Thursday, November 17, 2011

Can the Packers go 16-0?

How good is Aaron Rodgers? Everyone thinks that his mega-ultra-goodness is going to make this team win because he will outscore everyone. That is very believable, but it is very hard to do. If he does pass for 5000 yards, then I think we’ll see a very special team continue to be very special, but that’s 19 games straight of being ridiculous. Is that really going to happen? Very well could happen, Rodgers has been spot on this season catching the eye of everyone especially Skip Bayless. Skip believes that Tom Brady is still having a better 2011 season then our Aaron Rodgers. Which is fine because Rodgers and the Packers love being the Underdogs. If you have watched ESPN the last couple weeks, you will notice that Aaron Rodgers is on pace to become the greatest quarterback of all-time. Maybe it’s not that dramatic, but he has been getting an enormous amount of love this season. Trent Dilfer and Steve Young gushed over the Packers' signal caller on Monday night’s pre and post game telecasts. To be fair, it is deservedly so far this season. Twenty-eight touchdowns, three interceptions, almost three thousand passing yard, 318 yards per game, 73 percent completion percentage, 130.7 quarterback rating, nine wins and zero losses. He is leading one of best and most efficient passing attacks the NFL has seen in quite some time and doing so at a record-breaking pace. 

The Defense finally started strong and finished strong in Monday nights game against the Minnesota Vikings. Green Bay allowed just 14 first downs and 266 yards, their second-lowest totals in both categories in 2011. The Vikings were just 5-of-14 on third-down conversions and scored only when given a short field following a Packers fumble on a punt return.  We owed it to ourselves to play a game like that,” cornerback Charles Woodson said. “We owed it to our fans, our team and especially our offense, who’s been playing out of their minds this year. We needed a game like that. But it’s still one game." Woodson, who after last week’s game in San Diego called for the Packers to get more “creative” on defense, said he talked briefly during the week with Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers to share his thoughts. Woodson didn’t go so far as to say he dictated the game plan, but he felt his thoughts were well-received by Capers and he appreciated the aggressive, blitz-oriented scheme Capers dialed up for Minnesota rookie quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder was sacked three times and was under duress most of the evening. Clay Matthews sacked him twice, raising his season total to five and recording his first two-sack performance since the Atlanta playoff game last January. “I think we’ve known we could play at this level, it’s just a matter of getting it done,” Matthews said. “We have the same players, same coaching staff, defensive scheme. It’s just a matter of putting it all together, and that’s exactly what we did tonight.” The key was controlling Minnesota’s running game and getting the Vikings in third-and-long. Only three of Adrian Peterson’s 14 carries went for more than six yards, and he finished with just 51 yards. The Vikings also had nine or more yards to go on third down eight times, including their last five in a row on the night. That allowed Capers to turn more blitzers free, and the Packers were seemingly coming from everywhere, keeping Ponder guessing. The only time this season the Packers gave up fewer yards was in Atlanta in Week 5, when the Falcons gained just 251 and were shut out over the final 42 minutes. The Packers would like to make games like that one and Monday night’s more the rule than the exception, of course, but the fact remains that in nine games the Packers have held their opponent under 380 yards just three times, so the defense wasn’t about to say it has proven itself once and for all. But it’s safe to say things are “trending in the right direction,” according to linebacker A.J Hawk.

The Packers remaining schedule has 4 home games against the Buccaneers, Raiders, Lions, and Bears, while only 3 road games against the Chiefs, Lions, and Giants. It certainly isn't the easiest of schedules, but it isn't the hardest either. The only tests the Packers have left is the Bears at Lambeau on Christmas, and the Lions at Ford Field on Thanksgiving and the biggest test of all, The Giants at Metlife Stadium. Last season the Packers struggled against both the Lions and Bears which almost kept them out of the playoffs. The Bear did, remember, beat Green Bay at Lambeau, too. However, this is an entirely new squad of players, some of which who were injured. The game against the Lions was the most pitiful performances all last season by Green Bay. Lastly, the Packers did manage to slaughter the Giants last season, however it was at Green Bay. This year New York has an entirely different team and they will be at home this time. And lets not forget, around the time the Packer will be playing New York and Chicago, they will more then likely have already clinched the division and home field advantage for the playoffs, so the only thing they will be playing for that that point it the illustrious 16-0 record, which (depending on the organization) may not be viewed as a necessity. McCarthy would likely rest players as much as possible to avoid injury in the playoffs, especially after how he experienced last season with the endless IR list Green Bay had.

So the question remains. Can Green Bay do it? Yes. Will they do it? That remains to be seen. They have the team, coaching staff, and fundamentals to accomplish it that would give the franchise even more history to add to the books. 

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota @WSB_Andrew & @WISportsBlog
-Nick Pritzlaff @WSB_Nick

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