Sunday, November 28, 2021

2021 NFL Week 12: Packers vs. Los Angeles Rams Preview and Prediction

Quick look back...the game in Minnesota didn't quite finish up the way we had hoped, did it, Packers fans? The Pack's defense was not up to its usual level, failing to get pressure on the ViQueens QB, Kirk Cousins, and allowing him plenty of time to find receivers — especially Justin Jefferson — who somehow seemed to roam free most the day. That, and failing to get stops when needed and INTs when presented. And penalties at inopportune times. So ... disappointing on the defensive side. Offense wasn't exactly up to snuff either. And Mason Crosby's problems continued. Oh, and did we mention losing for the rest of the season and beyond all-position-O-lineman Elgton Jenkins to an ACL tear? All together it added up to a loss.


The Preview

Today, the Packers play the LA Rams at Lambeau Field. The Rams are 7-3 and coming off their bye week. Rested, in other words. The Packers are 8-3, beat up, and looking forward to finally having their bye week following this game. QB Aaron Rodgers hasn't really practiced in weeks, first as a result of Covid protocols and most recently with the infamous broken toe. He looked rusty last week. Can we expect better today? Hope so. RB Aaron Jones did practice this week and is listed as questionable for the game at the time of this writing. Having him back would be a definite plus, but RB A.J. Dillon has proven himself capable, as well, both as a runner and receiver. The Rams can be run on, as both the Cardinals and 49ers showed.

The LA pass rush, led by Aaron Donald and the newly-acquired Von Miller, will test the piecemeal Green Bay offensive line. The Pack's running game must find a way to keep that pass rush from going off every time Rodgers drops back. Head coach Matt LaFleur needs to stick with the ground game today to open up the passing game or it could be a long day for Rodgers.

Packers' now-starting LT, Yosh Nijman, will be counted
on today to handle a major Rams pass rush.
(Photo by Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

One of the few positives to come out of last week's game at Minnesota was the break-out game by WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling who had a couple big catches, including a 75-yarder late in the game to give the Packers a chance to come away with a win. His breakaway speed finally combined with a pair of hands that was more reliable than what we've often seen in the past. May it continue thusly.

On the defensive side of things, the Packers pass rush needs to get to QB Matthew Stafford. As we have seen from his many years with the Lions, he's a good QB but if pressured will give the defense opportunities for takeaways. The D-backs have to be in better coverage positions than last week or WR Cooper Kupp could go off the same way Justin Jefferson did last week...which would not be conducive to a Packers victory.

Will the weather be a factor today? Probably not the way Coach LaFleur would have hoped for. No snow forecast, but it will be around freezing at the time of kickoff and in the mid-20s as the game winds down. Winds may gust up to around 20 mph. Whether the warm-weather Rams will be affected by these conditions...doubtful. QB Stafford is certainly familiar with playing in these early winter conditions at Lambeau Field. Although he's not always been successful there, either.

The Prediction

The pundits looking at this game, the Rams coming off their bye and the Pack seemingly limping into theirs, have installed the Rams as 2 to 2-1/2-point favorites, depending upon who are looking at. The Rams are healthy and the Packers are not. It would take a great effort in all phases of the game for the Pack to win this game. The Pack hasn't lost back-to-back games in the Matt LaFleur coaching era. This sets up to be the first time that could happen.

Still, we're calling it Packers 28 - Rams 27.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 21, 2021

2021 NFL Week 11: Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings Preview and Prediction

What a great game that was for the Green Bay Packers defense last week, wasn't it, Packers fans? The D pitched a shutout against the Seattle Seahawks, allowing a slightly-off Pack offense to do enough to win, 17-0. There were plenty of miscues, including a missed FG (again) from Mason Crosby and the woeful special teams unit, and missed throws by QB Aaron Rodgers who was coming off a week of Covid protocols. It wasn't the team's best performance overall, but against a struggling Seahawks team, it showed that the Packers defense is ramping up. 

Unfortunately, that same defense experienced a few injuries, including taking out recently-acquired LB Whitney Mercilus for at least 3 games (who is now on the injured reserve list with a bicep injury), and LB Rashan Gary hyperextending his elbow. Not sure how much he will be able to go with a brace today. With all that in mind...let's get on to the game against the ViQueens.

We look forward to seeing the Packers defense
pressuring Vikes QB Kirk Cousins today.
(Photo by Dan Powers/USA TODAYNETWORK-Wis)


This is going to be one of those games that may likely be tight. Minnesota has weapons on offense — Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, and Adam Thielen, among them. QB Kirk Cousins...well, who knows? He's very capable of doing damage to a defense, especially with his receivers. RB Dalvin Cook can also tear up a defense. So the Packers defense will be challenged, for sure. But if they can contain Cook and get pressure on Cousins, there could be a turnover or two available for the taking. That would help today's effort.

If the Pack's offense doesn't click more than in the game with the Seahawks, things could come down to special teams. Oy. Advantage Minnesota.

Head coach Matt LaFleur, after 6-of-9 games on the road and 1 more game yet after today before the team's bye week, did what he could during this week to help keep his team fresh. Physical contact in pads was limited to half a session. Most of the week was walk-throughs. With this game today at Minnesota and next week at home vs. the Rams, the Pack could come away with a 10-2 record if they win both — a great place in which to go into the bye week — or 8-4. Not so great. Even a split, to go 9-3, would be better than dropping both games. Certainly the game against the Rams will be a challenge, so it would be best if the Pack can take care of business — as the better team overall — today.

The Prediction

The stadium will be loud. The game will be the usual physical battle between division rivals. The game could come down to a play being made ... or missed. The oddsmakers have the Packers listed as 1-1/2 point favorites at the time of this writing, attesting to the closeness they see in this contest.

The Packers offense still hasn't clicked on all cylinders, for various reasons. But we think it will be more in sync than last week, despite Rodgers newly-reported toe problem. We also think the number 3-ranked overall defense — without 2 of the top 3 defenders for so long — will hold the ViQueens in check.

We're calling this game Packers 24 - 'Queens 20.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 14, 2021

2021 NFL Week 10: Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks Preview and Prediction

Packers fans, let's get first things first: we were wrong in our prediction of a Packers' win in KC...despite the game being absolutely winnable. While the defense continues to shine, the special teams performance was a debacle (costing points), QB Jordan Love — in his first NFL start — looked meh at best, and head coach Matt LaFleur's game plan did Love no favors. There was plenty of blame to go around.

Still, the Pack enter today's game at 7-2, still far atop the NFC North Division due to the mediocrity of its other teams.

Today, after four out of the last five games on the road (!), Green Bay is finally home at Lambeau Field. And QB Aaron Rodgers will once again be the man under center after clearing the league's Covid-19 protocols yesterday. So, while he participated in all the team meetings via Zoom, he'll be hitting the field with no practice and, hopefully, no lingering effects from the virus. That still makes him a better QB on this day than nearly every other QB playing.

Seahawks' QB Russell Wilson leaves DT Kenny Clark behind in an
earlier game at Lambeau Field. This is not a scene we wish to see play out today.
(Photo by Mark Hoffman, Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

The opposing quarterback, coming off a three-week hiatus as a result of a finger issue, is the always dangerous Russell Wilson. So it's hard to tell what type of game he might have. But past history, despite the 'hawks not winning at Lambeau since 1999, teaches us that Wilson can beat you with both his legs and his arm.

Let's look a bit more closely at today's game, shall we?

The Preview

First, it's a bit unknown as to what effect today's wintery weather may have on the game. It's that time of year when yes, Packer fans, we really have to start looking at the weather forecasts. It will be the first time either team has had to deal with snow (it is expected that snow will have tapered off by game time...but...?) and cold, with temps in mid- to low-30s. Winds may also play a role today, as winds are supposed to be around 15 mph with gusts up to 30 mph. One would imagine this might have more of an impact on a QB coming off a serious finger injury in terms of gripping the ball than it would one coming off Covid quarantine. Those conditions may also well impact the kicking game, particularly for the Packers, unfortunately, as there are problems in all facets of special teams right now. If the game comes down to a field goal attempt, how comfortable are you with the prospects of a good snap, a good hold and good protection? Yeah, me neither. I'm not worried about K Mason Crosby, just all the moving parts in front of him which broke down in spectacular fashion in the game against the Chiefs.

The Packers defense has had the benefit, over the last two games, of playing highly mobile quarterbacks, first in Kyler Murray and secondly in Patrick Mahomes. They handled containing both very well overall. That was great practice for what they will need to do again today with Russell Wilson. A day like today would seem to favor a running game more than a big downfield passing game. But one or two explosive passes from Wilson could be back-breakers, particularly if the game is close late. He does like to go downfield so don't be surprised to see the Packers blow a coverage and give up a big gainer. As long as it doesn't wind up in the end zone, the Packers defense has been stout in the last few games. That needs to continue today.

The Pack's offense should be able to run on Seattle today. LaFleur needs to have a balanced attack. And with Rodgers at the helm, the likelihood of having both work effectively always enhances the Packers chances of winning.

The Prediction

The Packers are favored by 3-1/2 points. It could stay that close for a good chunk of the game. But we think the Packers will be able to do enough, at home, to continue their home winning streak against the Seahawks.

We're calling it Packers 24 - Seahawks 17.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 07, 2021

2021 NFL Week 9: Packers vs. the Kansas City Chiefs Preview and Prediction

So, anything of consequence happen over the last week or so, Packers fans? Well, first, lest we forget, the Pack beat the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals in the desert on Thursday Night Football way back when it seems, prior to the mini-break that followed. This despite the projections by many that Green Bay just wouldn't have enough to get past QB Kyler Murray and his high-powered offense. Glad to say they, and we, were wrong. Going into today's game in Kansas City, then, the Packers sit atop the NFC Conference with a record of 7-1 by way of the tie-breaker over Arizona, let alone being far atop the NFC North Division where the nearest opponent — the ViQueens — has a 3-4 record.

So ... yay!

What else happened? Oh, QB Aaron Rodgers has Covid-19. Did you hear about that? Kind of flew under the radar. (Note: sarcasm.)

We'll leave aside the pro vs. con vaccination debate. (Although, in the interests of full disclosure, this writer will be getting his booster shot just prior to the start of today's game. Because, well, science > Joe Rogan. Enough said.) Instead, let us move on to what matters as a result of Rodgers, through his personal choices, leaving his team in the hands of his backup QB for this key game against KC.

And what matters is: how will the heir apparent to Rodgers — Jordan Love — perform in his first NFL start? Will he be up to the challenge after only really about a year into his pro development? (Drafted in 2020, Covid shut down much of what Love would have gained in that year.) We're about to find out if the Packers will be comfortable moving on from Rodgers after this season, if that's the case, or whether they will be begging Rodgers to stay.

Today's starting QB and heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love,
gets ready to take a snap during mop-up duty in preseason.
(Photo by Dan Powers, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

The Preview

The preview begins and ends in large measure with how well Jordan Love will play. There is no doubt he has a strong arm or that he is athletic. He is also said to have a calm demeanor and to not get flustered easily, good qualities in a quarterback. But Love was also raw coming out of college, as most young QBs are, and needed a lot of work on his footwork and learning a greatly expanded playbook than what he was used to. Now, don't expect head coach Matt LaFleur to have him run every play available. The game plan had to be re-written on Wednesday when Rodgers became unavailable. While the coaches say Love has progressed by leaps and bounds, to expect him to do what Rodgers does is unrealistic.

Expect a reliance on the running game today to take the pressure off Love. Thankfully, the Packers have two great running backs in Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon and a great offensive line, no matter who happens to be in at any given time. Davante Adams and Allen Lazard will also be available as receivers today. Losing TE Robert Tonyan for the season in the Cardinals game was a blow, but there are a couple young tight ends who can step up today.

LaFleur will basically fit the offense to what Love knows and is comfortable with. If he doesn't fumble or throw interceptions (both possibilities, of course), the offense — while likely not as dynamic as with Rodgers at the helm — can and will put up some points. Especially against a suspect Chiefs defense. Opportunities will be there and the Packers and Love will need to take advantage. One area where Love will have an advantage over Rodgers is with his legs. If protection breaks down and no receivers are available, expect Love to take off. Don't be surprised if there is even a designed play or two to take advantage of that.

The Packers defense, on the upswing week after week, it seems, will need to hold KC QB Patrick Mahomes in check the way they did when facing Kyler Murray. If they cover the receivers, and keep Mahomes from breaking contain, the Pack can keep this game close.

The Prediction

The Packers come in at 7-1 on a six-game winning streak. The Chiefs are 4-4, 2-2 at home. The Chiefs have put up more points (208) than the Packers (192), but have also give up more, 220, vs. 167 for the Pack. The Packers, overall, are a better team at this point than the Chiefs, statistically. But the oddsmakers have installed the Chiefs as 6-1/2 point favorites...obviously 3 points for the home field advantage — arguably the loudest stadium in the NFL which will make it difficult for the inexperienced Packers QB and the offense to hear calls — and 3-1/2 points for the lack of Aaron Rodgers.

If we were betting people — we're not — we'd take the Packers against that spread.

And, for some reason, the intuition today is telling us that the Packers are going to "upset" the Chiefs. Jordan Love is going to show us, over the course of the game, that he belongs.

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

Go Pack Go!!!