Thursday, October 28, 2021

2021 NFL Week 8: Packers vs. the Arizona Cardinals Preview and Prediction

The Green Bay Packers come off a win at Lambeau Field on Sunday. It wasn't the romp that many expected, largely due to Washington's young QB (and Brett Favre and Packers fan as a youngster), Taylor Heinicke, using his legs to extend plays. But he also had a few major errors at the goal line that, had he converted even one, would have put this win for the Pack in significant jeopardy.

But while the Packers offense still wasn't firing on all cylinders, the defense once again came up big. In fact, so big that it did something it hadn't done all season: prevent the opposing offense from scoring a touchdown when in the red zone. Amazing. So, a good win if not necessarily an impressive one. Any win that puts you at 6-1 on the season and up 2-1/2 games in the NFC North Division is a good win.

Unfortunately, it's now followed up on a short week with a game tonight on the road against the 7-0 Arizona Cardinals and the uber-QB of the moment, Kyler Murray. How will things play out?

The Preview

Let's start with the fact that the Packers will be without wide receivers Davante Adams and Allen Lazard due to Covid-19 protocols and Marquez Valdes-Scantling with hamstring issues. That takes away QB Aaron Rodgers' top three wideouts. Not great when there will likely be a need to put up a lot of points throughout the game.

Still, these seem to be the types of games Rodgers thrives on, with challenges to be overcome. He'll have to rely on running backs Aaron Rodgers and A.J. Dillon to pick up some of the slack, along with Randall Cobb getting more grabs and the younger receivers stepping up when they have the opportunity to do so. TE Robert Tonyan should also feature more prominently in the mix.

Arizona doesn't seem to have a great D-line, and especially so now with DE J.J. Watt out for perhaps the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. So if the Packers can get its running game going and keep Murray off the field for long stretches that would be a real plus. Time of possession needs to be in Green Bay's favor tonight.

The Cardinals also don't have a particularly great O-line, so if the Packers defense can do what the 49ers did when they played Arizona — keep rush lanes solid and also prevent Murray from breaking the pocket and getting outside to either run or throw to his bevy of very fine receivers  — the Packers can certainly stay in the game. And did we mention that the Pack will be without its defensive coordinator for this game? He also tested positive for Covid.

Everyone was expecting a real shootout for this game before all the Covid viruses and injuries took its tool on Packers players availability. With Rodgers at the helm for the Packers, it's never a gimmee for the other team, regardless of the tools he has around him. It will be more of a challenge, certainly. But having said that, what's our prediction?

The Prediction

This is a tough one. It would take a lot of things to go right for the Packers tonight to come away with the win, and only a few things to go wrong to come away in defeat.

The Packers are 6-1/2 point underdogs at the time of this writing, with the over-under at 50-1/2 points.

Either the Packers win a squeaker late or the Cardinals win and beat the spread, perhaps rather easily. This is a toss-up game for us because of the circumstances.

We're calling this one Cardinals 34 - Packers 27. And hope we are wrong.

Looking back at our pre-season prediction, if the Pack does lose this evening they will be right where we thought they'd be, 6-2, through 8 games of the season. But we sure would prefer to see the team come home with a 7-1 record and an extra few days to get ready before taking on the Chiefs in Kansas City on November 7. It doesn't get any easier.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, October 24, 2021

2021 NFL Week 7: Packers vs. The Washington Football Team Preview and Prediction

Let's just acknowledge the obvious: Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have owned Da Bearz. In Green Bay. In Chicago. Doesn't matter.

With that now out of the way, on to today's game vs. The Washington Football Team (hereafter referred to as, not WTF...WFT. Got it?).

We hope to see a lot of this today: RB Aaron Jones
running over and through WFT defenders.
(Photo by Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

The Preview

The WFT is 2-4. Despite having four first-round picks on the defensive line, they aren't great overall. Main thing for the Packers O-line is to make sure you know where Chase Young is lining up and keep him from getting to Rodgers. As it is, the WFT has given up more points than any other team in the first 6 games of the season.

And can you even name the WFT quarterback? Taylor Heinicke.

Bottom line: the dysfunction in Washington continues.

The Pack has won the last five games vs. the WFT at Lambeau Field. The last time Washington won in Green Bay was 1986.

Still, the Packers can't view this as a walk-over game. We and they saw in the season opener what can happen when you don't show up to play. The Pack also can't be looking past Washington to the Cardinals whom they will be seeing on a short turn-around in Arizona this Thursday evening. Get up on Washington early and go all gas, no brake.

If the Packers show up and play at the level they are capable of — which is still a work in progress, and not even counting the injuries — they will have a win at home.

The Prediction

We kind of gave it away in that last sentence, didn't we? Sorry.

The Packers are favored by anywhere from 8 to 9-1/2 points depending upon who you're listening to.

We're calling this game Packers 38 - WFT 17.


Sunday, October 17, 2021

2021 NFL Week 6: Packers vs. Bears Preview and Prediction

Before we take a look at today's win in Chicago — oops...did we just give things away??? —  we at least need to acknowledge last weekend's win in Cincinnati. That was ... different, wasn't it, Packer fans? The Packers had to slog it out against a fine Bengals team on the rise. And certainly, the kicking game was of note. As much for the failures and miscues on both sides as well as, thankfully, the final winner from Mason Crosby in OT.

As we know, after setting a franchise record for making 27 field goals in a row, Crosby then went on to miss three in a row. In the last two years, he had only missed ... what was it? Two? Total. So, an off day for our esteemed kicker, along the lines of that game he had in Detroit a few years back. But, now that that's out of the way, he can begin a new streak of field-goals-made. And no better place to do so than in the Mistake by the Lake, the Eyesore on the Lakeshore, Soldier Field in Chicago.

Packers WR Randall Cobb and K Mason Crosby look forward
to once again celebrating a win over Da Bearz.
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Preview

It's a Green Bay vs. Chicago game. And even though the Packers have had Da Bearz number in recent years more often than not, it also seems to always be a slog in Chicago. Weird things seem to happen. And, as usual, Chicago has a very good defense. So the Pack's young O-line will need to be at its best to protect QB Aaron Rodgers and also open those running lanes for running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. Assuming they hold up, and Rodgers is able to find his receivers — short, medium and long — the Packers offense will do what it needs to do today. Even though the Pack's defense is missing key parts from its backfield, the front and linebackers should be able to keep rookie QB Justin Fields in check, at least for the most part. Fields won't have the benefit of a running game to help him today as they are down to their third and fourth-string running backs. That doesn't make things a gimme, but it does skew the edge in the Packers favor.

Remember that against a good Cincinnati team last week, it was the first time in franchise history that the Packers had a 300-yard passer, 200-yard receiver, and 100-yard rusher in a single game. That would seem to portend things rounding into good form for the Packers offense. Including converting in the red zone, which has been a challenge for the Pack so far this season unlike last year.

The Prediction

A couple outside predictions today...Hub Arkush, longtime NFL and Chicago analyist said in a radio interview on WTMJ (Milwaukee) this morning that he thinks "the Packers are overrated and the Bears are underrated", that the Packers have more than Da Bearz at this point and will "have enough late to get it done" in terms of a win. Thanks, Hub.

My dear friend, Billy Da Bearz fan, when asked for his prediction, told me it will be 19-18 in favor of Chicago. He will be at the game today. Hope he enjoys the nice weather. Because he won't enjoy the final outcome, despite his prediction. And I say this with love: he's delusional.

We're calling it Packers 27 - Da Bears 20.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, October 10, 2021

2021 NFL Week 5: Packers vs. Bengals Preview and Prediction

First things first: the Packers did what they needed to do last weekend vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers: win. The Pack finished the first quarter of the season with a 3-1 record, as we projected in our season preview. So we're on track so far. Yay.

But in the win last week there was also a huge loss: CB Jaire Alexander suffered a potentially severe shoulder injury while making a tackle. He's on the temporary IRL for at least the next three games...or for the season if he needs surgery. Not great. Especially with Za'Darius Smith out for the season, as well. That's two big impact players out for the defense today. Against a burgeoning offense on the part of the Cincinnati Bengals. So...time for the preview...

This is the image we hope to see at the end of today's game vs. the Bengals:
a smiling head coach Matt LaLleur and happy QB Aaron Rodgers.
(Photo by Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports)

The Preview

The Packers come into this game banged up on defense, as noted above, and also on offense where starting rookie center Josh Myers is out with a finger injury, all-purpose swingman Elgton Jenkins is out ... in total, three out of five of the usual starters are out overall. Not great against a good defensive line. Will they be able to protect Rodgers? Will they be able to open running lanes for Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon? The approach needs to be balanced in order to keep the ball and at the same time keep Bengals QB Joe Burrows and his young but very talented receiving corps on the bench.

The Packers are favored by 2-1/2 points at the time of this writing.

Four out of the next five games are on the road for the Pack. Starting things off with a win in Cincinnati would certainly help in this tough stretch of games. But it's not going to be easy.

The Prediction

We — and many other prognosticators — see this as a game that could go either way. The Packers defense needs to get pressure on Burrows or it could be a long day for the secondary. The Packers duct-taped offensive line needs to protect Rogers, obviously, but also needs to open up running lanes to keep the Bengals defense from continual pressure on Rodgers.

We're calling this game Packers 27 - Bengals 24.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, October 03, 2021

2021 NFL Week 4: Packers vs. Steelers Preview and Prediction

First things first: we were wrong in our prediction about the Niners beating the Packers in last week's game. Thankfully so. Glad to be wrong and admit it.

For this week's game, the 2-1 Pack is back home in the friendly confines of Lambeau Field taking on the 1-2 Pittsburgh Steelers. The Packers are currently favored by 6-1/2 points at the time of this writing. Seems about right, but more on that later in the prediction.

For now, what do things look like?

QB Aaron Rodgers was aided by a quick-release passing approach
in the game vs. the 49ers. So was his young offensive line. Expect that
approach again today vs. the Steelers.
(Photo by Cary Edmondson, Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports)

The Preview

The Packers, as all good fans know, are coming off an exhilarating last second come-back win against San Francisco. Thirty-seven seconds left, no time outs, and the length of the field to go...or at least a portion of it to get in field goal range for Mason Crosby. Voila!

What we saw in that game may well be the precursor to what will happen again in today's game, minus — it is hoped — the needed comeback in the closing seconds of the game. The Pack's O-line will be without the services of it best lineman, Elgton Jenkins. Which means a young line is likely going to be challenged even more than last week, particularly with the likes of T.J. Watt across from them. But rookie LT Yosh Nijman handled, with a bit of assistance from the tight ends now and then, Niners DE Nick Bosa. The rest of the young line in the middle also held up well as head coach Matt LaFleur went for the most part with a quick-release passing game which meant the linemen didn't need lengthy pass protection times in order to allow the scheme to unfold. Given what Pittsburgh and its front might be able to generate, it would seem that last week's approach would be well suited to today, as well. Unfortunately, the receiving corps will be without Marquez Valdes-Scantling today. He pulled a hamstring in last week's game and will be given time to rest that injury. He's needed going forward so no need to risk him further right now.

On defense, the Packers will be without Za'Darius Smith for the foreseeable future as he had back surgery this week for an injury which cropped up during training camp. Given his contract and salary cap hit for next season, it's likely we won't see him suit up for the Packers ever again. His pass rush will be missed. Still, this opens up opportunities for others. Last week, without Smith, we saw a pass rush that sustained itself at a high level throughout the game. If the defense can muster that same energy today, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger should find himself under pressure a great deal today. At age 39, Big Ben isn't the same QB he once was. That can add up to good things for the Pack.

The Prediction

After losing two in a row after a good start in Week 1 at Buffalo, the Steelers will come into Lambeau looking to get back on track. Home state boy and former Wisconsin Badgers standout (and a should-have-been Packers draft pick, it should be noted) T.J. Watt will obviously want to have a big game. He will be a disruptive force, no doubt, but the Packers can't allow him to take over the game on that side of the ball. For the Pack, they will want to continue the offensive and, especially, defensive schemes evolution that have occurred since Week 1. And there is no reason to suspect that they won't.

We're calling it Packers 31 - Steelers 20.

Go Pack Go!!!