Tag Archives: Mike McCarthy

2017 NFC North Projections


X-Green Bay Packers 11-5

In the NFC North, it is the Green Bay Packers and everyone else. The Packers have won five of the last six NFC North Championships, while their eight-year playoff streak is tied with the New England Patriots for the longest active playoff streak in the National Football League. But since the Packers won the Super Bowl to conclude the 2010 NFL season, they have dealt with heartache during the playoffs. Two of the last three seasons have ended with the Packers losing in the NFC Championship Game this past January to the Atlanta Falcons. But as the Packers continue to be one of the better teams in the NFC, will they be able to put it all together in 2017 to claim another Vince Lombardi Trophy?

Mike McCarthy

For Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, his job has been made easier over the last nine years with Aaron Rodgers as his starting quarterback. In 2008, Rodgers took on an impossible job in replacing Brett Favre as the Packers starting quarterback. And although that Rodgers will never be able to make the people in Green Bay forget about Favre, he has done a tremendous job in regards to writing his own story.

Aside from leading Green Bay to a Super Bowl victory, Rodgers is a two-time National Football League MVP and he is one of the most accurate quarterbacks that the game has ever seen. For his career Rodgers has completed 65.1% of his passes, while he has thrown 297 touchdowns passes to just 72 interceptions. And even at the age of 33, Rodgers is showing no signs of slowing down, while he should also rack up plenty of points in fantasy football.

Rodgers has always been one of the best in regards to spreading the football around and that’ll once again be the case this season. Since 2008, wide receiver Jordy Nelson has been one of Rodgers’ most dependable pass catchers. And after Nelson missed the entire 2015 National Football League season as he was recovering from a torn ACL, he returned last year to lead Green Bay in receptions (97), receiving yards (1,257), and receiving touchdowns (14). Nelson has some of the best hands for a wide receiver and he should continue be dependable in key situations; especially on third down.

Devante Adams

In 2014, the Packers used a second-round pick on wide receiver Devante Adams and he continues to improve. Adams was on the verge of totaling 1,000 receiving yards last season, and he should be able to reach the mark this season in what will be an important year for him with his rookie contract set to expire.

But as good as Rodgers has been, he cannot mask the fact that the Packers have struggled to rush the football. Last year the Packers were 20th in the National Football League in regards to rushing as their running game was in shambles. As Green Bay dealt with several injuries at the running back position, they were forced to convert wide receiver Ty Montgomery to running back. And with no long term answer in sight, it appears that Montgomery will once get the bulk of the carries this year for Green Bay.

The past few years has seen as the Packers offensive line as a quiet, unassuming group which goes out and does their job which is to keep the uniform of Rodgers clean. The Packers offensive line is not comprised of Pro Bowl caliber players as they are more of a “no-name” group that has come together to be a solid unit. However the Packers offensive line should get a boost with veteran guard Jahri Evans joining the unit. Evans has spent the last 11 years with the New Orleans Saints where he was a six-time Pro Bowl selection, while also helping the Saints win their only Super Bowl Championship in franchise history.

For Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, his unit must find a way to improve after they were 22nd in the National Football League last year in total defense. The Packers desperately need outside linebacker Clay Matthews to regain the form that has made him one of the top defenders in the NFL. The Packers have been shifting Matthews around over the last three years playing him as both an inside and outside linebacker. However Matthews is at his best as an outside linebacker due to his edge rushing ability. And Capers must find a way to play Matthews as much as on the outside this season.

Morgan Burnett, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix

Green Bay has one of the best safety combos in the National Football League with strong safety Morgan Burnett and free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as both players have tremendous range, while neither is afraid to do some paint swapping in the run game. But the Packers will need some more consistency from their cornerbacks such as Davon House and Damarious Randall in order to be one of the better units in the league.

Once the Packers offense is able to get the football inside of an opponents 40-yard line they are in scoring range due to the leg of kicker Mason Crosby. Crosby connected on seven of his nine attempts from beyond 40 yards last season, and his powerful leg will once again be important; especially when the temperature begins to drop.

The schedule makers weren’t kind to the Packers as they’ll begin the upcoming season by hosting the Seattle Seahawks before they visit the Falcons who eliminated them from the playoffs this past January. However with the NFC North expected to weak, Green Bay should once again be able to coast to another division title.

Minnesota Vikings 7-9

The 2016 National Football League was set to begin with the Minnesota Vikings as a legit Super Bowl contender, but things would unravel rather quickly. In last August 2016, Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a torn ACL during a non-contact drill which changed the outlook for Minnesota. The Vikings would scramble as they would acquire quarterback Sam Bradford from the Philadelphia Eagles. The Vikings still had strong defense which propelled them to a 5-0 start, however the wheels would quickly fall apart as they would lose eight of their final 13 games to finish 8-8.

Aside from the Bridgewater injury, veteran running back Adrian Peterson only appeared in three games for the Vikings last year due to a knee injury of his own. And thus when the off-season rolled around,the Vikings deciding to not exercise an option on his contract which made him a free agent as he would go on to sign with the New Orleans Saints.

Peterson left Minnesota as the Vikings all-time leading rusher with 11,747 yards, while he had been the face of the franchise for the last decade. And now that Peterson is gone, while Bridgewater still isn’t fully back from his ACL injury, how will Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer handle the upcoming season for his team?

Dalvin Cook

With the Vikings parting with Peterson, it left a void for this team as they use a second-round pick on running back Dalvin Cook. During Cook’s collegiate career with the Florida State Seminoles, he was a two-time All-American as at times he was a runaway freight train. Cook is 5’10”, 213 lbs., but he runs over opponents like a fullback, while possessing the speed of someone smaller than him which makes him a logical candidate to the Offensive Rookie of the Year this season in the National Football League.

Bradford doesn’t have a reputation for being a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback, but he is coming off of the finest season of his professional career. Bradford completed 71.6% of his passes last year which was tops in the National Football League. Even though that Bradford was in his first year with the Vikings, he had familiarity with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur when they worked together with the Eagles as Bradford made it his business to not force the football.

Stefon Diggs

Minnesota has plenty of speed with wide receivers such as Laquon Treadwell and Stefon Diggs, but the biggest question will be whether or not that Bradford who is not known for the deep pass will be able to get them the football consistently? However whereas Bradford doesn’t get the football down the field with regularity, one of his favorites options in the passing game last year was tight end Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph continues to improve in each season with the Vikings and his 6’6″ frame is a matchup nightmare for opposing safeties and linebackers. Rudolph will be Bradford’s go-to-guy once again this season; especially on third down as he knows how to move the chains.

But with Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer being a defensive minded coach, Minnesota’s bread and butter is defensive football. Last year the Vikings were third in the National Football League in total defense which included holding nine opponents under 20 points. Defensive end Danielle Hunter is rapidly emerging as a force for the Vikings which was evident by him recording 12.5 sacks last year. A knee injury could force defensive tackle Shariff Floyd to retire, but Minnesota still possesses plenty of depth on the defensive line with defensive tackle Linval Joseph and defensive end Brian Robison.

Detroit Lions 6-10

The 2016 National Football League season was full of surprises which included seeing the Detroit Lions reach the postseason. Lions head coach Jim Caldwell was able to rally his team as Detroit was seeking to replace a legend in wide receiver Calvin Johnson who had retired following the end of the 2015 NFL. However although that the Lions made the playoffs last January, they finished the season on a four-game losing streak which included blowing an opportunity to win the NFC North for the first time in franchise history. And as the Lions are set to embark on a new campaign, will they be able to do something which they’ve been unable to do since 1995 which is to make the postseason in consecutive years?

Jim Caldwell

For Caldwell and Lions general manager Bob Quinn, they have attached their wagon to quarterback Matthew Stafford. In 2009, the Lions made Stafford the first overall pick of the National Football League Draft in the hopes that he would help to reverse the fortunes of their franchise. Stafford has not always had the best team around him, but by 2011 he was able to help Detroit reach the playoffs. Stafford has made one Pro Bowl appearance and he has rapidliy become one of the better quarterbacks in Lions franchise history which is evident by him passing for at least 4,000 yards in each of the last six years. The Lions have committed to Stafford as last month they gave him a five-year, $136 million extension which made him the highest paid player in NFL history.

But Stafford’s extension with the Lions has been met with criticism as he has a career record of 51-58, while he has never won a playoff game. Stafford did show maturity last year as without Johnson as his security blanket, he had to focus on getting the football to other wide receivers, but will he be able to take the next step and get the Lions a playoff victory?

Matthew Stafford

A big reason why the Lions have had to rely on Stafford’s arm so much is that they have struggled mightily in regards running the football. The Lions leading rusher in 2016 was running back Theo Riddick with just 357 yards, and as a team, Detroit was 30th in the National Football League in rushing. And with Riddick as the Lions best option at running back heading into the new season, I don’t see the Lions problems in regards to running the football going away; especially with a patchwork offensive line.

Last year the Lions defense lacked sizzle, but they had substance. Seven of Detroit’s opponents in 2016 were held under 20 points as points came at a premium against them. But as the Lions were only able to tally 26 sacks, they lacked the ability to make big plays in key situations which is a big reason why they were swept by the Packers.

A big reason for the Lions lack of a pass rush was due to the fact that defensive end Ziggy Ansah was plagued by an ankle injury as after recording 14.5 sacks in 2015, he was limited to just a pair of sacks last year. Aside from Ansah, the Lions don’t have a pass rusher who can consistently put fear into opponents which makes it paramount that he is healthy to be an anchor of Detroit’s defensive line.

The Lions won’t be confused with having an easy schedule as they have road games with the New York Giants and New Orleans, as well a pair of divisional meetings with the Packers. The Lions have not had consecutive winning seasons since 1995 and Caldwell and his club have their work cut out for them in order to make that a reality in 2017.

Chicago Bears 5-11

It’s hard to believe, but the Chicago Bears have not made the playoffs since 2010, while they have not had a winning record since 2012. Over the last three seasons the Bears have lost a combined 34 games for their worst stretch since 1997-2000 as this organization has been plagued by numerous bad personnel decisions. General manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox are each set to begin their third year with the Bears and as Chicago is in the midst of rebuilding, there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight in regards to the futility in the Windy City.

In 2009, the Bears acquired quarterback Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos and he was expected to be a savior as he was expected to finally solve Chicago’s long time issues at the position. Cutler had an up and down career with the Bears as he was 51-51 as a starter while throwing 154 touchdowns to 109 interceptions.

At the conclusion of the 2016 National Football League season, Cutler announced that he was going to retire after 11 years as a professional. But when Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered a knee injury during training camp, Cutler decided to unretire to take his spot in South Florida.

John Fox

Pace and Fox have spent this off-season attempting to find Cutler’s replacement with the Bears. The first move by the Bears was to sign quarterback Mike Glennon. Glennon spent the last four years as a backup quarterback. Glennon has 18 starts under his belt in the National Football League and he has a career record of 5-13. However the Bears saw enough and they decided to sign Glennon to a three-year deal for $45 million.

The Bears would not stop there as they made a trade with the San Francisco 49ers to move up to the second overall pick in the National Football League Draft this past April to select quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The jury is still out on Trubisky who only had one year as a starter collegiately for the North Carolina Tar Heels. But this was enough for Pace and Fox to be convinced that Trubisky will be the Bears quarterback of the future.

But whereas the Bears were only able to go 3-13 last year and that they are in the process of rebuilding, it means that there have been plenty of opportunities for young players to earn roster spots. Last year as a rookie, running back Jordan Howard exploded for 1,313 yards, while he also made the Pro Bowl. Howard did have 252 carries last year and as there is plenty of wear and tear on running backs in the National Football League, the Bears must make sure that he stays fresh here in 2017.

There is potential in the Bears receiving corps, but potential is only go on paper. In 2015, Chicago used the seventh overall pick of the National Football League Draft on wide receiver Kevin White. However through two seasons, White has only appeared in four games for the Bears. White’s absence gave wide receiver Cameron Meredith the opportunity to be “the guy” last year, but he’ll miss the entire upcoming season as the result of a torn ACL. Wide receiver Kendall Wright was first-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2012, but in five seasons in Nashville he was never able able to reach his potential. Now after Wright signed a one-year deal to join the Bears, he will get a shot at redemption, however it won’t be easy as he’ll have to rely on a rookie quarterback in Trubisky to get him the football.

Like the Bears receiving corps, the defense in Chicago has potential, but it is just a matter of everyone staying healthy for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Outside linebacker Danny Trevathan has been out of action since he suffered a torn patellar tendon last November. In 12 games as a rookie in 2016, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd was able to record 7 sacks, and I can see Fangio using him in the same role that he used outside linebacker Aldon Smith in when he was the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers. Floyd missed four games last year due to injury, and the Bears are going to need the combination of him and Trevathan to be healthy in order to consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Right out of the chute the Bears are going to have to deal with some heavy hitters as they will face the Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, and Pittsburgh Steelers in their first four games. Only the Buccaneers didn’t make the playoffs last season, and as the Bears have questions surrounding their quarterbacking situation, this could be a long season in the Windy City.

X-Division Winner

Source: Pro-football-reference.com


2016 NFC North Projections


X-Green Bay Packers 11-5

The Green Bay Packers have been the model of consistency in the National Football League as their seven consecutive trips to the postseason are tied with the New England Patriots for the longest current streak in the league. For Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, the last two Januarys have ended in heartbreaking losses on the road against teams from the NFC West. In January 2015, the NFC Championship Game saw the Packers in control for the majority of the game until the very end when they lost to the Seattle Seahawks. And this past January saw the Packers scrap and claw to force overtime against the Arizona Cardinals before coming apart at the seams during the extra frame. Now the Packers are looking to put all of the playoff disappointment of the recent years behind them and get back to the Super Bowl.

Aaron Rodgers

Luckily for the Packers, they still have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Rodgers is a two-time National Football League MVP that is one of the best signal callers in the business. But recently Rodgers ability has masked some of the Packers flaws on offense which can no longer be the case if Green Bay wants to get back to the Super Bowl.

Last year weight issues plagued running back Eddie Lacy as he is an important part of the Packers offense. Lacy only gained 758 rushing yards as he drew the ire of Packers head coach Mike McCarthy due to his conditioning. This off-season has seen Lacy dedicate himself to getting in better shape, and the slimmed down running back should become a bigger contributor in Green Bay’s offense.


Rodgers had to go all of 2015 without the services of wide receiver Jordy Nelson who has been his most reliable pass catcher. Nelson tore his ACL last summer, and although that he is back on the Packers roster, it is going to take him some time to regain the form that he had in 2014 when he tallied 1,519 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. In the Packers receiving corps, they also have Randall Cobb, Ty Montgomery, and Davante Adams, but somebody needs to step up from this trio and become more consistent.

The Packers offensive line isn’t full of Pro Bowlers or household names, but they have been together for awhile. However Rodgers was sacked 46 times last year which isn’t going to cut it in 2016 if Green Bay wants to win the NFC North.

For Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, he must find a way to get more usage of outside linebacker Clay Matthews as a pass rusher. In 2014, injuries to the Packers defense forced Matthews to play inside linebacker. Matthews tends to line up at different spots defensively for Green Bay, but he is a better player as an outside linebacker. The Packers used a fourth-round draft pick on inside linebacker Blake Martinez this past April, and if he is ready to fill Green Bay’s void at that position, Matthews should be able to see more time as a pass rusher. Outside linebacker Julius Peppers is 36-years of age, but he still can put plenty of fear into opposing quarterbacks. Peppers is a freak of nature and there is a strong possibility that when this season is over, he will be in the top-five on the National Football League’s all-time list for sacks.

There is plenty of potential for the Packers in their secondary, but it is just a matter of whether or not that cornerbacks Sam Shields and Damarious Randall, along with free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and strong safety Morgan Burnett will come to play on a weekly basis.

Kicker Mason Crosby can be shaky at times on field goals, but he is still a player that McCarthy relies on, while punter Tim Masthay has the strong leg needed for when the temperature drops during the Wisconsin winter.

The Packers have a chance to set the tone for themselves early as three of their first six games will come against the foes from the NFC North as they know that they must scrap and claw to win this division.

Y-Minnesota Vikings 11-5


Last year saw everything beginning to come together for the Minnesota Vikings as they won the NFC North for the first time since 2009, but they suffered a heart breaking loss in the NFC Wild Card Game to the Seattle Seahawks. The Vikings are hopeful that they can learn from that experience as they look to make it consecutive postseason appearances for the first time since 2009 as they are set to begin life in their new home of U.S. Bank Stadium in Downtown Minneapolis.

Mike Zimmer

For Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer it has not taken him that long to make Minnesota a contender once again as he has two years under his belt. Zimmer has always preached having a strong defense, while he also has an offense that can take care of the football.

Running back Adrian Peterson is set to begin his tenth season in the National Football League. But unlike most 31-year old running backs, Peterson isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Peterson gained 1,485 yards last year, however he led the league in carries with 327 as it marked the fourth time in his career that toted the rock at least 300 times in a campaign. Peterson is still extremely vital to the Vikings offense as his running ability sets up the pass. And as Peterson will look to keep his legs churning, another 1,000-yard campaign on the ground will put him in the top 10 on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.

But as Peterson is still important to the Vikings offense, is quarterback Teddy Bridgewater ready to take the next step? From the early stages of Bridgewater’s National Football League career, he doesn’t appear to be a quarterback that is going to be hot commodity in fantasy football, but he has been accurate to the tune of completing 65.3% of his passes last season. However Minnesota’s passing offense was 31st in the NFL in 2015 as they have been know to shy away from taking chances down the field which is something that must change if the Vikings want to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. And that will come down to whether or not that Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turnver is ready to take the kid gloves off of his young quarterback.

Stefon Diggs

Last year as a rookie, wide receiver Stefon Diggs showed promise as he averaged 13.8 yards per catch, but he will need to develop more consistency with Bridgewater. Tight end Kyle Rudolph is still a very dependable pass catcher at his position while the Vikings have high hopes for rookie wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.

But make no mistake about it that Minnesota’s team has a blue-collar feel to it which starts with their defense. Defensively the Vikings were 13th in total defense as they have a unit that can get after opponents.

The Vikings defensive line might not be “The Purple People Eaters” of the 1970’s, but they can still bring the noise. The combination of defensive ends Everson Griffen and Brian Robison, along with defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd have the potential to combine for 25 sacks, while at least one member of the quartet could end up in the Pro Bowl.

Chad Greenway

Minnesota has solid corner linebackers in Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway, but their secondary is littered with play makers such as free safety Harrison Smith which is important in a division such as the NFC North that has Pro Bowl caliber quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.

Since joining the Vikings in 2012, kicker Blair Walsh has been one of the more accurate kickers in the National Football League, but he must put last year’s meltdown in the playoffs behind him. Last year Walsh had a field goal percentage of 87.2 which included making six kicks from beyond 50 yards and his strong right leg will have an impact on the upcoming season for the Vikings.

It won’t take us long to see if the Vikings are for real as in Week 2 they will host the Packers which will be followed by a trip to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers who are the defending NFC Champions. But comes Christmas, Minnesota should still have plenty to play for.

Chicago Bears 9-7

2015 was an up and down year for the Chicago Bears as they finished with a record of 6-10. It marked the fifth consecutive season in which the Bears failed to qualify for the postseason which is their longest stretch since 1995-2000. And during the Bears current streak, they have employed three different head coaches over that stretch. But however the Bears appear to be committed to their current head coach in John Fox. Fox is coming off of his first year in Chicago and he knows a thing or two about turning around struggling franchises from his previous work as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos respectively.

Jay Cutler

After leading the National Football League in interceptions in 2014 with 18, quarterback Jay Cutler threw just 11 in 2015. Cutler improved under offensive coordinator Adam Gase last year. But Gase is now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Dowell Loggains was the Bears quarterbacks coach last year and he will now take over the play calling duties with Gase being in Miami and he must continue to build off of what Chicago’s former offensive coordinator was able to accomplish with Cutler last season.

What helped Cutler improve as a quarterback in 2015 was the fact that he began to trust throwing the football to his running backs as opposed to simply trying to force his passes down the field. Last year Bears running backs accounted for nearly 70 receptions and Jeremy Langford could once have a big impact in Chicago.

Jeremy Langford

After the Bears parted with longtime running back Matt Forte this off-season, Langford should take a bigger role in Chicago’s offense this year. Langford only averaged 3.6 yards per carry as a rookie in 2015, but I expect him to be a guy that gets at least 20 carries per game, and he can also be a solid contributor on swing and screen passes.

Kevin White

Last year saw the Bears use a first-round pick on wide receiver Kevin White, but a shin injury prevented him from taking the field. Now 2016 will be White’s de facto rookie season as he theoretically gives the Bears another first-round pick this season. White’s presence should take some of the pressure off of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery as the Bears look to open up the passing game some more.

As Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio are in their second year with the Bears, they’ve gone about putting more play makers on that side of the football. The Bears have high hopes for outside linebacker Leonard Floyd who was their first-round pick this past spring. At 6’6″, 240 lbs., Floyd has a slender build, but the Bears are optimistic that he will have a smooth transition to the National Football League. The Bears also have outside linebackers that can rush the passer in Willie Young and Lamarr Houston as this is a part of their arsenal that will be needed as they look to compete with the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.

The Bears first six opponents this season did not make the playoffs last year, and a quick start could be just what the doctor ordered as they look to sneak up on the Packers and Vikings in the NFC North.

Detroit Lions 6-10

Last year was an up and down one for the Detroit Lions as they began the season with a record of 0-5 only to rebound and finish 7-9. Assistant coaches were dropping like flies while general manager Martin Mayhew was also relieved of his duties and replaced by Bob Quinn. But somehow Jim Caldwell was able to maintain his post as the Lions head coach. And although that Caldwell was able to avoid the chopping block this past January, he is still on the hot seat and he’ll be fighting an uphill battle to get the Lions back to the postseason after missing out on it in 2015.

It is going to be difficult for the Lions to replace the contributions of wide receiver Calvin Johnson who decided to retire after nine seasons in the National Football League as his presence alone caused matchup issues for opposing defenses. And in Johnson’s final season with the Lions, he led the team in receptions (88), receiving yards (1,214), and touchdowns (9) as quarterback Matthew Stafford is going to now have to rely on committee of wide receivers where nobody stands out.

One of the Lions biggest issues in 2015 was their inability to run the football. The Lions were last in the National Football League in rushing with rookie running back Ameer Abdullah being their leading rusher with just 597 yards. Abdullah’s struggles summed up the Lions issues on offense which began with their offensive line. The Lions were never able to get the right combination on their offensive line which made their offense one dimensional, while Stafford was running for his life in the pocket.

Ezekiel Ansah

Defensively the Lions do have a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in defensive end Ziggy Ansah who had 14.5 sacks last year, but overall this is a unit that lacks play makers as they could once again be fighting an uphill battle in the NFC North.

Three of the Lions first four games here in 2016 will be on the road, with two of those contests coming against NFC North foes in the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears as another slow start will get the folks in Motown gearing up to run Caldwell out of town.

X-Division Winner

Y-Clinched Wild Card

Source: Pro-football-reference.com


Gut Check Time For The Pack


After falling short this past January in the NFC Championship Game, the Green Bay Packers came out like gangbusters to begin the 2015 National Football League season. The Packers won their first six games this season and it appeared that the road to Super Bowl 50 from the NFC side would be going through Green Bay. But things have changed rather quickly for the Packers as they’ve lost their last three games and in the process, the smooth ride to Super Bowl 50 for Green Bay doesn’t seem as guaranteed.

Aaron Rodgers

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is one of the best in the business at what he does which is evident by his two National Football League MVP Awards along with his Super Bowl MVP Award. When Rodgers is operating inside of the pocket, he is as cool as they come while he is the process of picking apart opposing defenses. But in recent weeks it has not been as smooth for Rodgers and the Packers.

In Week 5, Rodgers was picked off twice by the St. Louis Rams which ended a streak of 587 pass attempts at home without an interception. The Packers were able to defeat the Rams by the score of 24-10, but in the past three games, the opposing defenses have gotten the better of Rodgers and the Green Bay offense.


In a battle of unbeatens, the Packers traveled to take on the Denver Broncos in Week 8. But Rodgers and the Packers offense were unable to get anything going as he only managed to throw for 77 yards and Green Bay lost 29-10. The Packers were looking to rebound in Week 9 when they traveled to face the Carolina Panthers as the winner of this game would more than likely have the inside as far as obtaining home-field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs. The Packers fell behind the Panthers 27-3 by halftime before staging a furious rally in the fourth quarter. A late Packers touchdown cut the Panthers lead to 38-36. But when Rodgers failed to find a wide open wide receiver in Randall Cobb on the two-point conversion, it sealed the Packers fate in the loss. This past Sunday, the Packers found themselves hosting the Detroit Lions who Green Bay had not lost to at home since 1991. The Lions also came into the game with a meager record of 1-7 and it was expected that the Packers would cruise to a victory and get back on track. But the game was dominated by the Lions defense that recorded 3 sacks on Rodgers while keeping him and the Packers offense off balance. Packers kicker Mason Crosby missed a potential game-winning, 52-yard field goal as time expired which sent Green Bay to their third consecutive loss, and as they are preparing to face the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, this is a team that is indeed searching for answers.

The Packers offensive line has had their hands full recently as they have been unable to provide Rodgers with solid protection in the pocket while also failing to open holes for Green Bay’s running game. The Packers have only seen one running back (James Starks) gain at least 100 yards on the ground in a game this season and he did that in Week 6 versus the San Diego Chargers. This season the Packers are 17th in the National Football League in rushing, but they’ve lacked continuity due to the blocking up front. Questions have also arisen about the physical condition of Packers running back Eddie Lacy who’s bruising style is important to any potential Green Bay success. After gaining over 2,300 yards in his first two seasons with the Packers, Lacy has struggled this season and now a groin injury has him sidelined. And just as the Packers need Lacy on top of his game, the absence of wide receiver Jordy Nelson is beginning to loom larger.

Since being drafted by the Packers in 2008, Nelson has been Rodgers’ go-to wide receiver which resulted in him getting a four-year, $39 million extension in 2014 to continue catching passes in Green Bay. Last season Nelson enjoyed the best season for a Packers wide receiver in franchise history as he gained 1,519 receiving yards. But this summer, Nelson suffered a torn ACL in a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers which has put him on the shelf in 2015. The Packers brought back former wide receiver James Jones who does lead the team in receiving touchdowns with 6. But along with wide receivers Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams, Jones has not been able to make up for the loss of Nelson who opened things up in the passing game for the Packers.

Under defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the Packers defense is ranked 22nd this season, but they have enjoyed solid play in their front seven which is led by nose tackle B.J. Raji, along with outside linebackers Clay Matthews III and veteran Julius Peppers. But on this recent losing streak, the Packers just have not been able to string together enough big plays to lead to a victory.

The Packers are looking to get out of their rut, and it doesn’t help them that the Vikings have caught fire in the NFC North. While the Packers have lost three consecutive games, the Vikings have won their last five to take over first place in the division. The Packers and Vikings are set to meet this Sunday in Minneapolis with first place in the NFC North on the line in their first of two meetings this season. And with the temperature expected to be around 36 degrees at kickoff, the Vikings are looking to seize the momentum and potentially bury the Packers for good in the divisional race.

Mike McCarthy

But for Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, he is a master motivator and he knows how to make adjustments in-game as well as during the week. As a head coach, McCarthy has a career winning percentage .655 which also includes the postseason. And as this is the Packers first three-game losing streak with Rodgers under center, they must find a way to get their rhythm back against a Vikings defense that is currently ranked 9th in the National Football League in total defense, while also looking to slow down running back Adrian Peterson who has been a runaway freight train in 2015 as he currently leads the NFL in rushing with 961 yards. Peterson is also on pace to gain at least 1,200 yards on the ground for the seventh time as a professional.

What the Packers must do is find a spark early that will get them going while also taking the Vikings home crowd out of the contest. And whether that it Matthews or one of his defensive teammates making a big play, or someone on the Packers offense stepping up to become an unsung hero, this is gut check time for Green Bay as this contest along with the next few weeks will make or break a season that earlier seemed destined to have the Vince Lombardi Trophy once again destined to return to “Titletown”.

Source: Pro-football-reference.com



2015 NFC North Projections


X-Green Bay Packers 12-4

This off-season began quicker than expected for the Green Bay Packers. For the first 55 minutes of the NFC Championship Game, the Packers did everything right in order to secure a berth in Super Bowl 49. But the last five minutes of the fourth quarter and in the few moments of overtime, the Packers fell apart and lost to the Seattle Seahawks. And now all that the Packers can do is reassemble and prepare for the 2015 National Football League season.

Aaron Rodgers

But luckily for the Packers, they still have Aaron Rodgers as their starting quarterback. Rodgers is set to enter his eighth season as the Packers starting quarterback and he is one of the best field generals in the NFL. Rodgers threw 38 touchdown passes last season to only 5 interceptions en route to being named as the NFL MVP for the second time in his career. Rodgers has that rare combination a strong throwing arm, precision, and overall awareness on the gridiron which makes the job of Packers head coach Mike McCarthy that much easier.

Around Rodgers, the Packers have talent as in a very short period of time, running back Eddie Lacy has proven himself to be very dependable. The Packers have taken care of Rodgers in the last two off-seasons as they re-signed his top two wide receivers in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb while Davante Adams has the ability to emerge as a bigger part of the passing game in 2015. But whereas Nelson has been Rodgers most dependable target in recent year, things will be different in 2015 due to the fact that Nelson suffered a torn ACL in the preseason. The Packers offensive line might not be full of Pro Bowl caliber players, but they have played together for quite some time and they now have that cohesion which is important to any unit.

Defensively, the Packers have the potential to be really good in 2015 under defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Nose tackle B.J. Raji is returning after missing the entire 2014 NFL season with a bicep injury. And anyone that has followed Raji’s career knows that he is difficult to stop on the interior defensive line as he constantly commands a double team.

Clay Matthews

Last year injuries forced outside linebacker Clay Matthews III to play middle linebacker, but he is once again expected to mainly concentrate on being an edge rusher this year and he’ll have his tag-team partner back on the opposite side of him in outside linebacker Julius Peppers.

The Packers secondary took a ton of criticism following Green Bay’s loss in the NFC Championship Game, but they do return some talent there as strong safety Morgan Burnett and free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix each has the potential to be All-Pros this season.

The Packers will begin the season with a very familiar foe as they’ll travel to meet the Chicago Bears while they’ll host the Seahawks in Week 2. And a quick start could be just what the doctor ordered for the Packers as far as them securing home-field advantage in the NFC which could be the difference in them making the Super Bowl this year.

Y-Detroit Lions 10-6

Jim Caldwell

2014 was a good year for the Detroit Lions. The Lions went 11-5 in their first season under head coach Jim Caldwell as they had one of the better teams in the National Football League. The Lions had the second ranked defense in the NFL and they saw quarterback Matthew Stafford enjoy his fourth consecutive season in which he passed for more than 4,200 yards. But we’ll see a different Lions team when they take the field this season.

The Lions didn’t go overboard in attempting to keep defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in spite of his immense production on the field. Suh left the Lions as a free agent to join the Miami Dolphins while defensive tackle Nick Fairley left Detroit to join the St. Louis Rams. To offset the loss of Suh and Fairley, the Lions were able to acquire defensive tackle Haloti Ngata this off-season in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. Ngata is a five-time Pro Bowl selection at defensive tackle, but up until this year he has spent his entire NFL career in a 3-4 defensive scheme which will make it interesting to see how he will be able to transition to the 4-3 in Detroit.

The Lions also have talent at linebacker in the form of outside linebackers Kyle Van Noy and DeAndre Levy along with middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch as each player can hit along with cover.

Offensively the Lions still possess one of the best units in the game as explosiveness is what they are all about. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is coming off of his fourth consecutive year in which he threw for at least 4,000 yards and folks that love fantasy football covet the opportunity to have him put up big numbers for them. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson was limited last year due to a bum knee, but the Lions are hopeful that is ready to re-emerge as one of the better receivers in football. Johnson’s injury gave wide receiver Golden Tate the opportunity to prove his worth and the combination of him and “Megatron” aka Johnson could be tough on secondaries in the NFC North.

The Lions were 28th in the National Football League last season in rushing, but a change could be on the way. The Lions drafted running back Ameer Abdullah in the second round of the NFL Draft this past spring and he is a home-run hitter at the tailback position as he has the potential to be the team’s first consistent threat at that position in a very long time.

The Lions will be on the road for the first two weeks of the upcoming National Football League season as they’ll take on the San Diego Chargers and the Minnesota Vikings. But Detroit’s biggest test of the year will come during a four-game stretch in the second half of the year where they will meet the Green Bay Packers twice. And if the Lions want to win the NFC North for the first time in franchise history, they are going to have to find a way to defeat the Packers.

Minnesota Vikings 9-7

Mike Zimmer

The Minnesota Vikings were fighting an uphill battle in 2014 under head coach Mike Zimmer, but they found a way to get through it. The Vikings started a rookie quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater while they only had the services of running back Adrian Peterson for one game as the National Football League didn’t allow him to play as the result of off-the-field issues. The Vikings were able to survive as they went 7-9 and in 2015, Minnesota feels that they can make the playoffs.

For Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, he can take solace in knowing that Bridgewater showed fight and resolve as he improved as his rookie campaign went along. Bridgewater was able to put the notion to bed that his throwing arm wasn’t strong enough for the brutal elements of Minnesota as the Vikings appear to have their franchise quarterback. And under the tutelage of Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, Bridgewater could flirt with completing nearly 70 percent of his passes this year.

The Vikings passing game should also receive a boost after the team acquired wide receiver Mike Wallace from the Miami Dolphins this off-season. Wallace is one of the fastest players in the National Football League, but it is just a matter of him being motivated on each play.

Adrian Peterson

But the Vikings offense will come down to Peterson. It seemed as if the Vikings and Peterson were heading towards a messy divorce, but cooler heads have prevailed which is a good thing for Minnesota and bad for every other team within the NFC North. Even with the return of Peterson, the Vikings running game game suffered a blow in training camp when offensive tackle Phil Loadholt ruptured his Achilles tendon and his absence will leave a big void to be filled.

Prior to becoming the head coach of the Vikings, Zimmer made his name in the NFL on the defensive side of the football which included stints as the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, and Cincinnati Bengals. And whereas the NFC North features high-profile quarterbacks in Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, and Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears, Zimmer knows that he needs a strong defense that is going to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks in order to win games.

The Vikes were 14th in the National Football League last year in total defense and that number has the potential to improve this year being that their defensive line can disrupt things. Defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph can plug up the middle while defensive ends Everson Griffen and Brian Robison could both be in the running to be selected to the Pro Bowl which should make life a bit easier for the back seven in the Vikings defense.

If the Vikings are able to remain relevant in the playoff picture until November when the temperature begins to drop, they can become a very formidable team as opponents won’t be thrilled to have to play them in cold of Minnesota.

Chicago Bears 7-9

The past few years have seen a tremendous overhaul in the front office of the Chicago Bears and the result has been an unsuccessful football team. Ryan Pace is the Bears third general manager since 2011 while John Fox is the third head coach in Chicago since 2012. The Bears are Pace’s first shot at being a general manager in the National Football League while this will be Fox’s third stop as far as being a head coach. Fox has a career record of 119-89 in 14 seasons with the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. And at each stop along the way, Fox was able to take his team to the Super Bowl at least once. Fox is still one of the best defensive minds in the NFL, but his time in Chicago will be defined by what he will be able to do with Bears starting quarterback Jay Cutler.

Jay Cutler

Cutler has all of the physical tools to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and to also lead the Bears to a Super Bowl Title, but it comes down to whether or not that he’ll be dialed in mentally. Part of Cutler’s problem is that 2015 will be his seventh year in Chicago and new Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase will be the fifth different offensive coordinator that he will be working with in the Windy City. And Cutler is also coming off of his second season with the Bears in which he led the NFL in interceptions.

The Bears played the old switcheroo this off-season when wide receiver Brandon Marshall was traded to the New York Jets. Pace didn’t waste any time in replacing Marshall as he used the Bears first round pick at the 2015 National Football League Draft on wide receiver Kevin White. At 6’3″, 215 lbs., White has the physical tools to be good, it is just a matter of him getting adjusted to the professional game. But the bigger problem for the Bears and White right now is that a shin injury has kept him on the sidelines during training camp which could carry over to the regular season. The Bears still have wide receiver Alshon Jeffery who will be looked at as being the go-to-guy for Cutler in the Bears passing game now that Marshall is no longer with the team.

But the best thing that can help a struggling quarterback is a strong running game. And when Fox was with both the Panthers and Broncos, he had teams that were able run the football effectively. Since joining the Bears in 2008, running back Matt Forte has been one of the better and more reliable players at his position in the NFL. And only Walter Payton has rushed for more yards in a Bears uniform than Forte. Forte has been durable as well and you can expect him to carry the football at least 200 times this season.

But for both Cutler and Forte, this will be a very young offensive line that will be blocking for them in 2015 and with that it will be important to get some cohesion early on if this offense will be able to enjoy any success this season.

The Bears finished last season ranked 30th in total defense which means that there will be some changes on that side of the football in Chicago. Fox has allowed new Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to switch the Bears from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive scheme which will ask more of the linebackers. Fangio spent the last four seasons as the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers where he coached some of the best defensive players of this era. The Bears don’t have any defensive play makers currently as this scheme will be a work in progress for both Fox and Fangio.

The Bears first three games of 2015 will be against playoff teams from last season in the Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals, and Seattle Seahawks as Fox, Cutler, and crew can ill-afford to begin the new season in the basement of the NFC North.

X-Clinched Division

Y-Clinched Wild Card

Source: Pro-football-reference.com


This Loss Will Sting For The Packers


http://content.sportslogos.net/logos/7/171/full/559.gifThe Green Bay Packers have been playing football for nearly 100 years and they have seen their fair share of ups and downs. Under their founder and head coach Curly Lambeau, the Packers would win six National Football League Championships. After a down period in the late 1940’s and 1950’s, Vince Lombardi would become the Packers head coach in 1959 and Green Bay would dominate the NFL in the 1960’s including winning the first two Super Bowls. The Packers were an afterthought in the NFL during the 1970’s and 1980’s before they were resurrected in the 1990’s by head coach Mike Holmgren and quarterback Brett Favre as they would go on to win the Super Bowl once more in 1996. Since that time the Packers have been one of the most consistent winners in the NFL.


Mike McCarthy

Mike McCarthy became the Packers head coach in 2006 and under him Green Bay has only had two losing seasons. The Packers have made six consecutive playoff appearances including winning the Super Bowl in 2010. But all of that will be tough for the Packers to take solace on after their loss this past Sunday in the NFC Championship Game. The Packers were heavy underdogs as they traveled to face the Seattle Seahawks who are the defending Super Bowl Champions. The Seahawks are also virtually unbeatable at home. But in spite of all of this it was the Packers that had a 16-0 lead over the Seahawks at halftime. And with about five minutes left in regulation, Packers strong safety Morgan Burnett intercepted Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson which appeared to put the game on ice as Green Bay anticipated heading to Super Bowl 49. But the Seahawks would strategically use their timeouts on defense as they stopped the Packers offense. Wilson and the Seahawks offense would get the football back and they finally were able to mount a scoring drive as they cut the Packers lead to 19-14 with just over two minutes left in regulation.

http://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/849313ea5fd3dea1aa0a1de74f9a32eeedbcdc16/c=17-0-1517-2000&r=537&c=0-0-534-712/local/-/media/2015/01/18/WIGroup/PackersNews/635572040693844200-ES-GPG-Packers-vs-Seattle-1.18.1501846.jpgWith the Seahawks expected to attempt an onside kick, McCarthy sent out his hands team. The ball would go right through the hands of Packers tight end Brandon Bostick and into the waiting arms of Seahawks wide receiver Chris Matthews. The momentum was now on the side of the Seahawks who immediately scored a touchdown which was further magnified on Seattle’s successful two-point conversion and they had their first lead of the game at 22-19.

But for Green Bay they still had quarterback Aaron Rodgers and he quickly moved the Packers into field goal range for kicker Mason Crosby who made his fifth field goal of the game to knot the score at 22 and send the contest into overtime.

http://cdn.fansided.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/36/files/2015/01/jermaine-kearse-tramon-williams-russell-wilson-nfl-nfc-championship-green-bay-packers-seattle-seahawks-850x560.jpgThe Seahawks would win the coin toss for overtime and when they accepted the football, they never allowed Rodgers a chance to get his hands on it. The Seahawks had dusted themselves off of the canvas and Wilson was now torching the Packers secondary that had frustrated him for the first 55 minutes of the game as they picked him off four times. Wilson would find wide receiver Jermaine Kearse who had beaten Packers defensive back Tramon Williams for the game-winning 35-yard touchdown reception that sent the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl while commencing the off-season for the Packers.

It’s an off-season now for the Packers that they will have to look in the mirror at themselves. This was not a game in which the officials, elements, or one single play was the demise of the Packers as they were never able to deliver the knockout punch to the Seahawks.

The Packers forced five turnovers by the Seahawks that only amounted to six points. After Rodgers was intercepted in the end zone by Seahawks Richard Sherman on the opening drive of the game, Green Bay’s defense stepped up and gave the football right back to their offense when rookie free safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix picked off Wilson and returned it to the Seahawks 4-yard line. But instead of the Packers having first and goal, they had to settle for beginning the drive at the 19-yard line due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on defensive end Mike Daniels. On the drive the Packers would be stopped at the 1-yard line and McCarthy would settle for a field goal. On the ensuing kickoff, Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin would fumble and the Packers would recover. But just like the previous drive, the Packers had to settle for a short field goal. The Packers were leading 16-0 in the second quarter and they appeared ready to deliver the knockout when Rodgers was picked off by Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell. And when Burnett gave the football back to Packers offense with five minutes left in the game, Green Bay wasn’t able to put together a drive that would have made the Seahawks use their timeouts while also icing the game. For the game the Packers were only 3-of-14 on third down as they left some points on the board.

Defensively the Packers did everything right for the first 55 minutes of the game as they flustered Wilson while exposing the Seahawks passing game. But in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime, the Packers defense couldn’t stop Wilson from improvising with his legs and the impregnable Green Bay defense was now vulnerable.

The game should have never come down to an onside kick as the Seahawks should have been wiped out long before that, but the Packers were never able to drive the stake into Seattle’s heart.

Now instead of talking about a potential matchup of legendary quarterbacks in Super Bowl 49 between Rodgers and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the Packers can only think about what could have been. But luckily for the Packers they play in the smallest market in the National Football League which means that they don’t have to worry about a media barrage and instead they have been embraced by their fan base. Packer fans lined the airport in Green Bay to welcome their team back after Sunday’s loss and more importantly this was a team that didn’t point fingers. Nobody in the Packers organization threw Bostick under the bus, but instead embraced him because they lost as a team.


Ted Thompson

For McCarthy and Packers general manager Ted Thompson, they have a tremendous working relationship as they have kept the winning culture in Green Bay going. Rodgers is 31-years of age and he is in the running for another NFL MVP Award as the Packers will continue to build around him. Wide receiver Randall Cobb is set to enter free agency as he’s been a big part of the Packers offense over the last few years. Cobb is a system guy that Rodgers feels comfortable with and I can see Rodgers speaking up for him in the same manner that he did for wide receiver Jordy Nelson when it was his time to receive an extension last year. Some people are ready to can Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers following Sunday’s loss, but he has forgotten more about football that most people will ever know. Capers gave his defense a chance to win against the Seahawks; the players just failed to execute coming down the stretch.

The Packers have been the gold standard in the NFC North as the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, and Minnesota Vikings have been unable to overthrow them. The Packers will need some time to get this loss out of their system. But Green Bay has always been an organization that has been filled with character which will definitely be tested headed into next season.

Source: Pro-football-reference.com