Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 NFL Week 17 - Packers vs. Lions Preview & Prediction

Here we are, Packers fans...the end of the season for our Green Bay Packers. Today's game at Lambeau Field will bring a merciful end to a forgettable 100th year of Packers football. At a mediocre 6-8-1 going into today's game vs. the 5-10 Detroit Lions, the Pack will finish the season with a losing record and out of the playoffs for the second straight year. Oy.

If you're wondering where things went off the rails, I highly commend to your reading pleasure (a questionable term in this regard, granted) the article by sports writer Pete Dougherty from yesterday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel entitled The day Aaron Rodgers' split with Mike McCarthy became clear. Quite a compelling analysis of the point early in this season where then-head coach Mike McCarthy lost his QB (that would be one Aaron Rodgers for those unaware) and with him, effectively, the locker room and team...and, ultimately, his head coaching job after 13 years. It was all downhill from there.

Now, to be fair, the Packers were yet once again -- how does this keep happening year after year??? -- plagued by injuries across the board, including a banged up Rodgers in the very first game (Da Bearz!) that seemed to linger in various forms throughout the season. The injuries depleted an already thin talent pool in terms of depth, which revealed that former GM Ted Thompson's last few drafts weren't all that great after all.

Prior to the season, many, including yours truly, predicted the Pack would likely win the NFC North with an 11-5 record and be one of the favorites to contend for the Super Bowl. As good ol' Maxwell Smart would say, "Missed it by that much". (Ancient cultural reference for those who might pick up on that.) So we are where we are in today's season finale.


Packers WR Davante Adams was in sight of setting two franchise records today.
But he is listed as inactive. A great season for Adams regardless.

(Photo: RIck Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)


The Prediction

With a game like today, that doesn't mean anything in the scheme of things...Packers will finish in third place in the division ahead of Detroit win or lose...expect Rodgers to start, but this fan hopes they get him out of the game as quickly as possible. Absolutely no need to expose him to injury. He will be without his top receiver, Davante Adams, who was declared inactive for today's game. Adams was in sight of breaking Sterling Sharpe's franchise record for number of receptions in a season and Jody Nelson's record for receiving yards in a season; but both of those will have to wait for another year.

Expect to see what may be the last appearances by some veteran Packers in a Green Bay uniform: LB Clay Matthews and WR Randall Cobb, in particular, are long-time standouts whose contracts and performances point to likely exits in free agency. Thank you, gentlemen, for your great contributions to the Packers over the years. You may be gone next year, but you won't be forgotten.

Because there may well be limited playing time for Rodgers and others, and expanded playing time for younger and more inexperienced members of the team today, it's hard to tell exactly what to expect. It feels like a preseason game in many respects. Still, the Packers are favored by 8 points.

We haven't said much, actually, anything, at all about the Lions. Their season has been more of a train wreck than that of the Packers. While they've won a couple in a row against the Packers -- hard to believe -- we can't imagine that happening today. While both teams supposedly will be playing for nothing more than pride today, that carries a bit more weight when playing at home.

We're calling this game Packers 27 - Lions 20.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

2018 NFL Week 16: Packers vs Jets Preview & Prediction

Packers fans, today's game against the New York Jets marks only the 13th time the two teams have met. And, believe it or not, the Jets lead the series 8-4, although the Packers have won the last two meetings. As you are aware, today's game is played on the East Coast...New York...New Jersey...somewhere out there. At this point in the Green Bay Packers mediocre 5-8-1 season, place seems irrelevant to the task of just winning a game. 

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers needs to lead his team to victory against
the Jets today to avoid a historically bad franchise road record.
(Photo: Jim Matthews/USA TODAY NETWORK-W)
That's because in this pitiful season the Packers have yet -- yet! -- to win a road game. Lose today, and this squad will become the first in franchise history to lose all its eight road games. If that weren't bad enough -- and it is, let's be honest -- it's actually worse than that, because the current ongoing loss streak extends back to last season, as well. As Krusty the Clown would say, with a slap to his head, "Oy vey."

So...it's been a long time waiting on a road win. Who knows what the problem is? Apparently no one playing or coaching. Pundits will opine, rightly so at least for this season's losses on the road or at home, that no one stepped up in the big moments that happen in every game to make a play that needed to be made. Whether on offense or defense. Now, some of that has come down to the rash of injuries which decimated this team, particularly on the defensive front and backfield, as well as among the corps of wide receivers QB Aaron Rodgers is throwing to. His season isn't what we expected, probably even what he expected, given his unfamiliarity with his young new receivers.

But none of that matters today. All that matters is getting that "W" however they can do it.

The Prediction

With less that an hour to kickoff (sorry for the lateness of this post, dear readers), let's make it quick.

The Packers are favored by 3 points, but many are picking the Jets to win by that margin.

We're calling it Packers 24 - Jets 23.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

2018 NFL Week 15: Packers vs Bears Preview & Prediction

Well, Packers fans, the team did what it needed to do at Lambeau Field last Sunday, dispatching the Atlanta Falcons 34-20. It turned out to not be as close as we had predicted. The Pack performed well across the board in defeating an Atlanta team that has been more disappointing for its fans this season than the Packers have been for us. It was the first game and first win under interim head coach, Joe Philbin.


Interim head coach, Joe Philbin, led the Packers to their first win under his
guidance last Sunday vs. the Falcons. He'll have a tougher job in Chicago today.

(Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

But today's opponent isn't the low-flying Dirty Birds. It's Da Bearz. While the offense may still be finding its way under young QB Mitch Trubisky, RB Jordan Howard is starting to come on strong which takes pressure off Trubisky. Chicago's defense, one of the top in the league overall, is what has led to Chicago's first potential playoff team in eight years. It gets pressure on the opposing quarterback with its front four and it generates turnovers in the defensive backfield. Chicago also has Khalil Mack...to the Packers' chagrin after losing the trade talks with Oakland. (By the way, along these lines, we highly recommend to your reading pleasure -- or consternation -- an article entitled Bears' edge over Packers rooted in offseason maneuvers by Packers reporter, Ryan Wood. It gives us the willies.)

So Aaron Rodgers will be under pressure all day today, particularly as RT Bryan Bulaga will be out and replaced by Jason Spriggs who will be going up most of the time against Mack. (Let us pray...) The Packers will need to scheme to give Spriggs help or it could be a long day for Rodgers. Rodgers will need to get the ball out quickly, as was the case particularly early in the game against the Falcons, something which arguably led to the Pack's scoring 34 unanswered points at one point during the game. Failure to be in fast rhythm throughout the game today can be enough to allow Da Bearz to control things. Not ideal from the Pack's perspective, obviously.

Rodgers will have a healthier Randall Cobb back to take pressure off Davante Adams, who leads the league in TD receptions, with 11 of his 12 coming in the red zone. Coach Philbin used a Thunder-n-Lightening tandem running back approach a bit last week, pairing Jamal Williams and Aaron Jones at times. That will likely happen again, as Williams can provide additional blocking capability not only for Rodgers but in opening holes for Jones, as well, or helping him get into the flat for a pass reception. Or pounding for those tough yards in his own right. If that combination can get traction, it will certainly give Da Bearz something more to think about other than sacking Rodgers.


The Prediction

In order to win today, the 5-7-1 Packers will need to do something against the 9-4 Bears they haven't done in more than a year: win...on...the...road. Now, the good news is that in his career Rodgers is 16-4 against Chicago (and one of those losses came after he broke his collarbone and had to leave the game). He is 7-2 in games at Soldier Field. The Packers have won eight of the last nine games against Chicago under Rodgers, including the last four in a row. Rodgers has  thrown 45 TD passes and just nine INTs against Da Bearz, with a career passer rating against them a spectacular 108.3.

All well and good for what was. What is today is a different story. Rodgers hasn't had to go up as complete a Chicago defense in a long time as he will face today. That includes the first meeting at Lambeau in game 1 of the season where the Pack scored a 24-23 comeback win. The advantage to the Packers in that game, aside from the home field advantage, was Chicago had just acquired Mack and he hadn't had time to get fully in shape to participate in the game. That's not the case today. At all.

Chicago is favored by 5-1/2 points at the time of this writing. If the Packers can protect Rodgers and keep Mack from wreaking havoc, get a running game going and avoid turnovers while conversely putting pressure on Trubisky -- difficult with Kenny Clark out today (i.e., no opening game starters on the D-line) -- and generating a turnover or two, they will be in a position to pull off what will be an upset given all the expectations. Oh, and did we mention, a win by the Packers would also keep Chicago from clinching the NFC North Division title and a playoff berth today. Wouldn't that be shame? (#sarcasm)

As with the first game, this game will probably go down to the wire. We think the Packers will finally get a road win. And it couldn't happen in a better place.

We're calling it Packers 24 - Da Bearz 20.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 09, 2018

2018 NFL Week 14: Packers vs Falcons Preview & Prediction

How are we feeling today, Packers fans? More specifically, how are we feeling about today's game between the 4-7-1 Green Bay Packers versus the equally mediocre 4-8 Atlanta Falcons? Both teams were preseason picks to be challengers for not only their Division titles but also potential Super Bowl contenders. So much for that idea. Lest we forget, that actually did happen in the 2016 season, with both teams meeting in the NFC Championship Game in Atlanta. Yeah, that was then. This...is now (sigh).


Packers QB Aaron Rodgers had his hands - and facemask - full in the
NFC Championship Game played in Atlanta in Jan. 2017.

(Photo: Getty Images)
The Packers made a number of changes to the roster this week, placing some players on IR and promoting some others from the practice squad. But, of course, the biggest move of all was the firing of head coach Mike McCarthy following the disheartening loss at Lambeau Field to the then 2-9 Arizona Cardinals. More on that later.

But can we really expect any huge changes after just a week under interim head coach Joe Philbin? C'mon. No. With just four games remaining in this dismal season, and given the injuries which have also significantly impacted this team's performance over the season, it is what it is. Granted, Philbin will now be dong the play-calling, something he hasn't done in about 20 years. So we may see some different philosophy at work, and perhaps some oddness, as well. But as Philbin was a close associate of McCarthy, things will probably be pretty much along the lines of what we have seen overall offensively. The defense under coordinator Mike Pettine will be the same, still lacking a pass rush and fielding some defensively challenged defensive backs (is that redundant, by the way?).

The Prediction

No need to drag this out, is there? Both teams are train wrecks this season. And even though the Packers are favored at the time of this writing by either 4-1/2 or 5 points depending on what line you're following (as a reminder, the Packers were 14-point favorites last week...how did that work out?), does anyone out there feel comfortable picking them?

I hate to say it, Packer fans, but this is one of those pick 'em games at this point, at least as it seems on this end. Week after week we've been hoping against hope...or, at least, logic...that the Pack would get it together and at least once this season play a complete game. We're still waiting.

Will McCarthy's exit be enough to rally this team somehow? Maybe. But what else is a motivator? The season is done. So perhaps jobs for next season for those players not under contract or who are auditioning for a future role in Green Bay or elsewhere? Maybe.

Logic seems to indicate that given the under-performance of both teams, the game could very well turn on one play, a turnover, a missed tackle, a special teams breakdown or success. That and the Packers inability to perform well in the second half of games lately and close things out, would seem to give the Falcons the edge, despite being on the road. After all, if the woeful Cards can come into Lambeau with an inexperienced QB and pull out a win, what can QB Matt Ryan do today, with a receiver like Julio Junes ready to make big plays against a porous Packers secondary?

Still, we've looked at the Pack all season through Green 'n' Gold-colored glasses...so why stop now? The odds say that at some point the Packers have to win onw of their last remaining games. This is as good a chance as any.

We're calling it Packers 27 - Falcons 24.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thank you, coach McCarthy

Before signing off, we just want to thank former head coach Mike McCarthy for all he brought during his 13 years of service to the Green Bay Packers and the broader Green Bay community. He was and remains a class act. Certainly, this was not the way he or anyone would have wished for him to depart. But it was time.

He is the second-winningest head coach in Packers history, only trailing the guy whose name is on the Super Bowl trophy, one Vince Lombardi. He went to the playoffs eight straight years -- eight! That's something that is an amazing accomplishment in and of itself and one that we probably began to take for granted. He brought a Super Bowl trophy back to Green Bay. And it is a given that he will be in the Packers Hall of Fame sometime soon, as he rightfully should be.

Good luck, coach. You'll land in another head coaching position very soon...my guess would be Cleveland, to rejoin a number of other Packers front office personnel in helping to resurrect that franchise.

Let's close with this exceptionally heartfelt thank you from McCarthy to the Packers, the fans, Green Bay and Wisconsin. Well done, coach. Well done, indeed. And thank you!




Sunday, December 02, 2018

2018 NFL Week 13: Packers vs. Cardinals Preview & Prediction

Without beating a dead horse yet once again, the Green Bay Packers were unable to win again on the road last week, this time against the ViQueens, making the team's road record this season 0-6. Not good. At all. Especially when you consider that it's actually worse than that: the road loss streak extends back into last season. Oy.

There, that's' done. And with that loss at Minnesota, so, too, might be the Packers season. At 4-6-1 with five games left...the Pack is going to need a miracle of splitting-the-Red Sea proporations in order to somehow slide into the playoffs. (And, by the way, Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish sisters and brothers around the planet.)

Packers WR Jake Kumerow has finally been activated off IR. How much action he'll see, and what impact he'll have, remains to be seen today and for the remainder of the season.
(Photo: Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis)

The Packers will once again be limited both offensively and defensively by injuries to key personnel. DL Mike Daniels and WR Trevor Davis have both been placed on the injured reserve list and are done for the season. Safeties Kentrell Brice and Raven Greene, along with RB Tra Carson, are all out today with injuries. At last notice (subject to change), OT David Bakhtiari, CB Kevin King, WR Randall Cobb, OG Lane Taylor and CB Bashaud Breeland were all listed as questionable.

If Bakhtiari is unable to go, the Packers might wind up having to give help to back up Jason Spriggs who was not able to hold up well last weekend in relief of Bakhtiari. It also became apparent how good Lane Taylor is week in and week out once he also had to leave the game last week.

The Packers opponent today, the Arizona Cardinals, have the 32nd-ranked rush defense in the league going into this game. That, combined with cold and snowing weather predicted for today's game at Lambeau Field, should be a recipe for a steady diet of RB Aaron Jones. But you still need an offensive line that can create those running opportunities...as well as keep QB Aaron Rodgers upright.

During preseason, WR Jake Kumerow was the talk of camp. He and Rodgers had seemingly developed a good rapport. Kumerow led in receiving yards until his celebratory shoulder dive into the endzone on a long-yardage reception and TD wound up knocking him out of the lineup until today. Given the injuries in the wide receiver group, Kumerow should get some action today. It was also hinted that he might get some return opportunities particularly now that Trevor Davis has been placed on IR. Let's just see if he and Rodgers have been able to rekindle that preseason magic; the Pack could sure use it.

The Prediction

Given that the warm-weather, 2-9 Cardinals will be coming into Lambeau led by a rookie QB and with issues offensively and defensively overall, it's no wonder that the Packers are 14-point favorites, albeit as "meh" as they have performed to this point in the season. The Pack hasn't lost at home yet this season. So at least there's that. This should be a game where, if the team isn't totally phoning it in at this point behind what seems more and more to be the lame duck tenure of head coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers should win this handily. On the other hand, the Pack has continued to find ways to self destruct and have yet to really play a complete game all season. So if the Packers don't come to play...anything can happen. 

We're hoping the Cards are exactly what the doctor ordered to at least get the Pack to 5-5-1 after today's game.

We're calling it Packers 34 - Cardinals 20.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

2018 NFL Week 12: Packers vs. Vikings Preview & Prediction

Guess what, Packer fans? We were actually spot on in our score prediction for last week's game at Seattle: 27-24. Only problem was we had the Pack with 27 and Seahawks with 24. As we sadly know, it was the other way around, with the Packers garnering their fifth road loss of the season. Yup, Green Bay hasn't won a road game yet this season.


The Packers will need an MVP effort from QB Aaron Rodgers tonight at Minnesota.
(Photo: Jim Matthews/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis.)
So where do we find our beloved Green Bay Packers tonight? On the road. At Minnesota. Where they are 0-2 in the new stadium of whatever name.

The ViQueens are 5-4-1, the Packers 4-5-1. That one tie for both teams, as we know, was in the first match up. Pretty much representative of the parity, unfortunate as that may be at this point in the season, between these two NFC North rivals. Both of which, as we also recall, were supposed to be competing for the Division championship. So much for that idea; Da Bearz look well positioned to lock that up fairly soon...which will make my good friend, Billy Da Bearz Fan, most happy indeed. (The horror...the horror....)

As for Minnesota, it has become obvious as the season has gone on that QB Kirk Cousins is obviously overpaid, and the Packers defense can hopefully make him look that way again tonight, albeit as wounded as they are. RB Dalvin Cook hasn't broken out quite as much as they'd hoped, either. Defensively, Minnesota isn't all it was cracked up to be this season.

The story of the Packers this season, especially in their road losses, has been one of "close but no cigar". Late errors, penalties, bad play-calling and clock management...pretty much you name it and it has been just enough to keep the Pack from coming away with a win in those tight games they've been playing and losing.

Bottom line is that we have seen the Packers have no room for error. A near-perfect game is needed not only from QB Aaron Rodgers who, thankfully, seems to be getting healthier, but from the rest of the team, as well. But WR Randall Cobb is questionable, as is TE Jimmy Graham, continuing the potential limitation of Rodgers' receiving options (and, no, preseason receiving fave, Jake Kumerow, was not activated for this game, as some may have wished). Still, if RB Aaron Jones can be schemed and targeted as a receiver coming out of the backfield, we saw his potential in that area of the game on display against Seattle. Regrettably, as we have seen for most of this season, head coach Mike McCarthy has been reluctant to fully utilize the talent of this young running back. Tonight would be a very good time to change that approach.

The Packers are banged up on defense. DT Mike Daniels is likely done for the year and the team placed LB Nick Perry on injured reserve, ending his season and, perhaps, his career in Green Bay, as well. Defensive backs Bashaud Breeland, Kevin King, Kentrell Brice, and Raven Greene are questionable for tonight. But if LB Kyler Fackrell can keep up his sack-meister ways, along with inside pressure from Kenny Clark and others, problems in the secondary may not be quite as pronounced. Maybe.


The Prediction

We've been giving the Packers the benefit of our Green 'n' Gold-colored view for the road games this season, only to be disappointed. They've been close...but that counts for nothing. There is probably no game in this woefully mediocre season that counts for something bigger than this game tonight. Yes, every game is big. But when you are 4-5-1 and have six games left...and you probably need to go at least 5-1 over the course of those games to maybe have a shot at the playoffs...this game would be a good game to finally -- FINALLY! -- grab a road win. If they don't do it tonight, Packer fans, while the fat lady may not have sung, she's certainly warming up. They need this game.

Minnesota is favored by 3.

We're calling it Packers 24 - ViQueens 23.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

2018 NFL Week 11: Packers vs. Seahawks Preview & Prediction

The Green Bay Packers were home this past Sunday and, following their winning ways there, beat Miami 31-12. Our prediction had it 31-20, spot on on the offensive tally for the Pack but the defense really played extremely well, holding the Dolphins to field goals only, four of them, to be precise. Impressive performance!

Tonight, on the short turnaround of a Thursday evening performance made even shorter by having to play on the West Coast after a late Sunday afternoon game, the Packers take on the Seattle Seahawks on the road.

The road. Where the Packers haven't one a game yet this season. Seattle. Where the Packers haven't won in nearly a decade. Head coach Mike McCarthy is just 1-3 there. The losses, we don't need to remind Packers fans, have been extremely gut-wrenching. The horror...the horror... Weird things happen in Seattle. They just do. And usually not in the Packers favor.

But Seattle's famed Legion of Boom defense is no more. QB Russell Wilson is still dangerous outside of the pocket but not quite like he used to be. While there is a new offensive coordinator, the Seahawks have a very good running game and if the Packers aren't ready for that Seattle could rack up some big numbers there.

Packers RB Aaron Jones gets off to a fast start last Sunday against
the Dolphins 
on a 67-yard run. He'll need similar heroics tonight in Seattle
to help keep the Packers in the game.

(Photo: Dan Powers, Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis)

Conversely, the Packers have a good running game themselves emerging behind second-year RB Aaron Jones. McCarthy finally gave him the ball more than a handful of times against Miami and it resulted in an outstanding performance by Jones. Because the 'hawks secondary isn't quite what it used to be, McCarthy's penchant for the passing game may take him out of a more balanced approach. But the Pack needs to run the ball, run it well, and run it often to help take the crowd and the opponent down a notch or two. If you let Seattle take control or stick around, the crowd noise will also turn into an opponent, as has usually been the case in Seattle. And we know how that has typically worked out. Not well.

Prediction

The Packers are 2-1/2-point underdogs at the time of this writing, with the home field advantage being the difference between the 4-5 Seahawks and the 4-4-1 Packers. The Packers will be missing some key personnel this evening, with WR Randall Cobb out yet again, OLB Nick Perry out, S Kentrell Brice and CB Kevin King also out and apparently not even making the trip to Seattle. OG Lucas Patrick is doubtful with a concussion, with LB Blake Martinez and CB Bashaud Breeland listed as questionable. The Pack could definitely benefit from the play of the latter two. Seattle will likely be missing one if its better linebackers, K.J. Wright (listed as doubtful), as well as some secondary defenders who are listed as questionable.

But it seems as if the Packers' passing game is getting healthier along with QB Aaron Rodgers' left knee. He's got some good young receivers who are starting to make a mark and with whom he's developing a connection. With Jones in the backfield, Rodgers doesn't have to do it alone. If the Packers have a balanced game plan tonight, despite the travel and short turnaround time since Sunday, the Pack can come away with a win. They need it. While playoff hopes wouldn't be gone with a loss tonight, the window of opportunity definitely narrows. The Packers need to get this game in the win column.

We're calling it Packers 27 - Seahawks 24.

Go Pack Go!!!