Gregor’s Packer Analysis
Week 12 Preview
In this issue:
The Bears host the Vikings
The Packers meet the Giants
The Bears are coming off another blowout loss, while the Vikings are coming off a bye. Chicago was dominated by the 49ers on Monday Night. The offense did nothing, and the defense didn’t make the big plays they usually make. The O line was shown to be way below average, but we knew that well before this game, after watching Green Bay and Detroit get to Jay Cutler repeatedly. The Texans didn’t get there as often as expected, but the swamp-like field conditions was the reason for that. The Niners had no problem getting to backup QB Jason Campbell.
The Vikings can get to the quarterback, but do a much better job at home with 17 sacks, versus 9 sacks on the road. That’s the problem this week, they are on the road. The way to beat the Bears is get pressure on the quarterback, especially Jay Cutler, but even Jason Campbell, if pressured, doesn’t respond well. Cutler tends to focus more on yelling at teammates than playing the game if he gets knocked down a few times. But if the field is a problem, Jared Allen and the Vikings will struggle to get footing, and pressure, like JJ Watt and the Texans did. If it stays dry they’ll have a better shot, but it’s still a bad field.
Adrian Peterson is on a string of 100 yard games, but that might come to an end this week. Percy Harvin might miss this game, and Christian Ponder isn’t taking any pressure off Peterson. The Bears defense, even though they can be shredded by a top 10 offense, aren’t facing a great passing team. And Soldier Field is considered a horrible field where footing can be an issue even on a dry day.
There is no line. I like the Vikes in the Metrodome, but this is in Chicago so the Bears win this game by 6 if Cutler plays, it’s closer if he doesn’t.
The Packers head to New York to play the Giants. New York lost two straight before having a bye last week. The Packers have been on a roll, even without key players like Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson, and more recently Clay Matthews and Bryan Bulaga (on IR). Now they head into New Jersey without Woodson, Matthews or Sam Shields. Also, it looks like Cedric Benson’s return date of December 9 has been pushed back.
The Packers have done a nice job of filling in for the injured players on defense. Rookie Casey Hayward has shown why the Packers thought they got a steal in the second round, doing a great job in coverage and currently one of the league leaders in interceptions.. Davon House is back after a pre-season injury. The way House and Hayward are playing it is likely Shields won’t be playing except special teams and in dime packages when he does come back. Safety has been solid with Morgan Burnett, MD Jennings and Jeron McMillan. Still, with Woodson’s versatility and experience somebody will be out of the lineup when he returns.
The biggest issues have been on the lines. B J Raji left the Detroit game with an ankle injury, but has practiced and is expected to play. The Packers don’t have a replacement for Raji. Sure, there are backups that fill in, but there is no replacement for him. The offensive line was OK, but the Giants have the best D line in football. T J Lang handled the move from left guard to right tackle to replace Bryan Bulaga, but Evan Dietrich-Smith got called for several penalties, and was overwhelmed on several plays by the Lions d line, including Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. It won’t be any easier this week.
To protect Aaron Rodgers, the defense has to shut down the Giants so the offense doesn’t have to play catch up. James Starks and Alex Green have to run the ball effectively. And they might need to keep in a back or tight end to help pass protection. Given they only have 7 offensive linemen, it’s unlikely they’ll have another lineman come into the game at an eligible position (tight end or fullback) to help block, although they could bring in a defensive lineman or linebacker.
The Giants have had their own problems with Eli Manning throwing for less than 220 yards in four out of the last five games. They still have Victor Cruz, but not Mario Manningham who left via free agency. Ahmad Bradshaw hasn’t practiced this week and might not play Sunday. Brandon Jacobs also left in the off-season as a free agent. But Tom Coughlin has had two weeks to get ready for Green Bay.
The line is New York minus 2 and a half. You can make a case for both teams. The Giants have struggled on offense, and while the front four is elite, the secondary can get burned. The Giants are coming off a bye week. The Packers have key injuries, but Raji will play. It really does come down to that. It’s difficult to replace a game-changer line Matthews, but Dezman Moses, Frank Zombo and Erik Walden can bring pressure. Woodson and Shields haven’t really been missed. You can keep an extra guy in on pass protection. And with Raji able to go, the Packers can clog the middle on running plays and push the pocket back when Eli drops back to pass. I like Green Bay to win by 2 if Raji can play the whole game. If he limps off early, the Giants win.