You can file this under, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” It’s long been common knowledge that the Green Bay Packers and WR Greg Jennings were going to part ways following this season. Jennings is still a really nice player, but the Packers have the likes of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb on the roster and don’t need to sink more money into that position.
But, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com is hearing that the team is considering holding onto Jennings via the franchise tag.
“Interesting to hear the #Packers are still considering franchising Greg Jennings. Thought that ship had sailed. Apparently not,” Rapoport tweets.
Who knows what will happen, but at OTR, we believe all of the reports and rumors this time of year that are related to the Combine, draft and free agency. As David St. Hubbins famously proclaimed, “I believe everything I read, which makes me more of a selective human than someone who doesn’t believe anything.” He’s spot on.
Conventional wisdom still has Jennings signing a deal with the Miami Dolphins. They desperately need a wide receiver (several of them actually) and Jennings has a previous working relationship with Joe Philbin.
It would cost the Packers about $10 million to slap Jennings with the tag. And we found that number on the internet, so you can write that down in pen.
And that’s that. Charles Woodson joined the Green Bay Packers in 2006 and it looks like his tenure with the team will end following the 2012 season. Woodson’s agent, Carl Poston, tells Ian Rapaport of NFL.com that the Packers will release him.
“Carl Poston, Charles Woodson’s agent, tells me: “They’re getting ready to release him. It’s part of the business.”, Rapaport tweets.
Woodson is 37-years old and can’t run like he used to. And he was scheduled to make some $10 million next year, which is way too much money for his current skill set. He could re-negotiate with the Packers, but we’re hearing that that isn’t likely right now.
Regardless, someone will kick his tires.
Much like the last three seasons, a quarterback was the most dominate presence in this year's playoffs. While Jacoby Jones had a valid argument for Super Bowl MVP honors, Joe Flacco was the single most important player during the postseason. Peyton Manning won the Comeback Player of the Year award and finished second in the MVP voting. But neither Flacco nor Manning was the best quarterback in the league this year. For a second straight year Aaron Rodgers was the best signal caller. He is the best quarterback in the NFL.
The goal of a quarterback is simple. Throw a lot of touchdowns, complete a high percentage of passes, lead your team to victory and minimize mistakes. Rodgers is the epitome of that definition. No quarterback has won more regular season games than Rodgers the last two seasons. He leads the league in QB Rating during that span, is second in touchdowns thrown, has easily the fewest interceptions of any starter, and has completed the highest percentage of passes.
Rodgers was named NFL MVP in 2011 after receiving 48 of 50 first place votes. While leading the Packers to a 15-1 regular season, Rodgers passed for 45 touchdowns while being intercepted only six times. He was fifth in the league in total passing yards, but led the NFL in yards per attempt. His 122.5 QB Rating is the highest of all time.
This season Rodgers was not historically great. However, he was the best of a very good quarterback crop. Rodgers led the NFL in QB Rating again, had the best touchdown to interception rate in the league, and would have led his team to a bye and second round playoff home game had replacement referees not given the Seahawks a Green Bay victory during week three. He finished second in the league in touchdown passes, and did so playing for a team that struggled to run alerting every defense in the league to the fact that Rodgers would need to beat them with his arm, which in most cases he did.
It is hard to believe Rodgers continues to be overlooked. He receives great praise and is often counted among the best quarterbacks in the NFL. All statistical evidence indicates he is not among, but is in fact the top QB in the league. He was lightly recruited before attending Cal after a season at Butte Community College. He dropped in the NFL draft, selected 23 spots behind Alex Smith, and in back of Matt Jones, Mark Clayton, and Fabian Washington. Then he sat behind Brett Favre, a future Hall of Famer, who never produced the numbers Rodgers has accrued. Flacco was brilliant in the playoffs, and Manning had a great comeback season, but Rodgers is the best in the business.
The owner of probably the quietest 10,000-yard career in history retired in the same manner as he played his career.
As professional and as quiet as could be.
There was no Super Bowl celebration for Wide Receiver Donald Driver in his final season as a professional football player.
There was no big ceremony.
In an era where the Wide Receiver position seems to be a revolving door full of unappeasable divas, Driver was anything but. The former 7th round draft-pick who racked up 743 receptions, 61 TD, and 1 Super Bowl Ring was about as classy and devoted as they come from day one.
Driver was out shadowed by own teammates for practically his entire career and never seemed to mind one bit. Most receivers, when they start seeing their production drop off, decide it’s time to look for greener pastures.
Not Donald Driver though.
Despite seeing his reception total decline every year since 2006, #80 never even thought about going anywhere, “I've always said I never wanted to wear another uniform, but always the green and gold.”
As a matter of fact, even in retirement, Driver only had one place he wanted to go. Take a look:
Angie LeRoy got exactly what all Packers’ fans have come to expect from their most decorated Wide Receiver in history.
Follow Cole Stevenson on twitter: @Cole_Stevenson
You didn’t really think we could get our offseason coverage started without taking a way-too-early look at next year, right? Of course not. So, with Super Bowl 47 still fresh in our minds, let’s take a sneak peak at the top-10 contenders for Super Bowl 48.
1. San Francisco – Super Bowl losers don’t always do well the following year, but the 49ers are in good shape to be an exception to that. The bulk of their roster is young and so is their coach, who has quickly established himself as one of the best in the league. Most importantly, quarterback Colin Kaepernick has just ten career starts, and will only get better with more experience.
Kaepernick also has the experience of playing in a Super Bowl under his belt and will be less fazed the next time he gets there. The kicker for the 49ers is that they have the most draft picks in the league, so they should have no problem addressing the few needs that they do have. It all leads to the NFC playoffs going through San Francisco next year, as the 49ers appear to be the team with the best shot at reaching Super Bowl 48.
2. Denver – The Broncos were one poorly played hail-Mary pass away from hosting the AFC Championship Game, so they’re very close. After he nearly won the MVP award this season, the window to win with Peyton Manning should be open for at least another two or three years. Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are still young and will get better the more time they spend with Manning. Also, the Broncos still have an incredible pass rush and they were able to retain defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. John Elway has been great in the draft the last two years, so Denver should add a few more quality players to bolster its roster even more before the start of next season. At it all up, and the Broncos should have one of the best and most balanced teams in the NFL in 2013.
3. Atlanta – The Falcons are where the Ravens were a year ago: coming off a close loss in the conference championship game, and still slowly building towards a Super Bowl. Next year could certainly be the year Atlanta finally gets over the hump. Their defense definitely needs some help, but they have a quality quarterback in Matt Ryan and two exceptional wide receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones, so they’re far ahead of most of the league offensively. If they can balance out their roster a little bit by adding more talent to their defense, Ryan could be in the same position a year from now that Joe Flacco and the Ravens are in today.
4. New England – As long as Bill Belichick is coaching and Tom Brady is playing quarterback the Patriots are going to be a relevant part of the Super Bowl conversation. They aren’t perfect and they’re going to have a lot of competition in the AFC next year, but the Patriots are a near lock to be playing the second weekend of the playoffs, and once they get there, they have the coaching, the quarterback, and the experience that can take them to the Super Bowl.
5. Seattle – Few thought Pete Carroll’s return to the NFL would be as successful as it has been, but he’s had the defense he needs to win big, and now he has the quarterback he needs to reach the Super Bowl. Quarterback Russell Wilson was the NFL rookie of the year and could be even more impressive next season. Wilson has good running ability and the brains to know how best to use it, which could make him one of the toughest quarterbacks in the NFL to defend during his second pro season. The Seahawks were just a field goal shy of a conference championship game, so they don’t have much further to go to reach a Super Bowl.
6. Green Bay – The Packers have flopped in the playoffs the past couple years following their win in Super Bowl 45, but it’s not hard to imagine the Pack making another run back to the Super Bowl in the near future. The Green Bay defense has shown some modest improvement, and Aaron Rodgers is a quarterback that’s capable of carrying his team a long way. If the Packers can land home-field advantage, Lambeau Field is still an intimidating place to play and a difficult venue for visiting teams to win at come playoff time, so there’s plenty working in their favor for another Super Bowl appearance.
7. New York Giants – This year didn’t go the way it was expected for the G-men, but something tells me Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning won’t be absent from the postseason for long, and once they get back there, few teams are as adapt at winning in the playoffs as the Giants have been the past several years. Coming off a down year, the Giants will play more of an underdog role next year, which is a role they’re far more comfortable playing. There are plenty of needs to address on defense, but they have a top-tier coach in Coughlin and a quarterback in Manning that should still be considered one of the best in the league, and who has the receivers he needs to play like it. The Giants didn’t miss the playoffs by much this year, and as long as they can reach the postseason next year, they should be considered a threat to get to the Super Bowl.
8. Baltimore – The defending champions slot in eighth on the list because reaching the Super Bowl in back-to-back years can be difficult, but not unheard of. The biggest questions for the Ravens heading into next year are on the defensive side of the ball. With Ray Lewis retiring, who is going to be the emotional leader of the defense and control the middle of the field? Is Ed Reed going to be back? Is the defense too old to perform at such a high level, and can they get younger without going through any growing pains? Those are some pretty big questions for a team that has relied heavily on its defense for its entire history as a franchise. We know what Joe Flacco is capable of; we know he has the receivers he needs; and we know that Ray Rice is still a quality running back. But in 2013, it’s going to be the Baltimore defense that determines how close the Ravens get to a return trip to the Super Bowl.
9. Chicago – The Bears are a bit of a sleeper pick, because despite a coaching change, they’re in relatively good shape. Although Chicago missed the playoffs, they were 10-6 in a tough NFC North division, so they’re not all that far away. New head coach Marc Trestman has a long history of working with quarterbacks, and he’ll have a chance to work with the talented but underachieving Jay Cutler. If Trestman can help Cutler improve his play and get to the next level, the Bears could become a real contender in the NFC, as there are already a lot of other pieces in place.
10. Houston – The Texans are certainly contenders in the AFC coming off a 12-win season, but after getting knocked out in the divisional round the last two seasons, they still have a long way to go to reach the Super Bowl, and there are a lot of quality teams standing in their way. A lot of the pieces are in place with a solid defense, an elite running back, and a capable quarterback, but Houston still has a pretty big hump to get over, and it may take two or three years to get over it, so getting to the Super Bowl next year may be asking too much.
I’m not sure if anyone is still questioning the switch to Colin Kaepernick, but if those people do still exist, it’s probably because they didn’t watch this game. Kaepernick put on one hell of a show, and remember those comparisons to Vick? Well, he actually broke his rushing yards record for a quarterback.
The previous mark held by Michael Vick was 173 yards in 2002, and it was in a regular season game to boot. Kaepernick finished the day with 181 yards rushing, and 444 yards of total offense. If that weren’t enough, he also had 4 touchdowns on the day. Everybody knew the Packers were going to put up points in this game, the big question was would the Niners be able to keep up. Answer, yes. And then some.
It didn’t start off great for the 49ers and Kaepernick, though. On only his second throw of the game he was picked off by Sam Shields, and the Packers cornerback would take it 52 yards to the end zone. Showing his maturity, poise, and otherworldly ability to make plays though he would not be daunted by this one play. He was dominant from that point forward. He followed the pick 6 up with a 20 yard touchdown run on the very next drive. The Niners defense got a 3 and out on the next drive, and you started to get the feeling that this was their game to lose, and they had no such plans. Such focus, and execution after a potentially devastating play to start things for this team really speaks to the solid leadership throughout the entire organization. When the going got tough, the Niners got tougher.
The Packers weren’t going to let themselves be pushed around though. They stuck with the running game and got an 18 yard score from DuJuan Harris, who 2 months ago was selling cars in Jacksonville. Great story right? The 49ers just kept on coming though on offense. Kaepernick would connect with Michael Crabtree for 2 touchdowns, in 5 minutes and they would add a field goal with the clock expiring to take a 24-21 lead going into the half.
The second half was as lopsided in the 49ers favor, as the first was an even competitive game. They would get 2 rushing touchdowns, one from Anthony Dixon and one from Frank Gore and best of all hold the Packers to one field goal; save a non factor Greg Jennings touchdown with 0:55 left. Possibly his last with the Packers.
This game was even more lopsided than the score would indicate, and you have got to feel good about your team going forward if you’re a Niners fan as a result. They dominated in every phase of the game, and Colin Kaepernick proved he has what it takes to win in the playoffs. Better yet even, be dominant in the playoffs. There are just so many encouraging signs for the Niners, it really is hard to point any one out. Crabtree just keeps on rolling, Kaepernick nearly had 200 yards rushing, and Vernon Davis even made an appearance. If they can bully the Packers like this, you best believe they can handle the Falcons. Don’t want to jinx it, but this team seems destined for New Orleans.
You can follow JDBurke: @JDBurkeOV
Here are five points that sum up last night’s NFC playoff game.
- We found out what Colin Kaepernick is made of.
I’m not even talking about the record-setting 181 rushing yard performance. Starting in your first playoff game has to be nerve-wracking enough, and when it begins with a pick-six, that definitely has to do a number on your confidence. The second-year quarterback wasn’t fazed, though, and he rebounded to outplay Aaron Rodgers.
- The 49ers can still get to the QB.
A banged-up Justin Smith didn’t slow the 49ers down, as they were able to disrupt Rodgers all night long. The first half was tight, but in the second the 49ers defense stepped up and made plays. Harbaugh and the coaching staff adjusted to the Green Bay offense and amassed turnovers, sacks, and other mistakes from the Packers’ O.
- The Packers could use an electric running back.
DuJuan Harris was commended for his fill-in play, and rightly so. The 11-53 stat line isn’t overly impressive, but he managed to play better than the other runners who have filled in for the injured Cedric Benson. Benson appears to still have some gas left in the tank, so I am not suggesting an outright replacement. That being said, with all their firepower at the receiver position, Green Bay would greatly benefit from a quick Darren Sproles-like running back lining up in the backfield.
- Michael Crabtree is Emerging
In his fourth season, Michael Crabtree is finally coming into his own. He has been a solid receiver for the past two years, but Colin Kaepernick found instant chemistry with him and has elevated the receiver’s game. Crabtree isn’t just benefitting from a QB who happens to like him; he’s been making great plays with his hands and feet for weeks. Last offseason San Francisco was evidently disappointed with their receiver production and signed Randy Moss and Mario Manningham as a result. Crabtree has been producing at the level that earned him a top-ten draft pick, and his emergence is taking the San Francisco offense to the next level.
- Colin Kaepernick is on his way to becoming a superstar
Not trying to slurp the Kaepernick Kool-Aid like everyone else, but this guy is the real deal. Sure, defenses will learn to prepare for him, but his skillset is lethal. When he needs to squeeze it in there, Kaepernick’s fastball rivals that of top-tier NFL QBs. His touch passes down the field, such as the one to Vernon Davis, are a thing of beauty. When you combine that with breakaway speed that is all part of a kid who has an unquestionable work ethic and doesn’t seem to have a huge ego, we are looking at a star.
This is a tough one.
A really tough one.
Both the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers give you a lot of reasons to believe they can win today, making it extremely difficult to determine who has the advantage. Let’s take a look.
The San Francisco 49ers have one of the most lethal running attacks in the league.
The Packers have the NFL’s deepest receiving corp.
The 49ers have some banged up receivers, however, they also still have Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and a reduced but still-effective Randy Moss.
The Green Bay Packers have a recently re-energized defense, aided in great part by the return of Charles Woodson.
The 49ers have an elite defense that gives QBs nightmares, and even with an injured Justin Smith, they will likely give Rodgers fits all day. San Fran also boasts a very impressive secondary that may be able to stick with Green Bay receivers at times and will be aided by safety Dashon Goldson.
The Packers have their own pass rush that could give Colin Kaepernick trouble.
The 49ers are playing at home.
The Packers have Aaron Rodgers.
San Francisco’s recent QB change stretches the field and gives defenses more to worry about.
Neither team is perfect, but both are elite in several areas. And with home field advantage, San Francisco appears to have the edge. In my book, though, the Packers clearly have the edge with the 2011 NFL MVP. These teams can be compared right down the line, and while they are somewhat different, it would be hard to pick which is clearly better. Except in one regard.
I would go with Kaepernick over Alex Smith every time. Every. Single. Time. He can make a lot of throws that Smith would never have even attempted, but it is his legs that really allow him to be a game breaker. A team just needs to forget about him once and he’ll scamper down the field for a big play.
Again, it’s a no contest. If I had to pick between Kaepernick and Smith to lead my team, it’d be Kaepernick every time. But neither of them is Aaron Rodgers. With various factors canceling out others, the only apparent disparity is at the most important position in professional sports, and that is the tipping point for me. Kaepernick, for all his greatness, is a first-year starter and has never played in a playoff game. He’s never had to step out on the field and lead his team to victory against one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. He’s never been down in a playoff game and had to fight his way back into it. I think he is very capable of doing so and could end up being an elite quarterback down the line, but the lack of experience isn’t a minor issue.
Rodgers hasn’t just won a playoff game or two, he’s a Super Bowl champion. Past accomplishments mean nothing in the NFL playoffs; past experience means a whole lot.
Packers 24 Niners 17
You would be hard pressed to find an NFL analyst who hadn’t picked either the Green Bay Packers or the San Francisco 49ers to come out of the NFC. It’s almost a letdown that they won’t meet in the conference championships, but I’m just glad we get to see these two play in January. They met once before in October, but so much has changed since that game that it’s almost a worthless reference. Just to get it out of the way: the 49ers beat the Packers in Lambeau Field 30-22.
What’s the difference between now and then? Well, there are tons.
Since that opening week matchup between these two NFC powerhouses there have personnel changes aplenty. The 49ers had to deal with injuries and prima donnas, and as a result have lost Mario Manningham, Kendall Hunter, and Kyle Williams to the season ending IR. The prima donna, well, that was Brandon Jacobs. And seeing as he has been a non factor from Week 1 forward, he is barely even deserving of mention really.
The worst injury of all for this 49ers squad has to be the one currently hindering their all world defensive tackle Justin Smith. Speculation is that he has a torn triceps muscle, and he is currently listed as probable for Saturday’s tilt. There are certain triceps tears you can play through - it’s a weird injury that way - and if he can play through it on Saturday, that will be a huge boost for this Niners defense. Especially in the pass rush. Justin Smith is the lynchpin of this defense, and although his sack numbers are way down from last year, his level of play certainly is not. Just ask Aldon Smith who hasn’t registered a single sack since Justin got hurt.
The biggest change up though for the 49ers since these two teams last met, is the change at quarterback. Alex Smith went down with a concussion in Week 9; Kaepernick was given a chance to start and has run away with the job since. You can make the case that Alex Smith should have kept his job and the team’s play as a whole really hasn’t been the same since he went down, but there’s just so much Kaepernick can do that Smith can’t. It’s also worth noting that Kaepernick has probably been the best part of the Niners since Week 9, too. What Kaepernick brings to the table is the ability to not only run with the ball, but get the deep ball going. Something Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman desperately wanted to get going this season. Kaepernick’s speed also allows the 49ers to run the read option, which is something the Packers haven’t had to defend against all season. Yes, they did play the Seahawks in Week 3 but Seattle really didn’t have that part of their offense down yet. This gives the 49ers a decided edge on offense.
The Packers aren’t exactly the same team as they were in Week 1 either. A whole lot has changed, and just about all of it has been good. Their 9-2 record over the last eleven games is a pretty solid indication of that. They are a healthier team at just about every position other than running back, and even then, their injuries at that position have almost helped them in a weird off hand way. Dujuan Harris and Ryan Grant are now the two lead backs in this offense -- following injuries to Alex Green and Cedric Benson -- and they’ve been doing great. Harris, in particular, is averaging 4.6 yards a carry, and is getting rave reviews out of Green Bay.
The Packers with a running game? Now that’s something to be reckoned with.
If the 49ers can’t find a way to slow the Packers offense down they don’t have a chance in hell. Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL and is only one road playoff victory short of setting the consecutive road playoff victory record at four. If he has time in the pocket, he will dismantle the Niners. Fortunately for the Niners, it does sound like Justin Smith is going to be playing in this game, and getting to Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been all that difficult this season. He’s been sacked 51 times on the year, and keeping that kind of pace alive is the Niners best chance of keeping their season alive too. It won’t be easy, though. Rodgers will have all his favorite weapons at his disposal, and God, there are oh so many.
Where do you even start with this group? I guess with the league's most underrated receiver in James Jones, or maybe it’s most versatile in Randall Cobb. Anyways... his receivers are good. That’s the bottom line. The secondary will have its hands full to be sure, and the 49ers depth and role players are all going to have to be on the top of their game to stop this offensive juggernaut. Come to think of it, pretty long checklist of things to do to keep Green Bay under control.
The Niners retooled offense is going to need another performance like week one to help its defense sneak away with a victory. In Week 1 Alex Smith went 20 of 26 for 211 yards, and Vernon Davis was still a part of this offense. LaMichael James however, was not. I’d like to see the 49ers work some read option plays with both James and Gore lined up alongside Kaepernick in the pistol. James’ elusiveness and speed make him a wildcard any time he touches the ball. Back to Vernon Davis though – if he’s a no show, it’s going to tough sledding. They need him to return to form as a reliable option in the passing game. Having reliable tight ends is always great when you’re against Clay Matthews and the Green Bay pass rush.
It’s going to be a tight game, but I like the Niners to come out on top. This game is at home, and the Packers have zero experience playing the read option. Aaron Rodgers can take control of just about any game he plays in, but defense wins championships and the Niners have an amazing defense. Especially if Justin Smith returns. The Niners should have been in the Super Bowl last year, and I don’t expect them to bow out in the divisional round this year.