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In this, the year of our lord, two thousand and twelve, we have before us, some totally badass playoff ball. This Packers/Giants divisional round contest is most certainly sure to entertain, if not delight, because watching grown men who train year round for the chance to compete in this glorious, physical and unpredictable battle is great for gambling, drinking, and irrationally voicing displeasure.

 

With all the same crap coverage constantly spewed out by our generally abrasive and trite sports media, everybody and their mother’s uncle knows about the Giants dominant defensive line, their explosive collection of receivers and their coach who’s a bit bananas; that Aaron Rodgers and Charles Woodson are the epitome of human grit and that Lambeau Field will be somewhat chilly. No doubt. But the factors that will end up determining the outcome on Sunday will be peripheral matchups.

 

Here are a few things that may prove crucial to Sunday’s game:

 

1.) Much has been made of the Giants defensive line, and reasonably so, but it’s the Packers front may well end up deciding the game. Not that Green Bay is very close to the collective talent level of New York’s lineman, but they do have two proven playmakers in Raji and Pickett. It’s not so much about pressuring the passer for Packers lineman as it is about playing stout against the run and taking on blockers. The Packers have continued to win because they force turnovers, with a lot of those turnovers coming on third and long situations, circumstances in which Dom Capers can utilize his pressure packages and ideally force opposing quarterbacks to make hurried plays. If the Packers can force the Giants into these situations, Eli Manning is usually good for one or two interception balls.

 

2.) The matchup between the New York wide receivers and the Green Bay secondary should be pretty fascinating to watch for the big play potential on both sides of the ball. The Giants have one of the best receiving corps in the league, especially at pushing the ball down the field quickly. Cruz and Nicks are super dynamic, and Manningham, especially down the stretch, has been causing a lot of problems as the number three option. If the Packers can limit the explosive plays of the receivers and force the Giants to extend drives, they can give themselves more opportunities to force turnovers with their gambling secondary.

 

3.) The Giants defensive front will make plays in this game. They’re too good not to. But one of the biggest factors of the Packers recent success has been their ability to overcome negative plays and convert third and long situations. Aaron Rodgers averaged over nine yards per pass attempt this year, and there were countless times when he bailed out a bad run or a sack with a conversion of ten or more yards on third down. Rodgers will have to continue to make long conversions if Green Bay hopes to marginalize the Giants defensive front.

 

Don’t be surprised if these players make a difference, and if they play poorly, their efforts may spell doom for the Packers:

 

Brad Jones: It looks like he’s going to be starting this week, and he’s got to be able to distinguish himself opposite of Clay Matthews. He has some pressuring ability, and if he can make some disruptive plays in the backfield and force New York to account for him a little more than they planned, it’ll make life that much easier for the other pass rushers.

 

Sam Shields: He hasn’t been much more than average this year, but he’s still young, fast and a ball hawk. He’s going to be lining up against explosive receivers, and while he’s definitely got the athletic ability to compete with them, he can’t allow himself to get beat by a mental mistake. He has a knack for making the big play, and Manning will certainly be looking to throw a number of targets in his direction.

 

James Starks and Ryan Grant: To slow down the Giants pass rush the Packers will probably look to do some misdirection and delay plays out of the backfield. If Grant or Starks can get an explosive play, you’d almost have to consider it gravy. The Giants linebackers can be had, and if the running backs can make some plays in space, it gives the Packers a huge advantage.

 

Randall Cobb: Don’t be surprised if Cobb gets more plays from the slot. It would seem to reason that the Packers held back Cobb a little bit in the regular season for just these circumstances, where they can introduce some packages that allow him to get the ball in space and create some mismatches in the open field.

Momentum. It’s a scary term. It can either be what is expected or an aberration. The word ‘momentum’ always gets thrown around. Pundits will use this word to amplify a story. More times than not, when momentum is used (especially on ESPN), it’s a fallacy like Aaron from CheeseheadTV stated. Momentum can be a fallacy, but then again it can be a phenomenon. If it’s real momentum, you then have a dangerous team capable of anything.  To paint a picture, it’s like the entire team is playing with one brain. They are all on the same page, and they are all playing with an added edge. Last year’s Packers had momentum, and look where it got them.

According to the Quality Team Index, the Packers are 5-0. The Giants are 1-3. The Packers swept their division going 8-0 alongside one playoff team, the Detroit Lions, and another possible playoff team in the Chicago Bears, had Jay Cutler not suffered a season ending injury. The Giants went 3-3 in their division. Losing to the Redskins twice, and the Eagles once.

The Giants have had one quality win and that was week 9 against the New England Patriots. Don’t get me wrong. That was a huge win, but normally, after a huge win like that, a team gels and they get better; not the Giants. After week 9, the Giants went 3-5. Their three wins were: the Cowboys, Jets, and the Cowboys again.  Neither team had a winning record. On top of that, less than a month ago, they lost to a 5- 11 Redskins team AT HOME.

My point is everyone likes to jump on the newest sensation and claim that they are the team to beat. So, the Giants just beat the Falcons in the Wild Card Playoff game. So what! The Falcons suck.  Just because a team strings a couple of wins does not mean they are destined to do great things.  The Giants’ do not have momentum. They have a mediocre winning streak against mediocre teams.

If the Packers lose on Sunday, it will not be because of the Giants’ media proclaimed momentum. It will be because the Packers played a horrible game and beat themselves. I’ll be shocked if this is the case.

Lastly, I want to take the time and let everyone know that 1265 has a new writer contributing. His name is Joe Devitt. He will be posting sometime this weekend, and will be a regular contributor to 1265 Lombardi Avenue. The goal is to do posts with different perspectives. I hope you enjoy the transformation.

Copyright 2012 Brice Christianson

Cha-ching!

Let me just go on record here: The Packers 45-41 win over the Detroit Lions last Sunday goes down in history as one of the most exciting games I have ever watched. Yes, a game in which Aaron Rodgers nor Brett Favre started in is one of my favorite Packer games of all-time. It sounds ludicrous, but it’s not. As I nursed a post New Years Eve/Day celebration, I had very low expectations going into the Packers/Lions game. Rodgers, Woodson, and Matthews were inactive, which led me to assume that the Packers would probaly lose the game given that the Lions were playing with a full deck and with the no. 5 playoff seed for the taking. Although I had had low expectations, I still knew there was a lot riding on this game.

Four important reasons why this game was far from ‘meaningless’ as some pundits claimed:

1. The win gave the Packers an added confidence boost heading into the playoffs.

2. The win secured yet another loss for the Lions at Lambeau Field. Last win was 1991.

3. The win gave the Packers their first ever sweep of the NFC North. Six wins Zero Losses.

4. The win gave Matt Flynn the opportunity to show the NFL how capable he is at being an NFL starting quarterback.

The low expectations and the assumption of losing I had were obliterated immediately as Matt Flynn put on a four quarter passing clinic in which ultimately led to a few records being broken. The first was a Packer record that endured the Brett Favre era and the new Aaron Rodgers era, Lynn Dickey’s 418 passing yards in 1983. Matt Flynn had 480 passing yards. And second, Matt Flynn became the only Green Bay Packer quarterback to throw for six touchdowns in a game. The only quarterback. Five others have thrown five TD’s in a game, but never six. On top of that, Flynn’s passing performance joined the elite ranks of Y.A Tittle, Joe Montana, and Joe Namath as the only quarterbacks to throw for over 475 yards and six touchdowns.

That’s what I call delicious.

Flynn clearly earned millions based on his week 17 performance, as he becomes a free agent after this season. Although some may say he’s a byproduct of a great offense and a brilliant coaching staff, while true in some aspects, it’s not giving Matt Flynn the full credit he deserves. Come spring, Flynn will be the most sought after free agent on the market. And it will only be a matter of time before he’s included in the discussion as one of the NFL’s great quarterbacks. You heard it here first. Flynn will be the face of an NFL team next season, maybe even a future MVP.

It’s been awhile since I last wrote a post. I never intended the absence to happen, but it did. I have some time on my hands now, so I figured what better way to occupy my time than to talk about the Green Bay Packers. Granted, the Packers still have one more game to play, and that is against the Lions at Lambeau on New Year’s Day. Happy New Year’s!

But I know, and you know, and we all know that we are thinking playoffs already. With the Packers beating the Bears last Sunday, they clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs, so the road to the Super Bowl goes through (Chris Berman impersonation) “the frozen tundra…of Lambeau Field.”

Let the record show that I fully expect the Packers to win their second straight Super Bowl (fifth all-time), but there have been some questions: dropped passes and inept run defense come to mind. If the Packers want to win another Lombardi Trophy, they will first need to minimize mistakes, and secondly, they will need some difference makers outside of the norm: Rodgers, Jennings, Matthews, and Woodson. I give you those difference makers, but in the form of ‘X Factors’.

Offense:

Randall Cobb

Don’t let the small demeanor fool you, this guy is for real. Surprisingly, he is almost the same size as Greg Jennings, minus an inch and six pounds. Cobb is 5’10 , 192 pounds; Jennings is 5’11, 198 pounds.

Cobb reminds me a lot of Eric Metcalf. While Metcalf was more of running back/wide receiver who evolved into a dynamic return man, Cobb exhibits the same explosive playmaking ability that Metcalf embodied. I’m not declaring that Cobb will follow the same career path as Metcalf did, but it’s plain and simple, Cobb is special, and we have just barely scratched the surface on his ultimate potential. Let me refresh your memory. Check out McCarthy’s reaction.

 

Randall Cobb is the difference maker for the Packers offensively in the playoffs.

Defense:

Desmond Bishop

He cooks his steak and eats it too!

I loves me some Desmond Bishop. Probably my third favorite packer next to Charles Woodson and Aaron Rodgers, of course.

He reminds me a lot of fellow NFC North linebacker Lance Briggs. Desmond Bishop is sneaky good, and IMO, one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL, and definitely the most underrated.

Let’s compare stats-

Lance Briggs, stats to date, has 100 total tackles (82 solo), zero sacks, two forced fumbles, and one interception.

Desmond Bishop, stats to date, has 109 total tackles (84 solo), five sacks, and one forced fumble.

Also, he did not play against the Chiefs. Needless to say, Bishop is good. Damn good. Just like he was last year, his presence will be the difference maker for the Packers defensively in the playoffs. Don’t believe me.

And there you have it. The Packers should win the Super Bowl this year, but they will need some players to step up, I believe Randall Cobb and Desmond Bishop are those players.

In Ted We Trust. It’s a motto that every Packer fan has now embodied. The General (as I like to call him) has exorcised any past grumblings about his ability to be a GM since the Packers won the Super Bowl in January. Although, he is a genius when it comes to gauging talent and making sure that the talent stays, he is not perfect (i.e- Justin Harrell). Which brings me to my next point.

In my last post, I mentioned that there were two areas of concern for the Packers: Left guard and Defensive End. Ted Thompson has covered his bases by drafting Derek Sherrod and having third year veteran T.J Lang to replace the mediocre Daryn College, but judging from what I have read in camp and the first preseason game, the cutting of Daryn Colledge could come back to haunt TT and the Pack. As Sherrod has struggled at guard, and Lang has not done anything to run away with the job.

As for the Defensive End position, the next thing that could come back to haunt Ted Thompson is not re-signing Cullen Jenkins. Mike Neal injured his knee yesterday in practice. Apparently, his knee buckled, and he went down in agony. Reports today say that Mike Neal suffered a minor sprain, and he vows to be back in practice soon, but will he play in the Arizona game? Injuries have always clouded Mike Neal’s career. At Purdue, in 2007, he tore his labrum (the same one he tore last year), and in 2009, he tore his ACL (the same knee that he injured yesterday).

Besides Aaron Rodgers’ health, I feel that Mike Neal’s health is the second most important aspect to the Packers. Which is bizarre to say, since his total NFL stats are three tackles and one sack. However, Neal when healthy has the ability to be a dominant defensive end with his rare combination of speed and upper body strength. He is a constant mismatch for offensive lineman. Without Neal, the Packers have to rely on C.J Wilson and Jarius Wynn. The Packers could also slide B.J Raji over a spot, but then that limits his productivity as he is utilized more effectively in the tackle slot. Initially, when the Packers didn’t re-sign Cullen Jenkins, I thought that Jenkins was asking for too much money than the Packers were willing to part with, but the Packers didn’t even offer anything to Cullen, they just let him walk over to Philadelphia to sign a 5 year 25 million dollar deal, which in my opinion is something the Packers could have managed to do.

Why didn’t they re-sign Cullen Jenkins? I don’t think it had anything to do with money, but it had everything to do with Jenkins’ long history of injuries. So, instead of worrying about Jenkins’ injury issues, we are know worrying about a guy that is 8 years younger and has injury concerns. Maybe I’m overreacting a little with the scare of Mike Neal suffering a knee injury, but that was his biggest issue coming out of college, could he stay healthy? So far he hasn’t proved it. Neal has amazing upper body strength, but he is also recovering from a torn labrum and shoulder surgery so he will not be 100 percent in that aspect. In camp, he has tossed Clifton around like a ragdoll. The talent is there, but can he stay healthy for Packer Nation to witness the talent?

A lot of people scoff at the idea of watching the pre-season. They find it boring, meaningless, and a waste of time. I am not one of those people. Anything Packers related, and I am going to make sure that I clear my schedule and watch it. There are a few reasons why I enjoy the preseason. The first is that it is a little more relaxing for me. I can sit around and watch without freaking out like I usually do during the regular season. Another reason why I enjoy watching the preseason is the opportunity to watch the newly drafted rookies assimilate themselves into the Packers scheme. On top of that, I also enjoy the unheralded practice squad players from the year before trying to make the cut, and  the undrafted rookies playing to get recognized. Above all, the preseason is an opportunity to see players put their skills to the test.

Granted, the wins and losses during the preseason can be taken with a grain of salt, but there are a few names that come to mind that burst onto the scene during the preseason and in large part because they had an opportunity to showcase their abilities, and a lot of them were fighting for a roster spot, and were fighting for a starting gig.

Last year it was Sam Shields. Although, he was pitiful in special teams during the preseason, it was the first game of the preseason that he made an impressive interception that allowed the coaches to see the potential in Shields. Who knew they were about to see a burgeoning star…

Three years ago, it was Desmond Bishop. The only reason he made the team was because they needed extra bodies on special teams. The following year (two years ago), I got the opportunity to see Desmond Bishop attack the quarterback, drop back in coverage, stop the run, and lay some hits. In the same year, the Packers got the opportunity to see the skill set of Tramon Williams.

Without the preseason, these three stars would more than likely not be on the Packers, and may not even be playing football, because they didn’t come out of college with high accolades. It’s that reason why they are so valuable. The game was almost taken from them, and they had to fight in order to just make the team. Now, Tramon is a bonafide pro bowler, arguably one of the top corners in the game. Desmond’s play allowed the Packers to cut ties with their former defensive anchor in Nick Barnett. Sam has allowed the Packers to groom him as the heir to Charles, and has allowed Charles to roam the back field and blitz rather than just defend wide outs.

So, the Packers travel to Cleveland in what is the first delayed preseason game of the 2011 season. The Packers will be facing some familiar faces as Mike Holmgren has taken over as the general manager and the VP of operations for the Browns, and the recently cut Brandon Jackson is trying to succeed with the Browns.

Just because it’s a preseason game and it’s the first does not mean there is not anything at stake. Here are some crucial things to watch for in tonight’s game:

1st round pick Left tackle Derek Sherrod

Although he was picked to be Chad Clifton’s predecessor, he has been practicing at the left guard spot. Mike McCarthy’s M.O with his offensive lineman is that they must be able to play multiple positions which is a reason why Sherrod has been practicing at LG. Also, third year guard T.J Lang needs some competition to light a fire underneath him. He has the opportunity to be a force at the line, but has yet to showcase that. At the moment, Sherrod has been struggling at the LG in camp, which is to be expected with an unfamiliar position and the lockout, but reports are that he has been atrocious. That said, Lang has been running away at the moment with the LG starting gig. Tonight is the first opportunity for Sherrod to show the Packers and fans if he deserves to start this year.

2nd Round pick Wide Receiver Randall Cobb

This is the guy I wanted the Packers to select. They did. I have been eagerly awaiting his debut. With the lockout hindering the opportunity to learn the playbook, Cobb has been devoting his time to punt returns. So far in camp, he has been impressing the Packers with his speed, intelligence, and agility. The Packers have not had a legitimate threat at punt returns since Wil Blackmon. The Packers are hoping that Cobb can be like what Joshua Cribbs is to the Cleveland Browns: a dangerous return man that can score everytime he touches the ball. Tonight, we get the chance to see the Randall Cobb show.

2nd year Defensive End Mike Neal

This guy reminds me so much of Jevon Kearse. Mike Neal is for lack of a better term, a freak. He can bench 500 pounds, and in camp thus far has embarassed Chad Clifton and Bryan Buluga. He is the reason the Packers did not even offer anything to Cullen Jenkins, they just let him walk. Why? He is that good. Mike Neal can be the next powerhouse DE in the molds of Aaron Kampman, KGB, and (gasp!) Reggie White. The only barrier: his health. He missed the majority of last season with a torn labrum and rotator cuff that required surgery. He was also dogged with injuries during his college days at Purdue. If he can stay healthy, look out. I’m excited to see what he will bring to the table tonight.

Obviously, there are a lot of players that I could mention that I am excited to see. It’s the Packers! I love them all. However, I feel that the three I mentioned above are the most crucial. Here’s to a great start to a hopefully another championship season. GO PACK GO!

While it’s annoying to listen and read about billionaires complaining about wanting a second bigger helping of the pie, I’m not concerned with the whole lockout looming into June and the summer months. Why? While watching the Packers culminate a very intense and nerve racking season into one of (if not) the most memorable playoff runs in Packers history, there were a lot of intangibles that were overlooked by the casual fan. I assume that most of the people that check out this blog are just as “die hard” as I am, and quite possibly, there are some those would punch a hole in the wall after a fumble or a Packers loss. I was one of those guys, but I have evolved and learned to harness my anger and internalize it, which has led to many ulcers and explosive vomiting.

Here are three reasons why, once the lock out is lifted; the Packers will still be the most feared and polished team to win another Vince Lombardi Trophy.

  1. Team work

 -Most will say that it is Aaron Rodgers’ team, and I should agree with them. He is obviously the face of this historic franchise, but there are a slew of players that make up the Green Bay Packers, and these said players are the nucleus of our championship team. On the offensive side, when you have Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, and Jermichael Finley lining up, if health is on their side, they are at least a wild card team. Add that up with Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Nick Collins, and B. J Raji, you have a number one seed with home field advantage throughout the playoffs.While the lockout is happening, these aforementioned players are practicing and staying in shape at this moment, and have another championship run on their mind.

2. Coaching staff

-I’m not a huge fan of Mike McCarthy. He knows that. He reads my blog, and then has “anger sex” which culminates with him screaming, “I hate you B-rice! I HATE YOU!” That said, he’s an amazing offensive coordinator. He knows how to spread the offense and hone in on the opponents’ weaknesses. On top of that, thanks to Thompson, he has the play makers to score on every drive. However, he lacks the game managing skills, which I hope he learns from, and lets Aaron Rodgers begin managing the offensive side of the ball, when that happens, watch out. Kevin Greene will be a defensive coordinator very soon, and Greene has turned Clay Matthews into one of the most feared linebackers. Greene has the intensity that you look for in a coach; he demands perfection and is the perfect complement to Dom Capers. Capers seems to encourage setbacks, as he welcomes them, demolishes them, and exceeds past them. When you have an excellent and intelligent coaching staff, you have the capability of getting your players up to speed regardless of any set back (lockout)and having them perform at a ‘championship caliber” in no time. Let’s not forget the Packers also have the General: Ted Thompson. A man that continues to draft players and make them into pro-bowlers year in and year out. Randall Cobb?

3. Adversity

That should be the Packers motto. Or “We rise above!” Nothing fazes them. Whether it is Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings or injuries. It’s a testament to the organization and the players, specifically Aaron Rodgers. He was scrutinized by the entire NFL and the entire town of Green Bay from the get go. Instead of complaining, he kept his mouth shut. He is the epitome of a championship team quarterback. He doesn’t make mistakes. He leads by example. He demands perfection. He welcomes challenges, and instead of turning them into setbacks, turns them into a Super Bowl win. On top of having a quarterback that has ice running through its veins, you have a franchise and coaching staff that has everything thrown in its face, and has barely flinched. The definition of a dynasty.

 The scary thing is this team is just at the beginning of greatness. I’m going to go out on a limb and say once this lockout has been ironed out, the Packers will not only be the Patriots of the 2000’s or the Cowboys of the 1990’s or the Niners of the 1980’s, but they will be better. These top three reasons are why I’m not worried about the lockout. There’s obviously a whole list of other reasons why the Packers exemplify greatness, but I feel that those three are the reason the Packers are in the drivers’ seat. Of course the lockout needs to get resolved, but out of any team, the Packers are in the best condition to acclimate themselves and be ready for another championship season. Also, the Brewers are three games above .500. Man, it feels good to be a gansta*

* denotes “a resident of Wisconsin”

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