Bonus Post!

Hope you all enjoyed Thanksgiving!  I watched all 3 NFL games yesterday, and it’s very apparent to me that 5 of the 6 teams playing are in better shape than Green Bay, as far as winning games now.  Let’s recap what happened and how it sets up for the remainder of the season.  There are 2 questions to be asked, and depending on what kind of fan you are, I’ll cover them both:

  1. Would you like the Packers to make the playoffs? If so, I hope you truly believe they’ll win the Super Bowl (if you read my blog heading into week 1 you’ll notice I didn’t think GB could even at full health), otherwise what’s the point?  Let’s assume Green Bay “runs the table,” for sake of argument.

-Packers finish 10-6
-Detroit would automatically lose one more (week 17 to GB), giving them 5 losses
-Green Bay would need Detroit to lose at least once more in addition to week 17
-Detroit’s remaining schedule:
-@ Saints
-v Bears
-@ Giants
-@ Cowboys
-v Packers
-Very easily could have an additional loss on the schedule, maybe they only win 1 more game (v Bears)
-Vikings are also ahead of the Packers, however they’d assume another loss in week 16 (xmas eve) @ Green Bay and would finish 10-6, as would GB, but would lose out on division record to Green Bay and heads-up record v Detroit
-Overall, the Packers’ best chance at the playoffs is to win the division – meaning 1. Winning out and 2. Needing another loss by Detroit

  1. Would you like the Packers to lose out because a. They aren’t winning the Super Bowl this year anyway and/or b. you want change? This is where I’m at.  Of course I’ll root for the Packers during the game to win, it’s impossible not to, but in the grand scheme of things you shouldn’t be upset over a loss at this point.  Hell, the fact anyone outside of the locker room thought this team was capable of winning a Super Bowl this year heading into the season needs to take off the Green & Gold sunglasses and face reality.

*So to recap, if you want the Packers to make the playoffs you need to root for at least another loss by Detroit in addition to Green Bay finishing 6-0.

I also want to clear something else up…to blame Ted Thompson is perfectly fine, he should deserve the credit for winning and blame for losing.  However, blame him for not drafting well, but don’t blame him for not signing free agents to help this team.  The reason there’s no chance this team was going to win the Super Bowl isn’t because the Packers didn’t pick up Brandon Browner or Antonio Cromartie to help the defensive backfield.  Would they help win a game or two?  Sure.  However, there’s a reason they’re unemployed PLUS a huge factor is they’d be taking snaps and valuable playing time from the younger guys.

You may be saying, But Nick, the young guys suck!  Yes, but I’d rather lose by giving kids playing time than not winning by blocking their development.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. I’m not a die-hard Badger fan, but I’ll root for them as college football is improving and if they can sneak into the college football playoff that’d be incredible for the university and the state of Wisconsin.

Continuing to Point Fingers

(Sorry for the all bold/formatting, working through it). Earlier this week I found myself involved in deep conversation regarding the Packers’ issues, or perceived issues.  Some people are already looking ahead to the 2017 NFL Draft, I always like to keep up to date with mock drafts regardless of where the Packers are in the standings.  Let’s tackle this from a few different angles…
a.       Offensive Line: a few people (Gilbert Brown most notably) have complained about the Offensive Line being a major issue.  Entering week 11 (the Redskins game) the Packers O Line ranked 1st in pass blocking and 17th in run blocking, per Pro Football Focus.  The Packers have only had a 100 yard rusher once this season (week 3 v Detroit), and much of that is to losing Lacy and Starks and supplementing the rush game with quick passes and having Wideouts line up in the backfield catching check-downs.  Eddie Lacy does have value with his vision, however he can’t keep his weight at or below 235lbs and the Packers must move on.  It’s essential to have a solid running back (see Lacy’s first 2 seasons of 2013 and 2014) which helps the offensive line’s run blocking.  I’d love to see the Packers bring in a true runner in this draft.  Possibly even draft two.  Overall, as of now, I don’t think the Packers’ offensive line is an issue – I actually believe it’s the strength of this team.  Can it be improved?  Absolutely, but an OL of LT Bakhtiari, LG Taylor, C Linsley/Tretter, RG Lang, RT Bulaga is a solid place.  Don’t be surprised if TJ Lang isn’t extended and JC Tretter is groomed for the RG spot for 2017.  Based on his play since 2015, it seems he’ll be fine.
b.      Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers is ranked 14th by Pro Football Focus, which by his standards is terrible.  Sure he’s average across the league, but the Packers aren’t paying him to be average.  He’s paid to play at an MVP-level, he hasn’t been there since the 2nd half of the divisional playoff game v Dallas in January of 2015.  There are two major issues I have with the QB – but first let me state I was all aboard the Rodgers train and ridding this franchise of Favre the instant Brett threw, quite possibly the worst, interception in the history of football –         
1.       The reason his stats and “ranking” has dipped from top 3 to 14 is not for injury or physical ability.  He’s holding the ball, which used to be OK because he’d eventually find and hit an open receiver, but now he’s foregoing throwing to open receivers to find bigger plays.  Or even worse, he’s not throwing to receivers whom are wide open downfield (see link: this is just one instance, but has happened far too often and is now the norm v the rare.               
2.       No one but Aaron can say for certain, but this whole personal issue of him not talking with his family, or dating Olivia Munn directly effecting his play…it could absolutely change his mind set or preparation, make him cocky, etc.  However, the way I see it, and when I screamed for Rodgers to take the reins from Favre, my major concern was “Don’t give Rodgers the keys to the franchise like Sherman did to Brett…he could mess it up worse than Favre did, he’s smarter.”  Mike Florio wrote an article (believe what you want, but if you’re a blind Packer Backer I thank you for reading and trying to open your eyes) stating there’s a feud between the QB and McCarthy and if Mac is fired Aaron will have “won” and why would he listen to the new coach?  I hope I’m wrong because I don’t believe Green Bay will part ways with their beloved Quarterback any time soon, but I do believe in order to win a Super Bowl he needs to go. 
c.      Head Coach: I’m not sure if Mike McCarthy has lost the team or if his message is stale, but for someone who’s defended him more than most, his “reasons” for failure are getting stale for me.  If Aaron does have the keys to the castle, that’s on Mac…if his message is stale, it’s time to move on – Sure it’s tough to win in this league when at full strength and that much tougher to do it when you’re missing 5 starters, and top of the line starters for the most part.  I’m open for a new head coach, and at this point it almost doesn’t matter who it is. 
d.     General Manager: Pete Dougherty wrote an article this week taking a look at Thompson’s drafts ( packers-drafts-missing-mark/94285504/) – to paraphrase the first 6 drafts (2005-2010) produced plenty of good players, whereas the last 6 (2011-2016) have left a lot to be desired.  If you know me, you understand I believe the draft and develop is the best method to produce a consistent winner, but to win championships and build a dynasty (that’s the goal remember?) you must draft well, consistently in addition to having a coach on the same page that is also a good coach. 
All in all, I believe Dom Capers’ time may have run out of Green Bay (about 4 years too late) and there may be an improvement from his departure, but there’s a little part of me that worries the Packers won’t handle this properly in order to build for a legit title contender and put themselves in position to consistently make the playoffs and needing pure luck to win a Super Bowl.  I guess time will tell, but let’s move on to Philly, shall we? 
The Eagles come in losers in 3 of their last 4 and are trying to keep pace with the surprising NFC East.  Philadelphia showcases a rookie QB in Carson Wentz (6’5” 237lbs) from North Dakota St., he began his career about as well as one can by posting 100+ QB rating in 3 of his first four games, leading the Eagles to a 3-0 start.  Since, his numbers have resembled the look of Aaron Rodgers’ (yeah, that’s a direct shot at the egomaniac QB that must play better) and the team’s performance is a direct correlation by going 2-5 since.  This is as close to a must-win (without actually being one) for both teams as it can get.  As far as the Packers are concerned, the winner of the Thanksgiving showdown between Minnesota and Detroit will hold a 7-4 record and if it’s Detroit they’ll have essentially a 1.5 game lead over Min by holding the tiebreaker (having beaten Minnesota earlier this season).  If Dallas bests Washington, also on Turkey Day, the Cowboys will all but clinch the NFC East and could coast to the 1 seed in the playoffs.  If you’re the Eagles you’re rooting for the Redskins to up-end Dallas and ruin Thanksgiving, and if you’re the Packers (and want to get to the playoffs) you should pull for Minnesota to beat the Lions. 
In the end, I ultimately think the best thing for the Packers (long term) is to lose out and get a high draft pick to either take a game-changer (running back Dalvin Cook from Florida St) or trade it back and acquire another 1st and 2nd round pick from it.  This team is in dire need of above average NFL starters and the best way to get them are either drafting well (ideal) or signing solid role players in free agency (please no). 
Prediction time…if you’re still with me, I thank you for following along from all the bouncing around.  I can’t see anything changing.  The Packers’ secondary is a joke, with 4 players giving up a perfect QB rating to Kirk Cousins last week (158.3), which is something I can do, seriously.  Also, the return of Glass Matthews was quite frustrating knowing this guy will make $17,350,000 next year (he must be traded or cut).  I think the Packers score a few points, maybe keep the game close like last week, but some points may be in garbage time too – this is comical to watch, so have some fun with it knowing the Super Bowl was never an option for this team this year and the proof is now showing. 
Packers 27
Eagles 41 (crying from laughing emoji inserted here)
*Overall Record: 16-12*


Associating Blame???

This could be a longer one, but in addition to the normal Review/Preview/Prediction, it’s time to dig deep into the (potentially) real issues concerning this Green Bay Packers team.  If you pay attention to local, or even national, media, it seems as if everyone is giving their 2 cents.  Obviously no one is 100% sure, not even the actual people involved.  However, let’s take a look at each potential issue…maybe it’ll spark an intelligent conversation?

General Manager –
Ted Thompson has been at the helm since January 2005.  He’s brought a system and philosophy of building through the draft, to which yours truly thoroughly believes is the best program to build a team (in any professional sport).  Obviously to be successful with that one must draft well – Thompson began with a BANG by hitting home runs on his first 2 selections (Aaron Rodgers (1st round, 24th pick) and Nick Collins (2nd round, 19th pick).  Without going into much detail, had Collins stayed healthy could’ve been, at minimum, a Green Bay Packers HOFer.  Moving ahead, he’s essentially drafted at about a 50% clip, which when acquiring draft picks as often as possible (through not resigning players and receiving compensatory picks in return) and trading back in previous drafts to hoard mid-late round picks, means you’ll turn over your roster every 4-6 years and if you’re hitting on those picks, your team should always be young and talented.

In the last two seasons (2015 and 2016), much has been made about WRs not getting open, or players just not being good enough to make plays.  In the Divisional playoff game at Arizona, many thought the Packers would get boatraced (I certainly did), yet the defense somehow found a way to hold Arizona (the #1 offense in the NFL last year), at home, to 17 points with 2:34 left in the game while the offense had the ball.  When looking at playoff matchups and how to win, 20 points certainly seems to be the key number.  If you can hold your opponent to 20 or less you should win that particular game.  However, the mis-execution (insert whatever word you’d like) of the offense led Arizona to a FG after going 4 and out to push the lead to 20-13 with 2 min left.  We all remember the hail maryS (capital S is intentional because Rodgers to Janis, TWICE) and I’ll argue Janis made one of the best catches I’ve ever seen on the second hail mary – outjumping arguably the bester cornerback in football – so there was talent on the team to get the job done last year, or at least enough to compete with what many believed was the most complete team in the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals.

With this season being a really weird one so far, I don’t believe lack of talent as the major issue even with the injuries.  If anything, this season should be used as a learning lesson for all the playing time the 1st and 2nd year players are getting (Ladarius Gunter, Kentrell Brice, Blake Martinez, Jake Ryan (until injury last Sunday), Kenny Clark, Kyler Fackrell, Trevor Davis, Geronimo Allison, etc.) which takes 2-3 years for them to really become legit starters in the NFL.  It should make this team much stronger and better in the years to come, but let’s not worry about the future, this is about right now.  The offensive line is arguably top 2 in the league, the WRs have been open on a more consistent basis since the Chicago game (Thu, Oct 20), however the biggest issue and most obvious has been since the injuries to Eddie Lacy and James Starks there has been no real answer for running back.  Ty Montgomery has shown capabilities, but then again he’s learning on the fly and can’t be expected to produce on a consistent basis during this stretch – maybe next year he’s an awesome option.  All in all, I don’t believe Ted Thompson is at a major fault (some sure) for this team’s failure in 2016…otherwise Las Vegas wouldn’t keep putting them as a top 5 contender to win the Super Bowl (unless Vegas knows people will continuously bet the Packers if put high odds??? That’s counter-intuitive, or is it??)

Head Coach –
Mike McCarthy has, publically, taken most of the heat and has for some time.  It’s well-deserved as his offense was figured out week 7 last year at Denver and took an entire calendar year to make corrections in effectiveness.  The last two weeks should be the real concern, with the team lacking energy throughout the entire game v Indianapolis and it almost seeming like no one cared playing the Titans.  The coach is single-handedly responsible for getting his team in the right mindset to play and win – something this team hasn’t done since hosting the awful Chicago Bears on a Thursday night showdown in Lambeau.  Is the message stale?  It could be, however with the roster consistently turning over every 4-6 years (remember that?) the message shouldn’t get stale any more than changing head coaches every 5 years except to those players that have been here longer (i.e. Rodgers, Nelson, Lang, Matthews, Burnett, and Shields).  McCarthy may be a bigger part of the issue, with his message potentially being old, his scheme being figured out, and his team not showing up to play and pound two inferior opponents (Ind/Ten).  Aside from the 2010 postseason run (and yes, I know you can’t just take it out, but let’s) a Green Bay-led McCarthy team hasn’t won two games in the playoffs.  Think about that…literally 1 and done every single season other than the Magic Carpet Ride as some local sports media like to label it.  There’s an argument to be made that he’s put his team in position to win versus superior opponents (2014 Seattle and 2015 Arizona) yet if those teams were superior that then falls on Ted…

Quarterback –
Aaron Rodgers, the third and final piece of this 3-headed monster that’s wreaking havoc inside 1265 Lombardi Ave.  People keep pointing to the Denver game last year when the Packers (6-0) met the Broncos (6-0), and were held to 77 yards passing, as the turning point to Rodgers’ struggles.  However, Pro Football Focus (number nerds) have pegged Rodgers for not having great games dating back to the Dallas playoff game How’s that not a Catch? – Dez Bryant since his last good performance.  I’m no coach, however I’m even able to see that he’s consistently not stepping into throws, choosing not to throw to open receivers, acting as if nothing’s his fault, so on and so forth.  There’s been much written recently about potential “rifts” between Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy…the most interesting, let’s say, was an article from Pro Football Talk’s, Mike Florio, stating his opinion (paraphrasing): By Rodgers claiming one could feel the lack of juice on the entire sideline (during the Colts game), that was a direct shot at Head Coach Mike McCarthy; a potential issue arises that if McCarthy is fired at season’s end the QB will have gotten his way and why would he listen to anyone knew???  It definitely begs the question Instead of firing the Head Coach, should the Packers fire the star player?  Everyone says “you don’t fire the players you fire the coach.”  Well in the NFL, can you name the Quarterbacks to have won a Super Bowl after being with a team for 10+ seasons?  I have the answer…next week 🙂 I’ll also provide my answer to “Whom is most at fault for this mess?” as well.

Now, onto the rematch of the Wild Card round against the Washington Redskins.  The Redskins post the 4th rated offense in the NFL which doesn’t bode well based on the fact the Packers’ defense has been torched by Tennessee (6th) and Indianapolis (13th) in the previous weeks.  The Packers rating is a bit misleading as teams have put up points early in the game and just hold the ball to run the clock and play a zone defense while Green Bay possesses the ball to burn clock as well.  Either way if you’re a fan of the Packers and still think they have a chance at winning a Super Bowl this season (I’ll remind you, based on what we’ve seen since the start of last year they don’t) this is as much of a must-win game as you can have without it actually being an elimination game.  Washington’s defense is 21st in the league, so this could be a matchup for the Packers offense to get back on track and show something similar to their matchup in Atlanta.  It’s also interesting that Ted went out and picked up another potential option at Running Back, Christine Michael.  Yes I spelled his first name correctly…I believe it’s pronounced Kristen.  He’s a phenomenal athlete as in the top performer in 5 categories at the NFL combine in 2013 amongst all running backs.  The knock on him, and why he’s been cut 3-4 times is he’s not the smartest human – most notably he signaled a first down after hesitating and not getting it.  Another instance was waving off Marshawn Lynch coming onto the field as if he’s saying “I got this!”  If that type of behavior continues his time donning the green and gold will be short, just like Knile Davis.

Overall, the Packers have more talent than the Redskins but it’s obvious to many they have not been playing on the same page for quite some time.  I’m at the point with my favorite team that until they show they can win a football game, it’d be irresponsible to pick them.

Packers 24
Redskins 34

*Sadly the record is now 15-12 as I picked correctly against my beloved Packers.  Almost time to begin rooting for losses so that major change occurs. ***

Getting Close to Placing Blame…

Unlike most, maybe all, Packer fans I’m not disgusted or disgruntled after this performance.  Why?  Although picking Green Bay to win, I’m not shocked this team lost to arguably a bottom 5 team in the NFL, at home, in perfect conditions.  Following the game, Indianapolis now possesses the 13th ranked offense and the 29th ranked defense.  There were countless times where Packer receivers were open for quick, easy 5-10 yard gains and Rodgers either didn’t see them or chose to find someone else further downfield.  Either way, when will most fans come to the realization he’s at fault for this?  The offense has changed a bit over the last 4-5 games in design to get pass-catchers open quickly to offset the lack of rushing attack, and yet it’s only come to fruition for a half here or a half there (Chicago and Atlanta)…The question is now, aside from being a blind fan of the team, why should anyone expect a turnaround and this team to string along multiple quarters let alone games in order to become a championship-caliber team?  The answer: No one should expect it.  Demand it, but you’re setting yourself up for pointless heartbreak if you think this team will magically become great.  Even in 2010, this team didn’t look like it was stuck in neutral on both sides of the ball.

Moving on to Tennessee, another un-common opponent.  The Titans are the 8th ranked offense, overall and have the 16th rated defense.  Meanwhile the Packers are rated 16th and 7th on offense and defense, respectively.  I’m not sure how this matchup really works out.  The Titans pose a tough rushing attack with Demarco Murray and last year’s Heisman winner, Derrick Henry.  They’ve combined for 1,028 yards rushing already through nine (9) games – averaging 114 yards/game rushing.  Combine that with their versatile/rushing QB Marcus Mariota (keep in mind that Colin Kaepernick should have Dom Capers on retainer) and they’re the 3rd best rushing offense in football.  It should be a good matchup between their rushing attack and the Packers’ best rush defense.

All in all, Rodgers might be beyond repair (hopefully I won’t have to write about this in the offseason), the Packers’ defense is being rebuilt in front of our eyes (5+ starters on their first contract) – I wouldn’t say this season is lost ONLY due to it being a potential re-tooling.  However, I may have said this before, but unless this team actually wins the Super Bowl there’s absolutely no reason, aside from blind fandom, to believe this organization is capable of winning a title this season based on what you’ve seen.

Packers 27
Titans 30

*14-12 after my dumba$$ picked the Packers…I won’t until they give me a reason.*

Almost half-way…

While the Packers held Julio Jones to 3 catches for 29 yards, Matt Ryan was still able to have a very efficient game with almost no pass rush disrupting him.  Had one told me the Packers’ defense would hold Atlanta to sub-300 yards passing and under 100 yards rushing, while Green Bay didn’t have a single turnover, I would’ve thought it would be a victory.  Sadly it wasn’t…let’s take a brief look as to why.

Recap – it seems that the biggest reason to the Packers’ most recent loss can be attributed to the lack of pass rush.  I could take a deeper dive into QB pressures, hurries, etc. – however let’s just look at sacks.  It seemed that there was little pass rush outside of the 2 sacks recorded (averaged 3.5 sacks/contest the first four games, and under 2 sacks/game the last three) as Matt Ryan completed 28 of 35 for 288 yards and 3 TDs.  Dom Capers elected to play coverage v Atlanta the entire game-winning drive which proves to me that unless the Packers can generate a consistent pass rush with 4, maybe 5, rushers it’ll be a tough time holding good offenses under 30 points.

The defensive backs seemed to do OK, just couldn’t make a play on the final drive…while injuries are no excuse and It’s realistic to expect that the dbacks could be roughed up for the rest of the season, the optimist in me hopes these kids (Gunter #36 mainly) grows up fast and can turn into a really good player.

The greater concern for Packer fans should arise from Clay Matthews missing yet another game and not being available to at least provide depth to what we now know is the major key to the defense: pass rush.  There’s an argument to be made for Green Bay to not keep him on the roster next year with his salary cap hitting $17,350,000 next year…for a player that’s not nearly as productive as Nick Perry this season and being on the wrong side of 30 doesn’t have the upside of Kyler Fackrell, for example.

To be clear, I’m not advocating to cut Clay Matthews, but don’t be shocked OR mad if it happens in camp next year if this lack of production continues.

Preview – the Colts are one of the more odd teams in the NFL.  They seem to be the poor man’s version of the Green Bay Packers.  Indianapolis has one of the premier players in the NFL, Andrew Luck, but he’s not as productive/efficient as he receives credit.  Luck has 16 passing TDs while throwing 5 interceptions with 4 fumbles.  Those are very similar numbers to his counterpart, Aaron Rodgers (17 TDs, 4 INTs, 6 fumbles), and as usual it’ll likely come down to the play of the QB in this one, just like last week.  The Colts have an over-the-hill running back in Frank Gore, an awful offensive line, and decent talent at receiver led by TY Hilton.  Hilton is a speed receiver that ran a 4.34 forty-yard dash at the combine and can pose a deep threat.  I believe the absolute key to this game is to generate a consistent pass rush and get in Luck’s face.  He’s prone to turning the ball over with his immense strength and athletic ability to keep plays alive, it should be used against him by forcing him to make throws under duress.

The Packers offense gets Ty Montgomery back this week, and there’s no reason to think that he shouldn’t be a major difference-maker in this one.  He’s turning into a matchup issue for opposing defenses and until we see someone stop him, expect him to be the extension of the running game (short passes out of the backfield, draws, and screens).  The offensive line played OK v Atlanta, but missed a few assignments on crucial plays in the 2nd half.  Starting center JC Tretter will miss this game, but Green Bay returns Corey Linsley, who is a better run blocker than Tretter and, I believe, just as good if not better than Tretter overall at the center position.

Look for some points to be scored this week, for what it’s worth the over/under is 55 and Green Bay is favored by 8….seems about right.  This is a below average Colts team that’s desperate for a win, but there’s a reason they’re desperate for a win – they’re not good.  The Packers should win this game, and if playing to their capabilities could roll easily.

Colts 27
Packers 34

*Unfortunately I picked a LOSS correctly last week…record is now 14-11.*