By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider senior editor
~There’s still one game left for everyone in the 2014 NFL Regular Season, and it’s the most important week of all. So there could be some changes in my ballot based on how these guys fare this week 17.
Aaron Rodgers has a divisional title game against the Lions, the team who held his Packers to 7 points back in week 3 in Detroit. If Rodgers produces little again against them, and the Packers lose, the award is wide open.
The other quarterbacks have a mixed bag of importance this week. Tom Brady and New England already have the number one seed locked up over in the AFC, so they have nothing to play for.
Tony Romo’s Cowboys are also locked into the #3 seed in the NFC, so they can’t move up or down. Romo has the bad back, and ribs, so they might want to give him some rest. He’s already put up MVP numbers this December, the month he usually falls down the Romo-coaster. In this month, he’s thrown 10 touchdowns without a single Romo-ception.
Ben Roethlisberger has a divisional title game at home, like Rodgers, Sunday night. This one is against the Bengals, whom Pittsburgh beat 42-21 just 3 weeks ago in Cincinnati. If Big Ben has a big game in a win, he could move up as well. If he puts up a clinker, he could drop a bit, perhaps below Brady.
- Aaron Rodgers
-Because he played his worst game of his career two weeks ago in a surprising ugly loss in Buffalo, the door has been cracked open for this award when it seemed to be Mr Rodgers hands-down.
But one week doesn’t erase the whole body of work, and Rodgers 36-5 TD-Int ratio is still ridiculously phenomenal. The 36 touchdowns doesn’t lead the league, however. Peyton Manning has 39, and Andrew Luck has 38. However, Manning has thrown 15 interceptions and Luck has thrown 16.
Everyone saw last year how bad this team was when Rodgers was out for almost 8 games with the broken collar bone. With him this year, the Packers are in position for the #2 seed with a win Sunday at home versus Detroit.
- JJ Watt
-He has 17.5 sacks, which is one half behind OLB Justin Houston’s league-lead of 18, and one half ahead of OLB Elvis Dumervil. But Watt has 10 more tackles than Houston and 40 more than Dumervil. Watt also has a pick-six, and oh by the way, 11 pass defensed, 3 forced fumbles and 5 fumble recoveries. Oh, and one last thing: He has 3 more touchdown catches this season than the whole WR corps of the Kansas City Chiefs, from Dwayne Bowe on down the line there in Kansas City.
- Tony Romo
-Tony Romo has exercised his December demons this year with an unbelievable first 3 games this month. He’s thrown 10 touchdowns and no picks as Dallas has won 3 straight games to win the NFC East and secure the #3 seed in the NFC. Now Romo will have to exercise his January demon. For his career, even though he just became Dallas’ all-time passing leader surpassing Troy (3 rings) Aikman, Romo still has only one playoff win for his career.
Romo (114.4) has passed Rodgers (111.0) for the highest passer rating on the season, which is remarkable. But the two reasons Romo is below Rodgers is because Demarco Murray has had a record-breaking season, which has resulted in opposing defenses bringing an extra guy in the box almost all the time, since late September when the league realized how great Murray and that running game was.
And Rodgers still has thrown 4 more touchdowns, and 3 fewer interceptions than Romo has. Romo has completed a higher percentage of passes, which skews the passer rating a bit. But touchdowns and interceptions are most important in my book.
- Ben Roethlisberger
-Big Ben Roethlisberger has quietly put up a big season. He’s second in the NFL in passing yards, just 36 yards behind Drew Brees of the Saints.
His 30 touchdowns against just 8 interceptions has Big Ben sitting at number 3 in the passer rating with 103.8, ahead of Manning, Brady, Luck and Brees. And Big Ben has his team in position for the AFC North title with a win over the Bengals Sunday.
- Tom Brady
-Although Brady’s full body of work has his passer rating at only 98.3, with a 33 TDs and just 9 Ints, he’s had a great season and carried the Patriots to, once again, the AFC’s #1 seed. After week 4, a blopwout loss in Kansas City, Brady and TE Rob Gronkowksi got this offense going and the Patriots have rolled. He’s whipped Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and beaten Philip Rivers. He did lose at Aaron Rodgers’ Packers to close out November, in what many at that time called a Super Bowl preview. But that’s Brad’s only loss since September ended. Some folks think Gronkowski is worthy of some MVP votes because they remember how bad this offense was last year without Gronk, and this early part of the year when Gronk was still feeling his way back from the wicked ACL injury last year.
- Peyton Manning
-This looked like Manning’s 6th MVP for the first 6 weeks or so. But Peyton has really slowed down coming down the home stretch. A combination of nagging injuries, age, and perhaps bad weather have caught up with Manning. His ugly 4-interception loss at the Bengals Monday night was alarming. Had that been Tony Romo, throwing 4 interceptions in a December close loss, Romo would have been the lead story on Mike & Mike in the Morning, First Take, Around the Horn, and PTI, among other shows.
Manning still is 4th in passer rating with a fine 102.9 rating, and his 39 touchdowns are tops in the league. So his overall stats are MVP-worthy, or close to it. But the 15 interceptions have cost some games, and they’ve come in bunches.
- DeMarco Murray
-How good as DeMarco Murray been this season?
Well, the NFL’s #2-#6 rushers have between 1,147 and 1,341 yards.
Murray has 1,745, or over 400 more than the #2 guy in the league, which is Le’Veon Bell of the Steelers.
He’s been a workhorse, carrying the ball a remarkable 373 times, or 25 a game. He’s averaging 116 yards rushing per game, and this against defenses that have been stacking the box since mid-t0-late September to try and stop him. It was his running against Seattle that propelled Dallas to get a rare, and shocking, convincing win in Seattle, where nobody wins.Murray also has 54 receptions on the season for almost 400 more yards. You could easily make a case that he should flip-flop with Romo here on this list up to #3.
- Andrew Luck
-He’s carries the Colts to the AFC South title. No running game, terrible blocking, and a defense that made Jonas Gray look like a combiniation of Jim Brown and Earl Campbell, yet Luck has slinged this team into the playoffs again. He’s second in the NFL with 38 passing touchdowns, just one behind Manning. He’s also third in yards, just behind Brees and Roethlisberger.
The “caveman” has also absorbed more big hits and punishment than anyone I can recall since David Carr in Houston over a decade ago. He throws it 40 times a game and opposing defenses go after him. They’re not afraid of Trent Richardson, and Luck lost his best back early in the season when Ahmad Bradshaw went down. He only has two or three offensive linemen that have any business being NFL starters.
- Russell Wilson
-He doesn’t have the passing statistics the other QB’s do. And that’s because he doesn’t have to on this team. On the Seahawks, defenses win ball games. As long as teh quarterback doesn’t throw games away with stupid mistakes, interceptions and fumbles, this team is going to win almost every game.
What Wilson does do is he wins games, makes huge plays with his feet, and his brain. How many times has he been in trouble, has a linebacker or DE been about to sack him, and Wilson sees him with the eyes in the hack of his head, and he gets away from a sack, and makes a big positive play? Too many to count. He also finds guys open for big plays with his arm, when he buys time out of the pocket. It might not be the glamour boy Percy Harvin. But Luke Wilson’s touchdowns count too.
- Philip Rivers
–Rivers stats aren’t as gaudy as Rodgers, Manning, and Luck. And his team doesn’t have as many wins, although they are currently in the #6 seed in the AFC with one tough game remaining, at Kansas City. But Rivers has totally carried this team. His running game has been awful as Ryan Matthews has missed much of the season. The offensive line is below average. Antonio Gates looked slow and washed up 2 or 3 years ago.
Rivers just engineered an amazing comeback at San Francisco last week, led by receivers that nobody even knows, or knows how to pronounce their names.
His stats are good, just not great. He has 5 yards to hit 4,000, and he has 31 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. Those do pale in comparison to the low interceptions thrown by Rodgers, but overall, Rivers has carried this team.
From Pete Doughtery, Green Bay Press-Gazette
~TAMPA, Fla. — The Green Bay Packers are in the playoffs, that much we know.
Their 20-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday gives them six straight trips, which ties the Mike Holmgren-coached teams from 1993-98 for longest playoff streak in Packers history.
But this team has larger ambitions, as suggested last week when coach Mike McCarthy named his playoff captains even though the Packers hadn’t clinched a spot.
“We’re proud of making the playoffs for six years in a row,” McCarthy said. “But more importantly, this football team has put itself in a great position to accomplish its goal, and that’s to win the (NFC North) division and have the bye week (the) first week of the playoffs.”
While the Packers are among the four teams with the best Super Bowl chances — Seattle, New England and Denver are the others — you wouldn’t necessarily know it by their play the past two weeks. On the road against two of the NFL’s most offensively challenged teams, the Packers have come away with a 21-13 loss at Buffalo and their grinding, uneventful victory over the Buccaneers.
After disposing of Tampa Bay, McCarthy and most of his players essentially said that their record and playoff status is all that matters, and they’re mostly right. The Arizona Cardinals in 2008 lost two of their last three regular-season games, including a staggering 47-7 loss at New England in their 15th game, yet made it to the Super Bowl. The Packers won the Super Bowl in the 2010 season despite going in as the NFC’s lowest-seeded team.
No doubt you can go through each team in contention and find good reasons to question whether it can win it all. And in the Packers’ case, two points come to mind: the severity of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ calf injury and the team’s struggles on the road, particularly when playing the league’s best defensive teams.
Rodgers said he injured his calf on the game’s fifth play — he started showing signs of gimpiness after his sixth offensive snap, when he moved around in the pocket and completed a 28-yard pass to Jordy Nelson. And the injury noticeably hindered his play. Although Rodgers generally looked OK dropping back and gathering his feet to throw, he didn’t scramble as much as usual, had no rushes and didn’t throw as accurately as usual while on the run.
The Packers’ training staff put an extra pad in his shoe to lift his heel and take some of the strain off his calf, and Rodgers never had to leave the game because of the injury. But mobility is a huge part of Rodgers’ game, and if he’s limited in that regard against Detroit, which has maybe the NFL’s best front four, the Packers’ chances of winning diminish. And if the injury is slow to heal, it could be a similarly big problem in a playoff game against Seattle, which is playing probably the best defense in the league late this season.
“It got really tight about halftime,” Rodgers said of his calf. “Came in and got a little treatment and it loosened up a tad but it was still pretty tight, and I had a hard time running. But I was able to move kind of in short segments in the pocket, which was all I needed to do today.”
Rodgers’ injury if anything makes the Packers’ showdown with Detroit for the NFC North Division title even more important, because the winner will be guaranteed a first-round bye. Rodgers obviously could use the extra week to heal.
Just as important, next week’s winner is guaranteed a home game in the divisional round of the playoffs. Just a quick look at the Packers’ schedule shows how much that means to this team.
At Lambeau Field, the 2014 Packers have been as dominant as anyone in the NFL. Their 7-0 home record includes a point differential of plus-144. Four of their wins were by 21 points or more, and on their home turf they beat probably the best team on their schedule, New England (26-21).
On the road, the Packers are 4-4. Coincidentally, the three best defensive teams they’ve played have been on the road, and the Packers lost to all three: at Seattle (36-16), which came into this week ranked No. 2 in the NFL in points allowed; at Detroit (19-7), which is ranked No. 1 in points allowed; and at Buffalo (21-13), which is tied for No. 4.
That doesn’t bode well for a possible trip to Seattle or Detroit in the playoffs. And even if they don’t get the No. 1 seed, the Packers no doubt prefer to get at least one game at home.
“Who doesn’t want to play at home?” guard T.J. Lang said. “Especially with the way we’ve been playing at home. I know (the Lions) would love to have a playoff game at their field, too, so it’s going to be a big game. There’s a lot at stake here.”
And if you’re looking for reasons to think the Packers’ chances are as good as anyone’s, it’s their run game with Eddie Lacy and recent play in personnel groups they don’t often use.
McCarthy generally has been running his no-huddle offense with three receivers (Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams), a tight end (Andrew Quarless or Richard Rodgers) and one running back (usually Lacy but sometimes James Starks).
But in the past couple of weeks, they’ve probably moved the ball best when they’ve had fullback John Kuhn in for the tight end, or when they’ve gone with four receivers and a tight end, and played Cobb at halfback.
“We’ve really been working on that the last six or eight weeks, making sure we get Eddie a number of touches in the game and then also finding ways to get Randall involved,” Rodgers said. “We’ve had some success with our four-receiver package with (Cobb) kind of being a hybrid guy coming out of the backfield, potentially running the ball.
“So, the (run-pass) balance is there. The greatest jump that we’ve seen from early in the season is the offensive line play. It’s been so consistent. They’ve been healthy and it’s been the same group since Week 3. Because of that, there’s a great continuity with those guys and they’re blocking their butts off.”
ORIGINAL article HERE
From Rob Demovsky, ESPN.com
What it means: The Packers (11-4) are playoff-bound, but they still have work to do on their seeding. They could take care of that next Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Both teams have clinched playoff spots, but the winner of that finale will win the NFC North. A victory over the Lions would give the Packers at least the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a first-round playoff bye. It will be the Packers’ sixth straight playoff appearance. If they win the division, it would be their fourth straight title.
Falling — Aaron Rodgers has not exactly made a late-season push to wrap up the MVP award. After playing perhaps the worst game of his career in last week’s loss at Buffalo, Rodgers appeared to be limited both because of an illness and after he had an issue with his lower left leg in the first quarter. Rodgers rarely moved out of the pocket and was limited mostly to short, quick throws. Rodgers didn’t throw a touchdown pass until late in the fourth quarter, when he finally connected with Jordy Nelson. His numbers were good (31-of-40 for 318 yards with one touchdown and one fumble), but the offense was far from explosive.
One thousand times two: Eddie Lacy needed 60 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the second straight season. He got that — and more — in the first quarter thanks to a 44-yard touchdown run on a toss play. Lacy became the first Packers running back to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons since John Brockington in 1971 and 1972. Lacy missed most of the fourth quarter because of cramps and finished with 99 yards on 17 carries.
Goal-line gamble: Mike McCarthy apparently doesn’t subscribe to the theory that you take the points on the road. After the Packers failed with runs on second-and-goal and third-and-goal from the 1, he went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in a 10-3 game, and Rodgers couldn’t connect with Randall Cobb.
Game ball: This one goes to the Packers’ fans that filled Raymond James Stadium. There was nearly as much green and gold in the crowd, and when the Packers put fullback John Kuhn into the game on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, it sounded like they were at Lambeau Field with the chants of “Kuuuuuuhn.” A message on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter said “Get Loud,” and chants of “Go Pack go” rang out.
What’s next: The Packers will find out Sunday night or Monday morning what the time the game against the Lions on Dec. 28 will be played. It’s currently scheduled for 1 p.m. ET, but could be flexed to 4:25 ET or into the Sunday night time slot.
Original story here
From Tyler Dunne, JSonline
~Tampa, Fla. — Winning on the road has not been easy for the Green Bay Packers, so they’ll take this. Ramping up the pressure defensively, and chipping away at Lovie Smith’s offensively, the Packers labored to a 20-3 win at Raymond James Stadium.
Dom Capers’ defense totaled seven sacks in all, as Tampa Bay’s Josh McCown was under constant duress. The Packers weren’t able to run away from the 2-win Bucs as most expected — missing one field goal, coming up short on another fourth and goal — but it was enough to clinch their six playoff berth in a row.
Aaron Rodgers rebounded from his self-described “stinker” in Buffalo, going 31 of 40 for 318 yards with a 108.1 passer rating. Eddie Lacy churned out 99 of the Packers’ 121 yards on the ground, including a 44-yard touchdown off a toss left in the first half.
And with three passes from the 1-yard line deep into the fourth quarter, Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson for a touchdown to lift Green Bay to 11-4 on the season.
Next week? The Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field with the NFC North up for grabs again in Week 17.
Player of the Game: Poor safety play plagued the Packers at various points in 2013. Not so much in 2014. Morgan Burnett was a force vs. the run Sunday, stopping Tampa Bay’s backs near or behind the line of scrimmage several times. The Packers knew the Bucs would try to grind away on the ground, and often played Burnett up. He responded with his seventh game of 10-plus tackles, finishing with 10 (nine solo) in all. He played deep as well. But his play up front helped limit Tampa Bay to 16 yards on 14 rushing attempts (1.1 avg.)
Big number: 7 — sacks for the Green Bay defense, with 13 QB hits, applying pressure on Josh McCown all game. On Tampa Bay’s final play, Jayrone Elliott pressured McCown, forcing an interception to Datone Jones.
Turning point: After injuring his foot early on, Rodgers got treatment on the sideline and stayed in the game. Matt Flynn warmed up but was never needed. We’ll have more on this from the locker room later.
What went right: The pressure was relentless from Green Bay in this one, and it came from several different sources. In the third quarter, the Packers began to pour it on as Julius Peppers walloped McCown, forcing a fumble Tampa Bay recovered. Then, Clay Matthews tagged McCown. Dom Capers was creative with his calls, rushing players from various angles. Six different players registered the seven sacks. Offensively, finishing wasn’t easy. But after getting banged up early, Aaron Rodgers found a rhythm—Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb poked away at the Tampa 2 with 244 yards on 20 receptions. The run game continues to find its footing, too. Fullback John Kuhn (22 yards) and the line opened up more big holes.
What went wrong: Against a Tampa Bay defense riddled with injuries and ranked near the bottom of the NFL in several categories, the Packers rolled to 23 first downs and 434 total yards — as the Bucs offense crumbled — but they weren’t able to put Tampa Bay away until the fourth quarter. With three shots from the Bucs’ 3-yard line, two runs and one pass failed. Next week, Green Bay faces a much better foe.
Original story from TYLER DUNNE here
From the multiple award-winning Jason Wilde, husband of Paula
~Randall Cobb said Thursday that there haven’t been any talks on a contract extension for him – at least, none that he knows about.
His quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, is hoping that changes. Soon.
“Cobby’s a great player for us,” Rodgers said of Cobb. I’m really happy he went over 1,000 yards. That’s a great achievement, his first time doing that. But he does so much for us. He can be in the backfield and run the ball for us; he can run routes from the backfield, from the slot, from outside; he does it all. He’s a talented guy.”
“And to top it off, he’s a great teammate. He’s an excellent practice player, he’s a great leader, he has some timely things to say, he’s great at motivating the guys and he does a great job of bringing the same attitude every single day. So I’m really proud of Randall and the things he’s accomplished on the field. And off the field he’s an even better guy.”
“There’s no contract talks that have been going on right now, so I guess not. I guess there’s still more to do,” Cobb replied. “So, [I will] just continue to put my nose down every day and focus on getting the team into the playoffs and doing everything I can to bring back the Super Bowl.”
“I’m still going to play football,” Cobb said. “I had no idea (what the Packers’ negotiation plans were). I was focused, week in and week out, on what I could handle and that’s all I could do. All I can do is focus on what I can control and ‘m going to do the best I can with what I can control.”
Although Cobb isn’t likely to get the same deal fellow wide receiver Jordy Nelson received – four years, $39 million, $11.5 million guaranteed signing bonus – he figures to get a deal that averages between $8 million and $9 million annually.
“Over the years, there have been a number of guys who have really bought into the Packer way of thinking about the team, being a great locker room guy, being a guy you can count on every day to be a great teammate and a great practice player and great in the community and take ownership of the responsibility to conduct yourself the right way,” Rodgers said. “It’s been fun to see a lot of those guys get paid and get second contracts and stick around. And Randall’s one of those guys who’s exactly what I was talking about.”
Full story here from ESPNmilwaukee.com
From Wikipedia, Jason Wilde:
Wilde is the Green Bay Packers beat writer and on air personality for ESPNWisconsin. Wilde announced his separation from the Wisconsin State Journal to ESPN Wisconsin’s Steve True on August 26, 2009 and on the same show September 1, 2009, Wilde announced that he was joining ESPN Wisconsin full-time and would continue covering the Green Bay Packers with his articles appearing exclusively on ESPNWisconsin.com.
Wilde is an award-winning sports writer, having won two Associated Press Sports Editors awards, several Wisconsin Newspaper Association awards and the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association sportswriter of the year. Wilde was also “recently” named the “2007” National Sportswriter of the year for the “second” time. (Hmm, two times for the same year/award?)
Wilde hosts Green and Gold Today, a one-hour radio show with co-host Bill Johnson of WXRO. Wilde also does daily segments as the Green Bay Packers insider for WAUK 540 ESPN Milwaukee and WTLX 100.5 ESPN Madison, appearing on the “D-List” and “World’s Greatest Sports Talk Show with Steve True.”  Wilde also appears on the Dave and Carole morning show on 96.5 FM WKLH in Milwaukee. Wilde has also contributed to ESPN’s First Take, and has written sports pieces for OnMilwaukee.com.
Since 2010 Wilde is also the host of the ESPN Wisconsin’s show “Tuesdays With Aaron” featuring Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Wilde moderates several segments with Rodgers including a weekly recap, a look ahead, an “Under the Helmet” segment in which Rodgers describes several key plays from the previous game, and “Ask Aaron,” a listener-based segment based off Twitter and emailed in questions from fans.
Wilde also appears on several television stations in the state of Wisconsin. He appears on WISN show Big 12 Sports Saturday, WBAY show Cover 2, and on statewide TV on the show Sidelines.
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor
~After hours, days, weeks of pats on the backs, awards, compliments, charts, and stat-crunching, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense was brought down to Earth in Buffalo today as the Buffalo Bills put the clamps on Rodgers and beat the Packers 21-13.
It was Rodgers’ worst game ever in the NFL, worse than anything going back to Butte.
Rodgers was 17/42 for 185 yards, with 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. It’s his first game ever with two picks and no touchdowns.
His passer rating was a Charlie Frye-like 34.3. Kyle Orton’s 54.2 passer rating was 20 points better than Rodgers.
There were plenty of dropped passes, although most of them were passes behind the intended receiver. The worse, of course, was when the Packers were down 16-10, and Nelson ran a slant and go. The CB bit, and the safety sucked up. Rodgers hit him perfectly in stride for what probably would have been a 90-yard touchdown and a 17-16 Packers lead. But Nelson dropped the ball, and the drive eventually would end on Rodgers’ second interception.
That play came on a third down pass to Jarrett Boykin, who was interfered with across the middle, slightly before the ball arrived. It was enough to mess it up and cause the ball to be deflected up into the air, right into the lucky waiting arms of Bacardi Rambo.
The ref, again, was not able to see the interference and let the play happen without throwing the flag. After the interception, on the return, Bryan Bulaga was blocked hard by OLB Jerry Hughes, knocking Bulaga out of the game at RT.
That would prove fatal as well as when the Packers got the ball back at the 2:00 warning mark, it was JC Tretter who had to fill his shoes at right tackle. First play, Mario Williams got around him and reached in and popped the ball out of Rodgers hands, and it popped into the end zone for a game-ending safety. Game over. Division lead over.
Cushion on Seattle over.
The Packers’ defense played good enough to win the game, against a very average Bills offense. They held the Bills to 13 total first downs, 4.0 yards per play, and only 253 total yards. They got one interception on the day.
But Tim Masthay was horrible, and his super short, and low, punt setup a rare punt return touchdown for the Bills. They had gone years without one, but today when they needed one, Masthay’s terrible punt provided that spark and that huge 7 points. A 3-0 Packers lead suddenly became a 7-3 Bills lead.
The punt was from about midfield. You would expect either a coffin-corner punt to around the 5, 10, 15-yard line, or perhaps a high one to around the 10-yard line. But Masthay shanked it short and low, which caught the coverage unit unprepared. Masthay had the best chance to prevent the touchdown, but he was distracted reading about the press-clippings about how great Rodgers is at home.
The offensive line and running game were good right out of the gate. Eddie Lacy and James Starks both ran well, and there were more holes than ever, except the three times the refs stopped drives by calling holding on the Packers.
Other than that, the passing game was horrible. Miscommunications from Rodgers to Nelson, to Cobb, to Davante Adams again. Dropped pass on third down right to Andrew Quarless on the first drive ended that drive.
I have never seen the Packers’ offense look this horrible, even on the road, with the possible exception of at Seattle and at Detroit.
The bottom line is the Packers offense is good to great at home, and decent to bad on the road, depending on who they play.
It looks like the road to Glendale will now go through Glendale, or through Seattle, not Green Bay.
As long as the Packers don’t also lose next week at Tampa Bay, it means the week 17 game vs the Lions will definitely be for the NFC North title.
HITS & MISSES
They let Gilmour get away with a pass interference early in the game which cost the Packers the ball on a third down failure.
They let Jarrett Boykin get interfered with on what became Rodgers’ second interception, and what knocked Bulaga from the game.
Look, it’s tight out there, but if the DB hits the WR a little bit before the ball gets there, that HAS to be called. That IS a penalty. There has to be one zebra who watches each receiver, and if the ball is on the way to a receiver, someone has to watch it, and they have to call it if the DB is early. Even just a little bit.
But this is common now from refs, even though they supposedly were going to crack down on this as that was a point of emphasis in the preseason. Right.
Seattle employs this strategy all the time, intentionally. Richard Sherman has a patent on this. He knows the refs aren’t going to call it all the time. So does Byron Maxwell. So do all Pete Carroll’s DBs.
That punt return for a touchdown was simply a horrific punt. He can easily kick that into the end zone for a touchback, but that was setup for an easy inside-the-10 punt, either out of bounds or a high punt forcing a fair catch. Giving the Bills 7 points like that, with their offense being bad and the Packers defense being good, that’s a cardinal sin. And it helped lose the game for the Packers,
He had some miscommunications with Rodgers early. We can’t tell what each guy sees, who is to blame, etc. Rodgers gets pissed off at Jeff Janis if he is not on the same page with him, but when it happens with Jordy after7 years together, I wonder why there’s a free pass always, on each’s side.
But the dropped bomb was the fatal blow, and you don’t see that from many receivers, especially supposedly-great ones. It was in the wide-open, right in stride. Inexcusable, and one that also proved fatal.
Aaron Rodgers & Olivia Munn
Perhaps after listening to so many accolades has finally caught up to Rodgers. He was out of whack, out of sync, almost right from the get-go.
Surely it’s just a coincidence that Aaron’s girlfriend has been making headlines talking about Rodgers, and about their sex life. This is Hollywood crap and it doesn’t do anything good for a football team.
Munn, who stars on HBO’s “The Newsroom,” didn’t reveal anything too salacious or juicy, but gave an honest answer when host Andy Cohen asked her point-blank, “Do you have sex on game days?”
“No, we don’t,” she said. “Not on game day. There’s not a rule, but it just doesn’t happen because there are other things to focus on.”
However, Munn said they occasionally have sex after Packers games.
“It depends on how late the game is … I try to have sex as much as I can.”
Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys were on top of the world in 2007-2008, but the Jessica Simpson stuff popped the air out of all that, and Dallas has yet to get into the playoff winners circle since.
Tom Brady has done alright with the supermodel, but hasn’t won it all since 2004, well before Giselle.
On the first drive, Quarless dropped a simple out pass for a first down. Resulted in a punt. You cannot afford to just throw away possessions in the NFL, especially on the road, and against good defenses. It was early, but it set the tone. A bad tone.
In the second half, the Packers opening drive, they had a 6th offensive lineman out there in JC Tretter, to pound Lacy. Did the announcers notice? Did they tell us the audience? No and no.
Again, what are they paid for if they can’t shed any info for we the viewers that I can’t already see on my plasma?
From Sean Jensen, special from Bleacher Report
~Jordy Nelson isn’t the MVP “front-runner”, and Randall Cobb isn’t in the “best ever” conversation.
Full story here
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor
~Led by Aaron Rodgers 327 yards and three touchdowns, the Packers opened up another big halftime lead at Lambeau 31-7.
The second half, however, was similar to the defense we saw in New Orleans in week eight, as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones torched the Packers secondary time and time again and made it a game right down to the end.
Atlanta scored 30 points in the second half. The Packers offense iced the game away at the end again, with first down runs by both Aaron Rodgers and James Starks. James Starks’ 41-yard run with 1:37 left was close to the dagger.
Those two runs came after a failed onside kick by Atlanta.
Dom Capers’ defense allowed wide receiver Julio Jones to break a franchise-record with 259 yards receiving.
They also allowed Matt Ryan to throw for 375 yards and four touchdowns. It was Ryan’s best game of the year, as was Drew Brees game (til that point) in week eight. Also, Colin Kaepernick’s best games have consistently come against Capers’ defenses. Now Kaepernick is playing so poorly, many of his own fans are booing him and there were even fans burning his jerseys after yesterday’s loss to the 1-11 Raiders.
The Packers generated little pressure on Ryan, finishing with just one sack, that by Clay Matthews. It was a coverage-sack as Matthews was blocked well by his cousin Jake Matthews, and Ryan held onto the ball forever, walking into the sack.
The Packers moved to 10-3, including a perfect 7-0 at home.
It kept the Packers a game ahead of the Lions in the NFC North, and into the #2 slot in the current NFC playoff seeding.
Alarmingly, a loss tonight and the Packers would have dropped all the way out of the playoffs at 9-4, losing tiebreakers to all of Detroit (for the division), and Seattle and Dallas for the Wildcard.
That’s how tight the race is in the NFC.
Seattle is red-hot, playing the best defense in the NFL by miles. Plus they are challenging the refs to call dozens of illegal contacts and pass interferences on their secondary. Of course, they get called some, more than anyone, but they get away with a lot more than are called.
The Packers travel to Buffalo next week in another crucial game, which will be a tough one. Buffalo has a great defense led by Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, and pass-rushing terror off the edge Jerry Hughes, who would have been a Packer two-three years ago had I been in charge, as I made known then and ever since.
The last time the Packers visited Buffalo was eight years ago, in 2006, and the heavy-underdog Bills pulled off the shocking upset as Brett Favre committed a series of devastating turnovers.
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Lambeau Field
Radio: WTMJ (620 AM)
Series: Packers lead, 16-13
Line: Packers by 13
Weather: 33, cloudy
Surface: DD GrassMaster
Coaches: Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy (97-53-1, .646) vs. Atlanta’s Mike Smith (66-47, .584).
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
FAMILY SKIRMISH: At times, it’ll be LB Clay Matthews, 28, playing against his cousin, LT Jake Matthews, 22. Jake, the sixth pick in the 2014 draft, was ticketed to start at right tackle before Sam Baker suffered a season-ending knee injury in August and the rookie moved to the left side. “He’s had his rookie moments where he struggles,” an executive in personnel for an AFC team said. “In the long run, he might be a Pro Bowl guard or center. I don’t think they have the luxury to do that. They drafted him as a tackle. I also think he’ll be an above-average left tackle for 10-12 years. He’s not a guy that will be just a revolving door. That’s not who he is. Too competitive for that. Got too much genetics for that.” Added another AFC scout: “He’s held up OK. He still lacks strength.”
BIG MEN UPFRONT: The Falcons have transformed their defensive line from average to slightly below average in terms of size to jumbo-sized with free-agent signings and roster decisions. “Their front seven is not very athletic,” said an assistant coach on offense for a recent Falcons’ opponent. “They’re big, plugger-type guys. When you see them on the field they’re all wide, thick-bodied guys. … (Paul) Soliai is big and strong. Hard to move. He’s not a pass rusher. (Tyson) Jackson is the same guy. So is (Malliciah) Goodman. (Ra’Shede) Hageman has some talent. He’s another big, thick kid. They drafted for that kind of guy. Their best is (Jonathan) Babineaux. He’s crafty. He’s got pretty good strength and some quickness.”
MEET AGAIN: When the Chicago Bears made little attempt to re-sign Devin Hester after last season, the Falcons reeled him in March 21 for $9 million over three years ($4 million guaranteed). He leads the NFL in punt-return average and also returns kickoffs. “First time I saw Hester in person I was standing there beside him in pre-game,” an NFL special-teams coach said. “I was taken aback at how thick he was. I had thought he was just another slender guy.
Holy cow, no wonder this guy breaks some tackles. He was a better specimen than I thought he was going to be. … I always thought he benefited because the Bears did a little better job all the way around blocking for him than a lot of teams do. I wouldn’t put him up there as the best returner ever. But people are still really scared of him so they just back away from him and that doesn’t give him a chance at all. He’s still pretty good. (Pittsburgh’s) Antonio Brown might be better than he is right now.”
PASS RUSHERS: The Falcons haven’t had much of a pass rush since DE John Abraham left after the 2012 season. Kroy Biermann and former Giant Osi Umenyiora are two of the Falcons’ four hybrid players that rush outside. They also share the team lead in sacks with 2½. “Biermann is a hard-nosed player,” one opposing offensive coach said. “He’s a hustler. There’s nothing that really excites you about him as far as thinking, ‘Boy, we’ve really got to be on our screws against this guy.’ He’s limited as a rusher. He doesn’t have a lot of moves. He’ll try to beat you around the edges once in a while with a hand slap. He knows he can’t beat you with speed yet he tries to get around you. We had no problems with him. … Umenyiora doesn’t have a lot left. He is crafty and does a nice job setting you up. He can set you up but he can’t beat you. He just doesn’t have it anymore. He’s the most versatile of all their rushers. He can spin. He can take it inside. He can try to beat you around the edge. He can use his hands well. But he longer has what he used to have.”
MATCHED AGAIN: In 2005, Mike Nolan was in his first season as coach of the San Francisco 49ers when he hired Mike McCarthy to be his offensive coordinator. McCarthy took the job in Green Bay the next year. In their only head-to-head matchup, the Packers won, 30-19, in 2006. Nolan has been the Falcons’ defensive coordinator since 2012. “He’s an experienced guy,” Green Bay QB coach Alex Van Pelt said. “There’s a fair amount of scheme, fronts and multiple coverages. There’s some exotic pressures and different looks. He brings the full gamut.” An offensive coach for an Atlanta foe said: “Biggest thing Nolan does, he’ll take both safeties and bring them down, one to either side, in a zero coverage look. Then he’ll bail one of them out late to center field. Against us he bailed out Biermann. He was lined up in a standup position as a D-tackle in a 4-2 look. He bailed and went to center field and they brought the two safeties off the edges. We had never seen that before.”
VIEWS OF THE GAME
BOB MCGINN, Packers beat reporter
Even without a pass rush, the Falcons have managed to take the ball away more times (24) than all but two teams. The coaching of Mike McCarthy and the quarterbacking of Aaron Rodgers are chiefly responsible for why the Packers lead the NFL in fewest giveaways (eight). If the Falcons have any chance of winning, they’ll need takeaways and luck.
TOM SILVERSTEIN, Packers beat reporter
Is there such a thing as a trap game? No. Is it possible the Packers come out a little flat after their emotional victory over New England? Yes. Are they going to lose to Atlanta? No. Unless they’re drinking beers before the game, they’ll win. It’s just a matter of whether it’s pretty or ugly. Packers 34, Falcons 17
TYLER DUNNE, Packers beat reporter
Nobody is that interested in winning the NFC South this season with New Orleans getting blown out at home on Sunday. Naturally, after knocking off Arizona last week, the Falcons are due for a letdown as well. Too much Aaron Rodgers, not enough pass rush. The Falcons need just about everything to go right in this game for an upset. Don’t count on it. Packers 37, Falcons 14
LORI NICKEL, Packers beat reporter
The Falcons rank third in takeaways (24), but Green Bay is just too stingy there typically. Packers 31, Falcons 21
RICK KLAUER, Packer Plus editor
Don’t be fooled by Atlanta’s 5-7 record. Leading the NFC South, the Falcons are thinking about the postseason and will come to Lambeau Field looking to brawl. The Packers are on another level, however, and can’t let a team like Atlanta prove otherwise. Packers 31, Falcons 24
From Weston Hodkiewicz, Ryan Wood, Pete Dougherty and Robert Zizzo, Press-Gazette Media
Weston Hodkiewicz (11-1)
Packers 35, Falcons 18
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers again proved the doubters wrong in last week’s statement victory over New England. Green Bay has way too many weapons on both sides of the ball for a letdown to surface against the Falcons, who have way too many holes. Factor in the Packers’ recent success at Lambeau Field, and this outcome seems rather academic so long as the Packers don’t hurt themselves with turnovers or miscues.
Ryan Wood (10-2)
Packers 45, Falcons 17
The shame is an NFC South team will wind up hosting a playoff game this season. The division has been putrid, with whacky results every week and no teams above .500. On paper, it will be a matchup of division leaders on “Monday Night Football,” even though Atlanta enters with a 5-7 record. But that’s misleading. Before a primetime audience, Green Bay will expose Atlanta and the NFC South in general with another home blowout.
Pete Dougherty (9-3)
Packers 37, Falcons 21
Atlanta has one of the game’s best weapons in receiver Julio Jones and despite its 5-7 record has plenty to play for as the NFC South Division leader. But it’s hard to see how the league’s last-ranked defense can slow Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy and the No. 2 scoring offense in the league.
Robert Zizzo (9-3)
Packers 38, Falcons 17
Green Bay has too much offense, too much talent and too much home field for the Falcons, who have too little defense. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan couldn’t beat Matt Flynn one year ago; he has little chance to beat Aaron Rodgers this year.