Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Take -> NFC Divisional Playoffs

Greetings, G-Force.

We're the Defending Champions. We have the NFL's MVP. We finished 15-1. We're well rested. We're playing at home. Yet, most I talk to are picking the G-Men. In fact, I heard on the radio last night that 84% of the money in Vegas that is being placed on this game is being put on the Giants. Let's do this, Lambeau!

Many I talk to point to the 2007 NFC Championship game as a reason to believe the G-Men will win. I hear the "they've done it before." Sure, there are similarities. It'll be at Lambeau. It'll be McCarthy vs. Coughlin. But, there are HUGE differences. Put it this way, the Packers will start 5 players on offense (Grant, Driver, Jennings, Clifton, and Wells) and 3 players on defense (Woodson, Hawk, and Pickett) that started the 2007 NFC Championship game. What more fresh in these players minds is the 45-17 drubbing that the Packers handed out the Giants last year as both teams fought for the 6th and final playoff spot. On that day, Eli threw 4 TD interceptions. What's even fresher is the Packers 38-35 victory in New York. The Giants are undoubtedly healthier now than they were on that day, but the Packers took the Giants best shot. Regardless of health, I'm not sure the Giants can play any better than they did in our earlier match-up this year. And the Packers left with victory. It's worth noting that McCarthy is 3-1 against McCarthy. Rodgers is 2-0 against Eli.

Since Mike McCarthy became the Head Coach of the Green Bay Packers in 2006, he's encountered immensely difficult scenarios. He dealt with the Favre exit and choosing Rodgers over Favre. Then, he had to face Favre as a Viking - 4 times. In the Super Bowl run, injuries attempted to derail the season. And, now, in the Run for the Repeat, once again, McCarthy is faced with drama. This time in absolutely tragic fashion. Obviously, the death of Michael Philbin will has had an affect on the locker room. It's an immensely sad story. Additionally, over the last week, the Packers have lost Reggie McKenzie, Philbin has had 2 interviews for Head Coaching opportunities, Tom Clements has been the subject of rumors to be an Offensive Coordinator elsewhere, John Dorsey has been offered opportunities to interview in other places, Winston Moss appears to be the leading candidate to coach the Oakland Raiders next year, and by some accounts, Darren Perry might be going with him. These are distractions. Major distractions. McCarthy has been quoted as saying "Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance." I have to believe the Packers will be prepared to receive the Giants best punch.

I have great respect for the Giants organization. They're a confident bunch who believes that they're peaking at the right time. In some ways, their season is aligned with what the Packers pulled off last year. After an embarrassing Division loss in December, they were forced to win their last two to make the playoffs. In Week 16, the Giants beat a team from New York. Last year, in Week 16, the Packers beat a team from New York. In Week 17, the Giants had to beat a Divisional Rival in order to make the playoffs. Last year, in Week 17, the Packers had to beat the hated Bears in order to make the playoffs. In the playoffs, the Giants had to get through the Falcons. Last year, in the playoffs, the Packers had to get through the Falcons.

No worries. The Packers aren't losing this game.

I have full confidence that the Lambeau Faithful will be rocking. ALL GAME! From the 1st snap, it'll be difficult for the G-Men. It'll be loud. It'll be rowdy. The atmosphere will be unparalleled in American sports.

Early in the game, look for the Giants to try and establish the run. They'll try to run the ball to the right side of our defense. Regardless of who is playing ROLB for the Packers, Capers should move either Peprah or Woodson to the right side of the defense as an 8th man in the box. Both Woodson and Peprah play the run well. While the Giants have struggled running the ball in 2011, they did have success against the Packers in the December match-up. They rushed for 100 yards on only 20 carries, averaging 5 yards an attempt. The Giants like to collapse the line and run a counter/cut-back to the left side of their offensive line. To reiterate, we must be prepared with an 8th man in the box.

Stop the run. Then come on inside blitzes with our middle LB's on passing downs. If Eli Manning gets pressure in his face, he makes mistakes. Eli is tough to sack as when the pressure comes, he throws off his back foot and floats the ball in the air. With our ball hawking DB's, good things will happen for the Packers. We'll have opportunities to make plays if we can get pressure between the guards. It'll be important to seize those moments.

I'm confident that T-Mon matches up with Nicks. I'm confident that Sammy Swagga can man-up against Manningham. I'm confident that Woodson can jam Cruz off his route at the line of scrimmage. Yes, the Giants WR's will make plays, but I believe the Packers will limit the amount of big plays that we've seen the Giants live off of in 2011. It didn't happen in the December match-up, but I have a feeling it'll be different on Sunday.

Offensively, it'll come down to protecting the NFL's MVP. The Giants DL is deep. It's lethal. It's a must to chip JPP. Early & Often. If not every play. Don't let JPP beat you. He's a game changer. In 2-TE sets, have one of the TE's chip JPP prior to his route. On long developing routes, roll Rodgers to the opposite side of JPP and have J-Mike chip JPP before running a safe, check-down crossing route.

If the Packers try to pound the ball, they'll struggle. Spread 'em out. They can't cover us. Early on, let's see some 12-yard back shoulder passes. It'll set up the stop and go for later on. Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle talk a good game. You can also beat Deon Grant. Neither is particularly good playing in space. 15 yard crossing routes. They could turn into BIG plays. We've seen Jordy Nelson get behind Antrel Rolle before, we'll see it again on Sunday.

In a back and forth game, the Packers have the ball and a 4 point lead mid-way through the 4th Quarter. Rodgers grabs the ball and the game on a big play to Greg Jennings over Corey Webster. Welcome back, Greg. Be great!

Packers 34. Giants 30.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.!/buzzboy3

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My Take -> Bye Week

Greetings, G-Force.

15-1! Yes, 15-1! For real, 15-1! Amazing! Truly sensational. What a ride. And while the Packers are on bye for Wild Card weekend, I figured it'd be time for a Packers Mock Draft. After all, we have also just completed the most epic week of football all year, Bowl Week. And, of course, I was full throttle with regards to analysis. But, before I get too deep, I'd be a fool if I didn't give a huge shout-out to Matt Flynn. 31-44. 480 yards, a Packer record. 6 TD's, another Packer record. All against a playoff bound team. Sublime! Last year, I was highly critical of Flynn after the loss in Detroit. He proved me wrong. Once again, so did Ted Thompson.

Speaking of Ted Thompson, he'll have to adjust due to the loss of his wingman, Reggie McKenzie. Cheers to you, Reggie. The pain is that McKenzie is the 2nd member of Thompson's staff to depart in the last year - the other being John Schmeider. I'm not going to question Thompson, but it's only natural to wonder how this will affect Thompson's draft preparations.

If you've been following this blog, you know I want the 3-peat. It'd be the first in Super Bowl history. Twice in their rich history, the Packers won 3 consecutive championships. From 1929-1931 and from 1965-1967. The coaches? Lambeau and Lombardi. That's VIP! In order to grab 3 in a row, this draft class will need to provide difference makers.

As always, I have limitations in my Mock Draft. First and foremost, if I didn't watch the guy play a game in 2011, I can't select him. Secondly, as always, time has not permitted me to be fully caught up on OL. So, I won't draft them. Though I'm on board with my good mate, Stack, who suggests OG, Kevin Zeitler, WI, in Round 3. In Round 5, I'd also like Marcus Zusevics, OT, Iowa. Generally speaking, Iowa produces top notch prospects at OT. Zusevics has the size and athleticism to play at the next level. He's also had the coaching at the collegiate level to make an impact on an NFL Roster. Rightfully so, he's often overshadowed by Riley Reiff, I look for Zusevics to also have a solid NFL career. The reality is that the Packers are relatively set at the skill positions on offense and it'd surprise me if the Packers selected an offensive weapon in the 1st three rounds, even though Lamar Miller, RB, []_[], would be the proverbial "best player available" if he's sitting on the board at #32. He'd be the final piece to the offensive arsenal at the skill positions. He'd be the sexy pick. He's a game changer. However, it's unlikely Ted Thompson will ignore the Defensive front 7 early in the 2012 Draft. In fact, just as Thompson went aggressive on the offensive side of the ball early in the 2011 NFL Draft, it's likely he'll do the same on the defensive side of the ball in 2012.

Final stats with regards to compensatory picks are:
Cullen Jenkins - 16 games. 16 starts. 5.5 sacks. 40 tackles. Man, did the Packers miss him. I'd expect a 4th Round compensatory pick for him.
Daryn Colledge - Played in 16 games. Made 16 starts. Worth a 5th Round pick in the Draft.
Jason Spitz - Played in 10 games with 0 starts.
Ras-A-tari Bigby - Played in 15 games. Made 2 starts. Finished with 18 tackles, 2 passes defensed and a sack.
Anthony Smith - Played in 13 games before being put on IR for the year. Made 4 tackles.
Korey Hall - Played in 13 games. Made 0 starts.
B-Jack - Didn't play due to an injury. Was on IR all year.

I project the Packers to receive a 4, a 5, and two 7th round picks as compensation for the FA losses of last year. It's also worth noting that the Packers traded Caleb Schlauderaff to the Jets for an undisclosed late round pick. On the year, Schlauderaff made 6 appearances and had 1 start. I've yet to see what the Packers will receive as compensation. Until I learn what selection they received, I'll ignore it in the Mock Draft. Regardless, Ted Thompson will be spoiled with a minimum of 11 picks to work with in this years NFL Draft.

1.) If Sam Montgomery declares, he's my clear cut choice at #32. Merge Montgomery's gifts with those of The Claymaker and the Packers OLB spot would be fulfilled for the next decade. If Montgomery trays in school, I'm waffling a bit. Be sure to pay extra attention to #99 in the BCS Championship. Kendall Wright has been my favorite player to watch in college football this year, but the Packers aren't drafting WR in Round 1. I really like Fletcher Cox, Jerel Worthy and Nick Perry, but I don't envision any of them being available at #32. Therefore, my selection is Dontari Poe, DL, Memphis. The DL needs to improve. Ryan Pickett is still playing at a high level, but he's not getting any younger and Howard Green has not been the same player that he was last year. Poe will improve the run defense. He's not going to solve our pass rush issues, but he'll help when teams try the ground and pound approach against the XLV Champs.
Others that I am watching: Whitney Mercilus, OLB, Illinois. Mercilus had great success getting to the QB. He's the ideal size for a 3-4 OLB. I have his Bowl game on DVR. After I watch his game vs. UCLA, he could easily become my 1st Round choice. Lamar Miller, RB, []_[]. As I mentioned, Miller amazes me. He runs with grace. He's often the fastest player on the field. Every time he touches the ball, he's a threat to take it to the house. I'd love it if Miller were the selection.

2.) Vinny Curry, OLB, Marshall. He played a DE role at Marshall. He causes havoc on opposing Offensive Coordinators. He uses a variety of moves to get to the QB. With Curry, the Packers will get a legitimate playmaker who not only makes the tackle, but he swipes the ball away. I've been enamored with his game since the '10 Classic between Marshall and WVU when Curry and Mario Harvey almost knocked off the Mountaineers by themselves. In '10, Curry finished with 18 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. In '11, Curry finished with 22 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 7 forced fumbles,3 blocked kicks and a safety. Curry fits what we're seeking. At this stage, Curry is viewed as a late 2nd/early 3rd round pick. Don't be surprised if he jumps up draft boards after the Combine and his individual workout. I like Curry enough to draft him in the 1st Round, so it'll be interesting to see how he performs in the pre-Draft events as he could easily catapult to my 1st Round selection. Much like in 1999 when Ron Wolf went aggressive with CB's, it wouldn't surprise me to see Ted Thompson be aggressive with Pass Rushers.

Others: Cam Johnson, OLB, Virginia. He has had experience playing in a 3-4, however prior to his Junior Year, Virginia moved to a 4-3. He's a little heavier than the traditional 245-255 lb OLB. Nonetheless, look for the Packers to go after a number of pass rushers and in some ways, Johnson reminds me of Lamar Woodley. He has the attitude to play OLB in the 3-4. Moves well. Might be a decent compliment to Clay. At this point, Johnson is viewed as a 2-3 round pick. Billy Winn, DL, Boise. Winn is somewhat Jeckyl and Hyde. At times, he's pushed backwards or thrown to the turf. Other times, he's dominant. Alameda Ta'amu, DL, Washington. He disappointed in the Bowl game. He disappointed against Stanford. But, he's got the size, athleticism, and mobility that NFL teams crave. He uses his hands well and collapses the pocket well for his size.

3.) Since I initiated my first 2012 Mock Draft back In August, one name has been a constant: Antonio Allen, S, South Carolina. He's terrific in the box. He can cover the TE. He'll blitz with a ferocious approach out of the slot. Simply stated, his game translates to Dom Capers' system. I'm still not convinced that he's an elite player when he's asked to cover in space, but he does have terrific versatility. He's causes confusion for opposing QB's. He has to be accounted for on every play.

Others: Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincy. If I didn't enjoy Antonio Allen so much, Pead would be my unquestioned choice. Man, he'd fit perfectly. Great instincts. Tough to bring down. Finds space. Elite vision. One of the better runners I saw this year. Pead would fit in well in Green Bay. Let me repeat, Isaiah Pead in Green Bay would work out well for all parties. But, I'm higher on Brandon Saine than most and therefore, I'll hold off on a RB selection until later in the draft. Bernard Pearce, RB, Temple. Good one-cut runner. Sound vision. Have to question the level of competition, but regardless, he was a consistent performer with all of the tools to develop into a solid 1st and 2nd down runner. He reminds me a little of Ryan Grant.

4.) Casey Heyward, CB, Vandy. Heyward is currently a mid-round prospect. But, every time you watch him play, he's forcing turnovers, reading routes and making plays on the ball. Wouldn't surprise me if he jumps to the end of the 2nd round as we get closer to the Draft.

4a.) Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincy. He'd immediately improve the pass rush. Oddly, most have him projected as a late round pick. I see him as a 4th Round prospect. He's a great hustle player who pursues with intent. His figure doesn't seem to promote mobility, but he moves surprisingly well. He gets a good push and his motor is consistent.
Others: Nigel Bradham, ILB, FSU. Bradham attacks ball carriers. He drops well. He reads the QB's eyes with precision. He'd be a nice mid-round pick. I'm interested to see how Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise performs at the combine. Undoubtedly, he's athletic. Ideal size for the 3-4. Has shown that he can rush the passer and drop in coverage. Does he run the 4.7 that most are expecting him to run? If so, he'll be an attractive selection. Cyrus Gray, RB, A&M. If there's one thing that Mike Sherman is tremendous at, it is developing and utilizing RB's. He compared Gray to Ahman Green. Respect!

5.) Terrance Ganaway, RB, Baylor. Like Alex Green, Ganaway played in a spread offense, which requires a back to make a quick decision, one-cut move and then go! Ganaway had a solid year, with exclamation of an ending in his Bowl game. Ganaway runs hard. He's not going to outrun many DB's, but he's moves well for his size. He also pushes the pile forward upon contact. I'd prefer Cyrus Gray, but he'll be gone by this point and defensive improvements are top of mind in this years Draft.

5a.) Mike Martin, DL, Michigan. Martin is consistently active. He gives everything he has on every down. Not going to overwhelm you, but he's not going to be driven backwards. Stout at the point. Doesn't get moved easily. He also doesn't dominate the line of scrimmage. But, he's going to give you endless effort. And, due to his effort, he'll make plays. He reminds me of Don Davey. Davey was a little taller and a lot lighter, but they played with similar styles.

Others: The 5th and 6th Rounds look like a good time to target a WR. Jarius Wright, Arkansas, is favorite of mine. Marvin McNutt, Iowa, was an elite playmaker at the college level. BJ Cunningham, Michigan State, showed glimpses of brilliance. Joe Adams, Arkansas, is like watching a video game in real life. Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M, has all of the tools to be a legit NFL WR. Ryan Browles, OK, had a tremendous collegiate career before blowing out his knee. TY Hilton, FIU, is a fun weapon. I'll never forget watching him play as a Freshman. He was a lethal KR & PR. Jordan White, Western Michigan, has all of the gifts that translate to success at the next level. At RB, I also like Dan Herron as a 4th or 5th round prospect. Marred by the Ohio State scandal, no one can deny Herron's on-field production.

6.) Olivier Vernon, OLB, []_[]. When motivated, Vernon was an absolute baller. Very troublesome though is the fact that Vernon was often uninvolved. If he played with a high motor 100% of the time, Vernon would be a 2nd round pick. He'd be a terrific project for Kevin Greene. Greene would find a way to motivate Vernon - I have no doubt. And, much like Jimmy Graham, who also came from the []_[], he might be a late bloomer and a late round diamond in the rough.
7.) Case Keenum, QB, Houston. Matt Flynn is gone. No question about it. It seems as though Thompson and McCarthy intend on promoting Graham Harrell, who is sure to benefit from an off-season with mini-camps and the QB school that McCarthy offers. How can you argue with Keenum's numbers? Granted, he did not take snaps from center, but remember, neither did Harrell in college. In fact, they're similar prospects. I believe Keenum is more mobile than he gets credit for. He throws a great long ball. He doesn't have significant zip, but in time, I see him as a reliable back-up QB. He's worth a 7th Round pick.

7a.) Sammy Brown, OLB, Houston. Brown caught my eye when I tuned into the Marshall v Houston game this past October. My intent was to watch Vinny Curry and Case Kenum. And while Curry was unproductive, Brown was a total stud. Active in pursuit. Aggressive off the edge. A potential 7th Round steal.

7b.) Najee Goode, ILB, WVU. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. This one is a reach. But, why not? Watch the film. He makes tackles. He finds the ball carrier. He's around the ball. He finished with 87 tackles, 5 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. He may not time well in the 40, but he gets sideline-to-sideline well. Further, he was a leader. I see him as a solid special teams contributor. ILB is not a position of need for the Packers, nonetheless, he'd be a fun selection.

Others: Tyrone Crawford, DE/OLB, Boise. Does he have a position on the field? I'm not sure. He is a tweener, no doubt. But, the guy is a football player. Arguably the most underrated prospect that I've seen in College Football. Every time I watched Boise, Crawford seemed to be making plays. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington. Ideal size. Runs a good deep route. Well coached. Had trouble holding onto the ball in 2010, but seemed to improve this year. Good late round option. Dominique Davis, QB, ECU. Escapes pressure well. He is a run-first QB, with the ability to throw on the run. He's elusive. Sees the field fairly well. High upside. Not sure he's scratched the surface of his potential.

More Draft vibes to come after the Packers claim the XLVI Crown. Pop Tarts!

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.