Been Here Before – Week 2 Preview

Aaron Rodgers and Company have work to do to get back on track at Lambeau.

Aaron Rodgers and Company have work to do to get back on track at Lambeau.

By Jon Meerdink

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: the Packers are in an 0-1 hole after Week 1. Really? You haven’t heard that one? That’s odd, because it happened last year. And the year before that. In fact, the Packers haven’t won their season opening game since 2011, when they beat New Orleans in a Thursday night shootout at Lambeau Field.

A slow start has become a bit of an unfortunate theme for the Packers, and it’s one they’ll have to reverse pretty quickly if they hope to climb out of the cellar and catch up to NFC North leaders…Detroit and Minnesota? Okay, yeah, maybe it is still early.

The Countdown

5 – Players who scored a PFF ranking of 1.6 or higher on the Jets defense – As I touched on briefly Monday, I’m not sure Pro Football Focus is the be all, end all when it comes to player evaluation, but five players at 1.6 or more is still a good day, even if it is against the Raiders. Muhammad Wilkerson (more on him later), Antonio Allen, Damon Harrison, Dawan Landry, and Calvin Pryor all had good days, and when you throw in Kyle Wilson (1.3) and Sheldon Richardson (1.0), suddenly everybody on the Jets defense is looking good. Oh, and the oft-maligned Jets secondary landed three people on that list, not even counting Dee Milliner, their best cornerback.

4 – Packers linemen who gave up a QB hurry last week. – Six Packers linemen played, and of those six, only Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang managed to keep pass rushers from getting at least bothering Aaron Rodgers. The situation at right tackles is already precarious, and the Packers can ill afford any shaky play from anybody else.

3 – Jets players with five catches in Week 1 – Geno Smith, as we’ve discussed, is no world beater at quarterback. However, his Week 1 stat line was solid (23/28, 221 yards, 1 TD), and he got a lot of guys involved. Seven players caught passes, and Eric Decker, Chris Johnson, and Jeremy Kerley all had relatively good days.

2 – Productive running backs in the Jets backfield – Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson (or “the Chrisses”, as nobody calls them) carved out productive careers in New Orleans and Tennessee, respectively, before teaming up in New York, and early returns on their partnership have been good. Ivory scampered for 102 yards on just 10 carries, while Johnson netted another 68 yards on 13 carries. As you may know, the Packers were all kinds of miserable against the run last week, so these two could be in line for another above average week.

1 – Sacks by the Packers in Week 1 – The highly touted Clay Matthews/Julius Peppers pass rushing duo extraordinaire was less exciting than promised in Week 1. They would have shared a sack were it not for a penalty by Brad Jones. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix nabbed Russell Wilson one time, but it barely counts as a sack to begin with. Wilson was at the line of scrimmage and didn’t lose any yards on the play. The Packers will have to do better this week if they hope to pressure Geno Smith into some mistakes.

Last time – Packers: 9 Jets: 0 – October 31, 2010

On Halloween four years ago, the Packers dressed up like a team with a good defense and shut down the Jets, securing the shutout en route to a Super Bowl championship. Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh, but even as someone not given to hyperbole, it’s truly astonishing to imagine a Packers team shutting out an opponent. Aaron Rodgers was ordinary at best that day (15/34, 170 yards), John Kuhn ran the ball eight times, Ladainian Tomlinson was in uniform for the Jets, and the two teams combined for 15 punts. Truly a game to remember.

Meet a Jet – Muhammad Wilkerson – 6-4, 315 pounds – DE (4th NFL Season)

Wilkerson fits the exact profile of the kind of guy you’d want along your 3-4 front. He’s large and angry and also a very good pass rusher, clocking in at 9th best in the league in PFF’s rankings at his position. He’s credited with an excellent 10.5 sacks last year and has raised his sack total ever year he’s been in the league. If the Packers are shaky again up front, Wilkerson could be the guy reaping the benefits.

The Jets will win if…

…their ground and pound success carries over from Week 1. Neither Chris Ivory or Chris Johnson is Marshawn Lynch, but I don’t know if we can reasonably expect the Packers to really buckle down in just a week’s time. If the Jets can duplicate or closely approximate their performance from last week, it’ll be an uphill climb for the Packers to get back into the game. I think the Packers are capable of playing from behind, but we’ve seen enough late game collapses from the Packers’ defense to make me nervous about falling behind and needing a stop or two to get back into the game.

The Packers will win if…

…the Jets secondary can’t slow down the Packers aerial attack. 10 or 11 paragraphs ago, I praised the Jets’ secondary, but there’s no Richard Sherman on this team. The Packers will have the full field available to them, and guys like Jarrett Boykin and even Davante Adams will have an opportunity to work a little bit more freely. Options can only help the Packers.

The Pick – Packers: 24 Jets: 17

I think the Packers are the better team, but I think the Jets have the players to push on Green Bay’s weak spots. If they can pound the defense and pressure the passer when the Packers are on offense, there’s a chance the Jets could keep it close…or even win. But at their home opener with a week to lick their wounds, one would expect the Packers to come out firing. The Jets won’t go away easy, but the Packers will put them down on Sunday.

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Fantasy Football : Week 1 Wrap-Up & Week 2 Preview

Aaron Rodgers is happy to be facing the Jets at home after a rough Week 1 in Seattle.

Aaron Rodgers is happy to be facing the Jets at home after a rough Week 1 in Seattle.

By Jordan Huenink

Week 1 of the fantasy football season is in the books. We had some NFL elites put up some pretty measly numbers, and some no-namers blow the roof off. Before moving into my Stud, Dud and Surprise of the Week, let’s take a look at how the Packers fared from a fantasy standpoint.

Like I said last week, Seattle is a mighty fine defense. They wasted no time adding Aaron Rodgers to their list of elite quarterbacks who have struggled to efficiently move the ball against them. The Legion of Boom limited Rodgers to 189 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception on the night, which was good for only 9.4 fantasy points in ESPN standard leagues.

Eddie Lacy didn’t fare much better as he only managed 34 rushing yards and 4.5 fantasy points. He also left the game early after suffering a concussion after a rough hit from Seattle safety Cam Chancellor. Lacy’s night could have been salvaged with a touchdown, but John Kuhn got the first quarter, goal line call and punched in the short score to vulture points from Lacy. Hopefully this doesn’t turn into the norm for the season.

Despite Rodgers’ struggles passing, the receivers still managed decent fantasy nights. Jordy Nelson caught nine passes for 83 yards (good for 8.3 points in non-PPR leagues), and Randall Cobb‘s late touchdown gave him a total of 11.8 points.

Stud of the Week: Matt Ryan absolutely obliterated the Saints defense on Sunday, throwing for 448 yards and 3 touchdowns for a total of 31.3 fantasy points. This is the elite play we expected to see out of Ryan last year, but an early injury to #1 receiver Julio Jones squashed his chances of a monster year. Looks like he’s poised for a huge 2014! (Thankfully, my Week 1 opponent had Ryan on his bench. Phew!)

Dud of the Week: Despite the Chiefs only having the ball for a total of 22 minutes against the shockingly impressive Titans defense, Jamaal Charles‘ 11 touches was still a surprisingly low number. To make things worse, those touches only translated to 3.4 fantasy points (19 yards rushing, 15 yards receiving). As a running back who was consistently drafted Top 3 in most fantasy drafts, these Week 1 numbers are insanely disappointing. While the team doesn’t have any easier of a task next week at Denver, Charles’ production should be much higher.

Surprise of the Week: With Jacksonville receiver Cecil Shorts sidelined by a hamstring injury, rookie Allen Hurns made a fantasy splash catching four passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles. Unfortunately, those stats were wasted in virtually all leagues since Hurns was only owned in 0.5% of leagues at the time. With Shorts still questionable for Week 2, a pick-up of Hurns may not be a bad idea in deeper leagues if you’re lacking in the wide receiver department.

The Packers’ Week 2 matchup against the J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets! at home looks juicy for fantasy owners. The Jets defense last year gave up an average of 261 yards and 1.6 TDs/game to opposing quarterbacks – good for 19 fantasy points per game. Add in the fact that 1) it’s the home opener at Lambeau and 2) Eddie Lacy could be sidelined or see limited action, and Rodgers’ numbers could reach the mid-20s. Be excited about him this week! This also translates well over to Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb – must starts!

Unless Lacy is cleared to play, I would probably stay away from playing any other Packer running backs this week. While their pass defense is middle-of-the-pack at best, the Jets have really built up a solid defensive line that hold opposing backs to only 72 yards per game in 2013. If he plays, Lacy will be running hard to make up for his performance in Week 1, but I don’t trust James Starks to shoulder the load at running back for my fantasy team this week.

As for the rest of the league, here are a few players I’m excited about this week:

1. Even though he’s on short rest with a Thursday night game, it’s hard to ignore and push aside the performance Le’Veon Bell had on Sunday against the Browns. Look for him to do more of the same against their rivals in Baltimore.

2. Quarterback Jake Locker looked fantastic in the new-look Titans offense on Sunday against the Chiefs. In Week 2, they travel home to Nashville to face the porous Dallas Cowboys. Look for both Locker and his #1 target Kendall Wright to light up the fantasy scoreboard.

3. If you think you can get trade value for him, I would advise to get rid of Zac Stacy! In Week 1 he already saw his offensive snaps down more than 35% to teammate Benny Cunningham. With a bad offensive line and potentially a third-string quarterback taking the reins Sunday at Tampa Bay, I’m not sure I’d play Stacy this week if I had the depth.

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What to Know About Geno

With any luck, Geno Smith will be making this face a lot on Sunday.

With any luck, Geno Smith will be making this face a lot on Sunday.

By Jon Meerdink

Of the 11 quarterbacks drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft, only three started a game last year: E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith, and Mike Glennon. With Josh McCown installed as the starter (for now) in Tampa, leaving only Manuel and Smith as the returning starters for their teams. The Packers will see Manuel in Buffalo on December 14th, but they get Smith and his New York Jets this week. Here’s what you need to know.

Eugene Cyril Smith III (I’d probably go by Geno, too) played in 44 games with the West Virginia Mountaineers in college, starting every game from his sophomore year on and racking up nearly 12,000 passing yards and 98 touchdowns. Billed as solid (but unspectacular), Smith was knocked a bit for his spread offense background in college. Scouts worried a bit about his accuracy from a traditional dropback, and in large part those fears were realized last year: he only completed about 56% of his passes on the season.

Smith was also eviscerated by serial pot-stirrer Nolan Nawrocki, formerly of Pro Football Weekly, who declared Smith was “not a student of the game,” “does not command respect from teammates and cannot inspire,” is “not committed or focused” and “cannot handle hard coaching” among other things. Of course, exactly zero of those claims were independently verifiable outside of those ever-present “anonymous sources,” but Nawrocki cannon-balled into the spotlight as he seems to do every single year around draft time. A cynical person would wonder if Nawrocki just enjoys feeling the hate from everyone, but we’re here to talk about Geno Smith.

The scouts without an axe to grind pegged Smith as a possible first round pick, likely slated to come off the board in the 20’s. CBS ranked him as their number one quarterback, but also had him going 21st overall, which says as much about the weak quarterback class as it did for Smith’s chances in the NFL.

Smith has good arm strength and is an excellent athlete. I think you could compare him (athletically) to a slightly faster Aaron Rodgers, right down to the unique ability to be a good runner without being a scrambling quarterback. Like Rodgers, Smith has the speed to make plays with his feet, but he knows how to use it. He doesn’t rely on his athleticism. It’s just a tool in his arsenal.

Like just about every young quarterback, though, there are flaws in his game. Smith has had problems with pressure dating back to his college days, and dealing with the blitz was one of his main bugaboos in 2013. Smith was pressured on 217 of his 517 dropbacks in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus. On those “pressured” dropbacks, he was abysmal, piling up a passer rating of just 42.6, or a PFF rating of -15.0. For comparison’s sake, fellow rookie E.J. Manuel was pressured on 114 of his 358 dropbacks, and he managed a passer rating of 60.6 and a PFF rating of -9.9. Still not stellar, but miles ahead of Smith.

However, it’s important to note that while Manuel’s numbers against pressure were better, Smith’s overall numbers improved as the season went on. He finished in the green in his last two starts, according to Pro Football Focus, posting a much-improved  71.1 passer rating and a .7 PFF rating against Cleveland in Week 16, and an even better 77.1 passer rating/ 1.5 PFF rating against Miami in Week 17. Smith can get it done.

That said, the Packers’ ultimate solution for success against Smith will be pressure, and that’s one of the areas they struggled mightily against Seattle. Only Josh Boyd and Nick Perry graded out on the positive end last week, and although the secondary was mostly solid, the Packers will need to be much better this week to make Smith pay. Without a pass rush to bother him, even Geno Smith might be a headache for the Packers.

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Finding the Positive

josh sitton packers

Josh Sitton was one of the lone bright spots for the Packers.

By Jon Meerdink

As close as it was to a total washout, the Packers managed to escape at least a few positives. Four Packers left Century Link Field with positive grades from the guys at Pro Football Focus, and a deeper look at the numbers shows there could be a reason for hope at Lambeau Field. Or, that’s what I’m telling myself, at least.

By the PFF metrics, Josh Sitton was the highest performing Packer on Thursday, finishing with an overall grade of 4.4. In context, if he were to maintain that pace, he would more than double his cumulative grade from all of 2013, when he was the second rated guard in the entire NFL. He was the only lineman to grade out positively in pass protection, and beat the next highest graded run blocker by six tenths of a point.

That next highest graded run blocker was rookie center Corey Linsley. With J.C. Tretter on short-term injured reserve, Linsley has no competition for the center spot, and if he keeps playing like this, he may never have to compete for the job again. In the harshest of environments, against the most tenacious of defenses, Linsley performed admirably. He graded out positively in run blocking, and while his pass blocking didn’t blow anybody away, he didn’t have any major gaffes either.

Defensively, as you might expect, there’s not a lot to get excited about, but two players did have relatively good nights. Sam Shields, owner of a rich new contract, earned his money on Thursday. Shields was to blame on the option-pass touchdown from Russell Wilson to Ricardo Lockette, but allowed just one other catch on the night. He finished with an overall grade of 3.2, the best on the defense.

Mike Daniels also got a positive grade from Pro Football Focus, although this could be a situation where you may want to take their numbers with a small grain of salt. Daniels was knocked for his pass rush on Thursday, but PFF gave him a 3.7 grade in run defense, the highest individual grade given to players on either team. But the Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn, who uses his own rating system, crushed Daniels for his run defense. To wit:

Mike Daniels (46 snaps) might have played his poorest game as a Packer. Given his leverage, strength and intensity, the Packers expected Daniels to overcome being just a shade over 6 feet and stop the run. Daniels did resist the run last year in the 3-4, just not on a regular basis. Matched against one of the NFL’s more massive guards in James Carpenter, Daniels was consistently covered up and displaced.

In a nutshell, that’s the exact reason why you don’t want to trust any one source for your analysis (other than Packer Perspective, of course). It’s possible for two people to view one play and come to starkly different conclusions. PFF claims to be objective, but they strive to evaluate player performance independently of play design. McGinn, with his network of professional talent evaluators, does exactly the opposite. Who do you trust?

Yourself. You trust yourself. Watch the games, make notes, and compare them to what you’ve seen yourself. Then watch the games again. Does the evaluation still make sense? If so, why? If not, why not? Always be asking questions, and hopefully you’ll never be led astray.

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Disasterpiece – Seahawks: 36 Packers: 16

Too much this. (AP Photo/Scott Eklund)

Too much this. (AP Photo/Scott Eklund)

By Jon Meerdink

That was something.

No need for a F*** M*** here. The Seahawks picked up right where they left off in the Super Bowl, dominating every phase of the game. Honestly, I can’t think of a single area where the Packers were better than the Seahawks. There was just nothing there.

There are so many things to consider as this game fades to the rearview mirror. The defense was atrocious…but still got penetration. The offense wasn’t much better…but still showed it could move the ball with ease at times. The special teams…well, they didn’t turn the ball over. Seattle can’t say that! Yes! There it is! There’s the area where the Packers won!

Three Numbers

207 – Rushing yards by the Seahawks. Passing yards will happen, but the Seahawks’ running game sliced and diced the Packers with amazing efficiency on Thursday. It just wasn’t even close. Remember how the Packers wanted to be young and fast on the defensive line? Seattle is just fine with that. They manhandled the Packers’ front, and even when they didn’t the Packers couldn’t make plays in the backfield. I think the days of Mike Pennel sitting inactive on the sideline might be numbered.

8 – Penalties, for 65 yards, by the Packers. Without looking at the play-by-play analysis, I can think of three penalties that were hugely costly: Mike Daniels running into the punter, Julius Peppers jumping offsides, and Brad Jones stepping onto the field. Daniels’ penalty led to the Seahawks first points. Peppers’ penalty changed Seattle’s down and distance from a 3rd-and-10 to a 2nd-and-5, which they easily converted, going on to score just a few plays later. Brad Jones just got worked again and again, and extended Seattle’s drives with penalties on at least two occasions.

0 – Seattle players with more than 60 receiving yards. – There wasn’t one person who beat the Packers through the air, but they came up with a few timely receptions. Zach Miller‘s third down catch over Clay Matthews comes to mind, and Ricardo Lockette executed the read-option pass to perfection en route to his 33 yard touchdown. But by and large, the Seahawks just found the right spot rather than purely dominating through the air. The execution was impressive.

Three Good

Bryan Bulaga isn’t dead – His injury is described as a knee sprain, which could be a big break for the Packers. He may not be a top-flight guy, but he’s certainly better than Derek Sherrod. Having him back sooner rather than later is a huge plus.

James Starks picks up where he left off – In small doses, Starks continues to be the slashing, galloping back we saw in the 2010 Super Bowl run. He had 37 yards on just seven carries and picked up 11 yards on a couple catches. Not a bad night for Starks.

Nine catches for Jordy – Yes, the drop that led to the interception was huge, but he still managed to navigate through the secondary for nine catches. He never tested Richard Sherman, but honestly, so what? If the Seahawks want to leave their best defender on one half of the field, that’s fine. He can sit and cover Jarrett Bush if he wants.

Three Bad

Derek Sherrod – While Bulaga’s injury isn’t described as serious, Thursday’s situation had to more or less encapsulate the Packers’ greatest fears in their life after Don Barclay. Derek Sherrod entered the game and immediately showed why a his two-year recovery from his broken leg really didn’t make much of a difference anyway. He got out-quicked by speed rushers…and then those same undersized speed rushers proceeded to push him around. He had no leverage, no hip bend, and no awareness at all. He lunged and shoved instead of anchoring and punching. It was bad, and it’s hard to imagine the Packers going into next week with Sherrod starting.

Brad Jones – I recently jumped on the Pro Football Focus bandwagon. I figure their scouting, flawed though it may be, is at least some kind of standard system. Well, as soon as he money leave my account on that transaction, Brad Jones happened. Why does that matter? Well, this article strikes me as funny in light of Thursday’s game. Yes, Pro Football Focus declared Brad Jones a secret superstar leading into last season. Describing the Jones/A.J. Hawk/Desmond Bishop inside linebacker triumvirate, PFF writes ” All three have their own weaknesses, with Jones’ being that he missed too many tackles. If he can cut down on those he could put himself among the best inside linebackers in the league.”

Yep. Brad Jones. One of the best linebackers in the league. He finished as the 28th best inside linebacker in football in PFF’s own rankings.

The Narrative – OH MY THE UNSTOPPABLE SEAHAWKS DOMINATED AGAIN. I can hear the dynasty buzz starting in Bristol right now. I can hear the 12th Man cutting the tags off their jerseys, breathing a sigh of relief that they don’t have to convince the store to take them back, even if they’ve still got the tag and receipt. I can feel the tidal wave of tweets building, declaring the Seahawks an unstoppable juggernaut.

And you know what? The worst part is, they might be right.

Up Next – A 3:25 date with the Jets at Lambeau Field

 

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So It Begins – Week 1 Preview

I, for one, would like to avoid seeing this again.

I, for one, would like to avoid seeing this again.

By Jon Meerdink

It has been 242 days since the Packers played a football game, and I know I’ve felt every excruciating minute.

What better way to wake up to the start of the NFL season, then, than with a trip to Seattle for a date with the Seahawks?

A football blog I used to read had a tradition. Every year, until someone beat the defending Super Bowl champion, that team would be number one in their power rankings. It didn’t matter how well or poorly the team played or how many games they narrowly squeaked out. Until someone knocked out the champs, they were number one.

This is what the Packers face tonight. The Seahawks are indisputably the most braggadocious, bombastic, buffoon-filled team in the league…but they’re the top dogs until someone takes them out. They will always be the obstacle in the Packers’ way as they try to get to another Super Bowl, and until they’re dealt with thoroughly and decisively, they’ll retain the right to swagger like the guy who knows he can take everybody else in a fight.

The Countdown

5 – Crazy good defensive backs on the Seahawks roster. – They’ve earned every bit of their self-given nickname “Legion of Boom.” Perhaps you’ve heard of Richard Sherman? Yep, he’s good, but running mates Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are All-Pros, too. Byron Maxwell is no slouch at corner opposite Sherman, and despite his aforementioned comments (see link filed under “braggadocious”), Jeremy Lane is a pretty good nickel corner too. The secondary is good stuff in Seattle.

4 – Returning members of the Seahawks top five pass catchers – Yes, they’ve lost Golden Tate, but they return, in order, Doug Baldwin, Marshawn Lynch, Zach, Miller, and Jermaine Kearse. Sure, they’re far from prolific, but Seattle at least has some consistency among their top guys. Oh, and they get Percy Harvin back this year. You may have heard of him.

3 – Number sported by Russell Wilson, who could be primed for an All-Pro season. – Yep, I said it. Russell Wilson could be one of the best two or three quarterbacks in the game this year, but perhaps not entirely due to his own talents, prodigious though they may be. Wilson plays in a run-heavy offense and is a careful enough passer that he’ll likely put up efficiency numbers that rival some of the top performers in the league, whether or not he actually has to expend much effort or not. He also is one of the most talented young passers in the league. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the best passer in the preseason, and before you scoff and say “well that was the preseason” know that it wasn’t even close. PFF’s metric had him ranked 10 points higher than the next guy who’s going to be starting in Week 1, and that guy was Tom Brady. Wilson graded out 17 points higher than Aaron Rodgers, although he played far more snaps and deeper into games, meaning that he likely faced weaker competition.

2 – Games last year in which Aaron Rodgers threw two or more interceptions. – Aaron Rodgers is better at taking care of the ball than almost anybody in NFL history. He has a career interception percentage of just 1.8, almost half of Brett Favre‘s (3.3) and lower than Tom Brady (2.0), Peyton Manning (2.6), and Drew Brees (2.6). Seattle is excellent at forcing turnovers, but they’ll be going up against one of the game’s great caretakers this week.

1 – Seasons, out of his last six, in which Julius Peppers has failed to make the Pro Bowl. - That, of course, was last season. Peppers, at age 33, looked uninterested, worn out, and just…old. He still snagged 7.5 sacks, but  it wasn’t a dominating performance by any stretch of the imagination. But from an outsider’s perspective, it seems Peppers has more than enough reason to show the world that last season was an exception. He’s a physical marvel, even at 34, and should have fewer blockers coming his way than at any point in the recent past. Perhaps a rejuvenated Peppers can bounce back?

Last Time – Seahawks: 14 Packers: 12 – September 24, 2012

Ah yes, the F*** M*** (I will not type those words). At once the most over-hyped and totally legitimate freakout about officiating, this game will live on in infamy…and never not be fun to talk about.

But I don’t want to talk about the ending. I want to talk about the start. Or rather, everything that led up to the crazy end. How Seattle sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times in the first half. How Bryan Bulaga allowed two sacks, another hit, and eight hurries. How Cedric Benson led the Packers with a whopping 2.6 yards per carry. How JERRON MCMILLIAN was the highest rated defender on the Packers that day. Seattle may not have deserved to win, but I’m not sure the Packers did either.

Meet a Seahawk – Marshawn Lynch – RB – 5-11, 215 lbs

Lynch is the powerful, rumbling, diesel engine that makes the Seahawks’ offense run. If Eddie Lacy and DuJuan Harris were somehow melded into one player, they’d look like Marshawn Lynch. He has Lacy’s power combined with Harris’s jitterbug moves, and he’ll be a handful for the Packers tonight.

The Seahawks will win if…

…Marshawn Lynch passes 100 yards and Percy Harvin makes at least one big play. I think the Packers can get points against the Seahawks. But if they can’t slow Seattle down, a win will be difficult. The easiest path to a Seahawk victory is forcing the Packers to tackle Lynch, while just waiting for the right moment to slice open the defense with Percy Harvin.

The Packers will win if…

…they can take advantage of the Seahawks’ one weakness: their offensive line. Lynch makes them look good, but Pro Football Focus says they’re not. In fact, PFF graded Seattle as just average, ranking below the middle of the pack in both pass and run blocking. If the Packers can make the Seahawks’ heads spin up front, they’ll be well on their way to a Week 1 win.

The Pick – Seahawks: 27 Packers: 20

I think the Packers are right there and this game could easily go either way, but last impressions matter when you’ve had limited exposure to both squads. The last we saw the Packers, they were walking off the field at Lambeau, victims of another defeat at the hands of the 49ers. The Seahawks, meanwhile, were hoisting the Lombardi trophy. The Packers may be ready to dethrone the Seahawks, but we haven’t seen it yet. Until then, we have to side with the guys who’ve done it more recently.

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Fantasy Football Preview – Week 1

ARodSEABy Jordan Huenink

The wait is finally over, fantasy football fans. All the pre-draft research and mock drafts are behind you. All you’re left with now is your drafted roster and the road ahead. How smooth or bumpy that road becomes is dependent on a wide variety of factors including injuries, match-ups, trends, etc. I’ll do my best to keep you abreast of the changing fantasy climate from week-to-week, both for the Green Bay fantasy studs and other hot (or cold) players from around the league.

Week 1 of the 2014 NFL season is finally upon us, can you feel the madness?! I, for one, am thrilled about tonight’s opening game – mostly because I just got a work call rescheduled from “During Game Time” to a more respectable and reasonable hour of “During Normal Work Hours.” Now my hand isn’t forced to multitask. Rather, I can just sit back and enjoy the game!

But do fantasy owners really enjoy the games they watch? To be honest, it doesn’t matter if you’re watching a Packers game in your Sheboygan duplex or if you’re watching a Buffalo vs. Tampa Bay game in a Nashville Buffalo Wild Wings – there is usually always one of “your” players playing in any given game on any given week. And whether you want to admit it or not, that fact affects how you watch the game.

For example, I am clearly a Packers fan and will be cheering for them tonight (and all season). However, I also have the Seattle Seahawks defense/special teams on most of my fantasy football teams. The better the Packers do, the worse the Seahawks defense does. Can you see the fantasy conundrum? Anyway, let’s take a look at the Top 5 fantasy-relevant stats for some Week 1 games.

1. In 2013, quarterbacks only averaged 199 yards, 0.95 TD and 10.89 fantasy points per game against the Seahawks defense, while throwing 1.68 interceptions. Now I realize that Aaron Rodgers isn’t the average quarterback, but it’s still hard to argue with these stats. Quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick (5.7), Matt Ryan (12.3), Drew Brees (7.7), Eli Manning (-3.8) struggled to produce fantasy points against the vaunted Seattle defense – and we all know what happened in the Super Bowl. Regardless, you still start Aaron Rodgers this week. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and benching him (while healthy) is not an option. Just be prepared for Week 1 to potentially be his lowest-scoring week.

2. Not only are the Seahawks good against the pass, but they could also stop the run. In 2014, they held running backs to an average of 79 yards on the ground and 12.32 fantasy points per game. Since the Packers seem to be planning to use a heavy dose of Eddie Lacy tonight – especially if they find themselves with a second half lead – the anticipated workload alone is enough to make him a must start. But going forward, lesser backs may need to see your bench when they face off against Seattle.

3. The Week 1 Indianapolis @ Denver game could be a huge start to the season for Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning owners. In last year’s meeting, Luck tossed three touchdowns against the Super Bowl runner-ups and scored 29.9 fantasy points, while Peyton threw for 386 and three touchdowns of his own for 25.3 points. While last season’s game was in a dome, watch again for inflated numbers in the Mile High version of this match-up in primetime Sunday night. (Extra nugget: With Wes Welker suspended for Week 1, look for Emmanuel Sanders to fill in nicely – a must start if you own him!)

4. Take the high-octane offense of the Dallas Cowboys and pair it with the injuries and suspensions for the San Francisco 49ers and it results in an iffy week for the Niners defense. With Aldon Smith suspended and Ray McDonald likely to follow, look for Tony Romo to have ample time in the pocket to seek out his receivers. If you have a second defense on your bench, it might not be a bad idea for the 49ers to make their fantasy debut on your team in Week 2 (vs Bears) or 3 (@ Cardinals).

5. After making it through the pre-season surprisingly unscathed, Arian Foster has a favorable match-up against Washington in Week 1. The Redskins ranked 30th last year against running backs, allowing 93 yards rushing, 42 yards receiving and 1.25 touchdowns per game. With the lack of a solid backup, look for Arian to stay on the field for a majority of snaps and therefore get upwards of 30 touches on the game. This should result in a pleasing fantasy output.

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Sixteen Sundays

lambeau field 3By Jon Meerdink

Success in the NFL is a difficult thing. A few teams will make the playoffs, fewer still will make it deep into the tournament, just two square off in the Super Bowl, and only one can ever be the champion. 31 teams will fall short this year.

Some teams, like it or not, have been eliminated already. Others will fall by the wayside through random injuries, front office mismanagement, or other circumstances that play out far from the gridiron.

With that in mind, I have a simple request: don’t let your enjoyment of this season hinge solely on the outcome of the games.

There are 960 guaranteed minutes of football in a season. Sixteen games worth of passes, catches, blocks, tackles, interceptions, fumbles, and touchdowns. That’s all any fan, player, coach, or executive is guaranteed. We get sixteen Sundays (or Mondays or Thursdays…or sometimes Saturdays late in the season) to root for our teams, and that’s it until next year.

So why let how you feel about the game be determined by how many contests you win?

If I asked you who won the Super Bowl last season, most of you would be able to tell me the Seahawks came out on top. Fewer would be able to name the score, but the vast majority would have that detail down. Jumping back two years, I’d still say most people would remember the Ravens won the Super Bowl, beating the 49ers. Three years, though, I bet the number drops significantly, and if we go back four, five, and six years, I bet we’re down to just fans of the Packers, Saints, and Steelers, respectively.

But I bet we each remember specific games from those times. I bet if I got any football fan reading this blog talking, they could tell me who they were with, what they wore, what they ate, and where they watched a lot of their teams games. Think about it. I bet the circumstances of the games you’ve watched stick with you far more than the games themselves.

Football has always been a family affair for me. I’ve watched most of the Packers games in my life with my mom, dad, and brother. We used to watch the first three quarters of a noon Packers game at home after church, then head to my grandparents’ house across town for the fourth quarter, staying afterwards for Sunday dinner. That’s what I think of when I think of football, and I’d bet my shares of Packers stock that the vast majority of fans have similar experiences.

So I return to my question: why let the result of the games you watch determine your enjoyment? We all know in our hearts that this pursuit of sports is foolish. You don’t have to think too long about stats, roster deconstruction, scouting, All-22 film, and Pro Football Focus numbers to realize that it’s all pretty silly. But those memories? The Sundays at grandma’s house or in your college dorm or your favorite sports bar? That means something. That lasts past Sunday. Those friendships and moments of community…those last.

Remember that when the season kicks off tomorrow. Remember it and enjoy the ride. We only have 16 Sundays.

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Get LinkedIn with Former Packers

Craig Nall is doing well for himself post-football. Are any other Packers succeeding after their careers come to an end?

Craig Nall is doing well for himself post-football. Are any other Packers succeeding after their careers come to an end?

By Jon Meerdink

Final cuts are in. The roster is set. Practice squad players have been signed. Now the preparation begins for Seattle.

But what about the guys who aren’t on anybody’s roster? Some of them will hook up with other teams, some may sign with the new FXFL, some may head to Canada or the Arena League, but others won’t find anywhere else to go.

So what do you do when NFL teams stop calling? Set up a LinkedIn profile of course. Here are a few Packers who’ve turned to the professional social network to further their post-football lives. (Major hat tip to Gary Zilavy for helping track down these profiles)

Craig Nall
Then:
quarterback from 2002-2005, 2007
Now: Quarterback Instructor
Breakdown: Nall’s done pretty well for himself after football. He’s working as a consultant for a QB training academy that he founded, and on the side he’s working as a co-producer on the movie Full Contact.

Travis Jervey
Then: running back and special teamer from 1995 to 1998
Now: marketing manager for Christina Jervey Handcrafted Jewelry
Breakdown: known for his hustle and great speed, Jervey is probably a natural fit in the marketing world. He must be doing okay, too, because the jewelry looks pretty nice (to a guy who knows nothing at all about jewelry).

Chris Jacke
Then: kicker from 1989 to 1996
Now: Founder of Player Alumni Resources LLC
Breakdown: Jacke’s company says it’s working to keep the legacy of the Green Bay Packers alive, and it must be working because I feel pretty good about the Packers today. Good job, Chris! No, but seriously, he works to connect former Packers players to people who’d like them to come to their events and stuff. Still cool.

Don Majkowski
Then: quarterback from 10987 to 1992
Now: homebuyer for Hotlanta Homebuyer Investments, Inc.
Breakdown: Real estate probably isn’t too bad of a gig if you’re a former athlete with some cash, connections, and some free time, all of which are pretty readily available when you’re a retired NFL quarterback.

B.J. Coleman
Then: quarterback in 2012
Now: VP of sales at Lipsey Logistics
Breakdown: Barely out of football a year and he’s already a VP of sales at a company that supplies bottled water in emergency situations. Good work, B.J.!

Najeh Davenport
Then: running back from 2002-2005
Now: Director/Producer/Screenwriter at Skyy Productions
Breakdown: Davenport just premiered his first movie as the muscle behind Skyy Productions, a documentary called “The U Reloaded” which, according to its website, “chronicles the passing of the torch from the Dennis Erickson championship filled regime plagued with NCAA allegations, violations and sanctions to the Butch Davis rebuilding era.” Judging by the trailer, it mostly consisted of University of Miami highlights and sticking a camera in peoples’ faces and yelling “what’s going on?”

Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila
Then: defensive end from
Now: Wealth Advisor at Ventura, LLC
Breakdown: The Packers’ all-time leading sackmaster now helps people manage their money for a company in Green Bay.

Andrew Datko
Then: offensive lineman in 2012
Now: Financial Representative at Northwestern Mutual Financial Network
Breakdown: Datko’s career never really got rolling in Green Bay. Injuries kept him caught up in the roster churn at the bottom of the 53 man roster and practice squad. Now that he’s out of the game for good, he works for a solid Wisconsin company in Northwestern Mutual.

The Last Stand of Carl Bradford

Will the real Carl Bradford please stand up?

Will the real Carl Bradford please stand up?

By Jon Meerdink

In more ways than one, Carl Bradford is this year’s Johnathan Franklin. A fourth round pick, lacking ideal size for his position, Bradford, like Franklin, was expected to add depth and flair to a position in need of a shot in the arm. Instead, like Franklin, Bradford has slogged through and underwhelming and, at times, all together invisible preseason.

He’s struggled to the point that the Packers have moved him to inside linebacker. Some scouts thought he was better suited to that position from the get go, but the Packers kept him outside for the first few weeks of camp. Perhaps they thought he was better suited to that position. Perhaps they didn’t think he could make the switch. Whatever the case, such a late move seems more like desperation than an honest evaluation of his skills.

On the most basic level, Bradford does look the part of an inside linebacker. He’s the same height as A.J. Hawk, albeit 17 pounds heavier. He projects a physical presence more like San Francisco’s NaVorrow Bowman (6-0, 242) or Buffalo’s Brandon Spikes (6-2, 255) than an outside pass rusher, where long-limbed, rangy athletes are the norm.

Skill-wise, it looks like he’s also got a shot. Almost every scouting report out there describes him as a playmaker with a nose for the football. The descriptors are almost stunning in some instances: “shows an explosive burst to close emphatically,” “plays with urgency and beelines to the ball,”knifes into inside gaps with initial quickness, can be disruptive shooting gaps.”

Obviously, those are all attributes you’d like to see from any player, not just an inside linebacker, but we haven’t seen anything resembling that in the first three preseason games, where NFL.com credits him with just one tackle in three combined performances playing outside. Unless he truly flashes something fantastic and unexpected at middle linebacker tonight, it’s fair to wonder if he’ll still be with the team next week in Seattle.

But still, there’s the chance that we just haven’t seen the real Carl Bradford yet. Scouts don’t just give empty praise to give it. There’s something there. Perhaps he can still be that relentless, attacking player. Maybe the guy that shows up on the highlights is still out there somewhere, waiting for that place to play. Maybe inside linebacker is that place for Carl Bradford.

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