Friday, December 29, 2006

Packers vs. Da Bearz: An Early Perspective

Like many Packers fans, the NFL's switch of game time for the regular season finale from noon to 7:15 p.m. on Sunday means in all likelihood I will not be able to see this game. New Year's Eve plans were made with a noon start in mind. The switch to prime time basically killed the viewing of the game for many fans. News reports this a.m. indicated that Da Bearz fans are unloading their tickets as a result of the time change. Even if the game means nothing to Da Bearz in terms of their playoff position, and even though Da Bearz fans are known for being a bit fickle, it's still the Pack vs. Da Bearz. The fact that apparently so many are trying to unload their tickets means that people made other plans counting on a noon start time.

The biggest problem with all this, of course, is the speculation that this could be Brett Favre's last game. Many fans who would like to watch -- just in case -- are out of luck unless they run out and get a Tivo or tape the game. Either way, not quite the same. And the game is also an important one, of course, because the Pack is still playing for a playoff spot. If the Packers win and the Giants lose -- which is a distinct possibility given their recent play and the fact that Michael Strahan has apparently been placed on injured reserve -- they stand a good shot at the playoffs. According to an article on AOL Sports: "If New York loses, then the Packers would need a win, coupled with either a Rams loss, Panthers win or Falcons win to reach the postseason. If New York wins, Green Bay could remain mathematically alive to win a strength of victory tiebreaker with the Giants, but would need an elaborate, unlikely combination of results from around the league to make that happen."

At the time of this posting, Da Bearz are favored by 3 points. Over the course of his career, Favre is 21-8 against Chicago. Brett has had a couple of mediocre games lately, despite being able to pull out three straight wins. I would count on Brett to have a big game. He's due. Plus, he may be going against Da Bearz' reserves for much of the game. Another lesser known aspect to this game, as reported in an article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, is the incentive running back Ahman Green has. Read: cash. He only needs 12 yards to hit the 1,000-yard season marker, his sixth, surpassing Jim Taylor's long-standing record of five such seasons as a Packer. He's already earned $500,000 for hitting the 950-yard provision that was part of his one-year contract. But, if he can rush for 162 yards against Da Bearz, and finish with 1,150 yards for the season, Green can cart off another $500,000. Is it possible? Playing against Chicago's back ups, sure. Is it probable? Probably not. Still, you have to admire the way Green came back off that serious thigh injury of last year. He's playing for some extra cash in this game, he's playing to help the team get to the playoffs, and he's playing for his future, either re-signing with the Packers or moving to another team in the off-season.

The prediction: Packers 17, Da Bearz 10.

So, Packer fans, in the likely event that any additional pre-game postings may not occur here, and that a post-game review might be a few days after the fact, I wish you all a very Happy New Year. I hope you are able to watch the game and cheer the Packers to a victory. Cheer hard! You'll be rooting for all those fans who can only wish that the NFL hadn't pulled this last-minute switcheroo.

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Re-Set Your New Year's Eve Schedule: Packers vs. Da Bearz Moved to Sunday Night

OK Packer fans, it's official: some of your New Year's Eve plans just changed. That's because the NFL decided -- courtesy of its new flexible scheduling system -- that they wanted the Packers-Bearz game to be it's final regularly scheduled game of the season. The game, set for noon originally, has been pushed back to 7:15 p.m. and will be shown on NBC. So, those who made plans to watch the game at noon and then indulge in New Year's Eve dinner or other get-togethers...basically, you may now be relegated to that uncomfortable but necessary task of excusing oneself occasionally to sneak a peak at a TV to catch a score, or to head to the car briefly to catch a radio update. C'mon, we've all done it! Or, you can set off divorce proceedings by saying, "Honey, I know we had special plans tonight. But they switched the game time! You understand, don't you?" Riiiiiiiiiiiight.

Anyway...whatever happens in the game won't affect Da Bearz whatsoever. They are in the playoffs, have a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout. Yes, that is as depressing as the lack of sun here in Packerland this time of year. The only positive that could come out of such a situation is that Da Bearz lose their first playoff game. As Seinfeld would say, "That's a shame." But back to the upcoming game. The general line of thought seems to be that the Packers will win the game because Da Bearz will be resting many of their starters for most if not all of the game. Even one of my Bearz-fan buddies said he expects the Pack to win.

But that wouldn't matter much if the Pack still didn't have a chance: going into this last game of the season, the Pack still can make the playoffs. Remarkable, really. What are the scenarios? Let us the count the ways.

Scenarios for the Packers to Reach the Playoffs

According to CBS Sportsline, here are the ways in which the Pack can make it.

  • A win and a N.Y. Giants win and a clinch of strength-of-victory tiebreaker over the N.Y. Giants OR

  • A win and a N.Y. Giants loss or tie and a St. Louis loss or tie OR

  • A win and a N.Y. Giants loss or tie and a Carolina win OR

  • A win and a N.Y. Giants loss or tie and an Atlanta win OR

  • A tie and a N.Y. Giants loss and a St. Louis loss or tie and a Carolina loss or tie.

Got it? Good. Let us pray...

Friday, December 22, 2006

Packers Win! Yowza!!!

Well, Packer fans, it wasn't pretty that's for sure. NFL Network announcer Chris Collinsworth even made the comment that if this was Brett Favre's last game at Lambeau Field he didn't think he'd be watching replays of this one with his grandkids one day. Despite outgaining the ViQueens 319 yards to 104 and limiting them to a franchise-low three first downs, the Pack was down 7-6 in the second half until about a minute-and-half left in the game when rookie kicker Dave Rayner booted the game-winning 44-yard field goal. Love those kickers!

The Pack led 6-0 at half, but went down 7-6 when one of Favre's 50 passes was picked off and returned for a touchdown; it appeared as if there was an incorrect route run by rookie Greg Jennings. The Pack again shot themselves in the foot when Bubba Franks fumbled the ball as he was fighting to get into the end zone with about 8-1/2 minutes remaining. Oh Bubba...

But the Packers defense played inspired football once again. They were aided by the play of the 'Queens rookie QB who played like, well, a rookie.

So, at 7-8, and on a three-game winning streak, the Pack is still alive in the playoff hunt believe it or not. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel compiled the following info to show who we should be rooting for and against going down to the last weekends of play. Of course, we still have to beat Da Bearz to close out the season and keep it all alive.

"You want:

* New Orleans to beat the New York Giants
* Washington to beat St. Louis
* Carolina to beat Atlanta
* Seattle to beat San Diego

There are a number of scenarios in which the Packers (7-8) can get into the playoffs, including ones where they wind up in a three-way tie with teams from other divisions and win tiebreakers because of a superior conference record. But it's all predicated on them beating Chicago in their season finale next Sunday at Soldier Field.

The scenario that seems most likely should the Packers beat the Bears would be the New York Giants losing twice, the St. Louis Rams and Atlanta Falcons losing once and the Seattle Seahawks winning once.

If you really want to pore over the possibilities, here are a couple of links to help you: the detailed breakdown on the NFL conference standings and the NFL tie-breaking procedures."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Packers vs ViQueens: Lots of Happenings

Tonight, that small percentage of the U.S. population who actually has access to the NFL Network or lives in either of the two teams' designated home markets will watch the Packers play the ViQueens at Lambeau Field. With both teams at 6-8, it is a game both teams need to stay in second place in the NFC North division and keep slim playoff hopes alive. Looking back over the last few years' history, the game favors the road team, believe it or not. The Packers have beaten the 'Queens three out of the four last games at the Hump Dome, while the 'Queens have returned the favor at Lambeau winning the last three out of four there.

That aside, there will be a number of other things to watch or at least be aware of during this game:

  • Packers CEO Bob Harlan will be overseeing his last game at Lambeau. He will retire in May after 36 -- count 'em -- 36 years with the team. There will be a video tribute to Harlan during the game. There really couldn't be enough tributes to Harlan for all that he has done for the Packers.

  • QB Brett Favre might be making his last home start tonight. (Gulp!) Yes, it's possible. In his regular press conference earlier this week, Brett said he really didn't know. Some of the language he used made it sound as if he was talking about his career in the past tense. But he's done that before. He also said some good things about what he sees ahead for this young team. My bet is: he'll be back.

  • Right tackle Mark Tauscher will be returning to the lineup. Last week it was a maybe. Tonight, a definitely. How long he will be able to play after coming off the groin injury remains a guess. Hopefully, he can at least give a boost to the running game against a very stout 'Queens run defense.

  • The ViQueens will be starting rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson in place of old-timer Brad Johnson tonight. Nobody knows much about him other than he has a good arm and is quick. Shades of Michael Vick begin to haunt one's mind. On the other hand, he is a rookie. And our defense played very well last week. Another good performance from the Packers' D, and even an average performance of the offense should secure a tight win for the Pack.

The Packers are favored by 3 points going into this game. There have been more close games than blow outs recently in this series, which is tied at 45-45-1...can't get much closer than that. But let's give the Pack the edge by 6 points.

Go Pack Go!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Driver & Kampman Go Pro Bowling!

Packers WR Donald Driver and DE Aaron Kampman were named to the NFC Pro Bowl roster today as reserves. This is Driver's second Pro Bowl selection, Kampman's first. Driver joins Arizona's Anquan Boldin, St. Louis' Torry Holt and Carolina's Steve Smith as the wide receivers on the NFC squad. Kampman joins Carolina's Julius Peppers and New Orleans' Will Smith as the NFC's defensive ends.

Amazingly -- and again -- CB Al Harris was not chosen to the roster, nor was CB Charles Woodson who is tied for the league lead in interceptions with six.

That team from Chicago that will not be named garnered seven selections. San Diego had nine players chosen to the AFC squad.

In other Packer news, offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski will be taking the head coaching job next season at Boston College. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy so far is saying the new zone blocking scheme Jagodzinski brought with him from Atlanta will stay as the Packers scheme for next year. An article in yesterday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel states that, "it's likely he'll (McCarthy) promote (Joe) Philbin to offensive coordinator, (James) Campen to offensive line coach and (Jerry) Fontenot to assistant offensive line coach once the season is over."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Playoffs? No Way! Way!

So, let's continue our Christmas wish dream, shall we? The Packers beat the ViQueens on Thursday night at Lambeau, and then beat Da Bearz in Chicago as they rest their starters for most of the game. The Pack finishes at 8-8. Can the Packers really get into the playoffs with a wildcard spot at 8-8? Yep. If...

To see how they can do it -- who needs to win and lose, tiebreakers, etc. -- check out this blog entry from one of the sports reporters at WTMJ radio in Milwaukee. Makes your head hurt just thinking about it. But given how the season was looking a few weeks ago, to still even be talking about playoffs with two games left in the season, that's something we can be thankful for.

Whew! Packers 17 - Lions 9

OK, the Packers won an ugly game 17-9. But they WON! Two wins in a row. And -- finally -- their second home win!

Detroit had 3 turnovers, the Packers 4 (3 interceptions and a fumbled snap). The Packers also had 9 penalties vs. 2 last week in San Francisco. The offense just didn't look in sync most of the day but, when they needed it, they came up with enough first downs and enough points. The defense really won this game, with 2 interceptions and a fumble recovery. But they also had 6 sacks and kept the Lions out of the endzone all day long, even after one of the Pack's interceptions (a bobble by Ahman Green) gave them the ball on the Packers' 12-yard line. Al Harris covered the Lions' best receiver, Roy Williams, all day long and only allowed 1 catch for 11 yards in the first half. Charles Woodson had another pick, tying him for the league lead in takeaways with 7.

So, my pick on the score was a bit off. That's what I get for listening to all those pundits. But the Pack beat the spread -- for those who care about such things. And they go to 6-8 on the season, keeping them on the "Still Alive" playoff board. The ViQueens are up next on Thursday evening, again at Lambeau. That's a big game. The Packers will have to play much better on both sides of the ball to win that game. Something tells me, they will.

Packers vs. Lions? Please...

With less than an hour to go until kickoff, it's time we make the call on today's
game at Lambeau. Granted the Packers are 1-5 at home this amazingly disturbing stat
which gets even worse if you look at the last couple years.

So, the Packers are favored by 5 points. It should be more. The Lions are banged up. But, honestly, as long as Matt Millen is the GM the Lions won't be very good no matter what. The Packers may get right tackle  Mark Tauscher back today, although he is still listed as questionable. And, to be honest, the Packers' receiving corps came out of the San Fran game pretty banged up, too. Donald Driver (shoulder), Gregg Jennings (ankle) and Ruvell Martin (chest) all were nursing injuries this last week. It wasn't immediately revealed but Martin wound up spending the night in the hospital after the game after he apparently landed on the ball in the fourth quarter injurying his chest. But, this is the 13th game of the regular season. Guys are banged up. As some say, you have to know the difference between injury and least if you want to play football, that is.

The Packers have an opportunity to sweep the Lions and the Vikings if they can win the last two home games. They then can go to Chicago on New Year's Eve day and play Da Bearz, who in all likelihood will be resting a good number of their starters in preparation for the playoffs. Who'da thunk it? The Pack could wind up going 5-1 in the division if they can win these next three games, and finish at 8-8 overall. Perhaps it's too much to ask. But it is the Christmas season. Santa can make any dream come true. Well, OK, except for that Ferrari he never brought me, but other than that...

This is a game where a lot of the Packer pundits are saying the Pack scores at least 30 today, with the Lions maybe scoring 10 to 17 tops. So, let's go with that. Packers 30 - Lions 10.

Note to readers: Blogger has recently switched over to a new system and, as you can see, there are some glitches in formatting that just seem to come out of nowhere at times. Go figure. I do my best to make things readable. So where you see strange line breaks, for example, even working directly with coding doesn't seem to resolve the problem. I hope Blogger/Google gets things straightened out soon. In the meantime, I hope you'll overlook these glitches. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Packers 30 - 49ers 19

The Packers played like at least some thought they might be capable of playing: pretty well. Not perfect. The defense gave up three explosive plays. There was some sloppy special teams coverage in the fourth quarter. There were at least two occasions on which the Packers offense were inside the opponent's 10-yard line and could only come away with field goals.

But...the defense played with more fire than they did over the past several games, coming up with three turnovers, including a late key interception in the endzone by rookie LB, A. J. Hawk. Donald Driver had another spectacular game, going over 1,000 receiving yards for the third straight year. Greg Jennings played through his bum ankle and had several good catches as well. And there was a semblence of a ground game today, with Ahman Green and Vernand Morency combining for 136 yards rushing.

So, with three games left, the Packers have exceeded their win total for all of last year, going to 5-8 on the season. And Brett Favre looks like he's having fun again. That's always a good thing. The Packers now return home for two games, against Detroit and the ViQueens, before finishing the season on New Year's Eve day in Chicago. The Pack are now 4-3 on the road and 1-5 at home. Let's just hope the team can use this game as a springboard to close the season out strong, beginning with a win next weekend against Detroit. Sweeping the ViQueens would be sweet. And nothing would be finer than ruining Da Bearz'  New Year's Eve party. Ah...with this win...we can still dream!

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!

Friday, December 08, 2006


The Packers have been busy making a few changes this week in preparation for this Sunday's game vs. the 49ers...and beyond.

First, they signed former Notre Dame QB and converted NFL receiver Carlyle Holiday off waivers from the Cardinals. Holiday was undrafted last year and was signed to the Cardinals' practice squad. This year, he has played in four games, including two starts, but has no catches. The Packers cut receiver Chris Francies to make room for Holiday. A few days later, Francies was re-signed to the Packers' practice squad. Holiday joined practice immediately and was trying to get up to speed with the receivers coach on routes, etc. There has been some speculation that Holiday may be used to return punts on Sunday. Obviously, with the Packers basically down to Donald Driver as the only receiving threat, the Packers are looking for anyone who might be able to help the passing game. Although a running game might also be good to see...I know it's around here somewhere...where did that go???

Secondly, the long-anticipated move to remove KGB from the starting defensive end position has been made. The coaching staff announced that Corey Williams will get the starting nod against San Francisco. Williams gives the Pack a bigger body at the point of run attack. Let's see: William - 6'4" 313 lbs. or KGB - 6'4" 250 lbs. Hmmm? Packers are giving up more than 170 yards per game average over the last three games. Maybe...a larger presence on the line might help? Whaddya think? No doubt, KGB will still be used on obvious pass rushing downs. Former GM Mike Sherman paid a boatload of money to KGB for what amounts to being a pass-rushing specialist only. And so far this year, he hasn't been very successful even doing that. The move to Williams is long overdue.

Bubba is not a happy camper. In footage of a locker room interview, Franks basically just said he didn't know what's going on, he just comes to do his job and that's it. As fans, media and apparently anyone other than Bubba realize, he is not the same player he was two years ago or even last year. Not only is he dropping catches he should be making but he also is not blocking well. Even if Bubba wasn't catching passes in the past, you could at least count on his blocking ability. That seems to have disappeared. Given Bubba's performance so far this year and seemingly his equally declining attitude, expect Bubba to be gone next year.

Jim Rome of ESPN "burning" fame(?), along with a few other football pundits, yesterday were discussing what Brett Favre should do at the end of the season. All three said he should play one more year with a team that has the talent to get to the Super Bowl...and they weren't talking about the Packers. One was even promoting the idea that Brett should go to Da Bearz. Da Bearz! How many Packer fans would be left alive if Brett ever appeared in a Bearz uniform, let alone help them get to the Super Bowl? Brett could go elsewhere after this year, but if there is a God it sure won't be to Da Bearz!

Lambeau Field -- or precisely, Lambeau's field -- will be changing. As in Decembers past, portions of the playing field are currently getting re-sodded. But after the season is over, the entire field will be re-done using GrassMaster, a natural grass surface reinforced with man-made fibers. This is the same surface the team has been using on the Clark Hinkle practice field and which has received rave reviews from not only players but staff as well. By installing GrassMaster, the need to re-sod the field will be eliminated. In addition, a completely new drainage and heating system will also be installed. So, no more frozen tundra. (Sigh) Well, it will still live on in our hearts...or our backyards if the Packers once again decide to sell off chunks of the turf as they did a few years ago. You can read more about the new field here.

Monday, December 04, 2006

It Gets Worse

You know that old song lyric, "There's got to be a morning after...", or something like that...yeah, it was sappy...but it was hopeful...pointing to a brighter day. Well, this morning after following the Packers' latest debacle doesn't seem to be hopeful at all. The Packers are 4-8, which includes being 1-5 at home, giving them the worst home record in the league (it's actually worse -- the Packers are 4-12 in the last 16 home games!). And whereas some other young teams seem to be getting better as the season goes along, the Packers seem to be regressing, especially on defense.

As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reminds us, the Pack have a "61-20-1 record in home games in December and January during both the regular season and the post-season. With Favre, they were 34-6." But here's the key stat: "Of those 20 defeats, the most lopsided margin had been 26 points (32-6) against Minnesota in 1986. Thus, this will go down as the worst late-season defeat at home in club annals."

Oh good.

Brett Favre said it best in his post-game press conference: "I was hoping I'd never see anything like that in my career," Favre said in a rambling summation. "Where do we go from here? I don't know where we go from here."

Many, including this writer, said it was a mistake for Coach McCarthy to select the inexperienced Bob Sanders as defensive coordinator over then-incumbent and experienced Jim Bates, who as last season wore on was able to wring better performances out of a so-so defense. This year, with Sanders at the helm, and arguably with better personnel (remember that defense was the focus of much of GM Ted Thompson's personnel moves this year), the Packers at or near the bottom in every defensive category. They look as if they have no confidence in themselves or each other. At the three-quarters mark of the season they continue to be out of position on play after play; this is something you expect in the preseason, not the twelth game of the year.

That means bad coaching. And lots of other Packer fans apparently think so, as well. In today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel online sports poll, the question asked is: "What best explains the Packers' poor play?" At the time of this posting, here are the results:
Bad coaching (51.7%)
Not enough talented players (25.8%)
Too many young players (15.6%)
Brett Favre is washed up (6.9%)
Total votes: 814

Earlier in the season secondary coach Kurt Schottenheimer was the primary target of defensive criticism for failing to have his players in position game after game. He definitely deserves the criticism still. But as the season has worn on, it becomes apparent that the defensive problems are larger than just the secondary. The entire defensive scheme is problematic. It is vanilla. Despite having a fairly immobile quarterback with a mediocre arm on the opposite side of the line, and after getting ripped possession after possession, it wasn't until the second half that blitzes were called for. As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel points out, "When the Packers did blitz it wasn't very creative. It was usually one or two linebackers coming up the middle. Clearly, Sanders misjudged how the Packers would handle the Jets' spread offense and then failed to make the adjustments to stop it. It's the second time they've been drilled at home in three weeks." Indeed. Drilled to the tune of being outscored 73-10 in those two games. The players apparently knew what needed to be done more so than the coaches: "We definitely wanted to see a little more pressure and we did bring it in the second half a little bit more," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "I asked him (Sanders) to bring that (middle blitz) and we brought it about three times, in the second half; that's when I made that play in the backfield. It just helped the D-line."

There are four games left in the season, two away and two at home. Where do the Packers go from here? Again, Brett said it all: "I don't know where we go from here."

But one thing's for sure. If the Packers' defense continues its downward spiral, defensive coordinator Bob Sanders should be looking for a new job in the offseason. And so should Kurt Schottenheimer. Would GM Ted Thompson boot head coach Mike McCarthy after just one season, as Ron Wolf did with with Ray Rhodes? Not a chance. But if the Packers' management isn't very careful, especially with Brett Favre's career winding down, the team could find itself once again entering a black hole not unlike the Forrest Gregg-Lindy Infante era. The horror! The horror!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

At Least it's Over

Final score: Jets 38 - Packers 10.

About all that can said was said in the halftime post. One of the most lackluster performances in recent memory.

Unfortunately, the Jets did decide to come back out for the second half. Otherwise, the final score would have been much closer. Maybe.

A game like this is concerning on a number of levels. First, all the usual problems that have been recurring throughout the season are still present. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it almost looks as if the Packers players have packed it in for the season. There are four games left. Let's hope that the veterans on this team can show the rookies how to play with pride as the season winds down.

The Half from Hell - Jets 31 - Packers 0

The answer to my pre-game question about the Pack being able to take advantage of the cold and the home field advantage is: no.

That's being kind. This was the half from hell. The Packers defense was nowhere to be found. Receivers were -- as we've become accustomed -- wide open. Further, there was absolutely no pressure on Jets QB Chad Pennington. The Jets scored every time they had the ball. Total yardage for the Jets topped the first half!

The Packers offense was equally inept. Favre fumbled on the first series. Kicker Dave Rayner missed a 40+-yarder on the lone drive the Packers did have. And Brett tied Fran Tarkenton in the first half for third-most career interceptions with #266.

The Packers entire team looks as if they are playing in slow motion. Looks as if they'd rather be anywhere than playing football today. The fans have been raining boos upon the team for most of the first half. When you play this badly in front of the home fans, you deserve it.

Packers' radio announcers Wayne Larrivee and Larry McCarren, who have worked together as the broadcast team for the last 8 years, are both saying they have never seen a game this bad since they have been doing the broadcasts. In years -- and I mean years -- of watching the Packers, this is one of the worst performances this writer has ever seen.

I said this would be a close game, going the Packers way. That prediction still stands. As long as the Jets don't come out for the second half, we have a shot.

Cold Makes it Even - Can the Pack Take Advantage?

Yesterday, the Jets were 2 point favorites going into today's game against the Pack at Lambeau. Apparently, the cold (actually a balmy 29 degrees forecast for gametime) has evened things out. As of this morning, the line is even.

The question is, though, can the Packers take advantage of the home field advantage, including the cold. They haven't been doing much of that lately. Today might be a good time to re-establish that advantage.

One of the Wisconsin market Packer TV shows that airs weekly is "Inside Lambeau." One of the hosts is Wayne Larrivee, the radio voice of the Packers and also one of the hosts for the radio version of Pro Football Weekly. Larrivee is an excellent analyst and typically cuts right to the chase in calling things as he seems them. In reviewing the upcoming game against the Jets, Larrivee outlined what he sees as two keys to today's game: the Packers must run the ball, and they must get Jets' QB Chad Pennington to move so he doesn't get in a rhythm.

So, the Packers must run. That would be goooooooood. The problem is, since right tackle Mark Tauscher has been sidelined so has the running game. Perhaps, after 3 games of working together, the predominately rookie offensive line might be able to finally start opening some holes for Ahman Green. Maybe. Let's hope so. Let's also hope Coach McCarthy sticks to the running game. Green always gets stronger the more carries he gets. Getting him only a handful of carries isn't going to get it done. Seattle Coach Mike Holmgren -- known in some circles for liking the passing game -- gave the ball to RB Shaun Alexander more than 40 times in Monday night's win against the Packers. Holy handoff, Batman! That's alotta ground game! Maybe it's time to give the O-line a challenge to make the ground game work. Let's see what happens.

As for getting Pennington on the move, that's going to require constant pressure and good downfield coverage. Pressure has been intermittent. And downfield coverage? Do we even need to go there? Interesting stat: the 21 touchdown passes opponents have thrown against the Packers have averaged 24 yards. What was that we were saying about good downfield coverage?

The Packers have a chance today to win at home and gain some respect. But they need to play an entire 4 quarters on both sides of the ball. Giving up leads defensively and failing to take advantage of gift-wrapped scoring opportunities have been common themes this season. It's time -- long past time -- that a complete game leads to a win.

Let's call this game for the a close one.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Players Playing On

Bob Ryan, father of Packers' first-year punter Jon Ryan, passed away at the age of 54 Friday morning from a rare form of bone cancer. Jon participated in Friday morning's practice after getting the news. Ryan had been back to his home in Regina, Saskatchewan, earlier in the week to spend time with his father. Ryan says he will punt in Sunday's game against the Jets at Lambeau, before leaving Monday morning for the funeral services.

After the news was received, it was not certain whether Ryan would play or not. If he couldn't, third-string quarterback Ingle Martin would have been called upon to handle the punting duties. Martin punted for 2-½ seasons at Florida and Furman. Apparently, Coach McCarthy was comfortable with Martin handling the job. According to the online Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, McCarthy said, "I didn't realize he was that good of a punter. Doing it in a game is a different story, we're all aware of that. But he definitely has some natural punting ability."

The main thing here, though, is to remember the Ryans in your thoughts and prayers.

As for other players who were/are questionable for Sunday, LB Nick Barnett says he's ready to go despite still experiencing pain in his broken left hand. He will be outfitted with a cast with foam rubber taped around it. Dubbed the "club," Barnett says he has been able to grab using both hands. There is still a question as to how effective he will be, as well as how he will handle the pain, which he says rates about a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of pain. At the least, it would be expected that Barnett would be relieved as necessary by rookie Abdul Hodge who, despite being out of position on a few key plays during his first start last week, also showed some good instincts. That fumble/interception return for a TD sure looked as if it would be the spark for the Pack in that game. (Sigh)

Safety Nick Collins is now listed as questionable for Sunday's game, after being upgraded from doubtful. If his groin pull affects his ability to cover, the decision could still be to go with either Tyrone Culver or Atari Bigby in his place.

Unfortunately, right tackle Mark Tauscher is still out with his groin injury, leaving rookie Tony Moll to once again handle that slot. Tight end David Martin is also out with a rib injury, once again leaving Brett with fewer passing weapons. As some sports reports have noted, injuries for the second year in a row have once again left the Packers with Donald Driver as the only serious receiving threat. Thank goodness for D-squared! And, by the way, if you have not yet voted for him for the Pro Bowl, do so now! Driver is the most underrated receiver in the league. About time he gets his reward. Click here to go the official ballot.

The Jets are currently listed as 2 point favorites going into tomorrow's game. They lead the series 7-2. Who'da thunk it?