Sunday, December 27, 2020

2020 NFL Week 16: Packers vs. Titans Preview and Prediction

A Quick Look Back

Well, Packers fans, the Pack did what they needed to do last week against Carolina, although not in the best way possible. They lit it up offensively in the first half behind a strong running game and then seemed to go almost totally away from that in the second half, allowing the Panthers to claw their way back to make it a far too close of a game down the stretch. A win is a win, but why a team would leave behind what's been working for an entire half to go to a different scheme ... ? Your guess is as good as ours ... or the head coach's for that matter. Mike LaFleur wasn't a fan of what the team did in the second half of that game and, hopefully, learned a valuable lesson without it costing the team a win. We'll see what happens going forward.

QB Aaron Rodgers will need a productive game tonight vs. the Titans
to help the Packers secure a win and hang on to the #1 seed for
the playoffs. (Photo by Dan Powers USA Today Sports)

The Preview

Most previews of tonight's game at Lambeau Field — the regular season home finale — seemingly begin and end with accolades and warnings about Titans' running back Derrick Henry. Radio Voice of the Packers, Wayne Larrivee, said in preview interview that Henry has 100 yards before he gets off the bus. So there's that. 

Described as a "bulldozer" type back, Henry is well on his way to 2,000 yards rushing this season, coming in with nearly 1,700 yards rushing and 15 TDs. He tends to prefer to run between the tackles and look for cutback lanes, but he can also present problems when he gets around the edge. Against a weak run defense (any teams come to mind, Packer fans???), he can take over a game and be the best defense the Titans have by keeping QB Aaron Rodgers and his weapons off the field. That's not a good scenario. Tennessee QB Ryan Tannehill is also having a good year overall. Combined, they contribute to the league's number-one ranked offense (before this weekend's games).

Of course, the Pack comes in with the NFL's third-overall offense. So we have strength against strength in tonight's game. Defensively, the Pack's numbers have actually been improving over the last few weeks to put them roughly in the middle of the rankings, give or take. The Titans defense, on the other hand, is toward the bottom of the rankings. Again, Wayne Larrivee described the Packers and Titans as basically mirror images of one another: both good in the same areas and challenged in the same areas.

The Packers will need to establish their ground game again tonight. When they stick with it, good things happen; when they go away from it, as they did in the second half last weekend, they don't always perform at a peak level. They need to feed Aaron Jones. Jamaal Williams likely won't play tonight so rookie RB A.J. Dillon should get some reps and can be a powerful addition at the goal line.

The ground game will be especially important this evening as snow is expected (it's falling at the time of this writing), with temps in the upper 20s and wind chills in the teens. Will be a tough environment for punters and kickers tonight. Conditions overall would seem to favor the better running team. But they should also favor Rodgers over Tannehill if receivers can make their catches.

The Prediction

The oddsmakers have set the Packers as 3 to 3-1/2 point favorites, depending upon your source. The over-under is indicated as 56 points. We agree with those saying this will likely be a shoot-out and could even come down to which team has the ball last. We hope not. We hate those types of games ... at least when the Pack is involved.

The Packers can clinch the number 1 playoff seed in the NFC tonight be defeating the Titans. The team has had an uncanny ability to follow up a poor performance (i.e., last week) with a good one, and to turn it up on defense when needed to hang on to a victory. Both of those traits will be called upon tonight to beat the best team the Packers will play until a potential Super Bowl berth.

We're calling it Packers 34 - Titans 31. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

2020 NFL Week 15: Packers vs. Panthers Preview and Prediction

An opening observation: Boy, there's a lot of "p's" in the title to this post!

OK, now that that's out of the way ... 

A reminder that the Packers beat the Lions 31-24 last week in Detroit to lock up the NFC North Division title for the second year in a row and the seventh time in the last 10 years. Yes, the Packers are the Kings of the North. 'Nuff said.

Except for this: the Packers also now hold the number 1 seed in the NFC playoff hunt by virtue of their tiebreaker win over the New Orleans Saints. If the Pack wins out, they have the lone first-round bye for the playoffs and then the road to the Super Bowl for the NFC runs through Green Bay. In January. Yeah, that's right.

And even if the Packers stumble in one of their three remaining regular season games — Carolina and Tennessee at Lambeau and then Da Bearz in Chicago for the season finale — they can still retain that number 1 seeding. Too complicated in terms of the scenarios to go into here right now. Plus, you can look it up. Lots of football left.

We should see Packers RB Aaron Jones heading to the end zone a lot
in tonight's game at Lambeau Field vs. the Carolina Panthers.
(Photo from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

The Preview

The 10-3 Green Bay Packers host the 4-9 Carolina Panthers tonight at Lambeau Field. The Panthers will be without arguably their best offensive player in RB Christian McCaffrey. QB Teddy Bridgewater has been rather mediocre and there hasn't been many receiving weapons for him that would pose a threat to the Packers defensive backs even if he was performing better. Still, the Packers defense needs to put pressure on Bridgewater because if they do they should be able to generate an interception or two tonight.

On the offensive side of things, the Packers continue to put up points and they should be able to do so once again tonight against a young set of Carolina d-backs. Unless the Packers defense fails to show up, the Panthers offense won't be able to keep up with the Pack.

The Prediction

The oddsmakers favor the Pack by 8-1/2 points at the time of this writing. We think the Packers will cover that spread ... if we were betting types (which we are not).

While the Panthers may be able to keep it close for a time, we expect QB Aaron Rodgers and his crew of receiving and rushing weapons to have a good evening. We're calling it Packers 38- Panthers 24.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

2020 NFL Week 14: Packers vs. Lions Preview and Prediction

A quick review of last week's win at Lambeau Field over the Philadelphia Eagles ... the Green Bay Packers won, 30 -16.

But wait, there's more! The Packers defense actually played pretty well, getting some sacks and second-year D-back Darnell Savage picking up his third interception of the season. As usual, on offense QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Davante Adams and RB Aaron Jones had great games individually. Rodgers threw his 400th TD pass and was the fastest ever in NFL history to do so in terms of the fewest games needed (we know, fastest/fewest sounds a bit confusing, but it works here). Not surprisingly, Adams was the recipient and was aware enough not to toss it into the empty stands. Instead, he knelt down and presented it to Rodgers as A-Rod was then symbolically "crowned" by TE Robert Tonyan. A real keeper moment, that.

And Jones scampered off to an amazing 77-yard TD run, as well. Another great moment, made even more memorable by the fact that LT David Bakhtiari himself trundled all the way down to the end zone as part of the escort. Analysis by those with the tools to do so showed that the big man was trucking along at 16.75 mph (NextGenStats)! Holy Roadrunner, Batman! Good hustle from the now highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history. Shows leadership and commitment. Kudos, Mr. Bakhtiari!

Oh, not that anyone pays much attention, but we were again close on our prediction: we had it 31-20 Packers. That missed PAT from Mason Crosby and one also by the Philly kicker who returned the favor...go figure.

We should expect to see a lot of TD celebrations in Detroit.
(Photo from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

The Preview

What to expect today? Well, for Detroit, we know QB Matthew Stafford can have some big games against the Packers. He's thrown for more TDs against Green Bay than any other team during his career. He's coming off a 400-yard passing game. And the Lions still, even with a 5-7 record coming into the game, are only a game back in the Wild Card hunt. So they have something to play for, certainly.

Plus, after former head coach Matt Patricia was relieved of his duties (about time) and replaced by offensive coordinator and former Wisconsin Badgers QB, Rose Bowl winner, Packers QB coach Darrell Bevell (was that enough Badgers/Packers ties for you?) as interim head coach the Lions got a win last week. We love to see Bevell do well as he is genuinely a good guy. But not when he plays against the Pack. So no love here today, Darrell, sorry.

The other thing that might be expected based upon past history is that the Packers could very well fall behind early. As Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Packers reporter Tom Silverstein points out: "In the last seven games – four of them at Lambeau Field – the Packers have fallen behind. Going backward from the teams' first meeting this season on Sept. 20, the deficits were, in order: 14-3, 17-3, 13-0, 31-0, 24-0, 27-3 and 20-3. The Packers rallied to win the most recent three games but lost the four prior to that, so falling behind again could be a recipe for disaster against a team trying to stay in the playoff race."

So...there's that. For most of this season, the Pack has gotten off to a hot start. It would do well for them to do so once again today in Detroit or they may wind up feeding the Lions' new confidence level following last week's 34-30 win against Da Bearz in Chicago. The Lions have been putting up points, even in their losses and, with a few notable exceptions — including their 42-21 loss to the Packers in their first meeting of the year and the 20-0 loss to the Panthers — usually keep the game within a score or two.

For the Packers, unless last week was an aberration, the defense looks to finally be on an upward arc. They got at Carson Wentz last week, even forcing a QB change, because they had him so rattled. They've started to generate some turnovers. Folks on that side of the ball seem to be generally healthy. May it continue thusly!

On offense, the Pack has been averaging nearly 32 points per game, leading the NFL in that category, while giving up an average of about 25 points per game. We'll take that any game of the season, won't we, Packer fans?

With WR Davante Adams having what some are beginning to call an MVP season in his own right, a complement of other receivers that Rodgers has confidence in — particularly TE Robert Tonyan — and a backfield consisting of Jones and Jamaal Williams, and an offensive line that, even missing starting center Corey Linsley is arguably the best in the NFL, there's no indication that the Pack won't again be putting up at least their season average of points today. Plus throw in the entrance of new returner and WR Tavon Austin and that may help spark some special teams magic ... which, let's admit it, certainly needs some magic on its coverage units. If the coverage units continue to plays as they have, i.e., not well, and the game is close, giving up a long return and or return for touchdown could be just the thing that flips the game to the opponent's favor.

The Prediction

It seems as if, not matter how poorly the Lions play over the course of a season, they play the Packers tough. We would expect nothing less today.

The Packers are listed as 7-1/2 point favorites at the time of this writing. Seems as if that's fair.

We're calling it Packers 38 - Lions 27.

Go Pack Go!!!
A late addition: My good friend, Billy Da Bearz Fan, after reading my prediction today, texted to say I'm living in fantasyland. Yeah, he really said that...and he being a Bearz fan! Anyway ... his prediction is 20-17 Lions. I know. But remember: he is a Bearz fan. Hasn't seen a good team in ages. gentle with him. He's a nice guy. Really.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

2020 NFL Week 13: Packers vs. Eagles Preview and Prediction

Packers fans: regardless of what else might be going on in the USA and around the planet, all is well and in balance in the universe when the Green Bay Packers beat Da Bearz. And that is exactly what happened last week when the Pack beat Chicago, 41-25, at Lambeau Field in front of a primetime TV audience. Doesn't get better than that. Oh, and let's just add that the game was nowhere near as close as the final score may indicate. Our prediction indicated it would be a bit tighter of a game. Very glad to say that it wasn't. The Packers now sit at 8-3 in the NFC North with the ViQueens and Da Bearz following at 5-6 and the Lions in their usual spot at the bottom of the standings at 4-7. The Packers can pretty well lock things up in the division today, if not officially then practically speaking, with a win over the 3-7-1 Eagles.

This is how we hope to see Packers QB Aaron Rodgers exit
the field after today's game vs. the Eagles: victorious!
(Photo by William Glasheen, Wm. Glasheen/USA TODAY NETWORK-WI)

The Preview

The Packers have the highest scoring offense in the NFL once again this week, edging out Kansas City. The Pack is averaging 31.7 points per game. The Eagles come in at about 10 points less per game, 21.5. That spread bodes well for today. The Eagles offense has lost a lot of its offensive line, and will be starting its eleventh configuration in 12 games today. This should open some opportunities for the Packers pass rush today if they can get it going consistently. Put pressure on that line and sacks and turnovers would likely be in store.

Philly is also out some of their key offensive weapons. And while QB Carson Wentz is just a few years removed from an MVP calibre season, he seems to have faded a bit, particularly in terms of his passing accuracy when you look at the stats. But as Wayne Larrivee, "Radio Voice of the Green Bay Packers", said in a pregame discussion today, if you look at poor quarterback play you can usually factor in poor offensive line play and lack of weapons to rely on. Still, if the Pack's defense can exploit that weak offensive line and pressure Wentz, he will be off target. Now, Philly has a good running back who gave the Pack problems in last season's Eagles' win. So, the Pack's suspect run defense needs to show up as they did (except for one 50+ yard run) last week. Wasn't great, but it was better. That progress needs to continue.

The Eagles defensive front is solid. As for what that translates to for the Packers offense remains to be seen. Starting center Corey Linsley was placed on the 3-week IR list this week following the knee injury he sustained last week. Uber-utility lineman Elgton Jenkins will get the start at center today with rookie lineman John Runyan getting his first start. Runyan has filled in admirably when needed so we wouldn't expect any drop-off in play from the O-line.

We do hope that the line is able to open up some holes for the running game today. And they should be able to do so. For as problematic as the Packers run defense has seemed for most of this season, it actually ranks higher than Philly in terms of total yards given up (i.e., meaning giving up fewer yards). So yards should be had by the Pack's backs, thus opening up the passing and play action game for Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers and his receivers should have a big game today against the Eagles undersized defensive backs.

Special teams play for the Packers hasn't really be special this season. Newly-acquired returner/wide receiver Tavon Austin might have a chance to make a big difference. He brings speed. And while expected to be active today, news just hit that reportedly he is not, meaning Tyler Ervin likely is healthy and active for the game. Great to have fast options either way. Will be interesting to see which way the Packers go with these two players today.

The Prediction

The Packers are winning and the Eagles have lost 3 in a row. Admittedly, and as crazy as it sounds with that record, Philly is still alive in the horrible NFC East Division so they do have something to play for today.

The oddsmakers have put the point spread at 8-1/2 to 9 points in favor of the Packers, depending upon who you're looking at. We think that sounds about right.

We're calling it Packers 31 - Eagles 20.

Go Pack Go!!!