NFL Nation: Seneca Wallace
ESPN.com New York Giants reporter Dan Graziano makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: at Detroit Lions
The Giants are coming off a mess of a preseason, undermanned and overwhelmed, with the offensive line still a mess and the new offense not clicking at all. No one will pick them to win this game. Except me. Prediction: Win
Week 2: Arizona Cardinals
This one's a comedown off the Week 1 surprise, as Arizona's banged-up defense still manages to flummox Eli Manning and collect a few interceptions. It's a bummer of a home opener as reality begins to set in. Prediction: Loss
Week 3: Houston Texans
Houston's defense is as liable as Arizona's to make life miserable for Manning and the offensive line. But Houston has bigger questions on offense than even the Giants, and this is a win for the New York defense against Ryan Fitzpatrick. Prediction: Win
Week 4: at Washington Redskins
Week 5: Atlanta Falcons
The pattern continues, and the Giants overcome two Osi Umenyiora sacks to outscore the Falcons with a furious Manning comeback in the final minutes. The Giants poke their heads over the .500 mark as they make the turn into the most brutal stretch of their schedule. Prediction: Win
Week 6: at Philadelphia Eagles
The Giants don't have Matt Barkley to kick around this time when they visit the City of Brotherly Love. Chip Kelly and the Eagles show them what a truly innovative offense looks like. Prediction: Loss
Week 7: at Dallas Cowboys
The season-long debate about what gives when an anemic Giants offense meets a pathetic Cowboys defense tilts in Dallas' favor in the first meeting. Tony Romo & Co. have more than enough weapons to outscore Manning and his bunch, and the Giants hit the bye with a 3-4 record. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: Indianapolis Colts
After a long break before the Monday night home game, the Giants get taken apart by Andrew Luck, Hakeem Nicks & Co. at MetLife Stadium for a third straight loss. The offense is starting to run more smoothly, but it still doesn't have enough playmakers to outscore one of the league's better offenses. Prediction: Loss
Week 10: at Seattle Seahawks
You're kidding, right? Prediction: Loss
Week 11: San Francisco 49ers
The Giants have obviously handled the Niners in recent years and in some high-profile situations. But by this point in the season, San Francisco's defense is back to full strength, and the 49ers can't afford to lose ground to the Seahawks by failing to beat the team Seattle just beat the week before. Prediction: Loss
Week 12: Dallas Cowboys
A sixth straight loss is by no means out of the question here, as Romo and his crew still have the potential to outscore anyone in a given week. But from this far out, I'll forecast that something goes wrong for Romo late in this game, and the Giants get a gift. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at Jacksonville Jaguars
This is where the schedule starts to soften up, when the Giants start playing teams that insist on not starting their best quarterback. It's unfortunate they're 4-7 at this point and just about out of the playoff hunt, but they will get it going against the bottom-feeders. Prediction: Win
Week 14: at Tennessee Titans
I think the Titans are going to be dreadful this year, and by December they won't be very difficult for anyone to beat, even at home. A third straight victory keeps the Giants' hopes alive. Prediction: Win
Week 15: Washington Redskins
Have to be honest: The NFC East is so unpredictable that, when doing these predictions, I just decided to give the Giants a 3-3 division record with victories in all three home games and losses in all three road games. It's as fair a way as any to do it, I believe. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at St. Louis Rams
After moving back to .500 with four straight wins, the season falls apart at the hands of the St. Louis pass rush. An offensive line that has once again been the Giants' biggest problem all year can't protect Manning in a must-win game. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: Philadelphia Eagles
Tom Coughlin's teams can always find a way to play for pride. The Giants' playoff hopes are extinguished, but they still manage to end the season on a high note and with a .500 record. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 8-8
ESPN.com Seattle Seahawks reporter Terry Blount makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: Green Bay Packers
All the pregame hype will center around the so-called Inaccurate Reception, the controversial Hail Mary catch by Golden Tate two years ago that won the game over the Packers at Seattle on a Monday night. Tate has moved on to Detroit, but the Seahawks now have too many weapons for the Packers to stop, no Hail Mary required. Prediction: Win
Week 2: at San Diego Chargers
The Chargers better hope they play a lot better than they did in the preseason game at Seattle, a 41-14 victory for the Seahawks on Aug. 15. San Diego will play better, but not good enough to beat a much better team. Prediction: Win
Week 3: Denver Broncos
The Broncos and their fans got a tiny bit of meaningless Super Bowl revenge in the preseason opener with a 21-16 victory over the Seahawks in Denver. Enjoy it while it lasts, boys. Repeating that outcome in Seattle is not an option. Prediction: Win
Week 5: at Washington Redskins
Traveling coast to coast to play on the road for a Monday night game is a tough task against any NFL opponent, and even tougher against quarterback Robert Griffin III. But the Seahawks catch a break in this one by coming off a bye week with plenty of time to prepare and be fresh for the journey. Prediction: Win
Week 6: Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave Seattle a little bulletin-board material last month when he said the Seahawks were to blame for the increase in penalty flags during the preseason. There won't be near enough flags against Seattle for the Cowboys to win this one. Prediction: Win
Week 7: at St. Louis Rams
Any division game in the NFC West is a rugged battle. The Rams have a defensive line that gave the Seahawks problems a year ago. But they aren't strong enough overall to beat Seattle, even at home in their out-of-date dome. Prediction: Win
Week 8: at Carolina Panthers
The Seahawks were fortunate to win the season opener at Charlotte a year ago. That Panthers team was better than this one, but back-to-back road games against very physical defensive teams will end the Seattle winning streak. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: Oakland Raiders
Coming off their first loss of the season and returning home against an outmanned opponent, is there any doubt? Prediction: Win
Week 10: New York Giants
The Seahawks easily defeated the Giants 23-0 last year in New Jersey, a dress rehearsal for their Super Bowl victory at the same location -- MetLife Stadium. The Seahawks won't need a rehearsal to roll past the Giants in this one. Prediction: Win
Week 11: at Kansas City Chiefs
This likely will be a low-scoring game between two strong defensive teams. Odds are against any team that has to try to win by matching its defense against the Seahawks' D. Prediction: Win
Week 12: Arizona Cardinals
The last time the Cardinals played at CenturyLink Field was last December when they handed the Seahawks a 17-10 loss. That won't happen again unless the Seahawks get caught looking ahead to the 49ers game. The Seahawks don't look ahead. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at San Francisco 49ers
It's a Thanksgiving night, national TV game in the 49ers' shiny new stadium against the hated Seahawks. If San Francisco can't win this one, its time as a championship contender is over. Prediction: Loss
Week 14: at Philadelphia Eagles
This is the toughest part of the season for the Seahawks with back-to-back road games against likely playoff contenders. But the 10 days between games will help and be enough of a cushion to keep Seattle from losing two in a row. Prediction: Win
Week 15: San Francisco 49ers
This is a game that could decide which team wins the NFC West. No way the Seahawks lose to the 49ers twice in three weeks, especially not in front of a rabid full house of 12s. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals probably will be fighting for a playoff spot, and the Seahawks already will be in at 12-2. That difference will be just enough for Arizona to win at home in the same stadium where the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl a few weeks later. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: St. Louis Rams
For the second consecutive year, the Rams close the regular season in Seattle. And for the second consecutive year, the Seahawks will beat them without much trouble. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 13-3
ESPN.com San Diego Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have a handful of new starters on defense. Two of Arizona's best players on that side of the ball definitely will not play in linebacker Daryl Washington (suspension) and defensive end Darnell Dockett (injury). San Diego appears to be catching the Cardinals at the right time. Prediction: Win
Week 2: Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks' 41-14 manhandling of San Diego a month ago during preseason play at CenturyLink Field was not a good showing for the Chargers. The starters for both teams will play in this one, and the game is at Qualcomm Stadium. However, the Seahawks will have 10 days of rest after the team's season opener against Green Bay, while the Chargers are playing on a short week after a Monday night game in Arizona. Prediction: Loss
Week 3: at Buffalo Bills
The Bills are improved, with one of the better defensive front sevens in the NFL. They have a nice 1-2 punch at running back in C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson and a human highlight film in receiver Sammy Watkins. But EJ Manuel remains inconsistent at quarterback. Prediction: Win
Week 4: Jacksonville Jaguars
This game could be the first start for rookie quarterback Blake Bortles if Chad Henne struggles early. The Chargers haven't lost to the Jaguars at Qualcomm, but Jacksonville's defense should be better with the addition of defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons. The Jaguars also get after the football defensively. Prediction: Win
Week 5: New York Jets
Will Michael Vick be the starting quarterback for the Jets instead of Geno Smith by Week 5? No matter the signal-caller, Rex Ryan will lean on the run game -- his Jets were one of 12 teams to rush for at least 2,000 yards in 2013. The Jets averaged just 15 points a game on the road in 2013. Prediction: Win
Week 6: at Oakland Raiders
The Chargers lost 27-17 on the road against an awful Oakland team last year. San Diego will be ready and bring more effort this time. However, the Raiders do have a bye before this game, so they will be rested. Prediction: Win
Week 7: Kansas City Chiefs
San Diego has not lost to Kansas City at Qualcomm Stadium since 2007. That streak should continue, although the Chargers can't rely on a Ryan Succop missed field goal to bail them out again. Prediction: Win
Week 8: at Denver Broncos
A nationally televised game against the best team in the AFC last year will be a good, midseason test of where this team stands. San Diego traditionally plays the Broncos tough in Denver -- the Chargers are 6-3 against the Broncos in Denver, including the playoffs, since 2006. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: at Miami Dolphins
The Chargers let one slip away at Miami last year. The Chargers haven't won a regular-season game in Miami since 1980. Prediction: Loss
Week 11: Oakland Raiders
San Diego players should be well-rested for the Raiders coming off of a bye week. Since 2003, the Chargers are 9-2 at Qualcomm Stadium against Oakland. Prediction: Win
Week 12: St. Louis Rams
The Rams have one of the most dominant defensive fronts in the NFL, but Shaun Hill does not instill fear in the hearts of NFL defenders. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at Baltimore Ravens
This game is the beginning of a brutal stretch of games to finish the season. San Diego has never defeated the Ravens in Baltimore. Prediction: Loss
Week 14: New England Patriots
New England runs the football, has an improved defense and one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. And that Bill Belichick is a pretty good coach. Prediction: Loss
Week 15: Denver Broncos
This game is a late-season AFC West battle that the Chargers likely will need to win in order to stay in playoff contention. Expect San Diego to play with urgency in this one. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at San Francisco 49ers
You can't discount how San Diego's defense handled San Francisco's offense in the preseason matchup between these two teams. But Jim Harbaugh should have his team playing much better by December. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: at Kansas City Chiefs
For a second straight season, the Chargers finish against the Chiefs, but this time on the road. Since 2004, San Diego is 6-4 at Kansas City. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 10-6
Week 1: at New York Jets
The Raiders traditionally don't play well on the East Coast. Plus, Rex Ryan's team will be tough to score on. I see a low-scoring defeat. Prediction: Loss
Week 2: Houston Texans
I think the Raiders slug out a win here. Houston has a tough defense, but I think the Raiders defense comes up big and they win a similarly low-scoring game. Houston will be questioned for passing on quarterback Derek Carr. Prediction: Win
Week 3: at New England Patriots
This, on paper, is one of the Raiders' toughest tasks and I think it will play out that way. Tom Brady is just too tough to beat at home. Prediction: Loss
Week 4: Miami Dolphins
I think the Raiders are going to rise up to being the home team in London. The Dolphins have given the Raiders trouble, but I think the Raiders win in England. Prediction: Win
Week 6: San Diego Chargers
The Raiders have had success against the Chargers at home, and while the Chargers are improved, I like this matchup for the Raiders on both lines. Prediction: Win
Week 7: Arizona Cardinals
Raider Nation will want to see Carson Palmer fail in Oakland -- they've seen it plenty of times. But I think the Cardinals are too tough on defense for the Raiders in a critical midseason game. Prediction: Loss
Week 8: at Cleveland Browns
Maybe the Raiders will be facing Johnny Football or maybe not. Either way, I think the Browns will be a mess and the Raiders will win a rare game in the Eastern Time Zone. Prediction: Win
Week 9: at Seattle Seahawks
This is where the season toughens -- in a big way. An Oakland win in Seattle would be one of the upsets of the season. Don't see it. Prediction: Loss
Week 10: Denver Broncos
Here's another tough task. Peyton Manning will be just too much -- as usual. Prediction: Loss
Week 11: at San Diego Chargers
While I like the Oakland matchup against the Chargers, I think San Diego will find its stride and win a pivotal game. Prediction: Loss
Week 12: Kansas City Chiefs
I think the Chiefs will be up and down this season. This will be a down week. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at St. Louis Rams
The Rams are good and they may be playing for something at home. Tough spot for the Raiders. Prediction: Loss
Week 14: San Francisco 49ers
This will be a Super Bowl atmosphere for Raider Nation. But the 49ers will be hitting their stride in December. Prediction: Loss
Week 15: at Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were down in Oakland and I think they will be up at home as they try to keep their wild-card hopes alive. Prediction: Loss
Week 16: Buffalo Bills
I'm not sure either team will be playing for much, but I think the Raiders give the home crowd a good showing to say goodbye to the season. Prediction: Win
Week 17: at Denver Broncos
Let's just say the Broncos will need to win this game. I don't like the Raiders' chances in that scenario. Prediction: Loss
Predicted Record: 6-10
ESPN.com Kansas City Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: Tennessee Titans
Although it's ridiculous to label any season opener a must win, this is probably as close as it gets. The Chiefs face a minefield over the next five games, so they need to take care of business in this one. Prediction: Win
Week 2: at Denver Broncos
The Chiefs haven't beaten the Broncos since Denver was quarterbacked by Tim Tebow. They are 0-4 against Peyton Manning's Broncos, and this doesn't look like the game in which they will bust through. Prediction: Loss
Week 3: at Miami Dolphins
It's not unreasonable to suggest the Chiefs' ability to stay in the playoff hunt hinges on this game. They could get buried if they lose to the Dolphins. Prediction: Win
Week 4: New England Patriots
This would be only the third game Tom Brady has played at Arrowhead Stadium. The joint will be jumping for this Monday night matchup. Prediction: Loss
Week 5: at San Francisco 49ers
A taxing stretch of schedule, a short week and travel to the West Coast are too much for the Chiefs to overcome. Alex Smith will play well but not well enough to beat his former team. Prediction: Loss
Week 7: at San Diego Chargers
The Chiefs are due for a win in San Diego. They haven't brought one home from Qualcomm Stadium since 2007 -- until now. Prediction: Win
Week 8: St. Louis Rams
The Chiefs have won all five of their games against the Rams since the Rams moved to St. Louis. They will continue to own the state of Missouri. Prediction: Win
Week 9: New York Jets
If the Chiefs' schedule has a flat stretch, the Jets are right in the middle of it. It's hard to see them having meaningful games down the stretch if they don't win this one -- but they will. Prediction: Win
Week 10: at Buffalo Bills
Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium had been a haunted house for the Chiefs until they busted through with a victory there this past year. But they won't be able to sustain the momentum. Prediction: Loss
Week 11: Seattle Seahawks
The Chiefs will put up a strong fight in front of a raucous home crowd. But they won't have quite enough to beat the defending Super Bowl champions. Prediction: Loss
Week 12: at Oakland Raiders
Another tough West Coast assignment for the Chiefs, again on a short week. But this time they rise to the challenge. Prediction: Win
Week 13: Denver Broncos
The Broncos can't be looking forward to coming to Arrowhead for a Sunday night game. Again, the Chiefs will make things difficult for one of last year's Super Bowl participants, but they won't quite pull off the victory. Prediction: Loss
Week 14: at Arizona Cardinals
The Chiefs' playoff hopes take a fatal hit in the desert. This loss guarantees the Chiefs won't be making a repeat trip here for the Super Bowl. Prediction: Loss
Week 15: Oakland Raiders
The Chiefs take out their frustrations on the Raiders. In the process, they will get a second straight season sweep of their longtime rivals. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh has been another place where the Chiefs have traditionally found it difficult to win. This game extends a losing streak that goes back to 1986. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: San Diego Chargers
The Chiefs haven't swept a season series from the Chargers since 2003. They get the job done this time against an opponent that will make the playoffs. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 8-8
ESPN.com Denver Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: Indianapolis Colts
The Broncos have opened at home, in prime time, the previous two seasons and scored 31 and 49 points, respectively. In last year's opener, quarterback Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes and this year's offense is primed for another big year. Prediction: Win
Week 2: Kansas City Chiefs
Personnel executives around the league said throughout the preseason the Chiefs have some unresolved issues in the secondary and that's not a good place to have unresolved issues against the Broncos. Manning threw six touchdowns in two meetings against the Chiefs in '13. Prediction: Win
Week 3: at Seattle Seahawks
For months the Broncos have listened to and, no matter what they've said publicly, heard every word of criticism they were too soft, too intimidated to handle the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. A potential early-season classic. Prediction: Win
Week 5: Arizona Cardinals
The Broncos will be just a quarter of the way through the season and they will already be two games into their NFC West trek. The Cardinals were a 10-win team in '13 that didn't make the playoffs, but their defense will sorely miss the injured Darnell Dockett. Prediction: Win
Week 6: at New York Jets
The Broncos didn't like much of what happened the last time they played in MetLife Stadium and Rex Ryan will have some defensive surprises waiting. But if the Broncos beat their body clocks in this one -- kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. MT -- they'll get another win. Prediction: Win
Week 7: San Francisco 49ers
The Broncos haven't made it through a home schedule undefeated since an 8-0 run in 2005. The teams that will offer the biggest tests will be the teams that can pound the ball on offense and pressure Manning with a four-man rush. The 49ers can do both. Prediction: Loss
Week 8: San Diego Chargers
These two teams took decidedly different approaches in the offseason. The Broncos were active in the free-agency market, showering contracts on several new arrivals, whereas the Chargers took a far more measured approach. San Diego will see the new guys have made a difference. Prediction: Win
Week 9: at New England Patriots
Since the start of the 2006 season the Broncos have played five games in Gillette Stadium, including a playoff game to close out the 2011 season to go with the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons. Prediction: Loss
Week 10: at Oakland Raiders
In the past five meetings with the Raiders, the Broncos have scored 34, 37, 26, 37 and 38 points. There is no reason to believe the Broncos won't add another 30-something output to the pile. Prediction: Win
Week 11: at St. Louis Rams
From a personnel standpoint the Rams, with quarterback Sam Bradford out for the season, aren't quite ready for prime time all the time just yet. But at some point, an early Week 4 bye and a stretch of six road games in eight weeks will kick in for the Broncos and they will lose one they shouldn't. Prediction: Loss
Week 12: Miami Dolphins
It will be the Dolphins' first trip to Denver since 2008 -- Mike Shanahan's final season as coach. Miami, in a bit of a roster makeover, will find things have changed. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at Kansas City Chiefs
Last season the Broncos scored a single-season record 606 points and still couldn't run the table in their AFC West games, losing to the Chargers in Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Trouble spots this time around figure to be this game or the one in San Diego two weeks later. Prediction: Win
Week 14: Buffalo Bills
From all of the offensive struggles the Bills had in the preseason, things figure to be more than a little frayed by the time they get to this point in the season. The Broncos will be pointing toward postseason seeding. Prediction: Win
Week 15: at San Diego Chargers
No matter the time of the year, no matter the rosters on either side, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has usually played well against the Broncos and put the Chargers in position to win the game. But this is the point of the schedule when the Broncos' new look on defense needs to look playoff ready.
Week 16: at Cincinnati Bengals
Finally, right here, the Broncos conclude the long, difficult trek through the road games that dominate the second half of their schedule. The Bengals, if still healthy on defense by this point, can rush the passer in the middle of the field and can create matchup problems on offense. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: Oakland Raiders
The Broncos nailed down home-field advantage with a win over the Raiders to close out the 2013 season. If all goes well for the Broncos, and a potential loss in New England would sting too badly, they should be in position to do that again in this one. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 12-4
That's 43 more games, 3,172 more yards and 18 more touchdowns than what the Packers' backups a year ago at this time had on their professional résumés.
How much better should the Packers feel about their backup quarterback situation with Flynn and Tolzien than they did last year at this time with Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman?
"We know now what Scott and Matt can do," Packers receiver Jordy Nelson said. "And they'll be here all the way through training camp. That will be the big thing."
Last year, the Packers dumped both Harrell and Coleman by the time the regular season opened. They had to rely on three backups – Seneca Wallace, Tolzien and Flynn – who spent last offseason with different teams.
And when Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone on Nov. 4, it showed.
Wallace did not make it through his first start, and Tolzien – although he showed signs of a strong arm and above-average athleticism – could not avoid the costly turnovers that may have been due to a lack of experience in the Packers' offense. Flynn, who spent 2008-11 with the Packers before stints in Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo, finally steadied the offense and went 2-2-1 to set up Rodgers' Week 17 return.
"Not only did we have to deal with the backup, there was two we hadn't seen and they were thrown into the fire two months into the season," Nelson said. "That will be the big thing. Scott's learning, still progressing. He'll do a great job. Obviously we know how hard he works. Matt's his normal self. We know what he can do, and he proved it again last year."
The Packers re-signed Flynn to a one-year deal that could be worth up $1.068 million (with incentives) and for now, he’s the No. 2 quarterback.
"You need a quality backup, and it's great having him," Rodgers said. "And Scott's done a really nice job for us as well. He's a really hard worker, a gym rat. He's made some great strides."
Tolzien isn't sleeping on a couch in the Packers’ locker room like he did during his early days with the San Francisco 49ers, but he appears to taking advantage of his first offseason in the Packers' quarterback-friendly program.
"Scott's gotten a lot better," McCarthy said. "I think what you're seeing now with Scott Tolzien is he's comfortable with the language. He's definitely comfortable with the footwork. We've changed some things with his mechanics and fundamentals. He's a tireless worker. I don't know if there's anybody in our program that spends as much time at it as Scott does. He's getting better."
For Tolzien, it's a chance to learn both the fundamentals that McCarthy and his assistants teach their quarterbacks and also to absorb the massive playbook without the pressure of cramming a game plan into his brain in less than a week.
As important as all the offseason work – the film study, the quarterback drills, the OTA and minicamp practices – will be for Tolzien, it might be his experience in real, live NFL games last season that will make the most difference.
"When the bullets are flying and you make good plays in a game atmosphere, you realize you can do it," said Tolzien, who completed 55 of 90 passes for 717 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions in three games last season. "And that's a super powerful thing to have that inner confidence that you've done it before."
The problem is, this isn't the 1990s.
The rules of the collective bargaining agreement that was put in place following the 2011 lockout greatly reduced the amount of time coaches can work with players in the offseason, a time often set aside for individual and group instruction. For Packers' quarterbacks, that means four weeks have been shaved off coach Mike McCarthy's quarterback school.
Nevertheless, the Packers have come to the NFL scouting combine with one eye on finding a developmental quarterback prospect and hope to take four quarterbacks into training camp this summer.
"I think we definitely need four," McCarthy said at the combine, "So I'm hopeful that we can get a young guy in the draft."
The Packers have only two quarterbacks under contract for 2014 -- starter Aaron Rodgers and Scott Tolzien, who was signed to the practice squad last September and then promoted to the active roster after Rodgers broke his collarbone on Nov. 4. Tolzien has yet to go through an offseason in McCarthy's training program, having been with the San Francisco 49ers for his first two seasons.
Matt Flynn was re-signed last November and became the fourth quarterback to start for the Packers last season, but his contract was only for the 2013 season.
"I thought Matt Flynn came in and did a number of good things," McCarthy said. "There's a lot of stability he brings to the quarterback room as far as the role that he needs to play and his role to the starting quarterback to help them scout and so forth, so Matt is obviously a good fit for our program. I thought he definitely gave us a shot in the arm when we needed it. Free agency is upon us, we'll see what happens."
Whatever happens, the Packers don't want to be stuck in the position they were in at the end of last summer, when the trio of Vince Young, Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman all failed to win the backup job, forcing the Packers to sign veteran Seneca Wallace the week of the season opener.
That general manager Ted Thompson has drafted only one quarterback -- Coleman in the seventh round in 2012 -- since he took Brian Brohm (second round) and Flynn (seventh round) in 2008 would seemingly indicate that it's time to take another one.
"We're always looking," Thompson said. "Coach McCarthy's a quarterback guy. He likes to have a group, so you never stop looking, turning over rocks, that sort of thing."
All season, Kelly talked about the importance of having two quarterbacks capable of winning NFL games on the roster. The Eagles were living proof of the value of having Vick and Nick Foles. The Green Bay Packers, meanwhile, were an object lesson in what happens when your depth chart drops from Aaron Rodgers to Seneca Wallace.
Vick will be a free agent on March 11 and says he wants to go somewhere he can be a starter. And while he has said he would be willing to return to the Eagles as a backup “if all else fails,” there is a very real possibility the Eagles won’t be interested.
That’s because, for all the praise Kelly heaped on Vick for handling his in-season demotion, the coach also had good things to say about rookie Matt Barkley.
“Matt was awesome,” Kelly said. “I'm excited to get a full offseason with Matt in here to really get a chance to work with him, because I think he's got a skill set that's exciting when you see him, how the ball comes out of his hands, the decisions that he makes, and that's part of this whole deal.”
The guess here is that Barkley is tagged to be the No. 2 quarterback behind Foles. His style is closer to Foles’ than Vick’s is, which theoretically makes for a smoother transition if he has to play. It also wouldn’t shock me if the Eagles draft a quarterback again this year, maybe even higher than they took Barkley.
As for Vick, he is probably the best of a mediocre batch of free-agent quarterbacks this year. He will be 34, but still has a couple years left in him.
Some possible fits:
• Oakland, where coach Dennis Allen is going to be feeling some heat. Vick could be a good option to Terrelle Pryor as the younger quarterback gets up to speed.
• The New York Jets, where there will be intense pressure on head coach Rex Ryan in 2014, and where the offensive coordinator is former Eagles assistant Marty Mornhinweg. If the Jets stick with the combination of Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez for another year, chances are they’ll be looking for a new head coach in 2015.
• Jacksonville, where the Jaguars slid from the No. 1 overall pick to No. 3 by winning a few late-season games. If they aren’t in love with the quarterbacks available, or if they need a veteran to serve as a bridge to the rookie, Vick could be a fit.
• Cleveland is interesting. It’s hard to say whether the presence of former Eagles president Joe Banner would be good or bad for Vick in Cleveland.
• Tampa Bay, which has a lot to like in Mike Glennon. But new coach Lovie Smith may want real competition for the starting job in training camp, and Vick just proved himself a solid locker room citizen through one of those.
• Buffalo is similar to Tampa Bay. E.J. Manuel is going to get every chance to be the quarterback, but coach Doug Marrone may want a veteran to compete, and Kevin Kolb’s status may force the Bills to bring someone in.
• Kansas City. OK, OK, Andy Reid just had a very good year with Alex Smith. But Reid has fallen hard for Vick and scuttled his quarterback plans before. A long shot, yes, but there’s a sliver of a chance.
Only one player took them all.
A total of 30 players took at least one snap on offense (including a pair of defensive linemen -- Mike Daniels and B.J. Raji). In 2012, the Packers used 29 players on offense.
Six players -- Sitton, right guard T.J. Lang, left tackle David Bakhtiari, center Evan Dietrich-Smith, receiver Jordy Nelson and tight end Andrew Quarless -- played on offense in every game.
Here are the total snap counts on offense with playing-time percentages in parenthesis (the defense and special teams breakdowns are coming):
- Aaron Rodgers 645 (54.4 percent)
- Matt Flynn 324 (27.3 percent)
- Scott Tolzien 158 (13.3 percent)
- Seneca Wallace 58 (5.0 percent)
- Josh Sitton 1,185 (100 percent)
- David Bakthtiari 1,171 (98.8 percent)
- T.J. Lang 1,156 (97.6 percent)
- Evan Dietrich-Smith 1,118 (94.3 percent)
- Don Barclay 1,027 (86.7 percent)
- Marshall Newhouse 256 (21.6 percent)
- Lane Taylor 14 (1.2 percent)
- Derek Sherrod 6 (0.5 percent)
- Jordy Nelson 1,145 (96.6 percent)
- James Jones 906 (76.5 percent)
- Jarrett Boykin 690 (58.2 percent)
- Randall Cobb 377 (31.8 percent)
- Myles White 123 (10.4 percent)
- Jeremy Ross 7 (0.6 percent)
- Chris Harper 2 (0.2 percent)
- Eddie Lacy 717 (60.5 percent)
- John Kuhn 333 (28.1 percent)
- James Starks 235 (19.8 percent)
- Johnathan Franklin 62 (5.7 percent)
- Mike Daniels 2 (0.2 percent)
- B.J. Raji 2 (0.2 percent)
Some may already have been made, but with 17 unrestricted free agents and two more that fall under the restricted category, there are bound to be both big-money signings and cost-saving departures.
Every one of the key free-agents-to-be who was in the locker on Monday when players packed up and headed home for the offseason expressed uncertainty about their situations.
“I’ve had a lot of fun with the guys playing,” center Evan Dietrich-Smith said. “I hope we can continue it, but at the same time I think everybody understands the business side of the game and we’ll just have to wait and see.”
For some players, like veteran receiver James Jones, this won’t be the first time going through free agency.
“Whatever may happen, happens,” Jones said. “I would love to be back here. I’ve been here for seven years and would love to be back. You know, you’ve got to go into the offseason, they make decisions up top, I’ll go into the offseason and talk with my agent and we’ll go from there.”
Here’s the list of the free-agents-to-be on offense (to be followed later by the defensive list):
- Seneca Wallace, QB: Aaron Rodgers said he enjoyed having a veteran backup around, but at age 33 and coming off surgery to repair a torn groin muscle, Wallace is not expected to return. He finished the Nov. 4 game against the Bears after Rodgers broke his collarbone but then sustained his injury on the first series of his first start the following week. 2013 base salary: $662,118
- John Kuhn, FB: If ever there was a question about his value, it should have been answered this season, when he made several big plays – including the key block on Rodgers’ game-winning touchdown pass in Week 17 against the Bears. The role of the fullback has diminished, but the position is far from extinct in Green Bay. 2013 base salary: $1.8 million
- James Starks, RB: Playing the role of complementary back to Eddie Lacy suited the oft-injured Starks. He missed only three games this season and averaged 5.5 yards per carry on 89 regular-season attempts. He might seek a starting chance somewhere else but could return as a backup. 2013 base salary: $630,000
- Kahlil Bell, RB: Signed on Dec. 3 after rookie Johnathan Franklin’s season-ending neck injury, the veteran backup played primarily on special teams. With Franklin and DuJuan Harris expected to be healthy by next season, Bell may not be re-signed. 201 3 base salary: $715,000
- Jermichael Finley, TE: This will be as much a medical decision as it is a financial one after he underwent surgery following his season-ending neck injury. Finley wants to keep playing, but he will have to be cleared by doctors first. It would have been a difficult negotiation even without the injury, but that has only complicated matters. 2013 base salary: $4.45 million
- Andrew Quarless, TE: Replaced Finley in the starting lineup and despite a career-best 32 catches for 312 yards and two touchdowns, he did not show the dynamic playmaking ability that Finley has. It doesn’t mean he won’t be back, but the Packers will probably address this position whether it’s by re-signing Finley or looking elsewhere. 2013 base salary: $1.32 millionQuarless
- Evan Dietrich-Smith, C: Played last season on a restricted free-agent tender and started all 16 games for the first time in his career. The Packers would like some continuity at the center position, so perhaps re-signing the dependable Dietrich-Smith will be a priority. 2013 base salary: $1.32 million
- Marshall Newhouse, T: Reduced to a backup role after starting the previous two seasons at left tackle, Newhouse started two games at right tackle while Don Barclay was out because of a knee injury, but his days as a full-time starter in Green Bay appear to be over. 2013 base salary: $1.23 million
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone has healed to the point where the Green Bay Packers feel comfortable putting their franchise quarterback back on the field.
On Thursday, when he announced Rodgers would start Sunday’s regular-season finale at the Chicago Bears, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said: “It’s time to play football.”
But neither McCarthy nor Rodgers would discuss the medical specifics of what led them to this decision when only a week earlier, it was not time.
Even if team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie was able to assure them that Rodgers was no more susceptible to the injury than he was before -- and even that was not known -- the Packers would rather not find out how much punishment the quarterback’s collarbone can withstand. In order for that to happen, those charged with protecting Rodgers -- his offensive line, tight ends, running backs and even McCarthy with his play calling -- will need to be on high alert in Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.
“No question, there’s definitely an added urgency to keeping Aaron clean in the pocket,” said Packers running backs coach Alex Van Pelt, whose players are often charged with picking up blitzing defenders. “There’s no question. I don’t think we need to coach our guys any differently. Their responsibilities or who they have, that’s all game-planned during the week and prepped on their part, but yeah, I’m sure they’re feeling a little more pressure to keep him clean, which is understandable, obviously.”
Despite the rules designed to protect quarterbacks, Rodgers doesn’t play in a bubble. He’s going to get hit. Perhaps the better question is what kind of hits can he take and what kind would be most problematic for his collarbone?
Surprising as it may be, a blindside hit -- like the kind backup quarterback Matt Flynn took from Atlanta Falcons safety William Moore in the Dec. 8 game at Lambeau Field -- might not be the most dangerous. Sure, Flynn had no time to brace himself for Moore because he didn’t see him, but the fact that Moore didn’t drive him into the ground with all of his force made the hit less dangerous.
“The most vulnerable situation is when there’s compression, such as with [Rodgers’] first injury,” said ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell, a physical therapist who is a board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist. “That doesn’t mean he couldn’t absorb that, but there’s no way to know for sure.”
Rodgers broke his left collarbone on Nov. 4 when Bears defensive end Shea McClellin sacked him and then landed on Rodgers with all of his body weight. According to Bell, the combination of Rodgers landing on the ground with one shoulder and McClellin’s weight on his other likely caused his collarbone to buckle.
Protecting Rodgers in the pocket is one thing, but he also likes to get outside and make improvisational plays. He was rolling out to his right when McClellin hit him.
“He can make plays with his feet, he can make throws that most quarterbacks in this league can’t make,” Packers left guard Josh Sitton said. “Sometimes, you look at some of his throws, you’re like, ‘Where the hell is he throwing the ball?’ And it’s a catch somehow. He’s a special player and we’re happy to have him back.”
The task now is keeping him healthy. Maybe McCarthy will do that by using a variety of quick throws and three-step drops rather than five- and seven-step drops that could leave Rodgers more vulnerable to getting hit.
Rodgers was sacked 18 times in the first seven-plus games of the season. His’ replacements -- Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Flynn -- were sacked 24 times in seven-plus games.
“I’m sure that Aaron’s going to get hit; he’s going to get knocked down at some point,” Van Pelt said. “That’s just the way the football game goes. But those guys I’m sure have a little added urgency to keep him clean.”
At other times while he was recovering from his injury, Rodgers said there are things the equipment and medical staffs can do to add protection to his collarbone area. But on Thursday, he would not say whether he would use any.
Protecting Rodgers from dangerous hits is critical, but it’s also important for Rodgers to take a hit so that he knows his collarbone can withstand it.
“I’m sure that every guy that comes back when they first step onto the field there’s some emotional hurdles that they need to get over,” Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo said. “But I think that’s everyone, and I think that’s all injuries. But other than that, it’s up to the athlete to get through that.”
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As quarterback Aaron Rodgers' passes zipped around the Don Hutson Center on Thursday, Green Bay Packers' receivers seemed to have an extra inch or two to their vertical jumps and their offensive linemen appeared to hold their blocks for a second or two longer.
OK, maybe not.
But things felt -- and looked -- different at practice on Thursday.
Can Rodgers' return from his Nov. 4 broken collarbone have that big of an impact?
"That's why you pay him so much money because he makes everyone else better," Packers receiver James Jones said. "If he was just a one-man show and only made himself better, he probably wouldn't be a $100 million man, but he makes this team a thousand times better."
From his rocket arm and improvisational skills outside the pocket to his ability to read defenses and make the right adjustments at the line of scrimmage, Rodgers can do things that few other quarterbacks can. Certainly not Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn -- the trio of backups that combined to go 2-5-1 in games Rodgers did not start or finish.
Time and again since Rodgers broke his left collarbone when Chicago Bears defensive end Shea McClellin sacked him in the first quarter of the Week 9 game at Lambeau Field, numerous teammates have referred to Rodgers as not only the best quarterback in the NFL but also as the best player in the league.
When you're a player of that caliber, teammates don't just play with you, they play for you.
"I think one of Aaron's strengths is he brings out the best in those around him in a lot of different ways," Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo said. "And that's a special quality that he has."
As big of an impact as Rodgers has on the X's and O's of football, his influence on his teammates psyche may be just as important, although more difficult to measure.
Not that receivers such as Jones or Jordy Nelson weren't selling out to catch passes from Flynn the past month. Not that offensive linemen David Bakhtiari, Don Barclay, Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton weren't pass protecting as well as they could. But players like Rodgers have a way of elevating the play of those around them.
It may not be something they even realize or can measure but deep down in their subconscious, it's there.
That said, the Packers have to be careful not to take on the attitude that Rodgers' return will cure everything. Perhaps that's why when coach Mike McCarthy announced in Thursday's morning's team meeting the Packers are preparing for Rodgers to start Sunday's game against the Bears, there was no cheering or hooting and hollering.
"Aaron even let us know that," Jones said. "Just cause he's back, it don't guarantee nothing. We've got to go out there and play. He's got to play at a high level, we've got to play at a high level, and we've got to win a game."
They opened the season against Washington, with Robert Griffin III looking very much like a young quarterback who hadn’t taken a preseason snap.
They played Tampa Bay in Mike Glennon's second career start, while the Buccaneers were dealing with fallout from the Josh Freeman mess and a MRSA outbreak.
When the Eagles were worried about how to cover Calvin Johnson, eight inches of snow covered the Detroit receiver for them.
Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson injured his foot the week before the Eagles played the Vikings. His backup, Toby Gerhart, also missed that game.
And now Tony Romo will be out for the biggest game of the season, the virtual playoff game between the Eagles and Dallas, according to ESPN reports.
It’s enough to make you wonder if Chip Kelly’s super-secret sports science program includes hexes and voodoo dolls.
While there will be plenty of jokes about the Cowboys being better off without Romo and his 1-6 record in win-or-go-home games, his absence clearly takes some of the luster off of this much anticipated battle for the NFC East title.
Kelly, speaking before the news broke, had little regard for those criticisms of Romo. He cited the game-winning touchdown Romo threw Sunday to beat Washington and force the showdown with the Eagles.
“Fourth [down], game on the line, scrambles, keeps the ball alive, hits the mark to [DeMarco] Murray and they win the game,” Kelly said. “I'm always on what you did last, and what he did last was pretty special -- the way he avoided the rush, kept drives alive, and I think he's as talented a quarterback as there is in this league.
“Any time with that position, sometimes I think you get probably too much credit and too much blame. But he's one of the really, really, really good quarterbacks we've seen, and I said that the first time we played him. If you're a fan of just quarterback play, he's pretty special.”
As the Eagles learned the hard way, a little luck is no guarantee. They went to Minnesota two Sundays ago knowing that Peterson and Gerhart were unlikely to play. And they still were stomped 48-30 by Matt Cassel and the Vikings. A virtually unknown running back named Matt Asiata ran for three touchdowns in that game.
Cowboys backup quarterback Kyle Orton has more of a pedigree than Asiata or -- sticking with his position -- Glennon, Wallace or Scott Tolzien, who played most of the Packers game. Orton has faced the Eagles twice. He beat them in 2008 while with the Bears, and lost to them the following year as a Bronco.
Though the Eagles have had their share of luck this season, they aren’t going to feel too sorry for the Cowboys. Remember, Michael Vick was their starting quarterback when the season began. After he was hurt, Nick Foles took over and played too well to be sent back down the depth chart.
Throughout that process, Kelly repeatedly said that you had to have two good quarterbacks in the NFL. The Packers found out what happens when you don’t. If Orton isn’t able to compete, that’s on the Cowboys for not having another quarterback in development.
The year Orton and the Bears beat them, the Eagles went to the NFC Championship Game against Arizona. If Orton can beat them this time, they’re going home.
“Well that was a long time ago, I appreciate you remembering,” Garrett said during a conference call on Wednesday with reporters at Lambeau Field. “We had some great games against the Packers in the ’90s. On that particular Thanksgiving, I got a chance to play and really all I was trying to do was function as one-eleventh of the offense and just kind of do my job as best I could. We had some really good players around me and made sure I gave them a chance to do what they do best. It was a great team win for us, a great memory, but, again, it’s getting to be a long time ago.”
Nearly 20 years later, Garrett might have to prepare his team to do what the Packers did back in 1994 -- deal with a backup quarterback.
With Aaron Rodgers’ status for Sunday’s game in Dallas still in doubt because of his Nov. 4 collarbone injury, the Packers may have to start Matt Flynn for a third straight game. While Garrett was the third Cowboys quarterback in 1994, Flynn is the Packers’ fourth. But he's the only one to lead them to a win – Sunday’s 22-21 victory over the Atlanta Falcons – since Rodgers got hurt. Neither Seneca Wallace nor Scott Tolzien could do that.
A week ago, Falcons coach Mike Smith said he was preparing as if Rodgers was going to play. Garrett said his approach is “fairly similar.”
“One of the things that we try to do is we try to see if there’s a difference between how they play with the starting quarterback playing or the backup quarterback playing,” Garrett said. “It doesn’t seem to be a significant difference in scheme and in plays that like they to run. So you start there, but you certainly start your preparation with Aaron and then in this case Matt Flynn, who has been playing the last couple of weeks. We certainly study him and understand what he wants to do and try our best to get ready for both as we go.”
Final Atlanta 24 Jacksonville 14 Final Detroit 23 Buffalo 0 Final Indianapolis 7 Cincinnati 35 Final New York 7 Philadelphia 37 Final St. Louis 13 Miami 14 Final Kansas City 14 Green Bay 34 Final Carolina 10 Pittsburgh 0 Final New England 13 New York 16 Final Washington 24 Tampa Bay 10 Final Baltimore 22 New Orleans 13 Final Chicago 13 Cleveland 33 Final San Francisco 40 Houston 13 Final Minnesota 19 Tennessee 3 Final Denver 27 Dallas 3 Final Arizona 9 San Diego 12 Final Seattle 31 Oakland 41