Sunday, November 27, 2022

2022 NFL Week 12: Packers vs. Eagles Preview & Prediction

OK, Packers fans ... on to the next. (Yes, we're bypassing the review of last week's disappointing  — again!  — loss, this one against the Titans. There's only so much self-abuse we can take, right?)

So in this evening's primetime game, the Pack travel to take on the 9-1 Philadelphia Eagles. Oy. What can be said by way of a preview? At this point in the season, sitting at 4-7, the Packers are who they are. Which is inconsistent and underperforming in every phase of the game. Hence, the mediocre record. While QB Aaron Rodgers' broken thumb is part of the story, it is by no means the only reason the Pack's dwindling playoff hopes rest on winning tonight ... and every remaining game following their long-overdue bye week.

We can only dream of seeing the Packers celebrate tonight in their
game vs. the Eagles in Philly.
(Photo by The Associated Press)

The Preview

Do the Packers have a chance in tonight's game vs. the Eagles? Yes. If they play mistake-free football. Is that likely? You tell me. It really has not happened much at all that way this season. If the Packers can play as they did against the Cowboys two weeks back, they could pull an upset. And, truth be told, as it was versus Dallas, the key in Philly will once again have to come via the ground game. Green Bay needs big performances out of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. They also need rookie WR Christian Watson to stretch the field once in a while to help open up the ground game. And, of course, continuing his hot stretch of TD catches would be helpful, too.

The Packers defense also has to play one of its top games of the season. Likely? Who knows? And that's the problem with this Packers team, and the defense in particular. Despite all the investment on that side of the ball, to say the defense is underperforming is an understatement. Things that should have been corrected a couple games in, haven't been. And that's a direct reflection on Joe Barry, the current defensive coordinator. He should be sent on his way at season's end. (By the way, University of Wisconsin-Madison interim head coach Jim Leonhard, who had interviewed for the defensive coordinator job with the Pack previously and reportedly turned it down, will now likely be available once again as Luke Fickell from the Cincinnati Bearcats is apparently being named the Badgers new head coach. Packers? Are you on the phone???)

The Eagles offense and defense will present all sort of problems for the Packers. On offense, a QB in Jalen Hurts that is playing at an MVP level — and can beat you as much with his legs as his passing — throwing to a couple of great receivers who will give the Packers secondary fits. On defense, Philly has brought in some aging but A-list players to supplement an already decent defense. It does not set up well for this Packers team right now.

A near-perfect game by the Packers could keep things close and maybe, just maybe, they find a way to eke out a win.

The Prediction

The Eagles are favored by 6-1/2 points at the time of this writing. Seems quite reasonable given the relative state of the two teams right now. Anything can happen, of course. But ...

We're calling it Packers 17 - Eagles 34.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2022

2022 NFL Week 11: Packers vs. Titans Preview & Prediction

Have we exhaled yet from Sunday's overtime thrilling win vs. the Cowboys, Packer fans? Wow. Down 14 and ultimately giving the 'boys their first loss with a lead by that much in the 4th quarter in 196 games. Yay. They finally showed up on both sides of the ball. Special teams? Well, a missed FG early by Mason (even a long one) usually is not a good harbinger of things to come. Then toss in the now-departed-from-the-Packers Amari Rodgers' punt problems and it nearly looked as if things were just too much to overcome. Thought my prediction of a loss would unfortunately come to fruition.

But not.

Thankfully, rookie wide receiver Christian Watson had his coming-out party with 3 touchdown catches, including a few long ones. Finally. Finally. If he can keep the injury bug away, and keep hanging on to the ball, he will continue to create issues for opposing defenses.

While it was a gutsy win, and not perfect, it sure was the best we've seen the Packers perform all season. That level of play will need to continue this evening, on a short turnaround, vs. the Titans.

QB Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will be wearing their all-white 'color flash'
uniforms tonight at Lambeau Field. Let's hope they bring the team continued luck.
(Photo by Jonathon Daniel/Getty Images)

The Preview

We know that the Packers may have found a winning formula on offense: running the ball at least as much or more than passing it. That includes having the starting 5 offensive linemen start and finish the game for the first time this season. That was huge. The trick tonight will be how well David Bakhtiari's and Elgton Jenkins' surgically repaired knees hold up on a short week. This will be a key to success tonight against one of the league's top rushing defenses.

The Packers will need to stick with the run early and not become one-dimensional in the passing game, as was the case for most if not all of the 5-game losing streak. Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon will have to really pound the ball tonight, and to open up passing opportunities. WR Randall Cobb will be coming off IR and will likely see limited play, but may come up with a key catch or 2 to keep drives alive. Watson will stretch the field. Allen Lazard can be the mid-range over-the-middle guy. But in those passing situations that line is going to need to give Rodgers time as it did on Sunday. And if nothing is there, and the field opens up ... "Run, Aaron, Run".

As for how to handle the Titans' offense, that really boils down to handling that beast-of-a-running-back Derrick Henry. He's fast and as big or bigger than some linebackers...a one-of-a-kind threat. The Packers will need to jam up the inside lines and contain on the edges. A tough challenge. If Henry could be limited to under 100 yards that would be a win for the Packers defense. As would minimizing explosive plays, something which hasn't been the Pack's strong suit much of the season. We have been witnessing better play out of Joe Barry's defense over the last several games. So, maybe. But with De'Vondre Campbell being out again tonight that doesn't help. Young players such as linebackers Quay Walker and Isaiah McDuffie will have to fill the void in major ways tonight. If the Packers can hold Henry in check, Titans QB Ryan Tannehill will have to win the game. Not impossible. But the Packers secondary should be able to hold down the Titans' passing game if they continue to play the way they did vs. Dallas.

Tennessee will be missing some key players of their own tonight: K Randy Bullock, OL Bud Dupree, S Amani Hooker, DB Lonnie Johnson, and C Ben Jones. Those missing pieces are not insubstantial. If the Packers can get through the game as relatively unscathed as on Sunday, they have a great shot of emerging on top tonight.

The Prediction

Given the prime time focus of this game tonight — on which Rodgers seems to thrive, as we know — and the 3 out of 4 wins in prior games wearing the all-whites, the cohesiveness we saw play out on Sunday should continue this evening. The weather advantage favors the Pack, as well: it will be cold, with air temps about 24 F and with wind chills likely in the single digits. Perhaps even some flurries. Yes, both teams have to play in it. But this is the time of the year when the Frozen Tundra feel starts to work its magic for the home team.

The Packers are favored by 3-1/2 points at the time of this posting.

We're calling it Packers 24 - Titans 21.

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, November 12, 2022

2022 NFL Week 10: Packers vs. Cowboys Preview & Prediction

Let's take a moment to review last week's loss by the Packers to the Lions, shall we? OK, that's enough. Trying to put any positive spin on that debacle in Detroit would be like putting lipstick on a pig. No insult to pigs intended.

Yes, the Pack have now lost 5 games in a row. Including to teams they really should have had no business losing to. But what's a team to do with a $50-million-a-year quarterback and no receivers to throw to? And a defense that has been underperforming since the regular season kickoff? Special teams that are not horrible, but not making much of an impact in the way expected either. Toss in a coaching staff that just seems to not know what to do about much of it at all ... and then injuries ... yeah, every team has them ... but the Packers have just seemed to be snake-bit at so many positions that it has really made a struggling team even more inept.

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur trying to figure out where the
season went off the rails. Sunday's game against the Cowboys
will do little to help the situation.
(Photo by Lon Horwedel, Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports)

The Preview

The Cowboys come into Lambeau Field off their bye week and are sitting at 6-2 with more going for them in all aspects of the game than the Packers have going right now. Plus, the 'boys have a head coach who knows a little bit about the Packers from the inside: former head coach Mike McCarthy. He still loves Green Bay — still has a home there, actually — but also has a bitter taste in his mouth for the way his tenure came to an end. He'd like nothing more than to make his first trip back a winning won for his new team. Given the comparative positions of these two teams right now, that seems quite likely.

Without even going into the Cowboys side of things, this game rests with the Packers. And they are just too out of sync across the board, and have too many injuries, to put up an even fight. As an example of this last point, the Pack have activated a number of players off the practice squad just to fill the active roster for the game including kicker Ramiz Ahmed because veteran Mason Crosby was a limited participant in practice this week with a knee injury. Figures, doesn't it? The hits just keep on coming. And not in a good way.

The Prediction

The Cowboy's are 4-1/2 point favorites at the time of this writing. We hate to say it, but we have been so let down by the ongoing problems with this team — on full display in the embarrassing loss to Detroit last weekend — that we don't see a path to victory against Dallas. Even with all hands on deck and everything rolling, the game would be tight. Not this game.

We're calling it Packers 13 - Cowboys 34.

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, November 05, 2022

2022 NFL Week 9: Packers vs. Lions Preview & Prediction

As we pass the midway point of the 2022 season, the Green Bay Packers sit at 3-5 following a 4-game losing streak. Our preseason prediction projected the Pack to be 5-3. So much for that idea. The "Top 5" defense that everyone projected prior to the season has not shown up to play a complete game. The offensive bet that the team could allow their best offensive weapon, Davante Adams, to walk and instead go without a legitimate number 1 receiver, some so-so veterans, and a couple rookies ... yeah, that hasn't worked out so well either. And failing to pick up any help a few days ago at the trade deadline ... as QB Aaron Rodgers said afterwards, it's the guys in the locker room who are going to have to get it done.

That "get it done" part begins Sunday against the Lions in Detroit.

There hasn't been much to smile about for the Packers over the last 4 games.
The two Aarons — Rodgers and Jones — hope to put smiles back in play
with a win vs. the Lions on Sunday.
(Photo via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

The Preview

Here's the basics on the Lions: while they are 1-6 and holding down last place in the NFC North, their offense leads the league in explosive plays. They are averaging more than 35 points at home. On the flip side, Detroit is the worst scoring and yards-allowed defense in the league.

What to do with that set of contradictions? The obvious answers are for the Packers defense to play a complete game. They did a great job in the 2nd half of the game against the high-flying Bills last week especially and if they can get any carry-over on that in this game it would be a big help indeed.

While the Packers offense has yet to find itself, last week indicated that feeding Aaron Jones and getting the running game going can be a key to a win ... eventually. The passing game is still hampered by the lack of a number 1 receiver. The default number 1, Allen Lazard, is listed as questionable for the game at the time of this writing, as is rookie receiver Christian Watson who had to leave last week's contest after sustaining a concussion. This has really be a dreadful start to the NFL career for the young man due to being snake-bit, as the saying goes. Between ongoing hamstring issues and now a concussion, the injuries have slowed his ability to be the threat the Packers were hoping for when they drafted him early in the second round this Spring. 

Between the shifting players on the offensive line (David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins practiced but in limited ways this week and are questionable for the game), the lack of a commitment to the running game, and no threats among the receiving corps, Aaron Rodgers has also not been his usual self.

In sum, the Packers have yet to play a complete game in all phases. They have also not done well of late playing at Detroit, despite the Lions' record at the time of the game. And this season, the Lions are a better team than their record would indicate. As we have seen throughout the league this season, the difference between winning and losing a game is often a very slim margin indeed.

Win this game and the Packers can keep hopes of a playoff spot alive. Lose this game and it will be one of those "Woulda-Shoulda-Coulda" type years. And with Rodgers future up in the air and major salary cap hits on the books for next year, we could be in for ... sorry, can't say it. Not yet.

The Prediction

The Packers are 3-1/2 point favorites at the time of this writing. If ever there was a must-win game for this team, it is this one. If they can't get it done against the Lions — who will likely give the Pack everything they have — it's back to the drawing board.

We're calling it Packers 27 - Lions 23.

Go Pack Go!!!