Showing posts with label Charles Woodson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charles Woodson. Show all posts

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Packers 2014 Draft Review: Rounds 1-3

While the actual NFL football season is still several months away, the NFL Draft marks the unofficial start of the season for many fans. It sure gets the juices of Packers fans going.


To the surprise of some, GM Ted Thompson -- Trader Ted -- didn't make a move through the first three rounds, choosing instead to stay pat with the team's assigned picks. So, what do we make of the Pack's picks through the first two days? From this vantage point, we're pleased. Let's take a look at the selections, shall we...

ROUND
NUMBER
PLAYER
POSITION
SCHOOL
1
21
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
S
Alabama
2
53
Davante Adams
WR
Fresno State
3
85
Khyri Thornton
DT
Southern Miss
3
98 (compensatory)
Richard Rodgers
TE
California

Analysis on each player can be found here; kudos to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for providing a great overview of the newest Packers.

What's our take?
As noted earlier, we think the Packers have generally had a good start to the draft. Getting Clinton-Dix, one of the top safeties available, means there is finally a good complement to Morgan Burnett. Perhaps the Pack's safeties will actually record an interception this season. Plus, Clinton-Dix is physical. Being given Charles Woodson's old number -- 21 -- is hopefully a precursor of things to come.

With Adams at wide receiver, the Packers added the nation's reception leader from 2013. He knows how to find the endzone, too. Over the last two seasons, he scored 38 touchdowns with Fresno State. As one pundit stated after the pick, the Packers replaced James Jones with a better version of James Jones. If you were happy with Jones (at least, most of the time), we think you'll be happy with Adams. Our guess is Aaron Rodgers will be, too.

Thornton may have been an unknown commodity to most Packer fans, unless you happen to reside in the South, of course. He was a fifth-year senior and team captain at Southern Miss. The story on him is that he is an athlete. At 6'3" and 304 pounds, he is the type of defensive tackle that could spell relief for B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett, and perhaps be the replacement for one or the other down the road...with Pickett the more likely given his age.

To say we'll have fun with the Rodgers to Rodgers pass-catch duo is an understatement. Plus, both of the Rodgers' attended California...synchronicity! Rodgers (that will be Richard, not Aaron) has played at both blocking tight end and inside receiver. He has versatility, something the Packers value highly in all their players and particularly their receivers. He's not exactly a burner speed-wise (not too many tight ends are), but at 6'4" and about 260, and apparently with very good hands, he should add some needed competition and depth at the tight end spot for the Pack, who will likely be without Jermichael Finley going forward.

So, bottom line: good job, Ted. Can't wait to see what you do today.

At least for now, the remaining selections for the Packers look like this:
Round 4 (121st overall)
Round 5 (161st overall)
Round 5 (176th overall) -- Compensatory
Round 6 (197th overall)
Round 7 (236th overall)

Go Pack Go!!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Packers re-sign James Starks, add Letroy Guionlose; lose Evan Dietrich-Smith and James Jones

In the same week in which Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson arguably has his biggest impact free agent signing since Charles Woodson in the form of DE Julius Peppers, Thompson pulled off another surprise by re-signing unrestricted free agent RB James Starks to a two-year deal.


The general line of thought toward the end of last season -- despite the good performances by Starks down the stretch -- was that with Offensive Rookie of the Year sensation, Eddie Lacy, being the primary running back, and with a number of other options for third-down type backs in the fold, Starks might be the odd man out. He's had a history of injuries and not being on the field as a result. Always lots of potential on display but never enough longevity over the course of even a season.

But many Packer fans, including yours truly, thought that in those games where Lacy and Starks were both able to play, the Packers' running game took on an awesome capacity to punish defenses and open up the air attack for QB Aaron Rodgers and company. It would be nice to be able to keep Starks to spell Lacy, the thought was, and also to pair them up in the same backfield on occasion. Wow.

Well, apparently Thompson and others within the Packers brain trust must have been thinking along similar lines.

Now we'll have to see how this affects others in the backfield, including unrestricted free agent FB John Kuhn, who has been such a key cog in the offense for the last several seasons. Will the Pack re-sign him? Hope so. But don't count on it. It might be the case that you see the powerhouse Lacy blocking for Starks on those occasions when Kuhn may have been doing that job.

Thompson, as we noted in a prior post, also signed NT B.J. Raji for about half of what was in front of Raji last Fall in a one-year deal. A good re-signing in our opinion. He also locked up LB Mike Neal for a few years. Another good signing.

Thompson wasn't done trying to beef up the D-line, however. He also signed free agent and former ViQueens defensive tackle, Letroy Guion.

Being near the bottom of the defensive standings apparently was wearing a bit thin around 1265 Lombardi Avenue. Have to give Thompson and crew their due for their attempts to shore up the defense.

But the Packers also lost two good players this week, as well. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and WR James Jones signed with the Oakland Raiders. Word leaked out yesterday that apparently Rodgers wasn't happy that the Packers let his center depart; for at least the fourth time in as many years, Rodgers will be lining up behind a new center come this season. No doubt he wishes the Packers would settle on somebody in the middle and let him develop a rhythm with his center. Not this season anyway. James Jones was, in the view of some (including this writer) a bit under-appreciated in Green Bay. He wasn't flashy, and he could have frustrating lapses of concentration, especially on easy catches. But he was generally clutch, including in his yards-after-the-catch performances. I think the Packers will miss him more than they will admit to when it's all said and done.

Stay tuned, Packer fans. Perhaps Mr. Thompson still has got a few free agent signing tricks in his bag.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What's a GM to do? Stay the course, if you're Packers GM Ted Thompson.

An 8-8-1 win-lose-tie record can change people. After all, it's a bit of a sign of averageness (is there such a word?) if not outright mediocrity. That's where the Green Bay Packers find themselves after an injury-riddled, albeit NFC North Division Championship-winning season. Also, getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs -- by the same team, no less -- doesn't leave a good taste in one's mouth.

So what will GM Ted Thompson do to get the Pack back among the true contenders?

Well, to hear what Thompson had to say yesterday while he was scouting the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL, not much different than he has done in prior seasons. According to an article by Tyler Dunne in yesterday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Thompson said "...we try to make sure we make the team better and we put the team in a better position than we were," Thompson said. "So we'll just work at it. You don't know specifically what that entails, but we'll search every avenue and try to do that."

Photo of Ted Thompson by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Now, many Packer fans and pundits have criticized Thompson's approach for not actively pursuing free agents that might help the Packers get back to the Super Bowl. But Thompson, as Dunne writes, "...refutes the notion that he snores through free agency. The GM did sign Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett to big deals once upon a time...in 2006." Since winning the Super Bowl in 2010, however, Dunne continues, "Green Bay's marquee signings have been center Jeff Saturday and defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove in 2012 and tight end Matthew Mulligan in 2013."

So, there's that. Thompson may not have been snoring through free agency, but sure seems like yawning has been pretty abundant.

Dunne's article is well worth reading. You can find it here.



Friday, May 31, 2013

What can we count on, Packers fans?

One of the things you can count on in the NFL offseason is that there really isn't much to count on. Oh, sure, there are draftee signings, undrafted free agent signings, veteran free agents moving from team to team, and so on. Even some rookie camps and OTAs. But aside from that...?

After all, who could have counted on the Packers braintrust deciding to flip-flop the offensive line? (Even though the consensus, it seems, among many Packer fans is that this is certainly worth trying in order to keep Mr. Rodgers a bit more upright than in past seasons.) Or that the Packers would be heading into this season without the veteran leadership provided by Donald Driver, Charles Woodson and Greg Jennings? What about the possibility of having an actual rushing attack for the first time in what seems like a generation...anyone here see that one coming? And yet, two big draft picks -- Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin -- may fill that void in a way not seen in Green Bay in ages. What about the defense? Did anyone here count on DE Mike Neal being tried out at outside linebacker? Who'da thunk it?!

But we can count on one more OTA from June 11-14, which is interestingly preceded by mandatory minicamp June 4-6. Packers players will report for the start of training camp July 25, with the first practice on Friday, July 26. Then, we can almost taste the football in the air. (Wait...that doesn't sound so appetizing, does it? Well, you know what I meant...I hope...)

Football will be with us in less than 100 days from now. So stay tuned. As long-time readers of PackerFansUnited.com know, as we get closer to the start of stuff that matters we begin to ramp up our coverage. Until then, for those who need their daily fantasy sports, you'll just have to find other ways to keep entertained.

Please keep checking back with us. Follow us on Twitter (@packfansunited). We appreciate you stopping by and spending a few moments of your valuable time with us. We hope to make it worth your while more often than not.

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

We have some catching up to do

It's been a while since our last post here, Packer fans. Far too long, in fact. Our apologies. Several reasons for that. Among them, the bad taste (still) of the loss to San Francisco in the playoffs. That's one that has stuck with us -- and many Packer fans -- for a long time. We won't rehash it...just check our last post for the angst-ridden post-mortem of that game. Another reason for the lapse between posts...something akin to the "interregnum" between Popes...not that anyone here retired or anything. Nor was there the gathering of Packer fans in foam cheeseheads electing a new leader here. It was just a time for a break. And, let's be honest. There really wasn't much going on except talking about what had happened and what might happen. (Wait...isn't that what we're still doing? Isn't that really about all we can do even now?)

But now that free agency has been in play for several days and the draft is upcoming at the end of next month...well, things start to get a bit real again, don't they?

So, let's just catch up on a few things that have happened since we last gathered here, shall we? This is by no means a comprehensive list. More of a top-of-mind thing. You can fill in the gaps.
  • WR Donald Driver officially retired.
  • CB/S and future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson was released.
  • DE Johnny Jolly got reinstated by the NFL and the Packers (seemingly) have decided to give him another chance.
  • LB A.J. Hawk took a pay cut and agreed to restructure his contract.
  • LB Robert Francois was re-signed.
  • WR Greg Jennings was not re-signed in free agency and wound up signing a five-year, $47.5 million(!) deal with the ViQueens, joining a long list of former Packers over the years who the 'Queens have scavenged from the Pack...oh, and Minnesota still hasn't won a Super Bowl.
  • TE, human tatto canvas, and all-around fun guy Tom Crabtree was also allowed to explore free agency and the gamble by the Packers failed; Crabtree has apparently reached a deal with Tampa Bay. Dang it! (Good luck, Tom. We will miss you.)
  • LB Erik Walden signed an unbelievable contract (reportedly four years for around $16 million!) with the Colts. Huge pay day for an average-at-best linebacker.
  • LB Brad Jones may be about to reach a deal with Tennessee.
  • Free agents whom the Packers had interest in but who signed elsewhere included DE Chris Canty and RB Steven Jackson.
  • TE Jermichael Finley may still have his contract restructured...or he could also be playing elsewhere next season.
  • Gaining salary cap room appears to be setting the Packers up to extend the contracts of QB Aaron Rodgers, LB Clay Matthews, and NT B.J. Raji.
  • Packers GM Ted Thompson attended the Indianapolis Draft Combine as well as the University of Wisconsin pro day (and perhaps others as well). Thompson, according to reports out of the Wisconsin pro day, was very impressed with RB Montee Ball. Ball made himself some future extra money that day, by besting his Combine 40-yard time. Thompson is reportedly impressed with Ball's all-round skills.

Draft Stuff
Our last bullet point in the list above began to hint at the upcoming draft. This will be a big one for the Packers (aren't they all?) given the number of departures from the team, as well as the obvious needs: defense, running back, defense, offensive line and...defense.

Would the Packers use their top draft pick -- number 26 overall -- on a running back? Some mock drafts think so, with several projecting Alabama running back Eddie Lacey as the best of the crop and perhaps available when the Packers are on the board. Some compare him to Frank Gore. He's a powerful back, more adept at rushing than receiving and not a good blocker. In the Packers' scheme, blocking is a premium. That may mean -- if the Packers look to actually find a featured back for the first time in seemingly a generation -- that they look Montee Ball's way. The Packers could do far worse than taking Ball. But whether they see him as a first round pick...? Time will tell.

As for other possible first-round picks, the mock draft boards are all over the place. So until we get a little closer to the draft, where things may begin to sort themselves out a bit, we'll refrain for the moment from joining in the speculation.

Well, Packer fans, we did a bit of catching up today. Hope you found it helpful. We'll be a bit more regular here now that the off-season stuff starts to gear up a bit. So, please, check back once in a while, will you please? Thanks. We appreciate you reading. We really do.

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 www.WildBerryFlavor.com. 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 www.WildBerryFlavor.com 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, November 18, 2012

Packers vs. Lions: Big Game for Both Teams

In the unofficial start to the second half of the NFL season for the Green Bay Packers following the team's bye week, the schedule-makers begin to serve up a heapin' plateful of NFC North Division opponents. Five of the Pack's final seven games are within the division. The NFL has finally decided to create a schedule that keeps things interesting right until the end of the season. First up for the Packers is the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

The Packers are 6-3 and the Lions are 4-5. The Pack is favored by 3-1/2 points. This is a huge game for both teams. With a win, the Packers will go to 7-3 and thus will likely be tied for the division lead with Da Bearz who, especially without QB Jay Cutler, will likely be on the losing end of their game with San Francisco Monday night. Actually, because the Pack beat Chicago in their first meeting, Green Bay holds the tiebreaker and actually would be in first place based upon that factor. If the Pack loses today, and Da Bearz also lose, they will remain one game behind...not horrible, but with this game setting up so well to pick up a game on Chicago, it really is a game they need to win. On the outside chance the Pack loses and Chicago wins, they'd be two behind Chicago and doing themselves no favors coming up on the stretch run, especially with a game against the Giants in New York coming up next Sunday evening.

For the inconsistent Lions, they need this game to avoid falling to 4-6. There are lots of mediocre teams sitting in that vicinity. If they lose today, the Lions would have to likely win all their remaining games to even keep open a chance of getting a wildcard spot with a 10-6 record. It's not likely that would happen, nor that the Lions would win out. Winning today to go to 5-5 would at least give them a lifeline.

Let's look at the matchups
For the Packers, they will likely be without six starters today including Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson and Bryan Bulaga. There has been a great deal of discussion on the radio call-in shows this week about whether Matthews or Bulaga is the biggest loss for today's game. Some feel that without the pass rush threat from Matthews, Lions' QB Matthew Stafford will have time to find WR Calvin Johnson and rack up yards and points; of course, CB Tramon Williams will have something to say about Johnson's success or lack thereof no matter what happens on the line. Others feel that the loss of Bulaga created two moves on the offensive line for the Packers: LG T.J. Lang moves to right tackle and back up Evan Dietrich-Smith fills Lang's spot at left guard. This obviously creates a different dynamic along the whole offensive line. More worrisome, however, is if additional injuries occur on the O-line there are only two backups to fill in: Don Barclay and Greg Van Roten. Can you say, "Yikes!"?

Back to the Matthews vs. Bulaga debate...My take is that knowing they would be without Matthews for this game, Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers will get creative with their schemes and personnel to still pressure Stafford and keep the passing game in check. As for the Lions running game, RB Mikel Leshoure, a 2011 second-round draft choice from Illinois, will be making his debut against the Packers. If the Packers let him get active, it could give the Lions enough balance to cause problems defensively for the Pack.

Early reports today are that the Packers will get WR Jordy Nelson back in the lineup. That would return the full complement of receivers except for Greg Jennings. In other words, pretty much the full set of weapons QB Aaron Rodgers wants and needs on the field, particularly against one of the worst secondaries around.

The trick here will be how effective the Packers newly configured line will be against a very good and disruptive front four of the Lions. If the Packers offensive line can't handle defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley especially, it will be a long day for Aaron Rodgers and the offense. That would open the door to the real possibility of an upset. Of course, if the Packers can generate any semblance of a rushing game with Alex Green and James Starks that will help considerably in all aspects of the game. Getting FB John Kuhn back today will also be a plus in pass protection and short yardage situations.

Prediction
The oddsmakers have set the over-under for this game at 52 points, the third highest of any game this weekend. A shoot-out apparently is expected. I think that's the case as well, although I'd be on the "under" side of things. It seems as if, while acknowledging Detroit's desperate state and upset chances, most pundits are picking the Packers to win. The Packers are the unanimous choice of the ESPN pundits. I know, that should make us all nervous.

The Packers are 5-1 after their bye weeks under Mike McCarthy. McCarthy is also 11-1 against Detroit overall. You have to like those trends. Even without some of their best players on offense and defense, the Packers are the better team. They will, however, have to play like it for a full 60 minutes today to get the win. But win they will.

I'm calling it 27-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

No blues for the Packers in St. Louis

The Green Bay Packers did Sunday what they usually do when playing in St. Louis: win. The Pack beat the Rams by a score of 30-20 and it really was not even that close. The Packers dominated on both sides of the ball, despite moments defensively where an opposing team with more weapons might have lit the Packers up. More on that later.

Woodson's out for extended time
For now, the Packers are 4-3 with the Jaguars and Cardinals coming into Green Bay over the next two weekends. And just when you thought the Packers escaped the major injury bug -- although DE Mike Neal went out with a leg injury during the first half -- we learned today that future Hall of Fame defensive back, Charles Woodson, broke his collarbone with less than three minutes left in the game; he'll be out at least a month, with most reports putting it at six weeks. Ouch! In more ways than one.

If Woodson can come back in a month, his absence might not be missed all that much over this stretch, although losing a veteran of Woodson's caliber is a blow for whatever time he's not on the field. But in addition to the Jags and Cards over the next two weeks, the third week -- ninth week overall of the NFL season -- is the Packers' bye week. Coming out of the bye, the Packers travel to Detroit to take on the Lions. It would be great to have Woodson back then. But it will be even more important the following week when the Packers travel to New York to play the Giants. Woodson's presence on the field -- even if not for the entire game -- would be huge. On the other hand, if he's indeed out for six weeks, he'll not only miss the aforementioned games but also a crucial division game against the ViQueens. If Woodson's out for the full six weeks, he won't return until the Pack's second game against the Detroit Lions on Dec. 9. That's a long stretch for a young defensive backfield to cover on its own, but that group is a talented one as we're already seeing. M.D. Jennings or rookie Jerron McMillian or a combination of both will be called upon when the Packers are in their base defense to fill Woodson's spot.

Rodgers and receivers roll
While credit must be given to head coach Mike McCarthy for sticking with the running game despite Alex Green not being able to get untracked (20 carries for 35 yards), it was once again QB Aaron Rodgers and his receivers who dazzled. With starter Greg Jennings still sidelined with his groin injury, Rodgers threw for three touchdowns against the Rams, two to the amazing Randall Cobb and one to Jordy Nelson. Once again, James Jones was also one of Rodgers' preferred targets on the day. Despite being pressured a fair amount on Sunday, Rodgers was able to move in -- and out -- of the pocket to buy time and make some amazing throws. He's looking very much like he's getting his MVP mojo back, throwing for nine touchdowns in the past two games. Rodgers was 30 for 37 and 342 yards. Oh yeah.

Defense bends, doesn't break
The Packers' defense had a better showing against the Texans last weekend, but they were able to carry some of that new-found confidence into St. Louis. Despite appearances, the Pack held RB Steven Jackson in check, limiting him to 57 yards. Receivers too often were running open, and that's something the Packers will have to correct going forward. And they will.

I could give more of a recap but why do that when my favorite Packers sportswriter has already done a really great job. Check that report out here.

Then, stay tuned through the week and weekend. We'll be back with more about the upcoming game against the Jaguars.

Go Pack Go.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Packers vs. Saints preview: who needs the win more?

After having victory stolen from them on Monday night by the ineptitude of replacement referees and NFL greed, the Green Bay Packers return to the friendly confines of Lambeau Field today knowing that at least the regular referees will be overseeing the game between themselves and the New Orleans Saints. That doesn't guarantee a victory or that there won't be blown calls. But the likelihood of there being a debacle like that experienced in Seattle has decreased dramatically.

Thank you, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, for finally seeing the light. That light would be the oncoming train -- as in wreck -- brought about by you and the team owners' greed in negotiating with the refs. You sacrificed the integrity of the game and the won-loss record of the Packers on the altar of "more money for us, less for you." (OK, OK, enough venting...for now...)

Back to today's game...The Packers are 1-2 while the Saints are 0-3. Both teams desperately need the win, although as radio voice of the Packers, Wayne Larrivee, pointed out this week during a radio interview, the Packers did win the Seattle game, they were just not awarded the victory. Favored by 7-1/2 points today, the Packers have yet to get their high-powered offense into gear. By the end of the first quarter of the 2012 season, it's about time things get cooking, don't you think? After being embarrassed in Seattle in the first half with eight sacks given up, the offensive line will have something to prove. The entire unit does. And with a so-so Saints defense coming to town, now would be a good time to start.

The Packers defense has been playing better than expected during the first three games of the season. They should be able to get a pass rush today on Drew Brees. But, as everyone knows, Brees can make a defense pay if given the chance. The Saints will get their points. In fact, it seems as if the oddsmakers think this will be a high-scoring game: the over-under is set at 53-1/2 points, the highest of any game this weekend.

I think -- OK, hope, actually -- the Packers may finally start clicking on offense, and I anticipate the defense to continue to develop and improve. Either the entire team will come out with a chip on its shoulder after having the Seattle win stripped away from them or it will limp along for the rest of the season as a result. I have to believe, with McCarthy as coach and Rodgers, Matthews, Driver, Woodson and others providing veteran leadership, that it will be the former rather than the latter.

I'm calling it 31-24 Packers over the Saints.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Giants up-end Packers to go to NFC Championship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Packers vs. Raiders preview

The Oakland Raiders -- or Raidahs, if you prefer an ESPN announcer-ish pronunciation -- visit the not-yet-fully-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field this afternoon to become the Green Bay Packers latest victims. The Raiders are in a dead heat with the Tebow-roncos for the lead in the AFC West at 7-5, although technically in second place because of tie-breakers, etc. They are 3-2 in their last five games. After beating Da Bearz 25-20 at home (thank you very much!), the Raiders had an embarrassing loss last Sunday in Miami, losing to the last-place AFC East Division Fish, 34-14. Today, Oakland is a 12-point underdog to the Pack. The over-under on this game is the highest of all games this week, at 51.5. The Packers are averaging 35 points per game and the Raiders just under 23. Some points are going to be scored today. As usual for the last 12 games of this regular season, and 18 games straight back to last season, the Packers will put up more points than their opponent and come away with their 13th win of the 2011 schedule.

That's not to say this will be a gimme game. Oakland is fighting for its playoff life against streaking Denver and they were embarrassed by the Dolphins. So they will come to Lambeau with a chip on their shoulder, no doubt. But it's not as if this will be the first time the Packers have seen that situation this season. It's pretty much a weekly occurrence now: teams with something to prove to either themselves or others.

Raiders quick take
So what are the Raiders strengths coming into this game? A good quarterback in Carson Palmer, although as an in-season pick up he is still learning about his receivers and vice versa. Third-year WR Darrius Heyward-Bey leads the team in receptions and yards, with rookie Denarius Moore not far behind; regrettably for Oakland, Moore is out for this game.

The Raiders have had a solid running game, which is fourth in the NFL, averaging just over 140 yards per game. For the most part, it consists of Michael Bush and Darren McFadden, but the latter is out for this game. Fellow running back Taiwan Jones is also out for this game, leaving Bush, Rock Cartwright (with all of two rushing attempts this season) and FB Marcel Reece to shoulder the carries. Packer fans know all-too-well that the defense sometimes has trouble tackling ball carriers. We can be thankful that McFadden is out today, as that would be a definite challenge.

The Raiders have a lot of injuries, at key positions. They are capable of putting up some points, but it won't be enough against the Packers today.

Packers notes
For the Packers, the team will once again be without RB James Starks. Look for Ryan Grant and rookie Brandon Saine to get the carries today, along with an occasional bone thrown to John Kuhn, of course. We might get to see a little more action from TEs Tom Crabtree and rookie D.J. Williams today, after Andrew Quarless was placed on IR for the season. With the loss of second-year player Quarless, the Packers lose arguably their best-blocking tight end. One of these other players will have to pick up the slack. It's also possible Williams could create some match up problems as well if he's factored into the passing game at all. But, as we all know, with the wide receiving corps the Packers have, along with TE Jermichael Finley, there are targets aplenty for QB Aaron Rodgers and match up problems galore for the Pack's opponents week in and week out.

The trick will be for the Packers O-line to protect Rodgers without, once again, starters Chad Clifton and Josh sitton. LT Marshall Newhouse had a great game against Detroit but struggled last week's against the Giants. Look for him to re-establish himself with a solid game.

Defensively, the Packers will also be without starting LB Desmond Bishop once again. A.J. Hawk is listed as questionable. D.J. Smith and Robert Francois will no doubt both see plenty of action again today. They have held up well so far. Charles Woodson is listed as probable coming off his slight concussion sustained in last week's game; in fact, he's one of the captains for today's game...not surprising since he spent the first part of his illustrious career playing for the Raiders, of course. Gotta figure he's looking for a big game against his old team.

Bottom line...
Temperatures for today's game will start in the mid-30's -- balmy for mid-December in Green Bay -- and will dip a bit as the sun goes down for the second half of the game. Conditions will be clear with low winds. In other words, it is great weather for a late afternoon/early evening winter game in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

After throwing all the variables into the Packervac 5000 Computer (Copyright/Trademark!), our prediction has the Pack beating the Raiders by a score of 41-27.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Packers hang on, beat Giants 38-35

Wow!

That about sums up this twelfth win of the season for the undefeated Green Bay Packers.

On a last second 30-yard field goal by Mason Crosby, the Packers pulled out a win after the Giants themselves drove the length of the field and converted on a two-point conversion attempt to tie the Pack with about 58 seconds remaining in the game.

Yowza!

Will likely have more comment and reflections on this game, especially how bad the Packers' defense can be and still win. Will also see what the injury status is tomorrow of a few of the players who went out during the game: James Starks, Charles Woodson, and Andrew Quarless in particular.

Keep checking back for more in the days ahead.

Oh, by the way, Da Bearz and ViQueens both lost. Chicago lost to Kansas City at home 10-3, and Minnesota also lost at home late to the Tebow-roncos. The Pack, on the other hand, clinched a playoff berth today with four games still remaining.

Say it with me: it's great to be a Packer fan!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Packers beat Vikes to go to 7-0

The Green Bay Packers used a few spurts of dominating football over the hapless Minnesota Vikings Sunday to win their seventh straight game. Going back to last season, the Pack has now won 13 in a row. For those counting, this was the Packers 700th win as a franchise; only Da Bearz have more (725). And for those wondering when the last time was that the Pack started 7-0, it was 1962...also coming off a championship run.

Yesterday again showed how dominating the Packers can be when they have their offensive weapons firing on all cylinders. QB Aaron Rodgers was lights-out good, particularly early when he had 12 (?) consecutive completed passes. The first three incompletes registered were two drops and a spike. He threw for three TDs. Rodgers became the first player in NFL history to have seven straight games with a passer rating of 110 or more. Yowza!

Let's also not forget the two -- and nearly three -- interceptions by Charles Woodson, the late game running (6 carries for 55 yards) heroics of Jame Starks to help run out the clock on the Pack's last possession, and Mason Crosby's four-for-four on field goals, including his franchise record 58-yarder.

The defense gave up 175 yards on 24 carries to RB Adrian Peterson, who everyone knew coming in was going to get the ball a lot. He did and he ran with authority, giving Packer defenders fits most of the day. And while the rookie QB, Christian Ponder, acquitted himself fairly well in his first start, he also made rookie mistakes that helped aid the Packers in their win. We'll take it.

There are certainly areas for improvement on the Packers. Going into the break, the Packers need to be more consistent in the running game and in pass protection on offense, and in pass rush and pass coverage on defense. Given the Packers have a bye week now, you can be assured that defensive coordinator Dom Capers and head coach Mike McCarthy will be tweaking the schemes for the second half of the season.

Despite showing areas of vulnerability week after week, and taking years off the average Packer fan's lifespan, they are the only undefeated team in the league. They have yet to play a four-quarter game where everything is clicking. When that happens, imagine the fun! You almost will have to feel sorry for the other team. Almost.

So, enjoy your bye week. It's great to be a Packer fan!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Thoughts on Packers' Chandler, White House visit, and more

News hit on Thursday that kicker Don Chandler, from the legendary Lombardi teams of the 1960s, had died in Tulsa, OK, after fighting cancer. He was 76 years of age.

As the great article in yesterday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Tyler Dunne noted, Chandler was instrumental in the Glory Years teams' playoff and championship runs. He may not have received all the credit he was due at the time, but his fellow teammates knew exactly how important he was to the teams' successess, especially in clutch situations. Read the article for comments from Chandler's teammates such as Zeke Bratkowski and Carroll Dale which reiterate that fact.

On a personal note, I remember as a kid that there was some kind of Don Chandler kicking instruction booklet being marketed (does this date me???). As a regular Punt-Pass-Kick participant (and sometime winner) back in the day, I remember reading, studying and practicing that straight-on kicking style until my leg hurt. But...it helped. Didn't get me to the pros. But still...it was like taking personal instruction from a member of the Green Bay Packers. Didn't get any better than that. Well, except for meeting Ray Nitschke and other Packers when they'd do their winter basketball games versus local high school teachers. (Wouldn't it have been nice if that was part of the new collective bargaining agreement? Players must play at least three charity benefit basketball games within their locale during the offseason. Ah, to dream...)

Pack visits White House
Today was the long-awaited official visit of the Super Bowl Champions to the White House. It was somewhat of a scenic route journey for the Pack as they head to Cleveland for their first preseason game of this new season Saturday night.

Of course, this visit was especially sweet as President Obama is a fan of Da Bearz. Which, for those with short-term memory issues, is the team the Packers beat in the NFC Championship -- in Chicago -- to earn the trip to the Super Bowl. QB Aaron Rodgers presented the President with a Packers jersey with the number "1" on it and "CommanderinChief" as the name on the back. CB Charles Woodson, who declared in the Packers locker room that if the President wouldn't come to see them in the Super Bowl (as he had said he'd do if Da Bearz had won the NFC) then the Packers would go see him. And thus it came to pass. Woodson presented the President with a minority shareholder certificate for the Packers. Upon receiving it, the President joked (as he did frequently during the visit) that now that he was an owner he'd like to trade Aaron Rodgers to Da Bearz. Ouch! That had to hurt, eh, Jay Cutler? Major dis from the Prez. Gotta love it.

One ex-Packer makes the White House cut, one current player doesn't
One nice touch by the Packers was including recently-released veteran Mark Tauscher as part of the travelling party. Tauscher, as all fans know, spent his entire professional playing career with the Packers. He's apparently undecided yet as to whether he will try to resume his career elsewhere or retire. If there's any player that deserved to be there -- even if he's not currently on the roster -- it's Tauscher. Nice move, Packers.

But one current Packers player, Desmond Bishop, was not allowed in the White House even though he made the trip. The glitch, according to a Tweet by Bishop, was that he had forgotten his photo ID on the plane. Without it, there was no admittance past the White House security. Oops! Well, Bishop took it in stride, noting that he'd be sure to have it with him the next time the Packers visit the White House. Which all Packer fans, of course, believe will be at the end of this football season.

Ahman Green retires
Some may have thought this already happened, given Green's waning career in lesser leagues. But he wanted to retire as a Packer. To that end, the Packers signed Green to a one-day contract, as is usual in these situations, so Green could go out in style with the team for which he is the all-time leading rusher. Congrats, Mr. Green. See you in the Packers Hall of Fame.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Mmmm...Super Bowl...Goooood

With proper respect to Homer Simpson, yes, Super Bowl..mmmmm....goooooood.

It will be exceptionally good if the Packers win, of course. Which they will. More on that later with my specific score prediction. But for now, let's consider what it's going to take to bring the Lombardi Trophy back home to Green Bay where it rightly belongs.

Just about everything that can be written about both teams' players, the storied franchises, the legacies, the championship wins and more has been written. And let's not forget the stories about the fans. The Packers and Steelers have the best fan followings in the country. The game is being played in Dallas, which likes to assume the title of America's Team. We all know that's as big a pile of horse hockey as to be found anywhere. These two teams' fans know where the truth lies.

So, we're roughly 27 hours away from the kickoff of what will be the most-attended Super Bowl ever, and likely the most-watched Super Bowl, as well. The Packers have been confident and loose all week, according to reports. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters yesterday, "We respect Pittsburgh, but we feel that this is our time and Sunday will be our night." No doubt Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin feels the same way about the Packers and his team's chances.

A look at each team's units
OK, that subhead doesn't sound right, does it? But you know what I mean...get your mind out of the gutter!

It has been said for the last two weeks that the Packers and Steelers are pretty much cut from the same cloth: great defenses -- number 1 and 2 in scoring defense -- and great quarterbacks. Most are predicting a close game. The 2-1/2 point spread in favor of the Packers is the tightest margin since 1983, when the Washington Redskins played the Miami Dolphins. Many are giving the edge to the Steelers' defense. Well-deserved praise, for sure. They are loaded. But so is the Packers' defense. In my view, that's a draw. It will be up to individuals on each unit to make an impact one way or another, to cause a turnover, make a tackle, blow up a run or pass, and so on. Game-changing stuff. When looked at that way, I think the Packers "D" has more impact players in more places. Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, B.J. Raji, Tramon Williams, Cullen Jenkins, Desmond Bishop, Sam Shields, Nick Collins, Ryan Pickett, A.J. Hawk... I mean, c'mon on.

Special teams? A few months ago I would have said -- actually, did say -- that the Packers' special teams unit was the team's Achilles Heal. No more. They still might not have found a returner on the roster, but the coverage units have gotten much better. And free agent punter Tim Masthay has turned into a great punter over the last part of the season. He could be as much a key to a win as anyone, believe it or not. Especially if the game comes down to field position.

As to offenses, the Packers have the better offensive line, and I'm not the only one saying that. Packers NT B.J. Raji should have a field day going against the Steelers backup center. On the Pack's side of things, if they can just create enough of a push to get rookie RB James Starks two or three yards a carry that will help considerably when the Pack unleashes its air attack from play-action. The Packers receiving corp is arguably the best in the league; they are certainly the best in this game. Donald Driver hasn't practiced the last few days due to a quad injury, but as coach Mike McCarthy said there's no way he can imagine Driver not playing in this game. It would be an added bonus if rookie TE Andrew Quarless felt this was the time for him to also learn to catch the ball on critical downs.

Last but not least, let's look at the quarterbacks. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl wins under his belt already. That experience helps big time. He's done it and he's won it. But his big frame helps more when he's both in and out of the pocket. The Packers defense will have to somehow figure out ways to get him down. He's got a big arm and is great at improvising. But those last two qualities are shared with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. In fact, Rodgers has the added benefit of having a quicker release on his passes and that, again, helps give the Packers an edge. In listening to a cast of former Super Bowl winners this morning on ESPN, from coaches to players -- including Mike Ditka and Steve Young -- it was nearly unanimous that Aaron Rodgers was the key to victory for the Pack. He's been hot. And there's no reason to suspect he won't be on Super Bowl Sunday.

Former QB and Super Bowl winner Kurt Warner had some advice for the Packers with regards to Rodgers, however. He suggested, quite wisely, that coach McCarthy should help Rodgers by giving him an easy throw or two coming out of the box to build confidence and get into a rhythm. When Rodgers gets into that flow quickly, it usually means good things in terms of the final outcome.

Here's the final prediction
The game will undoubtedly ebb and flow. These are two great teams. It will be a physical game. Both teams will be brining it, as they say, for the full 60 minutes. The defense that wears down first might be the one to let the game slip away.

Throughout the regular season, the Packers never lost games as much as beat themselves. They aren't going to do that on this stage. Even if they get down, they are capable of getting back in it. They will never be out of it.

I'm thinking that coach McCarthy will unleash his offense and, as he's done all season, rely on defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his great defense to hold down the Steelers. The final score? I'm calling it 31-24 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's a Packivus miracle!

Yes, it's Packivus for the rest of us!

For any team to make it to the Super Bowl it is a bit of a miracle, isn't it? And when we really contemplate what this season's version of the Green Bay Packers has accomplished it truly is an amazing accomplishment.

Consider:
  • Fifteen players were placed on injured reserve during the regular season, including six starters.
  • The team's six losses were by a combined total of 20 points.
  • The Pack had to win their last two regular season games just to qualify via tiebreaker for the playoffs as the last seed.
  • The team had to go on the road for all three playoff games...and win. In doing so, they became the first #6 seed from the NFC to advance to the Super Bowl.
  • At no time, in any game this season, have the Packers trailed by more than 7 points.
  • The Packers' defense is either at or near the top in just about all statistical categories, despite being the unit that lost the most starters and backups to season-ending injuries.
It's an amazing story. The Packers were the preseason pick of many to go to the Super Bowl because of the talent on board. Much of that talent was left by the wayside as the season went on. Other players, many of them virtual unknowns and/or street free agents -- Sam Shields, Howard Green, Erik Walden, John Kuhn, James Starks and Tim Masthay among them -- had to step in and play at an exceptionally high level even for the team to have a shot at making the playoffs. The player personnnel side of things, beginning with GM Ted Thompson, and the coaches and staff -- especially head coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers -- had to do a remarkable job of getting these players in a position to succeed. And succeed they did.

There is much to be proud of about this team. They have one goal remaining, four quarters of football, to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown USA. Their upcoming opponent is almost a mirror image of the Pack, especially on the defensive side of things. The Steelers have 25 players on the roster with Super Bowl experience; the Packers have two, Charles Woodson and Ryan Picket (although John Kuhn was on the Steelers practice squad when they won in 2005). But would you put it past this group of Packers to once again exceed expectations? Nope.

It will be a knock-down, drag-out battle for the title. If the Pack puts it together they way they can, they way they have been, Super Bowl XVL will go down as the fourth such title for the team, and their 13th overall NFL championship title...more than any other NFL team. They want it. You have to believe they'll earn it. After all, it's the season of Packivus miracles!

Oh, and a word to the NFL for next season: just imagine what the Packers will be like when they get all their players back! Be afraid...be very afraid.

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Five Packers named to Pro Bowl

The Pro Bowl selections have been announced by the NFL, and five Green Bay Packers were named to the team: left tackle Chad Clifton, safety Nick Collins, wide receiver Greg Jennings, linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Charles Woodson. Collins, Matthews and Woodson were named starters for the NFC squad.

What about QB Aaron Rodgers? Or CB Tramon Williams? Well you may ask. They were named as first alternates.

Yes, it is a bizarro world indeed where Rodgers and Williams are "alternates." That should go on one of the ESPN segments of "C'mon, Man!".

Other alternates include wide receiver Donald Driver, linebacker A.J. Hawk, nose tackle B.J. Raji and guard Josh Sitton.

You can read more about the selections here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Packers vs. Lions Preview

As a blizzard is set to hit Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers are set to hit the Lions in Detroit. The Pack took to the air in time to beat the snowstorm. Still, a few players will not be on the field Sunday when gametime arrives. Key among them from the Packers' standpoint is DE Cullen Jenkins; he strained a calf muscle in last weekend's game vs. the 49ers. Trying to fill that sizable void on the D-line will be C. J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn. It's possible Howard Green might also be moved around in the rotation as well with B. J. Raji and Ryan Pickett.

But it's not the running game that is of primary concern from a defensive standpoint. It's the passing game of the Lions. And even though their starting quarterback, Matthew Stafford, is still sidelined, the backup to the backup, Drew Stanton, is a serviceable QB. Kinda like Jay Cutler...on a good day. (Ouch!) More importantly, whoever is tossing the ball in Motor City has WR Calvin Johnson on his side. His size and speed make him the Lions' main offensive weapon. But he's not the only one. TE Brandon Pettigrew benefits from Johnson opening things up. He's a big tight end, although not fast. Since linebackers A. J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop will likely wind up covering him, he may get some opportunities. But he should be able to be kept in check.

While a few Packers won't be on the field this time around, there was at least some good news going into the game: it appears that LT Chad Clifton is cleared to play, and the ankle sprain sustained during practice this week by Charles Woodson was not as serious as initially suspected; he'll also likely be good to go Sunday...it's a game in Michigan, right? Woodson won't miss that one!

The Packers are 10-4 in dome games under head coach Mike McCarthy. Is it surprising? The Packers offense is geared to the air game. And there's no better place to air out the ball, especially in December, than inside. I know, I know, that's almost heresy in Packerland. But given perfect conditions in which to throw the ball, guess what's going to happen? The Packers are going to light up the Lions, particularly given the sorry state of Detroit's secondary. QB Aaron Rodgers will have a big day, as will his receiving corps. Toss in a seemingly resurgent (yes, for the Packers that does mean just one game) running game with rookie James Starks and the Pack will be far more than the Lions can handle, even if they do happen to make it a game for a while.

Coach McCarthy, if memory serves, is 9-0 against the Lions. Sunday will make it 10-0. Despite the final score of the first meeting this season, most games aren't that close. The Packers are currently favored by 6-1/2 points. They'll take care of that going away.

What's my prediction on the final score? You'll have to check back Sunday morning for that. Barring a blizzard-born power outage, you'll get my call then.

For now...Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Packers at mid-week

We've all had time to bask in the glow of a nice beat-down of the 49ers by our beloved Green Bay Packers last Sunday. After a bit of a sputtering first quarter or so, the offense clicked and the bend-don't-break defense did what it's been doing pretty much all season. We got to see Donald Driver make a TD catch and run that goes down in the all-time highlight reel. We saw a rookie running back, James Starks, finally get on the field for the Pack and rush for the most yards -- 73 -- by a Packer in a rookie debut since 1948. We saw QB Aaron Rodgers continue his streak of games and passes without an interception: 5 and 177 respectively. Oh, and that last one is now second in Packers' history behind Bart Starr. We saw WR Greg Jennings continue to light things up in a big way.

Unfortunately, though, the Packers lost DE Cullen Jenkins for at least a few weeks with a calf strain. And practice this week revealed that LT Chad Clifton actually sustained a concussion during the game, so he is going through the league protocol this week required to be cleared to play this coming Sunday. He did a jog-through at Wednesday's practice and that's usually seen as a good sign of being cleared to play in the next game. But Wednesday's practice also saw CB Charles Woodson depart the field with an ankle sprain, the severity of which is still unknown...or at least, undiscussed at this moment.

So, the Packers are on a bit of a roll. The upcoming opponent, the Detroit Lions, hmmm...not so much. To their credit, it's a 2-10 team that really should have a few more wins under their belt (e.g., remember the TD catch in Chicago to win that was overturned???). But they don't know how to close out games. This weekend's game versus the Packers is not the time for them to start figuring that out.

Observers and the Packers themselves know this will be a hard-fought game. The Lions, lest we forget, gave the Packers everything in a frightful near-comeback on Oct. 3. The Pack wound up winning by just 2 points while grinding out the clock. The Lions scored the most points against the Packers of any opponent the Packers have faced so far. They also racked up the most offensive yardage. Of course, this was also early in the season when the Packers were still adjusting to the onslaught of injuries on both sides of the ball. As we approach this week's game, the Packers have made their adjustments. If the players are focused -- and you can be sure coach Mike McCarthy and his assistants will have them very focused -- this game should not be in doubt. The Lions will give it all they have for as long as they can. But if the Packers get off to a fast start for a change, the game should be over long before it's over, if you know what I mean. And I think you do.

We'll do a more detailed preview closer to game time. So keep checking back for more.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Packers players news and notes

As the Green Bay Packers sit at 7-4, with all four losses by 3 points, and looking up at Da Bearz atop the NFC North (as disgusting a thought as there can possibly be!), roster moves continue. It has been the theme of this season for the Packers.

What's the difference between Da Bearz and the Packers? Yes, I know, we can go a lot of ways with that answer, all of them rip-roaringly funny. But for our purposes today, the correct answer is: health.

The Packers yesterday added LB Brandon Chillar (shoulder) and TE/LB Spencer Havner (hamstring) to the injured reserve list, bringing the team's league-leading total to 13. The Packers' IR list is a squad in its own right. And if you look at the names on that list, it's a pretty good squad at that. Just imagine what the Pack could have done this season if even half of that list was actually on the field. Wow. Still, it's a testament to the personnel moves of GM Ted Thompson that the Packers have been able to field players who haven't led to a complete collapse. And credit the coaching staff with coaching those players, some street and undrafted free agents, in such a way that they are ready to play at a high level. Truly remarkable given the circumstances.

Today, the Pack promoted LB Robert Francois and CB Josh Gordy from the practice squad to take the roster spots of Chillar and Havner. This is Francois' second time this season on the active roster, while it is Gordy's first call-up. Their spots on the practice squad were taken by new signees WR Terrance Smith and LB/DE Curtis Young.

Tramon Williams gets a payday
News broke Tuesday that the Packers and CB Tramon Williams had signed a four-year contract extension that will keep Williams in Green Bay through 2014. Williams is one of those great success stories in the NFL. An undrafted player out of Louisiana Tech who was cut by Houston in 2006, Williams was signed to the Packers' practice squad. The rest, as they say, is history. Williams worked hard, apprenticed behind Al Harris, and earned his payoff by performing at a Pro Bowl level ever since replacing Harris last year as the starting cornerback opposite Charles Woodson. He has been very good.

But now that he's gotten his big payday -- reportedly worth more than $33 million over the life of the extension -- Williams will be expected to continue performing at a high level. And there are no signs that he won't. He is a well-liked and well-respected member not only of the Packers but the broader Green Bay community. And he also is a player who even his agent says wants to stay in Green Bay. Williams is a player and person it is easy to root for. Congratulations, Mr. Williams. Well done. Keep up the great work.

If you want to read more about Williams' new contract, you can do so here.

Starks to see action...maybe
According to head coach Mike McCarthy's comments earlier this week, the woeful status of the Packers' rushing attack (I know, that seems to be a real oxymoron at the moment) is apparently making him think seriously about giving rookie RB James Starks some action this weekend. No one knows quite what to expect as Starks hasn't played any football since 2008; he missed his entire senior season at Buffalo with injury. Running backs coach Edgar Bennett -- a darn good running back in his own day -- says he likes what he sees in the youngster in practice. But what happens when he takes his first game hit in a couple years? And his first NFL hit besides? No clue. But given that QB Aaron Rodgers was the leading rusher for the Packers in the game against the Falcons this last weekend, clearly a change is in order.

That change, however, honestly needs to start with McCarthy actually committing to the run -- something his history indicates isn't overly likely -- and the offensive line opening some holes for whomever is carrying the ball. But the inability of Brandon Jackson to consistently perform and the total disappearance over the last two games of John Kuhn (although it's not clear why he hasn't factored into McCarthy's schemes recently), mean it's time to shake things up. Let's see what Starks can do. Maybe the Packers catch lightening in a bottle. That would be a surprise, granted. And the way this season has gone, it's probably more likely Starks also will wind up getting hurt and going on IR.

But let's be optimistic. At least until we see what we've got.