Tag Archive: Packers

Fast Fifteen: Wide Receivers

Welcome to the First and Fifteen Fast Fifteen.  It will take in various things as the offseason and (hopefully) subsequent season roll on.  The first series will focus on five teams with the best and worst situations at each position group, plus five that could break either way.  Today we’ll take a look at the best and worst receiving corps in the NFL.  Note that this takes in tight ends, running backs and wide receivers.

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Fast Fifteen: Quarterbacks

We are introducing a new feature today, the First and Fifteen Fast Fifteen.  It will take in various things as the offseason and (hopefully) subsequent season roll on.  The first series will focus on five teams with the best and worst situations at each position group, plus five that could break either way.  We’ll start off with the games most important position, Quarterback:

The Best:

New England Patriots: How good is their QB situation?  When their incredible starting quarterback (Tom Brady, for those of you just joining us) was injured, their backup quarterback led them to an 11 win season.  So?  That’s what backup quarterbacks are supposed to do.  Except Matt Cassell hadn’t started a game since high school.  The Patriots find talent deep in the draft and make the most of it, and that puts them at the top of this list.

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees was supposed to be washed up following a shoulder injury, and the San Diego Chargers, with replacement Phillip Rivers in the fold, let him walk.  Only two teams had any interest in him, and he signed with New Orleans- and the rest is history.  For the first time in a long time (ever?) the Saints aren’t horrible, and much of that is thanks to Drew Brees.

Cleveland Browns: They won’t make many ‘best-of-anything’ lists, but they deserve to be on this one.  Question marks surrounded every quarterback in last years draft, including first overall pick Sam Bradford.  Colt McCoy was no exception, and despite a stellar record at Texas, he slipped to the third round.  When injuries thrust him into the starting job, he showed up despite a lot of lackluster talent around him.  The Browns are on the upswing, and should feel lucky to have gotten McCoy to settle their QB woes.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Their starting quarterback was suspended the first four games of the season, and they went to the Super Bowl.  I think that says it all.

Green Bay Packers: This Aaron Rodgers guy is pretty good, in case you hadn’t heard.  However, while he gets them on this list, their backups need work.  They were ok when he missed a game, but because of their defense, not their quarterback.  Prolonged absences from Rodgers could sink them.

The Worst:

Minnesota Vikings: Brett Favre is gone, and he wasn’t there this last year anyway.  I said it in the Vikings Draft Needs, but no one on the Vikings roster inspires any kind of confidence moving forward.  It’s full of ‘serviceable’ quarterbacks.  Not to say one of them couldn’t step it up, but right now, it’s a huge mess.

Arizona Cardinals: After the season that just happened, the Cardinals probably deserve their own category.  A mess of veteran journeymen, undrafted free agents and busts sunk their season from the start.  The worst part is that the Cradinals could be back in contention with some stability here (see Warner, Kurt).

Tennessee Titans: Up until late in the past season, they wouldn’t even be close to this list.  The last few years, when one Quarterback has been down, the other has been up, and it has worked for them.  But Kerry Collins is showing his age, and Vince Young is showing his temper.  No solution exists on their roster.

Carolina Panthers: For some reason, headed into last years draft, a lot of people thought Jimmy Clausen could be an NFL quarterback.  That is not the case.   Combined with Matt Moore- who showed some flashes of promise, but no consistency- and the departure of interception machine Jake Delhomme, there’s a reason the Panthers own the top spot in the draft.  Sadly for them, there is no sure-fire QB prospect in this draft.  Expect another year of limping along.

Washington Redskins: I know they belong here, but it’s so hard with the Redskins to know where to assign blame.  The organization as a whole is such a walking disaster, you hate to even begin to put the blame on the individual players.  However, none of that changes the fact that when Rex Grossman started a game, he became the instant favorite to be the 2012 starter.  Yeah, it’s that bad.

Those That Could Go Either Way:

Denver Broncos: This has a lot to do with coaching, but with Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton both on the roster, there has to be a fundamental scheme for which one you’re going to use.  If it’s done right, this will be a dangerous team next year, but I’m not counting on it.

Seattle Seahawks: Most people probably see the Seahawks as belonging on the ‘worst’ list, but there is considerable evidence to the contrary: Matt Hasslebeck still has gas in the tank, which he showed in the playoffs, and despite the fact that most people are ready to hang him, the jury is still out on Whitehurst.  He played well at times, and not so well at others, but it was his first chance to start since college.  There is a lot of potential at quarterback for Seattle- for good or disaster.

Jacksonville Jaguars: David Gerrard is good, but he needs to improve if the Jags will be.  They showed promise this year, but the entire future of the team is shaky.  A playoff berth would go a long way to getting fans into the stadium and keeping them in Jacksonville, and that starts with Gerrard.  If he implodes this year, look for a complete rebuild.

Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning is a good as it gets, but he took a beating this year, and for the first time in a long time, the Colts came close to missing the playoffs entirely, and even then, it was an early exit.  With the rest of the AFC South breathing down their necks, the Colts can’t afford another down year.

Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis returns, with a new offensive coordinator.  Owens and Ochocinco probably do not.  However, Carson Palmer says he has had enough.  He may be tempted by the chance to play without the distractions of the most petulant and arrest-prone receiving corps in the NFL, but if I am in his shoes, I never want to wear orange and black again ever, no matter what.

Super Bowl Thoughts

Another Super Bowl has come and gone, an excellent ending to an excellent year of football- let’s hope the CBA gets done and next year is as good.  So what did we see & learn yesterday?

I saved the best for last.  Yes, I think the Green Bay defense is better than the Pittsburgh defense.  Not across the board, every situation, but in the Super Bowl?  These guys get the job done.  Let’s examine:

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Super Bowl Preview: Pittsburgh Defense

Where to start with this defense?  It is the end all, be all definitive of Pittsburgh football.  They play hard, they hurt you and the brains behind the brawn, Dick Lebeau, is second to none.  They face their largest challenge Sunday on the largest stage.  Are they equal to the task? Continue reading

The Green Bay Packers came into the season with lofty expectations- A potent offense, a ball-hawking defense, and a young quarterback coming into his own was expected to carry this team to the Super Bowl.  And here they are, but certainly not by the road most expected them to take.

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Conference Championship Thoughts

  • Bizarre finishes to both games.  The eventual losers were down and nearly out at halftime; both staged rallies that fell just short.  Thankfully for the viewers, it made the second half of games interesting, because the first halves were not.
  • There is reason for optimism in the offseason for both teams.  I have long held that it’s better to lose in the Conference Championship than the Super Bowl.  The Bears uncovered a gem in Caleb Hanie, and now face an interesting choice in the offseason (although, if both Cutler and Hanie are under contract in 2011, expect them to keep both, a la the Eagles this year), while the Jets get a little closer each year.
  • The Jets need to win the division to get to the Super Bowl.  This is a strong team, but they need to beat New England in the standings AND in the playoffs.  Road trips to New England, Pittsburgh and/or Baltimore are the road the AFC playoffs go- and that’s not a gauntlet any team can run.  They need at least one home game in there to get over the hump.
  • Rodgers had a small meltdown in the second half.  He will need to turn in a strong 60 minutes in the Super Bowl for them to win.
  • Pittsburgh got away with mistakes it won’t against Green Bay.  They need to play cleaner if they’re going to win.
  • Defense still wins championships.

I will not be adding to barrage of ‘the last time these teams played in the playoffs was just a couple days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor’ clamor, because frankly, it has no bearing on anything.  These teams play each other twice a year, so we should pay attention to recent history when sizing up this game.  Chicago leads the rivalry all time, with a 93-83-6 record.  However, since 1990 it has been the Packers controlling it, posting 10 consecutive victories over the Bears from 1994-1998.  But the real story here is the Tale of Two Quarterbacks.  I’ve said it before, I hate the notion of ‘quarterback wins’, but in this case, it makes the story better- Aaron Rodgers will vanquish the ghosts of you-know-who as he rides into the sunset in a trail of interceptions and text message allegations, while Chicago paid royally for Jay Cutler, and have the chance for that to pay dividends (it helps that Josh McDaniels, you know, wasted the picks he got in Denver).

In addition to all that drama, let’s not forget defense.  These are two secondaries that have played in another universe over the last few weeks.  Tramon Williams (CB, Packers) got paid- and then showed why, making himself a household name with two last week against the Falcons and a game-clincher of Michael Vick in the wild card round.  And then there’s the defending Defensive Player of the Year, Charles Woodson.  Their defense ranks second in the NFL in sacks, and has always showed up in big games.  Chicago, meanwhile, ranks ninth in YPG allowed, and signed pass-rusher extraordinaire Julius Peppers in free agency, and he has played exceptionally well for them.  Both quarterbacks can expect to be harassed on all fronts, and using the running game to set up passing will be a deciding factor.  This will benefit whichever team wins- they face a strong defense in either team left in the AFC.

The line: Packers by 3.5

My Pick: Packers 28, Bears 17

Another great day of football, although the late game was somewhat disappointing, Aaron Rodgers and Tramon Williams more than made up for that.  Here are my from-the-hip observations:

The Line: Atlanta by three

Atlanta’s Keys to the Game: For the Falcons, it’s all about defense.  They rank 5th in points scored and 16th in YPG on offence, and with the three-headed beat of Ryan, Turner and White, their offense is set as long as they keep doing their thing.  The defense, however, will be tasked with stopping Aaron Rodgers and his arsenal of targets.  Pressure will be key, and it will have to come from their front four as much as possible.  Coincidentally, they are 5th in the league in points allowed (18) and 16th in yards allow per game (332.4).  However, they rank 22nd against the pass, and against the Packers, that’s not good enough.  They will give up yards- that’s a given against a Packers team averaging nearly 360 YPG- but if it makes enough big plays, they can swing the game in Atlanta’s favor.

Green Bay’s Keys to the Game: They need to run the ball like they did against Philadelphia.  They are playing in a nice, warm, non-windy dome, so Aaron Rodgers can expect to work the Falcons secondary in better conditions than he had in Philly.  If they can run the ball even moderately well against a strong Falcons run defense, it will open up play action passing and force linebackers to try to prevent the run instead of dropping into coverage.  James Starks had a game that in not receiving a lot of press because of Marshawn Lynch, but the Falcons defense noticed it and will do their best to shut him down.

My Pick: When Green Bay and Arizona’s high-powered offences clashed in the playoffs, it was the highest scoring playoff game in history, and it was decided by a big play on defense.  Look for a similar result here, with Alanta taking it.  Atlanta 35, Green Bay 30.