Saturday, January 29, 2011

Topless Packers Road Trip

Now, don't get the wrong idea, Packers's not that kind of topless. We're talking here about a topless PackerMobile. Or, in other words, a convertible...but with no top whatsoever. See for yourself:
Yes, two intrepid Wisconsin Packers fans, Mark "The IceMan" Madson (Clinton, WI) and Dieter "The SnowMan" Sturm (Lake Geneva, WI), have in their own words begun "an epic adventure trip, leaving from the Tundra of Wisconsin's Green Bay Lambeau Field southbound in their 1978 El Dorado Cadillac Convertible (no top) to support the Green Bay Packers to victory in Dallas at Super Bowl XLV."

Yes, this is what Packer fans do. Just watch...

For those amongst the readership who are geographically challenged, here is what the gentlemen's route will look like:

If memory serves, it's a long drive -- approximately 1,100+ miles -- from Green Bay to Dallas (I'm sure someone will Mapquest that to find out for sure). That's quite a ride in a topless convertible. Especially in the dead of winter. But Packer fans know no bounds of enthusiasm. Or common sense. It makes us who we are!

Of course, Messrs. Madson and Sturm aren't just winging it. They do have a schedule, as tentative as it might be at the time of this posting:
Thursday - Sunday: PREP FOR THE TRIP
Monday - Travel to Green Bay to start Epic Adventure
Tuesday - LEAVE Wisconsin TO SUPER BOWL XLV Dallas
ARRIVAL to Dallas (Hopefully) Thursday PM or Friday AM

If I read this correctly the largest segment of the trip is the preparation. OK, we can understand that. If it's like the road trips from college days...well...never mind...moving right along...

If you're interested in learning more about Mike and Dieter's most excellent Packers adventure, check out their website here. And, yes, sponsorships are available. Really. Why not? There's only one Super Bowl XLV.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's a Packivus miracle!

Yes, it's Packivus for the rest of us!

For any team to make it to the Super Bowl it is a bit of a miracle, isn't it? And when we really contemplate what this season's version of the Green Bay Packers has accomplished it truly is an amazing accomplishment.

  • Fifteen players were placed on injured reserve during the regular season, including six starters.
  • The team's six losses were by a combined total of 20 points.
  • The Pack had to win their last two regular season games just to qualify via tiebreaker for the playoffs as the last seed.
  • The team had to go on the road for all three playoff games...and win. In doing so, they became the first #6 seed from the NFC to advance to the Super Bowl.
  • At no time, in any game this season, have the Packers trailed by more than 7 points.
  • The Packers' defense is either at or near the top in just about all statistical categories, despite being the unit that lost the most starters and backups to season-ending injuries.
It's an amazing story. The Packers were the preseason pick of many to go to the Super Bowl because of the talent on board. Much of that talent was left by the wayside as the season went on. Other players, many of them virtual unknowns and/or street free agents -- Sam Shields, Howard Green, Erik Walden, John Kuhn, James Starks and Tim Masthay among them -- had to step in and play at an exceptionally high level even for the team to have a shot at making the playoffs. The player personnnel side of things, beginning with GM Ted Thompson, and the coaches and staff -- especially head coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers -- had to do a remarkable job of getting these players in a position to succeed. And succeed they did.

There is much to be proud of about this team. They have one goal remaining, four quarters of football, to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown USA. Their upcoming opponent is almost a mirror image of the Pack, especially on the defensive side of things. The Steelers have 25 players on the roster with Super Bowl experience; the Packers have two, Charles Woodson and Ryan Picket (although John Kuhn was on the Steelers practice squad when they won in 2005). But would you put it past this group of Packers to once again exceed expectations? Nope.

It will be a knock-down, drag-out battle for the title. If the Pack puts it together they way they can, they way they have been, Super Bowl XVL will go down as the fourth such title for the team, and their 13th overall NFL championship title...more than any other NFL team. They want it. You have to believe they'll earn it. After all, it's the season of Packivus miracles!

Oh, and a word to the NFL for next season: just imagine what the Packers will be like when they get all their players back! Be very afraid.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Packers win the Halas, now off to Dallas!

How does it feel, Packers fans, to be able to call our beloved Green Bay Packers NFC Champions? Pretty darn good, doesn't it? And then you toss in the fact that the victory came at the expense of the team south of the border, the Chicago Bears, the Packers' partner in the oldest rivalry in the NFL, and it becomes even sweeter. To take the Halas Trophy, named after the Bears' founder, George Halas, back to Green Bay is wonderful irony.

Now the Packers have the Halas...and it's off to Dallas! Super Bowl XLV here we come. We have 13 days to get Packer'd up.

But first, let's just take a quick look at a few of the heros of yesterday's game.

Aaron Rodgers. For the early quarterbacking, but especially for his tackle of Brian Urlacher after Urlacher intercepted Rodgers as the Pack was driving to go up 21-0. If Rodgers hadn't made that tackle, it's a whole other ballgame. Even with the ball at midfield, Da Bears were unable to get any points off the turnover. Turned out to be the biggest tackle of Rodgers' career.

James Starks. For doing just enough, 22 carries for 74 yards, to keep the Bears honest regarding the running game. And for picking up his first NFL touchdown. Good timing.

B. J. Raji. What can you say about "The Freezer"? Helped on the blocking scheme to get Starks in the endzone. Was blowing up Bears center Olin Kreutz, especially early on. And for being athletic enough to drop into coverage and get a pick-6 TD...although it would be nice in the future to not hold the ball out like a loaf of bread until you are well past the goal line (just a suggestion in case you are reading this, Mr. Raji). Raji becomes, according to ESPN, the heaviest player to score a TD in postseason history. There's some trivia for you.

Greg Jennings. Eight catches for 130 yards. Big catches to help get the Pack up early. Huge.

Tim Masthay. A punter? A hero of the game? You bet. Especially when the guy on the other end of your punts is Devin Hester. For the second game in a row against Da Bears, Masthay placed his punts in such a way where Hester was a non-factor. Outstanding job.

Jarrett Bush. Yeah, I know. He's been the kind of player over the last several years that Packer fans have not exactly warmed to, shall we say, especially when he's called upon to play in the defensive backfield. But you have to give credit where credit is due. And Bush deserves plenty of credit for becoming a special teams warrior. He has often become unblockable in punt coverage. Combined with Masthay's punting, Bush is often able to be the first one to down the ball or to be in on a tackle of the returner. Bush has made such an impression on his teammates that he was elected one of the co-captains for the playoffs.

Sam Shields. The undrafted rookie free agent continues to make a name for himself for his outstanding cornerback play. Yesterday, he helped cause a fumble on a blitz of Jay Cutler, which the Bears recovered unfortunately. Oh yeah, there were those two interceptions, too. Especially that last one that was the dagger in the Bears' hopes for a comeback. Shields is only the third rookie in NFL history with two interceptions in a conference championship game. You are a rookie no more, Mr. Shields.

The entire defense, with special kudos to coordinator Dom Capers. Defense wins championships they say. That was true yesterday and it has been true for the Packers throughout the season. Often times the offense seems to go into a conservative mode late in the game, and is unable to convert third downs to keep the clock running and the ball away from the opponent. The outcome of the game then rests with the defense. Time after time, the defense comes up with big plays to save the game. Last week versus Atlanta it was Tramon Williams. Yesterday versus Da Bearz it was Sam Shields. Amazing defense. And it will be needed again if the Pack is to beat the Steelers to win Super Bowl XLV. Facing Ben Roethlisberger is no small challenge. But we know that this Packers defense will leave everything on the field in order to help assure that the Lombardi Trophy returns to Green Bay where it belongs.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Packers beat Bears 21-14 to go to Super Bowl

It was pretty at the start, ugly inbetween, and finally, thankfully, final. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears 21-14 at Soldier Field to capture the Halas Trophy. Next up: Super Bowl XLV and the Lombardi Trophy.

A game re-recap and comments will follow...later. Tonight...tomorrow...whenever. Early clue: defense wins championships and it was the defense that saved the day today.

But for now, let's just say the dream of the Packers winning the NFC Championship for the first times since 1997 and heading to the Super Bowl has come true.

Great job, Packers! From management, coaches and staff to the guys on the field.

Go Pack Go!!!

Packers vs. Da Bearz Championship - A Dream

This is the day. Finally! The day our beloved Green Bay Packers send the Chicago Bears back to hibernation. The Pack then gets ready for Super Bowl XLV in Dallas. For those who haven't yet read my preview/prediction of yesterday, I am -- shocking! -- picking the Packers to beat Da Bearz, 24-17.

But perhaps like many fans, I didn't sleep really well last evening. Kept tossing and turning. Was very calm until then, apparently. But the excitement builds consciously and subconsciously, right? Like many, my blood pressure will start to go up as game time approaches. And I'll probably be hyperventilating throughout the game until I hear the radio voice of the Packers, Wayne Larrivee, declare, "!"

Anyway, in my somewhat agitated sleep state of last evening, a dream came to me. And in it, I have to say I see a premonition of what's to come today. So take a look, and see if you agree...

The clues to a win for the Packers are many here: the bear is scared and up a tree; a more advanced mammal aims to take it down; a knockout shot is delivered; the bear bounces and lands on the ground with a thud (obviously representative of Jay Cutler getting sacked over and over); the bear being hauled away by a strongman (a Clay Matthews-like avatar); the reference to years of therapy being needed by the bear (referring to Bears' fans at any point in time, really) and lastly, the 6-pack comment by whats-his-name the announcer...what could be more Wisconsin?

So, that dream pretty clearly seals the deal, don't you think? The real dream, of course, begins after today's win. It's the dream of heading to the Super Bowl again and bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to where it belongs: Green Bay, Titletown, USA!

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Packers vs. Da Bearz Championship Preview and Prediction

This time tomorrow, we will know the outcome of the NFC Championship Game between our beloved Green Bay Packers and...those other! No, beat them already. Umm...Falcons! No, beat them too. Let's see...I knew it a moment ago...oh yeah...the Chicago Bears. And, yes, the Pack will beat them, too. Shocked, I know, to see yours truly predicting that.

But what else can I do? The Packers are favored. Seemingly at least two-thirds of all the pundits out there are picking the Pack. But are these the only reasons? No. I'm picking the Packers to beat Da Bearz because they are, as ESPN's Jim Rome stated on his show yesterday, not only the hottest team but also the better team.

Granted, the best team doesn't always win. Enough instances of that exist across the league. And, make no mistake, Da Bears are a tough match up. These games always are a slugfest. They have some great players. And it's close enough where an ill-timed penalty, turnover or blown assignment -- or, dare I say, a shanked field goal attempt -- could be the difference in the final outcome. We just hope more of those mistakes occur on Chicago's side of things than on the Packers'.

The Packers are confident and are playing championship calibre football. Da Bearz are probably feeling a bit disrespected and will likely want to take out some of that frustration on the Pack. So it will likely be a tight game, if not throughout at least through the first half.

But if the Pack can get up early on Chicago, bottle up RB Matt Forte, and force Jay Cutler to win the game...that adds up to a win for the Pack.

I normally don't post my prediction until game day. I like to sleep on things and see how things look in the morning. But because many will be heading to the game or viewing parties then, I thought I'd post my prognostication a bit early...while still reserving the right to revise before the game, of course.

Jim Rome predicted the Packers to win 21-17. Peter King of Sports Illustrated picks the Pack 17-16. I think both of those scores for Da Bearz are in the ballpark, although I'm hoping the Pack's defense can hold Chicago to under 17, which they are completely capable of doing. I'm also hoping that the Pack's offense, particularly its running game, keeps opening things up for Aaron Rodgers and the receiving corps. It might not be the long downfield plays given the field and weather conditions. But dink and dunk will work just fine as well, and also not force the O-line into having to pass protect for those long dropbacks and long throws.

Given those assumptions, I'm taking the Packers 24-17 over Da Bearz.

Go Pack Go!!!

P.S. OK, there really wasn't much of a preview here, was there? But really, the whole week has been a preview, hasn't it? Good. Glad we cleared that up.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Packers vs. Da Bearz Championship Week - Part 3

Two days to go before the showdown in, doesn't it seem like an eternity since last weekend's game? Good thing the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears can generate a lot of talk to fill up the time. As noted here yesterday, the talk isn't from the players; they are playing things close to the vest and not generating any bulletin board material for their opponent.

Fans and pundits, on the other hand, well...fugetaboutit.

Predictions generally call for a close game. And depending upon which colors you happen to wear, the nod for the victor goes one way or another. No surprise there. But sometimes it's interesting to notice nuances in the conversations.

For example, I happened to be in Chicago last evening and struck up a brief conversation with a desk security guard at the office building I was at for a meeting. He was wearing a Bears hat. He's seen me before coming in wearing a Packers jacket. We don't know each other's names, but we know we both love football. It's always a friendly and good-natured chat. He picks Da Bearz 24-17, not surprisingly. I said I thought that was probably a pretty reasonable score, although I'd have the Pack coming out on top, also not surprisingly.

But then he started to expound just a bit, ever-so cuatiously, measuring his words so he wouldn't have to reconsider his prediction. He said, "If we had Rodgers....Super Bowl, no doubt. If we had Rodgers...". I quickly reminded him that Da Bearz don't, the Packers do, and that will indeed be the difference. (Oversimplifying, of course, as one does in these types of conversations.) I then opened the conversation door a bit more by saying, "Yeah, Cutler...". That's all it took. He was off to the races on how you never know which Cutler is going to show up. He laughed as he recalled some pundit saying that Cutler is colorblind and that's why he'll throw the ball to anyone.

From other things I've read and heard on the airwaves this view seems to be the general feeling among a good number of Bears fans. They believe in Da Bearz, but they just aren't so sure about their quarterback.

The Packers on the other hand, have it rolling now. And Bears fans know that, too. As huge as this game is for the Packers, in some ways it seems to be even more so for Chicago and its fans. After all, Da Bearz won the NFC North. Yet, they are currently listed as 3-1/2 point underdogs on their home field. They haven't gotten a lot of respect this season. Pretenders not contenders was the tag. But here they are, and here the Packers are, playing for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. In the longest rivalry in the NFL, there has never been a match up like this before. "This is the Super Bowl," I opined to my security guard compadre. "Ya got that right," he nodded in agreement.

For as much as both teams want to get to and win the Super Bowl -- it is the biggest prize, of course -- at least in this corner of the world, among the fans of both teams that live and die with each victory and loss, this Championship game is THE game. Chances are, a meeting with stakes like this will not happen between Green Bay and Chicago again for a long, long time. Each team's fans want to have the bragging rights. For the losing side, it might be another 70 years before there's a chance for redemption. Some of us (gulp) probably won't be here then.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Packers vs. Da Bearz Championship Week - Part 2

Alrighty's a couple days since the last post and a couple days till Packageddon in ChiTown. The story angles and trash talking between fans of the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears are ramping up, filling the airwaves and cyberspace.

But it's important to note that the trash talking between players on the two teams has been nil. Nothing but respect given back and forth. No bulletin board material. As St. Vince might say, "What the hell is going on out there?!" Can this possibly be the same two franchises that have spawned some of the most vicious and nasty players and games the NFL has ever seen? Where's the clotheslining...the "hook"...the body slams? Ah, those were the days...when there was a real dislike by the players on one team versus the other. I mean, even the quarterbacks in this upcoming game are friends. Friends! What's the football world coming to??? Holy Johnny Blood McNally, Batman!

Along these lines, the radio voice of the Green Bay Packers, Wayne Larrivee, has a wonderful radio piece about this greatest rivalry in pro football on his "The Back Page" segment on 620WTMJ radio in Milwaukee. Larrivee outlines some bits of Packers - Bears history that many fans might not be aware of. Both teams, at one time or another, for instance, actually helped keep the other afloat. Another tidbit of history: Papa Bear George Halas was an honorary pallbearer at Curly Lambeau's funeral. For better or worse, the Packers and Da Bearz are bound together in NFL history. That's why it's still amazing that these two great franchises have met only once before in a playoff setting (70 years ago!), and never before in a Championship game. It has always been special. Sunday's game takes it to a whole new level. You can listen to Larrivee's commnetary here.

Cutler on Cutler
Speaking of Jay Cutler (how that's for a non-transition transition?), if you haven't seen this yet, check it out. It's what we imagine he might say if administered truth serum. Enjoy.

More on other aspects of this game later on. For now... Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Packers vs. Da Bearz Championship Week - Part 1

In what will likely be a rolling set of posts as mood, news, time and interest permit, here is the first installment of the NFC Championship week previewing the matchup between our beloved Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.

According to Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, three bookmakers –, and – have the early line on the Packers set as three-point favorites over Da Bearz. That's a good start.

Perhaps they are wondering, along with many Bears fans, no doubt, which Jay Cutler will show up: The good Jay (not bad yesterday during the win over the Seahawks...but it was the Seahawks, after all) or the bad Jay?

On the other hand, Packers fans have no such worries. We know we have not only a good quarterback, but a great quarterback: Aaron Rodgers. But don't take my word for it. When you have Hall of Fame QB Troy Aikman commenting during the broadcast of the Pack's de-icing of Matty "Ice" Ryan Saturday night that if he was starting a football team right now he'd pick Rodgers as his QB, that speaks volumes. And then Da Coach himself -- Mike Ditka -- states on ESPN that in his roughly 50 years of football he's never seen a better individual playoff performance by anyone than what he witnessed from Rodgers versus the Falcons. So...there's a couple pretty reliable testimonials for you. Haven't heard anyone saying anything similar about Cutler. Of course, a beat down on him by the Pack this coming Sunday will make sure that trend continues.

This is the thing dreams are made of. The oldest rivalry in the NFL. Storied franchises. Border wars. Friends and families with split loyalties. It doesn't get better than this. In many ways, this game will make the Super Bowl almost anticlimactic. Almost.

Go Pack Go!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's the Packers vs. Bears for trip to Super Bowl XLV

The Green Bay Packers blew out the Atlanta Falcons last night for a trip to the NFC Championship Game. Today, the Chicago Bears beat the Seattle Seahawks, 35-24, although the game was never in doubt despite Da Bearz giving up several scores late.

Believe it or not, this will set up the first playoff meeting between the Pack and Da Bearz since a divisional playoff game in 1941. 1941! Holy John Belushi movie, Batman! (Film reference, look it up.)

With the annual meetings between these two teams going back to the dawn of time (or the start of the NFL, whichever came first), it does come as a bit of a surprise that there has only been one previous time when the Packers and Da Bearz met with something like this on the line.

This is definitely the game that both Packers and Bears fans have been hoping for. For Packer fans, it's a chance to make amends for the early season giveaway loss in ChiTown, grab the NFC Championship Trophy -- the George Halas Trophy (how great to steal that away on Da Bearz' home turf?) -- and get ready for a return to the Super Bowl. For Bears fans...well, who really cares?

Make no mistake, Da Bearz have gotten much better on all sides of the ball as the season has worn on. But so have the Packers. And if they continue to roll like they did last night, the Super Bowl is just one game away for the Pack. It's no gimme. That second meeting in Green Bay in the regular season finale was a dogfight. This will be, too, one would suspect. But that was more or less the thinking going into the Atlanta game. Chicago is better than Atlanta, especially on the defensive side of things. And Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz has put Jay Cutler in a position to succeed by changing the scheme since early in the season.

But really...when push comes to shove, with the game on the line, which quarterback do you want pulling the trigger? Cutler or Aaron Rodgers. A-duh! If the Pack's defense and special teams hold their own -- which they will -- the advantage goes to the Packers, despite playing in Chicago and on that lousy turf at Soldier Field. (C'mon...with all that graft that flies around Chicago, couldn't they pay off someone to get a decent field??? Really.) As Terry Bradshaw noted, a bad field goes to the advantage of the offense because they know where they're going and the defenders do not. More weapons, more opportunity. That's the Packers.

As the week goes on, we'll be doing preview updates as the need arises. Our prediction of the score (not the winner -- you already know we're picking the Packers!) will be made closer to game time.

The NFC Championship Game will be carried on Fox with kickoff set for 2 p.m. Central time.

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Can you say "NFC Championship Game"???

Yes, Packer fans, it's time to rejoice once more. Our beloved Green Bay Packers are on a roll. As the 6th-seeded team in the NFC playoffs, they trounced the #1-seeded Atlanta Falcons 48-21. Other than a shaky start early with a Greg Jennings' fumble and special teams giving up a 102-yd kickoff return, the Packers dominated every aspect of the game.

QB Aaron Rodgers threw for 3 touchdowns (giving him 10 TD passes in his first 3 playoff games as a starter) and ran for 1. Rodgers finished 31 of 36 for 366 yards, 3 TD and no INTS, and a 136.8 QB rating. CB Tramon Williams had 2 huge interceptions, 1 in the endzone and another for a pick-6 70-yard TD return to end the 1st half. Could it be Rodgers and Williams had a chip on their shoulders about not making the Pro Bowl? Nah...this is all about getting to the Big Dance, baby!

In all, Atlanta had 4 turnovers, including 2 fumbles in the 4th quarter. The Packers never punted in the game.

The 48 points scored sets a new Packers' post-season record.

At the end of the game, the stadium was filled only with Packers fans as the Dirty Bird patrons had flown the coop.

More analysis and comment in the days ahead as the Packers prepare to meet either Da Bearz or Seahawks. That will be determined tomorrow.

But whichever team we meet in the Championship, they should be afraid. Very afraid. The Packers are rolling on all cylinders.

Go Pack Go!!!

Packers ready to clip Falcons' wings

Tonight is the night. The night the lights go out in Georgia. The night the Green Bay Packers get one step closer to Super Bowl XLV. Tonight is the night the 6th-seeded Packers take down the #1-seeded Atlanta Falcons.

Yes, the Falcons are favored by 1 point. Big whoop. And all the analysis has been offered: who has the better running game, special teams, QB, defense, receivers, etc. And the record of first-round bye teams winning their divisional games versus Wild Card winners is rather impressive. Plus, we all know how great Atlanta and QB Matt Ryan are at home. Throw in Michael "The Burner" Turner as the featured running back and the Dirty Birds are a handful.

But so are the Packers. Especially now. The Packers handed a victory to the Falcons in their earlier meeting, blowing goal-line opportunities and failing to tackle Turner. A few inopportune penalties sealed the deal with a narrow closing-seconds loss. It was the modus operandi for all the Packers losses. That was then. This is now.

Now, over the past month, the Packers have been playing at a different level. They are as healthy as they've been all season. Which doesn't mean they don't miss all the starters who went out early and often and onto injured reserve. But the players that have been plugged in have stepped up. Big time. The Packers defense is #5 in the NFL overall. Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the league right now after Tom Brady according to various sports pundits. Special teams has been consistent, something they weren't early in the season. And now, perhaps, the Pack has found a running back in rookie James Starks. If he does even half as well versus the Falcons as he did against the Eagles it will go a long way to helping the Packers leave Atlanta with a victory.

Look for defensive coordinator Dom Capers to devise a scheme which will keep Michael Turner from chewing up yards and clock -- something they were unable to do last time. In Atlanta's three losses, Turner was held in check; the Pack needs to do that as well in order to win. Accomplishing that, occasional pressures on Matt Ryan will also help do the trick. On the offensive side of things, rush with Starks and let Rodgers and the receiving corps exploit the Falcons' secondary. As for special teams, just don't blow it...what more can you say?

This will be a close game, as the two teams are very well matched. The Falcons are rested. But the Packers are hot. Look for the Pack to stay on a roll.

We're calling this game 24-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Packers playoff win sees some "firsts"

Sunday, January 9, 2011...a day that will live in, well, Green Bay Packers' lore if nowhere else. And not only for the fact that the Pack beat the Philadelphia Eagles 21-16. This game should be part of the sacred Packers' canon for years to come because of a few of the "firsts" recorded.

The first of the "firsts" was that, with his three touchdown passes yesterday, QB Aaron Rodgers became the first NFL quarterback -- ever -- to record seven touchdown passes in his first two playoff appearances. Obviously, those other four TD passes were made in last year's overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Congrats to Mr. Rodgers, our Pro Bowl QB. (Wait...what's that you're saying? Rodgers didn't make the Pro Bowl this season? But Michael Vick did? Who's responsible for this mix up??? Obviously, there's a bizarro world thing happening here!)

Oh, and this was also Rodgers' first playoff win as the Packers starting QB.

Another great "first" was a Packers' rookie playoff rushing record for James Starks. His 123 yards (23 carries, 5.3 yds/carry) rushing yesterday blew past the prior record held by Travis "The Roadrunner" Williams back in 1967. Williams carried 18 times for 88 yards at Milwaukee's County Stadium as the Packers beat the Los Angeles Rams, 28-7. Congrats to Mr. Starks. Perhaps the Packers can now give opposing defenses a legitimate rushing threat to worry about throughout the playoffs.

Another "first" was the first NFL touchdown catch by TE Tom Crabtree, which was also the first Packers' score of the game. Congrats to Mr. Crabtree. And we really liked the way you rubbed it in to the fans with your "I can't hear you" hands-to-the-ears routine as the City of Brotherly Love fans showered their special brand of love upon you. Classic.

On the flip side of things, and it played an important part in the Packers victory, it was the first time the Eagles Pro Bowl kicker, David Akers, missed two field goal attempts in a playoff game. Being so bold as to speak for Packers fans everywhere, this was indeed a good "first" and a great time to have it happen. Sorry, Mr. Akers.

Last, but certainly not least, is the fact that this was the first playoff win by any Packers team in Philadelphia. The Pack had been 0-2 in playoff games in Philly going into yesterday's game. The only playoff loss by head coach Vince Lombardi was to the Eagles in Philly in 1960. Then there was head coach Mike Sherman's Waterloo overtime loss in 2004, where a loss was snatched from the hands of victory. That demon has been exorcised.

This was a complete team victory for the Packers, the team's first road playoff win since the 1997 NFC Championship Game in San Francisco (hey, another "first" of sorts!). Beating any team twice in the same season in their own stadium is no easy feat. Beating a team with Michael Vick running the offense is a challenge anytime, anywhere. Well done, gentlemen, well done!

Next up: the Dirty Birds
The Packers will now have six days to get ready to travel to Atlanta to take on Matt Flynn and the Falcons in a place where the home team rarely loses. But if memory serves, the Packers essentially played the Dirty Birds to a draw last time around, and lost by 3 points in the waning moments of the game. The early Vegas line has the Falcons favored by 1 to 2 points. Can you say, "toss up"?

The Falcons are the #1 seed in the NFC, the Packers are the #6 seed. That means jack right now, if you get my drift. And I think you do. The Packers are playing at a level they haven't been at until probably the last three or four games. The defense is better than it was when they last played the Falcons, and the offense is also more in a groove and now has a rushing threat for Atlanta to deal with as well as Mr. Rodgers and crew.

The Packers are confident and ready. Watch out Atlanta. The Packers are heading your way.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

For Packers, it's V-E Day!

For anyone historically challenged (OK, let's be honest, that would be most Americans, but I digress...), the V-E I'm speaking of isn't that other V-E day; Victory in Europe will not get the Green Bay Packers anywhere today (and, please, don't even think about starting a conversation about the NFL playing in Europe!). However, a Victory over the Philadelphia Eagles will certainly be a great V-E Day for Packer fans everywhere!

And that's what we're looking for today: the Packers to beat the Eagles. V-E Day.

This will be a quick and concise preview. (Who said "Yay!"? I heard that!).

The Eagles are favored by 2-1/2 points, not even given the full usual benefit of the home field advantage. The weather is supposed to be cloudy and in the low 30's...not bad. However, the current conditions and forecast call for the wind to be a possible concern, with gusts forecast up to 35 mph. So, if it comes down to a kicking game, there could be issues, as they say. Punts could be affected, kickoffs could be affected and, especially, field goal attempts could be affected. We don't want to see a directional kick from Mason Crosby or punt from Tim Masthay taken by the wind and give returner DeSean Jackson opportunities he was not intended to get. Nor do we want to see a Crosby field goal attempt ding off an upright or get pushed wide and be the deciding factor in the game. Horrors! Bottom line: the Packers' special teams did a great job last weekend against Devin Hester and Da Bearz; they need an equally big game today against Jackson and the Eagles, and they can't let the wind determine the outcome of the game.

The Packers' defense must figure out a way to contain the Eagles running game and bottle up QB Michael Vick. That means keeping him in the pocket and hitting him as much as possible. The ViQueens laid out a great blueprint in terms of how to do that. Given that Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers has been a master at scheming all season long, we should expect nothing less than a great performance today from the Pack's defense. In addition, the defensive line will benefit from the return of DE Cullen Jenkins. It's not certain how much he'll be able to play, but the fact that he will be able to make an impact when needed certainly is a boost to a unit that has been playing at an exceptional level for the last half of the season especially.

On the offensive side of the ball, QB Aaron Rodgers and the air attack should be able to shred a questionable Eagles' secondary. Again, that's assuming that the wind doesn't adversely affect the downfield passing attack of the Packers. Being able to hit those big plays is a major part of the Pack's offense; take that away and...? Still, if the Packers can muster any semblance of a running game -- just to keep the Eagles honest -- that will enable Rodgers to find his receivers wherever they may be. And, of course, being able to convert touchdowns rather than field goals will be critical when the offense gets inside the redzone. If the Pack can get off to a fast start today -- instead of falling into the sluggish form that has appeared way too often -- that will go a long way towards securing a victory.

The Packers are feeling very good about where they are momentum-wise right now. They believe their playoff season started two weeks ago, as they needed to win to get in. Make no mistake, the Eagles have the weapons to win; that and the home field are making them the favorites going into the game. But most pundits seem to be predicting the Packers to win this game.

Include yours truly in that group.

I'm calling it 30-24 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

P.S. That quick and concise preview thing I mentioned earlier on...never mind...

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Packers lock up Bishop

No, the Green Bay Packers have not instigated an ecclesiastical junta in the Diocese of Green Bay. Rather, they have according to reports nailed down a four-year $19 million contract extension with LB Desmond Bishop.


Bishop has been a top performer on special teams and in preseason games for the last several seasons. Finally, with the rash of injuries which decimated the Packers' linebacking corps, he got his chance to show what he can do as a starter. And he's done well. Now, he's going to get paid well, too, although some suspect that he might have been able to bank more funds if he'd gone to free agency in the off-season. Apparently, he wants to stay in Green Bay. And why wouldn't he? The Packers' defense -- despite the numerous injuries that hit that unit throughout the course of the regular season -- has become a dominating feature of the Pack. It is well coached. And the players that have been plugged in have each excelled in ways unexpected, in large part due to the coaching of defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his assistants. Kudos have to particularly go to linebackers coach Kevin Greene for the tremendous job he's done with the revolving cast of characters at the linebacker spots.

One wonders whether this move to sign Bishop long-term is a security blanket in case the Packers decide to part ways with Nick Barnett, who will be coming off yet another season-ending injury, or whether it will be a negotiating tool in an attempt to get A. J. Hawk to renegotiate his contract, which calls for him to jump from $4.623 million this season to a base salary of $10 million next season. Hawk has arguably had his best season as a pro. He's been as solid a performer as they come, and is the primary signal caller at linebacker. Since reportedly adjusting his workout routine, Hawk even seems to be quicker than before and able to even handle short pass coverage better than in prior years. No doubt he's the kind of quality person and player that the Packers would like to keep on hand for the long haul. But at what price? That remains to be seen. The Packers will have a crowded field at linebacker going into next season, with all the players coming back from injury (e.g., Barnett, Poppinga, Chillar, Jones...remember them???) and the players that were given opportunities no one expected at the start of the season, such as Frank Zombo and Erik Walden as well as Bishop.

There will be some interesting decisions coming down the pike for players and team alike.

But for now, congrats to Mr. Bishop. He's played like he's had something to prove, and prove it he has. He's earned his keep.

A great performance on Sunday vs. Michael Vick and the Eagles would be a wonderful way for Bishop to confirm the faith the Packers have placed in him.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Packers sneak by Bears to make playoffs

It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was pretty ugly if you were a Green Bay Packers fan. With everything on the line for the Pack and virtually nothing on the line for the Chicago Bears, the outcome of this game was somewhat in doubt until the last minute of the game. But finally, the Packers prevailed 10-3.

The Packers' offense was stymied by Da Bearz defense all afternoon, as well as its own miscues: dropped passes, penalties (four on RT Brian Bulaga alone), and the usual lack of a rushing game. But, the Packers' defense only allowed Da Bears starters -- who played the entire game -- three points...and came up with the clinching interception (thank you, Nick Collins!) when Chicago was driving in the game's closing seconds. The Pack's special teams probably had their best game of the season. On the few kickoffs and the more frequent punts, Packers' coverage units did a tremendous job of keeping Devin Hester in check all day long.

The Pack didn't cover the 9-1/2 point spread for the game. But they came away with the "W" and that's all they needed to claim a spot in the playoffs. The Packers will meet the Eagles in Philadelphia next Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The Pack's defense will have to have another top-notch game, this time against Michael Vick. And the Packers' offense will have to have a much better game than was on display today in order for the team to continue beyond a one-and-done scenario.

But for now, let's just enjoy this win. The Packers are in the playoffs. And while the road to the Super Bowl will be entirely on the road for the Packers, anything can happen.

Let us pray...

Playoff schedule set by NFL
You can see the entire playoff schedule as just released by the NFL here.

Packers vs. Da Bearz Preview

Today is the day on which the Green Bay Packers will grab a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Or not. Standing in their way, with already a bye week secured, is the NFC North champs (really, can you believe it???) Chicago Bears. Oddsmakers are figuring, despite the statements of coach Lovie Dovie Smith to the contrary, that Da Bearz will be resting many of their starters for a good portion of the game; this translates into the Packers being slotted as 9-1/2 point favorites. Yowza!

The Packers need this game, Da Bearz don't. Yes, there is an outside chance that Chicago could grab the #1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. But do they want to risk injury to key players on the outside chance that Atlanta loses to the worst team in the league, the Carolina Panthers? Or because they'd really like to keep the Packers out of the playoffs? Even Lovie isn't that dim. Expect key Bears' starters to play at least the first half and perhaps into the third quarter, depending upon the closeness of the game.

And that's the key question: will the game be close?

Both the Packers and Da Bearz are very different teams than when they met in Week 3 of the season. The Packers have lost yet more players to season-ending injuries and Chicago basically still has its full complement of starters. The Packers have overachieved with players that GM Ted Thompson has seemingly pulled in off the street and that the coaching staff has "coached up," as the expression goes. To some, including yours truly, Da Bearz can also be said to be overachievers. Not many pundits had them winning the NFC North at the beginning of the season, did they?

Da Bearz' defense has been its typical tough self and just as typically keeps the team in each game with a few rare exceptions. They're tough against the run and thrive on turnovers. The strip of the ball from WR James Jones along the sidelines in the waning moments of the first match helped set up the winning field goal. Da Bearz' special teams are keyed with the uber-returner, Devin Hester...who causes special teams coaches league-wide many hours of lost sleep. He alone can change -- and win -- games for Chicago; his punt return for a TD was critical in their earlier 20-17 last-second win over the Packers. To be fair, Jay Cutler and the offense are operating at a higher level than they were when the Packers handed Da Bearz that earlier victory in Chi-Town. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz has seemingly shifted from having Cutler doing seven-step drop backs and being a sack target to a three-step drop and a quick rhythm passing game. Also, let's not forget RB Matt Forte who will likely break the 1,000-yard rushing mark today; he stands at 978 yards and a 4.4 yards-per-carry average coming into this game.

As for the Pack's offense, there won't be much rushing room against Da Bearz' stout defensive line, at least while the starters are playing. But what else is new? The Packers haven't had a running game all season. The game will fall to at least keeping Chicago's defense honest with occasional runs, while letting QB Aaron Rodgers and the receivers do their thing, which they do very well. The offensive line will just need to give Rodgers the time he needs. Oh, and avoid the mind-numbing penalties which doomed the Packers in the first meeting. Given the play of late, both the protection and lack of penalties should be expected.

The Packers' defense will once again be without the services of DE Cullen Jenkins and LB Frank Zombo; S Atari Bigby is also out (along with FB Korey Hall on offense). Still, the D should be more than up to the challenge today given what's on the line. As for the Pack's special teams, the main objective there will be to not let Devin Hester beat you. Big challenge, and any line drive punt from P Tim Mathay could make this game closer than it should otherwise be given circumstances.

The predictions for this game are all over the place, some predicting a classic close-game battle while others are calling the Packers in a cakewalk. Weather will not be a factor, other than -- surprise! -- it's cold: at gametime the forecast is for 16 degrees and partly cloudy.

So, how do we call it? Not surprisingly, given what's at stake and how Da Bearz are expected to play this game, we're calling it 31-17 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Happy New Year, Packer fans!

Bye-bye Brett
Oh...and a fond farewell -- again -- to Ol' #4 who belatedly and finally will really and truly and forever be at his final NFL game today. Note that I didn't say "playing"; that's because it's just been announced that Favre is inactive for today's ViQueens' finale vs. the Lions.

It's been a horrible year on many fronts for Brett Favre. Like many great quarterbacks who have hung on too long, he's going out with a whimper instead of the return to glory he sought. Sadly, though, there's probably no once-great QB who has had the shine come off his star to the extent that Brett has. He's gone from legend and adulation a few years ago to the butt of jokes and investigations today. So sad.