Sunday, December 27, 2015

NFL Week 16: Packers vs. Cardinals

Packers fans, our apologies for not posting a post-game review of the win against the Oakland Raiders last Sunday but...it was a busy week...you know, with Christmas and all...plus the sun was in our eyes. No, really, it was an unseasonably warm and (generally) sunny week overall. So, that's our excuse.

The Packers won 30-20 as the whole world knows (or at least, that part of it paying attention to the NFL)...and still there was plenty of grumbling among the Packer faithful. It was a 10-point win, and yet it didn't seem like it. You win by 10 points in the NFL, that's pretty darn good. And for the seventh year in a row, the Packers qualified for the playoffs, something that had never been accomplished before in Packers history. Imagine that!

But...the offensive inconsistency was still present and even players in the locker room seemed not to be happy with their performance. The good part was that the defense was fairly consistent, even helping the Packers jump out to an early 14-point lead via two interceptions including a pick-six TD return; those points obviously were the difference in the game. There were a couple of breakdowns which led to giving up big yardage. But the bottom line is the bottom line: a win. The good defense has been the strength of this Packers team. Thank goodness.

Cardinals to present biggest challenge yet
Second-year Cardinals WR John Brown is just one of the speedsters the Packers will have to defend today.
Photo by Getty Images, in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

There's a great article in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Packers writer extraordinaire, Bob McGinn, entitled Slow-footed Packers face severe speed deficit against Cardinals; we highly commend it to your reading time. It sets out the difference between two of the league's better teams, although McGinn's analysis -- hard to argue with -- is that the Packers are built for more of a power game, while the Cardinals are built for speed. In short, the Packers lack speed and the Cardinals don't.

What's that saying? Speed Kills? Yup, that's the one. What will that mean for today's game? We'll know when things are all said and done about eight hours from now.

While Carolina is undefeated, most pundits are saying the Cardinals are really the best team in the NFC -- if not the entire NFL -- right now. Behind veteran QB Carson Palmer and his speedy receiving corps, the 12-2 Cards are hitting on all cylinders. They are the league's top-ranked offense. The Packers will have to somehow minimize the impact of veteran WR Larry Fitzgerald and powerful and speedy running back David Johnson. The Cardinals defense ranks just behind the Packers in overall defensive ranking. They don't get many sacks, ranking 28th in that statistical category.

The Packers will be without CB Sam Shields for a second week, as well as LT David Bakhtiari who was downgraded yesterday, and LB Jayrone Elliot. Reliable veteran long-snapper Brett Goode is done for the season after tearing his ACL in last week's game. Undrafted rookie free agent Rick Lovato was signed early this last week to take his place. Let us pray.

While Clay Matthews, Aaron Rodgers and Josh Sitton all got Pro Bowl honors this week, we're wondering if the report of an upcoming undercover probe by Al Jazeera about performance enhancing drugs and pain killers in sports -- posted online this morning and airing on TV later today -- will have an impact on some players' performances. Matthews, Mike Neal, and Julius Peppers were all named in the report. (The big name, however, was Peyton Manning who, as one would anticipate, denies the allegations.)

The Prediction
We, of course, look at the world through Green 'n' Gold-colored glasses here at PackerFansUnited.com. Still, unless the Packers defense can somehow find a way to consistently get to Cardinals QB Carson Palmer while covering his bevy of fast receivers and the Packers offense can somehow get back to their early season 6-0 form, we just don't see this game going the Packers way today, regrettably. The Packers are 5-1/2 point underdogs in the desert. Frankly, we'd be happy to see it that close.

We're calling this one...Cardinals 34 - Packers 24.

No matter what: Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

NFL Week 15: Packers vs Raiders

The Green Bay Packers and the Oakland Raiders meet today for a rare game between the two franchises. The Packers, with a win today (or a loss by either Washington or the New York Giants) will secure their seventh consecutive post-season appearance. Are we spoiled or what, Packer fans? Answer: yes. Believe it or not, this accomplishment under head coach Mike McCarthy is something that no other coach in Packers history achieved. Again, this has never been achieved before in Packers history! In the language of this Christmas season, let us rejoice and be glad!

The 6-7 Raiders are still in the AFC playoff hunt, as well. They are a young and upcoming team, no doubt about it. Oakland GM -- and former Packers personnel man -- Reggie McKenzie has taken the lessons he learned in Green Bay and is building the Raiders accordingly. He's got big offensive and defensive linemen, including a sack-monster in the person of linebacker Khalil Mack, a hot young quarterback in Derek Carr, formidable receivers in veteran Michael Crabtree and rookie Amari Cooper, and a wise old veteran in the defensive backfield by the name of Charles Woodson, who made a habit of intercepting Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in practice when he was in the Green 'n' Gold.

Packers offensive linemen will have to contain LB Khalil Mack if they hope to come away with a win in Oakland.
(Photo by Jim Matthews/Press-Gazette Media)

But seeing how the Packers kicked the Cowboys to the curb last Sunday we can certainly feel a bit more confident going into this game than we might have been had the game been played a week or two earlier. It seems as if some of what ailed the Packers -- primarily a lackluster offense -- was cured in that game...or at least, we hope so. Rodgers and his receivers finally looked as if they were back on the same page of the playbook, the special teams players, particularly Jeff Janis, were in full-on mode, and the thunder-and-lightning running combo of Eddie Lacy and James Starks racked up rushing yardage that the team hadn't seen logged in years.

The only player listed as questionable today is C Corey Linsley, but it can certainly be argued that J.C. Tretter resumed his starter role without missing a beat. The offensive line is still a bit beat up, but who isn't at this time of the season. They need to do what they did last week and if running early and often is what gets them into beast mode, then by all means, Coach McCarthy, run! Of course, we still expect Rodgers and company to have a good day, as well...especially if that running game can help keep Khalil Mack from bull rushing on every dropback.

The Packers defense today should take care of business. They are holding opposing offenses to an average of 15.6 points per game. That's pretty darn good, especially when you expect Rodgers et al to put up at least 17 points in their sleep (at least, on a good day).

The Prediction
We know the Raiders, especially coming off their upset win in Denver last week, will be playing with gusto to keep their playoff hopes alive. That effort will go up a notch, if that's possible, with the Raiders playing at home. The Packers are playing for playoff positioning, too, of course. So, there's that. The Packers are the better team, but that still didn't stop them from losing to Detroit and Da Bears at Lambeau, did it? This game, in The Black Pit of Oakland, will certainly not be easy. The Pack will have to be at their best, as they were last week, in order to come away with the win.

But if the Packers do what they should do, the current 3-1/2 point spread in favor of the Packers should hold.

We're calling this game 24-17 in favor of the Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Packers kick Cowboys to the curb, get ready to rip Raiders

As noted in our Packers vs. Cowboys preview last weekend, we said we expected RB Eddie Lacy to have a big game. He did. After being in the doghouse the prior week for missing curfew, he and fellow running back James Starks generated the best ground game -- more than 200 yards rushing combined -- that the Packers have seen in years. Kudos to the offensive line for opening lanes and for Lacy and Starks for running with a passion that hasn't been present in quite a while.

After being a tight 14-7 game deep into the third quarter, the Packers finally went on to win 28-7. The Packers offense, with head coach Mike McCarthy once again calling plays, looked more in sync than it had since before the bye week. And the Packers defense once again was stellar in shutting down the opposing offense. The Packers lost CB Sam Shields early in the game to a concussion; he will reportedly be held out of Sunday's game against the Raiders as he still has not passed the league's concussion protocol. Shields was replaced by rookie Damarious Randall who, as Shields did, shut down Dallas WR Dez Bryant all day long.

Packer Jeff Janis greets Cowboy Lucky Whitehead on punt returns.
(Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)


Another perhaps overlooked aspect of this victory was the performance of the special teams. While K Mason Crosby was not called upon to make a game-winning field goal, P Tim Masthay had a great day punting aided in no special measure by the tremendous coverage play of WR Jeff Janis, who was clearly the fastest man on the field. In one fantastic play, Janis was pushed about 5 yards out of bounds by the defender, but ran around and by him to meet Dallas punt returner Lucky Whitehead at the same time the ball arrived. No fair catch? Meet Mr. Janis! Not so lucky, Lucky! (Sorry, couldn't resist.) Janis had three coverage plays in total that were superb. If he can only learn to run his pass routes as effectively as he covers punts, the Packers will at long last have their deep downfield receiving threat.

This the performance Packer fans have been looking for. Combined with the ViQueens loss, it increased the Pack's lead in the NFC North.

Next up: the 6-7 Oakland Raiders. In Oakland. Some interesting story lines emerge with this game: Charles Woodson playing where he started, but against his old Packer compatriots; Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie building a team with the lessons he learned while in Green Bay; WR James Jones playing against the team for which he was the leading receiver just last season before being cut in the offseason; Packers QB Aaron Rodgers trying to outwit Woodson...lots of possibilities for drama. Not to mention the Packers offensive line having to take on one of the better young defenders in the league, Khalil Mack, who had five sacks last week in a 15-12 Raiders upset win in Denver. The Raiders are still in the AFC playoff hunt and will be playing like it.

This trip to the West Coast is an important one for the Packers. With another away game coming up at Arizona (currently 11-2 and arguably the best team in the NFC despite the undefeated record of the Carolina Panthers) before the final home game at Lambeau Field against the ViQueens, the Packers need to win this game against the Raiders. If they play as they did against the Cowboys, that should happen. If they revert to the level of play of some recent weeks, it could be a challenge. The Packers, at the time of this writing, are favored by 3 points. It could very well be that close. But more on that in our game day preview on Sunday. Please check back then for more on the Packers vs. Raiders.

In the meantime, Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

NFL Week 14: Packers vs. Cowboys at Lambeau Field, McCarthy to call plays


Late Breaking News: Head Coach Mike McCarthy is taking back the play-calling duties today!!!

After the Miracle in Motown a week ago Thursday, the Green Bay Packers got some much needed rest. Lots of players were banged up, particularly on the offensive line. They will need as many healthy bodies as can be found as the Dallas Cowboys come to town later this afternoon. They will also need a rejuvenated Eddie Lacy to resume his 100-yard-per-game rushing effort as he had in back to back weeks before his curfew violation earned him time on the bench in the game vs Detroit. Expect Lacy to run with a vengeance today.
Packers RB Eddie Lacy (27) is looking for redemption today against the Cowboys.
(Photo: William Glasheen/P-C Media)

But beyond that, what can we expect? The Cowboys are averaging a little more than 16 points per game under backup QB Matt Cassel. The defense has been..meh. Despite the presence of Greg Hardy, the defensive standout is LB Sean Lee. Keep him under control and that will go a long way toward helping the Packers win this game, whether or not Dallas decides to blitz. Actually, the Packers seem to prefer teams to blitz because then Rodgers et al can improvise out of the pocket where QB Aaron Rodgers is most dangerous.

Hopefully, some of the issues that the Packers have been having on offense -- slow starts, dropped passes, bad routes, no separation with defenders -- have been mitigated, especially since head coach Mike McCarthy is taking back the play-calling duties today, something fans and pundits alike have been calling for for many weeks now. Also, if that electrifying no-seconds-on-the-clock win at Ford Field doesn't help jump start this team nothing will. The Packers defense has been carrying this team; time for the offense to finally do its part at the level at which they are entirely capable of performing.

The Prediction
The Packers are currently favored by 6-1/2 points over the Cowboys. Despite what might be wet weather conditions later today, expect the Packers to cover the spread...if you're a betting person that is...which this writer is not, so...

We're looking for a performance similar to what the Packers had against the ViQueens. In short, something unexpected in the way of both offensive and defensive performances. Look for the Pack to extend its NFC North first place position with a win today.

We're calling this one 31-17 in favor of the Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Packers...win? Packers...WIN!!!

For nearly 60 minutes Thursday evening in Detroit, it was the worst of times for the Green Bay Packers. They went down by 17 points in the first quarter to the Lions and then were ultimately down 20-0 in the second half before staging one of the most remarkable comebacks in recent memory and, overall, the fourth-greatest points comeback in team history. Final score: 27-23 Packers over the Lions.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and teammates celebrate a zero-seconds come-from-behind win at Detroit.
(Photo USATSI)

The winning score, as the entire football world now knows, came on an untimed "extra" down courtesy of a defensive penalty on the Lions with the clock reading zero. It was a "Hail Mary" pass of epic proportions -- 61 yards from scrimmage but about a million miles in terms of the arc on the pass -- from QB Aaron Rodgers to TE Richard Rodgers who made a leaping grab in the endzone to resurrect the Packers from their recent doldrums and send the Lions back to their den for yet another year thinking about what might have been.

The pass -- the Miracle in Motown -- has been discussed for the last day in terms of its scope. Not only for what it did to get the Packers to 8-4 and stay clearly in the NFC Division title and playoff hunt, but also in terms of just the pass itself. Check out the photo below for how close the arc of the pass came to actually hitting the rafters inside Ford Field. Amazing.

This photo above was clipped from a fan's cellphone video of the final play. You can view that video here. It's worth your time to check it out. Really amazing.

There was a lot of what has been typically wrong about the Packers for the last six games on display in this game, ever since the bye, particularly on offense. The defense, once again, kept the team in striking distance if only they could figure out a way to score.

Somehow, someway, the improbable -- the near-impossible -- happened. Perhaps it was just what this team needed to see them through this final stretch of four games. The team now has a few extra days to get healthy -- and they are definitely banged up, especially on the offensive line -- before taking on the Cowboys at Lambeau Field on Dec. 13. They then have back-to-back road games against the Raiders and the Cardinals, with the final game of the season at home against the ViQueens...a game which might very well be for the division title.

Go Pack Go!!!

Lacy missed curfew, Smith cut, Crockett gets opportunity

The big news coming out on Friday was that the reason RB Eddie Lacy didn't get the start and didn't see more than a handful of snaps was because he and fellow RB Alonzo Smith missed curfew Wednesday night. The result for Smith was worse than for Lacy: he got cut with no chance of return according to reports out today.

The situation opened an opportunity for practice squad RB John Crockett to get a chance. He did. He was signed to the active roster three hours before game time. He started the second half of Thursday's game and injected some energy into what had been up to that point a moribund rushing game.

Will the Packers keep three running backs (including James Starks) active for the remaining games? We'll have to see. Whether Lacy emerges from the doghouse he seems to have put himself in, only time will tell.
Packers RB John Crockett made the most of his first NFL opportunity Thursday night against the Lions.
(Photo by Mark Hoffmann, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)


Voice of the Packers, Wayne Larrivee, had said in post-game comments that Crockett had been playing the part of ViQueens RB Adrian Peterson on the scout team during the Packers build up to the game against Minnesota. He was running hard and really showing great ability during those practices. Crockett has obviously made a positive impression on head coach Mike McCarthy: "I'll just say, it just puts a smile on my face when I think of Crockett," McCarthy is quoted as saying. "You come off the field here at Lambeau, he's the first guy in the tunnel, greets the team. He's got unbelievable energy." For more about Crockett, be sure to check out this great article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Tom Silverstein.

Personally, this writer liked Crockett coming out of college as an undrafted free agent. He may finally get his chance to show what he can do to help the Packers this season and beyond.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Packers Look to Halt Slide Tonight vs. Lions; Can They Do It?

We know the story, Packers fans: the woeful 1-7 Lions came limping into Lambeau Field a few weeks ago. It was just what the doctored ordered for a team underperforming at the time (that would be the Packers, not the Lions). Or so we thought. Instead, it was the Lions winning in Wisconsin for the first time in 24 years.

That started the Lions on a three-game winning streak as they play host to the Packers tonight at Ford Field in Detroit. They've got some confidence going on both sides of the ball, and now stand at 4-7 on the season.

What about the Pack? As we know all too well, they've lost four of their last five games and in doing so are performing at woeful levels on offense. The defense has been playing, generally, well enough for the Packers to win...if only the offense could convert some third-and-shorts, catch some passes, and not fall asleep between the first and last drives of the game. It hasn't been pretty.

So, what can we expect tonight? That's anyone's guess. Whether Packer pride will finally kick in for some of these players is a big question. The offense is underperforming, particularly in the receiving game. Yes, the receiving options are limited. But the receivers still need to catch the balls thrown to them...something not greatly on display during this downturn.

The Packers offensive line is banged up, which also doesn't bode well for tonight. If they can't protect Rodgers, or open holes for Lacy and Starks, we could well be looking at the Packers losing 5 of their last 6 at the end of this evening.
Perhaps the Packers will get a kickoff return from Jeff Janis tonight that will make the difference in the game against the Lions.
(Photo: Kyle Bursaw/P-G Media)

The Packers defense should be able to hold the Lions offense to 20 points or less. Unfortunately, the Lions defense has been equally stingy during their winning streak. Can the Packers actually score more than 20 points tonight? That is the question. If they play to their capabilities they should be scoring 30 points or more. But there's little in what we've seen from the Packers over the last five games -- with the exception of the must-win game at Minnesota -- that makes one think they can put those kind of points up. The Lions have been playing with renewed energy at home. That was something that helped them win on the road against the Packers a few weeks ago: they wanted it more. Given that the Packers might be in real danger of falling out of the playoff hunt if they got to 7-5, you'd think that there would be a sense of urgency that we haven't seen out of this underperforming Packers team in quite a while.

The Prediction
The Packers are favored in this game by 3. Spreads haven't meant much recently. We shouldn't be so concerned with whether the Pack will cover the spread as much as if they will win. And, frankly, that's very much in question given the team's recent performance.

Until the Packers offense can show us some life and consistency, it's hard for us to pick them right now. Heart says "Packers"...head says, "Nope."

As much as the Packers need this game, the still apparently unresolved problems will get in the way of them doing so...barring a defensive or special teams touchdown.

We're calling it 20-17 in favor of the Lions.

Wish it wasn't so. Still...

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Packers lose at Lambeau...again.

For the second time in as many home games, the Green Bay Packers lost at Lambeau Field...something that hadn't been the case in...oh, I dunno...anyone remember? Yeah, it's been a while.

It was, of course, a loss at home for literally the first time in a generation to the then 1-7 Detroit Lions that was the tip of the Frozen Tundra iceberg. Last Sunday, the Pack was able to get a win in Minnesota. Fans thought the ship was righted.

Packers legendary quarterback Bart Starr and his wife Cherry enjoy the cheers of the crowd as they enter Lambeau Field at halftime Thursday night.
(Photo: William Glasheen/P-G Media/@wmgl)

Then came Thanksgiving. And other than the thanks given for seeing Brett Favre's number 4 retired to the Ring of Honor inside Lambeau Field, and the return of Packer legend Bart Starr to the field for what likely is the last time, there wasn't much to be thankful for. Another lackluster performance by the offense saw the Pack lose to the arch-rival Chicago Bears despite a flurry of the usual last minute bluster that has put the Pack in position to win in the closing seconds...but...not.

The Packers, who for a few short days sat atop the NFC North by virtue of the tiebreaker with the ViQueens, now find themselves in second place with a 7-4 record, losing four of their last five games after starting the season 6-0.

As the late, great Vince Lombardi would definitely say (among other things, no doubt), "What the heck is going on out here!?".

That's what coaches, players and fans are trying to figure out. QB Aaron Rodgers' completion percentage and quarterback rating has taken a nose dive during this stretch. Some of that is on him. But a great deal of that is on his receivers who continually are dropping passes that they should be catching, who are running routes that are not on the same page of the playbook as the one Rodgers is apparently using, or who simply are unable to get separation from defenders. It's not the plays being called it's the players not executing the plays called that seems to be at the heart of the offensive woes.

The Packers defense has been playing well enough to win. The Packers offense hasn't. If things don't get turned around soon, say this coming Thursday night in Detroit, the season is definitely in peril. Perhaps it already is. Imagine losing this upcoming game to the Lions. It could happen. Detroit has won three games in a row now, starting with the win over the Packers. Trendline: up. Packers, again, have lost four out of five. Trendline: down.

That's the state of things as of today.

We'll be back with a preview/prediction for the Detroit game a bit closer to the actual game. For now, we must still try to wrap our heads around this underperforming group known as the 2015 Green Bay Packers.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Packers vs Bears Thanksgiving 2015 - This. Will. Be. Epic!

Happy Thanksgiving, Packers fans! There is much to give thanks for. Especially as Packer fans. After all, we could have wound up as Bears fans...eeeewwwwww!

If we can clear that bad image out of our heads, let's move on to what's in store for us today: the Packers play Da Bearz at Lambeau Field in the final game of the NFL's Thanksgiving Day triple header. It's the first time the Pack will have played a Thanksgiving Day game at home since 1923. That's pretty special right there, right? But even more special will be seeing Brett Favre's ol' number 4 retired at halftime to the Ring of Honor inside Lambeau.

Oh...one other thing: Packers legend Bart Starr will remarkably be on hand to help celebrate this occasion. From all accounts, and in particular from his wife, Cherry, this will probably be Starr's last trip to Green Bay.

Whether fans will be more excited to Starr or Favre remains to be seen. All we know is that seeing both of them...and perhaps even with a moment somewhere along the way with current QB Aaron Rodgers...will blow the roof off the place (that's a metaphorical statement, of course, as Lambeau doesn't have a roof..well, I'm assuming, as good Packer fans, that you already know that, but just in case...).

So with all this emotion flowing inside the stadium, is there any chance that this current Packers team won't rise to the occasion? Sure, there's a chance or two: slim...and none.

The Pack shook off the doldrums from their three-game losing streak with a very good performance Sunday against the ViQueens. Now, it wasn't perfect...but it was pretty darn good on a number of counts, many of which were noted in our last post. See that one for details. The defense, as Mike Daniels noted this week, understands that their performance is highly related to their attitude. During the three-game losing stretch, no sacks; on Sunday, six sacks and holding Adrian Peterson to 45 yards. They dominated the Vikes. It started with attitude and then execution. They need to do the same tonight against an improved 4-6 Chicago Bears team. There's no reason to believe they won't.

Offensively, the Packers got a bit more in sync against the Vikes than they had been in the past month. (Another thing to be thankful for!) Again, it wasn't perfect. There were still missed throws and dropped passes. But...better. Just in time for Da Bearz.

Now, while Da Bearz are certainly an improved team since the first meeting of this season, can they take the Pack down? Anything is possible. We didn't think the Lions could come into Green Bay and steal one but they did. But the Packers were still in their collective funk then. Now? Not. Plus, Aaron Rodgers is 13-3 versus the Bears while Jay Cutler is 1-11 versus the Packers. Rodgers usually has one of his better games against Chicago, while Cutler -- obviously -- just can't get it done against Green Bay. (Another thing to be thankful for!) If the Packers defense gets consistent pressure on Cutler he gets nervous in the pocket and will start flinging it about. Everyone says that you know in a game with Cutler that you are going to get at least two or three occasions where you can get a turnover and you should come away with at least one of those. That can be the case tonight.

The Packers offensive line comes into tonight's game a bit banged up but if they can hold up and do what they did against the Vikes in the way of protecting Rodgers and opening holes for Lacy and Starks, it should give Rodgers and the offense enough opportunities to score.

The Prediction
The Packers are currently favored by 8-1/2 points at the time of this writing. What could get in the way of a Packers win, apart from Da Bearz, that is? The weather might play a role. The forecast is for rain and possibly sleet. That will affect both teams, obviously, but could have a greater impact upon the kicking game: punters, kickers, returners. Don't look for Mason Crosby to kick five field goals from more than 40 yards as he did Sunday. And if he has to...well, he can...but it sure doesn't reflect well on offensive production, does it?

Our call? We've got the Packers winning it, 27-20.

Go Pack Go!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Packers whack Vikings, get ready to smack Bears

The rejoicing over the Green Bay Packers 30-13 victory Sunday over the up-and-coming Minnesota Vikings is still continuing several days later. At least among Packer fans. While the players also feel much better from an attitude standpoint than they have in the last month, they didn't have much time to celebrate the big NFC North Division win. After all, the rival Chicago Bears come to Lambeau Field Thanksgiving night. It's a short turnaround for both teams. But the Pack come in with a much-needed win while Da Bears arrive following a loss to Denver in Chicago.

Since the players can't take time to recount Sunday's glories, however, allow us to do so briefly.

First, kicker Mason Crosby did what had never been done before in NFL history: kick -- and, more importantly, make -- five field goals of more than 40 yards each in a single game. Wow. Congratulations, Mr. Crosby! I guess you could say he more than made up for that clunker in the closing seconds of the loss to the Lions the week before.

Secondly, RB Eddie Lacy, despite not getting the start, rushed for 100 yards on 22 carries, shaking off not only ViQueen defenders in the process but also the doubters among the Packers faithful who were beginning to wonder, "What's wrong with Eddie?". Apparently, not much when the O-line does its job opening holes and Eddie decides to make decisive cuts. Yay.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers regained some of his mojo against the Vikings on Sunday.
(Photo by Ann Heisenfelt, File/Associated Press)

QB Aaron Rodgers, after a few weeks of looking not-at-all-Aaron-Rodgers-esque, regained a good portion of his mojo, throwing for two touchdowns. His 16-for-34 passing for 212 yards still wasn't outstanding -- Rodgers at less than 50% completion rate? C'mon! -- but he did hit important third down conversions that had almost been non-existent in recent weeks. WR James Jones accounted for nearly half of Rodgers' passing yards, catching six balls for 109 yards and one fantastic TD that is the stuff of highlight reels; Jones had practically disappeared from action in the prior weeks' losses.

Kudos also go to a banged up offensive line for doing a much better job than had been the case recently. Despite losing starting center Corey Linsley in the first quarter (replaced by J.C. Tretter who didn't miss a beat), the line performed admirably.

As for the Packers defense, which hadn't gotten a sack in the last three games, they came up huge on Sunday, accounting for six quarterback sacks. ViQueens QB Teddy Bridgewater was under pressure constantly. The Packers "D" dominated Minnesota from start to finish. Perhaps nowhere was this seen more than in the shutdown of star RB Adrian Peterson who had just 45 yards on 13 carries with one touchdown. He also lost a fumble at the Packers 21 early in the fourth quarter which was a huge turnover and game-changer.

Anyway, it was a win. A big win, as the Pack took control of the NFC North. While still tied with the Vikes at 7-3, the Packers hold the tiebreaker by virtue of this win.

Bring on Da Bears!
Any game against Chicago is epic. The fact this will be a Thanksgiving game played in Green Bay will only be the second such occasion since 1923. Yeah, that's right: 1923. The historic series stands at 93-92 in favor of Da Bearz, so the Pack can get things back to square with this win Thanksgiving night.

But as important as these historic aspects are for this game, there is another: the retirement of former QB Brett Favre's number to the Ring of Honor in Lambeau Field, forever to be immortalized among the Packer greats...as if that wasn't already the case. Another element to this halftime event will be the appearance of Packer great Bart Starr who, in all likelihood, will be making his last appearance at Lambeau Field. After serious health issues over the last year or so (heart attack and stroke), Starr is lucky to still be with us according to all reports. He's gone through a great deal of physical and mental rehab work to be on hand when Favre's number joins his among the Packer legends. He and Brett always had a great relationship and it could be suggested that Favre delayed this whole event so that Starr could be on hand. To say it will be an emotional moment is an understatement. The only thing that could put a damper on the festivities is the weather, with rain currently forecast for the evening.

We'll be back tomorrow with our Packers vs. Da Bearz preview and prediction. So, stay tuned to PackerFansUnited.com, Packer fans.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

2015 NFL Week 11: Packers vs. Vikings Preview and Prediction

First things first: regular readers of our Packer Fans United blog no doubt recognize that we did not post a post-game review of the Packers loss to the Lions. Reason? Hell froze over and it took us this long to get out.

Seriously, what can one say about that dismal, depressing game? Let's move on.

So we now get to visit Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, they say. Although, truth be told, Wisconsin actually has more lakes than our neighbor to the west. So there's that. By the end of this afternoon's game between the Packers and the ViQueens that might still be the only thing Packer fans have to hold over our friends in purple.

If it sounds as if we are leery of the late afternoon game today, yes, we are. Why shouldn't we be? After all, the Packers have really shown us nothing over the past three games -- and especially the last -- to make us think that they will have their collective act together to beat Minnesota on their home field.

While the Packers have been kings of the NFC North for quite a while, their recent struggles over a three-game losing streak combined with the ViQueens five-game winning streak, now see the Pack a game behind Minnesota. Who could have imagined it? Even worse, imagine if the Packers lose today: they will be a full two games behind Minnesota in the division with six games remaining, including three more divisional games. Throw the Cowboys, Raiders and Cardinals in that mix (the last two back-to-back on the road) and the Pack could find themselves in a world of hurt if they don't get this train back on track. Soon. Like, today for instance.

Packers RB Eddie Lacy needs more carries to help turn things around.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


The Packers will have their hands full on both sides of the ball, trying to fend off an aggressive defense managed by the head coach himself, Mike Zimmer, and a very good offense under coordinator Norv Turner. Oh, and did we mention that RB Adrian Peterson is back to his old self...unfortunately...tearing up the turf once again? Second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has come along nicely, as well. Even without the Pack's recent skid, Minnesota is obviously the real deal this season. Playing their arch-nemesis, Green Bay, on their home field will only make this game even more difficult for a seemingly bewildered and unconfident Packers team.

It's hard to explain, let alone know, what is actually ailing the Packers at this stage of the season. It seems as if they start off quickly, then fall apart, and then in the closing minutes of the game put together another run or two to make it close. But it's that 50-minutes-or-so part of the game between the start and the finish that seems to have been the team's Achilles heal; they just get too far behind. Go figure.

Some fans have suggested that offensively it's a matter of play calling and that head coach Mike McCarthy should resume those play-calling duties. Both Wayne Larrivee (radio voice of the Packers) and sidekick Packers Hall of Famer, Larry McCarren, have each made the point that from their perspective it's not a matter of who calls the plays; the plays still have to be executed and right now the players are just not executing the plays...for whatever reason.

Will the Pack continue their bumbling ways today? Or, somehow, get it together to avoid an outright tailspin? As we mentioned in the preview to last weekend's game, if the Pack couldn't beat the 1-7 Lions at Lambeau Field we would know the wheels have really fallen off. Well, the wheels did indeed fall off. The question for today is: did a new and improved set of wheels get installed that can win this game?

The Prediction
As the Five Things to Watch article by Rob Reischel in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel states: "Green Bay is in the midst of its first three-game losing streak under Aaron Rodgers since late in the 2008 season. The Packers rank 21st in total offense and 22nd in passing offense. Green Bay also hasn't had a sack in three games and plummeted to 23rd in total defense. Green Bay heads to Minnesota one game out of the lead in the NFC North, trails the Vikings in all major tiebreakers and finds itself at a crossroads. If the Packers can't fix some of what ails them Sunday, they might not be able to save this sinking season."

Minnesota is favored by 1 point by some oddsmakers at the time of this writing, while others have this game listed as a toss up. It's a bit surprising that spread isn't greater in favor of Minnesota given trends by both teams. As much as we view things through Green 'n' Gold-colored glasses around here, until the Packers show us they have turned things around it just seems as if the recent past is a good predictor of the immediate future.

We have to call this one in favor of the ViQueens 27 - 20 over the Packers.

With that said, hope we're wrong today...and...Go Pack Go!!!


Sunday, November 15, 2015

2015 NFL Week 10: Packers vs. Lions Preview and Prediction

After two consecutive losses on the road to unbeaten teams (at the time, in the case of Denver, and still, in the case of Carolina), the Green Bay Packers return to the friendly confines of Lambeau Field today to begin a four-game stretch against NFC North division opponents...all in 19 days. The team will be tested, that's for sure.

Of course, we can say that's the case already, can't we? The team has been underperforming and underachieving for at least the last month. What was a steam-rolling offense and dominating defense the first three or four weeks of the season has become ineffective on both sides of the ball almost ever since.

What head coach Mike McCarthy called the best offensive line since his time in Green Bay has allowed their two-time MVP quarterback to get battered week after week as of late. Wide receivers somehow are not getting separation against defenders and the rushing game has been almost non-existent, whether through play-calling, down-and-distance situations, whatever. The offense has been very much out of sync. The team is last in the league in third down conversions right now. Not good.

The defense, which had been putting a great deal of pass-rush pressure on opposing quarterbacks during the early part of the season hasn't had a sack in the last two games.

OK, enough of the team woes.
The Packers defense has a chance to get to Lions QB Matthew Stafford often today.
(Photo: Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media)

What can we expect against the Lions?
The 1-7 Lions are -- or should be -- just what the doctor ordered for the Pack to get back on track. The management and coaching staff are in disarray. Whether that will translate to the field or not, or make any difference at all, isn't the main factor today.

What might be a key to the game is that the Lions have issues up front offensively. This is a chance for the Pack to dominate defensively...assuming that the secondary doesn't let Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate et al run run wide open. That would...not...be...good.

If the Packers offense can convert on third downs and get back in sync, and rest the defense in the process, the Packers should get the win. The Lions haven't won in Green Bay since 1991 and there's no reason to expect that they should do so today. While the Packers might have issues right now they are nowhere near as many as the Lions have.

The Prediction
The Packers are favored by 10-1/2 points at the time of this writing. Given the way they have performed recently, that's pretty hard to believe. Still, the Pack should come out of this game with the win.

We're calling this one 31-17 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Lacy inactive today
In late-breaking news, we've just heard that RB Eddie Lacy is inactive today. Coach McCarthy had named James Starks as the starter for this week earlier in the week. For more on this, click here.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Packers, Packers...what's going on?

It's taken this long for many Green Bay Packers fans, including yours truly, to digest the loss to the Carolina Panthers last Sunday...let alone write about it. It was ugly, disheartening. It actually left a bad case of indigestion in its wake. So, to just get past things, let's just say it goes in the loss column, as I regrettably predicted it would in my game preview.

The Packers are now 6-2 at the midway point of the 2015 NFL season. But which Packers team is it at this point in time? The team that was offensively blowing opponents away handily in the first three or four games of the season, aided in no small measure by a stifling defense? Or, is it the Packers that we've seen for about the last four games who can't convert third downs, can't effectively run the ball, whose receivers can't seem to get separation against defenders, an offensive line that has QB Aaron Rodgers under constant pressure and taking far too many hits, a defensive unit that gave up more than 500 yards to the opposing offenses in consecutive games and almost did so for a third game in a row? We just don't know.

Everything seems out of sync. Rodgers is missing or not even seeing receivers he'd otherwise be hitting in stride, RB Eddie Lacy can't get more than a few yards on a few carries, opposing receivers are left wide open for huge gains. Are the wheels falling off? Probably not. But a tune up is definitely in order.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has challenges to resolve.
Photo by Jim Biever, Packers.com

That tune up has apparently begun with head coach Mike McCarthy naming RB James Starks as the starter for this week. It's been rumored for a few weeks that the coaching staff has not been pleased with Lacy's performance as of late. Whether it's a lingering ankle injury, his weight or something else, he just isn't performing at the level that the team expects. He'll still be getting his reps, but the fumble against Carolina did nothing to endear him to the coaches right now.

It's also become known that quarterbacks and wide receivers coach, Alex Van Pelt, will be moving from the upstairs coaches booth down to the field. Whether that's to better interact with the players or offensive coordinator and play caller, Tom Clements, and head coach McCarthy we can only speculate. But obviously, McCarthy felt some adjustments are needed.

Just what the football doctor ordered?
Coming off back-to-back road games against undefeated teams -- and losing to both -- the Packers now come back to Lambeau and begin a stretch of four games against divisional opponents over the course of 18 days. Yowzers. At least first up in this NFC North gauntlet is the woeful 1-7 Detroit Lions. Now, it can rightfully be said that if the Pack loses to the Lions at Lambeau for the first time in seemingly forever, the team is in free-fall. Not that the season will be over, but...the Lions? At Lambeau? C'mon. If the Packers can somehow regain the mojo they had earlier in the season, they should be able to dominate this Lions team. Of course, it must also be said that the Lions have nothing to lose and will bring whatever they can muster against the Pack. It should also be noted that the Lions are better than their 1-7 record would indicate. But the Packers are so much better...but they need to demonstrate that again in no uncertain terms this coming Sunday.

We'll be back with a more timely preview closer to game time. For now, let's just get the chant going: GO PACK GO!!!

It can't hurt.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Packers vs. Panthers Game Preview: Will the Pack get back on track?

While no one is saying this is a "must-win" game for the Green Bay Packers, fans -- including yours truly -- want to see how well the team bounces back from its first defeat of the season. Let's also not forget that the Minnesota ViQueens are now only a game behind the Packers in the NFC North. But the question for today is: Will we continue to see sluggish play out of the once-vaunted offense -- now ranked 28th in the league -- and sieve-like defense from what had been a very good unit until giving up more than 500 yards to opposing offenses in the last two games? Or, will the loss have served as a wakeup call to the players and coaching staff that things are just not where they should be at the roughly halfway mark of the season?

We'll get an answer in just a few hours' time.

Granted, there's still a long way to go in the season. And the Packers have certainly been dinged up. Today, Ty Montgomery, Sam Shields and Quinten Rollins look as if they will be held out of the game. Clay Matthews says he'll be ready to go but how will last weekend's ankle/leg injury affect him today? The rushing game has been moribund without a healthy Eddie Lacy and James Starks; one or the other is needed to take pressure off Aaron Rodgers and the passing game. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Packers reporter, Bob McGinn, asserts in his most recent article that the Panthers coaching staff has been compensating for their team's injuries better than the Packers have with their injuries. Matter of opinion, I guess, but one team is still undefeated and looks well positioned while the other has been pretty flat overall for a while now, despite only one loss so far.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers hopes to bounce back against the Panthers today from his worst passing performance as a pro last weekend.
Photo by Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media

It's been far too easy for opposing defenses over the last month or so to play tight coverages on the Packers wide receivers who are not getting open, thus allowing the front seven defenders to just come after Rodgers play after play. Without a deep threat to loosen things up, or a running game that keeps defensive linemen and linebackers honest, well, it hasn't been pretty. Seventy-seven passing yards vs. Denver...from Rodgers? Admittedly and arguably the best defense in the NFL. But...c'mon.

Today, Rodgers will have a chance against a Panthers secondary...if receivers can get open, the running game is effective, etc. etc. You know the drill as well as I.

But...and it's a big but...the Packers defense will have to keep one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the league, in the person of QB Cam Newton, in check. They did so in a dominating win against the Panthers at Lambeau Field last season. But that was then, this is now. The Packers defense is starting to remind at least some fans of Forrest Gump's proverbial box of chocolates: we just don't know what we're going to get. Will it be that great and essentially win-preserving "D" we saw on display in the first four or five games of the season, or the sieve we've seen the last two weeks? If the latter, the Packers are in trouble today.

There's at least one factor in the Pack's favor today, despite playing a second consecutive game on the road against an unbeaten opponent: Rodgers rarely has two bad games in a row. Still, Green Bay Press-Gazette's Packers reporter, Wes Hodkiewicz, puts it like this: "Only twice in NFL history has a team faced a pair of teams with 6-0 records or better in consecutive weeks. The Packers are only 6-6 since the start of the 2014 season on the road, but Rodgers tends to have some of his best games after disappointing losses. The Panthers will put that theory to the test with the NFL’s top-ranked rushing offense and a potent defense coming off an emotional overtime win on Monday night."

The Prediction
While the Packers are favored by 2-1/2 points as of the time of this writing, it really seems to be more of a toss-up to this writer. We rarely pick against the Packers. And when we do, we sincerely hope we are very wrong.

But today, even though Rodgers and the Packers often seem to bounce back after a poor performance, it seems as if what ails the Pack -- whatever it is, apart from injuries -- is still not remedied. Until we see some evidence to the contrary -- which we hope happens today -- we'll have to go with the following prediction:

Panthers 31 - Packers 24.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, November 02, 2015

Packers get smacked down in Denver, 29-10

The headline on my preview/prediction post for last night's game between the Green Bay Packers and the Denver Broncos noted that only one of those teams would be 7-0 after the game. Sadly, it's not the Packers.

Boy, was I wrong about this game...although I did note that I was nervous that the Packers were favored and that most pundits were projecting the Pack to win. Somehow, there often seems to be a game such as this lying just around the corner when those types of predictions are made.

In about as flat a performance as we've seen from the Pack this season, even coming off a bye week and supposedly being rested, the intensity level on both sides of the ball for Green Bay did not match that of Denver.

For the second game in a row, the Packers' defense gave up more than 500 yards to the opposing offense. Not a good trend. Conversely, the Packers' offense could do nothing. QB Aaron Rodgers took a pounding. Even when he did get the time to search for receivers, none were getting open. The results was a mere 77 yards passing for Rodgers, the lowest of his career. This ongoing lackluster performance by the offense, despite the record, has essentially been present since about the fourth game of the season.


Packers QB Aaron Rodgers took a pounding in last night's loss to Denver.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

We had also made the comment in our preview that some thought Denver's 6-0 record was more reflective of a pretender than contender. Not last night. In fact, it might actually be the other way around: the Pack's record might be a reflection that in their first six games they had not played a team with a winning record. Who's the pretender? Who's the contender?

So, Packer fans, there are areas for concern. Genuine concern.

The Packers have to go on the road next weekend to play the currently undefeated Carolina Panthers. If the Pack's defense gave up over 500 yards to a supposedly immobile and lacking-in-arm-strength Peyton Manning-led team, just imagine what a quarterback such as Cam Newton might be able to roll up. Think of similar type pass-run quarterbacks and what they typically do against a Packers defense: Russell Wilson and (prior to this season, anyway) Colin Kaepernick come to mind, don't they? It could easily be another 500-yard offensive onslaught by an opponent this coming weekend.

Even more concerning, perhaps, is that the Minnesota ViQueens are now only one game behind the Packers in the NFC North after their last-second win over Da Bearz yesterday. A-whaaaaaa??? Yes, really.

The elements of this beat-down can be analyzed every which way, and are. For one of the better analyses of the game (to no one's surprise) you may wish to read this great article by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn.

Nothing I can add at this point except next week is an opportunity for redemption. The young players who are being asked to step in and step up due to injuries need to start doing so...big time. We'll know what type of team this season's Packers are after this upcoming game against Carolina: pretenders...or contenders.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

NFL Week 8: Packers at Broncos...Only one will be 7-0.

Well, Packers fans...the boys in the Green 'n' Gold (or white, green and gold tonight) have had a week off and time to get healthier before the battle in Denver against the Broncos this evening. Yay. B.J. Raji and Davante Adams should see action, while safety Morgan Burnett will be back in the lineup...finally...giving a big boost to the Packers defense. James Starks is questionable with a hip injury. Ty Montgomery is likely out.


Packers safety Morgan Burnett should return to action tonight.
Photo by Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Denver, however, also had their bye week last week, as well. Both teams should come in rested and with game plans well-worked out.

But, getting a healthier Eddie Lacy back into the ground game, plus giving QB Aaron Rodgers someone to stretch the field, i.e., Davante Adams, bodes well as the Pack goes against the league's No. 1-ranked defense.

According to Wayne Larrivee, radio voice of the Green Bay Packers, the Denver Broncos defense is the fastest and best the Packers will face this season. They lead the league in sacks and takeaways, and have four defensive touchdowns, including two pick-6 INT returns by DB Aqib Talib. The cornerbacks are good enough that Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips doesn't need to give them safety help, meaning he can sometimes go with seven or eight men at the line of scrimmage. Denver leads the league in sacks as a result.

Some might argue, though, that part of Denver's defensive success is that they really haven't played a very good team yet. I'd say regardless of that that any team that can be unbeaten at this stage of the season -- regardless of quality of opponent -- is doing something right and has to be respected. By the way, this is only the fourth time in NFL history that two teams with at least 6 wins and no losses have met one another.

Turning to Denver's offense, you certainly have to respect QB Peyton Manning, particularly when he gets the time to step up in the pocket to pass. He may not have the arm strength he used to, and he's never had great mobility, be if his offensive line protects him tonight against the Packers' also-stellar pass rush it could set up for a very interesting game. On the other hand, if the Packers' "D" can do what they've done all season, and get pressure on him, the Packers should win this game. No mistaking, Manning has weapons he can leverage offensively. The Packers defense must minimize those offensive opportunities, particularly the two top wide receivers who lead the league in receptions and yardage: 86 catches and more than 1,000 yards receiving combined. However, they only have combined for four touchdowns. The Packers' secondary will be tested if the defensive front doesn't get effective pressure on Manning.

On the Packers side of the ledger, the offense has to display more than they have the last several weeks in particular. They've done enough to win, but without the great performances from the defense generally the Pack might not be at 6-0 right now.

The Prediction
Without further ado, particularly with only about about an hour to gametime, it's time to make our call. A big consideration, among all the others listed here, is that the Packers are 8-1 after the bye under head coach Mike McCarthy, which is the best record in the NFL during that span, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Some pundits think this will be close, others that Denver is more of a pretender and the Packers will put them in their place. Most all are calling for the Packers to win this game which, frankly, always makes me nervous. The Packers are favored by 3 points. My own take is that I think both teams will be up for this game and want to keep that unbeaten tag. If the Pack play their game and get pressure on Manning while protecting Rodgers, the Pack will prevail. (I know: "Thank you, Captain Obvious!") This could be tight into the fourth quarter. Still...

We're calling it 31-24 Packers over the Broncos.

Go Pack Go!!!



Friday, October 23, 2015

Packers down Chargers, go into bye 6-0

At this point, Packers fans, it's a bit of old news that the Green Bay Packers beat the San Diego Chargers last Sunday, 27-20, in heart-stopping fashion, and in the process giving head coach Mike McCarthy his 100th regular season win. McCarthy now trails only the legendary Curly Lambeau for wins as Packers head coach. Congrats, Coach McCarthy. (Oh, by the way, Lambeau has 209 regular season wins.)

Behind a franchise record-setting performance from Chargers QB Philip Rivers (43 of 65 passes for 503 yards and two touchdowns without committing a single turnover), the Pack's defense was lit up like Otis on the Andy Griffith Show.

The Packers defense was on the field for roughly 40 minutes -- two-thirds of the available clock time -- trying to defend against one of the best pocket passers in the league. Kudos to Mr. Rivers for his performance. For even when the Packers did get pressure on him, which, to be fair, was quite often, he was still able to get the ball out courtesy of his quick release.

Still, while racking up all that yardage and roughly 40 more offensive plays than the Packers, the Chargers were only two for six in the red zone and, most importantly, still lost.

The final series for the Chargers was emblematic of the Packers defense on the day. With the Chargers having first and goal at the three yardline, the Pack held them out of the endzone on three straight plays with no gain, capped with the great pass break up in the end zone by rookie defensive back and first round pick, Damarious Randall.

Packers RB James Starks racked up 112 yards on 10 carries against the Chargers, including a 65-yard TD run...the Pack's longest TD run in almost seven years.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


A depleted Packers offense continued to sputter -- but do enough -- to win. WR Davante Adams was held out once again and TE/WR Ty Montgomery was injured early in the game and is expected to also miss the Denver game following the bye week. RB Eddie Lacy was still hobbled by his lingering ankle injury (which may be worse than he or the Packers are letting on) and was ineffective on a few carries. In his place, James Starks had a great day, carrying 10 times for 112 yards including a spectacular spin-to-the-backside 65-yard touchdown run, the longest for the Packers in nearly seven years.

Other players also made plays. WR Jeff Janis made the most of his opportunities, catching two passes for 79 yards and making a huge hustle block downfield on Starks' TD run. Let's also not forget that short shovel pass from Aaron Rodgers to Janis on a scramble which turned into a 33-yard play down to the San Diego 20-yard line in the fourth quarter.

So, going into the bye weekend, the Packers are banged up and hoping to get healthy. Despite key injuries to key players, some season-ending, the Packers are 6-0 for just the eighth time in the team's long, long history. As this great article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes, "The first six Packers teams that began 6-0 all won World Championships. The 2011 Packers started the year 13-0, went 15-1 in the regular season, then lost in the NFC divisional playoffs."

So there is a long way to go in this 2015 season, Packers fans. In the next two games after the bye, the Pack goes on the road to take on the also undefeated Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, followed by four divisional games. This is the heart of the schedule. While off to a great start, there are still lots of areas for improvement. But just imagine what this team could do if it was at 100 percent.

For now, though, Packers fans...enjoy the week off. Enjoy your undefeated Green Bay Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

NFL Week 6: Packers vs. Chargers Preview and Prediction

The good news, Packers fans, is that the San Diego Chargers are coming to Lambeau Field. Sometimes, it's be careful what you wish for, I know. But not in this case.

The Chargers are missing three starters on their offensive line and one of their top backups. While still sporting one of the top-ranked offenses in the league, racking up lots of total yards and passing yards behind quarterback Philip Rivers, they are scoring just 23.2 points per game. Conversely, the Green Bay Packers defense has been on a roll, holding teams to just 13 points total in the last two games against what were touted as some potentially dynamic offenses. It didn't happen. Not gonna happen today either.

This is the last game before the Pack heads into their Week 7 bye. Occasionally in the past, head coach Mike McCarthy's teams were looking more to the bye than the opponent on the other side of the ball. That's not going to happen today. The coaching staff and players want to go into that bye week undefeated. The only way to do that is to put the hammer down on the Chargers.

RB Eddie Lacy is set to have a good day against the Chargers.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Defensively, despite being banged up a bit across all facets of that unit, the Packers have plugged players in and haven't missed a beat. The pass rush has been relentless. Against an immobile pocket quarterback such as Rivers, the Packers could be set for a big day. Get to Rivers and you control the game. Yes, rookie running back Melvin Gordon has shown flashes of what made him so special at Wisconsin (Go Badgers!), but has yet to really have a breakout type game behind San Diego's makeshift line. Who do the Chargers have for receivers? Who knows? Won't matter. The Pack will get it done on "D" today.

Will the Packers offense break out of its funk?
The Packers offense has certainly seemed to be misfiring in the last few games. They've still done enough to win, aided in large measure by their defense. (Yeah, I know, when was the last time we could say that?) But with Eddie Lacy getting over his ankle injury and perhaps with Davante Adams back in the lineup to stretch the field -- the thing everyone, including QB Aaron Rodgers has said has been missing -- the Packers "O" should shake off a couple so-so performances. With a three-turnover outing at home last weekend, including two Rodgers' INTs and a fumble -- as rare as the three-eyed jackalope unicorn (hey, they're out there!) -- the offense will be looking for some redemption. Rodgers just does not have two back-to-back bad performances; he just doesn't. He wasn't happy about last week's game, and in his post-game comments gently called out not only his receivers for their imprecise route-running but himself for throwing the way he did...which was, umm, not great.

The prediction
The Packers are favored by as many as 10-1/2 points depending on what source you're looking at. It could be that big of a day.

Unless the wheels fall totally off the Packmobile...we're calling this 34-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Packers are 5-0 after win over Rams. Begin preparations for Chargers.

For the second week in a row, the Green Bay Packers defense was the difference in a team win versus a possible loss, as the offense continues to struggle...at least by recent Packers' standards, that is. The Pack dispatched the Rams, 24-10. We had the winning margin -- 14 points -- as part of our prediction, but seems as if we were once again a bit optimistic about the overall scoring power of both teams.

Nevertheless, the Pack came away with an important win at home against a team that had taken down two of the supposed early season juggernauts in the league, the Seattle Seahawks (who may be more pretender than contender this season) and the Arizona Cardinals. The win did come at a price, however: more injuries. RG T. J. Lang went down with a knee injury, although it is not believed to be serious...at least if you believe the Tweets he sent out afterward. NT B. J. Raji left the game with a groin injury, also not believed to be serious. OLB Nick Perry sustained a shoulder injury, and was seen with his arm in a sling after the game. Packer fans had been waiting for the former first-round draft pick to make an impact, which he had been doing so far this season: he had accounted for multiple tackles in the first four games and was tied for third on the team with 3-1/2 sacks, trailing only Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews, who both have 4-1/2 sacks.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix gives fellow safety Micah Hyde a congratulatory pat to the head after Hyde's interception against the Rams.
Photo by Associated Press

As noted, the Packers defense has been something to behold so far this season. Believe it or not, they rank seventh in the league in overall defense. Quite a change from what we've seen in recent years, isn't it? Yay. Oh, yay.

Despite injuries in all areas of the defense, including starting safety Morgan Burnett who has missed the last three games, the Packers "D" is stepping up big time. The pressure they are getting on opposing quarterbacks is coming from everywhere on the field. And even rookies are getting in on the act as evidenced by 2015 second-round pick Quinten Rollins who grabbed two of the four interceptions against the Rams, including a pick-six for a touchdown.

Conversely, and as even admitted by QB Aaron Rodgers and other members of the squad, the offense seems to be sputtering. While having generated the third-best rushing stats in the league going into the game against the Rams, the leading rusher for the Packers on Sunday was Rodgers with 39 yards...that's not what you want to see. Yes, the offensive line was playing against arguably the best front four in the NFL, but...c'mon.

The biggest shocker of the day, perhaps, as regards the offense was the play of Rodgers and his receivers. They just didn't seem to be on the same page. Rodgers offered some soft criticism of both himself and his receivers in his post-game comments, saying that he needed to do a better job throwing the ball than he did while his receivers have to run better routes. The result of this confusion Sunday were two interceptions of Rodgers (one tipped and another trapped, which should have been overturned) and a fumble on a stripped ball. These were the first interceptions of Rodgers at Lambeau Field since 2012. The odds finally caught up with him.

Overall, the Rams never really threatened. The Packers defense did give up 159 yards rushing to RB Todd Gurley, with about a third of those yards coming on one run. But overall, Rams QB Nick Foles was under pressure all day. If the Packers defense keeps playing with this level of intensity throughout the rest of the season, it's championship-worthy. We also know that the offense will get things straightened out. The emergence of a downfield threat to stretch the field -- something missing and obviously so since WR Jordy Nelson's injury -- will help a great deal.

Next up at Lambeau: the Chargers
We'll do a game preview a bit closer to the event, but the 2-3 Chargers will be coming to Green Bay for a late afternoon game this Sunday. They are coming off a last-second loss at home against the Steelers. They'll be looking to get back to .500 and perhaps hope to find a Packers team looking past them to their bye in week 7. They shouldn't count on that, though. Whether all (or most) hands are on deck for the Pack or not, we can expect the offense to get back on track and the defense to continue its stellar play.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

NFL Week 5 Packers vs. Rams Preview and Prediction

So, let's get this out of the way first (since I was negligent in writing a follow-up earlier in the week): the Packers beat the 49ers. Let's repeat: the Packers beat the 49ers. In San Francisco. And throttled heretofore Packers-killer QB Colin Kaepernick in the process behind a great defensive effort by the Pack. 'Bout time. Yay.

Now..on to today's game: the Packers vs. (the once-and-future Los Angeles) Rams.

Packers DE Mike Daniels and the rest of the "D" have been playing lights out lately.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Packers come into this game as either 9 or 9-1/2-point favorites depending upon whom you believe for that sort of thing. Either way, Holy Schnikey, Batman, that's a big spread. Yes, the Packers are at home. And are 4-0. And have the best quarterback in the NFL. Even have the third best rushing game in the league (true!) and a vastly-improved defense from the last few years. What do the Rams have to offer? Well, to hear the pundits tell it, probably the best front four defensive linemen in the league. A young and dangerous running back. A speedy receiver. A head coach who will have his team well prepared. And a not-all-that-bad QB in Nick Foles...who, by the way, has beaten the Packers...at Lambeau...when he was with the Eagles.

But that was then, this is now.

The Rams seem to be a Jeckyll-and-Hyde type team so far this season, winning two big games within their division -- at home against Seattle and at Arizona last weekend against the previously undefeated Cardinals -- but who don't seem to do as well against teams outside their division. So they're a bit like Forrest Gump's proverbial box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get.

But whatever team shows up for the Rams, we know what team will show up for the Packers: very good special teams, an attacking defense (tied with the Rams for the league lead in sacks at 17) and a powerful offense when running on all cylinders. Whether or not the Packers have starting RT Bryan Bulaga back on the line today will be a gametime decision apparently. He did practice this week and said he felt he'd be ready to go. If not, Don Barclay will once again have to hold his own. The tackle positions -- left and right -- have been an issue so far this young season for the Packers. But Aaron Rodgers' mobility is the difference maker if there is pressure. He may be sacked a few times given his tendency to sometimes hold on to the ball a bit too long. But, conversely, his ability to scramble and find receivers downfield, or to break off a run himself, is something which defenses have a hard time defending against...as we've seen through the first four games.

One of the knocks on the Packers' offense right now is that, without Jordy Nelson, the Packers lack a downfield threat to stretch the defenses. Well, the short and intermediate type passes seem to be working quite well. One has to believe, too, that sooner or later one of the young, fast receivers -- Jeff Janis or Jared Abbrederis, perhaps -- will gain Rodgers' trust and start to emerge as at least an occasional threat. That may or may not happen today. But, regardless, the Packers will have all they need to dispatch the Rams despite being without WR Davante Adams and S Morgan Burnett for today's game.

The Prediction
Here it is, gang, the moment you've all been waiting for: our prediction.

While we thought the Packers would easily handle the 49ers last week, things were much closer than expected as the offense just wasn't as in sync as usual. That will have gotten corrected this week. We don't say this will be a blow out. But we do see the Pack winning comfortably.

We're calling it...31-17 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!


Other notes from this last week

Former Packers head coach -- and Coach of the Year in 1989 -- Lindy Infante passed away this last week at age 75 in Florida. Infante coached the Packers from 1988-1991. He was an offensive genius and universally regarded as one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet. RIP, Coach. Read more here.

Safety and special teams standout Sean Richardson was reported to have sustained a second neck injury -- a herniated disk -- which is likely not only season-ending but career-ending. You can read more here about that. We wish the young man well whatever transpires for him going forward. We admired his play.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Packers vs 49ers NFL Week 4 Preview and Prediction

Today's the day, Packer fans, when we learn if the Green Bay Packers have really turned the corner on their two recent nemisises. We know they cleared one hurdle in the win at Lambeau Field over the Seattle Seahawks in the second week of the season; now, we find out if they will finally get past the Colin Kaepernick-led San Francisco 49ers.
Veteran receiver James Jones and rookie tight end Ty Montgomery hope to be celebrating a lot in today's game against the 49ers.
Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Here's what we know
The Packers are 3-0 and the Niners are 1-2. We know that the Packers were 8-1/2-point favorites earlier in the week with the line now at 7-1/2 points. Big whup. Total points projected for this game are 48, the largest set for any game this weekend. One would expect that most of that figure comes by way of the Packers. That's because the scoring for and against each of these teams is quite revealing. The Packers have scored 96 points and allowed 68 over the course of the first three weeks of the 2015 season; the 49ers, on the other hand, have scored 45 while giving up 93.

These numbers sometimes don't mean much. But in this case, I think we can rightly say that as regards the Packers it is a good reflection of how hot the Pack's offense is at the moment behind a clearly dominant quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, as well as how surprisingly good the defense and special teams have also been this season. While still a work in progress, those two units also deserve a lot of credit for the Packers' success so far this season.

As regards the Niners, the points for and against reflect a team with problems on both sides of the ball. These are not the same Niners that have beat the Packers four straight times. Colin Kaepernick had probably his worst game as a pro last week against the Cardinals, getting picked off four times in a blow-out loss. Still, we know what his legs have done and can do against the Packers. Plus, he'll be looking to have a big game resurrection against a team that he's typically been able to have big games against. The Packers will have to hold him in check the way they did Russell Wilson in week two. San Fran does have capable receivers, so if the pass rush doesn't get to Kaepernick, as well as contain him, the Niners will have their scoring opportunities. Defensively, it's not the same group that often caused problems for the Pack in the past either. The Packers offensive line has given up just three sacks in the first three games of the season. They should hold their own once again against whatever the 49ers can bring. A mobile Aaron Rodgers is a dangerous thing for defenses to contend with. Yay for our side.

Our prediction
This is a game in which the better team will exert itself and come away with the win. Who do you think that is? Ten points for you if said "Packers." (Save up those reward points, kids. Not for anything, though, other than the pure joy of you being right. That's a good enough reward, isn't it? Glad you agree.)

We're calling this game in favor of the Packers, 41-24.

Go Pack Go!!!

By the way, be sure to follow us on Twitter @packfansunited. We often Tweet in real-time giving added enjoyment and excitement to your game-viewing experience. It will be spectacular! (Question: can time be anything but "real-time"...or...is that just something we made up, too? Hmmmm...)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Packers take it to Chiefs, 38-28

The final score was closer than the overall tone of the game itself. That's because the Green Bay Packers completely dominated the Kansas City Chiefs last evening at Lambeau Field, going to 3-0 on the season as they notched an impressive 38-28 win.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers sliced and diced the Chiefs all night long.
Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Key to the win was, not surprisingly, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers who put in a masterful peformance. He was 24 of 35 for 333 yards passing, including five touchdowns and, once again, no interceptions. He even had two scrambles for 16 yards and one first down. Rodgers targeted 10 different receivers on the night, with completions to eight. Randall Cobb had three TD catches while James Jones and rookie Ty Montgomery -- in relief of the again-injured Davante Adams -- each caught one TD pass.

The Packers scored early and often in the first half, building a 24-7 halftime lead. And while the offense and Rodgers certainly and deservedly is the talk of the sports shows today, kudos must also be given to the Packers defense and special teams. With a handful of exceptions, Dom Capers' defense -- switching up personnel and schemes often -- completely stymied Kansas City's offense until well into the 4th quarter. Likewise, Ron Zook's special teams -- with the exception of allowing one long kickoff return -- kept the Chiefs from getting untracked by limiting field position most of the game.

DE Mike Daniels and OLB Mike Neal get one the night's seven sacks on Chiefs QB Alex Smith.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Sam Shields had a big interception, and six members of the Pack's "D" racked up seven sacks on KC QB Alex Smith; Clay Matthews accounted for 2 of those sacks. Pressure was constant on Smith. The defense also kept Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles from hurting them too badly; he did score three touchdowns, two coming late, but had just 49 yards on 11 carries, with a long run of 13 yards. This was the third week in a row that the Packers have a faced a top-notch running back. To this point in the season, they've answered the call admirably.

The injuries continue
Davante Adams (ankle), tight end Andrew Quarless (knee), defensive end Datone Jones (possible concussion) and linebacker Jake Ryan (hamstring) all departed the game early; their status for this Sunday's game at San Francisco will be determined as the week goes along, although it's likely Adams will be sidelined a week or more, re-injuring the same ankle as during the Seahawks game a week ago. Quarless took a nasty hit right to his knee after he caught a pass and while his leg was planted. We'll have to see how that goes this week. Jones will have to go through concussion protocols before being allowed back to practice. Ryan was seeing action not only on special teams but in the middle prior to his injury. The Packers were already down four players to injury coming into the game; add these players to that list.

The Packers will, however, get Letroy Guion back following his three-game suspension. That will definitely help the rotation on the defensive line.

Next up: the 49ers
The Packers travel on a short week to San Francisco to take on the slumping Niners. QB Colin Kaepernick had perhaps his worst game as a pro this past Sunday in the team's 47-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. He had four interceptions on the day, including two in his first four passes. Let's hope that poor performance continues this coming Sunday. Packer fans know all too well that Kaepernick seems to have had some of his best games against the Pack. The Niners, however, are not the same powerhouse they once were. Still, on any given Sunday...

The Packers are currently listed as 8-1/2 point favorites over San Francisco. If they keep playing the way they have been through these first three games of the season, this is a game that should take the Packers to 4-0 on the season.

We'll have more as the week goes along.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Packers vs. Chiefs in Week 3 Replay of First AFL-NFL Championship

Well, that's the hook, anyway. The two teams from the very first Super Bowl -- then known as the AFL-NFL Championship -- meet tonight at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI: the Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Well, OK, not those exact teams...that game would really look like a rolling MASH unit. Still, on hand tonight will be quite a few of the Packers who actually played in that first championship game 50 years ago. Imagine that. Fifty years ago.

While that is cool enough in itself, it's history...good history: the Packers won. But our concern is more immediate. What's going to happen with this Monday Night Football extravaganza?
Get ready for a show at Lambeau Field tonight.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Here's what we know about the Packers
We know Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is healthy. That's a good thing. A very good thing. Starting RB Eddie Lacy is "probable" tonight, which is an upgrade from his "questionable" status of a few days ago. That means probably limited action. But James Starks can certainly fill the void, as we saw again last week against the Seahawks. In terms of receivers, Davante Adams is also listed as probable. So, again, perhaps limited action. But that means there are opportunities for other receivers. Plus, the Packers have had a week to game-plan for a reduced role for Adams. The receiving corps didn't seem to miss a beat last week while Adams was out. And let's not forget TE Richard Rodgers, who was not only working at his usual spot but also on occasion out of the backfield. There's plenty for the Chiefs to worry about.

We know we are in good shape with our skill players (note that I can say "our" because I am a Packers shareholder...a-hem), but we may have cause for concern at the tackle positions, particularly on the right side where Bryan Bulaga is still out and Don Barclay will have to take on arguably one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, Justin Houston. On the other side, we saw LT David Bakhtiari get speed-rushed a few times last weekend; he's got to hold up better this week. The Chiefs have a good front seven and can cause problems if the Packers O-line doesn't perform well.

On defense, we know that the Pack will be without S Morgan Burnett tonight. He helped a great deal in terms of secondary toughness last week against Seattle, as well as being the defensive backfield "quarterback." Seems as if the secondary is just not as good when Burnett is out of the lineup. Against a very good opposing quarterback such as Alex Smith, the Pack's secondary has to play more like they did last week than in the opener against Chicago.

The Packers are a work in progress and a bit banged up in the third week of the season, but are 2-0 going into a tough, but winnable game at home against a very good opponent, who themselves may be Super Bowl-worthy when it's all said and done.

What we know about the Chiefs
Since this is an inter-conference game, many Packers fans probably don't follow what happens in KC very closely. The Chiefs are 1-1 and have given up as many points as they've scored: 51. We also know the coach used to be a Packers assistant under Mike Holmgren once upon a time. He had a good stint with the Eagles, but didn't get them to the promised land. In Kansas City, he has a a team with a very good defense, particularly up front, a very good quarterback (Smith) and very good running back in Jamaal Charles when he isn't fumbling away the game as he did last week against Denver. This is the third week in a row that the Packers defense will have faced a top-notch running back. Charles is a versatile back, the kind that has often given the Packers defense troubles. Still, the "D" has done pretty well containing those backs the first two weeks; they'll need to do so again tonight.

Our prediction
The Packers are 6-1/2 point favorites. Many think it will be closer than that, and some even think this is a game the Pack could lose given their emotional expenditure in the win against the Seahawks. But the Packers are establishing dominance at home. Aaron Rodgers hasn't thrown an interception at Lambeau since...2012? Amazing.

The Packers get this win. We're calling it 31-24 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Packers pluck the Seahawks 27-17

It may have been publicly downplayed by Green Bay Packers coaches, staff and players prior to the game, but there's no denying the sweet taste of revenge that comes with the Pack's Sunday night win over the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field. After losing three straight to Seattle, in heartbreaking ways, the Packers finally got their "white whale"...or blue-green birds...whatever.

It was a game where the better team exerted itself and controlled the game, particularly in the fourth quarter. To the latter point, the Packers controlled the ball for more than 10 minutes in the final quarter of the game, scoring 11 unanswered points.

As the Packers went to 2-0 in the division and conference, Seattle fell to 0-2, effectively putting the Pack three games up on their conference rival by virtue of the head-to-head tie-breaker, should it come to that at playoff time. The win was a huge one for the Packers and an equally huge loss for the Seahawks.
The Packers defensive line dominated the Seahawks
Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

While we expect the Packers offense to score points and lead the way (thank you, Aaron Rodgers, may we have another?), it was the Packers defense and special teams which played key roles in the win with unexpectedly strong performances. Outside linebackers generally held contain, while the D-line, anchored by B.J. Raji and Mike Daniels, stuffed RB Marshawn Lynch time and again, holding him to 41 yards on 15 carries. An amazing effort. Seattle QB and former Wisconsin Badger Russell Wilson was the team's leading rusher on the night, with 78 yards on 10 carries/scrambles.

The defense also caused two huge turnovers. Actually, LB Jayrone Elliott was the party responsible for both: he picked off one-handed a screen pass over the middle and then late in the game chased down RB Fred Jackson from behind and caused a fumble. A great night for the young man, who actually was back up to Andy Mulumba.

Packers special teams also are uncharacteristically performing well two games into the season under the leadership of coordinator Ron Zook. They covered well against the Seahawks. K Mason Crosby hit field goals of 54, 18, 44 and 21 yards. In doing so, he passed K Ryan Longwell as the Packers' all-time scoring leader. Congratulations, Mason!

Downsides
While there was much to be pleased with in this game, injuries again reared up to bite the Packers. RB Eddie Lacy was lost in the first quarter to an ankle sprain; there is a possibility -- given the extra day of rest because the Packers don't play until Monday evening against the Kansas City Chiefs -- that he could be available to play. But James Starks carried 20 times for 95 yards as his replacement, proving why Ted Thompson decided to keep him in free agency rather than let him depart. Randall Cobb and rookie Ty Montgomery also got snaps out of the backfield, proving their versatility and how this offense just keeps coming at you no matter what.

WR Davante Adams was also out of the game for a while with an ankle injury, but returned to play. The biggest loss of the night was that of third-year DT, Josh Boyd, who broke his ankle and sustained some ligament damage, as well. He has since been placed on injured reserve for the season; the Packers immediately signed ILB Joe Thomas to the roster spot.

Chiefs up next
Next up for the 2-0 Packers are the 1-1 Kansas City Chiefs. The game will be in primetime on Monday night at Lambeau Field. In keeping with their 1-1 record, the Chiefs have both scored and given up 51 points in their first two games. The Packers, conversely have scored 58 while allowing just 40. The oddsmakers have installed the Pack as 6-1/2 point favorites at this point in time.

Check back with us later to read any updates and be sure to check back closer to game day for our preview and prediction.

Go Pack Go!!!