Monday, December 31, 2012

Packers lose to Vikings, lose bye

Well, well, well...that didn't quite work out as planned, did it, Packer fans? While we knew -- and projected -- that this would be a close game (we had the Packers beating the Vikings 27-24), we didn't think the Green Bay Packers would let the opportunity to secure the number 2 seed and a bye in the NFC playoffs slip through their fingers. They did. Losing to Minnesota 37-34 on a last second field goal, the Pack now gets no rest and instead will see the ViQueens again at Lambeau Field this coming Saturday evening at 7 p.m. in the Wild Card game.

Part one of the plan was to try to contain RB Adrian Peterson. They didn't; he ran for 199 yards on a career-high 34 carries...although they held him 9 yards short of setting the single-season rushing record. Part two of the plan was to have QB Christian Ponder beat them. As various pundits noted after the game, when Packers' head coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers review the game film they will conclude that the latter is exactly what happened. While the Packers did occasionally get to him, when Ponder had time to throw, he more often than not was on the money...including probably the longest and best pass of his pro career to a wide open receiver -- courtesy of a blown coverage -- setting up a touchdown. On 3rd and 11 (was this the same play?) instead of blitzing, Capers called his usual three-man rush scheme and didn't get anywhere close to Ponder; he wound up completing a big pass. (This is a pattern of Capers that is concerning: instead of putting pressure on the quarterback on 3rd-and-long, the Packers rush three only and typically gives the QB all the time in the world to find a receiver...not all...especially given the predicatability of the tendency.)

Ponder has been getting better as the season has worn on and in the upcoming playoff game the Packers will have to do a much better job rushing him and covering receivers.

For as good as the Packers' defense appeared last weekend against an admittedly woeful Tennessee Titans offense, they appeared at times confused on coverages and gun shy of making tackles...particularly against Peterson. CB Tramon Williams was even called out on air by announcer Troy Aikman who said on one play that it looked as if Williams was doing his best to not get anywhere near Peterson, who then broke off about a 20-yard run.

To be fair, one touchdown -- a difference in the game -- came about as the first half wound down. A pass was tipped high in the air downfield. A Vikings' receiver somehow was able to come up with the ball, although replays clearly showed the tip of the ball hit the ground and was an incompletion. Unfortunately, because of poor time management by either or both Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy earlier in the half, the Packers had no time outs left and thus could not challenge the call of it being a reception. A few plays later, the Vikes were in the endzone. This somewhat typified the nature of the day for the Packers.

Other problems
As noted above, it wasn't just the defense that had problems in this game. Special teams' coverage was poor, often allowing returns out to near the 40-yard line.

The Packers offense did itself no favors early in the game with two straight three-and-outs to start the game. As a result, the Minnesota offense had the ball a good chunk of the first quarter and started to build a lead.

The offense seemed out of sync and lackluster. The play calls seemed uninspired. Instead of setting the tone for success it could be argued the tone for mediocrity and eventual loss was set in those first few possessions of the game. Where the Packer offense thrives and the team wins most often is when it can get off to a fast start and have the other team playing from behind. Instead, the opposite occurred.

The Packers also typically win when they get turnovers. They didn't have any in this game.

Conversely, the only turnover of the game came in the third quarter as the Packers were putting together a drive near midfield. Rodgers was pressured in the pocket, he moved up and was just beginning to bring his arm back to throw when the ball was knocked out of his hand and recovered by Minnesota. In a game in which every possession counted, the turnover and lost possession was huge. That's because this game came down to who had the ball last...the final possession. That was the Vikings. And they converted a chip shot field goal to win.

Rodgers still shines
Despite the early problems, and clear frustrations with the officials who were slow to set the ball and thus interrupted the Pack's no-huddle scheme, QB Aaron Rodgers was spectacular. He had his highest passer rating (131.8) since mid-October. Rodgers threw for four touchdown, had no interceptions, and led four scoring drives in the Packers' five second-half possessions.

The Fail Mary effect
By virtue of the "Fail Mary" game at Seattle...the Packers' win that wasn't thanks to the replacement refs...the Packers wound up with the third seed in the playoffs with an 11-5 final record instead of 12-4 which actually should have been the record, securing them the second seed and the bye. Instead, with that early season screw up by the NFL and its not-ready-for-primetime refs, the 49ers got the second seed and the bye. And, if the Packers win at home against Minnesota Saturday night, they will now have to go on the road to San Francisco instead of vice versa. Wow. Can't say it enough: thanks to the NFL and the entire replacement referee crew working that Seattle game for blowing it so badly you've affected the playoff scenario. Way to go. You must be so proud. (OK, OK, sarcasm off now...)

Playoff Wild Card Game
There will be much to review during the course of this week in preparation for Saturday night's game in Green Bay. We'll address that game as the week goes on. So be sure to check back.

Also, we'll be posting a special video here on Thursday that takes a look back at a recent game. You'll want to check that out, too.

But in the meantime, the next big game ahead is...the Wisconsin Badgers taking on Stanford in the Rose Bowl tomorrow. Go Badgers!!!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Season finale: Packers vs. Vikings preview

In week 17, the NFL regular season finale, the NFC North Division Champion Green Bay Packers travel across the Mississippi River to take on the Minnesota Vikings in the Humpty Dump. At stake for the Packers is nailing down the number two seed in the NFC playoffs and a first round bye. For the ViQueens, a win means -- in all likelihood -- getting the sixth seed in the playoffs. Do you think this game will be the gridiron equivalent of a cage match smackdown? Oh yes. Oh yes it will.

Keeping Peterson in check
In addition to the playoff implications, not only for the Packers and 'Queens but a few other teams as well, many will be watching today to see if Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson breaks Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards, set in 1984. Peterson needs 208 yards to break the record. Recall that he ran for 210 yards against the Packers in their first meeting earlier in the month at Lambeau Field. He also ran for 212 yards on 24 carries in a win over the Rams on Dec. 16. Bottom line: Peterson has exceeded the yardage he needs today in two of his last four games. So, is it in the realm of possibility that he'll get the record? Definitely. Is it likely the Packers will let that happen? I don't think so. They don't want him to set the record against them.

But not wanting to let Peterson set the record against them and seeing to it that that doesn't happen are two different things. The Packers will have to tackle well -- something they haven't always done this season -- in order to keep Peterson from breaking off those big chunks of yardage he is known to get.

If the Packers at least keep Peterson somewhat in check, then the 'Queens will need QB Christian Ponder to play well. Ponder has been hot and cold this season...generally cold but seemingly warming up a bit as of late. The Pack will need a pass rush, good linebacker support and that tenacious secondary to play the way they did last week in the win versus the Titans. Granted, Minnesota is a far better team than Tennessee (all the more reason for the defense to step up big time), but if the defense plays the way it showed it was capable of last weekend, then the Packers offense can do what it does best: put more points on the scoreboard than the opponent.

The difference
The Packers have at least one key playmaker today they didn't have in the first game: the Claymaker...LB Clay Matthews. That will be huge for the Packers. And with WR and returner Randall Cobb likely sitting this game out with the ankle injury suffered last weekend, the Pack will gladly take the return of WR Jordy Nelson. Jeremy Ross will be assuming Cobb's return duties, at least on punts.

The Packers will also have Ryan Grant as part of the three-headed running attack along with Alex Green and DuJuan Harris. The running-back-by-committee approach is something that has served the Packers well late in the season. While the ViQueens' defensive front, led by Jared Allen, is one of the better ones in the division, the Packers' offensive line also seems to be getting into a groove in its new configuration. Having said that, if new starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith has difficulty today against the Minnesota front expect veteran Jeff Saturday to step back into the role.

The Prediction
Much, much more analysis could be given here. But time and the availability of that type of information elsewhere offers both you, the reader, and this writer the opportunity to forego that repetition.

The Packers are 3-1/2-point favorites today. That seems to be about right. This will in all likelihood be a tight game throughout. A key turnover, a blown coverage or a missed tackle by either side might well determine the final outcome. Oh, do I need to also mention a missed field goal? Unfortunately for both fans and the Packers, given K Mason Crosby's issues over the last couple months, we need to reference that as a possible factor in the final score, too.

We're calling it 27-24 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Packers trounce Titans 55-7

After watching the total beat-down of the Tennessee Titans by the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field yesterday, many have just one question: who were those guys and what did they do with our Packers?!

Was this dominating team, on both offense and defense, the same team we've seen struggling to put away lesser opponents throughout most of the season?

In the last regular season game of the 2012 season played at Lambeau, the Packers put together their most complete performance of the season. The game against Houston earlier in the schedule was also a very thorough performance against, at that point, an undefeated team. But this game yesterday was...different.

To be sure, there were a few miscues, especially in the first half, as QB Aaron Rodgers himself admitted after the game. He missed a few throws that could have easily been touchdowns. Still, when you tally 55 points there's not too much to complain about. There were touchdown passes to multiple receivers, there were three rushing touchdowns (I KNNNOOOOWWW!), two by veteran Ryan Grant and one by rookie free agent DuJuan Harris. Actually, you have to add a rushing TD by Rodgers, as well, for the first score of the day on a quarterback draw.

On defense, the Pack registered seven sacks on the day and 12 knockdowns. LB A.J. Hawk himself had two; the last time Hawk had two sacks in one game was in 2008. The defense didn't let Titan RB Chris Johnson get rolling...they didn't let anything happen until about 2 minutes left in the game when a blown coverage led to a pass reception at the 2-yard line and then a TD moments later to shatter the shutout...which would have gone down in Packers' history had it held up.

As for special teams, they also performed so well that even kicker Mason Crosby's consecutive game streak of eight (or was it nine?) games in which he had missed at least one field game game to an end. Crosby made his only two field goal attempts on the day, although for good measure he did clank the 48-yarder off the right upright before it went over. That's how good of a day it was.

Second-year phenom, Randall Cobb, featured prominently not only in the passing game where he reeled in a remarkable TD catch, but also in the return game. In one remarkable play which displayed Cobb's intelligence rather than physical ability, he was back to receive the kickoff to start the third quarter. The kick came up a bit short and began to roll...and stall...near the 4-yard line. If Cobb had picked up the ball in bounds, the play would be live where he picked it up. In all likelihood, because of the slow roll and kickoff coverage, the ball might very well have wound up right there. Instead, Cobb first put one foot out of bounds -- actually looking to make sure -- before he touched the live ball. Thanks to a rather arcane NFL rule, this made him an out-of-bounds player and which then -- by rule -- made the kick out of bounds...which, in turn, is an illegal procedure penalty on the kicking team. Rather than the ball being on the 4 or 5-yard line, this action by Cobb gave the Packers the ball on their own 40-yard-line. Six plays and 60 yards later, the Pack was once again in the Titans' endzone with a touchdown. Head coach Mike McCarthy said this morning, "It’s the first time I’ve seen that kind of play in a game. That’s something our guys are coached to do. We have video when you show guys what to do. It’s a great play by Randall." Indeed.

The downside about Cobb for the Packers is that he got an ankle injury in the third quarter on a punt return. This has stirred up a hornet's nest of discussion about whether and why the Pack should still have Cobb back on kickoff and punt returns given his overall value to the offense of the Packers. McCarthy had this to say on the matter of perhaps removing him from those duties: "No, Randall Cobb is a big part of our success on special teams. That’s been our most consistent unit of our football team. ... I don’t understand how you play scared in the game of football. I understand the risk involved. Some plays are higher risk than others, but you can’t sit here and say special teams is important if you don’t put a guy like Randall Cobb out for a return."

One of the other big changes for the Packers Sunday was starting Evan Dietrich-Smith at center in place of veteran Jeff Saturday. There was nothing wrong with Saturday but it seems as if McCarthy and the coaching staff have been itching to see what Dietrich-Smith could do at center going forward. By all accounts, he performed well. First test passed.

There were and are a lot of other issues coming out of the game, as well as the loss by San Francisco to Seattle last night, which moves the Packers into the Number 2 NFC playoff seed right now. The possibilities that arise for the playoffs coming out of the final week of the regular season will make your head explode. Given that it's Christmas Eve, we'll avoid that scene. For now.

Check back later in the week when we will review a few of the possibilities for the playoffs and the Packers.

Enjoy the gift we received yesterday, Packer fans. Have a very Merry Christmas!

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!!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Packers beat Bears -- again -- and win NFC North

The Green Bay Packers did what they needed to do Sunday -- and are accustomed to doing as of recent years in this series -- by beating the Chicago Bears 21-13 and claiming the NFC North Division title for the second straight year.

We had projected one of two scenarios in our game preview: either the Packers would go up early and never let Da Bearz back in, or, the game would be close in the first half and the Packers would take control in the second half. The latter was the scenario that played out, jump started by a late first-half interception that was turned into a touchdown to put the Pack up 14-7 at halftime.

Chicago actually scored first. But after that, the Packers ran off 21 unanswered points. The Packers controlled both sides of the ball. It was a given the Packers would score points, the question would be whether the Packers' defense could contain WR Brandon Marshall and RB Matt Forte. They did. They also continued to harras and sack QB Jay "Why Me?" Cutler. It's getting so bad that you almost feel sorry for him. Naaaaaaah.

Actually, the Packers' defense not only got sacks on Cutler but shut down the run and made Marshall essentially a non-factor. They also had several great defensive stands, including a first-and-goal from about the one-yard line. Actually, if it wasn't for two Packers' turnovers leading to six points, and two missed field goals -- again -- by kicker Mason Crosby, the game wouldn't have been as close as the score indicated.

It also wouldn't have been as close if the Packers hadn't called what was one of the most ill-timed and boneheaded special teams' plays EVER. With roughly eight minutes left in the game and the Packers leading 21-10, Chicago punted to the Packers' Randall Cobb, a sure-handed and dangerous returner. For some reason known only in a bizzaro football world, the Packers decided to take the ball out of the hands of its best special teams' player and do a trick play where Cobb -- a former quarterback at Kentucky -- threw backwards to a teammate on the other side of the field. Only problem was that the receiving player, WR Jeremy Ross, failed to catch the ball or secure it once he dropped it. Da Bearz recovered the ball inside the Packers' redzone. This was a gift from the football gods to Chicago, putting them in easy range of making it a 21-17 game with nearly half the 4th quarter remaining. Once again, though, the Packers' defense shut down Chicago's offense, holding them to a 34-yard field goal to make it 21-13. In his press conference today, head coach Mike McCarthy tried to explain the rationale behind the trick play but finished by saying, "In the end, it was not a good decision." That's an understatement. The Packers were lucky they were facing Chicago's inept offense and not a more productive team or it really could have put the game in jeopardy. Instead of taking time off the clock and preserving the lead...well...anyway...bad decision and likely will not be seeing this play again anytime soon. Or ever.

That's where the scoring ended, as the Packers were able to secure the victory through a clutch corner kick punt by Tim Masthy inside the final two minutes of the game that went out of bounds at Chicago's 2-yard line. With no timeouts, and a devastating sack on Cutler by Clay Matthews (his second of the day), the clock finally wound down to zero.

QB Aaron Rodgers was under pressure and was sacked several times. But his passes, especially his three touchdown passes to WR James Jones, were keys to victory, as was his ability to keep plays alive with his feet. He wound up injuring his right ankle on a late run, but McCarthy said at his press conference today that it was not serious. Jones, for his part, had a career day with his three TD catches, for a league-leading twelve. The Packers' three-head running attack of Alex Green, DuJuan Harris and Ryan Grant once again accounted for more than 100 yards rushing, which helped open the passing game for Rodgers, who finished the day 23 of 36 for 291 yards and the three touchdowns. Grant, though, on his first carry of the day, had one of the team's two turnovers on a fumble after a nice gain, halting a promising drive.

Still, it was a win. Six straight over Da Bearz now.

Game. Head-to-head series. Division title. Home playoff game. It was a good day in Chicago.

Go Pack Go!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Packers set to nail down NFC North with win over Bears

Today's the day when either the Green Bay Packers clinch the NFC North or the Chicago Bears keep their fading playoff chances alive. Which do you think is more likely to happen? Let's look at how the game sets up.

The statistical look
The oddsmakers have the Packers listed as 2-1/2 point favorites, and the over-under at 43 as of the time of this writing. So, there's that. There's also the fact the Packers have won seven of their last eight games while Da Bearz have lost four of their last five. Head coach Mike McCarthy has Lovie Smith's number: the Pack has won the last five straight meetings between the two teams and seven of the last eight against Chicago overall. At the "Mistake by the Lake," otherwiwse referred to as Soldier Field, the Packers have won the last two straight and three of the last four. Over the course of the last five games they've played against each other, the Packers defense -- as spotty as it has been at times during that stretch -- has given up a total of only 65 points...13 points per game. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers apparently knows how to mess with Jay Cutler and the rest of Da Bearz' offense. The Packers have a 21-9 record in December and January regular-season games under McCarthy, and rank No. 4 in the league in scoring during this same two-month period, scoring an average of 26.7 points per game and allowing only an average of 18.5 points per game, good for No. 6 overall in the NFL. Chicago's Jay Cutler has a passer rating of 53.1 in his seven starts against the Packers. Packers' QB Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, is 8-2 against Chicago, 5-0 in day games. In the last three games against Da Bearz, Rodgers has a passer rating of 117.4

Those are just some of the stats for those who geek out on that sort of thing.

Players make the difference...a-duh
Then there's the personnel issues. LB Brian Urlacher, CB Tim Jennings, K Robbie Gould and WR Earl Bennett are all out for Chicago. Defensive linemen Shea McClellin and Henry Melton are doubtful. Chicago basically had to skip a practice this week because they just had too many players hurt and apparently didn't want to risk any further injuries. They do have Jay Cutler, who is said to have a sprained ACL and sore neck from last week's game against the ViQueens. Cutler is still looking for his first good game against the Packers. Sorry, Jay. Won't happen this week. Even with WR Brandon Marshall as your go-to guy.

The Packers, while also down some players to injury, are at least starting to get some players back. Key among them is LB Clay Matthews who always seems to feast on Da Bearz. He had 3-1/2 sacks in the two teams' first meeting this season. He'll have to knock some of the rust off after sitting out for about three games. But Chicago will have to account for him and that will open up defensive opportunities for other players.

One of the glitches in this week's preparation for the Packers was a hip injury in practice sustained by starting right guard, Josh Sitton, who is doubtful for the game. T. J. Lang returned from his ankle injury and was getting time at his original left guard spot as well as at right tackle. The Packers may have found a diamond in the rough in the form of undrafted rookie offensive lineman Don Barclay. With Sitton out, the O-line might be configured with Lang at left guard, Evan Dietrich-Smith moving to right guard and Barclay staying at right tackle. While they have had to give him some help on pass plays, his run blocking has been quite good. And that comes at a time when the Packers' running-back-by-committee approach is starting to pay dividends. Expect the Packers to run often to open up the passing game for Rodgers and company.

Despite having to move players around, the Packers just have more depth at more key positions and that comes in quite handy in a game like this, which will be a tough one. There's been a lot of mouthing off, particularly from Chicago, over this past week. So expect some chippyness throughout the game. Bound to happen. Some of these guys don't seem to like one another very much.

Turnovers in the Packers' favor
Despite Da Bearz' reputation for generating turnovers -- and they do -- it is the Packers who have come out on top in this category when the two teams have played in recent years. In the last five games, including the 2010 NFC Championship game, all Packers' wins, the Packers got 13 takeaways. Nine of those turnovers were interceptions off Jay Cutler. The Packers' pass rush against a woeful Chicago offensive line, has given Cutler happy feet and when that happens he starts to make bad decisions. Yay for our side.

Let's call it...the prediction!
My friend Billy Da Bearz fan -- known for his Chicago delusions -- says he's going to be at the game. It will be a sad ride home for my good friend, especially since he says Da Bearz will win 27-21. Paraphrasing Judge Smails, "Oh, Billy, Billy, Billy...".

I think that unless the Packers go up early and quickly, the game will be tight through the first half. But the Packers' depth and weapons will just eventually wear out Chicago.

I'm calling the game 27-17 Packers. Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

And you thought the Packers beating the Lions was the only fun in Green Bay Sunday?

While the Packers beating the Lions 27-20 on Sunday was definitely the most important event of the weekend in Green Bay, there were some other events of note surrounding the game.

As we had mentioned in our game pre-preview and preview (yes, you read that read that right), Larry the Cable Guy was going to be -- and was -- in attendance at the official tailgate party before the game. He was promoting a special sweepstakes on behalf of Prilosec OTC Wildberry. More on the sweepstakes later.

Here are a few photos of Larry during the course of his time in Green Bay. Enjoy. He sure did!

Frequent heartburn sufferer and comedian Larry the Cable Guy and former nose tackle Gilbert Brown roll into Green Bay to promote new Prilosec OTC Wildberry and encourage fans to enter the Wild American Flavor Sweepstakes at, on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 in Green Bay, Wis.
(Photo by Matt Ludtke/Invision for Prilosec OTC/AP Images)

Former nose tackle Gilbert Brown coaches frequent heartburn sufferer and comedian Larry the Cable Guy on his signature "grave digger" celebration while tailgating with fans in Green Bay to promote new Prilosec OTC Wildberry and encourage fans to enter the Wild American Flavor Sweepstakes at, on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 in Green Bay, Wis.
(Photo by Matt Ludtke/Invision for Prilosec OTC/AP Images)

Frequent heartburn sufferer and comedian Larry the Cable Guy greets a fan in Green Bay while promoting new Prilosec OTC Wildberry and encouraging fans to enter the Wild American Flavor Sweepstakes at, on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 in Green Bay, Wis.
(Photo by Matt Ludtke/Invision for Prilosec OTC/AP Images)

Frequent heartburn sufferer and comedian Larry the Cable Guy jokes around with cheerleaders in Green Bay while promoting new Prilosec OTC Wildberry and encouraging fans to enter the Wild American Flavor Sweepstakes at, on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 in Green Bay, Wis.
(Photo by Matt Ludtke/Invision for Prilosec OTC/AP Images)

Frequent heartburn sufferer and comedian Larry the Cable Guy energizes the crowd prior to kickoff in Green Bay while promoting new Prilosec OTC Wildberry and encouraging fans to enter the Wild American Flavor Sweepstakes at, on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 in Green Bay, Wis.
(Photo by Matt Ludtke/Invision for Prilosec OTC/AP Images)

Enter the Wild American Flavor Sweepstakes!
Larry the Cable Guy had quite an adventure in Green Bay this last weekend, as you can see from the photos! Now you can embark on an out-of-this-world flavor adventure of your own by entering the Wild American Flavor Sweepstakes. From now until January 7, 2013, enter at for a chance to win trips to three of America’s most flavorful cities, including tickets to some of the country’s biggest sporting events courtesy of new Prilosec OTC Wildberry. One winner will be chosen at random to receive the prize pack, including tickets to the big football game in New Orleans (February 3, 2013), the first big auto race of the year in Daytona Beach (February 24, 2013) and the basketball championship game in Atlanta (April 8, 2013), travel and accommodations (a two-night hotel stay and air transportation for each destination), and one $5,000 check to be used in any of these flavorful cities.

What are you waiting for, Packer fans? Git-R-Done!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Packers hold off Lions 27-20, lead NFC North

The Green Bay Packers did what they needed to do last night in the snow flurries at Lambeau Field: beat an inferior team in the guise of the Detroit Lions, 27-20 (my prediction was 24-17...close!). In the process, the Packers kept their Wisconsin winning streak over the Lions going, now at 22 games. The last time Detroit won a game in the Badger state was 1991. There might even be a player or two on one or both teams who wasn't alive at that time, that's how long it's been.

But that's not the key takeaway from the game. Nor was it comic actor Will Ferrell's sideline cheerleading for the Pack during the game.

With the win, the Pack also went up a full game over division rival and this coming Sunday's opponent, the Chicago Bears. The implication is that if the Packers win at Soldier Field on Sunday the team will clinch the NFC North by virtue of its record and beating Chicago twice. Easier said then done, and we'll preview that game a bit closer to game day.

But let's do a quick review of last night's win, shall we?

Game recap
Firstly, the final outcome of the game began to be seriously in question very early in the game as Detroit went out to a quick 14-0 lead. The Lions also dominated the time of possession in the first half: 22:41 compared to 7:19 for the Packers. Yikes! It was enough to give you heartburn...the kind which Prilosec OTC Wildberry can tackle, that's for sure. (Better keep some on hand for the games coming down the stretch and into the playoffs!)

Detroit strung together two long touchdown drives on its first two possessions, running the ball effectively and passing to generally open receivers. After going 80 yards in 12 plays to go up 7-0, the Packers put on a drive of their own, going 55 yards to the Lions' 12-yard line. But on second down, as QB Aaron Rodgers was pressured in the pocket and began to move, he was sacked and fumbled. The ball was recovered by the Lions, who then put together an 11-play, 79-yard drive to go up by two touchdowns.

The Packers were then able to put together another good drive before stalling out. Head coach Mike McCarthy decided to try to get some points on the board, even in the blustery conditions. To that end, he sent out K Mason Crosby who proceeded to drill a 49-yard field goal attempt to make the score 14-3.

(Photo by John Klein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
On the next series, the Lions were again seemingly moving the ball at will and were in Packer territory when the football gods gave the Packers an early Christmas present: Lions QB Matthew Stafford dropped back to pass and as he began his throwing motion the ball slipped out of his hand. Rookie defensive end Mike Daniels scooped the ball up and scampered -- if that's a phrase that can be applied to a defensive lineman -- 43 yards to make the score 14-10. Coach McCarthy was quoted as saying, "Mike Daniels' play was the momentum shift we needed. That was the key." Indeed.

In the second half, Detroit was once beginning to move the ball, but on its first possession both quarterback and receiver were not on the same page. S Sam Shields, playing in his first game in about two months, intercepted Stafford. The Packers then put together a drive down to the Lions' 27, aided in no small part by a 15-yard roughing penalty against The Mad Stomper, Ndamukong Suh, for hitting Rodgers after a third-and-6 incompletion. Flushed from the pocket, Rodgers found running room and took it to the endzone untouched to put the Pack up 17-14 early in the third quarter.

Detroit picked up a Jason Hanson field goal to tie the game up at 17-17, aided by a very questionable blow to the head penalty to provide the extra yardage needed.

Mason Crosby had a miss from 51 yards out on his next attempt, as did Hanson shortly thereafter.

With 10:45 remaining in the game, the Packers played December football, rushing seven times for 59-yards, capped off with a 14-yard touchdown run by free agent RB DuJuan Harris to put the Pack up 24-17. (Harris actually had an explosive run in his first carry of the game in the first quarter which helped set the stage, perhaps, for this run. As Aaron Rodgers said about him in a post-game interview, Harris looks as if he might be "something special." Let us pray...)

Crosby added a 41-yard field goal with about 4 minutes remaining in the game to make the score 27-17. The Lions, out of time outs and much hope, hit a field goal with 7 seconds remaining to make the score 27-20. A pooched onside kick attempt wound up going out of bounds and finally securing the victory for the Packers.

Game synopsis
Merely looking at the stats you might well get the idea that Detroit won the game, or at least could have. Luckily, it's points not stats that give teams wins and losses. In first downs, third-down conversions, total yardage, total plays, and time of possession, the Lions bested the Packers. But on the scoreboard -- where it counts -- the Packers had the edge: 27-20.

As Rodgers said after the game, it was ugly but sometimes things break a certain way in a game and that's all that needs to happen. Daniels' fumble recovery and Shields' interception certainly helped a spotty defense hold its own. The rushing attack by committee -- Alex Green with 69 yards in 13 attempts, DuJuan Harris with 31 yards in 7 carries and even 1 carry by the recently-signed Ryan Grant for 13 yards -- worked well. And Mason Crosby's kicking problems have seemed to be resolved.

With the Pack set to get a few key players back in time for the game against Da Bearz, most notably Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews, the Packers look well-positioned to secure the NFC North title soon. Very soon.

Still time to enter the Sweepstakes!
Larry the Cable Guy was in Green Bay at last night's official tailgate party. You can check out what he got up to while in Green Bay at While there, you’ll have the opportunity to embark on an out-of-this-world flavor adventure of your own by entering the Wild American Flavor Sweepstakes. From now until January 7, 2013, enter at for a chance to win trips to three of America’s most flavorful cities, including tickets to some of the country’s biggest sporting events courtesy of new Prilosec OTC Wildberry. One winner will be chosen at random to receive the prize pack, including tickets to the big football game in New Orleans (February 3, 2013), the first big auto race of the year in Daytona Beach (February 24, 2013) and the basketball championship game in Atlanta (April 8, 2013), travel and accommodations (a two-night hotel stay and air transportation for each destination), and one $5,000 check to be used in any of these flavorful cities.

What are you waiting for, Packer fans? Git-R-Done!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Packers vs. Lions Preview and Prediction

The streak
The last time the Detroit Lions beat the Green Bay Packers in Wisconsin -- mid-December of 1991 -- Erik Kramer was their quarterback and Mike Tomczak was somehow quarterbacking the Pack. The Packers were playing out a 4-12 season and the Lions were preparing for the playoffs as NFC Central Division champs. Detroit won 21-17. Since then -- over the next 20 years -- the Lions haven't won another game in Wisconsin and have been favored just once.

As a great article by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn points out, "The Packers' 20-game winning streak at home against the Lions is the longest in National Football League regular-season history." Amazing. And the Packers are favored again in tonight's game, by 7 points.

McGinn's article quotes former Packers General Manager, Ron Wolf, as reminding us that during this time span the Packers have had Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers -- both future Hall of Famers -- as the starting QBs. Detroit? Not. That does explain a lot. But still, the ball has to bounce your way sooner or later, right? Yes, but let's not start tonight, OK?

If you want to see my pre-preview of this game I wrote a few days ago, check out my prior post below. Or just click here to take you right there.

The challenges
The Packers will, as has been the case all season, be playing shorthanded with starters on both sides of the ball still out. But they will likely be getting a few folks back, as well, at least for spot duty. The return of WR Greg Jennings (last week) will again take up some of the slack for the missing Jordy Nelson.

The biggest challenge for the Packers will be the same as it was when the two teams met a few weeks ago: the offensive line vs. the Lions' defensive front. Detroit held down the Packers running game so that Rodgers was forced to pass more often, opening up the pass rush for the Lions. The Lions harassed Rodgers for a good part of the last game, even causing a fumble on a sack attempt. The Packers O-line has to step up. Given that undrafted rookie lineman, Don Barclay, will likely be getting the start at right tackle in place of injured T.J. Lang, and that the line will be fending off The Mad Stomper, Ndamukong Suh, it could once again be a long day for Rodgers...unless the Pack can get -- and keep -- its running game going.

To that end, and with RB James Starks being injured yet again, that effort will fall to Alex Green and newly-resigned veteran Ryan Grant. It's also possible that the Packers might try first-year player DuJuan Harris if the rushing game stagnates. He's a bit "undersized" at 5'8" but as has been shown in a few cases -- Barry Sanders (5'8") and Emmitt Smith (5'9") come to mind -- undersized is a relative term.

The bottom line prediction
As noted earlier, I wrote a pre-preview article a few days ago regarding this game, so you can get some further detail there.

The Lions are 4-8, have not won a game in the division, and have nothing to play for other than pride, and finally winning a game in Wisconsin after a generation. The Packers, at 8-4 atop the NFC North, must continue to win in order to control their own destiny.

Tonight's game will, according to forecasts, be cold, not too windy, but with anywhere fom 2-5 inches of snow predicted for the the time of this writing, snow is already falling at Lambeau Field. This may very well mean more relianace on the rushing game or short passing attack. Fans would hope and expect that the "outdoors" Packers would have the advantage over the "indoors" Lions but we need to remember that the Packers haven't had to play in bad weather in quite a while either.

As noted earlier, the Pack is favored by 7 points. The over-under is 49 points, second highest for the weekend's games.

With the weather conditions being iffy at best, this is a game that could turn on turnovers and special teams play...that proverbial bounce of the ball we mentioned at the outset. If it's a close game, as the last game was into the fourth quarter with the Lions leading, anything could happen. But the Packers are the better team. The Packers are at home. The Packers have more to play for. The Packers will win.

I'm calling this one 24-17 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Still time to enter the Sweepstakes!
Larry the Cable Guy is in Green Bay tonight to crank up the official tailgate party. You can check out what he's been up to, and what he will have gotten up to while in Green Bay, at While there, you’ll have the opportunity to embark on an out-of-this-world flavor adventure of your own by entering the Wild American Flavor Sweepstakes. From now until January 7, 2013, enter at for a chance to win trips to three of America’s most flavorful cities, including tickets to some of the country’s biggest sporting events courtesy of new Prilosec OTC Wildberry. One winner will be chosen at random to receive the prize pack, including tickets to the big football game in New Orleans (February 3, 2013), the first big auto race of the year in Daytona Beach (February 24, 2013) and the basketball championship game in Atlanta (April 8, 2013), travel and accommodations (a two-night hotel stay and air transportation for each destination), and one $5,000 check to be used in any of these flavorful cities.

What are you waiting for, Packer fans? Git-R-Done!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Packers vs. Lions Pre-Preview

We’re doing this preview a bit earlier than usual. Which, to our way of thinking, makes it a pre-preview of the Sunday night game between the 8-4 Green Bay Packers and the 4-8 Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Hope you don't mind. (If you read to the end -- no skipping ahead! -- you'll be rewarded for your efforts. If you're lucky enough to win the sweepstakes, that is. Hey, no skipping ahead!)

Anyway, as most Packer fans know, the Packers and the Lions are the only two NFL teams that have played a home-and-home series every year since 1932. The Lions were then known as the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans. This is a series with roots. But back to the pre- part of this pre-preview.

From mid-week to game day, a lot of things can happen that could impact a game. Heck, just over the past couple days, RB James Starks has gone from being the guy on Monday that head coach Mike McCarthy said was going to be the man to carry most of the load going forward to, as of Wednesday, being out for at least several weeks with a knee injury sustained in Sunday’s game against the Vikings. In fact, speculation is that Starks could possibly be yet another in the increasingly long list of additions to the injured reserve list before the season is over. Wait to see on that one.

(Photo by Paul Kehrer, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

Ryan Grant is back

But the big news of Wednesday was the signing of veteran RB Ryan Grant, the former Packer and the team's leading rusher over the past several seasons, who was not re-signed in the offseason. His only stint in the NFL this season was about a month with the Redskins. He played in one game, and carried the ball once for five yards. Then he was cut. Still, as coach McCarthy said in his press conference Wednesday, when Grant made his first appearance among his teammates after taking care of all the business details, he got a standing ovation from the rest of the players. Certainly a testimony to the character and leadership of the man.

Having said that, and as Wayne Larrivee, radio voice of the Packers, said Wednesday morning on Packers flagship radio station, 620WTMJ in Milwaukee before the signing of Grant was announced, the feeling around the league seemed to be that Grant hadn’t been signed by any other team after being cut by Washington because teams had basically determined that he didn’t have much left in the tank, so to speak. So, this is where the Pack is at in its rushing attack: second-year player Alex Green, who will now have to take on the bulk of the carries, and Grant. Concerned? Just add it to the list.

T.J. Lang may not play Sunday

According to McCarthy, it sounds as if the Packers are preparing to play the game against Detroit without T.J. Lang at right tackle. That means undrafted rookie Don Barclay will likely get the start and the rest of the O-line will be as it was against Minnesota. Barclay stepped into the game this past weekend and acquitted himself quite well after Lang went down with his ankle injury. Whether he’ll be able to hold up an entire game against a Detroit defensive line that includes Ndamukong Suh remains to be seen. But it’s the best option the Packers have at the moment. There was speculation in some circles that if Lang was able to return, and given Barclay’s first performance, that the Packers might shift Lang back to his usual left guard position in place of Evan Dietrich-Smith, who had his hands full last time around with Nick Fairley. That doesn’t seem likely at this point. Also, to address the dwindling offensive line depth, the Packers signed a lineman to the practice squad Wednesday after trying out a couple players the day before.

The good news: the Packers are playing the Lions…at Lambeau

With the current state of attrition on the Packers’ roster, it’s enough to give not only coaches heartburn but fans, too. You wouldn’t blame anyone for reaching for the Prilosec OTC Wildberry, would you?

Still, there is cause for hope…particularly since the Packers are playing the Lions in Wisconsin. In a series going all the way back to 1930, and with many memorable games both in Green Bay and Milwaukee, the Pack holds a dominant 54-24-4 series edge, as well as a 1-0 mark in the postseason in the state; the overall series stands at 92-65-7 in favor of the Packers, plus 2-0 in the postseason. It was Dec. 15, 1991, the last time the Lions won at Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers was 8 years old. That’s a winning streak, kids. And, despite all of the Packers’ injuries, they are not in jeopardy of having that streak broken. If you want more of the inside scoop and enough trivia to make your head explode, check out the official “Dope Sheet” from the Packers.

Now, of course, on any given day blah blah blah. But these are the Lions. The dysfunctional Lions who just wound up putting WR Titus Young on IR probably as much for attitude as injury. Head coach Jim Schwartz, when asked about Young having knee surgery, said, “Yeah, most likely. Yes, unless he doesn’t show up for it.” Ouch.

Aside from legitimate receiving threat Calvin Johnson, Detroit just doesn’t have weapons offensively to match up – keep up – with the Pack. If the Lions' defense is able to make life difficult for the Packers and keep it close…nah! Not going to happen. The Lions are 7-point underdogs (at the time of this writing) for a reason. That reason is that the Packers are simply a better team. In fact, TE Jermichael Finley alluded to that fact Tuesday when asked about the Packers' record of success against Detroit at Lambeau. Finley reportedly said, “It’s not rocket science.” Point made. The better team usually wins. Especially at home.

The Packers are averaging 29 points per game and allowing 18.3 so far this season. Detroit, over the course of its current four-game losing streak, is allowing 31.75 points per game. So if these trends continue, the odds certainly favor the Pack. Do you expect the Lions’ offense, defense and special teams to be able to score more than 32 points against the Packers? Do you expect the Packers to give up that many points? The answer is no to both questions.

We won’t have our points prediction for the game until Sunday, so you'll have to check back here then. But in the meantime, we still have something special to share with you.

Larry the Cable Guy in town to tailgate!

Yes, your favorite “Git-R-Done” football fan, Larry the Cable Guy, will be at the official Packer Fans Tours Tailgate Party before the game. You can find out more about that here.

Green Bay is Larry’s final stop on his wild cross-country adventure to popular sports venues to help introduce the first flavor-coated 24-hour frequent heartburn pill, new Prilosec OTC Wildberry! Yes, really. You see, Larry is not only a very funny guy, but he’s also a frequent heartburn sufferer. Yes, really. Here's what he has to say about that: “I love wild flavor! And I don’t let my frequent heartburn stop me from enjoying all the spicy, cheesy, sizzling experiences America serves up. That’s why I love new Prilosec OTC Wildberry – you get the same frequent heartburn relief as Prilosec OTC, but now with a fancy coating that gives you a burst of wildberry flavor. Now I can enjoy all the flavors this great land of ours has to offer!” And really, Packer fans, what better place to get – and get-over – heartburn than at a tailgate party?

Enter the Sweepstakes

You can see what Larry’s been up to, and what he will have gotten up to while in Green Bay, at While there, you’ll have the opportunity to embark on an out-of-this-world flavor adventure of your own by entering the Wild American Flavor Sweepstakes. From now until January 7, 2013, enter at for a chance to win trips to three of America’s most flavorful cities, including tickets to some of the country’s biggest sporting events courtesy of new Prilosec OTC Wildberry. One winner will be chosen at random to receive the prize pack, including tickets to the big football game in New Orleans (February 3, 2013), the first big auto race of the year in Daytona Beach (February 24, 2013) and the basketball championship game in Atlanta (April 8, 2013), travel and accommodations (a two-night hotel stay and air transportation for each destination), and one $5,000 check to be used in any of these flavorful cities.

What are you waiting for, Packer fans? Git-R-Done!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Packers News: Bart Starr, Da Bearz, Lions

This post may be like one of those random flow of consciousness (or, perhaps, unconsciousness) ramblings like Larry King did in his column for so many years. You know, the type of thing where you read it and immediately go, "What?". Yeah, well, we'll try to do a better job than that. It's the least we can do for our great readers. Yes, you know who you are.

Anyway, news broke this morning that Packers' great and NFL Hall of Famer, Bart Starr, collapsed following a speech in Madison, WI. Reports are that he is doing fine. But obviously, something like this is not normal and "fine" can have a whole range of meanings. You can read more here. Get well soon, Bart! (Photo by Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Urlacher out for season?
There was some buzz in the Twitter-sphere and mainstream sports media this afternoon that Da Bearz linebacker, Brian Urlacher, is likely out for at least the next three games and perhaps the season as a result of the hamstring injury he sustained in Chicago's loss (yes!) to the Seahawks. If Urlacher is out for the game with the Pack in less than two weeks, that will change things least for Da Bearz. Stay tuned for future developments.

Packers - Lions Preview
Given the historical nature of the rivalry between the Pack and the Lions, we'll be posting at least one or more stories related to the upcoming game Sunday evening beginning Thursday, if all goes well. Start checking back then for info that you just won't be able to live without. OK, you could...but would you want to? I think not!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Packers send Vikes home with a loss

It was a game the Packers needed to have coming off the disappointing loss the week before against the Giants. And they got it: a 23-14 win over the ViQueens at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

It might not have been the prettiest game they've played this season (in fact, other than the Houston game, there haven't been many of those games at all), but it was a hard-earned win by a team that was simply better than its opponent, despite missing about eight of the preferred starters on offense and defense. The ViQueens, with WR Percy Harvin on the sidelines, had no offense other than RB Adrian Peterson...which isn't all bad, admittedly. In fact, Peterson was the Minnesota offense, rushing for more than 200 yards, with about 150 of those yards coming on just three runs. The lack of tackling ability on the part of more than a few Packers' defenders helped contribute to that total but make no mistake about it: with a better quarterback and some wide to me when the 'Queens get that in place, will you?

Back to the Pack...

One of the good things to come out of the game was the rushing attack of the Packers, which saw James Starks and Alex Green combine for 123 yards on the day. One of the game's two touchdowns for the Pack even came on the ground, a 22-yarder by James Starks; it was only the third rushing TD of the season for the Pack. It's all a long way from Peterson's 210 yards, but it was more than enough to keep the Minnesota defenders from launching full-out rushes on QB Aaron Rodgers with every snap; they had to stay honest against the run and that helped open up the pass. As a result, Rodgers was 27 for 35 and 286 yards with one touchdown and one interception (that was as good as a punt on an ill-advised flea flicker type play).

A second and unexpected positive for the offense was the workman-like play of undrafted rookie offensive lineman, Don Barclay. Barclay was forced to take over the right tackle slot after starter T.J. Lang went out with an ankle injury. Lang, of course, was playing in that spot after a move from his starting left guard spot after regular right tackle starter Bryan Bulaga was lost for the season. (Still with me?) Yes, this is how thin and precarious it has gotten on the offensive line for the Packers. In fact, there is currently only one other lineman available should any of the current players go down, another undrafted rookie, Greg Van Roten. Still, Barclay wound up holding his own and, truth be told, the Packers actually ran to his side of the formation quite often in the second half.

Another plus for the Packers was that it appeared (fingers and toes still crossed!) that kicker Mason Crosby may have finally gotten the monkey off his back with his field goal issues. He was three for four on the day, missing only a 50+-yarder. Granted, he clunked his first kick off the left upright, but it went in. And it seemed on a 4th and 7 that -- after missing his second attempt on the day -- his head coach had lost faith in him; McCarthy called Crosby back to the sideline and was going to go for it until Minnesota got confused and had to call a timeout. It was during that timeout that apparently McCarthy reconsidered his decision and sent his kicker more time. Crosby made it. And later, he made a third kick that was the "dagger" on the day, putting the Pack up by 9 points and making any comeback possibility by the 'Queens next to nil. Good for Crosby. He had a huge smile on his face and teammates were celebrating with him. It might just have been what the doctor ordered in order for Crosby to once again begin doing what he's paid very well to do: make field goals.

On defense, the negatives primarily centered around the Packers' inability to get Peterson on the ground. Now, lots of teams have that issue. But any time you give up 210 yards on 21 carries to a back -- even of Peterson's calibre -- you know that something is not right with the tackling ability of your defense. This was a problem last year and it's an issue that has seemingly re-emerged. It needs to get corrected, whether it's your starters or backups on the field.

One definite area of improvement for the Pack this season, however, is the play of the defensive backs. Granted, they really didn't have too many threats to cover yesterday and they certainly were not going against a top-tier quarterback in Christian Ponder. But when they didn't hand off to Peterson, Minnesota had no offense to speak of. The Packers' defensive backs had receivers covered all day long. S Morgan Burnett, in particular, did a tremendous job, coming up with two picks on the day, including one in the endzone to end a promising 'Queens drive.

The Pack needed to get the game in the win column and they did. With the Lions losing at the end of regulation to the Colts and Da Bearz losing in overtime to the fomer Wisconsin Badgers Russell Wilson-led Seattle Seahawks, the Packers are in first place in the NFC North. Despite being tied at 8-4 with Chicago, the Packers are technically in first place by virtue of holding the tiebreaker against Da Bearz.

With a win against the hapless Lions at Lambeau Field on the horizon this coming Sunday evening, the game against Chicago the following week at Soldier Field could very well determine who wins the NFC North. The Packers are hurt and may get a few players back. But the way the season is going, the team will lose a few yet, as well. So the team is pretty much what you see. In many ways, coach McCarthy and his staff have once again done an amazing job keeping this team winning despite all the setbacks, as they did in 2010. The difference, as one pundit pointed out, was that in that year most of the injuries were done by this point in the season and players were actually starting to return. This season, injuries are still occurring that are affecting lineups on the field. Beyond that, who knows?

Let's enjoy the win...a good 29th birthday present for Aaron Rodgers...and something to keep us fans yearning for what's to come.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Packers vs Vikings - It's Time

After the disappointing dismantling of the Green Bay Packers by the NY Giants last Sunday night, we don't quite know what to expect today. Will the ViQueens' defensive front, led by Jared Allen, wreak havoc on the Pack's sieve-like offensive line and take away any chance for Aaron Rodgers to connect with his receivers before getting mauled in a collapsing pocket? Or, will the guys on the line look for some redemption? Will their collective pride be such that they want to emulate the Wisconsin Badgers' offensive line who thoroughly dominated the Nebraska Cornhuskers last night to win their third straight Big 10 title and trip to the Rose Bowl? (Can you tell I'm a proud Badgers fan?)

Of course, last Sunday's problems weren't only with the offensive line; there were problems aplenty on the defense, as well. But as we saw last season, if the Packers' offense does what it's capable of doing, even a Swiss cheese style defense can be covered up.

So, the key on offense today will be the Packers offensive line and how well they are able to stand up to the 'Queens pressure and protect Aaron Rodgers. They need to give their QB time to make his throws. The return of WR Greg Jennings today, even in a limited role, should help open up the passing game...if Rodgers has time. The line also needs to create just enough room to let the running back committee have an impact. If there is no running game for the Packers, as there wasn't against the Giants, it's going to be another long day for the line and Rodgers and that would not bode well for the final outcome.

The key on defense -- as it always is facing the 'Queens -- is keeping RB Adrian Peterson from scampering all over the field and into the endzone. No easy task. And it's a task made even more difficult with the absence again today of LB Clay Matthews, as well as defensive lineman C.J. Wilson who was injured in last week's game. Peterson is a medical marvel not even a year removed from his reconstructive knee surgery. He's amazing to watch...against other teams. The Packers must keep him from deciding the game.

Apparently, the pundits think the Packers will rebound from their New York fizzle, staking them as 7-1/2 point favorites over the ViQueens. If the Packers play their game -- get their mojo back at home as they should -- they should get the win, although I'm not so sure about covering the spead...if someone was a betting person, that is. By the way, the over-under for the game is set at 47 points -- only three games are higher today.

I called last week's game in favor of the Giants. I had a feeling that the Packers were due for a dip after five straight wins; plus the Giants and Eli Manning seem to always play well coming out of a bye. I hoped I was wrong. But I was right.

Will I be right today? I hope so, this time around. We'll know in about four or five hours' time. The Packers under coach Mike McCarthy rarely play clunkers back-to-back (think about the games versus Colts and Texans). Make no mistake, this will not be an easy game to win and, depending upon whether Packer pride shows up on the field or it continues to snooze, that win could be in doubt. The Packers are a better team, especially at home. They just have to play like it.

I think it will be close. I'm calling it 27-24 Packers. Yes, I realize that means heretofore unreliable kicker Mason Crosby will have to make two field goals. But given the great weather conditions -- balmy for Dec. 2 in Green Bay -- I think today is the day Crosby starts to get the monkey off his back and helps win one for the Pack (fingers -- & toes -- crossed!). It's time. It's definitely time.

Go Pack Go!!!

Two to IR and two to roster
As an article by Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, "The Green Bay Packers put tight end Andrew Quarless and safety Sean Richardson on injured reserve and signed running back DuJuan Harris and wide receiver Jeremy Ross off their practice squad to their 53-man roster, the club said Saturday."

It's possible we might actually see some action by Harris today. As Silverstein notes, "The decision to elevate Harris was evident this week when he started getting snaps with the No. 1 offense and with the special teams units. The 5-foot-8 Harris has been a standout on the practice squad after being signed Oct. 24." Ross might see action on special teams.

For the complete article, go here.