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Packers Morning Buzz: Green Bay's biggest weakness, team to avoid in playoffs

Stu Courtney
Packers News

Welcome to your Morning Buzz, rounding up news and views regarding the Green Bay Packers from around the web and here at PackersNews.com.

We'll start with Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com writing about "playoff kryptonite": postseason contenders' biggest weakness and the opponent they should want to avoid. For the Packers, the weakness is opposing teams' pass rushes, and the team they need to avoid comes as no surprise.

epa08023422 Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (R) gets sacked by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead (L) during the first half of the NFL American Football game between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, USA, 24 November 2019.  EPA-EFE/JOHN G. MABANGLO

Barnwell writes:

Green Bay Packers (11-3)

Playoff kryptonite: Great pass rushes

Green Bay's two significant losses this season have come in games where it was torn apart by dominant defensive lines. As I wrote about earlier this year, the Chargers were able to put the Packers' offense into safe mode by moving Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram inside to go up against the weaker pass-protecting elements of the Packers' line. The Chargers eventually won that game 26-11.

I thought the 49ers might do the same with Bosa's little brother three weeks later, but it turned out they didn't really need Nick to move to the interior. With Bryan Bulaga going down injured in the first quarter, the 49ers were able to harass Rodgers from just about anywhere they wanted. Fred Warner strip-sacked Rodgers on the first third down of the game to hand the 49ers a short field, Tevin Coleman scored on the next play, and a 37-8 rout was on.

Team to avoid: San Francisco 49ers

Not a surprise, right? Even with Dee Ford sidelined for most of the season, the 49ers can boast three wildly productive pass-rushers in Bosa, DeForest Buckner and former first-round pick Arik Armstead, who has a team-high 10 sacks. A balky hamstring continues to sideline Ford, with the former Chiefs star having played just four defensive snaps since Week 11, but he should be back for a possible postseason rematch between these teams in the divisional round.

One other concern for the Packers that reared its head in the first matchup is that the Packers seem to rely upon scoring early, given how their offense tends to shut down as the game goes along. Perhaps owing to whatever plays Matt LaFleur scripts early in contests, they have averaged 3.4 points per possession on drives starting in the first quarter, the third-best rate in football. On their other drives, they have averaged just 1.9 points per possession, which ranks 16th.

The 49ers haven't had the same sort of splits -- they rank 10th in points allowed per drive on defense in the first quarter and third in the NFL afterward -- but they shut out the Packers on four first-quarter drives when these two teams played and held Rodgers & Co. to just eight points afterward.

You can read the entire story here:

Will Vikings star running back Dalvin Cook be able to play against the Packers despite shoulder and chest injuries? Nobody was saying Thursday:

Cook seemed bemused by all the fuss over his status:

Cook's injury figures to put even more pressure on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is 0-8 in his career in Monday Night Football games:

ESPN's Rob Demovsky writes about the matchup of Packers cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Kevin King vs. Vikings receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen:

Aaron Rodgers cashed in when the Packers clinched a playoff berth, with more bonuses on tap if the Packers win in the postseason:

Cynthia Frelund of NFL.com calculates the percentage chance of each NFC contender earning the No. 1 seed.

Frelund writes of the Packers:

Green Bay Packers: 11.5%

Record: 11-3, currently No. 2 seed.
Week 16 at MIN: GB wins in 52.4 percent of simulations.
Week 17 at DET: GB wins in 78.2 percent of simulations.
Super Bowl chances if No. 1 seed: 23.0 percent.
Super Bowl chances if wild-card team: 10.4 percent.
Net difference: -12.6 percentage points.

Fun fact: When under pressure over the past two seasons, Aaron Rodgers has thrown zero interceptions and seven touchdown passes, per Next Gen Stats. What's even more predictive of success is that Rodgers has been pressured at the fourth-lowest rate of any quarterback this season (19.6 percent), which is a good thing, because as amazing as that TD-to-INT ratio under pressure is, Rodgers' completion percentage under pressure is only 38.8 this season, fourth-lowest among qualified QBs. On deep passes, however, Rodgers ranks second in the NFL with a 122.7 passer rating (8:0 TD-to-INT ratio). My model loves the upside the Packers defense can provide. Next Gen Stats counts the Packers as pressuring opposing QBs on 32.2 percent of dropbacks (second best in the NFL), with Za'Darius Smith amassing 60 QB pressures this season (second most in NFL). My model adds that measurements show this pressure is the fifth-most disruptive, in terms of the Packers' ability to get within the five-foot halo around opposing QBs.

You can read Frelund's entire analysis here:

And finally: Former Packers receiver James Jones of the NFL Network isn't a fan of former Patriots star Willie McGinest giving his NFC seeding projections:

Contact Stu Courtney at (920) 431-8377 or scourtney@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stucourt