Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Sunday Without Packers Football

Remember when the NFL schedule was first announced for this season and we all learned that the Packers had their bye in Week 4 of the season? Good grief! That was waaaaay too early. Or so we thought.

After being beset with injuries of various sorts -- concussions, hamstrings and who knows what else -- the Packers are a physically wounded team very early in the season. Many fans whom I speak with are, like me, of the opinion that the bye comes at a very good time. Yes, far earlier than you'd normally like. But given the team's health at the moment, turns out it's probably a good week for the bye.

They'll also need that time to get over their loss to the Bengals in a wild and ugly game, a game that left them at 1-2 and looking up at the likes of (shudder) Da Bearz (3-0) and (I think I'm gonna hurl) the Lions (2-1). Given the history of all the teams involved, this is not likely where things will end up. And, as we all know well, it's not how you start it's how you finish. Oh, did we forget to mention that the ViQueens are 0-3? I did? Oh, well, the ViQueens are 0-3. As Seinfeld might say, that's a shame.

So, folks, what will you be doing to fill the humongous void left in your day without Green Bay Packers football? Watching other games of interest, I suspect. Perhaps getting out on the golf course. Maybe spending some time boating or fishing or hiking or whatever. Perhaps catching up on some reading. Lots of possibilities. Or, if you are a guy (as I suspect most are who read this particular blog), specifically a guy who is married, no doubt your wife has a whole game plan of her own slated for you today. Probably involves cleaning...something. Or shopping...somewhere. Or just generally keeping you away from any game you'd like to kill a few hours watching know...this is what couples do.

If you fall into this latter group, gentlemen, I feel your pain. We've all been there.

Perhaps the words of the venerable Vince Lombardi can inspire us at times such as this: Run to daylight!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Packers bitten by Bengals

It's taken yours truly nearly two days to get past the gut-wrenching loss of the Green Bay Packers to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Where does one begin? How about at the end? With this game, the Packers became the first team in NFL history to be behind by 14 points, then lead by 16 points, and then lose. Great.

Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

This was also the first time that QB Aaron Rodgers -- who lit things up the week before in the win against the Redskins -- had two interceptions in a regular-season game since Week 7 of the 2010 season at Minnesota. Combined with the inauspicious start to the game -- an opening series touchdown drive by the Bengals followed by a kickoff fumble by now-unemployed kick returner Jeremy Ross which allowed Cincy to score 14 points in 12 seconds -- and the injuries to starters Jermichael Finley, James Starks and Clay Matthews, you knew this wasn't going to be your typically crisp Packers type of game.

Of course, there has been much second-guessing about head coach Mike McCarthy's 4th-and-inches call late in the 4th quarter, deep in Bengals' territory, and holding a 3-point lead: a handoff to diminutive but speedy rookie RB Johnathan Franklin. As the entire universe knows, Franklin fumbled going straight into the line, the Bengals recovered and returned it for a game-winning touchdown. Why not a QB sneak? Why not a bootleg run/pass option? Was it the turning point of the game? Certainly that could be argued. But so could the fact that the Packers' four turnovers (already mentioned throughout this post if you've paying attention!) hurt them, that a rash of injuries took their toll on key players, or that the offense couldn't capitalize on four turnovers by the Bengals to put them away as they should have, or that the Packers had some stupid major penalties at inopportune times in the game.

It was a wild ride, indeed. With a very unfavorable outcome for the Packers and their fans. The team goes to 1-2 on the season as they head into an early and, as it turns out, a much-needed bye week. One of the things this game demonstrated is the parity among teams in the league. An even bigger one is that when Aaron Rodgers isn't on his A game for the offense or if Clay Matthews is unavailable to the defense, this team will have a hard time winning against anything but the doormats of the NFL.

If there are more demons from this game to be purged, or news of note during this bye week, we'll be sure to post it here. So please keep checking back. And for any real-time updates you might need, just click on the link above for our Amazing 2nd Page. Yes, it truly is Amazing!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Week 3: Packers vs Bengals Preview

First, I am going to highly recommend to you that if you want to get an overall view of our look at the game today between the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium that you please see our pre-preview from two days ago. That will give you an overall flavor of things as we see it.

Not much has changed in the past couple days to make us alter our view of things. The Packers are still favored by 3 points (or 2-1/2 depending upon your source). We still think a lot of points will go up on the board (the over-under has actually increased, from 48.5 to 49.5 points).

It's interesting to read through all the various scenarios pundits posit about this game. As noted in our pre-preview, this game -- for some -- is a preview of a potential Super Bowl match up. Certainly they are two potent teams. Each has an edge in certain areas, so watching the chess match being played out by the coaches and coordinators through the course of the game will be nearly as interesting to watch as the plays on the field. Well, not really. That was hyperbole. Forgive me. Nothing is going to be more fun today than watching two talented offenses go at one another and seeing what the defenses try to do to slow things down.

The Bengals have one of the game's best receivers in A.J. Green. They have good tight ends. Well, the Packers have three very good receivers and some good tight ends of their own, including one by the name of Jermichael Finley who seems to have regained a bit of his mojo and, more importantly, the trust and confidence of the guy throwing to him.

Oh, yes, did we mention quarterbacks? Andy Dalton is a capable quarterback and can do damage if the Packers defense doesn't get to him early and often. But is he of the same caliber as Aaron Rodgers? No. You can say -- and some rightly do -- that the edge in the running game goes to the Bengals. That's fine. The Pack will have to find a way to keep that in check, definitely. And the edge on the defensive side of things has to go the Bengals way, especially in the front seven and, given the battered nature of the Packers' secondary, to the entire defensive unit. But is it a huge difference? Depends upon who steps up on both sides.

Still, given the Packers' offensive weapons -- and particularly if RB James Starks can come even marginally close to reprising what he did against Washington (he won't...this isn't the Redskins D we're playing) -- I have to take the Packers, as do the majority of pundits it seems, to win this game.

It could be ugly early on offense for the Pack, as it was last week against Washington. And given the much better defensive front seven of the Bengals it could actually be quite ugly for a while. But the Packers' defense is improved over last season, as well, despite the injuries and gaps in the secondary right now. The Packers' D should be able to get to Dalton or at least be disruptive and that could be enough to upset the apple cart.

I'm calling this one Packers 31-24 over the Bengals.

(Photo of Aaron Rodgers above by Jim Biever,

Friday, September 20, 2013

Looking ahead to Packers vs. Bengals

Green Bay Packers fans have to feel good coming off last Sunday's romp over the Washington Redskins. The only downside was the loss of rookie RB Eddie Lacy to a concussion on his one and only carry of the day. Of course, the flip side was that replacement James Starks romped to the tune of 132 yards. That was sweet!

While some pundits are suggesting that this Sunday's game at Paul Brown Stadium might be a preview of things to come, as in Super Bowl XLVIII, the questions for the Packers going through the prep week for the Cincinnati Bengals are more immediate and basically have to do with the following:
  • Can Starks repeat his 100+ yards performance?
  • Can Lacy play at all Sunday?
  • If Lacy is unavailable as a back up -- Starks has already been named as the starter this week -- is rookie RB Johnathan Franklin finally ready to show something out of the backfield, including being able to pass protect for Aaron Rodgers?
  • Will FB and Rodgers' personal body guard in the backfield, John Kuhn, be available to play following his hamstring injury?
  • If Kuhn is unavailable for the game -- and that seems to be a good possibility -- which of the tight ends will be taking up the fullback spot in certain formations?
  • How will an admittedly sieve-like secondary hold up against one of the top receivers in the league, A. J. Green?
  • Can the offensive line, which performed admirably from about the second quarter on against the 'Skins, reprise their effort against a defensive line that might be nearly as good as San Francisco's front seven?
If Rodgers has time -- and that is a question at this point given the ups and downs we've seen with the Packers' O-line -- he can have success against the Bengals secondary. Conversely, Bengals QB Andy Dalton -- while a capable but not top-tier passer -- could find success against the Packers secondary if the Pack's front seven can't get to him.

At the time of this writing the Packers are favored by 3 points. The over-under is currently set at 48.5 total points, tied for third most of the entire weekend; obviously the oddsmakers figure there will be lots of scoring going on. That can all change by game time, of course.

Still, you have to like the way the Pack rebounded in Week 2. We'd expect that momentum to carry over to this week. Once this game is out of the way, the Packers will have 14 days before their next game...the bye week happens in Week 4, way too soon. So the Packers will undoubtedly not push their injured players to play this week, preferring to rest them for the long haul of 13 games in a row coming up after the bye. Who plays and who is held out may very well determine whether the Packers emerge 1-2 or 2-1. It likely will be that close unless one team or the other collapses.

Be sure to check back here no later than Sunday morning for our final game preview and prediction. Bookmark us!

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Packers beat Redskins 38-20

The Green Bay Packers got back to even (1-1) in the won-loss column today with a 38-20 win at Lambeau Field over the Washington Redskins. Some are using the term "rout" to describe the win; Washington's two TDs came late. In any event, the Pack dominated early in this game and never let up. In the end, QB Aaron Rodgers tied the franchise record (Matt Flynn in 2011) for passing yardage, completing 34 of 42 passes for 480 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. A good day for Mr. Rodgers. He's now 29-4 at Lambeau.

But Rodgers wasn't the entire story today. After starting rookie running back Eddie Lacy left the game early in the first quarter with a concussion, James Starks stepped in and rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown. In the process, he helped the Packers set a new franchise record: it is the first game in franchise history with a 400+ yard passer and a 100+ yard rusher. Imagine that! Oh, and it was also the first time in 45 regular-season games that the Packers had a 100-yard rusher. Thank you, Mr. Starks.

There will be more reflection and review of this game later on. For now, we just wanted to say that this is more like the Packers team we hoped to see on the field. Still plenty of areas to work on. But the prognosis is positive.

Keep checking back for further updates.

Week 2: Packers vs. Redskins Preview

Fans of the Green Bay Packers have had the last week to wail and nash our collective teeth over the loss (again...third in a row) to the San Francisco 49ers. It's another week, another game, and another read-option quarterback who may -- or may not -- give the Packers defense trouble. In the season home opener at Lambeau Field today, the Packers will see if they can keep QB Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins from having them start the season at 0-2.

Pictures of Lambeau Field - Attraction Photos
This photo of Lambeau Field is courtesy of TripAdvisor

If that happens, Packer fans, the road to the Super Bowl becomes very difficult indeed. According to people who's job it is to calculate such odds (that would not be me, just to be clear), only 22 NFL teams since 1990 (11.5 percent) have made the playoffs after starting 0-2. Only three teams that opened the season 0-2 have won the Super Bowl: the 1993 Dallas Cowboys, the 2001 New England Patriots and the 2007 New York Giants.

So, is this a must win for the Packers? If you have to ask, you shouldn't be reading this fact, the very task of reading this article would likely be beyond your abilities...move along, please.

But don't fret, Packer fans. According to an article by Bob McGinn, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's uber-Packers beat reporter, at least one unidentified NFL team executive actually upgraded the Pack after last week's loss to the Niners. That exec said: "After watching that game I'd be shocked if the Packers don't go 12-4. I was guessing they were a 10-6 team before that. They were very consistent on offense, like they always are. But the difference this year from last year was the passion that the defense played with. I thought they played hard on defense."

Was this guy watching the same game as the rest of us? Watching the secondary get torched for more than 400 passing yards by the Tattooed Wonder, Colin Kaepernick? Apparently, he liked the defensive line and acknowledged the big hit the secondary took without S Morgan Burnett and nickel back Casey Hayward in the lineup. Still, this guy says the Niners will beat the Packers in the NFC Championship and go on to win the Super Bowl. One man's view.

McGinn had another NFL personnel man evaluate the Packers relative to the league. McGinn states in his article that, "By his estimation, seven of the 32 teams have no chance for a winning season. At the same time, he ranked Green Bay among nine teams with a chance to win the championship." So...the Packers have that going for them. Which is nice.

But all that conversation seems a bit premature when you're 0-1 and need to get to 1-1 today. So, let's just focus on that for a moment, shall we?

Keys to the Game

Let's start on offense for the Pack. The Packers offense is not a problem. Let's state the obvious. The revamped offensive line held its own against perhaps the best defensive line in the NFL last week. There were a few breakdowns, sure. But the young tackles performed well, which was a concern. They still need to create some running room for Eddie Lacy and the other backs, however. With the call for a chance of rain for the game today, being able to sustain drives on the ground, and keep the ball out of the opposing quarterback's hands, will be a definite plus. QB Aaron Rodgers and receivers will do what they need to do, regardless of conditions, especially against a somewhat porous Redskins defense. Last season, their defense gave up 281.9 passing yards per game, 30th in the league. They were also dead last in third down defensive efficiency. While Washington has changed both its safeties, this bodes well for the Packers to rack up yards and put up points, with or without a sufficient running game today.

As to the Packers defense, it's not known at the time of this writing whether S Morgan Burnett will be seeing any playing time today or not. He did practice a bit this week and was testing out the hamstring. No doubt this will be a game-time decision. Let's hope he can be on the field at least some of the time because we saw last week what happened without him...not pretty. The Packers defensive front must play as aggressively as they did last week and there's no reason to suspect they won't. Given RGIII's shaky start in the 'Skins season opener, and the desire to still protect his rebuilt leg, we'd expect to see more passing from him than running. He's got a heckuva arm, although his mechanics were terrible for about three-fourths of the game last week. If the Packers secondary plays as badly as it did against the Niners, it could be another shoot-out. We don't want that. But at this stage of the season, anything is possible.

For Packers special teams performances, the return game is still the weak link, with some bad decision-making on display at San Francisco. You have to figure that will get cleaned up. Having P Tim Masthay handle the kickoffs is a very good thing; he booms 'em and this perhaps gives K Mason Crosby less to worry about...just make the dang field goals!


To the sound of the drum roll, we predict it will be: Packers 34 - Redskins 24.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, September 09, 2013

Packers lose -- again -- to the 49ers

This is getting old.

For the third consecutive time, the Green Bay Packers lost to the San Francisco 49ers. We're beginning to get a sense of how Da Bearz fans feel when playing and losing to the Pack time after time. Not a great feeling.

Pick your reason for the loss: two turnovers, no pass rush, no coverage by the secondary, no tackling by the secondary, penalties, no running game, failure to cover the 49ers primary receiver, lack of adjustments at halftime, a blown call by the ref giving the Niners an extra down on which they scored a touchdown...take your pick. Lots of blame to go around on this one.

Coming off last season's embarrassing playoff performance, the Packers were determined not to let 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick run all over them is he did in that game. Well, he didn't. Instead, he threw for more than 400 yards and three touchdowns. In his last two games against the Packers, Kaepernick and his tattoos have accounted for more than 900 yards. He's been a one-man Packers wrecking crew. And he will be until the Packers somehow learn to pass rush, cover receivers, and tackle.

Were there any positive takeaways from the game for the Pack? The fact that the team was still in the game with a chance to win at the end could be seen as a plus. The fact that the Packers' young tackles held up fairly well against Pro Bowl caliber defensive ends, that was good. That Aaron Rodgers and his receivers were generally clicking was good, although James Jones was missing in action and Jermichael Finley had a butterfingers moment that led to an interception. Tim Masthay's booming kickoffs are a new and real weapon. Johnny Jolly getting the start on the defensive line was nothing short of amazing.

But the lack of discipline, the lack of effective defense, these are causes for concern. One assumes that the coaching staff will get the discipline issues resolved. Quickly. Head coach Mike McCarthy doesn't put up with that type of thing from his players. As for the overall defensive ineffectiveness, it certainly had to do in part with a few key players, notably Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward, being unavailable in the defensive backfield. But the guys that were they were unable to cover and how they were unable to make could be another long season on defense, folks, if that isn't rectified and soon. As for lack defensive adjustments throughout the game, let's hope defensive coordinator Dom Capers isn't a deer in the headlights as seemed to be the case sometimes last season.

It's early in the season, obviously. No time to panic. Just time to be critical, watchful, and hopeful.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Week 1: Packers vs. 49ers Preview

Today is the day fans of the Green Bay Packers have been waiting all the offseason for: a rematch with the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners beat the Packers at Lambeau Field in the season opener last year, which was bad enough. But then, there was the road-to-the-Super-Bowl loss to the Niners in the playoffs when QB Colin Kaepernick embarrassed the Packers defense on the ground and in the air. The horror...the horror...

So, what's the outlook for today's match up? The oddsmakers generally have the Packers set at 4.5 to 5-point underdogs in this game, which really doesn't seem all that unreasonable if you think about it objectively. After all, until the Packers can prove they have a running game to complement the air game and that the defense can shut down a read-option quarterback, the Packers will probably be the underdog against such teams...or, at least, the Niners.

Here's what I wrote yesterday about this game in my season preview: "Everyone is figuring that the Niners have the stronger roster across the board and that QB Colin Kaepernick will do the same thing to the Pack he did last season in the playoff game. The Packers are tired of hearing about that, as much as they may claim that that was all last season and this is a new season blah blah blah. The Packers defense has had all off season and training camp to prepare for Kaepernick. If they can generally make him work more out of the pocket than scamper they will be in the game...if the Pack's reconfigured offensive line can open a few holes for Eddie Lacy and also protect Aaron Rodgers, that is. In some ways, while there are many unknowns on both sides of the ball at this stage of things, this might be the best opportunity for the Packers to beat the Niners. If. Lots of ifs in this first game."

That's it in a nutshell, Packer fans. The Packers need to establish a running game, the offensive line -- including two new and unproven tackles -- needs to protect Aaron Rodgers, the defense needs to keep Kaepernick in the pocket and prevent him from breaking off huge runs via the read-option. On both sides of the ball, the Packers need to play with a physicality that has not always been there in recent years; they need to play with an intensity that gets the other team's respect and also gets in their heads. Clay Matthews has apparently already done a bit of that with 49ers head coach, Jim Harbaugh, who was whining over the last few days worrying that the Packers might actually hit his quarterback, especially if he runs. Guess what? The league said if the QB runs, he's a runner. All regular rules apply once he's out of the pocket. Boo-hoo, Coach Harbaugh. Your quarterback runs and whatever happens happens. You don't want him to get hurt? Keep him in the pocket. Simple. Your choice.

Speaking of the San Francisco running game, the Pack will also have to handle Frank Gore. There's a handful, too. If the Packers focus too much on containing Kaepernick they could allow Gore to run over them.

We could break down each unit and indicate what must be done. But without much of a record to analyze, it's a crapshoot at best, isn't it? In every game of the season, but especially the first game, every player has to do their job better than the opponent. If that happens, you win. If it doesn't, you lose.

The Packers have a lot of young players who can and will make mistakes. The hope is that the veterans among them can help cover for them or mitigate any damage that might be caused by inexperience. On paper, right now, the edge in talent does go to the Niners overall.

But the games aren't played on paper. They are played on the field. I think the Packers will have set their sights on this game and prepared for it for quite a while. It will be a dogfight, for sure. My head tells me that the Niners will likely win this game. But my heart...well, it wears green 'n' gold colored glasses (now there's an image for you!).

I'm calling this game 31-30, Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Packers 2013 Season Preview

On the eve of the Green Bay Packers first regular season game of the 2013 NFL season against the team many believe will not only be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl but its winner, the San Francisco 49ers, we take a look ahead to the entire season.

Now, unlike some bloggers and pundits who will analyze every game and give you their win-lose score for each of the upcoming 16 games, yours truly takes a different approach. One which has served well over the past seasons. We break the season down by quarters and see how things could go. Each season has an ebb and flow to it based upon more than just the opponent. There's also the overall schedule to consider, the order in which a particular team will appear as the opponent, who the Packers play away and who the team plays at home. That sort of thing.

Now, do I take a look at all sorts of stats to arrive at my prediction? Nope. Don't have time to do that. Nor the inclination. This prediction is far less science than art...and that's using the term "art" quite loosely. "Guess" might be more accurate. Which, if you really think about it, dear reader, makes what you are about to read just about as good as anyone else's prediction.

So, without further ado, here we go.

2013 First Quarter: Sept. 8 - Oct. 6
This actually covers the first five weeks of the regular season, as the Packers -- quite atypically compared to recent years -- have their bye week in Week 4...not great.

Anyway, the sequence of teams for this quarter of the season is:
  • Sept. 8 - 49ers - Away
  • Sept. 15 - Redskins - Home
  • Sept. 22 - Bengals - Away
  • Week 4 - Bye Week
  • Oct. 6 - Lions - Home
Looking at this portion of the schedule, the Packers will go 3-1. The most likely loss will be the first game of the season against the 49ers. The Packers, at this writing, are 4.5-point underdogs. Everyone is figuring that the Niners have the stronger roster across the board and that QB Colin Kaepernick will do the same thing to the Pack he did last season in the playoff game. The Packers are tired of hearing about that, as much as they may claim that that was all last season and this is a new season blah blah blah. The Packers defense has had all off season and training camp to prepare for Kaepernick. If they can generally make him work more out of the pocket than scamper they will be in the game...if the Pack's reconfigured offensive line can open a few holes for Eddie Lacy and also protect Aaron Rodgers, that is. In some ways, while there are many unknowns on both sides of the ball at this stage of things, this might be the best opportunity for the Packers to beat the Niners. If. Lots of ifs in this first game. More on this in our game preview which we will post tomorrow. So check back for that Sunday before the game.

As to the other games, especially if the Packers lose the opener, I'd expect three wins, with two of the three games played at Lambeau Field.

That's how we get to 3-1 for this portion of the schedule.

Second Quarter: Oct. 13 - Nov. 4
  • Oct. 13 - Ravens - Away
  • Oct. 20 - Browns - Home
  • Oct. 27 - Vikings - Away
  • Nov. 4 - Bears - Home
In this portion of the schedule, it seems more than likely that the Packers will go either 3-1 or the latter scenario, which two games will be wins and which will be losses is almost a toss up, with the exception of the Browns game which will go in the win column.

Third Quarter: Nov. 10 - Nov. 28
  • Nov. 10 - Eagles - Home
  • Nov. 17 - Giants - Away
  • Nov. 24 - Vikings - Home
  • Nov. 28 - Lions - Away
Note that with the exception of Da Bearz, the Packers will have played both the Vikings and Lions twice at this point of the season. That part of the division competition will be complete, with only the final game of the season against Da Bearz in Chicago remaining.

We're figuring that Packers will go 3-1 in this third quarter of the season, with the Giants as the more probable loss.

Fourth Quarter: Dec. 8 - Dec. 29
  • Dec.8 - Falcons - Home
  • Dec. 15 - Cowboys - Away
  • Dec. 22 - Steelers - Home
  • Dec. 29 - Bears - Away
The league saved some of the best -- and most difficult -- of the games for the final quarter of the schedule. At this point of the season, without a bye since Week 4 of the season, the Packers will either be healthy and pretty much a lock for the playoffs or a tired and beat-up patchwork bunch trying to squeak in. But many teams, including perhaps all of the opponents in these four games, will be in the same boat.

The expectation here is that the Pack will go 2-2 in this final stretch of the season although, again, which games will be wins and which losses...too hard to say at this point. Check back for each game preview as the season goes on.

Bottom line: Packers 11-5 or 10-6
I know, that's a bit of a fudge factor there, but at least it's reasonable...or at least honest. And you can judge for yourself how the Packers will fare through each quarter of the season.

At 11-5, the Packers win the NFC North division and are into the playoffs as a division winner not as a wildcard. If they go 10-6, the Pack will still win the division but will not have as favorable a route through the playoffs.

Still, I'm projecting the Packers and Seahawks meet in the NFC Championship.

However the Pack gets there, though, that brings us to...

The Super Bowl Prediction

In reading and listening to all the various prognostications and at how the oddsmakers are setting things up at this moment, it seems as if the favorites in the NFC are the 49ers, followed by the Seahawks, followed by the Packers.

Well, it may be a bit of a homer thing, but the prediction here for the Super Bowl teams are: the Packers and the Denver Broncos. Winner? What are you, goofy? The Green Bay Packers!!!

Football season and the road to the Super Bowl starts for the Packers in less than 24 hours. Go Pack Go!!!