Thursday, November 26, 2015

Packers vs Bears Thanksgiving 2015 - This. Will. Be. Epic!

Happy Thanksgiving, Packers fans! There is much to give thanks for. Especially as Packer fans. After all, we could have wound up as Bears fans...eeeewwwwww!

If we can clear that bad image out of our heads, let's move on to what's in store for us today: the Packers play Da Bearz at Lambeau Field in the final game of the NFL's Thanksgiving Day triple header. It's the first time the Pack will have played a Thanksgiving Day game at home since 1923. That's pretty special right there, right? But even more special will be seeing Brett Favre's ol' number 4 retired at halftime to the Ring of Honor inside Lambeau. other thing: Packers legend Bart Starr will remarkably be on hand to help celebrate this occasion. From all accounts, and in particular from his wife, Cherry, this will probably be Starr's last trip to Green Bay.

Whether fans will be more excited to Starr or Favre remains to be seen. All we know is that seeing both of them...and perhaps even with a moment somewhere along the way with current QB Aaron Rodgers...will blow the roof off the place (that's a metaphorical statement, of course, as Lambeau doesn't have a roof..well, I'm assuming, as good Packer fans, that you already know that, but just in case...).

So with all this emotion flowing inside the stadium, is there any chance that this current Packers team won't rise to the occasion? Sure, there's a chance or two: slim...and none.

The Pack shook off the doldrums from their three-game losing streak with a very good performance Sunday against the ViQueens. Now, it wasn't perfect...but it was pretty darn good on a number of counts, many of which were noted in our last post. See that one for details. The defense, as Mike Daniels noted this week, understands that their performance is highly related to their attitude. During the three-game losing stretch, no sacks; on Sunday, six sacks and holding Adrian Peterson to 45 yards. They dominated the Vikes. It started with attitude and then execution. They need to do the same tonight against an improved 4-6 Chicago Bears team. There's no reason to believe they won't.

Offensively, the Packers got a bit more in sync against the Vikes than they had been in the past month. (Another thing to be thankful for!) Again, it wasn't perfect. There were still missed throws and dropped passes. But...better. Just in time for Da Bearz.

Now, while Da Bearz are certainly an improved team since the first meeting of this season, can they take the Pack down? Anything is possible. We didn't think the Lions could come into Green Bay and steal one but they did. But the Packers were still in their collective funk then. Now? Not. Plus, Aaron Rodgers is 13-3 versus the Bears while Jay Cutler is 1-11 versus the Packers. Rodgers usually has one of his better games against Chicago, while Cutler -- obviously -- just can't get it done against Green Bay. (Another thing to be thankful for!) If the Packers defense gets consistent pressure on Cutler he gets nervous in the pocket and will start flinging it about. Everyone says that you know in a game with Cutler that you are going to get at least two or three occasions where you can get a turnover and you should come away with at least one of those. That can be the case tonight.

The Packers offensive line comes into tonight's game a bit banged up but if they can hold up and do what they did against the Vikes in the way of protecting Rodgers and opening holes for Lacy and Starks, it should give Rodgers and the offense enough opportunities to score.

The Prediction
The Packers are currently favored by 8-1/2 points at the time of this writing. What could get in the way of a Packers win, apart from Da Bearz, that is? The weather might play a role. The forecast is for rain and possibly sleet. That will affect both teams, obviously, but could have a greater impact upon the kicking game: punters, kickers, returners. Don't look for Mason Crosby to kick five field goals from more than 40 yards as he did Sunday. And if he has to...well, he can...but it sure doesn't reflect well on offensive production, does it?

Our call? We've got the Packers winning it, 27-20.

Go Pack Go!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Packers whack Vikings, get ready to smack Bears

The rejoicing over the Green Bay Packers 30-13 victory Sunday over the up-and-coming Minnesota Vikings is still continuing several days later. At least among Packer fans. While the players also feel much better from an attitude standpoint than they have in the last month, they didn't have much time to celebrate the big NFC North Division win. After all, the rival Chicago Bears come to Lambeau Field Thanksgiving night. It's a short turnaround for both teams. But the Pack come in with a much-needed win while Da Bears arrive following a loss to Denver in Chicago.

Since the players can't take time to recount Sunday's glories, however, allow us to do so briefly.

First, kicker Mason Crosby did what had never been done before in NFL history: kick -- and, more importantly, make -- five field goals of more than 40 yards each in a single game. Wow. Congratulations, Mr. Crosby! I guess you could say he more than made up for that clunker in the closing seconds of the loss to the Lions the week before.

Secondly, RB Eddie Lacy, despite not getting the start, rushed for 100 yards on 22 carries, shaking off not only ViQueen defenders in the process but also the doubters among the Packers faithful who were beginning to wonder, "What's wrong with Eddie?". Apparently, not much when the O-line does its job opening holes and Eddie decides to make decisive cuts. Yay.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers regained some of his mojo against the Vikings on Sunday.
(Photo by Ann Heisenfelt, File/Associated Press)

QB Aaron Rodgers, after a few weeks of looking not-at-all-Aaron-Rodgers-esque, regained a good portion of his mojo, throwing for two touchdowns. His 16-for-34 passing for 212 yards still wasn't outstanding -- Rodgers at less than 50% completion rate? C'mon! -- but he did hit important third down conversions that had almost been non-existent in recent weeks. WR James Jones accounted for nearly half of Rodgers' passing yards, catching six balls for 109 yards and one fantastic TD that is the stuff of highlight reels; Jones had practically disappeared from action in the prior weeks' losses.

Kudos also go to a banged up offensive line for doing a much better job than had been the case recently. Despite losing starting center Corey Linsley in the first quarter (replaced by J.C. Tretter who didn't miss a beat), the line performed admirably.

As for the Packers defense, which hadn't gotten a sack in the last three games, they came up huge on Sunday, accounting for six quarterback sacks. ViQueens QB Teddy Bridgewater was under pressure constantly. The Packers "D" dominated Minnesota from start to finish. Perhaps nowhere was this seen more than in the shutdown of star RB Adrian Peterson who had just 45 yards on 13 carries with one touchdown. He also lost a fumble at the Packers 21 early in the fourth quarter which was a huge turnover and game-changer.

Anyway, it was a win. A big win, as the Pack took control of the NFC North. While still tied with the Vikes at 7-3, the Packers hold the tiebreaker by virtue of this win.

Bring on Da Bears!
Any game against Chicago is epic. The fact this will be a Thanksgiving game played in Green Bay will only be the second such occasion since 1923. Yeah, that's right: 1923. The historic series stands at 93-92 in favor of Da Bearz, so the Pack can get things back to square with this win Thanksgiving night.

But as important as these historic aspects are for this game, there is another: the retirement of former QB Brett Favre's number to the Ring of Honor in Lambeau Field, forever to be immortalized among the Packer if that wasn't already the case. Another element to this halftime event will be the appearance of Packer great Bart Starr who, in all likelihood, will be making his last appearance at Lambeau Field. After serious health issues over the last year or so (heart attack and stroke), Starr is lucky to still be with us according to all reports. He's gone through a great deal of physical and mental rehab work to be on hand when Favre's number joins his among the Packer legends. He and Brett always had a great relationship and it could be suggested that Favre delayed this whole event so that Starr could be on hand. To say it will be an emotional moment is an understatement. The only thing that could put a damper on the festivities is the weather, with rain currently forecast for the evening.

We'll be back tomorrow with our Packers vs. Da Bearz preview and prediction. So, stay tuned to, Packer fans.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

2015 NFL Week 11: Packers vs. Vikings Preview and Prediction

First things first: regular readers of our Packer Fans United blog no doubt recognize that we did not post a post-game review of the Packers loss to the Lions. Reason? Hell froze over and it took us this long to get out.

Seriously, what can one say about that dismal, depressing game? Let's move on.

So we now get to visit Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, they say. Although, truth be told, Wisconsin actually has more lakes than our neighbor to the west. So there's that. By the end of this afternoon's game between the Packers and the ViQueens that might still be the only thing Packer fans have to hold over our friends in purple.

If it sounds as if we are leery of the late afternoon game today, yes, we are. Why shouldn't we be? After all, the Packers have really shown us nothing over the past three games -- and especially the last -- to make us think that they will have their collective act together to beat Minnesota on their home field.

While the Packers have been kings of the NFC North for quite a while, their recent struggles over a three-game losing streak combined with the ViQueens five-game winning streak, now see the Pack a game behind Minnesota. Who could have imagined it? Even worse, imagine if the Packers lose today: they will be a full two games behind Minnesota in the division with six games remaining, including three more divisional games. Throw the Cowboys, Raiders and Cardinals in that mix (the last two back-to-back on the road) and the Pack could find themselves in a world of hurt if they don't get this train back on track. Soon. Like, today for instance.

Packers RB Eddie Lacy needs more carries to help turn things around.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Packers will have their hands full on both sides of the ball, trying to fend off an aggressive defense managed by the head coach himself, Mike Zimmer, and a very good offense under coordinator Norv Turner. Oh, and did we mention that RB Adrian Peterson is back to his old self...unfortunately...tearing up the turf once again? Second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has come along nicely, as well. Even without the Pack's recent skid, Minnesota is obviously the real deal this season. Playing their arch-nemesis, Green Bay, on their home field will only make this game even more difficult for a seemingly bewildered and unconfident Packers team.

It's hard to explain, let alone know, what is actually ailing the Packers at this stage of the season. It seems as if they start off quickly, then fall apart, and then in the closing minutes of the game put together another run or two to make it close. But it's that 50-minutes-or-so part of the game between the start and the finish that seems to have been the team's Achilles heal; they just get too far behind. Go figure.

Some fans have suggested that offensively it's a matter of play calling and that head coach Mike McCarthy should resume those play-calling duties. Both Wayne Larrivee (radio voice of the Packers) and sidekick Packers Hall of Famer, Larry McCarren, have each made the point that from their perspective it's not a matter of who calls the plays; the plays still have to be executed and right now the players are just not executing the plays...for whatever reason.

Will the Pack continue their bumbling ways today? Or, somehow, get it together to avoid an outright tailspin? As we mentioned in the preview to last weekend's game, if the Pack couldn't beat the 1-7 Lions at Lambeau Field we would know the wheels have really fallen off. Well, the wheels did indeed fall off. The question for today is: did a new and improved set of wheels get installed that can win this game?

The Prediction
As the Five Things to Watch article by Rob Reischel in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel states: "Green Bay is in the midst of its first three-game losing streak under Aaron Rodgers since late in the 2008 season. The Packers rank 21st in total offense and 22nd in passing offense. Green Bay also hasn't had a sack in three games and plummeted to 23rd in total defense. Green Bay heads to Minnesota one game out of the lead in the NFC North, trails the Vikings in all major tiebreakers and finds itself at a crossroads. If the Packers can't fix some of what ails them Sunday, they might not be able to save this sinking season."

Minnesota is favored by 1 point by some oddsmakers at the time of this writing, while others have this game listed as a toss up. It's a bit surprising that spread isn't greater in favor of Minnesota given trends by both teams. As much as we view things through Green 'n' Gold-colored glasses around here, until the Packers show us they have turned things around it just seems as if the recent past is a good predictor of the immediate future.

We have to call this one in favor of the ViQueens 27 - 20 over the Packers.

With that said, hope we're wrong today...and...Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

2015 NFL Week 10: Packers vs. Lions Preview and Prediction

After two consecutive losses on the road to unbeaten teams (at the time, in the case of Denver, and still, in the case of Carolina), the Green Bay Packers return to the friendly confines of Lambeau Field today to begin a four-game stretch against NFC North division opponents...all in 19 days. The team will be tested, that's for sure.

Of course, we can say that's the case already, can't we? The team has been underperforming and underachieving for at least the last month. What was a steam-rolling offense and dominating defense the first three or four weeks of the season has become ineffective on both sides of the ball almost ever since.

What head coach Mike McCarthy called the best offensive line since his time in Green Bay has allowed their two-time MVP quarterback to get battered week after week as of late. Wide receivers somehow are not getting separation against defenders and the rushing game has been almost non-existent, whether through play-calling, down-and-distance situations, whatever. The offense has been very much out of sync. The team is last in the league in third down conversions right now. Not good.

The defense, which had been putting a great deal of pass-rush pressure on opposing quarterbacks during the early part of the season hasn't had a sack in the last two games.

OK, enough of the team woes.
The Packers defense has a chance to get to Lions QB Matthew Stafford often today.
(Photo: Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media)

What can we expect against the Lions?
The 1-7 Lions are -- or should be -- just what the doctor ordered for the Pack to get back on track. The management and coaching staff are in disarray. Whether that will translate to the field or not, or make any difference at all, isn't the main factor today.

What might be a key to the game is that the Lions have issues up front offensively. This is a chance for the Pack to dominate defensively...assuming that the secondary doesn't let Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate et al run run wide open. That

If the Packers offense can convert on third downs and get back in sync, and rest the defense in the process, the Packers should get the win. The Lions haven't won in Green Bay since 1991 and there's no reason to expect that they should do so today. While the Packers might have issues right now they are nowhere near as many as the Lions have.

The Prediction
The Packers are favored by 10-1/2 points at the time of this writing. Given the way they have performed recently, that's pretty hard to believe. Still, the Pack should come out of this game with the win.

We're calling this one 31-17 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Lacy inactive today
In late-breaking news, we've just heard that RB Eddie Lacy is inactive today. Coach McCarthy had named James Starks as the starter for this week earlier in the week. For more on this, click here.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Packers, Packers...what's going on?

It's taken this long for many Green Bay Packers fans, including yours truly, to digest the loss to the Carolina Panthers last Sunday...let alone write about it. It was ugly, disheartening. It actually left a bad case of indigestion in its wake. So, to just get past things, let's just say it goes in the loss column, as I regrettably predicted it would in my game preview.

The Packers are now 6-2 at the midway point of the 2015 NFL season. But which Packers team is it at this point in time? The team that was offensively blowing opponents away handily in the first three or four games of the season, aided in no small measure by a stifling defense? Or, is it the Packers that we've seen for about the last four games who can't convert third downs, can't effectively run the ball, whose receivers can't seem to get separation against defenders, an offensive line that has QB Aaron Rodgers under constant pressure and taking far too many hits, a defensive unit that gave up more than 500 yards to the opposing offenses in consecutive games and almost did so for a third game in a row? We just don't know.

Everything seems out of sync. Rodgers is missing or not even seeing receivers he'd otherwise be hitting in stride, RB Eddie Lacy can't get more than a few yards on a few carries, opposing receivers are left wide open for huge gains. Are the wheels falling off? Probably not. But a tune up is definitely in order.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has challenges to resolve.
Photo by Jim Biever,

That tune up has apparently begun with head coach Mike McCarthy naming RB James Starks as the starter for this week. It's been rumored for a few weeks that the coaching staff has not been pleased with Lacy's performance as of late. Whether it's a lingering ankle injury, his weight or something else, he just isn't performing at the level that the team expects. He'll still be getting his reps, but the fumble against Carolina did nothing to endear him to the coaches right now.

It's also become known that quarterbacks and wide receivers coach, Alex Van Pelt, will be moving from the upstairs coaches booth down to the field. Whether that's to better interact with the players or offensive coordinator and play caller, Tom Clements, and head coach McCarthy we can only speculate. But obviously, McCarthy felt some adjustments are needed.

Just what the football doctor ordered?
Coming off back-to-back road games against undefeated teams -- and losing to both -- the Packers now come back to Lambeau and begin a stretch of four games against divisional opponents over the course of 18 days. Yowzers. At least first up in this NFC North gauntlet is the woeful 1-7 Detroit Lions. Now, it can rightfully be said that if the Pack loses to the Lions at Lambeau for the first time in seemingly forever, the team is in free-fall. Not that the season will be over, but...the Lions? At Lambeau? C'mon. If the Packers can somehow regain the mojo they had earlier in the season, they should be able to dominate this Lions team. Of course, it must also be said that the Lions have nothing to lose and will bring whatever they can muster against the Pack. It should also be noted that the Lions are better than their 1-7 record would indicate. But the Packers are so much better...but they need to demonstrate that again in no uncertain terms this coming Sunday.

We'll be back with a more timely preview closer to game time. For now, let's just get the chant going: GO PACK GO!!!

It can't hurt.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Packers vs. Panthers Game Preview: Will the Pack get back on track?

While no one is saying this is a "must-win" game for the Green Bay Packers, fans -- including yours truly -- want to see how well the team bounces back from its first defeat of the season. Let's also not forget that the Minnesota ViQueens are now only a game behind the Packers in the NFC North. But the question for today is: Will we continue to see sluggish play out of the once-vaunted offense -- now ranked 28th in the league -- and sieve-like defense from what had been a very good unit until giving up more than 500 yards to opposing offenses in the last two games? Or, will the loss have served as a wakeup call to the players and coaching staff that things are just not where they should be at the roughly halfway mark of the season?

We'll get an answer in just a few hours' time.

Granted, there's still a long way to go in the season. And the Packers have certainly been dinged up. Today, Ty Montgomery, Sam Shields and Quinten Rollins look as if they will be held out of the game. Clay Matthews says he'll be ready to go but how will last weekend's ankle/leg injury affect him today? The rushing game has been moribund without a healthy Eddie Lacy and James Starks; one or the other is needed to take pressure off Aaron Rodgers and the passing game. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Packers reporter, Bob McGinn, asserts in his most recent article that the Panthers coaching staff has been compensating for their team's injuries better than the Packers have with their injuries. Matter of opinion, I guess, but one team is still undefeated and looks well positioned while the other has been pretty flat overall for a while now, despite only one loss so far.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers hopes to bounce back against the Panthers today from his worst passing performance as a pro last weekend.
Photo by Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media

It's been far too easy for opposing defenses over the last month or so to play tight coverages on the Packers wide receivers who are not getting open, thus allowing the front seven defenders to just come after Rodgers play after play. Without a deep threat to loosen things up, or a running game that keeps defensive linemen and linebackers honest, well, it hasn't been pretty. Seventy-seven passing yards vs. Denver...from Rodgers? Admittedly and arguably the best defense in the NFL. But...c'mon.

Today, Rodgers will have a chance against a Panthers secondary...if receivers can get open, the running game is effective, etc. etc. You know the drill as well as I.

But...and it's a big but...the Packers defense will have to keep one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the league, in the person of QB Cam Newton, in check. They did so in a dominating win against the Panthers at Lambeau Field last season. But that was then, this is now. The Packers defense is starting to remind at least some fans of Forrest Gump's proverbial box of chocolates: we just don't know what we're going to get. Will it be that great and essentially win-preserving "D" we saw on display in the first four or five games of the season, or the sieve we've seen the last two weeks? If the latter, the Packers are in trouble today.

There's at least one factor in the Pack's favor today, despite playing a second consecutive game on the road against an unbeaten opponent: Rodgers rarely has two bad games in a row. Still, Green Bay Press-Gazette's Packers reporter, Wes Hodkiewicz, puts it like this: "Only twice in NFL history has a team faced a pair of teams with 6-0 records or better in consecutive weeks. The Packers are only 6-6 since the start of the 2014 season on the road, but Rodgers tends to have some of his best games after disappointing losses. The Panthers will put that theory to the test with the NFL’s top-ranked rushing offense and a potent defense coming off an emotional overtime win on Monday night."

The Prediction
While the Packers are favored by 2-1/2 points as of the time of this writing, it really seems to be more of a toss-up to this writer. We rarely pick against the Packers. And when we do, we sincerely hope we are very wrong.

But today, even though Rodgers and the Packers often seem to bounce back after a poor performance, it seems as if what ails the Pack -- whatever it is, apart from injuries -- is still not remedied. Until we see some evidence to the contrary -- which we hope happens today -- we'll have to go with the following prediction:

Panthers 31 - Packers 24.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, November 02, 2015

Packers get smacked down in Denver, 29-10

The headline on my preview/prediction post for last night's game between the Green Bay Packers and the Denver Broncos noted that only one of those teams would be 7-0 after the game. Sadly, it's not the Packers.

Boy, was I wrong about this game...although I did note that I was nervous that the Packers were favored and that most pundits were projecting the Pack to win. Somehow, there often seems to be a game such as this lying just around the corner when those types of predictions are made.

In about as flat a performance as we've seen from the Pack this season, even coming off a bye week and supposedly being rested, the intensity level on both sides of the ball for Green Bay did not match that of Denver.

For the second game in a row, the Packers' defense gave up more than 500 yards to the opposing offense. Not a good trend. Conversely, the Packers' offense could do nothing. QB Aaron Rodgers took a pounding. Even when he did get the time to search for receivers, none were getting open. The results was a mere 77 yards passing for Rodgers, the lowest of his career. This ongoing lackluster performance by the offense, despite the record, has essentially been present since about the fourth game of the season.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers took a pounding in last night's loss to Denver.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

We had also made the comment in our preview that some thought Denver's 6-0 record was more reflective of a pretender than contender. Not last night. In fact, it might actually be the other way around: the Pack's record might be a reflection that in their first six games they had not played a team with a winning record. Who's the pretender? Who's the contender?

So, Packer fans, there are areas for concern. Genuine concern.

The Packers have to go on the road next weekend to play the currently undefeated Carolina Panthers. If the Pack's defense gave up over 500 yards to a supposedly immobile and lacking-in-arm-strength Peyton Manning-led team, just imagine what a quarterback such as Cam Newton might be able to roll up. Think of similar type pass-run quarterbacks and what they typically do against a Packers defense: Russell Wilson and (prior to this season, anyway) Colin Kaepernick come to mind, don't they? It could easily be another 500-yard offensive onslaught by an opponent this coming weekend.

Even more concerning, perhaps, is that the Minnesota ViQueens are now only one game behind the Packers in the NFC North after their last-second win over Da Bearz yesterday. A-whaaaaaa??? Yes, really.

The elements of this beat-down can be analyzed every which way, and are. For one of the better analyses of the game (to no one's surprise) you may wish to read this great article by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn.

Nothing I can add at this point except next week is an opportunity for redemption. The young players who are being asked to step in and step up due to injuries need to start doing so...big time. We'll know what type of team this season's Packers are after this upcoming game against Carolina: pretenders...or contenders.