Sunday, October 30, 2016

2016 NFL Week 8: Packers vs. Falcons Preview and Prediction

For the first time in about a month, the Green Bay Packers hit the road. They take on the high-flying Atlanta Falcons inside the Georgia Dome in the late afternoon game today.

The Packers will be facing arguably and statistically the NFL's number one-rated offense, the number one-rated passer and the number one-rated receiver. They'll be doing so, however, without their own three top-rated cornerbacks. Not ideal in such a match up. Unless the Pack's front seven can get consistent pressure on Falcons' QB Matt Ryan, and the defensive backs can somehow disrupt WR Julio Jones, it could be a long day for the Pack's defense...and the Packers as a whole.

Assuming that that may be the case, the only hope is that the Pack's offense can outscore the Dirty Birds. Certainly that's possible. We've seen the offense click on two occasions this season: against Detroit and Chicago for a half each. Hmmm...odds don't seem great based upon recent history for a game-long shoot-out, do they? Then toss in the fact that, again, Eddie Lacy and James Starks are unavailable, as will be Randall Cobb today, the burden falls to others to pick up the slack. There is newcomer RB Knile Davis and recently promoted RB Don Jackson, as well as WR Geronimo Allison. So, it's entirely possible the Packers could have a long-awaited breakout game with some new players providing the spark. But...
Packers WR Randall Cobb will likely
not be available for today's game vs. Falcons.

Photo by Jim Matthews/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis

This will likely be one of our briefer preview and prediction posts. With the recent rash of injuries and roster changes on the Packers squad, and the general sputtering of the Packers offense, we think the only way to pull out a win over the Falcons today -- who are favored by 3 points at the time of this posting, by the way -- would be to outscore them. This is one of those rare occasions when the odds seem stacked against the Pack: injuries, opponent, road game, lack of consistent play.

We're call this one 34-27 Falcons.

Wish it wasn't so. And hope we're wrong.

Go Pack Go!!!

Breaking late news: it's being reported by Jay Glazer that WR/RB Ty Montgomery is out for the Packers today because of illness. No Montgomery. No Cobb. A sorry injury/availability situation for the Packers becomes worse. Our prediction seems even more likely now. Dang.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Packers take down Bears 26-10

The Green Bay Packers have finally put together two good halves of football this season. OK, they weren't actually in the same game, but still. The first good half, as you may recall, was during the game and win against the Detroit Lions. Thankfully, the second good half came on Thursday evening against the Chicago Bears.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth following the disappointing loss to the Dallas Cowboys the prior Sunday evening. But despite a extremely sluggish first half against Chicago, the Packers offense finally started clicking -- to the tune of a record-setting night.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers lit up the Bears in a record-setting peformance.
Photo by Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis

QB Aaron Rodgers was just shy of 60 pass attempts -- OK, 56 to be exact -- and set a franchise record with 39 completions. For the first time in a long time he had more than 300 yards passing. Davante Adams had a career night, with 13 catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns, just one catch short of tying the franchise record of the legendary Don Hutson. For the first time in Packers history, a receiver had 10 or more catches in the same game for 100 yards or more with 2 touchdowns.

The offense controlled the ball for nearly 40 minutes of the game, and racked up 32 first downs. It was quite a night for the offense.

And that was with missed opportunities. WR Randall Cobb had a chance for two additional touchdowns: one pass was stripped from him in the endzone early in the game as he was bringing the ball in for a completion; the second, later in the game, came when he couldn't get his second foot down inside the back line of the endzone while being forced out by the Bears' defender.

In addition, in a "Well, there's something you don't see everyday, Wilbur" moment, kicker Mason Crosby missed two fields and an extra point.

So...a lot of points were left on the field. This has been a disturbing trend for the Packers this season. In this game, against a woeful Bears offense, and with a dominant Packers defense, those points were not needed to secure the win. But the Pack certainly can't count on that every game.

As for the Packers defense, they pitched a touchdown shutout. Wait...what? say. Clearly a touchdown was scored by Da Bearz. Well, that came on a fumble by Rodgers recovered in the endzone by Chicago. Other than that, the Packers D made a nice return to form following its dismal performance a few days before against Dallas.

The Packers now have 10 days off (from the time of the game) to take a small break and get a bit healthier before they play at Atlanta on Oct. 30. That will hopefully also give the Packers time to integrate newly-arrived RB Knile Davis more fully into the offense.

But it's likely, based on his outstanding performance in the backfield against Chicago, that WR Ty Montgomery will also be seeing his share of playing time coming out of the backfield for a quite a while. That's because RB Eddie Lacy was placed on injured reserve with his ankle requiring surgery the day of the Bears game and James Starks is still a few weeks a way from returning from his knee surgery. RB Don Jackson, who was on the practice squad and promoted to the active roster the day of the game, sustained a left wrist injury on his second carry. Figures, doesn't it?

It's a strange season, indeed. But at least the Packers are 4-2, just behind the ViQueens in the NFC North standings.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

NFL Week 7: Packers vs. Bears Preview and Prediction

Just a few days following a demoralizing 30-16 defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers (3-2) will host the archrival Chicago Bears (1-5) this evening. The Pack will tonight be without seven players, including running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks, as well as defensive backs Sam Shields, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. Shields -- who is still in the league's concussion protocol -- was actually placed on injured reserve to open up a roster spot; he could return in Week 14. Wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, TE Jared Cook, and S Chris Banjo are also out. Wide receiver Davante Adams is listed as questionable.

As bad as it is for the Packers, Da Bearz' injury report is even longer. We wish we could feel bad about that, but given the current state of affairs in Green Bay, we don't. We'll take all the help we can get even if it's a banged-up opponent. Although, we did so hope Bears QB Jay Cutler could have played. That's always a factor in the Pack's favor.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and the offense
must be in sync to beat Da Bearz tonight.

Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Given the condition of both teams, it's likely this game could be mediocre at best. Despite how out-of-sync the Packers seemed on Sunday, they need to somehow find the will -- and the ways and plays -- to beat what is arguably one of the worst teams in the league at this stage of the season.

It used to be the case that after a poor personal performance, QB Aaron Rodgers would light up the following week's opponent. But given the 17-game slump that Rodgers seems to be in in terms of personal performance, we're not sure what to count on any longer. Without a sure-fire running attack to take the pressure off him, play at the level we've seen recently would not be unexpected.

The Packers did finally decide to provide some help in this regard with the acquisition via trade Monday (a trade!!!) of Kansas City running back, Knile Davis. While Davis became expendable for the Chiefs, he might at least fill a temporary need for the Packers. Don't expect much tonight, other than perhaps a few basic plays. But the other option was to keep running wide receivers Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb out of the backfield...which, let's just say no solution and, well, a bit nuts, right? The Packers did have one other option, activating practice squad RB Don Jackson to the active roster. For this game, at least, the Pack will try to make it with Davis, et al. (By the way, Milwaukee Journal Packers beat writer extraordinaire, Bob McGinn, has a great article today about Davis; it's highly suggested reading.)

Depending upon your source, the Packers are currently favored by 7-1/2 to 9-1/2 points. We'd like to think that's how things will roll tonight. But are we confident based upon what we've seen so far this season? Not really.

Still, we need to make a prediction. We're calling it 24-13 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Packers fail to show up against Cowboys

In as depressing a showing as a Green Bay Packers team has had in recent memory, the team fell to the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field 30-16 on Sunday, and go to 3-2 on the season, 2 full games behind the Minnesota ViQueens who had their bye this weekend.

The litany of woes are many: an ineffectual offense which included receivers failing to get separation against their defenders, dropped and missed passes, turnovers, failure to execute in the red zone, miscommunications between coaches and players, and a MVP-level quarterback who essentially has been average at best for the last 17 games; the top rushing defense in the league who got shredded by the top rushing offense and a rookie running back, as well as a depleted Packers secondary who got shredded by a very good rookie quarterback.

It. Was. Ugly. Start to finish.

The Packers have exactly 3 days to somehow get their collective act together before facing Da Bearz Thursday night at Lambeau. Chicago, at 1-5, could be just what the doctor ordered to help right the ship.

But only if the Packers play far differently they played yesterday. Let us pray...

Sunday, October 16, 2016

2016 Week #6: Packers vs. Cowboys Preview & Prediction

Due to power and Internet outages in our area from overnight storms, the posting of this preview and prediction is coming along much later than we'd like. Our apologies. So, we'll do our best to just cut to the chase on this one.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers needs to begin regaining
some of his old form against the Cowboys today.

Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Offense needs to get in gear
This is a "Thanks, Captain Obvious" statement: the Pack's once high-flying offense, led by QB Aaron Rodgers and a top-notch receiving corps, has been rather mediocre despite the team's 3-1 record. The Packers are at or near the bottom on first-down production and Rodgers' completion percentage -- if you can believe it -- is at the bottom of that category league wide. Receivers aren't getting open and, despite great protection from his offensive line, Rodgers seems to have forgotten some of his solid technique fundamentals in favor of operating outside the pocket. As the article today in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by the great Packers beat writer, Bob McGinn, demonstrates, Rodgers seems to be falling from his elite status over the course of the last 16 games. You be the judge. But the article is tough to argue with.

Part of the problem today might be a limited Eddie Lacy at running back. He was off to a great start last week against the Giants before suffering an ankle injury. He will apparently play today, but that heavily-taped ankle will likely hinder his effectiveness. Also, James Starks will not be available today or for the next several weeks. A report this morning by Jay Glazer stated that Starks had knee surgery this very morning. No specifics as to the nature of the injury or timetable for return. The only other running back the Packers have is on the practice squad and was not made active for this game. So if Lacy can't go, look for Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery to operate out of the backfield. Not...ideal. It puts more pressure on Rodgers, which in the days of yore might have been no worries. Now...we don't know. If they can replicate their first half performance against the Lions for a full 60 minutes, great, the Pack should emerge with a victory. If not...?

Rushing defense vs. rushing offense: who will win the day?
The angle to this game that has been played up by the national sports media is that of the Packers' number one rushing defense vs. the Cowboys' number one rushing offense. According to the pundits, the 'boys have perhaps the best offensive line in the game right now. The Packers have a dominant front 7 opposing them. If the "D" can hold the Cowboys' rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott in check, and put an effective pass rush on rookie QB Drew Prescott, the Packers should be able to score enough points to win this game.

Our prediction
At the time of this writing, the Packers are favored by 5.5 points. We think it might be more of a slugfest than that.

We're calling it 23-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Packers come up bigger than Giants

OK, I know. That headline was a bit cheesy. Ooops! There's another pun. Get it?


It's about all that can be mustered in light of the Packers 23-16 win over the New York Giants Sunday night at Lambeau Field. What started out in a very promising way -- offensive rhythm, running game, defensive toughness -- wound up being a rather ho-hum victory. I know, I know. No victory in the NFL is either easy or mundane. It's just that many Packer fans, including yours truly, are waiting to see a complete game from this team on both sides of the ball. We do see a dominant defense, no denying that, at this early stage of the season. With the return this week of defensive lineman Mike Pennel from his four-game suspension, the front line of that defense will get even tougher for opposing teams. Gotta like that.
Second-year CB LaDarius Gunter celebrates
after breaking up a pass intended for Giants receiver Victor Cruz.

Photo by Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis

The other part of the defense on display was the depth in the secondary. Despite missing their two starting cornerback, the Packers young D-backs prevented the potentially high-flying Giants passing game from making big plays, let alone breaking big plays. Their only touchdown catch of the night came in the waning moments of the game which, admittedly, did tighten things up for a bit. Not only on the scoreboard but in Packer fans' stomachs, as well.

Offense had its moments, just not enough of them
Things were tighter than they needed to be throughout the game and down the stretch because the Packers just couldn't seem to get unstuck, on offense or special teams. Offensively, the game could have nearly been put away early except for an illegal shift call on WR Davante Adams that negated a great throw by Aaron Rodgers and catch by Randall Cobb resulting in a touchdown that would have put the Pack up by 14-0 late in the first quarter. (Whew! Long sentence. Sorry about that.) Instead, an interception followed and led to the Giants putting a drive together and getting on the board with a field goal to make it 7-3 early in the second quarter.

While the Packers seemed to dominate the game, especially in the first half in terms of time of possession, and through the powerful running game of Eddie Lacy, there were just enough misfirings by Rodgers, drops by his receivers, and penalties to always seem to keep the Giants in striking distance. Add to this that the new Packers punter averaged under 36.5 yards per punt for the game with a long of just 42 yards. The result was generally always good starting position for the Giants, often past their own 40. Special teams coverage by the Packers also didn't help; there were a number of broken tackles by Giants returners which added to their field position advantage.

Be all that as it may, the Pack came away with the win they needed. With Minnesota atop the NFC North -- and the only still undefeated team in the NFL -- the Packers can't afford to drop behind by losing games they should win.

Which brings us to Sunday's game at Lambeau versus the Cowboys. Is that a game the Pack should win? Needs to win? (OK, dumb question that. Never mind.)

The 'boys are playing well behind their rookie quarterback and running back. We'll look at this game as we get closer to game time. Please keep checking back. We appreciate it.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

2016 Week #5: Packers vs. Giants Preview & Prediction

Following their Week 4 bye, the 2-1 Green Bay Packers host the 2-2 New York Giants tonight at venerable Lambeau Field. Rested and ready to go after an unusual early season schedule -- actually, the entire season schedule is a bit odd, isn't it? -- the Packers get some of their key players back. Among them, Letroy Guion will rejoin a defensive front that has been more than holding its own in his absence. His addition back into the rotation tonight (plus the return of Mike Pennel who comes off suspension this next week) will make an already very good defense even better. CB Sam Shields, however, will still be out for tonight's game, as will TE Jared Cook, who was injured in the Lions game. CB Damarious Randall was listed as questionable at the time of this writing. What might that mean for tonight?

On offense, the Giants have a "running-back-by-committee" approach to their ground game, with three capable running backs to move into rotation as the game demands. The receivers, led by current head-case Odell Beckham Jr., can create problems for an undermanned or mediocre secondary. QB Eli Manning can certainly do some damage when given time. He didn't have that luxury in the Giants last game at Minnesota. But he is 2-1 at Lambeau Field, including playoffs, 4-3 overall versus the Packers. In his last four games against the Pack -- including the 2011 playoff win -- Manning has had a pair of 330-plus-yard games, three three-TD games, and a cumulative 104.9 passer rating. Yeah...can't let him have that type of game tonight. Keep pressure on him, make him uncomfortable, and turnovers will be the outcome.

LB Clay Matthews and the rest of the Packers defense
will need to put pressure on Giants QB Eli Manning all evening.

(Photo: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Defensively, reports indicate that the Giants may be without three starters in their defensive backfield. That would seem to bold well for the Packers passing game, which finally found itself in the first half of the Lions game. The Giants pass rush is one which the Packers should be able to handle, with all due respect to Jason Pierre-Paul.

McCarthy vs. McAdoo
There's a great story in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Tom Silverstein about the task facing former Packers assistant coach and now Giants head coach Ben McAdoo. The fact that both head coaches know one another's tendencies is part of the game story. Seems as if the advantage would go to McAdoo, though, as he also knows very well the Pack's personnel on both sides of the ball, as well as the various schemes used. Still, McCarthy has the head coach tenure advantage: McCarthy's been there. But beyond that...? Might be an interesting chess match played by the coaches. But the bottom line is that the players still play. Advantage: Packers.

The Prediction
The Packers are currently favored by 7 points. That always makes me nervous as it seems in recent times the Packers don't always do well when they are favored by such a spread. The over-under, for those who pay attention to such things, is listed as 48.5 points.

We think that playing at Lambeau, following a bye week for the Packers and a second straight week on the road by the Giants (and on a "short" week at that), the personnel, and whatever intangibles you ascribe to a Sunday night game, the Packers will emerge victorious. Given that the ViQueens remain unbeaten after trouncing Houston today, the Packers can't afford to drop a game further behind in the division. They need this game.

We're calling it 34-24 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!