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!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

2017 NFL Week 10: Packers vs. Bears

This is it, Packer fans. We're back to the days of saying, "If we can only win two games (or one, in this case today), let it be against Da Bearz." And today, folks, is one of those days when it matters perhaps more than other times.

After losing QB Aaron Rodgers (likely for the season, in our view) and the game at Minnesota, the Pack have gone on a three-game losing streak -- losing at home to both New Orleans and Detroit -- and now sit at 4-4, just one game ahead of the bottom-feeding Chicago Bears in the NFC North. Packers backup QB Brett Hundley has so far shown us...well...not much. Part of that might be head coach Mike McCarthy's game plans for him, as well as perhaps overrating Hundley's ability. Part of that might be Hundley himself and this is going to be as good as he gets...which isn't good enough to help right the ship and keep the Packers in the playoff hunt this season.

But, perhaps a bigger issue than the lack of offensive production we've seen with Hundley at the helm -- which is certainly bad enough, granted -- has been the collapse of the Packers defense time after time and especially on third downs. The defense's inability to stop the opposition on third down, to execute a pass rush of any kind, and to muster any kind of mojo lies both with the players as well as defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

Packers defensive end Mike Daniels hasn't had a QB sack in 5 games.
The entire Packers defense must play at a high level today against Chicago.
(Photo: Jim Matthews/USATODAY NETWORK-Wi)

In the latter regard, local sports writers are starting to opine -- perhaps for the first time since Capers has been on staff -- that his job may be on the line. Finally. Head coach Mike McCarthy is extremely loyal to his staff, and seemingly to Capers in particular. But if the defense does not get turned around, this may be Capers' swan the delight of Packer fans near and far who have wanted to see him gone for years. With all the draft picks that GM Ted Thompson has provided on defense over Capers' tenure, to see the same results year after year is maddening. Wait, what? The Packers have been winning and going into the playoffs, right? Yes, but perhaps what we are all now seeing is just how much the play of Aaron Rodgers has covered up some glaring weaknesses in other areas of the team. When Rodgers is under center, you always have a chance to score points and win...a chance to overcome bad play by your defense. When Rodgers is gone...? Not. So. Much.

Coach McCarthy publicly called out his team this week saying that since Rodgers went down no one on the team has stepped up their play. Some pundits are even speculating that players, again, especially those on defense, may no longer be listening to their main man, Capers. Today would be a good day for at least a few players on each side of the ball to play with some passion. To show that they don't want to flush this second half of the season down the toilet, but at least try to win enough to stay in the playoff hunt. If the Packers don't somehow win today against Chicago, the likelihood of being able to get to even 9-7, let alone 8-8, dims significantly.

The Prediction

While we would normally feel good about going into Chicago and getting a win against a not-very-good Bears team, particularly one with a rookie quarterback, these are not normal times for the Green Bay Packers. Da Bearz defense could well pose problems for Hundley and the Packers' sputtering offense. While neither Chicago's QB or receivers are much to be worried about based upon stats, the way the Packers defense has been a sieve gives us the sense that the Pack could make these guys look like All Pros by the end of the game. Chicago does have a good running back combo and that could create enough problems on its own given the Pack's level of play recently.

Still, even with all that, and playing in what might very well be sloppy weather conditions, our heart of hearts (as opposed to our gut of that a thing, btw?) tells us that somehow, someway, the Packers are going to win this game. It won't be pretty. And we expect it to be close, despite the oddsmakers favoring Da Bearz by 5-points at the time of this writing. We hope and believe that there is some measure of Packer pride left that will do just enough to come away with a win today.

We're calling it Packers 20 - Bears 17.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, November 06, 2017

2017 NFL Week 9: Packers vs. Lions

Coming off a two-game losing streak (at Minnesota and home against the Saints) following the likely season-ending loss of QB Aaron Rodgers and the team's bye week, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has declared that the team is prepared with a game plan on both sides that will put its players in a position to succeed. Bottom line: Packers will win this game at Lambeau Field vs. NFC North Division rival Detroit.

That's the head coach's view. You wouldn't expect him to say anything else. The oddsmakers favor the Lions by 2 points at the time of this writing.

How are you feeling, Packers fans? Be honest. Probably not great. With Rodgers out, it seems as if the Pack becomes just another one of the teams that perhaps will be fighting to be .500 by the end of the season. Perhaps be able to roughly split their games and sneak into the playoffs somehow at 9-7. But that's all for later. For now, the team has to find a way to win with Brett Hundley at quarterback against Detroit.

The Packers will need QB Brett Hundley to step up big time in order for the Packers to beat Detroit tonight.
(Photo: Steve Apps, State Journal Archives)

Here's hoping that a couple weeks of practice and coach McCarthy figuring out ways to actually help Hundley use his abilities might give the Pack a shot tonight. Going back a few years, OK, decades, the Lions are 25-1 at Lambeau Field. On the other hand, Detroit QB Matthew Stafford has thrown 15 touchdown passes at Lambeau, the most of any opposing quarterback, but is still only 1-5 overall on the Frozen Tundra.

Voice of the Packers Wayne Larrivee was just on radio giving some interesting stats about the Packers before and after Rodgers and it wasn't pretty. The Pack was 4-1 with Rodgers at quarterback. They scored something like 24+ points per game, while holding opponents to an average of about 22 points a game. With Hundley, they are 0-2 (technically 0-1 as Hundley has only started 1 game so far, coming in relief in the Minnesota game). The Pack has only averaged a little more than 13 points per game in those two losses while giving up almost 25.

Regardless of how the offense is doing, it's clear that the biggest factor in the Packers' season-sans-Rodgers is the defense. So far this season -- and how many other seasons now??? -- the defense has been in about the bottom quarter of the league statistically. The defense may got some new production out of rookies Montravius Adams and Vince Biegel, both of whom may seems some action this evening.

If the defense doesn't hold Stafford and some of his fine receivers in check tonight, and the offense sputters as it did against the Saints (despite a second straight huge running game courtesy of rookie Aaron Jones), this game could be over before it gets started. We certainly expect more out of Hundley than we've seen so far. But until he has a break out game, you have to look at which sideline the better quarterback is on. And tonight, that's on the Lions' side of the field.

The Prediction

That last paragraph above gives a good lead-in for our prediction tonight. And we hope we're wrong.

But we're calling this game Lions 31 - Packers 20.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

2017 NFL Week 7: Packers vs Saints aka Week 1 of Life After Rodgers

We're in generally unfamiliar territory this weekend, Packers fans, and we will likely be so for the rest of this season: no more Aaron Rodgers. The horror...the horror...

Now we get to see how the other half lives. Or perhaps more accurately, how the other 75 percent of the NFL lives without a top-notch quarterback.

As football fans of every variety know, the Green Bay Packers QB was injured early in last week's loss at Minnesota. A broken right collarbone to make a bookend to the left collarbone broken several years ago. Rodgers was able to come back at the end of that season to help the Pack in the playoffs. This season? It's his throwing arm, folks. He just had surgery this past week, is on injured reserve for the next 8 weeks and all medical personnel are saying he can't begin throwing again for at least 6 weeks, which would coincide with the earliest he could begin practicing with the team because of his IR status. The likelihood of his returning this season is slim. And it would not only depend upon how quickly he is able to recover and regain his throwing ability but where the Packers would stand at the time in the playoff hunt.
Packers QB Brett Hundley got thrown in the deep end
at Minnesota last weekend after the early injury to
Aaron Rodgers. 
Today, he gets his first start
against the Saints.

(Photo: Jim Matthews/USATODAY NETWORK-Wi)

While now-starting QB Brett Hundley has been in the Packers' system for 3 years, has good size, arm strength and athletic ability, this will be his first NFL start today. Can 1 week of practice get him in sync with his receivers? Perhaps it's the case, likely the case, that he will be more so with the back up receivers and tight ends because those are the players he has worked with most. They may become his security blanket today and for a few games to come until he gets timing down with the starters.

Having said that, more than a few sports pundits, including Voice of the Packers Wayne Larrivee, have noted that despite whatever ability Hundley may bring to the position, his success is perhaps even more dependent upon those he has blocking for him. As Packer fans know all too well, the offensive line has been a MASH unit all season long. Today, it appears as both tackles will at least start the game; whether they are able to finish is another thing. There are injuries at every position on the line and having a consistent presence, having continuity in front of him, will be key to Hundley's success this season.

So will a running game. Particularly today, as the weather forecast calls for rain during the game, complicating the pass route timing, etc. Not ideal for one's first NFL start. But it is what it is. Of course that running game needs blockers, as we're back to the issue with health of the offensive line. The upcoming bye week certainly comes at a good time for that group.

The Saints defense isn't as strong as Minnesota's, so that will help some. Unfortunately 38-year-old Saints QB Drew Brees doesn't show any signs of slipping. The Saints offense is average a bit more than 29 points a game through the first 6 weeks of the season. Toss in the fact that he and the Saints have typically owned Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers over the years. With injuries in the defensive backfield for the Pack, trying to contain Brees and his receivers is going to be a huge challenge.

The Prediction

Given all the conditions that are present going into the game -- the weather, a young quarterback's first NFL start, injuries on the offensive line and in the defensive backfield for the Packers, and a someday-Hall-of-Fame QB on the opposite side of the field and Saints' schemes on both sides of the ball to give the Packers problems -- this is going to be a difficult game for the Pack, despite it being played at Lambeau Field. The oddsmakers have determined that the Saints are favored by 3.5 points at the time of this writing.

While we hope that the Packers rise to the occasion across the board, and we hope that Hundley rises to near Rodgers' level performance, we think we will see growing pains this weekend. Give him and the team the bye week and another week to come together and things may be back to close to normal...or as close as they can be until Rodgers is able to return, whether this season or next.

We're calling this one Saints 31 - Packers 17.

Go Pack Go!!! Make us wrong today!