Friday, October 23, 2015

Packers down Chargers, go into bye 6-0

At this point, Packers fans, it's a bit of old news that the Green Bay Packers beat the San Diego Chargers last Sunday, 27-20, in heart-stopping fashion, and in the process giving head coach Mike McCarthy his 100th regular season win. McCarthy now trails only the legendary Curly Lambeau for wins as Packers head coach. Congrats, Coach McCarthy. (Oh, by the way, Lambeau has 209 regular season wins.)

Behind a franchise record-setting performance from Chargers QB Philip Rivers (43 of 65 passes for 503 yards and two touchdowns without committing a single turnover), the Pack's defense was lit up like Otis on the Andy Griffith Show.

The Packers defense was on the field for roughly 40 minutes -- two-thirds of the available clock time -- trying to defend against one of the best pocket passers in the league. Kudos to Mr. Rivers for his performance. For even when the Packers did get pressure on him, which, to be fair, was quite often, he was still able to get the ball out courtesy of his quick release.

Still, while racking up all that yardage and roughly 40 more offensive plays than the Packers, the Chargers were only two for six in the red zone and, most importantly, still lost.

The final series for the Chargers was emblematic of the Packers defense on the day. With the Chargers having first and goal at the three yardline, the Pack held them out of the endzone on three straight plays with no gain, capped with the great pass break up in the end zone by rookie defensive back and first round pick, Damarious Randall.

Packers RB James Starks racked up 112 yards on 10 carries against the Chargers, including a 65-yard TD run...the Pack's longest TD run in almost seven years.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A depleted Packers offense continued to sputter -- but do enough -- to win. WR Davante Adams was held out once again and TE/WR Ty Montgomery was injured early in the game and is expected to also miss the Denver game following the bye week. RB Eddie Lacy was still hobbled by his lingering ankle injury (which may be worse than he or the Packers are letting on) and was ineffective on a few carries. In his place, James Starks had a great day, carrying 10 times for 112 yards including a spectacular spin-to-the-backside 65-yard touchdown run, the longest for the Packers in nearly seven years.

Other players also made plays. WR Jeff Janis made the most of his opportunities, catching two passes for 79 yards and making a huge hustle block downfield on Starks' TD run. Let's also not forget that short shovel pass from Aaron Rodgers to Janis on a scramble which turned into a 33-yard play down to the San Diego 20-yard line in the fourth quarter.

So, going into the bye weekend, the Packers are banged up and hoping to get healthy. Despite key injuries to key players, some season-ending, the Packers are 6-0 for just the eighth time in the team's long, long history. As this great article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes, "The first six Packers teams that began 6-0 all won World Championships. The 2011 Packers started the year 13-0, went 15-1 in the regular season, then lost in the NFC divisional playoffs."

So there is a long way to go in this 2015 season, Packers fans. In the next two games after the bye, the Pack goes on the road to take on the also undefeated Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, followed by four divisional games. This is the heart of the schedule. While off to a great start, there are still lots of areas for improvement. But just imagine what this team could do if it was at 100 percent.

For now, though, Packers fans...enjoy the week off. Enjoy your undefeated Green Bay Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

NFL Week 6: Packers vs. Chargers Preview and Prediction

The good news, Packers fans, is that the San Diego Chargers are coming to Lambeau Field. Sometimes, it's be careful what you wish for, I know. But not in this case.

The Chargers are missing three starters on their offensive line and one of their top backups. While still sporting one of the top-ranked offenses in the league, racking up lots of total yards and passing yards behind quarterback Philip Rivers, they are scoring just 23.2 points per game. Conversely, the Green Bay Packers defense has been on a roll, holding teams to just 13 points total in the last two games against what were touted as some potentially dynamic offenses. It didn't happen. Not gonna happen today either.

This is the last game before the Pack heads into their Week 7 bye. Occasionally in the past, head coach Mike McCarthy's teams were looking more to the bye than the opponent on the other side of the ball. That's not going to happen today. The coaching staff and players want to go into that bye week undefeated. The only way to do that is to put the hammer down on the Chargers.

RB Eddie Lacy is set to have a good day against the Chargers.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Defensively, despite being banged up a bit across all facets of that unit, the Packers have plugged players in and haven't missed a beat. The pass rush has been relentless. Against an immobile pocket quarterback such as Rivers, the Packers could be set for a big day. Get to Rivers and you control the game. Yes, rookie running back Melvin Gordon has shown flashes of what made him so special at Wisconsin (Go Badgers!), but has yet to really have a breakout type game behind San Diego's makeshift line. Who do the Chargers have for receivers? Who knows? Won't matter. The Pack will get it done on "D" today.

Will the Packers offense break out of its funk?
The Packers offense has certainly seemed to be misfiring in the last few games. They've still done enough to win, aided in large measure by their defense. (Yeah, I know, when was the last time we could say that?) But with Eddie Lacy getting over his ankle injury and perhaps with Davante Adams back in the lineup to stretch the field -- the thing everyone, including QB Aaron Rodgers has said has been missing -- the Packers "O" should shake off a couple so-so performances. With a three-turnover outing at home last weekend, including two Rodgers' INTs and a fumble -- as rare as the three-eyed jackalope unicorn (hey, they're out there!) -- the offense will be looking for some redemption. Rodgers just does not have two back-to-back bad performances; he just doesn't. He wasn't happy about last week's game, and in his post-game comments gently called out not only his receivers for their imprecise route-running but himself for throwing the way he did...which was, umm, not great.

The prediction
The Packers are favored by as many as 10-1/2 points depending on what source you're looking at. It could be that big of a day.

Unless the wheels fall totally off the Packmobile...we're calling this 34-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Packers are 5-0 after win over Rams. Begin preparations for Chargers.

For the second week in a row, the Green Bay Packers defense was the difference in a team win versus a possible loss, as the offense continues to least by recent Packers' standards, that is. The Pack dispatched the Rams, 24-10. We had the winning margin -- 14 points -- as part of our prediction, but seems as if we were once again a bit optimistic about the overall scoring power of both teams.

Nevertheless, the Pack came away with an important win at home against a team that had taken down two of the supposed early season juggernauts in the league, the Seattle Seahawks (who may be more pretender than contender this season) and the Arizona Cardinals. The win did come at a price, however: more injuries. RG T. J. Lang went down with a knee injury, although it is not believed to be least if you believe the Tweets he sent out afterward. NT B. J. Raji left the game with a groin injury, also not believed to be serious. OLB Nick Perry sustained a shoulder injury, and was seen with his arm in a sling after the game. Packer fans had been waiting for the former first-round draft pick to make an impact, which he had been doing so far this season: he had accounted for multiple tackles in the first four games and was tied for third on the team with 3-1/2 sacks, trailing only Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews, who both have 4-1/2 sacks.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix gives fellow safety Micah Hyde a congratulatory pat to the head after Hyde's interception against the Rams.
Photo by Associated Press

As noted, the Packers defense has been something to behold so far this season. Believe it or not, they rank seventh in the league in overall defense. Quite a change from what we've seen in recent years, isn't it? Yay. Oh, yay.

Despite injuries in all areas of the defense, including starting safety Morgan Burnett who has missed the last three games, the Packers "D" is stepping up big time. The pressure they are getting on opposing quarterbacks is coming from everywhere on the field. And even rookies are getting in on the act as evidenced by 2015 second-round pick Quinten Rollins who grabbed two of the four interceptions against the Rams, including a pick-six for a touchdown.

Conversely, and as even admitted by QB Aaron Rodgers and other members of the squad, the offense seems to be sputtering. While having generated the third-best rushing stats in the league going into the game against the Rams, the leading rusher for the Packers on Sunday was Rodgers with 39 yards...that's not what you want to see. Yes, the offensive line was playing against arguably the best front four in the NFL, but...c'mon.

The biggest shocker of the day, perhaps, as regards the offense was the play of Rodgers and his receivers. They just didn't seem to be on the same page. Rodgers offered some soft criticism of both himself and his receivers in his post-game comments, saying that he needed to do a better job throwing the ball than he did while his receivers have to run better routes. The result of this confusion Sunday were two interceptions of Rodgers (one tipped and another trapped, which should have been overturned) and a fumble on a stripped ball. These were the first interceptions of Rodgers at Lambeau Field since 2012. The odds finally caught up with him.

Overall, the Rams never really threatened. The Packers defense did give up 159 yards rushing to RB Todd Gurley, with about a third of those yards coming on one run. But overall, Rams QB Nick Foles was under pressure all day. If the Packers defense keeps playing with this level of intensity throughout the rest of the season, it's championship-worthy. We also know that the offense will get things straightened out. The emergence of a downfield threat to stretch the field -- something missing and obviously so since WR Jordy Nelson's injury -- will help a great deal.

Next up at Lambeau: the Chargers
We'll do a game preview a bit closer to the event, but the 2-3 Chargers will be coming to Green Bay for a late afternoon game this Sunday. They are coming off a last-second loss at home against the Steelers. They'll be looking to get back to .500 and perhaps hope to find a Packers team looking past them to their bye in week 7. They shouldn't count on that, though. Whether all (or most) hands are on deck for the Pack or not, we can expect the offense to get back on track and the defense to continue its stellar play.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

NFL Week 5 Packers vs. Rams Preview and Prediction

So, let's get this out of the way first (since I was negligent in writing a follow-up earlier in the week): the Packers beat the 49ers. Let's repeat: the Packers beat the 49ers. In San Francisco. And throttled heretofore Packers-killer QB Colin Kaepernick in the process behind a great defensive effort by the Pack. 'Bout time. Yay.

Now..on to today's game: the Packers vs. (the once-and-future Los Angeles) Rams.

Packers DE Mike Daniels and the rest of the "D" have been playing lights out lately.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Packers come into this game as either 9 or 9-1/2-point favorites depending upon whom you believe for that sort of thing. Either way, Holy Schnikey, Batman, that's a big spread. Yes, the Packers are at home. And are 4-0. And have the best quarterback in the NFL. Even have the third best rushing game in the league (true!) and a vastly-improved defense from the last few years. What do the Rams have to offer? Well, to hear the pundits tell it, probably the best front four defensive linemen in the league. A young and dangerous running back. A speedy receiver. A head coach who will have his team well prepared. And a not-all-that-bad QB in Nick Foles...who, by the way, has beaten the Lambeau...when he was with the Eagles.

But that was then, this is now.

The Rams seem to be a Jeckyll-and-Hyde type team so far this season, winning two big games within their division -- at home against Seattle and at Arizona last weekend against the previously undefeated Cardinals -- but who don't seem to do as well against teams outside their division. So they're a bit like Forrest Gump's proverbial box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get.

But whatever team shows up for the Rams, we know what team will show up for the Packers: very good special teams, an attacking defense (tied with the Rams for the league lead in sacks at 17) and a powerful offense when running on all cylinders. Whether or not the Packers have starting RT Bryan Bulaga back on the line today will be a gametime decision apparently. He did practice this week and said he felt he'd be ready to go. If not, Don Barclay will once again have to hold his own. The tackle positions -- left and right -- have been an issue so far this young season for the Packers. But Aaron Rodgers' mobility is the difference maker if there is pressure. He may be sacked a few times given his tendency to sometimes hold on to the ball a bit too long. But, conversely, his ability to scramble and find receivers downfield, or to break off a run himself, is something which defenses have a hard time defending we've seen through the first four games.

One of the knocks on the Packers' offense right now is that, without Jordy Nelson, the Packers lack a downfield threat to stretch the defenses. Well, the short and intermediate type passes seem to be working quite well. One has to believe, too, that sooner or later one of the young, fast receivers -- Jeff Janis or Jared Abbrederis, perhaps -- will gain Rodgers' trust and start to emerge as at least an occasional threat. That may or may not happen today. But, regardless, the Packers will have all they need to dispatch the Rams despite being without WR Davante Adams and S Morgan Burnett for today's game.

The Prediction
Here it is, gang, the moment you've all been waiting for: our prediction.

While we thought the Packers would easily handle the 49ers last week, things were much closer than expected as the offense just wasn't as in sync as usual. That will have gotten corrected this week. We don't say this will be a blow out. But we do see the Pack winning comfortably.

We're calling it...31-17 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Other notes from this last week

Former Packers head coach -- and Coach of the Year in 1989 -- Lindy Infante passed away this last week at age 75 in Florida. Infante coached the Packers from 1988-1991. He was an offensive genius and universally regarded as one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet. RIP, Coach. Read more here.

Safety and special teams standout Sean Richardson was reported to have sustained a second neck injury -- a herniated disk -- which is likely not only season-ending but career-ending. You can read more here about that. We wish the young man well whatever transpires for him going forward. We admired his play.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Packers vs 49ers NFL Week 4 Preview and Prediction

Today's the day, Packer fans, when we learn if the Green Bay Packers have really turned the corner on their two recent nemisises. We know they cleared one hurdle in the win at Lambeau Field over the Seattle Seahawks in the second week of the season; now, we find out if they will finally get past the Colin Kaepernick-led San Francisco 49ers.
Veteran receiver James Jones and rookie tight end Ty Montgomery hope to be celebrating a lot in today's game against the 49ers.
Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Here's what we know
The Packers are 3-0 and the Niners are 1-2. We know that the Packers were 8-1/2-point favorites earlier in the week with the line now at 7-1/2 points. Big whup. Total points projected for this game are 48, the largest set for any game this weekend. One would expect that most of that figure comes by way of the Packers. That's because the scoring for and against each of these teams is quite revealing. The Packers have scored 96 points and allowed 68 over the course of the first three weeks of the 2015 season; the 49ers, on the other hand, have scored 45 while giving up 93.

These numbers sometimes don't mean much. But in this case, I think we can rightly say that as regards the Packers it is a good reflection of how hot the Pack's offense is at the moment behind a clearly dominant quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, as well as how surprisingly good the defense and special teams have also been this season. While still a work in progress, those two units also deserve a lot of credit for the Packers' success so far this season.

As regards the Niners, the points for and against reflect a team with problems on both sides of the ball. These are not the same Niners that have beat the Packers four straight times. Colin Kaepernick had probably his worst game as a pro last week against the Cardinals, getting picked off four times in a blow-out loss. Still, we know what his legs have done and can do against the Packers. Plus, he'll be looking to have a big game resurrection against a team that he's typically been able to have big games against. The Packers will have to hold him in check the way they did Russell Wilson in week two. San Fran does have capable receivers, so if the pass rush doesn't get to Kaepernick, as well as contain him, the Niners will have their scoring opportunities. Defensively, it's not the same group that often caused problems for the Pack in the past either. The Packers offensive line has given up just three sacks in the first three games of the season. They should hold their own once again against whatever the 49ers can bring. A mobile Aaron Rodgers is a dangerous thing for defenses to contend with. Yay for our side.

Our prediction
This is a game in which the better team will exert itself and come away with the win. Who do you think that is? Ten points for you if said "Packers." (Save up those reward points, kids. Not for anything, though, other than the pure joy of you being right. That's a good enough reward, isn't it? Glad you agree.)

We're calling this game in favor of the Packers, 41-24.

Go Pack Go!!!

By the way, be sure to follow us on Twitter @packfansunited. We often Tweet in real-time giving added enjoyment and excitement to your game-viewing experience. It will be spectacular! (Question: can time be anything but "real-time" that just something we made up, too? Hmmmm...)