Month: October 2016

Talk of Aaron Rodgers not being clutch needs to stop

By: Bill Tewes

There is a ridiculous notion going around that Aaron Rodgers is not “clutch”. Yes I am referencing the article Bob McGinn wrote this morning referencing a statistic from Pro Football Reference that ranks Rodgers 94th all time in “game winning drives” and also suggesting that Rodgers did not deliver against the Falcons Sunday afternoon.

Where McGinn misses the mark (just like many others) about Rodgers is that he puts the team in positions to win games. Rodgers does deliver, but other variables such as the defense blowing a lead or poor play calling result in Rodgers’ poor fourth quarter comebacks ranking.

If this game is the reason for people to bring up the old (and tired) discussion of Rodgers “clutchness”, then I would have to seriously ask what Aaron Rodgers did to not be clutch yesterday? Was it the final drive where he was asked to drive 40+ yards in 30 seconds? What about the four touchdowns to zero interceptions he threw yesterday? Sounds to me like Rodgers did enough to win the game for the Green Bay Packers yesterday.

About the only thing Rodgers could have done yesterday to win the game was line up in the secondary and prevent an easy touchdown and perhaps maybe shave some more time off the clock for their final touchdown drive. The reality is, at least in this instance, Rodgers did more than enough to win the game. He was asked to come back with less than 35 seconds on the clock and put the team in position to win, no easy task. Green Bay’s defense got shredded and Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers is going to have to answer for why plodding linebacker Jake Ryan was covering speedy receiver Mohamed Sanu on the final touchdown drive that put Atlanta ahead.

It is difficult to place value on what being “clutch” brings to the table. What does clutch mean to a quarterback like Kurt Warner who only had nine fourth quarter comebacks throughout his career (according to Pro Football Reference) but is a two-time MVP and won a Super Bowl. Dan Marino on the other hand had 36 total fourth quarter comebacks according to Pro Football Reference and has never won a Super Bowl. Matt Ryan, the quarterback who completed a comeback Sunday against Green Bay has 25 fourth quarter comebacks to his credit but also blew a 17-0 lead in the 2012 NFC title game and Atlanta has been notorious for monumental collapses over the years. Being clutch is extremely subjective and I honestly believe Rodgers has the body of work to prove that his clutch-less performances can be explained away.

Rodgers has shown his clutch ability in many games in which Green Bay was either not expected to win, or faced a difficult comeback. Two specific examples are on the road against the Seahawks in the 2014 NFC Title game as well as on the road against the Arizona Cardinals in 2009 Divisional Round. The Seahawks game was one in which if Green Bay managed the game better down the stretch, we would be talking about what Rodgers did to win us that game in a hostile environment. The Arizona game Green Bay was down 21 points and Rodgers (along with JerMichael Finley) forced overtime.

Last year’s playoff game against the Cardinals witnessed Rodgers pull one out of nowhere with a hail mary toss to receiver Jeff Janis and even though they lost, is further proof of Rodgers’ comeback ability. While the sample sizes are small, I think they still suggest that the clutch “trait” is again subjective and open to a lot of interpretation as to what value it really has.

Week Eight Predictions: Green Bay at Atlanta

By: Bill Tewes, Mark Prott, & Jim Boyce

After disposing of the Bears, the Packers got a mini-bye to prepare for this Sunday’s game in Atlanta. Unfortunately the extra time did little to help Green Bay on the injury front as they face the dirty birds.

JIM

FALCONS 30 PACKERS 27

This was shaping up to be a difficult road challenge even before Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb were limited in practice, leaving their status for Sunday up in the air. Rodgers will likely rely heavily on the short passing game again. This could work quite well as Atlanta’s defense is weak in the middle of the field, though they do have a solid cornerback duo. Running Back remains a question, perhaps Don Jackson or Knile Davis will receive something resembling a normal RB workload, but I expect Ty Montgomery will be lined up back there quite a bit.

The Falcons offensive strengths seem to expose Green Bay’s biggest weakness right now. That strength being Julio Jones lining up against the Packers depleted secondary. With over 800 yards in seven games, Jones is doing things rarely seen in the NFL. The Packers will no doubt give him extra attention, but that could open things up for everyone else. While I’m not sure Atlanta is really an NFC contender, the Packers inconsistencies so far this season have me feeling like they’ll come up just short in this one.

Bill

Green Bay 28 Atlanta 21

At this point in the season, Green Bay will get their toughest offensive challenge in the Atlanta Falcons. The Packers are down their top three cornerbacks, which is going to be an obviously difficult challenge to overcome. Ladarius Gunter will most likely have the task of covering Julio Jones with safety help over the top. A successful game for Green Bay’s secondary will be if they can limit Julio to under 250 yards receiving. Stop laughing, it’s the damn truth.

In order for Green Bay to win this game, and I am picking them to win it in Atlanta, is for their defense to get frenetic pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan. The Falcons are a very beatable team and even with their high powered offense, as San Diego proved last week. Atlanta’s offensive line has been pretty bad this year, and should allow for Green Bay’s front to get plenty of pressure.

Atlanta’s linebacking group has proven lackluster and outside of cornerback Desmond Trufant, their secondary has no noteworthy players. Aaron Rodgers will have plenty of opportunities to pick apart this Falcons defense and must seize the moment in order for Green Bay to not only win, but regain confidence heading into a difficult stretch of their schedule. I expect receiver Davante Adams to play a huge role with Trufant shadowing Jordy Nelson, as well as RB/WR Ty Montgomery getting plenty of touches.

MARK

FALCONS 31 PACKERS 27

This game has all the makings of a shootout. I honestly could see it going either way but because it’s in Atlanta I’m giving the edge to the Falcons. Green Bay has been a solid defense overall this year but the Falcons have one of the top offenses in the league and maybe the top overall NFL offensive skill position player in Julio Jones. Jones must be salivating at the thought of running routes against the Packers’ opening day 4th cornerback, Ladarius Gunter. The best bet for the Packers’ success will likely be Gunter using his physicality at the line against Jones with help over the top from Clinton-Dix. The Packers will need to generate a pass rush against Matt Ryan, who is already being sacked almost 3 times per game.

On the offensive side of the ball I see the Packers picking up from last week against the Bears and also being able to move the ball against the Falcons and their below average defense. The secondary of the Falcons is nothing special so there should be opportunities in the passing game. The Packers would be wise to continue utilizing the short West Coast passing attack they used last week. It seemed to bring rhythm back to the overall game of Aaron Rodgers. With over a week now in the offense it will be interesting to see how much Knile Davis will be incorporated into the game plan.

 

 

It Doesn't Matter What Position Ty Montgomery Plays

Is Ty Montgomery a running back or a receiver? It doesn’t matter!

By: Bill Tewes

When a player lands on the injured reserve list, it is generally a horrible predicament for many teams, especially when that player is a starter and a star. For the Green Bay Packers, losing Eddie Lacy to injury was a position many thought the team could not afford to be in. While the Packers are certainly hurting without Lacy, the door has been opened for yet another opportunity for Green Bay’s offense to be revitalized.

Enter Ty Montgomery, the second year wide receiver out of Stanford. Up until the Dallas game, Montgomery had seen limited action this season, mostly due to the fact that he was coming off nearly a year removed from playing in an NFL game after suffering a brutal ankle injury against the Chargers last season. Montgomery is also part of a crowded wide receiver corps, but now it appears as if his role is about to expand exponentially.

Montgomery has been thrust into a Swiss army knife type role, where he will be asked to shoulder many of the touches at running back and also function as an essential part of Green Bay’s wide receiver corps. The injury to Lacy has definitely opened up the door for the opportunity at running back, but dating back to last season, head coach Mike McCarthy has been hell-bent on getting both Montgomery and Randall Cobb touches in the backfield. These two receivers have been ready for this role even if it was not necessarily going to be a defined role for them.

Green Bay’s victory versus Chicago showcased what Montgomery is capable of when he is comfortable at running back and given the opportunity to get nearly double digit carries. Montgomery carried the ball a total of nine times for 60 yards (a whopping 6.66 yards per carry) and broke off an impressive run where he found a hole and galloped to a 30 yard-gain.

Montgomery was the feature back throughout the night with practice squad call up Don Jackson suffering a hand injury only six snaps into the game. He also accounted for 66 yards receiving on 10 receptions and should be an essential piece to the revitalization of Green Bay’s offense this season. Teams should expect to see a full dose of Montgomery throughout the rest of this season. If Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was the head coach for the Green Bay Packers and was asked in a press conference if he thought Montgomery was a receiver or a running back, he would simply say “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT POSITION HE PLAYS!”

Many have compared Montgomery to teammate Cobb, but it’s pretty obvious that Montgomery has the better build to handle a full carry load at running back, whereas Cobb could act as a change of pace scat-back type for a little extra speed out of the backfield. Montgomery’s draft profile suggested that he had not lived up to his potential as a wide receiver in college and his measurables better fit the description of a running back. It is safe to say this is the reason why the Packers did not invest a lot of money in the backup running back position, as they already had a player on the roster who is capable of filling this role if need be and that player is Montgomery.

Week Seven Predictions: Green Bay vs. Chicago

By Bill Tewes, Mark Prott, & Jim Boyce

The Packers looked atrocious at home against Dallas, failing to make many impact plays on defense while the offense sputtered and put the ball on the ground. The team has only four days to try and get better before the division rival Bears come to town.

JIM

PACKERS 20 BEARS 16

It’s hard to pick the Packers with any confidence after what we witnessed Sunday. Aaron Rodgers looks lost, as if he is not processing things on a football field as quickly as he used to. The Packers had to trade for Knile Davis out of desperation at RB, and are likely to use WR’s in the backfield often. It’s high time we stop predicting games under the assumption that the Packers offense can return to the form of several seasons ago, and start predicting them based on what we have seen consistently for the last calendar year. Thus I think it will be a struggle for the Packers to put points on the board.

The Bears offense does not really scare anyone, but the Packers are without their top three cornerbacks. Alshon Jeffrey is still a pretty good WR last I checked and might be able to get open at will. At least the run defense should get back to being productive after being run over by Dallas.

I’m predicting Green Bay to win this game, but that is more of a reflection on how poorly the Bears have played than it is on any confidence I have in Green Bay putting together a complete performance.

BILL

PACKERS 24 BEARS 10

The Packers will be without their top two running backs and have Knile Davis and freshly activated practice squad running back Don Jackson on the active roster. I touched on the fact that the Packers should have activated Jackson for the Dallas game to compliment an already injured Eddie Lacy. The run game has definitely taken a major step back, but McCarthy and company will look to use a large committee approach, mixing in Davis, Jackson, Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb.

Montgomery is the catalyst if Green Bay plans on scoring. The short pass game worked really well with Montgomery coming out of the backfield, and his body is better suited for running back anyway. Both Montgomery and Jackson took first team reps today and we well know that McCarthy will try to strike a solid balance in order to take pressure off a struggling Aaron Rodgers.

Both teams are incredibly banged up with the Packers suffering the worst on the injury front (out seven, including top three corners). Chicago is expected to be without former Packers guard Josh Sitton and their line is absolutely terrible to begin with. Green Bay’s defensive line should have plenty of opportunities to feast on a very average Brian Hoyer Thursday night. The D-Line will need to step up and cover for what is expected to be a sub par secondary. If Mike Daniels and company can get to Hoyer on a consistent basis and contain the run game, it is going to be a nightmare game for Chicago. If they do not get pressure on Hoyer, Alshon Jeffrey could go off and take advantage of Green Bay’s depleted secondary.

I have Green Bay winning this game convincingly, as I cannot fathom Aaron Rodgers having another bad game, especially against the Bears and a game which is a must win for this squad. I’m already having flashbacks to last year’s Bears game, but I think we bring a better game plan and cover for our inadequacies. I’m predicting a defensive score and Ty Montgomery being the difference maker.

MARK

PACKERS 27 BEARS 21

The Packers are proving to be a difficult forecast every week. Normally in recent years past a home game against a lousy division opponent would have me picking a blowout. Not saying that can’t happen against the Bears but when the offense and especially Aaron Rodgers continue to struggle like they have it’s difficult to win big. Decimated at running back, it will be fascinating to see how the Packers utilize personnel in the backfield.

The defense again will be counted on to carry the heavy load again tonight. After a lackluster performance against Dallas, I expect a bounce back performance by the front seven. The big question will be how will the secondary hold up minus their top three cornerbacks?

 

 

Week Six Predictions: Green Bay vs. Dallas

By: Bill Tewes, Mark Prott, & Jim Boyce

After taking care of the Giants at home in a game that didn’t feel as close as the final score, the Packers have another NFC East opponent coming to town in the 4-1 Dallas Cowboys.

JIM

PACKERS 24 COWBOYS 20

Through five games it appears the Cowboys have what it takes to be a playoff team. Rookie QB Dak Prescott has shown poise beyond his years while generally not being asked to do too much. Without top WR Dez Bryant, Prescott has often looked to Jason Witten and Cole Beasley on the short to intermediate routes. Where Dallas really excels though is in the run game, where top pick Ezekiel Elliot is churning out a ton of yards behind Dallas’s excellent offensive line. It will be a great test for the Packers run defense, which has been historically great through four games. I believe the Cowboys will be able to run for around 100 yards in this game, but as long as Green Bay limits the huge gains and doesn’t allow Dallas to control the clock by running for 150 plus then they should be in decent shape to win.

The Packers offense gained over 400 yards against New York and held the ball for 36 minutes, yet settled for too many field goals and had turnovers which kept the game closer than it needed to be. Green Bay needs to eliminate the poor throws and drops, and hope Eddie Lacy is healthy and ready to roll on Sunday. If so I think Green Bay does enough to win, but I expect a tight game throughout.

MARK

PACKERS 27 COWBOYS 17

Don’t get me wrong the Cowboys deserve respect for their surprise start to the NFL season. I was especially impressed by their win last week easily defeating the Bengals.  Led by two rookies in Prescott and Elliot the Cowboys statistically are one of the top offenses in the game right now. However, as the old saying goes “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” The Packers defense should match up favorably against the Cowboys offense. As long as the strong run defense of the Packers can slow down Elliot, which I suspect they will, look for DC Dom Capers to throw multiple exotic looks to confuse the young QB Prescott in an already hostile environment

Packers 21 Cowboys 24

It has to happen Pack fans. The Packers typically lose anywhere from 3-6 games a year and I believe this game will be one of them. The Packers have yet to face a running back like Ezekiel Elliott. While their run defense is no doubt impressive and seemingly unstoppable, I strongly believe Elliott will get his yards and find the end-zone against Green Bay Sunday afternoon. In fact, I’ll say Elliott ends up with 115 yards and a score.

This game is going to be huge for both teams. If Dallas wins, it will signal that they are for real and nothing (not even the top ranked run defense) can stop Elliott and Prescott. If Green Bay wins, it is business and usual and they continue their dominance of usual home wins.

The problem I have with Green Bay is inconsistency on offense. I was ready to say they were back after their win versus Detroit, but the second half of that game, coupled with the second half of the Giants game says otherwise. Something is going on with Green Bay’s rhythm and they have yet to work out all of the kinks. An odd sight was Jordy Nelson dropping three passes and having one of his worst games in quite some time. Luckily Randall Cobb and Davante Adams picked up the slack and I expect them to contribute big if Green Bay plans to win this game.

Dak Prescott has certainly wowed in the five games he’s been the starter for Dallas. He has yet to make any real critical mistakes and has let Elliott do his work as the workhorse of Dallas’ offense. If they keep to the script and pound the rock, I cannot see Green Bay having enough consistency on offense to keep a lead late into the 4th quarter. If Dallas wears out Green Bay’s defense, this game is theirs for the taking. And that is why I believe Prescott and company will come away with a close victory.

Eddie Lacy ankle injury and who Green Bay turns to if he cannot go against Cowboys

By: Bill Tewes

After injuring his ankle in the third quarter of Green Bay’s win against the New York Giants, Packers running back Eddie Lacy’s status for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys is still up in the air. In this morning’s press conference, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said, “He’ll be in the rehab today and we’ll see how he moves around.” McCarthy has additionally stressed throughout the week that the injury is “not serious”.

Lacy’s murky injury status leaves a lot of question marks regarding Sunday’s matinee versus a team that is gaining a lot of momentum early in the season, the Dallas Cowboys. The only other active running back on Green Bay’s roster at the moment is James Starks, who has had a monumentally rough start to the 2016 season. The Packers cannot rely on Starks’ atrocious 1.8 yards per carry especially against a Dallas defense that is not stout against the run, but ranks 12th overall in the NFL. They certainly will not expect fullback Aaron Ripkowski to shoulder the load, but he will definitely be in the mix for carries and goal line work if Starks is the starter.

The Packers are in a real pinch at the moment because they have no running backs other than Lacy and Starks with NFL experience. John Crockett was third in line before he was put on IR just before the season started. Green Bay brought in former Saints running back CJ Spiller a few weeks ago for a workout, but Spiller signed with the Seattle Seahawks. Another option at their disposal was recently released Ravens half-back Justin Forsett, but he just signed with the Detroit Lions as of today.

All signs are pointing toward the team activating practice squad running back Don Jackson to the 53-man roster if Lacy cannot go. Jackson, an undrafted free agent out of Nevada, ran a 4.5 40 time at the combine and stands in at 5’ 10” and 205 pounds. Jackson brings a different run style to a Packers’ backfield that is seemingly exclusively bruiser backs. Jackson has an interesting story on his road to the NFL and could be a wild-card for the Packers this year. A scat back type could pay dividends for Rodgers and also give McCarthy more play-calling options.

Green Bay will most definitely need to lean on the run game, even against a banged up Dallas secondary. They had a favorable match-up last week against New York and even though the offense clicked in the first half, it was completely bogged down in the second half. Rodgers missed a lot of throws and multiple receivers were credited with drops. In order to beat a team like Dallas, who is on the rise and riding a lot of momentum coming into this game, McCarthy and company will have to bring an effective run game Sunday afternoon.

Next year’s draft will be essential for Thompson and McCarthy to take a good look at the running back class and get a complimentary back to Eddie Lacy. It is evident that James Starks has regressed and Starks will have to show that he is capable of being a quality #2 back in order for him to remain in the NFL, or even on a roster this season. The running back situation in Green Bay is an unnecessary problem that the Packers now have to potentially address (a perhaps even address throughout the rest of the season) with either Starks as the starter or going with an undrafted free agent in Jackson. More to come as Lacy progresses through rehab.

Week Five Predictions: Green Bay vs. New York

By: Bill Tewes, Mark Prott, & Jim Boyce

JIM

PACKERS 31 GIANTS 23

The return of a few defensive starters should be a big boost to Green Bay’s defense, perhaps none more so than Morgan Burnett. With Burnett out against Detroit, Stafford and his receivers were able to find a lot of open space to throw the ball. Sam Shields will still be out, which is a concern against the Giants excellent WR corps, but Burnett should help alleviate the big plays we saw in Week 3. Offensively this is a chance for Rodgers and the Pack to prove they are back in business against a defense better than the Lions. The Giants have certainly improved over last seasons horrendous defense, but they are still able to be beaten.

There is certainly a possibility for a Giants upset if the secondary cannot stop the pass. However being at home, with two weeks rest, against a team that has looked fairly mediocre over the first month of the season, and it would be disappointing if the Packers do not take care of business Sunday night.

MARK

PACKERS 38 GIANTS 21

The timing of this game could not play more in favor for Green Bay in their Sunday night match-up against Big Blue. The Giants played a physical game at Minnesota last Monday night while the Packers have had 13 days in between their last game played to rest up and game-plan for the Giants. Surely it would be a disappointment if Mike McCarthy’s squad doesn’t get out to a fast start in this one, especially after the offense seemed to finally be regaining it’s mojo in the Lions game. The guess here is Aaron Rodgers should be able to exploit and take advantage of a banged up Giants secondary.

However, I see the real difference in this game being the Packers suddenly blooming pass rush getting after Eli Manning and the boys. The Packers now boast 4 legitimate pass rushers in Mike Daniels, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and Nick Perry, something they haven’t had in years. The Giants on the other hand are going to counter with Marshall Newhouse’s backup as one of their starting offensive tackles. Enough said.

Bill

PACKERS 35 GIANTS 17

When the schedule was released, this game was one I circled as a loss for Green Bay. The pieces New York added on defense (Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins) have done little to make in impact for the Giants through four weeks. It is crazy to think that the Giants have yet to force a turnover. I do not see that changing this week as Rodgers will take care of the ball and cut through the underwhelming Giants defense Sunday night.

One thing the Giants defense does have going for them is stopping the run. They aren’t as good as Green Bay (who are playing out of their minds when it comes to run defense) but are ranked top 10 in the NFL. I would not expect Eddie Lacy to get much traction tonight and may also take a back seat to the aerial assault. The Giants secondary is also pretty banged up with two starters questionable (Eli Apple, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) and this should allows plenty of opportunity for Rodgers and company to air it out.

There is a lot of turmoil in New York right now and head coach Ben McAdoo is still getting his bearings as far a leading the team. I’m not sure Odell Beckham Jr. can control his temper and that could very well lead to some major issues for this team. The media is certainly talking about this story (and seemingly nothing else as far as the two teams are concerned) which will definitely help Green Bay. Eli Manning will give us a couple of opportunities for some interceptions and they have next to no run game. I cannot imagine the Giants putting up a lot of points tonight, even with cornerback Sam Shields out as well as starter Damarious Randall getting the questionable label.

Next Man Up: Rashad Vaughn

With Khris Middleton out for six months, the Bucks look for a replacement.

By: Jim Boyce

The Milwaukee Bucks were dealt a huge blow before their season even began when Khris Middleton went down with a torn hamstring which required surgery. While not necessarily a guy fans notice on the highlight reels, Middleton was highly productive and the Bucks clear go to guy at the end of games. Barring a major trade that brings in a shooting guard, the Bucks will be depending on a few players to try and fill the void left by Middleton. None more so than 2015 first round pick Rashad Vaughn.

Vaughn clearly was not ready for the NBA as a rookie. He struggled immensely and will need to improve in every area in order for the Bucks to achieve the goals they have as a team. No one expects Vaughn to come in and match the numbers Middleton put up last season, or even play the minutes Middleton accrued, but it is a realistic expectation of Vaughn to improve his efficiency. When the starting five takes the floor, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker will be the ones whom the bulk of the scoring load will fall upon. In an ideal scenario, the threat they offer will mean open looks beyond the arc for Matthew Dellavedova and Vaughn. Vaughn needs to hit these jumpers the way he did in college.

Jason Kidd had a lot of positive things to say about the offseason Vaughn had but unfortunately it has yet to translate to on court success. Vaughn shot 1 for 7 in the preseason opener at Chicago, this after shooting 24.2% beyond the arc during summer league play earlier this year. On the bright side Vaughn is still only 20 and his effort and love of the game do not seem to be an issue. The hope remains that with more experience the NBA game will slow down for Vaughn and the three point shots will fall more often.

Certainly there are others who can help replace Khris Middleton. We wrote after the draft about the positive things Malcolm Brogdon can bring to the team, and he certainly will be expected to play a role right away given the current circumstances. Jason Terry, a pro’s pro, will likely provide more value than expected on the court as well. However it is important to remember that Brogdon is a 2nd round rookie facing a big adjustment to the NBA game, and Terry is a 17 year vet who simply will not hold up playing starters minutes every night. The man with the first shot at replacing Middleton is Vaughn, and going into his second season now he is the one the Bucks need to hold down the fort.

As the 17th pick in 2015 draft the expectation for Vaughn was never that he would become an All-Star. The NBA draft is usually a hit or miss affair after the top handful of picks but it should be reasonable to expect Vaughn to at least carve out a role as a solid rotational player. After his rookie season Vaughn had been a little bit of an afterthought, but if he can realize his potential he adds an exciting piece to the already impressive young core here in Milwaukee.