Monday, February 28, 2011

Mike and Ted's excellent adventure

Say it with me now: the Green Bay Packers are World Champions! Never gets old, does it? At least, not if you're a Packer fan. Nor if you are the head coach or general manager of the Super Bowl winning team.

Great article in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by that paper's outstanding Packers beat writer, Bob McGinn, about how head coach Mike McCarthy is only just beginning his run at Super Bowl titles. While he joined Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren as the only Packers coaches to win a Super Bowl title, McCarthy wants to join Lombardi as the only multiple winner. That would be just fine with Packer fans all across the universe, coach.

The article notes not only how committed McCarthy is to the Packers as an organization -- and how they are ready to re-negotiate his contract to demonstrate the team's commitment to him, as well -- but how committed he also is to Green Bay as a community. When you have coaches and players who commit to not just the team but the community of Green Bay, that's a situation that is hard to beat.

McCarthy gives suitable praise to his GM, Ted Thompson, of course. And it seems as if fans and others in the NFL have also finally seen the wisdom of Thompson's build-through-the-draft approach. The right GM and the right head coach have assembled the right players at the right time.

Now, Mike and Ted are at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis checking out the next group of potential Packers from the upcoming draft. Trying to find more depth along the offensive and defensive lines, playmakers at linebacker and defensive back, perhaps a receiver and running back, and -- dare we dream? -- a returner. It wouldn't seem as if there are many holes to fill. But some players, such as DE Cullen Jenkins, will be lost to free agency. And as was clearly a lesson learned last season, injuries can devastate a team unless you have players -- and coaches -- who can step up their play. Every player from #1 on down to the practice squad players are important. You have to believe that, in Thompson's system, there are no guesses. Only potential champions.

It is a most excellent adventure indeed.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

NFL Combine underway ... what will Packers do?

The 2011 NFL Scouting Combine got underway in Indianapolis today. Lots of poking, prodding, interviews, evaluations, speculations, seances, divinations, rolling of the dice (oops, gambling not permitted in the NFL, sorry), etc. going on with all the teams.

Already, Jets head coach Rex Ryan is proclaiming his team will win the next Super Bowl. OK, keep saying it often enough and one of these years he might just be right. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, however, doesn't need to do much in the way of tooting the team's horn. The Pack, along with the New England Patriots (but of course!), have already been installed by the oddsmakers as favorites to win the next Super Bowl. It should come as no surprise. After all, the Packers are loaded with talent. Heck, they won Super Bowl XLV with a team comprised of a lot of players who had never started before and some who weren't even on a team any longer before GM Ted Thompson plucked them from obscurity to fill the holes on a team continuously depleted through injuries. Imagine what will happen when all the players on injured reserve come back to the squad. Oh baby!

So, where are the gaps? What might Thompson and McCarthy be looking at in the draft? The consensus opinion is that they will be looking first for offensive line, linebacker and defensive end help. The Pack will need someone to slot in as an eventual replacement for either Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher at tackles (and depending upon where Bryan Bulaga will finally settle in). It's possible they might also be looking for a replacement for Daryn Colledge at guard as many think he's as good as gone when free agency kicks in. The linebacker situation, while deep, is a curious one. Middle linebacker A. J. Hawk is scheduled to get a bump to a $10 million per year salary unless his contract is renegotiated. Nick Barnett has been bitten by the injury bug the last two out of three years, and the Packers may have already signed his replacement with the contract given to Desmond Bishop. A few 'backers will come back off IR, but the team could really use an outside linebacker to balance out Clay Matthews' play. That could also come in the form of a new defensive end, though, particularly if the Packers lose Cullen Jenkins in free agency, as is expected.

Some mock draft boards openly admit that the Packers are a difficult team to put together a draft call on given the depth on the existing roster. But still, they try. Picking last in each round, aside from any traded or compensatory picks, means that unless Thompson sees a player he really wants, there might not be a lot of excitement happening in the draft. Final picks might be players not many have heard of know how Ted likes those gems in the rough that nobody else seems to even have on their radar. But perhaps Packer fans have finally gotten used to Thompson's approach: there may not be a lot of flash and dash at draft time, with occasional exceptions, but there sure does seem to be productivity on the field. Hard to argue with a Super Bowl-winning general manager.

If there's any news of note that pertains to the Packers and/or likely prospects, we'll give a shout out here. Otherwise, you can get your fill on the NFL Network where watching the Combine is about as exciting as, well, watching the Combine.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Best shots of Super Bowl XLV from SI

As fans of the Green Bay Packers, you and I have been waiting for the online "best shots" from Super Bowl XLV by Sports Illustrated photographers. Wait no more!

You can check out a most excellent gallery here.

It's Sunday. So enjoy. Even though there is no Packers' game. (Sigh)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

...And now...the reality of the offseason sets in

So, we're now about a week-and-a-half out from the Green Bay Packers' Super Bowl XLV win. And the reality of the offseason is setting in. While that would normally mean focusing on free agent signings or losses, OTAs, and possible draft picks, this offseason we also have the specter of no football at all next season. A lockout by the owners is on the horizon, and they have already filed suit agains the NFL Players Association. The prospect of getting a new collective bargaining agreement done before the March 4 deadline is slim and none. Not looking good. The draft will still take place no matter what, so at least we'll have that to keep our juices flowing. But everything else will pretty much be in limbo.

Still, it might be worthwhile to start kicking around some of those current players who may not be on the squad next season...whenever that actually is.

Keep in mind that 15 players -- some of whom were starters -- are going to be coming back off the injured reserve list. Having said that...

What will the Packers do with Nick Barnett and A. J. Hawk? Barnett has been injured two of the last three seasons and was also a bit of an irritant in the "photogate" episode around the Super Bowl. Hawk is scheduled to get $10 million next season, his final contract year; that's not going to happen. Given the depth at linebacker, and especially the emergence of Desmond Bishop as a bona fide starter and the return of Brandon Chillar, Brady Poppinga and Brad Jones, it wouldn't be surprising if the Pack cut ties with Barnett and attempt to renegotiate Hawk's deal. While going into last season, linebacker seemed to be extremely deep we found out just how quickly injuries can hit one unit. Frank Zombo and Erik Walden became diamonds in the rough that literally came out of nowhere to help the Packers make their Super Bowl run. But don't be surprised if GM Ted Thompson picks up a linebacker in the draft.

The players' names that seem to continually pop up on lists of those sure to be gone next season are OG Daryn Colledge and C/OG Jason Spitz. Colledge has been nothing if not durable, seemingly starting or playing in nearly every game since being a Packer. But the Packers are high on soon-to-be third-year player T. J. Lang and would likely insert him in the lineup in place of Colledge. Lang didn't get much playing time this year, but showed well in his rookie season when injuries really took their toll on the offensive line and he was thrust into action nearly from the get-go. He should be hungry and ready to start. Spitz has gone from a position of being the starting center to really falling off the map. For whatever reasons, it's clear the Packers will be moving in a different direction. Reportedly, the Packers are high on this year's rookice C/G Nick McDonald. They also have rookie G/T Marshall Newhouse and C/G Even Dietrich-Smith in the mix. Several early mock drafts also project the Packers to go after offensive line help in early rounds not only to fill guard slots, but also to help find a successor to LT Chad Clifton. Clifton will undoubtedly be back. And after finishing strong, he will likely be the starter again. But Cliffie is on borrowed time at this point in his career. Thompson has stocked up the middle of the line but will now try to find a replacement for Clifton. That was the idea in drafting Bryan Bulaga last season. But veteran RT Mark Tauscher's untimely departure forced a change in plans. Perhaps the Pack would move Bulaga to LT if they found a player who was solid on the right side. The moves regarding the offensive line will be interesting to watch in the offseason.

As for the wide receivers and running backs...hmmm...well, WR James Jones wants to be a starter. He had the best run-after-catch yards of any of the receivers. The problem was his drops, which always seemed to come in big moments. He obviously is a physically gifted athlete. But he hasn't yet developed the concentration necessary to be a primary go-to guy. Not to say he won't. Just not there yet. It's possible the Packers let him walk in free agency. But I'd like to see them keep him and have a new wide receivers coach help him with his focus. FB Korey Hall will likely not return this season. Other than special teams, he really fell out of the running game with the emergence of John Kuhn's versatility and Quinn Johnson's blocking. Brandon Jackson, while a valuable third down back from both a receiving and blocking standpoint, also will likely not return. The coaches did everything possible over the last couple years to help him become the breakout player they thought he could become...didn't really happen. With Ryan Grant returning, and James Starks emerging, Jackson looks to be the odd man out. And don't be surprised if the Packers pick up a running back in the draft's later rounds. Don't forget that Starks was a sixth rounder. Still need to see what he can do in a full season, but Thompson seems to have found yet another gem in the rough...a real theme for him this past season, and no reason to expect that won't continue going forward. Thompson seems to have finally made a believer even out of the haters out there after duct-taping together a Super Bowl winning squad.

On the defensive line, the consensus seems to be that DE Cullen Jenkins is as good as gone. He's also getting up there in years, at least by lineman age, and has been prone to injury of late, with this season being a primary example. He's been a dominating pass rusher when available. Look to the Packers to give the younger Mike Neal -- unproven and with a bit of an injury history of his own -- a shot. C. J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn could also step up their play. But, again, Ted Thompson will undoubtedly be looking for a dominant pass rusher in the draft to complement LB Clay Matthews. The Pack will be drafting last in each round unless they wheel and deal to move up for a player they want. That's not typically been Thompson's M.O., but he did it to get Clay Matthews. How'd that work out? Maybe Thompson will do that again.

As to the remaining unrestricted free agents, here's who we're looking at: K Mason Crosby, S Atari Bigby, S Charlie Peprah, LB Matt Wilhelm, and S Anthony Smith. Exclusive rights free agents are WR Brett Swain and TE Spencer Havner.

Crosby wants to remain a Packer. He's improved his leg strength over the last few years, but he still gives Packer fans the heebie-jeebies when the game is on the line. We've seen field goal attempts go wide or ding off the upright on more than one game-winning occasion. Still, Crosby doesn't seem to lose confidence which counts for a lot in a kicker. He may not be great, but you know that more often than not he's consistent. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if the Packers let Crosby test the market. Bigby will be allowed to walk, as will Wilhelm and Smith. Peprah will be re-signed; he stepped up big time when needed with injuries in the defensive backfield.

So, that's just a not-so-quick overview of what may happen when free agency and the draft finally kick in.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The party's over...after one last party

Well, actually, as any fan of the Green Bay Packers knows, the party is never really over. Take a look at yesterday's "Return to Titletown" celebration at Lambeau Field, for example. It was the victory party love fest between Packers players, coaches, staff, management and fans. Fifty-six thousand -- 56,000! -- tickets were sold at $5 a piece with half the amount going to charity. Many tickets were re-sold for up to 28 times face value. The air temperature was near zero and wind chills were below zero. Fans showed up hours ahead of time to do what Packer fans do: tailgate. Beer and brats flowed as if it was a game day event. And when the hour-long festivities began at 4 p.m., the people reveled in the Green 'n' Gold afterglow of a fourth Super Bowl trophy and the team's 13th overall NFL Championship title, more than any other franchise in league history.

There's no place like Green Bay. There's no team like the Packers. And the best part is, the team is well-positioned to give things a run again next year. Yes, some players will be lost to free agency...if there is a season next year, that is. But 16 players will be coming off IR, including a bunch of players who were starters before their injuries sent them to the sideline for the season.

Yes, I should probably be doing more of a post-game and season analysis right now, I suppose. And maybe I will yet. But really, there's a ton of that info already available to the dedicated fan. Maybe I'll kick in some thoughts on things if they seem worth saying.

But it just feels so darn good to see this team -- devastated early on by injury after injury -- rise to the challenge and complete an astounding run on the road as the 6th seed to bring the Lombardi Trophy back home to Green Bay. That's sweet.

And that's why, while the party might be over in one sense, it will go on for a long, long time yet to come.

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Great posts, packrphan...

But don't forget to remind your readers that THE BEARS STILL SUCK!!!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Post-Super Bowl Observations from a Friend

While yours truly is still working on collecting his collective thoughts after last night's tremendous Super Bowl XLV victory for our beloved Green Bay Packers, one of our infrequent posters, who goes by the username Winning is the Only Thing!, sent me the following comments and permission to post them here. So, without further ado and the reader's understanding that these are not the comments of your host, here's what Winning is the Only Thing! has to say about the game and more:

"I'll start with these couple of negative thoughts:
- There is nothing worse for this World Champion GB Packers team than a lock out. Additionally, there is nothing worse for the NFL than a lock out. DON'T LOSE THE MOMENTUM!!

- Jerry Jones must not be allowed to have anything to do with a Super Bowl ever again: not his team, not his stadium, not his planning, not his ego. Knowing for years that you will host the SB, how is it possible that there is unfinished/unsafe seating? I am not lawsuit-oriented, but affected fans should seek appropriate compensation from Jerry Jones' deep pockets. ("appropriate" = as much as possible).

The Positive:
- Aaron Rodgers is good. Trent Dilfer said in his analysis after the game that this will go down as one of the best QB performances in a SB, ever! That pass to Jennings for their first TD hookup was great. The slow motion shows it. Plus, dropped passes should have cost us the game. Rodgers and receivers bounced back. Plus, great protection by O-line and blitz pick-ups. Only gave up coverage sacks, IMHO.

- [Skip Bayless is a jerk!] (I just saw him on ESPN)

- McCarthy and Rodgers are great partners in this offense. Some of you probably know that because MM is so busy as head coach that he and Rodgers take some extra time one day of the week (Friday, I think) to talk one-on-one about the nuances of the game plan. They were on the same page at SB. MM said that he told Rodgers that he needed him to manage the game so that MM could be aggressive as a play-caller. Most of the calls were run-pass options which Rodgers had to determine when he came to the line. He chose well!!

- Just two years ago at this time MM cleared out his defensive coaching staff. Capers was a great "free agent" signing. I was told that Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist, Bob McGinn, once wrote that no head coach has ever made a wholesale defensive staff change and gone on to win SB (not until last night!). Defense played very, very well considering their personnel losses. Sheilds played with a bad wing. Great caused fumble by Matthews and Picket. Bush gets INT! Wow!

- Did I mention that Aaron Rodgers is good? Plus, the other day in a Green Bay TV station story from Dallas, a reporter ran into a couple dressed in Packer clothing coming out of a tourist site that had cancelled an event because of weather. Reporter decided to interview them and it turns out that they are Aaron's parents. Nice, humble people willing to chat with the reporter. Aaron comes from good stock.

I watched the game with (9 others). Not a lot of football knowledge in the room (except for xxx and yyy), but everybody was really into it. High fives and fist bumps aplenty. Adverts were average. Halftime show? The lights were nice. Music? Not so much."

There you have it folks. The insights of our friend Winning is the Only Thing!.

More later...

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Green Bay Packers: NFL Champions for the 13th Time!

For the 13th time in team history, the Green Bay Packers are NFL Champions, more than any other franchise. The Lombardi Trophy is coming back home to Green Bay where it belongs. How sweet it is! The Pack defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25. My pre-game prediction from Saturday was a final score of 31-24. Yowza.
We'll do a re-cap tomorrow. Too much to process at the moment and just want to take in all the post-game coverage across the various networks. Busy, too, exchanging phone calls, emails and texts with friends across the planet. It's great to be a Packers fan!

I also wanted to mention for those who care to jump on board with an early keepsake of this season and championship that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is publishing a 128-page commemorative book entitled, “The Pack is Back: How the Green Bay Packers Won Their 13th NFL Championship.” You can read more about the book and ordering information here.

Again, Packer fans, this has been a heckuva ride this season. And the players, coaches and other team personnel put the exclamation point on it in the form of the trophy named after the legendary Green Bay coach. It doesn't get any better.

Enjoy it. Savor it. Remember it. This is what makes the Packers -- and being a fan of the Packers -- so very special.

Go Pack Go!!!

I love of the smell of cheese in the morning...smells like...victory!

My Super Bowl homage to Apocalypse Now: I love the smell of cheese in the morning...The smell, you know that curdsy smell... Smells like...victory!

It's now less than seven hours until kickoff of Super Bowl XLV, when our beloved Green Bay Packers meet the Pittsburgh Steelers in a showdown of epic proportions. When it's two of the most storied franchises in the NFL, it can be described as nothing else. And, as my post of yesterday outlined, there are many reasons to predict a smash-mouth, physical football game. That's stating the obvious. But there are nearly as many reasons to predict a Packers' win, which I also did, calling it 31-24 in favor of the Pack.

But if you still have your doubts after my take on things yesterday, I encourage you to read the analysis of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Packers beat writer, Bob McGinn, who is acknowledged as one of the best in the business by the likes of Sports Illustrated's Peter King and others. In today's print and online edition, McGinn has an article entitled, "Packers have the horses to exploit Steelers' weaknesses". McGinn makes a solid case, as he says, that "On paper, the Packers would seem to have better players at more important positions, and consistency is their trademark. Those are two powerful forces in their favor." He notes also, however, that what matters will be how these teams play under the bright lights tonight. But unit by unit and player by player, McGinn makes the point that the Pack has the better combination of schemes and players to attack the Steelers' weaknesses rather than vice versa. It's a great article, well worth your time reading. Check it out here.

To Tweet or not to Tweet...
As followers of this blog know, but especially as followers of yours truly on Twitter know, I have generally made a habit of Tweeting during Packer games. Occasionally, circumstances don't permit that to happen and the Twitterverse is deprived of whatever maximum 140-character bit of wisdom might be inspired by a dropped pass, holding penalty, crushing hit, or huge first down, for example. Sad, but true. (By the way, if you want to follow the heretofore mentioned yours truly on Twitter, just hit the appropriately named "Follow me on Twitter" button in the righthand column below the Twitter feed. Yes, kids, it really is that easy!)

Today I will be watching the game with some friends at their home. While there will be computer and Wi-Fi access available, I'm not sure whether I'll want to be engaged in the therapeutic process of Tweeting rather than the stress-filled process of just watching the dang game and being intermittently entertained by the $3-million-per-30-seconds TV ads.

So, the purpose of this little notation is to just say...who knows? I'm really hoping all Packer fans have better things to do during today's game than looking for my occasional Tweets. You know, things like praying, making your sacrificial offerings, and generating a major positive thought vibe that descends upon the stadium in Dallas like a Texas tornado to help secure a Packers' victory. I mean, is that really too much to ask? I think not!

Finally...smell that air...the smell of cheese in the morning, afternoon and evening...that curdsy smell...Yes, my fellow Packer smells like...victory!

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Mmmm...Super Bowl...Goooood

With proper respect to Homer Simpson, yes, Super Bowl..mmmmm....goooooood.

It will be exceptionally good if the Packers win, of course. Which they will. More on that later with my specific score prediction. But for now, let's consider what it's going to take to bring the Lombardi Trophy back home to Green Bay where it rightly belongs.

Just about everything that can be written about both teams' players, the storied franchises, the legacies, the championship wins and more has been written. And let's not forget the stories about the fans. The Packers and Steelers have the best fan followings in the country. The game is being played in Dallas, which likes to assume the title of America's Team. We all know that's as big a pile of horse hockey as to be found anywhere. These two teams' fans know where the truth lies.

So, we're roughly 27 hours away from the kickoff of what will be the most-attended Super Bowl ever, and likely the most-watched Super Bowl, as well. The Packers have been confident and loose all week, according to reports. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters yesterday, "We respect Pittsburgh, but we feel that this is our time and Sunday will be our night." No doubt Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin feels the same way about the Packers and his team's chances.

A look at each team's units
OK, that subhead doesn't sound right, does it? But you know what I mean...get your mind out of the gutter!

It has been said for the last two weeks that the Packers and Steelers are pretty much cut from the same cloth: great defenses -- number 1 and 2 in scoring defense -- and great quarterbacks. Most are predicting a close game. The 2-1/2 point spread in favor of the Packers is the tightest margin since 1983, when the Washington Redskins played the Miami Dolphins. Many are giving the edge to the Steelers' defense. Well-deserved praise, for sure. They are loaded. But so is the Packers' defense. In my view, that's a draw. It will be up to individuals on each unit to make an impact one way or another, to cause a turnover, make a tackle, blow up a run or pass, and so on. Game-changing stuff. When looked at that way, I think the Packers "D" has more impact players in more places. Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, B.J. Raji, Tramon Williams, Cullen Jenkins, Desmond Bishop, Sam Shields, Nick Collins, Ryan Pickett, A.J. Hawk... I mean, c'mon on.

Special teams? A few months ago I would have said -- actually, did say -- that the Packers' special teams unit was the team's Achilles Heal. No more. They still might not have found a returner on the roster, but the coverage units have gotten much better. And free agent punter Tim Masthay has turned into a great punter over the last part of the season. He could be as much a key to a win as anyone, believe it or not. Especially if the game comes down to field position.

As to offenses, the Packers have the better offensive line, and I'm not the only one saying that. Packers NT B.J. Raji should have a field day going against the Steelers backup center. On the Pack's side of things, if they can just create enough of a push to get rookie RB James Starks two or three yards a carry that will help considerably when the Pack unleashes its air attack from play-action. The Packers receiving corp is arguably the best in the league; they are certainly the best in this game. Donald Driver hasn't practiced the last few days due to a quad injury, but as coach Mike McCarthy said there's no way he can imagine Driver not playing in this game. It would be an added bonus if rookie TE Andrew Quarless felt this was the time for him to also learn to catch the ball on critical downs.

Last but not least, let's look at the quarterbacks. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl wins under his belt already. That experience helps big time. He's done it and he's won it. But his big frame helps more when he's both in and out of the pocket. The Packers defense will have to somehow figure out ways to get him down. He's got a big arm and is great at improvising. But those last two qualities are shared with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. In fact, Rodgers has the added benefit of having a quicker release on his passes and that, again, helps give the Packers an edge. In listening to a cast of former Super Bowl winners this morning on ESPN, from coaches to players -- including Mike Ditka and Steve Young -- it was nearly unanimous that Aaron Rodgers was the key to victory for the Pack. He's been hot. And there's no reason to suspect he won't be on Super Bowl Sunday.

Former QB and Super Bowl winner Kurt Warner had some advice for the Packers with regards to Rodgers, however. He suggested, quite wisely, that coach McCarthy should help Rodgers by giving him an easy throw or two coming out of the box to build confidence and get into a rhythm. When Rodgers gets into that flow quickly, it usually means good things in terms of the final outcome.

Here's the final prediction
The game will undoubtedly ebb and flow. These are two great teams. It will be a physical game. Both teams will be brining it, as they say, for the full 60 minutes. The defense that wears down first might be the one to let the game slip away.

Throughout the regular season, the Packers never lost games as much as beat themselves. They aren't going to do that on this stage. Even if they get down, they are capable of getting back in it. They will never be out of it.

I'm thinking that coach McCarthy will unleash his offense and, as he's done all season, rely on defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his great defense to hold down the Steelers. The final score? I'm calling it 31-24 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Can we just play the dang game!

By the time kickoff arrives on Sunday, the Pack -- and we fans -- will be more than ready for action. In fact, they're -- and we're -- already to roll. Can't we just play the dang Super Bowl already?!

This week is being filled with all sorts of stories. The game almost seems secondary at the moment. It's not, of course. It's the main thing. But what can you do to fill the void but look at past Super Bowl games, players, and so on. Also stories of the teams' fans. Some great stories on the national scene about how the Packers' fans are just...different. As if we didn't know that already. Lots of angles on the last-remaining small town team in the NFL, a community-owned team (approx. 112,000 shareholders...yours truly among them), a non-profit corporation besides. In fact, did you know that there is an NFL bylaw which now precludes the type of ownership and corporation which the Packers have? True.

Cosmic Debris
And in the miscellaneous and unrelated info category...
  • ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr. this morning talked about how many teams are now regretting passing up drafting Aaron Rodgers. Ya think? Remember that as close as a week or so before the draft Rodgers was being discussed as a possible #1 pick. We all know -- thankfully for the Packers -- that he dropped mysteriously to #24 where Ted Thompson just had to take him. What a gift! Kiper noted that the ViQueens took two players ahead of Rodgers, both of whom are busts. The Redskins also could have picked up Rodgers, but didn't. A bunch of teams could have, but didn't. Kiper said he had Rodgers rated higher than 17 players who were also chosen before him, eight of whom are busts today. Some of us often think of the Pack as God's team (that "G" doesn't just stand for Green Bay, my friends!). Perhaps Rodgers falling into the Packers' lap is yet further evidence of that.
  • ESPN's Tom Jackson believes the X-factor in the upcoming game for the Packers will be rookie RB James Starks. Jackson related Starks' stats since becoming the Pack's featured running back (in fact, Starks is the leading rusher in the playoffs). Jackson also said that a real advantage Starks has is fresh legs. All he needs to do is pick up a couple yards per carry to get the Pack into short third down yardage and that will go a long way to helping open up the Packers' air attack...cue Aaron Rodgers.
  • LB Clay Matthews will be matched against aging veteran Flozell Adams. It's expected that Matthews will beat Adams like a rented mule. Figure the Steelers to give Adams help with a running back or other blocker, and that frees up someone else to break free on Ben Roethlisberger.
  • One of those guys who might be able to break free, or at the very least take up another double team and create yet another opportunity for defensive pressure is B.J. Raji. He will likely be nose-to-nose with the Steelers back-up center. Who's gonna win that match up more often than not?
If Aaron Rodgers has one of his usual outstanding dome games, and the Packers defense stops the Steelers rushing game and is able to contain -- and tackle! -- Roehtlisberger, the Lombardi Trophy will be coming back to Green Bay where it belongs. Make no mistake, this will be a dogfight. But the Packers are the better team...they just have to play like it. They've been doing just that for the last five games.

Four more quarters. Four more quarters.

Go Pack Go!!!