Sunday, December 30, 2007

Packers to play Sat. Jan. 12

The NFL has announced the schedule for the upcoming playoffs. While the entire schedule is of interest, the part that matters the most -- of course -- is that which affects the Packers. So, without further ado (although I guess I gave it away in the headline, didn't I?), the Pack will host their first home playoff game at 3:30 CT on Saturday, Jan. 12, against an as-yet-to-be-determined opponent.

As noted earlier in the post-game report, if Seattle wins its game against Washington (the ViQueens were eliminated from the Wild Card chase with their loss in overtime at Denver today...awwwwwww) the Seahawks will come to Lambeau. If Seattle loses, the winner of the Giants-Buccaneers game will travel to GB. And assuming the Packers win that game (and assume we will!), they will have an extra day to rest compared to their opponent in the NFC championship game. Every little bit helps.

As for the full schedule and network coverage, here ya go (all times are Central Time):

Saturday, Jan. 5
3:30 p.m. - Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks (NBC)
7 p.m. - Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers (NBC)

Sunday, Jan. 6
Noon - New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (FOX)
3:30 p.m. - AFC 6th seed at San Diego Chargers (CBS)

Saturday, Jan. 12
3:30 p.m. - TBD at Green Bay Packers (FOX)
7 p.m. - TBD at New England Patriots (CBS)

Sunday, Jan. 13
Noon - TBD at Indianapolis Colts (CBS)
3:30 p.m. - TBD at Dallas Cowboys (FOX)

Sunday, Jan. 20
2 p.m. - AFC Championship (CBS)
5:30 p.m. - NFC Championship (FOX)

Sunday, Feb. 3
SUPER BOWL XLII: AFC Champion vs. NFC Champion (FOX)

Packers win 34-13 over Lions

The Packers tied a franchise record with 13 victories in a season thanks to their convincing 34-13 win over the lowly Lions today. A couple other records also came about during this game: Brett Favre won his 23rd game against the Lions, setting an NFL record for most wins by a QB against one team; rookie kicker Mason Crosby set the record for most points scored this season with 141, thanks to 2 field goals and 4 PATs today (this is the first time a rookie got the scoring title since...oh, look it up); punter Jon Ryan tied a team record going back to 1965 with a 72-yard punt.

We could analyze this game, but it's not really worth doing at this point. After all, Brett and many of the starters were out before the first half was over. The coaches were able to get a look at a lot of other players over the course of the game, which bodes well going into the playoffs. Nice also to see Brandon Jackson rush for more than 100 yards after taking over for Ryan Grant early in the first half.

Speaking of playoffs, here's what things look like: if Seattle wins its game (against either Washington or Minnesota, yet to be determined today), the Seahawks and Mike Holmgren return to Green Bay; if Seattle loses, the winner of the Buccaneers-Giants game comes to Lambeau. It would be nice to see Tampa come to Lambeau in January, wouldn't it? But really, the Pack matches up well against any of these teams, particularly at home. Then...well, we'll talk about that later.

In the meantime, let's just savor a 13-3 season. Totally unexpected. And totally fun to watch. The Packers have to feel very good about today's game and the way they executed. That's a great way to go into the bye. And it will be equally good if they can take this momentum into the divisional round in 2 weeks. It's one game at a time. But for the first time in a long time, the Packers are only 2 games away from a return to the Super Bowl. Oh baby!!!

Halftime: Packers 21 - Lions 10

First half mission accomplished! The Packers dominated the Lions, scoring 21 unanswered points after Detroit got a field goal on their opening drive. Ryan Grant had 57 yards in 6 carries, including a 27-yard TD run, before leaving with a left shoulder stinger with about 6 minutes left in the first quarter. He only needed 44 more yards to crack the 1,000-yard mark. He would have had that no problem. As a precaution, they are holding him out. Brett threw 2 TD passes, one to Koren Robinson and the second to Bubba Franks. Brett was 9 of 11 for 99 yards and the 2 TDs before giving way early in the second quarter to Craig Nall. The Pack scored on their first 3 possessions.

All this is especially impressive considering the Pack sat out 7 starters, including Donald Driver, Donald Lee, Gregg Jennings, Charles Woodson and Aaron Kampman among that group.

Detroit scored a TD late in the half on a blown pass coverage.

Lookin' good.

Packers vs Lions Preview

The last regular season game of 2007 will commence for the Packers in less than 3 hours. Whereas last year it was just about getting to 8-8 and turning around a season that started off looking eerily familiar to the dismal 4-12 record of the year before, this year it's about getting primed for the playoffs by finishing 13-3. And blowing away the blip of a week ago where players' focus was not on the field but rather on the heaters. (More on this in a moment.)

So, the offense needs to get back on track. The defense needs to stop third down conversions. And special teams need to be, well, special once again.

Now, it's clear that the coaches won't want to play key starters any longer than they need to. That probably means something like a half for Brett, maybe 3 quarters for some of the others. But it's key to get out of the game without injuries. And win, of course. So, hopefully, the Pack can get off to a hot start, jump out to a big lead and then rest those that they can and should. Kind of like the Patriots had hoped to do last night against the Giants before the Giants decided to make a game of it. Now, the Lions will likely want to do that too. They haven't won in Green Bay since...anybody remember when that was? And they don't win much anywhere else either. So, let's keep that low self-esteem of the Lions going, shall we?

The Packers are favored by 5. Weather conditions will seem downright balmy compared to last week in Chicago: about 29 with perhaps some scattered snow showers. There are no excuses in this one. The Pack needs to take care of business and go into their first round bye on an up note. Packers 24 - Lions 13.

The thing about the weather...remember The Ice Bowl?

It was noted above in reference to last week's game that the players' focus was on staying warm not on the game. It clearly impacted this young team. Da Bearz kept their focus, the Packers did not. And that was the game.

This point was brought home in an Ice Bowl 40th Anniversary (40!) TV special last night. Recall that this was likely the most frigid NFL game ever played. Minus-13 degrees air temp at game time. And although the wind chill factor wasn't invented yet, it's believed that wind chills were somewhere in the neighborhood of minus-48 at times. Compared to those conditions, our young players were in the tropics last week.

While all those interviewed during the special spoke to the weather conditions, Jerry Kramer -- he of the infamous block -- really said it well. And the young Packer players should hear what he said loud and clear. He said that when the players went on the field for the game they had a decision to make: they could either decide to be "miserable" or they could get over it and focus on the task at hand. The fact that the Packers focused so well, especially during the last 4 minutes or so when they were behind 17-14 and had to put together a long drive to get into scoring position, was what ultimately decided the game. How Bart Starr was able to throw the Boyd Dowler and Chuck Mercein were able to catch key Donny Anderson was able to Ken Bowman, Kramer and Forrest Gregg were able to get enough footing for that right side line surge for the winning score...that, my friends, was focus. Admittedly, these were veterans. They were playing for their third consecutive World Championship, and their second trip to the Super Bowl. They knew that focus was more important than the weather conditions.

Lombardi taught his players how to excel, to do more than they probably thought they could do. If this young Packer team is to reach this year's Super Bowl, they need to learn what focus is all about. They have done more this season than anyone -- including probably most of them -- thought possible. But they should have also gotten a valuable lesson from last week: either you focus on your task and win, or focus on the weather (or other outside factors) and lose. It ultimately comes down to that.

Go Pack Go!!!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Ref fined

Without filing his grievance, Packers LB Nick Barnett got a measure of redemption today when the NFL fined WWF, er, NFL referee Jim Quirk a game check -- $8,150 -- for his chokehold takedown of Barnett in Sunday's game vs. Da Bearz. The league told Quirk the fine was for " for "inappropriate physical contact with players." The fine also covers an earlier incident involving Falcons RB Jason Snelling on a kickoff return in the Atlanta-Tampa Bay game on Dec. 16. (A bit of trivia for you: Snelling had a pre-draft workout with the Packers this last April. Coincidence? Or...??? You decide!)

Apparently, Mr. Quirk has -- dare I say it -- his quirks? (Sorry, that was too easy, I know...and so-o-o predictable.)

Shovelers revel in their role

Early yesterday morning I wrote a post about the Packers putting out a call for people willing to help shovel out the stands at Lambeau Field. A day later, you can read about someone who was on the road at 4:30 a.m. to drive 150 miles for the privilege of tossing snow at Lambeau, or another who was in line at 6:15 a.m. to make sure he was one of the 300 lucky folks to be issued a shovel, or about the "reserves," or the really lucky ones who were called on to help remove the tarp off the hallowed frozen tundra itself. Nowhere else but Green Bay would fans drive 150 miles to shovel snow, or use part of their vacation time to stand in line in the hope of shoveling snow. Let's face it folks: Packer fans are the best! And you can read all about it here.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Barnett might not file grievance after all

According to latest reports, Packers linebacker Nick Barnett is rethinking filing a grievance against referee Jim Quirk for Quirk's WWF-style takedown during the game last Sunday in Chicago. Apparently, he'd just be happy if the league said the ref was wrong to do what he did. To find out more about these latest developments, click here.

Birthday at Lambeau

No, this isn't about a birthday of any of the Packers players or coaching staff. It's about a YouTube video of a 50th birthday party for a dedicated Packer fan put on by members of his family recently at Lambeau Field. Combined with the soundtrack, it's a hoot as they say. For folks who have never been to Lambeau, it gives you an idea about tailgate goings on in the parking lot, as well as action inside the stadium. I'd like to thank Steve (brother of the birthday boy himself) for passing this along.

Have a shovel?

If you have a shovel and are in, near, around or will be travelling to Green Bay today, swing on by Lambeau Field. The Packers are looking for 300 volunteers to help shovel out the stands in preparation for Sunday's game against the Lions. You'll be paid $8/hr. And, actually, the Packers will even provide you with the shovel! (No, it's not signed by Brett Favre and you don't get to keep it...c'mon, really...) You just have to be 15 years old or above. should be reporting there right now (8 a.m. Central) and throughout the day. You get paid upon completion, of course. For more, check it out here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Barnett to file grievance against ref

According to a report by WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee, Packers linebacker Nick Barnett will file a grievance against the ref who put him in a choke hold and took him to the ground during the game against Da Bearz. If you didn't see the play, or hear about it, you can see the clip here along with some commentary and a quote from Coach McCarthy who said he'd never seen anything like it. After investigating, the NFL decided not to discipline Barnett. Gee, that's good. After all, he was the one being dragged to the ground. The NFL did say, though, Quirk "went over the line" with his actions. Stay tuned to see how this all shakes out. It was one of the worst actions by a ref that this viewer has seen. Barnett certainly has a case worth hearing.

ESPN article about Favre and Jennings

There's a great article on the ESPN website about the on and off-field bonds that have developed between QB Brett Favre and second-year WR Greg Jennings. It's worth checking out.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas wishes

Merry Christmas, Packer fans!

That's my wish for you today.

We can all have our special Packers wishes, too, of course: continued health for Brett Favre and all members of the team; an acute case of amnesia for one and all regarding that game (what game?) on Sunday; learning to love playing in arctic weather conditions; being able to punt block so punts aren't blocked; play calling that takes into account 50 mph winds and wind chills below zero (hel-lo!); taking the field (whether on offense or defense) and being ready to play physical football; a dominant final regular season games against the Lions; playoff victories at Lambeau and wherever else; a trip to -- and a victory in -- the Super Bowl.

Ah, these are the Christmas dreams that dance in our minds!

Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Packers give it away...again

Packers 7 - Da Bearz 35. The little chance Da Bearz had to win the game happened: Packers turnovers. And really bad weather. But Da Bearz played in that too. The Pack had lots of problems handling the snaps, with pass and punt protection (a couple blocks), converting third downs, way too many pass plays for a day which made it almost impossible to pass and was not a good day. And can someone please explain to me why Brett was still in the game when the score was 35-7 and over with about 8 minutes or so to go? Someone? Anyone? Coach McCarthy???

Turnovers and miscues of various kinds led to way too many points for a team than needs such things in order to have a chance to win. They got 'em in spades courtesy of the Pack today. Sure didn't see this one coming. But better to fall flat in a game that doesn't mean much than in the playoffs. Certainly gives the coaching staff plenty of opportunities to ride their guys hard this week and beyond.

So, with the Packers loss the Cowgirls officially have locked up the #1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. it goes. Da Bearz won both games versus the Pack this year...and 6 out 8 under head coach Lovie Dovie. Who knew? Wish it weren't so. But ya know what? Da Bearz still suck.

Maybe we'll analyze this more later. But really, not much to say about this one. Nobody got injured, and some players even got time to recoup for upcoming games. We're in the playoffs. And Da Bearz are done. Enjoy your winter break, boys!

Packers vs. Da Bearz Preview

Week 15 of the season finds the Pack in Chicago taking on Da Bearz. This will be the 174th game in the longest rivalry in the NFL. Da Bearz lead the overall series 88-79 with 6 ties. But perhaps the most intriguing stat for today is that Brett is 12-2 at Soldier Field. That's pretty impressive. After today, make that 13-2. Another interesting bit of trivia is that Da Bearz have had 51 different starting quarterbacks while Brett has been at the helm of the Packers. And 13 of those quarterbacks have fewer career passing yards than Brett has against just Da Bearz alone. I know, I know...Da Bearz still suck, you're right of course.

But on to today's game. The Packers are favored by 8-1/2. The early line didn't change. But unless the strong winds that are currently blowing through Chicago and the upper Midwest blow the entire Packers team off the field Da Bearz have little chance of winning this game (yes, I know, we fumbled away the game the last time around...and that's the little chance Da Bearz have once again). Even if the Packers offense is limited to more of a running game because of conditions, the Pack has the edge. Da Bearz don't have much left on the field or to play for this season. Most of the players are just hoping to make it through this game and the next without getting hurt.

As for the Packers, there's a little thing called revenge for that earlier loss. And we are still playing for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Carolina wasn't able to pull off the upset last night against the Cowboys that they did last week against Seattle. So we're going to have to rely on Washington to take care of that next week. In the meantime, the Packers just have to take care of business today, and then knock off the Lions at Lambeau next week.

Put the 13th win of the season on the board. Packers 27 - Bears 10.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Radio story about Packer fans

Yesterday, it was a post about a live local radio interview with Brett. Today, it's a post about a nice radio segment on NPR's "Only a Game" show about Packer fans. It was only a matter of time, right? Maybe folks took notice when there were more Packers fans in St. Louis stadium (whatever it's called) than Rams fans. Whatever. You'll find the story here, including a small photo gallery. If you want to listen to the podcast, click here.

By the way, if you want to hear/download/buy the song, "O Little Town of Green Bay" (by The Southern Nevada Arts Music Society no less) that was used in the show, you can find it (and other songs for Packer fans) here among other places.

Packers will have lots of salary cap room in 2008

A story in today's Green Bay Press Gazette makes it clear that the Packers have one of the best front offices in the biz. They are using creative incentive clauses in player contracts to generate salary cap credits next year. This is what we all heard about as kids: fun with math! As it looks now, according to the article, the Pack will have about $25 million in salary cap room going into next season. That, combined with the league's youngest team -- and now officially one of the best -- means the Packers are well set to be a contender for more than just this year. No one and done like Da Bearz. Anyway, if you want to bone up on this creative accounting method and keep your chops drooling for what may yet come, you can read the full story here.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Brett goes live on local radio...and Caliendo-as-Madden

Well here's something you don't hear every day, Edgar: Brett Favre taking five minutes or so on a Friday morning to do a live radio interview with a Milwaukee radio station. It happened today. WTMJ620 radio -- which just also happens to be the flagship radio station for Packers broadcasts -- got Brett on for a brief chit chat. They asked some questions listeners had sent in, as well as asked about some rumors. For example, is it true that Brett can pick up a softball with his toes? Not quite. It was 1999, and it was a baseball. "I don't think I can anymore," Brett said. Then added, "We like to be remembered for certain things so I guess mine is being able to pick up things with my toes."

You can read more highlights from the interview here. Or if you'd just prefer to hear it for yourself, you can listen to the podcast here. It's worth the time.

Bottom line is that one of the many reasons Brett has endeared himself to so many fans for so many years is that he's just like the rest of us. Well, not quite. But you know what I mean. He's an average guy off the field. "I take out the trash Tuesday mornings," Brett said. And what about pizza? Squares or triangles? "Doesn't matter, as long as it's good." Now that's our kinda guy!

Frank Caliendo as Madden on Favre

A couple days ago, this same morning radio show had native son (Waukesha, WI) Frank Caliendo on the air. Caliendo has a couple performances coming up soon in Milwaukee so was on for a bit of a plug. Why not? But there was, of course, an opportunity for him to do his spot-on John Madden imitation talking about Brett Favre. There's lots of guys out there who have man-crushes on Brett, but John Madden has to be near the top of the list. Take a listen to this podcast to hear Caliendo-as-Madden take that to a whole other level. It's a classic.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Packers favored by 8-1/2 over Da Bearz

The early line on the Packers have them favored by 8-1/2 points versus Da Bearz. That might go up by game time. But that's just for those interested in such things. Many of us just want another "W". But realistically, the Packers should probably win this game by at least 10 points. Da Bearz will be starting Kyle Orton, he of neck-beard visage. But really, does it matter whether it's Orton, Griese or Grossman? They don't have much going for them on offense. And the once vaunted Bearz defense isn't what it was. I mean, Urlacher didn't even make the Pro Bowl this year.

The Pack's biggest -- literally -- resting decision might be Ryan Pickett, who injured his groin in last week's game. He hasn't practiced yet this week. Might do so Friday. But he also hasn't missed a start since coming to the Pack as a free agent last year (something, by the way, St. Louis press were commenting this last week might have been one of the worst free agent mistakes the Rams have made since being in St. Louis). It will likely be a game day decision. If he does play, expect it to be in a very limited role; the coaching staff wants to make sure Pickett is healthy for the playoffs. While there is still something to play for in this game -- namely, still the possibility of home field advantage throughout the playoffs -- it's not worth sacrificing what Pickett can bring in the games that really count coming up. If Pickett doesn't play, the Packers' first round draft pick, Justin Harrell, might get his first NFL start. While he's played more over the last two weeks and acquitted himself well against the run, he's obviously a rookie and not the caliber of Pickett. But he'd be more than serviceable against Da Bearz.

The biggest factor in this game, though, may be the weather. Early weather forecasts have called for rain changing over to sleet and maybe snow as temperatures are expected to drop during the game. That could mean more emphasis on the running game as the day goes on. Which means it would be very nice if the Pack can jump out to a good lead early and make Da Bearz try to come from behind -- something they are not very good at. If the Packers have to rely more on the run they will also have to be relying on John Kuhn at fullback as Korey Hall had a hip injury in the St. Louis game and will miss the final two regular season games. Kuhn's a tough kid who also performs well on special teams. Practice squad fullback Corey White has been getting a lot of reps in practice this week according to reports and could be activated as further insurance at this position. Given the expected conditions at Soldier Field, that may be a very good move.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pro Bowl Snubs?

We're of course very happy with the Packers selected to the Pro Bowl yesterday: Brett Favre, Donald Driver, Aaron Kampman and Al Harris. Four starters. But...the Cowgirls have 11? And the ViQueens have 7? The number of Packers selections is tied for eighth in the league with -- get this -- Da Bearz! The Packers have the same record as the 'girls. And the 'Qeens? C'mon. Da Bearz? Oh, puh-leze! Yes, the Packers have 14 players named overall, but that includes all alternates...not quite the same thing. Not quite the same respect.

That's what some of the Packers players are apparently saying, too. And, according to reports, those players are going to use that disrespect as incentive for the remainder of the year. What's that saying about "Revenge is a dish best served..." hmmmm...what was it? Served on a brat bun? Served boiled in beer? Served with cheese spread? Well, whatever it was...the Packers will be serving it up.

And what better place to start serving up that warm dish of whoop-ass than Soldier Field on Sunday? Not only is there the incentive for the Pro Bowl snubs, but there's also the major revenge factor for the loss to Da Bearz earlier this season. It should be a most fun game for Packer fans...not so much for those fans of the Mess of the Midway.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Four Packers named to NFC Pro Bowl first team, 14 overall

Quarterback Brett Favre, wide receiver Donald Driver, defensive end Aaron Kampman and cornerback Al Harris were all named as first team Pro Bowl selections by the NFL today. All have been named to the Pro Bowl before (now nine times for Brett and two apiece for Driver and Kampman) except for Al Harris who, in his 10th season, finally gets the honor he deserves with his first selection.

Named as first alternates were linebacker Nick Barnett, tackle Chad Clifton and cornerback Charles Woodson. Other alternates include safety Nick Collins, tight end Bubba Franks, running back Ryan Grant, linebacker A.J. Hawk, wide receiver Greg Jennings, tight end Donald Lee and center Scott Wells.

Congratulations, gentlemen! Well deserved. You make all us Packer fans proud.

See the official Packers news release here.

Let's hear it for the troops

OK, normally the troops under discussion here are the Packers troops. But in this case, I want to salute some Wisconsin troops who are -- what else? -- Packers fans. In this case, they've taken that love of the Pack, and Brett Favre, to another level. How so? Ink, baby. Tats. As in tattoos. Now, Marines and tattoos are something that have gone together since leave was invented. For some of the men of the Milwaukee-based Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, they've not only got the usual Marine symbols adorning their skin, but also Brett Favre's signature. Not via a Sharpie but rather the inkster's needles. So, if you've already purchased every piece of Packers gear or Favre memorabilia you can get your hands on, here's another option: just get permanently tagged. For the whole story, including photos for inspiration, click here.

Still time to get PackerFansUnited gifts for Christmas!

If you're still trying to figure out what to get that Packer fan family member or buddy of yours for Christmas, or perhaps something to annoy any Bearz or ViQueens acquaintances you may have, you can still order from the PackerFansUnited Gift Shop. Just choose Premium or Express shipping and you'll have your gifts in hand in time to amaze or amuse -- or annoy -- as the case may be. Check it out. Click the link above, or the shop banner in the righthand column. Thanks for looking. Thanks for ordering!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Final: Packers 33 - Rams 14

The Packers win 33-14 over the Rams. The Packers get a first-round playoff bye, courtesy of the Panthers beating the Seahawks, and will host a playoff game either Jan. 12 or 13. Brett Favre becomes the all-time passing yards leader on a 7-yard pass to Donald Driver. The Packers go to 12-2 on the season. Amazing.

What more is there to know? The rest is just details. A couple sacks for Barnett, one by Kampman, and one shared by Hawk and KGB. Another interception thrown by Brett on a pattern almost exactly the same as the pick in the first half. But also another pick by Bigby on another pass deflection.

Last week, Will Blackmon was the star of special teams. Today, Koren Robinson really excelled on kickoff returns. Ryan Grant only carried 18 times for 55 yards...the Pack really didn't run as much as expected today, with only 23 carries overall for a net of 52 yards. The lack of an effective ground game today was apparent, especially given field position. The Packers had favorable field position virtually all day, starting in Rams territory at least 4 times, perhaps more. They did get 2 TDs as a result, but more often than not wound up having to settle for a field goal. Mason Crosby thus had a fine day in this regard, nailing four 3-pointers.

So, still things to work on, including continuing to get players healthy. It didn't appear as if anyone suffered any serious injuries today, so that's always a plus.

Next Sunday, it's Da Bearz at Soldier Field. Then back to Lambeau on Dec. 30 for the regular season finale against Detroit. Then there's that valuable first round bye and an even more valuable home game in the second round of the playoffs. Oh baby....ya gotta like it!

End of 1st half: Packers 17 - Rams 14

This is one of those games where you shake your head. The Pack takes the opening kickoff back 43 yards on a nice return by Koren Robinson. The Pack then comes out on the opening drive, moves with authority down the field, and scores on a 2-yard run by Ryan Grant. They hold the Rams to three and out on their opening series. The Pack have another drive going when on a short pass to Ryan Grant the ball is dislodged before he has a chance to put it away, the Rams recover and go on to score on a Bulger to Holt TD pass. Score is 7-7 when it would likely have been 14-0. The Pack then engineers a drive resulting in a 5-yard TD pass from Brett to Donald Lee. 14-7 Packers. The Rams then get a drive going, allowing Steven Jackson to break free on a 3rd and two and run for a 46-yard touchdown. Score 14-14. Robinson takes the ball back 89 yards on the ensuing kickoff, breaking several tackles before running out of gas around the 20 yard line or so. That return was shortened to 66 yards, however, with a blocking in the back penalty on Tramon Williams. The Pack had to settle for a 44-yard field goal by Mason Crosby to make the score 17-14. The Packers had Bulger throwing from his own endzone on third down. Unfortunately, he connected over Charles Woodson for 40-some yards. Fortunately, he was eventually intercepted by Atari Bigby off a deflected reception by a wide open receiver with about 40 seconds remaining in the half. A couple nice completions to Greg Jennings and the Pack had the ball down to about the 30-yard with 23 seconds left and both of their time outs. Unfortunately, Brett decided to throw an ill-advised pass into double coverage and was picked off. The Rams took a knee. End of half. Packers 17 - Rams 14.

The Packers are letting the Rams off the hook. The Packers have one sack so far against a makeshift offensive line. And that same offensive line is creating seams for Steven Jackson, whom the Packers are having difficulty tackling. Combine this humdrum defensive effort by the Pack with a couple turnovers and the Pack are keeping the Rams in this game. The Pack needs to come out and dominate in the third quarter to put this game out of reach. If it's close in the fourth quarter, well, let's not even go there. Especially when it shouldn't come to that against this team.

Packers-Rams Preview

First things first. We must give a hearty and well-deserved congratulations to the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater football team on their winning the NCAA Division III National Championship in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl. The Warhawks beat the unbeaten and seemingly unstoppable Mount Union Purple Raiders 31-21 yesterday. The Warhawks were in command virtually the entire game, despite Mount Union closing the lead to within 3 points on two occasions. Gagliardi Award winner Justin Beaver led UW-W with 31 rushes for 249 yards and a touchdown. (The Gagliardi Award, by the way, is the Division III equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.) Beaver was named the game's Most Valuable Player. He's played for over a month with a fractured rib. A great win for the Warhawks, who had finished runner-up to Mount Union the last two years. As they say, third time is the charm. If you want to read more about the game, check out this article. If you want to know more about UW-Whitewater (from which some of this writer's acquaintances somehow managed to graduate despite spending more time at the local watering holes than is humanly possible), click here.

Now...about that Packers game...

The Packers are 9 point favorites going into the game against the 3-10 Rams in St. Louis. This is a game the Packers should win by beating the spread. Brett needs 184 yards to pass Dan Marino as the all-time leader in passing yards. That should be no problem, although the Rams will be blitzing often, so protection for Brett will be key. If the line can't pick up the blitzes it might be a difficult day. But if they do their job, there should be plenty of opportunities to hit lots of receivers. And let's not forget the running game. Since week 8 of the season, no running back has gained more yardage than our own Ryan Grant. That's right, Ryan Grant. He's rushed for 717 yards since week 8. That's more than any other back in the league. More than Ladanian Tomlinson, Justin Fargas, Clinton Portis, Adrian Peterson, and whoever else is out there. Grant should have another 100-yard game today.

What do the Packers have to worry about? Well, Rams QB Marc Bulger will start today after coming off a concussion. But he will be working behind an offensive line missing 4 of 5 starters. There's still Tory Holt to deal with. But he has lost a step. Al Harris should be able to hold him in check. And the Packers defense should be able to get some sacks again, after going without any the last two games. The Rams do have a fine running back in Steven Jackson, and he could generate some yards if the Packers forget about him...which they won't. All in all, the Rams don't have enough to stay with the Pack. And that's not even counting any newly found special teams pizzazz the Packers might have today courtesy of Will Blackmon.

The Packers win 31-17 today. A first round bye in the playoffs? Why not. All we need besides a Packers win today is a Seattle loss or tie.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Packers 2008 Schedule

While exact dates and times are yet to be determined, we can at least have an early look at the Pack's schedule for next season...although admittedly this season still brings the most interest right now. But just in case you want to get a head start on your 2008 party planning, here ya go. We finally get the Colts and the Cowboys at Lambeau...can those both be in December...pleeeeaaaassssse???


Chicago * Detroit * Minnesota * Atlanta * Carolina * Houston * Indianapolis * Dallas


Chicago * Detroit * Minnesota * New Orleans * Tampa Bay * Jacksonville * Tennessee * Seattle

Monday, December 10, 2007

Maybe this explains why Brett was laughing

For those who were able to watch the Packers-Raiders game yesterday, you may remember toward the end of the game where Brett was smiling and almost laughing at times coming out of the huddle and at the line. Big smiles. Turns out that might have been because his old buddy Warren Sapp was calling out the plays the Packers were going to run. Now, once in a while a defender may guess right or tip off his teammates about how a play is going to go. But turns out that Sapp was doing this play after play and, apparently, only got it wrong once. Still, the game was a runaway and not even knowing which direction the play was going seemed to be of much use to the Raiders. But had the game been closer? Anyway, seems as if the Packers players were amused, even if they might have to adjust how they call their plays or huddle up. See this story for more on Sapp-gate.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Final: Packers 38 - Raiders 7

NFC North Division Champions: the Green Bay Packers! The universe is once again in order. The Packers are atop the division by virtue of defeating the Raiders 38-7.

Remember how I said that the Pack needed to get their act together in the second half? They did. Remember how I said this game had an "Oh-oh" feel to it? It did. But it was "Oh-oh" for the Raiders.

The last Packers' TD came with about 4 minutes left on a 46-yard pass from Brett to Donald Lee. Lee seemingly had about 25 yards of that on the run-after-catch, breaking several tackle attempts on his way to the endzone. Packers 38 - Raiders 7.

It appeared that there were no significant injuries in the game. Barnett returned in the third quarter and showed no ill effects from whatever the injury was near the end of the first half.

So, the Packers are division champs and are in the playoffs. The remaining schedule sets up well for the Packers, with the next two games away at St. Louis and Chicago, and the final regular season game back at Lambeau against Detroit. It will be interesting to see what personnel moves the coaches make in terms of resting key players. You always play to win. But at this point, it's now about winning in the playoffs to get back to the Super Bowl.

11-2...not a bad season...not bad at all. And it isn't over yet.

End of 3rd quarter: Packers 31 - Raiders 7

A wild third quarter, ending with an interception return for a TD that wasn't, and a 26 yard run by Grant.

But let's start at the beginning. The first drive of the quarter culminated with a 44-yard field goal by Crosby after another drive stalled out on a third-and-one play. This made it 17-7 Packers. The next Packers series was a quick one. An 80-yard TD pass by Brett to Jennings. Packers 24 - Raiders 7. The Raiders eventually got a drive going, aided by a 15-yard blow to the head penalty on Justin Harrell (hey, there he is!). The Raiders missed the 44-yard field goal attempt to keep the score 24-7.

The Packers had to punt on their next series. The returner had the ball stripped by Jason Hunter and Will Blackmon recovered the ball in the endzone for a TD. The referees initially called the player down by contact. The Packers challenged the ruling and -- upon further review! -- the runner was not down when the ball was being fumbled. TD Packers! Score: Pack 31 - Raider 7. By the way, Blackmon became only the fourth player in NFL history to return a punt for a touchdown and return a fumble for a touchdown in the same game. Not a bad way to get your name in the record book.

The next to last play of the quarter was an interception by Atari Bigby after a tip by Nick Collins. Bigby returned it for a TD but a penalty was called on Cullen Jenkins for blindsiding the Raiders QB away from the ball. The Pack kept the ball but lost a TD. The final play of the quarter saw that 26-yard run by Grant mentioned earlier.

Grant has 29 carries for 156 yards.

Halftime: Packers 14 - Raiders 7

The Packers offense continued to move the ball in the second quarter, this time with points to show. Ryan Grant already has 18 carries for 90 yards, including a 6-yard TD run to make the score 7-0. Not long afterward, following a Raiders series riddled with big first-down negating penalties, the recently returned Will Blackmon got his first NFL touchdown on a 57-yard punt return to make the score 14-0. Coaches and fans alike have been awaiting Blackmon's return to returning from his series of injuries. This return was an indication why. Al Harris got an interception later on.

The Packers final drive of the half was much like its first two: a drive with no points. Brett missed Greg Jennings on a third-and-eight play which would have broken for a TD if completed. As it was, the Pack had to settle for a 43-yard field goal attempt by Mason Crosby, who missed it badly to the left. This left the Raiders with decent starting field position with about 90 seconds remaining. The prevent defense, of course, didn't prevent the Raiders from moving the ball and getting a 25-yard TD pass to Jerry Porter over Al Harris. Linebacker Nick Barnett also went down with an injury; almost looked as if he might have been poked in the eye or got his bell rung a bit from they way he looked on the sideline.

The Packers are not playing sharply. Offensive drives are not being finished with points. And the defense, for as good as it played most of the half, seemed to go to sleep during the Raiders 2-minute drive.

As noted earlier, this is a game which has an "Oh-oh" feeling to it in the first half. The Packers are leaving points on the field and against lesser opponents -- example: Da Bearz -- it's this kind of performance which leaves you only one bad play or turnover away from losing a game that should not be close.

The Packers need to get their act together in the second half.

End of 1st quarter: Packers 0 - Raiders 0

The story of the quarter: the Packers moved the ball twice to about the Raiders' 30 yard line and came away with no points. The first time, the Pack went for it on fourth down with about four yards to go and missed on a short pass play. The second time, Brett attempted to throw about a 25 yard pass to Koren Robinson; it appeared the pass may have been affected by the wind because it was to the inside of Robinson, got deflected and intercepted. The Packers "D" is playing well and not giving the Raiders much of anything. If the Packers can't take advantage of the field position they keep getting this could be one of those games that make you go, "Oh-oh." But you gotta believe things will click sooner or later...the Packers are just moving the ball too well.

Packers - Raiders preview

It's less than 2 hours to game time at Lambeau. And this time of year, one has to take a closer look at the weather forecast. So, courtesy of The Weather Channel, here's what might be expected: "Snow showers. High 22F. Winds light and variable. Chance of snow 70%." Welcome to Green Bay, Raiders.

A couple of points to ponder. The Pack go into this game as 10-1/2 point favorites. That's a big spread, even against a team such as Oakland, which really probably isn't as bad as their 4-8 record might indicate. OK, their rushing defense is 30th in the league, their QB is...who?...and...that's about it. So, not great.

But, the Packers are still dinged up. Most importantly, ol' #4 is still nursing some hurts from the Dallas game, although he will start the game, of course. (That's 250 consecutive regular season starts...but who's counting?) What might that mean as far as the game? Probably a lot more handoffs than we've seen to this point in the season. It's possible that Ryan Grant might have a career high in rushing attempts today. That would be just fine if those rushes moved the chains and resulted in points. The other thing that might be expected is far fewer 7-step know, the kind that really worked against the Pack in the first half of the Dallas game? But I digress. The point is that in order to minimize the exposure of Brett to hits from old friends such as Warren Sapp, passes will probably be more of the 3- and 5-step variety, slants and quick timing passes. If the Packers were able to build a substantial lead in the second half, we shouldn't be surprised if Brett gave way late to Craig Nall in mop up duty. Brett should only be left in as long as absolutely necessary.

Charles Woodson practiced Friday and would love to play against his old team. On the other hand, it might be better for the Pack to hold him out unless he is absolutely recovered from his toe injury, which he is not. Having Woodson healthy for the playoffs is more important than any grudge match he may be wishing for today.

KGB will be back today. Bubba is still doubtful. Johnny Jolly is still out and probably will be the next player to be put on injured reserve when the Packers need to make a roster move. And, as noted in a post here earlier this week, QB Aaron Rodgers is out with a hamstring injury following his admirable performance in relief of Brett against the Cowboys.

So, what does all this add up to? A Packer win. Although the Packers still have to show up. If they do that and take care of business, the Pack clinches the division today. I don't expect a high-scoring game. For the sake of argument, let's call it 24-14 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Ironman shows he's a softy

Brett Favre was honored yesterday by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America as one of eight winners of this year's Chris Greicius Celebrity Awards, "honoring top celebrities and organizations who embrace the Foundation's mission and granted remarkable wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions." Not surprisingly, many of these kids want to meet one of their sports heroes. And, really not surprisingly, for many kids in Wisconsin and elsewhere that sports hero is Brett Favre. Nine-year-old Anna Walentowski, a "wish kid" Favre met three years ago, was on hand to share the stage with Brett. Anna was mentioned in both the Sports Illustrated article naming Brett as the 2007 Sportsman of the Year, as well as in Deanna Favre's book, Don't Bet Against Me.

When asked to say a few words after receiving the award, Brett got choked up several times. But rather than have me tell you about it, why not watch the video for yourself here. You'll have to sit through a brief commercial first, but then settle in for the next 12 minutes or so. If you don't have that much time, Brett's on at about the 5 minute mark.

Yes, Brett is one of the greatest QBs to ever play the game. But he's also one of the best men to play the game...period. And as much as we like that QB part of things, the other part is the one that is truly most important.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Rodgers is not Mr. Durable

Admittedly, we are spoiled about all that is Brett Favre. But especially about him being there week after week, year after year. We take this as normal for QBs now. We take his upcoming 250 consecutive regular-season starts for granted.

So, it's one of those things that brings back a dose of reality to Packer fans. Last year, in the one game where Brett had to leave due to injury and be replaced by Aaron Rodgers, Rodgers broke his foot and was done for the season. Now, on the heels of Rodgers' good relief performance last Thursday, news comes that he has a hamstring injury and could miss one to two weeks. Recently-signed Craig Nall will be the primary back up against the Raiders on Sunday. And it's not inconceivable that he will be called upon as Brett is apparently still feeling some tingling in his arm and hand. Yikes.

This may be just bad luck or coincidence for Rodgers. But it sure doesn't generate a lot of confidence in his staying power. Play in a game and -- boom! -- out. Yup, we're spoiled. But c'mon...

If you want to read a bit about this latest downtime for Mr. Rodgers, check out this story.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Brett is SI 2007 Sportsman of the Year

The accolades keep on rolling for Mr. Favre, although perhaps this one might have been a bit unexpected. Sports Illustrated has named Brett Favre their 2007 Sportsman of the Year. This is an award Brett has never received before. In fact, he's only the fourth quarterback ever to receive the honor in the 50+-year history of the award.

If you thought you already knew all there was to know about ol #4, think again. There's also a special little piece to the story about a then 4-year-old girl whose "Make a Wish" wish was to meet Brett. She made such an impact that she also wound up getting a mention in Deanna Favre's book, Don't Bet Against Me. SI print copies go on sale tomorrow. But you can read the article online here. Congratulations, Brett!

Murphy Named Packers New CEO

As expected, current Northwestern athletic director, Mark Murphy, was unanimously approved yesterday by the Packers board of directors as its new President and Chief Executive Officer. Learn more about Mr. Murphy here. From all the comments about him, he seems to be the perfect fit for the most-storied franchise in sports. Good luck, Mr. Murphy!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

What's old (back up) is new (back up) again

Guess who's just been re-signed to be a #3 QB? Craig Nall. Remember him? He was drafted by the Packers in 2002 and spent four seasons with the team before leaving to try to get a starting -- or at least better back up gig -- with Buffalo in 2006. He was released by the Bills earlier this season and spent about a month with Houston before being cut last month. Apparently, the injury to Brett in the game against Dallas made the Pack want to gain a bit of depth at QB going into the last 4 games of the season and the playoffs. Obviously, Nall would be a good fit, knowing the team as he does, although he departed just as Mike McCarthy was coming on board. So, like Brett and Aaron Rodgers, he will have to get up to speed on new terminology. To make room for Nall, the Packers once again cut safety Marviel Underwood, who was signed the week before the Dallas game to provide depth in the defensive backfield which had been hit with injuries.