Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Packers get Pro Bowl cred

The 2010 Pro Bowl rosters were just announced by the NFL. Here are the Packers who made the NFC roster in varying capacities:
  • Charles Woodson, starting cornerback
  • Aaron Rodgers, reserve quarterback
  • Nick Collins, reserve free safety.
Rookie linebacker Clay Matthews was named as a first alternate. Other alternates named include tackle Chad Clifton, running back Ryan Grant and linebacker A. J. Hawk.

You can read the Packers' press release about these selections here.

Congratulations to all. Well done, gentlemen, well done indeed.

What the Favre? Part 18

We haven't done a "What the Favre?" update in quite a while. But it seems only fitting given the ViQueens' overtime loss to Da Bearz in Chicago last night.

After erasing a 17-point deficit in the closing seconds of the game to take it into overtime, the 'Queens allowed the overpriced Bearz QB Jay Cutler to throw his best pass of the season for the winning TD.

This marks two games in a row that the 'Queens have lost and three of their last four. Say it with me: awwwwwww.

Wasn't it conjectured by any number of folks that Minnesota would likely do a late season swan dive? And...here we are.

If the Pack had won at Pittsburgh, they would be tied with Minnesota, although the 'Queens would hold the higher playoff seed by virtue of having beaten the Packers twice this season.

If the Pack had won at Tampa Bay, we'd be in first place in the division going into the final game of the season...or something like that.

With the upset last evening, it throws the NFC playoff seedings a bit up in the air. Everything was pointing solidly to a so-what game between the Packers and Cardinals on Sunday to close out the regular season. Now, the Cardinals might actually have something to play for, assuming the Giants can beat the 'Queens in the Humpty Dump and pending the winner between the Cowboys and Eagles.

The Packers, whether they win or lose Sunday, are pretty well set on that #5 seed; they could drop to #6 but that's unlikely. And, the Yahoo Sports NFL Playoff Scenario Generator still shows most of the scenarios with the Pack playing the Cardinals in the 1st round. But, there is at least one scenario in which the Packers could actually wind up playing...get ready for it!...the ViQueens. I could explain it all here but it would make your head explode. So trust me. Or, go to the Generator and see how it plays out for you.

The bottom line, though, no matter what, is that the Packers are peaking at the right time. And, as has so often been the case for the guys in the funky purple outfits, they are fading down the stretch. And maybe Brett is beginning to get the feeling that he's going to miss out on the Big Dance once again. As Seinfeld might say, "That's a shame."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Aren't the playoffs fun? And we aren't even there yet!

The playoffs are fun when you are in them. And, for the first time in the Aaron Rodgers era, the Packers are. With yesterday's win over the Seahawks and the Giants embarrassing loss to the Panthers, the Pack secured one of the two NFC wildcard spots.

Still to be determined, with one week left in the regular season, is who the Packers will play. There are a number of scenarios, but it seems as if most of them point to the Pack meeting the Cardinals -- their opponent this coming Sunday -- in the first round. Playing a team two weeks back to back has its advantages and disadvantages. Neither team is obviously going to want to show too much. And with neither team having much to play for, how much will each of the coaches expose their starters to possible injury? You have to figure that, yes, they'd each like to win the final regular season game but not at the possible loss of key players. The playoff spot is secure and, for the Packers, it won't really matter much (well, kinda sorta) whether they win or lose the final game except for the final standings. So, the goal now becomes setting things up to win that wildcard game. More about that in days to come.

For now, you might find it entertaining to make use of the Yahoo Sports NFL Playoff Scenario Generator to see for yourself who the Pack could likely play in that first round. As noted earlier, most things point to the Cardinals. But, if Da Bearz were somehow to upset the ViQueens this evening in Chicago, it certainly can affect the scenarios.

So, just enjoy the fact that the Packers are back in the playoffs. They are seemingly peaking at the right time. They've got a Pro Bowl level quarterback at the helm and his name isn't Favre, but Aaron Rodgers. The defense -- despite having the secondary get lit up in Pittsburgh a week ago -- is playing at a high level. And perhaps Ryan Grant's late season surge is once again on display, with able back up coming from veterans Ahman Green and Brandon Jackson. And as for the receiving corps -- wideouts and tight ends -- as they say out East, fuggetaboutit.

Go Pack Go!!!

Win a trip for 4 to Packers playoff game!
From Packers eNews:

Fans Can Win Trip For Four To Packers Playoff Game On Packers.com

Online Sign-up For Package Runs From Dec. 28 Through Jan. 2

Playoff fever for Packers fans has arrived, and fans have the opportunity to build their anticipation for the postseason with a chance to win a trip for four to the Packers' Wild Card playoff game the weekend of Jan. 9-10 through a contest on Packers.com.

Beginning today and running through Jan. 2, 2010, fans can sign up for the chance to win the playoff package, which includes four tickets to the game, roundtrip airfare for four from anywhere in the continental United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii), and two hotel rooms for two nights.

The winner will be chosen Jan. 3, and all arrangements will be made Jan. 4 once the game date and site are confirmed. A Jan. 9 game will see the winner and guests depart Jan. 8 and return Jan. 10. A Jan. 10 game will see a Jan. 9 departure and Jan. 11 return.

Registration for the contest and full details are available online here.

Potential winners must comply with the contest's official rules. The Packers will select the winner in a random drawing from all eligible entries received during the promotion period. The potential winners will be notified by telephone or e-mail. - Enter To Win!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Final: Packers 48 - Seahawks 10

OK, it was the Seahawks, but still...48-10! Wow.

The Packers turned in a dominating performance, doubling their 1st half score and only allowing Seattle a meaningless touchdown late in the game.

Backup RB Brandon Jackson scored two more TDs in the half to total three for the game. Backup RB Ahman Green added another rushing touchdown, his first since returning to the Packers. K Mason Crosby even added another field goal early in the 4th quarter, this one a confidence boosting kick from 52 yards away. Yeah, Mason!

The 2nd half started on a sour note for Seattle when QB Matt Hasselbeck got picked off by Jarrett Bush in their first series. It was downhill from there. Atari Bigby got his second interception of the day later in the half to give Hasselbeck 4 INTs on the day.

As for offensive statistics, QB Aaron Rodgers finished 12 of 23 for 237 yards and 1 touchdown. The game was nailed down so early that Rodgers was pulled for backup Matt Flynn before the 3rd quarter had ended. Flynn also performed well in mop up duty, going 4 for 6 for 36 yards and with no turnovers. Ryan Grant rushed for 97 yards, with 56 of those coming on his 2nd quarter TD gallop. WR Greg Jennings had a great day with 4 catches for 111 yards. TE Jermichael Finley had 3 catches for 80 yards.

Packers in the playoffs!
It was a great game, and a great way for the Packers to nail down a wildcard playoff spot. Yes, you heard that right. With the Packers' 10th win of the season and the Giants 41-9 loss to Carolina, the Packers have secured one of the two wildcard spots in the playoffs.

There are a lot of things to be determined yet as to who the Packers might play. Right now, it could be Philadelphia or more likely Arizona. But don't bank on any of that just yet.

For now, just savor this great win and a return to the playoffs.

Say it with me now: It's great to be a Packers fan!!!

Halftime: Packers 24 - Seahawks 3

On the Seahawks' first series of the 2nd quarter, they moved the ball steadily down field, eventually getting inside the Packers' 10-yard line. On 3rd down, Matt Hasselbeck's pass was tipped by Johnny Jolly and was intercepted in the endzone by Atari Bigby.

The Packers did nothing with the turnover, however, and soon the Seahawks were again down to the Packers' 10-yard line. A holding penalty sidetracked the 'hawks and they wound up having to settle for a field goal. 14-3 Packers.

On the Packers next series, RB Ryan Grant broke a handoff up the middle and took it 56 yards to the endzone. Packers 21-Seahawks 3.

The Packers got one more shot at the end zone on their last series, after some hard running by backup RB Ahman Green and another long pass and run from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings.

Down in the redzone, however, there was some curious clock management by head coach Mike McCarthy as they had they let the clock run from about 50 seconds down 15 before taking a time out. On the next play, 3rd down, a pass down to about the 2-yard line set up 4th and goal with 8 seconds on the clock as the Packers took their final timeout. Eschewing (look it up) the field goal, the Pack went for it on 4th down. Rodgers threw a pass to a wide open TE/LB Spencer Havner for a TD...except, the refs called a penalty on Havner for pushing off the defender. Replays showed Havner merely disengaging from the defender...a rather ticky-tack call by the refs on that one. But, it then gave K Mason Crosby a chance to get some practice in on his field goals. Crosby converted the 29-yarder to put the Pack up 24-3 at half.

The other thing to note here at halftime is that currently in the 3rd quarter, Carolina is whupping the Giants 31-0 at the Meadowlands. With a Packers' win -- let's assume -- and a Giants' loss -- let's assume, the Packers will get a lock on a wildcard spot regardless of what the Cowboys do tonight.

Go Pack Go!

End of 1st quarter: Packers 14 - Seahawks 0

The Packers took the opening kickoff and promptly went 3 and out, including giving up a sack to a team that only has about 27 on the season.

On the Seahawks first possession, they steadily moved the ball on the ground, picking up a couple first downs. But on 3rd and 1, they decided to pass. Good thing. QB Matt Hasselbeck got flushed from the pocket and threw a wounded duck right into the arms of LB A. J. Hawk, who proceeded to return it to about the Seahawks' 35-yard line. A few plays later, QB Aaron Rodgers threw a screen pass to RB Brandon Jackson who took it 13 yards for a touchdown. Packers 7 - Seahawks 0.

The Packers' next series was rather uneventful. They escaped giving up their second sack of the quarter -- which would have made it something like 3rd and 30 after a delay of game penalty earlier in the series -- when a defender was called for illegal contact downfield. Whew. Well, momentarily, whew. Because the offense did nothing afterward. In fact, on one pass play, Rodgers throwing motion actually had the ball just drop right from his hands. Luckily, he was able to pick it up and get rid of it. But it was a very out-of-sync series.

On the Packers' last series of the quarter, Rodgers connected on a 40-yard pass play to WR Greg Jennings. That put Rodgers over 4,000 yards in passing for the second straight year. Rodgers thus becomes the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons as the starting quarterback. Congrats, Mr. Rodgers!

Rodgers and Jennings connected again on this series for a 24-yard pass and run down to the Seattle 3-yard line. A play later, RB Ryan Grant dove over the goal line pylon to pick up the Pack's second TD of the day. Packers 14 - Seahawks 0.

Packers - Seahawks Preview

It's game day at Lambeau Field. And that means redemption day. Redemption for the blown game in Pittsburgh last Sunday. The Packers to a man knew they let one get away that they should have had. Coaches know it too. And we, the loyal green-n-gold-blooded fans, absolutely know it.

So, there should be a bit of anger on the part of the Pack today. They should be playing as if their season depends upon it. Because in a way, it does. Oh, there are still scenarios in which the Pack could lose their two remaining games and still make the playoffs but do we really want to go there? I think not.

Instead, the nearly wingless Seahawks come to Green Bay today without much to offer in the way of resistance. That's not just me blowing smoke you-know-where. That's what the oddsmakers say, as well: the Packers are 14-point favorites over the 'hawks. Other than now 34-year-old Matt Hasselbeck under center -- who generally does not play well when returning to play the team that drafted him -- the Seahawks have really been hurt by injury all season long. Their offensive line is not great. And there are really not a lot of weapons for Hasselbeck to rely upon. On defense, not much there either.

So, unless turnovers, special teams gaffes, and/or untimely penalties (gee, where have seen that before???) plague the Pack today, they should take care of business and emerge with a needed win.

It would also be a plus if Dallas loses to the Redskins tonight (not likely, but on any given Sunday...) or the Giants lose to Carolina this afternoon (could happen). If the Pack wins and either Dallas or the Giants lose today, the Packers secure their wild card spot in the playoffs.

Oh, and one other thing we'd probably rather not do: root for the ViQueens to beat Da Bearz Monday night. If they do so -- and there is no reason to suspect they won't -- the Arizona Cardinals (the Pack's opponent next Sunday) will have no chance to secure a first round bye, which means they will be less likely to be trotting out their starters for very long when they and the Packers meet.

I know: pragmatism is sometimes ugly.

But one thing that isn't is a Packers win. And that's what we're going to get today. Let's take the Packers 31-13 over the Seahawks.

Go Pack Go!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Crosby as a Longwell re-run?

Green Bay Press-Gazette sports editor Mike Vandermause has an interesting column today. He's suggesting not only that the Packers not give up on K Mason Crosby but that fans should actually "cut him some slack."

Why? Beause we have seen this before. Not from Crosby. But from another Packers' kicker this decade. One who actually went on to be the leading scorer in Packers history: Ryan Longwell.

As Vandermause says in the column, "Longwell made just 20 of 31 field goals eight years ago and ranked 33rd among NFL kickers, but bounced back by converting 85.2 percent of his kicks over the next three seasons. His 81.6 percent career mark ranks No. 1 in Packers history."

There's also another example of a currently well-regarded veteran kicker that Vandermause cites as having gone through struggles. "Neil Rackers of the Arizona Cardinals has been the most accurate kicker in the NFL over the past two seasons (41 of 45, 91.1 percent) and in 2005 converted 40 of 42 field goals (95.2 percent). But in 2001, the same year Longwell struggled, Rackers made just 17 of 28 kicks (60.7 percent), and during a two-year span in 2006 and 2007 made just 73.1 percent of his field goals."

So, while Crosby shouldn't get a free pass -- in fact, Vandermause says it would be useful to give Crosby some competition in next year's camp -- there seems to be some precedent for trying to work through this current stretch of misses.

And, while nearer the bottom than the top in kicker ratings this season, Crosby's leg strength is something that is hard to come by. Let's just hope he doesn't cost the Pack a spot in the playoffs...or a loss that should have been a win.

You can read Vandermause's column here.

For a chart on current kicker stats, click here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Packers playoff scenarios ... and other cosmic debris

As we knew going into this last weekend's game, if the Packers beat the Steelers and either Dallas or the Giants lost, the Pack would have locked up a playoff spot. As Week #15 of the NFL concluded last evening, we now know that...none of that happened. The Packers lost in a heartbreaker, Dallas upset the Saints in New Orleans, and the Giants handled the 'skins in D.C.

So, what do the scenarios look like now? Here ya go, Packer fans. The Pack makes the playoffs with any of the following:
  • A win (vs. Seattle) and a N.Y. Giants loss or tie (vs. Carolina)
  • Or a win and a Dallas loss (vs. Washington)
  • Or a tie and a N.Y. Giants loss

Defensive second-guessing continues...but not by the coaches
The local and national airwaves were and are full of fans and pundits second-guessing the Packers defensive approach on the Steelers' game-winning drive. But despite giving up an Al Bundy-like bajillion yards passing to Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (OK, more like 503 yards to be exact), failing to prevent big plays on the drive, failing to just tackle a receiver before they got out of bounds, failing to blitz, and committing three penalties which kept the Steelers alive -- including one which negated an interception that would have ended the game with a Packers win -- both head coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers say they wouldn't have done anything differently. Not even keep blitzing LB Clay Matthews who had been wreaking havoc all day long.

And why oh why didn't the coaches instruct the defensive backs that it would be preferable to take a pass interference penalty (something we all know they are already quite adept at) rather than allow a catch in the endzone? CB Josh Bell -- the defensive back who got beat on the last play -- would have been better off just pushing the receiver out of bounds and then taking a last-stand chance at the 1-yard line. Might have wound up with the same result. But you at least would have stayed alive to make that last stop and get a different result.

Anyway...woulda, coulda, shoulda, right? You can read more of the coaches' assessments here.

Crosby is still safe
Coach Mike McCarthy isn't one to make quick personnel change decisions. With many fans and sports commentators saying they don't know how the Packers can't now bring in some kickers to tryout after K Mason Crosby's now seeming every-game miss streak (sorry...a bit wordy there), McCarthy said yesterday, "Mason Crosby is our kicker. He will be our kicker moving forward. Zero interest in bringing in a kicker. I have all the confidence that Mason will fix the issue that he's had with missing the one kick a game."

So, get over it, Packer fans. It just may be that the team's playoff fortunes live or die on the leg of Mason Crosby. That's more of a generic description, granted. Because there is no problem with the strength of Crosby's leg. The problem is that dang right hash mark, from which Crosby pushes everything right. According to Crosby, as reported in an article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "When the ball goes right, I'm not finishing my right side enough. I have to make sure I finish that and get through the target." The change in holders this past Sunday from backup QB Matt Flynn to punter Jeremy Kapinos didn't seem to matter. Kapinos did bobble the snap on an extra point but got the ball down and Crosby was still able to get it through the uprights. According to the article, special teams coach Shawn Slocum said the hold by Kapinos on the missed field goal was good. Just...another push by Crosby.

What is concerning, as mentioned here in prior posts, is that Crosby is now missing relatively short kicks. Prior to Sunday, most if not all his wide-right misses have occurred from 40-45 yards out (he has only made one kick out of five attempts of over 50 yards this season, a 52-yarder). Against the Steelers, his miss was from 34-yards.

Clearly, McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson have determined that they've got too much invested in Crosby at this point and that the fix is as simple as a mechanical tweak. While true, you just have to believe that with a miss in -- what, 5 or 6 of the last 7 games? -- this has to be messing with Crosby's psyche. It's just like that one hole on the golf course, ya know? Wide open fairway on the left, woods all down the right; you can be aiming 180 degrees away from the trees into wide open space and before you even tee off you know that ball is going to go...right...into the dang trees! (Wait...did I just reveal too much about my golf game???)

Anyway, you get the point, or points. The key one being, you better be on your knees praying every time Crosby attempts a field goal from here on out. Especially if the game is on the line. That missed kick in the first half Sunday would have made Roethlisberger's end-of-game heroics moot if Crosby had just done what he says he's been working to do since this problem started: finish.

If Crosby doesn't figure out a way to do that, and soon, the Packers might also find themselves finished off all-too-soon.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Further thoughts on the Packers loss to Steelers

This is by no means a thorough review or analysis of the game. Feelings are a bit too raw for that right now.

So just consider it some cosmic debris for use later...or not...as you wish.
  • The Packers scored 22 points in the 4th quarter.
  • The Packers gave up 503 yards passing, the most in the league this year.
  • The final score, 37-36, is the first time in NFL history a game has ended with that score.
  • The Packers -- the most penalized team in the league this season -- had 3 penalties on the Steelers' last drive that kept the Steelers alive...including an illegal contact penalty on an interception that would have ended the game and sealed a Packers' win.
  • The unavailability of backup CB Brandon Underwood played a larger role in this game than would have been thought. It meant everybody got bumped up, including Jarrett Bush (who was burned repeatedly on big plays today...just as he was last season) and Josh Bell, who gave up the winning TD with no time remaining on the clock; this was only the second time this season (if memory serves...don't count on it) that he was active.
  • And, as mentioned in my game preview, we would have hated to see the game go down to a Mason Crosby kick...but that's just what happened. That 1st half miss from 34-yards would ultimately have given the Pack the victory. The team must bring in some kickers to work out this week. Relying on Crosby down the stretch is just now too big of a question mark.
Again, just some initial thoughts about this heartbreaker. The Packers are now 9-5 and still in control of their own destiny as far as reaching the playoffs. This is a game the Pack should have been able to win. The good Steelers -- the ones that haven't been seen the last 5 weeks -- showed up today. Unfortunately, the sieve-like Packers' defense -- the bad one that we hadn't seen since the first half of the season -- reappeared at a very inopportune time. Aaron Rodgers and the offense got the winning TD. But, as happened so often last season, the defense couldn't make that one last stop...literally, this time.

Next up Seattle at Lambeau. I think the Pack will be angry. And that's good. They're much better when they're angry.

Final: Packers 36 - Steelers 37

I think I'm gonna hurl.

20-something yard TD pass from Roethlisberger to tie with 0 seconds remaining. Extra point to win the game.

I have to take a walk. This is a gut-wrencher. More later.

End of 3rd quarter: Packers 14 - Steelers 24

A fairly uneventful quarter, as evidenced by the score. The Packers added 0 and the Steelers added 3.

The Pack held the Steelers on the opening drive of the half. However, on their first possession of the half, the Pack carried on a tradition from the 1st half: 3-and-out.

On the Steelers next possession, they put together a drive which resulted in a touchdown...oops, TD called back on a penalty. The Pack then added a sack to ruin the TD hopes and the Steelers had to settle for 37-yard field goal, which they converted to go up on the Packers 24-14. Must be nice to have a kicker make field goals...I wonder what's that like...but I digress...

The quarter ended with the Packers driving down inside the Steelers' redzone once again.

Halftime: Packers 14 - Steelers 21

After finishing up the 1st quarter deep in Steelers' territory, the Packers did what they are becoming all-too-good at this season: stalling out in the redzone.

In this case, it set up a 34-yard field goal attempt by the increasingly unreliable Mason Crosby. And, to no one's surprise, Crosby pushed it wide right...again. Missed opportunity.

The Packers tied the score late in the quarter on a 15-yard scramble by QB Aaron Rodgers, his fourth rushing TD of the season.

The Steelers came back to make a go-ahead TD with about 26-seconds remaining in the quarter, courtesy of too many missed tackles by the Packers that helped keep their drives alive. The Packers had about a 40-plus yard Hail Mary attempt to close out the half that was unsuccessful.

The Packers were plagued by dropped passes in the 2nd quarter. They were nearly plagued by a missed extra point, too, as Crosby's extra point kick on the second TD was almost pulled wide left. Crosby's psyche appears not to be in a place where he is confident of making anything at this point. In prior games, he was missing kicks over 40-yards; now he's missed a kick under 35 yards. Not good. Not good at all.

LB Clay Matthews got two sacks in the quarter. Apparently, the one in the 1st quarter was wiped out on the challenged call on the sack/fumble/so-called incomplete pass play.

The Packers have to keep getting pressure on Roethlisberger in the second half to have a hope in this game. They also have to start catching the passes they should be catching. And it would be nice to see a game plan that included some rushing attempts; through the first half the Packers ran a grand total of 6 times out of 35 plays for a total of 27 yards. That's like the kind of "balance" you get on Fox News: non-existent.

This is going to be a tough one to pull out. We knew that going in. But the Packers again have not played sharply and they have again missed opportunities. You can get away with that against lesser opponents. Despite the record, the Steelers are definitely not a lesser team in the scheme of things.

End of 1st quarter: Packers 7 - Steelers 14

We knew this would be a tough game. Just didn't think the quarter would go like this.

It started with the Packers getting the opening kickoff and going three-and-out. Something they did on three of their five possessions in the quarter. QB Aaron Rodgers was knocked down several times and was only 3 for 11 on passing in the quarter.

After that first three-and-out, the Steelers first play was a 60-yard TD pass over CB Jarrett Bush who got beat badly. 7-0 Steelers.

The Packers next possession saw them again going three-and-out, with play selection being all passes on the first two possessions.

On the Pack's next possession, on 3rd-and-5, Rodgers connected on a deep over-the-middle pass to WR Greg Jennings who took it to the endzone for an 83-yard touchdown. It was the longest of both Rodgers' and Jennings' careers, and the longest this year for the Packers. Score: 7-7. The hold on the extra point was a bit dicey as it turns out that backup QB Matt Flynn is no longer holding on kicks; punter Jeremy Kapinos is now holding.

On the Steelers next possession, they put together a 10-play, 72-yard drive to go ahead 14-7 on a 2-yard run.

Then there was another 3-and-out by the Packers. Seems as if there has been a total of about 3 or 4 running plays so far.

On the Steelers next possession, LB Clay Matthews sacked and clearly caused a fumble by Ben Roethlisberger on 3rd down. The Pack would have had the ball inside the Steelers' 30-yard line. The Steelers challenged the call and it was ruled as a throwing motion and thus incomplete pass. Former quarterback and booth announcer Troy Aikman was amazed, saying it was clearly a fumble. Footage of Roethlisberger on the bench even showed him going "Wow"...twice.

Following the punt, on the Pack's final possession of the quarter, on 3rd-and-10, Rodgers connected on a 49-yard pass to Donald Driver to set up the Packers deep inside Steelers' territory.

That's where the quarter ended.

Packers - Steelers preview

The big snow storm belting the East Coast missed Pittsburgh for the most part. Weather conditions today call for it being cloudy and about 30 degrees...basically, a repeat of the weather the Packers played in at Chicago last Sunday.

But that will be where the similarities end.

The Steelers have had 10 days off to ponder their five-game losing streak. They have been getting hammered in their local media. Among their seven losses are losses to Da Bearz, Chiefs, Raiders and Browns. Yikes. On the other hand, among their six wins are victories over the Chargers, ViQueens and Broncos. Yikes again.

The Steelers are sick of losing, they are the defending Super Bowl champs, and a visit by the Packers might be just the thing for them to plug a sinking ship. They still are alive in the wild card run for the AFC playoffs, but a loss today would almost certainly stick a nail in their playoff coffin this season.

The problems, then, for the Packers begin by first trying to figure out which Steelers team will show up today. The bad Steelers or the good Steelers. The oddsmakers are giving the Steelers nearly the full benefit of their home field advantage, establishing them as 2.5-point favorites over the Pack. Seems reasonable given the situation. Many, including many Packers fans, are figuring that out of their remaining three games, this is the game the Packers are most likely to lose. When looking at both the offensive and defensive stats, things are pretty close in many categories. Toss up, right?

On defense, the Steelers have a solid linebacking corps that can be disruptive to the Packers' offense. They have a very physical presence across the board. On offense, the Packers will be facing QB Ben Roethlisberger who has been banged around quite a bit this season. He was sacked eight times by Cleveland in their last loss. The Packers "D" should be able to get pressure on him, as well. The key will be staying on receivers if Big Ben is flushed from the pocket, where he can become very dangerous making plays. WR Hines Ward will return to play today despite nursing a hamstring injury and is typically the Steelers' go-to guy. WR Santonio Holmes also is a threat. The Packers rush defense -- 2nd in the NFL -- should be able to contain Rashard Mendenhall and whomever else is in the backfield despite nose tackle Ryan Pickett being questionable for the game.

You'd hate to have this game come down to 3 points or less and rest on the leg of K Mason Crosby who, as we all know, has been less than reliable over the last five or six games. This could be the opportunity that Crosby needs to regain his confidence. On the other hand, let's have that confidence-boosting, game-winning kick come another day. It shouldn't even be necessary if the Packers are finally able to figure out a way to get into the endzone when they get inside the redzone. They cannot continue to stall out. Better play-calling and better execution are necessary. Otherwise, that lack of redzone production could just be the difference in the game.

Predictions for this game seem to be all across the board, most favoring the Steelers. Before the Packers got rolling a bit on their five-game winning streak, I also figured this game to go into the loss column. But a win by the Packers and a loss by the Giants at Washington on Monday night gives the Packers a wildcard lock. If the Cowboys had lost to the Saints last evening as most expected, and the Packers got a win today, the Pack also would have been guaranteed a wildcard spot. Didn't happen that way. Bottom line: just gotta get a win no matter what.

The Packers haven't played a complete game yet this season, and that's what's worrisome. But they are winning. Winning ugly, but winning. Good teams do that: find a way to win. That might be what happens again today.

Alright...hold on a second while I take a drink from the Green 'n' Gold koolaid...I'm calling it Packers 20 - Steelers 17.

Go Pack Go!!!

A shout out to UW-Whitewater
While the Packers have dreams of championships dancing in their heads, there is already one national championship that has come back to Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin - Whitewater Warhawks beat Mount Union yesterday, 38-28, to win the NCAA Division III National Championship in the Alonzo Stag Bowl held in Salem, WV. The game was delayed five hours so crews could move about 17 inches of snow from the playing field. Because of the storm, many fans were stranded and busloads turned around and never made it. This great game, which was tied going down to under 2 minutes in the game, was bumped from ESPN2 to ESPN Classic (where the heck is that on the dial???) because of the time change. Just over 3,000 fans were in the stands at game time. But it was a great game for those who had a chance to see it. If you have a chance to catch it on a replay, it's worth watching. Two of the top non-scholarship Division III programs in the country went at it for a full 60 minutes.

Mount Union and UW-Whitewater were ranked #1-2 all season long. Both came in undefeated. These two teams have faced off in the National Championship for each of the last five years. With yesterday's win, Whitewater brought home the trophy for the second time in the last three years and finished the season 15-0, the school's first undefeated season since 1950.

Congrats to the Warhawks! You can read more about this great game here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Packers bits & pieces

Just some quick hits for you...
  • If the Packers beat the Steelers on Sunday and either the Cowboys lose, or the Giants lose or tie, or the Packers tie and Giants lose -- got all that? -- the Packers are guaranteed a playoff spot. See here for more.

  • LB Brandon Chillar agreed to a 4-year, $21 million contract extension with the Packers. While not currently a starter, the team views Chillar as a key part of its sub-packages. Chillar would have been an unrestricted free agent. The fact that he's been playing effectively on special teams and in his scheme assignments with a broken and surgically-repaired hand is something not lost on observers. See this article for more.

  • The contract extension for starting safety Nick Collins is nowhere to be seen. Apparently there have been no discussions between the Packers and his agent, which seems a bit bewildering to many. On the other hand, Collins would be a restricted free agent which gives the Packers more options than with Chillar, for example. That's why the Packers don't appear to be in as much of a hurry with Collins. Given the level of his play and importance on the defense, fans might well hope that Packers management starts negotiations sooner rather than later. There's a great article about this matter here.

  • Defensive tackle Johnny Jolly yesterday was indicted for the second time on drug possession charges by a Harris County, Texas grand jury. Charges had been dropped over the summer on the first indictment issued last Fall. The charges are the same as those filed last year and allegedly relate to codeine cough syrup found in his vehicle. Jolly could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, but as a first time offender he could also get probation. You can read more here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Final: Packers 21 - Da Bearz 14

Every Packer fan can exhale now. Packers win over Da Bearz 21 -14 to go 9-4 on the season.

The Packers took the lead early in the 4th quarter following an interception by Nick Collins at about the 13:30 mark. Collins returned the ball to Da Bearz' 10-yard line. Aaron Rodgers threw a short pass to TE Jermichael Finley at the 5-yard line. The next play was a pass to Donald Driver in the endzone. Courtesy of the accompanying pass interference penalty, the Pack got the ball at the 1. Ryan Grant then took it in for the TD to put the Packers up 19-14. They went for the 2-point conversion and converted on a pass to Greg Jennings to make the lead 7, at 21-14.

The Packers had a chance to go up by 10 later in the quarter on a 42-yard field goal attempt by K Mason Crosby. But for the eighth time this season, Crosby missed the kick, pushing it wide right as has been his tendency of late. Crosby's lack of consistency on anything over 40 yards in length has to be a real concern for the coaching staff the Packers continue their playoff run.

This kept Da Bearz hopes alive...temporarily. The Packers defense held and got the ball back with about 4 minutes remaining. With an 18-yard run by Grant -- who finished with 137 yards rushing for the day -- and a late hit penalty, the Pack was able to move the ball out to nearly mid-field. However, attempting to run the clock down, they were unable to convert on 3rd and 1 rushing the ball.

Following the punt and a holding penalty on the play, Da Bearz took over the ball at their own 14 with about 2 minutes remaining. And, courtesy of some very bad clock management on their prior possession -- calling a timeout and then challenging an incomplete pass call, which they lost costing them a second timeout -- Da Bearz only had 1 timeout remaining.

The Packers held, including a sack on Jay Cutler by CB Tramon Williams. On 4th and 11, Cutler's pass was broken up by -- who else? -- Charles Woodson. From there, it was the victory formation and kneel downs by Aaron Rodgers. Game. Set. Match.

The Packers were far from perfect in this game. They gave up a couple sacks on Aaron Rodgers, they had a couple turnovers. Two things they didn't do today was allow a big special teams play by their opponent or have many penalties...Da Bearz easily took the award in that latter category today.

So, there is still much to work on for the Packers. On a day when the offense wasn't sharp, the defense did what it needed to do to help win a game, especially against a mediocre offense like Da Bearz. It's a testament to how far the Packers have come that they can win a game on the road, against a rival such as Da Bearz, when they aren't firing on all cylinders.

Next up is the Steelers. The Steelers are off today after their Thursday night 13-6 loss to Cleveland. At 6-7, last season's Super Bowl champions are on the outside looking in on the wild card hunt in their conference. But more on the Steelers as the week goes along.

For now, let's just savor the Packers' season sweep of Da Bearz in game #179 between the two teams.

Say it with me now: It's great to be a Packers fan!

End of 3rd quarter: Packers 13 - Bears 14

Ya know, missed opportunities and turnovers keep bad teams alive.

That's what's happened through the first three quarters of this game. The Packers stalled out in the redzone early and had to settle for field goals -- and let's not mention the touchdown that was that the refs said wasn't. Then toss in a couple turnovers and, unfortunately, the game is now the battle for survival that we thought could happen, but wouldn't. So much for that idea.

The Packers started off moving the ball on the 3rd quarter's first possession. QB Aaron Rodgers got pressured and bobbled the ball as he went to pass. He caught it and then, ill advisedly, attempted to throw it again...and bobbled it again. It was plucked in the air by a defender. Ball to Da Bearz, who then took a 6-play 56-yard drive into the endzone on a 10-yard TD pass. Packers 13 - Da Bearz 14.

The Pack was unable to get anything going after that in the 3rd quarter.

Halftime: Packers 13 - Bears 7

The Packers drive coming out of the end of the first quarter ended when the Packers stalled out. Mason Crosby hit a 26-yard field goal to put the Packers up 13-0.

This continues a disturbing trend we have seen a lot in the first half of games this season: the Packers have long sustained drives only to stall out in the redzone and have to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. This keeps mediocre teams, like Da Bearz, in the game.

And, in fact, that's just what happened. Da Bearz put together a 13-play, 90-yard (including penalties) drive to pull within 6 points with less than 2 minutes remaining in the half. The score came on 19-yard pass into the endzone from Jay Cutler to Johnny Knox. Earlier in the drive, Charles Woodson had a chance at his second interception of the day at the endzone but dropped the ball when hitting the ground. Dang.

An unsportsman-like conduct penalty on the long snapper on the PAT meant the Packers should have started after the kickoff with good field position. Only problem, it was a good kick and the Packers' own element of mediocrity -- the special teams -- didn't take advantage of it. And, following the second sack on Aaron Rodgers in the half, the Packers appeared to almost want the time to expire. But Brandon Jackson converted a short 3rd down pass into a first down at about the 50 yard line with 21 seconds remaining. TE Jermichael Finley caught a pass to put the Pack in field goal position, but fumbled the ball as he was being tackled. Da Bearz recovered, took a knee, and we have more of a game on our hands than there should be.

If the Packers do what they have done in other games this season when they have missed opportunities in the first half -- that is, create and take advantage of opportunities in the second half -- another "W" is only 30-minutes away.

Go Pack Go!!!

End of 1st quarter: Packers 10 - Bears 0

Da Bearz took the opening kickoff and went 3 and out. On the first play from scrimmage for the Packers, RB Ryan Grant took a handoff from QB Aaron Rodgers and ran 62 yards for a TD. 7-0 Packers.

On the Packers next series, Rodgers tossed a beautful long throw to Greg Jennings in the back of the end zone. The refs called it incomplete as he lost the ball when tackled out of the endzone. Replays clearly showed Jennings had possession before going out of the endzone. Coach Mike McCarthy challenged the play but the refs upheld their call. Boooooooo. Blown call. Even the television announcers wanted an explanation of that one. Should have been 14-0. As it was, the Pack settled for a 34-yard field goal by Mason Crosby to go up 10-0.

On Da Bearz' next possession, Cutler's first pass was badly thrown and intercepted by Charles Woodson. The Packers were driving when the quarter ended.

The Packers dominated both sides of the ball in the quarter. But they must finish when they get into the redzone.

Packers - Bears Preview

In honor of Chicago's very own Al Bundy, we will begin this post by stating that this is something like the bajillionith meeting between the two teams in the NFL's oldest rivalry, the Packers and Da Bearz. And while Chicago's head coach is perhaps on the chopping block at the end of this season, one feather in his cap has been his 7-4 record against the Pack since being named coach. That record will get a bit closer to .500 today.

Da Bearz best defensive performance of this season came in the first game against the Packers. Which they still lost. Since then, it's been a steady downhill slide. Losing their defensive leader in that game for the season, LB Brian Urlacher, was the start of it. DT Tommy Harris has been battling a knee injury, as has been LB Lance Briggs. Both are expected to play today. On offense, Da Bearz somehow were about the only remaining team in the league who thought Orlando Pace could still be effective at left tackle. Ooops.

The supposed weapons Da Bearz pulled together on offense, primarily Devin Hester, Greg Olsen, Matt Forte and the second Mistake on the Lake, Jay Cutler, haven't clicked. As Jerry Seinfeld might say, "That's a shame."

Now, don't get me wrong. These guys are capable of making plays. Cutler is no doubt looking for some retribution after his abysmal start against the Pack in Game #1 where he threw 4 interceptions and had a passer rating nearly as low as todays' game time temperature. Expect him to try to go after CB Tramon Williams who, despite the penalty flag parade in Monday's game, has actually performed very well, as this article relates. If Cutler somehow isn't being pressured and is able to get into a rhythm he can definitely slice and dice a defense. But that's doubtful today.

It's also quite possible veteran center Olin Kreutz might have taken it a bit personally when Packers rookie NT B. J. Raji, who will start if Ryan Pickett is unable to go with his bad hamstring, said he wasn't too impressed by Kreutz' strength. As you might well imagine, this has been quite the fodder in Chicago. Perhaps not the best time for Mr. Raji to say such things. So let's see how all that plays out today.

Da Bearz' special teams are obviously superior to those of the Packers, at least in terms of execution. But that's about all Da Bearz have going for them.

The weather shouldn't be a factor today. It will actually be a rather balmy 35 degrees according to the forecast. So the Packers should be able to run and pass just as they have been doing all season. The Packers beat Da Bearz in just about every statistical category imaginable. But the game isn't played on paper (think Tampa Bay). The Pack has to show up and do what they are capable of doing. And there's nothing sweeter than beating Da Bearz up and down Lake Shore Drive.

The spread has the Pack favored by 4. Not surprisingly, I'm taking the Packers...and by more than 4. Packers 27 - Da Bearz 17.

Go Pack Go!!!

By the way, just on a personal note, my good friend Billy Da Bearz Fan, did generously invite me to go to this game today, for which I thanked him. I also had to respectfully decline his invitation. I just hate to see a grown man cry. Especially for a couple hours on the drive home. Even more so since he'd be driving.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Packers - Da Bearz Week: Part 2

This Sunday brings yet another installment in the oldest rivalry in the NFL: the Packers vs. Da Bearz. They go together like fine chocolate and gristle. We all know which is which, don't we Packer fans?

The Packers are currently installed as 3-point favorites. One thing that is a certainty is that regardless of the records of the 2 teams, the game will be a dogfight. Always is...regardless of final score.

With the Packers these days, the defense has become a dominate force. They are the number 1 defense in the league right now, lest we forget.

That's why the current injury status of the Packers defensive unit is a bit of a concern, especially since the top 4 defensive linemen are a bit gimpy coming out of the Ravens game. According to reports, Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly, Cullen Jenkins, and B.J. Raji are all dinged up. Pickett didn't practice at all yesterday and the others only participated in jog-throughs. Pickett, with his hamstring injury, is the one that head coach Mike McCarthy is already saying will probably be a game-time decision. Jenkins also has a hamstring injury, while Jolly has a sore right knee. Raji turned his left ankle during the game Monday night. Fortunately, it's not the same high ankle sprain that kept him off the field for 3 games. Of course, all 4 of these players say they'll be ready to go against Da Bearz. Jenkins is quoted as saying, ""I think we've got a real tough group mentally. At this point in the year you're never going to be 100 percent. So you're going to have to fight through."

On top of that, LB Nick Barnett also sat out yesterday's practice with a sprained knee. He is expected to be ready for Sunday, as well.

Da Bearz reportedly also had a number of their players sitting out practice. OK, 'nuff about Da Bearz...back to the Pack...

On a good note, LB Clay Matthews was named the NFC defensive player of the week. CB Charles Woodson won the award last week. (Do we have a theme going here?) In another bit of bar trivia for you, Matthews' dad -- also named Clay (but that's not the trivia) -- won that same award twice during his years as a linebacker with the Browns. They are the first father and son named player of the week. (As my friend, Billy Da Bearz Fan, might say, put that in your pipe and smoke it! By the way, does anybody really know what the heck that's suppose to mean???)

If you want to read more about the injuries the Packers and Da Bearz are dealing with, check out this article.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

More trivia from the Pack's win over the Ravens

We already learned last evening that the combined penalty yardage in last evening's game between the Packers and Ravens tied for second most in NFL history with 375 yards (on 23 total penalties, 11 by the Packers). The combined total was the most ever in the Packers ' 90-year game history. We also learned that the 175 penalty yards on the Packers was the second most in their history. The most penalty yards -- 184 -- came in a game in 1945 versus the Boston Yanks...yep, Boston...Yanks. Who knew??? Oh, the Packers won that game 38-14, by the way, on their way to a 6-4 season record and third place in the NFL's Western Division (more trivia!).

Now, today brings some more bar bet trivia for you from the stat geeks out there: the win by the Packers was only the second since 1970 (post-merger) where a team had 175 yards in penalties, 3 turnovers, and still won the game. Cool, eh? The Pack join the 1970 Houston Oilers as the only team to ever have this unique distinction.

Other bits and pieces of note:
  • Donald Driver's touchdown gives him 50 in his career. This makes the Packers the first team in NFL history to have had 10 players to have scored 50 or more touchdowns in their careers as Packers.

  • OT and fan fave Mark Tauscher got his first-ever pass reception last night. Yes, it came off a deflection and was for a loss of yardage, but still.

  • Last night was the first time that two Packers rookies recorded sacks in the same game at Lambeau Field, and only the fourth time in Packers history that this feat was accomplished. Last evening's sacks came courtesy of linebackers Clay Matthews and Brad Jones.
There are a number of other trivia bits and pieces that some might find of interest here.

Oh, one other late emerging stat: Aaron Rodgers needs just one more TD pass this season to match Brett Favre's total for his second year as the Packers starting QB. Rodgers is getting all sorts of favorable mentions these days, and all well-deserved.

The Pack has a good thing going right now...as if you needed someone to tell you.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Final: Packers 27 - Ravens 14

The Packers added 10 points in the 4th quarter and staved off the effects of penalties and another special teams breakdown to prevail over the Ravens, 27-14.

This was an ugly game, as evidenced by the combined 23 penalties for 310 yards, tied for second most in NFL history. The Packers accounted for 11 penalties totaling 175 yards. Throw in the 3 turnovers for the Packers and the 4 for the Ravens and this was a sloppy game. But...it still goes in the "W" column.

The 4th quarter started with K Mason Crosby missing a 38-yard field goal. His inconsistency is a growing concern.

Later on, Aaron Rodgers threw his third TD of the night on a pass to Jermichael Finley to put the Pack up 24-14 with about 10-1/2 minutes left.

Immediately, however, as has been the case so often this season, the Packers' special teams let the Ravens right back in the game by giving up a 68-yard kickoff return down to the Packers' 26-yard line. A pass interference call on CB Tramon Williams (one of several on him this evening) in the endzone put the ball at the 1-yard line. On second down, Ravens QB Joe Flacco was flushed from the pocket and made an ill-advised pass into the endzone where Williams intercepted the ball.

The Pack went 3-and-out after taking over at the 20. Following the punt, the Packers got the ball back on the Ravens' first play courtesy of an interception by LB A. J. Hawk. Right after the 2-minute warning, Crosby made a 32-yard field goal to put the Pack up by 13, at 27-14.

The Ravens had one last chance, but no timeouts and seemingly no urgency. After moving the ball onto the Packers' side of the field, the Ravens hopes were finally snuffed out on 4th-and-3 when LB Clay Matthews recorded his second sack of the night.

The Packers go to 8-4 on the season, still positioned well for the wildcard spot in the playoffs. And if the ViQueens were to do their usual swan dive late in the season, the division title could still be in play. That's a big "if." Just sayin' ...

The Pack travels south of the boarder to Chicago next Sunday to meet Da Bearz. As my friend Billy Da Bearz Fan said, Da Bearz' game yesterday was so boring he was yawning during the game...and he was there! Don't ya just love it when Bearz fans eat their own?

Anyway, let's savor this win, and overlook it's warts. At least for tonight. The Packers still commit way too many penalties and still have regular breakdowns on special teams at key moments in games. It's an Achilles Heel that will hurt them in the playoffs. They need to get that cleaned up, as coach Mike McCarthy would say. But until they show special teams coach Shawn Slocum the door, don't expect that to happen.

OK...no negs...no negs...it's all good. Packers win. Ah, it's great to be a Packers fan!

End of 3rd quarter: Packers 17 - Ravens 14

The story of the 3rd quarter is two Ravens' touchdowns in the span of 30 seconds, both coming off back-to-back turnovers by the Packers.

One turnover was a fumble by Donald Driver after a catch, which led to a long drive by the Ravens to make the score 17-7. On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, the pass from Aaron Rodgers to Driver was low, bounced off his leg and was caught in the air by the Ravens. On the first play afterward, QB Joe Flacco threw to the endzone and an interference penalty was called on Tramon Williams. This put the ball at the 1-yard line. Two plays later, touchdown Ravens...score 17-14 in favor of the Packers.

As said in my halftime post, the Packers just needed to play the same way in the second half as in the first half. They haven't.

It started with the defense missing tackles on the Ravens' first TD drive, and with Packers' receivers dropping passes they should be catching.

My pre-game prediction was the game would be a close one. The third quarter play by the Packers -- including turnovers (3 on the night so far) and penalties (9 for 143 yards so far) made it a lot closer than it needed to be coming out of the half. The Packers had the game under control. They let it get away.

The 4th quarter will decide not only this game, but also perhaps go a long way toward determining the Packers' wildcard chances. What is this team made of? The next 15 minutes will tell us a lot.

Go Pack Go!!!

Halftime: Packers 17 - Ravens 0

It might not have been the prettiest half of football, especially on the offensive side of things until later in the second quarter, but the Packers are the better team in this game, leading the Ravens by a score of 17-0 at halftime.

The Packers started the game with a good kick return by Jordy Nelson. They then put together a solid drive to go inside the Ravens' red zone. But, as has often been the case, particularly early in games, the Packers stalled out and had to settle for a field goal to go up 3-0. And that's where the first quarter ended.

The Packers got their two touchdowns in the last five minutes of the half. The first came on 3-yard toss from Aaron Rodgers to Jermichael Finley, while the second came on a 7-yard throw from Rodgers to Donald Driver -- the 50th TD of Driver's career -- with under a minute remaining. (ESPN was quick on their stats to show that the Packers are the only team in NFL history to have 10 players who have scored 50 or more touchdowns in their careers.)

The Packers have kept the Ravens offense totally in check, pressuring QB Joe Flacco heavily, covering receivers tightly, and not allowing RB Ray Rice to get any room to run at all. Packers' rookies Clay Matthews and B. J. Raji are performing extremely well, as is the entire defensive unit.

The Packers got two takeaways in the half, one a fumble recovery and the other an interception and both by Nick Collins. The Packers also gave the ball away once on a long interception toss by Aaron Rodgers.

All the Packers have to do is keep doing what they did the first half -- and there is no reason to expect they won't -- and this will be the Pack's fourth consecutive win, to take them to 8-4 on the season and staying neck and neck with the Eagles for one of the two wildcard spots.

Go Pack Go!!!

Late breaking news: Ed Reed out for Ravens

ESPN is reporting that Ravens safety Ed Reed will not play in tonight's game at Lambeau Field. He came out for pre-game warm ups but his hip injury is apparently preventing him from be effective tonight, particularly with the cold. He had been listed on the injury report as questionable.

So, if the Packers offensive line can protect QB Aaron Rodgers, the Ravens defensive backfield presents plenty of opportunities to be exploited.

Go Pack Go!!!

Packers - Ravens Preview

Seems like forever since we last saw our beloved Green Bay Packers take to the gridiron, doesn't it? It's a layoff the Packers have welcomed. Since dispatching the Lions on Thanksgiving, the Pack has been getting healthy for the stretch run of the season and the drive to the playoffs. Still, it hasn't exactly gone according to plan, as my post of Friday indicated.

A few injuries, namely to linebacker Jeremy Thompson and offensive tackle T. J. Lang, popped up. The injury to Thompson may or may not be season-ending. He suffered a neck sprain on Friday and was taken from the practice field by ambulance. Thompson was released from the hospital Saturday. You can read more about his status here. As for Lang, he suffered a concussion in practice and is listed as questionable on the injury report for the game tonight. As the guy who has become an effective and key backup on the offensive line in his rookie year, not having Lang to back up a possibly still gimpy Chad Clifton at left tackle means that Allen Barbre may be the primary backup at that spot if Clifton is unable to play or finish the game. C'mon, Clify!

But...to the game at hand...

The spread on the game (depending on what line you look at) is 3-1/2 points in favor of the Packers. Some prognosticators figure this to be a defensive battle, and well it might be. It will certainly be a physical game, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Packers, as we are now aware, are ranked as the number one defense in the league. But that means nothing week to week. It only matters if they are the number one defense tonight. The Packers will be at full strength on defense (understanding, of course, this means without Al Harris and Aaron Kampman). What they will have to do is pressure a somewhat shaky Ravens QB Joe Flacco who has not been throwing the ball well of late. Some say that's due to the pounding he took earlier in the season when the Ravens' offensive line was doing their imitation of the Packers' line. Flacco doesn't have many weapons to throw to. In fact, the Ravens' leading receiver is also their leading rusher, second-year running back Ray Rice. If the Packers are able to rattle Flacco, CB Charles Woodson could very well wind up with a pick or two again tonight for the Packers.

The diminutive Rice is one of the hottest players in the league right now. He gives opposing defenses fits because the Ravens are now able to use him in a number of different formations. At 5'8", he has a low center of gravity and is difficult to bring down. He packs a lot of wallop into his 205 pounds, and is deceptively fast. He will be the offensive weapon that the Packers should be keying on shutting down. They keep him in check and the Packers are on their way to a "W".

Of course, the Pack also needs to handle the Ravens defense. And that starts with veteran LB Ray Lewis. He may be getting a bit long in the tooth, but he generates the energy for the defensive unit and can still bring it. He's not as fast as he was before, so if you can get him on a running back in coverage there should be some opportunities. He also doesn't get off blocks as well as he used to. The other key defender to be aware of is safety Ed Reed; although he is listed as questionable on the injury report he is expected to play. He has 3 interceptions on the season. The rest of the defensive backfield is ripe for the picking.

But that depends upon on the weather tonight. Currently, the forecast is for temps in the 20s but no snow or other precipitation this evening. There will be a chance of snow showers during the day but supposedly nothing at game time. This is the time of year that the running game should be starting to come to the fore. But as a great article in Saturday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel points out, head coach Mike McCarthy has actually run less in December in two out of three of his previous seasons as coach than in the months before. Go figure. As the article notes, "The only time he ran more than he passed was 2007, when the Packers were 13-3 and winners of four of six games in December and beyond." OK...any lessons there? Hmmm... Anyway, Ryan Grant seems to have always rushed better later in the season. Somebody tossed out a stat that when he runs 22(?) or more times in a game the Packers are 10-1 (quick: someone double check that!). Ahman Green will be back tonight after missing a couple games. And Brandon Jackson is once again back in form as a reliable third down back and blocker. So the Packers can make the Ravens worry about the run, and that's a big help in letting Rodgers open things up in the passing game.

I think we should expect that the Pack will try to establish the run tonight to help keep pressure off QB Aaron Rodgers. But it will primarily be to loosen up the air game to exploit the Ravens' d-backs.

The wildcard in tonight's game will be the Packers special teams play. As we know all too well, the Packers' special teams is akin to Forrest Gump's box of chocolates: you never know what you're gonna get. And that's the scary part. If special teams helps keep the Ravens in the game goofy things can happen. Add in the fact that K Mason Crosby hasn't exactly been Mr. Reliable this season and points that should go on the board don't.

So, what's the bottom line on this game? Factoring all of the above into the prognostication blender, and that both teams are still playing for wildcard spots, we are calling this game Packers 20 - Ravens 16.

Go Pack Go!!!

Friday, December 04, 2009

A more physical team usually means more injuries

Just when there is talk of how the Packers might be moving from being perceived as a finesse team to more of a physical team, they get hit with a reminder that that type of play cuts both ways.

We all knew LT Chad Clifton was going to be a game-time decision with his hamstring injury from the game with the Lions, and that the dependable rookie T. J. Lang was preparing once again to fill in at left tackle. But today Lang was added to the injury report and missed practice with a concussion. Given the unavailability of both Clifton and Lang, Allen Barbre took the reps at left tackle today. Given how Barbre struggled in his trial at right tackle we can only hope Clifton or Lang is available Monday night.

But the more serious injury occurred today in practice as backup linebacker Jeremy Thompson tackled RB Kregg Lumpkin. According to Lumpkin, Thompson's head apparently hit his left shoulder pad when he tried to make the tackle. "When it happened, he just said, 'Oh no,' and just fell on the ground. After that, I was just standing there like, 'What really just happened.' All I could do was sit there and hope that he get back up." Thompson didn't, although he did have movement in his arms and legs. Still, he was taken from the field by ambulance to the hospital where he is being kept overnight for what is reported as a neck sprain.

Here's the official statement by the Packers: "Packers linebacker Jeremy Thompson suffered a neck sprain near the end of Friday’s practice. There was no loss of consciousness and no paralysis at any time. Packers medical staff took customary precaution in treating the injury, including transport of Thompson to St. Vincent Hospital for a full battery of tests. He will be kept overnight at Bellin Hospital for rest and further evaluation."

Let's hope the young man makes a full recovery.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Packers enter the home stretch

Currently sitting with a 7-4 record and in prime position for a wildcard spot in the playoffs, the Packers need to win at least 3 of their next 5 games to likely secure such a spot. Two games are home, three away, with two of the latter being back-to-back. Four out of the five will be played in cold winter conditions; the final game of the season is a warm weather respite on Jan. 3 at Arizona.

So, let's take a brief look at each of the games and what the likelihood of each outcome might be.

The first game of this home stretch is Monday night at Lambeau Field versus the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens pulled out a 20-17 overtime victory Sunday evening versus a Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers to go to 6-5 on the season. After this tough overtime win, and despite the presence of Ray Lewis on defense, the Packers should be able to win this game at home in a tough one. The Ravens have good offensive weapons, but the Packers now have -- believe it or not -- the number 1 overall defense in the league. The current spread on the game favors the Pack by 3. Check back the day of the game for my score prediction.

Next up on Dec. 13 is Da Bearz at the Mistake by the Lake, otherwise known as Soldier Field. If Da Bearz really wanted to honor our soldiers they would just not bother showing up at all. But the dysfunctional Bearz will take the field. Don't know the spread of this game yet. Should be something like favorite son Al Bundy's bajillion points or so, though, in favor of the Pack don't you think?

The following week brings the second of the back-to-back road games, this one at Pittsburgh. Unless Roethlisberger gets dinged again, expect him to be under center at game time. This will be a close one, and if the Packers stumble this would seem to be one of the likely candidates. The Steelers should be coming off wins at home over Oakland and on the road at Cleveland. Geesh, could it get any easier? Anyway, more on this game as it nears, obviously.

Two days after Christmas, the Pack takes on the Seahawks at home. The Seahawks are having a miserable season and this game should go in the "W" column for the Pack.

The final game of the regular season, as noted earlier, comes Jan. 3 at Arizona. The Cardinals are a team that is difficult to assess, especially looking ahead five games. Whether or not QB Kurt Warner will be available and healthy at that time will obviously be a factor. But this is definitely not the team that made it to the Super Bowl last season.

So, there's the rundown on the upcoming games with some very early and cursory views. Are the Packers capable of running the table? Yes. Will they? Unlikely. Should they be able to win at least win 3 out of the 5? Yes. Will they? Yes.

But what do you think? We're running a poll in the righthand column for you to let us know how many games out of the 5 remaining you think the Packers will win. So...what's your take on what lies ahead? Share, please.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Final: Packers 34 - Lions 12

The Packers added only one touchdown to their 3rd quarter score in the final 15 minutes of the game, and that came courtesy of a 38-yard interception return for a score by Charles Woodson late in the closing minutes to put the Pack ahead 34-12.

Oh, yeah, at the end of the 3rd quarter the Lions had 7. So...5 more points? Yes, 2 points via a safety on Ryan Grant after the Packers took over on downs at about their own 2-yard line (originally called a TD after a fumble by Grant in the endzone, but overturned on a challenge) and a late field goal to, at that time, put the Lions within 2 scores of the Packers.

The Packers got a final turnover on a pass catch and fumble recovery (via the second successful challenge of the day by coach Mike McCarthy) with just over 2 minutes remaining to give the Packers 5 turnovers on the day, including 4 interceptions of Matthew Stafford with 2 by Charles Woodson.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers finished 28 of 39 for 348 yards and 3 touchdowns before giving way in the last mop up series to backup Matt Flynn.

It was not a pretty game, especially in the first half, but the Packers got it done. Unless assisted by the opening kickoff fumble which set up the Lions' only TD of the day, and the safety late in the game, the Packers' defense only allowed a field goal.

A win. And very close to my pre-game score prediction of the Packers 34 - Lions 13. Oh...so close.

But more importantly, the Packers go to 7-4 on the season, still in the wildcard playoff hunt, and now have a long rest before their next game on Monday night, December 7, at Lambeau Field versus the Baltimore Ravens.

Rest up for the home stretch, guys. And enjoy all the turkey with trimmings you can eat tonight. You deserve it. Your Lions brunch buffet was just the appetizer.

End of 3rd quarter: Packers 27 - Lions 7

Finally. Finally the Packers took charge in the 3rd quarter, scoring two touchdowns, one a 7-yard TD pass from Aaron Rodgers to Donald Driver to make the score 20-7, and the second near the end of the quarter on a 21-yard pass from Rodgers to James Jones to put the Packers ahead 27-7.

The half started off seemingly well, with Charles Woodson picking off a Matthew Stafford pass at the Lions' 39 to set the Packers up in good field position. But a false start penalty on Daryn Colledge made it 1st and 15. The Pack eventually found themselves going for it on 4th-and-2. Rodgers was blindsided and fumbled the ball but the Lions were unable to advance it on the recovery.

Chad Clifton left the game about midway through the quarter with a hamstring injury and was replaced by T. J. Lang.

Rodgers went over 300 yards passing for the game in the quarter. In all 4 of his professional starts to date versus the Lions he has thrown for at least 300 yards.

Barring a total collapse in the 4th quarter by the Packers, that seventh "W" of the season is starting to look pretty darn good.

Go Pack Go!!!

Halftime: Packers 13 - Lions 7

The Packers scored a touchdown on the first play of the 2nd quarter on a 7-yard TD pass from Aaron Rodgers to TE Donald Lee. Packers 7 - Lions 7.

The Packers then held the Lions but, courtesy of yet another special teams' penalty, started inside their own 5-yard line. They put together a nice drive, based largely on passes. But the Packers were also aided by 2 penalties on the Lions, both of which occurred against TE Jermichael Finley. The Pack had 1st-and-goal from the 8-yard line, and had to settle for a 20-yard field goal to go up 10-7. (Can someone please explain 3 consecutive passes, none of which are to the endzone?)

On the Lions' next possession, QB Matthew Stafford was flushed from the pocket and threw a pass to where he apparently thought a receiver would be. Result? Interception by Tramon Williams setting the Pack up at their own 46-yard line. The Pack took it down to have 1st-and-goal from the 9 and, for yet another time, could only muster 3 points.

So, to review, the Packers got within 5 yards of the redzone on their first possession of the game and came away without any points. A long drive in the second quarter got them a 1st-and-goal from the 8 and they could only manage 3 points. Another drive after an interception sets up the Pack with a 1st down inside the 10 and, again, they manage just 3 points. Three possessions, deep in Lions' territory, and a total of 6 points to show for that. OK, there was that 1st-and-goal from the 7 after the 68-yard toss to Donald Driver which got the Packers a TD. But really...4 possessions deep in Lions' territory, and all of 13 points to show for it. Not great. Missed opportunities. Where have we seen that before? It allows the other team to stay in the game with a chance to win long after that bus should have left town.

The Packers have dominated both sides of the ball in this half, yet the Lions could lead with just one play. This is what loses games to inferior teams. If the Packers don't turn it up a notch in the 2nd half and figure out a way to get in the endzone instead of settling for field goals, the Lions could pull out the upset.

End of 1st quarter: Packers 0 - Lions 7

Yes, this game has the early markings of an upset. A fumble by the Pack on the opening kickoff setting up the Lions for an easy score. Then the Packers march down the field on a double-digit play drive only to stall out at about the Lions' 25-yard line setting up a 43-yard field goal attempt by Mason Crosby...which he misses wide right.

As the announcers said, it appears the Lions are the 6-4 team rather than the Packers. The only redeeming features of the 1st quarter was a great sideline interception by Nick Collins at the Pack's 26-yard line as the Lions were moving the ball, and a 68-yard toss from Aaron Rodgers to Donald Driver to end the quarter and put the Packers at the Lions' 7-yard line.

As anticipated, the Lions have come out on fire. The Packers, not so much...which is usually what happens when a turkey-size egg is about to be laid.

Packers - Lions 1st play disaster

Just what you didn't want to see to start the game: the Packers fumbled the opening kickoff return to set up the Lions at the Packers' own 20-yard line. Jordy Nelson fumbled the ball without even taking a good hit; he just didn't have the ball secured well at all.

The Lions moved the ball down to the 6, where LB Clay Matthews got called for roughing the passer with a blow to the head, thus giving the Lions the ball at the 3-yard line.

Shortly thereafter, and not surprisingly, the Lions scored on a pass to Calvin Johnson to go up 7-0.

This is exactly the way the Packers can lose games they are supposed to win.

What do you think? Will Nelson be back to take kicks again today?

Packers - Lions Game #2 Preview Update

Just announced: Lions' rookie QB Matthew Stafford will start today's game against the Packers. He was shown in pre-game warm ups with his helmet on and throwing the ball. Also, Lions' WR Calvin Johnson will play today after being listed as questionable.

Yep, the Lions see this game as their Super Bowl. Willing to put their best players at further risk of injury. Perhaps this is why they are...the Lions.

Packers - Lions Game #2 Preview

As the Packers ready themselves on this Thanksgiving Day morning to meet the Lions in Detroit, two words should come to mind. No, not Macy's Parade.

How' bout: Tampa Bay.

Hate to bring that up, but at least I'm doing so before you gorged yourself on enough turkey and stuffing to feed a famine-starved country.

The Packers went into the Tampa game facing a team that had absolutely nothing going for it, and which hadn't won a game. We know how that worked out. The Pack laid an egg.

Let's just hope the Packers take care of business today and not turn the Lions into pseudo-Buccaneers. The Lions have had more injury problems than the Packers all season on both sides of the ball. And while rookie QB Matthew Stafford (listed as doubtful on the injury report) returned to the game last week to rally his team to a victory after separating his left shoulder, will the Lions risk seriously injuring him and damaging his future by playing him today? I think that's where the "doubtful" comes in.

While the season-ending injuries to CB Al Harris and LB Aaron Kampman are definite blows to the Packers squad, the back ups are certainly adequate to the task at hand today. And, of course, there's nothing wrong with the Packers offense which seems to be firing on all cylinders.

The Lions always play their Thanksgiving Day game as if it is their Super Bowl. And coming off their victory on Sunday, expect them to be pumped up at the outset. But at some point -- assuming there is no reprise of the Tampa Bay game -- the Packers' talent will win out.

Yes, Detroit has the edge in this Turkey Day rivalry, 11-6-1, even keeping the Packers from achieving undefeated seasons once or twice as I recall. The last time Detroit won on Thanksgiving was in 2003 against -- you guessed it -- the Packers. The Pack should bring the overall record a bit closer to .500 for Thanksgiving with the Lions by the time this early game is done. The Packers are favored by 10-1/2 points (11 in some spreads). We're taking the Packers 34-13.

Go Pack Go!!!

By the way, if you want to read an excellent story about the Packers' Thanksgiving Day games -- have played 33 times on Thanksgiving including today -- check out this article on the 620wtmj radio website. Did you know, for example, that in 1932 the Packers played the Brooklyn Dodgers and won by a score of 7-0. Wait...weren't the Brooklyn Dodgers a baseball team??? Here's some great bar trivia for you, gang. Read it and earn!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Charlie Brown of the Packers?

There's a very good article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel by sports writer Greg Bedard about one of the Packers who is going to be more heavily called upon to help fill the void left by the loss of CB Al Harris: Jarrett Bush.

Admittedly, my reaction to seeing Bush on the field anytime other than on special teams is "uh-oh." Apparently, according to the article, my perception of Bush is pretty much the same as that of most other fans. Bush is one of those players -- heck, he's at the top of the list -- that fans just seem to wish was somewhere other than with the Packers. It's not the same loathing that fans had for, say, Terrell Buckley or Ahmad Carroll. They had personalities which, in addition to their play, rubbed fans the wrong way. But from all accounts, as Bedard notes in his article, Bush is actually a fine, likable young man who is very active in the broader Green Bay community. Somebody you'd actually like to root for.

It's just that he's kind of like the Packers' version of Charlie Brown, says Bedard. Bad things just seem to happen to Bush, which Bedard enumerates in his article.

The thing is, Bush had no idea that fans generally regard him and his play with such disdain. He was actually surprised to hear it when Bedard told him. Ignorance is bliss, that's for sure. But he's now aware of how things are from the fans' perspective and says, "I definitely want to show those people that I can play. It's unfortunate that I need to prove that, but I've got to go out there and prove it to them. That's what I have to do."

Yes, Jarrett, you do.

Bush is a decent special teams player. The thing he hasn't shown yet as a defensive back is the ability to be aware of the ball when it's in the air, avoid penalties and play smart. All somewhat essential aspects of being a defensive back...or a football player of any variety, really.

Packer fans would like nothing more than for Bush to succeed and turn his game around, because to the extent he does that the greater the likelihood that the Packers will also succeed. Given that we'll probably be seeing a lot more of Bush in the remaining games of this season, let's hope he is finally able to rise to the occasion. We'll get our first glimpse tomorrow in the game versus the Lions. Bush is likely to be the nickel back.

You can read Bedard's article here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The biz side of the Harris and Kampman injuries

As bad as the season-ending injuries are to CB Al Harris and LB Aaron Kampman from their potential impact on the Packers' season, and the even more important aspect of their own personal health of course, there comes the inevitable business discussion. As in how these injuries will affect future roster moves.

One of the more immediate moves that was just made by the Packers was the signing of former Denver Broncos CB Josh Bell. The Packers worked him out yesterday and liked him enough to reportedly sign him to a two-year deal. He is expected to be part of the Packers walk-through practice today (without pads, given the short turnaround before Thursday's game in Detroit) and be on the active roster for the Lions game. You can read more about Bell here. Sounds like a good signing, given the circumstances, although Bell himself is coming off an injury and is the reason he wasn't kept on the Denver roster this season.

But there are obviously decisions that will need to be made regarding Harris and Kampman, as well. As an article yesterday pointed out, Harris, who turns 35 in December, will have two years remaining on his contract. He keeps himself in great physical condition and has been known to be a fast healer. But at this age and with this injury, he will need a spectacular recovery in order to pick up where he left off.

Of greater concern is Kampman. When the move was made from the 4-3 to the 3-4 defense this off-season, and it became somewhat apparent to all that Kampman was a bit out of place in the new scheme, some pundits felt that the Packers should have traded him. Coming off outstanding seasons in his down defensive end position, the Packers should have gotten a high value for him. But Kampman was also going into his "contract year," eligible for free agency at the end of the season. There was some speculation that perhaps the Packers would put a franchise tag on him and then do what they did with Corey Williams: trade him for a good value. Now, with this injury, the likelihood of Kampman being able to get big money from another team or the Packers being able to trade him and get something in return, is out the window.

According to the above-mentioned article, "The injury could sideline Kampman 10 months, which would put his return to the football field somewhere around the first or second week of the 2010 season." He may have to sign a one-year deal with the Packers to reestablish his value, and the Packers may have to do so if they wish to try to get something in trade for Kampman later on.

To paraphrase, football is what happens while you're busy making other plans.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Packers bad news update: Kampman joins Harris out for season

We initially heard reports after yesterday's game versus the 49ers that CB Al Harris would be lost for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. But Coach Mike McCarthy had indicated to reporters that he believed LB Aaron Kampman would be lost for at least 2 to 4 weeks with an as-then unspecified knee injury.

Turns out the "at least" part of that statement was more true than the 2 to 4 weeks part.

Word came later in the evening that Kampman would also be lost for the rest of the season with exactly the same injury as Harris, a torn ACL in the left knee.

Losing one of these defensive leaders would be bad. Losing both in the same game for the remainder of the year now deals a serious blow to the Packers playoff potential.

Rookie LB Brad Jones will now have to play each of the remaining games as well as he played against Dallas last week. And while it was initially thought that Brandon Underwood might be called upon to take over Harris' spot, reports out of Green Bay are that they will move nickel back Tramon Williams into that role, with Jarrett Bush (uh-oh) moving from the dime back to the nickel back slot and Underwood (uh-oh) going into the dime back slot. Last season, Williams did a good job filling in for Harris after the latter was lost with a lacerated spleen injury. He's not the physical shut-down type cornerback that Harris is, but he does have speed and has played enough to not make foolish mistakes.

Aside from the physical presence and ability both Harris and Kampman brought to the squad, what will also be missed will be their on and off-field leadership.

This situation will give some insight into the depth of the team. Certainly it will require defensive coordinator Dom Capers to adjust his defensive scheme. Just when it finally looked as if the 3-4 defense was starting to click, poof!

Can the replacements do the job they need to do and in the process help the Packers stay in the wildcard hunt? Stay tuned. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, you can read more about the current situation here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Harris out for season, Kampman out 2-4 weeks

According to the latest reports, Packers CB Al Harris -- on track for another Pro Bowl -- is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL suffered in today's game, and LB Aaron Kampman is projected to be out at least 2-4 weeks with an as-yet unspecified knee injury also sustained today.

A costly victory for the Packers, losing these two outstanding defensive starters.

Rookie LB Brad Jones performed well last week starting in place of Kampman and in relief today. Rookie CB Brandon Underwood, however, was a definite target after coming in for Harris today and, if he is the designated replacement for Harris, will have to step up his game considerably. Primarily a special teams player, he has been known to be out of position and is frequently called for penalties of various kinds. Nobody could play to Harris' level, but we will have to see whether or not Underwood has the stuff to even play in Harris' shadow or not.

Final: Packers 30 - 49ers 24

The second half was not as dominating as the first for the Packers, but the final score on the board means another "W" and that's all the dominance you need at the end of the day. The 49ers made a game of it after both the Packers offense and defense seemed to become more conservative. (Am I the only fan who wonders why, when you have it dialed up and are in complete control, you then dial it down???)

In the 3rd quarter, the Niners scored their first TD of the day on a 38-yard pass play from Alex Smith to Michael Crabtree over Al Harris, to make the score 23-10. The Packers got their only TD of the 2nd half with about 11 minutes to go in the 4th quarter, after a sequence that included: a punt by the Packers downed at the 2-yard line, followed by Smith throwing out of his end zone and getting picked off at about the 20 by Nick Collins who returned it to the 11, after which Rodgers connected on a 3rd down pass with Jermichael Finley for a 1st down inside the 1 yard line...Ryan Grant picked up a rushing TD and in the process went over 100 yards rushing for the game...whew!

That made the score 30-10 Packers.

But just when you thought it was safe, the Packers not-so-special teams once again let the opponent right back in the game by giving up a roughly 76-yard kickoff return. On the first play, Al Harris went down in the end zone, away from the play after apparently planting his foot and collapsing. He was in obvious pain and was taken off the field on a cart for X-rays; Aaron Kampan had earlier been carted off the field after also sustaining a knee injury. (In his post-game meeting with the media, head coach Mike McCarthy said both looked serious but until he gets further evaluation it's not possible to say how long either player might be out.) Two plays later, Smith connected on his second TD pass of the day to make the score 30-17. The Packers found themselves unable to sustain any drive and rather quickly returned the ball to the Niners. Fighting the clock, the Niners continued to both protect Alex Smith and allow him to connect with his receivers. On a 4th-and-5 from the Packers' 10-yard line, Smith hit RB Frank Gore on a short pass which he took into the end zone to make the score 30-24 Packers with just under 6 minutes remaining in the game.

The Packers, courtesy of a couple big and crucial runs by Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson were able to keep the ball and take the clock down to the 2 minute warning. With the 49ers out of timeouts (their final one lost on an ill-advised spot challenge by coach Mike Singletary), the Packers were able to go into the victory formation and take 3 kneel-downs by Aaron Rodgers to run out the clock.

This game was a tale of two halves. Something you'd prefer not to see. But the bottom line is the "W".

Rodgers finished with a career high 32 completions out of 45 attempts for 326 yards with 2 TDs. Ryan Grant finished with 129 yards rushing on 21 carries for a 6.1 yards-per-carry average.

The Packers are 6-4 going into the Turkey Day game at Detroit. If the Packers are able to do what they should be able to do (although we said that about Tampa, too, didn't we?) they can be 7-4 coming out of that game and going into an extended rest before the Monday night game against the Ravens at Lambeau on December 7.

You just pray the injuries to Kampan and Harris aren't season-ending, as that would be a major blow to the defense. No matter, they would still likely be held out of the the game with the Lions to give them plenty of time to heal.

In the meantime, say it with me...Go Pack Go!!!

Halftime: Packers 23 - 49ers 3

In a half dominated by both Packers offensive and defensive units, the Pack leads the 49ers 23-3. Despite the statistical dominance and score, the game was just 6-3 at the end of the first quarter.

The Packers moved the ball inside the Niners' redzone on their first two possessions but had to settle for field goals on both occasions. The Niners, courtesy of a 42-yard run by Frank Gore, were able to move into field goal range on their first possession and also converted a 3-pointer. But after that for the Niners, nada. The Packers defense dialed it up as they did in the Dallas game, sacking 49ers QB Alex Smith 3 times in the half and not allowing receivers to get open at all. In fact, it was well into the second quarter before Smith completed his first pass. The Packers had the Niners going 3-and-out about 4 or 5 consecutive times.

The Packers first touchdown of the game, with just under 9 minutes remaining in the half, came off a slant pass from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings. It was a quick hitter which Jennings turned into a 64-yard touchdown play.

The Packers second TD came on a roughly 80-yard drive, when Rodgers threw a quick line of scrimmage pass to Jordy Nelson, who then took it in from 10 yards out to put the Pack ahead 20-3.

The Packers defense then held the Niners to another 3-and-out and got the ball back inside the Niners' 50-yard line after a nice punt return by Tramon Williams. The Pack worked the clock and a nice series of passes by Rodgers. With 1-second left on the clock, following a scramble by Rodgers, Mason Crosby kicked his 3rd field goal of the half to put the Packers up 23-3 at half.

Rodgers threw for 274 yards in the half, completing 22 of 31 pass attempts with 2 TDs and no interceptions. RB Ryan Grant has had a nice rushing game so far, running for 70 yards on 10 carries. RB Brandon Jackson has been a very good 3rd down back, with 36 receiving yards on 3 catches, primarily screen passes. Seven different receivers have caught passes from Rodgers.

Oh...how does Rodgers, the #24 pick by the Pack after San Fran overlooked him, stack up against Smith, the guy who went #1 instead? Rodgers 274 yards, Smith -7 yards net. Yep. You read that right.

Thank you San Francisco.

Go Pack Go!!!

Packers - 49ers Preview

The 5-4 Packers meet the 4-5 49ers at Lambeau Field today. The weather is exceptionally good for a late November game: in the low 50s and sunny. So no advantage on that front today.

So, what can we we expect? That's the question, Bunky, that's the question. Will we see the Packers that played their most complete game of the season last week in their beat-down of Dallas? Or will we see the Packers that layed an egg in Tampa the week before? Given the up and down nature of the season so far, it's hard to know.

This game is as important to the Packers as the game last week versus the Cowboys. And they had better play as such. Because the 49ers are going to be as formidable an opponent as they've played. Yes, the record might not show that. But 49ers head coach Mike Singletary will have his team well prepared to take on the Pack. They are a physical team on defense, in the mold of the old linebacker Singletary himself. And they have weapons on offense in the form of TE Vernon Davis, rookie WR Michael Crabtree and RB Frank Gore. They are finally starting their former #1 overall draft pick, Alex Smith, at quarterback...but in a head-to-head comparison, let's all be grateful that the Niners opted for him rather than our own Aaron Rodgers with that pick. (And to hear Rodgers talk about it, he's also glad the way that worked out too.)

Of course, the Packers have weapons of their own...on both sides of the ball. Edge goes to the Packers on that front.

The Packers are 6-1/2 point favorites. If the Packers play the way they played against Dallas, they should cover that spread. If they decide to go into cruise control ahead of the Turkey Day game in Detroit, they could land with a thump today and be back to .500.

I don't believe that will happen. I believe it will be a close, hard fought game. And I'm taking the Packers 24-20 over the Niners.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Brohm shuffles off to Buffalo

There goes another early round draft pick down the drain. QB Brian Brohm, who was highly touted coming out of Louisville, and was the Packers' 2nd round pick in 2008, has signed a deal with Buffalo. Brohm was beaten out last year by 7th round pick Matt Flynn as the primary backup to Aaron Rodgers. Brohm never seemed to progress and was actually cut by the Pack in their final roster moves prior to this season. He was then signed to the practice squad.

The Bills signed Brohm Wednesday evening to their active roster. It's not as if the Packers didn't make an effort to keep him. They actually made him the same two-year offer the Bills did in an attempt to retain him. But Brohm was seeking an opportunity to play. With Buffalo, he may get that. So, let's wish the young man well. Many of us felt at the time that the Packers were getting a real steal by grabbing Brohm in the second round. Too bad it didn't work out for either him or the Packers.

The Packers filled Brohm's slot on the practice squad by signing former Central Washington quarterback Mike Reilly. Reilly was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Pittsburgh Steelers and released at the end of their training camp.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The day after the day after, what does the former Packers CEO have to say?

As Packer fans, we're still basking in the glow of the win over the Cowboys on Sunday. Very few, Packer fans included, thought the Pack had much of a chance going into that game, especially coming off the debacle in Tampa. And, given what we've seen so far, we really aren't certain what to expect in the upcoming game against the 49ers either...which team will show up? More on that as we get closer to game time.

But it seems like a very good time to hear from the retired former CEO and President of the Packers, Bob Harlan. How is he seeing things these days?

Thanks to Bill "The Big Unit" Michaels at 620WTMJ radio in Milwaukee, we can get some of those answers. In an approximately 15-minute or so radio interview, Michaels chatted with Harlan about the current state of the Packers, Brett Favre, etc. It's as interesting for what Harlan said as what remained unspoken.

Have a listen for yourself here. Well worth it.

Vote for Clay Matthews as Rookie of the Week
You can vote for Packers LB Clay Matthews through 11 a.m. Central time Friday as the NFL Rookie of the Week for his outstanding play on Sunday. Matthews had one sack and recovered two fumbles, including one that set up the game-sealing TD. Here's one pick GM Ted Thompson got right. Just click here to vote.

Pro Bowl voting underway
You can also begin voting today for the Pro Bowl. Certainly the Packers have several players worthy of consideration: Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson, Donald Driver...you know who deserves it, Packer fans. Vote early and, just like in Chicago politics, vote often. Click here to do so.