Friday, October 28, 2011

Packers bye week meanderings

So here we are, heading into the eighth week of the NFL season...but there is no Green Bay Packers game. (Sigh)

Still, we Packer fans can cruise through this week and next with the blissful feelings that arise from rooting for the only 7-0 team in the league. And that we have the hottest quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, and arguably the best receiving corps in the league. Let's also not forget that we have a kicker who hasn't missed a field goal attempt yet this season, including a franchise record 58-yarder last Sunday in the Humpty Dump.

But, we also have some concerns as we roll into the bye. The defense has been yielding yards and big plays like Wisconsin trees are giving up their leaves right now: in bunches. Part of that seems to stem from a limited pass rush which allows even mediocre QBs to look like Pro Bowlers. Another part of this situation stems from injuries in the seconday; losing Nick Collins for the season was a definite blow. But having Tramon Williams and Sam Shields missing a game or two, as well as an always banged-up Charles Woodson, means a unit not at 100 percent. It's been giving up big yards but also making key stops when it needs to to secure a victory. But you have to believe that head coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers will be figuring out ways to goose the "D" for the post-bye games. If things don't get tightened up the Pack will wind up dropping games it should win.

Prediction Review
My pre-season prediction for the first seven weeks of the season had the Pack coming in at 6-1. I figured they'd win a game they shouldn't and likewise loose a game they shouldn't. As it turned out, they pulled out all the games, even those that seemed to be much closer than they needed to be. Looking ahead, I also suggested the Packers would go 7-2 after the bye. I'll stick with that. These next five games in particular will go a long way to telling us how far this team can go: at San Diego, home vs. the ViQueens (Monday night game), home against Tampa Bay, at Detroit (Thanksgiving Day) and at the NY Giants. Will be a very interesting stretch of games, with three out of five away. Nothing's easy in the NFL, and this is one of those stretches where that adage is really proven.

Jerry Kramer's PickPredict Contest!
The legendary Packers guard, Jerry Kramer, has been running a contest each week during the season. You can now enter it via the dedicated Jerry Kramer Contest link in the righthand column of this blog, immediately preceding the general Links section.

Here are the details:
  • The challenge: Pick the winner of this week's Packers game and predict the final score.
  • The reward: Autographed copies of Kramer's book "Instant Replay" and the Maple Street Press 2011 Packers Annual.
  • Bonus: If your winning entry includes the correct current "Contest Code" (find it @JerryKramer64GB on Twitter) you'll receive a copy of the "Inside the Locker Room" CD, too.
So...good luck! I thank you...and Jerry thanks you!

As always, it's great to be a Packers fan!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Packers beat Vikes to go to 7-0

The Green Bay Packers used a few spurts of dominating football over the hapless Minnesota Vikings Sunday to win their seventh straight game. Going back to last season, the Pack has now won 13 in a row. For those counting, this was the Packers 700th win as a franchise; only Da Bearz have more (725). And for those wondering when the last time was that the Pack started 7-0, it was 1962...also coming off a championship run.

Yesterday again showed how dominating the Packers can be when they have their offensive weapons firing on all cylinders. QB Aaron Rodgers was lights-out good, particularly early when he had 12 (?) consecutive completed passes. The first three incompletes registered were two drops and a spike. He threw for three TDs. Rodgers became the first player in NFL history to have seven straight games with a passer rating of 110 or more. Yowza!

Let's also not forget the two -- and nearly three -- interceptions by Charles Woodson, the late game running (6 carries for 55 yards) heroics of Jame Starks to help run out the clock on the Pack's last possession, and Mason Crosby's four-for-four on field goals, including his franchise record 58-yarder.

The defense gave up 175 yards on 24 carries to RB Adrian Peterson, who everyone knew coming in was going to get the ball a lot. He did and he ran with authority, giving Packer defenders fits most of the day. And while the rookie QB, Christian Ponder, acquitted himself fairly well in his first start, he also made rookie mistakes that helped aid the Packers in their win. We'll take it.

There are certainly areas for improvement on the Packers. Going into the break, the Packers need to be more consistent in the running game and in pass protection on offense, and in pass rush and pass coverage on defense. Given the Packers have a bye week now, you can be assured that defensive coordinator Dom Capers and head coach Mike McCarthy will be tweaking the schemes for the second half of the season.

Despite showing areas of vulnerability week after week, and taking years off the average Packer fan's lifespan, they are the only undefeated team in the league. They have yet to play a four-quarter game where everything is clicking. When that happens, imagine the fun! You almost will have to feel sorry for the other team. Almost.

So, enjoy your bye week. It's great to be a Packer fan!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Packers vs. Vikings Preview

With less than an hour to kickoff, we're finally getting our preview of the Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings game posted. Better late than never.

The Pack is favored by 9-1/2 in the re-inflated Humpty Dump in Minneapolis. Remember the days when that dome was the proverbial House of Horrors for the Packers? Not today, folks. Today, there will likely be as many Packer fans in attendance as home team fans. When the 'Queens are 1-5 and playing the 6-0 Packers, Minnesota fans bail. Can't blame them, really. After all, if the team doesn't get a new stadium deal approved it could be moving to Los Angeles just as did that old basketball team of the North Star've heard of a team called the Lakers, right? But that's a whole other conversation. Back to the game at hand...

Now, don't expect the 'Queens to roll over. They have talented players, let's not forget, including RB Adrian Peterson and DE Jared Allen. But beyond that...? The decision was made this last week to bench starting veteran QB Donovan McNabb -- who seems to have nothing left -- in favor of first round draft pick Christian Ponder. The Pack's defense could have a big day should the 'Queens decide or need to pass a lot. On the other hand, one would expect the Minnesota coaching staff to be smart enough to have Ponder hand off about 30 times today to Peterson if they want to have any shot at upsetting the Packers. If the Packers contain Peterson, it's game, set, match Packers.

On the flip side, the ViQueens secondary is terrible. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and the receivers should have a huge day, assuming tackles Marshall Newhouse and Bryan Bulaga can keep Allen from harassing Rodgers. It would also be helpful in this regard if running backs Ryan Grant and James Starks can keep the 'Queens defense honest.

Inactive players today for the Packers are: Sam Shields, Robert Francois, Frank Zombo, Jamari Lattimore, Mike Neal, Chad Clifton and Ray Dominguez. Rookie DB Davon House is active today and should see playing time, although Jarrett Bush will be the nickel back.

While Minnesota has raced out to big leads in many of their games this season, they have collapsed in the second half. The Packers, with the exception of last week's game against the Rams, have generally gotten stronger as the game has gone on. Let's not forget, too, that the Packers' defense hasn't given up a touchdown in the last six quarters of play. What does this mean for today's game? I think the first half will likely be played relatively close, while the Pack turns it up in the second half.

My prediction: Packers 41 - ViQueens 20.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Packers vs. Rams Preview

It's only about 30 minutes or so to game time, Packer fans. I've been under the weather and have roused myself to do my duty and at least get my prediction posted before game time (that is one of the criteria of a prediction, after all...saying what will happen before it actually does happen). The 5-0 Green Bay Packers are favored over the 0-4 St. Louis Rams by 14 points (or 15, depending upon which spread source you're looking at), with the over/under points being set at 47.5...most of which you'd have to figure will be coming from the Packers.

Still, head coach Mike McCarthy was reminding the Packers players all week that the Rams were coming off their bye week and had plenty of time to rest and get ready for the Pack. To be honest, he had to say something to try to keep the players motivated to not sleepwalk through this game. The Rams are simply not very good, owing to injury and player depth. All we need to do to illustrate this point is note that former Packers QB Al Harris -- whom we admire for his great years with the Pack -- will be starting at cornerback for the Rams. Do you think Aaron Rodgers might target his ol' teammate for a few passes? Actually, the Packers should have a big day no matter where Rodgers throws.

On offense, Rams' QB Sam Bradford hasn't been getting much protection. This would be a good day for the Packers' defense to crank up the pass rush. Running back Steven Jackson has always seemed to come up big against the Packers, but he can't do it all.

So, let's get this party started -- or at least this post posted -- and call it 38-14 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Packers vs. Falcons preview

Well, Packers fans, I'm baaaaaaack. Know you've missed the posts. But time away was needed. 'Nuff said about that.

Let's get on to the real reason you and I are here: the Green Bay Packers vs. the Falcons tonight in Atlanta. To be frank, I haven't had as much -- in fact, any -- time to do my usual preview and prediction the way I'd like to.

So, in the interest of time, let's just cut to the chase, shall we? The Packers are listed as 6-point favorites, with the over/under set at 53.5 points. So, the oddsmakers figure the scoreboard will be lighting up all night long, with the Pack winning by 6. Many of the pundits are also calling for a shootout.

The Packers' secondary is capable of surrendering big plays, but also capable of coming up with turnovers. The Pack's defensive front has generally been pretty darn good against the run, which is a good thing since they have generally had trouble corralling RB Michael Turner in games played. The Pack's defense can give up points, but the Pack's offense will get 'em back and more.

This could be a game the Pack let's slip away from them. But I still believe the Packers are the better team, Aaron Rodgers is the better quarterback, and the Pack comes out on top. Let's call this one in favor of the Packers, 34-27. For the record, someone else I know and admire (she knows who she is) is calling it 38-17 in favor of the Pack. Is she great or what?!

Go Pack Go!!!!