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.