Monday, January 30, 2012

Packers GM Thompson named Sporting News Executive of the Year

For the second time in the last five years, Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson has been named Executive of the Year by The Sporting News. Thompson received 14 votes, twice as many as the next closest exec. Voting is done by a panel of 32 coaches and executives.

You can read more about this latest award for Thompson here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Giants up-end Packers to go to NFC Championship

The bottom line on the season for the Green Bay Packers: 15-1-Done.

After posting the best record in the NFL coming into the NFC Divisional game at home, the Packers played what was arguably their worst game of the season. Six (or eight, depending upon who's counting) dropped passes. Passes off target. Missed tackles. Miscommunication. No pass rush. Soft pass coverage. Inability of the defense to get off the field on third down. Some questionable play calling. Giving up a no-time-left-on-the-clock-half-time Hail Mary touchdown. Four -- four! -- turnovers.

The list could go on and on. The ways in which the Packers handed this game to the NY Giants reached nearly epic proportions. That's not to take anything away from the Giants. They did exactly what they needed to do. They stifled the Packers' offense and made the defense look inept. Congrats to the men in blue. (Although I will be rooting for the 49ers this coming weekend. After all, rooting for the Giants at this point would be nearly as bad as rooting for the Cowboys. Ewwww...)

Looking back to 2002, the Packers have since lost four of their last six playoff games at Lambeau Field. Wow. The invincibility of the frozen tundra sure ain't what it used to be.

Now what?
Looking ahead, the Packers will have to address their defense...the last-ranked overall defense in the league, by the way. The loss of Cullen Jenkins left a bigger hole in the pass rush than was clearly anticipated. They need to get an outside linebacker who can balance out Clay Matthews and prevent defenses from keying on stopping him. They clearly need to address secondary issues. If Nick Collins is unable to return, there are major issues at safety. Charles Woodson will likely have to play more of that position than cornerback regardless of whether Collins returns or not. There was a drop off for some reason in the level of corner play by Tramon Williams this season. Ditto for Sam Shields, who actually was replaced in the starting lineup yesterday by Jarrett Bush. There are personnel issues that need to be addressed, it's as simple as that.

The offense was the second-greatest scoring offense in the history of the NFL. They had a 200+ point differential over their opponents. Whether venerable LT Chad Clifton hangs up the cleats after this season remains to be seen. Other than that, the offensive line seems in fairly good shape, although you can never have enough depth across the line. The receiving corps, despite their epidemic of drops yesterday, is the best in the league, although whether veteran Donald Driver returns is an open question. TE Jermichael Finley did not have the year he was hoping for going into free agency. My guess is he returns. The running backs, for the type of offense the Packers run, are adequate; and don't forget, rookie Alex Green was on injured reserve all season so we have yet to see what he can do. The quarterback...c'mon. Who would you rather have game in and game out than Aaron Rodgers? No one. Back up Matt Flynn will be off to bank some big dollars in free agency, so either Graham Harrell will get moved into the backup slot or the team drafts another one to fill Flynn's role.

So, this is it. This is what one-and-done feels like when the expectations were of a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance and victory. Not good. At all. Credit has to be given to the Giants for showing up. But as happened at Kansas City several weeks ago, the only way the Packers lose is to beat themselves. And they did just enough of that yesterday to make a good Giants team come out on top by a score of 37-20.

A final thought
On that last point about the score, I Tweeted immediately after the Giants beat the Falcons in the Wild Card game that the Pack would need to score at least 38 points to win this game. Guess I was on the money: if the Pack had scored 38, the final tally would have been 38-37 Packers. So it goes...for predictions...and the Packers' season.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Packers vs. Giants in Divisional Playoff - Who Goes to the NFC Championship?

In a little more than 3 hours from now, the Green Bay Packers will take on the New York Giants at Lambeau Field in the last of the NFL Divisional Playoff games. The winner will take on the San Francisco 49ers who upset the New Orleans Saints in a great game in 'Frisco yesterday afternoon. If the Packers win, the Niners will come to Green Bay for the NFC Championship; if the Giants win, the Niners will host the Championship game.

Let's just get this out of the way right now. The Giants will not be going to San Francisco, nor will the Niners be hosting a Championship game. The Packers are going to win this game today. Period.

That's not to say it will be a cake walk. Far from it. Remember that in Week 13 of the season the Packers got a 3-point victory in the Meadowlands (is it still the Meadowlands?). It was a struggle. But a win. Just like it will be today.

The Packers are listed as 7-1/2 point favorites today. They are as healthy as they've been all year long, coming off their first round bye. QB Aaron Rodgers has had two weeks to rest. But the team and coaching staff is also coming off a week of high emotions following the drowning death of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin's son, Michael. Philbin, it was just announced, will resume his coaching duties today. According to coach Mike McCarthy, Philbin had written the game plan for this game during the Packers bye week. Assistant coaches were spreading out Philbin's work amongst themselves this week in his absence to make sure everything was covered just in case Philbin wished to take a leave of absence. McCarthy, as most know, does the offensive play calling. So it's been a different week of preparation, for sure. Still, McCarthy and players all said that practices were sharp. Perhaps there was a focus and intensity that was brought to bear by this tragedy. Certainly, the team will be playing for their coach and his family, as well as for themselves, today.

The Packers weren't getting much love from most of the national media this week. Most are talking about the Giants' rolling into the playoffs, peaking at the right time, much as the Pack did last season. The Giants had a dominating defensive performance last week against the Falcons, and their two-headed running attack of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs tore up the Falcons defense. The latter, in particular, scares the bejeezus out of me.

The Packers, let's be honest, have not had great luck stopping the run this season. Or gettting a pass rush on the quarterback. Or stopping big plays. They are the 32nd-rated defense in the NFL this season, giving up more yards than any other team. Not good. In fact, you can't get any worse. But while they tend to let teams run up and down the field, they do usually get turnovers and come up with a stop when they need it. It's definitely living on the edge. As we saw in that lone embarrassing loss at Kansas City a few weeks ago, if the Packers don't get turnovers on defense the other team has a chance, particularly if the offense sputters.

But I can't imagine the offense sputtering today. And I might be alone in this view, but I think the much-maligned Packers' defense will have its game of the season today, as well, much as the 31st-ranked defense of the New England Patriots did last night against Denver. Granted, we're facing Eli Manning and a potent offense, not Tim Tebow and the Broncos. But the Packers can put up points. With one exception on the season, more than each of their opponents. That trend continues today.

I said immediately after watching the Giants dismantle the Falcons last week that the Pack would need to score at least 38 today to win. I'm sticking with that.

I'm calling it Packers 38 - Giants 31.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Packers outlast Lions 45-41 in season finale

Wow! What a game. In a game that seemed to take forever to complete, the Green Bay Packers beat the Detroit Lions in a record-setting game, 45-41, to finish the regular season 15-1.

For the first time ever, an NFC North team swept the division. That would be the Packers. Also for the first time ever, a Packers quarterback threw for more than 400 yards (480 to be exact) and 6 the way, that would be backup QB Matt Flynn who started and played the entire game (Aaron Rodgers was held out and wasn't even active today). Not a bad way to audition for more than a few teams in need of a quality starting QB next season.

WR Jordy Nelson also moved into third place today behind Sterling Sharp and Don Hutson with 15 TD catches on the season; Sharp had 18 and Hutson 17. Pretty good company to keep.

Combined, the Packers and Lions generated more than 1,000 yards of offense and 11 touchdowns. Yowza.

The Packers were once again able to generate turnovers and convert them into points. But once again the defense was also gashed. Guess we should be used to that by now.

Anyway, the Packers can now take a week off before learning who the first team to meet them in the playoffs will be. Seven players were rested today for the Pack. The first playoff game should be a doozy.

Maybe I'll post more on this tomorrow...if there's anything new to say. This was a game, because it was seen as not having much to play for for the Packers, that was only seen by a small regional TV audience. Too bad. If you missed seeing it, you missed one of the great performances ever by a Packers quarterback. Just hope Flynn doesn't sign with a divisional opponent. Would hate to have to play this guy twice a year.

Packers vs. Lions Preview & Season Finale

In the finale to the 2011 NFL regular season, the Green Bay Packers host the up-and-coming Detroit Lions. Oddsmakers have installed the Pack as 6 point underdogs -- underdogs! -- primarily because Green Bay is expected to rest many of starters throughout the course of the game and Detroit is playing to lock up the #5 seed in the NFC playoffs, which is expected to give them a more favorable playoff match up in the Wild Card game; if they drop to #6 they will likely wind up playing the Saints against whom they don't match up as well. Oh, the over-under for this game is 41.5 points.

From the Packers' perspective, the goal is to get out of this game without injuries. But, they'd also like to win...just in case Detroit winds up coming back to Lambeau Field in a few weeks as part of the don't want to give the Lions any confidence about winning in Lambeau, where they haven't won, by the way, for the last 20 years. But let's be honest: Detroit is coming on. Whether or not we'd want to see them again in the playoffs is a toss-up right now. Although you have to think every other team is hoping they don't have to meet the Pack before the NFC Championship Game, either.

Anyway, while head coach Mike McCarthy indicated he was preparing to play all three quarterbacks today, it seems to be a toss-up whether Aaron Rodgers will see any action at all. There were indications from McCarthy that he was going to start backup QB Matt Flynn. And, Flynn, with free agency around the corner and a paucity of quality quarterbacks in the league, certainly has a lot to play for from a personal standpoint.

In addition to the what-will-they-do aspect of this game from the Packers' standpoint, there is also a subplot of Aaron Rodgers' record-setting passer rating on the line. I won't go into detail on that here, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Silverstein and Tyler Dunne have already written a great article about that.

So, without further ado on this New Year's Day 2012, what's my call? I'm calling it 24-23 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!