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My Divisional Round Predictions

Friday, Jan, 10 2014

Last week, I went 2-2 in the Wild Card Round.  Take a look.  I will try to be better this week.

Division Game 1: #6 New Orleans @ #1 Seattle in the NFC (Saturday, 3:35 kickoff)

I REALLY REALLY REALLY want to make the logical pick here and go with Seattle.  However, by definition of the “J-Hull Black Sharpie Lock” I can’t as I picked New Orleans to win the NFC this year back towards the end of 2012.  As for this game…New Orleans proved an ability to win on the road last week by squeaking one out in Philly. Seattle has been deemed the “Super Team” for this year and rightfully so.  The way New Orleans will win is to stymie the Seattle offense, which can be done.  If Russell Wilson has a day, it could be a long flight home for the Saints.  So illogically, with my heart, I have to take New Orleans.  I really think its Seattle 27-20, though.

New Orleans over Seattle 20-14

Division Game 2: #4 Indianapolis @ #2 New England in the AFC (Saturday, 7:15 Kickoff)

Indianapolis shocked the world with their 28-comeback and in the process Andrew Luck added to his legend.  In my opinion, it’s a legend that will end up (probably sooner than later) with Luck in elite category.  If you like points, this game seems to be for you with both Indy and New England brining in less than stellar defenses.  New England has struggled this year having to squeak out a few games like Indy did this last week.  Based on last week, I think fate could be on Indy’s side so I will go with the young guy.  Also, weather keeps this game lower scoring than people believe.

Indy over New England 24-20

Division Game 3: #5 San Francisco @ #2 Carolina in the NFC (Sunday, 12:00 Kickoff)

After the 49ers beat Green Bay, it appears that pretty much everyone has penciled San Francisco into the NFC Championship game.  I am not everyone.  Colin Kaepernick’s performance against Green Bay was largely in part to defensive breakdowns by the Packers.  Carolina’s defense is far superior to the Packers.  A few weeks back, Carolina went to San Francisco and beat them.  Now they are at home.  While the Niners have been streaking themselves, I see Cam Newton doing more than enough for the Panthers to win fairly comfortably.

Carolina over San Francisco 24-13

Division Game 4: #6 San Diego @ #1 Denver in the AFC (Sunday, 3:40 Kickoff)

With the Chargers performance on Sunday and Peyton Manning’s playoff record, the Chargers are becoming a fairly “sexy” pick this week.  I am not buying it.  I think this one will be pretty clear cut:  Broncos roll.  Way to many offensive weapons on the Broncos.  The Chargers will get it going at times, but the Broncos defense will come up with enough stops to give the World Manning/Luck II. 

Denver over San Diego 48-27

Enjoy the games!

posted by: The Home Stretch with Justin Hull 3 month(s) ago Comment On This Post


Packer free agency; who should they bring back?

Tuesday, Jan, 7 2014

According to Spotrac.com, 19-players under contract in 2013 are heading to free agency.  Taking a look at the list, a good number of the players have started or contributed the last few years.   Here are my thoughts, in order of importance, for the Packers to bring back in 2014.

#1.) CB Sam Shields – He is emerging as one of the better corners in the league.  With the future of Tramon Williams in question after 2014, Shields fortify the position for a while longer.  I think the Packers agree but will he get more elsewhere?

#2.) C Evan Dietrich-Smith – When it comes to offensive lineman, the less you talk about them, the better it is.  The only time I recall hearing about EDS is when he was injured.  Team doesn’t (appear) to have a set back up, so he should be a high priority.

#3.) DT B.J Raji – If the Bob McGinn report is true, Raji may have left a lot of money on the table by not signing at $8-mil a year.  Defensive lineman, even solid ones, are tough to find.  Having one that plays average at his worse with signs of being very good (or better) may be worth over paying a little.  I predict he isn’t back AND will be missed at some point.

#4.) DT Johnny Jolly – Jolly was an unforeseen boost to the team after missing 3-years while serving his suspension.  When he was out there, and healthy, the Packers run defense was much better.  I assume the Packers will be able to get him, for a discount, on a 1 or 2 year deal.

#5.) OLB Mike Neal – Neal emerged, when healthy (the story of his career), as the best option opposite Clay Matthews at OLB.  It was his first year at the position after dropping weight and moving outside.  I am curious to see what year 2 (and beyond) brings for Neal as a 3-4 OLB. 

#6.) TE Andrew Quarless – I don’t think anyone was more critical of Quarless and the Packers keeping him than I was early on this year.  D.J Williams was released, a player that did a lot with in the offense/special teams, for a player that looked sloppy in camp.  About midway through the season, Quarless started to shine.  He got healthy and looked like a solid play.  I think he is back.

#7.) TE Jermichael Finley – Finley after Quarless?  Yup.  I think that boils down to money.  Finley may be looking to strike it rich after the spinal injury in 2013 while the Packers are scared off by it.  His worth in the offense is definitely known, but, Quarless (and maybe Bostick) can fill some of the void.  Think he’s gone but if the market bottoms out, he could be back.

#8.) DT Ryan Pickett – Pickett may have had his best year in Green Bay.  He told me after Sunday’s game that he felt better after this year than most others.  Ted Thompson’s plan is always to get younger, but some players voiced a need of veterans.  What is the potential market on a 34-year old defensive lineman?  Despite all that, Packers have just 4 d-lineman under contract for 2014.

#9.) WR James Jones – Jarrett Boykin emerged as a viable option with injuries to Randall Cobb and James Jones this year.  Cobb’s deal is up after 2015 & Nelson is entering the final year of his deal.  Biggest question; will the defense drop off without him?  Once again it’s a numbers game and Jones goes elsewhere. 

#10.) ILB Jamari Lattimore (Restricted) – I struggled placing Lattimore on the list.  ILB is arguably the weakest position from a depth and production standpoint on the team.  Lattimore had some great moments but has also shown some moments of weakness.  He is young, and restricted, so I think he is back though not a priority.

#11.) QB Matt Flynn – After Aaron Rodgers went down, the uproar from Packer Nation about needing a back-up quarterback grew.  I am staying the same on my thought, here.  If you lose Aaron Rodgers, it doesn’t matter.  Flynn would definitely be a capable back-up…but I think told Tolzein would, too. 

#12.) LB Robert Francois – Francois came back for 2013 on a one-year free agent deal only to see injury cut his season short.  Not sure what happens with him but re-upping would move the meter as much as letting him walk.

#13.) FB John Kuhn – Kuhn was one of the most debated roster spots in training camp but in the end, he was on the team.  It sounded like there was never even a debate.  With the FB position becoming somewhat “obsolete” and the way the Packers use their TEs as blockers, Kuhn’s price tag could mean a split.  I think he’s gone.

#14.) RB James Starks (Restricted) – Out of everyone who has stepped in for injured players (or subbed) this season, I think Starks was brought the least drop off.  Packer fans are in LOVE with Eddie Lacy, and rightfully so, but Starks was big at times this year.  Pending on the RFA tender, Starks may get some looks elsewhere. 

#15.) DE C.J Wilson – Wilson fought injury in 2013 AND, even when healthy, was inactive.  It’s apparent the team will move on from Wilson.  Not sure there is more that needs to be said.

#16) S M.D Jennings (Restricted) – I don’t think he gets a tender but with the depth at Safety, he may be back as a body.  Safety is the Packers #1 need so I expect an upgrade.

#17.) RB Kahlil Bell – Came in when Franklin went down.  Lacy is “the” guy, Starks get likely gets tendered and Franklin comes back, not sure where he fits.

#18.) OT Marshall Newhouse – I don’t see anyway Newhouse is back in 2014. 

#19.) QB Seneca Wallace – It’s more likely Newhouse is back than Wallace.

Thoughts?  Would love to hear.

posted by: The Home Stretch with Justin Hull 3 month(s) ago Comment On This Post


My Wild Card Predictions

Friday, Jan, 3 2014

Wild Card Game 1:  #5 Kansas City @ #4 Indianapolis in the AFC (Saturday, 3:30 CST)

For those that listen to my show, you know that Indy is my Super Bowl pick in the AFC.  The NFL is quarterback driven with everyone keeping an eye on who makes that “next step.”  I think it’s Andrew Luck.  With wins over San Francisco (road), Denver, and Kansas City (road) in the regular season, they showed they can win.  Not buying Kansas City.  Two teams met in Week 16 in Kansas City and the result was an Indy blowout.  I am expecting the same Saturday.

Indy over KC 31-17

Wild Card Game 2: #6 New Orleans @ #3 Philadelphia in the NFC (Saturday, 7:00 CST)

Last year in December, I made my black sharpie lock of 2013: “The Saints would win the NFC.”  Wow, that looked good until December.  New Orleans is NOT the same team on the road.  Carolina’s Week 16 win over the Saints did the entire NFC (outside of Seattle) a favor.  Philly can be “that team” this year.  They have a hot QB, the best RB in the NFL this year, and a defense that has been vastly overrated.  I think the Eagles win…BUT, you can’t erase black sharpie.

New Orleans over Philly 34-31

Wild Card Game 3: #6 San Diego @ #3 Cincinnati in the NFC (Sunday, 12:00 CST)

Who was the only team to go unbeaten in 2013 against 2013 playoff teams?  OK, the placement of this question SHOULD lead you to answer Cincinnati.  AND YOU’RE RIGHT!  They were a perfect 4-0 (NE, IND, SD, & GB).  I like them.  Defensively they are stout and can mix it up to confuse Brady/Manning/Luck.  Offensively, if Andy Dalton “manages the game” (which is what ALL QBs DO at the root of the position), Cincinnati should breeze AND have a shot at making the AFC Championship Game.  San Diego was 5-2 against 2013 playoff teams this year.  They are no push over.  BUT, conditions and start time (10 AM west coast), I give the nod to the Bengals.

Cincinnati over San Diego 24-16

Wild Card Game 4: #5 San Francisco @ #4 Green Bay in the NFC (Sunday, 3:40 CST)

I let the cat out of the bag yesterday, I am taking the Packers.  Yes, I work in Green Bay.  No, I am not a homer.  People think I am a Bear fan, to be honest (I am a fan of Cutler’s wife, that’s it).  I think it boils down to one thing: Rodgers > Kaepernick.  Simple.  I know CK has torched the Packers, but I don’t have confidence in him to do it again.  Turnovers.  If the Packers defense continues to be a sieve BUT can force a couple of miscues, that can even out.  Eddie Lacy is a key component, too.  Can he tip the scales?

Green Bay over San Francisco 27-23

posted by: The Home Stretch with Justin Hull 3 month(s) ago Comment On This Post


3 Reasons the Packers Can Win Sunday

Thursday, Jan, 2 2014

Please make sure you read the headline; “3 Reasons the Packers Can Win Sunday.” CAN!  Not will, CAN!  Which, yes, I am predicting them beat the 49ers but there are a lot of pessimistic Packer fans thinking it’s a sure W…that is what I am combating. 

I think it comes down to these three big factors.  If they happen, they win.  If not, they could lose by 27.
Take a look and let me know what you think.

#1.) Turnovers: 

In the first 10-games this year, the Packers defense forced just 9-turnovers.  In the final 6-games, they forced 13.  CB Davon House told me numerous times throughout the year on "In the Huddle" that turnovers are contagious.  He was right.  Turnovers are game changing plays and Aaron Rodgers is one of the best at cashing in on another team’s miscues.  If the Packers can win the turnover battle Sunday, it will be a big step towards the Divisional Round.

#2.) Run Game: 

The 49ers have boasted one of the best run games in the league over the last few years.  This year, the Packers have caught up.  Last year, and even the season opener, the Packers run game was light years behind where it is today.  With the emergence of Eddie Lacy and James Starks throughout the season, Green Bay can put up a fight in a ground-and-pound style of football.  Plus, with the weather, this could be a big difference with the Packers fighting the elements against Atlanta and Pittsburgh in December while San Francisco’s worse conditions were a 40-degree day in Washington in late November.

#3.) Aaron Rodgers:

This one is simple.  Aaron Rodgers > Colin Kaepernick.    The emotional boost that the Packers received from Rodgers return could be HUGE for Green Bay.  The Packers QB showed signs of rust last week against Chicago but once the 4th quarter came, everyone was reminded why he is one of the best.  As long as #12 is playing, the Packers have a shot at beating ANYONE.

I’ll take the Packers 27-23 in this one.  The Packers must win the turnover battle, Eddie Lacy/James Starks need to produce AND Aaron Rodgers has to be Aaron Rodgers.  If those three things happen, the Packers win.  I think they do.

posted by: The Home Stretch with Justin Hull 3 month(s) ago Comment On This Post


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