Tag:Donald Driver
Posted on: February 28, 2012 11:51 pm
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For the gambler in you (DWTS edition)

By Josh Katzowitz

Occasionally in the offseason, we’ll take the best -- and most clever -- odds collected by Bovada and give our take. This is important stuff, perhaps the most important post you’ll read on this site. Because if you can’t lose money while watching a game in which you have absolutely no effect, what’s the point of watching sports at all?

With the news emerging today of Packers receiver Donald Driver participating in the latest version of “Dancing with the Stars,” that gives the fellas at Bovada the chance to regale you with the official odds of who will prevail.

Dancing With the Stars Season 14 -- odds to win

William Levy 4/1

Jaleel White 11/2

Gladys Knight 13/2

Donald Driver 13/2

Maria Menounos 7/1

Katherine Jenkins 15/2

Roshon Fegan  8/1

Gavin DeGraw 10/1

Sherri Shepherd 10/1

Jack Wagner 15/1

Melissa Gilbert 18/1

Martina Navratilova 20/1

Is it bad that I had to look up who William Levy is and why he’s the favorite to win DWTS? Well, considering he’s a “hot telenovela star,” points shouldn’t be taken away for not knowing him. I can see why White would be one of the top guys, but I’m not sure I get why Gladys Knight has the same odds as Driver. Unless her Pips are helping her along, I don’t see how a 67-year-old woman has the same chance to win as an NFL receiver.

Also, how is former tennis star Martina Navratilova the biggest underdog? Especially when you consider how many more Wimbledon titles she won than Melissa Gilbert (or the ENTIRE cast of “Little House on the Prairie” for that matter). That said, I’d go with Driver. Hell, he’s a pro athlete. He’s got as good a chance as anybody.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: February 28, 2012 10:45 am
 

Donald Driver on 'Dancing With the Stars'

Driver was already a fan favorite before appearing on 'Dancing With the Stars.' (US Presswire)
By Will Brinson

It's apparently an aging wide receiver tradition to appear on Dancing With the Stars these days: Donald Driver of the Green Bay Packers will fill the "football slot" on the 14th season of ABC's inexplicably popular reality show about famous people dancing.

The announcement was made on Good Morning America Tuesday, and Driver will join a group of folks that includes Jack Wagner of "Melrose Place," Jaleel White of "Family Matters," and Melissa Gilbert of "Little House on the Prairie." (This was a white-hot group in 1999.)

Drivers, who recently re-worked his contract with the Packers, will be paired with professional dancer Peta Murgatroyd, who's returning for her second season as a pro on DWTS.

He'll look to follow in the footsteps of Steelers wideout Hines Ward, who won Season 12 of DWTS. Jason Taylor, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Warren Sapp, Chad Ochocinco, Kurt Warner and Jerry Rice have all appeared on the show previously.

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Posted on: January 12, 2012 6:32 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2012 8:43 am
 

Film Room: Packers vs. Giants divisional preview


Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

We can only hope this game is as entertaining as the December 4th shootout, which Green Bay won on a brilliant last minute field goal drive.

Since that day the Packers have looked mortal and the Giants have grown white hot. Can Round II produce a different outcome? Here’s the breakdown.


1. Slowing the Pack’s aerial attack
The Giants used a diverse array of coverages against the Packers in the last meeting and actually had Aaron Rodgers a bit out of sorts early on. Still, even though he wasn’t as sharp as usual, Rodgers threw for 369 yards and four scores (not a bad “off day”).

New York’s two-deep safety zone looks gave Green Bay the most trouble, but the only way a defense can get away with playing zone against this offense a second time is if it sprinkles those zones with disguises and man concepts.

You can’t outsmart the Packers; you can only hope to out-execute them. Generally, that means winning press-man battles on the outside. That’s what Kansas City was able to do, though they have better press corners than New York and didn’t have to deal with Greg Jennings (out at the time with a knee).

The Packers do a great job creating one-on-one matchups for Greg Jennings through play design. In example A (left), Jennings ran his route against rookie Prince Amukamara to the outside, while Donald Drive ran down the seam. This combination eliminated the possibility of free safety Antrel Rolle helping the overmatched Amukamara, who was flagged for pass interference. In example B (right), Jennings aligned in the slot, away from the tight end and running back. Because Jennings was running an outside route from this alignment, there was no way a safety or linebacker could help cornerback Aaron Ross on this play.

Interesting side note: the Packers usually create one-on-one matchups for Jennings by lining him up as the X-receiver in a 1 x 3 set (in other words, Jennings all alone on the left side, three receivers on the right side). However, they did not throw a single pass to Jennings from this formation against the Giants in Week 13.


Without Jennings, a good secondary has a shot at stymieing this receiving corps (for not only are a Jennings-less Pack without their No. 1 receiver, but suddenly No. 2 receiver Jordy Nelson must face a No. 1 corner, No. 3 receiver Donald Driver must face a No. 2 corner and so on). With Jennings, a good secondary still isn’t enough; a defense needs help from up front.

Pressuring Rodgers is difficult with his speed. (Getty Images)

2. Pressuring Rodgers
It’s easy to say New York’s key is having its four-man pass-rush get to Rodgers. But that only matters if the pass-rush pressure equates to sacks.

In the last meeting, Jason Pierre-Paul absolutely owned backup left tackle Marshall Newhouse. Rodgers was under duress all afternoon. But all that meant was he ran around more before completing his throws. Rodgers is so athletic, so strong-armed and so good at keeping his eyes downfield that pass-rush pressure does not disrupt his rhythm, it merely alters it.

The Giants dominated the line of scrimmage last game and finished with just two sacks. Unless they get six or seven sacks (unlikely, especially with Green Bay getting Chad Clifton back), their pass-rush won’t be a difference-making factor.

3. Matching up to Finley
The Giants have shown a perplexing willingness to defend elite tight ends with linebacker Jacquian Williams this season. Against the Saints in Week 12, Williams at times defended Jimmy Graham while safety Antrel Rolle defended Darren Sproles.

The next week, Williams guarded Jermichael Finley while Rolle guarded ... James Starks. (Seriously?!) Finley wound up beating Williams’ in man coverage for 24 yards on the game-winning field goal drive and finished the day with six catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. (The damage would have been worse if he hadn’t dropped three balls.)

Will the Giants take this approach again, or will they go to their dime defense and treat Finley as a wide receiver (which they’ve also done at times against elite tight ends this season)? Going dime would allow Rolle to defend Finley, though it would also put vulnerable rookie Prince Amukamara on either Donald Driver or Jordy Nelson.

4. Giants offense
As you might surmise, the Packers offense has too many weapons for the Giants to defend. Hence, Eli Manning will be compelled to once again light up the scoreboard. As we’ve explored the past several weeks, Manning is razor sharp against the blitz. The belief here is that an attack-oriented defensive approach will not work against the eighth-year veteran.

But Green Bay isn’t built to play any other way – at least not out of their nickel package. Dom Capers’ scheme is predicated on creating one-on-one matchups for Clay Matthews by blitzing others and using Charles Woodson as a joker. This might yield yards, but it can also create interceptions (the Packers had 31 on the season, which was at least eight more than any other team).

Manning is a virtual lock for 300 yards, but if he can be coaxed into at least two picks, the Pack are a virtual lock to host the NFC Title game.

5. Unless…
The Giants control the game on the ground. This idea seemed absurd a few weeks ago, but lately New York’s front five has gelled and Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs have rediscovered their ability to break tackles running downhill.

The Giants spent a lot of time in base personnel last game, though primarily for passing purposes (they ran the ball just 20 times). They wanted to limit Capers’ nickel blitzes and also throw against Packers backup inside linebackers Rob Francois and D.J. Smith (who were playing for the injured Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk).

With the Packers back to full strength and the Giants’ passing game having significantly improved in three-receiver sets, throwing from base personnel might not be as big a factor this time round. But the ground game might be a bigger factor – especially if the Giants don’t believe the return of defensive lineman Ryan Pickett can suddenly stabilize Green Bay’s wavering run defense.

It will be fascinating to see how Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride calls the game early on.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all the Divisional Round games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 17, 2011 12:09 pm
 

Driver prefers 'patient' Rodgers to Favre

Posted by Will Brinson



The Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre debate, for some reason, is gaining steam right now. Perhaps it has to do with all the "undefeated season" and "unprecedented quarterback play" talk about Rodgers right now.

Or perhaps it has to do with Donald Driver's comments on Wednesday night, in which he compared the two quarterbacks.

"I've played with two quarterbacks," Driver said Wednesday on the NFL Network, via USA Today. "One just went out there and did what he did, and he wasn't patient at all. But Aaron takes what the defense gives him, and that's the type of guy you want."

It's worth noting that what Driver said isn't an "Aaron Rodgers is amazing and soooo much better than Brett Favre comment." But it is an astute observation about how the two handle their job -- Rodgers is more patient and less prone to throwing interceptions. (As was Greg Jennings comment that "we didn't go all the way with Brett.")

By the end of this season, should the Packers go undefeated and win a second straight Super Bowl, it may be pointless to debate between Favre and Rodgers anyway.

But maybe not -- Tom Silverstein has an excellent piece in Thursday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel where he reminds the world that Favre wasn't exactly a bad quarterback when he played. That sounds silly, but it's worth noting, because oftentimes the greatness of Favre is lost on the world because of the way he left the sport.

It's easy and, really, part of human nature, to have later memories clot out earlier ones. When many folks think of Favre, they think of a helicopter trailing his SUV as he returned from Hattiesburg to play for the Vikings. Or they think of purple. Or Crocs.

They don't think, as Silverstein notes, of the 16-game stretch in 1995 and 1996 (two of his three consecutive MVP years) where he threw a ridiculous 49 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.

Favre was so good, he qualified for the rare "Do not bet against [athlete] on [primetime sports event]" category. Like Michael Jordan any time he stepped on the court, if you bet against Favre on Monday night, you were losing money. It's easy to forget that now, but Favre was amazing.

So maybe it's even more of a reason to throughly enjoy what Rodgers is doing right now.

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Posted on: November 16, 2011 4:09 pm
 

Film Room: Packers vs. Buccaneers preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


The Green Bay Packers are off to the best start of any Defending Champion since the ‘99 Broncos. With legitimate buzz about a perfect season getting louder, let’s look at some of subtle but important elements that make this team great.


1. Aaron Rodgers hidden traits
Through nine games, Rodgers is playing the quarterback position better than anyone has ever played it. No need to sit here and talk about his arm strength, accuracy, intelligence, mobility and “moxie” – all it takes are two eyes and a pulse for an observer to notice these things.

Besides, it’s the little things that set Rodgers apart. Things like….
  • Footwork: This past Monday night, Jon Gruden shrewdly pointed out that when taking a shotgun snap, the right-handed Rodgers keeps his right foot back. All other right-handed quarterbacks keep their left foot back. By keeping his right foot back, Rodgers is in position to throw the second he receives the ball. This is critical given how many quick slants and smoke screens the Packers throw. Rodgers’ footwork is not just unique in the shotgun. He’s incredibly crafty in how he angles his drop-backs ever so slightly to impact opposing pass-rushers’ path to him. It’s something you generally wouldn’t notice unless you have to play against him. Rodgers’ subtle footwork adjustments can be a tremendous help to Green Bay’s offensive line.
  • Presnap vocals: Rodgers recognizes defenses as well as any quarterback in the game and uses the snap count better than anyone. This Sunday, keep track not just of how many times Buccaneer defensive linemen jump offsides (Adrian Clayborn and Albert Haynesworth both had some issues with this last week) but how many times the linebackers and cornerbacks are baited into accidentally showing their hand. Rodgers is remarkable in the way he recognizes any flinch and mentally processes a defender’s initial move. Good dummy cadences allow him to do that.
  • Precision accuracy: Rodgers has the ability to succeed even on plays where the defense’s scheme defeats Green Bay’s offensive concept. His ball command is a big reason why. Most accurate passers simply hit the dart board; Rodgers routinely hits the bull’s-eye. He puts the ball not just on a receiver, but in the most favorable location for that receiver. This is why the Packers are the best in football when it comes to running after the catch. The last passer who threw with the quick release and velocity necessary for near-perfect precision was Kurt Warner. The difference between Rodgers and Warner is Rodgers exhibits this kind of accuracy in the pocket AND outside on the move (he’s the best movement passer in the NFL, Ben Roethlisberger and Josh Freeman included).
2. Formation versatility
The Packers offense is a nightmare to prepare for. They have a bottomless trove of formations and personnel packages. They regularly use three different running backs, five different wide receivers and four different tight ends, with formations reflecting virtually every possible combination of those groupings.

And thanks to the versatility and potency of Jermichael Finley, defenses often can’t decipher whether it will be a run or pass formation until the Packers line up. Even then, it can be hard to decipher, as it’s not uncommon for Finley to shift before the snap. The Packers run a lot of the same plays but out of different formations.

This formation versatility allows Green Bay’s rushing attack to stay afloat. Talent-wise, it’s not a great ground game. James Starks and Ryan Grant are both methodical, gaping-hole runners who can’t redirect quickly or create their own space. It helps that they play with a strong, versatile lead-blocker in John Kuhn and behind stud right guard Josh Sitton and crafty center Scott Wells. H-back Tom Crabtree is also a positive factor in run packages.

But what really makes a difference is that the Packers are a threat to throw out of run formations. They have a viable screen game, they’re great in play-action and Rodgers is not afraid to go downfield even if there’s only one wideout in the formation (the first touchdown to Jordy Nelson in Super Bowl XLV is a great example).

The Bucs safeties struggled in run-pass recognition against the Texans last week. And their linebackers really struggled against the run (middle ‘backer Mason Foster is about as stiff as they come). Don’t be surprised if the Packers pound the Bucs on the ground and later throw the safeties a curveball with a downfield shot out of heavy personnel.

3. Receiver distribution

Receiver distribution can be explained with simple who-where-how questions: WHO are the receivers on the field, HOW do they line up and WHERE do they run? The “who” is always favorable to Green Bay. Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jermichael Finley form the most formidable quintet in the NFL. All are fast, fundamentally sound and well-schooled in Mike McCarthy’s system.

It’s in the “where” and “how” that McCarthy doesn’t get enough credit. Along with Sean Payton, McCarthy is the best in the business at creating big passes through alignment and route combinations. The Packers create a lot of mismatches simply by lining certain players up in certain areas. They create even more mismatches by designing routes that work off one another.

The best example is their 3 x 1 receiver set (three receivers to one side, one receiver to the other). Greg Jennings is often the X-iso receiver (i.e. the receiver on the one-receiver side). From this formation, an outside route by Jennings all but guarantees one-on-one coverage (a safety over the top can’t cover enough ground quick enough to help outside; even if he could, the three receives being on the other side of the field usually demands that he be over there).

If Jennings runs an inside route, Rodgers has a one-on-one matchup to locate on the three-receiver side. He identifies these matchups almost instantaneously. And with the vast talent at receiver, the one-on-one matchup will almost always favor Green Bay. Defenses that try to nullify this by playing zone to the three-receiver side are punished by route combinations that work off one another by attacking the boundaries of the zones (i.e., that grey area where one defender’s zone ends and another’s begins).

McCarthy’s goal is to slow down a defender’s mental process just enough to give his quarterback time to strike. The second quarter touchdown pass to Jennings in Super Bowl XLV is a great example:


1. The play involved a formation shift, as Greg Jennings’ motion turned a 2 x 2 receiver set into a 3 x 1. This shifted the Steelers’ zone coverage from a Cover 2 to a man-zone scheme, with Ike Taylor playing man against the lone receiver (Andrew Quarless) outside and the rest of the defenders playing zone.

2. In this scenario, the backside safety (the safety furthest from the three receivers) is responsible for the 3 receiver (the receiver nearest the slot). That was Ryan Clark on the right side.

 

3. It was a great route combination by the Packers. The far outside receiver (Donald Driver) ran a hitch, which forced that cornerback to sit on the route. Because that corner had to sit, he could not help against the second receiver (Jordy Nelson), who was running a seam route downfield. Thus, the deep safety, Troy Polamalu, now had to worry about Nelson.


4. The problem was, Polamalu also had the receiver furthest inside (Jennings) screaming at him. Naturally, Polamalu froze for a split second, as he was mentally processing two different receivers racing into the edges of his zone. This created natural confusion with Ryan Clark, who was responsible for that inside receiver and had a lot of ground to cover. Clark had stayed in his original Cover 2 positioning a beat too long (an understandable mistake given Pittsburgh’s fondness for disguising coverage).

5. Rodgers recognized all this. It was exactly how the play was designed to work. The coverage was decent, but Rodgers’ arm was better. Touchdown.

4. The other side of the ball
Green Bay’s defense is as versatile as its offense. It’s a unit that has been inconsistent this season, but don’t think for a second that this group isn’t capable of winning a game on its own in any given week.

Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme can quickly morph into a 2-4-5 or 1-4-6 scheme, depending on the pass-happiness of the opponent (expect more 3-4 looks this Sunday, as the Bucs utilize a lot of base personnel on early downs). The flexibility of the defensive backs allows the Packers to disguise blitzes before the snap and alter coverages after the snap. These are two of the leading principles of Capers’ system.

Why other teams don’t simply mimic Capers’ effective, playmaking-oriented scheme is because of personnel limitations. Capers enjoys the rare fortune of having the four most critical weapons that a defense in today’s NFL can have: an interior clogger (B.J. Raji), an edge-rusher (Clay Matthews), a cover corner (Tramon Williams) and a versatile slot corner/safety (Charles Woodson). Star players make the role players around them better. The Packers D has stars at every level.

5. The Woodson factor
Matthews might be Green Bay’s most valuable defender simply because there isn’t another pass-rusher on the roster (or perhaps in the league) with his initial quickness and sheer speed. But Woodson has a far greater hand in what the Packers do schematically.

An elite cover corner early in his career, the 35-year-old veteran has morphed into more of a freelancing box safety, ala Troy Polamalu. This isn’t to say Woodson can’t still cover. His five interceptions this season – and outstanding performance playing bump-and-run outside in place of an injured Tramon Williams at Carolina in Week 2 – prove that he can. But he’s more dangerous in the box.

Woodson is an elite blitzer and run defender from the slot. He’s surprisingly physical. His greatest traits are his timing and the unique paths he takes in attack. Woodson recognizes offensive concepts quickly, not just in terms of where the play is going, but when it is designed to get there. He adjusts accordingly, which is why you almost never see him get blocked.

Woodson’s impact is not just felt through his own big plays, either. He is brilliant at getting to spots on the field that he knows will redirect the offense back into the teeth of the defense. A lot of times, the goal of Woodson’s blitz is not to get a sack, but rather, to simply force the quarterback to move into a vulnerable area that the rest of the defense is secretly attacking.

Guys like Woodson only come around every decade or so. They’re rare because it takes about 8-10 years for a player to master the game’s nuances. By that time, most players have declined athletically. The ones that don’t go to Canton.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 11 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 16, 2011 2:58 pm
 

Ward doesn't see how Steelers are old

WardPosted by Josh Katzowitz

While many have wondered how the Steelers will deal with some older players not performing well, especially in the wake of their four-touchdown loss to the Ravens last week, Warren Sapp had no problem giving his honest opinion.

And now that Steelers receiver Hines Ward has had a chance to respond, Ward decided he wouldn’t respond to Sapp in such harsh tones.

On Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” this week, Sapp said, “The Pittsburgh Steelers. I have three things: old, slow and it’s over. It’s just that simple. James Harrison told us that he was 70-to-75 percent. It looked more like 40 percent to me if you are looking at the ballgame I was looking at. And Hines Ward, Mercedes Sapp can cover Hines Ward right now. You have to be kidding me ... Mercedes is my 13-year-old daughter. She will cover Hines Ward in a heartbeat.

"And Troy Polamalu, Ed Dixon runs this crossing route. Troy Polamalu is trying to grab him to have a pass interference and he can’t even get close enough to grab him. [It] looked like he was dragging a wagon behind him. Touchdown Baltimore. Pittsburgh Steelers done."

Mr. Ward, your retort, please?

Ward's Getting Old?
“I don’t have a reaction to that,” Ward told 93.7 The Fan in Pittsbrugh, via sportsradiointerviews.com. "He can bring his 13-year old daughter out there and see if she can cover me if she wants to. I don’t have a reaction to that. People are always going to say something. As far as the team being old? I don’t see how the team is old. I think I am the oldest guy on the offensive side. Ben Roethlisberger is the second oldest guy on the offensive side. Defensively? You got Aaron Smith, James Farrior and Brett Keisel. We just re-signed some of our youngest guys. If you look at our team, we are not as old as people want to portray us. What does that matter anyway?

“I love Warren. He was my ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ guy before me. It’s his opinion. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and it is not going to change. There are guys older than me like Brian Dawkins. Donald Driver is older than me. Age doesn’t matter. Age is something for somebody to put out there just to make an excuse.”

Ward also realizes that he's open to criticism, and at this point in his career, he has to be used to it. Even if a former star player is the one making it.

“That’s your job,” Ward said. “That’s what makes news. Your job is to criticize and make stuff. As players we hear it, but it doesn’t validate anything. The Steelers are not going to keep me around if they do not think I am productive. We don’t just keep guys around to just keep guys around. That’s just an excuse when people start looking at the age and that stuff. If you look at our young guys…look at our wide receivers? I’m out there with second and third year guys all the time. Our whole offensive line…we are really not old up front. Rashard Mendenhall is still young and in his prime. When people say stuff like that I just laugh because when they were old one day, somebody said that about them. But now they are in a position to say that. I don’t get caught up in it.”

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Posted on: September 8, 2011 12:34 am
Edited on: September 8, 2011 5:09 pm
 

7-Point Preview: Packers vs. Saints

Posted by Will Brinson



Eye on Football's patented 7-Point Preview will get you prepped for some of the biggest games of the 2011 NFL season. Don't forget to check out our podcast preview below and Subscribe to the Pick-Six Podcast on iTunes.


1. Green Bay Packers (0-0) vs. New Orleans Saints (0-0)
The NFL is back. (!) And what a way to kick things off, huh? The last two Super Bowl winners square off at one of the sport's greatest venues, Lambeau Field, in primetime on a Thursday following a turmoil-filled lockout that eventually led to one of the craziest offseasons and most anticipated regular seasons in recent NFL history.

It's also the first time that two Super Bowl MVPs -- Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers -- will face off against each other on the NFL's opening weekend since 1993 -- when Troy Aikman and Mark Rypien, of the Cowboys and Redskins, respectively -- went head-to-head.

And presumably the first time that Kid Rock has been within 100 yards of whoever the people are that form Maroon 5. Of course, these bands apparently impressed Packers wideout Greg Jennings, who referred to this game as a "mini-Super Bowl." Mr. Rodgers would like to disagree, sir.

"It's a similar feel to a big game, a playoff game," Rodgers said. "I don't want to say the Super Bowl. There's a big atmosphere outside the stadium. But the only thing that matters is taking care of business on the field."

Winners of Super Bowl XLV last season, the Packers have pretty good historical odds on their side in terms of this opening game. The previous 45 Super Bowl winners are 37-7-1 in their season opener the following year, and 10-0 in the last decade when it comes to showing up early and often the next year.

But then again, the last ten Super Bowl winners probably weren't chugging beer cheese in the offseason, and everyone knows how nasty a hangover that creates.

Of course, that's all the past. We're talking about the future now, and both these teams should be wearing shades. Thanks to the roster-building skils of Ted Thompson, the Packers are arguably the biggest favorite to win the Super Bowl again in 2011 and, honestly, look like team with dynasty stamped all over it.

The Saints had a "down" year in 2010, but are clearly motivated by their embarrassing wild-card loss to Seattle last year and certainly have the personnel and the talent to get back to February.

2. What the Nerds and Degenerate Gamblers Say:
Well, Vegas unsurprisingly has this game as a high-scoring affair, as the over/under is set at 47.5. That's the highest point total of the entire first weekend, which is interesting because it just occurred to me that the lockout will probably cause suppressed over/unders to start the season. And 47.5 is unsurprising because the lockout has people so jacked for football that their willing to throw piles of money on touchdowns.

The Packers are a (relatively) heavy favorite at -4.5. None of our NFL experts picks went towards New Orleans straight-up, and only Clark Judge and I selected the Saints against the spread. I don't want to say that Clark and I came out firing last year and you should bet on the Saints, but Clark and I came out firing last year. You should bet on the Saints.

Unfortunately, there are no stats on-hand to say "hey, the Packers and Saints can really throw the ball well" just quite yet. At least not for this season anyway. But, it's quite interesting that the Saints and Packers are very close in Football Outsiders' projections for the 2011 season. Green Bay's defensive DVOA is nearly elite (like, almost top-six) and a very stout good offense (like, almost top-10).

New Orleans doesn't project to having a particularly impressive defense, but their offensive DVOA is elite, ranking in the top-five.

3. Key Matchup to Watch
With that nerdiness in mind, perhaps the best matchup to pick is Aaron Rodgers vs. Greg Williams. Look, Rodgers may not like fancy GQ photospreads, but he's a very talented quarterback who, as Ryan and I mentioned above, has gotten very good at moving quickly through his progressions. Add in his athleticism and unbelievable arm and, yeah, he's very good at football and very difficult to contain.

That's where Williams -- a fiery fella in his own right -- comes in. If you want to beat Rodgers, you have to put him on the ground. And if you want to put Rodgers on the ground, you have to blitz him, unless you can generate enough pass rush from your defensive line to get through Green Bay's offensive front. (Good luck with that.)

"The one thing about Aaron Rodgers that’s most impressive is that he was the best quarterback last year against the blitz and the pressure," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "He gets the ball out of his hand quick, so we've got to find ways to create some things."

Given that defensive end Will Smith is suspended for this game, there's an even bigger onus on Williams to generate pressure on Rodgers from somewhere other than straight-up defensive fronts.

If he can put Rodgers on his butt early, the Saints will be able to scale this thing back from a full-on shoot-out. If not, we could see a lot of Packers players doing their best Michael Jackson impersonations into the end zone.

4. Potentially Relevant YouTube
This is the first time in Thursday night Kickoff Weekend history that the past two defending Super Bowl winners are playing to open up the season and, frankly, I love it. Of course it doesn't really hurt that it's the Saints and Packers, which should provide fireworks on both sides of the ball. To honor their recent success, as well as Freddie Mercury's recent would-have-been birthday, why don't we bring back some Queen to our previews?



5. The Packers will win if ...
Rodgers can stay on his feet. The lasting reminder of Rodgers, for anyone who watched the 2010 playoffs, is that he's untouchable. And his mobility does make it hard to bring him down. But if you'll recall, Rodgers and the Packers looked like they were going to miss the playoffs when the quarterback had to sit out against New England -- a game Green Bay nearly won with Matt Flynn under center -- last year, so it's not unheard of for Rodgers to get knocked around a bit.

If he can stay on his feet and remain untouched during most of Thursday night's game, though, he'll end up finding Jennings, Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver and James Jones and Jordy Nelson plenty of times, and probably end up giving Williams a new highlight reel to show his defense.

6. The Saints will win if ...
They can establish the run and keep Green Bay's talented linebackers from attacking too much. It's something that's doable -- the Packers ranked just 24th in the NFL in rush defense in 2010. But despite the stereotype that the Saints are a passing team, they truly found success (and a Super Bowl victory) in 2009 by running the ball extremely well, as they finished sixth in the NFL with 131.6 yards per game on the ground.

That dipped off tremendously last year, which is precisely why they jumped up in the draft to grab Mark Ingram. If he, starter Pierre Thomas and the speedy Darren Sproles can generate a substantial ground attack, the Saints have a very good shot at prevailing.

"There’ll be plenty of touches not only for Pierre, but for Mark and Darren," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "And it’s our job to mix those up and also to let the running back get comfortable and get in a rhythm when he's in the game."

That (those?) comfort zone(s) will be key for a potential Saints win.

7. Prediction: Packers 24, Saints 21

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Posted on: May 3, 2011 7:37 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2011 7:38 pm
 

NFC North draft truths revealed

Posted by Andy Benoit

One of the best things about the draft is that from it we can find out what teams really think about their current players. Excluding examples of teams filling obvious needs, here are some of the more revealing draft picks from 2011, with a quick blurb of what the team was really saying by making this pick.

Chicago Bears

1st round, Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Come on, it’s obvious: our offensive tackles stink and former first-round pick Chris Williams will be at guard for the long haul.
 
3rd round, Chris Conte, FS, California
What can we say? For some reason we’ve never totally trusted Danieal Manning.
 
5th round, Nathan Enderle, QB, Idaho
Decent play off the bench in the NFC Championship isn’t enough to completely sell us on Caleb Hanie. We at least want some options at backup quarterback for now.
 C. Ponder (US Presswire)
Detroit Lions

2nd round, Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois
If he pans out, Jahvid Best will become like Jamaal Charles, not Chris Johnson. (i.e. he needs someone to share the load.)
 
Green Bay Packers

2nd Round, Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky
We want to sign RFA James Jones long-term but have a feeling he’ll ask for too much money. And even if we can sign Jones, Donald Driver is closer to the end than you think.

Minnesota Vikings

1st round, Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
We like this quarterback (and no team picking in the twenties would trade with us).
 
2nd round, Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
Visanthe Shiancoe is a nice player, but ultimately we consider him part of the “Favre era”.

Check back throughout the week for other division’s Draft Truths Revealed. To see all Draft Truths Revealed, click the “Draft Truths” tag.

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