Chicago Bears 14
Green Bay Packers 55
Philadelphia Eagles 20
Green Bay Packers 53
After a two week hiatus, Pick Six is back following a bye week, and we have 108 points worth of victorious Packers football to discuss over the past two weeks. As Green Bay enters the stretch run heading into the playoffs, here is my Pick Six.
1. Clay to ILB – Dom Capers has tried various fixes to combat Green Bay’s poor run defense and general mediocrity at the core of the defense. Through the bye week, each fix has turned out to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington proved to be nothing more than depth level players at ILB, and the long forgotten “quad” package, a 4-3 front, has been scrapped. Enter Clay Matthews, Green Bay’s perennial all pro OLB. With the improved play of Nick Perry and general depth on the perimeter of the front seven, Capers saw an opportunity to utilize Clay inside in base defense and slide him back outside in nickel and dime. The result is a rejuvenated defensive unit that has forced turnovers and generated defensive scores to complement an offensive explosion. Make no mistake, this move certainly isn’t smoke and mirrors, and might just be the key to a deep Packers playoff run.
2. Frightening Offensive Efficiency – Coupled with the rebirth of the defense is an offensive unit that is playing as well as we’ve ever seen it, including the record breaking 2011 season. Aaron Rodgers is commanding the line of scrimmage with a dominance historically not seen with players not named Peyton Manning. A friend of mine alerted me to a mind blowing statistic earlier this week. As of the end of the Eagles game, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are numbers 1 and 2, respectively, in the NFL in passes in which they are the target. No other QB to WR combination has a higher rating than Rodgers to Nelson and Rodgers to Cobb. Combined with Eddie Lacy’s recent growth in the check down passing game, and it may be awhile before anyone figures out how to slow, down these Packers at home.
3. Special Teams Mixed Bag – Philadelphia possesses the top special teams unit in the NFL. Chip Kelly is known to exploit that part of the game to gain any edge possible. You’ll notice different FG and punt block alignments on every kick, even with the disparity in the score last week. With that being said, the most influential special teams play was Micah Hyde’s perfectly blocked punt return for a TD. In tighter games, allowing a blocked punt and missing two extra points will be unacceptable, and I’m sure gave Mike McCarthy and Shawn Slocum a focal point in practice this week. In the Philadelphia game, however, those errors were merely academic.
4. Lambeau Advantage – There was a time in the post-Favre era in Green Bay where it appeared the famed Lambeau mystique had run itself out. Of course, it’s a product of the quality of the team on the field, but style of play can certainly benefit from home cooking. The Packers have not lost at home this season, and much of that success can be attributed to the aforementioned domination at the line of scrimmage by Aaron Rodgers. With no opposing crowd noise, Rodgers calmly makes adjustments and uses the snap count to keep the opposing pass rush off balance. The offense is a different animal inside the friendly confines.
5. Veteran Defensive Leadership – I’ve heard a lot of chatter in the wake of Green Bay’s recent success about the locker room leadership provided by Julius Peppers. Specifically, players point to his emotionally charged speech prior to the game against his former employer, the Chicago Bears, two weeks ago. Beyond the verbal leadership, the veteran OLB/DE has been leading by example with his play all year. With another pick six under his belt, a consistent pass rush and above average run support, it’s safe to say that Peppers has been more than a plus, acquisition for GM Ted Thompson. Peppers seems to have plenty left in the tank for a playoff push.
6. Looking Ahead – The Packers travel across the border to the west for a divisional road game against the Minnesota Vikings, sandwiched between two 2 game homestands. The Vikings are playing better football than they have in the past few years, but aren’t playing at the level Green Bay is and simply don’t have the playmakers to contend, even at home. Barring a major disparity in Minnesota’s favor in the turnover battle, or multiple significant special teams plays, Green Bay should handle this game by multiple scores.
That should do it for this week’s Pick Six. I’d also like to give a shout out and congratulations to the founder and fearless leader of the Squeaky Curd, Mr. Joe Powell, on his recent marriage. Here’s to a few more Packers victories in celebration. Go Pack!