Gregor’s Packer Analysis
Week 15 Preview
In this issue:
The Saints travel to Minnesota
The Seahawks visit Chicago
The Lions head to Oakland
The Packers are in KC
The New Orleans Saints (10-3) are in Minnesota to take on the Vikings (2-11) as a playoff team takes on a non-playoff team. The Saints have a lot to play for, like a division title and potentially a first round bye. The Vikings know when their season ends, at the end of their game in Week 17. Yet, there might be a few reasons the Vikings show up.
First, Christian Ponder should play this week after missing last week’s game in Detroit due to injury. Since Donovan McNabb was the starter at the beginning of the season and Ponder missed time due to injury, he can learn on the job and not hurt his team. How can you hurt 2-11? Actually, winning is a bad idea, it can drop a team in the draft order every round. But Ponder isn’t thinking about the draft, he’s trying to learn.
Next, Adrian Peterson has been out with an ankle sprain, but should be back this week. The Vikings put up huge numbers on the ground last week without him, and it can’t hurt to have one of the best running backs in football back on the field. That makes life easier for Ponder.
Finally, this is Leslie Frazier’s first full season as head coach. He needs to show improvement as the season goes on. The season started with three straight games of double digit leads, only to find a way to lose the game. The Vikings have been close in most games, but haven’t been able to finish.
And that will be the problem this week. The secondary has struggled against good passing teams, and the Saints qualify as a great passing team. Drew Brees and company should have no problem moving the ball through the air, and the running game has been solid all season. The Saints defense can give up yards, but even if they give up points the offense can outscore the other team.
The line is New Orleans -6.5. The Saints should have no problem putting up points. The Vikings will probably stay close for the first half, but the Saints should pull away. Saints by 10.
The Seattle Seahawks (6-7) head to Chicago to play the Bears (7-6). This seems like the second half of a pre-season game. No Jay Cutler. No Matt Forte. The quarterback matchup is Tarvaris Jackson against Caleb Hanie. Unfortunately for Seattle, Jackson plays in the regular season. Unfortunately for the Bears, with Cutler out, so does Hanie.
Both teams have defenses that are playing well. But given the offense they are playing against, they don’t have to be great. For Seattle, Marshawn Lynch is going to have to have a big game. For Chicago, Marion Barber is going to have to run for a lot of yards. And hang on to the ball. And stay in bounds if the Bears are trying to run out the clock. He was pretty good at the first one, and really messed up the other two against the Broncos. Not that Sam Hurd is a game changer, but he has something else on his mind after being arrested on charges that he bought $500,000 worth of cocaine and marijuana to distribute in Chicago.
The line is Chicago by 3 and a half. Like the Denver game, this is probably around 23 total points scored. It’s hard for Tarvaris Jackson to be the better quarterback in a game, but that’s the case here. Seahawks by 4.
The Detroit Lions (8-5) go to Oakland to take on the Raiders (7-6). Ndamukong Suh comes back from a 2 game suspension. And while Suh’s actions were not football related, shoving Evan Dietrich Smith’s helmet into the turf 3 times and then kicking him, they weren’t going to cause serious injury. But James Harrison of the Steelers was going to hurt Colt McCoy. He came in leading with his helmet. The only question was whether he was going to hit McCoy under the chin or in the head. Either way, it was a likely concussion, and possibly a broken jaw. This wasn’t hitting McCoy in the gut or in the ribs with his shoulder. And Suh gets a two game suspension, Harrison only one.
Leading with your helmet is spearing at every level, starting with grade school, through high school and college. Yet Harrison says he’s not going to change. If he doesn’t, the inevitable is serious injury to an opponent, or a neck injury or concussion to him. There are two ways to address this—give him a suspension until the injured player is cleared to play, plus 2 games, then 4, then 8, then a season. Or he plays with a nerf helmet—something soft and heavily padded and not hard plastic. With the number of head shots he’s given opponents, it’s time to soften the blow. But I digress….
The Raiders have played a few good games since Carson Palmer joined the team after Jason Campbell was injured. And they have a pretty good running game, even with Darren McFadden missing much of the season. After starting 5-0, the Lions have gone 3-5 after holding on to beat the Vikings Sunday. After 2 years of missing games due to injury, Matthew Stafford has been able to stay on the field.
The line is even. But with Suh back, and Detroit being a young team should be playing with a lot of energy. The Raiders want to bounce back from an ugly game against the Packers. But they won’t. Lions by 6.
The Green Bay Packers (13-0) take on the Chiefs in Kansas City in what looks like a blowout. As with the Saints taking on the Vikings, the Packers are getting ready for the playoffs and the Chiefs are counting down the days to the off-season. The Chiefs have made some changes, firing coach Todd Haley on Monday and replacing him with defensive coordinator Romeo Crennell. Romeo decided that the Tyler Palko experiment was over. This week, it will be Kyle Orton or Ricky Stanzi under center.
The big issue is how should the Packers approach the game? Should this be like a pre-season game where the starters play a half, or into the 3rd quarter? That would keep the starters on the field, getting them ready for the playoffs and lower the risk of injury. But it might keep them from winning and a chance at an undefeated season. Or play them the whole game (or until they’re up big, like last week against Oakland). That makes an undefeated season more likely, but also increases the chance of injury.
Teams that coast into the playoffs usually have a hard time flipping the switch to get back to the way they were playing. It looks like Coach McCarthy believes that, and plans on making sure the team is playing well heading into the playoffs. He’ll be second guessed by some if a key player gets hurt, especially in the last 2 games if home field advantage is already locked up. But he’ll be second guessed more if they coast into the playoffs resting starters and get bounced in their first game.
Green Bay will win this game, and it could be a rout. Even if Kansas City is inspired and tries to play for their new coach, they don’t have the talent to win. The line is Green Bay by 14. There’s a chance it’s closer, but most likely Green Bay wins by 17 or more.