A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here's what a four-game winning streak will do for the perception of a team: The Green Bay Packers are now the favorites to win the NFC, according to the online sportsbook Bovada.lv.

Heading into Week 4, when the Packers had a 1-2 record, they were tied for the sixth choice to represent the conference in the Super Bowl at 12-to-1. In fact, they had the same odds as their NFC North rivals in Chicago and Detroit.

Heading into Sunday's game at New Orleans, the Packers are 3-to-1 to win the NFC.

Here are the leading contenders:
  • Packers -- 3/1
  • Seahawks -- 4/1
  • Cowboys -- 5/1
  • 49ers -- 7/1
  • Eagles -- 8/1
  • Cardinals -- 9/1
  • Lions -- 14/1

As for their odds to win it all, the Packers were listed as 8-to-1 to win the Super Bowl, second behind the Broncos at 3-to-1.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers moved up to third in the MVP odds at 5-to-1 behind Peyton Manning (5/2) and Demarco Murray (7/2).

In case you missed it from ESPN.com: Best of the rest:
  • At ESPNWisconsin.com, Jason Wilde wrote that even after a four-game winning streak, Rodgers' R-E-L-A-X comment remains relevant.
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Weston Hodkiewicz wrote that in the three meetings between Rodgers and Brees, they have combined to average 70.3 points per game, which is the second-most between opposing teams that have met at least three times since 2008.
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tom Silverstein wrote that running back Eddie Lacy is looking forward to returning to New Orleans, where he lived for 14 years until Hurricane Katrina forced his family to flee.
  • At OnMilwaukee.com, Jim Owczarski gets to know rookie defensive tackle Mike Pennel in his five questions feature.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There will come a time in Sunday's game in New Orleans when one of the two quarterbacks won't be able to keep up.

And it may be only because there's no more time left.

When Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees get together -- and it's not often -- the scoreboard operator usually gets a workout.

Nearly two thousand passing yards and 211 points combined in the only three head-to-head meetings between those two giants of the quarterbacking world is evidence enough that the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints appear headed for another shootout in the Superdome this Sunday night.

"You're not playing against him," Rodgers insisted on Wednesday. "This is the Saints against the Packers."

But that doesn't mean the Packers quarterback won't have to react to what Brees and the Saints' offense throws at him. Or vice versa.

In those three meetings, Brees has thrown for at least 300 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. However, Rodgers has the edge in Total QBR (see accompanying chart).

The three meetings were:
  • 2008 -- Saints 51, Packers 29: On "Monday Night Football" in New Orleans, the Saints tied a team record for points (which they have since surpassed) and scored seven touchdowns. Brees threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns.
  • 2011 – Packers 42, Saints 34: In the Thursday night season opener at Lambeau Field, Rodgers threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns, while Brees put up 419 yards and three touchdowns but was stopped on the 1-yard line on the final play of the game.
  • 2012 – Packers 28, Saints 27: In Green Bay, Brees threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns, while Rodgers threw for 319 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. The Saints missed a field goal with less than three minutes remaining.

Those three games may play no role whatsoever on Sunday. But the way Rodgers has started this season, it's hard to envision a defensive struggle is in the offing. He has thrown 18 touchdowns and just one interception this season. In the Packer' four-game winning streak, they have averaged 36.3 points per game. That's better than their scoring average (35.0 ppg) in 2011, when they set the franchise record for points (560).

"The year that he's having has been, you just kind of shake your head," Brees said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters at Lambeau Field. "He’s so impressive. Anytime there's a guy like that on the other side of the ball, you know you have to be at your best and it seems like all the little things in a game like this, all the little details are magnified.

"It's not one of these, 'Hey, we've got to be perfect.' Nobody is perfect. But you have to be pretty darn close. You have to be as good as you can be to have a shot at these guys when he's pulling the trigger on the other side."

In spite of the Saints' struggles in their 2-4 start, their offense has been as explosive as usual at home. In their two games at the Superdome (both victories), they have combined for 907 yards and 57 points.

"It's easy to say, "Well, you start with both teams [which] have had good offenses,' yet just as we say that, you can find yourself in one of those 17-13 games," Saints coach Sean Payton said.

That hardly seems possible, but both Payton and Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday that they have no preconceived notions about the way the game will play out. McCarthy said Wednesday that the plan in every game is to "shoot all your bullets. Hopefully, you're hitting them and they're not hitting you."

"If it ends up being a shootout, we've got to be prepared to do that," Packers right guard T.J. Lang said. "And I think we are every week [with] the amount of production that we've been having. I hate predicting games like that, saying it's going to be a shootout or a defensive battle. We've got to be prepared to do whatever it takes on game day."

ESPN Saints reporter Mike Triplett discusses how the Saints' defense has a tough assignment in facing a Packers offense that is hitting on all cylinders.

ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky discusses how a high-scoring game could benefit the Packers in their Sunday night matchup with the Saints.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The upcoming bye week won't factor into whether Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields will play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

If Shields' knee injury allows him to play, then he'll play and the week off following the Saints will have nothing to do with that decision.

At least that was coach Mike McCarthy's stance on Wednesday.

"Sam's going through a medical situation and when he's ready, he'll play," McCarthy said.

Shields missed last week's game against the Carolina Panthers because of the knee injury he sustained against the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 12, and he was not able to return to practice on Wednesday.

However, McCarthy said Shields went through an individual workout on Wednesday.

Three other key players also missed Wednesday's practice. The newest injury was to safety Morgan Burnett, who sustained a calf injury apparently in the late stages of the game against the Carolina Panthers. Running back James Starks (ankle) and defensive end Datone Jones (ankle) also missed practice. Starks was injured against the Panthers, while Jones has missed the last two games.

McCarthy said he did not have a high level of concern for those three players.

"Morgan Burnett and actually Datone and James Starks, I just came from the practice facility [and] they were going through their workout," McCarthy said. "They all hopefully looked like they were moving pretty good. So we'll see how all three of them come out."

Here's the full injury report:
  • S Morgan Burnett (calf, did not practice)
  • DE Datone Jones (ankle, did not practice)
  • CB Sam Shields (knee, did not practice)
  • RB James Starks (ankle, did not practice)

Bill Polian, Ron Wolf up for HOF

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Two longtime general managers are one step from induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Bill Polian and Ron Wolf, master team builders and personnel men, were selected Wednesday afternoon as "contributor" nominees for the Class of 2015. Each will be presented to the 46-member full committee Jan. 31 in Phoenix, Arizona, and must each receive at least an 80 percent approval vote (37 yays) for election.

This is the first time the Hall has had a separate category for contributors. It adopted the new format in hopes of giving nonplayers and noncoaches a fairer chance for induction. Contributors typically were filtered out when competing against players and coaches for votes. In fact, only nine contributors have been elected in the past 47 years.

The nominees were selected by a nine-member subcommittee. The other candidates were personnel men Bobby Beathard, Gil Brandt and George Young; owners Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Pat Bowlen and Art Modell; retired commissioner Paul Tagliabue; official Art McNally; and the late NFL Films president Steve Sabol.

Four consultants offered input at the selection meeting in a conference room at the Hyatt Regency hotel -- Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, Chicago Bears chairman George McCaskey, Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen and Sports Business Journal executive editor Abe Madkour -- but they were not part of the voting.

(Read full post)

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As the Minnesota Vikings travel to Tampa Bay this weekend in search of their second road win of the year and their first victory over the Buccaneers since 2001, they'll have plenty of familiarity with the defensive scheme they'll be facing.

[+] EnlargeLeslie Frazier
AP Photo/Tom UhlmanFormer Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier is Tampa Bay's defensive coordinator.
The team practiced against Buccaneers defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier's scheme since 2007, when Frazier became the Vikings' defensive coordinator and replaced Brad Childress as the head coach in 2010. And Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith ran a similar version of the Tampa 2 defense (originally popularized by Tony Dungy) when he faced the Vikings twice a year as the Chicago Bears' head coach from 2004-12.

That defense has been maligned in recent years by critics who say it's out of date and too easy to solve, and the Vikings certainly heard those sentiments under Frazier in Minnesota; defensive end Brian Robison said in training camp the scheme had gotten so stale that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers could call out the Vikings' plays as they lined up.

The Vikings gave up the most points in the league last season, and though the Buccaneers seemed to have plenty of talent on defense, they've allowed an average of 34 points a game this year (also the highest in the league). But Smith said in a conference call on Wednesday that those who criticize the defense "don't know what they're talking about.”

"When people say the 'Tampa 2,' it’s more than the Tampa 2," Smith said. "You play Cover 2, but it’s just a small part of what we do. Every team in the league plays some form of Cover 2. When it’s described that way and how it can’t work, Cover 2 has been around since the beginning of time, and it’s not going anywhere.”

Frazier and Smith had coached against one another for years, and both come from Dungy's coaching tree. After the Vikings fired Frazier on Dec. 30, he quickly joined Smith in Tampa.

"The year that I was off, I didn’t plan on having the opportunity to hire Leslie," Smith said. "But when he was available, I’ve known him a long time, I’ve competed against his teams for a long time. It was a natural fit."

Said defensive end Michael Johnson, who played for new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer in Cincinnati before joining Frazier: "He’s very positive. Always positive and believes in guys. You can feel that. So in the same sense (as Zimmer), with him the way he believes in us, it makes us want to go out there and not let him down also. It’s been kind of frustrating because I want to be better and I want us to be better because Leslie is a good dude, man. We owe him more than we’ve been able to give him so far."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Maybe the Green Bay Packers’ bye is coming a week too late.

When they began preparations on Wednesday for the New Orleans Saints, their final game before their week off, they did so without four key players – cornerback Sam Shields, safety Morgan Burnett, defensive end Datone Jones and running game James Starks.

Neither Shields nor Jones played in last Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers. Shields sustained a knee injury in the Oct. 12 game at Miami. Jones has missed the last two games because of an ankle injury.

Starks left Sunday’s game because of an ankle injury, while no injury was announced for Burnett during or after the game.

All four players were in attendance but did not take part during the portion that was open to reporters.

The full injury report will be available after practice.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Since 2010, no player has captured one of the NFL's player-of-the-week awards more often than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

On Wednesday, he was named the NFC's offensive player of the week for the 10th time since 2010. It was the second time he has taken home the honor this season.

Why did Rodgers win the award this time?

Take your pick:
  • In Sunday's victory over the Carolina Panthers, Rodgers had as many touchdowns (three) as incomplete passes on the way to a 255-yard performance that equated to a 154.5 passer rating, the second-highest of his career and the third-best rating in Packers' history for a quarterback with at least 20 attempts.
  • It was Rodgers' fourth game in a row with at least three touchdown passes without an interception. Tom Brady, who did it in 2007, is the only other player in NFL history to pull off that feat.
  • It was also Rodgers' sixth straight game without an interception. That tied Bart Starr's team record set in 1964. Rodgers has not thrown an interception since Week 1, a stretch of 192 attempts -- his career-high and the second-best streak in team history behind only Starr, who had 294 attempts between interceptions in 1964-65.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here's a look at where some of the Green Bay Packers players rank in the major statistical categories heading into Sunday’s game at the New Orleans Saints:

Aaron Rodgers
Passer rating: Second (117.3)
Completion percentage: Seventh (66.8)
Passing yards: 14th (1,676)
Yards per attempt: Sixth (7.93)
Touchdown passes: Third (18)

Eddie Lacy
Rushing yards: 15th (369)
Yards per carry: Tied for 32nd (4.0)
Rushing touchdowns: Tied for third (four)

Jordy Nelson
Catches: Tied for fifth (47)
Receiving yards: Second (712)
Touchdown catches: Tied for fourth (six)

Randall Cobb
Catches: Tied for 18th (35)
Receiving yards: 17th (452)
Touchdown catches: Second (eight)

Sam Shields
Interceptions: Tied for 12th (two)

Casey Hayward
Interceptions: Tied for 12th (two)

Julius Peppers
Sacks: Tied for 35th (3.0)

Nick Perry
Sacks: Tied for 35th (3.0)

Packers' team stats check: Week 8

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here's a look at where the Green Bay Packers (5-2) rank in some of the major statistical categories heading into Sunday's game at the New Orleans Saints (2-4):

Points per game
This week: Fourth (28.4)
Last season: Tied for eighth (26.1)
Saints' ranking this week: 10th (25.8)

Points allowed per game
This week: Tied for ninth (21.0)
Last season: Tied for 24th (26.8)
Saints' ranking this week: 28th (27.5)

Total offense (yards)
This week: 25th (325.5)
Last season: Third (440.3)
Saints' ranking this week: Second (437.0)

Rushing offense (yards)
This week: 22nd (98.7)
Last season: Seventh (133.6)
Saints' ranking this week: 13th (123.0)

Passing offense (yards)
This week: 20th (226.7)
Last season: Sixth (266.8)
Saints' ranking this week: Second (314.0)

Total defense (yards allowed)
This week: 19th (362.7)
Last season: 25th (372.3)
Saints' ranking this week: 21st (373.7)

Rushing defense (yards allowed)
This week: 31st (147.9)
Last season: 25th (125.0)
Saints' ranking this week: 11th (103.2)

Passing defense (yards allowed)
This week: Sixth (214.9)
Last season: 24th (247.3)
Saints' ranking this week: 28th (270.5)

Third-down offense
This week: Sixth (44.6 percent conversion rate)
Last season: Ninth (41.2 percent)
Saints' ranking this week: Fourth (50.0 percent)

Third-down defense
This week: Tied for 23rd (45.7 percent)
Last season: Tied 17th (38.2 percent)
Saints' ranking this week: 26th (46.3 percent)

Red zone offense
This week: Third (70.4 percent)
Last season: 26th (50.8 percent)
Saints' ranking this week: Tied for 11th (62.5 percent)

Red zone defense
This week: 17th (56.5 percent)
Last season: 24th (61.4 percent)
Saints' ranking this week: Tied for 26th (66.7 percent)

Turnover differential
This week: First (plus-10)
Last season: 19th (Minus-3)
Saints' ranking this week: Tied for 29th (Minus-8)

Packers look to keep October momentum

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22

ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky discusses how well has the team played this month.
METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints (2-4) seem to have lost their mojo this season. But there's no better time and place for them to get it back than Sunday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against the Green Bay Packers.

The Saints seem to find another gear when they play at home in prime time. They've won 13 straight night games in the Superdome, including the playoffs, dating back to 2009. And they've won them by nearly 20 points per game.

Their dominance actually dates back even further to a 51-29 rout over the Packers on "Monday Night Football" in 2008. Including that game, the Saints have won 16 of their last 17 home night games:

Dome dominance: The Saints have been running pretty hot at home regardless of the time of day in recent years. They've won 19 straight home games, including the playoffs, under coach Sean Payton (not counting his 2012 suspension).

The Saints have gained 466.3 yards per game in those games, according to ESPN Stats and Information. That's 60 yards more than any other team at home in that span (the Packers rank second with 405.7).

Ripe for a shootout: History also suggests that the Saints and Packers are destined for a shootout based on the results of the previous three meetings between Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. Those three results: The Saints' 51-29 win in 2008, a 42-34 Packers win at Lambeau Field in the 2011 Thursday night Week 1 kickoff game, and a 28-27 Packers win in Lambeau Field in 2012.

Brees has averaged 396 yards in those three games with a total of 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Rodgers has averaged 293 yards per game with nine touchdowns and four picks.
A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- After Sunday's win over the Carolina Panthers, Packers coach Mike McCarthy made a bold statement about his quarterback.

"I'll say this about Aaron [Rodgers]," McCarthy said. "Aaron is a much better player today than he was in 2011."

Rodgers would like to think that's true.

On his ESPN Milwaukee radio show Tuesday, Rodgers indicated that he's close to the level he was at in MVP season of 2011 and again in 2012 and right on up until he broke his collarbone last season.

"The way '11 went and '12, those were good years; I was playing the way I want to play and being efficient throwing the football and doing some of the things that I feel like I'm accustomed to doing," Rodgers said on Tuesday's show. "Last year, I had the injury but was playing pretty good until the injury. This year, it's just about continuing to grow."

With 18 touchdowns and just one interception through seven games, Rodgers is on pace to throw 41 touchdowns and just two interceptions. When he won the MVP, he threw 45 touchdowns and six interceptions (in 15 games).

But it's not the stats that have convinced McCarthy, who said Rodgers is better now because he has so much more responsibility in the offense in terms of adjustments at the line of scrimmage and freedom in the no-huddle.

"I think I'm a better player," Rodgers said. "It's not always going to show up on the stat sheet or, at the end of the season the stats might not be as great as they were in '11, but I'd like to think I'm playing the way I want to play."

In case you missed it from ESPN.com: Best of the rest:

Packers hang with Pearl Jam

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
GREEN BAY, Wis. – You might have seen T.J. Lang's picture from backstage at Monday night's Pearl Jam show in Milwaukee.

The Green Bay Packers right guard posted a shot of himself and teammates Matt Flynn, Corey Linsley and Josh Sitton with the band's frontman, Eddie Vedder, on Twitter.

Not pictured was quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But he was there and met one of his rock heroes before the show.

"Well we did hang out and talk for a little while backstage before the concert," Rodgers said Tuesday on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. "And he did say that he was [a Packers'] owner. A buddy had gotten him a stock certificate a few years back."

Vedder, a Chicago-area native who remains partial to his hometown teams, donned a Packers' jersey during the show with the No. 10, which is Flynn's number. But the jersey was not Flynn's. Rather, the Packers had one made up with that number to commemorate the 1991 Pearl Jam album "Ten."

"People thought Flynn had given him the jersey, and Flynn obviously played along or maybe in his mind believed it was a Flynn jersey that he was wearing," Rodgers said. "I'm pretty sure it said "Vedder" on the back."

Vedder gave Rodgers a shoutout during the show, however, Rodgers said the story the singer told the crowd about asking Rodgers if he’d be interested in a trade to the Bears for quarterback Jay Cutler was a tall tale.