Sunday, September 26, 2021

2021 NFL Week 3: Packers vs. 49ers Preview and Prediction

The Green Bay Packers did what they needed to do last Monday evening: beat the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Final score was 35-17. Our prediction was

But it's not about last week's game or prediction, it's all about tonight's battle on the West Coast, as the Pack meets the 49ers. Reminder, too, this is a "short" week for the Packers, plus the travel. For whatever reasons, the Packers haven't had what you'd call a great deal of success on these trips west. Reasons vary. But what about tonight's game?

The Preview

It's about player availability here as much as anything tonight. The Packers will be without LT Elgton Jenkins tonight on offense (not helpful) and Za'Darius Smith again on defense. Those are two key pieces for the Pack. We also just learned that DB Kevin King is out of tonight's game due to illness. This should give rookie Eric Stokes a chance to continue to show that he is the future at that spot; he had a great game against Detroit and, to our point of view, is a clear upgrade over King. So a blessing in disguise here, perhaps.

Conversely, the Niners will be down to about their sixth-string running back. They are hurting, too. Don't need to say any more about that. And expect San Fran to continue shuffling their veteran and rookie quarterbacks, which may present ongoing challenges for the Pack's defenders.

Having said that, we saw in last Monday's game that the Packers offense can, as expected, put up points...even with QB Aaron Rodgers overthrowing a couple long balls to Marquez Valdes-Scantling that would likely have been easy scores. But the Pack's defense continues to be a huge concern, particularly its lack of pass rush. New defensive coordinator Joe Barry's scheme hasn't come together. In apparently an emphasis to stop the run first, it has allowed the opposing quarterback to sit back in the pocket nearly untouched through the first two games. That has to end...soon.

Could special teams make a difference? Rookie running back / returner Kylin HIll has performed well in his returner role. Could he pop one today? Possible. But could the Packers special teams unit also give up a return? Yes. So we can't count on special teams to decide the game.

It will come down to Rodgers doing Rodgers-like things. More than once or twice. Perhaps even with the ball in his hands at the end of the game to determine the outcome. That would be a positive in our view.

The Prediction

The Niners are favored at the time of this writing by 3-1/2 points...a bit more than home field advantage. And given the Pack's historic performances in these contests, a bit surprised the spread isn't more than that.

In our season prediction, we had the Pack going 3-1 in the first four games. While we didn't make game-by-game picks at that time, instead looking at the overall opponents and schedule, this in actuality was the game we most expected the Packers to lose. While we thought the opener against the Saints would be a tough game, we never saw the team not getting off the plane to play.

While we hope we are wrong, we still see the Packers dropping this one, based off recent history as much as anything, plus the problems on defense.

We're calling this game 49ers 31 - Packers 27.

Still ... Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, September 20, 2021

2021 NFL Week 2: Packers vs. Lions Preview and Prediction

Guess what? We were right on the money with our call of 38 points in last week's season opener against the Saints in Jacksonville.

The only problem was it was New Orleans that racked up 38, not the Packers. The Pack got 3 points for writing their collective name on the test paper otherwise that game was a total toilet flush, know what we mean? I think you do.

So...let's move on to tonight's Monday Night Football extravaganza against the Lions at Lambeau Field. Yes, let's.

QB Aaron Rodgers needs to play like
Aaron Rodgers tonight vs. the Lions.
(Photo by Dan Powers/USA Today Network-Wis)

The Preview

The gist of it is that the Pack rarely has two bad games back to back. QB Aaron Rodgers usually comes out blazing after an embarrassing game the week before. The entire Packers team, offense and defense, sleepwalked through that season opener. They won't do that again tonight. Not at home. With fans in the stands for the first time in two seasons. Against a division opponent who always plays the Pack tough regardless of each team's record. And not on Monday Night Football.

Yes, the Packers will be without veteran Za'Darius Smith who is now on the temporary IRL for three weeks with an unspecified, but apparently lingering, back problem. Third-year OLB Rashan Gary will now have to step up. Gary has trended upwards each year with the team, so now is his chance to shine. Ditto for the entire defense in order to give some credibility to the new defensive scheme under coordinator Joe Barry. If they don't show significant improvement tonight after last week's poor showing, even more questions will arise as to why head coach Matt LaFleur hired him given Barry's lack of success in that area before coming to the Pack.

As for the offense, tonight it will all focus on establishing the running game. Look for a steady diet of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon to get the defense out of a strictly drop-and-defend approach as the Saints were able to do last weekend. The Packers need the running game to be credible so Rodgers and the play-action pass can be as effective as it was last season. Oh, and the wide receivers have to do a much better job getting open than in the last game, as well.

Everything that could go wrong last week, did. Tonight, it's time for the Packers to show us what they got, so to speak. They've been hyped all off-season. Now it's time to begin living up to that hype.

The Prediction

The Packers are favored by 11 (or 11-1/2) depending upon what oddsmakers you are looking at. The Lions had a good comeback effort fall just short against the 49ers in their opener; they were down by 28 points in the fourth quarter and lost by only eight. So the Lions won't quit, that's for sure. The Pack needs to get up early and not allow the Lions to hang close.

We're calling this Packers 34 - Lions 24.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

2021 NFL Week 1: Packers vs. Saints Preview and Prediction

Alrighty then, Packers fans ... today begins the team's 17-week long trek to the Super Bowl (OK, 18 counting the bye week). We say that every year, don't we? Or at least we think that. And with QB Aaron Rodgers with a chip on his shoulder (he always plays well that way), a full cupboard of offensive weapons, and a defense that should be on the rise albeit under a new defensive coordinator and scheme, there's no reason to believe that Super Bowl hope — and hype — is a fantasy, barring injuries to key players, or course.

But it's one game at a time, as the saying goes. And today's game is against the now Drew Brees-less New Orleans Saints. The game was scheduled to be played in the Big Easy, but the recent hurricane that rolled through that area required relocating the game. To Jacksonville. Which should work, despite the heat and humidity, to the Packers' favor as a good portion of the stands will be occupied by Wisconsin transplants. In other words, this could wind up being in effect a Packers "home" game ... or home-away-from-home home game, anyway.

WR Davante Adams in a "Who? Me?" moment.
(Photo by William Glasheen, Wm. Glasheen/USA TODAY NETWORK-W)

The Preview

Simple: Packers good (although after a preseason in which only a handful of starters played at all) ... Saints have injury and suspension issues. Should have been a home game for the Saints. Instead, moved to Jacksonville which may make it seem like almost a home game for the Packers with the plethora of Packer fans in the area. The Saints secondary will have problems covering all the receivers the Pack can put out there. And look for the Pack's running backs to contribute not only on the ground but through the air.

The Saints have a new starting QB in veteran Jameis Winston. He can make big plays. But he can also toss up a lot of interceptions. Expect the Packers defense to get at least one pick today. Saints RB Alvin Kamara gave the Pack fits in last season's game, so they will have to find a way to hold him in check. Perhaps running a lot of nickel schemes and shadowing him with either a defensive back or linebacker. The Saints are without their top receiver. And we don't even know who the kicker is...they didn't have one on their roster as late as Friday as their regular kicker is on injured reserve and they released their camp kicker in the last cutdown. So that situation could factor in.

The Prediction

Given the stability and talent on the side of the Packers and the instability at the moment on the part of the Saints, it seems as if the Pack should be favored by more than 3-1/2 points going into this game.

We see the Packers offense, even if they get off to a slightly out-of-sync start (which would be understandable), coming on strong over the course of this game. If the new defensive scheme can make use of the talent on that side of the ball and play even an average game (whatever that is, admittedly), the Packers should get the win in the Florida sun.

We're calling it Packers 38 - Saints 24.

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, September 11, 2021

It's been a while. But with the 2021 Packers season upon us ...

Hello, Packers fans ... and all who wish they were.

We've had a looooong hiatus...since just before the Packers vs. Bucs NFC Championship Game (the horror ... the horror ...). And there's a lot to catch up on. So we'll ignore such things as the Aaron Rodgers drama, the draft, comings and goings, cut-downs, final roster, etc. You have better things to do with your time now anyway.

Let's just get to the important matters of the moment: the season prediction. We'll do the prediction for Sunday's opener against the Saints (in Jacksonville) in a separate post.

The Season Prediction

Since the start of this blog in 2005 (16 years ago ... crikey!), we have looked at the season preview not game by game but more quarter by season quarter, so to speak. Of course, now with a 17th regular season game, we'll come off with quarters plus one extra. You're smart. You'll figure it out. Home games are in green. Be aware, of course, that the NFL may flex various game times, especially later in the season, so the days/times shown here are as they are now indicated.

QB Aaron Rodgers: the "last dance"???
(Photo by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

1st Quarter of the Season

Week 1: @ Saints (in Jacksonsville) - Sun 09/12 · 3:25 PM CDT
Week 2: Lions - Monday Night Game - Mon 09/20 · 7:15 PM CDT
Week 3: @ 49ers - Sunday Night Game - Sun 09/26 · 7:20 PM CDT
Week 4: Steelers - Sun 10/03 · 3:25 PM CDT

We think it's likely the Packers lose one of these first four games. Despite the Pack being one of the odds-on favorites to make the NFC Championship Game, and, Packer nation hopes, the Super Bowl, and having a loaded roster, we really don't know how it's all going to come together, or how soon. With Rodgers back at QB and the weapons on offense, even if they happen to be a bit out sync, they will still put up points. But in the first year of new defensive coordinator Joe Barry's defense, despite good to great personnel in some spots, we'll have to see how that new scheme gels. Of these first four games, the one that worries us most is the 49ers game. Still, it wouldn't surprise us to see the Pack come out of this sequence 4-0. But 3-1 feels like a safer bet.

2nd Quarter of the Season

Week 5: @ Bengals - Sun 10/10 · 12:00 PM CDT
Week 6: @ Bears - Sun 10/17 · 12:00 PM CDT
Week 7: WashingtonSun 10/24 · 12:00 PM CDT
Week 8: @ Cardinals - Thursday Night Game - Thu 10/28 · 7:20 PM CDT

With three away games in this four-game sequence, including two back to back and the last on a short week after the only home game, we again think the Packers will drop one of these. Expect the Pack to come out of these four games with three wins.

3rd Quarter of the Season

Week 9: @ Chiefs - Sun 11/07 · 3:25 PM CST
Week 10: Seahawks - Sun 11/14 · 3:25 PM CST
Week 11: @ Vikings - Sun 11/21 · 12:00 PM CST
Week 12: Rams - Sun 11/28 · 3:25 PM CST

If you get the sense that the away schedule for the Packers seems to dominate the early part of the schedule, yes, yes it does...including two back-to-back series of games. Take a look at Weeks 5 through 9. There's one home game in there. One. Playing back to back against the Cardinals and then the Chiefs...not going to be an easy stretch of games, to say the least. We could see the Packers going 2-2 in this part of the season.

Week 13BYE

4th Quarter of the Season (+ 1)

Week 14: Bears - Sunday Night Game - Sun 12/12 · 7:20 PM CST
Week 15: @ Ravens - Sun 12/19 · 12:00 PM CST
Week 16: Browns - Christmas Afternoon Game - Sat 12/25 · 3:30 PM CST
Week 17: Vikings - Sunday Night Game - Sun 11/28 · 3:25 PM CST
Week 18: @ Lions - Sun 01/09 · 12:00 PM CST

Depending upon the health of the team going into these last five games, three of which are at home, the Packers could again drop two, to come out 3-2 here.


Looking back at our predictions, we have the Packers going no worse than 11-6. (Many projections have the Pack going 13-4. We hope they are right and we are wrong.) They should handle their NFC North competitors and win the division. We'll worry about the playoff scenarios much, much later on. Lot of ball game left, as the saying goes.

As always, GO PACK GO!!!