Saturday, November 30, 2013

Motor City Massacre: Packers lose to Lions 40-10

It's taken me -- and many, if not most, Packers fans -- two days to get over the debacle in Detroit. The Green Bay Packers were whipped on both sides of the ball by the Detroit Lions. The team that has been bottom-of-the-barrel in the NFC North for so, so long now sits atop it. The Lions played with determination, energy and passion from start to finish. None of those attributes were present from this current Packers squad.

(Photo from

This photo pretty well sums up not only what the Packers felt like on Thursday, but what Packer fans worldwide felt watching and listening to this game. Despite the Lions handing the Packers four turnovers on the day, the Pack could only convert those into seven points. But that was four points more than the Packers offense could manage for the day in one of its most inept performances in ages: 126 total yards.

The defense, or what might appropriately be called "defense" on this day, gave up 561 yards (or thereabouts...when we're talking these kind of numbers does it really matter???). The "defense" missed 20-plus tackles on the day. Anyone watching saw that CB Davon House was a whiff machine on the day. But he was far from the only one. There was no toughness. No coverage of much account either, with receivers wide open over the middle as they have been repeatedly during this losing streak. Yes, they finally got the takeaways which had been so lacking on the season, but it didn't matter...the offense could do nothing. No running game. No passing game. The former was due to the inability of the offensive line to create any movement at the line, while the latter was largely a result of little time for QB Matt Flynn to throw coupled with his obviously weak arm strength.

A whole lotta hurt
The Packers are in a world of hurt. A few weeks ago, that would have been more a reference to the 12 players on injured reserve, as well as those missing time for other minor injuries. You have to believe the presence on the field of Brian Bulaga, Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley, Casey Hayward, Johnathan Franklin, Robert Francois and DuJuan Harris -- among others -- would make for a different dynamic and level of performance. Cobb is designated for return but at this point...?

The hurt the Packers are in now seems to be more than just the physical injuries. It's mental. It's emotional. It's spirit. It seems, since QB Aaron Rodgers went down with his fractured collarbone, that all the juice just went out of the team. Yes, he's important. And, truth be told, it's looking more and more like he was able to cover up offensively the deficiencies of the Packers defense.

There is, rightly, a lot of soul searching going on right now at 1265 Lombardi Avenue in Green Bay. Players, coaches and even GM Ted Thompson have to be looking in the mirror and taking responsibility for where this team is right now. Mathematically, the Packers are still alive for the playoffs if they win out...there's a chance. But realistically?

The team is terrible right now. It pains me to say that. But we'd be delusional not to just say how it is. Even if Rodgers is somehow able to get back on the field for the next game on Dec. 8 against the Falcons at Lambeau, is that going to make the difference? And if starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith is out for that game with the knee injury he sustained in Detroit, do you really want to see Rodgers running for his life -- and perhaps, career -- behind that makeshift offensive line, including the human turnstile, Marshall Newhouse?

I, for one, would just as soon see Rodgers sit out the rest of the season and heal without risk of further damage. Put Scott Tolzien back in at quarterback. Yes, Flynn knows the system better, but he has the arm strength of a spaghetti noodle; Tolzien demonstrated he can get the ball downfield. Might still make some rookie-type mistakes; let him learn. Right now, that would be a better option than letting Flynn float wounded ducks 15 yards downfield. By giving Tolzien playing time now you can come into next season with a verified backup to Rodgers, which is something Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy -- for all their brilliance -- failed to have ready going into this season.

It ain't pretty, Packer fans. Ain't pretty at all. A 5-6-1 record with four to go, two home and two away. Ain't pretty.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Week 13: Packers vs Lions in Thanksgiving Day Battle

In one of the long-running traditions of football and Thanksgiving, the Green Bay Packers meet the Detroit Lions today in Detroit as the first of the games in the NFL's Turkey Day triple header.

The Packers haven't won a game in a month, losing three straight and then having to settle for a rare overtime tie against the lowly Minnesota Vikings last week at Lambeau Field. How low can you go? I think we'll find out today, Packer fans.

With twelve players now placed on the injured reserve list -- the latest, RB Johnathan Franklin, who sustained a concussion on the opening kickoff of Sunday's game -- and other players sidelined due to various injuries including, foremost, QB Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are literally in a world of hurt going into this game.

Still, even with the last month of disasters behind them, the Packers are just a half-game out of first place in the NFC North. Detroit has lost two in a row. The Bears have been inconsistent without Jay Cutler. If the Pack wins today, they would actually be in first place atop the division. It's that kind of season: goofy.

The route to the playoffs for the Packers (or the Lions or Bears), given the record and the likely wild card teams, is to win the division. That's it. So, today's game is a must-win game for both the Packers and the Lions.

Which team is in a better position to win this must-win game?
Pundits are taking the Lions by 6 points over the Packers. That actually sounds about right. The Lions are at home, they have their starting quarterback, Matthew Stafford, and one of the best receivers in the NFL, Calvin Johnson. They have WR Nate Burleson and RB Reggie Bush; some good offensive weapons, in other words. They have a nasty defensive line, as Packers' LG Josh Sitton informed the universe on a radio interview a few days ago...although I'm toning down his exact words.

Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Packers have a new starting backup quarterback this week, Matt Flynn, who had a career day against this very Lions team a couple years back that made him millions of dollars: 480 yards passing and 6 touchdowns. After stops in Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo (?), Flynn is back in Green Bay. After Scott Tolzien failed to take full advantage of his two opportunities in relief of Aaron Rodgers, Flynn, who just rejoined the team within the past few weeks, gets the start as a result of his rallying the Packers last weekend. Whether he can reprise his prior miracle game today or not remains to be seen. If he does, it will be Miracle in Detroit Part 2.

Expect the Packers to use as heavy a dose of running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks as they can. What Flynn will or won't be able to do with his receivers today...who knows? The Detroit secondary can be had, assuming Flynn has time. That will be determined by the offensive line giving him time. The trenches is where this game will likely be won or lost.

That goes for the defensive side of things, as well. The Pack's defense has been a sieve during this losing streak. They need to get pressure on Stafford and if they do, turnovers can be had. But they will need to keep Reggie Bush from causing problems out of the backfield and will somehow have to find a way to keep Calvin Johnson in check. Not going to be easy. Unless the Packers are sound in their fundamentals. You know, things like tackling.

The prediction
I really want to believe the Packers will win this game, Packer fans. I've picked them in each of the prior weeks during this losing streak...going with my heart over my head. So this week, I just have to look at how it is. And from what we have seen, and what we are looking at, it doesn't look good today for the Green 'n' Gold. Can the Pack win this game today? Of course, if they play the way they are capable of playing. Knowing that their season is literally on the line today may finally shake this team out of the lethargy it's been in since Rodgers has been down.

But I still think it just might be too much to ask at this point.

I'm calling this one: Lions 27 - Packers 20. But I hope I'm wrong. I really, really, really, really hope I'm wrong.

Go Pack Go!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Packers and Vikings tie 26-26

In a month filled with injuries, woeful defense and special teams play, questionable play-calling and losses, the Green Bay Packers topped it all off yesterday with a rarity in football: a tie. But not just any tie. A tie with -- wait for it! -- the Minnesota Vikings. The 2-8 Vikings.


Which, as many pointed out afterward, is like kissing your sister. And not your hot sister, either. The other one. (Note: no photo will be shared here in order to protect the innocent.)

But it's really almost worse than that. For if not for a 4th quarter rally generated by backup quarterback to the backup (that would be Matt Flynn for Scott Tolzien, for anyone without a program) the Packers were actually in jeopardy of losing. To the ViQueens.

You can read the box score and all the details of what went transpired on other sites. You may even have had to sit through this mind-numbing version of Packers football and watch it. Worse, you might have actually been sitting in the arctic weather at Lambeau Field.

It was not a great day. Only the fifth tie in the Packers' 93-year history, and the first since about 1987, if memory serves.

But, it was at least a partial victory of sorts. What? How could that be? It be. Primarily because both the Lions and Da Bearz lost their respective games on Sunday. So, while we didn't emerge yesterday tied for the top of the NFC North as would have been the case had the Pack won, we did gain half a game on both of those teams because of the tie. Imagine that, Packer fans: three straight losses and a tie and the Pack is only half-a-game out of the division lead. It's been that kind of year.

The Packers don't have much time to think about what might have been. They need to move on to what lies in front of them. Which, at the moment, is the Turkey Day game at Detroit. Head coach Mike McCarthy has already ruled QB Aaron Rodgers out, so it will be between Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn to find a way to put up points. McCarthy isn't saying who's starting, just that both are being prepared. Wants to keep Detroit guessing, apparently. I don't think the Lions are losing sleep over that, do you?

As has been the case each of these past four games, the Packers' defense is a sieve. That's the bigger worry...for Packer fans, that is. Many are calling for defensive coordinator Dom Capers' head. That's not going to happen before the end of the season...if it happens at all. But somehow, someway, Capers and his defense have got to get this figured out. If they fail to do so Thursday in Detroit...well...the season is definitely on the line...and on the linebackers...and on the defensive backs.

We'll write more before the game with the Lions. For now, we can only look at things through very beige-colored glasses instead of our usual green 'n' gold. That's how it is at the moment. Very...meh.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Week 12: Packers vs. Vikings Preview and Prediction

Coming into Sundays's game against the 2-8 Vikings, the Green Bay Packers sit at 5-5 and on a three-game losing streak that coincidentally started with the injury loss of starting QB Aaron Rodgers. That's the standard view.

But the recent losing tone may well have also been set with the folding of the Packers' defense late in the game against the 'Queens in Minnesota -- the Pack's last win. It was in that game, after the Packers had the game well in hand, that the defense allowed the 'Queens to score 31 points in the final 19 minutes.

The offense has had a difficult time recovering, of course, from the loss of Rodgers. But it's the defense that has generally been accorded the overall blame for these last three losses.
So what can we expect Sunday?
Depending upon what source you're looking at, the Packers are currently favored by anywhere from 3 to 4.5 points over the ViQueens, courtesy of the home field advantage essentially. The over-under is set at 44 points at the time of this posting.

But aside from that take on things, what are we looking for?

One thing would be the first home start for QB Scott Tolzien. Tolzien has displayed a strong arm when he's been allowed to throw downfield. But he's also made young QB mistakes, as demonstrated by the five interceptions he's thrown in his first two games of significant action. To be fair, two of those were tips and another was an incredibly athletic snag at the line by NY Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul. The other two INTs were cases of Tolzien failing to spot the defender. It happens. Anyone remember the number of interceptioins Brett Favre threw up in his early days as a starter? Or his middle days...or last days, for that matter?

The Packers won't win or lose the game because of Tolzien, despite Minnesota stacking the line to stop the running game, as they are anticipated to do. That means the Packers offensive line -- which created little running room for RB Eddie Lacy last week against the Giants -- must do a much better job of moving the sticks on the ground.

A solid rushing game will take the pressure off Tolzien, as long as head coach Mike McCarthy's play-calling doesn't become as predictable as in last week's game: run-run-pass-punt. It will also help keep the 'Queens best offensive weapon, RB Adrian Peterson, on the sidelines. Granted, his groin injury may help do some of that, as well. But why even allow the possibility of him becoming a factor? Eat clock!

The status of the O-line has been an issue these last few games, as well. Starting right tackle Don Barclay has been out, and is listed as out again for this game. One-time starter and now backup, Marshall Newhouse, still struggles as Barclay's replacement. So, is it time Derek Sherrod, who hasn't played in a game since December 2011, gets his shot? He apparently and finally is ready to play. Whether or not he sees action tomorrow or anytime soon is still a question mark. But, really, could he be much worse at this point than Newhouse? Here's an interesting article about Sherrod if you want to read up on his possible return to action.

Defense, oh defense, where art thou?
Assuming the Packers offense can put up some points against Minnesota -- yours truly is willing to make that assumption -- can the Packers defense stop a rather dysfunctional Minnesota offense from doing likewise? Yes. But the question is: will they?

The Packers defense has a chance at restoring its good name. Somewhat. The quarterback situation for Minnesota is a disaster. Christian Ponder was the starter. But he was pulled last week and in came Matt Cassel. He wasn't much better, tossing an interception on his first possession. And Josh Freeman? Please. As of right now it's still not clear which quarterback will get the start for the 'Queens. But regardless of who it is, unless the Packers can generate some sense of a pass rush, tackle, not leave the middle open, and cover receivers, it could be a challenging day. These are all things the Packers' D has not done well over the last few weeks. Injuries in the defensive backfield may make that part of the game challenging for the Packers. CB Casey Hayward is out, CB Sam Shields is questionable and CB Micah Hyde is listed as probable. On the defensive front, Johnny Jolly is listed as doubtful and Ryan Pickett is listed as probable; that's a lot of beef missing from that front if they are unable to go. (You can view the complete injury list here.)

The defense will need to do to Minnesota what Minnesota hopes to do to the Packers: stop the run and force the pass. If that happens, the Packers should emerge with the victory.

If they do, it might be more likely that we see the return of Aaron Rodgers on Thanksgiving Thursday at Detroit. If the Packers lose at home against Minnesota, even shorthanded, the need to try to rush Rodgers back becomes less urgent. Why? Because the Packers would be sitting at 5-6 heading into Detroit, at least one and likely two games behind in the division to the Lions and possibly Da Bearz with five games remaining. Realistically, a playoff wild card team will not be coming out of the NFC North. That means the Packers must win the division. With a game each remaining against both Detroit and Chicago a win against Minnesota is key to getting this season back on track...and Rodgers behind center again.

But let's not worry about all that right now. First things first.

The Prediction
Let's do this: Packers 24 - ViQueens 20

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Packers drop third game in a row, lose to Giants 27-13

Things are not well in the kingdom, Packer fans. Since starting QB Aaron Rodgers was injured, the Pack has dropped three games in a row with the most recent being yesterday's uninspired performance against the New York Giants.

With backup QB Scott Tolzien at the helm, the Packers were within striking distance at just under 11 minutes remaining in the game, with the Giants ahead 20-13. Tolzien tried a very quick pass to tight end Andrew Quarless in the flat left. The problem was that DE Jason Pierre-Paul was there, raised his hands, snagged the ball cleanly and went in untouched for a 24-yard pick-6. The defense had just gotten a big stop before that -- a rare one on the day -- to snatch some momentum from the Giants. This gave it right back, and was obviously too big of a hole for the team to crawl out of.

This interception was Tolzien's second of three on the day. Still, he completed 24 of 34 passes for 339 yards. In his first two appearances for the Packers, he has racked up more passing yards than either Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers in their first two games seeing significant action for the Packers. But he also has 5 interceptions in those two games. That can't continue, especially, with a defense that seems to have flipped the off-switch over the last few games.

But the Packers don't have many options at the moment; Matt Flynn just rejoined the team late last week. Once again, Tolzien has been named the starter for the coming game against the ViQueens at Lambeau Field. That is a game the Packers need to have, must have, if they are to keep any semblance of their playoff hopes alive. Believe it or not, at 5-5, and with a three-game losing streak in tow, they are still only one game back from both Da Bearz and Lions against whom they still have one game each remaining.

If you want to read a very good article about Tolzien, by the way, we highly recommend this one by Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Survey says: defense lost the game
According to at least one reader survey (the assumption is that most are Packer fans), 74% of those voting blamed the Packers defense -- not Scott Tolzien -- for the loss. Apart from the best game of the year from CB Tramon Williams, including a rare interception, the rest of the defense was missing in action. On a day when nearly everyone, including yours truly in our own game preview and prediction, said that the defense was going to have play at the top of its game in order for the Packers to have a serious chance of winning this game, they were essentially a no-show. This appears to be a trend over the last three games, and it is a disturbing one at that.

Granted, head coach Mike McCarthy's vanilla play-calling for most of the game -- noted by many via Twitter during the game as run-run-pass-punt -- has to bear some of the responsibility, as well. The offensive line had its own issues, not opening up any running room for RB Eddie Lacy. Tackle Marshall Newhouse, starting for the injured Don Barclay, was beaten like a rented mule on more than one occasion. Rookie David Bakhtiari had his hands full with Jason Pierre-Paul most of the day.

Mason Crosby nails a 57-yard field goal
(Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Special teams didn't do much either on the day, other than a booming 57-yard field goal by K Mason Crosby to close the first half and make the score 10-6. It was Crosby's longest outdoor field goal (he hit a 58-yarder indoors in 2011 in the Humpty Dump in Minnesota) and is the longest field goal ever kicked against the Giants. So the Pack at least had that going for them.

But the defense did little to get pressure on Giants QB Eli Manning and, again, tackles were generally missed (unless Williams was making them) and receivers were wide open especially over the middle. This sounds like a broken record because it is: this has been the operating scenario for the last several weeks. And if it continues -- particularly this week against Minnesota at home -- the Packers' playoff hopes will be pretty much done; the Pack would likely have to then win out -- with or without Aaron Rodgers -- in order to stay in the mix. The chances narrow considerably.

Where do the Packers go from here?
That is the question of the day, the week, the month, the season. If the Pack doesn't get this ship turned around fast...well, you know the rest.

You can read the excellent analysis of Packers uber-beat writer, Bob McGinn, here. It's definitely worth your time for the many insights you'll get.

Stay tuned for developments during the week, Packer fans. It's gotten interesting. Far more interesting than we would have hoped for.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Week 11: Packers vs. Giants Preview and Prediction

Well, this is certainly a fine mess. The Green Bay Packers are sitting at 5-4, looking up at the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears in the NFC North, and with a two-game losing streak at work. Yowza. Today, the Pack travels east to meet the New York Giants, who are on a three-game winning streak after starting the season 0-6.

The Packers' skid is certainly due to the plethora of injuries finally catching up with them, particularly the injury two weeks ago to QB Aaron Rodgers. The Pack started a total of three different quarterbacks over the past 20 years; now, in the last three games, they have had to start three different quarterbacks. Today, it's former University of Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien. Tolzien acquitted himself quite well in last week's loss to the Eagles, completing 24 passes in 39 attempts for 280 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Especially considering he'd only been promoted from the practice squad earlier that week and was forced to come into the game after the first series when Seneca Wallace was forced out with a hamstring injury. With virtually no game preparation, he led the team up and down the field very effectively.

Packers QB Scott Tolzien
(Photo: Jeff Hanisch, USA TODAY Sports)

Followers of the University of Wisconsin football team when Tolzien was the quarterback there a few years ago know that he may not be flashy, but he is an extremely capable and smart quarterback who has a stronger arm than folks generally give him credit for. Tolzien won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award in 2010, given to the nation's top senior quarterback. He led the nation that season in completion percentage (74.3) and ranked fourth nationally in quarterback rating (169.8). Tolzien holds UW team records for career completion percentage (68.5) and career pass efficiency (154.4). John C. Unitas, Jr., president of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation, said in a statement about Tolzien at the time of the award: "Scott Tolzien personifies everything that my father stood for. He is not simply an outstanding quarterback, but an outstanding individual who is a leader both on and off the field, tirelessly devoting himself to his team, to his community, and to being a mentor for others."

So, should Packer fans be nervous today? It's Tolzien's first NFL start, after all. The answer is a clear "No." As a headline in today's USA Today said, "Packers 'still dangerous' even with Scott Tolzien under center". Indeed. Read that one for yourself here if you care to.

Defense is the key
Tolzien and the offense will be able to keep the Packers in the game with a chance to win. That's not going to be the problem today. The big question is really the Packers' defense, which has failed to perform well in each of the team's last two losses, fading especially late in the game. The defense has to perform the way it is capable of doing, the way they were performing when the Pack went on its own three-game winning streak.

LB Clay Matthews will be playing, it is anticipated, without the club he wore to protect his surgically-repaired thumb last week. That really took away from his productivity. Whether the new set up will allow him to use his hands the way he is accustomed to remains to be seen. Also, whether Packers defenders, particularly in the secondary, can cover Giants' receivers and don't give up the big play over the top the way they have recently -- and tackle! -- is another question today. If the defense could generate a couple turnovers today -- something they have not been able to do well this season -- that would also go a long way to helping the Pack to victory.

Bottom line: the defense needs to take charge today. Giants QB Eli Manning is prone to throwing interceptions when pressured, as was the case when they were off to their 0-6 start. If there is no pressure, it could be a long day in the Packers secondary.

Most pundits are picking the Giants to beat the Packers today. The oddsmakers favor the Giants by 3.5 points, with an over-under total of 41.5 points.

This is one that my head tells me the Giants will win. They are on a hot streak, they have three good receivers and a very good quarterback when he's not under pressure. And they have a defense licking their chops to get a go at a young quarterback getting his first NFL start…on the road.

But the Packers need this game right now. The offense -- the team! -- needs to show that it can win without Aaron Rodgers…he doesn't play defense, after all. And that will likely be the make-or-break of the game today: the Packers defense. If they play like they did earlier in the season, the Packers can win this game; if they play like they have the last two weeks, the Packers will lose.

This is a tough one to call, Packer fans. I did my part today: I put on Packers gear I haven't worn yet this season…gotta get some good mojo going today. You do your part. And then let's pray the Packers do their part.

I'm calling this 20-17 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Packers drop game to Eagles, 27-13

For the first time since Aaron Rodgers became the Green Bay Packers starting quarterback in 2008, the Pack lost two games in a row at Lambeau Field. And, as we know, Rodgers had nothing to do with either of the losses. Knocked out with a fractured collarbone on the first series of last Monday night's game against the Chicago Bears, Rodgers was on the sidelines today. In his place, veteran backup Seneca Wallace got the start. The entire week of practice was devoted to implementing an offensive scheme that would play to Wallace's strengths. Practice squad quarterback and former Wisconsin Badger, Scott Tolzien, was elevated to the backup slot.

So much for that idea.

Scott Tolzien photo by Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports
For the second game in a row, the Packers starting quarterback was lost for the game. In today's game against the Eagles, Wallace was lost on a third down play -- on the first offensive series -- with a groin injury. Enter Tolzien.

To his credit, Tolzien didn't look flustered. He actually looked in good command for having little to no reps with the first unit during the week. He finished the day 24 for 39, with 280 yards passing, with one touchdown (an NFL first for both him and TE Brandon Bostick) and two interceptions, including a costly one in the endzone and another tipped. Whatever Wallace's status physically, it was announced on air after the game that Tolzien has been named the starter for next week's game against the Giants. (Let's hope he doesn't get injured during the week of practice...which the way the Packers' luck is going is a distinct possibility.) Tolzien had a good arm, some good throws, and it will be interesting to see what he can do with a week's practice with the number one unit under his belt.

What will that first-string offensive unit look like?
There is a question at this point as to what the offensive line will look like this next week. That's because the Packers' season-long injury parade kept on coming again today. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith went out with a knee injury, moving right guard T.J. Lang to center, Don Barclay from tackle to guard, with Marshall Newhouse entering then at tackle. By the end of the game, Barclay was also injured. So who knows who will be starting in front of Tolzien next weekend.

More injuries
Think the injuries to Wallace, Dietrich-Smith and Barclay was enough? Naaaaah. Toss in injuries to Nick Perry, Casey Hayward and Johnny Jolly to the mix. It just keeps coming, folks. Even LG Josh Sitton was quoted as saying that he's starting to wonder if there just isn't something in the water with all the injuries in Green Bay. As bad as 2010 was with injuries, this season might actually be worse. At least in 2010 the Packers still had their starting QB throughout the season.

Everything needed to go right; nothing did
In a game where everything had to go right for the Packers to win, nothing did. The bad omen came early, on a missed 53-yard field goal -- one of two misses on the day -- by Mason Crosby, which clanked off the right upright. Missed interceptions, a fumble recovery deep in Eagles territory that turned into zero points, not much went right on this day.

Defense fails again
For the second game in a row, the Packers defense -- after holding tight for most of the first half -- did very little to help the effort in the second half. There wasn't much of a pass rush again. The secondary left receivers wide open. It was uninspired. And for yet another game, the defense didn't really generate any turnovers of significance. Yes, there was that late fumble recovery on a sack of QB Nick Foles, in the Eagles red zone, but the offense was unable to turn that into points.

Where do we go from here, Packers fans? One could say that if you are a person of faith go to church, synagogue, temple, mosque, whatever. It seems as if Divine intervention is needed at this point, or at least until Aaron Rodgers returns.

Other than that...grab the dramamine because it looks as if it's going to be a bumpy ride for at least several weeks if not the remainder of the season.

Week 10: Packers vs. Eagles Preview and Prediction

This is a game which looked ripe for the picking a week ago: the Green Bay Packers playing the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field. The Pack, so we thought, would be coming off a big Monday night win against Da Bearz, having secured their lead at the top of the NFC North. This would begin a stretch of games for the Packers where the team could separate itself from the rest of the division.

Funny thing...that Monday night game...well, arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, namely one Aaron Rodgers, got hurt in the first quarter of the game. Not only lost for the game but for likely the next four to six weeks. Ouch! In more ways than one.

After 21 years of consecutive starts by Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers (with two tossed in via Matt Flynn), the law of averages finally caught up with the Packers. For the first time in nearly a generation, Packer fans, we know what it feels like to be pretty much like most other teams in the league. It's not a good feeling, is it?

So, today and for the next month probably at least, we will see an offense lead by veteran backup QB Seneca Wallace and now number 2 QB Scott Tolzien.

Is there any chance for a win in today's game? The oddsmakers don't seem to think so, designating the Packers as now 1-point underdogs at the time of this posting. But for a glimmer of hope, be sure to read this tremendously insightful article by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Whether the Packers are able to step up their game in the absence of Rodgers will be the question of the day. McGinn cites examples showing what's possible. But realism also dictates that we have to acknowledge it's going to be a much different game than what we are used to seeing. Expect a big dose of Eddie Lacy on offense, perhaps with more balance by additional carries by James Starks. There will likely be more roll-outs to get Wallace outside the pocket where he could also use his legs, which could be more valuable today than his arm. There won't be a lot of downfield passing. Expect shorter routes.

Defense and special teams will need to account for some scoring today, and not just by way of field goals. The Packers have been woeful at takeaways this season. If they hope to win this and some of the upcoming games without Rodgers, the defense will have to generate turnovers and set the offense up to score short-drive touchdowns...or score them on their own. The return teams will have to also perform well. As McGinn points out, for the Packers to have a good chance to win short drives rather than field-long drives are the order of the day.

What, then, do we make of this game? If ever there was a crapshoot game, this is it. We have no idea what Seneca Wallace can bring to the table after a week working with the number one unit, nor how the players around him will raise their games. We also have no clue as to how head coach Mike McCarthy will scheme the offense to take advantage of whatever it is that Wallace can bring to the field as his unique abilities. We have no idea as to how the defense will stop a red-hot quarterback in the form of Nick Foles; if they give him the time they gave Josh McCown Monday evening it could be a long and disappointing afternoon for the Packers.

With Rodgers, this is a game the Packers win. Without Rodgers...? This game will give us an early insight into whether this team can hang in the division race long enough to see Rodgers' return make a difference going down a playoff stretch run, or whether the season will be an ultimate, injury-riddled disappointment.

The Eagles are 4-1 on the road this season, 0-4 at home; might have been better odds had the Pack been playing in Philly today.

Naturally, the green 'n' gold-colored glasses are still on. We're calling this 23-20 Packers. We are probably in small company today as it seems many are picking the Eagles. So it goes. The Packers -- despite the MASH unit of injuries -- is still the more talented team overall. But whether they can execute and form a new identity apart from Rodgers for the time being is the big question.

It's not going to be pretty. But the team needs the "W" for many reasons today. After Monday evening's disappointment -- and flat defensive performance -- expect something better today. It should be just enough, especially with the probable return of LB Clay Matthews to the lineup. Even with one hand in a cast, he's better than most with full use of both hands.

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Packers lose more than game to Bears

While Monday night's loss to the Chicago Bears left the Green Bay Packers still tied for first place in the NFC North, that was about the only good thing that could be said for the game. That and Eddie Lacy's continued ascendency as a great rookie running back.

For far worse than the 27-20 loss to Da Bearz was the first quarter loss of franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a shoulder injury. It was a very odd sight indeed to see Rodgers on the sideline, out of uniform.

Veteran backup Seneca Wallace was thrown into the fray and, obviously, the game plan and game changed considerably from an offensive standpoint. Even against a backup QB leading Chicago, the Pack somehow couldn't find enough offense to matter. Worse, the defense didn't hold up their side of the bargain on this night, getting no pressure on Josh McCown, unable to cover Chicago's large receivers, and missing tackles that should have been made. Despite two great special teams plays -- a blocked punt and a surprise recovered onside kick -- this was a night where the Packers just couldn't make up for the loss of Rodgers, let alone all the other starters who were still sidelined. Oh, we should also note that staring right guard T.J. Lang sustained a concussion during the game, requiring a shifting of the lineup, as well. Backup linebacker Sam Barrington was also hurt during the game.

To say it was not a good night for the Packers is an understatement.

What about Rodgers?
The status of Rodgers' injury was unclear last night but became a bit more understandable today. Rodgers himself stated on his weekly radio program this afternoon that he had sustained a fractured collarbone, "a significant injury" as he put it. While the nature of the injury was known, Rodgers said no timeline was in place for his return. He said he'd work to be back as quickly as he could, but more tests and time would be needed to get a better picture of things.

In his press conference this afternoon, head coach Mike McCarthy indicated that he felt a bit better today after talking to the medical staff about Rodgers' prognosis. He intimated that, from his point of view, the availability of Rodgers would likely be on a week-by-week basis. If you want to read between the lines, perhaps Rodgers and the Packers dodged a bullet: instead of being lost for most or the rest of season, it's possible Rodgers might be able to return in time for the Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit. Maybe even before. That would be great, getting him back to go down the stretch. That should also be the time when the Packers will have Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb back, as well.

In the meantime, the Pack will have to get by with Wallace as the starter against the Eagles (in Green Bay), the Giants (in New York/New Jersey/wherever the heck they play), and the ViQueens (in Green Bay). These are not currently powerhouses of the NFL, but as things stand at the moment, one questions whether the Packers are, either. If the Packers can win at least one of these games, and get Rodgers back for the game against the Lions, the team will still be in the hunt going down the stretch run of the season. Backing up Wallace, at least for the time being, is former University of Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien who was just promoted today from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.

Other roster moves
Whether by circumstance or coincidence, the Packers made a few other roster moves today in addition to those already noted. TE Jermichael Finley was formally placed on the injured reserve list effectively ending his season. OT Derek Sherrod was removed from the PUP list and added to the 53-man roster.

Where do the Packers go from here?
That's the question Packer fans and sports pundits alike began to ask last evening and all through the day today. Some are of the opinion the Packers are done, the season is over. Others believe the Packers can stay within spitting distance of the NFC North lead during Rodgers' absence, and make a full stretch run upon his return. Honestly, though, no one knows.

Clearly, a now pertinent discussion has also begun on the weak spot in GM Ted Thompson's approach to roster-building this season: the backup quarterback spot. Granted, over the last 20 years or so, it hasn't been an issue in Green Bay. Now, it is. Whether Seneca Wallace can manage a game in such a way as to keep the Pack in games, or even win one or two, remains to be seen. But not having a solid backup in place going into training camp and the season itself was a gap that may haunt Thompson at the end of this season. Right now, I think Thompson and many Packer fans would have been very pleased to have someone like Josh McCown ready to step in when Rodgers went down.

Time will tell how all this shakes out.

All we know for sure is that the Packers will have to try to win a challenging game on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles without the best quarterback in football pulling the trigger.

Let us pray...

Monday, November 04, 2013

Week 9: Packers vs. Bears Preview and Prediction

The oldest rivalry in the NFL hits the field for the first time in the 2013 season tonight at Lambeau Field: the Green Bay Packers vs. the Chicago Bears. This will be the first Monday night game between the two teams since 1997 (or thereabouts).

There are many takes on this game.

There's a great article on the TMJ4 sports site, "Packers, Bears are franchises going in different directions." You know you are going to want to read that one. You can do so here.

There's of course the analysis, none better than by the radio Voice of the Packers, Wayne Larrivee; check that out here.

Of course, a look at how Aaron Rodgers is now "The new master of the Bears" by's Packers writer, Rob Demovsky, also shouldn't be missed. (By the way, did we mention that Rodgers is 8-2 during the regular season against Da Bears? The only losses came -- gulp -- on Monday night. But both of those losses were in Chicago...whew!)

Any surprises tonight? Packers WR James Jones is listed as questionable for tonight, but a report yesterday by ESPN's Adam Schefter said Jones would play. He may indeed, but we can probably expect a lot more of Jarret Boykin and Myles White than Jones, unless the game stays tight. Expect James Starks to get more carries tonight after looking good last week. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy indicated during the last few days he wanted to cut back on Eddie Lacy's carries a bit. The two running backs can make a very good one-two bunch. Look for that this evening.

Anyway, we're running out of time to get this posted so will cut to the chase.

The Packers are favored by 10 points. The over-under, according to some sources, is 51 points. Time to call it...

We're calling it 34-20 Packers. Go Pack Go!!!