Best Chance to Improve = NOW

Review—well that was the epitome of a clunker.  The Packers came out uninspired and seemed almost drained from their effort the week prior.  The Quarterback could’ve played better, but hit enough throws to keep the ball moving down the field, but the overall mistakes were far too great and frequent to overcome.  The multiple drops by, usually reliable, Randall Cobb that all seem to come on crucial 3rd downs.  Aaron Rodgers’ top target, Davante Adams had a killer drop as well—let’s not forget the game-altering drop by Lance Kendricks that too would’ve changed the complexion of the game, and easily the outcome.  Lastly, I promise (this is how bad it was), the Kentrell Brice experiment, I hope, has run its course.  The guy can tackle, but as for knowing where to be and ball skills, he’s cost Green Bay 2 wins AND Mohammad Wilkerson’s career in Green Bay.  It’s hard to imagine Jermaine Whitehead or Raven Greene being worse.  They’re at least worth finding out…it appears that’s one of 3 areas of major concern for this organization- followed by Offensive Line depth, and Pass Rushers.

Green Bay now sits with the 18th (14th points) ranked offense and 23rd (point too) ranked defense.  All too familiar ground for this organization since the 2010 season.  The encouraging thing is that this team plays near lights out defense for halves at a time, but unfortunately that’s only been good enough to win 1 of 3 games, and that won’t cut it.  The offense isn’t innocent either, but since the QB was hobbled, the short-passing game is quite effective.  However, like in week 2, there are too many drives that stall, so hopefully McCarthy (and Rodgers) stick to the running game with the return of Aaron Jones, who seems to be the back that can thrive with the QB like Rodgers and in the offense like Mac’s.  Enough about the mistake-riddled week 3, on to Buffalo.

Preview—the Packers will don their throwback uniforms and welcome the Buffalo Bills, who are coming off a throttling of the Minnesota Vikings, in Minneapolis.  The Bills could not have looked worse in their week 1 game vs Baltimore and in week 2

24th (10th in points) ranked Defense and 31st (29th in points) ranked Offense.  So the Packers have a good match-up, or at least a prime opportunity to improve their rankings on each side of the ball and instill confidence in themselves (or at least some of the fan base) moving forward after getting out of the first quarter of the season.  The next 4 games, after week 4, prove to be quite difficult and with the tie vs Minnesota acting as a loss, it’s imperative Green Bay finds a way to win this game vs Buffalo and to then go 3-1 in those games…so a 6-1-1 record in the 1st half of the season at least gives them a chance for a top 2 seed in the NFC playoff seeding.

Prediction Time– Last checked, Green Bay are 9.5 point favorites, which sounds about right.  The Bills bring in a rookie QB (Josh Allen) that brings a cannon-arm, but also is going to give his opponent plentiful opportunities for interceptions, whether the Packers can capitalize on those occurrences may be the difference between a win and a loss.  Green Bay can’t afford to have another clunker of a game, they’re just not that talented, or at least not there yet to win games by playing average.

Look for the Packers to showcase the same offense they have as of recent, pistol formation with quick passes and hopefully quite a bit more rush attempts for #33.

Bills 21
Packers 27

33-22— getting through the 1st quarter of the season with a 2-1-1 record wouldn’t be a success, but it at least puts the Packers in position to build on success and create some momentum heading into the thick of the season.

Looking far ahead, because that’s what fans (can) do.  Assuming Green Bay can beat up on the Bills tomorrow, they will travel to Detroit, which will be tough, but a must-win game (tiebreakers involved). Then come home for a much less-threatening game vs the Jimmy G-less 49ers for a Monday night showdown.  Of these next 3 games, 4-1-1 is pretty much a must.  GO PACK GO!

Letdown @ Lambeau

It’s almost not worth covering, but much like the 2014 NFC title game in Seattle, the Packers had countless opportunities to close that game out and couldn’t.  In last week’s entry, I claimed that in “Rodgers + McCarthy have enough “winning” experience to pull through >50% in a close game, however, I just can’t bring myself to pick the Packers to win this game. “

Just the opposite happened, the Packers controlled the entire game, and when it got close, the Vikings made the plays needed to win, except a kick that would’ve actually determined a winner.  The Packers showed their inexperience in the defensive backfield (or lack of speed) after not responding following the atrocious “roughing the passer” call on Clay Matthews.  Captain Average marched down the field with little difficulty and tied the ball game, leaving 0:31 on the clock for Rodgers to lead his offense down only to have Mason not hit a clutch game-winner.  All in all it was a weird game that likely will come back to bite the Packers in playoff seeding.

The Vikings didn’t disrupt, as much as I thought, what the Packers wanted to do on offense.  Kudos to the gameplan, keeping the short passes and 3-step (pistol) drops in play to keep a rhythm, however, only 1 offensive TD, at home, won’t get it done.  The production must be better if this team has any chance of getting where they need to go.  However, overall that only led to one offensive TD and that won’t cut it at home, vs anyone.

As for the defense, a lot will be made of the Clay hit, however new Def Coordinator, Mike Pettine, was concerned with the lack of response by his defense.  There was still an 8 point lead, at home and roughly 55 yards left with under 1:30, but the Packers’ D gave up those 8 points in about a minute.  That’s the concerning thing (not sure if it’s more concerning than the NFL taking tackling out of the game, but that’s an entirely different issue).  Much like the 2014 NFC title game in Seattle, there were a slew of plays that could’ve been made to ice this game, but in the end, neither team deserved to win so justly there was a tie.

Enter the Washington Redskins.  1-1 and coming off an awful performance vs the Indianapolis Colts, the Skins don’t really pose much of a threat, on either side of the ball.  They bring the 27th ranked offense and 2nd ranked defense which might be fool’s gold.  They’ve played Arizona Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts—both teams are heaping piles of garbage, so the fact they’re ranked so low on offense and high on defense is quite misleading.  The low ranking on offense is very embarrassing and the Packers shouldn’t have too tough a time keeping them under 20 points…unless Kevin King is that big of a lynch pin to this defense, which is an entirely different issue altogether.  The Packers’ offense should be able to move the ball consistently and hang 30 points, with their QB getting into a rhythm and constantly keeping the pressure on Alex Smith and the Skins.  Watch for the return of the Jonesssssss.  Both Aaron Jones (HB) and Josh Jones (S) should hopefully make their season debuts Sunday, along with rookie ILB Oren Burks.  While Washington doesn’t have a scary offense, they do possess Jordan Reed, an athletic TE that presents mismatches all over the field.  Look for Burks and/or Josh Jones to take him out of the game.

There’s always one game the Packers lose where they have no business doing so, I don’t see that being this game.  (Also, for clarification, I mean before the game, not completely controlling the Vikings game until Green Bay needed 2 missed OT field goals to not lose).  Since I wasn’t right in my call, I can’t count that as a win, so I’ll fly the L there.

Look for the Packer to incorporate Aaron Jones and hit the quick passing attack early and often, and for the Packers’ D to get a few stops.

Packers 31
Redskins 20


Better when Hurt????

What was lost in the “magic” of last week’s comeback was the reason the Packers fell down 20-0 in the 3rd quarter.  Calling the gameplan “suspect,” would be doing a disservice to OJ’s status in the murder trial in 1994 (too soon?).  McCarthy opened the game with a couple of runs with some good gains, then completely bailed on any formation that would offer deception (5-wide) and subsequently shot his team in the foot.  Momentum, gone.  The Packers over the past few years have shown to start games off strong.  Mac’s gameplan tested the Bears to see if and how they’d use Khalil Mack—which was (without hindsight) dumb.

As for Mike Pettine’s newfound defense…the first series seemed all too familiar from the Dom Capers’-led defenses of the last 9 years.  However, upon seeing Nagy’s offense (Chicago’s new head coach, former OC from Kansas City), the defense tightened up.  So much that the packers gave up 294 yards total. After getting dominated on the first two possessions, the newly led defense progressively improved ultimately saving their best for last…overcoming the ultimate bonehead play by 10-year vet, Clay Matthews, and turning the ball over on downs.  Should Green Bay avg. 294 yards given up/game, that’d land them 4th in yards last year.  Based on math alone, Rodgers converts top 5 defenses into a Super Bowl victory 50% of the time…

Currently on the season, Rodgers ranks 17th with a rating of 64.2 from  Many (if not all) would argue the value of ranking/grading, however over the course of the season it’s pretty objective and consistent among all players.  What it doesn’t take into account is the fact that QBs (Rodgers for this example) throws to his WRs with the idea they can make a play, it’s how the offense is designed.  So technically he gets “dinged” on those grades sometimes.  Either way, there’s zero chance the Packers win without him, or that throw to Allison…yeah buddy!

Let’s move on to the next opponent: Minnesota.  Since 1992 (Favre’s first season playing) the Vikings have been the main rival to Green Bay.  The defending NFC North champions (as if that’s an accomplishment, oh wait, it is for 3 teams…) bring the 2nd and 3rd ranked DTs to the Packers’ woeful OL Sunday.  Mike Zimmer (Min’s head coach) loves to jam the middle of the opposition’s OL, and that’s the Packers’ weakness on offense: Taylor (66.6); Linsley (59.8); McCray (68.4).  Minnesota hold the strong advantage vs the Packers and that could stymie the ground attack that McCarthy desperately needs to establish if he wants to come out victorious.  The rest of the Vikings defense didn’t’ score all that well (source: PFF), Linval Joseph (89.9) and Sheldon Richardson (89.8) pose a serious problem, but if the Packers can mimic the gameplan from the 2nd half of the Bears game, there’s a real chance they could control the entire game, and score more points than their opponent (yay! 🙂 ).

Kirk Cousins, nicknames Captain Kirk from the great William Shatner, otherwise I call him “Captain Average,” was just that, 71.4 (11th) vs. a bad 49er defense.  If the Packers can create a little pressure or disguise coverage, there’s a chance they could create a couple interceptions, and if one could go for 6 that might be the difference needed to win the game.

Overall—there’s part of me that thinks Rodgers + McCarthy have enough “winning” experience to pull through >50% in a close game, however, I just can’t bring myself to pick the Packers to win this game.  I’ll be there to lose my voice and cheer them on, doing my part, but hopefully I’m wrong.

Vikings 23
Packers 20

33-20: win this and 2-0 with a bunch of tiebreakers would set the best tone for a season to build on!!!!!!!!!!

Bear Down on Big Mack?

Bear week.  Since 1992 it’s seemed to account for an automatic 1.75 wins/year for Green Bay.  Will it be that way again?  Let’s take a look.

Chicago—if you haven’t heard, you’re likely not reading this, but the Bears acquired Khalil Mack, arguably the best defensive player in the NFL.  Chicago already had a top 10 defense (9th) a season ago and with adding Mack, likely will only improve.  The Bears are the latest team to follow the trend of trying to build a winner around (what they think is) a talented QB before having to pay him QB $.  From what we saw of Mitch Trubisky a season ago left a lot to be desired.  Many Chicago sportscasters/writers claim his instincts from the tape they watched on him at UNC were “great.” However, 2 of the three sacks he took from Nick Perry last year stick in my mind that were automatic throw aways without being under duress and he still found a way to take a sack, twice.  Of course QBs can (and do) grow, however I’ll be skeptical on Mitchell’s growth until I see it…at least enough growth to turn Chicago into a title contender.

Green Bay—the return of Aaron Rodgers is obviously a difference-maker between making the postseason and being a 7-9 ball club.  The optimist in me says that was a great thing as it cleaned most of the house (Ted, Capers, etc.), but 2 of the 3 remain: QB; Head Coach.  Hopefully new Defensive Coordinator, Mike Pettine, can have the impact like he did in NY when he was with the Jets…those were some solid defenses that were QB’d by an atrocious player, Mark Sanchez.  As for this game, look for the Packers to disguise their pressure, but to get after the 2nd year man (Trubisky) and force his decision-making to his 1st or 2nd read in hopes that the zone is tight and they can pick him off a couple of times.

As for how this game goes, for some reason I think it’ll be like the regular season game from 2016 vs the NY Giants.  The Packers won 23-16, but Rodgers threw 2 TDs with 2 INTs, very un-Rodgers-like, but the defense was able to keep Eli out of the end zone for the most part and essentially win the game.  I think this game will resemble that…the Bears have a solid defense, and the Packers have talent on the defensive-side of the ball, since it’s the regular season and no impact of weather, I’ll trust the better QB to take care of the ball at times where it matters and to make a few more throws in key situations.

Bears 16
Packers 23

Record: 32-20…Go Pack Go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


We Made It!!!

YESH!!! (Marv Albert voice).  The NFL is officially here!  Of course that brings a whole bunch of excitement, and for some Packer fans, it led off with the painful announcement of the Chicago Bears acquiring the best defender in the game to shore up an already top 10 defense.  Khalil Mack could’ve possibly have been the Reggie White-type acquisition this team seems to require in order to win another Lombardi trophy.  However, he’s down in Chicago, hopefully wasting his career and never winning a ring.

With that, let’s get onto the season.  As you may recall, the Philadelphia Eagles turned around from 7-9 in 2016 to earn the 1 seed at 13-3 and win the Super Bowl.  Is there a team capable of that this year??? (see where I’m going with this?).  Let’s find out!

Again, I actually nerd-out and take the time to go through every game of every team and mark the W/L for each accordingly, here’s what we have.

AFC North       NFC North    
3Baltimore 10 6 1Green Bay 11 5
5Pittsburgh 10 6 5Minnesota 11 5
Cincinnati 6 10 Chicago 8 8
Cleveland 5 11 Detroit 6 10
AFC South   NFC South  
4Houston 10 6 3Atlanta 10 6
6Jacksonville 10 6 6New Orleans 10 6
Tennessee 7 9 Carolina 9 7
Indianapolis 4 12 Tampa Bay 6 10
AFC East   NFC East  
1New England 13 3 4Philadelphia 9 7
Buffalo 9 7 Dallas 8 8
Miami 5 11 Washington 8 8
NY Jets 4 12 NY Giants 4 12
AFC West   NFC West  
2LA Chargers 11 5 2LA Rams 10 6
Oakland 9 7 San Francisco 9 7
Kansas City 8 8 Seattle 6 10
Denver 8 8   Arizona 4 12

While I feel realistic about Green bay going 11-5, I don’t think 11-5 will net the 1 seed.  However, in this case, that’s what happened.  So let’s go!  With these standings there were some tiebreakers that would go to the 3rd or even 4th line, without figuring the score for each game of each team I just gave the div titles to Bal, Hou, and Atl.  Is it important? Absolutely, but we carry on.

Wildcard round—

  • Min @ Phi—rematch of the NFC title game, and I think it’s much closer than that game, however I believe the result is the same: the Eagles fly to Green Bay winning 24-20.
  • NO @ Atl—a divisional rival match, which I believe home field is so important…Atlanta triumphs with their opportunistic defense and bests Brees and the Saints, 27-21.
  • Jax @ Bal—yawn, for us NFC fans, however this could be a defensive battle and while rookie QB Lamar Jackson provides a shot in the arm, it’s too little too late vs the Jaguars great defense, Jags move on: 21-17.
  • Pit @ Hou—this has Saturday night written all over it, and it could be fun! The Watt bros. battle it out, along with all the dynamic playmakers on both teams on both sides of the ball…this could be fun! It might resemble the 2016 divisional playoff game when a savvy vet (Rodgers) in this case, Big Ben, comes into the young, inexperienced QB (Dak) Watson and we have a shootout!  I tip my cap to the vet, Steelers win a nail-bitter: 34-31.

Divisional Round—

  • Phi @ GB—better take care of home field! The defending champs come to Lambeau in a Saturday night battle at Lambeau in a “warm” January night (30 degrees), Rodgers and the offense, littered with rookies that have hit the proverbial wall, but warm up in the 2nd half and pull out a sloppy game: 29-24.
  • Atl @ LAR—a wild card rematch, however this one is a bit more fun than last year’s…Jared Goff and Gurley III light up the scoreboard, but they’re done in by one of their many big offseason acquisitions, Marcus Peters. He gets beat late in the 4th, twice by Julio Jones and the Falcons win: 28-24.
  • Jax @ NE—what’s the point of breaking this down? Tom at home, in the playoffs…they win: 31-14.
  • Pit @ LAC—is this Philip Rivers’ last hoorah?   This generation’s version of Dan Marino continues to carry that torch and doesn’t win when the lights are bright.  While the Chargers may have the most-balanced team of talent spread out in the NFL, the lack of experience is just too much…Steel city prevails: 27-14.

Championship Sunday—(one of the best days of the year)

  • Pit @ NE—while this is the 2nd game of the day, let’s save the best for last. Big Ben vs Tommy Boy.  What a great final 4 on Champ Sunday.  The Steelers lead late, by 3, with the ball and they’re driving, but are held to a field goal.  The Pats get the ball back on the 25 after a touchback with 1:47 left….you know how this ends—Brady hits some no-name WR for a TD with 0:06 left and the Pats go to their 9th Super Bowl in the Brady/Belicheck era: 28-27.
  • Atl @ GB—a 2016 rematch of the boat race in Atlanta. This is a back & forth match up, but the Packers’ lack of OL depth does them in when Bulaga exits early with an injury, and while the musical chairs OL holds up for most of the game, a key 3rd and 7 late in the 4th with Green Bay leading, allows quick pressure and Rodgers dumps it off to Monty for a 5-yard gain to their own 40.  The Packers punt and pin Atlanta deep, but the rookie Corners I mentioned earlier give way to the best WR in the game, Julio, for 2 big 4th down conversions and Matty Ice dumps off a 4th and goal with 0:20 left to Coleman for a TD…Atlanta is victorious, in Lambeau, in the title game (ugh, god that would suck so hard b/c I’d probably pay to go): 27-24.

Super Bowl LIII—

  • Atl vs NE—version 2.0. As much as it would blow for the Packers to be at home in the title game, to have what every NFL fan deserves (Brady v Rodgers super bowl), we would be treated to a rematch of the best Super Bowl ever.
    • Could Matt Ryan choke any harder than 28-3? That’s actually impossible…I think…but if anyone could???
  • Tom comes through to Gronk for 2 scores early 14-0 in the 1st, but don’t score entering the 4th, with Atlanta up 17-14. They trade TDs with Tom getting the ball with 5 minutes left down 24-21…Brady hands it off to rookie Sony Michel for a score to regain the lead, 28-24.  Matt Ryan has a chance to redeem himself and lead a 2 minute drill for 6 to best the GOAT, on the biggest stage.  (Enter choke artist)…they come up short on 4th & 8 on the Pats’ 25.  Brady hoists his 6th Lombardi trophy and everyone outside of Boston is pissed.

The main question is, if this happens, Green Bay losing a home NFC title game, again, under Mike McCarthy, is that enough to move the Big Guy out of town?  I don’t know, but regardless, I’d feel a LOT better going into 2019 as those rookies, whom I believe are going to be good, at least 3 of them, will get a ton of great experience…If you’re still reading, you’re likely Ruth 🙂


Miss Me? Wild Day, Let’s Cover It

Hello, it’s been a while, again, however I thought it’d be less stressful to let the preseason playout vs. writing weekly trying to figure out things that ultimately won’t matter, i.e. who will be the 7th wide receiver, will the Packers keep 3 quarterbacks, etc.  With that, let’s cover the major items that have occurred since Aug 4th.

Aaron Rodgers’ contract – the Packers and their uber-talented QB agreed to a 4 year, $134M extension.  What does this mean?  Better question that I’ve posed is How does this help the Green Bay Packers?  Honestly.

  • Did it free up some cap space? Maybe for this year, and possibly next.  Not enough space to give the ability to acquire, say, Khalil Mack (more on that later, btw).
  • Does this give the Packers more control, longer control? Not really, the Packers had 2 years of contract remaining (2018 and 2019), then could franchise tag him for 3 years following (2020 would be an avg. of the top 5 salaries for QBs, 2021 would be 120% of that salary, 2022 would be 140% of 2021’s salary).
  • Does it make him happy, and re-motivate him? Hopefully he didn’t need that to be better.
  • Does this mean Rodgers will let off and fade away? Doubtful, he doesn’t strike me as the person, player that will fall off, at least not because he was paid. Age?  That might be a different reason, but he was under control until he was 39 anyway.

Khalil Mack—with the Rodgers contract out of the way, the fans’ next priority was to go after Mack, arguably the best defender in the NFL.  As I write this, the Bears and Raiders have agreed to a trade that will send the 2-time All-Pro to Chicago in exchange for what is believed to be multiple 1st round draft picks and possibly a starting caliber player.  While I would’ve been all for this trade by the Packers, the problem is Chicago could offer more, AND justify spending more $ on Mack with their available cap space.

53-Man Roster—I write this (well began before the cuts) after the finalized roster was made.  Although there were some puzzling cuts/keeps, I think the roster will change over a bit before the week 1 kickoff vs. Chicago.  However, the Packers kept 8 WRs, 4 TEs, and 2 HBs.  We know there will be a change come Week 3 with the Halfbacks once Aaron Jones is reinstated after serving his 2-game suspension.  He’s also, I believe, the best back the Packers have.  After that, there were no Fullbacks kept which is a sign of possibly 2 things:

  1. There will be no I-form sets this year L (QB under center, with a fullback and Halfback both directly lined up behind the QB).
  2. Mercedes Lewis and/or Lance Kendricks will be used as a make-shift FB…I’m all for that!

It still feels like Brian Gutekunst will be making changes prior to Sun, Sept 9th.  Plus, as I write this (11p-ish  on Sept 1) there are rumors about Green Bay making trades for Sea’s all-world Safety, Earl Thomas (yes please).  There are also players cut by other teams (Min DE Brian Robison for example) that could come in and contribute at areas of need, immediately.  Either way, from what Gutey has shown so far, he’s a bit more active, while being conservatively smart, than his predecessor was of late.

Optimism??—many of you that converse with me, especially consistently, know how I feel about almost every aspect of this great organization…however, there’s a reason to think this team can win a Super Bowl this year.  It might take quite a bit of luck and timing, but then again, what team that wins doesn’t require that stuff?

  1. Luck—I could cover health, but that’s too obvious/easy. How about not getting screwed in a key game with these new helmet-to-helmet penalties?  I truly worry that a team’s season will come down to, what many consider (myself included), the wussification of the NFL.
  2. Timing—what I mean by timing is a bit difficult to follow, but here’s hoping I’m able to communicate properly. Rookies rarely contribute, it usually takes 2+ years for them to help in a major way, unless you’re the 2017 Saints…the rookies will need early snaps to get their feet wet, but the veterans to fill in when the learning curve gets to be too much, so the Packers can still win games.  Then later in the season, before the rookie wall hits they can contribute so the veterans don’t get burned out and can save their legs.  Does that all make sense?

If that happens, along with the new defense gelling enough, this team could earn a top 2 seed in the NFC.  If the Packers can get the 1 seed, there’s a realistic chance they could get to the Super Bowl…and as critical as I am of Aaron Rodgers, all I can judge him on in the Super Bowl is an MVP-caliber performance, which is expected if he gets there again J

Realistically?—the optimistic-realist in me thinks any team experiencing this much change doesn’t win a World Championship the following season.  I do believe the Green & Gold can get to the playoffs and possibly win a game – stop me if that sounds familiar – but the soonest they win a ring is next year, then again does that mean it’s impossible?