Friday, October 31, 2008

My Take -> Week 9

Greetings, G-Force.

A week that includes Tuesday & Wednesday night Widespread Panic shows followed by a Thursday visit from my parents makes a man feel high on life. It also sends Jason Klimek across the country for a mid-week tour stop. "Sooner or later, it all gets real. Walk On." "Aint Life Grand?"

The injury to Tony Romo makes the Packers-Titans match-up the game of the week. The undefeated Tennessee Titans hosting the NFC North leading Green Bay Packers. In the beginning of the year, I had circled this date as one of those dates in which a young QB gets exposed. I did the same with the Tampa and J'ville games. Smart defensive coordinators with aggressive defenses usually makes for a disastrous recipe for a young offensive leader.

The Titans live off of a strong, punishing running game, the use of the TE and a physical, pursuing defense. Chris Johnson and LenDale White make a great running combo. Bo Scaife & Alge Crumpler are productive, chain moving TE's. Kerry Collins is a game managing QB with zip on his fastball. And the Front 4 of the Titans is the best in the league.

My recipe for this Sunday is simple: Let Your Nuts Hang. Every year, you have one of these games. If we play them straight up, Tennessee will beat us by 2 scores. They're too good and Jeff Fisher is too smart. But, if we play with freedom...if we play for the LOVE of the GAME, we can win.

Spread them out. Make them cover us. Out of shotgun. Puma routes. Slants. Hike & throw. Essentially, we're running the ball. When, in actuality, we're throwing it.

While Finnegan and Harper are good corners, they can't run with us and I question the Titans depth at DB. I want to see Reynaldo Hill and Eric King on the field. Also, Tulloch struggles in coverage down the middle of the field.

Early in this game, we must force Bullock and Tulloch to back off the line of scrimmage. This will open up run plays as the game wears on.

On offense, let your nuts hang. 5 wide. It's true that you need to run the football in order to win late in the year, but this week, let's spread 'em out and show how pretty we are.

Kyle Vanden Bosch seems to be playing for the Titans. He presents a mismatch. We must get rid of the ball quickly. He and Kearse are terrific book-ends. Haynesworth is the best DL in the league. Tony Brown is an underappreciated DT who can both stop the run and rush the passer.

Driver, Jennings, Martin, Nelson, Jones. Line 'em up. Let's give UNO-DOS! options. Let's see if the Titans can cover us! This Sunday, I want the Packers to look fancy. Look flashy. Dust ourselves off after picking up 1st downs. I want an offensive swagger.

Defensively, we let our nuts hang as well. Al Harris & Ras-A-tari return. 8 in the box. Stop the run. Make Kerry Collins beat you. Yes, he played well vs Indy. However, I feel an emotional letdown is a possibility. Force Collins to beat us. Pressure the QB.

At some point, Chris Johnson will squirm away from a Nick Barnett tackle and he'll be in our secondary. It's going to happen. But, for the most part, we should be able to bottle him up.

We signed Chillar for games like this. He'll be able to match-up with Scaife and Crumpler. Expect Chillar to make a play this week!

Throughout the game, the Packers show a variety of BLITZ packages. In fact, at times, we will confuse Collins.

We share the wealth on offense. We put points on the board.

Special teams lead to more points.

We hold the Titans to FG's until White pounds one in from the 2. But, the Packers have the lead late & it's Nintendo Nick stepping in front of a crossing route intended for Justin Gage.

Packers 23
Titans 19

Somewhere, the '72 Dolphins pop the champagne as the last of the unbeatens goes down.

Congrats to UNO-DOS! for his contract extension. Look for Driver over the middle. Learn the checkdowns. Get rid of the ball quickly. Stay healthy. Coach him up, Mike McCarthy!

Let your nuts hang,

Talkin' S-Mac.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bye Week Celebration!

Greetings, G-Force.

Hopefully, Sunday marked a New Beginning. 4 & 3 - Full of Glee.

I knew things were going to work in our favor when Luke, Boots & Chico (and friends) met me in the parking lot. I was buzzin' with A*, my brothers, Chad & Bob, my brother-in-law, John, Chad's girlfriend, Ashley, and Ashley's parents. The vibe in the lot was real. I connected with my cousins Ryan, Mark, Jacob, Michael, and Emily. My uncle Jeff shared a smile and a positive aura.

A* & I walked into Lambeau. Took a deep breath. In awe, we stared at the most beautiful of NFL stadiums. Pure appreciation. Each step was enjoyed. Glowing with enjoyment. As we're about to sit, I hear "McKenna." No shit! 2-rows behind me is Brennan. GAME ON!

Off yur ass. On yur feet. We were!

The G-Force was heard loud & clear. Peyton Manning acknowledged during the game as he was continuously seen scrambling to call plays at the line. He never could get on the same page as Wayne & Harrison. The post game box score read:

Peyton Manning - 21-42. 50% completion percentage. 229 yards. 5.5 yards per attempt. 0 TD. 2 INT. Both INT's returned for TD's. Welcome to the Tundra, Peyton!
Marvin Harrison - 2 catches. 11 yards.
Reggie Wayne - 2 catches. 24 yards.

After the game, Charles Woodson called it the "Lambeau Advantage." The "Lambeau Advantage" is now being referred to as the G-Force.

Aa-ron Rod-gers! Aa-ron Rod-gers! Aa-ron Rod-gers! Uno-Dos! Uno-Dos! Uno-Dos!

Yes, Uno-Dos! was absolutely spectacular. In fact, I was watching with disbelief. While he's still slow in getting the ball to Driver & Lee on crossing routes, Uno-Dos! played his best game of the year.

8 receivers. 75% completion percentage. Crucial third down after crucial third down. Managed to perfection. Therefore, the Packers enter the bye week tied for first with the hated Bears.

B-Jack also played his best game as a Packer. He led the team with 6 catches. He was solid on blitz pick-up. He was a fighter after the catch and grabbed big third down yardage. He still struggles to run after the catch on the screen when he's in the open field. Regardless, twice he fought for first down yardage when initially, it appeared as though he would be stopped short.

I thought both John Kuhn & Korey Hall provided effort and punishment while blocking. Hall's recovery of Grant's fumble showed heavy duty determination.

Colledge & Spitz, on the other hand, continue to swing and miss.

Chillar was active against the run & the pass. In extensive playing time, he led the Packers with 9 tackles. 7 of them were solo.

Colin Cole also played his best game of the year. 4 tackles. 2 of them solo. Moderate pressure on pass plays. Massive junk talking into Manning's ear.

Pickett & Jolly were terrific. When our defensive line gets their hands in the air, we are a different team. Clearly, this frustrated Manning.

T-Mon & Willie B. grew up as CB's. They stood up to the challenge. They were physical. They enjoyed themselves.

Aaron Rouse jumping routes!

After 7 weeks, Nintendo Nick is a Pro Bowler. Collins is playin', baby!

And now, it's the bye week. It's time to heal the shoulder of Uno-Dos!. It's time to hear the tricep of Pickett. The spleen of Harris. The groin of Hawk. The knee of James Jones. The hamstrings of Bigby & Hunter. The ankle of Montgomery.

We come back healthy. We come back ready to compete for the NFC North crown. Coming out of the bye, we NEED 1 of the first 2. At Tennessee and at Minnesota will be difficult tasks. A victory at Minnesota would be a devastating blow to the 'Queens season. This would set us up for an for an epic 11/16 match-up at Lambeau vs. the Bears.

Rest up. I, too, need the bye week. I'm still hoarse.

Chillin' to the max,

Talkin' S-Mac.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Take -> Week 7

Greetings, G-Force.

Sometimes life grabs a hold of me. The cheetah-like pace of existence prevents me from tackling the human details that often times define us. Instead of naturally reacting, I move with ample trepidation and decision. SO much to do. And, unfortunately, time is not on my side. This week - was one of those weeks. One of my dearest mates, PatRad, was in town. A*, Lisette, Vargas and I were blessed by his presence. In addition, to normal day-to-day career duties, I had to prepare for an interview with the local newspaper to discuss South Florida's economy. I also had my quarterly review. Plus, the Presidential debate & the USA vs Trinidad World Cup qualifying match fought for my attention. This week - A* also won tickets for Phish's comeback weekend. Yes, all 3 nights! You get the point.

Wednesday marked my Dad's 60th B-Day. This morning is my Mom's 60th. Talk about G-Force! If the game's producers 60th B-Day cannot bring fortune, what can? Plus, my siblings & I have flown up for a weekend in Titletown. My parents had NO IDEA we were going to be here. So to help prevent them from finding out - I had to delay the take.

The last time I visited Lambeau, Eli was in town. This time, Peyton is coming. Man, do I despise the Mannings! I want Manning blood!

The Packers come into this weekend tied for first. 3-3 and yet to find our stride. We still struggle to run the football. We have difficulty in pass protection. We are unable to stop the run and our pass rush is non-existent. Yet, we are 3-3. Thankfully, we have faced Tavaris Jackson, John Kitna and Charlie Frye.

Frankly, at times during the Seahawks game, I'd lost hope on this being a successful season. We've looked sloppy. We've looked unprepared. We looked beat-up. In short, we've looked elementary.

But, to a degree, our defense has been opportunistic. After 6 weeks, Charles Woodson is the Defensive MVP in the NFL. T-Mon has shown a knack for finding the football. He's a quick study. While he still makes mistakes, he seems to learn and grow from week-to-week. Nintendo Nick continues to play at Pro Bowl level. When will Ras-a-tari finally return? We need his presence in the run game.

In the Seattle game, we did see some encouraging signs from Jordy Nelson and Jeremy Thompson. Nelson showed football maturity and down and distance awareness. He also used his body to shield defenders like a seasoned veteran. Jeremy Thompson appeared capable of playing in this league. He fought hard. Got low. For the most part, I thought he was steady. I still want to see him rush the passer from the DT spot on 3rd down.

For now, I'm referring to Aaron Rodgers as 12. 12 has formed an elite 1-2 combo with Greg Jennings. 12 has been a gritty gamer. Mentally tough. A competitor. I sympathize with him. He could not have imagined that Clifton & Tauscher's play would have declined as much as they have from one year to the next. On occasion, he's still slow to get rid of the ball, but he was more decisive last week.

This week the Packers catch a break. Joseph Addai & Bob Sanders will not be playing. We need all of the help we can get. The Colts have a high powered offense with an innate ability to rise to the occasion late in the game.

Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison make a scary combo. It'll take everything we have to stop these dynamic weapons and the unbelievable chemistry that they have with Manning. Dominic Rhodes is a competent back-up who knows the Indy system. Indy will score points.

Freeney and Mathis are two of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Their speed rushers who will sell their souls to get to the QB. But, I believe you can run against this defense. You can push thier aggressive DE's up the field & run thru the gaps. Can you say Denver last year?

On Sunday, expect Grant to get another 25 carries. The Packers control the clock. manning is sitting on the sidelines. Brisk temperatures. Waiting his chance. Meanwhile, the Packers eat up clock. I picture 12 finding his check downs. Managing the game. Converting critical 3rd downs. Keeping possession.

The Indy domers are uncomfortably playing outside. The Lambeau faithful is rowdy. Full of believe. The Packers grab a 2 score lead. Then Manning goes to the air. Taking shots deep at T-Mon and Willie B. All day to throw, Manning moves the ball much to the frustration of the G-Force. Manning leads the colts back. Down 3, the Colts look to take the lead, but a blitzing Poppinga makes a play and thwarts the drive. The Packers must search for a pass rushing solution. I believe that Poppinga will be used as an option this week.

12 gets the ball. 2 minutes. A chance to win. It's 12 to Driver. It's 12 to Jordy. It's 12 to Jennings on a curl. It's Mason Crosby supplying the game winning dagger!

Green Bay 26
Indy 23

If I were a gambling man, I'd be enticed by seeing Indy as only a 1 point favorite. After all, our defense has been prone to give up the big play & Indy is as good as anyone other than the Cowboys at producing a big play. Luckily, unless I'm in Vegas, I'm not a gambler. Instead, I envision a BIG win for 12's career. It's Fall. It's Lambeau. The AFC comes to town. I'm in attendance bringing the vibe. As the season's change, so does the Packers run game.

I'll take a block WI cheese. A Riverwest Stein. A Packers win. My Parents surprise 60th B-Day party. Call it vacation.

Let's elevate!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Take -> Week 6

Greetings, G-Force.

Can you say must win? The goal for this year is to win the NFC North Division. Accomplish this goal and it's a great season. Win more than you lose and it's a good season. Anything less & I'm rooting for a top-10 pick. It's that simple.

Injuries continue to mount. Add Chad Clifton to the list. Pickett is also missing practice time. Our current injury list names 13 players that I expected to play a major role for the Packers this year. Yet, in my eyes, solid depth is one trademark of an elite team in the NFL. The Packers are showing a lack of depth at OL, DL, RB, TE, and QB. We also need an upgrade at CB & S.

Our '08 draft has failed us for this year. Prior to the draft, we mentioned names like DeSean Jackson, Steve Slaton, Martellus Bennett and Chevis Jackson. Today - they're all making plays. Meanwhile, we struggle to get any production out of any of our picks.

When you've seen someone's best and their best is simply not good enough, I vote that we move on and bid adieu with him. Tracy White was a solid special teams player, but we'd seen his best football. He had defensive limitations. Thanks for your time, Tracy. Hello Danny Lansanah! I really liked Lansanah's game in the preseason. Along with Lumpkin, he was the surprise of camp. I'm happy he's going to get a shot.

Sticking with this philosophy, I've seen enough of Michael Montgomery. While he's not solely responsible for last week's lost, he was a major underperformer. In fact, I'd go as far as calling him a complete failure. If I were GM, he'd be cut and I'd be scanning others practice squads for a potential pass rusher or a run stopping DE. Hell, I yearn for Don Davey!

I'm calling for an all-out on-the-job training for Jeremy Thompson. I want to see everything this guy has got because if he does not have the tools, we need to look to upgrade at DE early in the '09 draft. He looked unprepared and unaware vs. the Falcons. I'll excuse him as he probably did not expect that much playing time. Montgomery's injury forced him into action. I want to see what #99 brings to the table this week.

In Nick Barnett stuck in mire? What am I missing? Paging Nick Barnett. Nick? Nick, where are you? Please join our defense. We could use our middle linebacker.

I'm absolutely disappointed in our special teams performance. Willie B. has no room to run. Furthermore, we fail to make crucial tackles. Our kickoff & punt coverage is pitiful at big moments. And Frost has been awful. Wasn't he supposed to be an upgrade at downing the ball inside the 20?

I give Aaron Rodgers a lot of credit for last week. He played through pain. He was aggressive. He spread the ball to 8 different receivers. While it's noteworthy that Ryan Grant was not one of them, Rodgers did a much better job getting rid of the ball and using the center of the field. He showed poise, confidence and toughness. He earned both respect and street cred.

Nintendo Nick & Chuckie are playing at Pro Bowl level.

So, we head to Seattle for a bout with HomeGrown. Thanks for the memories, Mike. I'm happy that we get to see you one more time on your Farewell Tour. I wish the game was in Lambeau so we could give you a thanks for the '96 title.

The Seahawks are far better at home than on the road. Even though they, too, are banged up, the 'Hawks will be a stiff test. Seattle's crowd is rowdy. Their defense always seems faster at home. They also seem to get ALL of the breaks at home.

Expect Seattle to run the ball to the left side behind Mike Wahle and Walter Jones. They'll do this early. They'll do this often. We won't be able to stop it. No Cullen Jenkins. KGB at half-mass. Montgomery is bad when healthy - imagine him with an injury. And I doubt Jeremy Thompson is capable. They could rush for more than 150 yards.

The Packers will have an offensive response. It was good to see Ryan Grant running with power and desire last week. I would be surprised if we don't see him carry the ball 20 times this week. We'll also see Rodgers attack the vulnerable Seattle secondary. Spread 'em out and you'll be able to beat the Seattle defense both through the air and on the ground.

This week it's Rodgers finding 9 different receivers. Finding the open man. Using the reignited shovel pass! Where has it been? Third and short - this could be one solution.

I'm looking for the Packers to send an ALL OUT BLITZ! I'm calling for 6 men and sometimes 7. I want our defense at the line of scrimmage in people's face. Let our LB's play. Our DL is banged up. So is our secondary. With the exception of Hawk (whom I expect to play), we are healthy at LB. Let the LB core be active. I want to see them pressuring the QB. If Nick Barnett cannot get there, replace him. Let's see if Bishop can get there. We need to make plays at the LB position. Hawk's inability to cover Justin Peelle on 4th and 1 was telling. Who in the hell is Justin Peelle?

Regardless, Hasselbach is banged up and we need to get in his face and knock him around. Throw him to the ground. We won't have this option often though. Atlanta ran the ball 36 times last week and threw it 26 times. I would think Seattle might do the same.

This one will be a shootout. Again it comes down to the last 10 minutes. A nail biter.

Packers 34. Seattle 30.

OK, so maybe I'm a homer. Sometimes, I've been accused of being too fluffy. Too optimistic. Probably the case. But, that's been the case the last couple of weeks. It'll probably be the case next week as well. HomeGrown, again, thanks for the memories & the Bowl. But, this week, we get you for selling us out.

Stay away from bridges. If you encounter one, don't jump! Everythings going to be alright.

Grab a Pint,

Talkin' S-Mac.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Who Are You Watching Now?

Greetings, G-Force.

Where is Jeremy Thompson? The first guy that Ted Thompson ever traded up for cannot get himself on the field. By now, I expected Thompson to seeing playing time on 3rd downs from the DT position. Instead, I'm not sure whether the Packers have even attempted the experiment. Hunter & Montgomery have stalled in their attempts to rush the QB. A quick check of Corey Williams 2008 stats shows: 4 games. 14 tackles. 0.5 sacks. Can you say Cletidus Hunt?

Right now, my focus for the '09 Draft is on the defensive line. I have severe questions about the status Harrell & KGB's health.

So far, I'm most impressed with Michael Johnson & Tim Jamison at DE. Johnson is a speed end. Long arms which he uses to play the run well. A bit light, but he'll add strength/weight. Small resemblance to Jason Taylor. In fact, he'd be my 1st round pick.

OK, I'm way ahead of myself with this, but my initial '09 Mock Draft shows:

1.) Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
2.) Brandon James, RB/KR, Florida - Only a Junior, but he might come out.
3.)Brandon Hughes, CB, Oregon State - He was a top performer in the Oregon State win over USC. Great at coverage on crossing routes. Can play the slot. Gets in your face. Can also play zone. Tough. Sure tackler.
4 a)OL
4 b)OL
5) Patrick White, QB, WVU - he'll play WR at the next level
6a) DeMonte Bolden, DT, Tennessee - Myron Pryor, DT, Kentucky is also an option

We add a DE that can make an addition in '09, two playmakers on offense, another young CB (see ya, J-Bush!), OL & DL depth.

Enjoy your weekend,

Talkin' S-Mac.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Take -> Week 5

Greetings, G-Force.

We matched every "Go Back Home!" barks from Buc fans with a hearty "Go Pack Go!" It seemed right. When Woodson picked off Griese, it seemed destined! We were going to be 3-1. From that point on, our season might have ended.

Cullen Jenkins goes down an a shoulder injury. Two days later, he is declared out for the year. AJ goes down with an injury - the extent is unknown. KGB showed that he is not back from injury. Rouse goes down. Collins reinjures his back. Woodson does the same with his toe. Did I mention that Ras-A-tari & Ras-Al are out? Snake bit.

Offensively, Rodgers goes down. A team that prides itself on going to 5 wide and spreading you out is largely playing without it's 3rd & 4th WR's. Though we are presently getting healthier, our OL has been decimated with injury. Grant has been bothered by his hamstring injury. Sometimes it's just not your year. This appears to be the case for us in '08.

Vargas & PatRad have claimed "Worst. Madden. Jinx. Ever." They may be right.

As for the Buc game, we saw a young QB on the road against a great defensive coordinator. Monte Kiffin has confused young QB's before. He'll do so again. The same will probably happen to Rodgers when we visit Tennessee and J'ville later this year. But, what concerns me is that Rodgers did not seem to see the field very well. For 2.5 quarters, I was saying THROW THE BALL DEEP DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD! Finally, they tried it ONCE, and it was a TD to Greg Jennings. Donald Driver was WIDE open all day down the middle of the field. And his body actions showed frustration. On at least 2 occasions, I saw him streaking 5 yards beyond the defense with his arm in the air. When he did not get the football, he dropped his shoulders & his head back in disbelief.

While Greg Jennings is quickly becoming an elite WR in the NFL, Rodgers stays focused on him for too long. Often, this is the case with a young QB. But, Driver is not the only guy that I'm seeing who is open. Nelson was also open on a number of plays. Rodgers looked rattled. Nervous. Confused. Uncertain. His check down is to the RB. It was not to Driver, Nelson or the TE.

When you watch the replay of his final interception. Watch the TE's. We were in a double TE set. Both TE's run sit down routes. One at 5 yards. The other at 10. He misses the read on the play. And throws into the defensive strong side of the field.

Rodgers is struggling to know down & distance. Instead of just looking for 1st downs, he's looking for home runs on third down. Twice on 3rd & 5 or less, Nelson was open for 1st downs. Rodgers never saw him as his eyes seemed to be focused too far downfield.

Naturally, Rodgers rolls to his left, which punishes his playmaking ability as it's taking away his arm strength. He's a right handed QB. He should look to roll to his right. Additionally, while often times we are lined up with 3 WR's to the left hand side, the Packers are running crossing routes. This leaves Rodgers with 1 option as he rolls left. Coach him up, McCarthy. This is a bad habit.

Speaking of McCarthy. Can we please see some creativity? 3rd & 1. Why not try a pass into the flat to the FB? What about a quick rollout that leads to a 3 yard down & out to the WR or the TE. There's no innovation. It's predictable. It's bland. It's boring. It's frustrating. My wife thinks I'm a genius because I can predict 75-80% of the plays when we are under center.

Our OL is pathetic. We don't provide enough time for Rodgers & we are not opening holes for Grant. Tauscher & Clifton have aged mightily over the offseason. And the Colledge experiment seems to be a failure. We consistently try to run behind him and we consistently fail. To a degree, the same could be said for Spitz.

Grant is missing the cut-back! He made his living with a 1-cut running style last year. This year, he's simply pounding into the line. Look for the cut-back. It's available. Coach him up, Mike!

At the beginning of the year, it seemed we were built for special teams. Two weeks in a row, we've been demoralized on special teams. Frost was signed for his angled punting and good hang time. Instead, they're down the center of the field, short, and low. A recipe for disaster. He was supposed to be good at downing the ball inside the 20. Instead, they're bouncing into the end zone.

I have not lost hope. If we win more than we lose this year, we've had a good year. If we grow as a unit, this remains possible. Most games are going to come down to the last 10 minutes. Don't get stressed. Remain positive. Watch our team either show progress or digress into a top 10 pick team.

This week - it's the Falcons. A game that, if healthy, we should win by 20. We aren't & I have no idea who is even going to play this week. Frankly, it makes a "take" impossible to write. If Flynn is our starting QB, the Packers lose. If Rodgers plays and is capable of throwing, I imagine the Packers can outgun the Falcons.

The Falcons are going to pound away at us. I imagine that Norwood & Turner will combine for 150 yards or more. They'll punish our decimated defense. But, ultimately, the awe of Lambeau will get to Matt Ryan. I'm still not convinced that he can play in this league. Our injuries force Bob Sanders to bring the blitz. We're in the young Ryan's face & turnovers fall into our lap.

Rodgers plays. Packers win.

Green Bay 27. Atlanta 23.

Talkin' S-Mac.