The Packers trip to Dallas did not turn out the way that we had planned, but I'm not overly disappointed. Sure, at times, the Packers were extremely out-classed. But, for the most part, I feel as though the Packers coaching staff out thought themselves. Offensively, early in the game, we left our brand name in Green Bay. We returned to the Packers of '05. Deep passes into coverage. Once the game got to 27-10, we settled down and played Packer football. Dink and dunk you to sleep. Let our receivers make plays. From then on, we were successful.
Clearly, the Cowboys took advantage of our depleted defense. And, it's also noteworthy that on the 2 biggest plays of the game, the Cowboys were the dominant team. On 3rd and 19, the Packers defense could not rise to the occasion. And on 3rd and 6, Clifton was beaten badly by Ware. To me, those two plays describe the game. We can complain about the officiating, which was awful, but the bottom line is that twice we were down 27-24...with momentum on our side...and a big 3rd down in front of us...and both times the Cowboys swung the momentum in their favor.
Regardless, we must win 3 of our last 4 to guarantee a first round bye. And frankly, it does not scare me to play at Dallas in January with a fully loaded squad.
It starts against the Raiders this weekend at Lambeau Field. We will learn a lot about the '07 Packers this weekend. Mother Nature is calling for snow showers with temperatures in the low-to-mid 30's. Combine this with the Raiders '07 football philosophy and this Sunday has become interesting. However, no worries, Packer fans...
The Raiders attack with Justin Fargas. Fargas has been running well over the last 5 weeks. In fact, 3 times he has exceeded 100 yards. He's also a decent threat out of the backfield catching the ball. He runs hard. He runs fast. He plays bigger than he looks. He's developed into a decent back. The Packers ability to control Fargas will be defining this week. Hold Fargas under 100 yards and the Packers will win this one easily.
Josh McCown will lead the Raiders into Lambeau. McCown is surprisingly mobile. He's agile enough to escape pressure. He'll avoid the rush and get to the perimeter of the defense. He can make plays on the run with either his hands or his feet. Good news is that he will throw the ball into the laps of the defense as he occasionally makes brainless decisions.
Ronald Curry and Jerry Porter are decent threats. Both are physical and normally display good hands. Zach Miller has improved throughout his rookie campaign and has turned into a go-to guy. He's had at least three catches in the last 4 games and last week he had two big third down catches to keep the chains moving as the Raiders fended off the Broncos.
Defensively, at times, the Raiders have played solid football. You know that Warren Sapp is excited to see Brett Favre once again. Derrick Burgess can flat out rush the passer, but I imagine he'll have trouble this weekend as he is a speed rusher and thrives on playing on a clean surface. I imagine Lambeau will be too choppy for him.
The Raiders have two terrific LB's. Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard are young guys who consistently make plays. They fly towards the football and are strong against the run and the pass. Both have a nose for the ball. They will make us work for yards on the ground and will have their eyes set on jumping slant passes.
If the weather holds, the Packers will have a ton of success against the Raiders secondary. Fabian Washington is a young corner who is still growing and can be taken advantage of. Nnamdi Asomugha is a bright young NFL CB, but he has struggled with injuries and has not been the same player that he was last year. Chris Carr is a dangerous kick returner, but a below average nickel CB. Michael Huff has an exciting NFL career ahead of him, but he, too, is not their yet. Stuart Shweigert will be in position and he will hit you, but he's not a playmaker.
Assuming the weather turns for the worst, this will be a test for this young Packers team. They are not battle tested when it comes to playing big time football games in cold weather. But, I feel really good about it. Our defense has had 10 days to rest. They know that they MUST win the line of scrimmage. I expect Kampman to have a monstrous game. I expect Jenkins to get a push. It seems as though I've been calling for Jenkins to make a big play for weeks, but in the past, he has been a guy that has played very well late in the year. Cullen Jenkins, it's YOUR time to shine. This team is about TEAM and though there is no "I" in team, there is an "M" and an "E" and Cullen, this week - you provide your "me" and you do your part. I expect to see a lot of 3rd and long this weekend. At some point, the ball will land in the lap of our defense for a big turnover.
Just a thought - don't be surprised if Bigby is benched in favor of Rouse. While, Rouse and Collins play the same position, McCarthy is the type who likes to have his best players on the field. McCarthy has shown his frustrations with Bigby's play.
The Packers say they are going to be cautious with Chuckie. We need Woodson on the field, not in exchange for the rest of the season, but we cannot chance anything. Defensively, we are starting with ZERO this weekend. We have the ability to shut them down.
I see the offensive line playing with a fire in their belly. They got beat up against Dallas. The Packers coaching staff will demand performance. Our O'Line will respond. Early on, it's a day on the ground for the Packers. Grant runs right behind Lee and Tauscher for 7 yards. Grant pounds the middle for four and a Packer first down.
I've been calling for this play for weeks as well and I'm hoping for it this week...as the Oakland LB's creep forward, the Packers set up the screen and the Raiders think it is sniffed out, but Favre throws the ball to the weak side. It's WIDE OPEN. It's either Lee standing their arms wide open or it's Jennings running the drag route. Either way - one of them is streaking down the side line. If it's Jennings, it could be 6 points.
Any way, this is a pound it out, beat you up style of football game. The Packers will be prepared for this one. We will be well rested. Mentally fit. Physically ready. We will pound Grant. Morency will get his chances. B-Jack will see opportunities. In all, we RUSH for 150 yards.
Favre is efficient. Calm in the pocket, Favre picks his spots and manages the game. In the cold weather, each yard counts and Favre knows this almighty important notion. Favre, the Sports Illustrated "Sportsman of the Year," goes to work. He throws for 200 yards and three short TD's.
Green Bay 31. Oakland 13.
And the Packers regain their winning ways. The Raiders enter the cold and cannot wait to get back on the bus. The Packers enter the cold and cannot wait to celebrate. And the magic number for a first round bye drops from 3 to 2. From a theatrical sense, there is something magical about Lambeau in December.
Let It Snow,
P.S. - > To Al Davis, I hope you don't mind, but this year we are borrowing your "Just Win, Baby" slogan. The NFL does not respect us. The media does not respect us. Clearly, the officials do not respect us as well. So, Al, with or without your permission, we'll continue to "Just Win, Baby" and ultimately, someone will take notice...who knows, maybe, just maybe, that respect will come after we meet the Brady Bunch in AZ in early '08. Until then, Al, thanks for the trademark. One last thing Al - On Sunday, we're winning, baby.