Each week, Press-Gazette Media will look at national stories involving the Green Bay Packers and their opponents.
What did Mike McCarthy bring to the Packers’ offense when he resumed calling plays Sunday against the Cowboys? Andy Benoit of The MMQB cites examples of McCarthy “building offense – calling plays that worked off previous plays and that set up future plays. It’s what good offenses do and, frankly, it wasn’t common enough under (Tom) Clements, where the Packers seemed to run one isolated play after another.” Benoit also writes the Packers had been too dependent on Aaron Rodgers’ “sandlot playmaking” and that the star quarterback is helped by having discipline imposed on him through a play’s design.
The Cowboys blew a chance to jump ahead of the Packers on their first drive Sunday when Matt Cassel’s third-and-goal pass intended for Dez Bryant was intercepted by Sam Shields in the end zone. As Bob Sturm of the Dallas Morning News writes, “the throw was far from perfect. But, the catch effort was very poor as well. I think Dez has to catch this and I assume he feels the same way.”
What a difference two weeks – and two victories – can make. After Week 12 of the NFL season, the Packers had only a 46 percent chance of winning the NFC North, according to the folks at FiveThirtyEight.com, while the Vikings’ odds were put at 50 percent. Now, after two Packers victories and two Vikings defeats, Green Bay (9-4) has a 73 percent chance of winning the division, compared to 27 percent for Minnesota (8-5), even though both teams still can secure the title by winning out. However, the Packers’ odds of winning the Super Bowl climbed only slightly (6 percent, from 5 percent) and they’ve been bypassed by the surging Seahawks, who now are being given 7 percent odds of winning the championship (up from 3 percent).
Just as the Packers could wind up with a first-round playoff rematch against the Vikings after hosting them in the regular-season finale, the Cardinals (11-2) could host two playoff games that would mirror the final two games of their season. As Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic notes, if the Cardinals get the No. 2 seed, they could host the Packers in their playoff opener and then the defending NFC champion Seahawks in the title game (assuming Seattle gets past presumptive top seed Carolina). And Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has made it clear he doesn’t like the idea of Arizona season-ticket holders diminishing his team’s home-field advantage by selling their seats to fans of the Packers or other opponents.
A week after the Vikings lost 23-20 last Thursday at Arizona, offensive coordinator Norv Turner defended the final play, in which quarterback Teddy Bridgewater took a sack as time ran out with Minnesota in range of a possible game-tying field goal. “We’ve got a lot of sideline plays,” Turner said, according to Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “This is one that’s worked for us last year, worked for us in the past. We never have a sideline play where we don’t have a quick outlet. (Running back) Adrian (Peterson) was the quick outlet. The way they defended that play, if we had to do it again, we would have thrown the ball over Adrian’s head and kicked the field goal. … I think everyone will learn from that play.”