Friday, January 20, 2017

My Take -> NFC Championship

Greetings, G-Force.

Super Bowl or Bust. At 4-6 that seemed like a farfetched notion. A 10-game table stood in front of us. 8 of those games are behind us. All victories. Now, we're 60 minutes away from achieving what seemed impossible 8 weeks ago. The #1 mission: Put the emotion of Dallas behind you. The sole focus is Atlanta. A Dome that has been good to us. Until then, we enjoy the journey and the sensational buzz that was the Divisional Game in Dallas. Mason. Freakin'. Crosby. Two kicks of 50+ yards in under 100 seconds. In the Fortress that Jerry Jones built. Building a Fortress in My Mind.

My excitement for this weekend needs to be calmed. So, I put on my favorite musician, Michael Franti, in a mellow manner with his Songs from the Front Porch album. I marinate to the soft beats and a chilled out version of his emphatic voice. I poured not one - but two - flavorful beers. A 2015 Evil Twin Lil' B and a Russian River Sanctification from 01/28/14. The Evil Twin Lil' B ages magically. 11.50%. An immaculate Porter that pours like chocolate syrup into a glass. The head on this gem remains perfectly carbonated after 13 months in my beer bunker. Think chocolate, caramel, raisins and brown sugar. Yes, that good. I've coupled it with the classic Sour Blonde from Russian River. Full on Brett. 6.75% ABV. Tastes like a funky, wild, apple glass of wine. Carbonation is still healthy, but slimmed down a bit. Tart. Well balanced. Grandiose!

Here are my quick vibes from the last week:

* Mike McCarthy. Aggressive. Victorious. He's coaching with heightened senses that are singularly focused on utilizing the near super-human powers of his 2-time MVP QB. Giving his season to his XLV MVP QB. Trusting him to be decisive at the line. And, when faced with severe peril, he even gives his brilliant QB the opportunity to utilize his sensational abilities to draft a play in the huddle.

* Aaron Rodgers. Fully concentrated. Focused on a Super Bowl title. He realizes how precious this year resides in the annals of his career. Rodgers needs a title. A 2nd title would do wonders for his legacy. He needs it to solidify his place in the NFL's History. Right now, he's flat out dominating opponents. He's in the zone. He needs to stay there for 120 more minutes. If so, the Packers will be the team to beat. Anything less than Aaron Rodgers' best and the Packers will likely be on the outside looking in.

* Mason Crosby. Man. Just thinking about it makes me tap my head while looking at the computer screen. Tell me that you weren't standing in front of the TV with the same lean that Julius Peppers was offering on the final kick. And, the way Letroy Guion runs away may or not have been a reaction similar to mine.

* I cried after the win. Pure joy. Seriously.

* Ty Montgomery. 17 touches. 81 yards. That's 4.76 yards per touch. He added two TD's. He was fantastic. He has a nose for the first-down marker. He trusts his blocking. He's seeing the field well. I wish he'd hold onto the football a little more carefully as he's punching it up the gut between the tackles.

* RIP! Loved seeing him pound his way for 20 yards. Wish he'd have stuck a stiff arm into the chest of the DB and walked into the end zone. Was really looking forward to that exclamation point as he broke into the open field.

* David Bakhtiari. He might be the 2nd best player on the team this year.

* Jared Cook! What a difference he's making. A match-up nightmare. Utilized in multiple different positions in the formation. Loved seeing him lined up tight in the 3-point stance. He was often looking to get down the seam, but didn't have the explosion to get loose. When utilized in the slot and/or on the perimeter, he was able to get off the line of scrimmage and then utilize his big frame to get separation. 6 catches. 103 yards. 1 TD. He seems to pick up a 1st down every time he catches the ball. And, man, if this season ends in Super fashion, we'll be watching video of his footwork for the rest of our lives.

* Davante Adams. Emerging. Really hope he's healthy to go this weekend. He's matured so much over the last 12 months. He's confident. He's comfortable. He's playing with inimitably jerky movements. He was free off of the line of scrimmage on nearly every play. He was also playing tougher than he has in the past. Really impressive performance.

* Randall Cobb. Lost in the beauty of Cook's end of game sideline footwork was the magnificence of Cobb's footwork when Rodgers was rifling it down the sidelines for a Packers first down. Rodgers leaned on Cobb throughout. On each of the TD drives, Cobb had significant plays.

* GERONIMO! 3 catches. 46 yards. Love watching him work when plays break down. He's always moving. He's elusive on broken plays. Rodgers seems to look for him when scrambling like he used to seek out Cobb. Rodgers trusts Allison over the middle of the field. Also, fantastic to see Allison working in the run game. A willing blocker. Fun to witness the rookie grinding.

* COME ON, JORDY! Be healthy!

* Richard Rodgers. Fantastic concentration. Not an easy catch. Got the Packers off to the quick start that was needed.

* MASON CROSBY! Unbelievable. Amazingly ridiculous.

* Thought McCarthy called a perfect game. Except for 1 call. 2nd & 8. Ball on the 33. 1:48 to play. One more first down and the Packers could have essentially run the ball down to the last 10-15 seconds for a game winning FG. McCarthy should've stuck with Rodgers. Instead, he went conservative. He went jumbo. He brought in Spriggs. He tried to run Montgomery. Spriggs was slow off the ball. Linsley got blown off of the ball. The play lost 5 yards and nearly knocked the Packers out of FG range. I saw the formation. I yelled, "WHY?!?!" at the TV screen. I said, "PLEASE BE PLAY ACTION." The results were so predictable. Totally bummed me out. Thankfully, Crosby was true from 56 yards out.

* TJ Lang. What a gamer. Really hope he stays in GB. Hope he's cap-friendly. Doubt he is.

* Lane Taylor. Really solid game. Even when he was beat near the goal line, Ty's speed allowed him to burst thru. Overall, thought that Taylor played very well. TT made a risky call at the beginning of the year when he released Sitton. Taylor has made TT look wise.

* Bulaga. Bookend. Another terrific game from Bulaga.

* The Packers have to clean up their awareness of blitzes coming from the slot. They were vulnerable. Montgomery was slow to recognize it. It was almost really costly.

* Christine Michael has to catch the kickoff cleanly. Was almost a huge momentum swinging play.

* MICAH HYDE!! Gotta lock him up. On two of the first three possessions, Hyde was present on the third down play that got the defense off of the field. He also had a great sack on the blitz when he beat Witten to the inside. And, oh, that interception. Glorious!

* Kentrell Brice. Really solid game from the rookie. He has such a bright future. Really wish he'd have grabbed the pick. Would've been a nice game changing, confidence building play for him. Luckily, Hyde bailed him out. Still, would really like to see him come through and make the most of his opportunities. Still have an inkling that he could force a turnover with a vicious tackle. Much like the one he had in the open field against Dallas.

* Thought Joe Thomas had a strong game. Since Clay is strictly playing OLB, Thomas has been our best ILB.

* Kenny Clark. Great recognition. Great instincts. Liked to see him slapping at the ball as he made the tackle on the screen as well. He had a solid push most of the game.

* Dean Lowry is offering high-effort, productive snaps. Hasn't been getting box score results per se, but he's been a worthwhile player. He hasn't been offering wasted snaps.

* NICK PERRY! Another super game from Perry. Wish he had two hands. He's a difference maker. Hope he sticks around.

* On the final 3rd down play, it was Clay who got to Prescott to force the throw that Perry knocked down. Still, the Packers need Clay to be a difference maker from here on out. We need sacks. We need a turnover.

* Julius Peppers was quiet. I expect him to be a monster against ATL.

* On the final drive, I felt bad for Josh Hawkins. He was in perfect position on the first play. Had the ball been on target, Hawkins was in position to make a play. Instead, it was just behind Williams and Williams was able to shield Hawkins from being able to make a play.

* Datone Jones. YOU NEED TO MAKE A PLAY. Get to the QB on 3rd down. Burst through. You're on the field with Perry, Matthews and Peppers. We're counting on you. You need to show up, Datone. Be the hero. I believe in you.

* I have a weird attraction to Jordan Tripp. Really like his presence on the sidelines and on special teams. Really good late season signing. Brings natural leadership.

* Still holding onto the thought that Hyde makes a significant special teams play as a PR.

* Hope you are healthy, Morgan Burnett.

* Great punting, Jacob Schum.

* Bene Benwikere. Liked his signing to the Practice Squad. I really liked him coming out of college. In fact, prior to the 2014 NFL Draft, I had him projected as the Packers 6th round pick and I wrote: Round 6 (b) - Bene Benwikere, CB, San Jose St. "Not an elite tackler, but he wants it. Plays the ball exceptionally well when it's in the air. Solid playmaking skills with the ball in his hands as well. Could develop into a REALLY good player." Benwikere has played in 27 games and started 14 of them. He has 2 interceptions, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries. He hasn't developed into the player I thought. He was having a decent year in 2015 prior to breaking his leg. He started all 4 games that he played for Carolina this year. But, he struggled in those 4 games. Still, I like his addition to the Practice Squad. A lot.

* Ted Thompson. I'm grateful. You've been phenomenal. I'm curious about a couple of things that I read this week and it worries me that he's nearing the end of the line. This is from the Great Blue North Draft Report: "Let me mention the most shocking thing about this week in my world. For the first time in my 8 years covering the Shrine Game, since it’s move to Florida, PACKERS GM TED THOMPSON is conspicuous by his absence. It is clear that he has not and will not be attending the Shrine Venue this year. I fully expect to see him next week in Mobile. If I do not then I will be concerned about his health and/or status as the key football man in the PACKERS organization." And, this from "One of the yearly standards of Shrine Game practice is for Packer GM Ted Thompson to wander onto the field during live action, often to accost an unsuspecting punter or defensive back trying to make a play in the end zone. Alas, I have not seen Thompson at any of the practice sessions. It doesn’t mean he’s not here, but if he is he’s far less visible than normal." If it's true that Ted Thompson isn't prowling around the East-West Shrine Game practices, I'm worried about the upcoming NFL Draft. That's where he's done some of his best work.

* Mike McCarthy has coached the Packers for 11 years. 4 of them, the Packers have played in the NFC Championship Game. As a reminder, the year before McCarthy joined the Packers, we finished 4-12.

* Mason Crosby. MASON CROSBY!

This week - it's the Falcons. In Atlanta. The home of the greatest Quarter in my Packers lifetime. I take you back to the Divisional Playoff Game in the heart of the XLV run. If you haven't watched this is a while, do yourself a favor, turn it on. All of the Packers stars show up in vintage form. The Packers were trailing 7-0. But, driving to start the Quarter. Just under 3 minutes into the 2nd Quarter, Rodgers hits Nelson to equalize! A special teams blunder makes it 14-7 Atlanta on the ensuing kickoff return. Then, the nearly unparalleled excitement begins. Kuhn gets the Packers even after he bulls his way into the end zone from a yard out. On this play, the "Freezer" was born as BJ Raji leads the way! Atlanta looks to respond as they move the ball inside the 20. But, Sir Charles wills his way through the Atlanta protection for a big sack to force 3rd and long to slow the Falcons as they entered the Red Zone. The following play, T-Mon kills the drive by baiting Matt Ryan into a bad pass. T-Mon grabs the pick and the Packers get the ball back. The MVP goes back to work. 5 times in the 2nd Quarter, Rodgers connects with passes of at least 20 yards. Yes, 5 passes of at least 20-yard yards in a Quarter. Fancy that! Punctuated with a tremendous 20-yard TD pass to James Jones in the corner of the end zone. Then, on the final play of the Quarter, it's T-Mon to close the half. Ecstasy! I can't get enough of Joe Buck's call of that play. Seriously sensational! "He tried to bite off more yardage. And. He. Just. Got. Burned." Nintendo Nick makes an appearance as he brings the flair and escorts his good buddy, T-Mon, into the end zone. Pure happiness.

That win brought us to the NFC Championship. This one is for the NFC Championship. It's for all of the NFC's marbles. It's all real. And, the Packers need to bring 60 minutes of intensity.

While the Packers offense has been tremendous for the last 8 weeks, Atlanta's has been arguably the best in the NFL all season long. Matt Ryan is playing at an MVP level and he's utilizing all of his weapons. Julio Jones is in the top 2 WR's in the NFL. Mohammed Sanu is a talented #2 WR who is a tough cover for the Packers with his size/speed combination. Taylor Gabriel, where did he come from? All he does is catch first downs and TD's. He can't get over the top with speed. He wins with speed out of the slot. He's shifty. He'll annoy. Justin Hardy is a really good 4th WR. He has the ability to get deep and he's also a talented possession receiver. Austin Hooper is a dependable receiving TE. A good blocker as well. Levine Toilolo is a Red Zone threat. Devonta Freeman is a do-it-all back who hits the hole as well as any back in the NFL. He's also a lethal pass catching RB. He's arguably a top 5 back in the NFL. Tevin Coleman does not get the credit that he deserves. He's one of the best pass catching RB's in football. He, too, hits the hole with a quick burst that is tough to stop. Freeman averaged 4.8 yards per carry this year. Coleman averaged 4.4 yards per carry. They're a dangerous RB duo. The Falcons OL has played better than advertised. Alex Mack is arguably the best Center in football. He's stabilized the line. Jake Matthews has been solid at LT. Andy Levitre, Chris Chester and Ryan Scharaeder have all over-achieved. If the Packers DL can't win the line of scrimmage, this could be a long, frustrating day for our defense. It should be noted that the Atlanta OL gave up 37 sacks on the year.

Defensively, the Falcons will be without Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn had 2 sacks, 2 QB Hits and 2 tackles for loss in the first meeting. In the first meeting, the Packers led 24-19 at the half. The Packers had two 3rd Quarter possessions. Both drives ended due to third down sacks by Clayborn. His loss can't be overstated. Grady Jarrett, Jonathan Babineax and Tyson Jackson will fill in. Babineaux has had a solid career for the Falcons. The veteran is a high intensity DL who offers push. Grady Jarrett plugs holes and offers a decent pass rush for a big guy. Tyson Jackson has all of the talent, but he's been an underachiever throughout his career. Vic Beasley has been a beast. He crushed the Packers in the first meeting. He finished with 15.5 sacks in the regular season. It is imperative that the Packers contain Beasley in the pass rush. If so, I feel really good about the Packers putting up points in abundance. Brooks Reed is a high effort pass rushing OLB. Deion Jones is an active, pursuing ILB who plays with fantastic speed. De'Vondre Campbell is a guy I was high on coming out of college. I thought he'd have fit into the Packers system. Atlanta selected him earlier than I thought he'd go, but he's filled in nicely and had a good season. With Jones and Campbell, the Falcons will have two rookies starting at LB. Hopefully, Rodgers' mind will outthink them. Robert Alford has emerged into a legit CB. Jalen Collins hasn't been the player I thought he'd become. He gets beat on double moves, but he's physical at the line of scrimmage. Keanu Neal is a beast of a safety. Ricardo Allen can be beat. The Falcons have little to no depth in the secondary.

Like most people, I envision a full-on shoot-out. But, I'm feeling good. I believe that the Packers will be able to spread out the Falcons defense. We'll force the Falcons to come on a variety of blitzes and I expect Rodgers to see the blitz. When he does, he'll pick the Falcons secondary apart. With the Packers OL winning the line of scrimmage, Rodgers is quick to release. Cobb gets loose underneath.

Much like the Dallas game, McCarthy calls a number of empty sets. He's looking for Rodgers to get rid of the ball quickly. He's daring the Falcons to send extra blockers to force single coverage. If Rodgers recognizes the single coverage, he'll hit on big plays. If not, the Falcons will get home. I'm betting on Rodgers.

Defensively, we'll struggle to stop Atlanta, but hopefully, we can slow them down. I look for the Packers to rush 4. Often. We'll try to defend the 5 Atlanta receivers with 7 defenders. We'll bank on the front 4 to make plays.

I'm expect Clay Matthews to be motivated as he goes nose-to-nose with his younger cousin. I expect Clay to make two really big plays.

I expect Julius Peppers to have a forced fumble.

I expect Nick Perry to apply pressure.

I expect Mike Daniels to be present in the run game.

I expect Micah Hyde to make a 3rd down play.

We grab 4 sacks. We force a turnover. Atlanta has 2 sacks. They don't force a turnover. That's the difference.

Another big game for Cook. Another nice game from Allison.

Hyde with a big punt return.

Packers 38.
Falcons 34.

We are going to the Super Bowl!

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

My Take -> NFC Divisional Playoffs

Greetings, G-Force.

It was emphatic. It was commanding. It was convincing. Over the last 25 years, when the Green Bay Packers weren't winning Super Bowls in the playoffs, they've dealt with playoff heartbreak. They've been losses that lingered painfully into the summer months. Twice, those losses have come at the hands of the New York Giants at Lambeau Field. This years Wild Card contest wasn't about to be the third time that Eli Manning walked into Lambeau and left victorious. In fact, it was the exact opposite. Wild Card Weekend in Titletown, U.S.A. appeared to be rowdy. It looked like a celebration that could propel the Packers onto another rival that destroyed playoff runs in 1993, 1994 and 1995. We found revenge against the G-Men. It's now time to do the same to the Cowboys in Dallas.

When you see as much live music as I do, you occasionally encounter nights where the music lives within you for an extended period of time. For me, seeing Railroad Earth on 1/17/14 was one of those nights. It was a magical night in Denver. They were on point. The crowd was on fire. The music was magic. Well, as I write, I'm reliving that night as I listen to the recording of the show. I sip a New Holland Dragon's Milk that was brewed on 8/31/15. Most Bourbon Barrel Stouts I'd prefer to have a little age on. They're often brewed too hot. This one measures in at 11% ABV. It's billed as having "roasty malt character intermingled with deep vanilla tones, all dancing in an oak bath." I've always felt like it had a chocolate backbone to it. With the vanilla introduced heavily at the front. With the age, I'm having a hard time finding the chocolate. Seems like it's left. The bourbon still lives on. I'm fond.

Here are my quick vibes from the last week:

* Mike McCarthy. Most will remember McCarthy's boneheaded decision to go for it on 4th and 1 from his own 42 with a 14-6 lead as his defining moment. Not me. Even though I firmly disagreed with the decision, I'll never complain when McCarthy is aggressive. An aggressive Mike McCarthy is a good Mike McCarthy. Granted, there's a difference between being aggressive and being smart and the decision to go for it on 4th and 1 was flat-out stupid. Nonetheless, McCarthy rallied. He kept his team focused. As the dictator of the offense's design, he led 4 more drives. The results: 4 plays, 63 yards and a Packers TD; 5 plays, 23 yards and a Packers FG; 10 plays, 80 yards and a Packers TD; 9 plays, 55 yards and a Packers TD. Mike McCarthy is in a play calling rhythm.

* Quick asterisk: Last week, I had a major typo. I accidentally wrote this: "Want to see a stat that is bursting with goodness? Here's how hard it is to win in the NFL: there are 4 coaches in the HISTORY of the NFL who have guided their teams to 4 consecutive playoff berths. Tom Landry, Chuck Knoll, Bill Belichick and Mike McCarthy. Packers fans, don't ignore Mike McCarthy's greatness. That's esteemed company. Hall of Fame company." It's not 4 consecutive playoff berths. McCarthy has been to 8 consecutive playoff berths. I'll make the change in my previous blog. But, to highlight, that's 8 consecutive playoff seasons with Mike McCarthy as Head Coach of the Green Bay Packers. That's good stuff.

* Aaron Rodgers. What a rebound! The Packers will only go as far as Aaron Rodgers will lead them. If he plays as he did for the first 26 minutes of the game, the Packers will be eliminated. But, if Rodgers plays as he did over the last 34 minutes, the Green Bay Packers will be tough to defeat. Rodgers has been patient, he's been precise, he's seeing the field well and he has his mobility. When those things are in play, the Packers are as good as any team in the NFL.

* Get well, Jordy. Hurry back. We need you.

* CHRISTINE MICHAEL! What a spark! Adding a burst. Bringing a bounce to the Packers offense at a time when it needed to be uplifted. He also added goodness to the Packers special teams units. Christine Michael needs to be a Packer next year as well.

* Ty Montgomery. 68 yards on 14 touches. 4.85 yards per touch. Guy is a weapon. Keep on feeding him.

* RIP! He's sure handed as a receiver. And, love seeing him punch it into the end zone near the goal line.

* Jared Cook. What a mismatch. Had Rodgers hit him in stride on the opening possession, it's possible that Cook might've had an 86-yard TD. Amazingly, I get the feeling that there are packages designed for Cook that we've yet to see. We haven't seen him streaking down the middle of the field a whole lot. Especially out of a three point stance. I wonder if that's coming up this week.

* Davante Adams! Another big week for the youngster. I'll never understand why CB's don't jam him at the line of scrimmage on every play. When he gets a free release, Adams has a shake to him that'll set him free against any CB in the NFL. But, when he's jammed off his spot, he can be quick to give up. When Adams got the free release on the opening play of the first TD drive, Aaron Rodgers found his rhythm. After that play, the Giants never had hope.

* Randall Cobb. He's back. With a vengeance! Grand to see the lil' guy come down with the magical HAIL MARY! The play of the weekend. The type of play that could live in Packers legend forever if the Packers can continue to walk away victorious. Cobb was matched against a back-up CB for most of the second half. When that's the case, Cobb will win that battle every time. Especially if he's given a free release off of the line of scrimmage.

* The Green Bay Packers OL has to be revved up for this weekends battle. They are outright dominant. They're a steady pass protecting wall. It's widely assumed that Dallas has the best OL in football. I hope the Packers OL proves otherwise this weekend. They were fantastic against the Giants.

* The Packers need more from Clay Matthews. Sure the sack, forced fumble, super hustle, fumble recovery play was glorious. It was vintage Clay. But, too often, he was dancing with the OT. He needs to be the aggressor. Play in and play out.

* Julius Peppers wants a ring. We have to get him one. He's fresh for the stretch run. And, he's playing with an edge. 1 sack. 1 tackle for loss. 2 QB knockdowns. 2 passes defensed.

* When Mike Daniels is constantly winning his 1 on 1 battle, no one is going to run on the Green Bay Packers. Daniels was fierce early in the game vs the Giants.

* Really solid game by Jake Ryan. He was active. He was a sure tackler. 3 passes defensed. Has to be a career high for him.

* Another really impressive game by Joe Thomas. He's really emerged as the season has progressed. He needs to continue to see playing time.

* Jordan Tripp has been a really nice special teams addition. He's smart. Has a chip to him. Have the feeling he could force a turnover on special teams before the year is over.

* Jeff Janis looked explosive as a KR.

* Huge kick by Mason Crosby to extend to a 2-score lead.

* Jacob Schum with a really strong day punting the football.

* I've been saying it weekly, but Micah Hyde is going to make a huge play as a PR.

* CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE. Long time followers know my take on this. 14:33 left in the game. The Packers take over at their own 20. 80 yards from victory. 10 plays. 80 yards. 5:14 off of the clock. Play of the drive: 3rd & 10 from their own 30. McCarthy splits Montgomery wide right. Presumably, the Giants expected him to be in the backfield. Montgomery comes on an underneath route. Adams sets a "pick" on the CB covering Montgomery. Montgomery catches the pass in stride and jets up the field for 34 yards. Twice more on the drive, Rodgers connects on 3rd down, including the 3rd and 3 16-yard strike to Cobb for the dagger. Championship teams drive home that drive for the TD. The Packers did just that.

* As I've been saying for weeks, this Packers team doesn't need to win with defense. This defense can bend, but it can't break. We were fortunate over the first 23 minutes of the game. It could've easily been 21-0. But, the Giants didn't finish. And, the Packers defense kept a sputtering Packers offense in the game. In addition, this Packers defense needs to force a turnover or two a game and they need to get the occasional 3rd down sack. Against the Giants, they forced two turnovers and grabbed two sacks. If they can do that weekly, we'll be in position to win every game.

* 7 in a row! Ain't it sweet when everything comes together?

* The Lambeau crowd was terrific. If you were in attendance, pat yourself on the back. You made a difference!

* If you're like me, you've probably watched the HAIL MARY thirty times or more. But, the clip that is tear jerking for me is to see the little boys jubilation in the front row of the end zone. Who is that little guy? I want to send him a Packers gift. He was stoked. He literally almost brought a tear to my eye when I saw the replay during halftime with him in the background jumping for joy. That - to me - is the beauty of the purity of sports and why I revel in the life of being an ultimate fan.

This week - it's the Cowboys. In my life, the Packers and the Cowboys have played in the playoffs in 1982, 1993, 1994, 1995, and 2014. Every time the home team has won. Sounds bad - except we must remember that the Packers won the XLV trophy in Dallas. They have confidence walking into this Stadium. The Packers believe that they have command over Jerry's Dome. Now, we must prove it on Divisional Playoff weekend. The Divisional Playoffs are my favorite football weekend of the year. It's fitting that the cap to the weekend will be Green Bay at Dallas. Two of the most storied franchises in football getting ready to duke it out on Sunday afternoon. For a date in the NFC Championship. Let's party!

The Cowboys present match-up issues for the Packers. Dez Bryant is a head case, but he's also a phenomenal football player. Terrance Williams runs a slant route as well as anyone in the game and he's lethal after the catch. Cole Beasley is a star as a slot WR. Brice Butler gets no props, but he can run a go route and get off the line of scrimmage like a first-class WR. Jason Witten can't move very well anymore, but he still knows how to sit in the zone and he's a 6th OL as a blocker. Gavin Escobar can stretch the middle of the field. Zeke Elliott has masterful vision. He's the best one-cut RB in the game. He wants the ball. He gets better as the game goes on. Alfred Morris is a terrific back-up RB who knows how to get 1st downs in short yardage situations. Darren McFadden is fresh and ready to make an impact. He can still hit the hole with conviction. Lance Dunbar is an average 3rd down receiving RB. The Cowboys OL doesn't have a weakness. They wear you down. They beat you up. They beg for you to say mercy. They dominate games. And, often, the Cowboys win in the 4th Quarter as their OL has completely defeated the oppositions DL. LG, Ronald Leary is the worst of the 5-man wrecking crew. Dak Prescott. What a gamer. A rook who plays like a veteran. He handles play-action as well as anyone in the league. And, his mobility is tough to prepare for. He's tough, he's athletic. He wins. And, he takes care of the football. Annoying.

Defensively, the Cowboys get all of their players back. Tyrone Crawford returns. As does Morris Claiborne. They've been a defense that has given up yards, but they've been opportunistic. They battle you. They outwork you. They out hustle you. They rotate their defensive line extensively to try and keep their line fresh. I imagine that the Packers will be thinking that they can get a couple of free plays out of the Cowboys substitution patterns. Or, in a worst case scenario, the Packers should be able to force Dallas to burn a timeout or two by hurrying to the line of scrimmage. Tyrone Crawford isn't a superstar, but he gives maximum effort. Every time I watch David Irving, he's making a big play. Like every single game, Irving seems to make a game-altering play. Maliek Collins has all kinds of talent. When the effort is there, Collins wins. Demarcus Lawrence isn't overpowering nor overly quick, but he's savvy. And, he grinds to find his way to disrupt plays. Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson are athletic LB's who play very well in space. Sean Lee has been healthy. He's the glue to the Dallas defense. He is a machine. Dallas has good versatility in the secondary. Brandon Carr is a physical CB. He'll use his hands. If the game is called tightly, he'll be called for a penalty or two. If they let the CB's play, Carr will pester the Packers WR's. Morris Claiborne will have to knock off the rust, but when he's up for the task, he lives up to his 1st round billing. Byron Jones can play either CB or S. Orlando Scandoick can either play the slot CB or he can drop as a S. Barry Church is a S who can also cover in the slot. JJ Wilcox is a nice dime defender who is best when he's used as an in-the-box safety.

Dan Bailey is a fantastic kicker. Lucky Whitehead is an ok PR. Don't be surprised if the Packers force him to fumble this week. Just a gut feeling.

Look for the Cowboys defense to aggressively come after Rodgers. They'll blitz early. They'll blitz often. Expect Rodgers to utilize the check-down. 10 yards at a time. Montgomery has a big game catching the ball. Taking what the defense gives the Packers. Rodgers sticks with the underneath routes early. The Packers also go with the run game early to try and soften the pressuring Cowboys defense. The Dallas defense pesters the athletic Packers offense.

In theory, Dallas could run the ball 45 times. Keep Rodgers off the field. Beat up the Packers at the line of scrimmage. Make it tough for the Packers to slow them down. Even on 3rd & 7, Dallas could consider it a run down. They're that much more powerful than the Packers. But, Jason Garrett is too bullheaded. He'll want to show flair. He'll try to throw the football. And, oddly, I have a feeling that the Packers secondary will show up.

It's a low scoring first half that opens up in the second half. Dallas gets FG's. The Packers get TD's. Plainly stated - this game is won inside the 30 yard line. Not necessarily even in the Red Zone. But, inside the 30. Both teams move the football. Both teams offer bend, but don't break defenses. Unlike the regular season contest, this time, Rodgers is up to the chore.

Cook goes over 100 yards and scores 2 TD's. Allison has 4 big catches.

We're going to the NFC Championship.

Packers 31
Cowboys 26

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My Take -> NFC Wild Card

Greetings, G-Force.

The Green Bay Packers. Kings of the North. Right where we belong.

The Renegade Depravity is a celebratory gem. A chocolate and peanut butter eruption. At 11:00 ABV. A total gem. A special release from the United States best beer City. Made with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. It's sticky. It's sweet. It's delicious. I'm bummed I missed out on the can distribution. They sold out in 90 minutes, but at $30 a growler, a smiling face is found at $7.50 per pint of this release. I listen to Oliver Mtukudzi. His music keeps me happy. If you don't know the songs "Hear Me Lord" and "Todii" - check them out. I promise that you'll enjoy.

Here are my quick vibes from the last week:

* Mike McCarthy. Let it be known, the last 6 games have been the greatest coaching stretch in the Packers organization since Vince Lombardi. The Packers had their backs against the wall. Both the media and the fans were calling for massive changes inside of 1265 Lombardi Ave. It would've been easy to fold. Instead, McCarthy rallied the troops in brilliant fashion. He adjusted his offensive strategy. He kept focused. His offensive design catapulted an offense that was in dire need of a jump start. Because of McCarthy's coaching imagination, the Packers kicked off your 2017 calendar year in riveting fashion.

* Aaron Rodgers. The Table was Run. Rodgers looks healthier and more confident than he has since 2011. He's expected to play at a Championship level. He's not zone in on 1 receiver. Instead, vs the Lions, he connected with 8 receivers. He's also using his mobility. He was credited with 10 carries (1 of which was a kneel down) for 42 yards. He's patient. He's taking what the defense is giving him, but he's also aggressive. His vision is incredible right now. If he continues to play at this level, the Packers will be tough to beat. And, in reality, it might take Rodgers playing at this level throughout the playoffs in order for this team to be Super. If he has a bad game, it'll be tough to win.

* Everyone expected Ty Montgomery to get the early touches. McCarthy went with Ripkowski. Rip hammered away for 61 yards on 9 carries. 6.8 yards per clip. Rip caught 2 balls of 15 yards and a TD. The Ripkowski/Montgomery combination is eating away at defenses. They both need to improve their pass protection though. Teams are beating us with inside blitzes.

* Jordy Nelson. 6 targets. 6 catches. 66 yards. He's back. He's mentally connected to Rodgers. They're seeing the field together in unique fashion. And, when they're on the same page, they are as good as any 1-2 combination in the league outside of Big Ben & Brown and Julio & Matt Ryan.

* Geronimo! 4 catches. 91 yards. Yes, that's quite exhilarating! He's really brought something to the Packers offense. He, too, seems mentally in lock-step with Rodgers. As Rodgers has been extending plays, Allison has been able to get free in back-to-back weeks. And, therefore, we've seen humongous plays from Allison when the play was seemingly broken. His height has brought an added dimension as well. Rodgers can float the ball and Allison is going up and getting it in traffic. He's the down-out and up route with precision. Defenders haven't been able to stop it. Even if Cobb comes back, Allison deserves significant playing time. GERONIMOOOOOO!

* Jared Cook. 4 catches 56 yards. 3 of them were for 1st downs, 2 of which came on 3rd down. The other catch got the Packers into FG range right before the half. Cook has brought great value to the Packers offense. He is a match-up nightmare. You can spread him out wide. You can put him in the slot. You can line him up tight to the Tackle. You can line him up in the backfield. Look for the Packers to utilize him in big fashion this weekend.

* Davante Adams. 6 grabs. 31 yards. 2 superfly TD's.

* Richard Rodgers. Pleasantly surprising with an elusive move after the catch.

* Ty Montgomery touched the ball 11 times. He totaled 61 yards. Roughly 5.5 per touch for the 2nd year stud. Montgomery did show flaws though. Seemed to run the wrong route early on. He's struggled on blitz pick-up. And, he dropped a pass on what was a perfectly executed wheel route play call. Would've been a TD. Rodgers threw it where it needed to be thrown. Montgomery just dropped.

* The Rodgers to Allison TD. Could watch that on replay all-day. Worthy of a BELT!

* The Mason Crosby FG to end the half was a tone setter. Big kick by Crosby. On the contrary, can't afford to miss extra points.

* Crucial play of the game: 1st & 16. Packers leading 17-14. Ball at their own 25. Under 14:00 to play in the 4th. Traditionally, McCarthy goes conservative here. He tries to get 6-8 yards. Not this time. McCarthy goes to attack mode. Rodgers hits Allison for 31 yards to the Lions 44. The Packers are in business. That's an exclamation point to how you deliver on a CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE.

* Defensively, it wasn't a spectacular performance, but it was a gritty one. It got the job done. As I've been saying, give me a turnover or two a game and give me some 3rd down pressure and the Packers defense has done its job. They did just that in the NFC North Championship game. Micah Hyde grabbed a pick in the end zone. Blake Martinez and Nick Perry both had sacks. The Packers defense did enough to get the win.

* Micah Hyde is earning himself a paycheck. He was forced to play as a perimeter CB. I'm not sure that he's done that since college. He played solid football. He was jamming receivers off their routes. He was turning and running. He trusted himself. Additionally, once again, as a punt returner, Hyde looked good. I believe he is going to make a game changing play before the season is over.

* I've been critical of Dom Capers. Somehow, someway, the Packers did just enough to limit the Lions offense with a ridiculously beat-up secondary.

* It should be noted that Marwin Evans seems to be making a nice special teams tackle every week. He had 2 tackles last week.

* Joe Thomas. Playing good football. His deflection on the first 3rd down of the game was a really nice start towards slowing the Lions tempo.

* Liked how the Packers started with Burnett at ILB and Brice at Safety. We were quick. We played faster than we've looked in recent years. I also feel like Brice has the potential to lay a ball-jarring hit.

* Great game, Ladarius Gunter.

* Julius Peppers was just a step late or he'd have leveled Stafford to get the Packers off the field.

* Clay Matthews has to catch that interception.

* I'm all about Ha Ha. An intimidator. He's around the ball. He's looking for the big play.

* Thought Kenny Clark offered a nice push against the Lions. He also got his hands in the air. Good game from the 1st round pick.

* Want to see a stat that is bursting with goodness? Here's how hard it is to win in the NFL: there are 4 coaches in the HISTORY of the NFL who have guided their teams to 8 consecutive playoff berths. Tom Landry, Chuck Knoll, Bill Belichick and Mike McCarthy. Packers fans, don't ignore Mike McCarthy's greatness. That's esteemed company. Hall of Fame company.

This week. It's the Giants. At Lambeau. In the playoffs. We've seen this before. We haven't liked the result. But, that was 2007 and 2011. Oddly, in both of those years, I felt as though the Packers were the better team. This year, I'd argue that the Giants are the better team. I've wondered how much carry over would exist from the 2007 & 2011 games. It should be noted that the only Giant on the roster from the 07 game is Eli. The only Giants from the 11 game are Eli, JPP, and Marshall Newhouse. JPP won't play. Newhouse was a Packer and he was one of the mega goats of the game. We can only hope that Newhouse plays this weekend as he did the last time he played in a playoff game between these two teams.

The Giants are a scary opponent. They're mostly healthy. JPP is seriously the only noteworthy injury on the team. They're coming fully armored to Lambeau. They're confident. They believe they're going to win. Making things even more difficult for Packers fans is that even though the Giants have thwarted two postseason run previously, they're a franchise that demands respect. They operate with class. They are a well run organization. Outside of OBJ, they're represented by mature professionals. OBJ plays like he should be a Cowboy. His demeanor mirrors Dez Bryant. But, other than the way OBJ has carried himself, over the last 40 years, the Giants have been a winning organization that mostly has had football players who won with class.

The Giants will attack the Packers banged up secondary with a slew of WR options. All talented. All can play on the outside. All can play in the slot. They're dangerous. OBJ is as talented as any WR in the NFL. Sterling Shepard is a fast rising WR who looks to have the skills to become an elite WR in the NFL. Victor Cruz isn't what he was before his injury, but he's still a threat. Dwayne Harris is a better return man than he is a WR, but he's tough to bring down in the open field. Will Tye is a gifted receiving TE who seems to always be open. It's is rare for the first guy to take him down. Larry Donnell is a match-up problem, but his hands are inconsistent. Jerell Adams is a rookie TE with all kinds of promise. McAdoo probably envisions him as his eventual Jermichael Finley, but Adams has yet to live up to his billing. He's a developmental prospect who has the gifts to make a big play. The Giants OL is suspect. They have trouble giving Eli time. Ereck Flowers has played worse as the season has gone along. Bobby Hart is not a bookend RT. Marshall Newhouse sees time as the Giants occasionally play with 6 OL. John Jerry doesn't scare me at RG. Justin Pugh is a solid LG and is fully healthy. Weston Richburg has emerged in the second half of the season. In fact, the Giants have quietly established a run game running between Pugh and Richburg. A large part of the reason for the run game is that McAdoo has finally turned to Paul Perkins as his featured back. Prior to the Draft, I wrote this about Perkins: " Perkins is the 2nd best one-cut runner in the Draft, behind Elliott. He'll leave defenders in the dust with his ability to stop on a dime and to change directions. His style might fit in Green Bay better than any other runner in the Draft. He'd be an exceptional runner in a zone blocking scheme. He has great vision. Sound awareness. He sees the hole and he hits it. He makes good decisions as a runner. He's not powerful, but he picks up tough yards. The ideal runner for a blocking system designed around a one-cut RB. He drives the ball up the field." I stand by those comments. Perkins' addition to the Giants attack scares me more than anything else. They legitimately have a back who can take it to the house on every play. He has to be accounted for. Rashad Jennings is a good back as well. He's not a long distance threat, but he's a straight ahead runner who doesn't fear contact. Bobby Rainey is a decent third down back who possesses great hands.

The Giants defense has played really well without JPP. Romeo Okwara has elevated his game and held the edge. Kerry Wynn has become more physical. Damon Harrison and Jonathan Hankins have demolished OL's. Olivier Vernon is consistently getting more comfortable in his role within the Giants defense. Giants DC Steve Spagnuolo is a mastermind at getting his teams ready for December football. Much like McCarthy getting his teams ready to peak in December, Spagnuolo has done that throughout both of his tenures as DC in NY. Jonathan Casillas might have limitations as a LB, but he's a 2-time Super Bowl Champion who knows what playoff football is all about. Keenan Robinson has improved as the season has progressed. He's long and has utilized his length well in pass coverage. Devon Kennard is oft used as a pass rusher rather than someone who drops in coverage. On passing downs, Spags like to become athletic on the front 4. He'll often line up Wynn, Vernon, Kennard and Owamagbe Odighizuwa. Odighizuwa is a high effort pass rusher. He'll never give up.

The Giants have had the best secondary in football over the last 10 weeks of the year. And, thus, they've become a favorite in the NFC. Landon Collins is arguably the best safety in football right now. Janoris Jenkins isn't a shut down CB, but he's a play making CB. Jenkins is small but he's also physical. I do expect him to be called for multiple penalties as he grabs on double moves. DRC has been dynamite since recovering from his injury. Eli Apple continues to grow in the Giants secondary. Andrew Adams has greatly improved as the season has gone along and has patched up the Safety role next to Collins. Leon Hall remains a decent slot CB. Trevin Wade is pathetic. When he's on the field, he needs to be attacked.

GET LOUD LAMBEAU! I've said it before and I'll say it again. Both the Giants OL and Eli Manning struggle with noise. We'll see delay of games. We'll see false starts. If Lambeau is off it's ass and on it's feet. Show some pride. Make some noise, Lambeau.

Eli will give the Packers two chances to make plays. If we capitalize, we're in good shape. If we don't, we could be in trouble.

The Packers will have opportunities to get to Eli if we rush 5. If we get home, we'll knock Eli off of his spot and he'll be throwing off of his back foot. If we capitalize on those pressures, we'll be in good shape. If we don't, we'll be in trouble.

We have to force the Giants to play from behind. McAdoo becomes one dimensional when he's playing from behind. If the Packers don't have to worry about the run, I don't feel like the Giants can block the Packers front. And, if we can't beat Flowers, Hart and Newhouse around the edge, frankly, we don't deserve to win. If Julius Peppers, Mike Daniels and Letroy Guion can't beat up John Jerry, we don't deserve to win. Those are the match-ups that the Packers are built to win. With the injuries in the secondary, we can't be expected to win consistently on the outside.

McCarthy has to come out in attack mode. Give the ball to Rodgers. Let him work his magic. STAY AGGRESSIVE. If we try to run at Harrison and Hankins, we'll struggle. If we utilize Rip and Montgomery as receivers out of the backfield, Harrison and Hankins become limited. They don't offer much as pass rushers. It'll be crucial for the Packers to limit Harrison and Hankins' effectiveness. You can get Harrison and Hankins off the field by spreading the Giants out. That - in itself - will open up the run game. And, if they keep Harrison and Hankins on the field, then let's throw the ball around the field. Let's force the Giants to both cover and tackle our weapons.

I see the Giants preparing for the run early. Rodgers comes out with a play action roll-out. A big ball to Jordy down the field. The Packers start fast.

The Giants don't have a match-up for Jared Cook. Cook is ripe for this battle. Remember - Cook didn't play the last time we matched up. I see a big day in his future. The Giants have talent in the secondary. But, the Giants haven't seen an offense with as many weapons as the Packers have.

I look for the Giants to come with a multitude of inside blitzes. They'll attack our weakness and force our RB's to pick up the blitz. If we're up for the task, I think we can score some big plays. Especially with Cook. If not, we could be in some trouble.

I expect a physical contest. One that I hope doesn't come down to a tipped ball. Luck hasn't been on the side of the Packers in the playoffs since 1996. The tipped passes haven't gone our way. But, this is a new year. And, the vibe is real.

Peppers make a game changing play. The Packers pick off Manning twice. The Lambeau crowd is fired up. The Packers mentally grind out a victory.

Packers 23
Giants 20

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Friday, December 30, 2016

My Take -> Week 17

Greetings, G-Force.

After a festive thrashing on the purple panty queens from Minnesota, the Division title is firmly in sight for the Green Bay Packers. For the 4th year in a row, the Packers will play an NFC North title game in Week 17.

To celebrate the intensity of a Week 17 NFC North title game and the complete domination of the 'queens, it's a Crooked Stave Raspberry Origins. Fruit meets sour and a little bit of funky goodness to balance the overwhelmingly eye-pinching sour treat. I listen to a mix of the String Cheese Incident who I'll be seeing in advance of the NYE Holiday. I'm imagining myself standing on a mountain top...seashells are at my feet. Imagination creates reality. Aaron Rodgers imagined that this team could run the table. They've conquered 5 of the 6 tasks. There's one more hurdle. I'm looking forward to seeing how the Packers respond to the Prime Time finale.

Here are my quick vibes from the last week:

* Mike McCarthy outclassed Mike Zimmer in a big way. Zimmer had no answers. McCarthy attacked. He showed a variety of formations, a wide mix of personnel and he used the success in the run game vs Chicago to set up the play action pass vs Minnesota. Minnesota's ILBs were keying on stopping the run. They consistently bit on play fakes to the RB. And, this, Packers WRs were often running open across the middle of the field.

* Aaron Rodgers. In MVP mode. Playing as the most cerebral man on the field. Patient. Using all of his Arsenal. His vision is back to where it was in 2014.

* JORDY! JORDY! JORDY! Put him in the slot. Put him on the outside. Have him run a lengthy blend of routes. The queens had no answers. That was vintage JORDY Nelson. He was emphatic is demeanor. More demonstrative than I've ever seen him. A Packers legend.

* What a great performance by Geronimo Allison. Difference making catches that kept the chains moving. He wasn't afraid to cross the middle of the field. He displayed terrific hands on his last catch to keep the chains moving.

* 31-13. Targeting a championship drive. 1st & 20. 13:02 left. McCarthy calls 4 WRs. With a TE. He lines up Adams in the backfield. With a backup RT. Three WRs to the right side of the field. Cook split left. 1/2 tight to the line. McCarthy forces Harrison Smith to step towards the box to the left side of the field, expecting the slant or a RB circle pass to Adams. Instead - it isolates Cook in man-to-man coverage against MN's #4 CB. It's not a slant. It's a GO route. It's 30 yards. It's a 1st down. It's McCarthy > Zimmer.

* Ty Montgomery delivering contact!

* Aaron Rodgers with the shake, the rattle and the roll for the Packers TD and a truly sublime Lambeau Leap. Watch out, NFL. Aaron Rodgers is having fun again!

* Bulaga and Bakhtiari. Weapons as bookend Tackles.

* TJ Lang. I hope he's a Packer forever. Give us a discount, TJ!

* Linsley was moved in the run game on the opening drive. Really, really surprising to see. Otherwise, a solid game from the 3rd year Center.

* Jared Cook needs to be back in Green Bay next year. Really wish Rodgers would've connected with him on the GO route to the back corner of the end zone. Cook had a step.

* Loved the back shoulder to Adams for a TD. Hope to see more of that.

* Richard Rodgers with the TD down the middle of the field. On an absolute dart from UNO-DOS! What a beauty!

* I've wondered what a healthy Aaron Rodgers would look like in the playoffs. We haven't seen it since 2012 when we weren't in the same class as SF. He's starting to look like he's close to 100%.

* Love the way Janis is being used. Keeping DCs guessing. Soon - we will see the reverse again.

* If that's how Clay is going to play, we instantly become contenders.

* Good to see Nick Perry back on the field. This team needs him.

* Happy to see Mike Daniels reap rewards from the Clay pressure to grab a sack.

* Really wish Janis would've downed the opening punt inside the 5. Other than that, I thought he did a good job as a gunner.

* As I've been saying, if this team can get pressure on the QB and if we can force a turnover or two a game, we will be tough to beat. Each week - it seems to be someone new making a play. That excites me. Everyone is stepping up to force turnovers. Randall, Rollins, HaHa, Burnett, Peppers, Hyde, Clark and Clay have all made monster plays in recent weeks. Need that trend to continue.

* Amazing to see the variety of ways that Clay dominated the game. He won with speed. He won with power. He won with finesse on a healthy mix of spin moves. Terrific performance!

* Kenny Clark showing great awareness! Additionally, Clark is quietly providing a tremendous push. He isn't getting home, but he's disruptive. He might have a sack in him this weekend.

* If this season ends with a Super run, the Clay strip-sack will live grandly in my mind forever.

* Etch this in your brain: Mike McCarthy's troops dropped 38 points on Mike Zimmer's ass in a Week 16 December contest on Christmas Eve. Help your Holiday spirit?

* I'd lock up Micah Hyde. 4 year deal. $14-15 million. He adds great versatility. He has a big play coming as a punt returner.

* I like the use of Christine Michael as a kickoff returner. Brings great speed and vision to the unit. Kid can move. Has burst.

* Dorleant. Was that the biggest cushion you've ever seen in a non prevent defense?

* Damarious Randall. What an enigma. Who is this guy? Looks like a natural at times. Then - he's totally lost on the next play. Feel like he has another big play coming.

* Happy Gunter is healthy. Team needs him on the perimeter. Still think he has an interception on the horizon.

* Mason Crosby's 48 yard FG was big. And, his kickoffs were exceptional .

It's Super Bowl or Bust. It all starts with a Division title. We need to beat Detroit. I have a hard time imagining anyone winning at SEA, at Dallas and at either NYG or ATL. Let's start the playoff run in Titletown, U.S.A.

The Packers head to the Motor City. For all of the NFC North marbles. Suddenly, the Packers are mostly healthy. And, the Lions are banged. Player availability is a key element this week. Do Darius Slay, Theo Riddick and Travis Swanson play? Without them, it's tough for me envisioning a scenario in which the Packers lose this weekend. We'd win the line of scrimmage if Swanson is out. Riddick is as elusive as it gets in the open field. Slay is as underrated of a CB as there is in the NFL.
The #1 thing to look for this weekend: is Darius Slay going to play? If not, Detroit cannot cover Green Bay. If so, how effective will he be? The Lions lack depth at CB. They need Slay to be healthy. Nevin Lawson will grab. He always does. If his tugs are called, we will see big plays down the field. We will receive gift first downs. If the contact isn't called, Lawson can frustrate WRs. He's annoyed Adams previously. As Lawson is in stride, he's easily beaten on the back shoulder throw. Let's hope that Rodgers is in mental unison with his WRs down the sideline. If so, the Packers will light up the scoreboard.

The Lions have talent, but they lack depth. Golden Tate has hurt the Packers previously. And, with Andre Roberts unlikely to play, it wouldn't surprise me if the Lions use Tate as a punt returner. Tate is tough to bring down. Every time he touches the ball, he's a threat. Marvin Jones crushed the Packers in Week 3. Anquan Boldin is banged up. But, he's a gamer and I anticipate that he'll be ready this weekend. TJ Jones is a young receiver who looks the part. He's a tough guard in the slot, but he & Stafford aren't always on the same page. For most of the year, Stafford was on the short list for the MVP award. Have massive respect for Stafford. He never quits. He's a king of the 4th Quarter comeback. I've always liked Eric Ebron. He runs a sharp down-and-out, he can power through tackles and he's not afraid to run the fly route down the seam. Ebron is a difference maker who wins with both speed and power. Riddick strikes fear in opponents. If he's out, the bulk of the load falls on the hard-working, over-achieving Zach Zenner. The Lions OL is suspect - especially if Travis Swanson is out. Taylor Decker and Riley Reiff can both be beaten on the edges. Decker can be beaten early with a speed rush around the edge and after he plants to hold the edge, he can be beaten with power to the inside. Riley Reiff can be out-smarted by a savvy pass rusher. If Nick Perry is fit to go, he'll give Reiff all kinds of trouble as he gets underneath Reiff and pushes him back. Graham Glasgow and Larry Warford have talent, but both go through mental lapses. If Daniels, Clark and Guion play with endurance, they'll each make plays this weekend.

Defensively, the Lions have a great front 4. Ziggy Ansah is as dynamic as a pure pass rusher as their is in the game. Devin Taylor has length and speed. When Taylor extends his arms in the run game, he's not going to be moved. Taylor can also get around the edge with surprising quickness. Haloti Ngata can still plug the run game. He's tough to move. A'Shawn Robinson is showing signs of being a legitimate NFL starter. The 2nd round pick can be beaten with physicality, but he's a fighter and won't take plays off. Kerry Hyder has been a surprise as an interior pass rush. If Rodgers holds onto the football too long, Hyder will get a sack. DeAndre Levy - when healthy - is a star LB. He's been banged up. He should be good to go this weekend, but he's not 100%. Tahir Whitehead is not great in run defense, but he's an animated presence in the Lions nickel and dime defense. He's fiery. He's fast. He plays with attitude. The Lions secondary is a huge question mark. After Slay and Lawson, the Lions roll out Johnson Bademosi. Bademosi is a special teams gem, but he can't play CB in the NFL. If he sees significant action, he'll get torched. Alex Carter is not yet ready for prime time. Asa Jackson is a below average slot CB. Randall Cobb would run circles around Jackson, if Cobb can go. Glover Quin is an underrated Safety who has the ability to make plays. The same can be said for Tavon Wilson. But, the Lions depth at safety is also poor. Miles Killebrew doesn't match up well with anyone that the Packers roll out on offense.

Stafford will put up points. He will also take chances. And, those chances can lead to turnovers. I foresee the Packers defense forcing two turnovers. Peppers gets a strip. Gunter gets a pick.

The Packers have to watch the WR screen to Golden Tate. It'll come early. We will see it often.

I expect Capers to use a blend of Joe Thomas and Morgan Burnett against Eric Ebron. Ebron is problematic down the middle of the field. If we aren't careful, he could terrorize us.

Against MN, early in the game, McCarthy called 11 straight pass plays that led to 14 1st Quarter points. Zimmer had no response. The Lions don't have the queens secondary. They don't have the queens front 7. They don't have the queens defensive mental wizardry. McCarthy should give the game to Rodgers. Let it loose for 45 passes. We will see positive results. And, if we are in sync, I really believe that the only way the Lions can stop the Packers is if the Packers stop themselves.

Rodgers outplays Stafford. The NFC North title comes back to Titletown, U.S.A. Where it belongs.

Packers 38
Lions 27

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac

Friday, December 23, 2016

My Take -> Week 16

Greetings, G-Force.

When in doubt, throw the TRUMP CARD. Halas Trophy. Soldier Field. Visitors Locker Room. TRUMP CARD FOREVER! Yes, the XLV run remains clearly in the front of my mind. And, the Soldier Field magic still remains. Now, Rodgers to Nelson for 60 yards on 3rd & 11 with 00:31 seconds left sits just behind the Rodgers to Cobb 48-yard TD on 4th & 8 with 00:38 left in the game. Both are true signs of being able to drop TRUMP CARD. Post the win, hope still remains in the hearts of the Titletown, U.S.A. faithful.

When you bunker beers, you save true treats for celebratory fashion. The 2013 New Glarus Wild Sour Ale fits in that category. Sour plum goodness. Still beautifully carbonated. Surprisingly, a little less sour than I recall. To celebrate I listen to Stevie Wonder's Number 1's collection. After all, when the Bears equalized at 27, I was uptight. But, with Aaron Rodgers, everything's alright. Really wish this was released on vinyl.

Here are my quick vibes from the last week:

* Mike McCarthy. Aggressive. Assertive. Playing his stallions. Leaving victorious. In December. I'm not surprised. Are you? In typical McCarthy fashion, his team is peaking when it matters. And, now, his team controls it's own destiny. The NFC North is the Packers to win. Win and we're in.

* Aaron Rodgers. Had Nelson caught the two earlier deep balls and had Adams caught the two TD passes, statistically, Rodgers would have entered the MVP race. He's carried the team. I've wondered about his leadership skills previously, but the RUN THE TABLE message is residing strongly within the Packers locker room. His belief has carried over. Others could've said the RUN THE TABLE statement, but it wouldn't have carried the same weight. It needed to come from the 2-time MVP. He's playing with a magical form.

* Ty Montgomery! YES! YES! YES! Displaying elite skills. He's still learning the position - obviously - and I can't tell if he's overly patient or if he's slow to see the hole on occasion, but while that was an absolutely fantastic performance, I think he can be even better with more experience at the position. I love the way he powers through arm tackles. I love the burst between steps 2-5. He has a quick turbo button to his eruption through the running lane. His first TD was grand. He got the edge and then he batted off a would be CB tackler. What's amazing is that as marvelous of a performance as it was, he had 1 yard on 2 receptions. Someday - he'll have a 200 yard day.

* Christine Michael. Can you say explosive? With Michael and Montgomery, we're onto something. Throw in the occasional RIP touch and I like our backfield in a way that I've never liked our backfield. We have a great mix of players who feel comfortable with the football in their hands.

* Jared Cook. Continuing to grow in the offense. Rodgers is looking to him. He's a third down weapon. He's a mismatch all over the field. I hope he's back next year on a cap friendly deal.

* JORDY! JORDY! JORDY! Adding to his Legend. I still need his autographed photo hanging in my Packers Wall of Fame. For my taste buds, he defines what it's like to be a Green Bay Packer. Great dude. Teammate. Hard worker. Bounces back in a tough moment during a sub-par game to make the monumental game clinching play.

* Adding to how tremendous the Rodgers to Nelson play really was, the Packers had both back-up Guards on the field for the play.

* Momentum is on the side of the Packers. Need to keep on playing with confidence.

* Loved the fake reverse to Janis on the first drive of the game. The results weren't glorious, but it sets up a double play-action play in which their might be an open receiver of the top. Look for it. Fake hand-off to Ty, fake reverse to Janis, and Adams is wiggling his way down the sidelines for a big play.

* Julius Peppers! I had a feeling he had a big play coming. You know what? He has another one happening before the end of the season.

* Play Clay Matthews at ILB. Please. He's not healthy enough to take on the contact against a more powerful OT.

* As I've been saying, the Packers don't need their defense to be elite. They just need to convert a turnover or two a game and they need to apply pressure on the QB. The turnovers were in abundance last week. The pressure on the QB was not enough. Still for 3 Quarters, the Packers had a championship worthy defense. The 4th Quarter meltdown was largely due to a lack of pressure on the QB and a lack of intensity on the perimeter at CB. I'll never understand why the Packers give such a cushion on the outside. Baffling.

* Congrats to TJ Lang. Ture footballer. Gritty. Gutty. A Packers HOF'er.

* HaHa. Taking the next step! Two massive, game-changing interceptions. Leading to 14 thrilling points.

* Need more out of Datone Jones. Especially in run defense.

* Damarious Randall. Who is this guy? Two weeks ago - he looked great. Last week - he looked like he didn't belong in the NFL.

* Micah Hyde. Earning big coins in his pocket.

* Ladarius Gunter. He's inconsistent, but he shows signs of being a legit #3 CB. And, he is a perimeter CB. Those are tough to find. Still have a feeling that he has an interception coming. I think it happens this week.

* Mason Crosby. Cool as a cucumber in hot sauce under pressure.

* Dom Capers. Zero confidence in him.

This week - it's the 'queens from Minnesota. Showing up in their purple panties. Last year - they stole the NFC North crown from us in Week 17 at Lambeau. This year - they punched us in the mouth in Minnesota. We need this one. Badly.

Sam Bradford has cooled off since a hot start. The 'queens offensive line has been decimated by injury. They've been a disaster. The 'queens have talent at the skill positions. Adam Thielen is a talented WR who gets almost zero props. He's a dangerous play-making WR who offers big-time match-up problems. The Packers had no answer for Stefon Diggs in Week 2. I'm not sure we can cover him this week either. Cordarrelle Patterson is being used more extensively as a WR, often catching short screen passes. He's a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. AP was back last week. His status is uncertain for this week. Without AP, they'd be using Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata as a 1-2 punch. Asiata has been tough for the Packers to tackle previously. McKinnon is a mismatch for the Packers. Especially as a receiver. He's tough to bring down in the open field. Kyle Rudolph often destroys the Packers. He seems to score a TD every time we play each other.

Defensively, the 'queens match up with us better than any team in the NFL. Between Robison, Hunter and Griffen; they get to Rodgers from the outside. Linval Joseph has beaten us up on the inside. At LB, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Chad Greenway make up one of the best LB groups in the NFL. Terence Newman can't run and can be beaten on the outside. Xavier Rhodes is an elite perimeter CB. Andrew Sendejo is a tough-minded, sure tackling S. The 'queens should get Harrison Smith back from injury. Without Smith, they'd have Anthony Harris playing S. If it's Harris playing instead of Smith, look for many big plays to come down the middle of the field. Smith might be the best run stopping S in football. Trae Waynes can be beaten. Captain Munnerlyn is a solid slot CB.

The Packers cannot let Patterson beat us on special teams.

Plainly stated - these teams don't like each other. Minnesota wants to be Green Bay. They look at us with envy. They look at GB in much the same fashion as GB looked at CHI in the 80's. They look at us with disgust. They go straight emo when we win.

Mike Zimmer will pull out all of the stops. He'll have trick plays. He'll have a fake punt or FG at some point. He might try an on-side kick. He'll be aggressive. He's trying to install an attitude within his organization that they have to be able to beat the Packers - much in the same way that Lovie Smith used to talk to his Bears teams. Whether we're on top or not, the North title goes through GB. And, Zimmer knows it.

Much like last year - look for the 'queens to try to get McKinnon loose on the outside as a receiver. They try him deep. Our LB's can't run with him. If they connect, it could be a big play.

I don't expect Montgomery to have as big of a game running the ball, but I do see him having a big game as a receiver. And, if the Packers think that they'll be able to run at the heart of this MN defense, they're silly. They should spread MN out and go to the short passing game. Then, it's Nelson on a double move against Newman for a big play.

The 'queens secondary is a bunch of grabbers. They'll be victimized for at least 3 penalties this week. The Packers must attack with the double move. They'll bite. All game.

The Packers front 4 destroys the 'queens OL.

The key match-up of the game is Morgan Burnett vs Kyle Rudolph. With the exception of 2012, Rudolph has always won this battle. The Packers need Burnett to show up. Or they need to play Micah Hyde on him.

Ladarius Gunter makes the big game changing play this week.

The Packers are in the midst of a special run right now. It won't be spoiled on Christmas Eve.

Packers 20
'queens 16

Happy Holidays.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

My Take -> Week 15

Greetings, G-Force.

7-6. Above .500. I don’t remember what this feels like. It seems foreign to me. I’m intoxicated. Both literally and figuratively. Complete joy floods the soul. THE PACK IS BACK. Ready for a December run. But, we need help. And, we got none in Week 14. We took care of business. We gained zero ground. It’s nail biting time. It’s scoreboard watching time. We need good fortune. Thankfully, generally speaking, in the regular season, karma has been on our side. If this team gets a shot in January, I believe that we’re capable of a Super run. I really do.

For Christmas, I asked for the Peter Tosh Complete Captured Live album. It’s the only Tosh album that I don’t own on vinyl. In hopes of getting my wish, I’m sending both Santa and the Elf on the Shelf my vibe. I’m listening to it via iTunes as I write this. Also, I’m sipping a Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper. 10.5% ABV. It’s an Imperial Stout that is sweet with a roasted malt backbone. Really smooth. Find it. You want to sip it. And, with Avery’s Czar not being produced post 2016, this will rest well in my bunker for years to come. My gut tells me that it’ll age really well for 3-5 years. I’m hoping a little of the sweetness dies and that some caramel flavors pop.

Here are my quick vibes from the past week:

* Mike McCarthy. Aggressive. Victorious. That’s not a coincidence. In fact, it’s commonplace. When McCarthy attacks, he wins. When McCarthy is an offensive dictator, he’s the best coach in the NFL. Yes, I wrote that. And, I firmly believe that. His problem: he’s inconsistent and he often goes conservative. Stirringly, McCarthy was fierce in his approach against Seattle. Pete Carroll’s defense had no answers. McCarthy was in complete control. In fact, other than when Rodgers missed a wide open Adams down the sidelines near the end of the 2nd Quarter and when Lane Taylor got completely destroyed early in the 3rd Quarter, Pete Carroll was hopeless against the McCarthy led troops. McCarthy’s football team dominated. It’s December. Super teams win in December. McCarthy has his group of men ready to win. They’ve responded. They need to continue to play with intensity or the season will devastatingly end prematurely.

* Aaron Rodgers. Suddenly, he’s in the MVP mix. If he can finish the season the way he’s played the last 3 games, he’ll lead the NFL in TD’s. He’ll boastfully have carried his team to the playoffs. He deserves consideration. Plainly stated, Rodgers is dominating his competition right now.

* JORDY! JORDY! JORDY! Straight ballin’. Owning the red zone. In mental unison with Rodgers. Really fun to watch.

* Randall Cobb. Tough. Full o’ desire. Looking like his 2014 self.

* JEFF JANIS! Loved the call by McCarthy. Showing a massive middle finger to Pete Carroll’s dirty, cheap-shot taking bunch of losers.

* Davante Adams, once again, emerging as a true threat. Is this real? A year ago, I didn’t want him in GB. Today, he’s the bringing the shake that could put the Title back in Titletown, U.S.A.

* McCarthy is using Jordy in the slot. He’s using Ty extensively at RB . He’s owning the mind of Defensive Coordinators. He’s walking away victorious. No reason to think that this doesn’t continue.

* Really liked how McCarthy inserted Spriggs as a TE on run downs. Didn’t like how Spriggs got off of the ball. Spriggs was slow footed. Almost as if he didn’t know the count. Good coaching, poor execution.

* For weeks, I wondered why McCarthy was playing Starks extensively. Clearly, it was because he trusted him. Michael showed that he’s not yet to be fully trusted. It was a crucial 3rd down play. The Packers were on the brink of FG range. Leading 7-3 in a must win contest. And, Christine Michael ran the wrong way. Starks might not have picked up the first down, but he’d have been in the right spot. Rodgers is a cerebral player. He has to trust his players. Michael was not mentally up to speed for the 2nd week in a row. Both times, it cost the Packers.

* Ty Montgomery. Just how good can he be? In my September 11, 2014 blog, I wrote that I thought Ty Montgomery should be someone that the Packers should consider in the 2015 NFL Draft. He’s looking like he’s worthy of a 1st round pick. He’s a talented player who is mentally fit and the first player that makes contact with him never wraps him up. He’s growing into the role. I seriously wonder how good he can be. My Dad compares him to Le’Veon Bell. Can’t say I disagree.

* Christine Michael is quicker than any back that I can recall in Green & Gold. Travis Jervey may have been faster, but he didn’t dart through the hole like Michael. Jervey had straight line speed, a great special teams pit-bull. Michael has pure burst. He sees the hole and he hits it.

* Really enjoyed watching Jared Cook running the slant. Bummed me out that he didn’t get the PI call on the play in which he got injured. There was definite contact. The penalty should have been called. It wasn’t. Poor officiating. Cook has the DB beaten.

* McCarthy saw the mismatch. He attacked the mismatch at CB. McCarthy is in the coaching zone right now. DeShawn Shead couldn’t cover anyone on the field. McCarthy knew this. He went after it. All game. And, yes, the Packers dropped 38 points on the Seagulls.

* TJ Lang. What a gamer! Such a throwback. A dude from the 1960’s version of the Packers. He’d have fit in next to Thurston, Kramer, Curry, Skoronski and Gregg.

* Corey Linsley. Still feels odd watching him getting blown off of the ball.

* Lane Taylor. He’s either really good. Or really bad. When he’s good, he’s creating lanes for Ty to plow in for his first TD. When he’s bad, he’s destroying drives.

* David Bakhtiari & Bryan Bulaga. Is there a better pass blocking duo at Tackle in the NFL? I don’t think so.

* Jared Cook. One big play. Leading 14-3. Third down. Rodgers hits Ty in the flat for a first down. Would’ve been a nice gain. And, then Jared Cook gets his hands on Kam Chancellor and it became a terrific play. Cook moved Chancellor back in a fashion that allowed Montgomery to pick up an additional 12 yards to get the ball inside the 10. On the next play, Rodgers hits Nelson on a TD to make it 21-3. If Richard Rodgers was blocking in that situation, the extra yards wouldn’t have happened.

* I enjoyed watching the Seagulls defense melting down on the sidelines. In each others faces. Confused. Unable to stop McCarthy’s offense.

* Good to see Richard Rodgers soften the blow as he held on for a sublime first down reception on 3rd & 4. The following play was Rodgers to Nelson for a 3 yard TD pass to conclude a 32-yard CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE.

* Montgomery had 12 touches for 84 yards. That's 7 yards a POP! WILD!!!

* Once again, a total treat to watch Christine Michael sell the play action fake. A true pro. So well schooled.

* As I've been saying, this defense doesn't have to be overly dominate. They just have to be able to force a turnover or two a game and they have to win the line of scrimmage. I think we're built for that. We're going to give up big plays. Without Nick Perry, we are going to give up chunks of yards - on occasion - in the run game. But, if we can utilize the DL rotation to keep legs fresh and apply pressure on the QB and if we can take the ball away, we're going to be a contender. We're going to be a team that NO ONE wants to face. We'll be a playoff team. We'll be able to make a serious playoff run.

* Have to give a shout out to Dean Lowry. Not just for the sack, but for his overall activity. Really enjoy the way he gets his hands up to distract passing lanes. He has good length. He's winning with effort. He's winning the leverage battle.

* Good game, Datone Jones. Again, he was really physical in the passing game. Solid pass rush. Has a lot of work to do in the run game though.

* Couple of really awesome plays by Jayrone Elliott. Hope the sack was a confidence booster. Need him to continue to make plays. Didn't like seeing Jimmy Graham eat him up in the run game though.

* High effort game from Kenny Clark. Was a fighter. Was getting a good jump off the ball. With the exception of the play in which he jumped offsides, I really felt like he had good timing off of the ball.

* Thought Daniels and Guion really controlled the line of scrimmage.

* The type of game that earns Micah Hyde a paycheck. If not in GB, somewhere. He was playing well in the slot, he was coming on the blitz, he was dropping as the deep safety, he was stepping into the box, he was covering the TE, he was covering the back out of the backfield AND he was returning punts. Great game from Hyde. Fun to see the game clinching pick as well.

* Knew Damarious Randall had big plays coming. Think there's more, too.

* Felt like Rollins had a pick in his future. He got it. Might be another one over the next three games as well.

* Huge game from Morgan Burnett. The defensive MVP. Dynamite work on Graham. Stepped into the box as an ILB. Looked quick. Playing some of the best football of his career.

* Joe Thomas filled the stat box, but didn't pass the eye test - for what that's worth. Wonder if the Packers should work out Marwin Evans as an ILB in the offseason. He's faster than Joe Thomas. He's likely just as physical. In the brief moments that I've seen him get after the football, I'd think he'd have the instincts for the role, too.

* Christian Ringo! BULLYING Bull Rush! Late to the party, but the play didn't start until he arrived! Forced a fumble as well.

* Have a feeling that Gunter has a pick coming in the next two weeks.

* Can't afford any more missed FG's this year. Need every point.

This week - it's the hated Bears. Yes, at 3-10, the BEARS STILL SUCK. But, admittedly, the Bears have been extremely competitive. In most every game. In fact, in their last three losses, they've had the ball and a chance to win on their last drive of the game. In each game, they were within 40 yards of victory. With temperatures expected to be between -1 & -15 on Sunday - yes, you read that right - the playing field levels out. It comes down to toughness, the line of scrimmage and turnovers.

The Bears have decent talent on offense. Cameron Meredith is showing that he's a worthy developmental WR. He can get over the top and he's not afraid of running crossing routes. Eddie Royal is still a dangerous slot receiver who can beat you deep. Alton Jeffery returns from suspension this week and he remains an elite deep threat. Daniel Braverman is an slot receiver who can move the sticks. Marquess Wilson can beat you on the go-route. Josh Bellamy is a high-effort WR. At RB, Jordan Howard is fast becoming a top-notch, do-it-all RB. Jeremy Langford is a talented RB who can both find the lanes as a RB and catch the ball out of the backfield. Ka'Deem Carey is a nice change-of-pace back. I give Matt Barkley credit. He's been put in a tough position. He's played with composure. He's protected the football. He's moved the ball. He's played within the system. He's put the Bears in position to win games. He's stood in the pocket well and played with confidence. The Bears OL is a weakness. Bobbie Massie and Charles Leno can be beaten around the edge - especially with speed. I'm sure Josh Sitton will be motivated this week, but he's had an average year. Ted Larsen is a bad Guard. He should get destroyed this weekend. Cody Whitehair is a rookie Center who offers great promise.

Defensively, the Bears have played really well. Especially in the front 7. Akiem Hicks has made plays. Pernell McPhee is a legitimate pass rusher. Leonard Floyd has made big plays. Jonathan Bullard has offered great promise as an interior DL. Eddie Goldman has been a high effort interior defender. Willie Young continues to offer length and a pass rush from the outside. Nick Kwiatkoski has been a surprisingly good player at ILB. I thought he'd be too slow, but he's masked that fault with good instincts and understanding. Christian Jones is always around the football. In the secondary, Tracy Porter remains a talented, play-making CB. Cre'von LeBlanc is a gifted slot CB. Outside of that, the Bears secondary is pathetic. It can be had. If the turf allows, it will be had.

On special teams, Deonte Thompson is an under-appreciated kick returner. He's a threat every time the ball is in his hands. On a cold day in which it'll be tough to kick the ball into the end zone on kick-offs, beware of Thompson.

The temperature is a thing. If the weather was going to be in the 20's, I'd be calling for a 3 score Packers victory. But, with cooler temperatures, uncontrollable things occur. Unforeseen mistakes happen. This game will be uncomfortably close.

Look for the Bears to run the ball early and often. They'll want the ball first. They'll pound it at the heart of the Packers defense with the goal of running it more than 40 times. They'll eat up clock between each play. Mostly dropping the play clock under 5-7 seconds. They want to shorten the field. They want to keep Rodgers off of the field. They look to find 3rd & short. They try to pound away with Howard. I expect to see Howard carrying the ball at least 25 times this weekend.

On the contrary, the Packers pick on the Bears via the passing game. Attacking the perimeter. Singling out Bryce Callahan, the Packers go after him. With an abundance of short passes. Even in awful temperatures, Rodgers finds his rhythm.

Montgomery fights the Bears defense and bounces off of tackles. Finds his way into the secondary and busts open a long 40 yard run.

It's late 3rd Quarter. The Packers lead 13-10. And, then Barkley makes his mistake. He overshoots Meredith on a crossing route and it lands in HaHa's lap. The Packers quickly attack. It's Rodgers to Nelson for the TD. A 2-score lead. And, the playoffs are one step closer.

Julius Peppers also makes a big play against his former team.

Packers 23.
Bears 17.

Go Pack Go!


Talkin' S-Mac.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

My Take -> Week 14

Greetings, G-Force.

BACK TO EVEN! A little momentum cooking. Still, in dire need of continuing the win streak if we're going to extend the life of the 2016 Season beyond the regular season. We dug the hole. Now, we have to dig ourselves out. Nonetheless, you have to enjoy the journey to reach your destination. The last two games were excellent indicators that this team still has fight.

It's Stout season. And, while my previous two beers were stouts, I sit down with a Crooked Stave Pure Guava from August of 2015. It's refreshing. It's perfectly carbonated. Much of the fruit has quieted, but it still has a tropical mist to its nose. I listen to MGMT's Oracular Spectacular album. It offers a healthy, uplifting energy. An "electric feel" - of sorts.

Here's my quick vibes from the last week:

* An aggressive Mike McCarthy is a good Mike McCarthy. The thought never gets old. Once again, McCarthy was in attack mode. Once again, McCarthy's team walked away victorious. It's noteworthy the McCarthy's teams have a 33-14 record in December and January regular season games. I have great confidence that his teams will continue to be prepared to win games between now and the end of the year. I have confidence that McCarthy will continue to be aggressive in his personnel use. I believe that McCarthy will continue to mix up his packages. The offense won't be stagnant. He'll keep defenses on their toes. He'll win the mind games late in the contest, which will propel the Packers to victory.

* Aaron Rodgers. Outside of the fumbled snap, it was a mostly magical performance from the 2-time MVP. Rodgers was gutty. He was in attack mode. He was smart. He was decisive. He used his legs. He remained patient. He battled through pain in difficult conditions. He stayed within the offense. He took shots deep. He took chances in 1 on 1 coverage. He was the MVP.

* JORDY! JORDY! JORDY! He looked like he was back to me! He got separation deep when the DB slipped. On the final, game-clinching drive, it was vintage JORDY. The drive went 8 plays for 89 yards. Nelson grabbed two balls on the drive for 49 yards. He braced himself for contact on the brilliant catch down the sideline for 21 yards. And, then, on the all-important 3rd & 6 from midfield, he out jumped the Texans star CB, Kareem Jackson, for a 28 yard catch. It was a monstrous performance from Nelson. Loved the emotion he was showing on the field as well. He understands the urgency.

* Randall Cobb. SNOW ANGELS! What a beautiful pass by Rodgers on the TD. Rolling right and whipping it across his body. Cobb smothered himself in contact and held onto the football for the TD. Cobb is playing with great passion right now. He's lethal as a punt returner as well. Fearlessly attacking the oppositions return units.

* It was 7-7. There were just over 3 minutes left in the 3rd Quarter. The Packers were backed up at their own 2. McCarthy gathered his wits. He gave the backfield to Montgomery. Finally! Dude, what were we waiting for? On 3rd & 1 from the 11, Montgomery responded. In epic fashion with a 13 yard run. He's a mismatch. I'm not sure how to defend him. He's too fast for LB's. He's too tough for CB's. He's a fantastic talent. He's quickly becoming a Packers favorite of mine.

* James Starks. 4 carries. 1 yard. Those statistics included a 4 yard gain, in which a decisive, quick-footed runner would've gained at least 7 and possibly 12. He had room to run. He didn't take advantage. Barring injury, I'll be disappointed if he has 4 carries in a game again this year. We are so much better with him on the sidelines.

* Christine Michael. On the contrary to Starks, the stats don't tell the story. He looked quick. He has a burst. He's lining up 8 yards off the line of scrimmage. He has a nice zip to his step. I also really enjoy the way he sells the play fake. He's well schooled. He has a big game in his future. It appeared to me that he's clearly still learning the offense though. It looked like he didn't understand the audible on the 3rd Quarter hand-off to him. He caught Rodgers' attention, in advance, so there was no harm, but it was evident that the didn't know the adjustment. For my eye, Michael didn't have room to run when the ball was in his hands.

* Montgomery touched the ball 8 times. He totaled 56 yards. That's 7 yards per touch. Fantastic work.

* RIP! RIP! RIP! I HOPE HE HAS A LONG CAREER IN GB! HUGE FAN! Is there anyone tougher than him in the NFL? He seeks contact. He wins that battle every time, it seems. Wish he could play ILB.

* When Jared Cook catches the ball, it seems like it's a first down nearly every time. Hope he continues to be utilized more and more in the offense. Would like to see him targeting roughly twice as much as he is right now.

* Davante Adams didn't have his best game. Didn't seem like he gave maximum effort. Tough footing, but it didn't appear as though he was trying to get in and out of his cuts.

* Definitely not Lane Taylor's best game. Need more from him as we try to fortify a minimal semblance of a run game over the last month of the year.

* Jason Spriggs was a battler. Guard might end up being his position.

* When your defense is mediocre, ball control is one opportunity that you have to limit possessions for the opposition. Even if it comes at the expense of operating out of the no-huddle offense.

* I often talk about the CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE. It's the knock-out punch. Wayne Larrivee's "dagger." But, for my eye, the CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE can just be a time eating drive. It doesn't have to be a drive that nets points. Nonetheless, the Packers offense has delivered that CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE two weeks in a row.

* Clay Matthews is hurt. It's clear that his left shoulder cannot handle contact. He's approaching blockers in a fashion in which he doesn't want contact to the left shoulder. When rushing, he needs to attack as a ROLB. That way - the can approach the edge without the fear of getting a physical shove to the shoulder. I still believe he's best utilized at ILB. Generally speaking, he'd see the contact coming at him as well. I appreciate his courage. And, his mere presence is a difference maker. But, it's definitely banged up.

* Speaking of injuries, the Nick Perry hand situation could be devastating. It'll be tough for the Packers to finish the season on a 6-game winning streak without a healthy Nick Perry. His injury worries me.

* Julius Peppers. What a gamer! Again, the dude just makes plays. In fun fashion. He has a strip sack coming again. It'll be a game changer. Maybe not this week, but it's coming soon.

* Dean Lowry with the monster performance!

* The Packers need Jayrone Elliott to produce. They need him flying around the edge and creating a big play. I like how he has been dropping in coverage, but he's needed as a pass rusher right now.

* Really solid game from Datone Jones. Maybe his best game of the year. He was physical at the edge. He was pursuant all game.

* Micah Hyde was a diamond in the secondary. Treat to see him cover last week. He was slapping wrists and defending well.

* Jake Ryan played with great activity. Interesting positive attribute: Ryan looks like he runs with the same speed on a slow track as he does on a fast track. A true mudder.

* Didn't like how Morgan Burnett and Joe Thomas were getting sucked in on running plays. Way too many big runs. Packers were vulnerable.

* With that said, I wish the Packers would play with Burnett and Clay at ILB on a handful of plays each week.

* Ha Ha has superstar potential. He has another big play coming.

* Q-Rollins & Gunter teaming up to cause the forced fumble! Big way to start the game!

* This defense won't be dominant. But, if this defense can cause a turnover or two a game and if it can apply pressure on the QB in the same fashion that it has over the last two weeks, we're going to be tough to beat. Especially, if the offense continues to utilize the quick-passing game.

* Crucial play of the game: Packers leading 14-7. Houston crosses over to Packers territory. Less than 11 minutes left. Ryan comes on the inside blitz. He breaks through. He forces Osweiler to flip to Blue. Guion reads it and buries Blue for a 9 yard loss. I pumped my fist so hard that I thought I was going to have the same AC joint injury that Clay has and I yelled so loud that I felt as though I injured a vocal chord. Intense play!

* 12 plays. 98 yards. Glorious season-saving drive.

* I had high hopes for Mike Pennel. Now, I doubt he ever plays for Green Bay again.

* Morgan Burnett. Our season might hinge on his ability to cover the TE. With Jimmy Graham, Kyle Rudolph and Eric Ebron waiting in the wings; the Packers are going to need premium TE coverage skills. Burnett is often given that task. That worries me. I wish that was Micah Hyde's responsibility.

This week - it's the hated Seagulls from Seattle. In a near must win for the Packers. Even with a loss, both the Wild Card and the Division are potentially within reach, but I don't want to face those odds. Let's win out and we'll be in. Each game is vital. Neither Tampa nor Detroit did us any favors last week as both came away with tough road wins, so we have to take matters into our own hands. And, that requires winning out. 10-6 will make the playoffs.

Seattle comes to Lambeau off of one of their best performances of the year. They dropped 40 on Carolina. They have talented playmakers on offense. Doug Baldwin is an underrated, premier WR in the NFL. He's physical. He's dangerous. He catches everything. He's tough minded. Jermaine Kearse is overly talented, but the guy makes plays. Almost every week. Jimmy Graham is healthy and fitting into the Seattle offense in a scary fashion. He and Russell Wilson have found comfort with one another. Tyler Lockett is a terrific slot WR who can also line up on the perimeter and win with speed. Paul Richardson has shown flashes of becoming an emerging threat at WR. Thomas Rawls is a dangerous do-it-all back. Wilson is healthy and he's playing at an MVP level. He's seeing the field. He's not making mistakes. He's mobile. He's an All-Pro talent at QB. The Seagulls OL is their liability. The Packers must dominate the line of scrimmage. I believe they will.

Seattle plays a lot of 4-2-5 defensively. They do a great job of rotating their front 4. Michael Bennett often plays on the outside on early downs and rotates to the inside on pass downs. Bennett will give Spriggs and Taylor all-kinds of problems. Tony McDaniel and Ahtyba Rubin are solid run-stopping DT's. Cliff Avril can still attack the QB. Off the bench, Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh add speed as edge rushers. Jared Reed is a talented rookie DT as well. Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright are as good of a tandem as their as at LB. Brock Coyle adds high-effort to the depth of their defense. Richard Sherman is elite. So is Kam Chancellor. The rest of the secondary has the attitude and the swagger, but they aren't as talented. The Seagulls will be without Earl Thomas. So, expect the Packers to attack Jeremy Lane, DeShawn Shead, and Steven Terrell. Look for the Packers to utilize the quick hitting attack. Early and often.

I pray that Lockett doesn't destroy us on special teams. He concerns me. Greatly.

I look for the Packers to utilize Montgomery. Coming out with Jordy and Cobb in the slot. Adams and Cook on the perimeter. The Packers will try to get Cook matched up 1 v 1 against Wright on the outside. They'll try to get Nelson matched up against someone not named Richard Sherman. If Sherman is matched up against Nelson in the slot, Rodgers will lick his chops and Adams will get 10+ targets. It's a match-up league. Rodgers will see the match-ups, he'll attack the edges.

The Packers DL dominates the line of scrimmage early. Guion and Daniels make their impact felt. They swallow Rawls.

Eventually, Russell Wilson gets loose. He connects with Graham and Baldwin for big plays. He quiets the crowd. Seattle grabs a 3rd Quarter lead.

But, the Packers grab momentum. Michael bursts to the second line of the Seattle defense. Adams grabs a back-shoulder grab. Rodgers connects with Cook on a deep ball. The Packers defense forces a turnover. Crosby seals it with a late FG.

It'll be a fierce dog fight. From the start. I've been wearing my GET LOUD LAMBEAU t-shirt all week. I'd like to hear Lambeau rockin'. Don't be afraid to stand up and make some noise either. We need to create a false start or two. We need to force them to burn timeouts early in the 1st & 3rd Quarters. The Lambeau faithful need to be lively for 60 minutes. We can't afford a 3rd Quarter energy let down. Prepare to celebrate!

Packers 23.
Seattle 20.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.