Five keys for Vikings vs. Packers

Posted by Vic Carucci on January 3, 2013 – 2:09 pm

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

Here are five keys for Saturday’s wild-card playoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers:

>>Adrian Peterson needs to do his usual, take-over-the-game thing against the Packers’ porous run defense. The Vikings’ running back, a leading candidate to be named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, ran for 199 yards against Green Bay in Week 17. He came within nine yards of the league’s single-season rushing record, and picked up right where he left off when he ran for 210 yards against the Packers in Week 13. Counting his pass receptions, Peterson has averaged a staggering 7.4 yards per touch against Green Bay.

>>Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers must continue his red-hot second half of the season. Although the Vikings ended up winning in their season-finale against the Packers, Rodgers gave Minnesota’s defense plenty to think about for the playoff rematch by throwing for 365 yards. Rodgers’ wide array of pass-catching targets, his ability to extend plays, and injuries to the Vikings’ secondary should go a long way toward allowing him to have another big performance.

>>The Vikings have to maintain the exceptional pass protection they’ve given Christian Ponder. The Packers have sacked Ponder only twice in the last two times the teams have met. With Ponder dealing with an elbow injury he suffered last week, it will be particularly important that his offensive line keeps the hits on him to an absolute minimum. He had a mostly rough regular season, but has had two of his more efficient showings in the past two weeks, and also had more success with longer throws than he did for most of the year.

>>The Packers need to give their passing game some support on the ground. Make no mistake: the Packers’ offense is driven almost exclusively by Rodgers’ throwing arm. But Green Bay did show some signs of life in its running game when DuJuan Harris, who took over for Ryan Grant, generated an average of five yards per carry against the Vikings in Week 17. If Harris is able to get a little traction, he could prosper from the fact Minnesota’s defense is (as it should be) going to be focused on stopping Rodgers and his receivers.

>>Defensive end Jared Allen and the rest of the Vikings’ pass-rushers have to apply steady heat on Rodgers. With Allen and Everson Griffen leading the way, the Vikings do an outstanding job of pressuring the quarterback. And they should be able to make Rodgers uncomfortable, given the Packers’ struggles in pass protection and Rodgers’ tendency to hang onto the ball. The Vikings had five sacks against Rodgers in Week 17, with Griffen picking up three.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/browns_daily, Twitter.com/viccarucci, e-mail: Daily@ClevelandBrowns.com, or by calling 855-363-2459.


Posted in Carucci's Call | Comments Off

Five keys for Bengals vs. Texans

Posted by Vic Carucci on January 3, 2013 – 2:02 pm

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

Here are five keys for Saturday’s wild-card playoff game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Texans:

>>The Bengals’ outstanding pass-rushers must join the recent trend of generating heat on Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. The Bengals have a talented defensive line, and rush the passer well with ends Robert Geathers and Michael Johnson. After doing a mostly solid job of protecting Schaub, the Texans’ offensive line has had some issues in that area in recent games.

>>Running back Arian Foster has to set the tone for the game by being a dominant force. The Texans’ zone-blocking scheme can give opponents fits. Foster excels at taking advantage of cutback lanes, and the Texans are going to look to get him going early and remain persistent on the ground.

>>Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton must be efficient. The aggressive, blitz-oriented scheme of Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is designed to force the quarterback into mistakes. Dalton had issues with turnovers during the regular season, including four interceptions that were returned for scores. His cause would be helped greatly by a strong rushing performance by BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

>>Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt needs to be his dominant self. Watt isn’t simply one of the best defensive players in the league; he is one of the best NFL players, period. He is incredibly effective as a pass-rusher and run-stuffer, and also has an uncanny ability to knock passes down at the line. He’s also tremendously versatile, working as an end in the Texans’ base 3-4 alignment and a tackle when they switch to a 4-3.

>>A.J. Green, Andrew Hawkins and the rest of the Bengals’ receivers have to exploit the Texans’ single coverage. With all of the blitzing the Texans like to do, the Bengals should have ample opportunities to make big plays through the air with their receivers often being covered one-on-one. If Dalton can get the ball off in time, he can capitalize.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/browns_daily, Twitter.com/viccarucci, e-mail: Daily@ClevelandBrowns.com, or by calling 855-363-2459.


Posted in Carucci's Call | Comments Off

How to reach Super Bowl? Add greatness

Posted by Vic Carucci on January 3, 2013 – 12:03 am

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

You’ve got questions and comments that you submit to the Browns’ official Facebook and Twitter pages. Here’s what I have to say about what you have to say:

Casey – How are we going to get to the Super Bowl?

Casey, the answer is simple.

The Browns get to the Super Bowl by adding great people, beginning with the hiring of their new head coach, followed by the hiring of a new general manager/director of player personnel, followed by the enhancement of the roster.

They get to the Super Bowl with an excellent leader who knows how to push every right button between seasons and games, and especially during games – someone who, along with his assistant coaches, can maximize the skills of every player.

They get to the Super Bowl by adding, through the draft and selective free-agent signings, difference-makers to a nice, youthful core of players.

And they get to the Super Bowl by allowing all of these things to happen and establishing, for the first time in many years, a sense of continuity that is crucial to building a championship team.

Simple answer. Not-so-simple process.

But that’s how the Browns get to the Super Bowl.

Mason – Do you think the Browns are good?

A 5-11 record doesn’t constitute good, Mason. Nor does winning only 14 games in the past three seasons.

But I know you know that.

The real question is, do I think the Browns have the ability to become good and make a significant improvement over what they were in 2012?

Definitely.

They have a great deal of promise, and I firmly believe, with some key additions on defense (pass-rusher, defensive back) and offense (wide receiver, tight end), they gain take major steps in a relatively short time. The new football decision-makers joining this team soon already have plenty with which to work, and I fully expect Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and chief executive officer Joe Banner to provide whatever is necessary to take this club from good to great.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci or by e-mail at daily@clevelandbrowns.com or by calling 855-363-2459.


Posted in Carucci's Call | Comments Off