Monday, January 25, 2010

What the Favre? Part 19

We haven't done a "What the Favre?" installment for quite a while now. But given the end of the road yesterday for Ol' #4 in the ViQueens loss to the Saints, the question which obviously arises is whether or not this will in fact be THE end of the road?

As one ESPN commentator was saying this a.m., we've all learned to take what Brett Favre says in January with a grain of salt. Favre supposedly told ESPN's Ed Werder after last night's game that it was "highly unlikely" that he would ever play again. Until the summer comes and goes, the next NFL season starts...and never know with Mr. Favre. Sure can't take retirement press conferences as anything final, can we? Although Favre said in his post-game press conference that he wouldn't make the team wait several months for his know, not like he did with the Packers for about the last 4 or 5 years of his tenure.

Apparently, Minnesota fans are so desperate to get to and win a Super Bowl that they are ready to forgive Favre's foibles and welcome him back next season. In a poll in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, when asked "Do you want Favre to come back next season?", 69% of nearly 31,000 people voting said "Yes." Okaaaaay.

Favre has a year left on the two-year, $25 million contract he signed with the 'Queens in mid-August.

One sportscaster offered up the stat last evening that, if this was Favre's last game with the ViQueens, that his last passes as a Falcon, as a Packer, as a Jet, and as a ViQueen were interceptions...with 2 of them his final throws in NFC Championship games. He won't be remembered for that, at least not totally. But it does make some great barroom trivia, doesn't it?

Oh, and one more set of stats from both of yesterday's games: the quarterback ratings:
  • Manning, 123.6
  • Breese, 106.5
  • Sanchez, 93.3
  • Favre, 70.0.
'Nuff said.

By the way, Brett's rating for the NFC Championship game two years ago was...70.7.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Packer fans' wishes come true: ViQueens lose to Saints

As noted here previously, the overwhelming consensus among Packer fans was that the most desired scenario for today's NFC Championship game was for Ol' #4 and the ViQueens to lose today. Get it over and done with so we don't have to deal with the funky purple and Favre for another couple weeks.

And so it is. The Saints just defeated the 'Queens in overtime, 31-28.

We can thank the many voodoo dolls which made their way into the hands of Packer fans. We can thank the wretched funeral dirge "Purple and Gold" theme song that Prince penned for his favorite team and which almost guaranteed defeat. Heck, any team which claimed this song as one of its own deserved to lose.

And we can also thank Ol' #4 himself. Because with a win in reach in the closing seconds of regulation, with his team in field goal range for another old Green Bay Packer, Ryan Longwell, Brett did what he always does in critical situations: forced a throw. On 3rd down, instead of just running with the ball for a few extra yards and leaving Longwell with a chip shot, Favre ran to the right and then threw left back into the middle. Ka-ching...interception...overtime...and a 40-yard field goal to win the game for the Saints.

Just as his last throw as a Packer was an interception in the NFC Championship, this may well be Favre's last throw as a ViQueen -- a final interception leading to the opponent's win in the NFC Championship. Yes, it might even be his last throw as a pro.

As several callers were saying today on sports talk radio, if Favre had still been quarterbacking the Jets against the Colts today, many fans would still have been rooting for him. But the fact that he was with the 'Queens made that an impossibility for all true Packer fans.

So, with Brett now at age 40 and his best shot at returning to the Super Bowl gone in the flick of a patented forced throw from his own hand, what will he do? Retire...again...from his third team in 3 years? Or will he still want it so badly that he'll want to wear that funky purple one more year?

While there's little doubt the man can still play, Favre took a pounding today. The looks of concern on the face of his lovely wife, Deanna, might finally start to take precedence over his own ego.

Brett...we love ya man...and we hope you retire. You've given the game everything you can give. Now go ride your lawnmower back in Mississippi and enjoy your family and fortune.

Then come back to Green Bay -- where you belong -- in a year or two and have your number retired and bask in the glow of the Green 'n' Gold.

For the ViQueens and their fans, hey, think of today's loss this way: at least you now won't be 0-5 in the Super Bowl.

And for the Saints...Who Dat?! Hope you win it all.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Prince pens funeral dirge for ViQueens

No doubt you've heard clips by now. Or heard the guys on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption rip it to shreds. Or seen articles with the lyrics. Yes, we're talking about the new theme song, "Purple and Gold," that the Artist Formerly Known as Whatever, the diminutive Purple Rain man himself, Prince, penned for his hometown team and released this week. It's a beauty.

Given that the overwhelming consensus among Packer fans on call-in shows, online polls, blogs, etc. is that they want the ViQueens to lose tomorrow in N'awlins, it seems only fitting that this horrible tune comes out just prior to the game.

Guess all those voodoo dolls ordered up by Packer fans finally kicked in at the right time. The curse starts with "Purple and Gold" and ends with the 'Queens going down in N'awlins...wait...that could have an entirely different meaning than intended...allow me to rephrase: it ends with the ViQueens losing to the Saints.

And if you are really masochistic enough to want to hear a bit of this song and read the lyrics, you can do both here. Have a bucket ready. Yikes.

Friday, January 22, 2010

NFC Championship wish list for Packer fans

There's an interesting poll taking place today at the online Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Probably a few other places, as well. Basically, the question being asked is this: "Which scenario would you like to see play out for Brett Favre and the Vikings?" Options include: Vikings lose to Saints in NFC Championship, Vikings win NFC Championship then lose to Colts in the Super Bowl, Vikings win NFC Championship then lose to Jets in the Super Bowl, Vikings beat Colts in Super Bowl, or Vikings beat Jets in Super Bowl.

Now, if you are a Packer fan, is there really any question about your wish list? About which one of those five responses the majority of fans want to see play out? Nope. With more than 3,200 persons voting as of the time of this posting, 61% indicate that they want the ViQueens to lose to the Saints in the NFC Championship. Sounds about right.

Vote for Clay Matthews for Rookie of the Year
Packers' standout rookie LB Clay Matthews is one of five finalists for the NFL Rookie of the Year Award. Fans can vote here now until 6 p.m. ET on Feb. 2. The winner will be announced on Feb. 4. Vote early and -- as they would do in Chicago -- vote often.

Schneider off to Seattle as GM
It was no surprise when Packers director of football operations, John Schneider, was hired this week as Seattle's new General Manager. Schneider was a key member of the Packers' personnel staff. Rumor had it for quite a while that he was the leading candidate for the Seattle job. Given that the Seahawks had already hired Pete Carroll as their new coach, it's not clear how much authority Schneider will have. But that's Seattle's problem, not the Packers'. We can only wish him well in his new gig.

Packers boost tix prices
The Packers announced today that, for the first time since 2007, they are increasing ticket prices. The average increase is $9, with the range being $8 to $11 depending upon the section. Season end-zone seats will now run $67 (that's each, kids, not entire season...a-duh!) with the highest-priced tickets (excluding luxury box stuff) between the 20-yard lines costing $83. You can read more here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Conference championships set

There was only one playoff upset this weekend: the Jets beat favored San Diego after the Chargers' kicker did his best Mason Crosby imitation and missed three field goals. Ouch. What a way to lose. But, Charger fans, if it's any consolation -- and it really isn't, is it? -- we can relate.

The Colts - Ravens game was more or less a snoozefest. The Saints dismantled the Cardinals in a way we had hoped the Packers would have done the week before, getting to Kurt Warner and forcing the Cards into turnovers, etc. And last, and least, the ViQueens put the hurt on the Cowboys. Ol' #4 tossed 4 TD passes, a record for him in playoff games, and looked very good. Not making bonehead plays or trying to force things...gee, where was this guy two years ago in that NFC Championship game against the Giants???

Anyway, the Jets go to Indianapolis and will likely get beat. That will end coach Rex Ryan's time on center stage for this season, thank goodness.

The 'Queens go to N'awlins to meet the Saints. The 'Queens' defense looked very good yesterday. They have the edge in that regard over the Saints. And you have two potent offenses going at it. But the dome edge now shifts to the Saints. And the fans there can be just as nuts as the ones in the Humpty Dump.

Yes, it's nice to see Ol' #4 play well. But as long as he's in that funky purple uniform, we just don't want him to win because as every good Packer fan knows, we don't want the 'Queens to win. So...go Saints!

Yep, fined for helmt-to-helmet hit...just no penalty flag
For those who haven't heard, or who have tried to block out the Packers' OT loss to the Cardinals via electro-shock or other therapies, the NFL on Friday fined Arizona defensive end Bertrand Berry for the helmet-to-helmet hit on QB Aaron Rodgers on the second play of overtime. He's $5,000 lighter in the wallet for the hit. Big whoop.

But, as everyone remembers, there was no penalty flag thrown on that play. Instead, LG Daryn Colledge was called for holding. They see that and yet nobody sees the defender launching himself with his helmet right to the head of Rodgers. Even booth announcer Troy Aikman said the refs missed that one.

For those who don't recall the helmet-to-helmet hit, have a look:

This would have been a huge call in that game. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Greg Beddard explains how this penalty would have changed the overtime situation here.

While this could have made a big change in the game, in the Packers' season, it shouldn't have come down to a ref's call. That's the sad part of it all.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Packers Coach McCarthy still feels the pain

In his weekly (and now, last for the season) on-air interview this morning with 620wtmj radio in Milwaukee (the Packers flagship radio station), Packers head coach Mike McCarthy admits to still being haunted by the last series of last weekend's overtime loss to the Cardinals. The final play literally brought him to his knees on the sideline...just as it did many of us.

Missing that first pass to WR Greg Jennings was really the critical play in that series. McCarthy said that they had the play they wanted and everybody on the sideline knew they had it. But QB Aaron Rodgers had to step up a bit into the pocket before the throw and just didn't put enough air under it. Missed shot.

To McCarthy's credit, he is not on the bash-the-refs bandwagon that most fans -- and many sports pundits across the country -- are. He said earlier this week that he was really more upset by the helmet-to-helmet action one play earlier that also didn't get called as a penalty; instead, as you'll remember, LG Daryn Colledge was called for holdiing on that play...amazing still. McCarthy said that's happened to Rodgers several times this season and it hasn't been called. Compare that clear shot with the one where the Packers' defender was pushed into Arizona QB Kurt Warner by an offensive lineman and was called for roughing. Just like in basketball, some players get the calls and others don't.

You can still hear the disappointment in McCarthy's voice as he talks about the game and what might have been, what should have been. And you can hear it all for yourself here in 620wtmj's podcast.

Playoffs? Playoffs?!

McCarthy said he most likely won't even watch this weekend's divisional playoff games. Can't blame him.

Although as a fan, who are you going to root for in the Cowboys-ViQueens game? Granted, these are two teams Packer fans love to hate. We'd really like both of them to lose, wouldn't we? Can that happen? No? Dang! OK...well, considering that a former Packers QB made it a deliberate point to wear that funky 'Queens' purple as a last shot at the Super Bowl, that means we need to root for...the Cowboys! I know, I know. Don't like them either. But Dallas QB Tony Romo is a Wisconsin lad...Burlington, Wisconsin, to be exact. So, there's the homer connection. Thus, gotta pull for the 'boys this weekend. Don't want to. But have to.

As for the Cards vs. the we really care? Not really. Flip a coin. Ditto the AFC games. Who's playing anyway? Oh, except we'd really like to see the Jets lose because of their classless coach Rex Ryan's comments about the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award going to Charles Woodson instead of his guy, Derrelle Revis. There's being supportive of one's own team members and then there's being a bonehead. Son Rex didn't fall too far from father Buddy's tree apparently. 620wtmj radio's Bill Michaels had a great article about Ryan's comments. Check it out here.

A word about Haiti
There's not really much that we can say about the situation that has developed in Haiti. Please consider supporting relief efforts through whatever organization you feel comfortable with. Please note that at the top of the righthand column we have included instructions on how to contribute $10 directly to the American Red Cross efforts by texting "Haiti" to 90999 on your mobile phone (it will be added directly to your phone far, millions of dollars have been raised this way). You will also find clickable banners to both the UN World Food Programme and the Mercy Corps which are also providing direct relief to Haiti. By texting "Friends" to 90999 you can donate $5 to the World Food Programme's Haiti relief efforts. Please consider making a gift of at least $10 or more to these or other organizations. Or think how much coin you might drop on a football game weekend -- whether at home or even more so, at the game itself! -- and donate that instead to the relief efforts. If you wouldn't miss it for that, you aren't going to miss it now. It's a good thing to do.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Packers' Woodson NFL Defensive Player of the Year

To no one's real surprise -- especially not any Packer fans -- CB Charles Woodson was today named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

According to a report, "Woodson won the voting of 50 national media members that cover the NFL with 28 votes. New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis finished second with 14. Denver Broncos end Elvis Dumervil and New Orleans Saints safety Darren Sharper tied for third with three votes. Vikings end Jared Allen received two.

"Woodson finished tied for the league lead with nine interceptions and three returned for a touchdown. He became the fourth player in league history to record at least nine interceptions and two sacks in a season.

"Woodson, the first cornerback to win the award since Deion Sanders in 1994, finished with a career-best 81 total tackles, with 21 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and one recovery, and three quarterback hits."

Woodson joins the late Reggie White as the only Packer defenders to ever receive this award.

You can read more about Woodson's award here and here.

The Packers will be holding a news conference for Woodson at approximately 2 p.m. Central time today. It will be streamed live. You can view it by clicking here and then selecting the event (if need be) where prompted.

Congratulations, Mr. Woodson. A remarkable season. The only thing missing was that ring that you and so many others wanted to see you get.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Packers - Cardinals post mortem: Part 1

The morning after doesn't feel any better than the night before, does it, Packer fans? Nope. Not at all. Overtime is called sudden death and that's what it felt like.

Lots of things to dissect. Which at this point serves nothing more than a therapeutic purpose, but at this point that's exactly what Packer fans need.

This will not be the loser's lament of bad officiating being responsible for the loss...although that can certainly be argued. To the Packers' credit, though, it's not the Packers arguing that point. It's other analysts.

Take, for example, Mike Florio of, discussing the non-call of the face mask penalty on the final play of the game in overtime. In an entry entitled, "After further review, Packers got screwed," Florio states, "As one league source said via e-mail, 'It should have been a personal foul grabbing the face mask and 15-yard penalty and a first down for Green Bay.'" He goes on to further state, "And we agree, completely." You can read all of Florio's comments here, including a link to the video clearly showing the play.

Even ESPN and the New York Times got into discussing the issue. The Times' article is entitled, "When Is Grabbing the Face Mask Not a Face-Mask Penalty?" You can read it here.

But it's the call that wasn't. Just like the non-call a play earlier where there was clear helmet-to-helmet spearing on Aaron Rodgers by the Cardinals' defender. Or the two times that Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald pushed off -- or to be more precise, ran over -- Charles Woodson to catch TD passes without being flagged for offensive pass interference.

Again, the Packers themselves are not blaming the officials. As Woodson and others said after the game, they all get away with things...that's the game. And as one radio sports talk host noted, it wasn't the officials that allowed the Cardinals to score 51 points.

In case there's any question about the latter, he was referring to the total absence of Packers defense throughout the game.

And that might be the hardest thing to explain. TV announcers were saying late in the game that Kurt Warner had said before the game that they thought they could exploit the Packers defense over the middle. And that's what he did all day long. He exposed the Packers secondary just as Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger had done weeks ago. The loss of personnel to injury in the defensive backfield -- first among them, Al Harris -- came back to roost in the worst way possible yesterday.

As defensive coordinator Dom Capers apparently said after the game, it's clear there is a long way to go in making this defense solid on all fronts. Close...but not quite there yet. Yesterday's game was not a good way to find that out.

Aaron Rodgers also made mention in his post-game news conference that next year's team will not be the same as this year's. He mentioned being unsure about what the status of Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher would be. While acknowledging that that's part of the business, you could also tell that Rodgers really felt the impact of those two veterans perhaps not being along for the ride next season. He noted it would be a long plane ride home. Yep. For a variety of reasons.

5 reasons for loss

In his blog on, sports reporter Jay Sorgi outlines five "same old reasons for Packers loss." In order, he lists: offensive line, secondary, penalties, drops and fumbles by receivers, kicker's lack of accuracy.

All this is fleshed in much more detail -- and very much worth the read -- here.

And so...the offseason discussions and speculations will begin. Just a lot sooner than we wanted.

More to come. Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

OT Final: Packers 45 - Cardinals 51

The theme for the Packers in this game, bottom line, was no defense and turnovers. The first play of the game started on a turnover by QB Aaron Rodgers and the last play ended on a turnover by Rodgers. Rodgers was stripped as he went back to pass on 3rd-and-5 in overtime and the ball went right into a defender's hands who ran it in for the winning TD in overtime.

The Packers got to overtime after tying up the game with about 2 minutes remaining. The Cardinals had a chance to win it in regulation but their kicker pulled his field goal attempt wide left with 14 seconds remaining.

The Packers won the toss and got the ball at their 20 after the kickoff went out of the endzone. On the first play, Rodgers missed deep on a throw to a wide open Greg Jennings that would have won the game. An ensuing holding penalty and then a 15 yard pass made it 3rd-and-5. That's when Rodgers dropped back to pass and was stripped of the ball.

Cardinals 51 - Packers 45.

In one way, the Packers shouldn't have made it a game. Give the offense credit for getting it into overtime. The defense can take no credit in this game. One of their worst performances of the season.

In the playoffs, turnovers usually tell the tale. Just ask the Patriots. And the Packers.

It was a heckuva season, Packer fans. Oh, so close. And far. At least this season.

But good things lie ahead. You can take that to the bank.

It just all ended far too soon.

End of 3rd quarter: Packers 24 - Cardinals 38

The Packers did what they needed to in the 3rd quarter: get back in the game...kinda.

While the quarter started and ended more or less much as the first half had gone, that is with the Cardinals driving the length of the field after the opening kickoff for a TD on a pass from QB Kurt Warner to WR Larry Fitzgerald, and then the defense once again being unable to stop the Cardinals' offense, the Pack was able to keep within 2 scores going into the final quarter.

In between the Packers had a great scoring drive capped off by a remarkable one-handed catch by Greg Jennings to pull the score from a 21-point lead to 14. Coach Mike McCarthy called an onside kick which was executed to perfection and recovered by rookie Brandon Underwood. The Packers put together a drive and got within 7 points after an 11-yard TD pass from Aaron Rodgers to WR Jordy Nelson.

Once again, though, the Packers' defense was as porous as they were during the Pittsburgh game and allowed the Cardinals to march down the field. Larry Fitzgerald clearly pushed off of Charles Woodson in the endzone but it was not called. TD Cardinals to go back up by 14.

As the quarter was winding down, the Packers once again had a drive going. But with the defense's inability to stop the Cardinals, prospects for the 4th quarter do not look good. Barring a turnover by the Cardinals or the Packers' defense finally stopping the Cards, the Pack will be home next weekend instead of visiting N'awlins.

Halftime: Packers 10 - Cardinals 24

The first half was all Cardinals, with major contributions from two Packers' turnovers, a questionable decision in the 2nd quarter to attempt a 54-yard field goal (unsuccessful), and an inability by the defense to tackle, cover receivers or get to Cardinals QB Kurt Warner.

The only life in the 2nd quarter came when CB Charles Woodson stripped Larry Fitzgerald of the ball, which was recovered and returned to about the Packers' 45-yard line by LB Clay Matthew. The Pack put together a drive, culminating in a QB sneak by Aaron Rodgers to make the score 17-7. But it wasn't long before the Cards extended the lead back to 17 points.

And it could have been worse.

On the kickoff after the Cardinals' third touchdown of the game, just before the 2-minute warning, returner Jordy Nelson -- who looks as if he's running in cement -- fumbled the ball when tackled. Luckily, the Pack recovered or it could have been game, set, match right then and there.

To the Pack's credit though, they mounted a drive, including a great 44-yard pass from Rodgers to TE Jermichael Finley. But again, they couldn't finish. They had first and goal with about 1 minute to go and had to settle for a field goal...which, in case you're wondering, Mason Crosby made as time ran out to put the Pack down by 14 going into the locker room.

Whatever it was the Pack had going for them over the last 8 weeks of the season clearly wasn't present in the first half.

The defense looks nothing like one of the top defenses in the league so far. The offensive line has allowed a number of sacks on Rodgers and quite a few pressures.

The defense need to make a stop...and then another stop...and another. And the offense and special teams can't turn the ball over. The Packers' offense can put up points, we know that. But unless the defense figures out a way to stop the Cards, trading points isn't going to work.

There's 30 minutes remaining. Lots of opportunities to forget the 1st half and turn it around.

Go Pack Go!!!

End of 1st quarter: Packers 0 - Cardinals 17

For those who watched the earlier game today between the Patriots and Ravens, this game is like a repeat. And unfortunately, the Packers are reprising the role of the Patriots, going down early and digging a hole in the first quarter that will be difficult if not impossible to overcome.

The Packers took the opening kickoff and started at their 20. On the first play from scrimmage, QB Aaron Rodgers was flushed from the pocket and instead of just running out of bounds attempted to force a pass. It got tipped and intercepted at about the 40. The Cardinals took it in a few plays later for a score to go up 7-0.

On the second play of the Packers' next series, WR Donald Driver was stripped of the ball, which was recovered by the Cardinals at about the 22-yard line. A couple plays later, the Cardinals went up with another TD, 14-0.

On the Packers next series, they couldn't sustain a drive and had to punt. The defense was finally able to keep the Cards from scoring a TD, and limited them to just a field goal. 17-0 Cards. Be thankful for small favors.

Two turnovers, no ability so far to be able to get to Cardinals QB Kurt Warner, apparent blown coverages in the secondary with receivers wide open, and just getting beat on both sides of the ball.

The Packers couldn't have started any worse. What we were afraid of -- that the Cards would somehow flip the switch they did last season -- seemingly has come to pass. And Warner is lighting it up.

Playoff Preview: Packers vs. Cardinals

This game hasn't even been played yet -- starts about 5 hours from now -- and already it's been beaten to death. Surprisingly, or not, most of the national prognosticators have been picking the Packers to win all week long. You can expect that out of the local "homers", but Tony Dungy? Mike Ditka? Regis Philbin? (Wait, how'd he get in there?)

Given that level of talking head support, it was also somewhat surprising, then, that the Cardinals were still as much as 3-1/2 point favorites through the week. That started to turn on Saturday when the Packers became slotted as 1-point faves. The latest line, depending upon who you look at (and purely for educational, informational and entertainment purposes only, of course) has the Packers as 2-1/2 point favorites.

The catch to all this is, no one knows for sure which Cardinals team will show up. We have to honestly admit that we can't put much stock in the two wins the Packers have against the Cards this season. I mean, c'mon, it was an exhibition game and then a rest-up game for the Cards. This is still the NFC defending champion. This is still the team which beat the ViQueens handily about a month ago. This is still the team that has one of the top veteran QBs -- especially in the playoffs -- at the helm.

But this is also the team that, despite trying to rest key players last week, emerged from the game with Green Bay a bit beat up. ESPN, for example, is just now reporting that WR Anquan Boldin is unlikely to play today. He's listed as a gametime decision. Boldin has both an ankle and knee injury, although apparently it is the knee injury that is presenting the greatest problem. Cardinals CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie left last week's game with a knee bruise but is expected to play today. But a few key injuries can make a difference in a game like this.

The Packers have the confidence that they are a more physical team than the Cardinals. If defensive coordinator Dom Capers can scheme the game today to get pressure on QB Kurt Warner early and often, it could be a good day for the Pack. Warner can pick apart a blitz. But he's also a statue back there. If the Packers' "D" can continue to perform at the level in this game that it has over the last half of the season, it means good things. If the offense continues to put up points -- and the Packers "O" is averaging 33 points a game over the last 8 games! -- and not turn the ball over, and the Packers special teams don't allow a big return, the Pack should emerge from this game as the victor.

And that might have another consequence, as ESPN is also reporting that it's likely Kurt Warner will retire after this season. Which means, this game might be his last. He's been one of the great stories in the NFL over the last decade or so. And he should go into the Hall of Fame. But, today, let's let him have one of those 5 interception kind of days. A small payback for the team that gave him a shot once upon a time.

The Packers are comfortable playing in Arizona. And if last week is any indication -- and the live radio and TV broadcasts from the vicinity have been any indicator -- there are going to be a lot of Packer fans in that stadium today. The game wasn't even a sell-out until Friday. Can you imagine that in Green Bay? So can you imagine, given the apparent lack of interest by the Cardinals' own fans, who probably grabbed most of those remaining tickets? Packers players know they will have support there today.

There is no reason to suspect the Packers will have a letdown today. It will certainly be tighter than last weekend. But the Packers are more physical, more confident, and in better overall team health than are the Cardinals. The Cards have Warner and Larry Fitzgerald on offense, true. But that won't be enough.

We're calling this one in favor of the Packers, 31-24.

If you want to see what some Wisconsin "experts" are predicting, check this out. And if you want to see what ESPN's pundits are saying, go here.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Fans in Coach McCarthy's corner

An interesting online poll is underway today at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel website. It shows that, of the 4 head coaches that were hired in the NFL in 2006 -- all of whom were or could have been candidates for the Packers' job -- and all of whom have teams in the playoffs this weekend, fans responding to the poll clearly are glad to have Mike McCarthy as their playoff coach. Quite a change from the attitude after the loss to Tampa Bay at mid-season. Just goes to show what a tremendous job McCarthy has done. And, truth be told, I'd take McCarthy over the other choices, too.

Here's the poll question and results at the time of this posting:

In 2006, Mike McCarthy, Brad Childress, Sean Payton and Wade Phillips were all candidates for Green Bay's then-vacant coaching position. Now their teams make up more than half the field in the NFC playoffs.
Which NFC playoff coach would you rather have?
  • Brad Childress (8%)
  • Mike McCarthy (56%)
  • Sean Payton (33%)
  • Wade Phillips (4%)

Total Responses: 5154

You can find the poll here.

Woodson named NFC Defensive Player of the Month
The Packers have announced that CB Charles Woodson has once again been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for December by the NFL. He received the same award in September and November. Hmmm...three out of four months...can NFL Defensive MVP be far behind???

Here's the scoop on Woodson's latest award as shown on the Packers site:
"• Woodson had 20 tackles, two interceptions - including a 45-yard touchdown - and seven passes defensed. Green Bay went 4-1 during the month and finished the regular season by winning seven of the final eight games.
• The Green Bay defense finished the season ranked No. 1 in the NFC allowing 284.4 yards per game. The Packers led the NFL with 30 interceptions, 40 takeaways and a +24 turnover differential.
• Woodson had two interceptions during the month, including one in Week 17 against Arizona that he returned 45 yards for a touchdown. He recorded a career-high nine interceptions this season, tied for the most in the NFL. His three interception-return touchdowns also tied for the most in the league.
• Since joining the team in 2006, Woodson ranks second in the NFL with 28 interceptions and leads the league with seven interception-return touchdowns. His eight defensive touchdowns with the Packers are a franchise record.
• In his 12th season from Michigan, this is Woodson's fourth career Player of the Month Award and third this season (September, November). He is the only player to be named NFC Defensive Player of the Month multiple times in a season. He joins Pro Football Hall of Famer BARRY SANDERS and former Indianapolis kicker MIKE VANDERJAGT as the only players to win the award three times in a season."

Congratulation, Mr. MVP!

News flash: It's good to be warm and not hurt

As the Packers get ready to head to the Arizona desert for their playoff showdown with the Cardinals on Sunday, two articles today are of particular interest.

The first is that, as much as everyone loves The Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field, truth be told is that players prefer playing in conditions that are just a bit warmer. And this time of year, that "just a bit" equates to something like 60 or 70 degrees warmer. OK, we can understand that. And that's also why, while the Pack won't have the home field advantage of 70,000 screaming and frozen fans, probably 15,000 or so will find their way to the Arizona sun.

For the players, the advantages are obvious, as the article points out: being able to play faster and more naturally, being able to run, throw, kick and hang on to the ball...all rather essential in the game of football. And as opposed to the Packers of the mid-1990s where you had a couple certified "mudders" in the backfield -- Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens -- the squad these days....not so much. You might say the team is built more for dome and warm weather play than the Ice Bowl.

Which bodes well as the Pack takes on the Cards for the second week in a row. The players like it there. And, if they get the win Sunday -- and is there really any Packer fan here who doesn't think that??? -- they will go on to play in another dome and climate-controlled atmosphere, either at New Orleans or the Humpty Dump against the ViQueens.

You can read the article here.

The second article of interest also reminds us that the team which rested its players for most of the game this last week (that would the Cardinals for those unaware) seems to also be the one that is also still hurting the most going into this game. The Cardinals have some key owies while the Packers are entering the game relatively healthy. Even NT Ryan Pickett was finally able to practice yesterday for the first time in about a month.

The Packers have all their weapons available on offense and defense. The Cardinals are banged up and may not have all their weapons. The Packers also, as we have seen over the last half of the season, have become a very physical team especially on defense. They finished #2 overall. And if they play that way again, despite going against a seasoned QB such as Kurt Warner, the Pack will come out with a victory.

You can read the full article here.

Judging by Packers player comments, they are confident, not cocky. They know the level that they have been playing at and they know if they keep it up they can beat anybody...anybody!

Comparisons have been made in some quarters between the 2007 NY Giants and this season's Packers. The Giants struggled early in their season, then got on a roll. They were a wildcard team and had to play every game on the road and win. And win they did, even, as we regrettably recall, in the NFC Championship Game in overtime against the Packers. And they won the Super Bowl, too. The Packers will have to follow suit if they want to yet again bring the Lombardi Trophy back home to Green Bay where it belongs. There is no reason to suspect that they can't right now.

But it all starts in Arizona on Sunday. One game at a time. And while there is no place like home, for the next few weeks it will be more like Home Sweet Dome.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Packers work the Big Mo'

No, we're not talking about the Packers working out a new player with a Three Stooges-esque nickname. Rather, it's a reference to what the Pack had going for them the last half of the season, and which they put on full display in Sunday's victory over the Cardinals.


That's the Big Mo' that the Packers have been stoking over the last 8+ weeks. Coaches and players alike feel it and don't want to let it escape by backing off now. Especially not now. That's why head coach Mike McCarthy played his starters long after it was necessary given the game situation and roll-over by the Cards.

There are certainly different strategies for going into the playoffs. Some coaches have rested players -- and lost a game or two -- to get ready for the playoff run. They might very well lose momentum. Some coaches -- like McCarthy -- keep playing as if tomorrow depended upon it. And when you look at it that way, it does. There is the risk of injury, of course, with the latter. With both styles, actually. It's football and all it takes is one play, as we saw with the Patriots' Wes Welker as well as the Cardinals' Anquan Boldin. The Packers seem to have dodged a bullet with the injury to Charles Woodson late in the game. Woodson has been nursing a shoulder problem a good chunk of the season, and aggravated it again. But he'll be ready to roll come Sunday, you know that.

Anyway...back to the momentum thing...there's a good article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about just that topic and McCarthy's approach to it. Check it out here.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Packers - Cards rematch Sunday @ 3:30 p.m

Just a quick hit for those who haven't yet heard the schedule: the Packers meet the Cardinals again in Arizona next Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Central time. The rematch is the final game of the first round of the Saturday/Sunday playoff rounds.

The Jets vs. Bengals and the Eagles vs. Cowboys are on Saturday, while the Ravens play the Patriots in the early game on Sunday.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Final: Packers 33 - Cardinals 7

The Packers kept the pedal to the metal throughout the game. The only blemish was a late interception thrown by backup QB Matt Flynn that was returned to about the 3-yard line (including a penalty). One play later, the Cardinals got their first and only score of the day.

The Packers' highlight of the quarter was another interception, this one by Tramon Williams on Cardinals' 3rd string QB Brian St. Pierre. This gave the Pack 30 turnovers on the season, and a turnover margin of +25, which set the new franchise season record. The prior record was +24 held by the 1965 Packers. The Packers also set a franchise rushing-yards-allowed-per-game stat of 83.3 yards, and by holding the Cardinals to just 48 yards rushing on the day, established itself as the #1 rushing defense in the league.

The Packers finished 11-5 and will be back in Arizona for a deja vu game next weekend (day and time yet to be announced).

May it go as well then as it did today. Despite the fact that the Cardinals didn't play even close to all out today, the fact that the Packers were able to play with "swagger" (as the TV talking heads called it) throughout the game should help them get into the Cards' heads next time around.

The Pack is clicking on all cylinders. Just what you want going into the playoffs.

Go Pack Go!!!

End of 3rd quarter: Packers 33 - Cardinals 0

The Packers coaching staff kept most of the starters in during the 3rd quarter. And the way they were rolling, why not? (Well, yeah, that injury thing...)

The Packers defense kept the Cardinals from scoring during the quarter (obviously). And the Packers offense scored again, this time on a 14-play, 94-yard drive that was finished off with a 5-yard TD pass from Aaron Rodgers to TE Jermichael Finley. Packers 33 - Cardinals 0.

This TD pass was the 30th of the season for Rodgers. It appears that Rodgers will be rested the remainder of the game, just 25 yards shy of setting the all-time single season franchise passing yardage record held by Lynn Dickey since the 1980s. Dang.

But Rodgers finished the regular season with the fewest interceptions thrown by a QB in the NFL and also as the leading rusher among quarterbacks. Rodgers also finished in the top 5 rankings in a number of other categories. He also finished with a season quarterback rating over 100, the only other quarterback besides Bart Starr to have accomplished that feat in Packers' history.

Not bad, Mr. Rodgers, not bad at all.

End of 2nd quarter: Packers 26 - Cardinals 0

The Packers' first drive of the second quarter ended with their first punt of the day, which was actually caught by the Arizona returner at the 1-yard line...and that's where he was tackled. Thank you very much.

The Arizona coaching staff decided it wasn't worth exposing QB Kurt Warner to possible injury and replaced him with backup Matt Leinart. On a pass play from his endzone, Leinart was picked off by Atari Bigby. But wait! There's even better news. A lineman was called for holding LB Clay the endzone...which meant a safety...2 points for the Pack! Packers 16 - Cardinals 0.

The Packers took the ensuing punt but stalled out and had to settle for a 26-yard field goal attempt by Mason Crosby...which he made...from the right hash mark!

On the Cardinals' next series, Leinart was again picked off, this time for real. Charles Woodson got his 9th interception of the season, and returned it 45 yards for his third interception returned for a TD this season. Packers 26 - Cardinals 0.

There was a great sign by one of the many Packer fans in the stands: "3/4 of the world is covered by water. The rest is covered by Charles Woodson." Great.

The Cardinals started to engineer a bit of a drive late in the quarter but that was snuffed out as Leinart overthrew his receiver near the endzone and had it picked off by Atari Bigby.

The only negative was that prior to Bigby's interception Woodson left the game favoring his right arm/shoulder. Hopefully, it's nothing major. Losing Woodson going into the playoffs would be a serious blow to the defense.

Overall, a great half on both sides of the ball by the Pack. There's no reason for head coach Mike McCarthy to expose his starters any further in this game. Time for the backups to get some playing time and for the starters to rest up.

Go Pack Go!!!

End of 1st quarter: Packers 14 - Cardinals 0

With the ViQueens whupping the living daylights out of the Giants in the first game of the afternoon, the Cardinals really don't have much to play for. And through the first quarter, that shows.

The Packers scored on their first two drives of the quarter. They took the opening kickoff and wound up going the distance, being aided by a crisp passing game as well as by penalties. The big penalty came on a pass interference penalty which put the ball at the Cardinals' 1-yard line. After a catch by TE Jermichael Finley was ruled to be out of the endzone, Ryan Grant took a pitch from QB Aaron Rodgers and -- following a crushing block by rookie FB Quinn Johnson -- scooted into the endzone for the first score. The initial PAT attempt was blocked, but the Cardinals were offsides. The second attempt was good. Packers 7 - Cardinals 0. Oh, and Donald Driver went over 1,000 yards for the season with his first catch of the day.

The Packers held the Cardinals on their first possession, playing aggressive and tight defensive once again.

The Pack started their second drive inside their own 10-yard line. The big play of the drive came on a 51-yard pass to WR Jordy Nelson to the 1-yard line. Rodgers took it himself on the next play, right over center. Packers 14 - Cardinal 0.

The Packers offense looks as good as it has over the last winning stretch. And the defense is also performing solidly. The Pack had 10 first downs in the quarter to 2 first downs for Arizona.

Looks as if the Cardinals are shutting it down early, as was to be expected given the result of the ViQueens game. The question now will be how long the Packers play their starters.

Packers - Cardinals Preview

It's difficult to preview a game such as this when it may or may not mean a lot to one team and really doesn't mean all that much to the other.

By kickoff time, though, the Cardinals will know whether they are playing for something or not. That all depends upon whether or not the Giants are able to upset the ViQueens in the Humpty Dump in the early game today. If so, the Cards can be playing for a better seeding. If not, well, in all likelihood these two teams will be seeing each other again next weekend in Arizona in the first round of the playoffs.

If the latter is the scenario that plays out, the game might be more like an exhibition game, with starters playing a while to keep sharp but not wanting to play too long to get exposed to possible injury. That might be the scenario the Packers roll with today regardless, despite all the words from the coaches and the players that they will be playing to win. Although that begs the question: win which's or next week's?

If the the 'Queens lose and the Cards have something to play for, they could win by a good margin as it's likely the Pack will not want to put their key starters at risk very long today. If you see them go a full 3 quarters that would be about the most to be expected. If both the Pack and Cards aren't playing for anything, it will be a vanilla game and it could go either way.

For all these reasons, I just call it as a "pick 'em" game today. The Packers' target is clearly the next game, not this one. Still, getting backup players some game time today would be a big help going forward.

Playoff Scenarios

The Packers will play Arizona if:
the Packers win
or the Packers lose and the Cowboys win

The Packers will play Dallas if:
the Packers lose, the Vikings lose and the Cowboys win

The Packers will play Minnesota if:
the Packers lose, the Vikings lose and the Cowboys lose

More records today?

While there isn't much to play for in terms of playoff seeding, yes, getting to 11-5 would be nice. But there are also some individual and team records that could be set today...depending.

WR Donald Driver needs 4 yards to reach 1,000 yards receiving for the season, which would extend his own franchise record to a seventh overall season with 1,000 receiving yards. And if Driver makes just one catch today, he will have caught at least one pass in 126 consecutive games. Go Donald Go!!!

Also, when that happens, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, NFL history will be made. It would be the first offensive unit in league history to produce a 4,000-yard passer (Aaron Rodgers), a 1,200-yard rusher (Ryan Grant) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Driver and Greg Jennings) in back-to-back seasons.

Now really, how cool is that?

As Packer fans know, QB Aaron Rodgers last week became the first passer in NFL history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in his first two seasons as a starter. Rogers needs 260 yards against Arizona today to break the single-season franchise mark. Probably not likely given how long Rodgers might play. But you never know. Still, building the kind of stats Rodgers has over his first two seasons as a starter makes it a lot easier to forget Ol' #4...what was his name again...???

RB Ryan Grant became the third running back in team history to post back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons. He already has a career-high 10 rushing touchdowns and is two yards short of a career yardage mark. Grant not only doesn't get the respect he deserves in the league but he also is underappreciated by most Packer fans. He's not flashy, but as we were reminded last week, give the man a hole to run through and he can go the distance.

WR Greg Jennings went over the 1,000-yard mark in receiving against the Seahawks last weekend, becoming just the fifth player in Packers' history to do so in consecutive seasons.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Packers to play next Saturday?

According to an article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, it seems as if the Packers coaching staff is preparing for the prospects of playing their wildcard playoff game next Saturday rather than Sunday. Head coach Mike McCarthy is quoted as saying, "Yes, I think we have a high probability of playing on Saturday."

As the article notes, "One NFC and one AFC game will be played next Saturday, and one NFC and one AFC game will be played next Sunday. Kickoff times are 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Jan. 9, noon and 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 10.

"As best the Packers can determine, they probably will be playing the late game next Saturday if not next Sunday. Dates and times will be announced Sunday night."

As this same article also notes, going into play tomorrow the Packers have 8 playoff scenarios, 6 of which have them playing the Cardinals. The Pack has one scenario under which they would play the Cowboys and one under which they would play the ViQueens. So, as much as many fans would love to see the Packers play Ol' #4 one more time in the Humpty Dump, the odds don't favor it.

You can read more on the playoffs and related bits and pieces here.

How much do we need Tauscher? Let us count the ways.

There's another great article in the same issue of the Journal-Sentinel about beloved veteran right tackle Mark Tauscher. Compares Tauscher to former tackle Bruce Wilkerson who was signed late in the Packers' season which saw them go on to win the 1996 Super Bowl. The story is about how Wilkerson, then also aged 32 (as is Tauscher) and near the end of his career, went down in Packers' lore because of his role in helping the team get to and win the big one. Certainly, Tauscher's legacy is already well established as his entire career has been spent with the Pack. He's a lock for the Packers Hall of Fame. But closing out one's career with a Super Bowl win? Sweet! And why not?

Anyway, another great article by Bob McGinn of the Journal-Sentinel. Check it out here.

Check back tomorrow for the preview of the Packers vs. Cardinals game.