Sunday, December 31, 2017

NFL Week 17: Packers vs Lions ... The End.

Week 17 of the 2017 NFL season brings with it, mercifully, the end of the Packers waylaid season. Striving to finish at 8-8 today against the Lions in Detroit, after beginning the season with Super Bowl hopes, the Pack will be hard-pressed to make that happen being without at least 7 starters. This will be essentially a preseason game for the Packers with lots of youth on display and probably not much else. Backup QB Brett Hundley needs all the help he can get and then some to score points; that will be in short supply today. The only thing that creates a possibility for avoiding another shutout is that the game is on the road where Hundley somehow performs marginally better.

The Prediction

Yes, we're getting this out of the way early for those who wish to move along quickly. While some players might be playing for contracts, or auditioning for other teams, playing for pride just doesn't seem to matter much lately. If it did, we wouldn't have seen the level of play -- even from back ups -- that we've seen over the last several weeks. Whether that's a coaching problem or player problem or even a general manager problem, the effect has been the same: poor play. Why would we expect that to change today? Don't.

The Lions are favored by 6-1/2 points. Let's see: Matthew Stafford at QB vs. Brett Hundley at QB? C'mon.

We're calling it Packers 10 - Lions 24.

Still...Go Pack Go!!!

After the Game...After the Season...

The now well-documented demise of this season began with the broken collarbone to QB Aaron Rodgers and an ongoing rash of injuries decimating virtually every other unit on the team. As we know, though, injuries don't explain all of the problems.

The autopsy of the 2017 Packers has been underway for weeks and will continue long into the post-season. It's not shocking. Word already has it the long-suffering (at least on the part of Packers fans) defensive coordinator Dom Capers is out once the season is over. Who will head coach Mike McCarthy choose to replace him? There are many good options, as this article by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's great writer, Tom Silverstein, points out.

Some talk has been floating that it's time for GM Ted Thompson to move on, despite one year remaining on his contract. We would be shocked if Packers President Mark Murphy were to force Thompson out before the end of that contract, even though there are mounting reasons it would be a wise move to make at this time. Expect Thompson to be pulling the trigger for the 2018 NFL Draft and free agency.

Thompson did get an early start on the offseason in the last several days signing WR Davante Adams and C Corey Linsley to contract extension. Wise moves, although the money for a three-times-concussed Adams might be a bit on the high side. Time will tell.

Again, we'll have plenty of time to dissect this past season and project our collective hopes onto next season in the weeks and months ahead. We'll be seeing you around. Be sure to follow us on Twitter for more real-time commentary!  :-)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

NFL Week 16: Packers vs. Vikings

For the last time in this disappointing 2017 season, the Green Bay Packers will don their home uniforms and play at Lambeau Field tonight. The opponent is the rival NFC North Division Champions, the Minnesota ViQueens. Don't expect any Christmas Eve eve miracles. Or even a Festivus miracle. That tank ran dry much earlier in the season.

The Packers play their last home game of the season tonight,
with backup QB Brett Hundley executing the play calls.
(Photo: Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
After a one-game return against Carolina in a losing effort, QB Aaron Rodgers became the Pack's Elf on the Shelf by being placed on the injured reserve list for the rest of the season. A wise move by the powers that be. After this season, there will need to be a number of other wise moves made by the Packers organization, including whether it's time to move GM Ted Thompson down the road (doubtful) or kick defensive coordinator Dom Capers to the curb (more likely). But those are conversations for another time.

For now, let's consider that the Packers, despite a plethora of injuries over the course of the season, have truly underperformed...especially when compared to their purple-clad counterparts. Minnesota, through drafts and free agency, have put together one of the best defenses in the NFL right now. And they are starting their third option at quarterback -- Case Keenum -- and still lighting things up.

The Packers...well...haven't done much this season, particularly after Rodgers went down. Not that there's not talent on the Pack's defense, but it doesn't take much to see how week after week this Packers defense has been out of position, out-schemed, and out-hustled. Granted, losing Aaron Rodgers for half the season exposed just how much he was able to cover up on both sides of the ball. But he didn't play defense. That's on Thompson and the coaching staff. And especially the players for not getting it done. Is it any wonder there were no Packers players voted to the Pro Bowl? (Although, clearly, LT David Bakhtiari got...what's the expression? Oh, yes...hosed!)

For tonight, backup QB Brett Hundley will once again be the starter, as he will in the finale at Detroit. Without his favorite target, Davante Adams, it will be interesting to see who he decides to target. Expect a lot of the run game. Also, expect many young players to see time tonight. In some respects -- even though the Pack says they are playing for pride right now with playoffs off the table -- this will be like a winter preseason game for the Pack, at least in our view. For the Vikes, they are still playing for a first-round bye so expect them to have a bit more incentive than do the Packers. They also want to be the first team in NFL history to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium should they actually make it through the NFC playoffs. That's also a conversation for another time.

The Prediction

We could spend a lot more time going into who's playing, who's not, etc. But really, let's just cut to the chase. At the time of this posting, Minnesota is listed as an 8-1/2-point favorite over the Pack.

We're calling this one Packers 17 - ViQueens 30.

We hope we're wrong. But on this given day in this given season, it pains us to say that Minnesota is the better team.

Still...Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

NFL Week 15: Packers vs. Carolina aka The Return of Aaron Rodgers

It's been two months since we've seen the two-time NFL MVP, Aaron Rodgers, behind center for the Green Bay Packers. The Pack went 3-4 during that period behind the able, and occasionally outstanding, work of QB Brett Hundley and teammates. The Packers are sitting at 7-6 with three games left and paper-thin playoff hopes still alive.

The Packers hope the return of QB Aaron Rodgers reignites WR Jordy Nelson
and the rest of the Packers offense in their game against Carolina.
(Photo: Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
It was a somewhat similar situation in 2013 when Rodgers returned after a long absence, also from a broken collarbone (non-throwing shoulder), to face Da Bearz. In that return, Rodgers showed rust early, throwing interceptions on his first two series. Then he got his mojo back, leading the Pack to a win over Chicago. Today, Packer fans hope for a similar result against the Carolina Panthers, who are ahead of the Packers in the playoff hunt. A win today -- and the next two weeks -- are essential for the Packers to have a shot, albeit a long one, at grabbing a wild card spot.

But first things first: what do things look like against the Panthers? Well, the oddsmakers have installed Carolina as a 3-point favorite at the time of this writing, i.e., home field advantage. Sure. Plus the freak of nature that is Cam Newton. And a really good defense. The Panthers should get the favorite designation today. The Packers will also be light in the defensive backfield once again, opening up potential downfield catches for Carolina receivers. And let's not forget Carolina's running game...which includes more than just Jonathon Stewart. You have to count Newton as a running back, as well, as he can take off and pick up huge yards if not kept in check. No quarterback in the league has more rushing yards this season than Newton.

So, Carolina presents huge challenges for the Packers defense. But, honestly, what team hasn't for this Packers team this season? Specifically, though, how do you keep Newton in check? It can be done. He can be an inconsistent quarterback who either gets frustrated or takes all he can get. You just hope the Pack is able to do enough today on defense to not let him take over the game. Will the Packers devote someone to shadow Newton? Some reports indicate that if the Packers take that approach, it might be that LB Blake Martinez gets the assignment. Martinez has had a great second season, and is perhaps best suited to assume that task.

For the Pack, it will likely take a few series for Rodgers to shake off the rust and get his timing back with his receivers. But, thankfully, over the past few months the Packers have been able to find a running game behind Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones, so that will relieve some of the pressure on Rodgers to carry the whole load on his still-recovering shoulders.

The Prediction

We think this is going to be a close game. We're used to that, though, with three overtime wins this season including two in the last two games. But this game will have Rodgers at the helm and not Hundley (barring re-injury to Rodgers) and that means the odds just got better for a Packers win. Many pundits, however, are still picking Carolina for many of the reasons noted above. Can't blame them. Seems like a pick 'em game in many respects.

But we think the return of Rodgers will lift the play of the entire team just enough to sneak out of Carolina with a much-needed win.

We're calling this game Packers 31 - Panthers 30.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

2017 NFL Week 14: Packers vs. Browns

Oh, boy. Nothing like going up against an 0-12 team in their home stadium with a hot-and-mostly-cold backup quarterback at the helm of your team...and a secondary down to back-ups to back-ups, as well. That's what the Green Bay Packers are dealing with today. And if they think that it's an automatic win given the prior record of the Browns, well, the Pack might just hand the lowly team in Cleveland their first victory of the season. Wouldn't that be depressing?

Cleveland has been close in many of its games, yet their rookie quarterback, DeShone Kizer, has been a turnover machine, helping keep the team winless. On the other hand, the Browns defense is eighth overall against the run. They are a better team overall than the record indicates. They are close. In an Aaron Rodgers-led Packers pass-happy offense, none of this would be a concern. But given that the resurgent running game has now become a big part of the Pack's offense, this could present problems for the Packers if QB Brett Hundley isn't able to complete at least a few passes downfield to soften up the rush a bit. Given Hundley's penchant for performing better on the road than at home, perhaps we get the "good" Hundley today. Let us pray.

The Browns do have a big receiving threat in WR Josh Gordon. But, again, their rookie QB may provide the Pack's defense with interception opportunities. Given that the Packers secondary is missing some key pieces today, bad quarterback play would certainly be a help in mitigating a passing threat.

Late news: Packers cornerback Davon House is active for the game but outside linebacker Nick Perry is out.

In years to come, the Browns may actually have themselves a good organization due to the hiring late this week of former Packers linebacker and front office man -- and recent Kansas City Chiefs General Manager -- John Dorsey. He's a good one -- wouldn't have minded seeing him come back to the Pack to replace Ted Thompson -- and he'll do what he can to build a winning organization. But that won't be in time for today's game.

The Prediction

We're getting right to this, Packer fans, as game time is fast approaching.

The Packers are favored by 3 points at the time of this post. We think the game will be ugly. But this is a must-win game for the Pack if they wish to not only keep their paper-thin playoff hopes alive but retain any sense of football dignity; you can't be the one that gives a winless team its first win for the season. Just. Can't. Do. It.

We're calling this Packers 24 - Browns 17.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

2017 NFL Week 13: Packers vs. Buccaneers

So, Packers fans, we got a better Brett Hundley at quarterback last week vs. the Steelers. But still not good enough in other areas of the game, particularly on defense -- and, some may say, coaching -- to win the game. The Steelers are 9-2 for a reason, just as the Packers are now 5-6 overall and 1-5 since losing QB Aaron Rodgers at Minnesota.

The good news, looking ahead, is that Rodgers actually -- officially -- practiced yesterday...although he still can't come off injured reserve for the next two weeks...if he's ready. And, more good news, the Packers are still technically alive at 5-6 for a playoff spot. Technically. Win today at home against Tampa Bay and next week at Cleveland -- two winnable games (but wasn't Baltimore???) -- and it's likely the Pack will reactivate Rodgers for that stretch run, if his collarbone passes X-ray examination, of course. If the Pack loses today, that likelihood starts to narrow. But that's looking ahead, as we said. Let's stay focused on today, shall we?

The Packers need backup QB Brett Hundley to play like he did against the Steelers
for the team to have a chance to keep pace in the NFC Wildcard
playoff hunt before Aaron Rodgers returns.
(Photo: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)
Probably like most fans and pundits, we don't quite know what Packers team will show up: the one that played the Steelers nose-to-nose for 59 minutes and 56 seconds of the game last week, or the one that laid down and scored nothing against a mediocre Baltimore team...both losses. If Hundley actually progressed to the degree we saw against the Steelers, the Packers have a chance for a win. If he plays as he did vs. the Ravens, probably not.

It's not all on Hundley, of course, Aside from LB Blake Martinez and a few others on defense, tackling has generally been abysmal, the pass rush non-existent and the secondary a sieve. Is it the players or the coordinator and scheme (here we go again on that annual conversation, right?)? Whatever the situation, the Packers need to win every game from here on out. Likely? No. But you can't win 'em all before you win the first one. And that's today.

The Prediction

The Packers are favored by 3.5 points at the time of this writing. With Buccaneers' QB Jameis Winston in his first game today after a 3-game hiatus, there will have to be some rust. Still, he's a dangerous runner and could give the Pack's defense fits if they don't get to him early and often. The Bucs will be missing 2 starters from their offensive line, which should benefit the Packers pass least, theoretically. On defense, the Bucs should give Hundley opportunities in the secondary. And if Packers RB Jamaal Williams can reprise his effort of last week, that will also help open things up for Hundley and the receivers.

This game was once referred to as the "Bay of Pigs' game when it was a twice-per-season division meeting. Neither team was good back in those days, as the name implies. While it's not a return to those times, the game could devolve to poor play if players don't play like the season is the line, which it is for the Packers. Weather will not be a factor today, as it will be a positively balmy December 3 game at Lambeau Field.

After it's all said and done, we believe the Pack will do enough to win.

We're calling it Packers 24 - Buccaneers 20.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

2017 NFL Week 12: Packers vs. Steelers

OK, Packers fans...due to a variety of circumstances of interest to no one but yours truly, this post is being made only about 15 minutes before kickoff. As a result, we're going to do something different to save time and space: i.e., get to the point.

Tonight's game will not be pretty. The Steelers are 8-2 and the Packers are 5-5. Pittsburgh is a 14-point favorite. While the Packers defense has shown some signs of life, the offense under backup QB Brett Hundley is moribund (look it up).

The Prediction

So let's get to that aforementioned point. We're calling this one Packers 13 - Steelers 31.

We really hope we're wrong. Because if we're not, the Pack will have jumped the shark this season and we can start looking to the offseason.

With that...Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

2017 NFL Week 11: Packers vs. Ravens

First, let's just acknowledge that the Green Bay Packers did what they needed to do last weekend in Chicago: win. In doing so, the Pack stopped a three-game losing streak and beat a team that -- with or without Aaron Rodgers at quarterback -- the Packers should beat. They also kept alive playoff hopes, staying alive at 5-4 and two games behind the ViQueens in the NFC North. In doing so, we also perhaps saw some glimpses of what QB Brett Hundley can least occasionally. But the Packers also lost two running backs, Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones, as well as their starting right tackle, Bryan Bulaga.

Which brings us to today's game at Lambeau Field against the Baltimore Ravens. It's a bit of a mixed bag meets a bit of a mixed bag. That's because, like the 5-4 Packers, the 4-5 Ravens have a little bit of this going for them and a little bit of that, too.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco isn't having a great year, but he still has a great arm and, lest we forget, is a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. In short, against a porous secondary and a defensive front without a pass rush, Flacco could display the arm that sees him earning the big -- and some would say, overpaid -- bucks.

Damarious Randall and the rest of the Packers secondary
will have to play exceptionally well today to keep
Ravens' QB Joe Flacco and his receivers in check.
(Photo: Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
The Ravens defense, especially coming off a bye week, is a good one and will certainly throw everything it can at the still-inexperienced Brett Hundley. The Packers will need Jamaal Williams, the now starter at running back, and Devante Mays -- getting his first NFL carries -- to take pressure off Hundley with a solid rushing attack. At the same time, Hundley will need to be more decisive early in the game than he's shown to date. It seems that in his first outings as starting QB, Hundley does better in two-minute drills and pressure situations. A sense of urgency needs to kick in much sooner or this could be a game that gets away from the Packers early.

The Prediction
The Ravens are favored by 2 points at the time of this writing. We do think this is a toss up game. The Packers are inexperienced in the offensive backfield and the Ravens big defensive front and experienced secondary would seem to be able to cause enough problems for both the running and passing games of the Packers.

But...if the Packers are able to keep this game close, we think that they will make one more play than will the Ravens.

We're calling this Packers 20 - Ravens 17.

Go Pack Go!!!

P.S. How 'bout them Wisconsin Badgers?! 11-0! Go Badgers! On Wisconsin!