Sunday, December 10, 2006

San Francisco, Here We Come!

OK, Packer's about 5 hours to game time. The 5-7 49ers are currently listed as 4-1/2 point favorites over the 4-8 Pack. Guess with the performances of these two clubs recently, that makes sense: just a little extra than home field advantage going San Fran's way. Then throw some rain into the mix, and things favor a ground game...which the 'Niners have with Frank Gore and the Packers...well, we did have a running game once upon a time...didn't we?

These teams are, at this stage of the season, fairly evenly matched. When the season started, most folks looking at the schedule would have penciled in a "W" for the Pack. Not anymore. Both teams are at the bottom of the league in scoring defense, each giving up about 27 points per game, and more than 340 yards per game to opposing offenses. On the offensive side of the ball, each team scores about 18 points per game.

What are the keys to the game? For the Packers, finding a running game...making more than a handful of third-down conversions...taking advantage of any turnovers by scoring touchdowns...scoring inside the red zone...stopping the opponent's running game...not giving up big plays downfield...playing as if there is still something left to play for. Hey, kids, football ain't rocket science!

But can the Packers actually do it? Can they pull themselves out of their tailspin? They have been a better road team this year than home team. Call it a toss up.

Draft Talk Starting Early

When local media -- i.e., the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel -- starts writing about the April draft with four games left to go in the season you know things aren't good. That's just what happens in today's sports section (print edition - unfortunately, you'll have to subscribe to the Packer Insider service in order to access it online). Naturally, the focus is on the quarterback position. What happens in these last four games may well determine whether Brett Favre returns or retires next season. Or whether he does as some pundits suggest -- even Steve Young on today's ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown -- and moves to a team that has legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. The jury is still out on heir-apparent, Aaron Rodgers. Many think he might wind up being the Packers' version of Joey Harrington. Thus, it's only natural that QB prospects begin to be considered. If the season ended today (OK, it doesn't, so why do people even say that?!), the Packers would have the sixth pick overall. According to the experts, this year -- like last year -- there is an abundance of good QB prospects to choose from: Brady Quinn, Troy Smith, Brian Brohm, JaMarcus Russell, Drew Stanton, Kevin Kolb, and  Trent Edwards currently lead the way. None, however, present the clear cut strengths of either Matt Leinart or Vince Young coming out last year.

But the Packers may also be in need of a running back, replacing Ahman Green. Unfortunately, once you get past Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson and California's Marshawn Lynch - both juniors who are expected to declare and come out early - the running back prospects seem thin.

The Packers' have needs at just about every position. Where to go? What to do? 'Tis a puzzlement!