Saturday, December 27, 2014

NFL Week 17: Packers vs. Lions Preview and Predictiion

First, Packer fans, apologies for not posting a post-game review of last week's win in Tampa; holiday commitments during this last week left no time...that's my story and I'm sticking to it. But for purpose of closure on that game...the Packers won. Now, let's move on.

This weekend's game sees the Detroit Lions coming to Lambeau Field to battle the Green Bay Packes for the NFC North Division Championship. Sunday is winner take all. Well, sort of. Regardless of the game results, both teams are in the playoffs. It's now just a matter of how good it will get in that regard for the winner of the game and how bad it will get for the loser. It's about winning it to secure a higher seed in the playoffs, including a possible first-round bye and perhaps -- if things fall a certain way -- even home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Packers made that latter option much more difficult for themselves with that loss in Buffalo. Win there and win out in the regular season...ah, to dream of things as they might have been.

As it is, the Packers will have their hands full against arguably (or not) the best Lions team to visit Lambeau in the last 20-some years. This Lions team has weapons on offense and defense; we won't enumerate them know who they are by now. The Lions have finally proven to themselves that they can come from behind to win. In fact, this season they've overcome second-half deficits five times before winning. They won't come apart if they get down.

On the Packers part, they have special teams issues that are a real concern, untimely penalties and missed tackles that hurt them on occasion. Well, so do most teams. It's football. But the Packers also have Aaron Rodgers, albeit likely a somewhat less mobile version than we have seen recently due to his calf injury from last week. The Pack has a battering ram running back in Eddie Lacey, an offensive line that is opening holes for the running backs and protecting Rodgers in the pocket, an ability that will be much needed against the Lions defensive line and pass rush schemes. The Pack's receivers are among the best in the league. The Packers defense -- so much criticized especially in the early part of the season -- has come around pretty well: it hasn't given up a touchdown in the last two games (remember that the only TD given up in the Buffalo game was on a kickoff return).

The Prediction
We could spend a lot of time here reviewing all sorts of stats to see which team may come out on top. Here's just one: the Pack is currently favored by 7-1/2 points at the time of this writing. The Packers will have to play a nearly flawless game to cover that kind of spread; they haven't played a flawless game in at least a month or more, leading some pundits to suggest that the team has peaked early. I don't think so. I think they just need to assert themselves once again as the best team in the NFC. They have the talent. The question is whether or not they will put it all together at the same time.

I'm not sure I can answer that last question. We'll just have to wait to see how things unfold on Sunday. Many are looking at the first meeting between these two teams to suggest that the Lions defense will control the game at the line of scrimmage versus the Packers offense. A reminder to all who go that route that the line was missing Bryan Bulaga at right tackle and was just a work in progress overall, including a rookie center just starting to figure things out. The line is settled in and performing at high level, barring injury during the game.

Anyway, as for us at, we're calling it 27-24 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

NFL Week 16: Packers vs. Buccaneers Preview and Prediction

After last week's stumble in Buffalo, some Packers fans are a bit leery of another letdown in Tampa today. Let's just make this clear: the 10-4 Green Bay Packers will not lose to the 2-12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not. Going. To. Happen. Period.

Yes, we know: on any given day blah blah blah. Today, however, is not that day.

How do we know? For starters, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has never had two bad games back to back. And, yes, the Buffalo game was a bad one for Rodgers, admittedly. But his history is that he follows up a performance like that with a good one. So, we expect a good one.

Secondly, as this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out, "Rodgers is 8-2 for his career against Lovie-coached teams, and in his last six against Frazier, he's 5-1 with 18 touchdowns and one interception." The Lovie being referred to is, of course, formers Bears head coach Lovie Smith, now Tampa's head coach; Frazier is Leslie Frazier, formerly the ViQueens head coach and now the Buc's defensive coordinator. They have lots of experience in Chicago and Minnesota against the Pack...losing more often than not regardless of locale. Expect that trend to continue today, despite what will likely be a very good effort from a team that just doesn't have the talent that fills the Packers' roster.

As we know, the Packers have had trouble against some of the better defenses in the league; in fact, three of their four losses have come against Top 5 defenses. Good news, Packers fans! The Buccaneers' defense ranks 25th.

The Josh McCown-led Bucs offense ranks 30th in the league. They have capable running backs and a very good, big, strong rookie receiver in Mike Evans. So the Packers defense will have to show up, as they did big time in Buffalo (recall that it wasn't the defense that was at fault last week, holding the Bills to just 4 field goals).

With Washington's improbable win over the Eagles last evening, with a Packers win today the team will secure a spot in the playoffs, regardless of what the train-wreck Chicago Bears do or don't do in their game against Detroit today. We would expect the battle in Lambeau next week to be for the NFC North title.

But first, the Packers have to take care of business in Florida. They will. The Packers are favored by 12 points.

We're calling it 38-17 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

So long, Fuzzy
We can't let this week go by without remembering Packers Hall of Famer and Glory Years left guard, Fuzzy Thurston. He passed away recently, and a memorial service was held for him at Lambeau Field on Friday. I had the pleasure of meeting Fuzzy a few times briefly. He always had a smile, a handshake, and a sparkle in his eye. His life wasn't always easy. He had both business ups and downs and health problems over the years, including throat cancer which left him with a lasting rasp from surgical procedures. But none of that diminished his great spirit. You''ll see that spirit on full display in this video of Fuzzy singing. Fellow great, Jerry Kramer, is also in the video, posted by his daughter Alicia. Enjoy this great memory of the one and only Fuzzy Thurston. Thanks, Fuzzy. Rest in Peace.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Packers step in big Buffalo chip

This, Packers fans, was not how things were supposed to go today. All indications were that it would not be an easy game, certainly, given the Buffalo Bills defensive prowess. But all things being equal, the Green Bay Packers were surely the better team. Except on this day.

The Packers were mediocre, beginning with league MVP candidate, QB Aaron Rodgers. As he goes, so goes the Pack. He was off early and often. This was not one of his better games. Not just this season, ever. To be fair, his receivers didn't do him or the team many favors when they did get their hands on the ball. Drops were everywhere, including what could have been a 96-yard TD catch and run by WR Jordy Nelson in the second half, had he but held on to the ball.

Eddie Lacy had a good day. And the defense, for the most part, had a good day despite having a lot of missed tackles. Special teams, however, continued to have its problems, giving up a punt return for a TD and then having a long FG attempt by Mason Crosby blocked. That's essentially 10 points right there, the difference in a 21-13 game.

The Packers remain winless in Buffalo. Head coach Mike McCarthy remains tied with Vince Lombardi for career wins as the Packers' coach. And the Packers dealt themselves a serious blow to the prospects of not just a bye and homefield advantage in the playoffs but of first just winning the NFC North.

The game was ugly. If the Packers had to get a clunker out of their system before the end of the season and the playoffs this would be it. Still, this loss hurt. Depending upon how things actually fall, they could be a 12-4 team that doesn't even get a wild card, imagine that!

So, let's hope the Packers regroup this week and do some real soul-searching before the game in Tampa next week. That now becomes a must-win leading into the season finale at Lambeau against Detroit. Everyone thought that might be for the division championship, but now it might just be to secure a playoff spot. A lot to be determined yet today as Minnesota attempts to upset Detroit in Detroit and the 49ers attempt to do the same at Seattle. If one or both of those teams somehow get a win, it will be to the Packers benefit. As much as we may dislike having to root for the ViQueens or the Niners, today we can do so. Nay, must do so.

NFL Week 15: Packers vs. Bills Preview & Prediction

This week the team from the NFL's smallest city, Green Bay, travels to the NFL's second-smallest city, Buffalo. Yes, folks, in a rare meeting between these two teams and rarer still in Buffalo, arguably the league's highest flying offense matches up against arguably the league's best defense.

Here's how Vic Ketchman, editor, puts it in his game scouting report: "The Bills defense is No. 5 overall, No. 8 against the run and No. 5 against the pass. By comparison, the Packers’ opening night opponent, Seattle, is first, third and first, and Week 3 opponent, Detroit, is second, first and 10th. The Packers lost to those opponents and managed only 23 points combined. Even more impressive is the Bills’ No. 1 ranking in sacks and No. 2 ranking in third-down defense."

Now, the Bills offense has improved a bit since veteran Kyle Orton has taken over at quarterback. (For anyone counting, Orton has actually won one more game against the Packers than Jay Cutler...which still isn't saying much.) If given time, Orton is a reliable quarterback if given time. And he has a great receiver in rookie Sammy Watkins and a good running back in Fred Jackson. If the Packers defense continues its inconsistent performance, as witnessed this last week in the game vs. Atlanta, the game could go Buffalo's way. There needs to be pressure early and often on Orton. Plus, Packers defenders will need to at least be in the same zipcode as the receivers they are supposed to be covering.

This Bills team is good and can beat the Packers if the Packers allow their defense to take command. As Ketchman notes in his scouting report, the Pack hasn't always fared well when put up against great defenses. Now, one if not both of the games he's referencing admittedly were played when the Packers offensive line wasn't configured as it is now. Admittedly, this game will be won in the trenches: the Packers offensive line against the Bills defensive front. If the Packers linemen can keep Aaron Rodgers from being pressured and sacked, and can get some running room for the team's running backs, the Packers will win. And of course, if the Pack can get up big early -- assuming the defense doesn't decide to take the second half off ala vs. the Falcons -- the Pack will emerge 11-3. If, on the other hand, the Bills defenders take control at and through the line, it could be a long day for the Packers. Also figure that the Bills are playing for their playoff lives at 7-6.

Still, we shouldn't minimize the fact that the Packers are also playing for the NFC North Division title, a first-round bye, and home games during the playoffs.

The Prediction
With Packers RB Eddie Lacy probable for today's game after battling a hip injury all week, we should probably expect to see more of RB James Starks. It's a homecoming for Starks, having grown up in the Buffalo area and attended the University of Buffalo. We might expect that he'll want to be at his best today when given his opportunities, just as he did late in the game against the Falcons with the game on the line.

Packers RB James Starks with huge run against the Falcons.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The weather is not expected to be a factor: cloudy and 38 degrees. The Packers are favored by four points.

If the Packers defense plays up to its potential and does so for a full four quarters, that will negate anything the Bills offense might generate. If the Packers offensive line is able to handle the Bills formidable front, and the Packers don't have turnovers, I'll take Rodgers over Orton any day of the week. All of the Packers three losses this season have been road games. I expect this game, however, to be their fourth road win.

We're calling it 27-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Week 14: Packers vs. Falcons Preview and Prediction

As the last game of NFL Week 14, tonight's game between the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons should be a good one. At least by one team. Who could that be? Let's just say the name begins with Green Bay and ends in Packers, shall we?

Now, that's not to say the game is a gimme. Atlanta leads the NFC South. Admittedly, that's not saying much given the woeful state of that division. The Dirty Birds are only 5-7 and stand a chance of making the playoffs as a division winner with less than a .500 record. Oy.

So what does Atlanta bring to Lambeau Field this evening? A quarterback who's hot and cold, a great receiver in Julio Jones, a defense that has big pluggers up front and an overall takeaway count of 24 (third best in the league), an offensive line that will have Clay Matthews' young cousin at left tackle, and an old tormenter in the form of Devin Hester.

Other than As long as the Packers do what they do...and need to do.

If the Packers can get off to their usual quick start and, unlike last week's game against New England convert their red zone possessions into TDs instead of FGs, the game shouldn't be close. The Pack is favored by 13 points with an over-under total of 56 points. You can imagine how that total is skewed in the Packers' favor.

The weather for the game is at present forecast as 33 degrees and cloudy (but at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 will anyone really notice clouds?). Whether there is any snowfall, we'll have to wait to see.

So what's our call? We just think the Packers are on too much of a roll both offensively and defensively right now. It's almost to the point where we hope they aren't peaking too soon.

We're calling it 38-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

By the way, according to TipIQ as of a few days ago:
  • "At an average asking price of $112.67 per ticket, this Monday's game vs Atlanta is the Packers' cheapest regular game since began tracking the ticket market in late 2009.
  • This is by far the cheapest game of the season, with the next being November 16th vs Philly averaging $206.51. This is also 49.92% below the Packers season average of $224.97.
  • The cheapest ticket available is currently Section 212 Row 24 at $50 each. The most expensive ticket listed is Club Center Section 419 Row 11 at $614 each."

Brett Favre in his playing days.
Photo File/Gannett Wisconsin Media

Favre returns to Lambeau tonight...maybe
At the time of this writing, several media sources are reporting that former Packers (and Atlanta, lest we forget) quarterback Brett Favre is on his way to Green Bay. Whether or not he will actually attend the game this evening is another matter. This will not, as far as seems to be the case, be his number retirement ceremony. But there will sure to be a lot of media coverage of Favre back in GB either way. It will definitely be a little extra incentive to watch this game. Although, if you're a real Packers fan, you'll be watching anyway.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Packers Beat Patriots in Epic Style

Early last evening, the Green Bay Packers held on for a hard-won victory over the New England Patriots at Lambeau Field. With no timeouts left, QB Aaron Rodgers was able to kneel down three times and run out the clock to seal the 26-21 win. In truth, the game was not as tight, for the most part, as the score would indicate.

The Packers racked up a dominant offensive performance, accounting for 478 total yards, the most given up by the Patriots this season, holding a more than 13-minute time of possession advantage over the Pats, and running 70 plays to New England's 50-something. Rodgers threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns. But the Packers also left lots of points on the field, having to settle for field goals rather than touchdowns on early redzone possessions, otherwise they could have put a large point spread between themselves and New England. As many have pointed out, had the Packers gone on to lose this game, that would have been the storyline: how many points the Pack didn't get that they should have.

But on this day, the Packers played in near-championship style against an equally great opponent and coaching staff. They ran Eddie Lacy early and often to force the Pats to bring up a safety nearer the line. While Jordy Nelson was only able to snag two passes on the day because of the tight coverage, one of those two went for a 45-yard touchdown catch and run with 14 seconds left in the first half. It was huge. Rookie wide receiver Davante Adams also had a good day, although he had what could have been a game-changing drop late in the game. It was a pass at the goal line where he was open and failed to make the catch. It was another one of those lost opportunities for points. As was a rare missed field goal by K Mason Crosby.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gets sacked late in the 4th quarter by Packers Mike Neal and Mike Daniels
Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

But let's not focus on the negative here, especially with such a great win. Instead let's give some praise to the Packers defense which stymied QB Tom Brady most of the day. While the Pack only got one sack on the veteran quarterback (which came at a very good time and led to a missed field goal late in the game), the defense had enough pressure on Brady often enough to alter his throws. At times, Brady looked very off. In this battle of number 12's from California, Rodgers was the clear winner.

Give head coach Mike McCarthy kudos for mixing up the game plan, the formations and the personnel. One of the biggest changes was the use of LB Sam Barrington in the middle on the nickel scheme in place of A. J. Hawk. Given this was the scheme for a good chunk of the game, second-year player Barrington received most of the playing time over nine-year veteran Hawk. It's been obvious to many -- including yours truly -- that Hawk's mobility isn't what it used to be...and it used to be slow to begin with. He got exposed badly in Minnesota last weekend and obviously coach McCarthy made the calculation he couldn't have that type of exposure against the Patriots. Barrington performed very well. We may be starting to see the changing of the guard at middle linebacker. See this article for more on Barrington and Hawk.

So, Packer fans, our team sits at 9-3 atop the NFC North and tied for wins in the NFC with Arizona and Philadelphia. Next up is Atlanta which leads the woeful NFC South with a 5-7 record.

Go Pack Go!!!