Saturday, January 7, 2017

My Take -> NFC Wild Card

Greetings, G-Force.

The Green Bay Packers. Kings of the North. Right where we belong.

The Renegade Depravity is a celebratory gem. A chocolate and peanut butter eruption. At 11:00 ABV. A total gem. A special release from the United States best beer City. Made with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. It's sticky. It's sweet. It's delicious. I'm bummed I missed out on the can distribution. They sold out in 90 minutes, but at $30 a growler, a smiling face is found at $7.50 per pint of this release. I listen to Oliver Mtukudzi. His music keeps me happy. If you don't know the songs "Hear Me Lord" and "Todii" - check them out. I promise that you'll enjoy.

Here are my quick vibes from the last week:

* Mike McCarthy. Let it be known, the last 6 games have been the greatest coaching stretch in the Packers organization since Vince Lombardi. The Packers had their backs against the wall. Both the media and the fans were calling for massive changes inside of 1265 Lombardi Ave. It would've been easy to fold. Instead, McCarthy rallied the troops in brilliant fashion. He adjusted his offensive strategy. He kept focused. His offensive design catapulted an offense that was in dire need of a jump start. Because of McCarthy's coaching imagination, the Packers kicked off your 2017 calendar year in riveting fashion.

* Aaron Rodgers. The Table was Run. Rodgers looks healthier and more confident than he has since 2011. He's expected to play at a Championship level. He's not zone in on 1 receiver. Instead, vs the Lions, he connected with 8 receivers. He's also using his mobility. He was credited with 10 carries (1 of which was a kneel down) for 42 yards. He's patient. He's taking what the defense is giving him, but he's also aggressive. His vision is incredible right now. If he continues to play at this level, the Packers will be tough to beat. And, in reality, it might take Rodgers playing at this level throughout the playoffs in order for this team to be Super. If he has a bad game, it'll be tough to win.

* Everyone expected Ty Montgomery to get the early touches. McCarthy went with Ripkowski. Rip hammered away for 61 yards on 9 carries. 6.8 yards per clip. Rip caught 2 balls of 15 yards and a TD. The Ripkowski/Montgomery combination is eating away at defenses. They both need to improve their pass protection though. Teams are beating us with inside blitzes.

* Jordy Nelson. 6 targets. 6 catches. 66 yards. He's back. He's mentally connected to Rodgers. They're seeing the field together in unique fashion. And, when they're on the same page, they are as good as any 1-2 combination in the league outside of Big Ben & Brown and Julio & Matt Ryan.

* Geronimo! 4 catches. 91 yards. Yes, that's quite exhilarating! He's really brought something to the Packers offense. He, too, seems mentally in lock-step with Rodgers. As Rodgers has been extending plays, Allison has been able to get free in back-to-back weeks. And, therefore, we've seen humongous plays from Allison when the play was seemingly broken. His height has brought an added dimension as well. Rodgers can float the ball and Allison is going up and getting it in traffic. He's the down-out and up route with precision. Defenders haven't been able to stop it. Even if Cobb comes back, Allison deserves significant playing time. GERONIMOOOOOO!

* Jared Cook. 4 catches 56 yards. 3 of them were for 1st downs, 2 of which came on 3rd down. The other catch got the Packers into FG range right before the half. Cook has brought great value to the Packers offense. He is a match-up nightmare. You can spread him out wide. You can put him in the slot. You can line him up tight to the Tackle. You can line him up in the backfield. Look for the Packers to utilize him in big fashion this weekend.

* Davante Adams. 6 grabs. 31 yards. 2 superfly TD's.

* Richard Rodgers. Pleasantly surprising with an elusive move after the catch.

* Ty Montgomery touched the ball 11 times. He totaled 61 yards. Roughly 5.5 per touch for the 2nd year stud. Montgomery did show flaws though. Seemed to run the wrong route early on. He's struggled on blitz pick-up. And, he dropped a pass on what was a perfectly executed wheel route play call. Would've been a TD. Rodgers threw it where it needed to be thrown. Montgomery just dropped.

* The Rodgers to Allison TD. Could watch that on replay all-day. Worthy of a BELT!

* The Mason Crosby FG to end the half was a tone setter. Big kick by Crosby. On the contrary, can't afford to miss extra points.

* Crucial play of the game: 1st & 16. Packers leading 17-14. Ball at their own 25. Under 14:00 to play in the 4th. Traditionally, McCarthy goes conservative here. He tries to get 6-8 yards. Not this time. McCarthy goes to attack mode. Rodgers hits Allison for 31 yards to the Lions 44. The Packers are in business. That's an exclamation point to how you deliver on a CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE.

* Defensively, it wasn't a spectacular performance, but it was a gritty one. It got the job done. As I've been saying, give me a turnover or two a game and give me some 3rd down pressure and the Packers defense has done its job. They did just that in the NFC North Championship game. Micah Hyde grabbed a pick in the end zone. Blake Martinez and Nick Perry both had sacks. The Packers defense did enough to get the win.

* Micah Hyde is earning himself a paycheck. He was forced to play as a perimeter CB. I'm not sure that he's done that since college. He played solid football. He was jamming receivers off their routes. He was turning and running. He trusted himself. Additionally, once again, as a punt returner, Hyde looked good. I believe he is going to make a game changing play before the season is over.

* I've been critical of Dom Capers. Somehow, someway, the Packers did just enough to limit the Lions offense with a ridiculously beat-up secondary.

* It should be noted that Marwin Evans seems to be making a nice special teams tackle every week. He had 2 tackles last week.

* Joe Thomas. Playing good football. His deflection on the first 3rd down of the game was a really nice start towards slowing the Lions tempo.

* Liked how the Packers started with Burnett at ILB and Brice at Safety. We were quick. We played faster than we've looked in recent years. I also feel like Brice has the potential to lay a ball-jarring hit.

* Great game, Ladarius Gunter.

* Julius Peppers was just a step late or he'd have leveled Stafford to get the Packers off the field.

* Clay Matthews has to catch that interception.

* I'm all about Ha Ha. An intimidator. He's around the ball. He's looking for the big play.

* Thought Kenny Clark offered a nice push against the Lions. He also got his hands in the air. Good game from the 1st round pick.

* Want to see a stat that is bursting with goodness? Here's how hard it is to win in the NFL: there are 4 coaches in the HISTORY of the NFL who have guided their teams to 8 consecutive playoff berths. Tom Landry, Chuck Knoll, Bill Belichick and Mike McCarthy. Packers fans, don't ignore Mike McCarthy's greatness. That's esteemed company. Hall of Fame company.

This week. It's the Giants. At Lambeau. In the playoffs. We've seen this before. We haven't liked the result. But, that was 2007 and 2011. Oddly, in both of those years, I felt as though the Packers were the better team. This year, I'd argue that the Giants are the better team. I've wondered how much carry over would exist from the 2007 & 2011 games. It should be noted that the only Giant on the roster from the 07 game is Eli. The only Giants from the 11 game are Eli, JPP, and Marshall Newhouse. JPP won't play. Newhouse was a Packer and he was one of the mega goats of the game. We can only hope that Newhouse plays this weekend as he did the last time he played in a playoff game between these two teams.

The Giants are a scary opponent. They're mostly healthy. JPP is seriously the only noteworthy injury on the team. They're coming fully armored to Lambeau. They're confident. They believe they're going to win. Making things even more difficult for Packers fans is that even though the Giants have thwarted two postseason run previously, they're a franchise that demands respect. They operate with class. They are a well run organization. Outside of OBJ, they're represented by mature professionals. OBJ plays like he should be a Cowboy. His demeanor mirrors Dez Bryant. But, other than the way OBJ has carried himself, over the last 40 years, the Giants have been a winning organization that mostly has had football players who won with class.

The Giants will attack the Packers banged up secondary with a slew of WR options. All talented. All can play on the outside. All can play in the slot. They're dangerous. OBJ is as talented as any WR in the NFL. Sterling Shepard is a fast rising WR who looks to have the skills to become an elite WR in the NFL. Victor Cruz isn't what he was before his injury, but he's still a threat. Dwayne Harris is a better return man than he is a WR, but he's tough to bring down in the open field. Will Tye is a gifted receiving TE who seems to always be open. It's is rare for the first guy to take him down. Larry Donnell is a match-up problem, but his hands are inconsistent. Jerell Adams is a rookie TE with all kinds of promise. McAdoo probably envisions him as his eventual Jermichael Finley, but Adams has yet to live up to his billing. He's a developmental prospect who has the gifts to make a big play. The Giants OL is suspect. They have trouble giving Eli time. Ereck Flowers has played worse as the season has gone along. Bobby Hart is not a bookend RT. Marshall Newhouse sees time as the Giants occasionally play with 6 OL. John Jerry doesn't scare me at RG. Justin Pugh is a solid LG and is fully healthy. Weston Richburg has emerged in the second half of the season. In fact, the Giants have quietly established a run game running between Pugh and Richburg. A large part of the reason for the run game is that McAdoo has finally turned to Paul Perkins as his featured back. Prior to the Draft, I wrote this about Perkins: " Perkins is the 2nd best one-cut runner in the Draft, behind Elliott. He'll leave defenders in the dust with his ability to stop on a dime and to change directions. His style might fit in Green Bay better than any other runner in the Draft. He'd be an exceptional runner in a zone blocking scheme. He has great vision. Sound awareness. He sees the hole and he hits it. He makes good decisions as a runner. He's not powerful, but he picks up tough yards. The ideal runner for a blocking system designed around a one-cut RB. He drives the ball up the field." I stand by those comments. Perkins' addition to the Giants attack scares me more than anything else. They legitimately have a back who can take it to the house on every play. He has to be accounted for. Rashad Jennings is a good back as well. He's not a long distance threat, but he's a straight ahead runner who doesn't fear contact. Bobby Rainey is a decent third down back who possesses great hands.

The Giants defense has played really well without JPP. Romeo Okwara has elevated his game and held the edge. Kerry Wynn has become more physical. Damon Harrison and Jonathan Hankins have demolished OL's. Olivier Vernon is consistently getting more comfortable in his role within the Giants defense. Giants DC Steve Spagnuolo is a mastermind at getting his teams ready for December football. Much like McCarthy getting his teams ready to peak in December, Spagnuolo has done that throughout both of his tenures as DC in NY. Jonathan Casillas might have limitations as a LB, but he's a 2-time Super Bowl Champion who knows what playoff football is all about. Keenan Robinson has improved as the season has progressed. He's long and has utilized his length well in pass coverage. Devon Kennard is oft used as a pass rusher rather than someone who drops in coverage. On passing downs, Spags like to become athletic on the front 4. He'll often line up Wynn, Vernon, Kennard and Owamagbe Odighizuwa. Odighizuwa is a high effort pass rusher. He'll never give up.

The Giants have had the best secondary in football over the last 10 weeks of the year. And, thus, they've become a favorite in the NFC. Landon Collins is arguably the best safety in football right now. Janoris Jenkins isn't a shut down CB, but he's a play making CB. Jenkins is small but he's also physical. I do expect him to be called for multiple penalties as he grabs on double moves. DRC has been dynamite since recovering from his injury. Eli Apple continues to grow in the Giants secondary. Andrew Adams has greatly improved as the season has gone along and has patched up the Safety role next to Collins. Leon Hall remains a decent slot CB. Trevin Wade is pathetic. When he's on the field, he needs to be attacked.

GET LOUD LAMBEAU! I've said it before and I'll say it again. Both the Giants OL and Eli Manning struggle with noise. We'll see delay of games. We'll see false starts. If Lambeau is off it's ass and on it's feet. Show some pride. Make some noise, Lambeau.

Eli will give the Packers two chances to make plays. If we capitalize, we're in good shape. If we don't, we could be in trouble.

The Packers will have opportunities to get to Eli if we rush 5. If we get home, we'll knock Eli off of his spot and he'll be throwing off of his back foot. If we capitalize on those pressures, we'll be in good shape. If we don't, we'll be in trouble.

We have to force the Giants to play from behind. McAdoo becomes one dimensional when he's playing from behind. If the Packers don't have to worry about the run, I don't feel like the Giants can block the Packers front. And, if we can't beat Flowers, Hart and Newhouse around the edge, frankly, we don't deserve to win. If Julius Peppers, Mike Daniels and Letroy Guion can't beat up John Jerry, we don't deserve to win. Those are the match-ups that the Packers are built to win. With the injuries in the secondary, we can't be expected to win consistently on the outside.

McCarthy has to come out in attack mode. Give the ball to Rodgers. Let him work his magic. STAY AGGRESSIVE. If we try to run at Harrison and Hankins, we'll struggle. If we utilize Rip and Montgomery as receivers out of the backfield, Harrison and Hankins become limited. They don't offer much as pass rushers. It'll be crucial for the Packers to limit Harrison and Hankins' effectiveness. You can get Harrison and Hankins off the field by spreading the Giants out. That - in itself - will open up the run game. And, if they keep Harrison and Hankins on the field, then let's throw the ball around the field. Let's force the Giants to both cover and tackle our weapons.

I see the Giants preparing for the run early. Rodgers comes out with a play action roll-out. A big ball to Jordy down the field. The Packers start fast.

The Giants don't have a match-up for Jared Cook. Cook is ripe for this battle. Remember - Cook didn't play the last time we matched up. I see a big day in his future. The Giants have talent in the secondary. But, the Giants haven't seen an offense with as many weapons as the Packers have.

I look for the Giants to come with a multitude of inside blitzes. They'll attack our weakness and force our RB's to pick up the blitz. If we're up for the task, I think we can score some big plays. Especially with Cook. If not, we could be in some trouble.

I expect a physical contest. One that I hope doesn't come down to a tipped ball. Luck hasn't been on the side of the Packers in the playoffs since 1996. The tipped passes haven't gone our way. But, this is a new year. And, the vibe is real.

Peppers make a game changing play. The Packers pick off Manning twice. The Lambeau crowd is fired up. The Packers mentally grind out a victory.

Packers 23
Giants 20

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

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