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Posts Tagged ‘Aaron Rodgers’

It all comes down to this…after two weeks of preparation for the teams and endless analysis from the NFL community, Super Bowl 45 is almost upon us.  And it should be a great matchup.  Both teams got off to great starts in their championship games and were able to hold off their opponents to advance to the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl Rings

Will the Packers or Steelers add to the collection?

I can see both teams winning this game.  Here are the key things to watch:

  • Early nerves – Watch how the Packers come out in the first quarter.  Do they look nervous?  Are they a little too pumped?  Or are they settling in quickly?  Having been here before the Steelers might be able to get a quick score.
  • Line of scrimmage battle – B.J. Raji has really taken off for the Packers.  He is an extremely disruptive force in the middle of their defensive line.  The Steelers are at a major disadvantage with Doug Legursky at center in place of the injured Maurkice Pouncey.  Pittsburgh is going to have to contain Raji and prevent him from blowing up their running plays and getting a quick jump on Ben Roethlisberger.
  • The outside edge – The Steelers should have an advantage in getting Rashard Mendenhall to the outside on runs.  Watch Green Bay’s defensive strategy to see if they run blitz outside the tackles to try to crumble the edge before Pittsburgh can establish it.
  • Four and five receiver sets – One of the more interesting story lines should be the offensive formations of the Packers.  Will they even try to run the ball?  Will they attempt to utilize the “Bone” formation at all?  Or will they just start from the get go with four and five receiver sets and try to spread the Steeler defense out?  Green Bay is likely to have a major advantage in multiple receiver sets as their wideouts have favorable matchups against the extended secondary of Pittsburgh.
  • The impact of Polamalu – Troy Polamalu has been kind of quiet in these playoffs.  As he’s still recovering from major bumps and bruises suffered throughout the season this last two weeks of rest should really help him.  Will the Steelers set him loose on blitzes?  Or will they need his help in coverage?

Who do I like: Packers 27-21

Why: Aaron Rodgers was spectacular in the Georgia Dome but struggled in the elements of Soldier Field.  He’ll be back inside for the Super Bowl and I expect him to be sharp.  The Packers should be able to do enough quick read stuff on offense to keep the nasty Steelers pass rushers off of Rodgers. 

I think Raji will play a big role for the Packers.  I think Pittsburgh will struggle to control him the whole game.  I do think the Steelers will have success running the ball and finding Heath Miller in the ball control passing game but I think their receivers will struggle to get open against the excellent Green Bay cornerbacks.  I think the Packers will call on their defense to make a big stop within the last two minutes and that the unit will be up to the task and seal the historical win for this great Green Bay franchise.

Photo source: jdtornow

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Last weekend was not exactly a bright one in my history of picking games.  I was 1-3 with my only successful pick being the Bears.  The most interesting thing to me about last weekend is that each of the four teams that lost the regular season matchup in the stadium where the playoff game was played won the playoff game.  And, as a teaser for my picks, I think that trend will continue this weekend.

I was going to do more extensive write ups on the two championship games, but to be honest, I’ve been much more interested in the work I’m doing over at my NBA blog.  I’m researching and posting my mid-season rankings by position.  I just posted my mid-season point guard rankings.

Back to the NFL – I do think these championship games could be excellent.  Let’s take a look.

NFC Championship
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Sunday, 3:00 pm

The Packers and Bears split their season series, with each team winning on their home turf.  They most recently met in Green Bay in week 17 in a must win for the Packers who held off the Bears 10-3.  It’s almost amazing to me that Green Bay and Chicago have met 181 times but only once in the playoffs.

Key for the Packers: They have to contain the Bears’ return game.  Devin Hester is explosive and their coverage teams have struggled – see the Eric Weems 102-yard kickoff touchdown return from last weekend.

Key for the Bears: They have to get a strong pass rush from their front four.

Who do I like: Packers 20-13

Why: Rodgers is playing better than any other individual player so far in these playoffs and the Packers defense has been vicious. I like what the Bears have done but I think it ends here.

AFC Championship
New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, 6:30 pm

Both of these teams scored impressive wins over division rivals last week.  I was especially surprised by the Jets who I expected to get crushed by New England.  Their coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for their tremendously successful game plans.

Key for the Jets: They’ve had success switching to a coverage defensive approach in the last two weeks.  I think they need to go back to the attacking blitz scheme that got them into the Playoffs.  The Steelers offensive line is susceptible to the blitz and the Ravens had success with the blitz.  Baltimore’s switch to a conservative approach is a large part of what did them in.

Key for the Steelers: Stopping the run.  The Jets had over 100 yards rushing when they beat the Steelers in week 15.

Who do I like: Steelers 21-10

Why: It’s important to remember that neither Troy Polamalu nor Heath Miller played in the first matchup.  I think both of those guys make a difference in this game.  Also, the Jets are due for a let down after the huge emotional win over the Patriots.  Ultimately I like the ability of Ben Roethlisberger to make plays more than I like the ability of Mark Sanchez to make plays.

Who do you like in these games?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

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The Packers and Falcons will meet Saturday night in the Georgia Dome for what many will consider to be the de facto NFC Championship game.  The same teams met in the same place in week 12 with the home team winning 20-17 on a Matt Bryant field goal with nine seconds left in the game.  Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to major yardage, with 344 yards passing and 51 yards on the ground, but not enough scoring for a win.  Matt Ryan and Roddy White were relatively quiet while Michael Turner gained 110 yards on 23 carries.

Georgia Dome

The Georgia Dome will see an explosive game on Saturday night.

The Packers won a tight game in Philadelphia over the NFC East champion Eagles last Sunday.  Rodgers was solid but it was rookie running back James Starks who made the difference.  He racked up a surprising 123 yards on 23 carries.

While the Packers were battling to hold on against the Eagles the Falcons were home waiting to see who their next opponent would be.  At 13-3, Atlanta had a great year and won the NFC South behind the three-headed monster of Ryan, Turner and White.

The Packers win if: Their defense can keep Turner contained on first and second down.  Green Bay’s run defense is just 18th in the NFL and it hurt them in the first game against Atlanta.  They played the run well against Philadelphia last week, giving up just 49 yards on 13 carries to running backs.

The Falcons win if: They can slow down the Packers potent passing game.  The Falcons have not played the pass real well, ranking 22nd in the NFL in pass defense.  They rank only 20th in the NFL in sacks.  They’ll need to pressure Rodgers and excel in coverage to beat Green Bay.

Who do I like: Falcons 34-30

Why: This will be a shootout.  I think the Falcons defense will be able to stop the Packers running game and not allow Starks to break through for another big day.  I expect John Abraham to apply the pressure on Rodgers and the Falcons secondary to do just enough to slow down the Packers passing game.  I think Turner will put forth another solid effort and take some of the pressure off Ryan.  I would not be surprised to see Eric Weems break a big return.

Who do you like in this NFC heavyweight matchup?  Let me know your thoughts on the game in the comments section below.

Photo source: Chrisjnelson at en.wikipedia

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Both the Packers and the Eagles were favorites to win the NFC Championship at some point this season.  They met week one in Philadelphia.  Kevin Kolb, who was expected to be the star quarterback for the Eagles, got hurt in that game opening the door for Michael Vick, who became the star quarterback for the Eagles.

Green Bay Packers hearse

Will the Eagles' championship hopes be taken away in a vehicle that looks like this?

With all the injuries that they’ve had, it’s impressive that the Packers were able to win 10 games and make the NFC playoffs.  They’ve played particularly well as of late with back-to-back wins over the Giants and Bears.  Aaron Rodgers, when not concussed, has been spectacular and the Green Bay defense has been mostly stellar.  It’s second in the NFL in both sacks and interceptions.

The Eagles rebounded from that week one loss and went on to win 10 games and the NFC East title.  Vick was brilliant for parts of the season, working his way into the MVP conversation but then working his way back out of that conversation.  Philadelphia also showed a potent running game but struggled some on the defensive side of the ball.

The Packers win if: They can get Vick uncomfortable early.  It may seem counterintuitive but Vick has actually been a much more effective quarterback while throwing from the pocket than on the run.  Green Bay will most likely focus on making Vick move to his right, making it much more difficult for him to throw the ball as a lefty.

The Eagles win if: They contain the Packers passing game.  Let’s face it, Green Bay does not have a running game to speak of.  The Eagles need to either confuse Rodgers by changing up their defenses (more likely) or  individually excel in their assignments (less likely). 

Who do I like: Packers 27-20

Why: It’s really tough to go against the home team Eagles.  Especially when you consider that Andy Reid’s teams are 7-1 in playoff openers.  For me what it comes down to is this – I just think the Packers have more playmakers on both sides of the ball and I really like their defense, which was second in the NFL in allowing only 15.0 points per game.  I think Rodgers will be steady and the Green Bay defense will prevent the Philadelphia offense from doing what they want to do.

Do you agree or disagree with my analysis of this matchup?  Let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

Photo source: kevindooley

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It’s always fun to make preseason predictions and it’s usually a nightmare to go back and look at them. 

Fortune teller with crystal ball

I don't think I've quite figured out how to interpret my crystal ball yet.

With a quick glance I can tell that I wasn’t very creative with my 2010 NFL predictions.  Here they are with the actual records next to them in parentheses:

NFC East

Cowboys   11-5 (6-10)
Giants   10-6 (10-6)
Redskins   9-7 (6-10)
Eagles   8-8 (10-6)

My shining jewel in the NFC East – my New York Giants prediction.  I also picked Tono Romo to be division MVP, Donovan McNabb to be the Top Newcomer in the division, Linval Joseph to be the Top Rookie (he did make six tackles!) and Malcolm Kelly to be the Most Improved.  Ugh!

NFC North

Packers   12-4 (10-6)
Vikings   10-6 (6-10)
Bears   5-11 (11-5)
Lions   2-14 (6-10)

Not too bad with the Packers but I was off by at least four games with the three other teams in the NFC North.  I did better in the individual categories.  I picked Aaron Rodgers to be the NFC North MVP, Clay Matthews as the division Defensive Player of the Year and Julius Peppers to be the Top Newcomer.

NFC South

Saints   12-4 (11-5)
Falcons   11-5 (13-3)
Panthers   5-11 (1-15)
Buccaneers   4-12 (10-6)

Let me first apologize to Tampa Bay for being so far off.  I’d like to apologize to myself next for giving the Panthers too much credit even though I wanted to pick them to have far fewer wins.  My individual award picks for the NFC South were a Saints and Falcons lovefest.

NFC West

49ers   10-6 (6-10)
Cardinals   6-10 (5-11)
Rams   4-12 (7-9)
Seahawks   4-12 (7-9)

The Rams definitely surpassed my expectations, which was exciting – well at least up to last night.  I expected big things from Frank Gore, Alex Smith and Beanie Wells.  Oops.

AFC East

Patriots   13-3 (14-2)
Jets   12-4 (11-5)
Dolphins   8-8 (7-9)
Bills   3-13 (4-12)
 
I was pretty good in the AFC East just missing each team by one game and calling the order of finish.  While I did pick Tom Brady to be the AFC East MVP, I also picked Shonn Greene to be Offensive Player of the Year, C.J. Spiller to be the Top Rookie and Aaron Maybin to be Most Improved.

AFC North

Ravens   11-5 (12-4)
Steelers   10-6 (12-4)
Bengals   10-6 (4-12)
Browns   2-14 (5-11)

I thought the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger would hurt the Steelers a lot more than it did.  I also blew it on the Bengals.  I expected Joe Flacco to really turn it up and be the AFC North MVP.  That did not happen either.

AFC South

Colts   12-4 (10-6)
Titans   11-5 (6-10)
Texans   9-7 (6-10)
Jaguars   5-11 (8-8)

Other than the Colts I got this division all wrong.  I did call Arian Foster as the Most Improved Player in the AFC South.

AFC West

Chargers   12-4 (9-7)
Chiefs   8-8 (10-6)
Raiders   5-11 (8-8)
Broncos   3-13 (4-12)

I clearly trusted the Chargers too much.  I wanted to buy more into the Raiders but I couldn’t find the wins.  I did say that Vincent Jackson was the Most Important Player in the AFC West because of his holdout.  That may have proven to be true.

So another NFL regular season is in the books and my predictions mostly stunk.  I only predicted one team’s record correctly.  I’m pretty sure you could randomly generate records and get one right.  But don’t worry fearless readers it won’t stop me from making more predictions!

Photo source: Steve Snodgrass

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With NFL playoff berths on the line, week 16 was absolutely critical for teams that hoped to compete in the postseason.  Some squads stepped up (Packers, Bears, Chiefs and Rams) and others fell on their face (Chargers and Jaguars).  Let’s take a look at the performances I thought were most noteworthy.

Here are the Average Guy NFL Week 16 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

Green Bay Packers – 45-17 over the New York Giants

Lambeau Field

The Packers need to beat the Bears in Lambeau next week to sew up a playoff berth.

Most Important Win

St. Louis Rams – 25-17 over their division rival San Francisco 49ers

Worst Loss

San Diego Chargers – 20-34 at Cincinnati Bengals

Biggest Surprise

Detroit Lions

Biggest Disappointment

Jacksonville Jaguars

Offensive MVP

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – 25 completions 37 attempts 404 yards 4 TDs 139.9 QB rating 2 carries 26 yards

Defensive MVP

Chris Harris, Chicago Bears – 1 interception 1 fumble recovery 11 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Jacoby Ford, Oakland Raiders – 99-yard kickoff return for TD 5 kickoff returns 188 yards

Most Surprising Performance

Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals – 16 completions 21 attempts 269 yards 4 TDs 157.2 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Eli Manning, New York Giants – 17 completions 33 attempts 301 yards 2 TDs 4 interceptions 63.6 QB rating

Offensive Rookie

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – 28 completions 37 attempts 292 yards 1 TD 107.0 QB rating fumble lost

Defensive Rookie

Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs – 54-yard interception return for a TD 4 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers – 6 receptions 122 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • I watched the entire Jets-Bears game today.  It was an excellent matchup but I was surprised that it turned into shootout.  I expected much more of a defensive battle. 
  • The Bears started with a lot of momentum and took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.  The Jets owned the second quarter, scoring 24 points and taking a 24-17 lead into halftime.
  • Jay Cutler was on fire in the third quarter, throwing three touchdowns and propelling the Bears to a 38-31 lead.  But then the defenses stepped up in the fourth quarter.  The only scoring was a field goal by the Jets.  It wasn’t enough, and the Bears got a big victory over the team that just won in Pittsburgh last week.
  • Mark Sanchez looked good today.  His throws were crisp and he was making good, quick decisions.  The Jets also did a good job integrating the Wildcat into the offensive game plan.  On defense, they really struggled to generate a pass rush without major blitzes.
  • The Bears offensive line has really improved.  They did a good job of protecting Cutler and giving him time to make his throws.
  • Of course, while I was watching that game I was tracking the 49ers-Rams game on the computer.  I was psyched when the Rams got off to a good start but they let up the two big plays and made it too close.  It’s always great to beat the Niners, but especially today with everything that was on the line. 
  • I really hope the Rams can win in Seattle next weekend for the obvious reason that I’d love to see them win the division and make the playoffs but also because I think it’s important for the NFC West winner to at least have a .500 record.
  • What a strange week this will be – with the rescheduling of the Vikings-Eagles game there will be NFL games on five days in week 16 – Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
  • Couldn’t believe it when I heard on the Giants-Packers telecast that Eli Manning has 29 turnovers this season.
  • A couple of other considerations for Offensive MVP this week – Matt Cassel and Matt Forte were also very impressive – but I had to go with Rodgers.
  • Jeez, the Patriots are good enough, but when you give up seven turnovers how in the world can you expect to compete Buffalo?

One BIG Question

After the last two weeks will the Giants have anything left to give next Sunday?

Let me know what sticks out to you about week 16 by posting a comment below.

Photo source: Brian Giesen

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The Sunday portion of NFL week 12 has been thrilling.  Through the first 11 games of the day (with Chargers-Colts being played), eight games have ended with a score differential of a touchdown or less.  Five of the six early games are included in that total.  This is what the NFL is all about.  I guess it makes up for a rather ho-hum Thanksgiving slate.

With the Sunday and Monday night games still to be played, here are the Average Guy NFL Week 12 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

Chicago Bears – 31-26 over the Philadelphia Eagles

Eli Manning Warming Up

Eli Manning and the Giants rallied for a critical win on Sunday

Most Important Win

New York Giants – 24-20 over the Jacksonville Jaguars

Worst Loss

Tennessee Titans – 20-0 at the Houston Texans

Biggest Surprise

St. Louis Rams

Biggest Disappointment

Oakland Raiders

Offensive MVP

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears – 14 completions 21 attempts 247 yards 4 TDs 146.2 QB rating 7 carries 17 yards

Defensive MVP

Terrell Thomas, New York Giants – 1 interception 1 sack 6 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Brad Smith, New York Jets – 89-yard kickoff return TD

Most Surprising Performance

Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins – 17 completions 30 attempts 307 yards 2 TDs 1 interception 100.3 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans – 7 carries 5 yards 2 receptions 2 yards

Offensive Rookie

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – 22 completions 37 attempts 308 yards 3 TDs 113.3 QB rating

Defensive Rookie

Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants – 2 sacks, 8 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – 26 completions 35 attempts 344 yards 1 TD 114.5 QB rating 12 carries 51 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • The local FOX affiliate had to show the Panthers-Browns game so there was no watching the Packers-Falcons matchup.  So instead I tuned in for the whole Jaguars-Giants game and it was a good one.
  • Jacksonville had complete control in the first half.  David Garrard excelled and the Jaguars O-line opened up hole after hole for the backs while the New York defense seemed to have missed their wake up call.  Jacksonville piled up 145 yards on the ground through the first two quarters.
  • The second half was a different story.  The Giants defense caught a lucky break early with the Terrell Thomas interception and showed a much greater sense of urgency.  They blitzed quite a bit and it was particularly successful in the last few minutes of the game as they repeatedly hit Garrard.
  • One Jacksonville player I was really impressed with who doesn’t get much PT was the running back Rashad Jennings.  He has the patience to let the blocking develop and then explode.  That is a skill that is not often seen at that level in such a young ball carrier.
  • The absolute key to the Giants win? Zero turnovers.
  • Of course I’m very excited that the Rams beat the Broncos in Denver, but boy it was nerve racking. I was following the game online as the Rams let the Broncos get closer and closer and closer.  I was sure they were going to fold like they did in San Francisco.  Then FOX switched to live coverage after the Eagles-Bears game was over.  I was thrilled to see the defense finally get the stop they needed.  Now the Rams are back in first place in the NFC West.
  • Miami really stopped Oakland’s running game.  If you take away Jacoby Ford’s 13-yard run the Dolphins held the Raiders to just three yards on 11 carries…hard to believe.
  • I predicted the Chiefs would fall in Seattle.  I was clearly wrong.  What a game for Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe.

One BIG Question

Which game is bigger next week – Steelers at Ravens on Sunday night or Jets at Patriots on Monday night?  Let me know which one you are looking forward to more.

Photo source: Marianne O’Leary

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