Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mike and Ted's Excellent Adventure

On this final day of 2008, it is a time for reflection.

OK...enough of that. Let's get on with it.

For the 2008 Packers, 2008 was definitely an adventure. It began, as we recall all too well, with the soap opera that became the Brett Favre retirement - non-retirement fiasco. As it turned out, it sure looks as if Packers GM Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy made the right call in establishing Aaron Rodgers as the quarterback for the future. He performed well in his first year, better than many if not most expected. And Ol' #4 did a fade at the end of the season for the Jets. He cost the Jets a playoff spot and cost the Packers a second round draft pick. We love the guy, but Mike and Ted made the right call on perhaps the most important personnel move they will ever make.

As to how the 2008 season ended for the Packers, not great. Disappointing in so many respects. We all know the gory details and no need to belabor them at this point.

But as to what might lie ahead, you might be interested to hear some of what Thompson said as the guest on last night's episode of the Mike McCarthy Show. You can read all about it here. Bottom line: don't expect Thompson to change. And, perhaps, where teams, owners and general managers around the league often seem to be flailing about with no direction, at least we know where this ship is going. We had rough waters to navigate this year, no doubt. But Thompson and McCarthy both seem to believe in their program.

We'll see what next year brings. My guess is it will be a heckuva lot better than this season. That won't take much, granted. But still...

Happy New Year, Packer fans! Here's to a super 2009 season!

Monday, December 29, 2008

2009 Packers schedule

There aren't many perks when you go from a 13-3 team to 6-10 in the span of a year. One, however, is the schedule. The 2009 schedule, at least on paper, is much easier than the one the Packers had to navigate this season.

For starters, of course, there's the home and away games against the NFC North Division opponents: the ViQueens, Da Bearz, and the lowly Lions.

Other home games will be versus Dallas (9-7), Baltimore (11-5), Cincinnati (4-11-1), San Francisco (9-7) and Seattle (4-12). Away, the Packers will play Tampa Bay (9-7), Pittsburgh (12-4), Cleveland (4-12), Arizona (9-7) and St. Louis (2-14).

These upcoming opponents have a composite record of 109-146-1 this season for a winning percentage of .428. Contrast those numbers with the opponents we played this year: a composite record of 129-127 for a winning percentage of .504.

So, looking ahead should be a source of optimism. It always is this time of year...especially when we just want to put this past season behind us.

Draft picks
One of the other perks of a mediocre record, of course, is a high draft pick. Based on the final season standings, the Packers will have the #9 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. The last time we had a single digit pick was a few years back at #5 when Ted Thompson selected LB A. J. Hawk. Based on Thompson's well-known tendencies, he could very well trade that pick to acquire more picks later on. On the other hand, if there is a player there that he feels could make an immediate impact, Thompson could very well find himself with a quality defensive lineman...which is certainly something the Packers are in dire need of for next season.

Take a look at's mock draft to see what they come up with (for some reason they have the Pack at #8 instead of #9...but take a look around and you'll get the scoop on some got possibilities for the D-line.

Yes, it's early. But what the heck else have we got to do between now and mid-April?

Oh, by the way, by virtue of the fact that the Jets missed the playoffs, the Packers will get a 3rd round pick as part of the payoff for the Favre trade.

NY media blasts Brett

Ya ever wonder if Ol' #4 ever regrets his decision not to stay in Green Bay? Or to just take the $20 million on the table the Packers offered to make appearances once in a while?

While Wisconsin media could be critical, it was never brutal. Brett, you ain't in Wisconsin any more.

Welcome to New York media's parting shots. Beginning with Bob Glauber of Newsday: "...he (Favre) provided more proof that he is finished as an NFL quarterback. With one touchdown pass, three interceptions, a 45.1 rating and a damaged throwing shoulder, Favre had only two TDs and nine INTs in his last five games. After getting to 8-3 with impressive road wins over New England and Tennessee, Favre lost four of them, and was fortunate that he didn't lose all five." Glauber adds, "He's (Favre's) done, people. Finished. Had the Jets had any foresight, they'd have concluded the same thing before trading for him in August instead of wishing upon a star and pulling the trigger on a deal that left Pennington free as a bird and bound for Miami."

As they say in the commercials, but wait...there's more: "Favre said he'll take the next few weeks to decide whether he wants to come back next season. But what's to decide? He is 39 years old, has a bum shoulder and ended just like the aging quarterbacks before him...for three of the last four seasons, he has been a descending player, and this year, he bottomed out. Given Favre's 22 touchdown passes, his NFL-worst 22 interceptions and his aching shoulder that could very well require surgery, it is time for the Jets to move on."

In the New York Daily News, Ohm Youngmisuk, writes: "Unfortunately for Favre and the Jets, what started out as a marriage made in heaven in August ended in heartbreak and bitter disappointment. Favre threw three costly interceptions, hurt his ailing arm even more and was outplayed by Chad Pennington in a 24-17 loss to the new AFC East champion Miami Dolphins Sunday."

Brian Costello of the New York Post, says: "The (Jets) season was lost on the suddenly ancient arm of Brett Favre...". There's still more, of course: "The 39-year-old was intercepted three times, bringing his season total to 22. After the second, an inexplicable screen pass that defensive end Philip Merling returned 25 yards for a touchdown, Favre looked hurt. He moved his arm in a circle, trying to drain some final drops of magic out of that right arm. Jets fans booed him as he returned to the field, an ugly end to the trade that seemed like a dream fit that August night in Cleveland. Favre's time with the Jets seems destined to end in an MRI tube today, instead of holding the Lombardi Trophy in a month like so many fans dreamed. His finale was a dud. Favre finished with a quarterback rating of 45.1, completing 20 of 40 for 233 yards and one touchdown to go with the three picks."

Yet, in post-game interviews yesterday, Brett said he didn't know if he was going to retire yet. Depended on the results of the MRI he was having today. He still is telling the media -- and trying to convince himself -- that he didn't regret going to New York this season because they "wanted" him. In the Daily News article, Favre says, "I felt like I was wanted. When I look back at it, whether I play or not, I can honestly say that I'm glad I made the decision to come here and play."

Really, Brett? Really???

You had the chance to go out at near the top of your game, in the NFC Championship Game, loved by millions of Packer fans and other admirers all over the country. Instead, because of a clash of egos, you wanted to prove something. You wanted to prove that you could still work the magic and carry a team on your arm. To your credit, it wasn't about the money as it is with so many professional athletes. It was about pride. Which is fine, to a point. But what's that saying? With pride comes the fall. You fell hard this season, hurting both your reputation and probably your shoulder in the process.

You should have retired as a Packer last year, Brett. And deep down, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself or others that you're glad you made the decision to go to New York, you know you should have retired. Some of that august New York media corps knew that then. But now, they are all saying it.

Sure, you'll be in the Hall of Fame soon, the NFL and Packer versions. Your jersey will be retired as a Packer and your name will no doubt go up with the other legends inside Lambeau Field. All as should happen. But there's a bit of a tarnish on things that didn't need to be there.

It's a shame. You didn't need to go out this way. You didn't need to go out in New York where now they can't wait for you to leave.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Packers win 31-21!

It wasn't pretty. And the Lions didn't fold. But the Packers were finally able to put the Lions in the record books as the first team with an 0-16 record by beating them 31-21.

The Pack scored 17 points in the final quarter while holding the Lions to a sole touchdown.

The first score of the 4th quarter came early on a 36-yard field goal by Mason Crosby to put the Packers up 17-14. About 5 minutes later, the Pack went up by 10 on a 5-yard TD catch by FB John Kuhn, making the score 24-14.

But as so often has been the case this season, the Packers gave up their newly-found momentum quickly. It took the Lions only about a minute to go 80 yards for a TD to pull back within 3 points, at 24-21. It came courtesy of two big pass plays, including a blown coverage. Once again, it looked like the defense might collapse and give away a victory.

But on the Packers' first play after the ensuing kickoff, Aaron Rodgers hit a wide open Donald Driver on a rainbow 71-yard TD pass to put the Pack back up by 10, 31-21.

There were a number of nervous moments in the following 7 minutes of the game. One real turning point was on a Detroit drive when Lions rookie RB Kevin Smith was flagged on the Packers' sideline for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. That put Detroit in a 3rd and 4th and 28 situation from which they could not recover. In fact, Nick Collins got another pick -- matching Charles Woodson's 7 -- to essentially seal the deal with a little over 2 minutes remaining. The Packers never gave the ball back after that.

A few high water marks occurred in this game. Rodgers threw for more than 4,000 yards this season. Since 1970, he is only the second quarterback to have done that in the same season as his first career start; the only other to have done so was Kurt Warner. Rodgers threw 3 TDs on the day, putting him at 28 for the season versus 13 interceptions...a pretty darn good season by any measure. Donald Driver, for the fifth straight season, had more than 1,000 yards in receptions. Ryan Grant rushed for 106 yards today, taking him over 1,200 for the season. DeShawn Wynn also finished with 106 yards rushing today, with 73 of those yards coming on his first quarter TD run.

The Packers didn't play a great game by any stretch of the imagination. But we got the win. The fact that the Lions were in it so late was not only a tribute to them but also a real reminder of all the glitches the Packers need to address in the offseason.

There is no reason this team should be 6-10 and packing up their lockers.

Except themselves.

End of 3rd quarter: Packers 14 - Lions 14...Yikes!

As noted in my halftime post, the Pack had been doing just enough to keep Detroit in the game. The Pack, I said, was one play away from having Detroit right back in it. And that's what happened early in the 3rd quarter. Following a punt that was fair caught at the 10-yard line, Ryan Grant fumbled at about that same spot when he was upended by the tackler. A few plays later, Calvin Johnson carried the ball into the endzone after a short pass reception to tie the game at 14 each.

There ya go, Packer fans. That's so emblematic of the season.

But to be fair, the Lions certainly didn't mail this one in. In fact, they seem to be playing with a lot more energy and enthusiasm than the Packers.

The Packers had a big pass play to Greg Jennings go for naught when the offense again stalled out. They went for it on 4th down and again failed to convert.

Later in the quarter, Grant broke a big run, was tackled but got up and continued running to the endzone. After a conference by the refs, they said he had scored a TD as he was never down. Detroit immediately challenged the call. One replay angle seemed to show that at least part of Grant's backside was indeed on the ground. And that's what the decision finally was. It wiped out an 80-yard TD run and put the ball back at the Packs'41-yard line. It's the way it's gone, Packer fans. Interestingly, it was the first opponent's challenge that was won all season. Dang.

The Lions have the momentum. And if the last five losing games for the Packers are any indicator...well...let's hope there is some bit of Packer pride left on this team and they figure out a way to beat these pesky Lions. The Lions had said this was their Super Bowl. And they are playing like it, to their credit.

The quarter ended with the Packers driving deep into Lions' territory.

End of 1st half: Packers 14 - Lions 7

The Pack allowed the Lions to stay close by giving up a TD on a short fade pass to Calvin Johnson early in the second quarter.

This has been the Packers bug-a-boo -- or at least one of them -- most of this season: dominating a game but allowing the opponent to be within sniffing distance. The Pack should be up by more than 7 against this Lions team. But they aren't. And it gives the Lions hope.

Honestly, it also puts the Packers in the position they have been in so often this season: where one miscue on offense, defense or special teams puts the other team right back in the game with a chance to win. And, more often than not, when that has happened this season, the Packers have come up on the short end of things.

They cannot allow that to happen with this game. One would hope that coach McCarthy makes that clear at halftime.

One of the oddities at the end of the half was a free kick for a 69-yard field goal attempt by Mason Crosby. Will Blackmon had called a fair catch as time wound down to zero. After the head ref called both teams back onto the field -- they were all headed to the locker rooms -- the Pack lined up for the free kick. Crosby's attempt was just short of being a 3-pointer. He had it right on line, but probably came up about a yard shy of the crossbar.

End of 1st quarter: Packers 14 - Lions 0

If a fast start was what the Packers wanted -- and it was -- they got it. Although it didn't look as if that was the case on their opening possession of the game.

After getting a roughly 47-yard kickoff return by Jordy Nelson to set the Pack up inside Lions territory, and then moving the ball a bit, QB Aaron Rodgers had the ball slip out of his throwing hand as he went to pass. Fortunately, the Packers recovered the ball...back in their own territory. This set up a 2nd and 34. Eventually facing a 4th and 12, the Packers went for it...why not? Rodgers threw an underneath pass to Donald Driver who was only able to get 8 of the 12 yards needed.

The Pack held the Lions. On their next possession, the Pack faced a 3rd and 4 situation. Rodgers pitched the ball to DeShawn Wynn who then went around the right side untouched for 73 yards and a TD. Packers 7 - Lions 0.

The other highlights of the quarter were the seventh pass interception of the season by Charles Woodson and the subsequent first career TD catch by rookie TE Jermichael Finley on a 3-yard endzone fade pass from Rodgers. Packers 14 - Lions 0.

One of the disconcerting aspects of the quarter was the number of dropped passes. There were 4 in the quarter, 3 by Greg Jennings.

Packers - Lions preview

In a season-ending futility bowl, the Packers find themselves listed as 11-1/2 point favorites over the Lions. We should all hope that the Packer players aren't aware of the lopsided favorite they are supposed to be. After a season of 7 losses by 4 points or less, the players shouldn't assume they are favorites in any game. And especially one where the potential notoriety of being the only team to lose to the Lions is there.

The fact that a lot of fans are nervous about this game just goes to show how schizophrenic this season has been. We've seen a team that, with one real exception, has been in every game and dominated many, only to see special teams or defensive failures cost the team a victory, usually in the final minutes. Part of the problem, as we also know, has been the play-calling and execution which has left points on the field in crucial situations, setting up scenarios where opponents are close enough to tie or take the lead with one big play of their own or one miscue by the Pack.

So, what's the answer today? The Packers talent far exceeds that of the Lions. The Lions have a legitimate big-time receiver in Calvin Johnson and a good running back in rookie Kevin Smith. Other than that? Nope.

But you know what they say? On any given day...

So, will the Lions fight to avoid being the only 0-16 team in NFL history? Or will the Packers fight harder to avoid being the only team that loses to a team that should be 0-16? The fact that the second question even needs to be raised at this point is indicative of the state of the Packers in this final game of a forgettable season.

Win or lose (wait, forget I just said that last word), the Packers will be undergoing changes in the offseason. They need to undergo changes to get things back on track. With personnel that, overall, should place them at the top of a mediocre division, there is no excuse for a final record of 6-10...with 2 of those 6 wins being against the Lions. But better than the alternative.

Yes, at this point, after five straight losses, sweeping the Lions at Lambeau is just what the doctor ordered. We're taking the Pack 31-17 over the Lions.

We've been so wrong over the last few weeks that, if nothing else, the odds finally have to be in our favor of being right this time around.

Let us pray...

Go Pack Go!!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, Lambeau Leap!

It was 15 years ago today that the now infamous Lambeau Leap made its debut.

Here's how it happened. The Pack was playing the then L.A. Raiders. The Raiders had just made a short pass completion. Safety LeRoy Butler put a big hit on the receiver who then fumbled the ball. The late, great Reggie White picked it up and started rumbling and stumbling toward the end zone. As a Raider was attempting to tackle him -- riiiiiight -- or at least push him out of bounds, LeRoy came near enough to Reggie where he could get a lateral...which Reggie did, of course. LeRoy then streaked the remaining 25 yards to the famous south end zone (famous, of course, because it was the end zone for the winning TD in the Ice Bowl game as well as the Instant Reply game, among others) for the touchdown. He kept running and made the first Lambeau Leap in history. It was the first of what would become many for the Packers since then.

As Paul Harvey (for those of who might remember him) would say, "And now you know the rest of the story."

Last game of the season? How 'bout a new O-line lineup?

When a team is 5-10, getting ready for the final game of the season before players pack up and head home, there is often a tendency on the part of coaches to start thinking about next season. It's only natural, after all. We fans do it too. OK, we really do want to beat the Lions...really, really, really must beat the Lions. But, we also are starting to think about the draft, possible coaching changes (at least special teams and defensive coordinator), free agent moves, etc.

Coaches may be doing some of that as well. But they also have a more immediate tool at their disposal: trying new lineups or giving certain players a bit more of a look. And that's what head coach Mike McCarthy is going to do Sunday. At least on the offensive line. As we sadly know, long-time veteran right tackle, Mark Tauscher, was lost for the season with an ACL injury. He also will be a free agent. Whether or not he returns to the Packers is an unknown. But even if he does, he may not be the same player given age and injury. In his place the last few games, the Pack has given Tony Moll the starts. After a fairly good showing taking over for Tauscher in the Houston game, he didn't do so well against the Jags and Da Bearz.

So, against the Lions, McCarthy is going to move Daryn Colledge from left guard to right tackle. Jason Spitz, who has been solid at right guard will move over to left guard. Rookie Josh Sitton is going to get the start at right guard. So, if you can follow the bouncing ball, left to right the starting offensive line on Sunday will be Chad Clifton, Jason Spitz, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton and Daryn Colledge.

Tony Moll, according to reports, isn't thrilled with the move, obviously. In his third season, Moll has had plenty of opportunities given the turmoil on the O-line during this same period of time to grab his spot. The fact that, after essentially getting the three last starts (really two plus early relief for Tauscher in the Texans game) coaches are yanking him in favor of a revamped line in the final game...well, it doesn't bode well for Moll long-term.

Harrell out...again
Speaking of not boding well long-term, second-year DT Justin Harrell is -- get ready -- out for Sunday's game. Not surprising. He hasn't been available much this season.

Since being Ted Thompson's surprise -- shocking, really -- 16th pick in the first round of the 2007 draft, Harrell has only played (a word used loosely here) in 13 of 31 games. He was walking wounded when Thompson picked him out of Tennessee and he's been walking wounded his entire time at Green Bay. In fact, after having two back surgeries this year he may have another in this off season.

We have to remind ourselves that it's not the young man's fault. By all accounts, he would be a fine character addition to the Packers community and the Green Bay community at large. The problem lies with Thompson, who took a reach on a player with a history of injuries in college and pegged him for a key role on a very needy defensive line. Harrell's lack of ability to be healthy, to be even available to play, has been just one of many problems with the Packers approach to defensive line personnel over the past two years.

It would not be surprising if, pending results from Harrell's next surgery, the Packers try to work out an injury settlement in the off season and put this sad and disasterous personnel matter behind them.

Thompson will need to open up the coffers and get at least one quality free agent defensive lineman in the off season. The Packers can't rely on draft picks for immediate impact, especially on the D-line. Thompson might be a slow learner in that regard. But if he's a realist -- and that might be debatable -- it should be one of the key lessons to be learned from this season.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Groundhog Day Packers

Hmmmm...what day is it? Monday? Wednesday? Five weeks ago? Three? Now? If you're like me, you've just finally taken your head out of the gas oven and begun to come back to reality. Which, if you are a Packers fan, isn't so great right now. In fact, with the loss Monday night, this season's Packers have set a franchise record for the biggest drop off from one season to the next in terms of wins and losses. And that's going back to 1919 when they were first organized. Not a record you want to be a part of. Or even be aware of. So forget what I just told you.

Anyway...many Packer fans have sensed it over these last five loosing weeks of football. A few have even said it. Heck, even Packers head coach Mike McCarthy referenced it after the loss Monday night. Seems like we're in the movie Groundhog Day (which, by the way, wasn't filmed in Punxsutawney, PA, but in the northeastern Illinois city of Woodstock). Remember that flick starring Bill Murray? He keeps waking up and reliving the same day over and over and over. However, unlike the film character, Phil Connors, who eventually understands what's going on and changes to improve his life, the Packers have not yet achieved this same level of self-realization. Or performance.

We know it all too well, don't we, Packer fans? Domination of the game, while leaving points on the field, and enough of an opening for the other team to get back in. Giving up big plays at the worst possible times. Special teams and defensive breakdowns. Crucial penalties.

And the scariest thing is, now, in this doomed Groundhog Day season finale, the Pack plays the hapless Lions at Lambeau on Sunday. The Lions. The 0-15 Lions. The Lions, who are about to set an NFL record for futility. And the only thing standing in their way is -- gulp -- our Groundhog Day Packers.

Perhaps the one lesson the Pack learned this season -- if they can remember that far back and act on it -- is the pounding they gave to Da Bearz in their long-ago last win. They got up early and big. So, let's hope the Pack is up by oh, say, 28 points or more going into the 4th quarter. Because, sure as heck, the Packers defense and special teams will probably fold and give up 14 or so points in that last quarter.

Who would have thought that a game between a 5-10 team and an 0-15 team would be of any interest? Admittedly, it will be the same kind of perverse interest that one might have while watching a demolition derby: which car will be the last one moving? In this case, the question will be whether or not the Packers can overcome themselves in this final game. If they can get out of their own way for once, they should be able to hand the Lions that 0-16 record which they deserve (although, I should also add, not which their long-suffering fans deserve...they deserve far better than the Ford family is giving them).

Anyway, Packer fans, we'll post more nearer to game time.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, etc. to you and yours.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Packers lose in overtime

The Packers defense once again couldn't hold up in the 4th quarter, or in overtime.

Packers lose 20-17 on a 38-yard field goal in OT.

The pundits keep talking about how QB Aaron Rodgers is now 0 for 8 in 4th quarter comebacks. You know what? A majority of those games would have been won had the defense or special teams not blown it. Rodgers had the Pack in position to win the game at the end of the 4th quarter. The field goal attempt gets blocked. That's not on Rodgers.

The Packers dominated the game. Special teams let them down and directly led to points for Chicago over the course of the game. The defense -- again -- gave up a couple big plays down the stretch, and gave up a stupid horse collar roughing penalty in overtime that put Da Bearz inside the Packers 35.

It makes you sick. It really does.

Can't say any more now, other than this game was so typical of the last half of this season especially.

Sickening. Absolutely sickening.

Going to OT: Packers 17 - Da Bearz 17

On a blocked Packers field goal attempt with 18 seconds remaining, the Packers and Da Bearz are going to overtime.


Toss of the coin hits Urlacher in the head...Packers called tails and it came up Urlacher's head! Not a good omen. Momentum is with Da Bearz.

If you're a Packers fan, you've just got that sick feeling in your gut right now...

Halftime: Packers 14 - Da Bearz 3

The Packers dominated the first half of tonight's game, holding the ball for nearly 20 minutes, and generating 221 total yards of offense compared to Da Bearz 48 total yards. And doing it not through the run, as originally thought, but through the air. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has been very sharp. Yes, Rodgers had an interception on a batted ball at the line of scrimmage. But other than that, he really looks on.

The first quarter went by without a score by either team. In the second quarter, starting from about their own 10 yard line, the Pack drove the length of the field and scored on a laser-like TD pass from Rodgers to Greg Jennings. The key play, though, was a fake punt by the Pack to keep the drive alive. Backup QB Matt Flynn was slotted as the up man and he took the snap directly and ran for the first down.

However, as has happened so many times this season, the special teams unit once again allowed Da Bearz right back in the game on the ensuing kickoff following the TD. They proceeded to give up a 70+ yard kickoff return. The defense, fortunately, was able to hold Da Bearz to just a field goal. How many times has it happened? The Packers go up in a game, get momentum, and the special teams unit gives it right back.

But not for long.

The Pack put together another strong drive. And with about a minute left in the half, the Pack got their second TD on a screen pass to Grant, who took it 20 yards, running over a defensive back in the process.

On Da Bearz final possession of the half, Nick Collins had an interception thrown right to him that he couldn't handle. The Pack would have had the ball at about mid-field. As it was, the defense held and got the ball back one last time at about their own 16-yard line. Rodgers took a knee and the half ended to the boos of Da Bearz' fans for their team. No sweeter sound!

The downside to the half was Donald Driver being assisted off the field, not putting any weight on his left leg, after just missing a great reception on a long pass play. Didn't look good.

Gotta give it to Rodgers and his receivers, though. They are so far catching the ball without any problems. And that's with a -12 degree wind chill. Ryan Grant is also starting to make some good runs. Maybe it's use the pass to set up the run tonight? Either way, the offensive line is holding up for the most part against Da Bearz defense. And the defense is holding up, too, so far. If they can handle both for another half...who knows what might happen?

Go Pack Go!!!

Packers - Da Bearz preview we are. Week 16. One team still alive with playoff hopes. The other, not. And somehow, in a game where the temps will be in single digits and the wind chills below zero, in a stadium appropriately referred to as the "Mistake by the Lake" since its ill-conceived renovation, we still care. While we haven't quite reached the depths of the '70s and '80s teams, those of us old enough to remember know that the one thing that was essential back then -- even if the Pack couldn't beat anyone else -- was to beat Da Bearz. Twice. We still have that chance tonight.

In the longest running rivalry in the NFL, the Packers take on Da Bearz in Chicago this evening. The last time the teams met, in Green Bay, the Pack played their most complete game of the season and walloped Da Bearz, 37-3...37-3!!! They got back to 5-5 and looked as if they were finally putting it all together for yet another late season run. But there was a kink in that plan. Namely, four straight losses. Wow. We all know the story.

So what can we expect tonight? Da Bearz not only have revenge as a motive this evening, but after the ViQueens once more pulled their late season choke-a-rama by losing at home yesterday to the Falcons, they also still are playing for the playoffs.

Given the weather conditions, it's expected that the team that runs the ball best and stops the run best will win the game. OK. Well, believe it or not, Packers RB Ryan Grant has gone over 1,000 yards for the season; he's 10th in the NFL actually with 1,036 yards, and a 3.9 yards per carry average. His counterpart on Da Bearz, Matt Forte, who everyone seems to be ga-ga over, is eighth in the league with 1,115 yards rushing and a 4.0 yards per carry average. Now, Grant actually has some incentives in the contract he signed this season that could earn him another $500,000 or know, when you're talking that kind of money, "or so" is just fine. So, even if no one else on the Packers has anything to play for -- and that's a false assumption, by the way -- Mr. Grant should want the ball and be running like a madman every chance he gets.

Now, as to stopping the run, which is the better team? Ooops, sorry I asked. Never mind.

While it's not expected that there will be much of a passing game tonight given the weather conditions, the Packers defense still has to be aware of shutting down TE Greg Olsen. If they do that, whether or not Da Bearz try to use Devin Hester as a deep threat should become a moot point.

This is the Packers vs. Da Bearz. THE rivalry in the NFL, regardless of records. Chicago is favored by 4 points. If we were bettin' folk, we might be tempted to take those points.

And while my head tells me Da Bearz have more to play for -- revenge and playoffs -- my heart still pumps that green'n'gold blood through my veins. Gotta take the Pack. Especially in this game. It's against Da Bearz, after all. I'm expecting a low scoring game. Turnovers could and probably will play a factor as well. If the Packers can get up early maybe just once the defense can hang on, aided by the elements. I'll go 13-10 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Levens and Freeman get the nod

Two Packers from the great '90s teams are going to be the latest players enshrined in the Packers Hall of Fame. Running back Dorsey Levens and wide receiver Antonio Freeman will be officially inducted next July.

Both Levens and Freeman played huge roles in the Packers Super Bowl runs in 1996 and 1997. With 3,937 yards rushing from 1994-2001, Levens is the all-time fifth-best rusher in Packers history. He also had 271 receptions for 2,079 yards. Freeman is the Packers' all-time sixth-best receiver. He racked up 6,651 yards on 431 receptions from 1995-2001 and 2003. His 57 touchdowns rank him third most in team history for receivers.

You can read more about both players here. Congrats to both for their well-deserved honor.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Woodson & Collins go Pro Bowling

Charles Woodson is going to his first Pro Bowl as a Green Bay Packer. Ditto for Nick Collins. And both will be starters.

This will be Woodson's fifth Pro Bowl appearance overall in his 11-year career and his first since 2001. He's tied for the league lead in interceptions and has a career high this season with three sacks.

Collins is in his fourth year in the league, all with the Packers. He's tied with Woodson for the NFL lead in interceptions, and leads the league with three returned for touchdowns.

It's the first time since 1974 that the Packers have had two players named to the defensive backfield. Cornerbacks Willie Buchanon and Ken Ellis were the last Pro Bowl duo for the Pack.

Greg Jennings -- with more than 1,000 yards in receptions -- was named a first alternate. Go figure. Al Harris and Aaron Kampman were also named as alternates.

Oh yeah. Ol' #4 also got a Pro Bowl spot for the AFC.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What good can come of this Packers loss?

OK, Packer fans, let's look to the silver lining of this tarnished 2008 season. Yes, there are some good things to be said about it, with two games remaining. Among them:

  • There are only two games remaining.
  • We can at least win our last game of the season by beating the Lions...can't we? Oh, dear God...
  • We will have a much easier schedule next season.
  • We'll get a higher first round pick for GM Ted Thompson to trade down or use to pick a bust.
  • We'll have a new defensive coordinator.
  • We'll have a new special teams coach.
  • Da Bearz still suck.
  • By next season, coach McCarthy might be able to devise a play call to move the ball 1 yard in three plays.
  • Next season, there might actually be something called a "pass rush" that's part of the defensive scheme.
  • Rookie TE Jermichael Finley will have had a full year to learn where to line up, who to block and how -- at 6'5" -- to catch a jump ball in the endzone.
  • There are only about 5 spots to drop to actually be the worst run defense in the's not like it's a major drop off or anything.
  • Losing to really bad teams helps build character.
  • Da Bearz still suck. Oh...did I say that already?

  • Now I'm sure there are more positives to all this. There has to be, right? I mean, when you are looking at only the second losing season since 1992, something good has to come of it all. If there is a God.

    Sunday, December 14, 2008

    Packers lose...again. Pack 16 - Jags 20

    My halftime comments came back to bite the Packers you-know-where. They had two chances in the first half with first and goal situations and only got 6 points. And all they could muster the second half was another field goal, while letting the Jags score 2 TDs in the fourth quarter (they missed a 2-point conversion).

    The key points, arguably, in the second half were: a dropped pass by Ryan Grant that he likely could have walked into the endzone with to put the Pack up either 20 or 21 (depending upon whether they would have gone for 2 or not) to 14; the failure of the Packers offense to get about a half yard on 4th down, which then gave the Jags the ball at almost mid-field and help set up their second TD; and a wide open receiver for the Jags on a 41-yard pass play in the last minutes of the quarter that set up Jacksonville's final TD.

    All the problems the Packers have exhibited on their slide this season were on display once again: no pass rush, no ability to stop the big play when needed, penalties, sacks, dropped passes, turnovers in key situations, an inability to close out a game late in the 4th quarter or generate a game-winning drive in the closing moments of a game.

    Toss in some questionable play-calling and losing to a team that virtually everyone had said had already packed it in and, as I said in my preview, if the Packers lost it would be a dysfunctional low point for this team. We've officially hit it, Packer fans. A real low. Well, technically, the worst we can wind up is 5-11, which is still one game better than the 4-12 record we had a few years back, even with ol' #4 at the helm. But does it really matter? This is officially, in the jargon, a not very good team. Have now lost 4 in a row and 6 out of their last 7.

    Breakdowns on both sides of the ball. The same kind of breakdowns which we have seen all season long. And while the players have to play, when you see the same problems over and over and over, that falls back on the coaches who are supposed to get these problems fixed. Hasn't happened.

    Painful. Painful.

    Oh, for those who are counting, the Packers are 0-6 this season in games decided by 4 points or less.

    Halftime: Packers 13 - Jaguars 7

    The Jags took the opening kick off and marched downfield for a touchdown. 7-0, Jags. The Packers then put together their own answer in the form of a field goal, set up on a long 46-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to James Jones. The Pack eventually had first and goal from about the 9-yard line. Three plays later...nope, no TD...a field goal. Pack 3 - Jags 7.

    The Pack got their only TD of the half on a short pass from Rodgers to Greg Jennings. 10-7 Packers. James Jones came up big again on another long sideline pass late in the second quarter, this one a 40-yarder. The Pack soon got another first and goal, this from the 10-yard line. Once again, they had to settle for a field goal. On third down from the 5, after a timeout by the Jags, rookie TE Jermichael Finley seemed to be totally confused as where to line up. The play call was seemingly a forward pitch to Donald Lee which got stuffed at the line. A very odd play call. And with all the confusion and the play clock winding down -- and 2 timeouts left in his pocket -- Coach McCarthy, or Rodgers, should have called a timeout to get things straight. Two trips inside the 10 with first and goal and only 6 points to show for it? Not acceptable. This is how you set yourself up to lose late in the game. The Pack could and should be up 21-7. Instead, the Jags can take the lead with one TD. They're still in the game, and the Packers are keeping them there.

    The Packers defense is surprisingly holding up against the run for the most part -- at least in terms of not yet giving up the big play. They have had virtually no pressure on Jags QB David Garrard throughout the half, though. Still, no further points...which is also partially due to the Jags kicker bouncing off a 51-yard field goal attempt on the left upright.

    Anyway, the Pack should win this game. But it will be closer -- is already closer -- than it should be.

    Packers - Jaguars preview

    It's game day in Florida. Jacksonville, to be precise. But when you have a 5-8 team going against a 4-9 team, about the only folks who really care are the fans of those two teams. That's reflected in the fact that of the 6 games being played first today, the game between the Pack and the Jags will be broadcast to only about 3 percent of national viewers. So, it's the bottom-feeders game, folks. That's where we're at.

    The Packers have lost 3 straight and 5 of their last 6 since the bye week. Four of those losses have come -- as we all too painfully know -- by a combined total of 11 points, and typically all within the last minute or two of those games. But that fifth loss in the group, which was the blow out 51-29 loss at New Orleans in week 12 was probably the back-breaker for this young Packers team. They haven't been able to get their bearings since.

    And that speaks to a leadership void. There's an interesting article on this very subject in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. You can check it out here.

    But leadership aside, this is a game the Pack must have. I know. We've been saying that now for each of the last few weeks. And this isn't about the playoffs. While still statistically possible, the probability of the Packers winning out and both Da Bearz and ViQueens losing all their remaining games...doubtful. So, why must the Pack have this game? Pride. Yes, it does matter. There are reports out about Jacksonville that say they are a team that has given up. I hope so. It's the kind of help the Packers could use right now. If it helps build pride to win over a team that has given up, so be it. We'll take what we can get at this point.

    It's also important, as the article mentioned above notes, to see where the Pack's leadership is now. But it will also be important in setting up the leadership for next season as well.

    In Christmas party and other conversations with fellow fans, the thing that keeps popping up is that it's hard to figure out why the team is not closing out these games. Arguably, talent exists on this team with the exception of obvious voids, especially on the defensive line. So why can't they exert that force of will that can make even teams of mediocre talent -- oh, let's say, Da Bearz for example -- win. Some of that comes from the coaching staff. But ultimately, players need to hold themselves and each other accountable. Whether that has happened for with the Packers coming down the last weeks of the season...? Radio pundits on 620WTMJ radio -- the Packers flagship station -- pointed out this morning that even such normally available veterans as Aaron Kampman, Charles Woodson and Donald Driver did not make themselves available for interviews after the game last week. As to why they didn't wish to speak, who knows? Maybe they were saving it for the locker room with teammates only.

    Anyway...back to the specifics of this game. Sorry for the detour...

    The Packers are favored by 1-1/2 points. Of course, last week the Packers were favored at home by 6. So much for that.

    The threat the Packers have to face this week comes in the form of a little big man, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, who will now be the featured running back given that Fred Taylor was lost for the season last week with a thumb injury. He's exactly the kind of running back that has given the Pack fits all season: someone with power and enough elusiveness to break big plays. Sound familiar? The Jags are 4-0 when they run 35 or more times per game; they are 0-9 when they don't. As if the Packers weak link -- a rush defense ranked 27th in the league -- wasn't bad enough, here we go again against a team that basically has the run as it's potential strong suit on offense.

    The Jags don't have much going for them. But Houston, as a road team, didn't either before gashing the Pack for more than 500 yards in offensive output and stealing a win.

    Pride. Do the Packers still have it? We'll see. If they lose to Jacksonville they have reached a major dysfunctional low that might take a lot of off-season tweaking to fix.

    But fill up that glass with more green'n'gold kool-aide. I'm taking the Pack 24-23. It shouldn't be that close. But it may very well be.

    Go Pack Go!!!

    Tuesday, December 09, 2008

    Packers - Texans post-mortem

    With the space of a day between the loss on Sunday and today, Packer fans have had time to reflect. Although judging by the sports pundit and fan call-in commentary, it didn't take long to assess the situation. And it has been essentially what we've been realizing since about mid-season, if not sooner: the Packers, while having some good individual talent, are not a good team. Why that is still seems to be a matter for dispute.

    Wayne Larrivee, the radio voice of the Packers, said on 620WTMJ radio (the Packers flagship radio station in Milwaukee) yesterday that basically the Packers season changed with the loss at New Orleans. After stifling Da Bearz the week prior and looking like world beaters, the defense got lit up. Larrivee noted that since then the defense has seemed to lack any confidence or swagger. And that is certainly born out by the results since that game, the most recent evidence being giving up more than 500 yards to the Texans, including more than 400 yards passing to Matt Schaub who hadn't played a game in a month.

    The lack of pass rush has been well documented, as has the related inability to stop the run. And the recurring tendency to give up big plays has absolutely killed the Packers coming down the stretch.

    Pundits and fans alike seem to agree that GM Ted Thompson is going to have to go against his own tendency to try to do everything with draft picks. He's going to have to open up the coffers -- and the Pack has plenty of money to spend in free agency if they want to do so -- and go after some major defensive line help, whoever might be available. Minnesota did it this past season by going after Jared Allen, and that has obviously added to an already good defensive front. The Packers need to similarly reemphasize the D-line as they did in building their Super Bowl teams of the 1990s.

    Another area that has seemingly gone from what was a perceived strength at the beginning of the season to an area of obvious weakness is the linebacking corp. A.J. Hawk has not had a productive season. Nick Barnett, of course, is out and his absence is felt. Brady Poppinga, while he has a motor that won't stop, can't cover. Backup Brandon Chillar is the best cover backer but now plays a back up role. He was out of Sunday's game due to injury and that absence was felt; Desmond Bishop, who took his place, got burned in the Texans' game-winning drive by not being able to cover TE Owen Daniels.

    Offensively, there are receiving weapons aplenty and QB Aaron Rodgers is having a better-than-expected first year. Some folks say that he hasn't had that 4th quarter game-winning drive yet. Not true. He had it against Minnesota, Carolina and Houston, if not others. The problem has been the defense has not been able to close the deal. (As someone remarked about this failure to get the big stop with the clock winding down, the Packers have been playing with a "break don't bend" approach.) The consensus emerging among many callers and pundits is that while Ryan Grant is a good running back, he is not a great one. Many callers want to see more of Brandon Jackson, although some felt that because of his build he's more of a change of pace back than someone who can play every down. But regardless of who is carrying the ball, there has to be guys up front to open the holes, as well as provide sufficient pass protection for Rodgers. The Packers sustained a huge loss in that area when veteran RT Mark Tauscher was lost for the season, sustaining a torn ACL is his left knee, the same knee he injured earlier in his career. Give that he's 31 years old and in the final year of his contract, seeing Tauscher carted off the field Sunday might be the parting memory we have of him. And that's sad. He's a Wisconsin native, a University of Wisconsin graduate, and a player who has arguably been the most consistent offensive lineman the Packers have had during the time he's been there. You can read more about Tauscher here.

    Given what should be a sufficient offense to generate points -- which they have -- one of the big mysteries is still why the Packers are so inconsistent with their third down conversions. On Sunday they were a miserable 1 for 10 on third downs...that is a recipe for failure.

    Whether it's calling plays, penalties or failure to execute, a team's preparation, energy and performance largely falls to the coaching staff. That's why a lot of fan and pundit commentary these days is also being directed at the coaches, of course, beginning with head coach Mike McCarthy. Some are saying his post-loss press conferences are starting to sound eerily similar to those of former coach Ray Rhodes. That would not be a good model to follow. McCarthy's playcalling has been called into question. But that's going to happen with any coach. Although some sets in some situations, for example, empty backfield on a certain down/distance, pretty well tells the defense what the play is going to be. The predictability of many of the calls in certain situations is a growing concern.

    Defensive coordinator Bob Sanders and special teams coach Mike Stock are considered to be likely targets to be fired at the end of the season. Interestingly, there is also some speculation now that if Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy don't reverse this season's decline next year they may find themselves on the chopping block at the end of next season.

    The Packers are going to have make some dramatic improvements next season, particularly on defense. How well Thompson handles personnel maneuvers in the offseason will not only dictate the Packers success next year but for years to come. Yes, it will be that critical.

    Sunday, December 07, 2008

    Packers are toast - Final: Packers 21 - Texans 24

    As the Packers radio broadcasters noted during their telecast of this game, so many times this season the game has come down to the Packers defense needing to make a stop late in the 4th quarter. And, just as has happened in each of those instances, the defense has failed to do so.

    Getting the ball at their own 3 yard line with less than 2 minutes to go, the Texans proceeded to go 75 yards on 9 plays to take the ball down to the Packers' 22 yard line. With 4 seconds to go, the Texans' kicker puts it through the uprights from 40 yards out to win the game for Houston, 24-21.

    Not much more to be said than this: season over. The Pack falls to 5-8.

    After obliterating Da Bearz, the Pack has lost 3 in a row, including 2 at home.

    In a game they had to have, they did what they have done all season. Which is not much. It was uninspired play for most of the game. When you get 4 turnovers from your opponent you're supposed to win the game. Yes, the Pack scored 21 points off those turnovers. But somehow -- against a warm weather team coming into your own house -- it wasn't enough.

    The Packers' have had 2 Achilles heals all season long: not being able to stop the big play, and not being able to get the big stop when needed.

    Better start looking at possible draft picks from now on, fans. The best the Pack can do is 8-8. And it is seriously in question at this point whether that is even possible.

    Sad. Very sad. I hate to say I said so...but this game had "Uh-oh" written all over it from the start. And that's what happened.

    End of 3rd quarter: Packers 7 - Texans 13

    The Packers took the 2nd half kickoff and went three and out on three incomplete passes. Great way to start.

    Another one of those "Uh-oh" moments came when the Pack had stopped the Texans, only to have Wisconsin native, UW-Whitewater alumnus and Texans' punter Matt Turk run for 19 yards on 4th down to keep the drive going. The Texans had their drive going. Yet another one of those moments there have been too many of today when the receiver fumbled the ball to have it recovered by the Pack...except the play had been called dead because his forward progress was stopped and it was thus non-reviewable. Great.

    We got that one back though. On the very next play, Texans' RB Slaton was stripped of the ball and it was recovered by DT Johnny Jolly.

    It didn't take long for the Packers to move the ball. On the last play of the quarter, Aaron Rodgers connected with Greg Jennings on a rainbow 64-yard pass play down to the Texans' 6-yard line. Jennings caught the ball between 2 defenders. This was the longest play - pass or run -- by the Pack all season.

    Halftime: Packers 7 - Texans 10

    The Pack avoided going down 14-0 near the start of the 2nd quarter when a wide open TE Owen Daniels was stripped of the ball by Desmond Bishop as he was about to go into the endzone. The ball was recovered by Tramon Williams at the 3. The Pack did get a drive going but it was ended by a sack on third down. Also on that series, RT Mark Tauscher was injured and needed help to get to the sidelines. He was taken to the locker room for X-rays. Tony Moll replaced him in the line.

    Following a punt to the Texans 8 yard line, and an eventual sack on Schaub, the Texans appeared to get something going when they converted on a 3rd-and-13 on a screen pass to Slaton. Soon afterward, however, Williams got an interception and set the Packers up for their first touchdown, which came on a 20-yard pass from Rodgers to Donald Lee. Packers 7 - Texans 7.

    On the following series, though, Williams got beat on another long pass, 46 yards, again to Matt Walter, who was the same receiver that earlier caught the Texans' 58-yard TD pass.

    After the 2-minute warning, the Packers held the Texans at the 11 on 3rd and 7, setting up their field goal to put Houston up 10-7.

    Will Blackmon then had his 99-yard kickoff return called back on a holding call on Jason Hunter. This is the kind of day it is. And this is why it has "Uh-oh" written all over it.

    The Packers had a final drive going, down to the Texans' 48, when Rodgers rolled out to the left on third down and was intercepted with 33 seconds left. (Sigh.)

    The Texans then managed to move the ball the last half minute and got a 21-yard pick up on a third down slant across the middle when the receiver beat Desmond Bishop. It set up a 41-yard filed goal attempt with 1 second left on the clock. A glimmer of hope, though, as the kicker pushed it wide right.

    The Packers were 0 for 5 on 3rd down conversions in the half, by the way.

    It was uninspired play on both sides of the football by the Packers. For a team that must have this game, they sure aren't playing like it.

    End of 1st quarter: Packers 0 - Texans 7

    If the first quarter is any indication, this game has one of those "Uh-oh" feelings to it. The Texans took the opening kickoff and in three plays went 75 yards for a touchdown, the majority of that coming on a 58 yard pass that was underthrown. The receiver made a better adjustment to it than did Tramon Williams, who was then taken out by Nick Collins who overran the play. Made it look easy. That took all of about a minute-and-a-half.

    The Pack also had big plays negated -- as has been the case so often this season -- by penalties. One was a ticky-tack offensive pass interference call on Donald Driver that wiped out his spectacular 42-yard catch. Another big first down was wiped out on a holding call on Chad Clifton against Mario Williams.

    Our new punter's first punt was not so great, 25 yards. Steve Kapinos' next two were much better, 48 yards and 49 yards, the latter of which unfortunately just made into the endzone for a touchback.

    Defensively, the Packers have had two chances to pick off Texans' QB Matt Schaub and weren't able to come up with the ball. But the Texans are converting third downs, the Packers are not.

    At the end of the quarter, Houston rookie RB Steve Slaton knocked of a 34-yard run down to the Packers' 30. He is as advertised: explosive. And, as noted in my preview to the game, exactly the kind of back the Packers have been unable to defend most of the season.

    If the Packers don't tighten things up, they can lose this game. It has that feel to it already. Not good.

    Packers - Titans preview

    There's only about 30 minutes or so to kickoff at what will be a chilly Lambeau Field. The Packers and Titans are expected to be playing in game time temps of somewhere in the low teens. Nippy, as they say. Which should be to the Packers' advantage over a team coming in from Houston.

    The Packers also have more to play for. Even with the mediocre 5-7 record they are currently sporting, the Pack still has a chance at the playoffs. But they have to win their remaining 4 games. And that means they have to win today.

    Houston comes in with Matt Schaub returning to the starting QB spot. He's been out 4 games after arthroscopic knee surgery. One would expect him to be rusty. And shaking off rust in bitterly cold temperatures is perhaps not the best place to return to the game. Those hits are going to feel all that much more nasty in the cold and on a semi-frozen field. Schaub won't be very mobile. So the Pack will try to bring not only Aaron Kampman on the pass rush but are also going to be playing Brady Poppinga on some downs at defensive end. Poppinga played some at DE in college and actually played a few downs at that spot in last week's game versus Carolina, as the Packers try to do something -- anything -- to get a pass rush from someone besides just Kampman. The Pack will, however, have to keep Texans rookie RB Steve Slaton in check. He was supposed to be a fill-in for Ahman Green. But when Green went down for the season, Slaton became the featured back. He's exactly the kind of back that has given the Packers fits this season: fast and explosive, especially to the outside. The other big threat for the Texans comes in the form of receiver Andre Johnson. Former Wisconsin Badgers tight end Owen Daniels is also a favorite of Schaub's. With Packers LB Brandon Chillar -- arguably their best cover LB -- out today, Desmond Bishop gets the start in his place. No mistaking it: the Texans do have some weapons if the Pack doesn't do what they are capable of doing on defense.

    Speaking of defense, the Texans also have "Super" Mario Williams on their defensive line. He will be moved to both sides of the line, so both Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher will have to be on the top of their games.

    What the Packers will need to do, especially in these weather conditions, is run the ball. Ryan Grant came out of the game last week with a thumb injury which caused concern about his ability to hang on to the ball. The thumb is still hurting, and it won't feel any better today. So it will be interesting to see how much work Grant gets versus Brandon Jackson, who filled in quite well for him last week.

    We haven't really seen how well Aaron Rodgers plays in cold weather. But we will today. This will be his first really cold cold weather game. Hopefully, he won't have to throw 30-40 times today for the Pack to stay in the game. But if he does, we'll know a lot about him either way.

    We also get a chance to check out our new punter, Jeremy Kapinos. Keep your fingers crossed. Also, the Pack moved up three players from the practice squad this week. A signal was perhaps being sent to some of the guys on the kick coverage units that they can be replaced if they don't get their act together immediately. Another game like the last 2 for the kick coverage units and this game could be much closer than it should otherwise be.

    Houston is a lousy road team. But the Pack has been so-so at home this season. Still, this is a game the Packers should win. More importantly, it is a game they must win to stay alive. The green'n'gold kool-aide is coming out again, Packer fans. The Packers are favored by 6. I'm taking the Pack 27 - 17 over the Texans.

    Go Pack Go!!!

    Thursday, December 04, 2008

    Pack's new punter a far

    According to reports, the first day of new punter Jeremy Kapinos with the Packers went well. The Green Bay Press-Gazette says, "New punter Jeremy Kapinos drew some cheers and applause when his first practice punt as a Packer spiraled near the ceiling of The Don Hutson Center." The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel provides more details: "When Kapinos launched his first punt inside the Don Hutson Center 50 yards downfield with lots of hang time, he drew a number of loud 'Woooo's from the players. When he did it again on his second punt, this time dropping it along the sideline, the cheers from the gallery got even louder."

    But was every punt today a winner? Not quite. The Journal-Sentinel continues, "Most of the rest of his punts were between 45 and 50 yards, but he only got the same hangtime on one other punt. In all, he punted eight times and of those eight two would be classified as low liners." Apparently, that was still good enough for his teammates. According to the Press-Gazette, "it was clear by the reaction of his new teammates that Kapinos' arrival has been well-received." Guess the fans weren't the only ones who were glad to see former punter Derrick Frost hit the road.

    But as both of these reports note, Frost also was apparently a good practice punter; he just couldn't carry it over to games. So until we see Kapinos in a game, we won't know for sure what we have. Still, the Packers liked him enough to sign him to a two-year contract.

    Oh, Kapinos is a left-footed punter, too. Which puts a different spin on the ball than most punt returners are used to...which could perhaps lead to a muff. At this stage of things, we'll take whatever advantage we can get, right?

    Kapinos will not hold for kicker Mason Crosby's place kicks. That duty will fall to backup QB Matt Flynn.

    The Packers official website has a nice write-up on Kapinos. You can find it here. The Press-Gazette and Journal-Sentinel reports can be found here and here respectively.

    Let's hope the Pack uncovered a gem in the punting game ala Craig Hentrich. That would make up for the last left-footed punter we had (does the name B.J. Sander ring a bell?) as well as the roughly 9 or so others the Packers have tried since they let Hentrich walk away.

    Wednesday, December 03, 2008

    Packers pick new punter

    The Packers have picked their third punter since the preseason, going with Jeremy Kapinos who beat out three other punters during tryouts yesterday and today. Kapinos was a Ray Guy Award finalist at Penn St. in 2007 and spent a little time with the Jets. He'll be at practice as part of the team tomorrow. No word on whether he will be the new holder for Mason Crosby or not.

    Given the state of the punting game this season, Coach Mike McCarthy's expectations seem pretty reasonable. McCarthy said, "I want him to punt the ball in the right direction." Yeah, that would be good.

    Tuesday, December 02, 2008

    Poll: how many games will the Pack win down the stretch?

    At the three-quarters mark of the 2008 season, and with the Packers sitting in third place (shudder!) in the NFC North with a 5-7 record, it might be of interest to see how many folks out there -- or at least those who care to voice an opinion -- think the Pack will win out...or not.

    So, for any readers who care to participate, check out the poll in the righthand column underneath the link for our store (which, in the interest of a shameful plug, you will really want to visit to get some great gifts for family and friends for Christmas!). We'll keep the poll open until game time on Sunday.

    Do you think the Pack will run the table and come up with a 9-7 final record? Or will it be something else? How many more games will the Packers win? Coming up are games against the Texans (at Lambeau), the Jaguars (away), Da Bearz (away), and the Lions (at Lambeau).

    What say you? Vote today!

    Breaking News: 2 ViQueens Suspended!
    Well now here's a piece of breaking news that just might affect Minnesota's ability to hang on to it's #1 spot in the NFC North. Defensive linemen Kevin and Pat Williams (not related, as you know) were part of the six players suspended by the NFL today for four games -- that's the rest of the season, folks -- without pay for violating the league’s anti-doping policy. They were suspended for using a diuretic, which can serve as a masking agent for steroids. It's likely that there might be legal maneuvering of some kind to try to delay the suspensions.

    But if the Williams' are done for the season, it would hit the ViQueens' defense hard and perhaps put their division lead in jeopardy as they head down the home stretch of this season. The 'Queens schedule winds up with the next two games on the road at Detroit and Arizona followed by their last two games at home against Atlanta and the NY Giants. According to an article in The Sporting News carried by Yahoo Sports, "The schedule was tough enough with the Williamses in the lineup. A 3-1 December likely would be good enough to win the weak NFC North, but the Vikings, based on the matchups, are now more likely to go 1-3."

    As Seinfeld might say, "That's a shame."

    As that same article also states, "What does that mean? It’s now a good bet the Bears-Packers game at Soldier Field in Week 16 will decide the division. Green Bay is the biggest beneficiary of the Vikings’ suspensions, because of all the teams in the NFC North, it has the best chance of running the table."

    It ain't over yet, Packer fans. Not yet.

    At least we're #1 in something right now

    While the Packers may be sitting in 3rd place in the mediocre NFC North at the moment, we are first in something: brand strength in our home market. And not just in football. In all sports!


    According to a report in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, a sports marketing company, has released its team brand index, and the Packers are No. 1 in all of sports. Last year, the index ranked the Packers 10th." Len Perna, president and chief executive of the New Jersey-based company behind this index, explains it this way: "What this is saying is the following the Packers have is more intensely loyal to supporting the Packers than any other team. What this basically says is that all other things being equal, a sponsor gets more value in sponsoring the Packers than any other team."

    Like we Packer fans didn't already know that, right?

    Granted, the survey behind this index was completed last June. The Pack was coming off a 13-3 season. Perna says in the article that a lot of this loyalty had to do, not surprisingly, with Brett Favre. Big mistake from the brand standpoint of letting him go, Perna points out. Yep, we knew that too, thank you.

    Anyway, you can read the article here for more info.

    Guess we could probably project a drop in the Pack's index spot next year. But for now, say it with me, "We're number one!!!"

    At least we have that goin' for us.

    Monday, December 01, 2008

    Packers boot punter Frost

    After 12 games of mediocre punting -- and that's being generous -- punter Derrick Frost has been released by the Packers, according to an official news release from the team. Curiously, the release doesn't indicate who, if anyone, has now been signed as the punter for the rest of the season. It spends more time talking about the Pack finally placing LB Nick Barnett and DE Kenny Pettway on injured reserve and the signings of DT Alfred Malone and CB Joe Porter from the practice squad to take their roster spots.

    Frost was booed handily after 3 of his 4 punts yesterday at Lambeau.

    Frost ranked 23rd in the league in overall punting. Jon Ryan, who was released the week before the start of the regular season -- at the behest of special teams coach, Mike Stock (and who should also get the boot at the end of the season, by the way) -- to make room for Frost, is currently ranked 5th overall in the league. Nice call, coach Stock.

    There are not currently that many good free agent punters available to be picked up, so it will be interesting to see exactly who GM Ted Thompson has in the wings to replace Frost before Sunday's game against the Texans. Hopefully, he won't be taking any more of coach Stock's suggestions. According to a report in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Packers are going to work out three punters tomorrow: Paul Ernster, Durant Brooks and Jeremy Kapinos. Check out the article for more details.

    The Frost departure also means that K Mason Crosby is going to have to get used to yet another holder for his place kicks. This will be his third holder since the last week of preseason.

    You can read the full Packers news release here.

    Sunday, November 30, 2008

    Final: Packers 31 - Panthers 35

    The Packers not only dominated the 3rd quarter but also the 4th. After going up 28-21 at the start of the final quarter, the Packers special teams once again gave up a big return, this one a 51-yarder to set up Carolina in great field position. On their possession, Carolina converted a 3rd and 11 from their own 37-yard line down to the 1 on a pass from Jake Delhomme to Steve Smith. The score was soon tied at 28-28.

    The Pack then had nearly a 10-minute drive, but could not get it in from about the 1-yard line with two plays to spare and had to settle for a field goal to go up 31-28.

    Once more, the Packers special teams gave Carolina a short field, giving up another 40+ yard kickoff return with under 2 minutes to go. On the first play, Delhomme converted on about a 40 yard pass play to Smith down to the 1-yard line with a minute-and-half left in the game.

    The Pack had one possession to try to get a TD to win, starting at about their own 17. Too much to ask. An interception sealed the deal.

    The Packers should have won this game. They had more than 400 yards of total offense. But the kickoff return coverage repeatedly gave Carolina a short field to play on most of the day. And the team's inability to rush the ball in for a TD on 2 plays from the 1-yard line with less than 2 minutes to go proved fatal. Despite the Packers overwhelming time of possession advantage, when your opponent only has to play on half the field that doesn't count for much. It's the final score that matters. And once again for the Pack, it was close but no cigar as the saying goes. How many times have we said that this year? What separates the good teams from the mediocre is the ability to win close games. The Packers have been on the short side of that more often than not this season. This was the Packers fourth loss this season by 4 points or less.

    A great second half effort wasted. A season basically wasted. The Packers are 5-7, and will go 2 games down with 4 remaining to either Chicago or Minnesota after their game tonight. Face reality, Packer fans: barring a miracle of Biblical proportions, there will be no playoff berth for the Pack this year.

    Pass the Pepto, please. It's enough to make ya sick. Really.

    P.S. Did I mention that special teams coach Mike Stock should be fired at the end of this season? No? Well, I'm mentioning it now.

    End of 3rd quarter: Packers 21 - Panthers 21

    It was gut check time for the Packers at halftime. And the team responded by dominating the quarter. They picked up a field goal by Mason Crosby early in the quarter to make the score Packers 13 - Panthers 21. Then they put together a 95-yard drive, keyed by a 46-yard rainbow pass play from Aaron Rodgers to Donald Driver. The Pack got their TD on a pass from Rodgers to TE Donald Lee. The Packers also converted a 2-point play on a pass from Rodgers to WR Greg Jennings to even up the score at 21-21.

    As the quarter was winding down, the Pack was driving again.

    Go Pack Go!!!

    Halftime: Packers 10 - Panthers 21

    The Pack had to settle for a field goal early in the quarter, to make the score Packers 3 - Panthers 7.

    After giving up a big kickoff return -- something the Packers special teams have been doing more and more as the season has worn on -- and setting Carolina up at almost midfield, Carolina was soon to score. The key play was a 43-yard run by rookie RB Jonathon Stewart. He was bottled up at the line of scrimmage and somehow broke through. There was no one there to stop him once that happened. Tramon Williams eventually caught up with him before he hit the endzone and actually helped cause a fumble, which unfortunately was recovered at the 2 by the Panthers. Jake Delhomme scampered in for a TD two plays later to put Carolina up 14-3.

    The Packers then got a drive of their own going, combining some good running by Ryan Grant and some key receptions by Donald Driver. The key run, though, turned out to be a rush by Brandon Jackson, who took the ball down to about the 5. He replaced Grant who appeared to limp off the field a play earlier. On third and goal, Aaron Rodgers drilled a pass to Donald Driver for a TD. Packers 10 - Panthers 14.

    After then holding Carolina to three and out and apparently gaining some momentum, the Packers took over inside their own 30. On the first snap, however, that momentum came to a screeching halt: center Scott Wells (who has been playing with a bad shoulder) snapped the ball well over Rodgers' head. You guessed it: recovered by Carolina at around the Packers 20-yard line. From there, it only took four plays for the Panthers to find the endzone, with DeAngelo Williams walking in untouched around the left side of the line. Packers 10 - Panthers 21. A costly turnover for the Pack that gave Carolina an easy 7 just before half.

    Jason Spitz took over at center for Wells on the Pack's final series of the half, with Josh Sitton coming in to take Spitz' spot on the line.

    The Packers had the ball for roughly seven minutes longer than Carolina in the half. Unfortunately, they didn't do much with it. It's going to be a tough second half.

    End of 1st quarter: Packers 0 - Panthers 7

    The Packers averted an opening play disaster by causing and recovering a fumble on a flea flicker pass reception that would have put Carolina on about the Packers 20-yard line. Unfortunately, the Pack didn't do anything with it.

    And remember what I said in my game preview about trying to keep our punter Derrick Frost from punting? Well, he's punted three times in the first quarter...yikes.

    The Pack did get a sack along the way. But also gave up a 15-yard run by DeAngelo Williams on a short field -- which Carolina had most of the quarter -- to set up the Panthers touchdown.

    The Pack finally got something going at the end of the quarter, which will hopefully get them a score early in the second quarter.

    But there doesn't seem to be much of a sense of urgency or energy by the Pack, yet again. And, other than the sack by Aaron Kampman, the D-line is once again exerting no pressure whatsoever.

    Packers - Panthers preview

    It's just a few hours until kickoff at Lambeau. And this time of year, in addition to the teams and individual players we also start to pay a bit more attention to the weather. The weather forecast for Green Bay today calls for temps in the upper 30's, winds at 15-25 mph, and a chance of steady snow at some point in the afternoon. Oh, and did I mention that there is actually a winter storm warning in effect until 6 a.m. Monday? The forecast seems to indicate most of that possibility coming this evening, however, and with most of the accumulation to the south of Green Bay. So those folks traveling back to the Milwaukee area after the game, for example, may have to be wary of road conditions. As we all know, when it comes to these first of the season major snow warnings, it's a bit of an iffy proposition.

    Anyway...enough of Mr. Meteorologist. What about the game?

    These days, that prognostication seems as iffy as the weather forecast. Which Packers team will show up? The team that dominated Da Bearz? Or the team that got blown out by the Saints? It has been an up and down season, as reflected by our team's 5-6 record. Yes, the Packers get the home field advantage spread of 3 points going into the game. But Carolina is 8-3. Statistically? Well, going into Monday night most of that advantage went to the Pack over the guess we shouldn't make too much of that comparison this week. Except, perhaps, for the fact that Panthers' running back DeAngelo Williams has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the last four games. The Pack hasn't exactly been too consistent in stopping the run. So, he could present problems. As could WR Steve Smith, of course, especially if the Packers defensive backfield falls asleep two games in a row. QB Jake Delhomme is a smart veteran not prone to make mistakes. His arm hasn't fully returned to his pre-surgery strength, but smarts can help him compensate. As to the defense, RE Julius Peppers is a pass rush threat.

    On the Packers side of things, the injury report is as long as it's been all season. Lots of guys dinged up. But it's also time for whoever is in there to step it up. Play has been pretty flat of late. If they show up today with the same lack of energy they had in New Orleans you can forget the playoffs. With just four games remaining after today, if the Packers were to lose they'd fall either 2 games behind Da Bearz or the ViQueens (who play each other today...and because of potential tie-breakers, we have to root for the 'Queens today!). In short, that makes today's game a must-win for the Pack. Even with a win, they'd still be a game behind. But 2 games behind? Something we can't even think about it.

    The Pack needs to get Ryan Grant cranked up and run, run, run the ball today. The Packers offense needs to minimize the number of times it has to call upon so-called punter Derrick Frost who is more of an asset to the opponent with his kicking game than he is to the Packers. The Pack also needs to somehow, some way stop the Panthers' running game and also get a pass rush once in a while. Delhomme, while no Drew Brees, could certainly do some damage through the air if he's allowed to stand back in the pocket and not worry about getting smacked once in a while.

    This is a tough game to call. The Pack needs this game badly. But which team will show up? If Coach Mike McCarthy isn't able to get his team jazzed for this one...

    I'll drink that green 'n' gold kool-aide one more time: Packers 24 - Panthers 20.

    Go Pack Go!!!

    Wednesday, November 26, 2008

    LeRoy's view

    There's a concise and insightful analysis of the Packers' loss at New Orleans and more courtesy of retired Packers safety LeRoy Butler here. Bottom line: he called the loss a "collective effort" with players not prepared, but coaches, etc. needing to share responsibility. Having said that, Butler also said "there was nothing wrong with the game plan," that it was the same plan which shut down Peyton Manning and the Colts. Anyway, some interesting comments for you to check out.

    Injuries hit again
    After having a spate of injuries early in the season, and then seemingly getting a bit healthier as of late, the Pack took a hit coming out of the Saints game. The safeties, especially, came out banged up. Aaron Rouse, Atari Bigby, Charlie Peprah and Nick Collins all are dealing with ailments. Also on the defensive side of things, Johnny Jolly came out dinged up.

    On the offensive side of the ball, the most concerning injury is that of RT Mark Tauscher, who left the game after the second play Monday night. He was undergoing tests yesterday to determine just how bad the hamstring injury is but the fact they were doing an MRI indicates it is likely to keep him out of at least this week's game against Carolina. Tony Moll filled in for Tauscher and for the most part did an adequate job. Also nicked up are TE Tory Humphrey and RB Brandon Jackson.

    You can read more about the injuries here.

    As Butler says, the Packers are the most talented team in the Division, which might not be saying much this year. And the Packers certainly aren't demonstrating that fact either. But injuries going down the stretch run, combined with inconsistent play, may seal the Packers fate...unless they turn it around starting this Sunday.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    Day-after game analysis: What the (fill in the blank)?

    My pregame score prediction for last night's Packers-Saints game was 30-24 Packers. Well, I was close on the Pack, who wound up with 29. But the Saints? I was just a smidgen off on that one. But after reviewing my notes, I found that I had actually factored those 24 points as the first half score only for the Saints and forgot that I needed to double it for the final outcome.

    OK...that's not true. Just trying to have a little fun. You know, gallows humor kind of thing.

    But there was nothing funny about the way the Pack got sliced and diced last night in the Big Easy.

    The Pack's season-long flaws were on display for all to see: no pass rush, average linebacking, horrible punter and sieve-like special teams coverage, vanilla defensive schemes. A new starting QB and defensive backfield -- the former actually in the top 5 in the league and the latter heretofore the best in the league -- were also not at their finest. The running game? Looked OK to start, but as the third quarter spiraled out of control, that had to be shelved entirely.

    A couple observations, for what they're worth.

    First, special teams coach Mike Stock should be sent packing, along with his chosen punter, Derrick Frost, after the season. His dumping of Jon Ryan for Frost has been a major personnel blunder. When a punter is shanking and short-kicking the ball in a dome, you know there's problems. Combine that side of things with horrible punt and kick coverage...think about it: seemingly every time the Packers have a score and get some momentum the kick coverage team gives up a big return and fritters that momentum away in a matter of seconds.

    Second, defensive coordinator Bob Sanders should also be shown the door. Now, granted, injuries and GM Ted Thompson combined not to do him any favors in terms of the personnel on the defensive line. Other than Aaron Kampman, the Packers have no pass rush whatsoever. Combine this with the fact that the Packers rarely if ever blitz, and a quarterback like Drew Brees has easy pickin's, just like last night. Example: somewhere along the way the Saints had a 3rd and 15, if I recall. The Packers dropped 8 into coverage and "rushed" 3 -- I put rushed in quotes because it is really more a euphemism than an actual description of what happened. Brees had all the time in the world to find an open receiver and get the first down. Hey, coach's a new scheme for you: why don't you just drop everyone into coverage and not rush anyone at all...if would work just as well as what you're calling now.

    Yes, injuries along the D-line are playing a role. But so is the fact that Thompson, with a boatload of salary cap money to spend in the offseason to bolster that line, essentially did nothing.

    So, what next? Nothing to do but get ready on a short week for the 8-3 Carolina Panthers. At least it's home at Lambeau. But unless the Pack regains the attitude they had in demolishing Da Bearz -- and gets it back this weekend -- we might as well start thinking about draft picks for next season. We aren't there yet. But with what's broken on the Packers, there are no quick fixes. Chicago and Minnesota play each other this weekend in the HumpDome. The Pack needs to win to stay just one game behind in the Division, even with the win. If they drop the game to Carolina, they'll be 2 back with just 4 games left. Not impossible, especially with games against Da Bearz and the Lions among them. Winning out is what's needed. But is it likely? You need to make that call for yourself.

    Which team is the real Packers? The one that smacked Da Bearz? Or the team that got whipped by the Saints? The Packers have been inconsistent all season long. That pattern, regrettably, seems to be the only thing that's been consistent about this team.

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Stick a fork in it: Packers 29 - Saints 51 final

    The Saints wound up tying their own team record for points scored in a game at 51. They actually could have set a new team record if they had kicked a PAT after their final TD rather than bizarrely going for a two-point conversion.

    The Packers did score a TD and a went for their own two-point conversion, which they made. But Aaron Rodgers also threw his third interception of the evening on a 4th and 16 play to the endzone with about 6 minutes to go.

    The Packers had their butts kicked. The offense, especially Rodgers, was not sharp. But worse, the defense was missing in action and generated no pressure on Drew Brees, and allowed two 70-yard TD passes, with most of those yards coming after the catch.

    It was not the game the Packers needed. With five games remaining, this loss deals a serious blow to their playoff possibilities as they are now a full game behind both Chicago and Minnesota.

    For as well as they played last weekend against Da Bearz, they played just as badly tonight. Embarrassing. Simply embarrassing.

    End of 3rd quarter: Packers 21 - Saints 45

    The Packers scored...nothing in the 3rd quarter. Turned the ball over twice.

    The Saints? Scored 21 in the quarter. Including another 70-yard TD pass.

    The #1 pass defense was shredded by the #1 pass offense.

    Embarrassing. No pressure on Saints QB Drew Brees, who is using the Packers defense for target practice. Aaron Rodgers was victimized on his two interceptions by a slip by Greg Jennings and what appeared to be an incomplete route to the inside by rookie WR Jordy Nelson. But he also has been a bit off all night and that hasn't helped.

    All the energy is with the Saints. The Packers defense has been non-existent.


    Game over, regardless of what happens in the 4th quarter. The Pack will drop a game behind Da Bearz and the ViQueens.

    Give credit to the Saints. But the Packers defense never showed up.

    Halftime: Packers 21 - Saints 24

    It's a high-scoring 1st half in N'awlins!

    The Pack got 2 TDs in the second quarter, one coming early on a pass from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings, and the second coming with less than 2 minutes left in the half on a 10-yard scramble by Rodgers. In between, there was another Saints TD, with again no pressure on Drew Brees at all.

    Unfortunately, after the Pack tied the score at 21-21, they gave up a huge kickoff return setting up the Saints deep in the Packers' territory. Combined with the total lack of pressure on Brees except for the last few plays, another score in the form of a field goal, was a piece of cake for the Saints.

    The Packers have to figure out a way in the second half to get pressure on Brees. Heck, give you or me the time he has to pass and we could even complete some passes...OK, that's an exaggeration, but you know what I mean. The Pack doesn't like to blitz. But unless they start mixing it up in the second half and making Brees worry a little bit it's going to be a long night.

    The other correction the Pack needs to make is special teams, which has directly contributed to 10 points for the Saints tonight: 7 set up through a bad punt by Derrick Frost -- those are almost synonymous terms, aren't they? -- and the field goal set up through horrible kickoff coverage that gave the Saints -- who really don't need it -- a short field.

    The Pack can score on the Saints. The problem is that the Saints can also score on the Pack. If it keeps up like this in the second half it might go down to which team has the ball last.

    End of 1st quarter: Packers 7 - Saints 14

    No Reggie Bush for the Saints tonight. And for the Pack, RT Mark Tauscher goes to the locker room early with a reported hamstring injury.

    The Packers struck first, with a TD drive set up by a good punt return by Will Blackmon and finished off with a 1-yard TD plunge by FB John Kuhn. Then the Saints came back on a 70 yard pass in the flat and a blown coverage by Atari Bigby, who never laid a hand on the receiver. Then the Pack, courtesy of yet another lousy punt by Derrick Bush, set up the Saints at the Packers own 41. A few plays later, the score is 14-7 Saints.

    The Packers are getting no pressure whatsoever on Saints QB Drew Brees, which is going to make for a long night unless they figure out a way to do so. Conversely, Aaron Rodgers has been off on a few throws and seems not yet to be in sync. He missed a wide open Greg Jennings on what would have been a sure TD had he not underthrown the ball; Rodgers' reaction, caught by the Monday Night Football cameras, showed he was well aware of that.

    Packers vs Saints preview

    Hope you all enjoyed your day off from Packers football yesterday. If you're like me, though, somehow it seems to all get out of sync with no Sunday game. Sure, there are other games to watch. Like many folks, I checked occasionally on the Jets game to see how ol' #4 was doing. He done good, as he himself might say. The Jets halted the Titans' unbeaten streak. Some folks are actually starting now to suggest the possibility of a Giants-Jets Super Bowl. As boring as that might be for many beyond the East Coast, there are quite a few Packers fans who would love to see it. Firstly, for seeing Brett in the Big Game again. And, secondly, because if the Jets get to the Super Bowl the Packers wind up getting a first round draft pick in compensation for Favre. Go Brett Go!!!

    Oh sure, we were also able to watch or at least catch the scores of other games that matter. Da Bearz and ViQueens, sadly, both won, and are again tied atop the Division. The Packers need to win tonight in order to stay even.

    So, what do we know? Firstly, that the spread has gone from about 2-1/2 points in favor of the Saints this weekend down to 1 point now. We also know that the Saints ain't the 'aints any more. With Drew Brees at the helm, they have the #1 rated offense in the NFL, rolling up over 400 yards per game. Still, at 5-5, the Saints are sitting at the bottom of their division, 3 games behind leaders Tampa Bay and Carolina and 2 behind Atlanta. Kind of ironic, isn't it, that going into this weekend that same record would tie them for the lead in the NFC North? So it goes.

    With such a high-powered offense how is that they are bottom-feeding? Only winning one of five road games will do that to you. As will only having a +17 point total scoring differential versus your opponents after 10 games. In that stat category, the Pack have a +65 point differential versus opponents; only six other teams in the entire NFL have a better point differential than the Pack. In fact, the Packers have actually outscored the Saints 274 to 266. So who's got the high-flying offense? Hmmm. Just as importantly, the Pack have held opponents to 209 points over their 10 games. The Saints, by contrast, have given up 40 more points than the Packers, 249 overall.

    So, looking at those stats, offensively and defensively, the Packers should come out on top. But you have to play the game, right? And if the Packers play the way they did last weekend against Da Bearz, the result should be equally as good. Don't expect as much of a blow out, though. After all, the Saints do have an offense. The best defense -- other than the Pack's top-notch defensive backfield, that is -- would be to keep the Saints offense, including RB Reggie Bush who is expected to play this evening, on the bench. That also means keeping the Pack's newly-revitalized ground game churning as much as possible to eat up the clock. Also, protecting Aaron Rodgers as well as they did last week.

    There may be more to discuss here prior to kickoff. But just in case, let's make our call right now: Packers 30 - Saints 24.

    Go Pack Go!!!

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    Grant and McCarthy win weekly awards

    Thanks, no doubt, to the surge of votes from readers of (yes, a shameless plug, but what the heck), RB Ryan Grant was selected as the FedEx Ground Player of the Week and Head Coach Mike McCarthy was named as the Motorola NFL Coach of the Week. Arizona QB Kurt Warner -- a former Packer, remember??? -- was named the FedEx Air Player of the Week.

    As we well remember, Grant racked up 145 yards rushing and a TD in helping demolish Da Bearz last Sunday. And, of course, Coach McCarthy was the whiz who crafted the game plan that led the Pack to that great victory. What was the score again? Oh, yeah: 37-3!

    You can read more about Grant's award here and McCarthy's here.

    Congrats to Mr. Grant and Coach McCarthy. Oh...and you have 6 more of these awards to win yet this year if you care to. Good luck!

    Glory Years CB Bob Jeter Dies

    Cornerback Bob Jeter, #21, who played with the Packers from 1962-1971 and was part of three World Championships with the team, passed away unexpectedly at his Chicago home yesterday. According to reports, death was apparently due to cardiac arrest. Jeter was 71.

    Jeter was arguably one of the best cornerbacks of his time. He made the Pro Bowl in 1967 and 1969. He played in 107 regular season games with the Packers, plus an additional three years with Da Bearz after being traded to them in 1971. Jeter finished his career with 26 interceptions for 333 yards and two touchdowns. He is a member of the Packers Hall of Fame.

    With this kind of record, one might think this was the position Jeter played from college onward. Nope. He was a running back at Iowa. He actually set a Rose Bowl record in 1959 with 194 yards rushing in just nine carries as the Hawkeyes beat California 38-12. Wow.

    Instead of playing in the NFL, however, Jeter signed a contract before the NFL draft with the Canadian Football League, where he played two years. This contract signing, though, didn't prevent Vince Lombardi from spending a second round draft pick on him anyway just to have his rights. After sitting out a year after leaving Canada, as required by NFL rules at the time, Jeter joined the Pack. Lombardi apparently wanted to play him at receiver, and envisioned him as a backup to Boyd Dowler. But after dislocating a finger on one hand, and then on the other, on two consecutive days, the story goes that Lombardi told him he had "soft bones" and to start practicing with the defense. Thank goodness those soft bones still let him haul in those 26 interceptions and, along with Herb Adderly, be part of one of the best cornerback duos of that era.

    Jeter's son, Rob, is currently head coach of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee's men's basketball team.

    If you want to read more about Jeter, check out this story.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Photojournal from Packer win

    If you want to relive some of the finer moments of the Packers demolishing of Da Bearz, check out this "Along the Lines" slideshow by Green Bay Press-Gazette photojournalist, Evan Siegle. You also get his commentary about some of the shots, the game, and insights into what it must be like to be a sports photographer on the football field. Very cool, and some great pix.

    Check it out here.

    Vote early, vote often
    Yes, that tried and true strategy (another gift from Chicago) is nowhere more true than in the Pro Bowl balloting. If you haven't yet cast your votes for your favorite Packers -- which would be all of them, right? -- just click here to go to the official site.

    And since Ryan Grant ran all over Da Bearz to the tune of 145 yards, he's one of the nominees for this week's FedEx NFL Ground Player of the Week. Cast your vote for him here.

    Head Coach Mike McCarthy is also a nominee for this week's Motorola Coach of the Week honor. Who's he up against? Eric Mangini and Mike Singletary. C' contest. Vote here.

    And last but not least, be sure to vote for this year's inductee into the Packers Fan Hall of Fame. Go here for more.