Gregorâ€™s Packer Analysis
2010 Season Wild Card Weekend
In this issue:
The Saints travel to Seattle
The Jets visit Indy
The Ravens head to KC
The Packers play in Philly
The Saints havenâ€™t been as impressive this season as they were last season, but they are still a dangerous team. You canâ€™t say that about Seattle, a team that has lost 9 times this season by 15 points or more. The one thing Seattle has is the 12th man, one of the best home field advantages in the NFL with the crowd noise they generate. But when youâ€™re getting blown out, the 12th man is pretty quiet. The Seahawks are near the bottom of the NFL in most offensive and defensive categories. The reason is theyâ€™re not good. This game wonâ€™t be close, New Orleans by at least 17.
The Jets started out the season as everyoneâ€™s favorite to win the AFC. They got out to a 9-2 start, but faded to 10-6. Good enough for the playoffs, but not a division title as the Patriots turned it up a notch, including a rout over the Jets in the second meeting. Indy has had as many key injuries as Green Bay, but fortunately for the Colts, Peyton Manning wasnâ€™t one of them. It hasnâ€™t been a typical season for the Colts numbers wise, but it has regarding winning the division and making the playoffs.
Early in the season, the Jets dominated with defense, and when Mark Sanchez played well and LT was running well, the offense was pretty good. However, as the season went on, the Jets got lit up a few times, like 45 point by the Patriots and 38 points by the Bears. The Pats score against everybody, but the Bears? And the offense has been slumping at the end of the season, other than the 34 against the Bears. Like 3 against the Pats and shut out by the Packers.
The Colts were fighting for a playoff spot going into the last week of the season, and found a way to get it done. But the defense is bad, and they have no running game. Still, they are at home and have Peyton Manning and the replacements (no, not Shane Falco, other replacements). Itâ€™s hard to get a read on what New York team will show up. If they run the ball and can stop the Colts passing game with what is supposed to be shut down corners, they have a chance. With Peyton Manning, the Colts usually have a chance (except for the few games when he was throwing 3 and 4 interceptions). So who wins? Itâ€™s a coin flip, but with the Colts injuries, Iâ€™ll take the Jets by 6.
The Ravens play the Chiefs in the other AFC Wild Card game, with KC the division winner and Baltimore the visiting Wild Card. The Ravens have been in some physical games this year, including both games against the Steelers. If this game is physical, it will be the Ravens dominating the Chiefs. KC is an excellent rushing team, and Cassel and Bowe have hooked up a lot this season, but they arenâ€™t a great passing team. Defensively, they give up points, but are much better at home.
John Harbaugh (Jimâ€™s brother-Jim is getting the press right now even though John is still coaching in the playoffs and Jim is just job hunting) has had playoff coaching experience, making the playoffs after the last 3 seasons. This is Todd Haleyâ€™s first playoff game as head coach, but with coordinators Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weiss, there is a lot of playoff coaching experience on the staff. Of course, Charlie is on his way back to college after accepting the offensive coordinator position at Florida, and that could be a problem. Actually, Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense will be more of a problem. Tough to see Kansas City matching up with Baltimore. KCâ€™s good season comes to an end. Ravens by 9.
The Packers head back to Philly in a rematch of a Week 1 game the Pack won by 7. There have been a few changes since then, like 15 players on IR for Green Bay. The running game hasnâ€™t been consistent since Ryan Grant was hurt, and losing JerMichael Finley was a huge blow to the passing game. In spite of that, Aaron Rodgers is the highest rated QB in the NFC, and Michael Vick is the second ranked QB in the NFC.
But the big story is the Green Bay defense, 2nd in the NFL in fewest points allowed. Dom Capers has plugged in new D linemen, linebackers and safeties and still gets great results week after week. Even with a QB presenting the problems Vick does (he is passing better than at any point in his career, and he could always run), thereâ€™s no reason to expect Capers wonâ€™t be ready. Especially after watching what worked for the Giants (most of the game) and Vikings.
The numbers the Packers are fighting: Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy both have winning percentages under 33% in games decided by 4 points or less. This season, four losses were by 3 points and two by 4 points. The other numbers are coaching records in the Wild Card round. Andy Reid is 4-1, Mike McCarthy is 0-1. And the Packers have had some problems in Philly in the playoffs, the last time was a 20-17 win by the Eagles in the game known as 4th and 26, but was really lost by offensive mistakes.
The Packers looked great against the Giants, but had some problems against the Bears. Drops and fumbles by receivers has been an issue this season. Age has caught up with Donald Driver, and he has had a problem hanging on to the ball. But James Jones has also had key drops. The win over the Bears would have been easier had the receivers made a few more catches. The Eagles were locked in as the 3 seed, so they rested starters last week. But this week, Vick, DeSean Jackson, and LeSean McCoy will be back in the lineup.
Philly was down big to the Giants, but scored 4 TDs in the last 8 minutes to win, including the winning punt return as time expired. Then they were 14 point favorites over the Vikings, but lost by 10 after the game was postponed for 2 days due to snow.
The Eagles are 2 and a half point favorites. The Packers donâ€™t want a close game, itâ€™s not something theyâ€™re good at. And while it seems like this should be a close game, I believe in Dom. Unlike last yearâ€™s Wild Card game, when the Packers scored 45 but lost because they gave up 51, this time it will be the defense that holds the Eagles well enough to win. Because Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings will have a big day, and it could be a breakout game for James Starks, assuming heâ€™s practiced well enough to play. And Cullen Jenkins is back, which will help against both the run and the pass. Since they canâ€™t win games decided by 4 points or less, the Packers win by 5.