Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My Take -> Week 17

Greetings, G-Force.

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

We are all a product of our roots. We apply those roots to our present state and the culmination of those experiences defines us. Some moments in our lives carry more meaning than others. Some are positive and some are negative. My roots began in Titletown, U.S.A. I couldn’t be more proud of my upbringing. When this blog started in the early 2000’s, my mission was to write with an optimistic, yet realistic approach to the current state of the Packers union. For the most part, I feel I’ve held true to that philosophy. I’ve tried to provide a different outlook than you’ll receive from the mass media or from other bloggers. I’m not a frontrunner. I’m a loyalist. I’ve tried to keep my identity. As I write today, I’m in utter disbelief. Yes, it’s easy to focus on the 2nd shutout loss at Lambeau in 2017. That was disgusting. Consistently, we failed to execute. But, frankly, that wasn’t the thing that bothered me most. What hurt the most is that it feels as though the Green Bay Packers community is vastly different than the one I grew up loving.

Growing up in Titletown, U.S.A.; it was almost a Badge of Honor that was earned when you sat in the cold and defeated the temperatures as you rooted on your beloved Green Bay Packers. These days – it feels as though that Badge no longer exists. As I watched the extensive Purple colored clothing yell with excitement in Lambeau Field, I couldn’t help but remember December 11, 1988. The Green Bay Packers were 2-12. Playing their 15th game of the year. The ‘queens were 10-4. It was 6 degrees. The wind chill was -7. The ‘queens were on their way to the playoffs. The Packers appeared headed to the 1st pick of the draft. Troy Aikman was destined to become a Packer. I was 11 years old. I remember sitting in the heart of those frigid temperatures with my Family. I remember my brother Chad and I reaching across our Mom as Tim Harris notched a sack to belt out an excitable high five. I remember Packers fans walking proudly throughout the Stadium. Packers fans left Lambeau with grins that day. We upped our record to 3-12. We had hindered our chances at getting the #1 pick, but the Packers had claimed victory. And, really, that’s all that mattered.

Today, it’s clearly different. Admittedly, I have had a tough time relating to these current times. As I watched the 15th game of the 2017 season, a piece of my Packers spirit felt weakened. The Faithful seemed less loyal. The temperature was 10 degrees. The Packers were playing the queens. The Packers were eliminated from playoff contention. The queens were playoff bound. The queens were 8.5 point favorites. In 1988, the queens were 10.5 point favorites. But, while in 1988 the Packers fans were rowdily rooting on their team to victory, in 2017, it felt as though a number of Packers fans had sold their tickets to the Dark Side. They had let the enemy into the elements and cozied up to a fireplace.

Some Packers fans will call their disappearance a failure by the Packers meeting expectations. Others will say that it appeared as though the Packers fans suddenly became antagonistic frontrunners. Not only has the organization sunk to new lows in 2017, but the fan base shrunk from the mountaintop to a deep valley.

I’m sure that a number of the same “fans” that are calling for the heads of Thompson, Capers and/or McCarthy are the same “fans” that sold their tickets.

For me, I watch the Packers for entertainment purposes. I believe in energy creation. I believe that fans can make a difference. I believe in the connection between a team and their fanbase. Win or lose, I tune in to enjoy the experience. The result is not always what I hoped for, but I can control how much enthusiasm I carry. Today, it feels like talking Packers football is like talking politics or religion. It seems like it’s easier to get into a disagreement with someone than it is to have a productive conversation. Such is the state of the union for the Packers community. That – for me – is tough to stomach.

Over the last 25 years, the Packers have been to 3 Super Bowls. We’ve been to 7 NFC Championship Games. We’ve won 2 Super Bowls. We’ve been to the playoffs 19 times. Has all of this success made us Elitists? Do we no longer support our adored franchise in times of strife? Sad to think about.

It scares me to think about the way our youthful Packers fans are being raised. It's the complete opposite spectrum as to how I remember my brother, Chad, and my cousin, Danny, watching this team as adolescents. We were three of less than 20,000 people that sat through the Snow Bowl in 1985. I remember the three of us sitting with my Uncle Tim and my Aunt Jeanne during the home opener in 1988. The Packers got destroyed by the Rams, 34-7. But, Johnny Holland was great that day. We stayed until the end to watch Holland rack up tackles. We were raised to support this team and to be present regardless of the outcome. As I watched the color Purple take over Lambeau Field, I couldn't help but feel disappointed. Where did my community go? And, are we teaching the youth right?

Brett Hundley played better than the results showed. His team couldn’t catch the football. Jordy had multiple drops. So, did Lance Kendricks. So, did Michael Clark. I seriously felt bad for Hundley. Other than his first interception, I felt like he played a decent game. Had his receivers caught the ball, his results would’ve been much different.

While the queens defense is pervaded by muscle-soaked, bone-crushing hitters, we’ve become pancake makers. We like our tackling to be soft and fluffy. I thought Reggie Gilbert played well against Minnesota. But, man, he had a chance to make a defining hit on Case Keenum. Keenum was rolling right. Gilbert was in fast pursuit. Keenum released. Gilbert had a chance to deliver a serious hit. Similar to what Barr had done to Rodgers earlier in the year. Instead, Gilbert gave him a soft love tap to the turf. For me, that hit would've been worth the possibility of offering up 15 yards. It had me think: Where’s the fire inside of this defense? Where’s the punch you in the mouth mentality? Dom Capers has failed to bring this defense to higher heights.

Lenzy Pipkins. Why hasn’t he played more often? He was the highlight of the game for me? Twice, inside the 5 he wrapped up to prevent the queens from punching it into the end zone. He has the mentality that this defense needs. I’m not claiming he’s ever going to be elite, but he has the mentality, the swagger and the confidence that our secondary is so painfully lacking.

Michael Clark. A couple of riveting moments. Two absolutely brutal moments. Both in single coverage. Both should have been big plays.

David Bakhtiari is a superstar.

Wish HaHa had pulled in that interception.

Once again, Kenny Clark was dynamite!

Kyler Fackrell grabbed another sack on a hustle play. As I said last week, he’s doing just enough to stick around for another year. Much to my chagrin.

It’s locked in. The Packers will finish third in the Division. We’ll probably have a top 15 pick, too. If we stay in the top 15, we should be able to identify a year 1 difference maker on the defensive side of the ball.

This week – it’s the Lions. The Lions will likely be without three starting OL. Thus, look for Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark to dominate the interior of the line. They get in Stafford’s face. Stafford throws two gifts for interceptions.

Hundley plays composed. He looks to establish rapport with Michael Clark. Clark shows he’s comfortable with the offense. This time – he hangs onto the ball for a TD.

Jamaal Williams runs hard. He bruises his way into the Lions secondary.

The Packers close on a winning note.

Packers 28.
Lions 27.

For now, I’m signing off. In times of trouble, we call upon the most high. Through thick and thin, please remember to always BACK THE PACK!

Go Pack Go!

Talkin’ S-Mac.
Talkins-mac.blogspot.com

Thursday, December 21, 2017

My Take -> Week 16

Greetings, G-Force.

Yoda, the Master of all Jedi’s, states: “The greatest teacher, failure is.” The 2017 Season was a failure. A full-out waste. A true bummer. An utter disappointment. How the Packers respond to this failure is something I’ll watch with great curiosity. The Packers can’t continue to walk down the same path and expect to watch different outcomes. Something needs to change on the defensive side of the ball. It’s been our demise for too long.

I’m the kind of guy that loves the same through thick and thin. Life’s road isn’t always easy. There’s a roller coaster to life. And, with perseverance, when you hit the bottom, you climb to the top again. It’s a boomerang effect. The Green Bay Packers have brought great joy to my life. 2017 was fun while it lasted and I’m grateful that we got the Rodgers game at Carolina. But, in the end, it wasn’t meant to be. And, so, this Christmas season will not include meaningful Packers games. It won’t include high impact sports drama. That’s really unfortunate.

I listen to John Lennon’s Power to the People: The Hits. The three song concoction of “Imagine”, “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” and “Give Peace a Chance” is as magical as it gets. Beautifully concocted. Lyrically powerful. Spiritually moving.

Here are my quick vibes from the last week:

Mike McCarthy. The Packers are fortunate to have him. He took over a dying franchise in 2006. In 2007, the Packers went to the NFC Championship. In 2009, one year after the face of the franchise dramatically exited the organization, the Packers were back in the playoffs. In 2010, we won the Super Bowl. In 2011, we went 15-1. In 2012 and 2013, we won the Division. In 2014, we made it to the NFC Championship Game. In 2015, we made the playoffs with the majority of our starters injured. In 2016, we made it to the NFC Championship. In 2017, we hit rock bottom. I don’t place the blame on him. The quickest way for the Packers to climb back to the top is to keep the QB + Head Coach combination intact. Other changes need to occur.

Dom Capers has to go. It’s time. The Packers needed the defense to carry the weight without Aaron Rodgers. The defense failed mightily.

Crazy to think, but next year, the Packers will likely have a 3rd place schedule. We’ll play the NFC West and we’ll likely have games against Washington and Atlanta.

I’m not a guy who enjoys being negative about something I’m invested in. I don’t see that purpose in life. I like to find solutions to present or to give optimistic energy with a hope for the future. All year, I thought that McCarthy’s leadership and Rodgers’ energy would spark a run. I felt like there were magical things happening around the franchise. It faltered quickly. On each of Rodgers’ three interceptions, he had WR’s streaking open. On each play, he underthrew the WR. We’ve been accustomed to seeing those plays result in TD’s. Against Carolina, they were turnovers.

Shocking to see how much Josh Jones regressed this year.

Marwin Evans. How did he go from being the best player on the field in August to a nobody in the regular season?

Need to play the young guys moving forward. Let’s see what Michael Clark can do. I’d play him extensively this week. Get him some live action.

Next year – when building the team – the Packers should look at patching together depth holes with players in their low-to-mid 30’s. Not necessarily to start, but guys who still have juice in the tank and can be used in the rotation. Ahmad Brooks was a highlight this year, when healthy. This is going to be a tough offseason. We drafted 4 players on defense last year and we were excited about all of them, but we didn’t learn anything from any of them in their rookie year. King, Adams and Biegel were hurt. Jones never settled in.

The Packers will enter into the 2018 offseason with more uncertainty than they’ve had since 2005. Prior to the 2016 season, I called it a Super Bowl or Bust season. I thought that a window was closing. I thought the window reopened with some masterful GM work from Thompson this offseason. I loved the Bennett signing. I loved the Draft. I was happy about Jahri Evans’ addition. I thought House could be a solid perimeter nickel corner. I liked the Dial, Brooks and Ricky Jean Francois signings. But, Bennett quit, Evans wore down and the Draft has as many question marks and thumbs down as exclamation points. Dial and Brooks got hurt for portions of the year and Ricky Jean Francois didn’t pan out. Consider that along with questions regarding the contracts and production from key components such as Bulaga, Clay, Nelson and Cobb; and all of a sudden, the Packers are looking like they’re entering a crucial, dangerous time in their franchise. The Packers will likely have 9 picks in the first 5 rounds, so they’ll have ammunition to add talent, but they’ll have to fill holes at RG, RT, TE, WR, OLB and CB.

I don’t fault Thompson for the 2017 failures. I put the 2017 failures solely on the defensive coordinator. He made fine work of the offseason and had the Packers reconstructed for a Super Bowl run. But, Dom Capers never maximized the defense’s potential. Sure, we could use injuries as the excuse. But, the defensive side of the ball was responsible for the team faltering down the stretch more often than not since the glorious XLV Super Bowl run. Capers has been given an arsenal of high draft picks in the secondary. Still, today, the secondary remains the weakest link on the roster. And, the successes of the likes of Casey Hayward + Micah Hyde post Green Bay shouldn’t be overlooked.

I seriously thought Rodgers would return as a savior. I thought he’d uplift the franchise, once again. He brought his spirit. He brought his swagger. He didn’t bring his A-game. I don’t fault him. It was great to see his competitive fire. It just wasn’t meant to be.

The Packers need to invest in two CBs. I'm not sure who is available as a 2018 NFL Free Agent, I’d either trade for or buy a highly priced FA CB and I’d draft a CB or two in the first 3 rounds. These days, CB is as important as any position on the field outside of QB.

With Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, the Packers RB position is set for the future. I also like Ty Montgomery. It’ll be interesting to see if the Packers can conjure a way to play both Williams and Jones. Williams seems like he needs multiple carries to get into a rhythm. He’s not a rotational back.

Kenny Clark is a sensational football player.

I’d rest Jahri Evans and play Lucas Patrick. Need to see what we have at RG going into next year.

I hope to see a lot of Vince Biegel, Montravious Adams and Lenzy Pipkins on the field this week. I want to see what those youngsters bring to the squad.

I wonder what Ted Thompson’s role is within the organization right now. Is he really the GM? Or is he a glorified aid as he grooms Elliot Wolf and Brian Gutekunst? A consultant, of sorts. Does Thompson accept more input from Wolf and Gutekunst than he did in past years? I tend to think so. It should be noted that Thompson wasn’t even giving a press conference after the picks like he did in years past. Instead, it was Wolf and Gutekunst that were most present. Further, the construction of the team didn’t have the Thompson print like past years. There was a different approach towards the construction of the team. The vision for building the team was vastly different than years past.

Davante Adams. Feel terrible for him. If healthy, he commands roughly $15 million in the open market. But, he’s had 3 concussions in the last 14-15 months. How much can you invest in a guy that has his injury history?

I no longer understand the rules of the game. What’s a catch? What’s not a catch? I don’t know. Neither do Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Mike Pereira.

This week – it’s the ‘queens coming to town. We’ll find out what kind of fight this team has in them. Will there be a revenge factor? Will we come out with an intense vengeance? Will we get feisty? Or will we be outmatched and overpowered?

I agree with David Bakhtiari’s assessment of how to approach this week. “I think we’ll see guys characters, who they are, and hopefully if there is any quitting – which I don’t intend on seeing, but if there are – hopefully, it’s noticed and gets weeded out.” My guess is that the Packers come out swinging. Intense. And, in some ways, cheap. Playing beyond the whistle. Playing with aggression. Frankly, they’ll be pissed off. The ‘queens are the little brother. They just took our prize for the 2nd time in 3 years. Each year – McCarthy has outcoached Zimmer once. My guess is that he devises a strategy to attack the ‘queens on the perimeter and pounds away at the heart of their interior.

Zimmer will definitely be dialing up blitzes. Hundley shows composure. He looks for the dump off. He plays safe.

The first time we played, Hundley was a turnover machine. This time – he protects the ball.

The temperature lingers near 0 degrees. Hits hurt. Mike Daniels, Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are determined to put pain into the ‘queens backfield. This is going to be a street fight. Look for a late night, rowdy Lambeau Field crowd to make a difference.

Hundley gets the ball late. Needing a TD. Again, he’s cool as a cucumber in hot sauce, baby. It’s Hundley running the 2 minute offense. It’s Hundley finding pay dirt as he scrambles free.

Packers 24.
‘queens 23.

For now and forever, GO PACK GO!

Talkin’ S-Mac.
Talkins-mac.blogspot.com

Saturday, December 16, 2017

My Take -> Week 15

Greetings, G-Force.

7-6! In dramatic fashion! Still alive. Not fully in control of our own destiny, but if we finish 10-6, you have to feel good about the prospects of making the playoffs. And, with the return of NFL Royalty, a sense of hope surrounds the franchise. There’s a belief that this team could put together a magical run to finish the season. With the way the NFC is shaping out, just get to the playoffs and let’s see how this thing plays out. There is no clear-cut favorite. If the Packers can sneak in, I can’t see a match-up that would scare me – other than at NO or at ATL. With the way it’s shaping up, I don’t see a possibility of the Packers playing at ATL unless it occurs in the NFC Championship Game.

As I write, I’m listening to Phish at Madison Square Garden. 7/23/17. “I’m vibrating with love and light. I’m pulsating with love and light. In a world gone mad, a world gone mad. There must be something more than this.”

Here are my quick vibes over the last week:

* An aggressive Mike McCarthy is a good Mike McCarthy. McCarthy was in his finest form on Sunday. I loved the fake punt call early in the game. And, the 4th down decision on the opening drive. The decision to go for it on 4th down would’ve led to a TD had Hundley flipped the ball to Aaron Jones. McCarthy made the necessary adjustments at halftime to keep the Browns defense guessing in the 2nd half. And, really, the Browns had no response for stopping the Packers offensive attack in the 2nd half. McCarthy had his young QB trained to find the check down and to avoid sacks. McCarthy provided his young QB with a wide array of receiving options. There were deep routes, crossing routes and backs/TE’s settling underneath. His young QB was in position to succeed.

* I love the 2017 Green Bay Packers. Fantastic intestinal fortitude. Like him or hate him, you can’t deny that Mike McCarthy’s teams never quit. They start adversity in the face. They persevere. Admittedly, with 2 minutes left in the 3rd Quarter, I’d lost hope. I thought the defense had faded into the Lake Erie wind. We were blown off the ball and had just seen a tremendous TD opportunity disappear due to a mental failure by our QB. But, the coolness of the Hundley & McCarthy combination was on display. In grand fashion. McCarthy kept Hundley confident. Hundley delivered. Thus, the Packers remain in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt.

* Brett Hundley. When it was all said and done, in games that he started, the Packers were 3-4. As a starter, he kept his team alive. In the end, isn’t that what we were looking for? Granted, it was a less than impressive for the most part. But, when it mattered most, Hundley was clutch. He delivered with the game on the line. Against Cleveland, he was dynamite. He faced a variety of looks, a vast array of blitzes. He finished 35/46. For 265 yards. He had 3 TD’s. He had 0 interceptions. Hundley was sensational. Further, he powered through Cleveland tacklers to grab extra yards as a runner. With back-to-back OT victories, he etched his name into the 98 year old History books of the Green Bay Packers. You can dig as deeply into the archives of this glorious franchise and you’ll never find a QB who led his team to back-to-back OT victories. Until now. Thank you, Brett Hundley.

* Jamaal Williams has soul. He brings fun to this team. Enjoyed seeing him getting Jiggy next to McCarthy. Hysterical to see McCarthy give Williams a high-five as he was getting down.

* Aaron Jones needs to improve as a pass blocker. He offers this team so much, but he can’t be trusted as a pass protector.

* Davante Adams is getting paid. If not in Green Bay, somewhere.

* Aaron Rodgers! The two-time MVP is back. I’m overly stoked. With his return, the Packers will also get Jordy Nelson back as a receiving threat. They’ll also get Randall Cobb as a slot receiving threat. Geronimo’s role will expand, too. I can’t wait to see Rodgers running this offense with two legitimate RB’s.

* David Bakhtiari was a monster. He’s become a strong run blocker. His quickness has become a tremendous asset as the Packers have begun to move their OL more than they have in past years. Bakhtiari has been able to seal blocks as he’s gotten to the 2nd level. He remains a dynamite pass blocking LT.

* Jahri Evans needs to be better. Another rough game for Evans.

* Thought Spriggs played another decent game. He wasn’t flawless, but he did have another improved performance.

* Jordy is open. Rodgers will get him the ball.

* Jamaal Williams did it all. He won with power. He won with speed. He showed himself as a legitimate pass catching threat. He was a stallion in pass blocking.

* I believe in Mike McCarthy. He epitomizes leadership.

* Clay Matthews. He was double teamed throughout. Still, he was a true difference maker. In the first half, he twice altered Browns drives. Once, by rushing Kizer. The second time, he sacked him. Without Clay’s pressure, it could’ve been 24-7 Browns at the half. If the 2017 season evolves into a year to remember, Clay Matthews’ performances against the Bucs and the Browns will live in the same breath as the Doug Evans interception return against the Rams in 1996. Without Clay, the Packers would’ve lost the last two weeks.

* The Packers need a healthy Nick Perry.

* Mike Daniels has been a powerhouse in the middle of the defense. If the Packers are going to Run the Table 2.0, Mike Daniels is going to have to play a critical role. We’re going to needs sacks and a forced turnover from Daniels. We might need Daniels to play as he did against the Seahawks in Week 1.

* Great play by HaHa to close out the half and to prevent the Browns from adding to their 1st half lead.

* Whitehead on the fake punt. POWER MOVE!

* I really like Ahmad Brooks. But, at this stage of his life, he's best seen in smaller doses.

* Trevor Davis has a pulse! A dynamite return that provided the spark the Packers needed to equalize.

* My FitBit had me tracked as working out for 26 minutes between 1:45 – 2:15 MST on Sunday afternoon. Yes, I was intensely watching the closing moments of the game.

* Hundley to Adams to knot it up. Hundley to Adams to claim victory! Phenomenal!

* Damarious Randall has picked up his game to new heights. Each week – he seems to make a play that offers hope that he’s finally turned a corner.

* I want to see Lenzy Pipkins. Without House and King, I can’t be convinced that he’s not one of our top 3 options at CB. If Demetri Goodson sees defensive snaps before Pipkins, it'll be a great disappointment. In limited playing time, Pipkins has brought toughness. He's brought attitude. He's brought a semblance of playmaking potential.

* Apt timing for Josh Jones' first interception.

* THE. CLAYMAKER!

* Good to see Montravious Adams hustling down a ballcarrier.

* Kenny Clark, for the most part, was back to being his physically dominant self.

* Dean Lowry was, once again, a force at the line of scrimmage.

* Kyler Fackrell is doing just enough to wet the pallet of the Packers brass. Like it or not - and I don't - but Fackrell will end up playing out his contract in Green Bay. Fackrell was active. He fought his way to a sack with hustle.

This week - it's the Panthers. Win and hope remains alive. Man, I have to get sappy for a second. I saw the photos of snow dumping in Green Bay, WI. It brought back sensational memories of my youth. I really hope the good people of Green Bay get to watch a meaningful game on 12/23. As I saw the photos of the snow, I thought of all of those kids in WI. Those who love the Pack. The feeling of snow during the Christmas season. Such a blessing to have snow on the ground and coupling it with the Christmas spirit. A meaningful game could be a life changing moment for those kids. I imagine them opening up the new Madden on Christmas Day as the Packers are 9-6. Man, that's what life is all about. The ability for a WI kid to dream over he Holidays. Wanting to be Jordy or Davante as he drags his feet to stay inbounds. Or Aaron Jones as he tries to elude his brother in a backyard game of tackle the bum. Or being Clay as you're wrapping your brother up. It all carries so much weight. I hope our youth in WI gets that buzz this Holiday season. In order for that to happen, the Packers have to take care of business in Carolina.

The Panthers have a bruising, physical offense. They mix that physicality well with the speedy, versatile Christian McCaffrey. When McCaffrey is on the field, the Panthers are looking to get him in space. It'll be vital for Blake Martinez to nut up against McCaffrey. McCaffrey has been dynamite in the screen game. The Packers have been disastrous trying to stop the screen. Devin Funchess is banged up, but he'll be active and a tough target for the Packers to stop. Funchess is a big bodied WR who outmuscles defenders and wins jump balls. It'll be up to Damarious Randall to slow him down. Russell Shepard has good length at WR, but he hasn't been overly productive and shouldn't be a significant threat. Greg Olsen is also banged up. His foot is clearly still bothering him. He's an otherworldly athlete who tough to contain when he's healthy. He'll play, but I'm not sure how mobile he'll be. Ed Dickson get motor down the seam and catch the ball in traffic. He often outfights defenders for big plays over the middle of the field. Cam Newton is an enigma. When he's dialed in, he's a dynamite runner. He's rifling slants for first downs. He's hitting his big targets between the hash marks. He's the most athletic player on the field. But, there's another side to Cam Newton. He becomes less focused. He gets careless with the ball. He makes bad decisions. The Packers need to get in Newton's face early in the game. Jonathan Stewart can still bulldoze for yardage. He motors forward and hits the hole with a vicious intent. Plainly stated, Stewart falls forward. Fozzy Whittaker is a noteworthy pass catching RB who can make people miss in the open field. The Panthers have a solid OL, but their best OL is Trai Turner and he's expected to miss the game. That should allow for plenty of opportunities for Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels to disrupt the interior of the line of scrimmage. Matt Kalil is a good player, but Nick Perry has typically won the battle against Kalil. I like the Clay Matthews vs Daryl Williams match-up. Clay can beat him with speed. But, that'll open up a lane for Cam to run through, so the Packers better have a plan to contain Cam. It'll be interesting to watch how Capers rushes Matthews. Don't be surprised if we see Matthews mostly coming on stunts to the inside to help collapse the pocket and to limit Cam's ability to escape between the Tackles. Because of that approach, we might not see Clay applying the same pressure that we've seen over the last two weeks. Ryan Kalil is a stud at Center. He'll work to get to the second level in the run game and he gets out really well in the screen game.

The Panthers have the best front 7 in all of football. Julius Peppers has been a pass rushing dynamo. Star Lotulelei is a mean machine in the middle. Kawann Short is a special DT. Jahri Evans better be ready to ball out. Mario Addison is a pass rushing threat at DE. Vernon Butler has provided good depth. Addison and Peppers have combined for 19 sacks. Jason Spriggs will be tested this week. We'll see how far he's really progressed this weekend. Luke Kuechly is the definition of how to play iLB in the NFL. Thomas Davis continues to be a star at LB. Shaq Thompson will likely miss the game this week, which will limit the Panthers depth at LB. If the Packers can protect Rodgers, we'll see some big plays. James Bradberry has all of the athleticism that you look for in a #1 CB. But, he's young and he uses his hands a lot, so you can normally expect him to get called for a crucial pass interference deep down the field. He's physical and will be penalized. Daryl Worley and Kevon Seymour cannot cover our WR's. Kurt Coleman is an intimidating presence at Safety. Mike Adams is an intelligent, veteran safety.

So, here we are. NFL Royalty sporting #12 for the Packers, once again. Healthy. In rhythm. Motivated. Determined to get this team back to the playoffs. Focused. Connecting with Nelson early. Finding Cobb over the middle of the field. Hitting Adams on the comeback. Finding Jordy on the back shoulder to put the Packers up 7-0 early.

The Packers defense fights yard on the early downs, but struggles to get off of the field on third down as they have no answer for McCaffrey.

Funchess gets his. The Packers struggle to have an answer for Funchess' size.

But, Rodgers is not going to be denied. He's cerebral. He's prepped for a shootout. He knows he needs points. He's in control. He's attacking the Panthers secondary deep down the field. McCarthy gives Spriggs help to provide additional time for the 2x MVP.

Morgan Burnett comes through with a big interception on a pass intended for Ed Dickson over the middle.

Mike Daniels grabs a sack.

With Rodgers back in the huddle, expect to see more Aaron Jones. Rodgers seemed to have chemistry with Jones. Williams sees less action. Jones gets loose.

We're alive. We're well.

Packers 34.
Panthers 30.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.
talkins-mac.blogspot.com



Friday, December 8, 2017

My Take -> Week 14

Greetings, G-Force.

6-6. The record is level. There’s an infusion of positive energy inside the Packers program with the pending return of Aaron Rodgers. Oddly, we are living in a time when some die-hard of Packers fans struggle with their emotions surrounding this franchise. Packers fans are conflicted with the tug-of-war between wanting change within the organization and wanting the team to win. Personally, it’s tough for me to imagine a scenario in which I’m not thrilled after a Packers victory. Wins feel good for the soul – regardless of the fashion. I’m not a frontrunner. I don’t believe in the consolation of playing well, but still losing. The Pittsburgh loss didn’t feel good. Yes, it was ugly, but the victory over Tampa was a positive step for this franchise. We faced adversity. We left victorious.

Since 2001, in some format, I’ve dug-in on a weekly basis and fought to find the time to sit down to write this blog. Admittedly, time has become harder for me to find. And, thus, the blog has become more of a work project and less fun. Further, I’ve lost nearly 85% of my readers over the last year. With that said, I’m not certain that the blog will stay in his current format for much longer. I hope to. I can’t guarantee it.

As I write, I listen to the Dirty Heads “Swim Team” album. While the album as a whole is my least favorite of the Dirty Heads albums, “So Glad You Made It” is arguable my favorite new release by any artist. Love the beat. Love the rhythm. So smooth. The energy of the tune brings goodness to my soul. If you don’t know it, vibe in. You’ll enjoy.

Here are my quick vibes over the last week:

Mike McCarthy. He lost his starting QB, who is NFL Royalty. He’s been crippled by an awful QB, whom he wrongly assessed. He’s had a Guard playing Tackle for most of the year. He’s been without his top 2 RB’s for portions of the year. His high-priced FA quit on his team. And, the Packers have what is arguable the softest secondary in the NFL. Still, McCarthy has kept the team together. They’re right in the thick of things. The locker room remains strong.

One down. Four to go!

Brett Hundley. Mark it down as one of the more uninspiring QB performances in Green Bay in my lifetime. He brought the offense to boredom. He was unable to hit open WR’s. He held onto the ball and walked into sacks. He didn’t look off safeties. He was predictable. He was terrible. But, when the season was on the line and the Packers needed point, Hundley turned to his feet to get the Packers into FG range to equalize. And, then, in OT, Hundley, once again, used his feet. Because of it, the Packers are back to even in the standings.

Aaron Jones! Great vision. Fantastic burst. A thrilling finish to an otherwise dull game.

Jamaal Williams. NFL Ground Player of the Week. A terrific game for the rookie. He ran hard. He was powerful. He had desire. His 1-yard TD run was sheer willpower. He’s enjoyable to watch. Williams is a good buzz. He’s a WiFi mojo hotspot for this team. He keeps things light with his playful nature. He’s easy to cheer for. One of those dudes you’re happy to see have success.

Jason Spriggs is quietly improving. He’s still not perfect, but he’s improving and he isn’t a total liability. He needs to continue to work on his footwork and his balance, which oddly I felt were his strengths at the college level. But, there’s reason to feel cautious optimism that the game has slowed down for Spriggs and that he could possibly be an option for the Packers as the future RT. With Bulaga’s injury history, the Packers need Spriggs to become that guy after a significant trade investment in him in the 2016 NFL Draft.

David Bakhtiari is a stud.

Great game from Lane Taylor. He manned up.

Feels like Jahri Evans’ game has diminished over the last month. Wondering if he’s hitting a wall, but we need a rejuvenation from him.

Corey Linsley is having a solid year. He’s going to command big-time money in FA this year.

Brett Hundley + Mike McCarthy have to get the ball into Randall Cobb’s hands. There’s no excuse for him not to touch the ball.

Davante Adams continues to impress. At times, it’s seemed as though he can’t be guarded.

It’s easy to criticize Hundley. But, take a step back for a second. He was booed as he walked off the field in regulation. Still, he had the composure to take the ball in OT and to lead us to victory in heroic fashion. I give him credit for the way he’s kept his confidence when it would’ve been easy for him to fold. He stayed calm with the season on the line and because of it, the Packers left with a win.

The jumbo package continues to frustrate me. With Hundley at QB, the Packers need to have confusion on offense. When we drop back and play teams straight up, we don’t win. When we keep defenses guessing and we’re dictating the tempo, McCarthy has seen modest success moving the football. McCarthy needs to stick with motion, disguise and misdirection.

KENNY CLARK! I love Clark’s game. Although it was his least impressive performance against the run, he was a force on the pass rush. Nice to see him get home twice; including the game changing sack and forced fumble that led to the Lowry touchdown. The Packers needed someone to make a big play on defense. To change the tide. Clark did so.

Dean Lowry. NFC Defensive Player of the Week. Think you’d ever hear that? Neither did I. Many props to the big guy who gives maximum effort each and every play. He gobbles up OL. The next aspect of his game is to get his hands up and to disrupt passing lanes. I expected him to bring that Johnny Jolly pass defense component. Haven’t seen that out of him much. I think it’ll come. Get your hands up, big guy!

Mike Daniels didn’t have his best game, but he was still extremely active taking on double teams.

That was Blake Martinez’s worst game of the year. He looked slower. He didn’t show the instincts that we’ve seen out of him all year. It was interesting to note that in a game in which Clark and Daniels had trouble getting off blocks, Martinez was less active. The Clark/Daniels and Martinez combination is ideal. Clark and Daniels win with push. Martinez’s strength is his recognition, his intelligence and his vision. Clark and Daniels have allowed Martinez to run. And, with his freedom to roam, he’s been a tackling machine. He’s a stat sheet stuffer. In large part, that’s due to the yoeman’s work that Clark and Daniels have done in the trenches.

Clay Matthews was dominant. A difference maker. Dynamite game from our all-time leading sack master.

Kyler Fackrell! Massive blocked punt. Momentum changer!

Jermaine Whitehead was exposed. Badly.

Sad to see Kevin King go to IR. I had huge expectations for him. Terrible to see Demetri Goodson as his replacement. The Packers can’t win a Super Bowl with Goodson, Whitehead and Josh Hawkins in the rotation. I’m baffled as to why Lenzy Pipkins doesn’t play. He’s an athlete. He has the attitude. He has toughness. I’d rather see him on the field over Goodson, Whitehead and Hawkins. Goodson isn’t good enough. There’s no reason for him to be on the roster. Further, where’s Marwin Evans last week? I realize that he hasn’t been as active in the Regular Season as he has been in the preseason games, but man, there’s at least a glimmer of hope with him.

Jamies Winston, a QB, outmuscled Joe Thomas, our ILB, on a 50/50 ball that was fumbled. Winston was on a hobbled leg, scrambling for his footing. Thomas was blasting towards the football with leverage.

It’s clear that Davon House and Nick Perry are banged up. House limited Evans, but when Evans did catch the ball, House wasn’t overly aggressive to seek contact. Perry looks hobbled getting off of the ball.

Need more out of Josh Jones. Where’d he go? He offered so much hope early in the season. Makes me wonder if he’s not trained up at the Safety position? Did the Packers bank on him being an ILB. He’s looked more comfortable around the box than he has playing deep in space. Need Jones to show up with a turnover soon. He’s shown all of the traits that you look for in a premier defender. He has the wits, the speed, the desire, the mindset and the toughness. He needs to put it altogether.

Quinton Dial eats up space, but he can’t shed and make plays. He’s also losing the leverage battle lately. Need him to be more powerful.

Someday – I hope we learn to defend the screen.

THE CLAYMAKER! LOVED SEEING HIM AS A DIFFERENCE MAKER!

Trevor Davis needs to take the ball up the field on punts. 7-10 yards is better than no yards. Play the field position game. And, maybe, if you make once guy miss in the open field with a one-cut move, you can take it for a big gain. But, to start, you have to take the ball up the field.

I thought McCarthy should have asked for a spot prior to choosing a FG. Additionally, he had a challenge. And, timeouts. There was no reason to not challenge the spot. I thought Nelson was given a bad spot. Didn’t like McCarthy’s approach in that situation.

It’s Christmas season. And, once again, the Packers are relevant. Four more wins and we have a fighting chance to be playing into January.

Kenny Clark not only eats up blockers. But, he sheds blockers and makes plays. He allows Blake Martinez to roam freely behind him. Love Clark’s effort. He’s a fiery competitor and has brought significant toughness to the interior of the defense. The Daniels and Clark combination is the heart of this defense. It’s noteworthy that Clark displayed a pass rush at the college level. Fun to see him finally get to the QB at the pro level. He’s only 22 years old. There’s reason to hope that he can continue to develop that aspect of his game.

Mike McCarthy might not always be well-liked in Titletown, U.S.A., but his teams are 38-14 in December and January regular season games. I’d argue that he’s an extremely under-appreciated Head Coach.

This week – it’s the winless Browns. In Cleveland. In a dangerous game. If the Browns are going to win a game all year, this is the type of game they win. At home. Against a back-up QB. If the Packers can pull it off, we’ll be 7-6 and hopefully, Aaron Rodgers will be back for the remainder of the season. It’d be great to have Rodgers playing the role as savior. While the Browns are winless, they aren’t hopeless.

Offensively, the Browns have weapons. Josh Gordon is back. He’s as talented as it gets. Corey Coleman is a dangerous threat getting in and out of his breaks. Kenny Britt can still get down the field. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson are both solid in the screen game and they like to attack the interior of the defensive line. Both areas are where the Packers have been weak. At TE, David Njoku is a budding star. At some point, he’ll be a Pro Bowl player. I have an odd feeling that there will be a time in which DeShone Kizer will be the back-up QB in Green Bay. Kizer has all of the gifts to be a star QB in this league. He just hasn’t put it all together yet. But, he’s highly capable. He’s mobile. He can make all of the throws. Much like Hundley, he’s had a massive learning curve and he’s struggled to read defenses. In turn, turnovers have consistently been a problem for Kizer. Those turnovers have often come in the Red Zone. At some point, the Packers are going to have to force Kizer into a bad decision. The interior of the Browns OL brings brute force. Look for the Browns to try and pound the ball behind Tretter, Zietler and Bitonio. I believe the Packers can win on the edges against Spencer Drango and Shon Coleman.

Defensively, the Browns are significantly better than their record indicates. The Browns aren’t winless because of their defense. In fact, their offense has only scored 20 points in one game all year. However, the Browns defense has given up 30+ points on 6 occasions. Myles Garrett is a freak. He’ll give the Packers tackles everything they can handle. Danny Shelton is a run stuffer, but he’s injured and his status is in question. Larry Ogunjobi is an athletic DT who can cause havoc as a pass rusher. Carl Nassib is a high effort edge performer. He isn’t overly talented, but he gives maximum effort on every play. Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey have been solid performers for the Browns. They aren’t going to wow you with speed or power, but they’re going to be reliable game-in and game-out performers. They’re assignment sure and win with smarts rather than athleticism. The Cleveland secondary is banged up. They might be missing both Jabrill Peppers and Briean Boddy-Calhoun. Jamar Taylor and Jason McCourty are both experienced CB’s, but neither should be capable of slowing down Jordy Nelson or Davante Adams. Derrick Kindred is a capable Safety. He’ll plug the hole and he can run. He isn’t much of a playmaker and can be exposed in the passing game.

It’s no secret. The Browns are going to look to stop the run. Gregg Williams, the Browns DC, is a mean dude. He’s going to have the Browns defense possessed. He’ll have the ready. He’ll be in blitz mode. He’s going to try and punish Hundley after attempting to force the Packers into 3rd and long. He’ll give Hundley a wide variety of looks – similar to what the Ravens did. It’ll be important for McCarthy to try and dictate the tempo. He can’t let Williams get control of this game. McCarthy has to add the element of confusion. He has to give Williams looks that we haven’t seen this year. He has to show motion. The passing game should have a focus on the weak side of the field.

The Packers defense has to make strides to become tougher this weekend than we were against Tampa. We have to be the more physical trend. The infrastructure of the defense is built to compete up front with Daniels, Dial, Clark, Lowry, Matthews, Perry and Brooks. I’m hoping that Perry can play a situational role this week. But, I’m afraid his health might not allow it. Nonetheless, the defensive front has to come through and dominate the line of scrimmage. If not, we could see Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell pushing through the tackles for big chunks. That’ll open up play-action and big plays down the field. We can’t let Kizer get a sniff of confidence. We need to get in his face early and often. I’m banking on the Packers defensive front winning this game for us.

With the Browns beat up secondary, it’s possible that they’ll be left without a CB who can man the slot. Look for Cobb to be involved early.

Early in the game, the play action will be open. Expect McCarthy to take a shot deep down the field. This time, Hundley connects.

With the Packers beat up secondary, we’re going to be expecting Lenzy Pipkens, Damarious Randall and Josh Hawkins to be able to hold form. That’ll be a tough task against the talented Cleveland receivers. Thankfully, the Packers win the battle up front.

Two far-out predictions:

1.) Look for Jeff Janis to make a play on a reverse. I have a weird feeling that it’s happening this week.
2.) Lenzy Pipkins grabs an interception!

It’ll be tough to stomach, but it’ll be a win.

Packers 20.
Browns 16.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin’ S-Mac.
Talkins-mac.blogspot.com

Friday, December 1, 2017

My Take -> Week 13

Greetings, G-Force.

5-6. It’s do or die time for the Packers. One more loss means the end to a once-promising season. But, get to 10 wins and let’s see what how it plays out. I’m still hopeful that the Packers have a winning run in them. I believe the Packers will beat an injury-rattled Bucs team and a hapless Browns team. I believe Aaron Rodgers will come back to join a 7-6 Packers team. I believe the Packers will beat the Panthers, ‘queens and Lions to finish the season with a motivated Rodgers leading the team. I know I’m on an island, but I’m sticking to it. I’m not giving up on this team until we have 7 losses.

I’m presently listening to John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.” Enough said on that.

Here are my quick vibes from the last week:

* Mike McCarthy. His team came to play. In the stadium, there was a definite air of overconfidence from the Steelers fans and their sidelines. No one associated with the Steelers believed that the Packers could actually win. I was amazed at the amount of Rodgers conversations. The Steelers were thankful that #12 was out. As soon as Blake Martinez intercepted the tipped pass, the urgency inside the Stadium picked up. Suddenly, there was concern that the Packers could win. The crowd was anxious. The Steelers DL was pursuing with desperation. McCarthy confidently pounded away on three running plays and he picked up 14 yards. McCarthy knew he needed points. His defense was banged up and he knew that they could only hold the sublimely talented Steelers offense for so long. And, frankly, it didn’t matter if the Steelers had to travel 90 yards or 9 yards, the Stadium felt like the Steelers offense was going to respond. So, McCarthy went aggressive. He masterfully called play-action. He slipped Kendricks underneath. He rolled Hundley out. Kendricks was the clear cut #1 choice. He was wide open. I’ll go to my grave wondering why Hundley didn’t throw the ball to Kendricks. Kendricks might not have scored a TD, but he would’ve definitely picked up a first down. The Packers would’ve been inside the Red Zone. The Packers would’ve been in complete control. Inexplicably, Hundley didn’t throw the ball to Kendricks. Instead, he held onto the ball. Eventually, ate the ball long enough to where the Steelers sacked him for a 5 yard loss. On 2nd down, TJ Watt made a nice play covering Jordy Nelson over the middle. On third down, Hundley had Davante Adams deep down the sidelines in 1 on 1 coverage. Instead of giving his playmaker a chance to compete, Hundley, once again, ate the ball and took the sack. Then came the questionable decision. Like McCarthy, I’d have kicked the FG. Crosby had hit from 57 in pre-game warm-ups to that same end. He’d connected from 55 yards out to that same end zone in a 2015 pre-season game. McCarthy needed his veteran to deliver. Unfortunately, Crosby wasn’t even close. Personally, I really liked McCarthy’s aggressiveness. He needed to come away with points. Even if the FG attempt seemed desperate. I appreciated his confidence in Crosby. On the flip side, when Williams scored to make it 28-27, I was hoping that the Packers would go for 2. I wanted McCarthy to, once again, play aggressively. He still had 3 timeouts and he could’ve tried an on-side kick if he’d failed on the 2-point try. I can’t fault him for taking the extra point and tying the game, but I’d have gone for 2.

* 4th and 6. From the Steelers 12. Packers trailing 28-21. Towels waving. Crowd roaring. Game on the line. Hundley delivered. Impressive moment from the youngster. Hundley and Adams have a great connection. Same mindedness. Fun to watch them team.

* The Packers are going to have a tough decision to make with regards to Davante Adams. He’s a stud. I’m not sure that the Packers will be able to afford him. It’ll be interesting to see how much he commands after the year. He’ll undoubtedly be the most talked about Packers FA after the year.

* Jamaal Williams. Very impressive performance. He ran with power. He played faster than he’s looked all year. He showed good vision. I wish he’d have caught the deep ball down the sidelines that hit off of his hands. I thought he should have dove for it instead of trying to run underneath it. Would’ve been a big gainer. Nonetheless, Williams played a great game.

* Happy to hear that Aaron Jones is close to coming back. The Packers offense is going to have a number of options at RB with Jones, Williams and Montgomery. Williams and Jones have proven to be 3-down backs. Williams’ pass protection looks like it far exceed Jones’. I’ll be curious as to how much of a role that plays in McCarthy’s decision making with respect to playing time.

* I was sad to see Ty Montgomery put on IR. Always cheer for Ty. Appreciate his style. Love his heart. Seems like a genuine man.

* Happy to see that Michael Clark reaps the rewards of Ty’s roster spot. Hoping to see Clark as a red zone target before the year is over.

* Really fun to see Randall Cobb streaking free down the sidelines.

* McCarthy had a masterful game plan. He brought a lot of disguise. His misdirection, motion and shifts were consistently confusing the Steelers defense throughout. He mostly used Cobb as a decoy, but Cobb’s constant movement kept the defense guessing. McCarthy needs to toss the flip to Cobb play in the trash.

* Hmmm. Don’t look now. But, Jason Spriggs played a really good game. He was a big surprise. Let’s hope he can build off of that performance.

* That Davante Adams double move on his deep TD. A thing of beauty.

* At first, I was irate that Williams went out of bounds on the last drive, but you’d have to imagine that Tomlin would’ve called a timeout after that plays and it’s noteworthy that the Steelers finished the game with a timeout in their pocket.

* Really expected to see more of Geronimo in 2017. The Rodgers injury really stunted his development. Geronimo’s increased performance could’ve helped to gauge Davante’s overall value at the negotiation table. But, without Geronimo getting significant playing time, Adams’ value seems to be overly inflated right now.

* Lane Taylor will have better days than he had against the Steelers on Sunday Night. Cam Heyward got the best of him.

* The Packers defense has been destroyed on the screen all year. It was nice to see Williams get loose on the screen.

* The Packers had Josh Hawkins covering Antonio Brown for a lot of the game. Every time I saw that match-up, I felt it was a victory when the Steelers did not score a TD. Seriously. That match-up isn’t fair.

* Simply stated, Blake Martinez is having a Pro Bowl year.

* Is Davon House terrible? Seems like it, at times. Felt like he wasn’t even trying on some occasions. It looked like he quit on the Steelers final touchdown play when he was beat down the sidelines.

* Nick Perry is hurt. Whether it’s reported or not, I’m telling you Nick Perry is hurt. He’s limping on and off the field. He’s trying to run. He’s trying to gut it out. He’s not fit.

* Ahmad Brooks was fantastic. His tipped ball fell into Martinez’s lap. Brooks brings power to the Packers front. He brings attitude. The Packers are a better team with him on the field.

* Thought Kyler Fackrell played with hustle. He lacks talent, but I was happy to see his effort.

* Super stoked that Kenny Clark is going to be back.

* Liked to see Montravious Adams fighting off of the ball.

* Quinton Dial was pushed backwards too often. Need him to be tougher.

* Mike Daniels gave everything he had against a top-tier interior of an OL.

* Whether Hundley was deemed a runner or not, the Watt helmet to helmet collision has to be a flag. Has to be. And, if you watch Watt’s reaction, he thought it should’ve been as well.

* Good to see Damarious Randall grabbing another interception. He played really well as a slot CB. He isn’t an aggressive blitzing CB, but he’s showed quickness against slot WR’s.

* I cringe every time the Packers go with Jumbo formations on offense. In order for this offense to be effective with Hundley, there has to be confusion. The play calling has to have disguise. We don’t win downs when things are predictable.

* Hundley showed massive improvement. But, he was far from perfect. He still missed open throws. He still held onto the ball too long. He still didn’t see open receivers. And, he didn’t relay to the huddle that the Packers were no longer in the 2-minute drill on the final possession. All massive errors.

* Dom Capers was unable to dial up pressure. He mostly had his secondary in position, but he couldn’t put together any semblance of a pass rush. Big Ben had all day to throw. It's maddening to watch Capers' defense in crunch time.

* Felt like Morgan Burnett brought organization to the defensive group. It didn’t appear as though there were many, if any, defensive breakdowns. Burnett was certainly a communicator on the field.

* I love the speed and intensity that Josh Jones brings to the field.

* The Packers showed heart. They showed togetherness. They showed unity. They wanted the game badly. What a bummer of a finish.

* Great fun to see Rodgers on the sidelines. He’s enjoying himself. Seems as though he wants another crack at the season. I have a hunch that if the Packers can win the next two, we’ll see our MVP against the Panthers.

* The Holidays are more fun when the Packers are relevant. I’m really hoping for a Packers victory this weekend to extend the NFL Season and to heighten my Holiday spirit!

This week it’s the Buccaneers. At Lambeau Field. In must-win fashion. And, frankly, if we can’t beat this version of Tampa Bay, then we don’t deserve a shot at the playoffs. The Buccaneers are banged up. The Buccaneers will be without 4 starters: Robert Ayers, Vernon Hargreaves, Doug Martin and TJ Ward. The Buccaneers also played two starting OL on IR this week. The Buccaneers will also be without two back-ups in Clinton McDonald and Josh Robinson. Jameis Winston will get the start, but he hasn’t played in a month. There is no reason for Tampa to come into 40 degree weather and to leave as winners.

Offensively, the Buccaneers are what they are. They’re traditional. They’re straightforward. There won’t be much confusion. They have great weapons, but they’re very predictable. DeSean Jackson will try to get over the top with his speed. Mike Evans is a do-it-all WR. Evans is among the best WR’s in the NFL. He’s great in traffic. He can get deep. He’s tough to bring down. He has great footwork along the sideline. Evans is All-Pro material. If the Buccaneers have any hope, Evans is going to have to top 150 yards. The Buccaneers OL is among the worst in the NFL. Evan Smith (yes, the artist formerly known as Evan Dietrich-Smith) and Seattle cast-off JR Sweezy are arguably their premier OL. Donovan Smith is an average LT. But, this Buccaneers OL can be run over. I have full confidence that the Packers DL will dominate this football game. At TE, Tampa Bay has two legitimate performers. Cameron Brate is an underrated performer. He’s a lethal third down target. He settles well in the zone. And he has great hands. OJ Howard will be a Pro Bowl TE for years to come. He does not have a weakness. With Doug Martin out, Tampa Bay will likely rotate Charles Sims, Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers. I expect Barber to get the bulk of the carries with Sims being used in the passing game as a receiving back. Sims has always had a nose for the first down stick.

Defensively, the Buccaneers are beat-up and lack depth. Gerald McCoy is their superstar. It’ll be up to Corey Linsley to double down on McCoy and to limit his effectiveness. Chris Baker is a pass rushing interior DT who wins with quickness and leverage. William Gholston has not realized the upside that he showed in college. He’s a limited athlete and shouldn’t be overly disruptive. Tampa Bay has athletes at LB. Lavonte David might be the most underappreciated player in the league. David is undersized, but he’s a punishing tackler and it could be argued that he plays with more speed than any LB in football. Kendell Beckwith is a promising rookie. Beckwith has shown that he has the skills to play in this league. Kwon Alexander gets sideline-to-sideline. He takes on blockers. He’s also talented in pass coverage. Without Hargreaves, there’s no reason the Bucs should be able to cover us. Brent Grimes will likely shadow Davante Adams. Brett Hundley better look to Jordy Nelson. Tampa has no one that can play with the veteran WR. Tampa has Justin Evans and Chris Conte at safety. Chris Conte is awful. The Packers should be able to attack him. Evans has all of the gifts you look for to be a star in this league. He just hasn’t put it all together yet.

Mike McCarthy has to come out aggressively. And, the Packers faithful have to rise up and make things difficult for Tampa. Let’s jump out early. If so, Tampa will fold their tent. They’ll look to pack their bags. They’ll be looking for a warm locker room, a bus to the airport and a flight to Sunny West Florida. But, it’s up to the Packers to deliver an early knock-out blow.

I expect to see the Packers running a lot of motion and a lot of misdirection. I expect to see the Packers attempting to keep the Tampa defense guessing. If so, Tampa won’t have the wits to keep up with McCarthy and his troops. If McCarthy tries to play straight up, the Packers will struggle to move the football.

Look for Tampa to try and attack the Packers deep down the field. I anticipate that Evans and/or Jackson will get fly patterns thrown their way in the 1st Quarter. I also expect OJ Howard to be streaking down the middle of the field in hopes of a big play.

Expect Jamaal Williams to crack through the middle of the Bucs defense and to get himself into the secondary. Lane Taylor puts a hat on Lavonte David to spring Williams loose.

Jordy Nelson FINALLY gets going. He scores his first TD without Rodgers as Hundley connects on a deep ball.

Clay Matthews grabs 2 sacks. Vince Biegel gets home, too.

The Packers jump out to an early lead. Winston tries to lead the comeback. He hits Brate for first-down yardage. He hits Sims on the screen who grabs chunks of yardage.

Right when you think Tampa has a shot at the comeback, Winston makes the mistake. HaHa grabs a big interception to give the Packers momentum back.

It’s December. It’s when the Packers get rolling. I wish I was going to this one. It’ll be a Lambeau celebration.

Packers 27
Buccaneers 16

Go Pack Go!

Talkin’ S-Mac.
talkins-mac.blogspot.com

Saturday, November 25, 2017

My Take -> Week 12


Greetings, G-Force.

Well. That was ugly. A putrid performance. Shutout by a significantly below average Ravens team. At Lambeau Field. Amazingly, all hope is not lost. In fact, even if the Steelers drop 50 on us this Sunday and we fall to 5-6, we will still have a breathe. We have to beat Tampa and Cleveland and then hope the magical #12 is fit enough to come back.

As I write, I listen to John Denver’s Greatest Hits. Sitting in West Virginia, his music rings smoothly. And, yes, John: It’s “Almost Heaven.”

Here are my quick vibes from the last week:

Mike McCarthy trusted his QB. After Hundley fooled him with his impressive 4th Quarter play at Chicago. Suddenly, McCarthy had enhanced faith in his QB. Hundley quickly proved that he wasn’t a worthwhile QB. McCarthy has to be angry with himself for unleashing Hundley.

As I wrote before the game, the Packers had to protect the football against Baltimore. The Ravens feast on turnovers. Hundley was careless throughout. His interception on the first drive had me asking “if and only if” as I watched the rest of the game.

Devante Mays. What a disaster.

Jamaal Williams showed glimpses of being a legitimate RB, once again.

Davante Adams is earning himself a large contract.

Jordy Nelson was wide open for a deep TD. Hundley overthrew him. Would’ve been a game turning play.

HaHa made one beautiful interception. Should’ve had a second, too.

Clay looked dominant. Then, he got hurt. Looks like he’s going to miss the game this week as well. Need to be able to depend on him. He’s making it tough again.

Nick Perry showed moments of greatness.

Mike Daniels played another great game.

Hated seeing Kenny Clark getting hurt. He continues to be a bright spot for this defense.

Dean Lowry flashed again. He’s playing with power. He’s winning his one-on-one battle, but struggles when he meets the double team.

Stating the obvious: Brett Hundley is not ready to lead an NFL team. He seems to lack intelligence. He can’t read pre-snap defenses. He struggles to read the secondary and whether they are playing zone or man to man. He holds onto the ball too long. He appears to have very little football instincts. He’s not comfortable with the speed of the game.

With Aaron Rodgers, Jordy was a lethal target. With Hundley, Jordy is non-existent. Why won’t Hundley look his way?

This week - it’s the Steelers. In Pittsburgh. I’ll forever view the XLV Super Bowl as one of the most thrilling days of my life.

I’ll be at the Sunday Night battle. Excited to take in a game under the lights between these two historical titans. Speaking of Titans, the last time I saw the Packers play on the road was in Tennessee. The Packers gave up 47 points. After the Pittsburgh game, I suppose it’s possible that the Packers will have given up more than 100 combined points over a 2-game stretch in which I traveled to see the Packers. Let’s hope not. But, it’s certainly possible.

See, while the Packers are banged up, the Steelers are mostly healthy. They’ll have Bell, Ben, Brown and Bryant raging to go. 4/5 of their dominant OL will be in-tact. With Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro; the interior of the Steelers OL is as good as it gets in the NFL. The Steelers also will have TE's Jesse James and Vance McDonald as reliable targets for Big Ben. 10 of the 11 Steelers starters on offense will be ready to go. Top back-up WR, JuJu Smith-Schuster will miss the game, but Eli Rogers is a reliable slot WR and he'll be a dangerous target on 3rd down.

Defensively, the Steelers are healthy as well. They'll be missing their #1 CB, Joe Haden. But, otherwise, they'll be fit and ready to ball out. Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt are top-tier 3-4 DL. Javon Hargrave is a fast ascending pass rushing 3-4 DT. At LB, the Steelers have mastered the speed/size/muscle combination required to dominate the 3-4. Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams are studs at ILB. And, at OLB, the Steelers are thick with depth. TJ Watt, James Harrison, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo and Arthur Moats all fit the mold of an ideal 3-4 OLB. At CB, they are vulnerable. Mike Hilton has made plays, but he can be beaten. With Haden out, Artie Burns is their best CB. At Safety, the Steelers are physical with two intimidating presences in Sean Davis and Mike Mitchell.

Let's be real. This has the feeling of a game in which it's a complete celebration for the Steel City. They're under the lights. In prime time. Poised to roll. Playing as well as anyone in football. They're seemingly positioned to drop 50 points on the Packers. We're banged up and appear to be mentally defeated.

But, maybe, just maybe, the Packers will show up inspired to represent in McCarthy's home town.

Maybe, just maybe, the Packers will take advantage of the Steelers back-up RT. Nick Perry and Ahmad Brooks win with speed.

Maybe, just maybe, Mike Daniels dominates the interior and gets in Big Ben's face. And, as we've seen before, if you get in Big Ben's face, he'll make mistakes. And, maybe, just maybe, we return one of those mistakes for a TD. We're going to need a special teams TD or a defensive TD in order to win this week.

Maybe, just maybe, Brett Hundley finds accuracy on the deep ball. I believe that the Steelers will struggle to cover the Packers on the outside. I expect the Steelers to load the box. I'd be sending Nelson, Allison and Adams on go-routes. I'd like to see Hundley try the 15-yard back shoulder throw.

Maybe, just maybe, Jamaal Williams pounds away at the Steelers DL. We've seen the Steelers defense be vulnerable to the run this year. Maybe Williams gets himself into a foot race in the secondary and busts one loose.

Meanwhile, between each snap, the Packers are eating up clock. Slowing the pace of the game. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

Maybe, just maybe, the Packers defense will keep the Steelers out of the end zone early in the game. They're holding the Steelers to 3 instead of 7.

And, if these things happen, any thing is possible. With the season hanging by a thread, is Crosby true from 43 and the win?

Packers 24.
Steelers 23.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.
talkins-mac.blogspot.com












Saturday, November 18, 2017

My Take -> Week 11

Greetings, G-Force.

5-4! I love that winning feeling! And, it’s always best when it comes at the Bears expense. THE BEARS STILL SUCK. THE BEARS STILL SUCK. THEY REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY SUCK. THE BEARS STILL SUCK. That, my fellow Packers faithful, will never get old.

As I write, I listen to the recording of Widespread Panic at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee, WI. 10/20/17. A magical night in my life. It was one of those “this is why I see so much live music” kinda night. “You Wreck Me” opener that was perfectly performed. Jimmy was on fire with in-your-face getting dirty with it Southern grooves. We got a couple of straight Irish leg skipping musical JoJo gigs. The Big Wooly Mammoth always offers permagrin. Bust IT Big was peace-popping, hips-hopping kind of good vibes. Jimmy really rocked out the Travelin’ Light with aggressive flair. Old Neighborhood was an appropriate 2nd set opener as I used live roughly a mile from the venue. Heavy drum and bass effects were profound throughout. Once again, Trucks proved to be a fantastic addition to the band. Schools’ bass was amped up to full capacity, which stepped up the intensity of the unit to a grand degree. Sunny offered bumping bongo bops. And, of course, JB was shining throughout. His raspy texture was best vocalized during Mercy. Great fun when you see JB pull out the mandolin because you know what’s next and the “Ain’t Life Grand” 2nd encore was the style that lives in you the morning after and beyond. Mil-wook-ee was in full vibrancy mode that evening. Sensational to re-live it.

Here are my quick vibes over the last week:

* Mike McCarthy. I believe in him. Always have. Always will. I don’t review a man’s performance by how he shines when he’s on the mountain top in winning ways. Instead, I pay attention as to how he performs when he’s beat-up, down-and-out. I often say that my favorite word in the dictionary is “mettle.” Mike McCarthy operates in his best fashion when times are tough. He’s resilient. He rallies his troops in times of trouble. And, once again, against his hated rival, his team came through in a victorious way. Right when it appeared like victory was unattainable, in the eyes of the masses.

* Credit to Brett Hundley. He stayed composed in the toughest of circumstances. Yes, he had a couple of learning curve moments as he called a timeout before the end of the 1st Quarter and then he didn’t call one as the play-clock was winding down before the crucial 3rd down pass to Adams. But, overall, Hundley played well. He picked up a vital 1st down with his legs. He hit big 4th Quarter throws. He played with confidence. He played with composure. And, he protected the football. If he plays like that over the next 4 weeks, the Packers will beat the Ravens, Bucs and Browns.

* Dear Football Gods, man, you’re making this tough on us. Why do you feel the need to strip us from Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery? To steal both of them for what appears to be multiple-week injuries feels unfair.

* David Bakhtiari. If you haven’t watched his post-game locker room speech, you’re missing out. “I saw pads popping on defense. I saw playmakers making plays. And, Brett. I saw you being Brett.” Epic stuff. The Soldier Field visitors locker room has brought out some great words for Packers fans.

* McCarthy’s team was ready. They were determined to be the more physical team. They won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Packers were the more focused group. The Packers wanted this victory more. McCarthy continued to trust his group. And, because of it, the Packers, once again, found their winning ways. I was surprised at how many different formations McCarthy ran. So many different looks. A wide variety of players in those formations, too. This team was coached up. Players were ready. Very cool to see.

* Nice to see Davante Adams making plays, once again.

* Brett Hundley will forever hold a spot in my heart after beating the Bears at Soldier. The Bears Still Suck! For now. And forever.

* Jamaal Williams. Ballin’ out. Running over Bears defenders. Playing with passion. A true desire. Falling forward upon contact. Displaying heart. A remarkably memorable performance from the rookie.

* Hope the Kevin King injury isn’t too serious. He was playing his best game of the year.

* If Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and Mike Daniels play in that fashion for the rest of the year, the Packers will be tough to beat.

* Brett Hundley as he was walking off Soldier Field: "Grinding it out today. First victory, baby, in the books. Feels good. We're all blessed, man. Go Pack! Keep it up. We're going strong."

* Sometime soon, the Packers need HaHa to make a play.

* Another strong game from Blake Martinez. Not his best by any means, but still impressive.

* This was an old-school black and blue NFC North battle. Mike McCarthy prevailed in riveting fashion! We saw 5-wide. We saw the I-formation. We saw 2-TE sets. We saw 3 WR sets with a single back and a TE. Mike McCarthy was not leaving anything on the table.

* Clay Matthews was taking his pass rush up the field. He was coming on speed rushes. I hope the Packers are tabling his stunt to the inside. When he applies pressure around the edge, he forces the QB off of his spot. He was consistently irritating Trubisky.

* Kenny Clark is a physical demon in the middle of the DL. Love his play.

* Brett Hundley's theme for the week: "We just have to keep this momentum going. We have to ride the wave." Yes, Brett. Yes, we do.

* Montravious Adams showed flashes of being quick off the ball. Hoping that this continues to improve with more playing time.

* This defense is so much better with Ahmad Brooks than it is without him.

* The Bears were anywhere from a 5-5.5 point favorite for most of the week. Vegas was predicting a Bears win. Packers fans were feeling the same. Bears fans were thinking Trubisky would start off 0-1 as a starter against Green Bay. McCarthy proved otherwise. I have no idea how Packers fans can have ill feelings toward McCarthy.

* I’d like to see Pipkins playing this weekend if King isn’t able to play. Would rather see Pipkins on the field than Josh Hawkins.

* You could argue that Brett Hundley outplayed Matt Ryan, Big Ben, Cam Newton, and Sam Bradford when they played at Soldier Field. You could also easily argue that Mike McCarthy’s team performed better than the Falcons, Steelers, ‘queens, and Panthers when they showed up at Soldier Field. Really impressive day for the Hundley + McCarthy combination.

* Feels like Josh Jones is going to force a big turnover soon.

* McCray, Evans, Linsley, Taylor, and Bakhtiari. Very well done, men.

* After the John Fox challenge, I was pining for the ref to say: AFTER FURTHER REVIEW, THE BEARS STILL SUCK.

* Thought that Marwin Evans would be more active than he’s been on the field. He’s been non-existent. That surprises me.

* Prior to the injury, it was fun to watch Ty Montgomery in his groove. Felt like he was going to easily top 100 yards.

* Damarious Randall has no interest in making open field tackles.

* Hundley needs to look to the TE. Kendricks is open. If he does look to Kendricks, Hundley will have his escape. It feels like Kendricks is uncovered, at times.

* Need better, Davon House. That was unacceptable.

* Good to watch RIP catching the ball in the flat for the 1st down. I’d like to see more of that.

* Trevor Davis. Catch the ball and go. No dancing. Take the ball up the field. Eat yards.

* The amount of special teams penalties is puzzling. In fact, our intelligence in nearly every facet of our special teams has been disastrous. Gotta get that cleaned up. If the Packers are going to continue to win without Rodgers, we’re going to continue to need to get sacks and we’re going to need to start forcing turnovers. We’re also going to have to execute the snap and the hold on FG’s. Further, we’re going to need a special teams TD at some point. We need to start swinging the field position battle on special teams.

This week – it’s the Ravens. At Lambeau Field. In a must-win game for the Packers. With a win, the dream is alive. With a loss, things get tricky. It’s time to elevate, Lambeau. Get loud, baby. Make a difference!

Once again, Vegas is spitting in the face of the Packers organization. The 4-5 Ravens enter Lambeau as a 2-point favorite. That's bulletin board material. Get the troops motivated, Coach Mac!

The Ravens are not a very good football team. If they don’t force turnovers or make plays on special teams, they don’t have the weapons to win on the offensive side of the ball. Mike Wallace can still run, but he wasn’t what he was 7 years ago. Jeremy Maclin has strictly become a possession WR. He can no longer stretch the field. Breshad Perriman is athletically gifted, but he’s battled injuries and hasn’t been the player the Ravens thought he’d be. Still, he’s a threat. Michael Campanaro is a solid slot WR who can cause problems on 3rd down. Benjamin Watson continues to get it done. The grizzly vet is a steady performer. He still gets open. He can still block. He’s also tough to bring down. Maxx Williams is a beast, but he hasn’t been overly productive. Nick Boyle isn’t a star, but he can do it all at TE. The Ravens are stacked with talent at TE. Joe Flacco. How did this guy win a Super Bowl? I’ll never understand. He’s a stationary passer who is prone to turnovers. Yes, he can throw the deep ball and he’s clutch in the 2-minute drill, but as an every down QB, he’s in the bottom tier of the league. The Ravens will be without Ronnie Stanley, their best OL. The Ravens OL has protected Flacco well this year, but they aren’t an intimidating bunch. The Packers DL should win the line of scrimmage. When Alex Collins is in traffic, the Packers have to slap his wrists. If so, he’ll put the ball on the turf. He’s a fumbler. Expect Danny Woodhead to be back from injury. He’s dangerous. Every time he touches the ball, he seems to find the marker. He’ll present a big challenge for Blake Martinez in the passing game. Terrance West isn’t scaring anyone.

The Ravens defense lives off turnovers. Terrell Suggs remains an elite player in the league. He’s a dominant pass rusher. A future Hall of Famer. Carl Davis, Michael Pierce, Brandon Williams, and Chris Wormley aren’t household names, but they are high energy, physical defenders. Za’Darius Smith is a tireless pass rusher as well. CJ Mosley is a dynamite ILB. Matt Judon is an intelligent, hustling strong side LB. Jimmy Smith is among the best CB’s in football. He’s hurt with a bum Achilles, but he’s expected to play. He needs to be tested deep early and often. If he’s unable to go, that’d be a big blow to the Ravens secondary. Brandon Carr is a solid CB. He has the length and the speed that you crave, but his play has been inconsistent. Ladarius Webb is a gamer. I wish he was in Green Bay. Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle are savvy, talented safeties who can do it all. Marlon Humphrey is a promising rookie CB.

The strengths of the Ravens team is special teams, their secondary and their TE’s. Sam Koch and Justin Tucker are as good as it gets as a specialist duo. I feel as though Tucker is the best Kicker in the game. The Ravens utilize their TE’s to create mismatches on offense and to show disguise. Their confidence in their secondary allows them to blitz in abundance.

Coming off of a victory, the Packers walk into Lambeau Field with a ton of confidence. They expect to win this game. The crowd is amped as well. With temperatures in the 30’s, it’s fall football weather. I love these games. Grind it out. Physical games.

Expect the Packers to pound Williams early in the game. This sets up a 2nd and 7 play action. It’s Hundley to Adams deep down the sideline for a big game.

Nick Perry has another incredible game. He overpowers the Ravens makeshift OL. Mike Daniels does the same. Clay Matthews is flying off the edge. Matthews is disruptive. He forces the immobile Flacco off of his spot and into the arms of Ahmad Brooks for a sack. The Packers DL is in control. The crowd is rowdy. High fives, all around.

The Packers defense forces two turnovers.

The Ravens aim is to slow down the pass rush and the brute force of the Packers DL. The Packers have been awful against the screen. I expect Woodhead to grab multiple first downs in the passing game.

Defensively, the Ravens blitz. On nearly every passing down. They confuse Hundley. They frustrate Hundley. They force a bad decision that ends up in CJ Mosley’s hands.

But, Hundley gets the last laugh. He’s glowing with confidence. Showing his California swagger. It’s not the sand in your toes Ocean breeze blowing his cares away, but the brisk Titletown, U.S.A. winds keep him equally free-flowing and grounded. Hundley leads a late game-winning TD drive on a pass to Nelson.

If the Packers don’t turn the ball over this weekend, the Packers will win by double digits. Mark my words.

Packers 20.
Ravens 16.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin’ S-Mac.
Talkins-mac.blogspot.com
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