June 30, 2010, by Brian E. Murphy
~The next game is the biggest game. Although a cliche, it’s somewhat accurate.
Divisional games, especially against the 2-time defending division champion Vikings, are unquestionably the most important because each game against them is a 2-game swing in the standings, plus key tiebreaker edges potentially.
Imagine, had the Packers just won either game against the Vikings last season, the Packers would have been the division winner at 12-4, while the 11-5 Vikings would have had to play the wildcard game at Arizona. That 1 game would have been at least a 2-game swing in the standings.
But this is a ranking of the best and most exciting 5 games on the schedule for 2010 and not the most important.
If it was the most important 5, it would have the 2 games vs Minnesota, 2 games vs Chicago, and the road game at Detroit.
The Packers at Steelers game last year was the most exciting game of the whole NFL season, right ahead of the Colts comeback win over the Patriots.
So, here are the most exciting, intriguing 5 games on the schedule for the Packers this year, according to me.
- #5- Packers @ Bears, week 3 -ESPN
A very key early season divisional rivalry game, on the road. Here’s the thing to remind people how crucial these early divisional games are: Last year, in the season opener that also was on primetime TV, the Packers barely beat Jay Cutler and the Bears with a long TD pass to Greg Jennings with under 100 seconds remaining.
This was despite 4 Jay Cutler interceptions to none for Rodgers. So it was a very close game that easily could have gone the other way, and in fact the Packers needed all of Cutler’s 4 ints to escape with the win. Remember Johnny Jolly’s miraculous interception inside the 5-yard line?
Had this game gone the other way, the whole season would have played out differently. Also remember that the Bears beat the Vikings in week 16 last year, and now have added Julius Peppers.
The Packers will enter the 2010 season with high hopes, but a loss at Chicago here and the Packers easily could be sitting at 1-2, with the Bears at 2-1 or 3-0.
- #4- Cowboys @ Packers, week 9 -NBC
This has been a key matchup for the past 3 seasons, and 2010 should be no different. In 2007, they played in week 13 at Dallas with both teams at 10-1, and Brett Favre put the Packers in such a deep hole (27-10) with 2 interceptions and a terrible performance, that even Aaron Rodgers 4th quarter heroics weren’t quite enough.
That gave the Cowboys the #1 seed and the Packers the #2 seed that year. Of course, both teams lost at home in the playoffs to the Giants anyway, so the game wasn’t as important as everyone thought.
Two years ago, early in Aaron Rodgers first season starting, the Cowboys smacked the Packers around in Lambeau in NBC’s Football Night in America. That pretty much signaled the Packers problems and they faded to 6-10, while Dallas marched on.
Last year, the Packers again hosted Dallas on NBC, but this time Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews hammered Tony Romo’s Cowboys. It was the game that turned the Packers season around after the mid-season slide left them at 4-4 after the embarrassing loss in Tampa Bay. This week 9 title will be just as significant as the previous two, and quite possibly as much as the 2007 game. The Packers will have a bye after this game, and then will travel to Minnesota and to Atlanta afterwards. It’s the end of a brutal stretch and it could have key NFC tiebreaker implications.
- #3- Packers @ Patriots, week 15 -NBC
While not as important as the key NFC and NFC North games, this should be an exciting, cold-weather thriller between Tom Brady & Randy Moss, and Aaron Rodgers & Charles Woodson. Moss and Woodson were two studs in the 1998 draft, and have had some good battles against each other, but not for a few years. Rodgers has professed his admiration for Tom Brady, so he’ll be extra amped to show Uncle Tom his good stuff, on Football Night in America. Both teams figure to be battling for playoff spots and seeding, and with only two weeks left after this game, the game will have a playoff atmosphere.
- #2- Packers @ Jets, week 8
Halloween day, the crazies will be all over in the new stadium in New Jersey for this game. The Jets made the AFC Title game this January, and are expected to contend for the Super Bowl again this season after adding LaDanian Tomlinson, Jason Taylor, Santonio Holmes, and Antonio Cromartie. All 4 of those guys have been in a Pro Bowl or 2 the past 3 or 4 seasons. Cromartie and Holmes are still early in their primes, while Taylor and LT are at the very back end of their Hall of Fame careers. Still, this team came 1 game away from the Super Bowl without any of them, and they figure to be better this year. Another interesting aspect is the Revis Island. Darrelle Revis and Charles Woodson were the top 2 guys for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year last year, and Jets coach Rex Ryan was vocal about his guy deserving it. Both defenses run aggressive 3-4’s too. There’s a lot to like about this matchup, but a win here could be the best road win in Aaron Rodgers career and set the Packers up for bigger and better things the 2nd half of the season. The Packers would like to be 6-2, 7-1, or even 8-0 when this game ends.
- #1- Vikings @ Packers, week 7 -NBC
Benedict Favre returns to Lambeau Field. Last year, there were a lot of boos from the Packer faithful when Brett came out in white and purple. But then he went out there and carved up Dom Capers’ overmatched defense for the 2nd time of the season.
Number 1, that should make Packer fans even more mad at him and realize he is the enemy now. So they will boo even louder this time. Number 2, Dom Capers has never beaten Favre and he absolutely must show some new and effective schemes to throw at Favre. When Favre doesn’t get pressured, he is a surgeon. Still. We all know it. But when he does get pressure, especially up the middle, he’s capable of donating presents to DBs and LBs. He knows what the DBs are doing at all times. This has to change. This game will have the atmosphere of an NFC Championship game, and some think it might actually be an NFC Championship preview. The Saints figure to fall back a bit. The Cowboys are a lot of so-called experts picks to come out of the NFC, but both the Packers and Vikings crushed them last year, so I’m not so sore. That’s why this game might be the game of the year. Unlike the 2009 game of the year at Pittsburgh, this result will have added significance due to the division rivalry and the fact that the Vikings have won this division both years Rodgers has been the starter.
June 29, 2010, by Rob Reischel
~The 2009 NFL season still hadn’t ended, but Clay Matthews could already see what his future held.
Matthews, a standout linebacker who made the Pro Bowl during a terrific rookie season with the Green Bay Packers, was handled by one blocker most of last season. During Green Bay’s postseason loss to Arizona, though, that changed. Dramatically.
Running backs. Tight ends. Fullbacks. Extra linemen.
When it came to slowing Matthews down, the Cardinals decided it was all hands on deck. Despite constant double-teams, though, Matthews had Green Bay’s lone sack of Kurt Warner, forced a fumble and recovered one, as well.
Late in the game, with Packer defenders fading in the desert heat, Matthews was still fighting off double-teams and making Warner sweat.
“That game kind of showed me what things might be like now,” Matthews said recently during Green Bay’s ongoing organized team activities. “So the mind-set you need to have is two guys still can’t block me, bring on three guys. That’s what separates the great players from the average ones. You have to be physically dominant, but most of it’s a mind-set.
Full article here
June 29, 2010, by Brian E. Murphy
~In the National Football League, it goes without saying that the quarterback is the position that captains the ship.
However, one needs to look no further than Pittsburgh to see how important their superstar safety Troy Polamalu is. Troy is the quarterback, the point guard of their Blitzburgh defense, and without him, they were a shell of their former selves, despite still having bookend OLB studs James Harrison and Lamar Woodley.
On the flip side, the running back position has shown to be less important, on many occasions. The Colts had injuries to Joseph Addai, and rookie Donald Brown, and they still almost went undefeated because of quarterback Peyton Manning. And Manning was MVP brilliant despite the retirement of Hit Man Marvin Harrison and losing another starting WR in Anthony Gonzalez.
Could the Packers survive and prosper without Ryan Grant, or Greg Jennings, or Nick Collins? Well a lot depends, but here are my rankings of the 10 most valuable Packers.
- QB Aaron Rodgers
Nothing against Matt Flynn or even Graham Harrell, but this team will only go as far as Rodgers takes them. He’s entering his 6th season on the team and 3rd as a starter, and he knows this offense inside-out. When he gets time to pass, he’s as good as anyone in the NFL from Manning to Brady to Favre.
- CB Charles Woodson
Like Polamalu in Pittsburgh, Woodson is the leader of the Pack on defense. He’s the only guy who can cover well, but better than that, he makes plays and makes big plays. Remember the Dallas game last year on the goalline covering Pro Bowler Jason Witten? He not only covered him, he picked off the pass and saved seven points. Remember his strip-sack on Tony Romo that led to a fumble recovery by Clay Matthews and an easy touchdown? Those plays are priceless. So his Charles.
- WR Greg Jennings
Now the rankings get tougher, but I believe that Jennings’ deep threat ability and the respect he commands from the opposing defense is very underrated in terms of importance to the Packers high-octane offense. Fortunately, he’s been durable so far in his career. But without him, I think the safeties would move in a few steps and begin to clog the middle of the field, taking away some of Driver and Finley’s effectiveness, as well as bottle up Ryan Grant.
- OLB Clay Matthews
We saw how atrocious the Packers pass defense was last year when they weren’t getting any pressure on the QB. Favre, Roethlisberger, and finally Warner made it pretty obvious. Matthews was the only guy who offenses schemed to keep out coming down the stretch last year. He applied more pressure than any next-two guys for the Packers. If they were to lose Matthews, fans would see a lot of opposing QBs have their career best days again like Big Ben, Warner, and Favre did.
- S Nick Collins
Nick is another guy who has been remarkably durable in his career so far. He’s been bumped and banged up many times, almost every tackle it seems. But he keeps getting up and he’s rarely missed a game, unlike his thicker counterpart Atari Bigby. I believe the Packers pass coverage would look terrible if they were to lose Collins for any amount of time, especially with a rookie being the next best safety back there.
- OT Chad Clifton
Despite the high draft pick Bryan Bulaga, I think we’ve seen enough evidence the past two years of how important old Clifton is, especially to Aaron Rodgers health. It seems in the past two seasons, Jared Allen has gotten to feast on backup LTs and has earned his Pro Bowl births both years because of those games. When Clifton has been healthy and in, it’s a different story as the 2008 opening game showed. That game, the 2008 Kickoff game, had the Vikings at Packers in Rodgers first game, on primetime for the world to see. Jared Allen did a lot of talking the week of the game about taking Rodgers out. Well when the game ended, Clifton had pitched a shutout on Allen. No sacks, not even a single tackle, and the Packers beat the Vikings. Since then, Clifton has not been fully healthy against Minnesota, and the Packers have lost all three games to the Vikings since then. It’s no coincidence.
- NT/DE Ryan Pickett
One of the most underrated players in the Packers, if not the whole league, is the Big Pickett Fence. Everybody remembers the Packers pass defense getting torched in Arizona, Pittsburgh, and Minnesota last year. But what people forget is that the run defense was the best in the league last year, and Pickett was the biggest reason, literally. He’s got the bulk, the movement, and the intelligence in there. He’s a great team player as well. BJ Raji might be moving to the middle this year, but regardless of who’s where, Pickett is a big key in the Packers continuing to slow down the Adrian Peterson’s of the world.
- WR Donald Driver
Quickie has been unbelievably durable and reliable for the Packers since being drafted in the 7th round in 1999. While he may have lost a half-step by now, he’s still fast enough, and very savvy. He knows the routes like the back of his hand and he runs every route the same way, with DBs clueless as to which way #80 is going to go. I do like, actually love, the depth that the Packers have with Jordy Nelson and James Jones, but Driver is like glue at that position.
- TE Jermichael Finley
Finley has been getting a little too much press lately, perhaps. His play coming down the stretch last year was Tony Gonzalez-like, and he has a chance to become a superstar this year. But he hasn’t done it yet. That being said, he does have the ability to make this offense go to a whole other level. He’s a mismatch on slower and shorter LBers, and he’s too tall for any safeties to cover. As long as his knee is good, he’s going to have a big season for the Packers and Rodgers to Finley might become a patented line this year. And the drop-off from Finley to the #2 TE is more dramatic than any other #1-#2 spot other than QB.
- ILB Nick Barnett
The former Beaver came back strong following his torn ACL. He’s the emotional leader on the defense, the Packers version of Ray Lewis. Now I have to admit, I think Desmond Bishop might be a hidden diamond, but he’s not nearly as versatile as Barnett is. I think the Packers could survive some lengthy missed time to AJ Hawk, but not Barnett. Nick will have some opportunities for some sacks this year on Capers’ A-gap blitzes, and Barnett needs to ring some bells.
Scott Wells, Ryan Grant, Mark Tauscher, Josh Sitton, Cullen Jenkins
Wells and Grant are the most underrated players in this team. Grant simply gets the job done, doesn’t screw up, doesn’t fumble, and doesn’t miss time. His availability and durability have been crucial to the offense.
Wells is solid anchoring the O-line. While some people have tried to push Scottie out the door in favor of the larger Jason Spitz, Wells just keeps answering the bell and helping pave the way for Ryan Grant and protecting Rodgers from the big guys like the Williams Wall, Jay Ratliff and Shaun Rogers.
June 28, 2010, by Greg A. Bedard
~Players don’t come much more loyal or understanding than Green Bay Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop.
He is set to enter his fourth season, and from all appearances Bishop continues to be stuck in the same place: core special teams player, reserve inside linebacker with little hope – outside of an injury – for any real playing time.
For a lot of players, frustration would be too much to hide. Ask his coaches and teammates, though, and Bishop is the same player he’s always been. Still works hard. Still just does his job. Doesn’t make waves.
But that doesn’t mean Bishop, who has demonstrated big-play ability when given the chance, ignores his circumstances.
“It’s a real sticky situation,” Bishop said Monday. “I want to be out there badly. But at the same time, some people out there don’t even have jobs, so I’m kind of grateful to be in the position I’m in to even have a job and being able to compete for whatever.
“The team is trying to get to the Super Bowl. That’s the main goal. But at the same time, in the back of my mind, I’m itching to get in there and make my statement.”
Full article here
June 27, 2010, by Brian E Murphy
~They call it “The City of Syrup”. Johnny Jolly might have coughed away his multi-million dollar NFL career because of it.
ESPN aired a documentary about the relatively unkown drug, purple syrup, that’s actually quite popular amongst many pro athletes and many residents of Houston. Lil Wayne, 36 Mafia. Johnny Jolly is the latest big name from the inner-city black ghetto’s to join the wave.
What Jolly was arrested for two years ago is part of a concoction that consists of prescription cough syrup, Sprite and Jolly Ranchers. No pun intended, Jolly.
ESPN’s report is here
June 26, 2010, by Pete Dougherty
~Training camp will be the proving ground for whether Green Bay Packers safety Atari Bigby erred by refusing to sign his restricted free agent tender and skipping all of the team’s offseason work.
Early signs suggest he did. His absence gave third-round draft pick Morgan Burnett extensive work as a starting safety in the Packers’ organized team activities and minicamp, and Burnett has been perhaps the team’s most impressive rookie in offseason practices.
Jobs aren’t won in May and June, but Burnett is as well prepared as he could have hoped to be to take the starting job from Bigby in training camp.
June 17, 2010, by Kareem “The Dream” Copeland
~The question was simple and B.J. Raji answered with a matter-of-fact tone that made the inquiry sound asinine — like the answer was common knowledge.
“What can you do if you get the regular job in the middle?” someone asked him after the Green Bay Packers’ organized team activity practice on Wednesday.
“What can I do?” Raji repeated. “Just cause havoc.”
That was the thought process when the Packers selected the former Boston College star with the No. 9 pick of the 2009 draft. Raji was considered an instant impact-type player, but a few factors slowed his production last season.
First, Raji missed two weeks of training camp while holding out. Then an ankle injury kept him out of action.
June 16, 2010, by Greg A Bedard
~It got hairy there for a time, but things are nearly tranquil on the contract front for the Green Bay Packers as they near their summer vacations.
Cornerback Tramon Williams and end Johnny Jolly avoided showdowns with the Packers over their restricted free-agent tenders by agreeing to deals just before Monday’s deadline.
Safety Atari Bigby is the lone veteran yet to sign a contract.
Full story from Bedard here
June 15, 2010, by Brian E Murphy
~The agent for Johnny Jolly, Brian Overstreet, has told the Journal Sentinel that his client did sign the Packers tender before last night’s NFL deadline.
Jolly will make $2.5 million this season, although it is not guaranteed and the Packers can release the big defensive lineman at any time without a financial hit to the Packers salary cap.
Jolly, as has been the case for quite some time, is in legal limbo with his case in Texas repeatedly being delayed.
Ted Thompson has taken measures to fill Jolly’s shoes with the drafting of Mike Neal and CJ Wilson, but the Packers would love to bring back Jolly’s pass-swatting ability.
June 12, 1010, by Lori Nickel
~Donald Driver not only feels great after he had arthroscopic surgery on both knees in January, but the Green Bay Packers wide receiver wishes he had the procedure years ago.
Driver was in the Milwaukee area Thursday and Friday to support Packers teammate Greg Jennings in his fund-raising efforts for Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity and the Greg Jennings Foundation.
Driver said he hadn’t told anyone other than the Packers staff that he was playing with limited range and flexibility as well as pain last year. It wasn’t until last Wednesday, when Packers coach Mike McCarthy admitted that Driver and linebacker Nick Barnett had both had knee scopes. Both players had been held out of off-season practices and are working with a group of rehabilitating players.
Driver, 35, said he had the knees scoped by team doctor Pat McKenzie in January right after the season ended.
He said he hasn’t been practicing in any of the organized team activities, although he has been cleared to go by trainers. Driver said the Packers told him to take a break during on-field work but to stay around for team morale, so he’s been working out with teammates like Charles Woodson.
“I’m on that senior citizen program,” Driver said, laughing.
Full story from Lori here.