Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Packers - Bears Preview

The preview is coming a bit early this week as circumstances are such that I may or may not be able to post closer to game time. And the usual quarter-by-quarter review that I try to offer during the game also probably won't happen this week. I know, I're disappointed. It's understandable. I'll try to make it up to you somewhere along the way.

Anyway, the Packers are currently listed as 4 points favorites over Da Bearz. One would expect that spread to close as game day nears. Basically, it's the old home field advantage differential. We know that the Pack will be without middle linebacker Nick Barnett for this game and the remainder of the season due to his torn ACL. Reports out of GB indicate that A. J. Hawk was getting some reps at the position. Usually, the weak-side LB, moving Hawk over -- rather than give Desmond Bishop the start -- would also allow the Packers to put Brandon Chillar into Hawk's position. Chillar has had some good moments, especially in terms of coverage. It would seem to be a preferred option to second-year man Bishop. But nothing is official yet. The problem hasn't necessarily been the linebacking play, although it hasn't been spectacular either; the problem on the defensive side of the ball has been the lack of pass rush and the ability to finish a game and get stops down the stretch. How Coach McCarthy and his staff correct those problems remains to be seen. Until they do, games will likely go down to the wire with the Pack coming up just short, as has been the case the last two weeks.

We also know the Packers' offensive line was like a sieve this last week at Minnesota. They will need to give a much better effort this week if they want to give Rodgers time to get the passing game going again. There is an interesting article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about exactly how much time Rodgers has had in the last two games to get his passes off, or get sacked. Not surprisingly to those who have been watching these games, he hasn't had much time. That's gotta change. Da Bearz defense is what wins games for that team. The Pack's offensive line needs to step up. And if left tackle Chad Clifton keeps getting beat, Coach McCarthy here's a tip: yank him like you're startin' a lawn mower. Granted, GM Ted Thompson -- despite a boat load of salary cap room to work with -- hasn't provided much help along that line, choosing to go with basically the same players this year as last...some of whom were benched last year for underperforming. Looking at the results this year, maybe they're not underperforming at all; maybe, it's the best they have to which case...oh-oh.

There are seven games left. That includes two games against Da Bearz, one against the Lions, and match ups against the Saints, Panthers, Texans and Jaguars, not necessarily in that order. The NFC North is there for the taking. But the Packers have to get out of their own way and win the games they are supposed to win. It's the only way there's a shot at the playoffs this year. It can still be done. But this Sunday's game now comes down to a must-win situation. Da Bearz undoubtedly feel the same way, and they are already a game up on the Packers.

But as Green Bay Press-Gazette columnist Mike Vandermause points out in his column yesterday, there are at least "five reasons to be optimistic." Check 'em out for yourself here.

So, let me say it early in case I don't have a chance to say it later: Go Pack Go!!!

A few minutes with Aaron Rodgers
The flagship radio station for the Packers, WTMJ 620-AM in Milwaukee, had a 5+ minute live on-air interview with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers this morning. He talked about his shoulder, the Minnesota game, the upcoming game against Da Bearz, and a bit about how he's finding life in Green Bay these days as the starting QB. It was early morning, and even though Rodgers said he normally gets up early, it sounded as if he needed a bit of espresso.

It's an interview worth listening to. And you can do so here.

SI's power rankings see Pack slide
For those who care to follow such things, Sports Illustrated's power ranking by "Dr. Z" show the Pack sliding from 12th last week to 18th this week. Here's the comments: "What has happened to this team? Has the bubble finally burst? One out of 11 third down conversions against the Vikes, 10 penalties, 184 yards of offense, two-straight games in which the defense was beaten by final drives. Coming up are Chicago, New Orleans on the road Monday night, then Carolina. It could get worse." Good thing Mike Vandermause didn't see this before writing his column. See the entire rankings here.