Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Packers playoff scenarios

Following the upset victory of the ViQueens over the Eagles in Philly last evening, the playoff scenarios start to come into focus for the Green Bay Packers. Sort of.

First, of course, the Packers actually have to make the playoffs. And that, as any true Green-n-Gold-blooded fan of the Pack knows, requires the Pack to beat Da Bearz Sunday afternoon in the friendly confines of Lambeau Field.

It's possible that Chicago has a chance at playing for the #1 NFC seed (can you believe it?), but they'll know whether that's in play by gametime. It's already a given that they have secured the #2 spot and a bye. So the question for coach Lovie Dovie Smith is whether and how long he will play his starters against the Pack. Yes, Smith relishes his team's battles against the Pack. But would he jeopardize a run in the playoffs by exposing his starters to possible injury in what for all practical purposes is a meaningless game for them? Doubtful.

So the odds of the Packers beating Da Bearz have seemingly increased courtesy of the 'Queens beating Philly.

The outcome of last night's game also means that instead of back-to-back games against Chicago, as was originally speculated as the primary playoff scenario, the Packers will now instead be looking to take a trip east to play the Eagles. Many fans, judging from comments on blogs, radio call-in shows, etc., preferred to take on Da Bearz instead of the Eagles. However, given that Philly will now be playing 3 games in about 11 or 12 days time, and that QB Michael Vick got banged up a bit in last night's game, some fans are beginning to look forward to playing Philadelphia.

If the Packers make the playoffs, and then beat Philly, they would likely take on Atlanta. There are scenarios which, if correct, show that it's possible that the Packers could match up against Da Bearz in the NFC Championship game. Wouldn't that be something?!

The one thing you will notice about these scenarios, though, is that the Packers are on the road throughout the playoffs. The Giants, as is all too clear in memory, won out on the road and went on to win the Super Bowl just a few years ago. But no #6 seeded team coming out of the NFC has ever gone on to win the Super Bowl; the only instance of any #6 seed winning the big game is that of the Steelers.

But, again, nothing happens unless the Packers win Sunday. That's the only game that matters now.

See Tom Silverstein's blog about the matchups in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Go Pack Go!!!

On this day...
The late great Ray Nitschke was born on this day in 1936.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Five Packers named to Pro Bowl

The Pro Bowl selections have been announced by the NFL, and five Green Bay Packers were named to the team: left tackle Chad Clifton, safety Nick Collins, wide receiver Greg Jennings, linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Charles Woodson. Collins, Matthews and Woodson were named starters for the NFC squad.

What about QB Aaron Rodgers? Or CB Tramon Williams? Well you may ask. They were named as first alternates.

Yes, it is a bizarro world indeed where Rodgers and Williams are "alternates." That should go on one of the ESPN segments of "C'mon, Man!".

Other alternates include wide receiver Donald Driver, linebacker A.J. Hawk, nose tackle B.J. Raji and guard Josh Sitton.

You can read more about the selections here.

If there's football in 2011, here's the Pack's schedule

Assuming that football is played in 2011, the Green Bay Packers will have the following home and away schedule (as determined by the NFL):

HOME: Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Denver, Oakland, NFC West second-place team (still to be determined).

AWAY: Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, Atlanta, Carolina, Kansas City, San Diego, New York Giants.

As the article in the Green Bay Press Gazette notes, "By the rotation, the Packers were actually supposed to play at San Diego and have Kansas City at home, but the NFL separated Oakland and San Diego, so that teams playing the AFC West don’t have two long flights to California in the same season."

Go Pack Go!!! In 2010...and beyond!

Early Packers - Bears Week Insights

OK, the word "insights" in the headline might be a bit over-the-top. I mean, insights? Insights??? You know better than that.

However, here is what we do know: the Green Bay Packers will be playing the Chicago Bears this weekend for the final seed as a Wild Card team in the playoffs. Courtesy of the New Orleans Saints' victory over the Falcons in Atlanta last evening, that's the best that can be achieved. (Thanks, Atlanta! Where was that loss when we needed it, eh?) We also know that Da Bearz might have something to play for depending upon the outcome of tonight's game between the Eagles and ViQueens; they could be playing for a first-round bye. Not to mention, of course, the pleasure of keeping the Pack out of the playoffs. With a Bears' loss, however, it's a distinct possibility that the two teams could meet up again the following week in Chicago in the Wild Card game. Yowza!

As might be imagined, the Packer blogosphere and radio talk shows have been filled with much jubilation following the Packers' victory over the Giants on Sunday. And there are the usual and expected projections regarding the upcoming game versus Da Bearz. The opinion here is that, if the Packers team that shows up this weekend is the same one that showed up on Sunday, yes, they should come away with a win. While we also think that Da Bearz were winning with a lot of luck earlier in the season -- and admittedly, luck is part of the game -- they have become more solid as the season progressed. Their defense was and is solid, and their special teams very special courtesy of Devin Hester. The offense has also become more consistent with fewer 7-step drops by QB Jay Cutler. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz has Cutler operating more quickly, which has exposed him to fewer sack possibilities. The Bears' running game has also been solid with Matt Forte.

Yeah, Da Bearz put up a lot of points on the Jets on Sunday. But they gave up a lot, too. So does this set up as a shoot out for the Packers, or a defensive struggle? If the Packers are able to be as physical with Da Bearz as they were against the Giants they will get a victory. If the Packers are able to bottle up the running game and make Cutler get happy feet in the pocket, the defense could once again generate a number of turnovers. Aaron Rodgers and company should have a good day if they can again muster even a semblance of a rushing attack. The area that is always a concern with the Packers, however, and especially against a team like Da Bearz, is the special teams. That's the area that has to not make a mistake, or it could be the difference between a win and a loss...and a trip to the playoffs.

More as the week goes on...

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Packers demolish Giants 45-17

In perhaps their best outing of the season, and in a game they absolutely had to win in order to keep their playoff chances alive, the Green Bay Packers sliced, diced, and otherwise beat down the NY Giants in a 45-17 victory at Lambeau Field.

The Packers racked up more than 500 yards in total offense, with QB Aaron Rodgers throwing for a career high 404 yards on 25 of 37 passing, and 4 touchdowns. FB John Kuhn rushed for 2 TDs and picked up 1 receiving TD, as well. Some great catches by Packers receivers, but also some drops which in close games make the difference between winning and losing. Not so today, however.

The Packers defense bottled up the vaunted Giants running attack and created 6 turnovers against the Giants, including 4 interceptions off NY QB Eli Manning.

A great victory for the Pack.

Next up in the season finale is Da Bearz at Lambeau Field. More on that as the week goes on. For now, it's enough to know that if the Pack wins that game they secure a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Lose and...well...they could still make it, with some help. But let's just figure that if the Pack can bring this same level of play next week, they will indeed be playoff bound.

Go Pack Go!!!

Packers vs. Giants Preview

It's the day after Christmas and all we want is for the Green Bay Packers to still be in a gift-giving mode. No, not the kind of gifts they've given other teams in the six narrow losses of this season, but rather things NY Giants head coach Tom Coughlin another couple hours in a darkened room after yet another heartbreaking loss. Or giving Packer fans everywhere yet another week of hope that this injury-riddled and over-achieving season will continue into the playoffs.

Those would be just a few gift ideas. Both, of course, are contingent upon the Packers beating the Giants at Lambeau Field today. The Packers are favored by 3 points, the home field advantage spread, meaning the game is basically a toss up. There are many out in the pundit-sphere, though, that are calling this game in favor of the Giants. To be honest, they do have a better rushing game (but, really, who doesn't?), a better defensive front, and a better return game (ditto my earlier who doesn't comment). And, after the Giants' epic 4th quarter collapse against the Eagles last weekend, you have to figure they will come out ready to play (a cliche, but still true). Of course, they could also still be feeling the after-effects of that loss. If the Pack were to get up early, the Giants just might have the air sucked right out of them. Don't expect that to happen, though.

This is a game which both teams need in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. But the Packers need it more: lose today and they are out. Period. Win and, even should they lose to Da Bearz in the regular season finale, they still have a chance but would need a few other things to fall into place in order for them to squeak in. The Packers understand very well that going into this game they control their own destiny, as the saying goes. Win their remaining two games and they clinch a Wild Card spot. Lose today and start making plans for the offseason.

If the Packers defense can't contain the Giants two-headed running attack of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, it's going to be a long day, as that will allow QB Eli Manning to do what he can do very well when given the time. The Packers' task will be made even more difficult today with the absence, for yet one more week, of DE Cullen Jenkins and a question at outside linebacker. LB Frank Zombo is listed as doubtful after sustaining a knee injury in the game against the Pats, and even the two players signed in recent weeks to provide depth there have injuries to deal with. Not good. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers will need to bring his most creative schemes to bear today if the Pack is to have a chance at winning this game.

Likewise, head coach Mike McCarthy will have to have his play-calling abilities on target...something which, in these close games, has not always seemed to be the case. Aaron Rodgers needs a big game and, coming off his second concussion of the season, the scenario makes him vulnerable to the Giants' pass rush, particularly if the Packers are not able to find a way to run the ball. The O-line needs to play its best game of the season if the Pack is to win this game. They will have their hands full against a great Giants defensive front. If they allow that D-line to control the line of scrimmage and -- worse -- get pressure on QB Aaron Rodgers, it will be a long day and a likely loss. Not sure what the running game will look like for the Packers, but if they can at least come close to duplicating last week's performance against the Patriots it will provide Rodgers with some breathing room. And, if not...let's not even think about that, shall we?

This will be a close game. It could be decided with a turnover -- which the Pack didn't create last week despite several clear opportunities. It could also be decided on special teams. That edge, as we all too well know, does not go to the Pack. The Giants are the healthier of the two teams and the more physical. A lot will depend upon the emotion of the game. This would be a great time for the Giants to come in nursing that Eagles hangover. Don't count on that, however.

Still, because the game is at Lambeau and the Packers know their playoff lives depend on this game, we're calling it 27-24 in favor of the Packers.

Let us pray...

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Packers' hope: Wild Card spot

Yet another example of why Green Bay Packers fans loathe the Minnesota Vikings: on one of the rare occasions when Packer fans actually root for the 'Queens, they blow it. They lose. To Da Bearz. And, in the process, allow those same Bearz to clinch the NFC North. With Jay Cutler at QB, nonetheless.

Yes, it is yet another sign of the impending Apocalypse.

So, where does that leave the Packers? Pretty much where we thought they'd be after their second consecutive loss: in control of their own destiny. If they win their last two remaining games against the Giants and Da Bearz, both at Lambeau Field, they cinch a Wild Card spot for the playoffs. In a sense, they are already in playoff mode now. Win Sunday and they are still alive; lose to the Giants and, as the late, great Dandy Don Meredith might sing, "The party's over."

There is still no word as to whether QB Aaron Rodgers will be available. But at least we can rest comfortably that backup Matt Flynn can hold his own if he has to get the start again. The worries are the Unholy Trinity for the Pack: short-yardage conversions (especially at the goal line), penalties, and very un-special special teams. When a team loses its six games by a combined total of 20 points, it's those little things -- and some not-so-little -- that make the difference.

Perhaps the Packers, with their league-leading injury list all season long, have been running on fumes longer than we think? We'll begin to get the answer to that question with the game against the Giants. Win and get ready for a smackdown with Da Bearz, lose and start looking to draft picks and signings for next season. It's as simple as that. And cleaning up those areas of play that have been the thorn in the Packers' side all season long.

Oh, and Da Bearz still suck. And so do the ViQueens.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Packers lose another close one

Six losses by a combined total of 20 points. That sums up the Green Bay Packers' season so far. Close, but no cigar, as the saying goes. Many of the problems responsible for early close losses have been present in the last two: missed opportunities both offensively and defensively, and special teams' breakdowns that suck any momentum the Pack may have achieved right out of the game.

All this was on display again last night in the Pack's loss to the New England Patriots. Despite outplaying the Pats for virtually the entire game, the Packers' defenders at least twice dropped possible interceptions, receivers dropped passes, and special teams were -- again! -- very un-special when it counted. Please, someone, anyone, tell me in what bizarro world a 300+ pound offensive lineman almost returns a squib kick for a touchdown. Anyone? Seventy-one freakin' yards! Anyone???

Still, while the disappointment in a second straight loss is real, it must be said that most folks (including yours truly) did not give the Packers much of a chance going into the game. Aaron Rodgers was on the sidelines and backup Matt Flynn was getting his first NFL start. To his credit, Flynn did an outstanding job, throwing for 3 touchdowns and notching a passer rating of over 100. The Packer running game was also doing things we hadn't seen in a long time. Brandon Jackson gained 99 yards and FB John Kuhn picked up some huge first downs.

But the offensive line, while creating some holes, also couldn't get it done at the goal line -- again -- causing the Packers to have to settle for 3 points instead of 7. How many times has that happened over the course of this season? Too many. And they also gave up sacks at inopportune times. Such as in the last minute of play with the Packers driving for a winning TD with no timeouts remaining.

Clock management was not handled well in that last minute or so. Coach McCarthy, despite a generally good game plan, failed to put his young QB in a position to win going down the stretch.

This season is a woulda-shoulda-coulda year. It's amazing what GM Ted Thompson and the coaching staff have done with a roster depleted by injury from the first game onward. Perhaps they have overachieved given the talent actually on the field. But when you are continually this close and fail to get it done, that has to fall back on the coaches. Special teams coach Shawn Slocum should definitely be out the door once the season concludes. He should have been gone by now. Breakdowns have continued all year. Yes, the players available have also changed which affects continuity. But that's happened on offense and defense, as well, and somehow those coaches get their players ready. Slocum doesn't. That's clear.

At 8-6, the Packers are still alive for a Wild Card playoff berth, however, thanks to the great Eagles' comeback versus the Giants yesterday and the Lions upsetting the Buccaneers. If Da Bearz beat the ViQueens in Minnesota tonight they win the NFC North. But if the Pack can beat the Giants and Da Bearz at Lambeau in the next two weeks they will secure a Wild Card spot.

So, there is still hope, Packers fans. At least we have that.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Packers vs. Patriots Preview

For those readers short on time, the quick take on tonight's game between the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots is this: Pats are favored by 14 points. Bottom line: not many outside of the Packers' locker room are giving the 8-5 Pack much of a chance against the 11-2 Pats. Given the level of play of QB Tom Brady and his teammates over the last few weeks, and compared to the Packers' debacle in Detroit last Sunday, seems reasonable to pick the Pats over the Pack. Especially with starting QB Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines and backup Matt Flynn getting his first NFL start.

As stated in our post of yesterday noting that Rodgers was out and Flynn was in, the possibility of the Packers beating the Patriots does exist. It's just not probable. Yes, the Packers have one of the top-ranked defenses in the league, even with the bevy of injuries that have occurred to that unit since the start of the season. It's been a remarkable run, all things considered. And, while the Pats have Tom Brady and a potent offense, their defense is so-so.

So...if the Packers could somehow generate an offense that kept Tom Brady on the bench as long as possible, maybe there's a chance. But if the Packers offense fails to do that, and if they play as pathetically as they did in Detroit, this game could be a blow out.

Still, former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Packers reporter and current Boston Globe Patriots reporter, Greg Bedard, has written a 5-point plan as to how the Packers can beat the Patriots, just as the Cleveland Browns did in their 34-14 victory over the Patriots on Nov. 7, the last time the Pats were defeated, by the way, and with Colt McCoy at quarterback for the Browns.

To summarize Bedard's 5 main points: run the ball; get an early lead; push the Patriots' pocket from the inside; press the Patriots' receivers; don't turn the ball over.

Do these things, Bedard says, and there's a chance at an upset.

As for us, even with the Green 'n' Gold-colored glasses, we see this game going in favor of the Pats, 38-13. Hope we're as wrong on this prediction as with that for last week's game.

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's in like Flynn for Packers

Late this morning it was made official: Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is out for Sunday night's game against the Patriots and third-year backup Matt Flynn will get his first NFL start. Practice squad QB Graham Harrell will reportedly be activated to the 53-man squad and defensive back Anthony Smith put on injured reserve to make room for Harrell.

Rodgers apparently did not receive the medical clearance required to be allowed to play. Given this was Rodgers' second concussion in about two months, the protocol is reportedly a bit different than with a first concussion. And even though head coach Mike McCarthy said that Rodgers was outfitted with a new helmet to provide him with greater protection that only matters if Rodgers can play. And he won't, at least for another week.

If there were any game where Rodgers' presence would be needed to even be in the game, this is it. Given what the Patriots have done to their competition over the last several weeks, a healthy Aaron Rodgers would give the Pack a fighting chance of staying in the game.

We'll get a chance, instead, to see what Matt Flynn can do. He's been on a big stage before, winning a National Championship while at LSU, and being named the MVP of that game, in fact. In reports out of Green Bay all week, Packers players to a man were saying they had full confidence in Flynn and what he can do. No doubt, being able to work with the first unit offense all week and get his timing down with the receivers will be an advantage he didn't have when he had to jump into the Detroit game last weekend.

But unless the Packers can somehow generate a semblance of a running game, it could be a long night for Flynn. McCarthy's play calling cannot rely upon Flynn to be the throwing machine he's asked Rodgers to be all season long. The offensive line -- which was embarrassed by their poor level of play versus the Lions -- must create holes for running backs to get a few yards every once in a while. The best defense against Pats' QB Tom Brady is keeping him on the bench with long possessions. That works against McCarthy's typical mode of operation. Let's hope that he at least acknowledges the situation he and his team is in and does what's necessary to perhaps, maybe, possibly pull an upset. If he implements the same type of game plan that's been on display of late the game could be over for the Packers before the first half is out.

That's not to minimize the Packers' defense, which is the number one scoring defense in the league (if memory serves). It's just that they've been playing on fumes for quite a while, too. Injuries have plagued that unit all season long and this weekend is no exception. While S Atari Bigby might see some action, DE Cullen Jenkins is still out and LB Frank Zombo -- who himself was a starter by virtue of the injury parade -- is also likely out for the game and will be replaced as a starter by street free agent Erik Walden. Oy.

The players and coaches know that they put themselves in severe jeopardy of missing the playoffs as a result of the egg they laid in Detroit last Sunday. They lost ground on Da Bearz, not because of the loss as Chicago lost as well, but in terms of a second loss in the division, which comes into play should any tiebreakers be needed for playoff seeding. The Pack basically needs to look at winning out, winning their three remaining games. If the Pack loses Sunday night, even if Da Bearz lose versus the ViQueens on Monday night, Da Bearz win the NFC North and the Pack's playoff chances are as close to being on life support as it gets.

It's a big challenge for Matt Flynn and the Packers to rise to the occasion Sunday night. Is it possible that they will beat the Patriots? Sure. Is it probable? No.

Check back here tomorrow for a gameday preview and prediction.

Go Pack Go!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rodgers likely out for Packers vs. Pats

OK. Let's be clear. This is NOT an official statement of any kind by the Green Bay Packers about their starting quarterback. It is purely speculation by yours truly -- and not a few media pundits -- that Aaron Rodgers will be not be available when the Pack meets the New England Patriots on Sunday night. The Packers, officially, are saying that no final decision on Rodgers' status will be made until Saturday.

What leads us to the conclusion regarding Rodgers' availability is that he has not been at meetings so far this week and did not even participate in a walk-through today at practice. Sports reporters noted that with Rodgers' earlier concussion in October he was at meetings and did attend the Wednesday practice. Apparently, the advice he is getting is to do nothing but allow the recovery to occur without doing anything to jeopardize himself.

So, given that, it's not looking good for Sunday,

Of course, playing New England on their home field, where the Patriots have not lost since 2008, by the way, is not easy under the best of circumstances. The Pats are red hot and have beat the bejeesus out of the their last two opponents, the Jets and Da Bearz, two ostensibly bound playoff teams. For the Packers, the injury to Rodgers is just a capper on what has a been a season filled with injuries to key personnel. The fact that the Pack has done as well as they have under these circumstances -- and without players or coaches making any excuses to the contrary -- is really a tribute to the entire team. But it might just be, with three games left in the season, that it's all just finally starting to catch up with them.

We should likely be looking for backup Matt Flynn to be under center come Sunday. It's not a sure thing, but it seems likely at this point. Practice squad QB Graham Harrell might be activated for the game. If something happened to Flynn, and if Harrell is not active, the emergency QB would be WR Jordy Nelson. One would figure Harrell will get the call-up for this weekend.

There are other walking-wounded for the Packers as well, whose availability and impact even if available is questionable. No need to review those here at this time. We'll see where everything is nearer game time.

For now, let's just hope Rodgers gets better in his own time and doesn't put his health at risk in trying to come back too quickly from his concussion. Of course, there are systems in place that make sure that doesn't happen until he really is ready from a medical standpoint. Having Rodgers around for years to come is more important to the Packers than having him available for a game which, frankly, would probably go in the loss column regardless given all the other circumstances involved.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Which was the biggest NFC North collapse?

Here's a quick one for you, folks: which was the worst collapse of this past weekend in the NFC North?
    1. The collapse of the Metrodome (aka the Humpty Dump) roof in Minneapolis thanks to Snowmageddon 2010?
    2. The blowout of Da Bearz by the Patriots in Chicago?
    3. The loss by the Green Bay Packers to the Lions (the Lions!) in Detroit?
Tell us what you think in the online poll in the righthand column. You can vote until midnight Friday, Dec. 17.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's official: Hell frozen over - Packers lose to Lions

The blizzard that blanketed the upper Midwest yesterday and today brought two things to light: Hell has frozen over and the Packers lost to the Detroit Lions. Actually, I think it was the second event that brought about the first.

In a game of epic futility and ineptitude, the Packers' offense could muster only a field goal all day long. While the offense was not clicking even when QB Aaron Rodgers was at the helm, the Pack's chances for a victory became even more suspect when he scrambled for a first down in the first half and failed to slide. Result? He took a shot to the back going down and wound up bouncing his head off the turf. He was immediately woozy. On the Packers' next offensive series, he was replaced by backup Matt Flynn and word spread quickly that Rodgers had a concussion and was done for the day.

This is Rodger's second concussion of the season, with his first coming in early October. This, to say the least, is not good. For Rodgers or the Packers. And the sad part is that Rodgers could have avoided it if he had just slid; he must have been absent for that training during quarterback school because he rarely does so. Perhaps if head coach Mike McCarthy starts fining him for every time he scrambles and doesn't slide maybe he'll start to get the hint. Rodgers' absence today, while not guaranteeing a Packers' loss to the lowly Lions, sure didn't help matters any on a day when the offense seemed totally lethargic.

In particular, the offensive line was beaten like a rented mule all day by the Lions' defensive front four. It was, simply put, a pathetic performance.

The Packers' defense, to its credit, only gave up 7 points which should make the Pack's high-powered offense a sure-fire winner. Except today. Three turnovers by the Packers' offense and the loss of Rodgers made a key division game yet another giveaway by the Packers. The Packers had previously had all four losses by 3 points; today, they lost by 4. Five losses by a combined total of 16 points.

This game severly hurt the Packers chances not only to win the NFC North but more importantly their chances for the playoffs. It's not a certainty yet, but the Packers did not take care of business today. Not even close. And that's what makes this loss so maddening.

If there is any silver lining right now it is that Da Bearz are getting whupped by the Patriots in Chicago 33-0 at halftime. So at least the Pack won't lose ground there. But they had an opportunity to gain ground and let it slip through their fingers.'s cold!!!

Packers vs. Lions Game Day

Yesterday's preview here indicated the obvious: that the Green Bay Packers will beat the Lions in Detroit today. Not that there isn't talent on the Lions team, because there is. Not that the players have quit on their head coach as Dallas and Minnesota did on their two now ex-head coaches, because they haven't. It's just that...well...the Packers have more talent in the key positions, more depth, and more incentive to win. The Packers need this game to keep pace in the race for the NFC North Division title and a playoff spot.

Refer to yesterday's post for more details on the game as I see it. While prognosticators seem to be split between those who think the Pack will win this game handily and those who think the Pack will win a close game much like the first meeting between the two teams, yours truly sees the Packers winning this one by a good margin. That's not to say it won't be a battle for a while. Especially if the Packers come out with one of their patented slow starts on offense. Still, the Packers needs this game and will win this game.

I'm calling this game Packers 38 - Lions 17.

Go Pack Go!!!

Follow me on Twitter for my in-game Tweets...which some followers tell me they find...not bad. Hey, that's at least as good as some of the name-brand coverage out there!'s FREE!

(Just as an aside: isn't the collapse of the Metrodome roof in Minneapolis a good metaphor for the ViQueens' season? Sometimes it's just too too obvious, isn't it? Still, in a bizarre twist, Packer fans will wind up having to root for the 'Queens against the Giants...whenever and wherever it is that the league can reschedule the game.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Packers vs. Lions Preview

As a blizzard is set to hit Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers are set to hit the Lions in Detroit. The Pack took to the air in time to beat the snowstorm. Still, a few players will not be on the field Sunday when gametime arrives. Key among them from the Packers' standpoint is DE Cullen Jenkins; he strained a calf muscle in last weekend's game vs. the 49ers. Trying to fill that sizable void on the D-line will be C. J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn. It's possible Howard Green might also be moved around in the rotation as well with B. J. Raji and Ryan Pickett.

But it's not the running game that is of primary concern from a defensive standpoint. It's the passing game of the Lions. And even though their starting quarterback, Matthew Stafford, is still sidelined, the backup to the backup, Drew Stanton, is a serviceable QB. Kinda like Jay Cutler...on a good day. (Ouch!) More importantly, whoever is tossing the ball in Motor City has WR Calvin Johnson on his side. His size and speed make him the Lions' main offensive weapon. But he's not the only one. TE Brandon Pettigrew benefits from Johnson opening things up. He's a big tight end, although not fast. Since linebackers A. J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop will likely wind up covering him, he may get some opportunities. But he should be able to be kept in check.

While a few Packers won't be on the field this time around, there was at least some good news going into the game: it appears that LT Chad Clifton is cleared to play, and the ankle sprain sustained during practice this week by Charles Woodson was not as serious as initially suspected; he'll also likely be good to go's a game in Michigan, right? Woodson won't miss that one!

The Packers are 10-4 in dome games under head coach Mike McCarthy. Is it surprising? The Packers offense is geared to the air game. And there's no better place to air out the ball, especially in December, than inside. I know, I know, that's almost heresy in Packerland. But given perfect conditions in which to throw the ball, guess what's going to happen? The Packers are going to light up the Lions, particularly given the sorry state of Detroit's secondary. QB Aaron Rodgers will have a big day, as will his receiving corps. Toss in a seemingly resurgent (yes, for the Packers that does mean just one game) running game with rookie James Starks and the Pack will be far more than the Lions can handle, even if they do happen to make it a game for a while.

Coach McCarthy, if memory serves, is 9-0 against the Lions. Sunday will make it 10-0. Despite the final score of the first meeting this season, most games aren't that close. The Packers are currently favored by 6-1/2 points. They'll take care of that going away.

What's my prediction on the final score? You'll have to check back Sunday morning for that. Barring a blizzard-born power outage, you'll get my call then.

For now...Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Packers at mid-week

We've all had time to bask in the glow of a nice beat-down of the 49ers by our beloved Green Bay Packers last Sunday. After a bit of a sputtering first quarter or so, the offense clicked and the bend-don't-break defense did what it's been doing pretty much all season. We got to see Donald Driver make a TD catch and run that goes down in the all-time highlight reel. We saw a rookie running back, James Starks, finally get on the field for the Pack and rush for the most yards -- 73 -- by a Packer in a rookie debut since 1948. We saw QB Aaron Rodgers continue his streak of games and passes without an interception: 5 and 177 respectively. Oh, and that last one is now second in Packers' history behind Bart Starr. We saw WR Greg Jennings continue to light things up in a big way.

Unfortunately, though, the Packers lost DE Cullen Jenkins for at least a few weeks with a calf strain. And practice this week revealed that LT Chad Clifton actually sustained a concussion during the game, so he is going through the league protocol this week required to be cleared to play this coming Sunday. He did a jog-through at Wednesday's practice and that's usually seen as a good sign of being cleared to play in the next game. But Wednesday's practice also saw CB Charles Woodson depart the field with an ankle sprain, the severity of which is still unknown...or at least, undiscussed at this moment.

So, the Packers are on a bit of a roll. The upcoming opponent, the Detroit Lions, hmmm...not so much. To their credit, it's a 2-10 team that really should have a few more wins under their belt (e.g., remember the TD catch in Chicago to win that was overturned???). But they don't know how to close out games. This weekend's game versus the Packers is not the time for them to start figuring that out.

Observers and the Packers themselves know this will be a hard-fought game. The Lions, lest we forget, gave the Packers everything in a frightful near-comeback on Oct. 3. The Pack wound up winning by just 2 points while grinding out the clock. The Lions scored the most points against the Packers of any opponent the Packers have faced so far. They also racked up the most offensive yardage. Of course, this was also early in the season when the Packers were still adjusting to the onslaught of injuries on both sides of the ball. As we approach this week's game, the Packers have made their adjustments. If the players are focused -- and you can be sure coach Mike McCarthy and his assistants will have them very focused -- this game should not be in doubt. The Lions will give it all they have for as long as they can. But if the Packers get off to a fast start for a change, the game should be over long before it's over, if you know what I mean. And I think you do.

We'll do a more detailed preview closer to game time. So keep checking back for more.

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Packers down 49ers 34-16

On a typical December day in Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers did what they typically do on a December game day at home: win. The Packers beat a capable, but subpar, San Francisco 49ers squad 34-16.

The first half, however, was ugly. The Packers offense started crisply, combining runs and passes to move the ball before petering out deep in the redzone (again) and watching K Mason Crosby's field goal attempt ding (again) off the left upright for no points. After that, coach Mike McCarthy's itchy trigger finger abandoned the run altogether and saw the offense sputter as a result. The Packers were down 3-0 at the end of the 1st quarter. They only led at half 14-10 after giving up a late TD after their own score.

But coming out of the locker room following the halftime break, the Packers' offense put up 20 points, 14 in the third quarter and 6 in the fourth, while only allowing the Niners 3 more points the entire second half.

The game also witnessed the first play of rookie RB James Starks, who many fans -- and coaches -- have been waiting to see on the field. Starks was a 6th round draft pick out of Buffalo who missed his entire senior year due to injury. He hadn't played a down of football since 2008. He also started this season with the Pack on the PUP list. Still, many were enamored with the possibility of what he might bring to the Pack's running game, which has been woeful at best following the loss of starter Ryan Grant in game #1. Fans got a glimpse of that today. Starks rushed 18 times for 73 yards, or a 4.1 yard-per-carry average. He had a long run of 16 yards. Starks has an upright running style which exposes him to possible injury more so than someone who runs with a lower pad level. Whether this is something running backs coach Edgar Bennett can work with him on or whether this is just his natural style remains to be seen. But any time a Packers running back actually leads in rushing yards rather than the Packers' QB, that's a plus. He didn't turn the ball over and always got positive yards, if memory serves. Expect to see more of Mr. Starks in the future for the Pack. Yay!

This was a game the Packers were expected to win and did. It might not have been pretty, especially in the early going, but it's what's up on the scoreboard when the clock reads 0:00 that matters. And that was: Packers 34 - 49ers 16.

Next up, the Lions in Detroit. The Packers will need to focus on them and not look past them to the Patriots a week later. That will be the biggest challenge.

But more about the Pack and the Lions in the week ahead. For now, let's savor this return to victory.

Go Pack Go!!!

Packers - 49ers Preview

It's less than two hours to kickoff at a nippy (that's Wisconsin-ese for cold) Lambeau Field. It's the first game the Green Bay Packers have played back home since whupping the Cowboys back on Nov. 7. The weather has changed a bit since then. Today the forecast is for temps in the mid-20s and windy.

December, as we all know -- or are at least told -- is when the running game is supposed to carry the day in these bad weather games. Now, for folks outside of the Midwest, let's just say upfront that temperatures in the mid-20s is not exactly bad weather. At least for these parts. But cold and wind can affect the passing game. Given the fact that the weak spot of the Packers' offense is its running game, or more appropriately, lack thereof, this could be a concern. It shouldn't be today, however,

The 49ers have a decent run defense. But that's a bit moot when you're playing a team like the Packers who don't count on much from their running game anyway, right? Of course right. So, given that Aaron Rodgers doesn't seem to be bothered by the cold, expect the Pack to continue to do what they do, which is to spread out the defense and attack through the air. There should be plenty of opportunities to do just that today. Yes, it will be to the Packers' advantage for the rest of the season if they at least can muster a token rushing attack. But, the Packers are who they are and, perhaps more specifically, head coach Mike McCarthy is who he is, and the Pack's offense is centered around the passing game. It will either work or not like it is for the rest of the season. You just have to hope, however, they figure out how to rush for a yard or two at the goal line or to convert first downs on 3rd-and-one.

As for the Packers defense, they should have a good day going against the 49ers QB, Troy Smith. He's led the Niners to three wins in the last four games since replacing Alex Smith. He's more of a scrambler than a passer, which can cause some problems for a team like the Pack. But he's no Michael Vick. TE Vernon Davis is the 49ers version of Jermichael Finley. He can cause problems. And it's possible that LB A. J. Hawk might be matched up on coverage of Davis. Hawk has done a better job in coverage this year than last, but this is one of the times that the absence of Brandon Chillar might be very evident. The Packers should be able to handle the 49ers running game, although last week Brian Westbrook looked like the player of old, replacing Frank Gore and rushing for more than 100 yards. Westbrook always seemed to cause the Pack headaches when he was with Philadelphia. Let's hope those days are long gone.

There are many other aspects of this game which we could break down, including special teams which is always an adventure with the Packers. We don't, for example, know how Sam Shields will field kickoffs for the first time in cold weather. Nor do we know how punter Tim Masthay will punt in these conditions. Keep your fingers crossed that special teams do not cost the Packers a win again. Honestly, though, if it comes down to the special teams deciding the outcome of this game in yet another 3-point situation, there were bigger problems in the game than just special teams. That's not going to happen today.

The Packers are favored by 9-1/2 points. For our part, we're calling this game Packers 31 - 49ers 17.

Go Pack Go!!!

BTW...the Packers will be wearing their throwback uniforms today. Brown helmets (an homage to the original leather helmet days) and blue jerseys honoring the 1929 championship team. Some are referring to the look as the "Powerball" uniforms. You'll see why when you watch the game or see the highlights.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Packers players news and notes

As the Green Bay Packers sit at 7-4, with all four losses by 3 points, and looking up at Da Bearz atop the NFC North (as disgusting a thought as there can possibly be!), roster moves continue. It has been the theme of this season for the Packers.

What's the difference between Da Bearz and the Packers? Yes, I know, we can go a lot of ways with that answer, all of them rip-roaringly funny. But for our purposes today, the correct answer is: health.

The Packers yesterday added LB Brandon Chillar (shoulder) and TE/LB Spencer Havner (hamstring) to the injured reserve list, bringing the team's league-leading total to 13. The Packers' IR list is a squad in its own right. And if you look at the names on that list, it's a pretty good squad at that. Just imagine what the Pack could have done this season if even half of that list was actually on the field. Wow. Still, it's a testament to the personnel moves of GM Ted Thompson that the Packers have been able to field players who haven't led to a complete collapse. And credit the coaching staff with coaching those players, some street and undrafted free agents, in such a way that they are ready to play at a high level. Truly remarkable given the circumstances.

Today, the Pack promoted LB Robert Francois and CB Josh Gordy from the practice squad to take the roster spots of Chillar and Havner. This is Francois' second time this season on the active roster, while it is Gordy's first call-up. Their spots on the practice squad were taken by new signees WR Terrance Smith and LB/DE Curtis Young.

Tramon Williams gets a payday
News broke Tuesday that the Packers and CB Tramon Williams had signed a four-year contract extension that will keep Williams in Green Bay through 2014. Williams is one of those great success stories in the NFL. An undrafted player out of Louisiana Tech who was cut by Houston in 2006, Williams was signed to the Packers' practice squad. The rest, as they say, is history. Williams worked hard, apprenticed behind Al Harris, and earned his payoff by performing at a Pro Bowl level ever since replacing Harris last year as the starting cornerback opposite Charles Woodson. He has been very good.

But now that he's gotten his big payday -- reportedly worth more than $33 million over the life of the extension -- Williams will be expected to continue performing at a high level. And there are no signs that he won't. He is a well-liked and well-respected member not only of the Packers but the broader Green Bay community. And he also is a player who even his agent says wants to stay in Green Bay. Williams is a player and person it is easy to root for. Congratulations, Mr. Williams. Well done. Keep up the great work.

If you want to read more about Williams' new contract, you can do so here.

Starks to see action...maybe
According to head coach Mike McCarthy's comments earlier this week, the woeful status of the Packers' rushing attack (I know, that seems to be a real oxymoron at the moment) is apparently making him think seriously about giving rookie RB James Starks some action this weekend. No one knows quite what to expect as Starks hasn't played any football since 2008; he missed his entire senior season at Buffalo with injury. Running backs coach Edgar Bennett -- a darn good running back in his own day -- says he likes what he sees in the youngster in practice. But what happens when he takes his first game hit in a couple years? And his first NFL hit besides? No clue. But given that QB Aaron Rodgers was the leading rusher for the Packers in the game against the Falcons this last weekend, clearly a change is in order.

That change, however, honestly needs to start with McCarthy actually committing to the run -- something his history indicates isn't overly likely -- and the offensive line opening some holes for whomever is carrying the ball. But the inability of Brandon Jackson to consistently perform and the total disappearance over the last two games of John Kuhn (although it's not clear why he hasn't factored into McCarthy's schemes recently), mean it's time to shake things up. Let's see what Starks can do. Maybe the Packers catch lightening in a bottle. That would be a surprise, granted. And the way this season has gone, it's probably more likely Starks also will wind up getting hurt and going on IR.

But let's be optimistic. At least until we see what we've got.