Thursday, November 29, 2012

So, there was that Giants thing...

It's taken me several days to process the Nightmare in New York (or Jersey...or wherever the heck The Meadowlands is located). After days of detailed review and analysis, we can say this: the Packers played poorly. How is that for understatement?

In every phase of the game, the Giants pounded the Pack. Whether sacking QB Aaron Rodgers five times, or running through tackles, or...where does it stop?...the Giants outperformed the Packers. That goes for head coach Mike McCarthy, as well, who was simply outcoached. We don't need to recount the mistakes.

In my preview, I had predicted a Giants' win, although a much tighter game; I made the mistake of thinking the Packers would show up. Also, the Giants and QB Eli Manning typically play well coming out of their bye week...and they did. Very well.

Where do the Packers go from here? They have now fallen behind Da Bearz by a game again. Four out of the remaining five games are against NFC North Division opponents, with three of the five at home. They have the ViQueens coming to Lambeau Field on Sunday, followed by the Lions at Lambeau. Then, on Dec. 16, the Pack has their second meeting of the season against Chicago, this time at the "Mistake by the Lake," Soldier Field. A final home game against the Titans is followed by the last game of the regular season at Minnesota. As Aaron Rodgers and others are saying, if the Packers win out they win the division; if it comes down to a tie between the Packers and Da Bearz, the Pack will win based upon the head-to-head tiebreaker...Green Bay will have beaten Da Bearz twice.

Now, it's a big assumption to say the Pack will win their final five games in a row. However, prior to the loss against the Giants, they had a five-game winning streak. So they can do it. They will be getting WR Greg Jennings back perhaps this weekend. LB Clay Matthews should be back perhaps the following week. S Charles Woodson and others should also be returning to the team. So key areas of the offense and defense will be getting boosts. But the area of the team that seems weakest at this moment -- other than Mason Crosby and the kicking game -- is the offensive line. It is a unit which is giving up sacks at or near a league-leading rate and will get Aaron Rodgers sidelined with injury if it doesn't get its collective act together. The loss of RT Bryan Bulaga was huge in terms of its domino effect on the line. And there are not many options available. The team was not deep on the offensive line coming out of training camp and a season-ending injury to arguably its most important member didn't help. If one of the current starters goes down there are only two untested players behind them to fill in. Not good, but it is what it is.

We'll post our preview and prediction of the ViQueens game nearer to game day and game time. For now, just try to put aside the memories of yet another beat down by the Giants. It isn't easy. Especially when there is the likelihood the Pack will be seeing them again somewhere in the playoffs. Let's not think about that just. There's a lot of football to be played before we even get to that point. How well the Packers bounce back at home against the 'Queens will go a long way to determining the chances of making and succeeding in the playoffs.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Packers vs. Giants Preview

The Green Bay Packers arrived in Newark earlier this morning in advance of their primetime game tonight against the New York Giants. As Packer fans are well aware, the rivalry that has developed over the past several years -- while perhaps not yet of the variety between the 1960s Packers and Giants -- has been a good one, despite a few of the bigger wins going to the Giants.

Coming into this game, the Packers have been on a winning streak, five games in a row. The Giants are experiencing one of their typical November downturns. The Packers are 7-3 and the Giants are 6-4. The Giants are getting the home field advantage points differential, favored by 3 over the Packers. The over-under is set at 51 points.

The nod may be going to the Giants because the Pack will once again be without defensive powerhouse, Clay Matthews. Yes, the Packers beat Detroit without him. But the Giants are a better team and Matthews' presence will be missed in a way tonight that it wasn't against the Lions...even as close as that game was. Plus, the Giants are coming off their bye week. QB Eli Manning, no matter how poorly he may have performed before the bye, usually has a good game coming out of it. He knows the Packers defensive schemes and as often as not does well against them. If the Packers are unable to get to Manning with a pass rush, it could be a busy night for the Pack's young defensive backs.

On the other hand, if the Packers' offense can somehow get its mojo back and in sync, they can put up points on this defense. If WR Greg Jennings is given the go-ahead to play (currently listed as Questionable), that might require the Giants' defense to make some adjustments they hadn't counted upon. None of this is meant to minimize how good the Giants' defense is, only to suggest that the Packers' offense -- which we've seen perform really well for an entire game only once this season (against Houston) -- could be the difference in the game.

But if it's a close game, and with K Mason Crosby's obvious problems at the moment, you'd hate to have it come down to relying on a field goal to win or tie right now. The Packers are not going to get by missing two out three field goals against the Giants and walk away with a win.

So, while my heart will always be calling for a Packers' win...I think the Giants will emerge tonight with the "W" and things will stay very tight in the NFC North as a result, particularly with Da Bearz looking as if they will beat the ViQueens at this moment (leading 18-3 near the end of the first half).

I'm calling it 27-24 Giants. Hope I'm wrong.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day Drippings

Upon further review...that headline doesn't sound so good after all...kind of disgusting, really. But anyway...

What are the things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day as fans of the Green Bay Packers?
  • That we are fans of the most-storied franchise in all of sports.
  • That our team plays in the best stadium in all of football: Lambeau Field.
  • That there are Packers fans all across the world with whom you can shout "Go Pack Go!"
  • That the Packers are a community-owned team, with no ego-maniacal owner to manipulate the fans, the players, or the city itself.
  • 13 World Championships...more than any other NFL franchise.
  • Curly Lambeau.
  • Vince Lombardi.
  • The Glory Years Packers.
  • The Lambeau Leap.
  • The reigning NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers.
  • A great front office headed by Ted Thompson and coaching staff headed by Mike McCarthy.
  • Summer training camp at St. Norbert College since the days of Lombardi.
  • Green Bay, Wisconsin!
No doubt you can add your own. But please do so on your own time. This is my gig.

Oh, one more thing: I'm thankful for you and our other faithful readers.

Happy Thankgiving.

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Packers escape in Detroit, now in driver's seat

Following their nailbiter victory in Detroit on Sunday, and the delightful smackdown of Da Bearz in San Francisco last evening, the Green Bay Packers now find themselves atop the NFC North Division. Granted, the Pack and Da Bearz have identical 7-3 records. But, let's not forget: the Packers beat Chicago in their first meeting, so the Pack owns the tiebreaker and thus is technically in first place.

Some pundits and fans alike, let's be honest, are somewhat conflicted about this first-place thing. Realitstically, the Packers are 8-2 except for the replacement referee debacle in Seattle. Could have been 9-1 if not for the second half collapse in Indianapolis. All that aside, and with Detroit fighting for a playoff lifeline and needing this win badly on Sunday, the Packers played what could arguably be one of their worst offensive games of the season. For most of the first 58 minutes of the game it certainly looked and felt like the Packers were going to lose that game. Thankfully, QB Aaron Rodgers and WR Randall Cobb are not among the Packers' list of broken and wounded at the moment and pulled out a miracle TD to put the Packers up by one, 21-20.

Then current head-case kicker, Mason Crosby, hit his one and only field goal of the day to make the final score 24-20. Crosby was one for three on the day...or four, if you count the missed kick hit after a Lions' timeout. McCarthy was adamant after the game that the Packers are sticking with Crosby and would not be bringing kickers in to compete for the job. When your kicker is barely above 50 percent on his made field goals you'd think something would be done. On the other hand, the available alternatives are apparently not viewed as much better. No doubt Crosby has leg strength. But he has to be counted on to make kicks. Right now he kind of reminds you of Tiger Woods struggling with his driver; you know and he knows he's completely capable of hitting a good one...but something in his psyche is doing just enough with his technique to cause these ongoing misses. That last made field goal on Sunday might have been just what he needed. You could see from the replay and the slow motion close up on his face the relief he felt making that kick. You could also see the support he had from his teammates. Let's just hope and pray that Crosby is able to get this figured out and soon.

So the Pack escaped Motor City with a "W," which in this case stands for "Whew!" as well as "Win."

The few bright spots of noted for the offense -- and there were not many -- were the key catches by Jermichael Finley and the hard running of James Starks. In fact, this was a game where the Packers rushed more times than passed; 29 rush attempts vs. 27 pass attempts. When was the last time that happened?

But while the ineptitude of the offense, admitted by Rodgers and everyone on the offense, as well as head coach Mike McCarthy, might be considered the story of the day, I'd have to say the story was really the Packers' defense keeping them in the game. Actually, they even contributed 7 vital points to the victory courtesy of a pick-6 interception return of 72 yards by M.D. Jennings. The youngsters in the secondary have really picked up their games and are making plays. What was a weakness for the Pack last season seems to be turning into a strength right now. And the back up linebackers who are filling in for injured starters are also making an impact. Case in point: Dezman Moses' strip of the ball from Lions' QB Matthew Stafford on a scramble. The ball was recovered by the Packers and helped preserve the Packers' victory. It was huge.

Yes, it was an ugly win. But a win that set up the Packers in the driver's seat of the division for the stretch run. The team has a tough game on the road coming up this Sunday evening at the New York Giants. This has once again become a key rivalry type game, not quite on the level of the 1960's games, but getting there. The Giants over the last few seasons have seemed to stumble in November and get hot in December. The Packers, winners of now five in a row, need this game to keep their momentum going and position themselves for the playoffs. They will likely still be without some key players and that may catch up with them in this game unless they correct some of the issues they had on offense this past Sunday.

We'll keep an eye on things as the week progresses. Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Packers vs. Lions: Big Game for Both Teams

In the unofficial start to the second half of the NFL season for the Green Bay Packers following the team's bye week, the schedule-makers begin to serve up a heapin' plateful of NFC North Division opponents. Five of the Pack's final seven games are within the division. The NFL has finally decided to create a schedule that keeps things interesting right until the end of the season. First up for the Packers is the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

The Packers are 6-3 and the Lions are 4-5. The Pack is favored by 3-1/2 points. This is a huge game for both teams. With a win, the Packers will go to 7-3 and thus will likely be tied for the division lead with Da Bearz who, especially without QB Jay Cutler, will likely be on the losing end of their game with San Francisco Monday night. Actually, because the Pack beat Chicago in their first meeting, Green Bay holds the tiebreaker and actually would be in first place based upon that factor. If the Pack loses today, and Da Bearz also lose, they will remain one game behind...not horrible, but with this game setting up so well to pick up a game on Chicago, it really is a game they need to win. On the outside chance the Pack loses and Chicago wins, they'd be two behind Chicago and doing themselves no favors coming up on the stretch run, especially with a game against the Giants in New York coming up next Sunday evening.

For the inconsistent Lions, they need this game to avoid falling to 4-6. There are lots of mediocre teams sitting in that vicinity. If they lose today, the Lions would have to likely win all their remaining games to even keep open a chance of getting a wildcard spot with a 10-6 record. It's not likely that would happen, nor that the Lions would win out. Winning today to go to 5-5 would at least give them a lifeline.

Let's look at the matchups
For the Packers, they will likely be without six starters today including Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson and Bryan Bulaga. There has been a great deal of discussion on the radio call-in shows this week about whether Matthews or Bulaga is the biggest loss for today's game. Some feel that without the pass rush threat from Matthews, Lions' QB Matthew Stafford will have time to find WR Calvin Johnson and rack up yards and points; of course, CB Tramon Williams will have something to say about Johnson's success or lack thereof no matter what happens on the line. Others feel that the loss of Bulaga created two moves on the offensive line for the Packers: LG T.J. Lang moves to right tackle and back up Evan Dietrich-Smith fills Lang's spot at left guard. This obviously creates a different dynamic along the whole offensive line. More worrisome, however, is if additional injuries occur on the O-line there are only two backups to fill in: Don Barclay and Greg Van Roten. Can you say, "Yikes!"?

Back to the Matthews vs. Bulaga debate...My take is that knowing they would be without Matthews for this game, Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers will get creative with their schemes and personnel to still pressure Stafford and keep the passing game in check. As for the Lions running game, RB Mikel Leshoure, a 2011 second-round draft choice from Illinois, will be making his debut against the Packers. If the Packers let him get active, it could give the Lions enough balance to cause problems defensively for the Pack.

Early reports today are that the Packers will get WR Jordy Nelson back in the lineup. That would return the full complement of receivers except for Greg Jennings. In other words, pretty much the full set of weapons QB Aaron Rodgers wants and needs on the field, particularly against one of the worst secondaries around.

The trick here will be how effective the Packers newly configured line will be against a very good and disruptive front four of the Lions. If the Packers offensive line can't handle defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley especially, it will be a long day for Aaron Rodgers and the offense. That would open the door to the real possibility of an upset. Of course, if the Packers can generate any semblance of a rushing game with Alex Green and James Starks that will help considerably in all aspects of the game. Getting FB John Kuhn back today will also be a plus in pass protection and short yardage situations.

The oddsmakers have set the over-under for this game at 52 points, the third highest of any game this weekend. A shoot-out apparently is expected. I think that's the case as well, although I'd be on the "under" side of things. It seems as if, while acknowledging Detroit's desperate state and upset chances, most pundits are picking the Packers to win. The Packers are the unanimous choice of the ESPN pundits. I know, that should make us all nervous.

The Packers are 5-1 after their bye weeks under Mike McCarthy. McCarthy is also 11-1 against Detroit overall. You have to like those trends. Even without some of their best players on offense and defense, the Packers are the better team. They will, however, have to play like it for a full 60 minutes today to get the win. But win they will.

I'm calling it 27-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bulaga to Injured Reserve

The big news -- and bad news -- of the day for the Green Bay Packers, hinted at toward the end of last week, was that veteran RT Bryan Bulaga is being placed on the Injured Reserve List with what has so far been described as a hip pointer, and is done for the season. He joins rookie LB Nick Perry who also was placed on the IR recently because of wrist surgery. They join 10 other players who were starters or projected starters who have been hurt this year, missing a total of 40 games. Ouch!

This move of Bulaga to the IR list means LG T.J. Lang moves to right tackle and Evan Dietrich-Smith takes Lang's placed at left guard, just as happend after the injury during the game with the Cardinals. The depth of the offensive line is now a serious concern with not many favorable options available should another starter get injured.

To take Bulaga's spot on the roster, the Packers signed linebacker Vic So’oto. So’oto played in seven games with the Pack last season and was with the Oakland Raiders for four games this season.

Others return to practice today
According to a blog post by Mike Spofford at, a number of players returned to practice today in preparation for this Sunday's game against the Lions, including CB Sam Shields, DL Jerel Worthy, and -- surprise! -- T Derek Sherrod, who has been on PUP list since the start of the season. The Packers can allow Sherrod three weeks to practice, apparently, before deciding what to do with him for the rest of the season. The fact that he is practicing at all shows what a sad state the O-line depth is in as it was only about two weeks ago that articles were being written saying he wouldn't see the field at all this season. That may still play out in the end. But for now, it's wait and see.

LB Clay Matthews, FB John Kuhn, WR Greg Jennings and DE Mike Neal did not practice today.

If things feel like the 2010 season with the MASH unit Packers, let's just hope it has a similar ending. The fact that both the Lions and especially Da Bearz lost yesterday tightens up the NFC North considerably. With five of the seven remaining games coming against division opponents, injuries or not, the Pack will have to be ready to roll.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Packers bye week blues

After the Packers beat the Cardinals last weekend, and after the potential short or long-term losses of Bryan Bulaga, Clay Matthews, Jordy Nelson and others, a certain malaise may have been felt among some Packer fans this week. I confess to falling into that category.

By winning the game last Sunday, head coach Mike McCarthy rewarded his players with an entire week off before getting back to work tomorrow to prepare for the game against the Lions, who just lost moments ago to the ViQueens. Well, I took that as a signal to also take the week off from blogging. Don't really want to obsess about the mounting injuries and their implications down the stretch for the team's playoff run. Yes, we can certainly discuss how the Pack closed out their first part of the season by winning four games in a row. It was a great run to get things back on track after the stolen game in Seattle and the blown game in Indianapolis. Players and coaches are to be commended for righting the ship.

But other than a game-by-game review -- which you can find elsewhere -- what more is there to say about it? The Packers came through their first part of the season where they need to be to challenge for the division lead in the remaining seven games. Recall that five of those seven games are against division opponents: two each against the Lions and ViQueens and one against Da Bearz, the latter possibly deciding the division title.

Let's take a brief look, though, at the game of interest tonight: Chicago vs. the Texans. And I mean a brief look; this is a Packers blog, after all. My good friend, Billy Da Bearz Fan, just gave me his prediction: 17-15 Da Bearz. As he noted, the weather forecast for the game will be dicey: rain, perhaps hard in the second half. is Chicago, on the lakefront. And temperatures should also be dropping from a balmy 60-ish during the daytime into the 30s later this fast all this comes into play in Soldier Field may play a real factor in deciding the outcome. Billy noted that this will be a defensive battle. I'd tend to agree. Frankly, if Da Bearz don't score 7-10 points off defensive turnovers or special teams play, they will probably do well to score 7-10 points on offense. Chicago is listed as a 1-point favorite going against Houston. The over-under is 38.5 points. Like my friend, I think the game will be close. But I'm calling it 21-17 Texans. Will this prediction annoy my good friend? You bet. That's part of the point among friends of different team affiliations, isn't?

Stop back here this week as we begin looking at a game that really matters: the Packers and Lions.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Packers vs. Cardinals: who wants it more?

Today's game at Lambeau Field between the Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals is one of those games which could very well be a trap game of sorts for the Packers. The team comes off a lackluster win against the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday; favored by 15 points, they managed to win 24-15 in a game that always seemed much closer that that.

Today, the Packers are favored by 10-1/2 points. They come into the game -- as they did last week -- with many injuries to key players and back ups. The team's bye week follows this game. Head coach Mike McCarthy has offered an incentive to his weary team: win today and they get the whole bye week to themselves. That would seem to be a pretty good incentive, along with going into the bye at 6-3 instead of 5-4, which will make a whole lot of difference on the other side of the bye as 5 of the 7 remaining games come against NFC North Division opponents. The Packers need to win this game at home today. Period.

The Cardinals need this game even more than the Packers do. They come into this game 4-4 and desperate for a win to keep pace in their division. They are a team that, despite lesser talent even given the Packers' injuries, will give the Packers everything they have. The Packers don't need a perfect game to win today, but they will need to play with more energy than was the case last week; if they let Arizona hang around as they did with the Jags last Sunday it could be an upset in the making. But I think after hearing about their poor performance from the coaches, fans and even inside their own locker room, the players will be more on their game.

Plus, expect to see a bit more of RB James Starks today. While coach McCarthy feels Alex Green has earned his time at starting running back, Starks will get his share of reps today as well. That could definitely help out the passing game, which was also stuck in neutral most of last week's game. WR Jordy Nelson is expected to be a game-time decision. My guess is that he will be held out of this game to give his hamstring plenty of time to heal up, especially with the bye week added in.

So, bottom line prediction...I realize I didn't go into as much depth and analysis here today as is sometimes the case with these posts, but lack of time necessitates me cutting to the chase...Packers 27 - Cardinals 17.

Go Pack Go!!!