Sunday, December 23, 2012

Packers set to take down Titans

The 10-4 Green Bay Packers are set to take on the 5-9 Tennessee Titans in about 90 minutes' time. The weather in Wisconsin finally turned into a regular winter this last week. There was plenty of snowfall in Green Bay and surrounding areas Thursday. The team had to call for volunteer shovelers (who are paid $10 per hour, by the way) to help clear the snow from the seating areas. So no problems there. The weather today will see a high of about 27 degrees. Winds shouldn't be any problem. In short, perfect weather for The Frozen Tundra. And a Packers' victory.

The Packers are favored by 12-1/2 points. Yowza! The over-under is currently set at 45 points, seemingly in the middle of the pack for most of the games this weekend.

Keys to the game
What will be the keys to the game today? For the Packers, the one thing they have to do is stop the AFC's equivalent of the ViQueens' Adrian Peterson: Chris Johnson. He's rushed for 1,159 yards in 14 games. In 2009, he was a 2,000-yard runner. Like with Peterson, every time he touches the ball he can take it to the house. And, like Peterson, he's the kind of runner that typically has a field day with the Packers' defense. Let's not forget that Peterson ran for more than 200 yards in the meeting a few weeks ago between the Pack and the 'Queens. If the Packers haven't addressed some of their scheme issues -- and poor tackling techniques -- Johnson could also have a big day.

But just as in the game with Minnesota, the fact that Johnson might break one or two for huge yardage or scores will not be enough to secure a win for the Titans. What else have they got? Honestly, not much. Their quarterback, Jake Locker, is fast on his feet but doesn't have a great arm. Some say he's mismatched in the offensive scheme that would better utilize his abilities running more option plays. The receivers he has to throw to -- rookie Kendall Wright (who may not play because of a rib injury), Kenny Britt and Nate Washington -- are serviceable wideouts, but nothing that the Packers' improved secondary can't handle.

Defensively, LE Derrick Morgan and SLB Akeem Ayers are the best pass rushing threats the Packers will have to be sure to account for.

As for the Packers, the reconfigured -- again! -- offensive line might or might not look as originally planned for earlier in the week. Evan Dietrich-Smith was going to move to center in place of Jeff Saturday who got dinged up with a mild concussion in last week's game, with T.J. Lang moving back to his left guard slot and rookie Don Barclay continuing to hold down the right tackle slot; Marshall Newhouse continues at left tackle and Josh Sitton is at right guard, as usual. However, yesterday it was noted that Barclay may not be able to play today because of illness, which then moves everything around again. Will just have to see if Barclay can go or not. Then the thing to watch will be how well Dietrich-Smith handles the line calls from his new center position.

Running back Alex Green also sustained a mild concussion last week, so his availability is questionable, in which case DuJuan Harris will see a lot more playing time, as will Ryan Grant.

One would rightly expect Aaron Rodgers to have a good day, with Greg Jennings continuing his return, James Jones adding to his league-leading total in TD receptions, and Randall Cobb doing what he does from whatever position. One would be right to expect a big performance. Rodgers has thrown 25 TD passes versus three INTs in his last eight games vs AFC opponents (including Super Bowl XLV). Yes, it should be a good day in Mr. Rodgers' neighborhood.

Jordy Nelson will still be sitting this one out. But this may be the last regular season home game for veteran receiver Donald Driver. He knows it and everyone else pretty much knows it, too. This might also be the final regular season home game for Jennings as well, as some articles pointed out this week; has a lot to do with contracts, of course, his and that of other players. Would be a shame to lose Jennings. But with Nelson, Cobb and Jones, it may be the best the Pack can do. Worry about that after the season.

Defensively, the Packers just need to continue to display the toughness they did in Chicago last week. It was a very solid performance. But please, Clay, go back to your old Claymaker sack dance...don't care so much for the new one...although I know many of your female fans adored it. the beast, not the hoochie koochie man, OK?

Finally, what do we say about kicker Mason Crosby and his apparent relapse into field goal futility? Why head coach Mike McCarthy refuses to at least bring in someone who can put the ball through the uprights while letting Crosby kick off is beyond me and many others to fathom. Sticking with a player is one thing. Letting that loyalty cost you a playoff game and/or a Super Bowl win is another. And that's exactly where this seems headed unless Crosby gets his head on straight and regains his confidence. Luckily, today should not come down to needing 3 points to win the game. So figure McCarthy to continue to send Crosby out to kick 40-50-yarders-plus and probably have at least one miss on the day (that would then make nine straight games in which he's missed at least one field goal attempt); you just hope he's able to make one or two to help set himself up for the playoffs.

The prediction
So, after all this, what's the bottom line. I'm calling it 24-13 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!