Packers at Saints Prediction

I’m very torn on this prediction.  I have been going back and forth all week.  Reasons I think the Saints may win include:

  • The Saints are typically very strong at home, especially during prime-time games.
  • It’s easy to overlook the Saints and their 2-4 record and forget that they have the #2 ranked passing offense in the NFL.
  • If Jimmy Graham is healthy the Saints have the perfect weapon to attack the Packers defensive soft spot at ILB. In fact this game may come down to the health of Jimmy Graham.
  • Packers’ defense has looked improved, especially vs. the pass but they have not yet faced a passer as good as Drew Brees.

The reason I think the Packers will win:

  • Aaron Rodgers is hot and typically plays great in the controlled environment of a dome.
  • Packers’ pass rush has been very good (Packers are ranked #5 vs. the pass), and the one thing Brees does not have is the mobility that allowed Ryan Tannehill and Cam Newton to escape several sack attempts.
  • Packers’ offense should have a lot of success vs. the Saints’ 28th ranked pass defense.

I may be picking this one with my heart, instead of my head, but I see the Packers bringing their ‘A’ game and coming out of this one with a win.  Packers: 37-34.

Season Record: 7-0

Panthers at Packers Prediction

Another week, another read-option QB for the Packers to defend, and this one is a heck of a lot better than Ryan Tannehill.  The Packers defense eventually has to figure out how to defend the read-option, right?  I don’t know if that will happen this week and I expect Cam Newton to have a big game.

Overall I expect the Packers offense, with the hottest QB in the league, to do enough to get the win.  Packers 32-27.

Season Record: 6-0

Packers at Dolphins Prediction

I’m starting to think that this Packers team is getting things turned around.  The offense has been very efficient and Capers new defense started to show some life, in second half vs. Bears and against the Vikings.

My thinking on Capers is that he historically keeps adding complexity to his defense, season after season, until it becomes too complicated and it actually slows his defense down.  McCarthy forcing Capers to rebuild his scheme may have been the ticket to improved performance. Today will be a good test for the defense.  Dolphins coach Philbin is very familiar with Capers as a defensive coordinator and his team has a very good rushing game.

I think the Dolphins’ offense will give this team some trouble, however I suspect the Packers’ offense will be just too much for the Dolphins’ defense.   Packers 34-27

Season Record: 5-0

Vikings at Packers Prediction

I fully expect a Packers victory tonight.  In spite of the Vikings dominant win over the Falcons, I don’t think that they will be able to threaten victory against the Packers at Lambeau, especially in a prime time game.

After the terrible rush defense vs. the Bears one of the main things everyone is interested to see is how the Packers defense will respond against what looks like a very good Vikings rushing attack.  Watching that Bears game live I was convinced the interior line of the Packers (Guion, Boyd, Daniels, D. Jones, etc.) were completely overmatched and dominated.  After watching the coaches’ tape I came away with a much different impression.  A good part of the blame falls on the linebackers. The inside linebackers were too easily blocked and/or charging into the wrong gap.  The outside linebackers, including a few terrible plays by Peppers, were also slow to pinch inside.  While the interior line was far from perfect, a good portion of their mistakes I would classify as being over-aggressive.  Things like charging past the play, or over-committing and creating cutback lanes.  I agree with Mike McCarthy that a few technical adjustments could result in significant improvement.

I expect the Packers defense will respond well this week and have a solid game.  Prediction: Packers 27-16

Season Record: 4-0

Packers at Bears Prediction

This is another tough one to predict.   Through three games I can’t determine if this year’s team is a typical Mike McCarthy slow starting team or just not very good.

Looking back the offense has been borderline bad for 10 of 12 quarters played.  Except for the second half of the jets game the offense can be best described using words like:  uninspired, passive, soft and predictable.  The tight end play has been abysmal with Richard Rodgers looking like a serious reach as a 3rd round pick.  The offensive line seems to have regressed with even the typically dependable Sitton and Lang having tough outings.  Outside of Jordy Nelson the wide receivers have been almost non-existent.  Given all of this it is probably should not be much of a surprise that even All-World Aaron Rodgers has looked human and out of sync.

The defense has shown signs of improvement from the 1st to 3rd week.  They started poorly when they were overrun by Marshawn Lynch in the opener.  In the first half vs. the Jets they were cut to shreds by Gino Smith of all people.   However they followed that up with a strong second half vs. the Jets and a very solid showing vs. a loaded Lions offense.   The only dent in that improvement came at the end of the Lions game, where they seemed to revert to past seasons and were unable to get a 4th quarter stop with the game on the line.

If the Packers are just having a slow start this game, on the road vs. a hated division rival would be where you would expect the turn-around to begin.  If they are just “not very good”, the Bears have been playing well and should be able to finally get a home win vs. their rival.

I may be picking with my heart, but when forced to choose I still believe the Packers are a talented team, with playoff potential.   I feel we will see major improvement from the offense today, especially with improved performances from Eddie Lacy and Randal Cobb.  My prediction Packers win 27-23.

Packers at Lions Prediction

This has been a very hard game to pick.  I keep weighing the vision of the Lions completely dominating the Packers at Detroit last year vs. my feeling that the Packers are the better team.  Of course in last year’s loss Matt Flynn was behind center instead of Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand the Detroit front 4, lead by Suh, so completely dominate the Packers’ offensive line that it didn’t much matter who was at QB.

The other thing on my mind is that it is not uncommon for the Packers under Mike McCarthy to get a slow start to the season.  Based on the first two games it seems that pattern is repeating this year.

Bottom line I expect a close game, but I give a slight edge to the Lions at home.  Chalk this up as another early season Packers loss – Packers lose 34-30.

Give Dom a Break

First off, I am not a Dom Capers apologist.  In fact I was one of the founding members of the “Fire Dom Capers” club after the 2011 season.  Caper’s worst in the league 2011 defense squandered a great NFL offense that was primed to perform a rare repeat as NFL Super Bowl champions.   I have also pointed out how Capers career arch consistently follows the same pattern, a quick turnaround followed by a steady and consistent march to the bottom.

Capers’ schemes are simply too complex and are much more successful confusing his own players than the opposition.  I suspect that as he implements his system, season to season, he continues to burden his players with additional complexity.  This is how you come to rely on marginal talents like AJ Hawk, because they know “the system”, which is no small feat given the increasing complexity.  I also contend that Capers’ reliance on complex schemes is the exact opposite strategy you need for Ted Thompsons draft and develop method of building a team.  Simply put Capers is a bad fit for the Packers and in my opinion should have been replaced several seasons ago.

However, this season, at least this early in the season, I can’t place the blame for the defenses struggles on Capers.  If, and it’s way too early to know, this defense does not improve this season the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of Mike McCarthy.

McCarthy was the one who envisioned and championed this new hybrid defensive scheme using slogans like: “less schemes, more personnel”, “smaller, more athletic defensive lineman”, “elephant position”, etc.   McCarthy was clear in the off-season, he would present the vision for the revamped Packers’ defense and it was up to Capers and his staff to implement it.   This still could end up being a great move over the course of the entire season.  By forcing Capers to reevaluate everything, he might force Capers back to “first year mode” where his schemes are simpler and he has had most of his success.

I also strongly suspect McCarthy was the one who insisted on the “cloak and dagger” approach to rolling out the new 4-3 hybrid scheme.  In hindsight it appears obvious that the Packers should have been using every opportunity, both in open practices and in preseason games, to give both the coaches and players experience running this new defense.   Given this constraint I find it hard to blame Capers for the early season confusion running this new defense.

Capers has let Packer fans down for several seasons and I am as pessimistic as anyone.  However, he was presented with a vision from Mike McCarthy to re-design the defense, and we need to give him a time to implement that vision.