Sunday, December 25, 2022

2022 NFL Week 16: Packers vs. Dolphins Preview & Prediction

First things first: the Green Bay Packers have won two in row to get back on track and stay mathematically alive in the hunt for a playoff wildcard spot. Yes, a long shot. the Christmas Eve games in which the Pack needed help, each of the teams ahead in the standings that needed to lose did: the Seahawks, the Giants, the Lions, the Commanders. Now the Pack just has to beat the Dolphins on the road today. And then beat the ViQueens and the Lions at Lambeau Field in the last two weeks of the regular season. In fact, if they do that and the Seahawks and Lions wind up splitting their last 2 games (with the latter still losing to the Packers, of course) both could still wind up losing a tiebreaker to the Packers if they finish with a similar 8-9 record.

But let's take a closer at the game versus Miami. Have to win that one first.

Packers RB Aaron Jones and QB Aaron Rodgers will have to have
big days against the Dolphins to keep the team's slim playoff chances alive.
(Photo by Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

The Preview

The Packers, as fans so well know, have underperformed in terms of expectations all season long. They have yet — as we enter into week 16 of the 2022 NFL season — to play a complete game in all phases. They sit at 6-8 coming into this game. There are a lot of things to watch and consider about this game. The best summary you'll find is by Tom Silverstein in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Be sure to check it out here.

News arrived Saturday evening that LT David Bakhtiari is unlikely to play Sunday, but beside that it seems all hands are on deck. The offensive line, without Bakhtiari for most of the season, has been doing a good job, generally, of protecting Rodgers, as well as opening holes for the running game. One other bright spot for the Packers recently has been the emergence of returner Keisean Nixon who is opening up that aspect of the game that has been nothing short of a disaster for several years running. If he can continue his recent streak of productivity that will be a big help in the game overall. It should also be noted that Nixon has apparently been pressing coaches to put him in as receiver. That would raise some interesting possibilities and it would be interesting to see if the Packers were actually able to scheme something in the form of a trick play of some kind to make use of Nixon's talents, although we wouldn't expect that anytime soon.

But, we have also seen more moments of, well, possibilities recently. There's rookie WR Christian Watson's emergence. Add in the return last week of WR Romeo Doubs. QB Aaron Rodgers' thumb seems to finally be back to near normal. The running game of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon can get things done if head coach Matt LaFleur sticks with it. In fact, as Silverstein notes in the aforementioned article, "When the Packers have an explosive run (10 or more yards) on one of their drives, there’s a pretty good chance they’re going to get in or near the end zone. Of their past 13 drives in which they had at least one rush of 10 or more yards, six resulted in touchdowns and three resulted in field goals." Most of these runs have been between 10 and 17 yards. The Pack will need a few of these runs on Sunday to keep things close. Watch for them.

That's because it's expected that the fast offense of the Dolphins will create problems for the Packers defense, particularly the secondary. The expectation is that Miami will put up points as the Pack defenders struggle to contain their receivers. QB Tua Tagovailoa can cause problems off the run-pass option but is more apt to get the ball out of his hands quickly than to run. It will be a challenge for the Packers defense — which has shown moments of greatness as well as moments of ineptitude — to contain Tua and the offense. If they can do so, and the Pack's offense continues on its upward trend, can eat up the clock through sustained drives, the Pack could win a close one.

The Prediction

While the Packers have won a couple in a row and the Dolphins have lost a few in a row, the pundits have the Dolphins set as 3-1/2 point favorites at the time of this posting. The Pack are 2-5 on the road this season and have been outscored by 41 points total in those games. On the flip side, and perhaps surprisingly, the Pack's defense has allowed fewer than 20 points in four of the team's six wins. So, if the defense shows up ... and the offense is able to run the ball well, be balanced, and keep Miami's offense off the field ... there's a real shot at this game.

Not many are calling for a Packers win. And I guess we've done it a few too many times already this season, but we're going to put on those green 'n' gold-colored glasses once more and call it Packers 30 - Dolphins 27.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, December 19, 2022

2022 NFL Week 15: Packers vs. Rams Preview & Prediction

So, in our preseason prediction, we had the Packers sitting at a possible 8-5 going into this last "quarter" of the season. So much for that idea. That record is the inverse of the actual current record of 5-8. Not the season anyone had imagined. Not even close. We don't need to reiterate the many reasons for why the Pack's season and playoff chances are hanging by an icicle.

We do need to just mention, as all Packers fans are aware, that the team is coming off its late-season bye week. Lots of time to rest and recoup. Still, the Packers waited until a little after 11 a.m. CT today to announce that they were releasing veteran WR Sammy Watkins after an experiment that obviously didn't work for either party. Couldn't have done it over the bye. Had to wait to game day ...? OK, so it goes. No seemingly corresponding roster move was announced at the time. The team will, however, be getting rookie WR Romeo Doubs back for the first time in weeks so expect to see him and fellow rookie WR Christian Watson on the field at the same time ... to see what might have been if both had been able to stay healthy earlier in the season. But we're veering into preview territory right now, so we might as well get on with it.

The Green Bay Packers will need a big game from QB Aaron Rodgers,
and all the team, in tonight's game vs. the Rams at Lambeau Field.
(Photo by Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

The Preview

First thing to mention, it is going to be classic Frozen Tundra weather tonight, i.e., cold. Maybe even a few bits of snow floating around. This should favor the Packers (a-duh). But as has been the case in recent memory, that hasn't always played out the way expected. So who knows? Yes, the mediocre team from LA really isn't going to want to be there. So every member of the Packers knows — and the coaches will no doubt reiterate it before and during the game — that they need to get up early and big on the Rams and not let up. All gas no brake. Start to finish.

The wind is not supposed to be much of a factor tonight. But how well the cold ball will feel in QB Aaron Rodgers' hand, with a still-recovering bad thumb, remains to be seen. If he can maintain a decent grip, the Pack's receivers should be able to stretch the field, particularly with Watson. And that will open up the running game. Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon could both have big games with the Rams' big run stopper Aaron Donald out of the game. One would think the odds would favor whoever can run the ball better. That should go the Packers way, although we also know that stopping the opposing team's running game has not been among the Pack's defense's strong suit this season. 

New LA QB Baker Mayfield won in his debut last week. Good to see after what he's been through with unfulfilled expectations. But he doesn't need to do that again. At least not in Green Bay. The Rams are banged up and nowhere near what they were as last season's Super Bowl champs. Mayfield is a young, mobile QB, exactly the kind who typically presents problems for the defense, as well. We'll see how defensive coordinator Joey Barry schemes for Mayfield.

Ahh ... there's also the slickness of the ball in the cold to consider. There should be opportunities for takeaways ... let's just hope the turnovers come from the Rams and not the Pack as the conditions should play out in general in the Pack's favor.

Still, the Packers aren't anywhere near where anyone thought they'd be at this point in the season. Imagine how ESPN is feeling after what could/should have been one of the top Monday Night football games of the season playing out this way with the teams' current standings. Oy.

The Prediction

The pundits are favoring the Packers by 7-1/2 points at the time of this writing. Former Packers right tackle and member of the Packers Hall of Fame, Mark Tauscher, said on his radio show this morning (Wilde & Tausch), that the Packers need to win this game "in a romp". Said it shouldn't be close and, as noted earlier, the Pack need to get up on the Rams early to put them away.

With all that being said, we're calling this one Packers 27 - Rams 17. Not sure if that's exactly the romp Tausch had in mind but we'd take it at this point. One game at a time. Let's get this one and then see how things play out on a short week for the Christmas game at Miami.

Go Pack Go.

Sunday, December 04, 2022

2022 NFL Week 13: Packers vs. Bears Preview & Prediction

Before we look at this weekend's game in Chicago vs. Da Bearz, let us first pause for a moment of silence for the repose of the soul of the Green Bay Packer defense. It's demise last weekend vs. the Philadelphia Eagles was a true — and embarrassing — exercise in futility. Depending upon who was providing the statistical analysis, there were somewhere around either 15 or 20 missed tackles, many of which were directed toward QB Jalen Hurts, who ran for miles against this inept Packers defense. Oy. What more can you say?

Let's move on to the game at hand.

The Preview

The Packers are sitting at 4-8 while Da Bearz are 3-9. Both teams have their issues, as evidenced by the records. Da Bearz, especially after trading away some their better players, have a woeful defense. But at this stage of the season, and after last weekend's debacle, can we say anything different about the Packers? Not really.

The difference in this game will be the offenses. Chicago has a banged up QB in Justin Fields, who, while not a great passer even when healthy, can still beat you with his legs. In that last regard, it's potentially a Philly deja vu moment if the Packers can't contain him. And tackle. Especially the tackling thing.

Chicago also has a good RB, so there again are problems to be dealt with. Receivers? Meh. On the other hand, if the Pack's secondary continues its defensive scheme of playing opposing receivers as if in a different zip code, that won't work so well even if the team was the Little Sisters of the Poor. With defensive coordinator Joe Barry at the helm, the Packers defense seems uninspired and confused most of the time. Really don't expect that to change in this game. Or the remainder of the season for that matter. Head coach Matt LaFleur has said he sees no reason to change direction with a new coordinator at this stage. Keep digging that same hole deeper, coach.

That leaves it to the Pack's offense to outscore Da Bearz. Now, despite a very banged up QB named Aaron Rodgers at the helm, that should be possible, even probable. And, we can at least feel a bit better if backup QB Jordan Love comes in as he did in last week's game. The kid's got spunk. And an arm. An arm that was quick and accurate in that brief showing. But Rodgers gives the Pack the best chance as long as he can remain upright. Especially against Da Bearz. In Chicago.

The emergence of Packers rookie WR, Christian Watson, has been one
of the bright spots for the Pack over the past few weeks.
If he continues his progress, the Packers should have a good day in Chicago.
(Photo by Eric Hartline, Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Oh, about that last point, about staying upright. We just learned Friday that LT David Bakhtiari had a spur-of-the-moment appendectomy that day. Surprise to him, the coaches, and us. So he's out again for a bit. Figures doesn't it?

But Chicago's defense is not Philly's so Rodgers should still have more time to find his receivers. Of course, he'll be throwing to Rookie of the Month for November, WR Christian Watson. And, it's possible rookie WR Romeo Doubs might also be available, coming off his high ankle sprain injury. Toss in the dependable Allen Lazard and Rodger's best buddy and Bearz destroyer, Randall Cobb, and there should be opportunities to stretch the field and open things up for running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. Or vice versa: get that running game going early and often and it could lead to a big day for the receiving corps.

This would be a good time for the Packers to play a nearly complete game. We've been waiting a long time to see that out of this team. The entire season, really. Perhaps going into their bye week, they can finally put things together by putting Da Bearz away. And the earlier the better.

The Prediction

At the time of this writing, the Packers are favored by 3-1/2 points. That doesn't mean much in these rivalry games ... despite the fact that Rodgers has indeed owned Da Bearz for his entire career. It also doesn't mean much give that the Packers have been favored in games more often than not this season only to disappoint fans and pundits alike.

Still, despite the ineptitude of the Packers defense we believe their offense has more weapons available and should be able to outscore Da Bearz.

That's why we're calling this one Packers 31 - Da Bearz 27.

Let us pray ...

Go Pack Go!!!