Cheesehead TV's Writers Share Their Expectations and Thoughts on the Playoffs

A group of CHTV writers provide their thoughts and predictions for the playoffs.

We're just two days away from the most glorious time of year, the NFL playoffs! Even though the Packers don't play until next weekend, I wanted to gather some thoughts from fellow Cheesehead TV writers to see where our collective heads are at regarding the Packers' chances and how we expect the next few weeks to play out.

I asked CHTV writers to submit their responses to some questions and to elaborate as they liked. Participants were myself, Sarah Kelliher, "Jersey" Al Bracco, Maggie Loney, Jason Perone, Ryne Ryskoski and Brandon Carwile. 

Here's a collection of our thoughts!

On the Packers' odds, and a Super Bowl matchup

The first question I asked was "How far do you believe the Packers will advance in the playoffs?" Oddly enough, every single one of us gave the same answer--to the NFC Championship, but no farther. All seven of us also had the Packers playing at San Francisco in that game.

Interestingly, while five of seven of us said the Packers' biggest obstacle to a Super Bowl appearance was the 49ers, two of us (Sarah and Brandon) said it would be the Saints.

While we were unanimous in predicting the 49ers would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, thoughts as to who will represent the AFC were a bit more varied. The most common prediction was a Ravens/49ers rematch, which was predicted by Jason, Al, Maggie and Brandon. Sarah and I both believe the Chiefs will represent the AFC, while Ryne is the only one of us who's not doubting the Patriots, predicting them to go to their fourth Super Bowl in a row and fifth in six years.

General feelings about the Packers

Here's where things start to get interesting.

I wanted to know how people generally felt about the Packers in four phases of the game: offense, defense, special teams and coaching. I asked respondents to rank their confidence level in each phase on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being "GREAT!!"

OFFENSE

Confidence in the offense is generally shaky. Maggie and Sarah were the most positive respondents about the offense, both responding with a 7. But even their optimism could not be considered unbridled.

Said Sarah: "When the Packers' offense is on, I'm confident, but with inconsistency haunting them all season I can only hope they have it together heading into the post-season." 

Maggie said, "I think the offense is finding ways to win games. If they can put something together more consistently, they can be dangerous."

Al and Brandon both fell in the middle of the spectrum, giving a 6 as their offensive confidence score. Al pointed to the Packers' refusal to "stay with what seems to work," as well as the Packers' reluctance to go up tempo and the Packers' insistence on forcing explosive plays as key sources of his frustration. Brandon finds a lot of hope in the Packers' running game, especially in comparison to the disaster that was the team's running game heading into the 2016 playoffs. "However," he says, "If the run game is an 8, then the passing attack must be lacking. At least part of it is Aaron Rodgers throwing a better ball. I'm optimistic."

The biggest pessimists of the bunch regarding offense were myself, Jason and Ryne, all of whom responded with 5s. Jason says the offense doesn't "exude much confidence," and Ryne says that while Rodgers can still make great throws when needed, he "hasn't been able to do thos ethings as consistently as we've seen in the past." Still, Ryne says, "if he comes alive and gets hot like I believe he will, then a Super Bowl run is not out of the question."

My feeling with the offense is simple: it ultimately comes down to Rodgers. If he's willing to play within the offense, take what the defense is giving him, make underneath throws and play in rhythm, this team can go a long way, especially when you consider the strength of the running game. The issue is consistency; it's been lacking in a major way, and it's hard to have much confidence when you never know which offense you're going to get.

DEFENSE

Confidence in the defense is much higher across the board. Six of the seven of us answered "8," and Maggie was even more optimistic, with a "9." Here are some samplings of people's thoughts:

Sarah: "Although they've been exposed in the run game, the Packers' defense has made crucial stops when they need to in big moments."

Jason: "If the Packers are going to surprise us and achieve more, the defense will be the reason why."

Al: "The pressure on quarterbacks has been a major improvement, but if they don't get there, I worry about good QBs picking apart the secondary, especially with their tight ends."

Ryne: "The Smiths and KC  [Kenny Clark] are the key here. If they can get penetration and disrupt opposing quarterbacks (especially in Lambeau), then it will be hard to score over 21 points."

Maggie: "They're giving up some yardage again, but they're limiting points scored, which is the big thing. Now they have to keep it up."

Brandon: "[I feel] better than I did midseason... they've continued to get sacks and force turnovers, which are huge on the big stage. Every time I thought their luck would run out it hasn't."

My feelings: opponents aside, the Packers are playing defense as well as anyone else in the league over the last month and a half or so. If the defense that we saw in Minnesota shows up against playoff-caliber opponents, then we're looking at a potential championship football team. That's how important this defense is to this team, and how improved they are over last season.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The feelings about special teams are generally positive, ranging from a couple "7" responses to even a "10" from Maggie, who says "Crosby is having a monstrous season and has proven to be clutch. JK Scott punted great against Detroit,a nd Ervin has been Gute's best midseason pickup as the Packers' GM."

The rest of us mostly used this opportunity to display our hyped-up affection for Tyler Ervin, so, you know, we're feeling pretty good here.

COACHING

We were generally optimistic about the team's coaching. The most pessimistic here was Maggie, who gave a 7. Myself, Sarah, Al, Jason and Ryne gave 8s, and Brandon gave a 9. Here are some thoughts:

Sarah: "I trust LaFleur. Yes, this is his first playoffs as a head coach but look at what he's done so far. A lot of times the plays are there, the calls are right, it's the execution that isn't quite clicking. I believe he can help this team go far if they continue to believe in him."

Al: "My only concern is the importance LaFleur puts on "explosives" feeds into Rodgers' love of big plays. Failed big plays are usually what stall drives for the Packers. I wish LaFleur would focus on sustaining drives. No issues with Pettine; he's using his personnel to their strengths."

Ryne: "We can't tell if the offense's peculiar play calling at times is LaFleur's or Rodgers' fault, but they always seem to put it together at the right time. If they can put together a game plan that doesn't include mindless 30-yard bombs every three plays to anyone not named Davante Adams, then there should be lots of sustained success."

Maggie: "LaFleur seems like he's been making great second half adjustments all season."

Brandon: "If Matt LaFleur isn't in the conversation for Coach of the Year, just throw the award out."

As for me, I've been very impressed with LaFleur this year. Pettine was a known commodity; I expected him to improve the defense significantly with the new players added this year, and he's delivered. But LaFleur was almost entirely an unknown, and I've really appreciated his calm demeanor and his willingness to empower the players to be themselves. He's not an intense figure on the sidelines by any means, but I think we're past the era in the NFL where those are the coaches finding the most success. Can he improve? Absolutely, but the early returns are extremely promising.

X-Factors

The next question I asked was, "Who or what do you see being an X-factor in the Packers' playoff run?" Think, for example, James Starks in the Super Bowl run a few years ago.

Responses here were varied.

Sarah: "The Packers' defense and Aaron Jones will be the biggest game changers."

Al: "Using the running backs in the passing game more creatively than just repetitive wheel routes. The defensive line must step up; they will likely be facing one of the league's best OLs from New Orleans."

Ryne: "Absolutely Aaron Rodgers. Like I said before, if he can get hot and hit receivers in stride consistently, then a Super Bowl run is not only a possibility, it's likely."

Maggie: "Aaron Jones and Za'Darius Smith"

Brandon: "The entire receiving corps."

For me, I have to agree with Ryne. The performance of most of the rest of the team has been fairly consistent and predictable. It's surprisingly Rodgers who has been the most up and down. He's seen some outrageous highs and lows throughout this year. For the Packers to go far, he has to play more consistently. If he hits the open player and plays in the rhythm of the offense, this team has a shot, complemented by strong defense and running.

What are you looking forward to?

I next asked, "What are you most looking forward to about this postseason for the Packers?"

Almost all of us mentioned, to some degree, how exciting it is to have playoff football at Lambeau again. I know Jason has already booked a hotel for conference championship weekend, so hopefully luck is in his favor! Here are some other thoughts people had:

Sarah: "Give me clutch Rodgers, prime time Za'Darius Smith and bring that trophy back home!!"

Al: "The cold, crisp air of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and hopefully a little snow in Lambeau."

Ryne: "Absolutely having a playoff game in January Lambeau. There's nothing quite like it."

Maggie: "Giving Rodgers a shot at home field in the playoffs. He's lost too many close ones on the road."

Brandon: "A highly motivated Rodgers."

I'm personally looking forward to potentially seeing a first-ever Rodgers/Brees postseason matchup. Two of the all-time greats have somehow never met in the playoffs despite all their teams' success over the last decade-plus. Get Brees out of that cozy stadium and into the chilly night air of Green Bay, and I think we can have some fun.

Final thoughts

Here are some parting thoughts from our respondents.

Sarah: "The talk of the season is that the Packers win, but they win ugly. I would love for them to win every game, ugly or not, but I'm really hoping they can find a way to make things easier for themselves in the playoffs. This team has the talent, staff and belief to do it, but they can't beat themselves along the way. Hoping for the best and as always... Go Pack Go!"

Ryne: "My reasoning for having the Packers only reach the NFCCG is 100% predicated on the assumption that the 49ers reach the NFCCG as well. Ithink their defense is just too good for Green Bay to overcome. If GB can avoid San Fran, then I think GB will get to the Super Bowl."

As for me, I'm just hyped for playoff football involving the Packers. It's been nearly three years since the debacle in Atlanta, and there have been massive shifts in the organization since that day. A young new coach with a bright future, a new GM with a completely different team building philosophies, some actual damn FREE AGENT SIGNINGS that have paid off in a big way, a vastly improved defense... yeesh. The Packers weren't supposed to be here this year, but here they are. Expectations are low, but if they can somehow break through and get to a Super Bowl, it will be truly something special, especially when you consider this team is tracking to only get better next season.

 

Thanks to all our respondents, and cheers to the Packers finally being back in the playoffs. GO PACK GO!

__________________________

Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Comments (27)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Cubbygold's picture

January 02, 2020 at 03:39 pm

Great article Tim, thanks for putting it together.

I think the X factor for a GB super bowl is Lazard, he seems to be the missing ingredient. Hope they get him even more involved than he has been in recent weeks.

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Guam's picture

January 02, 2020 at 03:52 pm

Raven Greene could be an X-factor too. The Packer's run defense was much better with him than without him.

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Hematite's picture

January 03, 2020 at 11:24 am

I think a lot of people are putting too much faith in Raven Greene making a difference on defense.
The kid hasn't played for at least 15 weeks.
I'm thinking that he could possibly make a difference on special teams.
Kudos to him if he can come in and help the defense but I'm not banking on it.

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Guam's picture

January 02, 2020 at 03:49 pm

I share the writers fear of SF - that is a bad matchup for the Packers. The only good news is if the wild cards play out as expected, not only does Green Bay get New Orleans, but SF gets Seattle again. Seattle beat SF in San Francisco and lost in the final mismanaged seconds in Seattle. It is not a given SF gets by Seattle in the rubber match. I think the Packers could take Seattle at Lambeau!

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

January 02, 2020 at 04:42 pm

'''Al pointed to the Packers' refusal to "stay with what seems to work," as well as the Packers' reluctance to go up tempo and the Packers' insistence on forcing explosive plays as key sources of his frustration." '''

Indeed. Once they are successful on a concept it seams to disappear from the play sheet.

Maybe it's Dusty's fault. Telling us all about the inner workings of MLFs planning...

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JQ's picture

January 02, 2020 at 05:40 pm

Thanks for the summary! Fun to read!

Some of my random musings:

On offense-Tight end play. SOMEBODY, or collectively, the Packer offense would benefit greatly from some catches by their fleet of Tight Ends. Marcedes has been consistently solid in the run game, but beyond that…very spotty play indeed.
I also hope Vitale and Jamaal are back for the playoffs. Wouldn’t it be amazing if some plays were run for DV?!

Relative to in-season acquisitions —> Gute picking up Jared Veldheer was another masterful move. He plugged the hole when Bulaga went down against the Kittens. Excellent playoff insurance.

Defensively-It would be great if “potential pics” turned into actual interceptions for the young DBs. Martinez was FINALLY able to make a key I-N-T. Maybe some mojo, (or maybe a pair of those sticky WR gloves) will help!

Special Teams- Two Words…Mason Crosby

Coaching-Regardless of playoff results, I’m excited about the transformation undergone by the Packers this year. LaFleur’s hiring was a big part of that, as well as some spectacular signings by Gutekunst! Lafleur has undergone some growing pains, like anybody new to a challenging new job will experience. But as posted previously, he ought to be a strong candidate for Coach of the Year! 

I knew the Packers would be improved this year, but my MOST OPTIMISTIC estimate was maybe 10 wins, and the NFC North. Needless to say 13-3, and SWEEPING the North! Are you kidding me?! As far as I’m concerned, Green Bay is playing with house money with every additional game. GO PACKERS!

PS: On the other NFC teams-I’m a little surprised that none of the PC staff even mentioned the possibility that minnesota could beat New Orleans. Agreed it’s a daunting task to go into the Super Dome and win that game, and I expect The Saints to prevail. BUT every team in the NFC has its flaws, and the Queen defense in no joke. If Dalvin Cook is mostly healthy, this game could be quite interesting. GO SAINTS!

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Hematite's picture

January 03, 2020 at 11:33 am

I'm looking forward to the Saints/Vikings game as the best game of the weekend.
I'm hoping for a Saints win.
I don't want to play the Vikings for a third time, those barbarians scare me.

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MWendlandt's picture

January 04, 2020 at 01:40 pm

Only way we'd see Minnesota again would be the NFC Championship. As the lowest seed, if they beat New Orleans, they're on the way to San Francisco.

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Lare's picture

January 02, 2020 at 06:03 pm

IMO, the key to the Packers in the playoffs is MLF identifying and doing what works. If the long pass isn't working- quit trying it!! If passes to Graham, Allison & MVS aren't working- quit throwing it to them!! If playing passive on defense isn't working- then get aggressive!!

The time for assuaging egos & setting up plays for the future is past. You win or you go home now, so concentrate on what helps you win.

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fastmoving's picture

January 03, 2020 at 05:04 am

So you say if AR doesnt work quit him???
Other than that, besides of Lazard and Graham, AR does not throw catchable passes a lot to anyone other than Adams.

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Bure9620's picture

January 02, 2020 at 07:11 pm

The X-Factor to me is the Packers secondary. Rodgers simply is who is now, can make some great throws, misses several too. But Rodgers has become, dare I say it, more of a game manager. Jones and Adams give the offense enough of what it needs for this team to get to the promised land.

The Packers have spent huge draft capital into their Secondary with Jaire Alexander, Darnell Savage and Kevin King and also signing Amos in FA. I see this Backfield consistently getting better in recent weeks and I do think they are not far from being an elite unit. Frankly, they need to be as this is where the emphasis has been in the draft. They just need to finish. Jaire is crazy talented, Gute said he feels Savage is a potential "game changing player, we had to have him," after trading back up in the first to get him. King has been very good in spurts as well. These 3 need to be lockdown. Add in the Veteran steadiness of Tramon and the breakout of Chandon Sullivan (whom has been quietly excellent.) This unit needs to shut down Brees, and likely Garappolo. This unit has the most potential of any and the most draft capital spent of any and it is clear Gute has made the secondary his top priority thus far. If they ball out, shut down passing games and force turnovers, look out.

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Lphill's picture

January 02, 2020 at 08:03 pm

Packers had a receiver in today expected to be signed, Saints interested also , so far no word, apparently one of the best Canadian player , the season ended and he was given permission to pursue the NFL .Reggie Begelton.

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Qoojo's picture

January 02, 2020 at 08:58 pm

I read that it is a futures contract.

"When a player is signed to a reserve/future contract that means they are being signed for the upcoming season. "

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Qoojo's picture

January 02, 2020 at 08:09 pm

I agree with making it as far as the NFC championship where SF's defensive front 7 ends their hopes. Of course, Saints are very good, and it's no easy game.

I think the X-factor is Rodgers accepting short passes and moving the chains. If he does that, then I like their chances. Otherwise, it's on to next year and the draft.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 02, 2020 at 10:26 pm

X-Factor: Jace Sternberger.

GB is getting so little out of the TE position and out of its receivers as a whole after Adams and Lazard. Sternberger doesn't have to resemble Kittle to make a big difference. It doesn't stretch my imagination much at all to think GB could get some decent blocking and 3 or 4 receptions for a nice chunk of yardage per game (perhaps 40 to 60 yds) from Sternberger in the playoff games. Not game, singular.

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 02, 2020 at 10:55 pm

They should feed him a little crossing route to get his confidence up. But honestly i dont think he is ready for the big stage yet. He had that one drop in the endzone a few weeks back, he looked like he had flippers instead of hands on that play.

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Hematite's picture

January 03, 2020 at 11:40 am

I'm just not feeling it regarding Sternberger.
Perhaps in a year or two.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 02, 2020 at 10:33 pm

Just for Old School: I do realize that WR blocking is important.

https://twitter.com/The_Green_Gold/status/1210700760180252672

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PAPackerbacker's picture

January 03, 2020 at 05:20 am

The X factor for me is converting on 3rd down. Take what the defense gives you and move the sticks. Quit throwing deep balls when all you need is 2 or 3 yards to convert 3rd down and keep the offense on the field. And go to the hurry up offense more instead of running the clock down to zero when the ball is snapped. Wear down opposing defenses. Get the running backs and tight ends involved in the short passing game more and get the ball out quickly.

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Philarod's picture

January 03, 2020 at 07:30 am

It's interesting that everyone surveyed had GB winning the division game (at home, presumably versus NO) and then lose in the NFCC game - presumably at SF.

While this would my guess as well, the Pack is perfectly capable of winning or losing in either round - just surprised that everyone agreed with this...including me.

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Houndog's picture

January 03, 2020 at 08:28 am

Great article, loved all the different perspectives.
The key (in my mind) to all of this is to play their best football of the year in all phases, offense, defense, and Special Teams.
LaFleur, Rodgers and company need to cut back on the 30-40 yard bombs and take first downs instead. Keeping the ball moving and (even if it comes to) field goals will count in the play-off, punts only count for the other team. They've played some of their best football when they play up tempo and maybe that's a key, Rodgers has always been a master of that. Take the dink and dunk first downs, draw the defense up, then go long when it's available, but one way or another keep the ball and score!
On 'D' everyone needs to play to their ability, Clark and Z Smith were one man wrecking crews at Minny and then considerably less in Detroit. We need more than that! The D-backs I think are key, getting Raven Greene back won't hurt (hoping he's REALLY ready), and from what I've seen in recent weeks I'm hoping that maybe the old man, Tramon Williams, can give us something special.

Last but not least, if they play well and get beat, they get beat, they've done better this year that most of us expected! But PLEASE play like you want it, play like you've been there! The biggest problem I have with this season has been what seemed to be half-hearted, sleep-walking, and inconsistent performances. The time for that has passed!

Question: Rodgers, Crosby, and Tramon Williams were on the 2010 SB team, who is the fourth member remaining?

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TimBackes's picture

January 03, 2020 at 09:45 am

Bulaga would be the fourth remaining member.

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PAPackerbacker's picture

January 03, 2020 at 06:11 pm

I totally agree with what you posted here. Time for the half-hearted, sleep walking and inconsistent performances is over. That attitude will not work against playoff caliber teams. It's time to get aggressive and play 60 minutes of football. The time is now. There is no time to regroup for the next game.

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NMPF's picture

January 03, 2020 at 11:52 am

It's like walking into a casino and with your 1st $20 you hit $1000. We are playing on the proverbial house money. Would not be surprised at a quick out or a SB run. Besides James Jones who picked a 13-3 season in Aug. the expectations have been either met or exceeded. Come 1/12/19 "some tasty waves and a cool buzz is all i need." Go Pack Go!

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Hematite's picture

January 03, 2020 at 11:52 am

Excellent article!
I'm riding with Al all the way.

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LASVEGAS-TOM's picture

January 03, 2020 at 03:16 pm

You guy's can talk about SF all you want. At this point I hope GB would play them in the Championship game. Why?? Everybody in the world is betting on them. I was at GVR the other night & I told a guy at the bar & the bar tender not to over look GB. They couldn't stop laughing at me. The money is off of GB. If they make the Championship game, & it's against NO, or SF, I'm going to bet GB with both fists. I'm more worried about Minn, Philly, & Seattle. Depending on the line, GB would have all the $$$ on their back. That's an automatic loss. NO, & SF definitely scare me, but I'd rather play them early than late. If things go the way they should, we'll be Dogs all the way. If we are a Favorite, -4 or less it's over. That's how I see it at this point. I got GB at 9-1. GB is dropping. Somebody thinks the way I am. GB is by No Means a Lock for anything, but this much I can tell all the GB fans out there. If you are going to bet GB, Bet them when the CASH is off of them, not on them. Las Vegas will take the majority of the money throughout these playoffs & the SB. They will also set the line, so they get the Betting the way they want it. Over the years, they've Fooled a lot of people, but most of the time they didn't Fool me. GO PACK GO.
LVT

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