The NFL announced Thursday that Chicago Bears defensive end has been fined $10,000 for his hit on quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the third quarter of the NFC Championship game last Sunday. Peppers was flagged for roughing the passer after the helmet-to-helmet hit, which caused Rodgers to bite his lip.
Rodgers, who has sustained two concussions on the year, was slow to get up but was not injured on the play. Rodgers credits that to, in part, the new helmet he has been wearing since his second concussion suffered in Week 13 against the Detroit Lions.
While he wasn’t hurt on the play, Rodgers’ play seemed to be affected after the hit, although he claims his less than stellar performance had nothing to do with the hit.
The Packers won a nail-biter Sunday afternoon in Lambeau Field over the Bears, qualifying them for the 2010 Playoffs. They grabbed the No. 6 seed and will take on the Eagles next Sunday.
But it’s never too early to look forward to next season.
With the completion of the 2010 NFL regular season also came completed schedules for the 2011 season. Here is a breakdown of how schedules are compiled each season as a refresher:
Home and away against its three division opponents (6 games).
· The four teams from another division within the conference on a rotating three-year cycle (4 games).
· The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (4 games).
· Two intra-conference games based on the prior year’s standings (2 games). These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.
Based on the rotating cycle and second-place finish, The Packers will face the NFC South and AFC West, the New York Giants (second in the NFC East), and the St. Louis Rams (second in the NFC West), along with their NFC North opponents.
The Packers are in the playoffs.
Say it five, 10, or 15 more times. Trust me, it won’t get old.
In a season marred by handfuls of injuries, close losses, and uncertainty, Mike McCarthy and the Green Bay Packers fought past it all to claim the NFC’s final playoff spot by taking down the Chicago Bears 10-3 at Lambeau Field.
The early games on Sunday did little to help the Packers, as the Falcons handled the Panthers to claim the No. 1 seed in the conference. Because of that, the Saints rested most of its starters late in the game and allowed the Buccaneers to secure a victory that moved them to 10-6.
That Buccaneers win took out the scenario that would have allowed the Packers to fall to the Bears and still make the playoffs, so for the second consecutive week the Packers needed a win.
For one half of play, it looked bleak in Green Bay. The offense, despite putting together solid drives, had stalled and failed to put any points on the board while the Bears seemed content to keep the pace slow and run out the clock on the Packers.
But the Packers’ defense and, surprisingly, special teams came up in a big way in the second half, allowing the offense to start with solid field position and put 10 points on the board. That was all the defense needed, shutting Jay Cutler and Bears down by forcing two turnovers to seal the victory and a playoff spot for the Packers.
Here are game balls for the Packers’ regular season finale.
Let’s take a look at the playoff picture in the NFC and how it’s all shaping up for the Packers. Obviously the loss to the Lions hurts in the ever-so-tight NFC, but the fact that it was a division (and conference) game makes it sting that much worse. The Packers now sit at 8-5 and are at the bottom of what now looks to be a race between threes teams for one spot in the playoffs.
Beginning in the NFC South, the Falcons took care of business over the Panthers to move to an NFC-best 11-2, the Saints got a big win over the Rams to get to 10 wins, and the Buccaneers hung on and used a last-second blunder by the Redskins to improve to 8-5. It’s almost a certainty that two teams will come out of this ultra-competitive division, with the Falcons and Saints fighting for the division spot and the other, most likely the Saints at this point, with a firm grasp on a wildcard spot. The Buccaneers are fighting a few key injuries on defense and did not look impressive, but 8-5 currently has them ahead of the Packers and one Giants loss tomorrow night from being in the playoff picture.
Chances are most of you will read this sometime on Tuesday, but if you’re up early enough and look to the East at approximately 6:46 a.m., you’ll notice the sun has indeed risen in the state of Wisconsin. True, if the Packers were a centipede they would have shot themselves in every foot Monday night in a loss to the Bears, but don’t think for a second isn’t one of the premier teams in the NFL.
18 penalties, pitiful special teams play and costly mistakes down the stretch will get you eight wins and a comfy seat in your home for the playoffs, but the Packers are undoubtedly better than what they showed tonight, and the optimism for this team’s potential should be as high as it was when they took the field Monday night.
First things first, the Packers went on the road into a divisional game against their biggest rival, a surprisingly efficient 2-0 Chicago team, and were in serious position to put the game away in the final two minutes. Aaron Rodgers, who continues to prove why he one of the top four quarterbacks in the NFL, was surgical in the second half and had the look in his eye that he was going to lead the Packers into field goal range.
Over the past two days, we have focused on the Packers team and the players that make up their roster. But what about the teams they are going to face? Let’s take a look at the Packers’ schedule and determine how they should fare this upcoming season. **There will be an emphasis on NFC North opponents.** Check out the rest of the week’s articles by clicking on the links next to the days and make sure to stay tuned the whole week to get yourself ready for the 2009 Green Bay Packers season.
Monday, Part One: Just How Good Can the Offense Be?
Tuesday, Part Two: How Will This Year’s Defense Be Different From Last Season?
Wednesday, Part Three: What Does Their Schedule Look Like and How Will They Fare?
Thursday, Part Four: How Does Aaron Rodgers Match Up Against the Rest of the NFC North?
Friday, Part Five: Which New Players Are Looking To Rebound, and What Will the Newcomers Contribute?
Saturday, Part Six: Packers-Bears Pregame: Jay Cutler vs. Aaron Rodgers, Round One
The two things to note when looking at the 2009 schedule is 1) teams change throughout the course of an offseason, and 2) injuries occur that can change the whole outlook to a team.
The Baltimore Ravens finished 2007 with just five wins and were entering the season with a rookie quarterback in what surely looked like a rebuilding season. Eleven wins and a playoff win later, the Ravens were one game away from the AFC Championship Game during an outstanding year.
That is just one example of many occurrences in the NFL where a team has completely turned their team around. The 2007 Dolphins won just one game before making the playoffs last season. Remember that the Packers won just six games last season and are probably being overlooked by some teams despite their excellent preseason.
So as much as I will predicting the Packers’ opponents based on their 2008 season and 2009 offseason and preseason, unexpected changes happen over the course of the year.
Week One: Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears
Before last season’s 37-3 drubbing of the Bears, Chicago had won the previous four games against the Packers inside Lambeau Field. Professional sport’s oldest rivalry will add another chapter this season when the Bears and Packers open up their respective seasons on Sunday night.
For whatever reason, the Bears have a lot of success in Lambeau Field, and the overall season series when the Packers are at home is an even 40-40-4. Something will have to give, and I look for the Packers to come out strong in the opener.
Rodgers threw for four touchdowns last season against the Bears and the Packers were a blocked field goal away from sweeping the season series and have only improved. Jay Cutler should make the game interesting, but the game will depend on whether or not Matt Forte can get the ground game working. Look for Rodgers and Jennings to have a huge game here. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Two: Green Bay Packers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Much like the Packers, the Bengals are looking for a big rebound year after a disappointing 2008. Also like the Packers, the Bengals have shown improvement this offseason and are still being overlooked to some extent. The Bengals struggled on the road last season, winning just one game, and the Packers should once again have a big day offensively. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Three: Green Bay Packers @ St. Louis Rams
If it weren’t for the Detroit Lions last season, everyone would have been talking about the historically bad season the Rams had as well. At just 2-14, the Rams struggled mightily and lost veteran wide receiver Torry Holt this offseason. The Rams are not expected to have a huge turnaround season, although they might steal some wins in the weak NFC West. The Packers used to hate domes, but their speed on offense and lightning quick defense should do extremely well in the Edward Jones Dome. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Four: Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings
Yes, this is probably the game you all scrolled down to see the analysis on. This game is a lot bigger than Brett Favre returning to play against his former team. Their are NFC North Division Title hopes on the line every time these two teams meet. Last season, the Packers were a field goal away from stealing the game in Minnesota away, but Mason Crosby missed.
Truth be told, the Packers struggled in both games against the Vikings, despite going 1-1. This time around, all eyes will be watching that Monday night to see who will play the most mistake-free and take the game. Aaron Rodgers will need to perform better because as long as the Williams Wall is playing, running the ball will be virtually impossible.
The one thing that scares me about the Packers defense this season is their ability to stop the run. That bodes well for Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, and I expect the Vikings to take this game at home. Tensions will be running extremely high and this will probably be the most watched game of the year, but the Vikings take it in a squeaker. PREDICTION: LOSS
Week Five: Bye
Week Six: Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions
It’s true that the Lions were as bad as they could have been last season, but consider this when looking that this game: The Lions have not defeated the Packers on the road since 1991. That’s right. Brett Favre never lost to the Lions and neither has Aaron Rodgers while playing in Lambeau.
The Lions have made improvements this offseason (the only direction to go was up) but it will not be enough to stop the Packers at home. Detroit had the worst defense in the league last season, so make sure just about every skill position player on the Packers is in your fantasy football lineup. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Seven: Green Bay Packers @ Cleveland Browns
Not many people put stock in what happens during the preseason, but if the Packers play even half as well as they did against the Brows earlier this year, this game will be a blowout. In the first preseason game of the year for both teams, the Packers shut out the Browns 17-0 and clicked on all cylinders.
The Browns offense has been in disarray and young Brady Quinn will have to do a lot if he wants his Browns to come out on top. The Browns ranked 26th in rushing offense last year and 28th in rush defense. While road wins are tough to come by, the Packers should take this game. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Eight: Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings
In what will probably be the most awkward scene in all of professional sports, Brett Favre will run out of the Lambeau Field tunnel in a Vikings jersey. Fans will boo the future Hall of Famer and all the pressure in the world will be on No. 4. The Packers will want to win this game more than any other game on the schedule, so I look for them to come out with plenty of motivation and fire to take this game. There will be an added incentive as well if the Vikings win in week four. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Nine: Green Bay Packers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is a game that could go either way, depending on which Bucs team shows up. I am a believer that Tampa Bay is going to do better than most analysts predict. Their defense will always rank in the top half of the league and if Cadillac Williams can become a legitimate starter, the Bucs could easily top the .500 mark.
Last season, the Packers and Bucs fought a back-and-forth battle with the Bucs coming out on top 31-20. If there was a game where the Packers might have a let down, this will be it. There is nothing easy about playing in the Tampa heat. PREDICTION: LOSS
Week Ten: Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys
For as much as I think the Bucs will play better than their expectations, I expect a down year from the Cowboys. Not enough people are putting emphasis on the fact that the Cowboys lost one of the best receivers in the game. Yes, they become better in the locker room and there will be less distractions, but on the field they are going to miss the 80-yard touchdowns. Tony Romo is going to be under a lot of pressure to perform without Owens this year, and to date he has not done too well in those situations. Revenge from last year for the Packers in this one. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Eleven: Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers
It seems as though the one thing people are talking about when it comes to the 49ers is the one player that actually isn’t on the team. Michael Crabtree has yet to sign a contract and rumors are the team has not talked to him or his agent in five or six weeks. This game will be eleven weeks into the season so there is a chance Crabtree will be back against the Packers, but it’s hardly a sure thing.
The 49ers have a tough time stopping the pass and have a few question marks on defense that the Packers should take advantage of. Simply put: the 49ers just will not be very good this season. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Twelve: Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
The Packers will have just four days to prepare for their Thanksgiving showdown against the Lions, but that should be more than enough time. The Lions are 35-32-1 on Thanksgiving but have lost their last five contests on Turkey by an average of about 36 to 12. Matthew Stafford should have a better grasp on the offense at this point, but the Packers should hand the Lions their sixth straight loss on Thanksgiving. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Thirteen: Green Bay Packers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco is an excellent game manager on offense and Ray Lewis takes control of his defense better than any other player in the NFL. Add Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs to the equation and you have an excellent team capable of great things this season. The Packers are going to have problems against the pass defense of the Ravens and their ground game on offense. It should be a matchup of two of the best teams in the NFL at this point in the season, but the Ravens come out on top. PREDICTION: LOSS
Week Fourteen: Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
This matchup could very well have playoff implications at Soldier Field, so you can bet both teams are going to come out fighting. The Packers are expected to take the matchup on opening night and I see them taking this game as well. Until Cutler finds more weapons on offense other than Greg Olsen and Matt Forte, it will be tough for them to score points. Against the Packers this season, that’s going to be a problem. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Fifteen: Green Bay Packers @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Packers’ tough stretch over the course of the year ends in the hometown of the defending Super Bowl champs. There are a ton of similarities between the Steelers and Ravens, the only difference being the Steelers do everything better. This will be the toughest game of the Packers season, and a win would be an added bonus to the season. PREDICTION: LOSS
Week Sixteen: Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks had one of the biggest free-agent signings this offseason when they picked up T.J. Houshmanzadeh, formerly of the Bengals. Still, their run game is a huge question mark and teams will be able to defend the pass with ease until someone steps up in the backfield. Defensively, improvements are being made and while this might be a low-scoring game, the Packers should come out on top. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Seventeen: Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have won 12 of 16 games at home over the last two seasons and have established a nice little home-field advantage playing in the heat. Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald don’t hurt their cause, either. Look for this game to be a shooutout at the end of the season, or potentially a blowout if either team has wrapped up their position in the playoffs and sits their starters. Either way, this will be a tough game for the Packers to win on the road. PREDICTION: LOSS
Predicted Finish: 11-5, first in the NFC North