With the end of the postseason run for the Packers their draft position is set. Thanks to Baltimore's win over Denver the Packers nail down pick number 26 for April's draft. If you want to get an early jump on scouting, ESPN has Auburn defensive end Corey Lemonier ranked as their 26th best player. CBS Sports' NFL Draft Scout puts Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan at number 26. Below is the updated draft order:
The Smiths The playmaking outside linebacker Aldon Smith registered 19.5 sacks in 2012 but his production dropped when defensive end Justin Smith was lost with a tricep injury. The defensive end is set to return tonight and that will not only give a boost to thr 49ers run defense but should open things up for the linebacker who must be accounted for on every play.
The theme from Green Bay this week has been how much both the Packers and 49ers have changed since their Week One meeting. San Francisco made a quarterback change while the Packers offense evolved from a high-flying one-dimensional offense to a more balance and physical approach.
Wild Card Weekend is in the books without any major surprises but plenty of storylines. On the AFC side both Houston and Baltimore were sliding into the playoffs but thanks to solid defense both teams are moving on to the divisional round. Baltimore-Denver and Houston-New England will both be rematches of key late season contests won by the Broncos and Patriots.
Red Zone Mistakes In the first meeting between the two teams Minnesota's Christian Ponder threw two red zone interceptions. Then in Week 17 the Packers committed two defensive penalties on third down inside the red zone, allowing Minnesota to score a touchdown both times. The team that makes red zone mistakes will lose.
One of the intriguing storylines of the Packers-Vikings Wild Card game is the fact that these two teams just met in Week 17. Facing a divisional foe is always difficult and that task is made even more difficult when you factor in the pressures of the postseason.
All Day again Of course Adrian Peterson will be the focal point as he tries to break the single season rushing record. But Peterson might find it difficult to duplicate his performance against the Packers from December 2nd as both Clay Matthews and C.J. Wilson, who both missed the previous meeting, will be on the field today.
CJ1K You don't think of Tennessee as an explosive offense but running back Chris Johnson can still rip off big runs including his 94 yarder against the Jets Monday night. Johnson has three scores of 80+ yards this year and while he doesn't put up the same yardage totals as he did in 2009-2010 his healthy 4.8 yards per carry would suggest he is still a threat.
Three headed backfield Chicago ranks 12th in run defense but they've been ripped apart the last five weeks. While the Packers don't have a Peterson or a Lynch in the backfield the trio of Alex Green, DuJuan Harris and Ryan Grant can hold their own. The Packers want to be balanced and that should continue today
Bowl season kicks off on Saturday with the usual mix of lower-tier bowls. But as we get closer to and into January the bowls get bigger. Of course there's always focus on the Rose, Fiesta, etc. but here's five non-BCS games that are worth tuning in for:
This has been one strange year in college football and the Heisman Trophy race has been one of the most wide open I can remember. First, USC's Matt Barkley was the front runner but he quickly fizzled out. Then along came West Virginia's Geno Smith but he couldn't build any momentum after a monster performance against Baylor.
All season I'd been saying that the Packers wouldn't bring back Ryan Grant. Well, color me surprised. But the move became necessary when news broke that the James Starks knee injury could sideline him for the rest of the season. When Cedric Benson went down people asked if the Packers would bring in Grant. I didn't think that was a possibility. I felt it spoke volumes that Grant wasn't able to stick with any team and when the Packers needed to pick up a back in August they went with Benson over Grant.
...win within the division. We've been preaching it for awhile now and yesterday's Packers win was the most recent example. Regardless of what was going to happen in Chicago the Packers controlled their destiny. Now they're just two games away from winning the NFC North. And by beating Minnesota not only did the Packers place two games between themselves and the Vikings but Minnesota is now teetering on the brink of playoff elimination.