Saturday, December 24, 2016

2016 NFL Week 16: Packers vs. Vikings Preview and Prediction

All Packers fans want for Christmas is a win over the Vikings today at Lambeau Field. Yes, that's about the best present anyone could wish for this weekend. Because that would set up the New Year's Day contest in Detroit for the NFC North Division Championship and a guaranteed home playoff game. Sugar plum fairies and 12 drummers drumming haven't got anything on that scenario!
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers looks to continue his run
of big passing games against the Vikings.

Photo by Jim Matthews

The Packers look to have a healthier Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and Lane Taylor back today. That will be a boost, as will the continued strong play of RB (no longer receiver) Ty Montgomery, TE Jared Cook, and the Pack's receiving corps. Let's not forget the consistently great play of the Packers' offensive line, as well. They should give Rodgers plenty of time today against a good-but-not-great ViQueens defense.

But perhaps the key today will be the play of the Packers' secondary against Minnesota's offense. Damarious Randall got torched in the first meeting against Minnesota. He's play better since, but was pulled from the game last week against Da Bearz after repeatedly failing in coverage late in the game. The secondary overall was responsible for soft coverage against a lackluster Chicago offense, allowing them back in the game with 17 points given up in the fourth quarter. To be fair, the Packers' pass rush was non-existent, as well. That troubling scenario played out in the first meeting with Minnesota, too, giving then newly-arrived QB Sam Bradford more than enough time to be proficient in his reads and throws, in no small measure leading to the win over the Pack.

Minnesota got embarrassed last weekend against the Colts and no doubt head coach Mike Zimmer has used this as a motivational tool for today's game against the Pack. But if the Packers come out with a fast start and keep the pressure on for a full 60 minutes instead of just 30 or 45, the ViQueens should fold. The Packers are healthier at this point and are ascending at the right time will the 'Queens are going the opposite direction to finish out the season, with virtually no hope of making the playoffs. The absence of RB Adrian Peterson today also doesn't help their chances.

The Prediction
Perhaps a good omen for the Packers -- or at least a bad one for Minnesota -- is the fact that the ViQueens plane ran off the runway at the Appleton airport while taxiing to the terminal last evening. They were stuck on the plane for more than 3 hours. I know: that's a shame. Let's hope for a similarly distressing occurence or two to happen to them today during the game.

The Packers are favored by 7 points at the time of this writing. That should be achievable.

We're calling this game 34-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!! And Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christimas, too!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Packers outlast Bears, Vikings next up

That was quite a game in Chicago wasn't it, Packers fans? Turned out not to be the coldest game in Packers-Bears history after all. Only about the fourth coldest. But it was certainly a hot time on the field from start to finish.

The Packers were able to jump out to what seemed like a "There's...your...dagger!" lead before the end of the third quarter. Behind a 160+ - yard running game by Ty Montgomery, and a solid offensive performance overall (despite two endzone drops by WR Davante Adams which could have really put the game out of reach early on), the Pack built what seemed like a comfortable lead. The defense, to that point, had held Chicago to just 10 points and generated several turnovers.

A 17-point lead should do the trick going into the 4th quarter if Packer squads on both sides of the ball and special teams continue to play for 15 more minutes the way they did for the prior 45. Especially against Da Bearz. But, that Packers' defense which was giving up tons of yardage (isn't that a mixed-measurement metaphor?) and loads of points during the team's four-game losing streak...well, it returned. And in the process, let the Chicago offense, behind QB Matt Barkley, wrack up 17 unanswered points to tie the game 27-27 with only about a minute left in the game. It was maddening.

With no timeouts remaining, what's a team to do? Particularly a team like the Packers? Put the ball in the capable hands and right arm of QB Aaron Rodgers, of course. Just watch.

Yes, Rodgers threw a 60-yard bomb to WR Jordy Nelson who got behind Da Bearz' secondary. In the blink of an eye and now at about the 20-yard line, the Packers had to rush to get all their players to the line of scrimmage. With three seconds remaining, Rodgers spiked the ball. Kicker Mason Crosby came on for the game-winning field goal, which he had to make twice because Chicago head coach John Fox called timeout just as Crosby was kicking the first one. Still, no problem. Final score: Packers 30, Da Bearz 27. It almost made you feel sorry for Bears' fans. Almost. And after 83 years, the total number of wins for both teams in this series is once again tied up, at 94 each. Yowza.

This was also the fourth win in a row for the Packers, to put them at 8-6. With Minnesota at home in Lambeau Field this Saturday and then the final game at Detroit on New Year's Day, the Packers control their own destiny in the NFC North. Win out and they win the NFC North at 10-6 and will host a playoff game. Who would have thought that even possible when the team was mired in the midst of its four-game losing streak? But Rodgers said he thought they could "run the table" and it looks as if he might be right. They are two-thirds of the way there.

We'll be back with our ViQueens preview and prediction closer to game time. So please check back. Or follow us on Twitter (@packfansunited) for any timely updates and witty commentary (on a good day for the latter).

Sunday, December 18, 2016

2016 NFL Week 15: Packers vs. Bears Preview and Prediction

In what might be the coldest meeting ever between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears in their storied rivalry (think about that for a moment), the Packers look to keep their three-game winning streak going at Soldier Field today and, in the process, get to all-square in terms of wins with Da Bearz. Not wins this season, of course. Overall wins. That would be 94 each. Chicago has held the edge for the last 83 years. That ends today.

It won't be easy given the cold and the wind. The air temperature is supposed to be somewhere around zero...a degree or two either way, really, at this stage of things does it even matter? Nope. Throw in what are expected to be wind gusts of 20 to 30 mph coming off Lake Michigan and the wind chill will feel like -30.
Much of the Packers' success today against Chicago will depend
upon how long QB Aaron Rodgers can stay on the field.

Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

While these conditions are tough on one and all, they are especially so for a quarterback nursing both hamstring and calf injuries. That would be Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers had essentially no practice this week as the choice was made to help his body recover as much as possible. But as a sign of possible uncertainty as to how much he might be able to go today -- and, even though listed as questionable on the injury report, make no mistake: Rodgers will play -- the Packers elevated QB Joe Callahan to the active roster. Brett Hundley is the backup to Rodgers. But if something were to happen to him? So, Callahan gets activated and LB Carl Bradford is released to make room.

There are many angles to today's game. But as game time fast approaches (an hour to game time!), we need to get onto the prediction. So here it is...

The Prediction
The Packers are favored by either 4-1/2 or 5-1/2 points depending upon what source you are looking at. Total-points of 38-1/2, the lowest of the weekend, means the pundits are factoring in the weather, as they should. The Packers are finding their game just in time. As long as they play the way they have the last few weeks -- last week in particular -- the Packers should win this game. But adjustments will need to be made for the cold and wind. That means more reliance, one would imagine, on the running game. Da Bearz have a legitimate running back in rookie Jordan Howard out of Indiana. The Packers? Well, we have a receiver-turned-running-back in Ty Montgomery, journeyman running back Christine Michael and FB Aaron Ripowski. Advantage, one would imagine, Chicago in this aspect of the game. But in a quarterback match up between Aaron Rodgers and Matt Barkley...c''s long as he can stay on the field, of course. The Pack's defense is coming into form, finally, and that means good things today. A few turnovers should be there for the taking.

Alright, alright (and a third alright for any Matthew McConaughey fans out there), to the prediction...

We're calling it 24-13 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Packers pluck Seahawks, get ready for Bears

Sunday's 38-10 victory by the Green Bay Packers over the Seattle Seahawks was a thing of beauty. It was a complete, dominating game by the Pack in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams. Oh, and did we mention it was against the Seahawks? Seattle. Seahawks. That makes it extra sweet, doesn't it? Aside from beating NFC North division rivals, and the Cowboys, nothing is really as satisfying these days as plucking the sea birds. No, change that, embarrassing them. This was a loss of epic and historic proportions for this Pete Carroll-led team. In our best Jerry Seinfeld voice: That's a shame.
QB Aaron Rodgers -- and the rest of the Packers -- had Seattle's number Sunday.
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Many players rose to the occasion. QB Aaron Rodgers played through the hamstring injury nagging him, as well as a new calf injury he sustained on the third play of the game. His final quarterback rating was just over 150. The offensive line, the receivers, the McGyver'd rushing attack, punter Jacob Schum, coverage was as good a performance as Packer fans have seen in a long time. Oh, and did we mention the interceptions of Seattle QB Russell Wilson? They were plentiful. Wilson hadn't ever thrown that many interceptions in a regular season game.

So while we are still riding high from this big win, we need to balance that with the reality that the Packers, at 7-6, are sitting in third place in the NFC North and have about five teams ahead of them right now in the NFC Wild Card race. They've won three in a row. But it was that four game losing streak that has put them behind the eight ball. The Packers need to win each of their three remaining games beginning with Da Bearz this Sunday in Chicago, then the ViQueens home at Lambeau Field, then finish the regular season at Detroit. If they do that, and the Lions lose at least one of their two upcoming games on the road against either the Giants or the Cowboys, the Packers and Detroit will be playing that January 1 game in Detroit for the NFC North Division Championship. That is likely the only way the Packers can be assured of making the playoffs. Lose one of these three games and, at 9-6, it's very likely the Pack will be packing up (no pun intended) for a long offseason.

Coming up: Da Bearz in very cold Chicago
The Packers have to face a wounded and woeful Bears team in Chicago on what weather forecasters are predicting will be one of the coldest games in recent memory. Temperature forecasts are for around zero degrees, plus winds gusting to 25 or 30 mph creating wind chills far below zero. The wind may very well cause havoc with the Pack's passing game, so the running attack -- spearheaded by receiver-turned-running-back, Ty Montgomery -- will have to certainly carrying its own weight this weekend. If the defense can generate turnovers even half as much as it did against Seattle the Packers should come away with the win. This is no "gimmee" game by any stretch, especially given the expected conditions. And while Bears QB Matt Barkley is serviceable given time in the pocket, he's also no Aaron Rodgers. Keys for the Pack will be getting pressure on Barkley, protecting Rodgers, creating turnovers while having none of their own. Simple, really, isn't it? Easier said than done. But do the Packers must.

We'll be back with our fuller preview and prediction closer to game time. Check back! Or follow us on Twitter @packfansunited for updates. We appreciate it.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

2016 NFL Week 14 Preview and Prediction: Packers vs. Seahawks

We've had this last week, Packer fans, to revel in a two-game winning streak following our victories over Philadelphia and Houston. After you lose four in a row, yeah, two qualifies as a streak. The Packers were able to do what they needed to do, at home in December against the Texans, to get back to .500 at 6-6. No need to rehash that game here and at this point; it's old news by now, right? It was a good -- and necessary -- win.

So, let's get to the game at hand versus Seattle.

The Packers have a couple stats in their favor: (1) the Packers haven't lost to Pete Carrol at Lambeau Field (if memory serves correctly...which is questionable at this point); and (2) Aaron Rodgers hasn't lost a home game in December since 2009 (ditto the previous qualifier). The Packers may also have weather in their collective favor, as the forecast calls for anywhere from 3-5 inches of snow before and/or during game time. Naturally, it could just as easily work against them. Both teams have to adapt and play. You just hope the Packers are a bit more accustomed to this than are the Seahawks.

If the weather is as forecast, that could certainly put a crimp in the downfield passing game of Aaron Rodgers, although you know he'll take a few shots. But with the Pack's seeming emphasis on short dink-and-dunk type passes, that problem may be somewhat negated. A consistent running game would be helpful...and is not really something the Packers have had much of this season. Expect Ty Montgomery to see a lot of the ball, and perhaps even recent former Seahawk Christine Michael, as well.

QB Aaron Rodgers will be challenged on many fronts vs. the Seahawks.
Photo by Adam Wesley/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis.

Defensively, the Packers will be without LB Nick Perry and Clay Matthews will likely be limited. The linebacking corps is going to be challenged. We could expect lots of scheming to try to cover up those potential gaps, including the continued use of Morgan Burnett as a bit of a tweener when needed. Mike Pennel just got hit with a four-game suspension so the defensive line takes a bit of a hit there.

The Seahawks, as Voice of the Packers Wayne Larrivee has contended, are the best team in the NFC right now, possibly the NFL, despite the better record by Dallas, for example. At 8-3-1, they certainly have an edge over the Packers it would seem. QB (and former Wisconsin Badger -- Go Badgers!) Russell Wilson is looking like his old young self again, which means problems for the Packers defense. TE Jimmy Graham is arguably the best tight end in the game today. The Seahawks defense, even with the loss of Earl Thomas, can still cause lots of problems for opposing offenses. They are a tough, smack-mouth squad.

The Prediction
At the time of this writing, the Seahawks are favored by 3 points. The Packers need this game to keep their outside shot at the NFC North Division Championship, or at least the playoffs, alive. We don't feel good about this game, Packer fans. The two teams the Packers have beaten to get back to even are nowhere near as good as Seattle. Neither are the Packers right now, unfortunately.

As much as it pains us to say it, we're calling this 24-17 Seahawks.

Still...Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 04, 2016

2016 NFL Week 13: Packers vs. Texans Preview and Prediction

The 6-5 Houston Texans make their way to what will likely be a snowy Lambeau Field today to take on the 5-6 Green Bay Packers. What to expect...other than the questionable weather, that is? Let's keep this short and sweet, shall we? Or, at least, short. Maybe.

For the first time perhaps in a season-and-a-half, the Packers put together a complete game in all three phases of the game -- offense, defense and special teams -- in their win this past week at Philadelphia. That was the good news. The bad news, or concerning news anyway, is that QB Aaron Rodgers aggravated a hamstring which will likely limit his mobility and LB Clay Matthews sustained a shoulder injury on a wicked blindside block by former Packer Allen Barbre. Both have been listed as questionable for today...but do we really believe they aren't going to play? Not a chance.

With their season on the line now in literally every game, the Packers can't afford to regress to the style of play that they exhibited during their four-game losing streak. Instead, each game must be a viewed as a one-game season. Win. And win. And win. Etc. That's the Pack's only chance of making it into the playoffs: to win the NFC North, probably in a play-for-it-all game on New Year's Day at Detroit, the current division leader.

Packers undrafted rookie cornerback Makinton Dorleant
was activated off injured reserve Saturday and may see action today.

Photo by Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

While the weather conditions today, along with Rodgers' limited mobility, may affect the passing game, it's possible we might see a bit more of recently-signed running back Christine Michael. Head coach Mike McCarthy has been saying that they've been exposing him to more and more of the packages and the weather might just present an opportunity for this "explosive" back (Jordy Nelson's words, when asked to describe what Michael looks like during practice) to help the Packers grind out a victory.

One plus note for the Pack's offense comes courtesy of Houston today: DE Jadeveon Clowney was ruled out by the team because of elbow/wrist injuries. That will make David Bakhtiari's and Brian Buluga's lives so much better; Clowney, when he is not injured and is motivated, can cause havoc for an offense. But...not today. And, of course, Wisconsin's own J.J. Watt is nowhere to be found because of his early season injury. The presence of those two would have really helped the Texans in this game today.

That's not to say Houston's defense can't hold it's own. As Pete Dougherty notes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's preview of the game, "Houston has the NFL's fifth-rated defense...". They have a good pass rush, although not as great without Clowney. The have good linebackers. But given time, Rodgers should be able to exploit enough gaps in the defense to keep moving the ball and put points on the board.

The Pack's own defense, after disastrous outings during the losing streak, will need to stop Lamar Miller, the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher. They will also need to put pressure on the struggling QB Brock Osweiler. If they do so, the possibility for multiple turnovers is there.

The Prediction
The Packers are currently favored by 6-1/2 points at the time of this writing. That seems like a lot given that the Texans currently have a slightly better record than the Pack. While the weather factor should skew to the Packers favor, it will be the first time this team has had to face wintery weather conditions, too. If it impacts the Packers' passing game, the game could become a bit of a toss-up as Houston's running game is better than the Packers.

Still, we have to believe that an Aaron Rodgers-led team is better than a Brock Osweiler-led team.

We're calling it 27-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!