a factor. Crowd noise can be, but not if the home team is down big. If the Packers get the second seed they probably make the Super Bowl because they can win in Atlanta. If they are the 3rd seed they have to win next week just to have a chance to play against Seattle or San Francisco on the road in the Divisional Round, and they probably don’t win at either place. So it’s win or no playoffs for the Vikings. Win or no Super Bowl for the Packers. Green Bay by 10.

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GPA Week 16 Preview

Gregor’s Packer Analysis

Week 16 Preview

In this edition:

The Lions host Atlanta Saturday Night
The Bears head to Arizona
The Vikings go to Houston
The Packers host Tennessee

The Detroit Lions (4-10) host the Atlanta Falcons (12-2) on Saturday Night Football (Monday Night Football is moved to Saturday because of Christmas Eve). The Lions are coming off a 38-10 drubbing in Arizona, while the Falcons shut out the Giants 34-0 in Atlanta. This game isn’t about talent or matchups, it’s about motivation. The Lions didn’t do anything offensively against an Arizona defense that usually wears down because their offense is so pathetic and the defense is on the field too much.

The Falcons, meanwhile, were up for their game against Big Blue, but is this a game where they think they can just show up and win? They might be able to, but Detroit shocked Houston on Thanksgiving. If this was a regular Sunday afternoon game, it would be a pretty easy win for Atlanta. Matt Ryan is almost unbeatable at home, but the Falcons haven’t dominated on the road. If the Lions want to play hard for 60 minutes, they can keep it within a field goal and maybe win the game. If not, the Falcons wrap up the top seed in the NFC. The line is Atlanta by 4. Hard to see Detroit staying motivated for 4 quarters, especially the defense. Atlanta by 7.

The Chicago Bears (8-6) head to Arizona (5-9) to play the Cardinals in a must win game for Chicago. The Bears will likely need to win out to make the playoffs. After starting 7-1 Chicago is 1-5 in their last 6 games and are currently not one of the 6 seeds. But even though wins have been hard to find, the schedule can’t get much easier with Arizona this week and Detroit next week. They will also need some help. Chicago fans might even be cheering for Green Bay next week to beat Minnesota. That has to make them sick. Nice.

Arizona has no offense (97 passing yards, 196 total yards against Arizona), so even without Brian Urlacher, the Bears have a chance to shut them down and maybe shut them out. A bigger absence last week against Green Bay was Tim Jennings. Michael Bush is out for the year which means Matt Forte will be getting a few more carries, but they’ll be using Armando Allen a little more. Of course, Allen only had 2 carries against the Packers, Forte had 20 so it’s all relative.

The line is Chicago by 5. This comes down to who’s motivated. If the Cardinals have to earn points (they had 2 pick sixes last week) they can’t keep up. If the Cardinals only got 196 yards against the Lions, it’s hard to see them getting more against the Bears. If Arizona wants to play, Chicago wins a close one by 3. If they’ve already called it a season, then it’s an easy win for the Bears by 10 or more. The guess is Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte have big games. Bears by 10.

The Minnesota Vikings (8-6) are a playoff team…as of now. But to hold on to the playoffs, they’ll have to beat the Houston Texans (12-2) in Houston. Motivation shouldn’t be an issue—Houston wants the top seed of the AFC, and Minnesota needs to win to stay in playoff contention. This season has been all about Adrian Peterson. Everyone knows he’s getting the ball, defenses are playing 8 in the box, and he still leads the NFL in rushing. That’s because Christian Ponder hasn’t been stretching defenses through the air. They scored 36 points against St. Louis and had 322 yards of offense, but just 109 net passing yards. Peterson is within 300 yards of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record and the Vikings want to win and get Peterson the record.

Houston was able to beat Indy 29-17 and put up 417 net yards. Houston is 6-1 at home, their only loss was to Green Bay. Minnesota is 2-5 on the road. Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster move the ball for the Texans. JJ Watt has to be dealt with, especially in the passing game and the Vikings don’t throw the ball when they aren’t playing Houston. It won’t be easy for Peterson because he won’t be getting much help from the passing game.

The Line is Houston by 7. The Vikings have a chance to win this one but will probably come up short. Houston by 6.

The Green Bay Packers (10-4) host the Tennessee Titans (5-9) in a game where one team is motivated. The Packers have a chance to get the second seed in the NFC playoffs and a first round bye with a win and a loss by San Francisco. Ironically, the Seahawks, who beat Green Bay (well, not really, but officially) and is the reason the Packers are the third seed could move Green Bay to the second seed if the Packers and Seahawks both win Sunday. So now, in addition to cheering for Russell Wilson, fans in Wisconsin can cheer for the whole team. Chicago fans cheering for Green Bay next week, Packer fans cheering for Seattle after the debacle in the Northwest. Crazy.

Tennessee is coming off a win over the New York Jets, knocking Rex Ryan and the great quarterback debate out of the playoffs. But they had to be plus five in turnovers to win by 4. Other than Chris Johnson the offense is erratic. On the road, they score 21 points and give up 28 and that’s before they called it a season.

The Packers welcomed back Clay Matthews last week. Charles Woodson could be back this week, but the secondary has been fine without him. Jordy Nelson could be back, but they won’t need him. He might play anyway just to get ready for the playoffs. Or not.

The Packers are in a “trap” game situation, a rivalry game against Chicago last week, and Minnesota next week. Sometimes teams overlook opponents the week between the two big games, especially and opponent with a losing record on the road. But with a potential first round bye on the line, and a bad team going on the road, it’s hard to see the Titans springing the upset.

The line is Green Bay by 12. There was a major snowstorm on Thursday, and while the field will be cleared by Sunday, cold weather will be here. If it’s cold and windy, that could limit the passing game a little. And the Packers have been running more the last 6 games. That should continue. Still, it’s hard to see Tennessee hanging around even if Green Bay doesn’t score their home game average of 25. A few weeks ago maybe Tennessee keeps it within a touchdown. Now it’s looking like a two TD win or more, unless weather conditions are bad.

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GPA Week 15 Recap

Gregor’s Packer Analysis

Week 15 Recap

In this issue:

The Vikings win on the road
The Lions don’t
The Packers win the NFC North

We knew Adrian Peterson would get his yards (212). We knew Christian Ponder wouldn’t throw for many (131 and just 109 net). But a five yard Ponder run, an 82 yard Peterson run, a 29 yard pick six and 5 field goals gave the Vikings a 36-22 win over the Rams in St. Louis. The Rams outgained the Vikings 432 to 322 net yards. But the Rams turned it over twice to none for Minnesota and the Vikings got just their second road win of the season in seven tries to improve to 8-6, which as of now has them in the playoffs. They close with Houston on the road and the Packers at home.

The Lions went to Arizona in a battle of 4-9 teams. Most likely, somebody had to win, although there was a tie this season. Somebody did win and it was the Cardinals, 38-10. In something you don’t see every game, Arizona had 196 net yards of offense and 186 interception return yards on 3 picks, including two for touchdowns (102 yards and 53 yards). Matthew Stafford was 24 of 50 for 228 net yards, but no touchdowns and the three interceptions. Detroit hosts Atlanta on Saturday night and finishes the season against the Bears. While they can’t make the playoffs, they can impact playoff seeding and even who makes the playoffs (the Bears need help).

A few weeks ago, the Bears were leading the NFC North. As of yesterday, they lost the Division title to the Packers and aren’t one of the six playoff teams as the Packers beat the Bears again, this time 21-13. In the first meeting, the Packers sacked Jay Cutler 7 times, intercepted him 4 times, and held him to 11 of 27 for 126 yards in a 23-10 Green Bay win at Lambeau. This time, the numbers were 4 sacks, 1 pick, and 12 of 21 for 135 yards and 1 TD.

Clay Matthews’ return was big as he came up with 2 sacks, 5 solo tackles and 6 total tackles. James Jones was the receiving star, coming up with 5 catches for 60 yards and 3 TDs. Randall Cobb had 6 catches for 115 yards, but no TDs. Aaron Rodgers was 23 of 36 for 291 yards, the 3 TDs and no picks. The Packers were over 100 yards rushing again, this time 32 carries for 113 yards.

The only mystery to many Green Bay fans is why Mason Crosby hasn’t been replaced. He still has plenty of leg strength as shown on his second missed field goal, a 42 yarder than hit the left upright well above the crossbar. He just has no confidence. By the 2013 training camp he will probably be fine and anxious to prove he’s back. But now? The Packers went for it on 4th and 6 in an obvious field goal situation, and that wasn’t the first time in recent weeks. If the Packers look at their 4th down options as offensive play or punt, and field goal isn’t even considered when in field goal range, it’s time for a change. I think Crosby will be a good kicker in the NFL again, but does anyone expect it to be this week? You can’t afford to lose a playoff game because your kicker misses a routine field goal.

But if you want to make a move, there has to be someone coming in that you have confidence in. So far the Packers have maintained that Crosby is their kicker and no change is coming. But if he struggles this week against Tennessee, the “vote of confidence” will mean what it usually does—a change will be made.

While the Green Bay locker room was a happy one, the Bears locker room was described as “somber” after the game. The Bears, who were once 7-1 are now 8-6. Brandon Marshall was frustrated after the game and walked out of his interview. The offense is a mess, and there were more offensive pass interference calls than normal. Alshon Jeffrey was flagged repeatedly, and while the Bears weren’t happy at a Sam Shields no call they felt was interference, they appeared to get away with some obvious holding calls. Games aren’t decided by one play or call. This one was decided by the Bears offensive line. When first and goal from the 6 ends up as a field goal, and first and 10 from the Green Bay 16 after a questionable (it’s the Christmas season, I’m being kind) special teams fumble on a lateral nets just a field goal, the Bears aren’t good enough to play with the good teams. They haven’t beat many this year, other than Indy in week 1.

The Packers still have something to play for. They can get a first round bye if they end up as one of the top two seeds (currently Atlanta and San Francisco). They need some help to get there, but have to keep winning to have any chance of that happening. Keeping Atlanta the top seed, getting the second seed and keeping the Giants out of the playoffs is probably as close to a best case scenario as the Packers can hope for.

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GPA Week 15 Preview

Gregor’s Packer Analysis

Week 15 Preview

In this issue:

The Vikings head to St. Louis
The Lions go to Arizona
The Packers travel to Chicago

The Vikings (7-6) are coming off a 21-14 win over the Bears at the Metrodome (or Mall of America Field). The Rams (6-6-1) found a way to win one late in Buffalo 15-12. Two teams with mediocre records. And as Bill Parcells once said, you are what your record says you are.

The Minnesota Vikings are excellent at running the football. Well, Adrian Peterson is anyway. When it comes to a passing game, not so much. Overall, they score about 22 points a game and give up about the same. But the numbers are much different home and away. At home, they score 25 and give up 19. On the road its almost the exact opposite: scores about 18 and gives up 26. This is not a home game for Minnesota. The Rams numbers don’t change much: they score 18 points a game home or away. They give up 23 points a game at home, and about 21 points a game overall.

The line is St. Louis by 2.5. While neither team scores a lot, the Vikings are just 1-5 on the road. Tough to go against the trend. Rams by 6.

The Detroit Lions are 4-9 and are looking to avoid double digit losses after making the playoffs last season. The Arizona Cardinals have been brutal since Kurt Warner retired. They keep trying to find the right quarterback, throwing money at Kevin Kolb (now on IR), using John Skelton, and even playing rookie Ryan Lindley. But they can’t score points regardless of who’s under center. Part of it is because they have no running game. They average 3.55 yards per carry but some games struggle to average 3. And just 14.5 points per game (18 at home).

The Lions have more passing attempts than anyone in the NFL. Then again, when you think about who you want to run with the ball, I think Calvin Johnson is a better option than any running back on the roster. And Matthew Stafford is having another big year. The Lions can put points on the board, but usually let the other team score a little more. The front four is one of the best, it’s the back 7 that they need to worry about, especially the secondary.

The line is Detroit by 5 and a half. They could blow out Arizona. But if they’ve given up on the season, they could give this one away. Lions by 4.

The 8-4 Packers take on the 8-4 Bears in Chicago. In the first meeting, Jay Cutler was sacked 7 times, threw 4 picks, and was more worried about yelling at linemen and receivers than making plays. He doesn’t like pressure. The Packers won 23-10 and it wasn’t that close. Fast forward to last week. The Bears lost to the Vikings in Minnesota, but Cutler tried to make plays even though he was taking hits, including one that knocked him out of the game. After starting 7-1, the Bears have gone 1-3. Now Brian Urlacher is out for the rest of the regular season, maybe longer.

Brandon Marshall decided to tell the world how he felt about the Packers. He wouldn’t use the word “hate”, but he really dislikes the Packers and the players. Jermichael Finley decided to comment on the Bears injury situation, saying that they are better off without Urlacher. Lance Briggs essentially said that comment wasn’t very smart. But watching Urlacher this year, he just looks slow. His interception return looked like he was in slow motion. The other players were at regular speed, he wasn’t. So while Urlacher has more experience than Nick Roach and does a great job of being in the right place and reading plays, the Bears really aren’t losing as much this year as they would have in previous seasons. So while they lose something it’s not as much as it could be. Finley wasn’t wrong. In response, Urlacher said the Packers won Super Bowl XLV when Finley was on IR so the Packers were definitely better without Finley. He has a point…

Green Bay has been on a roll. After the “loss” to the Seahawks to go 1-2, the Packers have won all but two games (Indy and the Giants). The Packers are starting to get players back. Last week, Sam Shields returned. This week, TJ Lang and Clay Matthews are expected back, and Mike Neal could play as well. Charles Woodson has already been ruled out this week, and the Packers will probably be without Jordy Nelson, James Starks and CJ Wilson again this week. .

While the Packers haven’t had a running back go over 100 yards this season, the team total has been over 100 yards in 4 out of the last 5 games. And Aaron Rodgers is having another great year throwing the ball. Finally, the defense is playing well.

Still, the Bears are in a must win situation. Alshon Jeffery is back. The Green Bay secondary can match up with Jeffery and Marshall. Matt Forte and Michael Bush are a solid tandem. Clay Matthews will help the pass rush. The question is which Jay Cutler will show up. If he’s under pressure, will he melt down or play on?

The line is Green Bay by 3. The guess is Cutler will try to make plays and keep it close. But Rodgers will make more plays. Packers win a close game, and 3 points sounds right. If anything, it might be a little less.

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