Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Packers beat Bears in ChiTown Chiller Thriller

By now, you and all the football-following world know that the Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears 33-28 Sunday in a classic, down-to-the-wire battle for the NFC North Championship. The win was in doubt until the last 38 seconds when QB Aaron Rodgers found a wide open Randall Cobb, running past a flat-footed defender, heading toward the endzone. They connected on a nearly 50-yard touchdown pass that sealed Chicago's fate.

What kept the last half-minute of the game in doubt, however, was the fact that the Packers failed to convert on a two-point attempt that would have made the lead 7 points. Up by 5, and Da Bearz still having a shot to win it with a touchdown, the hearts of Packer fans were racing. No doubt years have been taken off the life spans of many Packer fans this season. This was just one more instance of the "Cardiac Pack" in action. However, thanks to a last-ditch Hail Mary pass by Jay Cutler and an endzone interception by Sam Shields, the victory was secured.

NFC North Division Champions, baby! For the third consecutive year! (Shouldn't they just rename this the Packers Division?)

There were key plays aplenty, not only by Rodgers, but by FB John Kuhn (with a key block on the final TD pass to prevent a sure sack), Jordy Nelson (as always), Jarrett Boykin (picking up a Rodgers' fumble and finally taking it in for a TD), and Eddie Lacy and James Starks pounding Da Bearz' defense. There were missed opportunities, as well, especially early on. The Packers defense? Well, doing what they have pretty much done all year: doing what they need to do at the last moment, at least in victories. Much has been said about all this and that elsewhere already. Don't need to tell you what you already know by now.


Next up: the 12-4 San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field on Sunday. More on that game later. For now...Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Week 17: Packers vs. Bears Preview and Prediction

It's now less than two hours to kickoff of the final game for the Green Bay Packers' 2013 NFL regular season. In fitting form, it's against the Chicago Bears. Unfortunately, it's at the "Mistake by the Lake," otherwise known as Soldier Field. Fortunately for the Packers, however, for the first time since the last meeting between these teams seven games ago, QB Aaron Rodgers will return to the field. Oh, yeah! And, despite going 2-4-1 without Rodgers, both Da Bearz and the woeful Detroit Lions conspired to hand the Packers a chance to still win the division. Imagine that! And believe it or not, whether the Packers or Bears win today, this will be the first time in 30 years that the division will be won by a team without double-digit victories. Yowza. A down year for the NFC North -- primarily due to injuries to the two top teams -- would be an understatement.

Still, here we are, Packer fans: poised on the brink of winning the division and hosting a Wild Card game at Lambeau Field next week should the Packers win today. If things go as expected, that would mean the Packers would likely host the San Francisco 49ers, or perhaps the New Orleans Saints. (OK, Niners wouldn't necessarily be a good match up, but first things first...win today, that's the goal.)

Photo of Randall Cobb by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

In other good news for the Pack, WR and returner Randall Cobb was activated to the 53-man roster for the first time since breaking his fibula earlier in the season. How much playing time he gets remains to be seen. RB Eddie Lacy is still nursing his sprained ankle but is ready to go, as is James Starks. For the first time in a long time, the Packers will have many of their offensive weapons in play, albeit with some rust in a few spots.

Defensively, however, the loss of LB Clay Matthews in last week's game after re-injuring his surgically-repaired thumb, certainly doesn't help the Packers' anemic pass rush. Somehow, someway the Pack's defenders need to get pressure on Bears QB Jay Cutler. Make him uncomfortable, he'll get happy feet, pout, and start throwing picks. That's what we can hope for. Because we don't want him to have time to throw to Chicago's big receivers. There will be match up problems for the Packers today, no doubt, in the secondary. The way to mitigate that is with pressure on Cutler, and holding RB Matt Forte down. Defensive coordinator, Dom Capers, has always seemed to come up with something to create problems for Cutler, who is just 1-7 against the Pack with Capers commanding the defense, and just 1-8 overall, including playoffs.

The Prediction
We could and perhaps should say more about this game. It's a biggie. But let's cut to the chase: the Packers have their best shot at resurrecting an injury-filled season today, if they can protect Rodgers and open lanes for Lacy and Starks.

Make no mistake, both defenses are shadows off their former selves at this point. Points will be scored. Who scores more? The oddsmakers have the Packers favored by 3 points, courtesy of the return of Aaron Rodgers.

Me? I'm calling it 34-24 Packers over Da Bearz.

Go Pack Go!!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Packers lose to Steelers, still alive for NFC North Champs

As John Lennon sang, "So this is Christmas...". Yes, it is. Merry Christmas to all our loyal readers around the world. We appreciate you stopping by to read what we have to say about all things Packers.

Because of holiday commitments, getting out a timely post-game Packers vs. Steelers review was all but impossible. I even had to watch the game on DVR hours after the game was over, all the while trying to avoid learning about the outcome. Great game...well, not great...but it certainly kept one's attention down to the last second. Literally. Anyway, I'm sure you are also familiar with having to time-shift things around holidays and other special occasions. Not always easy. But, finally, I'm getting a few moments here this morning to catch up a little bit. Apologies for the lateness of this for those who have come to expect a more timely review of things from yours truly.

Back to the Packers vs. Steelers...

The final score was not what we had projected (24-20 with the Packers winning}. For the past two weeks I had picked against the Pack and they had won. They restored my faith, only to once again have that dashed on the rocks of defeat. Which leaves me with a big dilemma about Sunday versus Da Bearz. But more on that game later...probably Sunday morning in fact.

This game typified, in my view, what the season has been for the Packers, especially without Aaron Rodgers. The team is so injury-riddled that there is no room for mistakes. Critical penalties and turnovers doomed the Pack to defeat. There is no margin for error. To win, the team needs to play an almost flawless game. Toss in December weather in the Midwest and that adds yet another complicating factor.

As we all know by now, Da Bearz (and the still bumbling Lions) gift-wrapped a second chance at post-season life for the Packers when they also both lost their games on Sunday...Chicago in incredibly humiliating form (as Seinfeld would say, "That's a shame."). But playing for the NFC North title this coming Sunday along the lake at Soldier Field is not going to be an easy task. Can the Packers beat Da Bearz? Of course. Will they? Depends upon which Packers team decides to show up. And that's been a guessing game for about half the season now, not just from game to game but half to half.

While it's expected that the announcement about Aaron Rodgers' availability status will be made tomorrow (Thursday), more than a few are expecting that the announcement will be that he is not yet medically cleared to play. Personally, I don't expect him to see the playing field again this season unless, perhaps, the Packers somehow go deep into a playoff run. Given the injuries, is that likely? No.

There is a lot of heart and never-give-up attitude on this Packers squad, granted. That's to the credit of the coaches and the players themselves. But that's not always enough, especially where other teams are healthier at the key positions. With the likely loss of Clay Matthews again with his re-injured thumb, the already-anemic pass rushing ability of the Pack also took a big hit.

Anyway, I'm starting to do a bit of a Christmas Day ramble here, so will cut this short.

The Packers have a chance. Right now, that's more than most fans thought they'd have at the conclusion of the game against Pittsburgh. The door has been left open a crack. All the Packers have to do is play one of their most consistent games of the season and they will keep on playing. If they let Da Bearz slam the door in their collective face, then it's time to start playing the mock draft and free agency games as the off-season will then be upon us.

In the meantime, let's see what the next few days brings for the Pack. Please check back Sunday morning for our Packers vs. Bears preview and prediction.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Week 16: Packers vs. Steelers - Another season-on-the-line game for the Packers

In Green Bay, Sunday's game against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers is pretty much a one-and-done game of sorts. If the Packers win, they continue to control their own destiny going into the final week's game against the Chicago Bears. Lose and the likelihood of any playoff birth is slim and none.

It's simple: if the Packers win their next two games they win the NFC North.

What makes things not so simple is that they will have to do so once again without QB Aaron Rodgers. Of course, after two comeback wins with backup QB Matt Flynn at the helm and RB Eddie Lacy running to daylight, beating the Steelers is certainly within the realm of possibility. (The Packers have a better record than the Steelers, let's not forget.) The much-maligned defense also seemed to get some of its early-season mojo going in the second half last Sunday against the Cowboys; they'll need to continue to play with that same intensity both against the Steelers and Da Bearz if they hope to have any post-season opportunity.

Oddsmakers seem to think the Packers can win with Flynn. Depending upon what source you are looking at, the Pack is favored by anywhere from 1 to 2-1/2 points at the time of the writing of this post. So it's certainly projected to be close, as it no doubt will be. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is getting hot and some think that that will be sufficient to beat the Pack. Maybe. But...

Another factor: the weather
Talent and records aside, probably one of the biggest factors in Sunday's game will be the weather. Here's the forecast as it stands now: "Snow with areas of blowing snow before 3 pm, then snow likely after 3pm. The snow could be heavy at times. High near 26. North northeast wind 14 to 24 mph, with gusts as high as 36 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of around 5 inches."

Sounds lovely, doesn't it? If the weather affects the passing game, that neutralizes to some degree the advantage Pittsburgh has at quarterback. More emphasis will be on the running game. The Steelers have Le'Veon Bell, the Packers have Eddie Lacy. The Steelers drafted Bell ahead of Lacy. Bell's having a very good rookie season. But no rookie running back is having the season Lacy is. Advantage Packers.

The Prediction
This is a tough one indeed, Packer fans. I've picked against the Pack the last two weeks. They've won both times. This week, my faith has been restored.

I'm picking the Packers 24-20.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Packers' win over Cowboys a tale of two halves


That was Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy's first word at his press conference after his team's amazing 37-36 comeback win over the Dallas Cowboys.

No doubt it was also coming out of the mouths of many if not most Packer fans. What fans of the Cowboys might have been saying is probably not fit for print.

After a miserable first half of lethargic and truly uninspired play, and going into the locker room down 26-3, it was a reasonable assumption by most that this game was over and, with it, any hopes of the Packers in the post-season. We don't know what McCarthy said at half, or what kind of magical tea or high octane espresso he served up to his players, but the second half was unlike any we've seen the Packers play in a long, long time. They outscored the Cowboys in the second half 34-10.

Tramon Williams incredible game/season-saving 4th quarter interception
Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The season is still alive
This writer has to confess that when the Cowboys went up by 12 points in the 4th quarter I thought it was over. How wrong I was...as I was about my game prediction where I had the Pack losing. Mea culpa. But I've never been so glad to have been so wrong in my lifetime.

In fact, courtesy of two fantastic interceptions late in the game by Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, as well as any number of other dynamic plays on both offense and defense, the Packers were able to snatch this highly improbable victory in Big D.

Where do you start? For one thing, forget the first half. Not worthy of discussion. It's all about the second half. A great Micah Hyde punt return. Four touchdown passes by Matt Flynn. Incredible catches by Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin and Andrew Quarless. Beast-mode running -- including a 60-yard scamper -- by Eddie Lacy, who ran for 141 yards on 21 carries and surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season...the first Packers rookie running back to do so since the days of John Brockington. And the defense -- which was really bending the bend-don't-break model in the first half, turned it up in the second half and shut down a potent Cowboys offense. Part of that, one can assert, was the ongoing -- and mystifying -- play-calling help from the Cowboys of continuing to pass rather than run to take time off the clock...and, of course, expose themselves to turnovers, as was the case. How 'bout them Cowboys?!


It's still very possible to win the NFC North
So, here's how it lays out: if the Lions lose at home vs. Baltimore tonight -- or either of their other two remaining games against the Giants or Vikings -- and the Packers beat the Steelers this weekend at Lambeau Field and then win again at Chicago, the Packers win the NFC North. Of course, if Da Bearz lose at Philadelphia on Sunday, the road also becomes a bit clearer.

Incredible. Amazing it's still even a possibility after all this team has been through. If Aaron Rodgers gets his medical clearance this week, the game certainly becomes winnable even after a bit of a turnaround by the Steelers.

This will be a week to watch, Packer fans. All eyes will be on whether or not Aaron Rodgers returns under center. But we do know, based upon the come-from-behind victories these last two weeks, that they can win with Matt Flynn at quarterback. It might not be pretty, but it's possible.

Who'da thunk it? Who'da thunk it?

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Week 15: Packers vs. Cowboys

The Green Bay Packers travel to Texas today to take on the Dallas Cowboys. This will be the football equivalent of a Wrestlemania tag-team cage match. How so? Well, both teams literally have their playoff chances hanging on the outcome of this game...the Packers more so than the Cowboys, despite the Pack being only one-half game behind both the Lions and Da Bearz in the NFC North, while the 'boys are a full game behind the Eagles in the NFC East. So this should be a game with some intensity to it.

The Packers will go into this game with backup QB Matt Flynn getting the start once again. The Pack is coming off an important come-from-behind win in last week's game against the Falcons at Lambeau Field. The Cowboys are coming off a dismal loss to Chicago at Soldier Field. If Aaron Rodgers had been back at quarterback, this is a game the Packers likely win. With Flynn and a bad Packers defense...?

On the other hand, it's important to note that as bad as the Pack's defense has been especially in the last month or so (a notable exception was the second half of last Sunday's game), the Cowboys' defense is worse. In fact, statistically, they are dead last in total defense. Plus, a couple other Dallas defensive starters are out for this game, one at linebacker and another at cornerback. The Packers have the possibility of moving the ball against this defense. The Pack will be counting heavily on a slightly hobbled Eddie Lacy to put up some yards on the ground, so Matt Flynn can execute a few passes here and there. Without a running game, it may be a long game despite a porous Cowboys defense.

The pundits have installed Dallas as anywhere from 5 to 6-1/2-point favorites in this game. If all things are even (and they are not, of course), the edge goes to the 'boys because of QB Tony Romo, who is having one of his best seasons. Unless Matt Flynn has a game of Lion-esque proportions (from a couple years go, not Thanksgiving Day), the Pack will be challenged to snatch a win.

The Prediction
We're not going to go into a lot of hemming and hawing about this one. Teams with better quarterbacks win, even with weak defenses; the QB can cover up a lot of sins...as we've seen since Rodgers has been sidelined.

So as much as I hate to do so, I'm calling it 31-24 Cowboys over Packers. I hope I'm wrong, as it turns out I was last week.

With that said...Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, December 09, 2013

Packers win wild one against Falcons

After four losses and a tie, all without starting QB Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers finally squeaked out a win on the literally frozen tundra of Lambeau Field yesterday against the Atlanta Falcons. In a game which went down to the last few seconds before it was finally decided, the Pack held on to win, 22-21. This game was a must-win game for the Pack to have any chance of post-season hopes.

The players of the game in this writer's opinion: Jarrett Bush, Johnny Jolly, Andrew Quarless, Mason Crosby, and Tim Masthay.

Bush had a large role in preserving the game, breaking up one key pass to TE Tony Gonzales and intercepting another in the closing seconds of the game to secure the win for the Packers. Johnny Jolly was huge (no pun intended) in this game, coming up with a fumble recovery early on and applying pressure to Falcons QB Matt Ryan throughout the game. Andrew Quarless had perhaps his best game as a pass receiver for the Pack. Mason Crosby was three for three on a very rough weather day for kickers. And punter Tim Masthay was exceptional on his three punts (averaged more than 47 yards per punt), including his last which could have been downed at the Falcons' 1-yard line with a little more than a minute left, and which gave the Dirty Birds a long way to go without any timeouts in order to have chance to kick a field goal.

There will be more forthcoming here. But just wanted to get this brief synopsis of the win out to our faithful readers.

After all the angst of the last five weeks, the Packers are only one half game behind NFC North Division leaders, the Detroit Lions. If Da Bearz lose tonight at home against the Dallas Cowboys (the latter favored by 1 point), the Pack will actually be a half game ahead of Chicago in the standings and looking forward to their own match up against the 'boys in Dallas next Sunday when, it is hoped, Aaron Rodgers may be cleared to play.

Things are getting interesting, Packer fans. Even my friend, Billy Da Bearz Fan, is getting nervous. As he rightly does every December when the Packers typically make their late season move.

Stay tuned...

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Week 14: Packers vs. Falcons Preview and Prediction

At the start of this current NFL season, the Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons game from Lambeau Field was scheduled to be a Sunday evening primetime TV extravaganza. A funny thing happened on the way to this game...

Both the Packers and the Falcons were devastated by injuries. Two teams expected to compete not only for the playoffs but for a possible NFC Super Bowl slot fell off the cliff, so to speak. You can have a talented team but if that talent isn't on the field, what difference does it make? Well, a lot to the TV schedulers, apparently, because this game was "flexed" from the original Sunday evening slot to a noon Central Time start, with limited TV coverage. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

What do we expect?
The Packers are sitting at 5-6-1 and the Falcons are at 3-9. Atlanta is obviously out of any playoff talk. But believe it or not, the Packers still are hanging on by a mathematical thread to the hopes of at least being in the wild card conversation. It's a long shot, to say the least. Possible? Yes. Probable? No.

Photo by Matt Becker, Packers.com

Not unless there is a bit of a miracle at Lambeau today. With QB Aaron Rodgers still not cleared for play, Matt Flynn gets his second start. His first in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day was, shall we say, less than stellar. When he wasn't under pressure or getting sacked courtesy of a sieve-like makeshift offensive line, his passes had all the zip of a limp spaghetti noodle (is that a mixed metaphor?). He was underwhelming. The fact that the offensive line was unable to open any holes for running back Eddie Lacy put everything on the passing game...which was obviously not a good scenario.

Today, the offensive line has a chance to create some running room against the Falcons. But whether starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith is able to play or not, and if so for how long, will have a big impact on how well that scenario plays out. The Packers must somehow generate the threat of a running game in order to take pressure off Flynn. In temperatures likely to be below 20 degrees, and with a 30 percent chance of snow during the game, the passing game is not going to be much of a weapon. To win today, the Packers need a running game.

The Packers also need defensive takeaways and a score. They got both last game in Detroit (four turnovers and a defensive TD) but the lack of any type of tackling skills, pressure on the quarterback, and no offense made all that moot.

The Prediction
We could take a more in-depth look at the players, the schemes, etc. But why bother? You can find all that elsewhere.

The bottom line for the Packers today is they MUST win this game to have any place in the conversation about a possible wild card slot down the road, when perhaps Rodgers is able to get back behind center (although as yours truly has posted several times, the feeling here is it would be better to shut Rodgers down for the season and give Scott Tolzien the starter's reps; he's got a much stronger arm than Flynn and would be a better long-term fit at back-up than Flynn who clearly has nothing left in his arm at this point). Lose today and I really think the Packers will shelve Rodgers for the rest of the season and let him heal that fractured collarbone...which is obviously already taking longer to heal than he and the team had hoped. There is no sense in exposing your franchise quarterback to further injury with nothing left to play for.

Anyway...back to the prediction...

The Packers are favored between 3 to 3-1/2 points depending upon who you are looking at. The Falcons have their very good starting QB, Matt Ryan, a veteran RB in Steven Jackson and veteran TE in Tony Gonzalez. Those are significant offensive weapons against a Packers defense that has shown nothing in the last five games which would give you confidence of them stopping even a 3-9 team. Compare that to the Packers offense with likely a wounded and or makeshift offensive line and a weak backup QB, and this game looks scary. Even a good portion of local pundits are picking the Falcons.

Given the trend this Packers team has been on, without any indication they are in a position to pull out of their nosedive, I have to say that in my best hopes I'd actually be rooting for another tie game in overtime. But that's not going to happen. There will be a winner. And barring that miracle in Lambeau I mentioned earlier, I just have a feeling the winner will not be our beloved Packers.

I'm regretfully have to call this one in the Falcons favor. I'm calling it 17-13 Falcons over the Packers.

With that said, I hope I'm wrong.

And...Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Motor City Massacre: Packers lose to Lions 40-10

It's taken me -- and many, if not most, Packers fans -- two days to get over the debacle in Detroit. The Green Bay Packers were whipped on both sides of the ball by the Detroit Lions. The team that has been bottom-of-the-barrel in the NFC North for so, so long now sits atop it. The Lions played with determination, energy and passion from start to finish. None of those attributes were present from this current Packers squad.

(Photo from Packers.com)

This photo pretty well sums up not only what the Packers felt like on Thursday, but what Packer fans worldwide felt watching and listening to this game. Despite the Lions handing the Packers four turnovers on the day, the Pack could only convert those into seven points. But that was four points more than the Packers offense could manage for the day in one of its most inept performances in ages: 126 total yards.

The defense, or what might appropriately be called "defense" on this day, gave up 561 yards (or thereabouts...when we're talking these kind of numbers does it really matter???). The "defense" missed 20-plus tackles on the day. Anyone watching saw that CB Davon House was a whiff machine on the day. But he was far from the only one. There was no toughness. No coverage of much account either, with receivers wide open over the middle as they have been repeatedly during this losing streak. Yes, they finally got the takeaways which had been so lacking on the season, but it didn't matter...the offense could do nothing. No running game. No passing game. The former was due to the inability of the offensive line to create any movement at the line, while the latter was largely a result of little time for QB Matt Flynn to throw coupled with his obviously weak arm strength.

A whole lotta hurt
The Packers are in a world of hurt. A few weeks ago, that would have been more a reference to the 12 players on injured reserve, as well as those missing time for other minor injuries. You have to believe the presence on the field of Brian Bulaga, Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley, Casey Hayward, Johnathan Franklin, Robert Francois and DuJuan Harris -- among others -- would make for a different dynamic and level of performance. Cobb is designated for return but at this point...?

The hurt the Packers are in now seems to be more than just the physical injuries. It's mental. It's emotional. It's spirit. It seems, since QB Aaron Rodgers went down with his fractured collarbone, that all the juice just went out of the team. Yes, he's important. And, truth be told, it's looking more and more like he was able to cover up offensively the deficiencies of the Packers defense.

There is, rightly, a lot of soul searching going on right now at 1265 Lombardi Avenue in Green Bay. Players, coaches and even GM Ted Thompson have to be looking in the mirror and taking responsibility for where this team is right now. Mathematically, the Packers are still alive for the playoffs if they win out...there's a chance. But realistically?

The team is terrible right now. It pains me to say that. But we'd be delusional not to just say how it is. Even if Rodgers is somehow able to get back on the field for the next game on Dec. 8 against the Falcons at Lambeau, is that going to make the difference? And if starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith is out for that game with the knee injury he sustained in Detroit, do you really want to see Rodgers running for his life -- and perhaps, career -- behind that makeshift offensive line, including the human turnstile, Marshall Newhouse?

I, for one, would just as soon see Rodgers sit out the rest of the season and heal without risk of further damage. Put Scott Tolzien back in at quarterback. Yes, Flynn knows the system better, but he has the arm strength of a spaghetti noodle; Tolzien demonstrated he can get the ball downfield. Might still make some rookie-type mistakes; let him learn. Right now, that would be a better option than letting Flynn float wounded ducks 15 yards downfield. By giving Tolzien playing time now you can come into next season with a verified backup to Rodgers, which is something Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy -- for all their brilliance -- failed to have ready going into this season.

It ain't pretty, Packer fans. Ain't pretty at all. A 5-6-1 record with four to go, two home and two away. Ain't pretty.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Week 13: Packers vs Lions in Thanksgiving Day Battle

In one of the long-running traditions of football and Thanksgiving, the Green Bay Packers meet the Detroit Lions today in Detroit as the first of the games in the NFL's Turkey Day triple header.

The Packers haven't won a game in a month, losing three straight and then having to settle for a rare overtime tie against the lowly Minnesota Vikings last week at Lambeau Field. How low can you go? I think we'll find out today, Packer fans.

With twelve players now placed on the injured reserve list -- the latest, RB Johnathan Franklin, who sustained a concussion on the opening kickoff of Sunday's game -- and other players sidelined due to various injuries including, foremost, QB Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are literally in a world of hurt going into this game.

Still, even with the last month of disasters behind them, the Packers are just a half-game out of first place in the NFC North. Detroit has lost two in a row. The Bears have been inconsistent without Jay Cutler. If the Pack wins today, they would actually be in first place atop the division. It's that kind of season: goofy.

The route to the playoffs for the Packers (or the Lions or Bears), given the record and the likely wild card teams, is to win the division. That's it. So, today's game is a must-win game for both the Packers and the Lions.

Which team is in a better position to win this must-win game?
Pundits are taking the Lions by 6 points over the Packers. That actually sounds about right. The Lions are at home, they have their starting quarterback, Matthew Stafford, and one of the best receivers in the NFL, Calvin Johnson. They have WR Nate Burleson and RB Reggie Bush; some good offensive weapons, in other words. They have a nasty defensive line, as Packers' LG Josh Sitton informed the universe on a radio interview a few days ago...although I'm toning down his exact words.

Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Packers have a new starting backup quarterback this week, Matt Flynn, who had a career day against this very Lions team a couple years back that made him millions of dollars: 480 yards passing and 6 touchdowns. After stops in Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo (?), Flynn is back in Green Bay. After Scott Tolzien failed to take full advantage of his two opportunities in relief of Aaron Rodgers, Flynn, who just rejoined the team within the past few weeks, gets the start as a result of his rallying the Packers last weekend. Whether he can reprise his prior miracle game today or not remains to be seen. If he does, it will be Miracle in Detroit Part 2.

Expect the Packers to use as heavy a dose of running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks as they can. What Flynn will or won't be able to do with his receivers today...who knows? The Detroit secondary can be had, assuming Flynn has time. That will be determined by the offensive line giving him time. The trenches is where this game will likely be won or lost.

That goes for the defensive side of things, as well. The Pack's defense has been a sieve during this losing streak. They need to get pressure on Stafford and if they do, turnovers can be had. But they will need to keep Reggie Bush from causing problems out of the backfield and will somehow have to find a way to keep Calvin Johnson in check. Not going to be easy. Unless the Packers are sound in their fundamentals. You know, things like tackling.

The prediction
I really want to believe the Packers will win this game, Packer fans. I've picked them in each of the prior weeks during this losing streak...going with my heart over my head. So this week, I just have to look at how it is. And from what we have seen, and what we are looking at, it doesn't look good today for the Green 'n' Gold. Can the Pack win this game today? Of course, if they play the way they are capable of playing. Knowing that their season is literally on the line today may finally shake this team out of the lethargy it's been in since Rodgers has been down.

But I still think it just might be too much to ask at this point.

I'm calling this one: Lions 27 - Packers 20. But I hope I'm wrong. I really, really, really, really hope I'm wrong.

Go Pack Go!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Packers and Vikings tie 26-26

In a month filled with injuries, woeful defense and special teams play, questionable play-calling and losses, the Green Bay Packers topped it all off yesterday with a rarity in football: a tie. But not just any tie. A tie with -- wait for it! -- the Minnesota Vikings. The 2-8 Vikings.


Which, as many pointed out afterward, is like kissing your sister. And not your hot sister, either. The other one. (Note: no photo will be shared here in order to protect the innocent.)

But it's really almost worse than that. For if not for a 4th quarter rally generated by backup quarterback to the backup (that would be Matt Flynn for Scott Tolzien, for anyone without a program) the Packers were actually in jeopardy of losing. To the ViQueens.

You can read the box score and all the details of what went transpired on other sites. You may even have had to sit through this mind-numbing version of Packers football and watch it. Worse, you might have actually been sitting in the arctic weather at Lambeau Field.

It was not a great day. Only the fifth tie in the Packers' 93-year history, and the first since about 1987, if memory serves.

But, it was at least a partial victory of sorts. What? How could that be? It be. Primarily because both the Lions and Da Bearz lost their respective games on Sunday. So, while we didn't emerge yesterday tied for the top of the NFC North as would have been the case had the Pack won, we did gain half a game on both of those teams because of the tie. Imagine that, Packer fans: three straight losses and a tie and the Pack is only half-a-game out of the division lead. It's been that kind of year.

The Packers don't have much time to think about what might have been. They need to move on to what lies in front of them. Which, at the moment, is the Turkey Day game at Detroit. Head coach Mike McCarthy has already ruled QB Aaron Rodgers out, so it will be between Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn to find a way to put up points. McCarthy isn't saying who's starting, just that both are being prepared. Wants to keep Detroit guessing, apparently. I don't think the Lions are losing sleep over that, do you?

As has been the case each of these past four games, the Packers' defense is a sieve. That's the bigger worry...for Packer fans, that is. Many are calling for defensive coordinator Dom Capers' head. That's not going to happen before the end of the season...if it happens at all. But somehow, someway, Capers and his defense have got to get this figured out. If they fail to do so Thursday in Detroit...well...the season is definitely on the line...and on the linebackers...and on the defensive backs.

We'll write more before the game with the Lions. For now, we can only look at things through very beige-colored glasses instead of our usual green 'n' gold. That's how it is at the moment. Very...meh.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Week 12: Packers vs. Vikings Preview and Prediction

Coming into Sundays's game against the 2-8 Vikings, the Green Bay Packers sit at 5-5 and on a three-game losing streak that coincidentally started with the injury loss of starting QB Aaron Rodgers. That's the standard view.

But the recent losing tone may well have also been set with the folding of the Packers' defense late in the game against the 'Queens in Minnesota -- the Pack's last win. It was in that game, after the Packers had the game well in hand, that the defense allowed the 'Queens to score 31 points in the final 19 minutes.

The offense has had a difficult time recovering, of course, from the loss of Rodgers. But it's the defense that has generally been accorded the overall blame for these last three losses.
So what can we expect Sunday?
Depending upon what source you're looking at, the Packers are currently favored by anywhere from 3 to 4.5 points over the ViQueens, courtesy of the home field advantage essentially. The over-under is set at 44 points at the time of this posting.

But aside from that take on things, what are we looking for?

One thing would be the first home start for QB Scott Tolzien. Tolzien has displayed a strong arm when he's been allowed to throw downfield. But he's also made young QB mistakes, as demonstrated by the five interceptions he's thrown in his first two games of significant action. To be fair, two of those were tips and another was an incredibly athletic snag at the line by NY Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul. The other two INTs were cases of Tolzien failing to spot the defender. It happens. Anyone remember the number of interceptioins Brett Favre threw up in his early days as a starter? Or his middle days...or last days, for that matter?

The Packers won't win or lose the game because of Tolzien, despite Minnesota stacking the line to stop the running game, as they are anticipated to do. That means the Packers offensive line -- which created little running room for RB Eddie Lacy last week against the Giants -- must do a much better job of moving the sticks on the ground.

A solid rushing game will take the pressure off Tolzien, as long as head coach Mike McCarthy's play-calling doesn't become as predictable as in last week's game: run-run-pass-punt. It will also help keep the 'Queens best offensive weapon, RB Adrian Peterson, on the sidelines. Granted, his groin injury may help do some of that, as well. But why even allow the possibility of him becoming a factor? Eat clock!

The status of the O-line has been an issue these last few games, as well. Starting right tackle Don Barclay has been out, and is listed as out again for this game. One-time starter and now backup, Marshall Newhouse, still struggles as Barclay's replacement. So, is it time Derek Sherrod, who hasn't played in a game since December 2011, gets his shot? He apparently and finally is ready to play. Whether or not he sees action tomorrow or anytime soon is still a question mark. But, really, could he be much worse at this point than Newhouse? Here's an interesting article about Sherrod if you want to read up on his possible return to action.

Defense, oh defense, where art thou?
Assuming the Packers offense can put up some points against Minnesota -- yours truly is willing to make that assumption -- can the Packers defense stop a rather dysfunctional Minnesota offense from doing likewise? Yes. But the question is: will they?

The Packers defense has a chance at restoring its good name. Somewhat. The quarterback situation for Minnesota is a disaster. Christian Ponder was the starter. But he was pulled last week and in came Matt Cassel. He wasn't much better, tossing an interception on his first possession. And Josh Freeman? Please. As of right now it's still not clear which quarterback will get the start for the 'Queens. But regardless of who it is, unless the Packers can generate some sense of a pass rush, tackle, not leave the middle open, and cover receivers, it could be a challenging day. These are all things the Packers' D has not done well over the last few weeks. Injuries in the defensive backfield may make that part of the game challenging for the Packers. CB Casey Hayward is out, CB Sam Shields is questionable and CB Micah Hyde is listed as probable. On the defensive front, Johnny Jolly is listed as doubtful and Ryan Pickett is listed as probable; that's a lot of beef missing from that front if they are unable to go. (You can view the complete injury list here.)

The defense will need to do to Minnesota what Minnesota hopes to do to the Packers: stop the run and force the pass. If that happens, the Packers should emerge with the victory.

If they do, it might be more likely that we see the return of Aaron Rodgers on Thanksgiving Thursday at Detroit. If the Packers lose at home against Minnesota, even shorthanded, the need to try to rush Rodgers back becomes less urgent. Why? Because the Packers would be sitting at 5-6 heading into Detroit, at least one and likely two games behind in the division to the Lions and possibly Da Bearz with five games remaining. Realistically, a playoff wild card team will not be coming out of the NFC North. That means the Packers must win the division. With a game each remaining against both Detroit and Chicago a win against Minnesota is key to getting this season back on track...and Rodgers behind center again.

But let's not worry about all that right now. First things first.

The Prediction
Let's do this: Packers 24 - ViQueens 20

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Packers drop third game in a row, lose to Giants 27-13

Things are not well in the kingdom, Packer fans. Since starting QB Aaron Rodgers was injured, the Pack has dropped three games in a row with the most recent being yesterday's uninspired performance against the New York Giants.

With backup QB Scott Tolzien at the helm, the Packers were within striking distance at just under 11 minutes remaining in the game, with the Giants ahead 20-13. Tolzien tried a very quick pass to tight end Andrew Quarless in the flat left. The problem was that DE Jason Pierre-Paul was there, raised his hands, snagged the ball cleanly and went in untouched for a 24-yard pick-6. The defense had just gotten a big stop before that -- a rare one on the day -- to snatch some momentum from the Giants. This gave it right back, and was obviously too big of a hole for the team to crawl out of.

This interception was Tolzien's second of three on the day. Still, he completed 24 of 34 passes for 339 yards. In his first two appearances for the Packers, he has racked up more passing yards than either Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers in their first two games seeing significant action for the Packers. But he also has 5 interceptions in those two games. That can't continue, especially, with a defense that seems to have flipped the off-switch over the last few games.

But the Packers don't have many options at the moment; Matt Flynn just rejoined the team late last week. Once again, Tolzien has been named the starter for the coming game against the ViQueens at Lambeau Field. That is a game the Packers need to have, must have, if they are to keep any semblance of their playoff hopes alive. Believe it or not, at 5-5, and with a three-game losing streak in tow, they are still only one game back from both Da Bearz and Lions against whom they still have one game each remaining.

If you want to read a very good article about Tolzien, by the way, we highly recommend this one by Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Survey says: defense lost the game
According to at least one reader survey (the assumption is that most are Packer fans), 74% of those voting blamed the Packers defense -- not Scott Tolzien -- for the loss. Apart from the best game of the year from CB Tramon Williams, including a rare interception, the rest of the defense was missing in action. On a day when nearly everyone, including yours truly in our own game preview and prediction, said that the defense was going to have play at the top of its game in order for the Packers to have a serious chance of winning this game, they were essentially a no-show. This appears to be a trend over the last three games, and it is a disturbing one at that.

Granted, head coach Mike McCarthy's vanilla play-calling for most of the game -- noted by many via Twitter during the game as run-run-pass-punt -- has to bear some of the responsibility, as well. The offensive line had its own issues, not opening up any running room for RB Eddie Lacy. Tackle Marshall Newhouse, starting for the injured Don Barclay, was beaten like a rented mule on more than one occasion. Rookie David Bakhtiari had his hands full with Jason Pierre-Paul most of the day.

Mason Crosby nails a 57-yard field goal
(Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Special teams didn't do much either on the day, other than a booming 57-yard field goal by K Mason Crosby to close the first half and make the score 10-6. It was Crosby's longest outdoor field goal (he hit a 58-yarder indoors in 2011 in the Humpty Dump in Minnesota) and is the longest field goal ever kicked against the Giants. So the Pack at least had that going for them.

But the defense did little to get pressure on Giants QB Eli Manning and, again, tackles were generally missed (unless Williams was making them) and receivers were wide open especially over the middle. This sounds like a broken record because it is: this has been the operating scenario for the last several weeks. And if it continues -- particularly this week against Minnesota at home -- the Packers' playoff hopes will be pretty much done; the Pack would likely have to then win out -- with or without Aaron Rodgers -- in order to stay in the mix. The chances narrow considerably.

Where do the Packers go from here?
That is the question of the day, the week, the month, the season. If the Pack doesn't get this ship turned around fast...well, you know the rest.

You can read the excellent analysis of Packers uber-beat writer, Bob McGinn, here. It's definitely worth your time for the many insights you'll get.

Stay tuned for developments during the week, Packer fans. It's gotten interesting. Far more interesting than we would have hoped for.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Week 11: Packers vs. Giants Preview and Prediction

Well, this is certainly a fine mess. The Green Bay Packers are sitting at 5-4, looking up at the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears in the NFC North, and with a two-game losing streak at work. Yowza. Today, the Pack travels east to meet the New York Giants, who are on a three-game winning streak after starting the season 0-6.

The Packers' skid is certainly due to the plethora of injuries finally catching up with them, particularly the injury two weeks ago to QB Aaron Rodgers. The Pack started a total of three different quarterbacks over the past 20 years; now, in the last three games, they have had to start three different quarterbacks. Today, it's former University of Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien. Tolzien acquitted himself quite well in last week's loss to the Eagles, completing 24 passes in 39 attempts for 280 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Especially considering he'd only been promoted from the practice squad earlier that week and was forced to come into the game after the first series when Seneca Wallace was forced out with a hamstring injury. With virtually no game preparation, he led the team up and down the field very effectively.

Packers QB Scott Tolzien
(Photo: Jeff Hanisch, USA TODAY Sports)

Followers of the University of Wisconsin football team when Tolzien was the quarterback there a few years ago know that he may not be flashy, but he is an extremely capable and smart quarterback who has a stronger arm than folks generally give him credit for. Tolzien won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award in 2010, given to the nation's top senior quarterback. He led the nation that season in completion percentage (74.3) and ranked fourth nationally in quarterback rating (169.8). Tolzien holds UW team records for career completion percentage (68.5) and career pass efficiency (154.4). John C. Unitas, Jr., president of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation, said in a statement about Tolzien at the time of the award: "Scott Tolzien personifies everything that my father stood for. He is not simply an outstanding quarterback, but an outstanding individual who is a leader both on and off the field, tirelessly devoting himself to his team, to his community, and to being a mentor for others."

So, should Packer fans be nervous today? It's Tolzien's first NFL start, after all. The answer is a clear "No." As a headline in today's USA Today said, "Packers 'still dangerous' even with Scott Tolzien under center". Indeed. Read that one for yourself here if you care to.

Defense is the key
Tolzien and the offense will be able to keep the Packers in the game with a chance to win. That's not going to be the problem today. The big question is really the Packers' defense, which has failed to perform well in each of the team's last two losses, fading especially late in the game. The defense has to perform the way it is capable of doing, the way they were performing when the Pack went on its own three-game winning streak.

LB Clay Matthews will be playing, it is anticipated, without the club he wore to protect his surgically-repaired thumb last week. That really took away from his productivity. Whether the new set up will allow him to use his hands the way he is accustomed to remains to be seen. Also, whether Packers defenders, particularly in the secondary, can cover Giants' receivers and don't give up the big play over the top the way they have recently -- and tackle! -- is another question today. If the defense could generate a couple turnovers today -- something they have not been able to do well this season -- that would also go a long way to helping the Pack to victory.

Bottom line: the defense needs to take charge today. Giants QB Eli Manning is prone to throwing interceptions when pressured, as was the case when they were off to their 0-6 start. If there is no pressure, it could be a long day in the Packers secondary.

Most pundits are picking the Giants to beat the Packers today. The oddsmakers favor the Giants by 3.5 points, with an over-under total of 41.5 points.

This is one that my head tells me the Giants will win. They are on a hot streak, they have three good receivers and a very good quarterback when he's not under pressure. And they have a defense licking their chops to get a go at a young quarterback getting his first NFL start…on the road.

But the Packers need this game right now. The offense -- the team! -- needs to show that it can win without Aaron Rodgers…he doesn't play defense, after all. And that will likely be the make-or-break of the game today: the Packers defense. If they play like they did earlier in the season, the Packers can win this game; if they play like they have the last two weeks, the Packers will lose.

This is a tough one to call, Packer fans. I did my part today: I put on Packers gear I haven't worn yet this season…gotta get some good mojo going today. You do your part. And then let's pray the Packers do their part.

I'm calling this 20-17 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Packers drop game to Eagles, 27-13

For the first time since Aaron Rodgers became the Green Bay Packers starting quarterback in 2008, the Pack lost two games in a row at Lambeau Field. And, as we know, Rodgers had nothing to do with either of the losses. Knocked out with a fractured collarbone on the first series of last Monday night's game against the Chicago Bears, Rodgers was on the sidelines today. In his place, veteran backup Seneca Wallace got the start. The entire week of practice was devoted to implementing an offensive scheme that would play to Wallace's strengths. Practice squad quarterback and former Wisconsin Badger, Scott Tolzien, was elevated to the backup slot.

So much for that idea.

Scott Tolzien photo by Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports
For the second game in a row, the Packers starting quarterback was lost for the game. In today's game against the Eagles, Wallace was lost on a third down play -- on the first offensive series -- with a groin injury. Enter Tolzien.

To his credit, Tolzien didn't look flustered. He actually looked in good command for having little to no reps with the first unit during the week. He finished the day 24 for 39, with 280 yards passing, with one touchdown (an NFL first for both him and TE Brandon Bostick) and two interceptions, including a costly one in the endzone and another tipped. Whatever Wallace's status physically, it was announced on air after the game that Tolzien has been named the starter for next week's game against the Giants. (Let's hope he doesn't get injured during the week of practice...which the way the Packers' luck is going is a distinct possibility.) Tolzien had a good arm, some good throws, and it will be interesting to see what he can do with a week's practice with the number one unit under his belt.

What will that first-string offensive unit look like?
There is a question at this point as to what the offensive line will look like this next week. That's because the Packers' season-long injury parade kept on coming again today. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith went out with a knee injury, moving right guard T.J. Lang to center, Don Barclay from tackle to guard, with Marshall Newhouse entering then at tackle. By the end of the game, Barclay was also injured. So who knows who will be starting in front of Tolzien next weekend.

More injuries
Think the injuries to Wallace, Dietrich-Smith and Barclay was enough? Naaaaah. Toss in injuries to Nick Perry, Casey Hayward and Johnny Jolly to the mix. It just keeps coming, folks. Even LG Josh Sitton was quoted as saying that he's starting to wonder if there just isn't something in the water with all the injuries in Green Bay. As bad as 2010 was with injuries, this season might actually be worse. At least in 2010 the Packers still had their starting QB throughout the season.

Everything needed to go right; nothing did
In a game where everything had to go right for the Packers to win, nothing did. The bad omen came early, on a missed 53-yard field goal -- one of two misses on the day -- by Mason Crosby, which clanked off the right upright. Missed interceptions, a fumble recovery deep in Eagles territory that turned into zero points, not much went right on this day.

Defense fails again
For the second game in a row, the Packers defense -- after holding tight for most of the first half -- did very little to help the effort in the second half. There wasn't much of a pass rush again. The secondary left receivers wide open. It was uninspired. And for yet another game, the defense didn't really generate any turnovers of significance. Yes, there was that late fumble recovery on a sack of QB Nick Foles, in the Eagles red zone, but the offense was unable to turn that into points.

Where do we go from here, Packers fans? One could say that if you are a person of faith go to church, synagogue, temple, mosque, whatever. It seems as if Divine intervention is needed at this point, or at least until Aaron Rodgers returns.

Other than that...grab the dramamine because it looks as if it's going to be a bumpy ride for at least several weeks if not the remainder of the season.

Week 10: Packers vs. Eagles Preview and Prediction

This is a game which looked ripe for the picking a week ago: the Green Bay Packers playing the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field. The Pack, so we thought, would be coming off a big Monday night win against Da Bearz, having secured their lead at the top of the NFC North. This would begin a stretch of games for the Packers where the team could separate itself from the rest of the division.

Funny thing...that Monday night game...well, arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, namely one Aaron Rodgers, got hurt in the first quarter of the game. Not only lost for the game but for likely the next four to six weeks. Ouch! In more ways than one.

After 21 years of consecutive starts by Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers (with two tossed in via Matt Flynn), the law of averages finally caught up with the Packers. For the first time in nearly a generation, Packer fans, we know what it feels like to be pretty much like most other teams in the league. It's not a good feeling, is it?

So, today and for the next month probably at least, we will see an offense lead by veteran backup QB Seneca Wallace and now number 2 QB Scott Tolzien.

Is there any chance for a win in today's game? The oddsmakers don't seem to think so, designating the Packers as now 1-point underdogs at the time of this posting. But for a glimmer of hope, be sure to read this tremendously insightful article by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Whether the Packers are able to step up their game in the absence of Rodgers will be the question of the day. McGinn cites examples showing what's possible. But realism also dictates that we have to acknowledge it's going to be a much different game than what we are used to seeing. Expect a big dose of Eddie Lacy on offense, perhaps with more balance by additional carries by James Starks. There will likely be more roll-outs to get Wallace outside the pocket where he could also use his legs, which could be more valuable today than his arm. There won't be a lot of downfield passing. Expect shorter routes.

Defense and special teams will need to account for some scoring today, and not just by way of field goals. The Packers have been woeful at takeaways this season. If they hope to win this and some of the upcoming games without Rodgers, the defense will have to generate turnovers and set the offense up to score short-drive touchdowns...or score them on their own. The return teams will have to also perform well. As McGinn points out, for the Packers to have a good chance to win short drives rather than field-long drives are the order of the day.

What, then, do we make of this game? If ever there was a crapshoot game, this is it. We have no idea what Seneca Wallace can bring to the table after a week working with the number one unit, nor how the players around him will raise their games. We also have no clue as to how head coach Mike McCarthy will scheme the offense to take advantage of whatever it is that Wallace can bring to the field as his unique abilities. We have no idea as to how the defense will stop a red-hot quarterback in the form of Nick Foles; if they give him the time they gave Josh McCown Monday evening it could be a long and disappointing afternoon for the Packers.

With Rodgers, this is a game the Packers win. Without Rodgers...? This game will give us an early insight into whether this team can hang in the division race long enough to see Rodgers' return make a difference going down a playoff stretch run, or whether the season will be an ultimate, injury-riddled disappointment.

The Eagles are 4-1 on the road this season, 0-4 at home; might have been better odds had the Pack been playing in Philly today.

Naturally, the green 'n' gold-colored glasses are still on. We're calling this 23-20 Packers. We are probably in small company today as it seems many are picking the Eagles. So it goes. The Packers -- despite the MASH unit of injuries -- is still the more talented team overall. But whether they can execute and form a new identity apart from Rodgers for the time being is the big question.

It's not going to be pretty. But the team needs the "W" for many reasons today. After Monday evening's disappointment -- and flat defensive performance -- expect something better today. It should be just enough, especially with the probable return of LB Clay Matthews to the lineup. Even with one hand in a cast, he's better than most with full use of both hands.

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Packers lose more than game to Bears

While Monday night's loss to the Chicago Bears left the Green Bay Packers still tied for first place in the NFC North, that was about the only good thing that could be said for the game. That and Eddie Lacy's continued ascendency as a great rookie running back.

For far worse than the 27-20 loss to Da Bearz was the first quarter loss of franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a shoulder injury. It was a very odd sight indeed to see Rodgers on the sideline, out of uniform.

Veteran backup Seneca Wallace was thrown into the fray and, obviously, the game plan and game changed considerably from an offensive standpoint. Even against a backup QB leading Chicago, the Pack somehow couldn't find enough offense to matter. Worse, the defense didn't hold up their side of the bargain on this night, getting no pressure on Josh McCown, unable to cover Chicago's large receivers, and missing tackles that should have been made. Despite two great special teams plays -- a blocked punt and a surprise recovered onside kick -- this was a night where the Packers just couldn't make up for the loss of Rodgers, let alone all the other starters who were still sidelined. Oh, we should also note that staring right guard T.J. Lang sustained a concussion during the game, requiring a shifting of the lineup, as well. Backup linebacker Sam Barrington was also hurt during the game.

To say it was not a good night for the Packers is an understatement.

What about Rodgers?
The status of Rodgers' injury was unclear last night but became a bit more understandable today. Rodgers himself stated on his weekly radio program this afternoon that he had sustained a fractured collarbone, "a significant injury" as he put it. While the nature of the injury was known, Rodgers said no timeline was in place for his return. He said he'd work to be back as quickly as he could, but more tests and time would be needed to get a better picture of things.

In his press conference this afternoon, head coach Mike McCarthy indicated that he felt a bit better today after talking to the medical staff about Rodgers' prognosis. He intimated that, from his point of view, the availability of Rodgers would likely be on a week-by-week basis. If you want to read between the lines, perhaps Rodgers and the Packers dodged a bullet: instead of being lost for most or the rest of season, it's possible Rodgers might be able to return in time for the Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit. Maybe even before. That would be great, getting him back to go down the stretch. That should also be the time when the Packers will have Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb back, as well.

In the meantime, the Pack will have to get by with Wallace as the starter against the Eagles (in Green Bay), the Giants (in New York/New Jersey/wherever the heck they play), and the ViQueens (in Green Bay). These are not currently powerhouses of the NFL, but as things stand at the moment, one questions whether the Packers are, either. If the Packers can win at least one of these games, and get Rodgers back for the game against the Lions, the team will still be in the hunt going down the stretch run of the season. Backing up Wallace, at least for the time being, is former University of Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien who was just promoted today from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.

Other roster moves
Whether by circumstance or coincidence, the Packers made a few other roster moves today in addition to those already noted. TE Jermichael Finley was formally placed on the injured reserve list effectively ending his season. OT Derek Sherrod was removed from the PUP list and added to the 53-man roster.

Where do the Packers go from here?
That's the question Packer fans and sports pundits alike began to ask last evening and all through the day today. Some are of the opinion the Packers are done, the season is over. Others believe the Packers can stay within spitting distance of the NFC North lead during Rodgers' absence, and make a full stretch run upon his return. Honestly, though, no one knows.

Clearly, a now pertinent discussion has also begun on the weak spot in GM Ted Thompson's approach to roster-building this season: the backup quarterback spot. Granted, over the last 20 years or so, it hasn't been an issue in Green Bay. Now, it is. Whether Seneca Wallace can manage a game in such a way as to keep the Pack in games, or even win one or two, remains to be seen. But not having a solid backup in place going into training camp and the season itself was a gap that may haunt Thompson at the end of this season. Right now, I think Thompson and many Packer fans would have been very pleased to have someone like Josh McCown ready to step in when Rodgers went down.

Time will tell how all this shakes out.

All we know for sure is that the Packers will have to try to win a challenging game on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles without the best quarterback in football pulling the trigger.

Let us pray...

Monday, November 04, 2013

Week 9: Packers vs. Bears Preview and Prediction

The oldest rivalry in the NFL hits the field for the first time in the 2013 season tonight at Lambeau Field: the Green Bay Packers vs. the Chicago Bears. This will be the first Monday night game between the two teams since 1997 (or thereabouts).

There are many takes on this game.

There's a great article on the TMJ4 sports site, "Packers, Bears are franchises going in different directions." You know you are going to want to read that one. You can do so here.

There's of course the analysis, none better than by the radio Voice of the Packers, Wayne Larrivee; check that out here.

Of course, a look at how Aaron Rodgers is now "The new master of the Bears" by ESPN.com's Packers writer, Rob Demovsky, also shouldn't be missed. (By the way, did we mention that Rodgers is 8-2 during the regular season against Da Bears? The only losses came -- gulp -- on Monday night. But both of those losses were in Chicago...whew!)

Any surprises tonight? Packers WR James Jones is listed as questionable for tonight, but a report yesterday by ESPN's Adam Schefter said Jones would play. He may indeed, but we can probably expect a lot more of Jarret Boykin and Myles White than Jones, unless the game stays tight. Expect James Starks to get more carries tonight after looking good last week. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy indicated during the last few days he wanted to cut back on Eddie Lacy's carries a bit. The two running backs can make a very good one-two bunch. Look for that this evening.

Anyway, we're running out of time to get this posted so will cut to the chase.

The Packers are favored by 10 points. The over-under, according to some sources, is 51 points. Time to call it...

We're calling it 34-20 Packers. Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Packers stomp Vikings, 44-31

It was, quite simply, a beat down of the woeful Minnesota Vikings by the ascending Green Bay Packers. It was a game of domination by the Packers on both sides of the ball. But don't just take my word for it. Look at the facts:
  • Fact: the Packers possessed the ball for more than 40 minutes of the game.
  • Fact: the Packers scored on every possession with the exception of the last, when QB Aaron Rodgers took a knee a few times in victory formation to run out the clock.
  • Fact: Aaron Rodgers can make even practice squad receivers look good.
  • Fact: Running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks provide a powerful and explosive one-two punch of a rushing attack.
  • Fact: LT David Bakhtiari made ViQueen DE Jared Allen a non-factor all evening; Allen is nowhere to be seen in the defensive stats -- no tackles, no sacks, no pressures...nada.
  • Fact: The Packers defense held last year's league MVP, 'Queens RB Adrian Peterson, to just 60 yards on 13 carries, roughly half his typical career average against the Pack.
  • Fact: Cornerback and returner Micah Hyde makes himself more valuable to this team every game; in this game he had a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown.
  • Fact: The Packers defense, despite so many injuries, is pretty darn good (although they tend to let up on the peddle late in the game and give up garbage points).
  • Fact: Jordy Nelson has to be the most underrated wide receiver in the NFL.
  • Fact: 'Queens WR Greg Jennings -- after an offseason full of trash-talking about his former team, teammates and QB -- had one reception for nine yards.
  • Fact: Greg Jennings is starting to realize that you're only a "receiver" if you have someone who can actually throw you the ball...you know...like a quarterback. We can assume Jennings' post-game suck-up to Rodgers was very much a serving of humble pie for Mr. Jennings.
  • Fact: There is a textual error in the Rodgers image above...do you see it? (Extra reward points if you do!)
We could go on and on and on. But anyone who watched or listened to the game already knows what went down. That would be the ViQueens...big time.

Da Bearz are coming to Lambeau

Next up for the Packers Monday evening: Da Bearz. Who, while not in as bad a world of hurt as the 'Queens are at present, still are...not good. QB Jay Cutler is out, LB Lance Briggs is out...they have problems. Still, it's certainly no walk-over for the Pack. But if the Packers play the way they did last night, they can stay with any team, and put most away. We'll have more on the Packers vs. Da Bearz later in the week and as game time approaches.

Until then...just really savor this delicious win, Packer fans. And...Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Week 8: Packers vs. Vikings Preview

Tonight's game between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings will be the first meeting between the two teams this season and the last ever in the stadium generally referred to as the Humpty Dump. While the site of some epic battles between these two NFC North Division opponents over the years, players and fans alike will be glad to get into new surroundings next season.

But that's a side story to tonight's primetime game, obviously one of those scheduling decisions which didn't work out perhaps as well as imagined at the time it was set. The Packers, after all, are coming into the game atop the division at 4-2 riding a three-game winning streak despite a plethora of injuries, while the ViQueens are bringing up the bottom at 1-5 with a two-game losing streak and a mess at quarterback.

In our early-week glance at this game, we stated: "Packers and ViQueens is always a tough game, particularly when played in Minnesota. Even with the depleted roster the Packers are playing with right now, they should still win the game against this group of ViQueens. Especially if the 'Queens make the decision to start Freeman at quarterback once again."

Well, despite playing the entire game versus the Giants in a losing -- and inept -- effort Monday night, newly-acquired QB Josh Freeman will not play tonight. The decision was made earlier in the week. It was announced, to the surprise of many, that Freeman had actually sustained a concussion during the Giants game and would not be cleared to play against the Packers. Hmmm. How convenient. The announcement was met with some skepticism by pundits around the country. How was it that Freeman was not identified as being concussed during the Giants game? Some even asserted that Freeman or, more likely, the 'Queens, was faking the injury so Freeman wouldn't be fed to the Packers this weekend. We will make no such assertions here, but rather we leave it to you, dear readers, to come to your own conclusions.

So instead of a clearly not-ready-for-primetime Josh Freeman at quarterback, the Packers will instead see Christian Ponder. Ponder, as some have described him, is a capable quarterback. Not great, but if given protection and time, can execute a game plan and keep the 'Queens in the game. Especially with lots of handoffs to RB Adrian Peterson.

Let's not forget Greg Jennings
One of the best Packers receivers over the past seven years had been Greg Jennings. He was the epitome of class. Until he turned down more money to stay with the Packers and instead went to where many Packers' castoffs go, Minnesota. Then he began bad-rapping the Packers, Aaron Rodgers, you name it. Turns out he might have been a bit bitter. Now, when he has to line up against his old teammates, he claims all that mouthing off was just kidding around. Let's just hope Tramon Williams and the other D-backs hold Jennings to as few catches and yards as possible tonight. It will be a reminder to him that you're only as good a receiver as the guy throwing you the ball. Aaron Rodgers? Or Ponder, Freeman, Cassell...how's that all working out for you, Greg???

What's it going to be?
The 'Queens secondary is woeful, meaning Packers QB Aaron Rodgers should have a big day despite the loss of some of his best receivers. Throw in a now solid running game and it will be enough to give Minnesota fits all day. That's not to say that Minnesota DEs Jared Allen and Brian Robison won't cause some problems, especially with Allen going against Packers rookie LT David Bakhtiari. Still, Bakhtiari has held up well in each game against other good talent and we would expect him to do so tonight, as well.

Minnesota's offensive hopes rest on the legs of league MVP Adrian Peterson. The Packers can't give him any room to run, and they can't arm tackle. Peterson will get his yards, it's expected. But as long as there are no major game-long breakdowns in the Packers defense, Peterson won't be enough to overcome the ViQueens many other woes.

The Packers are favored by anywhere from 7-1/2 to 8-1/2 points depending upon who you are looking at for your line, with an over-under 47-1/2.

We're calling this game 31-20 in favor of the Packers.

It will be a battle, as these divisional games always are regardless of records, and it may even be close for a good portion of the game. But the Packers will separate and maintain the lead until the final seconds tick away, maintaining their lock atop the NFC North.

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Packers down Browns, Vikings next up to go down

This is very late breaking news: the Green Bay Packers beat the Cleveland Browns Sunday, 31-13. In doing so, the Packers now sit atop the NFC North at 4-2, 1-0 in the division; Da Bearz, the ViQueens and the Lions all lost. Order has been restored to the universe.

It was throwback weekend for the Pack, so they were in their blue and tan uniforms (now with a non-logo gold helmet courtesy of NFL rules), a recreation of the 1929 uniform worn by the Packers' first NFL championship team. With Sunday's win, the Pack is now 3-0 in these uniforms. Go, Acme Packers, Go!

The game itself was nothing flashy. The Packers were just generally efficient -- and better -- against a not-so-good Browns team piloted by a not-so-good quarterback. Although, to be fair, Browns QB Brandon Weeden did get into a rhythm as the game progressed. It's just that it didn't matter. Despite the plethora of injuries which has decimated the Packers again this season, the Pack just has more depth where it matters. And they also have QB Aaron Rodgers at the helm. That's big. So, too, is rookie RB Eddie Lacy who has become an integral and important part of this offense and has helped the offense overcome the loss of key receivers. (More on that in a minute.)

Defensively, the Packers -- playing rookies at the outside linebacker positions because of injuries to both starters and immediate backups -- held tight. The defense is playing aggressive football. Young players are sometimes making mistakes, but are also coming up with big plays. LB Jamari Lattimore, now seeing extended action, seemed fast, decisive and hard hitting. A.J. Hawk is continuing to perform at a level that seems to make this his best season yet. Micah Hyde is playing with a maturity that belies his rookie status. Davon House had perhaps his best game of the season in coverage. The defensive line, as a whole, is really making the opponents' running games a non-factor so far. It really is an all-around great team effort. With star performers on the sidelines, that's what it will take this season.

Jermichael Finley the latest addition to injury list
(Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

While the Packers and fans alike celebrated the win, all thoughts turned to TE Jermichael Finley who left the field on a stretcher and spent Sunday evening and Monday in the intensive care unit of a Green Bay hospital with an unspecified neck injury. In his press conference yesterday, head coach Mike McCarthy used the word "significant" in describing the injury and stated that it would take some time to accurately assess the injury and, by implication, Finley's future not just for this season but for his career. Word has only come out today that the initial prognosis is that Finley has a bruised spinal cord. He was up and around yesterday in the hospital. But it will apparently take additional medical tests and opinions before both Finley and the team are able to determine what role, if any, Finley may have going forward.

That's secondary, of course, to his overall personal health and well-being. Finley sustained a concussion in week 3 of this season, at which time his three-year-old asked him to stop playing football. No doubt the youngster's request will be made again. And this time, it may carry a lot more weight given the severity of the injury. If you want to read an overview of Finley's situation and its impact on both him and the Packers, check out this great article by Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

A quick look ahead to the Vikes
We'll do a more in-depth preview of the upcoming game between the Packers and the ViQueens later this week. For now, it's enough to know that the Josh Freeman era at quarterback has apparently started in Minnesota. He played versus the Giants in New York last night and the results were not good. Vikes lost their fifth game of the season and Freeman was done no favors by his head coach who put him in a position to fail rather than succeed. While the final score was 23-7 (against a currently not-great Giants team), Minnesota's offense failed to score a single point; the TD came on a punt return in the first quarter.

ESPN commentator and quarterback camp guru, Jon Gruden, couldn't fathom why head coach Leslie Frazier didn't make the switch to QB Christian Ponder in the second half of the game. Freeman looked totally out of his comfort zone if not element entirely. If you care to read a great synopsis of the game by Gregg Rosenthal at NFL.com, go here. For game reactions via the Twittersphere, check this out.

Packers and ViQueens is always a tough game, particularly when played in Minnesota. Even with the depleted roster the Packers are playing with right now, they should still win the game against this group of ViQueens. Especially if the 'Queens make the decision to start Freeman at quarterback once again.

More later in the week.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Week 7: Packers vs. Browns Preview

This week has been a pretty uneventful one for the Green Bay Packers. No...wait...other way around, sorry: it's been a very eventful week for the Pack. It could cause more than a few Packer fans to get...nervous.
After all, the Packers lost two of their starting receivers in the win against the Ravens, James Jones and Randall Cobb, for varying amounts of time. It was hoped that Jones might be able to play this weekend but he did not practice during the week and is listed as questionable for the game. Randall Cobb, well, he's out longer. A lot longer. He was placed on the injured reserve list with a "designated to return" classification. He won't be back till mid-December at the earliest. (Be positive: it will be for the stretch run!)

So the receiving corps -- one of the best in the league at the start of the season -- was down to basically Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin. As a result, the Packers promoted practice squad WR Myles White to the active roster earlier in the week. They also claimed 49ers wide receiver Chris Harper off of waivers a day ago, so don't expect to see him this week. But GM Ted Thompson wasn't done yet. He also promoted TE Jake Stoneburner from the practice squad. With TE Ryan Taylor out, Brandon Bostick will also be getting some playing time. QB Aaron Rodgers will have plenty of targets to throw to. The key will be how many of them are able to make catches and make plays.

Thankfully, the Packers have a running game this season. With Eddie Lacy as the main man, and Johnathan Franklin available (James Starks is out), and the with offensive line playing like they actually like to run the ball, a balanced offensive attack is just what the doctor ordered for this game against the Browns.

Let's not forget the Packers defense, which has been equally hit by injuries. With four of the team's top linebackers now out for varying periods of time -- Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, Nick Perry and Mike Neal -- and veteran backup Robert Francois done for the season, young players are going to have to step up. Rookies Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer will be called upon to fill the gap -- literally. We can only hope that A.J. Hawk continues his outstanding play because he is going to be needed more than ever.

What else? Well, with Randall Cobb now out of the picture rookie CB Micah Hyde will take over the punt return duties.

If you seem to be picking up a youth theme among these changes you are correct. As the article by Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes, the Packers' "53-man roster now has 14 rookies, including six who were not drafted. At a minimum, the Packers will have seven rookies on their 46-man game-day roster against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at Lambeau Field."

Game Prediction
The Packers are 3-2 and the Browns are 3-3. The Packers are favored by 10 points at the time of this post. The Packers pass production could be down because of the loss of Jones and Cobb...those are guys that are difficult to replace in production. Expect coach Mike McCarthy to use Jermichael Finley as a third wideout in some sets. But if Lacy can have a 100-yard day -- and there is no reason to think he won't -- that will take pressure off the passing game.

Note that we haven't said much here about the Browns. It's not that they don't pose a threat because, given the Pack's beat-up status, they do. It's just that if they do what they need to do -- especially on the defensive side of things -- the Pack will come out on top. If memory serves, the Browns haven't yet surpassed 17 points in any of their three losses. If the Pack can hold them to 17, the Pack will win.

So, let's make the call: Packers 27 - Browns 17.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Packers outlast Ravens 19-17

It wasn't pretty, that's for sure. But the Green Bay Packers had just enough to beat the Ravens in Baltimore today. It was the first win for the Pack in Baltimore since MacArthur Lane was the running back and, coincidentally, the first time they had a 100-yard rusher in a game versus a Baltimore team since Jim Taylor against the Colts in 1963.

Those historical markers aside, the game was memorable on a few other counts...as well as forgettable on still others.

The nod to the memorable part of the game has to go to the defense which, for most of the game, held the Ravens in check with smash-mouth play. LB A.J. Hawk was a man possessed, seemingly everywhere on the field, responsible for three sacks on Ravens QB Joe Flacco. The defensive front on two separate occasions stopped Baltimore deep in the red zone, once with 1st and goal from about the 2-yard line. On the offensive side of things, Aaron Rodgers threw for more than 300 yards and Eddie Lacy rushed for his first 100-yard game as a professional.

(Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun, October 13, 2013)

One of the forgettable parts was the almost similar 4th quarter collapse (but not this time) as occurred against the Bengals, including a 63-yard pass completion on 4th-and-21 which brought the Ravens to within 2 points of the Packers late in the game. John Kuhn touching and muffing a blocked punt, which instead of giving the Packers the ball deep in Ravens' territory gave the Birds a first down, was another forgettable play.

Perhaps the most forgettable, however, were the injuries. Actually, we probably won't be able to forget these injures anytime soon. First, WR James Jones went down with a knee injury. He was out of uniform and walking stiffly on the sideline in the second half. Then, WR Randall Cobb went down after being hit low on the right knee after making a catch. He was taken to the locker room on a cart and was on crutches on the Packers sideline late in the game. In his post-game interview, head coach Mike McCarthy said he didn't know the severity of the injuries yet but should know more tomorrow.

So the Packers were down to two wide receivers for the second half of the game: Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin.

The Packers now have a couple of starting linebackers sidelined and a couple starting receivers, as well. The injury bug has hit the Pack big early this season. And with the bye week already behind them, there's no time to "get healthy." GM Ted Thompson will have to figure out what to do to bolster the roster. Some pundits are already saying the Packers might have to become a serious contender in the trade market because of today's hits to the receiving corps.

It's not going to be easy. But the Packers have perhaps gone through the gauntlet of the toughest part of their schedule. Sure, there are 11 games left, no more byes and and it's all tough. But the Pack has already played three championship-caliber teams in their first five games and have come out with a 3-2 record. They have -- or had -- the talent to make a deep playoff run. In their last Super Bowl season, they also were plagued with injuries and found a way to win it all. Will that be possible this season? It remains to be seen.

All we can say right now is ... Go Pack Go!!!

Week 6: Packers vs. Ravens Preview

For the third time in the first five games of the 2013 NFL season the Green Bay Packers will play a championship-caliber team on the road. The team? The Baltimore Ravens, winners of the last Super Bowl. Who did they beat? The San Francisco 49ers, coincidentally the first of the teams the Packers faced on the road this season. And, coincidentally, the first of the two teams the Packers have lost to on the road this season.

Granted, the Ravens now aren't the Ravens they were then. (You follow that, right?) Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Anquan Boldin are all gone from the squad. They are 3-2 overall, tied atop the AFC North with the Browns and Bengals after what generally is called a big win for them over Miami.

On offense the Ravens have, depending upon one's point of view, either an elite or a very good quarterback in Joe Flacco. Baltimore ponied up elite money for him after the Super Bowl win. The number of quality receivers he has to throw to this season, however, is not the same as last season. WR Torrey Smith is the go-to man this season. He has speed, size and can run great routes. The Ravens also have a good runner in Ray Rice, although his stats are down this season from what they have been in prior years. Still, he showed more of his old self in the win over the Fins last week. The Packers run and pass defense will have to be at least as good as it's been in its two wins in order for the Pack to notch the team's third victory of the season...and its first on the road.

(Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

It's not going to be easy for the Packers defense today with the loss of two starting linebackers, Clay Matthews and Brad Jones. Mike Neal -- who had arguably his best game as a Packer against the Lions -- and Nick Perry are both going to have to really step up today in replacing the two starters. If another injury hits the Packers' linebacking corps, they are down to very inexperienced players as backups; keep your fingers crossed that the injury bug stays away today, Packer fans.

The Packers offensive line and skill positions will also have to be on their "A" games. That means attitude...as in big attitude. The Ravens still have one of the better defenses around despite it's personnel losses. OLB Terrell Suggs has recovered fully from a torn Achilles suffered 18 months ago. He's good. Very good. On the other side, OLB Elvis Dumervil brings speed. They can cause problems for both the rushing and passing games if allowed to get their games going.

Aaron Rodgers will need to be his usual sharp self. He got his mojo back after a down game in Cincinnati. The Packers receivers should be able to take advantage of an average secondary if the O-line gives Rodgers time to make his reads. That should be aided by the ongoing success of the Packers rejuvenated running game. That's going to do just enough to keep the Ravens from bringing an all-out pass rush every play.

The Prediction
The Packers haven't won on the road yet this season and the Ravens haven't lost at home yet this season. Streaks will continue or not. I'm going with the "not" group.

The Packers are favored by 3 points. The over-under is set at 49 points.

I'm calling this one 27-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

If you want the final video thoughts from Packers.com on this game, just click here.