Category: Sports News

The NFL's Deepest Receiving Corps Propel Green Bay Past New York

Embed from Getty ImagesTEWES

By: Bill Tewes

The Green Bay Packers looked like they were on their way to another lackluster playoff performance, until the deepest receiving corps in the NFL turned up the heat in the frigid cold. Aaron Rodgers and company struck back against a stout New York Giants secondary that had shut them out throughout most of the first half.

The second quarter almost spelled doom for Green Bay, as Jordy Nelson took flight to make what should have been a spectacular catch down the sideline. Instead, Nelson dropped the ball and took a punishing (and illegal) hit from defensive back Leon Hall. Nelson crawled over to the sideline and was down for a long time. It looked like Green Bay’s offense, which at that point was floundering, was completely doomed.

Enter Davante Adams, who became Rodgers’ first read after Nelson went out. The Packers marched down the field after a nice punt return from Micah Hyde and this drive would be all Adams. After getting no traction with Adams throughout much of the first half, Rodgers hit a huge pass to him down the sideline, with Adams shaking coverage en route to a 31 yard gain. The drive resulted in the most important sequence of the game, as the offensive line gave Aaron Rodgers all day. Rodgers, showing legendary pocket presence, took nearly nine seconds to find Adams in the end-zone, who is proving to be Mr. January by coming up big in playoff games.

The true wildcard in this game was Randall Cobb. No one knew how many snaps he was going to get or if he could perform at a high-level after being out for two games with an ankle injury, but he looked none the worse for wear. Cobb’s touchdown grab of Rodgers’ Hail Mary heave to end the half gave the Packers a monumental boost and some nice separation on the score board after a poor start. Cobb would grab two more touchdowns finishing with five receptions for 116 yards and leaving no question as to his importance to this team.

Green Bay’s receivers absolutely outclassed New York’s all game. Odell Beckham dropped multiple catch-able passes and finished up with four receptions for 28 yards, making him the fifth best statistical receiver for New York Sunday afternoon. Tavarres King, who had two catches in all of the games he played in the regular season, hauled in a nice touchdown grab on broken coverage by Damarious Randall. That catch accounted for 41 of his 73 yards. For all the talk of Green Bay’s secondary collapsing and potentially allowing for one of the more dynamic receivers in the NFL (Beckham) to completely trash them, they held their own and held him in check all game. Outside of King, they did not allow rookie Sterling Shephard to find room to work, as he has become a solid red zone threat for New York with eight touchdowns this year.

The Packers also got solid contributions from Jared Cook and Ty Montgomery. Cook was consistently getting open and even though Rodgers overthrew him a couple times, he connected with Cook on multiple second down conversions for 10+ yards. The Packers will need Cook to step up if Nelson as well as maybe even Montgomery miss time. Montgomery added three catches for 41 yards and if he suits up next week against Dallas, will add a short pass threat out of the backfield.

Geronimo Allison was an afterthought all game, catching only one pass for eight yards after having an impressive game against the Lions last week. Allison took a backseat with Cobb coming back, but still offers a dangerous weapon as well as quality depth at a position that is always seemingly deep for Green Bay. They will need all hands on deck to beat Dallas in Jerry World.

dallasvsgreenbay

Taking a look at advance metrics shows Dallas’ secondary ranks 26th in the league according to Pro-Football Reference. There will be plenty of opportunities for Rodgers and this deep receiving corps to do some damage through the air. Dallas’ defense excels in run defense as they are ranked first overall in the entire league, so the Packers will have to find unique ways to utilize Montgomery, Aaron Ripkowski and Christine Michael in the passing game and take what they can get on the ground.

Next Sunday’s game is shaping up to be an instant classic. Will the rookie duo of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott keep up their incredible maiden season and down the Pack in Dallas? Or will Aaron Rodgers continue his Run-The-Table campaign with a win in the same building he won his first Super Bowl in?

Week 17 Predictions: Green Bay at Detroit.

Embed from Getty Images

Week 17 Predictions: Green Bay at Detroit 

By: Bill Tewes, Mark Prott & Jim Boyce

The Packers have won five straight to set up an NFC North championship game in Detroit. This is what being a fan is all about.

JIM

Packers 34 Lions 30

At 4-6 I figured this team was done, they looked sloppy or worse in all three phases. Aaron Rodgers had other ideas though and is on one of the hottest five game stretches of his illustrious career. That shouldn’t change in Detroit even with Darius Slay playing for the Lions. I expect the Packers offense to move the ball pretty well, as long as there are no dumb turnovers they should hit 30 plus points for the 4th consecutive week.

They may need all of those points because the Packers secondary is still pretty shaky. Matt Stafford has not looked right since breaking a finger, but the Lions have receiving options that can do damage. As always the key here will be for the front seven to create havoc and prevent Stafford from having time to throw.

If the Redskins win on Sunday then this becomes do or die for both teams. Tensions will be running high but I expect the veteran Packers to be able to handle the environment. Experience with big games could come in handy in this one.

MARK

Packers 37 Lions 24

Five down and one to go. No motivational speech should be needed for this showdown at Ford Field on Sunday night. Regardless of the outcome of the Redskins game, this one is for all the marbles. The Lions are on a downward trend while the Packers could be the hottest team in the playoff tournament with a win on Sunday night. I find it difficult to believe that doubt hasn’t started creeping in the back of the heads of Lions players. They let the Packers back into the equation when they could have wrapped up the division long ago and now they will pay.

I expect a back and forth high scoring first half in this ballgame. However, I see the Packers, the more experienced big game team, coming out in the 2nd half and taking control. I think the Packers will want to run the ball more in this one than last week but I still see the best approach for the offense to let Aaron Rodgers do his thing and air it out to the suddenly wide variety of weapons at his disposal. I expect the Packers to test the hamstring of Darius Slay early and often. How about back to back go routes to open up the game regardless of whether you throw the ball to that receiver or not. However, even if he is healthy, I don’t see the Lions secondary sticking with the Packers’ receivers on a fast playing surface.

On defense, the Packers simply need to learn to bend but not break. If Clay Matthews continues to play like he did last week, Matt Stafford could be in for a long day. The Packers also limited the snaps of Julius Peppers all year long to save him for games likes this. The hand injury of Stafford has limited his accuracy and even despite the sometimes shaky play of the secondary I expect the Packers defense to get their hands on the ball especially in the second half.

Packers 41 Lions 20

The penultimate game leading up to a potential playoff berth is going to be massive for both of these teams. The crazy part is that both teams will know what they need to do in order to make the playoffs. If Washington is eliminated, both teams will make the playoffs regardless of who wins the division tonight.

Aaron Rodgers has put his money where his mouth is and has propelled this team back to the heights everyone thought they were capable of to start the season. The offense is clicking like 2010-2014 and Green Bay has a semblance of a run game again (even with a somewhat shaky outing against Minnesota). I think the tight end of Jared Cook is going to be crucial for opening up the field as the Lions defense has been gashed for 800 yards and 10 touchdowns to opposing tight ends.

I want to see Mike Daniels getting constant pressure and dominate Detroit’s offensive line. The Lions will most likely be be without center Travis Swanson which will give Daniels more opportunities through the middle which will hopefully result in some sacks or at the very least some solid QB pressures.

I have the Packers winning big in Detroit as their final statement game of the 2016 regular season and proving that they are a true contender in the NFC and should be taken seriously with the likes of Dallas, Atlanta and Seattle.

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.

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 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.