Sunday, December 29, 2019

NFL Week 16 Review of Packers win vs. Minnesota, NFL Week 17 Preview vs. Detroit — The last of our regular season twofers!

Packers fans, the time has come. The time for the last of our season-long slacking and, hence, twofer-type posts.

But, you know, it has seemed to work. And while not being a superstitious sort (knock on wood, a-hem), given how well the Green Bay Packers have played while we have been following this pattern, we're reluctant to change now. with it.

The ViQueen Takedown

What can we say that hasn't already been said about the way the Packers overcame three uncharacteristic first half turnovers and still held Minnesota to just 10 points off those turnovers? Oh, and that wasn't just the first half point total allowed...that was for the entire game! While the Pack's offense put up 23 points (Mason Crosby's first missed PAT of the season on the last TD kept the points from being spot on again in terms of our point prediction for the Packers), it was the defense that was the collective star of the game. Za'Darius Smith, in particular, was a beast in terms of pressures, QB sacks and overall disruption to the Vikes game plan. Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Preston Smith, et al locked down the Minnesota offense in all phases of the game.

Granted, Minnesota was without its top running back, Dalvin Cook. But left to rely on QB Kirk Cousins, he lived up to his winless record on Monday Night Football, now 0-9. The Packers, in contrast, finally got their first win in four tries in the new Humpty Dump (whatever the new stadium is called, nothing will ever replace the Humpty Dump in the minds of many). And with the win, the Pack captured the NFC North Division title, sitting at 12-3 going into today's regular season finale.

With the Packers defense finally rounding out into what looks like championship-calibre form, and the offense being solid if not spectacular, a win today in Detroit against the 3-12 Lions will put the Pack in position to potentially grab the #1 seed for the NFC Playoffs, pending a 49ers loss this evening in Seattle. So let's now get onto the preview of today's game, shall we? Yes, we shall.

RB Aaron Jones has been a beneficiary of great Packers offensive line play
this season, on the verge of 1,000 yards rushing and 20 TDs. The linemen
will tell you that he inspires them to that level of play.
(Photo: Getty Images)

The Preview and Prediction

As noted above, the Packers seem to be starting to peak at the right time in all phases of the game, albeit with issues still remaining in the receiving game. But, the Pack goes into the game being healthy overall and playing for the possibility for home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. In most circles, that's what's known as "incentive."

Detroit, on the other hand, will be without QB Matthew Stafford, as they have for a good chunk of the season. There's been ongoing questions about second-year head coach Matt Patricia even going back to last season. The only thing the Lions truly have to play for today is draft position: if they lose they will have the 3rd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, win and they will get the 5th overall pick. With as dreadful a season as the Lions have had, might as well get something for the effort...lose and grab that #3 pick, guys. Just a suggestion.

The Packers, on the other hand, need not to have a letdown after Monday's night emotional and impactful win over the ViQueens. They need to build on that momentum going into the playoffs. It would be wonderful if the Pack could get off to a fast start and take what few Lions fans will be in the stands today — yes, most fans will probably be Packers fans — out of the game. Some Detroit players will, of course, be playing today's game for work next year, if not in Detroit, somewhere else. But it's likely, as some other pundits have noted, that most players will be looking to clean out there lockers and hit I-75 out of town.

Some Packers pundits have called today's game as much a "must win" game as was the game against Minnesota. As noted earlier, with a win and 49ers loss the Pack gets the #1 seed, a first-round bye and and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Huge. With a win and a 49ers win in Seattle, the Pack will have the #2 seed, and still have a first-round bye. With a loss and a 49ers win (and the Saints play into some of these combinations, too), the Pack will get the #3 see and a play a first-round game at home. Good, but surely not as good as grabbing a first-round bye.

The Prediction

We see the Packers continuing to work on their offensive "identity"...better late than never. RB Aaron Jones should have another big day. He's close to hitting the 1,000 yards rushing mark and scoring 20 TDs in a season...yowza! RB Jamaal Williams, at the time of this writing is listed as questionable for today's game, which means rookie Dexter Williams may get some playing time, as might versatile late season pick up RB Tyler Ervin. Hopefully, one or more receivers will step up their play and be a reliable counterpart to Davante Adams, not just today but throughout the playoffs. If the Packers just play their game, despite Detroit perhaps staying close for a quarter or maybe even the first half, Green Bay will come away with a win.

We're calling it Packers 34 - Lions 13.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, December 23, 2019

NFL Week 15 Review of Packers win vs. Chicago, NFL Week 16 Preview vs. Minnesota — Still with the twofers!

In what looked like a relatively solid and safe, if not spectacular, victory through 3 quarters of the game vs. Da Bearz last weekend, after which they led 21-3, the Green Bay Packers played...what's the word?...I dunno...good enough to win in the end.

But it sure got tight down the stretch didn't it, Packer fans? Much tighter than it should have been. Coming ultimately within a yard of Da Bearz possibly tying it up and going to overtime. Remember that crazy last-play lateral-a-thon that was finally fumbled and recovered on the Packers' 1-yard line by Tramon Williams? Final score, 21-13. Whew!

So in the 199th and 200th meetings between these two storied rivals, the Packers wound up sweeping this season's series. Despite misfiring on offense again, yet doing enough on defense again, the Packers were able to move on with an 11-3 record and a guaranteed spot in the playoffs still atop the NFC North.

Which brings us to tonight's game in Minnesota. With LOTS on the line. Especially for the Packers.

The Packers will once again need a big night out of NT Kenny Clark
and the entire Packers defense if they hope to come away with the win
tonight in Minnesota.

(Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

Preview and Prediction

This will be an interesting game for many reasons, including the fact that the Packers have yet to win in U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis (going 0-3 in prior games in the successor to the HumpDome), and Vikes QB Kirk Cousins is 0-8 in Monday Night Football games. So either the Pack or ViQueens will finally get off the shneide. Let's hope it's the Packers.

Minnesota is favored by 5-1/2 points in this game. Hmmm. As others will also point out, they don't have a victory this season against a team that has a winning record...which, as you know, the Packers have. Probably gives the Packers an extra bit of incentive to be a bit disrespected this way. Seems as if the Packers are the about the quietest 11-3 team out there...not getting much chatter yet in terms of a potential playoff threat. We'll save that conversation for another time.

The Pack will also benefit tonight from not having to face RB Dalvin Cook who is out with an injury, although the Vikes certainly have enough other weapons to cause havoc particularly if the Packers defense plays as loose as they sometimes do. A consistent pass rush against Cousins will help considerably. Give him time and he can certainly do damage in the passing game.

Defensively, Minnesota will try to shut down the Pack's running game with their good linebacking corps, led by ILB Eric Kendricks, and put pressure not so much on QB Aaron Rodgers per se as on the receivers; if the wideouts don't get separation on coverage — as has been an ongoing problem this season — it will make Rodgers' life much more difficult. After last week's game, head coach Matt LaFleur said that WR Jake Kumerow deserved more looks and time on the field. Agreed. The team is still in search of a solid and reliable second receiver behind Davante Adams. At least for now, that may be Kumerow. Allen Lazard has also earned looks from Rodgers. Swinging RB Aaron Jones out as a receiver has also paid benefits, especially when RB Jamaal Williams has it going; that's a powerful combination and the Packers need to employ it more frequently in our view.

This game means more to the Packers than to the Vikes as Green Bay is playing to secure the NFC North with the win tonight and a first-round playoff bye if they then beat the Lions in Detroit in the season finale. They can control their destiny now, into and perhaps even through the playoffs if they can get this win tonight. It's that big. And it's time they step up all the way around. They will need a solid effort in all three phases of the game.

The Packers have been challenged all season and somehow, someway have typically found a way to hold on to win late in the 4th quarter. This game could certainly go either way and, obviously, the oddsmakers think Minnesota is to the plus-side even without Dalvin Cook. We think the Pack will do just enough to come home with a win in yet another Cardiac Pack game.

We're calling this game Packers 24 - ViQueens 23.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

NFL Week 14 Review of Packers win vs. Washington, NFL Week 15 Preview vs. Chicago — A twofer once more!

In yet another of our season-long "twofer" type posts, Packer fans, we are heading down the stretch of the regular season, and doing so by entering play against NFC North divisional opponents for the final 3 games.

But first, a very quick review of the game at Lambeau Field vs. Washington: the Green Bay Packers won 20-15. After getting off to a fast start, going up 14-0, the remainder of the game became a bit of a struggle offensively in terms of moving the ball consistently. More on that in a moment. Let's first acknowledge that the Packers defense once again came up big, getting takeaways that definitely helped the Pack hold on for the win. When the defense creates turnovers, the Packers win, simple as that.

But back to the's inconsistency has been, unfortunately, a season-long problem for the Packers. Despite the 10-3 record going into today's game, even QB Aaron Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur concur that the offense has yet to find its "identity" and at this stage of the season "what you see on film is who you are".

So, we can rejoice in the fact that, somehow, someway, through 13 games the Pack has found ways more often than not to win. There are weapons on offense, although not as many in terms of young wide receivers stepping up as was anticipated. The Packers need someone other than Davante Adams to be a consistent threat at wide receiver. Barring that, the Packers tight ends become better options in the receiving game, along with Aaron Jones who occasionally lines up as a receiver. That versatility offered by RB Aaron Jones, along with the pounding style of Jamaal Williams, makes the running game a legitimate threat each and every game.

Packers rookie left guard Elgton Jenkins has been a great fit and performer
this season along the O-line and will be counted on again today against a stout
Chicago Bears defense.
(Photo: Ronald Martinez, Getty Images)

The Preview and Prediction

Let me first of all just say that my friend, Billy Da Bearz fan, is heading to Green Bay as this is being written. He doesn't think Chicago will win, he told me yesterday, but still holds out hope that Da Bearz will somehow pull off the upset. I've always admired him for his insights. Especially, in this case, about how he doesn't expect Da Bearz to win today.

In the 200th meeting of these teams (the Packers currently lead the series, by the way, 98-95-6), in what will be a cold, 18-degree Lambeau Field, the Pack is favored by 4-1/2 points. While Chicago still has a shot at the playoffs after their 3-game win streak, the Packers have more to play for in the form of the NFC North title, playoff seeding and perhaps even a first-round bye and home field advantage through the playoffs; they'll need to win the 3 remaining games in order to have their best shot at all that.

In looking at today's game, the Packers are the healthier of the two teams, they have the better quarterback and offensive weapons (if they can all step up at the same time) and a bend-don't-break defense that is usually adept at getting pressure on the opposing quarterback and in generating turnovers. If all that holds today, the Packers will go to 11-3.

We're calling it Packers 20 - Bears 17 in yet another close game in this epic NFL series.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 08, 2019

NFL Week 13 Review of Packers win vs. Giants, NFL Week 14 Preview vs. Washington — Yet another...twofer!!

A disturbing pattern has arisen, Packer fans. Not with our beloved Green Bay Packers per se, but with yours truly. Despite the best intentions after each week's game to offer a timely review of that game and another separate post looking ahead to the coming game...not. So things have devolved to doing a combo posting — a "twofer", as you will — with a brief review of last week's game and a preview and prediction for today's game. At this point in the season, if you are a regular reader — and you are, aren't you??? — you're used to it. So...let's carry on then.

Last Sunday saw the Pack bounce back, as we expected they would, from their disappointing drubbing at the hands of the 49ers the prior week with a solid win vs. the New York Giants in the Meadowlands. In a game that saw rain, sleet and snow, the final score was 31-13 Packers. (Our prediction, by the way, had the Pack winning 31-20 ... so we were once again spot on with the Packers' points. Just didn't count on our defense getting 4 turnovers and the Giants being even a bit worse than initially anticipated.) 

The Packers showed, once again, that when they are able to generate and come away with turnovers that they are difficult to beat (but let's be real: any team that is able to benefit from 4 takeaways in a game should darn well win that game, right?). In fact, if memory serves, the Pack's only losses have come in those games where they don't get turnovers.

Solid play came pretty much on both sides of the ball. Yes, there were the 4 takeaways by the defense, but as has been the case pretty much the entire season, there remain concerning gaps and lapses in terms of giving up big plays. But, it's also been the case that generally, the defense has stiffened up when the opponent nears or gets into the redzone. So there's that.

QB Aaron Rodgers did what he needed to do in helping guide the Packers
to a big bounce-back win out east against the Giants last Sunday.
(AP Photo/Adam Hunger) (Photo: Adam Hunger, AP)
It's also the case that the Packers offense may have discovered a reliable Number 2 receiver behind Davante Adams. Allen Lazard had a great game with big catches totaling over 100 yards in receptions, if memory services, including a huge TD catch. Rodgers has confidence in him that seems to be growing each game. Head coach Matt LaFleur said this week when asked that Lazard is the type of player that really gives his all each week in practice whatever he's asked to do. Remember that he's also been very good on special teams coverage. Big and fast are always two great attributes on a football field, any time. RB Jamaal Williams seems to also have some "mudder" in him, reminiscent of the running prowess of Edgar Bennet in his heyday. He showed power and moves in less-than-ideal playing conditions. And Aaron Jones continues to be a multi-dimensional threat that defenses have to account for whenever he's on the field.

The game was really never in doubt. The Packers had to get back on track after their second West Coast flop of the season to get ready for the 4-game stretch run, with 2 games at Lambeau Field and the final two on the road, with the final 3 being against NFC North Division opponents Da Bearz, the ViQueens and the Lions.

The Preview

As for today's game against Washington, it is a team that comes to Green Bay with a record of 3-9, the mirror image of the Packers 9-3. Washington has won its last 2 games in a row behind rookie QB Dwayne Haskins (the second rookie quarterback in a row to be faced by the Packers) and a reliance on its running game that includes a veteran running back by the name of Adrian Peterson. Remember him? He may be on the outer edges of his career these days but he can still cause problems if not attended to. The Packers defense will need to stop, or at least contain, the run today as we could expect Washington to try to keep Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines as much as possible by running the clock with its ground game. Washington's defense is said to be coming on, particularly its front.

Offensively for the Packers, it should pretty much be business as usual. Protection for Rodgers and opening some running lanes will be key offensively for the Pack. Such a simple game, really, isn't it?

The inactives list hasn't been published at the time of this writing so we're not entirely sure who's in today and who's out. The injury report had a few players listed as questionable, most notably RG Billy Turner who was out late this last week due to illness; expect shuffling on the O-line in terms of personnel if that lingers into today's game.

We would expect also to see the first action for newly-acquired running back/returner Tyler Ervin who may finally give the Packers something that they haven't yet had all season: positive yardage on returns.

The weather forecast has it set for a balmy 40-degrees for the game with no precipitation anticipated. Good football weather, especially for fans. Just not great December weather advantage football for the Pack.

The Prediction

The Packers are favored by a whopping 12-1/2 points for this game. Yowza. We actually never like to see the Pack favored by this much because it seems as if they often fall short of covering the spread in situations such as this. However, for today's game, we think that's pretty realistic all things considered.

We're calling it Packers 34 - Washington 17.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 01, 2019

NFL Week 12 Review of Packers loss vs. 49ers, NFL Week 13 Preview vs. Giants — A twofer once again!

So, Packers fans, we come into game 12 of the NFL season (13th week overall) atop the NFC North at 8-3 (well, technically tied with a tiebreaker advantage over the Vikings). This is a record which, we're guessing, most all Green Bay fans would have gladly taken at the beginning of the season. Indeed.

Still, after the particularly concerning way in which the Pack was handled by the Niners in last weekend's game (by the way, dear reader, this is the only mention we will make by way of "review" about that game), some folks may be questioning if the team is as good as the record.

Keep in mind that the Packers have basically been through the hardest part of its schedule in terms of opposing teams' records; the Pack now goes into these final games of the season with the easiest schedule of any playoff contender based upon opposing teams' records. So there's that. Three of the remaining 5 games are on the road. Next up is Washington at Lambeau Field. Then the final 3 games are all vs. division opponents, with Da Bearz at home then at Minnesota and Detroit to close out the regular season.

The Preview and Prediction

With its game today vs. the Giants in New York, the Packers begin what should be a run to another division title. If. If they can stay as relatively healthy as they are now. If they can somehow figure out a way to cover over the middle and down the field. If they can somehow figure out a way to keep getting Davante Adams and Aaron Jones the ball in addition to at least one more playmaker (someone needs to step up regularly) so Aaron Rodgers can spread the ball around. If they can stay out of 3rd and long. If they can somehow, some way find a way to get a punt return or two along the way...just even for positive yardage. If. Lots of ifs.

Packers WR Davante Adams needs to have a big day today against the Giants.
(Photo: Tony Avelar, AP)
But coming off last weekend's debacle in the Bay (San Fran not GB, that is), the New York Giants should be what the doctor ordered. Aaron Rodgers always seems to play well in New York and also typically has a good bounce-back game following a loss. Given the hype and expectations that fell flat in the Niners game, there should have been some soul-searching during this week on the part of the Packers players and coaches. Head coach Matt LaFleur said he definitely needed to do a better job coaching. Yep. He failed to have the team make the adjustments they needed to during the game and was out-coached by his former fellow coaches and his brother.

Wipe that slate clean. Today sets up well for a win. The Packers are favored by 6 points on the road going against a rookie QB with fumbling problems and a Giants team that has lost 7 games in a row. But players still need to perform. The offense will be helped greatly if RT Bryan Bulaga is able to return from his leg injury and play at a high level; if not, there will be reordering along the offensive line which could present problems for both the rushing and passing attacks.

Overall, let's hope the Packers got a reality check last weekend and play with renewed commitment and energy today.

We're calling this game Packers 31 - Giants 20.

Go Pack Go!!!