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27 Dec 2012

Film Room: Vikings-Packers

by Andy Benoit

This isn’t the Sunday night flex game, but it’s just as important. If the Vikings win, they’re in the playoffs. If the Packers win, they’re the NFC’s No. 2 seed. Let’s break down the matchup.

1. Peterson and run game

Adrian Peterson has been every bit as good as his numbers, it’s freakish. What stands out is that, improbably, Peterson is more laterally explosive than he was before his ACL surgery. Long gains on the ground, especially out of 12-, 21-, and 22-personnel sets the Vikings favor, usually include the running back moving east and west at some point. No one moves east and west with more power and burst than Peterson. And no one accelerates back downhill off east and west movement better than Peterson.

Peterson isn’t doing it completely alone, though there have been plays, including several of his long runs, where he almost has. The Vikings have committed to the ground by using more multi-back sets and H-back type blockers on the edges. The multi-back sets are interesting because Peterson, with his violent burst, has never quite had enough patience to wait for his lead-blockers. That’s changed this season, but the Vikings have also catered to his style by designing runs that have lead-blockers targeting defenders away from the point of attack. One of their most effective wrinkles with this has been to use the full house formation (three backs, also known as an inverted wishbone) on early downs.

Intriguing as the full house has been, expect the Vikings to predominantly use straight I-formations this week. The Vikings roughed up the Packers with this set the last time these two teams met.

Graphics by Matt Glickman

Fullback Jerome Felton has come on strong in recent weeks. Rookie Matt Kalil has been a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle. Kalil has an uncommon ability to land controlling blocks from contorted platforms. Inside, center John Sullivan has done an outstanding job making the line calls and delivering help to teammates on motion-oriented run blocks. Sullivan has shown that, when clean from defenders, he can win with shrewd angles at the second level. The rest of Minnesota’s offensive linemen are what Bill Parcells would call JAG’s (Just A Guy). But that’s all the Vikings need given their superstar runner.

2. Packers defense

With corners Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, and Casey Hayward playing so well in man coverage down the stretch, the Packers will have no hesitation selling out to stop Peterson. When Clay Matthews was out with a hamstring injury, the Packers were often inclined to drop safety Morgan Burnett down in the box. (They even did this on early downs against the pass-happy Lions a few weeks ago.) Matthews is back, but expect to still see Burnett drop down in this matchup.

Life will be easier for Burnett in the box because Matthews is great at identifying run-blocking designs and then blowing them up with leveraged penetration, especially outside. Another player who thrives in this sense is Charles Woodson. If he returns from his collarbone injury, Green Bay will have the most agile run defense that Minnesota has seen all season. And it’s not a run defense built strictly on agility, as B.J. Raji is playing arguably his best football right now and controlling the trenches.

Packers defenders will have opportunities to land clean shots on Peterson. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they’ll make the tackle.

Graphics by Matt Glickman

3. Some perspective

Great as Peterson is, understand that the Packers do not have to stop him in order to win. They beat Minnesota earlier this month, and Peterson gashed them for 210 yards. Those 210 yards included bruising, clock-eating runs, and an 82-yard touchdown.

The Vikings are on a three-game win streak, but Peterson has only been directly responsible for one of those wins (two weeks ago at St. Louis). Against Chicago, Peterson put up big numbers, but 14 of Minnesota’s 21 points essentially came off turnovers. Against Houston, Peterson was held to 86 yards. The Vikings won with plays on defense and special teams, plus a long-awaited sign of life from Christian Ponder, who completed 16-of-30 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown.

4. Ponder and the passing game

In their previous matchup, Green Bay won by making Ponder lose. The second-year quarterback had two costly interceptions in the red zone, both to Burnett off play-action, where he threw into coverage back across the field. Ponder also missed a few downfield throws, most notably a wheel route where Peterson had beaten Brad Jones. The Vikings receivers failed to get any sort of separation against man coverage. The first catch by a receiver in Week 13 came with 4:00 left in the fourth quarter. Jerome Simpson’s unrefined route running has been an issue this year. Opposite him, Michael Jenkins no longer runs well enough to justify a high volume of snaps outside.

The Vikings know this. They know that Ponder is inconsistent in his drop-back mechanics and progression reads across a full field. "Inconsistent," remember, doesn’t mean "bad." There are cases where Ponder shows promise, but the Vikings can’t build game plans around promise.

To help the young quarterback, the Vikings call a lot of play-action rollouts. This not only takes advantage of a defense’s aggressive reaction to Peterson, it also splits the field in half for Ponder. That allows Ponder to make just one or two reads while relying on his quick feet.

It’s on Ponder to make good decision and protect possession. In other words, it’s on him to not lose the game. He can't crumble when Matthews gets penetration. And that will happen, either off the edge against stiff, upright tackle Phil Loadholt, or with A-gap blitzes designed to exploit weak link Brandon Fusco.

5. Packers offense vs. Vikings defense

It’s easy to look at the 55 points Green Bay hung on Tennessee last week and assume that this offense is in Super Bowl form, but in Green Bay’s previous three games, the offense scored 21, 20, and 23 points against their NFC North brethren. Decent, not dominant. All three of those NFC North teams play a predominant two-deep zone defense.

In a lot of ways, it’s remarkable that the Packers offense has even produced that much. Their front line has been in flux all year. The most recent change is at center, where Evan Dietrich-Smith has taken over for rapidly declining "Pro Bowler" Jeff Saturday. The Packers’ serviceable-at-best ground game is nothing to fear. Their receiving corps has been hampered by injuries, with Greg Jennings (groin) missing Weeks 5-12, Jordy Nelson (hamstring) missing most of Weeks 13-16 and Randall Cobb's availability for this game in doubt due to an ankle strain. The lack of continuity has eroded Green Bay’s catch-and-run timing, making for a more randomized passing attack. The only reason the Packers have managed so well is that Aaron Rodgers has an unbelievable ability to keep his eyes downfield and make accurate, strong-armed throws from different platforms on the move. He’s a master at breaking down the integrity of zone coverage late in the down.

Even with his jaw-dropping abilities under duress, Rodgers is the most-sacked quarterback in football this season. Sacks are what the Vikings need on Sunday; as they learned the hard way four weeks ago, simply pressuring Rogers isn’t enough. Defensive linemen have to finish the job when they arrive.

Two players for Minnesota who have really stood out lately are defensive end Everson Griffen and safety Harrison Smith. Griffen has uncanny athleticism both in space and in the box. The Vikings, a fairly vanilla 4-3 team, would be wise to use him on more zone blitzes and amoeba looks before the snap. As for Smith, he has improved by the week in his debut season. He doesn’t have ideal range, but he’s shown an ability to take smart angles to the ball. He’s also a very good open-space tackler who is comfortable weaving into the box.

Quick Reels

COWBOYS-REDSKINS

Cowboys offense vs. Redskins defense

In their Thanksgiving matchup, Washington’s defensive-line stunts gave Dallas offensive linemen trouble. Tony Romo also had some issues with processing information against a multitude of different man and zone coverages. However, Romo has played much sharper in recent weeks, in part because receivers Dez Bryant and Dwayne Harris have come on. The Redskins don’t have any corners who can handle Bryant outside, and coverage in the slot has been hit-or-miss with this defense all year. (It did get better once DeAngelo Hall started playing more deep safety in the sub packages.) This week, though, the wide receivers might be second in a lot of Romo’s progressions. As we’ve mentioned throughout the season (including in the Thanksgiving Film Room piece on these teams), Washington is very comfortable putting linebackers in solo coverage on tight ends. London Fletcher is much better in coverage than his numbers indicate, but the Cowboys should still like Jason Witten’s chances against him.

Redskins offense vs. Cowboys defense

One thing we’ve learned since Robert Griffin’s knee injury is that Washington’s offense is not as reliant on the read-option as we thought. They barely ran it against Philadelphia. And, aside from one laughable play where Alfred Morris got stuffed, they did not run it at all with Kirk Cousins against Cleveland. But even without the read-option, Washington’s play-action game is very potent. That’s due to a fantastically-coached zone-blocking offensive line. On the field, defenders do not react to possibilities and probabilities -– they react to what they see. When they see five linemen plus a couple of tight ends explode off the ball with unified run-blocking technique, they react to the run. Griffin, though somewhat unrefined from the pocket at this point, has a quick, strong release to burn defenders. Sunday night, the Cowboys defense must play with patience in all facets.

CHIEFS-BRONCOS

Chiefs offense vs. Broncos defense

We’ve seen all season that Kansas City is incapable of sustaining offense without Jamaal Charles getting chunk plays on the ground. Chunk plays are tough to come by against Denver. Not only is Denver’s linebacker corps fast and strong, but the defensive line might be the best in the league at holding ground against double teams. Derek Wolfe and Justin Bannan are terrific anchors near the B- and C-gaps. Further inside, Kevin Vickerson amplifies his 300-pound strength with very good initial quickness. The Chiefs have a lot of size up front, but don’t be surprised if they struggle getting movement in the ground game this week.

Broncos offense vs. Chiefs defense

A lot of Knowshon Moreno’s success has come from running against defenses that are aligned to stop the pass, either via sub-package personnel or two-deep coverages. This week, Moreno will be facing a Chiefs defense that, thanks to Derrick Johnson, is capable of stopping the run out of pass-stopping fronts. Johnson has been a one-man wrecking crew as the lone linebacker in dime sets this season. Those sets, which often feature just two defensive linemen, afford him plenty of space for using his speed and quickness to get downhill in the box. Johnson has capitalized by displaying his tremendous instincts against the run.

DOLPHINS-PATRIOTS

Dolphins offense vs. Patriots defense

There’s not a lot of mystery here, as these teams met earlier this month. In that game, the New England front seven was terrific against the run. Vince Wilfork controlled the trenches with his usual strength and explosiveness, while Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick feasted on one-on-one matchups. New England’s linebackers all played to their athleticism and did a good job filling gaps behind their stalemating linemen. In the air, Ryan Tannehill was somewhat erratic with ball placement. With solid man coverage by New England’s secondary, Tannehill had few opportunities to make throws within the timing of the play design. The Dolphins, perhaps not prepared for the zone-happy Patriots’ heavy dose of man coverage, didn't do much with formations or route combinations to help their overmatched receivers. There were far too many isolation patterns out of spread sets. That’ll have to change this Sunday.

Patriots offense vs. Dolphins defense

On this side of the ball in the last meeting, it was a methodical performance by the Patriots. They wore down the Dolphins by going to the ground on the final drive, which lasted seven minutes and ended with a field goal that put New England up 10. The Dolphins secondary did a very good job in man coverage after a slow start. Up front, the defensive ends posed problems for tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder in pass protection. Strongside linebacker Koa Misi was particularly impressive playing with his hand in the dirt. The only negative was that the Dolphins failed to make enough game-changing plays. That’s what you have to do against Tom Brady; otherwise he’ll own the game simply by controlling tempo and flow in the pre-snap phase.

TEXANS-COLTS

Texans offense vs. Colts defense

Even though it’d be great to win in Chuck Pagano’s return, the Colts, with their playoff spot essentially locked up, may want to consider giving their guys some rest heading into the playoffs. (They’ve said they won’t, but we’ll see.) The Texans, needing a win to secure homefield, will be going hard. In Week 15, they went hard against this defense and got ahead early by exploiting great route combinations against Indy’s base 3-4. In the second half, Houston’s zone ground game came to life after getting stymied by Indy’s fast-improving inside linebackers. Arian Foster controlled the action with 16 second half carries for 131 yards.

Colts offense vs. Texans defense

J.J. Watt has a great opportunity to get the 2.5 sacks he needs to break Michael Strahan’s single season record. As expected, Watt dominated the right side of Indy’s offensive line in the previous matchup, working against guard Mike McGlynn and backup tackle Jeff Linkenbach (aka The Weak Link). Normally, teams that have this kind of match-up problem in the trenches look to compensate with tight end help. The Colts are no exception. One thing they do extremely well is use Dwayne Allen as a blocker early in the down and then throw to him on a late release. Houston’s outside linebackers (Connor Barwin in particular) are very good at peeling back into coverage after beginning their pass rush. They’ll have to be on high alert for that this week.

BEARS-LIONS

Bears offense vs. Lions defense

Earlier in the season, in an effort to hide their bad offensive line, the Bears started using more play-action. They should consider a heavy dose of that again this week. The Lions fast-flowing defense has been consistently vulnerable against play-action over the years. It’s one of the few instances where their speed at linebacker and safety is counterproductive. As the Falcons showed last Saturday night, there are similar issues with screen passes. Matt Forte isn’t fast enough to outrun Detroit’s linebackers, but with the help of some misdirection, he could catch them out of position.

Lions offense vs. Bears defense

It’s fitting that Calvin Johnson’s pursuit of 2,000 yards comes to a head with a match-up against Charles Tillman. The veteran corner has the size and craftiness to disrupt the almost-unguardable Johnson. The only major concern is making sure that Tillman doesn’t get beat by speed over the top -- something that happened with him against Johnson on a Monday Nighter in 2011. The Bears have played a lot of Cover-3 behind eight-man boxes this season. Don’t be surprised if they revert back to their Cover-2 looks in an effort to give Tillman consistent help. They might as well; everyone and their brother knows that Stafford is going to be forcing the ball to Johnson in Detroit’s meaningless finale.

Follow @Andy_Benoit
e-mail andy@footballoutsiders.com

Posted by: Andy Benoit on 27 Dec 2012

49 comments, Last at 31 Dec 2012, 10:35am by andrew

Comments

1
by Mr. X (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 1:55pm

When people look at AP running up 200+ against the Packers, they forget that Clay Matthews was out with an injury. Not this time.

3
by Artzor (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 2:23pm

Big deal, Matthews is horrible in the run game. People also forget he had 210 yards in 3 quarters because the Packers had a really great drive in the 4th quarter to kill the clock.

Ponder has to worry about Matthews.

Matthews has to worry about Peterson.

5
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 2:50pm

Sorry but Matthews regularly grades out as excellent in run defense. Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel charts every game in excruciating detail and has highlighted Matthews regularly good to outstanding performance in defending the run.

I don't know where you found that assessment but it's flat out wrong

11
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 2:58pm

And in case anyone accuses the hometown guy of being biased he regularly crushes players who grade out poorly. He was way ahead of the curve in declaring that TJ Lang was awful at tackle and needed to be put back at guard

But that is just a recent example. He has hammered poor play for years

27
by Flounder :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 8:04pm

I believe the poster is recalling Matthews first year. As a rookie, while he would make plays in the run game, on the whole he was a below average run player who would too frequently give up the edge. My recollection is at the time this was commented on both here at FO and by Bob McGinn. He was above average against the run in his second year, and by the end of that year and since has been very, very good.

10
by WI anonymus (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 2:57pm

Sure he does. I bet he's super worried.

13
by Birdman84 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 3:18pm

Should have been whistled down.

14
by Turin :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 3:44pm

Terrible against the run, yet 11th in tackles for loss despite only playing in 11 games. Strange, eh?

16
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 3:53pm

That has to include sacks correct? Otherwise Watt would have over 55 negative plays to his credit this season which would be beyond insane.

29
by Tino (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 9:09pm

No, it must not be counting sacks, because it shows Aldon Smith only has 17 when he already has 19.5 sacks.

That said, is TFL an official NFL stat? I've heard it used for years in college (measuring the number of times a defender tackles a runner behind the line of scrimmage), but only recently in the pros.

31
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 9:18pm

so watt generates almost four plays a game where the offense loses yardage?

That is unreal

21
by TomC :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 5:17pm

I'm a Bears fan, and I hate Clay Matthews, and you're wrong; Matthews is very, very good against the run.

2
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 2:02pm

cj wilson is the packers best run defender among the down linemen. if he's back sunday that would likely help

charles woodson will not play though i don't think any packer fans thought he would make a big difference

finley has been catching passes of late. maybe he keeps it up

22
by TomC :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 5:20pm

finley has been catching passes of late. maybe he keeps it up

"of late" = "against the Bears." Finley's stone hands and butter fingers magically turn to soft leather and glue against Chicago.

24
by bucko (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 5:29pm

Tom

No, ever since McGinn lit him up in the paper Finley has been better.

I typically don't believe in 'salary drives' but once it was written that the Packers would likely cut Finley after the season he has been very good. For all his griping about not getting enough passes it would seem he is trying to impress management.

Alas, I think it's too late.

34
by TomC :: Fri, 12/28/2012 - 11:10am

Interesting, thanks.

But too late for what? If Finley performs up to his potential (god I sound like my freshman English teacher) for the rest of this season (including postseason) and the Packers ditch him anyway, isn't that almost the best possible outcome for Green Bay fans? Not only will he have helped you possibly win a Super Bowl, you also have the possibility that a rival picks him and all of his headaches up (I can totally see either the Bears or Minnesota taking a flyer on him).

35
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2012 - 11:26am

Tom

Too late in terms of changing Ted Thompson's mind. By all accounts Thompson is a very deliberate thinker and doesn't allow emotion or small sample sizes to alter what he believes is the best course of action.

I think Finley was squawking to get some more passes tossed his way and instead Ted and Mike decided that they didn't need a griper in their midst when I don't think that Finley was really being a whiner. He was looking to just press a few buttons and it blew up in his face at least in terms of staying with the team longer term.

4
by CyberBall (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 2:40pm

Firstly, whatever tangible advantage that will result from GB defenders coming back from injury may be countered by the less tangible dome field advantage.
Secondly, if Green Bay does show lots of man, Ponder can show his Rodgers-like ability to beat man coverage with his feet. Hard to count on Peterson having another gargantuan day though. Big maybe, gargantuan I am a bit sceptical.
Thirdly, on the other side of the ball Green Bay line shuffling will have to withstand the crowd volume at the dome. We saw this in Seattle on MNF (Bruce Irvin meet Aaron Rodgers).
Lastly, if Green Bay is able to control the clock like they did on that back breaking million-minute drive in the 2nd half @ Lambeau, the Vikings are in big trouble.

6
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 2:51pm

Green Bay has won the last two in the Metrodome and after this many years there is no home field advantage for either team. It's all about team quality and who makes plays on game day.

7
by peterplaysbass :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 2:53pm

The last 2 in the metrodome were against 6-10 and 3-13 versions of the Vikings.

I am sure the advantage still exists. You think GB's offense wants to run plays without being able to hear each other?

9
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 2:56pm

Note I also dismissed any claims of Green Bay having a home field advantage against the Vikings

The Metrodome noise is old hat to Green Bay.

It's about players making plays. Period.

17
by JustinJ (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 3:53pm

Not really. The Dome is loud and disrupts even the best O-lines. Which the packers do not have.
The real advantage however is the turf. Peterson does far more damage on turf than he does on grass as would Harvin if he were in. This is one of the main reasons the Vikings are not a great road team. They are built for speed and grass does not afford that.
So it's going to be tough even if the Vikings win this game. Going back to Lambeau won't be easy.

38
by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2012 - 9:31pm

I heard today that Rodgers has played 9 dome games in his 5 seasons as a starter. He's thrown 27 TDs against just 2 picks while averaging 317 yards per game. Noise might be a bigger issue for the Vikings when the crowd erupts with the first "KUUUUUUUUHHHHHNNNNN!"

44
by LionInAZ :: Sat, 12/29/2012 - 6:22pm

Well, that sounds like BS since he would have played in the Metrodome and Ford Field 10 times in 5 seasons, barring injury. If he had somehow missed playing in NO, Indy, StL, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and Arizona that whole time it would be a major scheduling miracle.

45
by dmstorm22 :: Sat, 12/29/2012 - 8:26pm

Yeah, I have no idea where he got that stat.

Just regular season, Rodgers has played

@ARZ 1TD/0INT
@ATL(2) 3/0
@DET(5) 10/1
@HOU 6/0
@IND 3/1
@MIN(4) 9/1
@NOR 2/3
@STL(2) 5/0

So, in a total 16 indoor games in his career, he's thrown for 39 TDs against just 6 INTs. That is indeed great, but not at a 27/2 level. He's had 9 indoor divisional games, with 19 TDs and 2 INTs in those games. He hasn't played at Cowboys stadium, but played at Texas stadium, but that was open air.

He's played three postseason games indoors (@ARZ in '09, @ATL in '10 Divisional and Super Bowl XLV), and has 10 TDs and 1 INT.

19
by peterplaysbass :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 4:03pm

The Vikings are 6-1 at home this year, 3-5 on the road.

The Packers are 7-1 at home this year, 4-3 on the road.

The venue favors the Vikings this week.

23
by bucko (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 5:27pm

Peter

On a stats site we are going to claim a season's worth of games is a valid sample size?

And IF we were to grant that the Packers lost by 2 at Seattle and by 3 at Indy, both playoff teams.

So either way, that's not much in the way of evidence.

When good teams are involved, meaning both teams here, venue isn't that significant

26
by RickD :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 6:48pm

There's no reason to look at only these two teams for this year...the existence of home field advantage has been demonstrated in general.

See, for example,
http://www.twominutewarning.com/hfa.htm

What the exact advantage is is hard to nail down (it's not very large in any case), but with our prior information, presupposing a complete lack of a home field advantage is hard to justify.

Rick

28
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 8:21pm

I just think when you have quality teams the advantage is diminished to be all but negligible.

And these are two solid teams

32
by beargoggles :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 10:32pm

I, for one, don't understand why you keep posting the same thing that has demonstrably proven to be false. Home-field advantage isn't enormous but it has been consistent over time, see the article this week about the Seahawks. Is not at all unusual to have great teams be say 7-1 at home and 4-4 on the road.

33
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 10:48pm

Please direct me to the study that shows home field advantage taking into account team quality. Everything I have seen looks at 'all' teams.

As a quick backdrop to what I am saying look at recent playoff results.

I am not looking to be difficult. I just think it's something that needs to be reconsidered based on team quality versus assuming that the advantage is still real.

36
by beargoggles :: Fri, 12/28/2012 - 5:44pm

From this week's DVOA article:

"What makes Seattle's big home-field advantage special is that it actually seems to exist. Well, that's not quite right -- home-field advantage pretty much exists for every team. However, when you look closer at home-field advantage over a period of several years, almost every team generally has the same home-field advantage, which in DVOA works out to about 8.5% on offense and 8.5% on defense"

That doesn't specifically answer your question, but over a large time span, some of these teams (Patriots) are always good, and some (Browns) are always bad, although most fluctuate. It's possible I suppose that good teams have less of this, but I doubt it is mathematically a lot.

Re: recent playoffs, small sample size

8
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 2:54pm

Irvin was facing Bulaga who was later found to have a bum knee and who is now on IR

This will be Don Barclay's first game at the Metrodome. It's possible he will be affected

12
by CyberBall (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 3:03pm

Shuffling did not apply to that situation, however noise certainly did play a factor. Griffen has the speed to burn Barclay - and then work the inside move, but if the edge rushers don't hold contain A-Rodge will bust loose. If they do hold contain, the DTs will need to push the pocket. My inkling is that the Vikings' d-line will get home, but my inkling is worth little.

15
by jimm (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 3:51pm

Clay Mathews always strikes me as one of the better defensive players in the league. So having him back certainly helps the Packers.

Most individual games between relatively competitive teams come down to the breaks..turnovers, key penalties, special teams plays.

From a matchup perspective I don't think the Peterson vs Packers run defence is the key to the game. The Vikings lost several games where Peterson was dominant (Sea, TB, GB) but they haven't lost any where Ponder was reasonably proficient.

I think the two key matchups are exactly the ones Mr. Benoit pointed out in this article:

1) Can Ponder be reasonably effective...no turnovers and somewhere in the neighbourhood of 6.0-7.0 yds per pass play.
2) Can GBs offensive line do a decent job protecting Rodgers.

18
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 3:54pm

jimm

the vikings special teams are way better than green bay's unit given crosby's gacks and cobb possibly being hindered due to an ankle injury

25
by jimm (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 6:47pm

that could indeed be a factor as well

40
by andrew :: Sat, 12/29/2012 - 12:29am

Walsh is part of that but a significant portion of that special teams ranking was built by Harvin. They were top 3 iirc when he went out and they have slowly regressed ever since.

20
by peterplaysbass :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 4:06pm

I'm waiting for Will Allen to weigh in on this. C'mon, Will!

30
by Dave In Tucson (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 9:09pm

It’s easy to look at the 55 points Green Bay hung on Tennessee last week and assume that this offense is in Super Bowl form

Nah. All it means is that 1) the Titans were (mostly) not able to sustain a drive against the Packers' defense, and 2) the Titans' defense pretty much decided to give up at halftime.

Also, is Chris Johnson usually that bad at pass blocking? He had some really ugly whiffs in that game.

37
by fakeninjitsu :: Fri, 12/28/2012 - 6:26pm

The fact that Brandon Fusco continues to get playing time ahead of Geoff Schwartz has been a mystery to me and many others.

Also having watched Ponder all year I don't agree with the assessment of him not being necessarily bad, but inconsistent. He's bad and when it comes to making deep throws he is terribad.

39
by andrew :: Sat, 12/29/2012 - 12:27am

This is another way the shadow of the replacement refs and the "fail mary" is still looming over the league.

If the Packers had been given the victory they earned vs Seattle...

then they would have already clinched the #2 seed. Not only that, but the Vikings would now be playing for the playoffs vs a team that had no real vested interest in the outcome. Oh, I'm sure they'd still play starters and say all the right things about playing hard, but its just not the same. To further give them incentive this week the Packers know if they lose not only will they play next week, but they will play vs the same Vikings again.

Thus the end result of the replacement refs in that game is probably the Bears making the playoffs (or if they fail, maybe the Giants).

41
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Sat, 12/29/2012 - 4:33am

Arrrghh. I just want the emphasis on the last play would die. The officiating was bad in that game (though it wasn't the worst overall game by the replacements), and there were issues on the last play, and I get it, I do. It just doesn't happen frequently that there is no time left and a call has a direct impact on the outcome of the game. But that wasn't even the worst call in that game. All the talk about how playoff standings would change and everything else just drives me nuts. There are calls all over the place that change games, they aren't as easy to see usually, sure, and while that game frustrates me because of the volume of bad calls making it difficult to really know who should have won, it's part of the game. At this point in time it should just be in the shit happens category and let's hope officiating gets better with the addition of the extra crew and the training the school.

Sorry. I know I'm not going to get any traction on this, but I'm just tired of hearing about that game and that play.

42
by bucko (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2012 - 7:14am

Agree completely.

48
by ammek :: Sun, 12/30/2012 - 5:06pm

If the Packers had been given the victory they earned vs Seattle...

then they would have already clinched the #2 seed. Not only that, but the Vikings would now be playing for the playoffs vs a team that had no real vested interest in the outcome.

I think at 12-3 the Packers would have been playing for home-field advantage. But as everyone else said, it's ancient history now.

43
by RustyT (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2012 - 1:03pm

The playoff scenarios are incorrect. There's no mathematical way Chicago or Minnesota can be the #5 seed, and no way Seattle can be the #6.

Seattle beat both Min and Chi head-to-head.

46
by JBlood :: Sun, 12/30/2012 - 11:50am

If the Packers get off to a fast start, and get up by a couple of scores, the dome will be silenced. End of dome advantage. As has been pointed out, Rogers is great in domes, with a career QB rating of 117 inside--all of which are on the road, obviously. I'll take Rogers over Peterson any day if it comes down to the 4th quarter.

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by Will Allen :: Sun, 12/30/2012 - 1:05pm

Been tied up with holiday travel, and will either have the pleasure or hard time of seeing the game with a Packer crowd today. As mentioned above, the key to the game seems to me to be the Packer o-line versus the Vikings defensive front, and Ponder not fouling things up too badly. No o-line works as well, over 60 minutes, in an extremely loud environment, against good pass rushers, but the home team has to play well to keep the environment extremely loud for 60 minutes, and the good pass rushers need to finish their rushes, which the insurance pitchman has a knack of preventing. Hell if I know what will happen; I didn't expect the horned heads to win two straight road games to get to this point, and their ability to go 3-13 last year, to playing for their 10th win, against their closest geographical rival, for a tourney slot, in the last game of the season, means this year was wildly more successful than I imagined, whatever the outcome.

Having said that, if the Vikings do win, and then get to play the cheese crowd in Lambeau next week, and were to win that game as well, it would the greatest outcome in the history of this Super Bowl-challenged franchise. Hey, a guy can dream for a few more hours on a Sunday, can't he?

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by andrew :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 10:35am

for at least another week...