Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Playoffs. Yay.

  • The Green Bay Packers lost to the Minnesota Vikings at home in the final game of the regular season, but the joke’s really on Minnesota. If the Vikes had lost, they would be back at Lambeau next week, playing the crumbling Packers. Because of their win, however, they now have to face the Seattle Seahawks. Hah! So there, Vikings!

  • A loss was actually not the worst outcome for Green Bay. The Packers and Vikings could have tied, which would have sent Seattle to Green Bay, so … yay?

  • The loss ended a four-year streak of NFC North Championships for Green Bay. It was disappointing, but familiar: an inability to convert in the redzone (1-for-4), a seeming incapability to convert third downs (2-for-15!!!!), turnovers (two interceptions), and an offense that didn’t show up until the final quarter (three points in the first three quarters).

  • The offensive line backups are so bad that, instead of using one of them to replace injured left tackle David Bakhtiari, the Packers moved right guard Josh Sitton to left tackle (a position he hasn’t played since high school), and had backup guard Lane Taylor in at right guard. Don Barclay, mercifully, did not leave the bench, and Josh Walker, even more mercifully, was not even active. (That might be something you want to address in the draft, Mr. General Manager, sir.)
"Soooo, any of you want to try to keep me from getting killed? No? Okay."

  • The patchwork line led to a lot of two-tight-end sets, which doesn’t exactly help a team whose biggest problem seems to be getting receivers open.

  • In their last 10 games, the Packers are 4-6 -- and that includes a wild and crazy last-minute Hail Mary win. And they lost all three of their divisional home games for the first time since 1968.

  • Look, I didn’t want to do this. I really didn’t, but Al Michaels wouldn’t stop talking about how great Green Bay was through the first six games of the season. They started off 6-0! But we Packers fans need to be real with ourselves and admit the offense was never very good this season. (The defense and even special teams have been pretty solid.) What happened was that it took other teams about three weeks to figure out that they didn’t need to defend Green Bay the way they used to. Like the Green Bay coaching staff, opposing defenses were playing as if the Packers had the same personnel (i.e. Jordy) as last year. Once they realized they didn't need to respect the deep throw, and once teams showed discipline by not getting drawn offsides for free plays, life got much harder for the Packers. It wasn't, as Michaels kept on saying, six amazing weeks and then suddenly everything went off the rails. To prove this, we need to go through those six victories and see what they were really hiding.

    • Week 1: Green Bay 31, Chicago Bears 23
      • Chicago outgained the Packers 402 yards to 322 yards, and Rodgers threw for fewer than 200 yards. The offense played fairly well, but got some field position help from Ty Montgomery (106 yards on three kick returns) and Clay Matthews (42-yard interception return).
    • Week 2: Green Bay 27, Seattle Seahawks 17
      • A good win for the Packers against the Kam Chancellor-less Seahawks team. The defense created two turnovers and prevented Seattle from scoring off a James Starks fumble, and the Packers gained 92 yards in penalties from Seattle. One of their touchdowns also came on a "free play." Green Bay was 4-for-11 on third downs and 1-for-3 in the redzone. After scoring a touchdown on the opening drive, Green Bay’s next six possessions were: field goal, punt, fumble, punt, field goal, punt. It was not a terrible performance, but definitely contained a few early signs of issues to come. Nobody cared, though, because the hated Seahawks were defeated!
    • Week 3: Green Bay 38, Kansas City Chiefs 28
      • Green Bay’s best offensive performance of the season came against the Chiefs. The Packers put up 448 yards and no turnovers, Rodgers threw for five touchdowns (one came on a free play), and concerns about the somewhat-flat offense of the previous two weeks were assuaged. The only bone fans could pick was that the Pack wasn’t great on third downs: 4-of-11, but they put up so many points that that seemed unimportant.
    • Week 4: Green Bay 17, San Francisco 49ers 3
      • This is where things started to get ugly, but it was San Fran, so it was still an easy win. Third down conversions: 5-of-15. Green Bay possessions: touchdown, punt, punt, punt, missed field goal, touchdown, field goal, punt, punt, punt. They wouldn’t have lost to the 49ers even if they were playing 8-on-11, but the number of punts was disappointing for an Aaron Rodgers-led offense. This was the first win that didn’t really sit that well because everyone knew the Packers should have scored about 40 more points against the Niners.
    • Week 5: Green Bay 24, St. Louis Rams 10
      • The Packers turned the ball over three times, but St. Louis only scored three points off of those turnovers. Nick Foles had four interceptions. One was returned for a touchdown, but the off the other three, the Green Bay offense managed zero points. Zero. From the 12-minute mark of the first quarter until the 1-minute mark of the fourth quarter, the Packers offense managed seven points. They won by two scores, but it was an ugly and uncomfortable win that saw two Aaron Rodgers interceptions and a 4-for-14 third down conversion rate.
    • Week 6: Green Bay 27, San Diego Chargers 20
      • After scoring on their first three possessions to take a 17-3 lead, Green Bay’s offense had three consecutive three-and-outs that allowed the Chargers to tie the game. The offense was not awful in Week 6, but let's keep in mind that San Diego finished the season 4-12.
I'm sorry I had to do that. Just remember, it was Al's fault.

  • Now that we’re all sufficiently depressed, I’ll move on to good things that happened this week.

  • Ty Montgomery being injured is definitely not good (especially since he’s the closest thing to a replacement for Jordy that the Packers had), but I do love his use of 1920s slang phrases. It genuinely made me happy.

  • Micah Hyde had this incredible interception off of one of the worst quarterback decisions ever. How on earth did he hang on to that?!?

  • My favorite play of the game, however, was kicker Mason Crosby not only tackling one of the fastest players in the game, but stripping him of the ball! 

  • I’ve noted before that Crosby (and punter Tim Masthay) are both darn good tacklers for their positions, but I never would have expected Crosby to pull off the Charles Woodson-like forced fumble!

  • Speaking of the one-and-only Woodson, he finally rode off into the sunset after 18 seasons. I'm going to miss him so much!! He better go in the Packers Hall of Fame. Gooooooodbye! I loooooove you!

A photo posted by Oakland Raiders (@raiders) on

  • Here’s a fun stat for Dallas Cowboys fans: the Alabama Crimson Tide won more games this season at the Cowboys' stadium (two) than the ‘Boys themselves (one).

  • The Fitzmagic finally ran out! After pulling off a surprise upset last week against the New England Patriots, all the New York Jets had to do to make the playoffs was earn a victory over the nothing-to-play-for Buffalo Bills in the final week. Ryan Fitzpatrick -- who was only named quarterback because Geno Smith’s jaw was broken in a fight with a teammate right before the season started -- had led the Jets to a disappointing 5-5 start before tearing off a five-game win streak to get them into a position to play for the postseason in Week 16. Then, early in the fourth, with the Jets trailing by two and within field goal range, Fitzpatrick threw his first redzone interception of the season. Next possession, he threw another interception as he was taking a hit. Next possession, right after his teammate dropped a would-be game-winning touchdown, Fitz threw another desperate, last-chance interception. It was a terrible end to a great season for Fitzpatrick.
Maybe he'll at least shave the beard now.

  • Cowboys’ linebacker Sean Lee was set to receive a $2 million bonus if he played in Sunday’s game, but he had tweaked a hamstring injury during the week. He was given the choice to play (at least he says), but chose not to because he didn’t want “to disrespect [his] teammates and [his] coaches and be out there not playing the right way.” Lee said he has a great contract that pays him a ton of money, and is grateful for the Cowboys’ patience with his injury issues over recent years. If that’s on the level, that’s very admirable of him! Way to be, Sean!

  • Holy blast from the past! When I saw early reports that Kansas City offensive coordinator Doug Pederson was the leading candidate for the Philadelphia Eagles head coach position, I thought, No, it can’t be the same guy! But lo and behold, it’s our old friend who served as the longtime backup quarterback for the Packers! I guess years and years of holding a clipboard behind Brett Favre really suited him.
Hiya, buddy! (I don't know why I feel like
I've just reconnected with an old friend, but I do.)

  • Oh my gosh, Johnny Manziel, STOP! Can’t you just be bored for one weekend?!? The Cleveland Browns quarterback was ruled out for the season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a concussion. He was (reportedly) supposed to check in with the training staff Monday morning, and, when he didn’t show, they were unable to get a hold of him and didn’t know where he was. Then came the reports that Manziel was seen at a Las Vegas casino the night before. Next came reports (which I doubt are true, but would be hilarious if they were) that Manziel was in Vegas in disguise, namely, "a blonde wig, fake mustache, glasses, and a hoodie." Buddy, if you're dressing up and sneaking away from your multi-million dollar job to gamble in Vegas when you could just wait literally a few days before the season's over, I think you may have a problem. Several, in fact.
If you want to keep your Johnny Football nickname, maybe you should
try to find a way to, ya know, keep playing football and not get fired.

  • No matter how bad your team’s situation was last week, it couldn’t have been worse than that of the Indianapolis Colts. Starting quarterback Andrew Luck continued to sit with numerous injuries, including a lacerated kidney; backup Matt Hasselbeck was out with a shoulder injury; and third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst was just sent to the IR this week with a hamstring injury. With literally had no one to play quarterback, they went out and signed Josh Freeman, who last played in the NFL more than two calendar years ago. He threw a touchdown in the game (yay) before getting injured (seriously, don’t play QB for the Colts; it’s very dangerous). In came another guy they signed this week who also hasn’t played in two years -- Ryan Lindley. He also scored a touchdown (yay), and the Colts went on to win the game!

  • The victory must have made an impression on Indianapolis' management. After speculation about his job security began around Week 3 and persisted throughout the year, it seemed like Chuck Pagano's coaching days with the Colts were coming to an end. It was a big surprise to find out on Monday that Indianapolis had signed Pagano to a four-year contract. His players were happy. (No, seriously, read that link. Those tweets are actually pretty touching.) I'm also happy since, you may remember, Pagano is my Secret Old Man Crush.

  • You have to listen really carefully, but you can hear a Carolina Panther lineman (I think) interrupt Cam Newton's pre-snap call to ask, "Is that real?"

  • Though we discussed that the problems with Green Bay existed from the beginning, it was after Week 6 that things really began to turn sour. Do you know who else's season also took a turn about that same time? KIRK COUSINS. While the Packers took a plunge, the Washington Redskins quarterback began an upswing. In the first six games of this season, Kirk threw six touchdowns and eight interceptions. In the 10 games since? 23 touchdowns and three interceptions!
No, Kirk, I do not like that. Not at all.

  • If the Packers are going to beat the Redskins next week, they’re going to need a lot of help from their defense, which has played well (almost) all year. That means multiple takeaways are needed and/or a defensive (or special teams) score. If the offense could convert a third down or two, that'd be great, but I don't want to get my hopes up.
Everything would be so much better if he were playing.

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