Gregor’s Packer Analysis
Week 17 Recap
View from the Recliner
Bears beat the Vikes
Packers win a shootout
View from the recliner: Green Bay puts up 45 and Detroit scored 41 in a game where defense took the day off. At least the Packers can say key players like Clay Mathews and Charles Woodson didn’t play. Detroit was trying to win. The 49ers held on to keep the second seed with a 34-27 win. The Saints looked strong at home again, but dropped to the 3rd seed. Carolina’s offense has really improved this season, but the defense gave up 45 and today they could only score 17. The Lions dropped to the sixth seed with Atlanta winning easy over an awful Tampa Bay team, 45-24 (it was 42-0 at halftime). The Bucs played a 16 game schedule, but hasn’t shown up for a game in weeks. The Eagles came on strong at the end of the season, but too late to make the playoffs.
Speaking of defenses not looking good, the Bills and the Pats both struggled, it’s just that New England’s offense usually bails them out. It was a game was a game of runs. Buffalo started with a 21-0 run, then New England went on a 49-0 run to win 49-21. The Chiefs win against the Packers wasn’t a fluke as they went in to Denver and beat the Broncos. But with Oakland losing to the Chargers, Denver still won the AFC West and the 4th seed. The Ravens held on to beat Cincinnati and keep the 2 seed. Houston rested some starters since they were locked in the 3rd seed, and they still had a chance to win at the end. The Steelers got the 5th seed and the Bengals the sixth, giving the AFC North three of the 6 AFC Wild Card spots. The Colts held on to the first overall draft pick.
This weekend’s divisional matchups made for great games we didn’t see before. Would San Diego play to beat Tennessee or Cincinnati like they did Oakland? Probably not. Would KC want to beat a different playoff contender as bad as they wanted to beat the Broncos? Would another last place team have made it as close as the Rams did against the 49ers? Is Miami as motivated to stop another team as they were the Jets? Well, Mark Sanchez helped stop the Jets too, but we’ll give Miami most of the credit. Sure, not every game was a thriller, but division games still had meaning in Week 17—just ask the Lions…
Black Monday had the usual Head Coach firings (Steve Spagnola in St. Louis, Raheem Morris in Tampa Bay), but this year a few GMs made their last transactions: Billy Devaney in St. Louis, and the stunner with Bill Polian and Steve Polian asked not to come back in Indy. Not that they’ve done a great job, they’ve had glaring weaknesses for years on defense and in the running game, but stunning that owner Jim Irsay would make the change. No word yet on whether Jim Caldwell will be kept as Head Coach, but even if he isn’t fired right away, it’s pretty rare that a new GM for a losing team will keep a head coach hired by the previous GM. Let’s just say if he is around to start next season, the seat is already extremely warm.
The Chicago Bears went to Minnesota and found a way to outscore the Vikings, 17-13. Not much to play for other than Jared Allen going for the single season sack record. He was within half a sack at 22 after picking up three and a half, but since the Bears had the lead in the 4th quarter, they ran the ball and he didn’t have a chance to get another one. Another pre-season like game with a lack of motivation, Matt Forte and Jay Cutler out for the Bears, Adrian Peterson out for the game, and Christian Ponder leaving early for the Vikes. So it was Joe Webb and Josh McCown at quarterback. Total yards was 301 for Minnesota, 209 for Chicago.
Why would anyone watch? I mean seriously, there were entertaining games to watch like Green Bay – Detroit, Houston – Tennessee, Buffalo and New England (for 3 quarters), etc. Not that hard to get to a sports bar or get DirecTV. The NFL Sunday Ticket lets you see any game you want to. If you’re at a friend’s house, get new friends. If you want to DVR it, there are programs available to help you. That’s 3 hours of your life you’ll never get back. Watch the five minutes of highlights on ESPN or the NFL Network and you’ll see more than anyone wants or needs to. You’re welcome.
Then there’s the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers hosting the Detroit Lions. Key players like Aaron Rodgers, James Starks, Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews didn’t play. But the guys who did play wanted to sweep the Lions, and they had just enough to knock off the Lions 45-41. It was the first game in NFL history where both quarterbacks threw for over 400 yards and at least 5 TDs each (Matt Flynn through for 6).
The defense didn’t really show up for either team, as Detroit had 520 yards passing and 593 total yards, while Green Bay had 480 yards passing and 561 total yards. A few things stood out. Pat Lee was horrific at returning kickoffs, with one close to a safety or Detroit touchdown that ended up being a touchback, and the next a safety when it hit him in the end zone, went across the goal line and he pulled it back into the end zone. Calvin Johnson is one of the best in the NFL, ending up with 11 catches for 244 yards and a touchdown.
Chad Clifton struggled in his first game back before getting replaced by Marshall Newhouse. Jordy Nelson doesn’t have the size of Johnson, but he is very physical and has a way to get open and throw off defenders after the catch. Ndamukong Suh is an outstanding defensive lineman, but didn’t make any friends at Lambeau mocking Aaron Rodgers when he sacked Matt Flynn. Of course, he wasn’t all that popular prior to that after his altercation with Evan Dietrich Smith on Thanksgiving in Detroit. And Flynn did something no other Green Bay quarterback had done—threw for 6 TDs in one game. Not Starr, not Majik, not Dickey, not Favre, not Rodgers, not even David Whitehurst managed to do that in their illustrious career.
The Lions will open the playoffs in New Orleans. They got another personal foul penalty on Sunday, leading the NFL with 30. Hey, if you find something you’re good at, stick with it. Jim Schwartz has done a great job of turning the Lions around in a few years, but he can lose his temper so it’s no surprise his team is out of control at times. He had the end of game shouting match with Jim Harbaugh after the 49ers beat the Lions. This week, he’s screaming at the officials. He had a point on one of his tirades, a touchdown was missed, but he was out of challenges and they had to settle for a field goal. But instead of yelling at the refs, maybe he should find a way to stop the Packers second team. No problem with someone putting their heart into a game, but if it takes away your focus or gets your players to worry more about the officials than doing their job that is a problem. The Saints are unbeaten at home, and they will run it up. Good luck Detroit, you’ll need it.
The Packers showed that even though it was about 30 degrees and very windy, they couldn’t be stopped by a marginal secondary and linebacker unit. That means things look bleak for New Orleans or the Giants coming to Lambeau trying to stop Aaron and the boys. But it could be a different story with San Francisco if it’s a little colder and tougher to pass. The Packers can be beat as Kansas City proved. But Aaron Rodgers doesn’t turn the ball over, Pat Lee won’t be returning kicks, and the crowd will make it tough for the visitors. Hard to see losing a playoff game at Lambeau unless the conditions take away the passing game.