Tag:James Jones
Posted on: February 6, 2011 3:50 am
Edited on: February 6, 2011 4:13 pm
 

Steelers vs. Packers: 7-Point Super Bowl Preview

Posted by Will Brinson



CBSSports.com's patented and award-winning 7-point preview gets you ready for each and every playoff game. As an added bonus, check out our playoff podcast preview:



1. Green Bay Packers (No. 6, NFC, 13-6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 2, AFC, 14-4)

At various points in the season, this Super Bowl matchup looked utterly silly. Like when the Packers lost to the Lions in Week 14. Or when the Steelers were facing four games to open the season without Ben Roethlisberger. Or when Matt Flynn looked utterly confused at the end of the Week 15 loss to the Patriots. Or when the Saints spooked the Steelers on Halloween. 

Or, well, you get the point -- in the Packers and the Steelers both overcame a ton of adversity to get to Dallas. But maybe that speaks to exactly why Super Bowl XLV gets a pair of teams with immense talent, tremendous coaching and a knack for getting hot at the right time and winning games when they need to.

2. PLAYOFFS?! Watchability Ranking



It's the Super Bowl. And it's in Dallas. And it features two of the most historic franchises in NFL history, who just so happen to be the two best teams in the NFL. In short, it's a pretty perfect matchup and it's for the whole lobster enchilada. (They make those here. And they're delicious.)

3. Key Matchup to Watch: Steelers offensive line vs. Packers front seven

The Steelers defense isn't the only unit charged with keeping Aaron Rodgers off the field, because Pittsburgh's offensive line is going to need to help that cause as well if Mike Tomlin wants his second Super Bowl ring in four years. 

See, the Steelers are perceived as a running and defense team by stereotype only. The truth is that Rashard Medenhall only crossed the 100-yard mark three times this season, and twice were while Roethlisberger was suspended. That's not even taking into account his 3.9 yards per carry. So, even if they did have the offensive line to grind it out against Green Bay's defense in the running game, it might be tough sledding.

Problem is, with Doug Legursky replacing the injured Maurkice Pouncey, they definitely don't have the front five to handle that task.

Which means that if the Steelers want to keep A-Rod(ge) from hopping on the field and slotting his way to scores, they're going to need a Herculian effort from a makeshift group of guys up front in terms of pass protection. That's easier said than done against a Dom Capers defense, of course, because when he starts dialing up blitzes, things might get a little tricky, even though Pittsburgh's got a slew of talented wideouts in Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown

But the collective skill with that group's worth nothing if the Pittsburgh offensive line can't keep B.J. Raji and the rest of the wrecking crew on the Packers front seven at bay in a straight-up matchup to start.

4. Potentially Relevant Video

For various sad reasons, The Band stopped playing back in the 1970's. They did so at their peak, and with one of the greatest live performances in musical history (the final scene and song from Martin Scorsese's "The Last Waltz" is below). This year's Super Bowl is going to be equally as awesome. It just is. But if it's the last performance well, I'm begging you NFL people. Please, don't do it. Don't you break our hearts.



5. The Packers will win if ...

They can put Roethlisberger on the ground. It's not exactly easy to do despite Ben's insanely high sack per game total of 2.67 (second in the NFL to only Jay Cutler). But the offense can score, and if the defense can keep the Steelers QB from extending plays and allowing his wide receivers to get open, they'll stand a substantially better chance of bring the Lombardi Trophy home.

6. The Steelers will win if ...

Their linebackers can manage to handle the spread formations that Mike McCarthy will dial up. No one's questioning Pittsburgh's ability to keep James Starks from running the ball. Stopping Aaron Rodgers and the four-wide sets that Green Bay's sure to employ is a different matter altogether. James Jones and Jordy Nelson might not be the two biggest names in terms of NFL wide receivers, but if they can get open before LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison take advantage of their favorable mismatches against Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga, the Packers will be in business.

7. Prediction
 
Packers 24, Steelers 21

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: February 2, 2011 4:09 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2011 3:18 pm
 

Matchup breakdown: Packers O vs. Steelers D

Posted by Andy Benoit

The Packers’ ground game doesn’t have a prayer against a Steeler run defense that ranks third all-time in the modern era. Center Scott Wells is a cagey veteran, but he struggled all season to hold ground against vociferous nose tackles. There may not be a more punishing run-stopping nose in the game than Casey Hampton. Even if the Packers can somehow neutralize that interior mismatch (and it’s doubtful they can), James StarkD. Driver (US Presswire)s, decent as he’s been this postseason, lacks the speed and agility to elude Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and Pittsburgh’s superb linebacking corps.

Green Bay’s best chance on Sunday will be to isolate their wideouts against the Steelers defensive backs. Don’t be surprised if the Packers spend most of the game in four wide receiver sets. That would force Dick LeBeau to play nickel or dime and keep either his leader (James Farrior) or most athletic player (Lawrence Timmons) off the field. It would also isolate at least one of Green Bay’s wideouts on one of Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks.

For Green Bay, the most attractive mismatch in the passing game will be inside. Steelers nickelback William Gay, who occasionally struggles in man coverage, will have his hands full against either James Jones or Jordy Nelson.

Also, expect the Packers to keep Greg Jennings on the right side of the formation, where he’s more likely to face Bryant McFadden. McFadden, like his counterpart Ike Taylor, is stout enough as a tackler to keep the catch-and-run happy Packer receivers from breaking a big one. But unlike Taylor, McFadden does not have great length or catch-up speed over the top. Jennings, one the crispest and most befuddling downfield route runners in the game, can exploit this.

Most importantly, spreading the field will create natural throwing alleys for Rodgers. This is critical because, with Chad Clifton going against James Harrison and Bryan Bulaga going against LaMarr Woodley, shaky pass protection will limit Rodgers to mostly three-step drops.

It will be fascinating to see whether LeBeau allows Rodgers to complete passes off three-step drops or whether he tries to counter the quick pass. Countering it likely means taking a reactionary defensive approach – something that is generally unfamiliar for LeBeau’s unit. Normally the Steelers love to blitz their inside linebackers (often this is what creates one-on-one scenarios for their potent outside linebackers). But to counter Rodgers’ quick strikes, the Steelers may drop eight into coverage and rush only three. Harrison and Woodley are both adept in space. If the linebackers are dropping back, Pittsburgh’s corners get to play zone instead of man. That helps appease the mismatch against Green Bay’s wideouts.

The X-factor, as usual, is Troy Polamalu. How LeBeau decides to utilize his most dynamic playmaker will determine whether the Steelers blitz or drop back. If Polamalu roves around the box, expect blitz. If he roves around centerfield, expect drop back.

Speaking of Polamalu, here's what LeBeau had to say about the legendary safety.



For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow and subscribe to our
RSS Feed.@cbssportsnfl on Twitter
Posted on: February 2, 2011 1:59 am
Edited on: February 3, 2011 8:45 am
 

Green Bay Packers offensive roster breakdown

Posted by Will Brinson & Andy Benoit

Perhaps the most fascinating thing if you look (at a glance anyway) at Pittsburgh and Green Bay is that they've built their teams "properly." (AKA "the opposite of Dan Snyder.) They draft smart, and they sign smarter. At least that's what we're lead to believe, right?

Andy and I set out to check the roster breakdown for both teams. En route, we* managed to figure out not only where they're coming from, but what they'll do for their respective teams in the Super Bowl.

Name POS Acquired Scouting Report
Aaron Rodgers
QB
Drafted 24th overall, 1st Round 2005
He lacks is a weakness. One of the smartest, savviest and most athletic quarterbacks in the NFL. A Super Bowl ring might even legitimize the inevitable Is he better than Favre? discussion.
James Starks
RB
Drafted 193rd overall, 6th Round 2010
ixth-round rookie arrived on the scene just in time for Green Bay’s playoff push. Not a star, but the upright runner gives the backfield some of the burst it’s been missing.
Brandon Jackson
RB2
Drafted 63r overall, 2nd Round 2007
Doesn’t have the initial quickness or agility to be a quality NFL runner, though has at least found a niche as a pass-blocker and screen pass receiver on third downs.
John Kuhn
FB
UDFA 2005, PIT; FA 2007
Now synonymous with the term “folk hero” around Wisconsin. Has a knack for moving the chains.
Chad Clifton
LT
Drafted 44th overall, 2nd Round 2000
Superb technique and consistent pass protection earned him Pro Bowl honors for the second time in his 11-year career.
Daryn Colledge
LG
Drafted 47th overall, 2nd Round
Was finally kept at one position for 16 games, and responded with a career year. Not the strongest ox in the field, but dexterous at the second level. Packers would be wise to give him the long-term contract he wants.
Scott Wells
C
Drafted 251st overall, 7th Round
Reliable as they come. Will get jolted by bull-rushing nose tackles, but very rarely let’s that disrupt the entire play. Good mobility out in front.
Josh Sitton
RG
Drafted 135th overall, 4th Round
Arguably the best right guard in football this season. Outstanding brute force on contact, has little to no trouble reaching linebackers in the run game. What’s more, he’s at his best in pass protection.
Bryan Bulaga
RT
Drafted 23rd overall, 1st Round 2010
First-round rookie was drafted to eventually become the left tackle, but he might not have the quickness for that. Sound mechanics have made for a fairly smooth debut season.
T.J. Lang
OL
Drafted 109th overall, 4th Round 2009
Versatile player but limited athlete.
Greg Jennings
WR
Drafted 52rd overall, 2nd Round 2006
Known for his catch-and-run prowess, though his best asset is his innate feel for working back to the ball late in a play.
Donald Driver
WR
Drafted 213th overall, 7th Round 1999
The elder statesman saw his production dip in 2010 (thanks in part to a quad injury). But there’s still plenty of speed and quickness left in him.
James Jones
WR
Drafted 78th overall, 3rd Round 2007
When he’s not dropping balls he’s burning teams for long plays. Was actually Green Bay’s second most productive receiver this season.
Jordy Nelson
WR
Drafted 36th overall, 2nd Round 2007
The fact that he’s white and not constantly compared to Wes Welker or Brandon Stokley tells you what a viable field-stretching target he can be.
Andrew Quarless
TE
Drafted 154th overall, 5th Round 2010
Not Jermichael Finley, but then again, Antonio Gates isn’t even Jermichael Finley. The fifth-round rookie improved as the season wore on. Can catch what you throw him within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Donald Lee
TE
Drafted 156th overall, 5th Round 2003
Scaled-back role because he’s not the blocker that Tom Crabtree is. Still athletic, though. Packers try to get him one or two touches a game, usually on a screen.

*Scouting smarts credited to Benoit. HTML and research credited to Brinson.
Posted on: January 24, 2011 2:07 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2011 6:08 pm
 

Early look at Super Bowl XLV Packers vs. Steelers

Posted by Charley Casserly

It’d be hard to ask for a better matchup in Super Bowl XLV than the Green Bay Packers vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers. These are the hottest teams in their respective conferences. Both have big-name quarterbacks, playmakers on offense and a host of Pro Bowl caliber contributors in their well-coached 3-4 defenses. It’s no wonder the oddsmakers and pundits are forecasting a close game. Here is an early overview of the matchup.

Three "X" FactorsB. Roethlisberger (US Presswire)

1. Super Bowl experience

The Steelers, only two years removed from winning Super Bowl XLIII, have an edge in experience that will come in to play both on and off the field. Having been in four Super Bowls myself, here is how I see the edge manifesting itself:

There are a lot of off the field distractions the players and staff have to deal with. These include ticket requests, media requests, family and friends travel, etc. The coaches have to manage these distractions while determining how much of the game plan to install at home and how much to install after arriving in Dallas. Some teams like to put in the game plan before they get to the Super Bowl site in order to have it done before the majority of distractions set in. Others want to wait so as not to have the players get bored or stale the week of the game.

The Steelers and their staff have dealt with this conundrum before. The Packers, for the most part, have not.


2. The two weeks to prepare and rest

I think this could favor or hurt Green Bay – we won't know until the game. On the one hand Green Bay is on a roll. They have faced elimination in their last five outings. They survived and, thus, have momentum. The two-week break could disrupt that momentum.
 
On the other hand, the break may be just the thing they need to get recharged. If they had to play next week, they maybe would run out of gas.

 
3. Green Bay’s familiarity with defensive scheme

The Packers may have an edge over many, if not all, of the opponents that the Steelers have played this year. That edge? They play the same 3-4 defense as Pittsburgh. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers and Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau worked together in Pittsburgh when LeBeau was the defensive backs coach when Capers was the defensive coordinator (1992-94). This will help Green Bay more than other teams that have had to prepare for Pittsburgh this season, as Green Bay will have had a better look in practice from their scout team in imitating Pittsburgh's defense.

 
Two key statistical categories that could come into play

 
1. Sacks per pass play

In terms of sacks per pass play, the Steelers offense ranks 30th in preventing sacks, while the Packers defense ranks third. On the other side of the ball, Green Bay's offense is 20th in sacks per pass play while Pittsburgh’s defense is sixth. Just watching film, it would seem Green Bay has the edge here. The statistics agree.
 
Both teams will have the opportunity to sack the opposing QB. I believe it comes down to which QB can avoid the pressure and still make a play. Conversely, which team when they get that free defender can bring the opposing QB down? Ben Roethlisberger is not only mobile, he is big and strong. He can throw with defenders draping off of him. Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, is quicker a foot than Roethlisberger and can avoid defenders. 

 
2. Rushing

The Steelers run defense is ranked number one in the NFL. The Packers rushing offense is ranked 24th. This is a clear advantage for the Steelers. How will the Packers be able to run the ball? I believe their best chance will be to spread the Steelers out to make them defend the pass first, then come back with the run second. In other words, set up the run with the pass.

 
Three matchups of note (Green Bay offense vs. Pittsburgh defense)

 
1. Green Bay Wide Receivers vs. Pittsburgh CB's

The Packers have a decided edge here. The two things the Steelers must do to negate this edge is a.) jam the receivers off the line to disrupt their timing on their routes in their rhythm passing game and b.) do a good job tackling when Green Bay’s wideouts catch the ball. Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson are all fantastic at running after the catch.

 
2. Green Bay's OT’s vs. Pittsburgh’s OLB’s

This is an edge for Pittsburgh. Most defenses only have one good pass-rusher. Pittsburgh has two in James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Green Bay has to either make sure they help their OT's in some way (likely with a RB chipping or a TE staying in to block). The Packers cannot let the Steeler OLB's go one on one against Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, backup T.J. Lang or one of their backs.

 
3. Green Bay’s center Scott Wells vs. Pittsburgh’s NT Casey Hampton

This is an advantage for Pittsburgh in terms of size and strength. If the Packers can't find a way to control Hampton by helping Wells or devise a running scheme to take advantage of Hampton's tendency to over-pursue (such as having the RB cut back against the grain in the opposite direction of Hampton's initial movement), they will struggle to run the ball.

 
Three matchups of note (Green Bay defense vs. Pittsburgh offense)


1. Green Bay’s NT B.J. Raji vs. Pittsburgh’s C (Maurkice Pouncey or Doug Legursky)

Raji will have a decided edge over whoever Pittsburgh plays at OC (Pro Bowl rookie Maurkice Pouncey hopes to play on his bad ankle; third-year pro Doug Legursky is the backup). It is the same principle that Green Bay faces in running the ball against Casey Hampton: you need a plan to negate the edge that the opposing NT has over your C. B. Raji (US Presswire)

2. Green Bay’s nickel defense vs. Pittsburgh’s run offense

Green Bay will line up in their nickel defense on running downs and dare teams to run the ball. (Often times, they have just two defensive linemen in these packages.) If the Packers do this, the Steelers have to take advantage and run the ball effectively.

3. Green Bay’s OLB Clay Mathews vs. Pittsburgh OT's (LT Jonathan Scott, RT Flozell Adams)

Both OT's for Pittsburgh, Scott and Adams, are backup players. Mathews, like James Harrison, is one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL. Mathews has to win his matchups against the Steelers tackles. The Packers do a good job moving him around to get him into favorable matchups. Can the Steelers figure this out and find a way to block him? 
 

Beyond the statistics and matchups: two more things to watch  

1. Will Green Bay employ a strategy similar to New England's plan against the Steeler defense? The Patriots spread the Steeler defense out and had a lot of success passing the ball. I think that is the best plan to beat the Steeler defense – and I think the Packers have the ideal personnel to execute that plan.

 
2. Will the Steelers try to run the ball to the outside early in the game to make those big Packer defensive linemen run to the ball? The hope here is that doing so will make those D-linemen tire and wear down as the game goes along. Fatigued defensive linemen, of course, are less effective against both the run and pass later in the game.

 
Prediction
 
This is a very even game, but I give the edge to the Steelers because of the slight edge at QB and their greater big game experience. I think the difference in the game will be Roethlisberger making more plays against the pass-rush than Rodgers. 




For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .

Posted on: January 24, 2011 12:27 am
Edited on: January 24, 2011 3:00 pm
 

10 Super Bowl stories you'll get sick of hearing

Posted by Andy Benoit

Because the Super Bowl is outlandishly over-covered, offering readers 10 Super Bowl stories worth their attention seems redundant if not fruitless. With two weeks until, as your local furniture store calls it, The Big Game!!!, every possible Packers-Steelers storyline is about to be utterly exhausted. And then retold.

You can thank all the “casual fans” who suddenly get interested in the NFL this time of year for this. Somebody has to bring those people up to speed, which means somebody has to retell all the stories true football fans got sick of months ago. You best get used to it now.

Just so you can be on guard, here is an overview of the 10 Super Bowl storylines you’ll get sick of hearing between now and February 6 They’re ranked in order from overhyped to way overhyped, and they don’t even include the non-game related economic stories (you know the ones about how expensive the advertising spots cost, how magnificent the host venue, Cowboys Stadium, is, how bad the CBA talks are going or how many bags of chips are consumed by Americans on Super Bowl Sunday).


10. Wide receivers

The Packers and Steelers receiving units almost mirror one another. Both have a sage veteran (Donald Driver, Hines Ward). Both have a dynamic young big-play weapon (Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace). And both have dangerous but not entirely trD. Driver (US Presswire)usted backups (James Jones and Jordy Nelson; Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown). Here are the predictable cliff notes for the stories involving these guys:

Driver: tough childhood in Houston, first chance at a ring

Ward: borderline “dirty player” who is also proud of Korean heritage

Jennings: NOT a diva, but has still emerged as a No. 1

Wallace: averaging 93 yards per catch this season (or something like that)

Jones: talented but dropped balls; his quarterback trusts him

Nelson: talented but a few fumbles; his quarterback trusts him

Sanders: talented but untested; his quarterback trusts him

Brown: big catches late in games but still raw; his quarterback trusts him

9. Hometown Players

On every Super Bowl team, there are a few players who happen to be from the town in which the game is being played. Thus, you get the homecoming story. This story is only interesting to the dozens of their family and friends who will be in the stands watching on Sunday (because, you know, the player bought dozens of tickets for family and friends!), but that doesn’t stop hard-hitting journalists from writing about it. Or from focusing on how the odds were really stacked against the kid from (insert name of Texas town), as no one ever thought he’d be playing on football’s biggest stage.

So who will the hometown stars be this year? A quick search on PlayersFrom.com (a website that sorts all professional athletes by home state) reveals that the following Packer players were born in Texas: K Mason Crosby, TE Jermichael Finley, QB Matt Flynn, C Scott Wells, WR Donald Driver. The Steelers born in Texas are DE Ziggy Hood, P Daniel Sepulveda, OT Tony Hills, OT Jonathan Scott and NT Casey Hampton.

8. Overcoming adversity

Both teams will talk all week about how they have overcome a lot of adversity this season. Good for them. We can sort of believe the Packers when they trumpet adversity because they led the NFC in injuries (in terms of games missed by starters). But the Steelers? It will be tougher for them to play this card considering they’re littered with stars on defense and have the richest winning tradition in the NFL. But they’ll still find a way to play the adversity card (probably by making veiled references to Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension).


7. Tomlin
M. Tomlin (US Presswire)
You might not get sick of this story because it’s hard to get sick of this man, but you’re going to be hearing it plenty of times: Mike Tomlin is now the only coach in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl twice before the age of 40. He’s already the youngest head coach to hoist a Lombardi Trophy.

This probably won’t be that obnoxious of a storyline. After all, it will probably include plenty about the Steeler modus operandi (which is fascinating), plus Tomlin is about as real as they come. He knows how to give a quote that is just good enough. Which is to say he knows how to say just enough to keep reporters happy but not quite enough to galvanize his opponent.


6. The defensive coordinators

Dick LeBeau is the master behind Pittsburgh’s 3-4 scheme. Dom Capers is the master behind Green Bay’s 3-4. Both are innovative and perhaps deserving of the majority of credit for their team’s success. LeBeau’s recent Hall of Fame induction ruined the hard-hitting THIS MAN SHOULD BE IN CANTON! angle that most writers had for his story, so expect most of the attention to shift towards Capers and whether he deserves a shot at being a head coach for a non-expansion franchise.

There will be plenty of crossover angles here, too, given that Capers coordinated Pittsburgh's D before LeBeau, and both men are pioneers of many 3-4 zone blitz packages.

A dark horse sub storyline here: Kevin Greene, the Packers’ excellent linebackers coach, who was a long-time Steeler.


5. Hair

You just know some idiot is going to do an entertainment feature comparing Troy Polamalu to Clay Matthews.


4. James Starks

Every Super Bowl needs an unlikely breakout star. The Steelers will unofficially nominate sixth-round rookie wideout Antonio Brown for this role, but expect the media to flock to Green Bay’s sixth-round rookie running back James Starks. The Eddie George-like upright runner from Buffalo has rushed for 263 yards since being inserted into the starting lineup for the postseason. Starks is clearly the team’s most explosive runner, but he does not offer star traits. That doeJ. Harrison (US Presswire)sn’t mean the media can’t tell you he’s a burgeoning young star, though.


3. Illegal hits (James Harrison)

Non-football media outlets have been sitting on their stories about how dangerous the sport is for several months, waiting to release them Super Bowl week. Last year, TIME magazine got this ball rolling with its cover piece titled “The Problem with Football: How to Make It Safer”. With Harrison, the poster child for illegal hits, going up against Aaron Rodgers, who suffered two concussions during the regular season, expect another slew of important but boring as hell articles about brain trauma.



2. Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers’ meteoric rise this postseason has been even louder than Drew Brees’ last season. Thank the Brett Favre drama for setting the backdrop for the first-round pick’s career. From day one we’ve admired Rodgers’ class and poise. Since finally taking the field three years ago, we’ve also added arm strength, accuracy and athleticism to his list of admirable traits. Factor in the female celebrities this guy has been linked to (Gossip Girl’s Jessica Szohr, Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, ESPN’s Erin Andrews) and, oh yeah, his insanely impressive performance in five consecutive “must win” games for the Packers (which includes Sunday’s game at Chicago, where Rodgers was much better than his numbers suggest) and we have a first-class superstar on our hands.


1. Ben Roethlisberger

B. Roethlisberger (US Presswire)
As great as a quarterback’s coming out party is, it doesn’t compare to another quarterback’s redemption story. Why? Because a redemption story gives everyone a chance to rehash the drama. The only thing more interesting than Rodgers dating celebrities is Roethlisberger getting accused of mistreating college girls. Sorry, but sexual assault allegations are just too salacious for the media (and public) to ignore.

You know the background here: Nevada and Georgia, no charges filed, six game suspension reduced to four. The Super Bowl week storylines will center around whether Roethlisberger is a changed man and how jovial and humble he has become. The popular caveat will be something along the lines of “only time will tell if these changes stick”. At some point, someone will point out that Big Ben recently got engaged to Pennsylvania native Ashley Harlan. And if that isn’t proof that this one-time frat boy is settling down, what is?


For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Posted on: January 20, 2011 1:21 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2011 1:36 pm
 

Bears vs. Packers: 7-Point Championship Preview

Posted by Andy Benoit



CBSSports.com's patented and award-winning 7-point preview gets you ready for each and every playoff game. As a bonus, enjoy our playoff podcast preview:



1. Green Bay Packers (No. 6, NFC, 12-6) @ Chicago Bears (No. 2, AFC, 12-5)

The oldest rivalry in football takes center stage in the playoffs for only the second time ever. Their last postseason meeting occurred in 1941, a week after Pearl Harbor. We’ll assume that the Bears’ momentum from that 33-14 victory has worn off.

Vegas agrees, as these Bears are actually three-and-a-half-point underdogs at home. These teams played twice in the regular season. Chicago claimed victory in Week 3 (that was the Monday night game where Mike McCarthy should have saved clock by letting the Bears score a touchdown in the final minute but instead banked on the idea that Robbie Gould would miss a 19-yard field goal – which, of course, he did not.) In the Week 17 rematch, the Bears technically had nothing to play for, but they still went all-out in an effort to stay sharp and eliminate a white-hot Packers team from playoff contention. They held Aaron Rodgers and company to just 10 points, but as it turned out, they needed to hold them to two.

2. PLAYOFFS?! Watchability Ranking



If a conference championship game -- featuring two division rivals squaring off in the playoffs for the second time EVER -- doesn't garner five Mora Faces, what does?

3. Key Matchup to Watch: Bears secondary vs. Packers receivers

Rodgers is playing so well right now that even getting pressure on him might not pay off. After all, the Falcons got plenty of clean rushers to him last Saturday. The Bears’ best chance at slowing Green Bay’s passing attack is to out-physical Rodgers’ targets. Charles Tillman especially will have to be aggressive. He’s far and away Chicago’s best cover corner but, like most players, he lacks the quickness to shadow Greg Jennings.

Style wise, No. 2 corner Tim Jennings has a skill set that is conducive for handling Donald Driver. But all things equal, Tim Jennings on Driver is a mismatch favoring Green Bay. So it will be up to Jennings and his assisting safeties to make things unequal. The way to do that is to disrupt route timing; Driver shows hints of frustration when defensive backs get their hands on him.

Expect the Packer to use frequent three-and four-receiver formations. Chicago’s top backup defensive backs, Corey Graham, has stiff hips and struggles with receivers who change direction; Jordy Nelson or James Jones could both pose problems for him. What’s more, Chicago’s safeties are hard-hitting but only average in help coverage.

4. Potentially Relevant Video

Why not?



5. The Bears will win if ...

They protect the ball offensively (obviously) and, defensively, if they can get pressure on Aaron Rodger with only four rushers (very doable given the way Julius Peppers, Matt Toeaina, Israel Idonije, Tommie Harris and even backup Henry Melton have been playing lately). Also, Chicago must force the Packers to rely most frequently on their running backs and tight ends. That would allow the Bears athletic linebacking trio to be the focal point defensively.

6. The Packers will win if ...

Rodgers stays hot, Dom Capers’ complex defense befuddles the Bears’ pass blockers (a group that has had trouble identifying blitzes at times) and both teams break even on special teams.

7. Prediction: Packers 24, Bears 17
Posted on: January 15, 2011 11:38 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2011 12:00 am
 

Everyone's ready to say Rodgers is elite, right?

Posted by Will Brinson



Mercifully, thankfully, the world can stop complaining about Aaron Rodgers's resumé; after dismantling the Falcons in Atlanta (to the tune of 48-21), everyone can officially hold a call him "elite" and -- finally! -- fawn over him publicly.

Wins are important in football, of course. And playoff wins are even more important. But you simply can't judge a quarterback -- in his third year as a starter, no less -- based entirely on his won-loss record in the postseason.

Particularly when it's 0-1.

That's what the world's done with Rodgers, though. For some ridiculous reason (it involves either his draft position or having to follow Brett Favre in Green Bay), he's never garnered the respect that his talent deserves. At least until now.

Even if the Packers lose the NFC Championship game to the winner of Chicago/Seattle, there's no question that Rodgers has arrived. His 10 touchdown passes are the most of all-time for an NFL quarterback in his first three playoff games.

Given the way he took the Dirty Birds out to the proverbial woodshed -- an absolutely bananas 31/36, 366 yards, 3 TD performance -- in the ATL, you'd either have to be Stevie Wonder (blind) or Skip Bayless (blindly stubborn) to argue that Rodgers isn't elite. Oh, and humble, and funny, and ridiculously talented to boot.

"It was one of those nights," Rodgers said, grinning, after the game. "Guys made big plays, I felt like I was in the zone, I was able to escape a couple of times, keep drives going -- we didn't punt all night.

"It was a fun night."

Unless you're the Falcons anyway. Speaking of which -- there's good news for people who enjoy badgering really talented quarterbacks! Matt Ryan's now 0-2 in the playoffs. Which means that we can officially start questioning his legacy, even though he's only three years into his career. (He didn't play well against the Pack, but Atlanta inexplicably abandoned a good gameplan -- give the ball to Michael Turner and throw it short to Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White -- for something that involved either throwing deep or just not holding onto the ball.)

But back to Rodgers. This guy -- to coin a phrase from Jon Gruden -- is one terrible defense away from being 3-0 in the playoffs. This guy's 78 yards short of starting his career with three-straight 4,000 yard seasons. This guy's got 86 touchdowns and 31 interceptions as a starter. And this guy is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL.

No, but seriously, he is. And you can worry about debating that if/when he wins a title in 2010.

For now, it's important to note that Green Bay was a 8/10 on third downs with Rodgers in the game, and while Mike McCarthy definitely deserves some love for his playcalling, there were numerous times when Rodgers was about to get sacked on third-and-long, evaded a blitzer or rusher and took momentum for a rollercoaster ride by hitting either Jordy Nelson or James Jones with a laser for a(nother) backbreaking first down.

That's the crazy thing too -- all due respect to Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, who are both very, very talented, but you get the feeling that the Packers could do what they do even if Nelson and Jones were their top two options.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out exactly why that is, either.

It's Aaron Rodgers. And while he probably "arrived" the day he took the starting reins in Green Bay, Saturday night offered an unnecessary, but official, coronation for Rodgers as one of the game's best.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: September 28, 2010 12:19 am
 

Packers-Bears reaction

Chicago pulled out a victory to get to 3-0 on the season. Chicago WR R. Davis celebrates after the game (AP). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Before the season began, I was pretty sure Chicago was overrated. I had never been impressed with the consistency of QB Jay Cutler. I didn’t think RB Matt Forte could be effective. I was weary about offensive coordinator Mike Martz. The defense would be fine – actually, I expected it to be very good – but I didn’t think the offense could keep the team in games.

Through three games – all Bears victories, including a less-than-impressive win in the season-opener against Detroit – there are still plenty of questions for the offense. But then again, the defense has been very good, and Cutler has done well enough to lead Chicago to the top of the NFC North division.

“It’s fun,” Cutler told ESPN’s Suzy Kolber after the game. “That’s all you can ask for. The defense did a great job. We still felt the whole game we were killing ourselves. But we came up big at the end of the night.”

OK, let’s talk about the real reason Chicago won or – more appropriately – how the Packers lost this game.

Green Bay outgained Chicago 379-298, but the Packers blew it for themselves. They tied a club record that had stood since 1945 with 17 penalties for 152 yards. Many of them, especially late in the game, were undisciplined and, frankly, stupid. Frank Zombo had a helmet-to-helmet hit on Cutler that wiped out an interception. There was the bad personal foul penalty by Nick Collins, and there was a horrendous pass interference by Morgan Burnett to give Bears possession deep in Packers territory.

If Burnett’s pass interference was horrendous, the play of Green Bay’s special teams was atrocious. Bears returner Devin Hester ran back a punt return for a touchdown and should have had another (speaking of which, why in the hell are you kicking to him in the first place?). Bears DE Julius Peppers blocked a Mason Crosby FG attempt. Green Bay got nothing with their return game. And let’s not even get into that last-second kickoff return of desperation that featured about 15 forward passes (the flags were gone, and after the officials would finish throwing their hats, they were going to have to start throwing their whistles).

“You can’t play football like that,” Mike McCarthy said in the postgame presser when asked about the penalties.

That’s true, Mike. But let’s not let the coaching staff off the hook here. After James Jones’ fumble with a little more than 2 minutes to play gave the Bears possession near mid-field, for some reason – even though it should have been abundantly clear to whoever was speaking in McCarthy’s ear that the call was good – McCarthy threw the challenge flag.

It was pretty obvious after looking at one replay that the fumble recovery was legit. Yet McCarthy challenged and lost a timeout. It helped his squad lose the game (hey, at least the Packers would have had more time after Robbie Gould's field goal).

This was a game Green Bay should have won. This was a game the Bears should have lost.

And you know what? I still think Chicago is overrated.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com