Tag Archives: Greg Jennings

Green Bay Packers Super Bowl Preview

TOKEN PICTURE OF LAMBEAU FIELD

It should come as no surprise to anyone to see the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl.

They may not have been the NFC’S trendy pick — that distinction would have gone to the Eagles, Falcons or Saints — but they’ve been a picture of consistency through the entire season and it seems a lot of people failed to notice.

This is as Packers team that did not trail by more than a touchdown all season. A Packers team that did not lose a single game by more than four points all season. A Packers team that barely skipped a beat without franchise signal-caller Aaron Rodgers under center.

Now Green Bay is (relatively) healthy and rolling behind the momentum of three straight road playoff wins.

That said, let’s take a position-by-position look at what Green Bay brings to the Super Bowl table.

Quarterback: Coming off three straight road playoff victories, Rodgers has become a hot commodity and is quickly ascending to ‘elite’ status in the NFL.

His performance in four career playoff games is impeccable; Rodgers has accounted for 13 total touchdowns to just four turnovers. His career QB rating in the playoffs is well over 115. More importantly? His record is 3-1, with the only blemish being an overtime playoff loss to the Kurt Warner-led Arizona Cardinals.

It’s clear Rodgers has learned from that defeat. It’s clear that he’s now a better quarterback. The ball is coming out of his hands quicker than ever, he’s fitting balls into windows that barely even exist and he’s evading the rush and moving fluidly in the pocket.

LOOK AT THAT MUSTACHE. NO, SERIOUSLY, LOOK AT IT.

In short, Rodgers is doing literally every thing you could possibly want a quarterback to do.

Runningback: Here is where the Packers are going to have some issues.

When Ryan Grant went down for the season in week one, he left a massive void at tailback. Ryan was the Packers’ every-down, 1,200-yard, chain-moving back. He was dependable and versatile. In his absence, the Packers have employed a running-back-by-committee approach with Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn and upstart James Starks.

The problem is that even combined, the trio doesn’t do what Grant could always be depended on for: getting the yard yardage. Kuhn is serviceable as a short-yardage and goal-line back, Starks has the speed and vision to run off-tackle, and Brandon Jackson has some power up the middle, but none of them have the burst and the drive that Grant has.

None of those backs can tear through a hole on second-and-9 and get into the secondary before being taken down for a 15-yard gain. The big-play ability just isn’t there, and against a swirling Steelers defense with some hard-hitting linebackers, the Packers have little to no chance of running consistently.

Wide receiver: Playmakers abound here for the green-and-gold. While Rodgers surely misses his big tight end in Jermichael Finley, he’s got a wealth of speed and play-making ability and the Packers go four deep with it.

Greg Jennings is the man the Steelers will need to key in on, though much easier said than done. Jennings can hurt a defense in a variety of ways — he’s just as likely to take a quick slant up the middle and to pay dirt as he is to torch a safety over the top. Look for him to be double-covered though much of Sunday’s action.

I PUT THE TEAM ON MY BACK THOUGH

If Jennings is covered, Rodgers will likely turn to cagy veteran Donald Driver. While the 12-year pro can’t boast the speed that he once thrilled with, his hands are as sure as ever and he’s a fixture in third-down situations.

If Rodgers needs eight or nine yards on third down, you can bet he’s looking for Driver on a hook or a curl route.

In the slot will be James Jones. A quick receiver out of San Jose State, Jones knows just how to find seams on drag and post routes that drive defenses crazy. It’ll be up to free safety Ryan Clark to keep one eye on Jones at all times to ensure that those 10 or 15-yard gains don’t turn into 30 or 35-yard gains.

Last is the biggest of Green Bay’s wide receiver corps, the 6’3” 217-pound Jordy Nelson. Nelson really came into form late in the season and his size — coupled with the fact that he’ll likely be matched up on by linebackers or the nickel back — will give Rodgers a large target to throw at should his first couple reads break down. Think of Nelson like a large, sure-handed safety valve.

He could be one of the keys to the Packers’ offense should that Pittsburgh pass rush routinely flush Rodgers from the pocket.

Offensive line: What a difference a year makes. In 2009, the injury plagued Packers line could do nothing to keep quarterback Aaron Rodgers off his back. Rodgers was sacked a league-high 50 times in ‘09 — tied with the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger — compared to just 31 times in the 2009 season. A lot of that has to do with the improved health of the line, namely when it comes to left tackle Chad Clifton.

On the other end of the line is big-bodied Brian Baluga, who has fought through some early-season growing pains to really be dependable in the right tackle position.

The line will have its work cut out for it with the complex blitz packages gameplanned by Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, so they’ll need to have their best game of the season to give Rodgers the time he needs to find those receivers.

Defensive line: Anchored by former Boston College standout B.J. Raji, who is not-so-quietly having the best season of his young career, this three-man line was part of a unit that was second in the league in sacks during the regular season with 48 and first in the playoffs with 10.

Raji’s ability to command a double team is what opens up the gaps for blitzes from the linebackers, but right end Cullen Jenkins is quite a pass rusher in his own right with seven sacks on the season.

LIKE A BOSS

It’s not just about blitzes, though. Far from it. This Packers front three is plenty capable of stopping the run, especially in the red zone. Green Bay was second in the NFL — behind you guessed it, Pittsburgh — with having allowed just six rushing touchdowns all season.

That staunch red zone defense will have to keep up that level of play this Sunday to force Roethlisberger into poor throws around the end zone.

Linebackers: This is where this Green Bay defense really starts to shine.

When Dom Capers first instituted a 3-4 defensive scheme in 2009, the Packers were a mess. They missed assignments, couldn’t plug gaps, and flat-out couldn’t stop anyone. That’s no longer the case. Led by defensive player of the year runner-up Clay Matthews, this linebackers quartet is as quick, strong and technically sound as any in the league.

It starts in the middle with A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop. The two run-pluggers not only lead the Packers in tackles, but combined for 3.5 sacks and six forced turnovers. When the middle of a defense is versatile enough to stop the run, rush the passer and drop back into coverage, and cover all those bases successfully, it opens up the outside linebackers to wreak havoc.

And that’s exactly what Clay Matthews did this season.

His 13.5 sacks were good for fourth in the NFL, but the opponents’ backfield wasn’t the only place he did his damage. Matthews is fast enough to drop back into coverage and get interceptions. He’s a hard hitter that’s going to force fumbles on players coming across the middle. Matthews needs to be accounted for literally every single time he’s on the field.

Secondary: Had you told me that a Green Bay Packers team without Al Harris or Atari Bigby — who combined for six picks and 13 passes defensed last season — was going to be just as dangerous this year as last year, I’d have laughed at you. And then told you to go watch the WNBA.

 

THIS IS WHERE I'D PUT A CLEVER CAPTION IF I COULD THINK OF ONE

Well, then, it seems that the joke’s on me.

The team might not have forced as many interception’s as last year’s 38, but they clamped down on opposing wide receivers for just about every team they’ve played and the interceptions have come at the biggest possible moments. Tramon Williams has emerged as a premier corner and Nick Collins has quietly been one of the best safeties in the NFC this season.

With all the pressure forced by the Packers’ front seven, it allows the secondary to take more chances breaking on balls, as quarterbacks like Matt Ryan all too quickly to find out.

Kicking: Mason Crosby had a pretty average year in the kicking game, and was only 2-of-4 from beyond 50 yards, but he’s made big kicks for the Packers in the past and coach Mike McCarthy should feel comfortable enough with him in any pressure-kicking situation that may arise.

Tim Masthay is a fairly middle-of-the-road punter; the kind of player that’s not often going to pin a team inside their own five but a player that also isn’t going to net just 13 yards on a kick off the side of his foot. We’ll just say he’s no Matt Dodge.

– Jordan Rogowski

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NFL Week 7 picks and predictions

The next two weeks may very well determine the course of the NFL season.

With three unbeaten as many winless teams remaining through six weeks of action, these next couple crops of matchups should go a long way in giving clues as to whether or not those unbeaten and winless teams will remain such when Week 17 comes to a close.

The smart money is on no team winning or losing 16, but in a season that’s been anything but ordinary, that money may not be so smart after all.

I went 11-3 last week to move to my best standing of the season at 60-30.

On wit ze show…

Green Bay (3-2)  @ Cleveland (1-5):

Aaron Rodgers finally had his 2009 coming out party in style against the 29th-ranked Detroit secondary last week and this week will be more of the same against a Cleveland team ranked 23rd.

Greg Jennings, fresh off a 1,000-yard receiving season, has yet to have the breakout game that Rodgers had and now’s as good a time as any. He’s going into the game with just one touchdown reception on the season, but there’s a very good chance he’ll be leaving with two or three.

Especially given how much the Browns’ defense will be on the field.

Derek Anderson is venturing into Jamarcus Russell’s realm in completing just 44% of his passes and he’s got three times as many interceptions as touchdowns. Against the Packers’ speedy 3-4 squad, look for the number of interceptions to spike while the touchdown count remains stagnant as ever.

JORDAN SAYS: Packers 30, Browns 6

———–

San Diego (2-3) @ Kansas City (1-5):

Few things in life make me happier than watching Philip Rivers fail.

And I don’t care that he’s commanding the fifth-best passing offense in football, nor do I care that he’s thrown seven touchdowns to three INTs. What I care about is Rivers losing games, and he’s been damn efficient at that.

WITH APOLOGIZES TO BEAKER

WITH APOLOGIES TO BEAKER

Some people may cite the Chargers having the NFL’s most inept run game, or a defense that can’t stop anyone — not I. I place 200% of the blame on Philip Rivers. Fair or not, this is his team. Not LDT’s, not Merriman’s, and certainly not Norv Turner’s. It’s his team that eked out a win over the hapless Raiders thanks to a terrible no-touchdown call. It’s his team that barely held off a Miami team that had yet to click.

And now it’s his team that’s going to lose to the Kansas City Chiefs.

A bold claim? Yes. Crazy? No. The Chiefs have been in every game but a loss to the Eagles; they played the Ravens, Chiefs and Giants well into the fourth quarter and Dallas into overtime before bad tackling did them in.

It only takes one win to change momentum, and KC got that last week.

JORDAN SAYS: Chiefs 20, Chargers 19

———–

Indianapolis (5-0) @ St. Louis (0-6):

Getcha popcorn ready.

Lets just put the cards on the table right now:

  • Peyton Manning has thrown for over 300 yards in every game so far this season.
  • St. Louis is surrendering over 250 yards per game through the air.
  • Bob Sanders — the same Bob Sanders that has put more people on the IR than the rest of the NFL combined — is making his 2009 debut for the Colts.
  • The Rams are putting up an NFL-worst nine points per game.
  • Reggie Wayne.

Bet it.

JORDAN SAYS: Colts 37, Rams 3

———–

Minnesota (6-0) @ Pittsburgh (4-2):

The world is in love with the Minnesota Vikings. And who can blame them? The ol’ gunslinger, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Jared Allen, Antoine Winfield.

MUSTACHES = SACKS. IT'S SCIENCE, DON'T QUESTION IT.

MUSTACHES = SACKS. IT'S SCIENCE, DON'T QUESTION IT.

What about this team isn’t exciting?

The Vikings have a dirty little secret, though. One that nobody is talking about.

Minnesota isn’t blowing anyone out — unless you count the barely-an-NFL-franchise-Rams — not even the bad teams. The Vikings hold two-score wins over the Lions and Browns and beat the Packers, 49ers and Ravens by a combined 11 points. I know, I know — a win is a win. You can’t argue results. But Minnesota is due for a rude awakening.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to give it to them.

Ben Roethlisberger is leading the second-best passing offense in the NFL and Rashard Mendenhall is averaging 5.1 yards per carry since usurping the starting tailback spot from (not so) fast Willie Parker. And the former juggernaut of a Vikings defense has come back to the middle of the pack in allowing over 90 rush yards a game and 250 pass yards a game.

If Roethlisberger can protect the ball from Jared “the mad mullet” Allen, the Steelers will score enough to win.

JORDAN SAYS: Steelers 24, Vikings 17

———–

New England (4-2) @ Tampa Bay (0-6):

This one is very, very simple.

The suddenly revitalized Patriots dropped 435 yards on the Tennessee Titans last week. In the first half. The Buccaneers give up more big pass plays than any team in football and surrender over 28 points per game.
Something tells me this game won’t be competitive past the quarter, either.

Tom Brady has only been sacked seven times all season, and his offensive line is going to have all the time in the world against a defense that has registered a paltry ten sacks on the year. All the talk about Brady being gun shy and unsure in the pocket will be for naught as he picks apart the Tampa Bay defense with slants to Welker and deep outs and crosses to Randy Moss.

Laurence Maroney — named the No. 1 tailback in the wake of injuries to Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor — will have free reign between the tackles thanks to a Tampa defense that will have to routinely drop seven or eight into coverage.

JORDAN SAYS: Patriots 32, Buccaneers 9

———–

San Francisco (3-2) @ Houston (3-3):

The 49ers have had two weeks to stew over a blowout home loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Two weeks for Mike Singletary to rev up his players. Two weeks for Frank Gore to get healthy.

THE BEST PART OF WAKIN... WAIT SORRY, WRONG GUY

THE BEST PART OF WAKING U... WAIT SORRY, WRONG GUY

That all spells trouble for a Texans team riding a high after knocking off the Cincinnati Bengals.

San Francisco has to fly to Indianapolis next week to take on what will surely be a 6-0 Colts team, and the gravity of going into a premier matchup at 3-3 is something Singletary will make sure is not lost on any of his players. He’ll need to have that defense, the secondary especially, focused on a Houston team that has scored at least 20 points in five of six games on this season.

Matt Schaub is quietly having a Pro-Bowl season in throwing for over 1,800 yards with a 65% completion rate and a league-high 14 touchdowns. He’s got four 200-yard receivers on the team and running back Steve Slaton at his disposal, too.

Fortunately for the 49ers, the Texans give points up as freely as they score them.

JORDAN SAYS: 49ers 28, Texans 27

———–

Buffalo (2-4) @ Carolina (2-3):

I hate to do this to my own team, but this is GASB’s “go on a beer run, take a nap, file your taxes early or vacuum behind the entertainment center instead” game of the week.

JORDAN SAYS: Panthers 21, Bills 9

———–

New York Jets (3-3) @ Oakland (2-4):

I don’t know who paid who to make it happen, but Jamarcus Russell looked like a bona fide NFL quarterback last week. If I was to give you some Trent Dilfer-esque insight, I may say “Jamarcus Russell played well at the quarterback position.”

He made good reads, he was judicious with the ball, he completed over 55% of his passes and was only sacked twice. The important part, though? He won the football game. Moreso even than Philadelphia lost it. But don’t expect a repeat performance.

Not even against the I-told-you-they-were-overrated New York Jets.

Expect Rex Ryan to tighten the reigns this week on Mark Sanchez, leaving the Jets offense to Thomas Jones and Leon Washington — a tandem that ran for over 300 yards last week against a run defense that’s statistically not much worse than what the Raiders will bring to the table.

JORDAN SAYS: Jets 20, Raiders 12

———–

Atlanta (4-1) @ Dallas (3-2):

Lets give an honest appraisal of a Cowboys team that is not as good as their middle-of-the-road record would have you believe. They’ve beaten a winless Tampa Bay team, a then-winless Panthers team and a then-winless Chiefs team.

The two winning teams Dallas has played — New York Giants and Denver — resulted in losses.

BETTER THAN THE SHIRTLESS VOLLEYBALL-PLAYING ICEMAN

BETTER THAN THE SHIRTLESS VOLLEYBALL-PLAYING ICEMAN

Dallas’ offense has the capacity to turn it on when Romo isn’t doing his best Favre-in-a-four-INT-game impression and Felix Jones is healthy (he’s not), but Atlanta is allowing the fourth-fewest points per game and has a better offense to boot.

Matt Ryan is a maestro in the pocket and with targets like Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Jenkins to throw to, the Falcons will be able to stretch the field and pound Michael Turner up the middle to the tune of a two-score win.

JORDAN SAYS: Falcons 27, Cowboys 13

———–

Chicago (3-2) @ Cincinnati (4-2):

This game is the reason the Bengals fell last week to Houston.

Cinci was no doubt preoccupied by a terrific opportunity to make their first statement against a solid NFC team, and its not going to let that opportunity slide.

Both teams are in the middle of the pack on offense and on defense, with the one difference being the run game and the Bears’ inability to get Matt Forte going thus far. One of last season’s most promising rookies has floundered so far this season, only breaking the 100-yard mark against the Lions. He’s averaging just 3.4 yards per carry and that puts even more pressure on Jay Cutler to make plays downfield.

The Bengals will take full advantage.

With 16 sacks so far this season, Cinci ranks fourth in the league and its five interceptions is good for a tie for fifth.

This should be a close contest, but in the end the Bengals’ run game is the difference.

JORDAN SAYS: Bengals 23, Bears 21

———–

New Orleans (5-0) @ Miami (2-3):

Miami has some solid momentum after reeling off two straight victories against division opponents, but no team in the NFL is hotter than the New Orleans Saints.

Every aspect of this team is clicking in ways it never has before. Brees is an early MVP candidate and his video game-like numbers almost don’t seem real. Through just five games, Brees has amassed 1,400 yards, 13 touchdowns and a 70% completion ratio. He’s got a five-headed monster in the passing game that includes Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore, Jeremy Shockey and Reggie Bush.

The Saints have a three-headed monster to match in the run game with Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell and Reggie Bush.

This team is flat-out scary.

The much-improved defense is causing coaches just as many sleepless nights with its league-leading 11 interceptions and Will Smith-led defensive line. Miami will have a harder time running on the Saints than any team its played this year and Darren Sharper is always lurking in the secondary, and he’s got to be chomping at the bit waiting for Chad Henne to be throwing in just his third career start.

JORDAN SAYS: Saints 35, Dolphins 14

———–

Arizona (3-2) @ New York Giants (5-1):

After an extremely slow start, the Arizona Cardinals are finding their legs after back-to-back wins. Kurt Warner isn’t looking quite as old as he did against the 49ers and Colts early on in the season.

Don’t expect that to continue against a Giants team that is going to be home and mad as hell after being embarrassed by the Saints.

KURT WARNER: GET ACQUAINTED

KURT WARNER: GET ACQUAINTED

Since the Cardinals’ run game is a complete non-factor, New York’s pass-rushers can get after Warner and with linebackers changing their looks in zone blitzes, he’s liable to throw at least a couple of picks. It’s not just the defense that wants redemption after last week, though.

Eli Manning needs a bounce-back game and he’ll get it against the 31st-ranked pass defense in the NFL. Steve Smith, Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks will all get ample looks. And it’s a catch-22 for the Cardinals; if they rush more than four, Ahmad Bradshaw will be taking bubble screens for 15+ yards regularly. If they drop six or seven in pass coverage, Brandon Jacobs will pummel through a spread-out offensive line.

Giants get back on track.

JORDAN SAYS: Giants 27, Cardinals 10

———–

Philadelphia (3-2) @ Washington (2-3):

Last week I wrote that the Oakland Raiders were a “trainwreck of biblical proportions.”

Is there something higher than biblical proportions? Because that’s where the Washington Redskins are at right now. The (meddling) owner has no faith in the coach, the coach has no faith in the players, the players have no faith in the gameplan and the (two remaining) fans have no faith in anything.

Smells like a blowout.

JORDAN SAYS: Eagles 26, Resdskins 6.

———–

BYE: Denver, Detroit, Tennessee, Seattle, Jacksonville, Baltimore.

– Jordan Rogowski