Saturday, December 24, 2016

2016 NFL Week 16: Packers vs. Vikings Preview and Prediction

All Packers fans want for Christmas is a win over the Vikings today at Lambeau Field. Yes, that's about the best present anyone could wish for this weekend. Because that would set up the New Year's Day contest in Detroit for the NFC North Division Championship and a guaranteed home playoff game. Sugar plum fairies and 12 drummers drumming haven't got anything on that scenario!
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers looks to continue his run
of big passing games against the Vikings.

Photo by Jim Matthews

The Packers look to have a healthier Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and Lane Taylor back today. That will be a boost, as will the continued strong play of RB (no longer receiver) Ty Montgomery, TE Jared Cook, and the Pack's receiving corps. Let's not forget the consistently great play of the Packers' offensive line, as well. They should give Rodgers plenty of time today against a good-but-not-great ViQueens defense.

But perhaps the key today will be the play of the Packers' secondary against Minnesota's offense. Damarious Randall got torched in the first meeting against Minnesota. He's play better since, but was pulled from the game last week against Da Bearz after repeatedly failing in coverage late in the game. The secondary overall was responsible for soft coverage against a lackluster Chicago offense, allowing them back in the game with 17 points given up in the fourth quarter. To be fair, the Packers' pass rush was non-existent, as well. That troubling scenario played out in the first meeting with Minnesota, too, giving then newly-arrived QB Sam Bradford more than enough time to be proficient in his reads and throws, in no small measure leading to the win over the Pack.

Minnesota got embarrassed last weekend against the Colts and no doubt head coach Mike Zimmer has used this as a motivational tool for today's game against the Pack. But if the Packers come out with a fast start and keep the pressure on for a full 60 minutes instead of just 30 or 45, the ViQueens should fold. The Packers are healthier at this point and are ascending at the right time will the 'Queens are going the opposite direction to finish out the season, with virtually no hope of making the playoffs. The absence of RB Adrian Peterson today also doesn't help their chances.

The Prediction
Perhaps a good omen for the Packers -- or at least a bad one for Minnesota -- is the fact that the ViQueens plane ran off the runway at the Appleton airport while taxiing to the terminal last evening. They were stuck on the plane for more than 3 hours. I know: that's a shame. Let's hope for a similarly distressing occurence or two to happen to them today during the game.

The Packers are favored by 7 points at the time of this writing. That should be achievable.

We're calling this game 34-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!! And Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christimas, too!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Packers outlast Bears, Vikings next up

That was quite a game in Chicago wasn't it, Packers fans? Turned out not to be the coldest game in Packers-Bears history after all. Only about the fourth coldest. But it was certainly a hot time on the field from start to finish.

The Packers were able to jump out to what seemed like a "There's...your...dagger!" lead before the end of the third quarter. Behind a 160+ - yard running game by Ty Montgomery, and a solid offensive performance overall (despite two endzone drops by WR Davante Adams which could have really put the game out of reach early on), the Pack built what seemed like a comfortable lead. The defense, to that point, had held Chicago to just 10 points and generated several turnovers.

A 17-point lead should do the trick going into the 4th quarter if Packer squads on both sides of the ball and special teams continue to play for 15 more minutes the way they did for the prior 45. Especially against Da Bearz. But, that Packers' defense which was giving up tons of yardage (isn't that a mixed-measurement metaphor?) and loads of points during the team's four-game losing streak...well, it returned. And in the process, let the Chicago offense, behind QB Matt Barkley, wrack up 17 unanswered points to tie the game 27-27 with only about a minute left in the game. It was maddening.

With no timeouts remaining, what's a team to do? Particularly a team like the Packers? Put the ball in the capable hands and right arm of QB Aaron Rodgers, of course. Just watch.

Yes, Rodgers threw a 60-yard bomb to WR Jordy Nelson who got behind Da Bearz' secondary. In the blink of an eye and now at about the 20-yard line, the Packers had to rush to get all their players to the line of scrimmage. With three seconds remaining, Rodgers spiked the ball. Kicker Mason Crosby came on for the game-winning field goal, which he had to make twice because Chicago head coach John Fox called timeout just as Crosby was kicking the first one. Still, no problem. Final score: Packers 30, Da Bearz 27. It almost made you feel sorry for Bears' fans. Almost. And after 83 years, the total number of wins for both teams in this series is once again tied up, at 94 each. Yowza.

This was also the fourth win in a row for the Packers, to put them at 8-6. With Minnesota at home in Lambeau Field this Saturday and then the final game at Detroit on New Year's Day, the Packers control their own destiny in the NFC North. Win out and they win the NFC North at 10-6 and will host a playoff game. Who would have thought that even possible when the team was mired in the midst of its four-game losing streak? But Rodgers said he thought they could "run the table" and it looks as if he might be right. They are two-thirds of the way there.

We'll be back with our ViQueens preview and prediction closer to game time. So please check back. Or follow us on Twitter (@packfansunited) for any timely updates and witty commentary (on a good day for the latter).

Sunday, December 18, 2016

2016 NFL Week 15: Packers vs. Bears Preview and Prediction

In what might be the coldest meeting ever between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears in their storied rivalry (think about that for a moment), the Packers look to keep their three-game winning streak going at Soldier Field today and, in the process, get to all-square in terms of wins with Da Bearz. Not wins this season, of course. Overall wins. That would be 94 each. Chicago has held the edge for the last 83 years. That ends today.

It won't be easy given the cold and the wind. The air temperature is supposed to be somewhere around zero...a degree or two either way, really, at this stage of things does it even matter? Nope. Throw in what are expected to be wind gusts of 20 to 30 mph coming off Lake Michigan and the wind chill will feel like -30.
Much of the Packers' success today against Chicago will depend
upon how long QB Aaron Rodgers can stay on the field.

Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

While these conditions are tough on one and all, they are especially so for a quarterback nursing both hamstring and calf injuries. That would be Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers had essentially no practice this week as the choice was made to help his body recover as much as possible. But as a sign of possible uncertainty as to how much he might be able to go today -- and, even though listed as questionable on the injury report, make no mistake: Rodgers will play -- the Packers elevated QB Joe Callahan to the active roster. Brett Hundley is the backup to Rodgers. But if something were to happen to him? So, Callahan gets activated and LB Carl Bradford is released to make room.

There are many angles to today's game. But as game time fast approaches (an hour to game time!), we need to get onto the prediction. So here it is...

The Prediction
The Packers are favored by either 4-1/2 or 5-1/2 points depending upon what source you are looking at. Total-points of 38-1/2, the lowest of the weekend, means the pundits are factoring in the weather, as they should. The Packers are finding their game just in time. As long as they play the way they have the last few weeks -- last week in particular -- the Packers should win this game. But adjustments will need to be made for the cold and wind. That means more reliance, one would imagine, on the running game. Da Bearz have a legitimate running back in rookie Jordan Howard out of Indiana. The Packers? Well, we have a receiver-turned-running-back in Ty Montgomery, journeyman running back Christine Michael and FB Aaron Ripowski. Advantage, one would imagine, Chicago in this aspect of the game. But in a quarterback match up between Aaron Rodgers and Matt Barkley...c''s long as he can stay on the field, of course. The Pack's defense is coming into form, finally, and that means good things today. A few turnovers should be there for the taking.

Alright, alright (and a third alright for any Matthew McConaughey fans out there), to the prediction...

We're calling it 24-13 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Packers pluck Seahawks, get ready for Bears

Sunday's 38-10 victory by the Green Bay Packers over the Seattle Seahawks was a thing of beauty. It was a complete, dominating game by the Pack in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams. Oh, and did we mention it was against the Seahawks? Seattle. Seahawks. That makes it extra sweet, doesn't it? Aside from beating NFC North division rivals, and the Cowboys, nothing is really as satisfying these days as plucking the sea birds. No, change that, embarrassing them. This was a loss of epic and historic proportions for this Pete Carroll-led team. In our best Jerry Seinfeld voice: That's a shame.
QB Aaron Rodgers -- and the rest of the Packers -- had Seattle's number Sunday.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Many players rose to the occasion. QB Aaron Rodgers played through the hamstring injury nagging him, as well as a new calf injury he sustained on the third play of the game. His final quarterback rating was just over 150. The offensive line, the receivers, the McGyver'd rushing attack, punter Jacob Schum, coverage was as good a performance as Packer fans have seen in a long time. Oh, and did we mention the interceptions of Seattle QB Russell Wilson? They were plentiful. Wilson hadn't ever thrown that many interceptions in a regular season game.

So while we are still riding high from this big win, we need to balance that with the reality that the Packers, at 7-6, are sitting in third place in the NFC North and have about five teams ahead of them right now in the NFC Wild Card race. They've won three in a row. But it was that four game losing streak that has put them behind the eight ball. The Packers need to win each of their three remaining games beginning with Da Bearz this Sunday in Chicago, then the ViQueens home at Lambeau Field, then finish the regular season at Detroit. If they do that, and the Lions lose at least one of their two upcoming games on the road against either the Giants or the Cowboys, the Packers and Detroit will be playing that January 1 game in Detroit for the NFC North Division Championship. That is likely the only way the Packers can be assured of making the playoffs. Lose one of these three games and, at 9-6, it's very likely the Pack will be packing up (no pun intended) for a long offseason.

Coming up: Da Bearz in very cold Chicago
The Packers have to face a wounded and woeful Bears team in Chicago on what weather forecasters are predicting will be one of the coldest games in recent memory. Temperature forecasts are for around zero degrees, plus winds gusting to 25 or 30 mph creating wind chills far below zero. The wind may very well cause havoc with the Pack's passing game, so the running attack -- spearheaded by receiver-turned-running-back, Ty Montgomery -- will have to certainly carrying its own weight this weekend. If the defense can generate turnovers even half as much as it did against Seattle the Packers should come away with the win. This is no "gimmee" game by any stretch, especially given the expected conditions. And while Bears QB Matt Barkley is serviceable given time in the pocket, he's also no Aaron Rodgers. Keys for the Pack will be getting pressure on Barkley, protecting Rodgers, creating turnovers while having none of their own. Simple, really, isn't it? Easier said than done. But do the Packers must.

We'll be back with our fuller preview and prediction closer to game time. Check back! Or follow us on Twitter @packfansunited for updates. We appreciate it.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

2016 NFL Week 14 Preview and Prediction: Packers vs. Seahawks

We've had this last week, Packer fans, to revel in a two-game winning streak following our victories over Philadelphia and Houston. After you lose four in a row, yeah, two qualifies as a streak. The Packers were able to do what they needed to do, at home in December against the Texans, to get back to .500 at 6-6. No need to rehash that game here and at this point; it's old news by now, right? It was a good -- and necessary -- win.

So, let's get to the game at hand versus Seattle.

The Packers have a couple stats in their favor: (1) the Packers haven't lost to Pete Carrol at Lambeau Field (if memory serves correctly...which is questionable at this point); and (2) Aaron Rodgers hasn't lost a home game in December since 2009 (ditto the previous qualifier). The Packers may also have weather in their collective favor, as the forecast calls for anywhere from 3-5 inches of snow before and/or during game time. Naturally, it could just as easily work against them. Both teams have to adapt and play. You just hope the Packers are a bit more accustomed to this than are the Seahawks.

If the weather is as forecast, that could certainly put a crimp in the downfield passing game of Aaron Rodgers, although you know he'll take a few shots. But with the Pack's seeming emphasis on short dink-and-dunk type passes, that problem may be somewhat negated. A consistent running game would be helpful...and is not really something the Packers have had much of this season. Expect Ty Montgomery to see a lot of the ball, and perhaps even recent former Seahawk Christine Michael, as well.

QB Aaron Rodgers will be challenged on many fronts vs. the Seahawks.
Photo by Adam Wesley/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis.

Defensively, the Packers will be without LB Nick Perry and Clay Matthews will likely be limited. The linebacking corps is going to be challenged. We could expect lots of scheming to try to cover up those potential gaps, including the continued use of Morgan Burnett as a bit of a tweener when needed. Mike Pennel just got hit with a four-game suspension so the defensive line takes a bit of a hit there.

The Seahawks, as Voice of the Packers Wayne Larrivee has contended, are the best team in the NFC right now, possibly the NFL, despite the better record by Dallas, for example. At 8-3-1, they certainly have an edge over the Packers it would seem. QB (and former Wisconsin Badger -- Go Badgers!) Russell Wilson is looking like his old young self again, which means problems for the Packers defense. TE Jimmy Graham is arguably the best tight end in the game today. The Seahawks defense, even with the loss of Earl Thomas, can still cause lots of problems for opposing offenses. They are a tough, smack-mouth squad.

The Prediction
At the time of this writing, the Seahawks are favored by 3 points. The Packers need this game to keep their outside shot at the NFC North Division Championship, or at least the playoffs, alive. We don't feel good about this game, Packer fans. The two teams the Packers have beaten to get back to even are nowhere near as good as Seattle. Neither are the Packers right now, unfortunately.

As much as it pains us to say it, we're calling this 24-17 Seahawks.

Still...Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 04, 2016

2016 NFL Week 13: Packers vs. Texans Preview and Prediction

The 6-5 Houston Texans make their way to what will likely be a snowy Lambeau Field today to take on the 5-6 Green Bay Packers. What to expect...other than the questionable weather, that is? Let's keep this short and sweet, shall we? Or, at least, short. Maybe.

For the first time perhaps in a season-and-a-half, the Packers put together a complete game in all three phases of the game -- offense, defense and special teams -- in their win this past week at Philadelphia. That was the good news. The bad news, or concerning news anyway, is that QB Aaron Rodgers aggravated a hamstring which will likely limit his mobility and LB Clay Matthews sustained a shoulder injury on a wicked blindside block by former Packer Allen Barbre. Both have been listed as questionable for today...but do we really believe they aren't going to play? Not a chance.

With their season on the line now in literally every game, the Packers can't afford to regress to the style of play that they exhibited during their four-game losing streak. Instead, each game must be a viewed as a one-game season. Win. And win. And win. Etc. That's the Pack's only chance of making it into the playoffs: to win the NFC North, probably in a play-for-it-all game on New Year's Day at Detroit, the current division leader.

Packers undrafted rookie cornerback Makinton Dorleant
was activated off injured reserve Saturday and may see action today.

Photo by Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

While the weather conditions today, along with Rodgers' limited mobility, may affect the passing game, it's possible we might see a bit more of recently-signed running back Christine Michael. Head coach Mike McCarthy has been saying that they've been exposing him to more and more of the packages and the weather might just present an opportunity for this "explosive" back (Jordy Nelson's words, when asked to describe what Michael looks like during practice) to help the Packers grind out a victory.

One plus note for the Pack's offense comes courtesy of Houston today: DE Jadeveon Clowney was ruled out by the team because of elbow/wrist injuries. That will make David Bakhtiari's and Brian Buluga's lives so much better; Clowney, when he is not injured and is motivated, can cause havoc for an offense. But...not today. And, of course, Wisconsin's own J.J. Watt is nowhere to be found because of his early season injury. The presence of those two would have really helped the Texans in this game today.

That's not to say Houston's defense can't hold it's own. As Pete Dougherty notes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's preview of the game, "Houston has the NFL's fifth-rated defense...". They have a good pass rush, although not as great without Clowney. The have good linebackers. But given time, Rodgers should be able to exploit enough gaps in the defense to keep moving the ball and put points on the board.

The Pack's own defense, after disastrous outings during the losing streak, will need to stop Lamar Miller, the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher. They will also need to put pressure on the struggling QB Brock Osweiler. If they do so, the possibility for multiple turnovers is there.

The Prediction
The Packers are currently favored by 6-1/2 points at the time of this writing. That seems like a lot given that the Texans currently have a slightly better record than the Pack. While the weather factor should skew to the Packers favor, it will be the first time this team has had to face wintery weather conditions, too. If it impacts the Packers' passing game, the game could become a bit of a toss-up as Houston's running game is better than the Packers.

Still, we have to believe that an Aaron Rodgers-led team is better than a Brock Osweiler-led team.

We're calling it 27-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Packers find lost mojo in 27-13 win over Eagles

With a day or two to reflect upon the Green Bay Packers' 27-13 win Monday night over the Philadelphia Eagles, what are your thoughts, Packer fans? Here are a few from yours truly, in no particular order of importance.

According to prognosticators, pundits and oddsmakers, the win was an upset as Philly was as much as a four-point favorite ahead of the game. Yes, that's how low expectations were for the Pack going into this game. And why not? They hadn't won in a month, were on a four-game losing streak that showed no signs of letting up, and had many opining that this was the season in which Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy crashed the team and, as a result, changes needed to be made after the season's close. The latter may still hold true, although I for one wouldn't bet the farm -- or even a farmette -- on that happening. As Hub Arkush of Pro Football Weekly told 620WTMJ radio in Milwaukee the day of the game, the reputation of both Thompson and McCarthy around the league is that they are one of the best GM-head coach combinations there is. He reminded us that getting to the playoffs even a few years in a row in the NFL is no small feat, and the Packers have been there seven years in a row. Let that sink in, folks. Oh yeah, a couple NFC championship games in there, as well (where arguably the Packers should have won at least one or two more than they did), plus a Super Bowl win. Not bad. But, still, it might be a good time to make some changes; that's this writer's opinion, by the way, not that of Arkush.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was dialed in during
the Pack's win vs. the Eagles.

Photo by Jim Matthews, USA Today Network-Wisconsin

Secondly, and more to the point of the game itself, QB Aaron Rodgers looked like the Rodgers of old. We haven't really seen him this sharp from the get-go to the end of the game for about the last year-and-a-half. He made two remarkable throws to Davante Adams, who made equally remarkable catches on those passes. His other throws, just as good overall. He finished with more than 300 yards passing and a 116.7 passer rating. He also ran effectively to extend drives, at least until a hamstring issue seemed to halt that aspect of his game. But for anyone who had begun to think that Number 12 had lost "it"...he didn't. And by showing that he also reminded folks that as long as he's good to go, so are the Packers. For more on Rodgers' performance, check out this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Let's also give credit to Rodgers' receivers who seemed to be making up for all of their drops during this season. There was also just enough of a rushing game, coming out of multiple personnel formations, to keep the Eagles from concentrating entirely on the Pack's passing attack. Give coach McCarthy credit for designing and executing a great game plan that kept the Eagles off balance all night long.

Credit must also be given to the Packers defense who finally came to play. After being shredded to the tune of historically bad proportions in recent weeks (not hyperbole, fact), they held the previously unbeaten-at-home Eagles to just 13 points. A pass rush was present and apparently the return of Damarious Randall to the defensive backfield gave the Pack enough confidence to take care of business versus Philly's receivers.

The Packers had their backs against the wall going into this game and came out with an energy on both sides of the ball that we hadn't seen in quite a while. It was the closest to a complete-game performance we've seen going back probably to early last season. This despite still having to deal with injuries to key players: JC Tretter, T.J. Lang, Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez, Sam Shields, Eddie Lacy and more. Give the coaching staff credit for creatively using their personnel and getting the team ready to play.

Still, we must also recall that the Packers -- even with this inspiring win -- are still one game below .500 and are two games behind NFC North Division leader Detroit. At 5-6 and with five games remaining, including the final three against division rivals Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit, the Pack can't allow any more games to slip through their grasp. Next up is the Texans at home followed by Seattle also at Lambeau Field. Then it's off to Chicago to beat Da Bearz, back to Lambeau for a Christmas Eve tilt against the ViQueens and then a regular season New Year's Day finale in Detroit. If the Pack can "run the table" as Rodgers predicted prior to the Eagles game, or even come out of these five games at 4-1, it's possible that January 1 game against the Lions could be for the division championship.

That's a long way away. Perhaps overly optimistic. And the Pack's problems aren't necessarily solved by the win in Philadelphia. But there's a glimmer of hope. Each week from here on out requires the same level of performance we witnessed Monday night. Clearly, the Packers are capable of that level of performance, even with all the injuries. It's up to the players to bring it each week. We'll see if they are up to the challenge -- and the reward -- beginning this Sunday against the Texans.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, November 28, 2016

2016 NFL Week 12: Packers vs. Eagles Preview and Prediction

The Green Bay Packers find themselves in Philadelphia tonight for the last of the team's three consecutive games on the road. It hasn't been pretty so far. Actually, it hasn't been pretty for much of the season, whether at home or on the road.

Will things change tonight? We'd like to think so, although the Packers are 1-4 on the road this season which doesn't exactly give one confidence in a positive outcome. Still, the Eagles are sitting at 5-5 with a rookie quarterback who has settled down since his lights-out performance earlier in the season. This is another team that the Packers, on a number of levels, should be able to beat. But that's arguably been true the last two games and we know how those games turned out.

Packers hope to have DB Damarious Randall back after missing 6 games.
Photo by Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

The problems for the Packers are well-documented by now: a decimated secondary that is easy to exploit with no pass rush (which has become a puzzling development in its own right), slow starts by the offense that puts the sieve-like defense on the field more often than we'd like, missed opportunities by skill players, injuries all over the place, no running game, etc., etc. Toss in that some speculate that head coach Mike McCarthy has lost his team while others suggest its time for Ted Thompson to go because of his lack of success in recent drafts and lack of participation in free agency. Yowza! Problems galore.

Counter this existential angst with QB Aaron Rodgers' proclamation that he thinks the team can "run the table" by winning out and still making the playoffs. Whatever is going on behind closed locker room doors, players and coaches publicly believe the Pack is just a play or so away from turning around this disaster of a season.

And, truth be told, if they don't do it tonight we can start looking to next season because this one will be effectively done.

Can the addition of RB Christine Michael along with James Starks provide enough of a running threat to keep Philly from playing only the pass? We don't know. He played well during his stint in Seattle, scoring 6 TDs while there...which, if anyone is keeping track, is 6 more TDs than all the Packers running backs combined have scored this season. Yes, seriously.

With the season on the line for the Pack, what can we expect? Hard to say. And yet, that's we have to do in terms of making a prediction.

The Prediction

The Eagles, despite being arguably no better than the Packers, are undefeated at home this season, which is not something we can say about the Packers. This is a tough one to call as the Pack has shown us nothing in recent memory to believe they can pick themselves up off the turf and actually turn in a winning performance. And yet...something gives me the feeling that they will be able to do just enough to pull off the win. Of course, that feeling could just still be the indigestion from all the Thanksgiving leftovers. A Packers' win will, by the way, also be an upset because Philly is favored by 4 points as of the time of this posting.

We're calling it...27-24 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Packers lose at Washington and other Thanksgiving musings

So, Packer fans...we've had to let the debacle in D.C. pass for a few days before writing about it. You know, the Sunday night fiasco in which the Pack was exposed in ways we didn't imagine were possible. But possible it was...and is going forward, too, with no relief immediately in sight.

Let's look at the reality of it, shall? The Packers' injuries -- which all teams admittedly experience throughout the course of a long season -- have particularly impacted the defense. Hence our witnessing something on the order of a billion points or so being given up during this current losing streak. Well, OK, perhaps not a billion points, but certainly of sieve-like proportions. The result is a secondary lacking coverage speed and teams going deep for huge gains time after time. The linebacking corps has now also been hit, with the real possibility that Clay Matthews may have to slide back inside because of the lack of depth at that position now with injuries to Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez. The lack of pass rush from the defensive line, however, is hard to figure out. It's somewhat inexplicable, although explanations are offered in the form of coaching catch-phrases on the order of "We'll get it fixed." With no pass rush, and the other issues on defense, getting it fixed isn't something we're likely to see any time soon.

As for the offense, it is finally putting up some points. But the slow starts and the playing from behind mode in which the offense has been operating for most of this season also doesn't bode well. The woes on the offensive side of the ball are well documented, chief among them no running game and receivers who fail to get open. Plus there's the Aaron Rodgers question: what is up with Number 12? He's put up some good numbers the last few weeks in losing efforts but something still doesn't seem right as evidenced by the 9-12 record going back through 21 games into last season.

A team that was a pre-season pick to go to and possibly win the Super Bowl, a team that was favored to win every game it would play, this team is now two games behind in the NFC North with six games to go. Making the playoffs seems like an impossibility at the moment; only two teams in the NFC are behind the Packers at this point: Chicago and San Francisco. How's that for a reality check? Ewwww!!! Lot of teams are ahead of the Pack. Winning the division will be the only sure bet to get into the playoffs and anyone who would put his/her money on that happening this season...well, I have some marshland in central Wisconsin I'd like to sell you.

Still things to be thankful for today
Still, it's Thanksgiving. And despite all the woes which the Packers are dealing with this season, this writer, for one, is still able to give thanks that I am a fan of the most-storied franchise in football: the Green Bay Packers. I'm thankful that I am an owner of this team...yup, a shareholder in the only community-owned team in American professional sports. I'm thankful for all the wins, all the great players, all the magical moment. Yes, not too happy at present with the state of things. But we need to take the long view. When we do, we can all say proudly...Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

NFL 2016 Week 11: Packers vs. Washington Preview and Prediction

The Green Bay Packers take on Washington in a little more than an hour from this writing. Will the Pack get back to .500 (5-5) with a win? Or will another wheel fall off and see the Packers go to 4-6 on the season. The oddsmakers are projecting the latter, with the Pack being a 3-point underdog.

Among Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sports writers making projections, three out of four picked Washington.

How are you feeling, Packer fans?

Packers announcer (and Packers Hall of Fame member) Larry McCarren says in his scouting report that he likes the Washington team he sees. He notes they are a better team than the one the Pack defeated last year during their playoff run. They have a decent quarterback in Kirk Cousins, some very good receivers and tight ends who can stretch the field (oh-oh) and a servicable pass rush on defense. McCarren's scouting report also noted that Washington does leave some openings over the middle and in the defensive backfield. So if Aaron Rodgers is able to find open receivers -- a problem for the Packers in recent games, true -- the Packers should be able to hold up in the scoring department. Getting TE Jared Cook back for some plays, as well as newly-acquired running back Christine Michael in the mix in a limited way, may provide a few tools for Rodgers that he hasn't had available in a while.

The big question mark, though, as it has been the last three games, is the Packers defense. Giving up the huge point totals, and with slow starts to boot, has killed this team in each of those games. If that doesn't change tonight, there is not much chance the Pack will come out on top given what we've been witnessing. The defense should get a boost from the suspected return of Clay Matthews. The Packers also signed LB Carl Bradford off the practice squad, releasing TE Justin Perillo to make room on the roster, but if Bradford has to see extended duty tonight you know things are not going well.
OLB Clay Matthews is expected to return
to action tonight against Washington.

Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Prediction
The Packers need this game to stay one game back of both Detroit and Minnesota who each won today and are now 6-4 on the season. They also need this game to restore some of their confidence, individually and collectively. Can they? We hope so. Will they? We don't think so.

Regrettably, we're calling this game 31-24 in favor of Washington.

That doesn't stop us, though, from saying...Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Packers' pathetic performance leads to 47-25 loss to Titans

The 2016 Green Bay Packers hit a new low in a season beginning to resemble that proverbial train wreck we always hear so much about but never really see. Well, we saw it yesterday, Packer fans. Not. Pretty. At. All.

Where do we even begin to dissect this disastrous game that portends a downward spiral for this Packers team unless something dramatically different happens to change the path on which it seems headed? Yes, there were game-ending injuries Sunday to linebacker Jake Ryan (ankle) on the first defensive series of the game, and to tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) and guard T.J. Lang (ankle) later on. Lang may be the worst, as he was seen in the locker room after the game on crutches and wearing an air-boot. Oy. And penalties. Oh, the penalties.

Even the venerable "Voice of the Packers," Wayne Larrivee, when asked what's ailing the Pack had no clear answer this morning on 620WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee. He doesn't think it has to do with the scheme, play-calling or coaching necessarily; as he reminded listeners, it may have more to do with personnel as these same three factors seemed to be doing just fine when the Packers had Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley, for example. So, personnel, albeit with many young and untested players who are now forced to play starting roles because of injuries, is part of the issue right now. All he could say is that in his roughly 38 years covering football he thinks that what really plays a key factor in championship-caliber teams is spirit and emotion. Right now, he's not so sure the Packers have much of that going for them.
Has Packers head coach Mike McCarthy lost his team?
Photo by Danny Damiani/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis

We have to agree with Larrivee on both points. Personnel, and particularly GM Ted Thompson's time-worn (and perhaps worn-out?) approach to building a team through the draft seems as if it works as long as the starters stay healthy. But when you get past the second or third team players -- and we have, in some cases now -- the lack of quality depth shows on the field and on the scoreboard. To Larrivee's second point -- spirit and emotion -- we haven't seen much of that all season, have we? As we have pointed out here on several occasions, the Pack has played two good halves of football all season...and they were in two different games. Everybody seems flat from the get-go, as evidenced by last week's opening kickoff return by the Colts and yesterday's opening offensive play for a 75-yard touchdown run by the Titans. Hello!??? Anybody awake on that field? Doesn't seem so.

How do you get that missing mojo back? Winning would help. But now on a three-game losing streak, and with two more tough road games coming up in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia before returning to Lambeau Field to take on the Texans, is immediate winning even in the cards? As much as it pains us to say it, we don't think so.

Case in point: the green 'n' gold glasses which most Packer fans wear (including yours truly) causes a bit of blindness when it comes to our team. It might be hard to realize but in the last 21 games, the Packers are now 9-12 going back to last season. Nine wins, 12 losses. The problem didn't just start this season. It's got a history. Something deeply rooted in the locker room if not the players' psyches. Perhaps the head coach has lost his team, outworn his stay; legendary coach Bill Walsh is reported to have said a coach shouldn't stay in one place for more than 10 years because things get stale for an organization after a while. Perhaps that's the case with McCarthy. Thompson, too, perhaps.

Of course, no dramatic coaching or front office changes will be made during this season; it's just not the Packers way of doing things. So this so-far dreadful season will play out how it will. Those of a "glass half-full" mentality will point out that at 4-5 the Packers are only one game out of the NFC North lead. Others might respond that that's only because this division pretty much stinks at this point overall. The once invincible 5-0 ViQueens have now dropped 4 in a row. Detroit didn't win or lose because they were on their bye week. Will Da Bearz do anything? C'mon.

So, if by some stretch of the imagination the Packers can turn things around, they do have a chance. But really, where will they go with the current state of injuries, journeymen and otherwise inexperienced players thrust into starting or other key roles, and the palpable lack of spirit exhibited week after week? The Packers will write the final answer to that question. Each one of us can in the meantime have our own conclusion. For Packers beat writer extraordinaire, Bob McGinn, he puts it like this: Packers' season on the brink. How's that for rich brevity?

Having said all that: Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

2016 NFL Week 10: Packers vs. Titans Preview and Prediction

The 4-4 Green Bay Packers travel to Tennessee this weekend to take on the 4-5 Titans in what -- from a record standpoint -- we might call the "Meh Bowl."

In what is the first of the Packers three consecutive road games, the Packers must get a win today despite QB Aaron Rodgers saying he didn't think it was a must-win game. Technically, true. To lose two games in a row to AFC South teams would be...not good. At all.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers need to figure out a way to beat the Titans today.
Photo by Jim Matthews/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

To say the Packers have underperformed to the halfway point in the season is an understatement. Yes, injuries have played their part. But every team has injuries. At some point, you can't blame it all on that. This blog and other media pundits and countless fans on call-in shows have all theorized about what's to blame: lack of player leadership, quarterback mechanics, quarterback girlfriend, lack of a running game (hard to run without any actual running backs available), lack of ability of receivers to get open, lack of coaching, bad play-calling, bad front office personnel get the idea. There's something for everyone to not like about the performance of this Packers team so far this season.

As to what this means for today's game, does anyone really know what to expect? We've seen the Pack arguably play only two good halves of football this season...and that was across two different games weeks apart.

Today, the Packers will have to take on an underrated and, to some, a similarly underperforming team. The Titans have a young, mobile quarterback -- the kind that has given the Packers fits in the past -- in Marcus Mariota. They have a solid running game; third-ranked in the league overall. Not much in the way of receivers, really. A defense that is also middling in performance, and one which -- on a good day -- the Packers offense should be able to take advantage of.

The problem is, we don't know when Rodgers and company are actually going to have one of those good days. If the Packers have RB James Starks and TE Jared Cook back (both were listed as questionable at the time of this post), that may help some, although given both players just coming off weeks of inactivity because of injury (and surgery in Starks' case), we can't really expect much from them. Until the offense shakes itself out of its doldrums, it's hard to project outcomes, isn't it, Packer fans?

Of course, part of this is the Packers defense getting itself back together, too. With the inability to stop opposing offenses late in the game recently, again, we don't quite know what to expect. Although being without OLB Clay Matthews for the third straight week because of his ongoing hamstring problem doesn't help, does it?

The Prediction
As a result of the above unknowns today, this game can be viewed -- unfortunately -- as a toss-up despite the Packers being favored by 2-1/2 points.

As it is, we're calling it...27-23 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, November 07, 2016

Packers lose at Lambeau to Colts, drop 3 of last 4 games

So what do you think, Packer fans? Yeah, me too.

The Green Bay Packers 31-26 loss -- at Lambeau Field -- to the Indianapolis Colts was unexpected; the Packers were 7-point favorites. And the way it happened was embarrassing despite just the final 5-point differential. It was so bad that, likely for fans in the stadium and watching on TV, the highlight of the game was the squirrel dashing around the field. Some might argue that the Pack should have signed him because at least he was able to get open and into the endzone.
The squirrel provided at least a modicum of entertainment to Packer fans
on Sunday who sat through a lackluster performance by their home team.

Photo by Mike De Sisti/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis

The Packers have now dropped three of their last four games, including two losses on the home turf. The game essentially was over after the first 13 seconds, when the Colts took the opening kickoff back 99 yards for a touchdown. Add in another blown coverage -- to the tune of 60-yards+ on the return -- which led to an Indy field goal, and throw in a missed field goal (second of the season by Mason Crosby), and the special teams' overall play, it can well be argued, cost the Packers 13 points...the difference in the game.

To be fair to the special teams players, the defense also failed to dominate a heretofore woeful Colts offensive line that had given up a league-high 31 sacks coming into yesterday's game. The Pack only sacked QB Andrew Luck twice; the Colts, on the other hand, got to Aaron Rodgers three times.

The Pack's offensive woes -- which we thought had been somewhat resolved in the 1-point loss to the Falcons last week -- continued. With no running game, no receivers getting separation on defenders, questionable play-calling especially on third downs (e.g., 3rd and 6 late in the second half and you go deep???), and a generally flat performance overall this offense at the halfway mark of the 2016 season is a major disappointment.

What is ailing the Packers?
That's the question on everyone's mind today. Yes, there are injuries to key players on both sides of the ball. But every team could say much the same. Something else is going on here and it goes back to last season, as we have alluded to in earlier posts. Whether head coach Mike McCarthy and his staff are failing to put their players in position to succeed, whether the players aren't performing at their best for 60 minutes every game, whether general manager Ted Thompson is failing to find players who are difference makers...we don't know. It's probably all of those things. Even Rodgers called out his team after the loss yesterday for the overall lack of "juice" during the game.

At 4-4, the Packers are sitting in third place in the NFC North, just ahead of Da Bearz and behind the ViQueens and Detroit, the latter pulling off an overtime win against said ViQueens to move into second place. The Packers are also sitting in the 8th position in the conference, tied with Philadelphia and New Orleans. The odds of a 4-4 team making the playoffs is possible, but going deep? Not so much. Only one team has made the Super Bowl, if memory serves (which it may or may not), after a 4-4 start.

As the Packers now set off for three straight road games, the loss yesterday was a heartbreaker. Let's just hope it doesn't become a season-breaker, as well.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

2016 NFL Week 9: Packers vs. Colts Preview and Prediction

The Green Bay Packers play their only home game during the month of November today at Lambeau Field vs. the Indianapolis Colts. After today, it's three straight games on the road, continuing the goofy schedule they were dealt this season by the league.

Coming off a 1-point loss in Atlanta to the Falcons last week, the Colts might be what the doctored ordered to get the Pack another home win before starting that tough road stretch.

While the Colts have one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Andrew Luck, they also have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. With the number of sacks they have given up, Luck should be getting hazardous duty pay...oh wait...he's overpaid already...never mind.

The key thing is that Luck should be under steady pressure today from the Packers defense. If the front seven can get regular pressure on him, his group of reliable receivers shouldn't be able to take advantage of the still-wounded Packers secondary. The defense will still have to account for veteran RB Frank Gore, though. While not capable of carrying the ball 25 or 30 times a game like he used to, he can still cause damage if left unchecked, whether running the ball out of the backfield or as a receiver.
Packers WR Randall Cobb is likely out
for today's game against the Colts.

Photo by Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports

On the other side of things, QB Aaron Rodgers returned to form last week despite the loss. With no running game to speak of, the Pack has gone to using receivers out of the backfield when and where possible -- Ty Montgomery should be in the backfield today -- although it's possible we may see more of RB Don Jackson today, too. But the Colts woeful secondary should present plenty of opportunities for Rodgers and his many receivers. Expect a lot of passes again today from Rogers.

One change to the starting offensive line today is that C Corey Linsley has come off the PUP list to replace the now-injured J.C. Tretter. It will be interesting to see how he does given all the time missed in getting into game shape.

The Prediction
The Packers are favored by 7 points at the time of this writing. The over-under points is projected at 53.5, which is the largest total for this weekend's games. In other words, the oddsmakers think there will be a lot of points scored between the two teams, and that the Packers will win. That's a likely scenario. But we also think the majority of those projected points, today, will be going the Packers way. Yay.

We're calling it 34-24 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Packers lose by 1 point in Atlanta

The Green Bay Packers took on the Falcons in Atlanta on Sunday and came up 1 point shy of a tie and 2 points short of a win. The latter -- as any fan will tell you -- is preferable. The game went down to the wire. On some levels, the fact that the injury-ridden Packers were as close to a win as they were was a testament to the players and coaches. But in the end, not even the stellar play of QB Aaron Rodgers and a gallant-but-not-good-enough effort by the defense, was able to pull this game out.

Yes, we had predicted a Packers defeat in our game preview by a score of 34-27; the final score was actually 33-32.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers congratulates
Falcons QB Matt Ryan on the win.

Photo by Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Without any running game to speak of -- even the Plan B running game of wide receivers Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb running out of the backfield was moot as both players were inactive because of injury -- the game rode on Rodgers and his receivers outscoring the Dirty Birds. When you score 32 points, you should win, as some of the Packers defenders admitted after the game. Unfortunately, the defense came up short in that regard. Again, the Packers were down in some instances to playing their fifth and sixth cornerbacks against Falcons starters. To be fair, they did hold All-World receiver Julio Jones in check. But given opportunities for stops and turnovers, the Packers D couldn't make the plays.

What's next?
The Packers will take on the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday at Lambeau Field before then heading out for three straight road contests, including Sunday and Monday night games. Now sitting at 4-3, the Pack need this win at home before dealing with the daunting road schedule.

Luckily (no pun intended), the Colts may be just what the doctor ordered. Other than QB Andrew Luck, the Colts don't have too much going for them right now. The Packers defense should be able to pressure Luck; the Colts offensive line is, frankly, not very good. If defensive coordinator Dom Capers can't develop a scheme to get sacks against Luck it's giving the Colts an opportunity they don't need.

We'll have more on the game against the Colts coming up closer to game time.

For now... Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

2016 NFL Week 8: Packers vs. Falcons Preview and Prediction

For the first time in about a month, the Green Bay Packers hit the road. They take on the high-flying Atlanta Falcons inside the Georgia Dome in the late afternoon game today.

The Packers will be facing arguably and statistically the NFL's number one-rated offense, the number one-rated passer and the number one-rated receiver. They'll be doing so, however, without their own three top-rated cornerbacks. Not ideal in such a match up. Unless the Pack's front seven can get consistent pressure on Falcons' QB Matt Ryan, and the defensive backs can somehow disrupt WR Julio Jones, it could be a long day for the Pack's defense...and the Packers as a whole.

Assuming that that may be the case, the only hope is that the Pack's offense can outscore the Dirty Birds. Certainly that's possible. We've seen the offense click on two occasions this season: against Detroit and Chicago for a half each. Hmmm...odds don't seem great based upon recent history for a game-long shoot-out, do they? Then toss in the fact that, again, Eddie Lacy and James Starks are unavailable, as will be Randall Cobb today, the burden falls to others to pick up the slack. There is newcomer RB Knile Davis and recently promoted RB Don Jackson, as well as WR Geronimo Allison. So, it's entirely possible the Packers could have a long-awaited breakout game with some new players providing the spark. But...
Packers WR Randall Cobb will likely
not be available for today's game vs. Falcons.

Photo by Jim Matthews/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis

This will likely be one of our briefer preview and prediction posts. With the recent rash of injuries and roster changes on the Packers squad, and the general sputtering of the Packers offense, we think the only way to pull out a win over the Falcons today -- who are favored by 3 points at the time of this posting, by the way -- would be to outscore them. This is one of those rare occasions when the odds seem stacked against the Pack: injuries, opponent, road game, lack of consistent play.

We're call this one 34-27 Falcons.

Wish it wasn't so. And hope we're wrong.

Go Pack Go!!!

Breaking late news: it's being reported by Jay Glazer that WR/RB Ty Montgomery is out for the Packers today because of illness. No Montgomery. No Cobb. A sorry injury/availability situation for the Packers becomes worse. Our prediction seems even more likely now. Dang.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Packers take down Bears 26-10

The Green Bay Packers have finally put together two good halves of football this season. OK, they weren't actually in the same game, but still. The first good half, as you may recall, was during the game and win against the Detroit Lions. Thankfully, the second good half came on Thursday evening against the Chicago Bears.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth following the disappointing loss to the Dallas Cowboys the prior Sunday evening. But despite a extremely sluggish first half against Chicago, the Packers offense finally started clicking -- to the tune of a record-setting night.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers lit up the Bears in a record-setting peformance.
Photo by Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis

QB Aaron Rodgers was just shy of 60 pass attempts -- OK, 56 to be exact -- and set a franchise record with 39 completions. For the first time in a long time he had more than 300 yards passing. Davante Adams had a career night, with 13 catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns, just one catch short of tying the franchise record of the legendary Don Hutson. For the first time in Packers history, a receiver had 10 or more catches in the same game for 100 yards or more with 2 touchdowns.

The offense controlled the ball for nearly 40 minutes of the game, and racked up 32 first downs. It was quite a night for the offense.

And that was with missed opportunities. WR Randall Cobb had a chance for two additional touchdowns: one pass was stripped from him in the endzone early in the game as he was bringing the ball in for a completion; the second, later in the game, came when he couldn't get his second foot down inside the back line of the endzone while being forced out by the Bears' defender.

In addition, in a "Well, there's something you don't see everyday, Wilbur" moment, kicker Mason Crosby missed two fields and an extra point.

So...a lot of points were left on the field. This has been a disturbing trend for the Packers this season. In this game, against a woeful Bears offense, and with a dominant Packers defense, those points were not needed to secure the win. But the Pack certainly can't count on that every game.

As for the Packers defense, they pitched a touchdown shutout. Wait...what? say. Clearly a touchdown was scored by Da Bearz. Well, that came on a fumble by Rodgers recovered in the endzone by Chicago. Other than that, the Packers D made a nice return to form following its dismal performance a few days before against Dallas.

The Packers now have 10 days off (from the time of the game) to take a small break and get a bit healthier before they play at Atlanta on Oct. 30. That will hopefully also give the Packers time to integrate newly-arrived RB Knile Davis more fully into the offense.

But it's likely, based on his outstanding performance in the backfield against Chicago, that WR Ty Montgomery will also be seeing his share of playing time coming out of the backfield for a quite a while. That's because RB Eddie Lacy was placed on injured reserve with his ankle requiring surgery the day of the Bears game and James Starks is still a few weeks a way from returning from his knee surgery. RB Don Jackson, who was on the practice squad and promoted to the active roster the day of the game, sustained a left wrist injury on his second carry. Figures, doesn't it?

It's a strange season, indeed. But at least the Packers are 4-2, just behind the ViQueens in the NFC North standings.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

NFL Week 7: Packers vs. Bears Preview and Prediction

Just a few days following a demoralizing 30-16 defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers (3-2) will host the archrival Chicago Bears (1-5) this evening. The Pack will tonight be without seven players, including running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks, as well as defensive backs Sam Shields, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. Shields -- who is still in the league's concussion protocol -- was actually placed on injured reserve to open up a roster spot; he could return in Week 14. Wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, TE Jared Cook, and S Chris Banjo are also out. Wide receiver Davante Adams is listed as questionable.

As bad as it is for the Packers, Da Bearz' injury report is even longer. We wish we could feel bad about that, but given the current state of affairs in Green Bay, we don't. We'll take all the help we can get even if it's a banged-up opponent. Although, we did so hope Bears QB Jay Cutler could have played. That's always a factor in the Pack's favor.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and the offense
must be in sync to beat Da Bearz tonight.

Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Given the condition of both teams, it's likely this game could be mediocre at best. Despite how out-of-sync the Packers seemed on Sunday, they need to somehow find the will -- and the ways and plays -- to beat what is arguably one of the worst teams in the league at this stage of the season.

It used to be the case that after a poor personal performance, QB Aaron Rodgers would light up the following week's opponent. But given the 17-game slump that Rodgers seems to be in in terms of personal performance, we're not sure what to count on any longer. Without a sure-fire running attack to take the pressure off him, play at the level we've seen recently would not be unexpected.

The Packers did finally decide to provide some help in this regard with the acquisition via trade Monday (a trade!!!) of Kansas City running back, Knile Davis. While Davis became expendable for the Chiefs, he might at least fill a temporary need for the Packers. Don't expect much tonight, other than perhaps a few basic plays. But the other option was to keep running wide receivers Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb out of the backfield...which, let's just say no solution and, well, a bit nuts, right? The Packers did have one other option, activating practice squad RB Don Jackson to the active roster. For this game, at least, the Pack will try to make it with Davis, et al. (By the way, Milwaukee Journal Packers beat writer extraordinaire, Bob McGinn, has a great article today about Davis; it's highly suggested reading.)

Depending upon your source, the Packers are currently favored by 7-1/2 to 9-1/2 points. We'd like to think that's how things will roll tonight. But are we confident based upon what we've seen so far this season? Not really.

Still, we need to make a prediction. We're calling it 24-13 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Packers fail to show up against Cowboys

In as depressing a showing as a Green Bay Packers team has had in recent memory, the team fell to the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field 30-16 on Sunday, and go to 3-2 on the season, 2 full games behind the Minnesota ViQueens who had their bye this weekend.

The litany of woes are many: an ineffectual offense which included receivers failing to get separation against their defenders, dropped and missed passes, turnovers, failure to execute in the red zone, miscommunications between coaches and players, and a MVP-level quarterback who essentially has been average at best for the last 17 games; the top rushing defense in the league who got shredded by the top rushing offense and a rookie running back, as well as a depleted Packers secondary who got shredded by a very good rookie quarterback.

It. Was. Ugly. Start to finish.

The Packers have exactly 3 days to somehow get their collective act together before facing Da Bearz Thursday night at Lambeau. Chicago, at 1-5, could be just what the doctor ordered to help right the ship.

But only if the Packers play far differently they played yesterday. Let us pray...

Sunday, October 16, 2016

2016 Week #6: Packers vs. Cowboys Preview & Prediction

Due to power and Internet outages in our area from overnight storms, the posting of this preview and prediction is coming along much later than we'd like. Our apologies. So, we'll do our best to just cut to the chase on this one.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers needs to begin regaining
some of his old form against the Cowboys today.

Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Offense needs to get in gear
This is a "Thanks, Captain Obvious" statement: the Pack's once high-flying offense, led by QB Aaron Rodgers and a top-notch receiving corps, has been rather mediocre despite the team's 3-1 record. The Packers are at or near the bottom on first-down production and Rodgers' completion percentage -- if you can believe it -- is at the bottom of that category league wide. Receivers aren't getting open and, despite great protection from his offensive line, Rodgers seems to have forgotten some of his solid technique fundamentals in favor of operating outside the pocket. As the article today in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by the great Packers beat writer, Bob McGinn, demonstrates, Rodgers seems to be falling from his elite status over the course of the last 16 games. You be the judge. But the article is tough to argue with.

Part of the problem today might be a limited Eddie Lacy at running back. He was off to a great start last week against the Giants before suffering an ankle injury. He will apparently play today, but that heavily-taped ankle will likely hinder his effectiveness. Also, James Starks will not be available today or for the next several weeks. A report this morning by Jay Glazer stated that Starks had knee surgery this very morning. No specifics as to the nature of the injury or timetable for return. The only other running back the Packers have is on the practice squad and was not made active for this game. So if Lacy can't go, look for Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery to operate out of the backfield. Not...ideal. It puts more pressure on Rodgers, which in the days of yore might have been no worries. Now...we don't know. If they can replicate their first half performance against the Lions for a full 60 minutes, great, the Pack should emerge with a victory. If not...?

Rushing defense vs. rushing offense: who will win the day?
The angle to this game that has been played up by the national sports media is that of the Packers' number one rushing defense vs. the Cowboys' number one rushing offense. According to the pundits, the 'boys have perhaps the best offensive line in the game right now. The Packers have a dominant front 7 opposing them. If the "D" can hold the Cowboys' rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott in check, and put an effective pass rush on rookie QB Drew Prescott, the Packers should be able to score enough points to win this game.

Our prediction
At the time of this writing, the Packers are favored by 5.5 points. We think it might be more of a slugfest than that.

We're calling it 23-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Packers come up bigger than Giants

OK, I know. That headline was a bit cheesy. Ooops! There's another pun. Get it?


It's about all that can be mustered in light of the Packers 23-16 win over the New York Giants Sunday night at Lambeau Field. What started out in a very promising way -- offensive rhythm, running game, defensive toughness -- wound up being a rather ho-hum victory. I know, I know. No victory in the NFL is either easy or mundane. It's just that many Packer fans, including yours truly, are waiting to see a complete game from this team on both sides of the ball. We do see a dominant defense, no denying that, at this early stage of the season. With the return this week of defensive lineman Mike Pennel from his four-game suspension, the front line of that defense will get even tougher for opposing teams. Gotta like that.
Second-year CB LaDarius Gunter celebrates
after breaking up a pass intended for Giants receiver Victor Cruz.

Photo by Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis

The other part of the defense on display was the depth in the secondary. Despite missing their two starting cornerback, the Packers young D-backs prevented the potentially high-flying Giants passing game from making big plays, let alone breaking big plays. Their only touchdown catch of the night came in the waning moments of the game which, admittedly, did tighten things up for a bit. Not only on the scoreboard but in Packer fans' stomachs, as well.

Offense had its moments, just not enough of them
Things were tighter than they needed to be throughout the game and down the stretch because the Packers just couldn't seem to get unstuck, on offense or special teams. Offensively, the game could have nearly been put away early except for an illegal shift call on WR Davante Adams that negated a great throw by Aaron Rodgers and catch by Randall Cobb resulting in a touchdown that would have put the Pack up by 14-0 late in the first quarter. (Whew! Long sentence. Sorry about that.) Instead, an interception followed and led to the Giants putting a drive together and getting on the board with a field goal to make it 7-3 early in the second quarter.

While the Packers seemed to dominate the game, especially in the first half in terms of time of possession, and through the powerful running game of Eddie Lacy, there were just enough misfirings by Rodgers, drops by his receivers, and penalties to always seem to keep the Giants in striking distance. Add to this that the new Packers punter averaged under 36.5 yards per punt for the game with a long of just 42 yards. The result was generally always good starting position for the Giants, often past their own 40. Special teams coverage by the Packers also didn't help; there were a number of broken tackles by Giants returners which added to their field position advantage.

Be all that as it may, the Pack came away with the win they needed. With Minnesota atop the NFC North -- and the only still undefeated team in the NFL -- the Packers can't afford to drop behind by losing games they should win.

Which brings us to Sunday's game at Lambeau versus the Cowboys. Is that a game the Pack should win? Needs to win? (OK, dumb question that. Never mind.)

The 'boys are playing well behind their rookie quarterback and running back. We'll look at this game as we get closer to game time. Please keep checking back. We appreciate it.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

2016 Week #5: Packers vs. Giants Preview & Prediction

Following their Week 4 bye, the 2-1 Green Bay Packers host the 2-2 New York Giants tonight at venerable Lambeau Field. Rested and ready to go after an unusual early season schedule -- actually, the entire season schedule is a bit odd, isn't it? -- the Packers get some of their key players back. Among them, Letroy Guion will rejoin a defensive front that has been more than holding its own in his absence. His addition back into the rotation tonight (plus the return of Mike Pennel who comes off suspension this next week) will make an already very good defense even better. CB Sam Shields, however, will still be out for tonight's game, as will TE Jared Cook, who was injured in the Lions game. CB Damarious Randall was listed as questionable at the time of this writing. What might that mean for tonight?

On offense, the Giants have a "running-back-by-committee" approach to their ground game, with three capable running backs to move into rotation as the game demands. The receivers, led by current head-case Odell Beckham Jr., can create problems for an undermanned or mediocre secondary. QB Eli Manning can certainly do some damage when given time. He didn't have that luxury in the Giants last game at Minnesota. But he is 2-1 at Lambeau Field, including playoffs, 4-3 overall versus the Packers. In his last four games against the Pack -- including the 2011 playoff win -- Manning has had a pair of 330-plus-yard games, three three-TD games, and a cumulative 104.9 passer rating. Yeah...can't let him have that type of game tonight. Keep pressure on him, make him uncomfortable, and turnovers will be the outcome.

LB Clay Matthews and the rest of the Packers defense
will need to put pressure on Giants QB Eli Manning all evening.

(Photo: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Defensively, reports indicate that the Giants may be without three starters in their defensive backfield. That would seem to bold well for the Packers passing game, which finally found itself in the first half of the Lions game. The Giants pass rush is one which the Packers should be able to handle, with all due respect to Jason Pierre-Paul.

McCarthy vs. McAdoo
There's a great story in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Tom Silverstein about the task facing former Packers assistant coach and now Giants head coach Ben McAdoo. The fact that both head coaches know one another's tendencies is part of the game story. Seems as if the advantage would go to McAdoo, though, as he also knows very well the Pack's personnel on both sides of the ball, as well as the various schemes used. Still, McCarthy has the head coach tenure advantage: McCarthy's been there. But beyond that...? Might be an interesting chess match played by the coaches. But the bottom line is that the players still play. Advantage: Packers.

The Prediction
The Packers are currently favored by 7 points. That always makes me nervous as it seems in recent times the Packers don't always do well when they are favored by such a spread. The over-under, for those who pay attention to such things, is listed as 48.5 points.

We think that playing at Lambeau, following a bye week for the Packers and a second straight week on the road by the Giants (and on a "short" week at that), the personnel, and whatever intangibles you ascribe to a Sunday night game, the Packers will emerge victorious. Given that the ViQueens remain unbeaten after trouncing Houston today, the Packers can't afford to drop a game further behind in the division. They need this game.

We're calling it 34-24 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Packers hold on to beat Lions

With apologies to Charles Dickens...It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The Green Bay Packers 34-27 victory Sunday over the Detroit Lions was a tale -- if not of two cities -- of two halves.

The Packers' offense was on fire in the first half. When QB Aaron Rodgers plays with a chip on his shoulder, he always has a big game. Ka-ching! You can read about his performance elsewhere if you didn't see it in person or on TV. Ditto for Eddie Lacy who rushed for more than 100 yards for the first time in a long time. Jordy Nelson seems to be getting back into Jordy-shape.
Packers D-lineman Mike Daniels was pressuring
Lions QB Matt Stafford all game long.

Photo by Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis

The Packers' defense, despite being down five starters, was able to hold on long enough to prevent what would have been a historic collapse.

The Packers were able to get done Sunday something that they didn't get done all last season: beat an NFC North Division opponent at Lambeau Field. Yay. As such, they are able to go into this very early -- but very needed -- bye week with a 2-1 record...which, by the way, was exactly the record we said (in our preseason preview/prediction) that the Pack would have through the first "quarter" of this NFL season.

The Packers need the bye to get a lot of players healthy for what will be a very long haul from here to the playoffs and the Super Bowl run. Within the division, Minnesota's defense and what seems so far to be a rejuvenated Sam Bradford at quarterback are the obstacle to winning the division. But the Packers have the depth and the talent to go far, if they stay healthy.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

2016 Week #3: Packers vs. Lions Preview and Prediction

The injury bug is hitting teams throughout the NFL early in the 2016 season; some players are out for the season, others for a few games, others perhaps just a game. The latter is the case and cause for concern today with the Green Bay Packers as the season opener at Lambeau Field versus the Detroit Lions is set for kickoff.

As of the time of this writing, Clay Matthews and Morgan Burnett are reported to have both been declared out after the Packers completed their final practice of the week on Saturday morning. Not helpful. Of course, we know that Sam Shields is also still out because of the NFL's concussion protocol; he won't see the possibility of playing time until after the bye week.

Oh, wait...there's more: Letroy Guion and Datone Jones have also been downgraded from questionable to doubtful, meaning the chances of them playing against the Lions is...not great. So, in case you're counting, that's five defensive starters who will not be playing. Ouch.

Wasn't it suppose to be the Lions that had health issues? So much for that notion. Well, OK, they'll be missing some players, too. And we don't have to worry about WR Calvin Johnson any longer. But enough about the Lions.

Aren't we worried about the Packers offense? The one which has seemed pretty out-of-sync for the first two games? Yeah. And now we have to worry about the defense, too? Oy.

The Prediction
We're going to keep this post short and sweet. The Packers are currently favored by 7 points, with the total points listed at 47.5, the second-highest of the week. So oddsmakers are figuring on a fair amount of scoring with the Pack coming out on top comfortably. How do you feel? Yeah, us too.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Head Coach Mike McCarthy
are hoping the offense gets in gear against the Lions.

Photo by Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

But it's the home opener. QB Aaron Rodgers should have a chip on his shoulder after two mediocre games (or more, going back to next season if we're honest about it). The offense needs to get on the same page and start doing what everyone knows they are capable of doing. Especially on a day when the defense -- with all its missing parts -- might be in need of the offense scoring regularly in order to stay in the game.

We're calling it 24-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Packers underachieve in loss to Minnesota

Now that we've had a few days to process Sunday night's 17-14 loss to the ViQueens in the new (fill-in-the-blank-name) Minnesota stadium, what do we understand? Probably, not much. We know what we saw, which was a Green Bay Packers team really out-of-sync. With plenty of opportunities to win, an ineffective offense -- including an erratic and fumble-prone Aaron Rodgers -- and a defense that gave up big pass plays throughout the game, the Pack just couldn't get it done.

The Packers made new Minnesota starting QB Sam Bradford look like an MVP. He certainly played better than Rodgers, who has now gone 14 straight games with a passer rating of less than 100. Yes, as Michael Wilbon on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption will remind us, Rodgers has started seasons slowly before. True. But something seems amiss in Mr. Rodgers neighborhood right now, something that goes beyond slow season starts. His mechanics look off. We're not the only ones who think so; check out this article in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel which goes into a good deal of detail on the state of the un-Rodgers-like Rodgers.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers trying to find some rhythm vs. the Vikes.
Photo by Jim Matthews/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis

In addition to Rodgers' woes, the formula for the loss was questionable play-calling by head coach Mike McCarthy (including passing up a chip shot field goal in the 3rd quarter to tie the score), questionable wide receiver usage (over-use of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb to the exclusion of other receivers), and under-utilization of the running game. Play-calling seemed uncreative in the extreme. Contrast this with some of the calls made by Eagles head coach (and former Packer) Doug Pederson last night vs. Chicago using a rookie quarterback. He was unpredictable...which is not an adjective which could probably be easily applied to the Packers right now.

Defensively, Bradford was given far too much time to stand in the pocket and find his receivers. With RB Adrian Peterson being held in check prior to leaving the game with a leg injury, the Packers defense just couldn't hold Bradford or his receivers in check. If the purple-clad receiver happened to be covered by Damarious Randall -- who had a very good game in the season opener vs. Jacksonville -- he would generally either be open or benefit from a pass interference penalty. Not a good night for Mr. Randall.

The final score was 17-14...close. But yet, it felt both as if the Packers could have won this game and, on the other hand, the Pack was lucky to have the score be that close in the end. It was a very odd game. We had called it 20-17 in favor of the Packers in our preview and prediction post. We figured it would be close. Didn't figure on Bradford having his way with the Pack's defense or the Pack's offense being a study in ineptitude on this particular night.

The Packers have a lot of work to do. Luckily, they now get an extended stretch at home in Lambeau Field to try to get things together. Let's hope they do so beginning this Sunday vs. the Lions. 2-1 going into the early Week #4 bye will feel a lot better than 1-2. A lot better.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

2016 NFL Week #2: Packers vs. Vikings Preview and Prediction

Packers fans, game time is fast approaching and neither you nor I have much time right now. We usually provide a fairly comprehensive preview of all the particulars that could affect this game between the Pack and ViQueens in their season and new stadium home opener. But...we'll have to suffice with nothing but the essentials.

The Prediction
Minnesota will have a lot of energy on its side: home opener, stadium opener, Packers as the opponent. And if you read Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Packers reporter extraordinaire Bob McGinn's column today you may have a sinking feeling even before any team takes the field. Some really horrible things have happened to the Packers in Minnesota over the years. Let's hope this new stadium starts a stretch of really good things happening.

That's what we're counting on tonight. We're counting on the Packers correcting some of the problems they had in Jacksonville. They'll need to offensively against a top-notch ViQueens defense. And the Packers will need to crank up the defense against what we expect to be a Sam Bradford-led Minnesota offense. If the Packers can hold RB Adrian Peterson in check and force Bradford to try to beat them, it will go in the Packers favor. Peterson is the key. A-duh.

The Packers are favored by anywhere from 1-1/2 to 3 points depending upon source.

So, long story shorter than usual...we're calling it Packers over ViQueens 20-17 in a hard fought game that will probably go down to the wire. Although we hope not.

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Packers down Jaguars 27-23 in season opener, look ahead to Minnesota

So, Packers fans...what do you think of the team's season-opening win? Was it a bit of a "Whew!" feeling at the end? Oh, yeah. But it was a win, albeit one which came down to the defense's only 4th-down stop of the day. Better late than never.

As we said in our game preview and prediction, "Expect some rustiness, some blown plays, and probably more penalties than we'll see later on in the season." Yes, it was all of that, although more so for the first two than the latter.

Rustiness exhibited itself from the start when it took a while for QB Aaron Rodgers and WR Jordy Nelson to get back on the same page; but they did. Blown plays exhibited itself on several key occasions, admitted to by Rodgers, when miscommunications at the line on two occasions perhaps caused the Packers to miss two touchdown possibilities. On one play, the line (or at least a portion of it) blocked in the opposite direction from the run. On another, half the line thought the play was a pass and the other a run. Not. Good.

Then there was the late 4th quarter fiasco when the Packers just needed to get some first downs and run time off the clock. They wound up having to call a timeout because players couldn't get lined up properly. After the timeout, there was confusion as to who was supposed to actually be on the field for the play. Rodgers called a second time out. But guess what? You can't call two consecutive timeouts. So, the Packers were assessed a 5-yard penalty. The result a play or so later was having to punt, which resulted in the only mediocre punt of the day for new punter Jacob Schum.

Sloppy? In the extreme. But, again, first game stuff. Fortunately, the defense was able to make a stop when it mattered most. End result: victory for the Packers 27-23 over the Jaguars. We called it 27-20 in our preview and, not bad, eh?

The play of the game: the Packers defense stops Jacksonville on 4th-and-1 in the final seconds of the game, preserving a victory.
Photo: Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Lane Taylor does his job
After the surprise cut of Pro Bowl left guard Josh Sitton, many were left to wonder how this would all work out now that fourth-year pro Lane Taylor was named the starter. Well, at least for this first game, Taylor proved he could handle the job. He was solid, as expected, on run blocking and with one possible exception also held up while pass blocking. So far so good.

Secondary needs to tighten up
Our game preview stated that the secondary would likely be the strength of this defense. We still believe that. But in this first game? Not so much. The secondary gave up big plays all day long, with receivers in many instances wide open. Now, let's be honest: the Jags receivers are good. Two each had more than 1,000 yards receiving last season. Plus, QB Blake Bortles can certainly do damage when given the time. It is an explosive offense and, for that reason, some felt this could have been a game the Packers could lose. After all, it was on the road, against this explosive offense, and in the heat and humidity of Florida. The Pack not only overcame all that but their own blunders, as well. That bodes well for the future.

Next up: the ViQueens in their home and stadium opener
Minnesota asked to play the Packers in the first regular season game in their new stadium. Remember that old adage: Be careful what you ask for? Let's hope that comes true Sunday night. We're guessing it will. Make no mistake: the Vikes have an excellent defense. In fact, it was in large measure due to the defense's two scores on Sunday that Minnesota emerged victorious in its game on Sunday. With the loss for the season of QB Teddy Bridgewater, the quarterback situation is a bit unsettled. Veteran Shaun Hill played Sunday. But it's possible the Pack may see Sam Bradford under center. That doesn't matter. The game plan should be to hold RB Adrian Peterson to as few yards as possible (a-duh!) and force either King or Bradford to beat you.

The Packers are currently 2-point favorites over Minnesota. Let's hope it's not that close. Just remember how you felt about that 4-point victory of just a few days ago. Yowza!

We'll post our game preview and prediction closer to game time.

For now, we'll just close with the breaking news that LT David Bakhtiari has reportedly signed a four-year contract extension with the Packers. To which we say: Yay!