Thursday, November 24, 2011

Packers beat Lions to go to 11-0

In what many thought would be a high-scoring toss-up shoot out in Detroit, the Green Bay Packers handled the upstart Lions 27-15 today. It didn't rise anywhere near the level of the infamous 1962 game. Except it did show just how good the Packers are at making adjustments in the second half of games and how not-quite-ready the Lions are to seriously challenge the Packers for the NFC North title.

While the first half saw the Packers unable to generate any offense -- just 86 yards -- they held a 7-0 lead, and that basically courtesy of being set up by a Clay Matthews interception, the team scored 17 points in the third quarter. By the end of the game, another two interceptions allowed the Pack to pull away from the Lions.

There's much more to be told. But today is Thanksgiving and we should be spending time with family and friends, not writing or reading all this stuff. So check back Friday, or Saturday or whenever. We'll post more commentary then.

In the meantime, just know that the Packers are 11-0 for the first time in franchise history. They are 17-0 going back to last season. Not bad. Not bad at all. If this keeps up, we're going to get spoiled.

It's great to be a Packers fan!

Packers vs. Lions: A future Thanksgiving classic

Happy Thanksgiving, Packer fans! It's that time of year again when we give thanks for all our blessings. Much to be grateful for, indeed. Not least of which is our beloved Green Bay Packers, of course. The Super Bowl Champion, 10-0 (16-0 going back to last season) Packers.

Today's game between the Packers and the up-and-coming Lions is the main course in today's triumvirate of NFL games. The Packers are playing to keep their win streak alive and get one step closer to homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The Lions are playing to prove to themselves and the rest of the world that they are indeed the new kid on the block in the NFC North. The game shapes up to be one of those epic Turkey Day classics that have come down to us through the football ages. Heck, the players on both teams from the 1962 game (in which the Lions beat the then-undefeated Pack) are still talking trash to one another.

The Packers are averaging more than 35 points per game, the Lions more than 30. It goes without saying that points will be scored. The Lions' defense is often spoken of in glowing terms, and rightly so at least in terms of their front four. They caused problems for the Pack in last year's game in Detroit, knocking out QB Aaron Rodgers with a concussion and securing a 7-3 win. Oy. The Packers' offensive line must play at a higher level than it has over the last few weeks in particular in order to keep Rodgers not only upright but in the game. The Lions are quickly getting a reputation for being on the dirty side of things. Rodgers and all the players, especially on offense, are going to need to have their heads on a swivel all day long. Cheap shots will be coming. You just hope and pray they don't result in a player being lost for the game or longer.

This is one game where you'd really like a consistent running game to take the pressure off Rodgers and the passing game. It's unclear whether RB James Starks will see playing time today or not after spraining his knee in Sunday's game against the Buccaneers. Late word was that he'd be a gametime decision. If Starks can't go, Ryan Grant is prepared to get most of the carries, although we may see our first glimpse of recently-elevated practice squad player Brandon Saine. If the Packers can't run and can't protect Rodgers it will be a long day, kids.

The Packers' passing attack may take a bit of a hit if Greg Jennings can't go today because of his bruised knee. But as we all know, there are still plenty of receiving weapons for Rodgers to choose from. On a fast track inside, the passing game should be top-notch and Rodgers should be able to exploit a suspect secondary...if he gets time, of course.

On the other side of things, the Packers' defense must tighten things up against a very good QB in Matthew Stafford. He'll be looking for his main receiving threat, Calvin Johnson, all day long. WR Titus Young and TE Tony Scheffler are his other key receiving targets. That means the secondary must communicate better to avoid the blown coverages we have seen far too often in some games this season. The linebacking corps also must do a better job covering the tight ends. And somehow, someway, defensive coordinator Dom Capers must get consistent pressure on Stafford. If that happens, the Packers will have multiple chances to generate turnovers. The Lions' running game took a hit with Jahvid Best reportedly being out for the game today. Kevin Smith can do damage, however, if the Packers don't tackle better than they did against the Buccaneers. The embarrassment which the defense should have felt at having Bucs RB LeGarrette Blount run through the entire lineup just might serve as a wakeup call on that issue.

Let's not forget special teams, especially since the Packers now have a legitimate return threat in Randall Cobb. He is a game changer. Whether he gets a return for a touchdown today or merely sets up a short field for the Packers' offense a few times, his impact could be the difference in today's game.

The Packers are favored by 6-1/2 points, with the over-under being set at 55-1/2 points, the latter being the largest total of Week 12's games. Holy shootout, Batman!

I'd have to go with the over, and I'd probably take the Lions against the spread if push came to shove on both. This is a game which the Pack could lose if they don't play the way they are capable of on both sides of the ball. This Detroit team is capable of putting up points. It might be a game where whoever has the ball last wins. As we've seen on more than one occasion this season -- far too many times, in fact -- the Packers "D" has a way of letting teams back in the game, particularly late. If they do that today they just might not be able to pull things out.

I have to drink the Green 'n' Gold elixir yet again, though, today. I think the Pack will prevail in a hard-fought, high-scoring game. I'm calling it Packers 38 - Lions 34.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Packers win ugly over Buccaneers, 35-26

Oh, the woes of a 10-0 team. The only 10-0 team, by the way, in the NFL this season. And only the third 10-0 team in the proud history of the Green Bay Packers. Yes, the Packers won today even playing at a mediocre least by the standards they have set this season. They beat a Buccaneers team that wasn't phased by playing the top team in the league, 35-26.

On a day when the Packers defense reverted to their play of the first eight games of the season -- in others words, porous and sloppy -- and on day in which QB Aaron Rodgers was a bit off, at least by his standards (he threw 11 incompletions, had an interception, and achieved a QB rating of 112-ish), not to mention a day in which the heretofore perfect Mason Crosby misses a chip shot 29-yard (?) field goal attempt, the Packers somehow overcame themselves and beat the Bucs.

The Packers defense once again couldn't tackle, once again couldn't seem to cover receivers and, yet, Tramon Williams got two interceptions, including the one that helped seal the Packers' victory. During a post-game interview with Larry McCarren on 620WTMJ radio, Williams was asked about the performance of the defense which once again gave up more than 400 yards on the day. Williams admitted the problems, but said that as long as they get the takeaways and make the critical stops "who cares" how many yards they give up. Hmmm...that's an interesting insight. Now, on one hand, you have to agree with him. As long as the team gets the "W" it doesn't really matter how many yards the other team racks up. Still, I can't imagine that same statement being made by the likes of a Ray Nitschke, for example. Or Willie Davis or Herb Adderly...or any of Lombardi's players. For that matter, can you imagine what Lombardi would have done had he heard that statement by Williams? At best, the two would have a genteel conversation about Mr. Williams' attitude. At worst, Mr. Williams may have found himself playing elsewhere very soon.

I don't mean to get off on a tangent about this. But perhaps it does reveal something about what we're seeing on the field. And it's been noted nationally. Some of the halftime TV punditry today about the game said there was no sense of urgency on the part of the Packers' defense because they know the offense can always score. That kind of attitude shouldn't be condoned by any defensive player or coach. There should be pride on the part of every player in stopping the opposing team from gaining a single yard. Remember that game back in...whenever it was...when the Packers held Barry Sanders to minus yardage for the entire game? Minus yardage. Barry Sanders. Not Colonel Sanders, Barry Sanders. Clearly, there was a different attitude present on the part of that defense that manifested itself big time.

The players on this Packers defense -- including Tramon Williams -- are quality players, some even Pro Bowlers. But really: get a better attitude, please, so there is better performance on the field.

As to the offense, the offensive line play continues to be a concern. QB Aaron Rodgers was under pressure a good part of the day from a defense that is near the bottom of the rankings in just about every category. They are not known as pass rushing demons. And yet...Rodgers seemed to be scrambling for his life most of the afternoon. Guard Josh Sitton had another bad game, including several penalties. He's had a couple uncharacteristically sloppy games in a row. Whatever is going on with him better get figured out. The Packers need him -- and the entire O-line -- to perform at a higher level than they are now. It seemed that the running backs -- who gained 91 yards total on the day -- had to create their own holes most of the time. Their line didn't do them many favors.

And speaking of running backs, the emerging star that is James Starks had to be helped off the field late in the game after reportedly spraining his right knee. Head coach Mike McCarthy called it a sprain, but said he'd know more Monday. Let us pray.

So, yes, the Packers are 10-0. The only other two times they were 10-0 to start the season they won Championships: in 1929 and 1962. This team has now set a new franchise record of 12 straight regular season wins dating back to last season and 16 consecutive wins overall including the playoffs. Hard to complain. But even in the midst of seeming perfection there is imperfection. And nowhere is that more evident than on the playing field.

The Packers have only a few days to prepare for their Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit. If they don't play like they are capable of playing, Detroit could serve a loss to the Pack on Turkey Day. Detroit beat Carolina today, 49-35.

Let's hope today was a bit of a wake up call for this team. Hard to say they need it at 10-0. But they do.

Packers vs. Buccaneers preview

After the near week-long bliss fest following the Packers' trouncing of the ViQueens -- it certainly was nowhere near as close as I and some others thought it would be (who knew the 'Queens would go into full fetal position in this game?) -- we now have the former division rivals from Tampa Bay as the next victim, er, team coming to Lambeau Field. The Packers are favored by 14 points over the 4-5 Buccaneers. The over-under is set at 48.5 points, the largest of this weekend's games.

Just a hunch, but my guess is the oddsmakers are figuring the Packers to put up the majority of those points. That's because Tampa is giving up 401.2 yards (31st in the NFL), 263.0 passing yards (28th) and 138.2 rushing yards (29th) through their first nine games. But, well, you know...until last week's game against the 'Queens, the Pack's defense wasn't exactly much to brag about either.

And that should really be the thing to watch in this game: the Packers' "D". Will it be the sieve-like bend-don't-break defense of the first eight games, or will we see a reprise of Monday night's game against Minnesota? If the latter, this Packers team is a juggernaut that is on its way to a second consecutive Super Bowl barring some freakish happening of which we must not speak. If the former, this Packers team...oh,'s still a juggernaut, let's be honest.

But back to the game at hand: let's not forget that the Bucs had a couple impressive wins this season against Atlanta and New Orleans. But they also had some equally unimpressive showings against San Francisco and Houston, losing to the Niners 48-3 and the Texans 37-9. So who knows which team will show up? QB Josh Freeman, who had his coming out party a few years back in Tampa with an upset win over the Pack, is not having such a great season. The Packers defense, particularly if they play at the same level they did last week, should be able to keep that trend of mediocrity going for Mr. Freeman.

With QB Aaron Rodgers having a season of historic proportions, the Pack will once again exploit a bad defense despite Rodgers' prior difficulties against Tampa Bay teams. That was then, this is now. The Bucs don't generate much of a pass rush, either, but unless the offensive line plays better than it did Monday night the Packers might make that rush seem world class. Let's hope the offensive line has worked out its issues. The guard play Monday evening was especially poor. We can expect that will not happen two games in a row.

One of the other things to look for in this game is to see whether coach Mike McCarthy tries to get the running game going a bit more heading into the harsh winter months. Although game conditions in Green Bay today will be relatively balmy by late Novemeber standards, winter is on its way and the running game will need to be solidified. Look for James Starks to get most of the carries of what few there will likely be, with Ryan Grant also getting a handful. But the Packers' might also try to get recently elevated practice squad rookie RB Brandon Saine into the mix just to see what he can do. In interviews this past week, it was clear coaches see something in this young man and would like to see what he can do in game situations.

So, we could go on and on about this and that. But do we need to, really? Nah. Let's just make the call, shall we?

I'm calling it Packers 41, Buccaneers 16.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Packers vs Vikings - The Sequel

Between the road games and the bye, tonight's game at Lambeau Field will be the first home game for the Pack in almost a month. It will also be the team's only appearance on Monday Night Football this season, believe it or not, although it's the third of their four scheduled prime-time games overall. The Packers are favored over the ViQueens by 12.5 to 13.5 points depending upon whose odds you look at for this sort of thing. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Packers beat writer extraordinare, Bob McGinn, notes, "The line tonight is the largest the Vikings have faced in Green Bay in 50 years." The over-under: 49.5 points.

So, what do we know about this game? Well, the Packers are 8-0, and 14-0 going back to last season. It's interesting, though: if the Packers were an East Coast team -- and we can thank all that is holy and right and green 'n' gold in the universe that they are not -- don't you think that ESPN et all would be going totally ape-hockey over the team and this game? Be thankful for the way things are. The players and coaches, by virtue of being in the soon-to-be frozen tundra of Green Bay, are a bit out of the way for the networks and reporters to cover regularly. That means they can concentrate on what they are getting paid to do: play football. Period. If a player wants to be a winner -- a Super Bowl Champion -- come to Green Bay. If you want to hang out at the trendiest clubs with your posse, good luck with that. See ya in Loserville, Bunky.

OK, sorry for the rant...where were we? Oh, yes, the game and what we know about it...

The Packers, barring an injury to uber-QB Aaron Rodgers, will put up points. Lots of points. The best the 'Queens can muster on defense, and he's good, let's be honest, is DE Jared Allen. The rest of their D-line is average, which still means the Packers offensive line has to show up to give Rodgers time to exploit a weak secondary. CB Antoine Winfield is probable for tonight. On offense, the 'Queens have the troublesome Adrian Peterson who will cause problems for the Packers as he usually does. Rookie QB Christian Ponder fared far too well in his first start -- against the Packers in the Humpty Dump, lest we forget -- and will probably cause a few problems on scrambles tonight. If WR Percy Harvin is in gear, he and TE Jim Kleinsasser are the main receiving threats for the 'Queens.

The fact is, the Packers have the 30th-ranked overall defense and the 31st-ranked pass defense. Unless some changes have been made, that defense will give up points. But it's bend-don't-break time once again. As with most games between these two teams it will be tight. I'd like to think the defense can stop a team before the last minute of a game in order to put things away early. But I doubt that will happen tonight.

So, I'm calling it Packers 34, ViQueens 27.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Packers 45 - Chargers 38: Wild, Wild West Indeed

Oh man. The Green Bay Packers hung on to win their eighth consecutive game this season and fourteenth in a row going back to last season -- the latter a franchise record. In a San Diego stadium that had to feel a lot like Lambeau West, the Pack beat the Chargers 45-38 in a wild one that, like a few other games this season, should have been put away earlier but went down to the wire. Honestly, this is the type of game that takes years off your life as a Packers fan.

There will be enough post-mortems for you to chew on elsewhere if you care to. Suffice it to say here that the Packers offense is a remarkable machine, as is QB Aaron Rodgers. He needs better pass protection than he received today. But the defense needs MAJOR work. They have gotten stops when they need to. But they continue to exert little if any pass rush and give up huge yards in pass coverage, particularly when the linebackers wind up covering receivers and tight ends, as happened a lot today. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers and head coach Mike McCarthy have got to get this unit in gear. A couple blown coverages today gave the Chargers two very easy touchdowns. We've seen that in other games this season; half way through the schedule this type of breakdown should not be happening.

But the Pack is 8-0, the only undefeated team in the league. They have an extra day to get ready for the ViQueens on Monday Night Football at Lambeau Field, followed by the Buccaneers at home and then a short week before heading to Detroit to take on the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. It's a dangerous stretch of games. But the Pack is in the driver's seat and are getting well-positioned for another post-season run.

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

Packers vs. Chargers Preview: Wild, Wild West

The Green Bay Packers are today making their first trip to San Diego since 2003; this is only the sixth time in the long history of the Packers that the team has played in "American's Finest City," as the city of San Diego so humbly refers to itself (it may not be LA or Hollywood, Packer fans, but it's close's still all about the hype). The Packers have won the last five straight matches between the two teams and are 5-0 all time in San Diego. Today, the Pack enters the game as 5.5-point favorites.

As all Packer fans are aware, the team is the only remaining undefeated team in the league at 7-0 and coming off their bye week. They should be well rested. The only players who were listed earlier in the week as definitely out were LT Chad Clifton and DE Mike Neal. Everyone else is available (although recall that rookie RB Alex Green was placed on the injured reserve list earlier in the week following his leg injury early in the game against the ViQueens; practice squad RB Brandon Saine took his spot on the 53-man roster). The Chargers, on the other hand, are coming off a short week after their Monday night loss at Kansas City. They are also injured.

Make no mistake, however, this could very well be a trap game for the Packers. The Bolts have looked bad in their last two consecutive game losses, especially last week against division rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs; they had penalties, turnovers, and you-name-it when they got near or into the red zone, particularly late in the game with a chance to win. The Chargers are 4-3, with the largest point loss being to the Patriots in week 2, 35-21; they are in every game. With QB Phil Rivers at the helm, huge receivers and one of the better tight ends in the game, the Chargers can present problems for a defense. Given the nature of the Packers "D" through the first 7 games of the schedule, unless things got tightened up over the bye and this last week of practice, it could be yet another tight but high-scoring game for both teams. In fact, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said this week that, “This is one of the best offenses we’ll face all year.”

This is a must-win type of game for the Chargers. If there is any game in which they will likely be at their best, this is it. As such, the Packers will also need to start fast, stay consistent, and finish strong in order to win this game. The Packers are the league's top scoring offense, at 32.9 points per game, and scoring at least 24 points in each game game so far, the only team in the league to accomplish that, as well. Driving this offense, as anyone who is even a mild observer of football knows, is QB Aaron Rodgers. He is the top quarterback in the league, at the moment. In fact, he's registered a quarterback rating of 110 or more in each of his 7 appearances so far this season -- the only quarterback in NFL history to do so! Oh, and did I mention that Rodgers just won another Offensive Player of the Month Award? But wait...there's more! Since last November -- LAST November -- nobody in the NFC other than Rodgers has won this award. A-wha...??? A-duh!!! Anytime, anywhere, Mr. Rodgers wants to do his "belt" routine, he's earned it.

The edge on offense has to go to the Packers, of course. Lots of weapons for the league's best passer -- and best player (there, I said it!) -- to choose from. Although when breaking things down, the edge in the running game goes to the double-headed San Diego rushing attack of Ryan Matthews and Mike Tolbert; the Packers will have to slow that threat down in order to keep the ball in Rivers hands and hopefully have him continue to make the kind of mistakes he has in recent weeks.

But what about the defense, in particular the Chargers' defense? Through 6 games, the Bolts have had just 10 sacks, ranking them 29th in the league. The biggest pass rush threat is Shaun Phillips but, like the Packers' Clay Matthews, he hasn't had much help from the rest of his crew. The Chargers minus-5 turnover differential is a reflection not only of how often their offense has shot itself in the foot, but that the defense only has recorded 7 turnovers in their first 6 games.

The Packers' brain trust has had two weeks to plan for this game. While there may be moments in this game that make you wonder what the heck's going on out there (paraphrasing a former Green Bay head coach whom you may have heard of), the only way the Packers lose is if they beat themselves. Look for the Pack to dial it up early and often on both sides of the ball.

We're calling this one 37-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!