Sunday, September 24, 2017

2017 NFL Week 3: Packers vs. Bengals

This is really pushing it, Packer fans. About 30 minutes before kickoff as I write this. Obligations this weekend precluded any earlier posting. So..apologies.

The Packers lost in disheartening fashion in Atlanta last weekend. After a defensive tour de force at home agains the Seahawks many fans saw the "D" revert to its NFC Championship game form. In short, oy.

Anyway, it's likely that today's game is just what the doctor ordered: the Cincinnati Bengals. They haven't scored a touchdown in two games, both at home. You know they have to break through at some point. You just hope it doesn't start in any major way today.

Our Prediction

The Packers are favored by 9 points. That should be the case. Plus more. Granted, the Packers are already banged up going into just the third week of the season. And a record may be set for the hottest game ever played at Lambeau Field. Yes, really. Not coldest. Hottest. So that will put extra stress on players. You never know who might cramp up at an inopportune time in the game, or who might not even be able to return. Hydration will be key today. As will the Packers offense playing to the level they are capable of, and the defense reprising their opening game effort.

We're calling this one Packers 31 - Bengals 9.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

2017 NFL Week 2: Packers vs. Falcons

The Green Bay Packers took care of business at home in the season opener, defeating the Seattle Seahawks 17-9. It was a defensive tour de force, led by Mike Daniels. If the defense plays that way every week...watch out, NFL!
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers may have to be on the move today vs. the Falcons depending upon the health of his O-line.
Our Prediction
Our take on today's game in Atlanta is that the Pack's defense will certainly better its performance in last season's NFC Championship game. Wouldn't take much.

Still, even combined with the Packers' offensive weapons -- which should enable the team to keep pace with the Dirty Birds -- there are a few key questions.

Perhaps the key one today is the health of the Pack's offensive tackles. Both Bryan Bulaga and David Bahktiari have issues and one or both may be limited if not held out today. Backup tackle Kyle Murphy held up well overall against one of the league's better defenses in last week's game. But...if Bulaga has to move to left tackle or can't go at all...? Not a great way to go up against the defending NFC Champs on their home turf. Oh, and don't forget, this is the grand opening of the new Atlanta Mercedes Stadium...or whatever it's called. The Falcons will be jacked and it's a wonder the spread isn't more than the 3 points given for regular home field advantage.

If it sounds as if we're picking against the Packers, it does have the feel of a pick 'em type scenario. Many if not most pundits are picking the Falcons, typically with from 3-10 to point margins of victory. But don't forget that Atlanta nearly lost to Da Bearz in Chicago last weekend, only saved from defeat by Chicago's ineptitude to score a TD with four plays and goal and go in the closing minute of the game.

Despite the questions on the offensive line, the Packers defense is going to give Atlanta as much as they can handle, perhaps even generating a key turnover that will be the difference in the game. The Pack's offense will take care of business and get off to a faster start than vs. the Seahawks.

We're calling this one Packers 27 - Falcons 24.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

2017 NFL Week 1: Packers vs. Seahawks

Today is the day we've been waiting for since the season-and-Super Bowl-run-ending loss in Atlanta, Packers fans...it's the start of a new season and the chance to bring the Lombardi Trophy back home to Lambeau Field where it rightfully belongs.

The NFL schedule-makers have set the Packers quite a test in their first two games, at home against the Seattle Seahawks and on the road versus the Atlanta Falcons...two of the teams, along with the Pack and perhaps another team or two that figure to be in the mix for the NFC Conference Championship. More about today's game in a moment. But first, here's a bit of an addendum to yesterday's Season Prediction post. Here is the overall strength of schedule for each NFL team (based on the final 2016 records of a team's 2017 opponents):
Looking at this strength of schedule, the entire NFC North seems to have one of the lighter schedules in terms of strength of opponent. Well...c'mon. This is the NFL and on any given Sunday, etc. Unless, of course...Cleveland...or Buffalo...or the Jets.

But back to the Pack and the Seahawks today. What do we know? Or at least think we know?

Packers favored by 3

At the time of this writing, the Packers get the benefit of home field advantage in what is otherwise being seen as a toss-up game by pundits and oddsmakers. The Pack has typically taken care of business, including the Seahawks, at Lambeau Field. Of course, over the last few seasons the Pack has also gotten off to slow season starts. This season, the team can't afford that. With the Seahawks and Falcons back to back to start the season, the Packers have to at least split those two games if not outright win both, as we'd all prefer, right? Right!

We have to believe that the Packers offense will put up points, particularly with the addition of Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks to the tight end corps, a focused Ty Montgomery in the backfield (who is backed up by all three of the Pack's rookie draft pick runners, just in case), and the best quarterback and wide receiver group in the league. The offensive line is a bit of a question mark in terms of depth. With right tackle Bryan Bulaga ruled out for today's game, a tight end or running back might need to be dedicated to help out that side of the field.

On the defensive side of the ball, that's the big unknown. Apparently Packers management wasn't satisfied with what they had following the preseason and picked up a couple castoffs from other teams to help beef up that side of the ball. Those players seem as if they will be an upgrade, but how much they'll contribute today after only a day or two on the practice field...? Also, it will be interesting to see how well the Pack's upgraded -- but still young -- defensive backfield holds up. The Pack's linebacker corps, assisted by defensive backs Morgan Burnett and Josh Jones playing in the middle sometimes, definitely needs to up its game from last season.

Game Prediction

Overall, expectations are high. What else is new? Anything can happen in a Game 1 situation, particularly with two heavyweights trying to find and establish their identities for the season. The Packers defense has had Seahawk QB Russell Wilson's number for the last few games. That trend needs to continue today. Oh, and for a reality check keep in mind that the outcome of this first game of the season may very well determine home field advantage come playoff time. Yeah...really.

We're calling this game Packers 27 - Seahawks 24.

We hope it's not a down-to-the-wire type of game. But it could be tight and back and forth for most of the game given the calibre of these two teams. Seems as if some strange plays also happen in these duels and just one of those today could be the difference.

But it's a beautiful day in Green Bay and the Pack is ready to roll. Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Packers 2017-18 Season Prediction

Well, Packers fans...we've avoided making any posts during summer training camp and preseason. We've been slacking, no doubt. Sorry about that. But we'll try to do better as we are now at the start of the regular season.

One of the things we've done since the beginning of this blog -- quite a while now -- is to make a season prediction as to overall record. Lots of places give game-by-game predictions for the season and that's certainly a worthwhile pursuit. We do game-by-game predictions, too, but do them week by week as the season goes along; just too many factors that can affect things.

What we do at the outset though is use a game itself as a model. In short, we break up the season into quarters and give predictions for each quarter of the season. OK, yes, because of the bye week there are really 17 weeks to the season not 16...so how can we do quarters??? Hey, it makes sense to us and since this is our blog, well, that's all that matters. So here go...


First Quarter of Season - Weeks 1-4 (Sept. 10-28)

The Packers start off with the Seahawks at Lambeau Field, followed by a game at Atlanta, then at home versus the Bengals and Da Bearz. That's two tough games against likely NFC Conference contenders right off the bat. With three out of these first four games at home, the Pack's traditionally slow season starts might be mitigated. We see them taking three out of these first four games. Overall record: 3-1.


Second Quarter of Season - Weeks 5-8 (Oct. 6-29)

The Packers begin this part of the season at Dallas, then another away game at Minnesota before returning home to take on the Saints. Week 8 of the season is the Pack's bye week and they will no doubt rejoice in the week off after a very challenging first half to the season. We see the Pack going 2-1 in this stretch. Overall record: 5-2.


Third Quarter of Season - Weeks 9-12 (Nov. 6-26)

The schedule has a bit more symmetry to it in this stretch, with home-away-home-away: the Lions, at Chicago, home against the Ravens and then at Pittsburgh. We'd like to see this stretch go 3-1 but...OK, let's say it's 3-1. Overall record: 8-3.


Fourth Quarter of Season - Weeks 13-17 (Dec. 3-31)

In this final non-quarter-like quarter of the season (five games not four), the Pack has two home games and three away. They start at home against the Buccaneers, then are away at Cleveland and Carolina, home against the ViQueens, and finish the season on New Year's Eve day at Detroit. This has the feel of a 3-2 stretch, although it goes without saying (but we're saying it) that a lot here depends upon the health not only of the Packers but their opponents. Overall record: 11-5.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is set to take the team back to the Super Bowl.
(Photo: Jim Matthews / USA TODAY NETWORK-Wi, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Aaron Rodgers said this week that the way he looks at the season you win all your home goes and then split on the road. In other words, 12-4. He thought that would put the team right there in the mix. We'd feel more comfortable with that as well.

Given the offensive weapons the Packers have this season, they shouldn't have any problem scoring. The question mark, as it has been for seemingly too many seasons, is the defense. The Pack has concentrated several consecutive drafts on beefing up that side of the ball. And just this week, GM Ted Thompson added some free agents to the mix.

We have to agree with Rodgers that this is a good, very good, Packers team in terms of talent. But all the pieces still have to come together. Given that they got to the NFC Championship game last season with a glued-together defense, even an incrementally better defense could get them back to the Super Bowl.

This might be the thinking of a lot of pundits who have selected the Pack to be one of the favorites to go to the Super Bowl this season. We agree.

Please check back tomorrow (game day) to see our Packers vs. Seahawks game prediction.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

We're Baaaaaaack! And We Bring You...the Packers 2017 Schedule

We've had a long offseason, Packers fans. In fact, as you may have noticed, we haven't posted since the NFC Championship Game. Yes, it was...not good. But that was then. This is now. And by this, we mean looking forward to the upcoming 2017 season.

So it is with great pleasure that we bring you the official 2017 Packers schedule (with kudos to ThePackerPage for the graphic).
What do you think? We'll be back with some thoughts on this schedule once we have a chance to digest it a bit.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

NFL NFC Championship: Packers vs. Falcons preview and prediction

After the epic win in Dallas in the NFC Divisional Playoff, and for the second time in three years, the Green Bay Packers are in the NFC Championship Game. As Packers fans, we can only hope and pray that this game turns out better than the last (the horror...the horr0r...).

We awoke to good news for starters: according to the NFL Network, wide receivers Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison are all expected to play today. This was very much in question over the last few days as all have been nursing injuries, none more so than Nelson who has two broken ribs. The thinking might be (OK, this is my thinking) that even if Nelson can only be on the field part of the time, and not even be thrown to (to try to protect those ribs), he will have to be covered; that takes one defender away from another receiver who could perhaps otherwise receive double coverage. In other words, Nelson as decoy. The Pack have three additional receivers active today (not including Ty Montgomery), which is one more than typical...for insurance purposes, it would seem.
The Packers need to get pumped and play 60 minutes of outstanding football -- on both sides of the ball -- to win today.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

It is interesting to note, however, that the Packers did elevate one of their practice squad receivers yesterday to the 53-man roster: Max McCaffrey. (If that name sounds familiar it is because he is the son of former Pro Bowl receiver Ed McCaffrey and the older brother of Christian McCaffrey, whom we know is currently projected as a first-round pick in this year's NFL draft.) The Pack signed him to the practice squad in December after he was released by the Raiders. He was undrafted out of Duke and has yet to play in an NFL game. To make room for McCaffrey, the Packers put center JC Tretter on the injured reserve list.

The Packers, fortunately, have great depth at receiver and that depth will be needed today. Of course, the Pack also has TE Jared Cook who has been nothing short of amazing since returning from injury earlier in the season. Recall that he did not play in the earlier loss to the Falcons, nor did Montgomery. It's all hands on deck.

Atlanta is averaging over 35 points per game at home. The Falcons earlier season win against the Pack was by one point, 33-32. So stop the presses! There will be points scored today. The record for points for a NFL championship game is 73. We believe it will be more than that today.

Neither of these two teams boasts outstanding defenses. Both are near the bottom of the standings. Atlanta is actually 32nd in red zone defense. So the more often the Packers can get into the red zone, the better. Pass protection for both teams is very good. Atlanta is the only team in the league that has had all five starters on the offensive line start every game this season. Amazing. The Packers O-line give Rodgers time to work outside of the pocket and find receivers downfield. So it's going to be an offensive battle and the defense that can generate a turnover or two, or make a stop, is likely the team that will come out on top. It may very well come down to "whoever has the ball last wins," just like last weekend versus the Cowboys. So get your heart medication ready again, Packer fans.

It's getting close to about 2 hours to game time and we could go on and on. But we won't. Let's get to the prediction.

The Prediction
You've already read here and elsewhere that the expectation is for a high-scoring game. The Falcons are favored by 5 points, which seems a bit off, despite Atlanta coming into this game arguably as hot as the Packers. It is the final game in the George Dome so that might generate some additional energy for a while for the Dirty Birds. But if the Packers can get out early as they did last weekend, and the defense can get a turnover or two and make some key stops -- don't let that two-headed running attack of the Falcons get going, for example -- Rodgers and company should come out on top. Ty Montgomery should have a big day...and not just because it's his 24th birthday. Mike McCarthy will have a game plan in place to take advantage of the defense's weaknesses. Dom Capers will be as creative as he can be given the walking MASH unit that is the Packers' secondary. And if it comes down to the leg of kicker Mason Crosby, say it with me, "It's good!". (By the way, there's a great story about Crosby by Ryan Wood of the USA-Today Network-Wisconsin. Really gives you great insight into the mind of a kicker...especially this kicker.)

The Pack will be packing for Houston after this game's over. We're calling this one Packers 41 - Falcons 38.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

NFL NFC Divisional Playoffs: Packers vs. Cowboys Preview and Prediction

Today's the day, Packer fans: the Green Packers take on the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas for the right to meet the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game next weekend. How are you feeling about today's game? If you have mixed feelings, you are clearly not alone. On the other hand, if you're riding high off the Pack's seven-game winning streak you'll see them as an unstoppable force no matter what. So let's look at just a few particulars to consider.
Head coach Mike McCarthy and QB Aaron Rodgers
need to come up big today against the Cowboys.

Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Offenses
Deserving of all the praise it gets, the Dallas offense ranks fifth in the league overall in terms of both points scored (26.3) and yards per game (376.7). It is 23rd-ranked in terms of passing yards per game (226.9), which might be expected behind a rookie quarterback...a very good one, admittedly. Where the team gets its bump up the rankings comes via the rushing game and another outstanding rookie, Ezekiel Elliott. The 'boys generate 149.8 rushing yards per game, giving them the number two spot overall in terms of rushing attack. While QB Dak Prescott and Elliott may get the headlines, it's the Cowboys offensive line that provides the basis for everything that happens behind it. Led by Travis Frederick at center (both a southeastern Wisconsin native and UW-Madison Badger, by the way), this was and still is the best offensive line the Packers have faced all season. The Packers defense will need to keep the mojo going the way they did in the win against the Giants at Lambeau last weekend in order to stay in the game today. Elliott could take over the game if the Pack doesn't play the game of their season so far. Add to the offensive mix the fact that number one receiver Dez Bryant will return to play today. Coming off a week's rest, Dallas will put up points, no doubt.

As for the Packers offense, the Pack actually ranks ahead of the 'boys in terms of points scored during the regular season, at 27 points per game (4th overall). The Packers are a few spots behind Dallas, at number 8, in terms of yardage per game: 368.8. Not surprisingly, behind the arm of Aaron Rodgers and the hands of his many capable receivers, the Pack finished seventh overall in terms of passing yards per game: 262.4. The rushing game ranks 20th overall with 106.3 yards per game behind an efficient, albeit not explosive, attack now led by Ty Montgomery. Christine Michael, having now been with the team for sufficient time to get the playbook down, also offers a burst and rushing threat the Pack didn't have in the first match up. And, of course, FB Aaron Ripkowski can move the pile and also provide a pass outlet for Rodgers if needed. The Packers offensive line doesn't get the credit it deserves for its incredible protection given to Rodgers, allowing him time to move in and out of the pocket to find his receivers downfield. One of the strategies Dallas used in its October win over the Pack at Lambeau -- and will try to use again today -- was to keep Rodgers in the pocket. There's no secret to the fact that Rodgers is at his most dangerous when he breaks out of the pocket to scramble and find his receivers. The Cowboys frustrated Rodgers and the Packers offense in the first meeting. We'd expect Dallas to apply the same strategy as before and also expect the Packers to make adjustments. One of the biggest adjustments in that regard today will be playing without WR Jordy Nelson who was injured in the game against New York. Luckily, Randall Cobb returned in good form last weekend, Davante Adams is making big plays and undrafted rookie Geronimo Allison is in position to have a breakout game if other receivers are covered. Add another weapon the Pack didn't have in the first match up: TE Jared Cook. Cook's return from injury has coincided a great deal with the Pack's winning streak. Coincidence? We think not. Finally, neither the Packers nor the 'boys turn the ball over much; Rodgers, in particular, has been amazing during the winning streak, with no interceptions vs. the touchdowns thrown. That trend must continue today. So does the need for the Pack to get at least one or two takeaways. The Dallas strategy will be to keep Rodgers on the sideline by running the ball as much as it can to eat the clock and thus play defense by playing great offense.The Packers -- like Dallas -- will put up points, no doubt.

Defenses
Let's just cut to the chase here and say that the Dallas defense ranks higher than the Pack, 14th overall vs. 22nd. In terms of each statistical category, Dallas ranks ahead of the Pack. So given basically a "push" in terms of offenses (for argument sake), shouldn't the nod go to the team with the better defense? You'd think so. But one of the elements which factored heavily into the earlier Dallas win was an inept Packers offense that still hadn't found itself...AND...four turnovers by the Pack. You may be surprised that the Packers actually ranked ahead of the 'boys in terms of season turnover differential. This is particularly the case, as fans know, for the Packers during their winning streak. The Packers tied with several other teams for second in terms of interceptions, with 17. Defensive back Damarious Randall appeared on the injury report yesterday and just how much he's able to play, and at what level, is a concern given the already thin defensive backfield. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers has done a masterful job of cobbling together a defense given the injuries. The Packers will need a pass rush as well as run stuffers today. Veterans Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers need to play at the level they are capable of, that is disrupting the other team. The Packers defense has often given up yardage...big yardage on big plays. As long as touchdowns don't accompany all of those big yards, the Packers are in it. That will have to be the case again today: bend don't break.

The Prediction
We could go on and on, of course. But your head is already spinning, we know. Whether from all the data presented here or pre-game tailgating, we don't know. But either way, let's get to it, shall we?

The Packers will need to do something they really haven't done in the past three weeks, which is get out to a fast start. If they are able to do that, that will go a long way to easing the pressure on the defense to win this game...which, in fact, is something they may need to do anyway: come up with a couple big stops. But forcing Dallas to win behind a rookie QB in his first playoff game is preferable to having to grind it out against trying to stop a running back of Elliott's calibre.

The Packers will need to play their best game of the season on offense, defense and special teams to walk out of Dallas with the win. Luckily for Packer fans, they have been doing just that in recent weeks. They'll do it again today.

We're calling this one Packers 34-31 over Dallas.

Go Pack Go!!!

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