Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Take -> Week 17

Greetings, G-Force.

Pardon me, while I feel as though I'm Irenaeus. Often times, a trip to Lambeau offers a righteous white horseman feel to mankind. This past Sunday was one of those days. Allow me to act as a cavalier.

Welcome to the playoffs, G-Force. Congrats on the berth. As Charles Woodson put it, Sunday was "fan appreciation day." Both Woodson and the fans showed their mutual affection. The fans giving a chorus of "MVP" chants to Woodson was brilliant. Woodson responding with a victory lap around Lambeau was reminiscent of the days in which Reggie White displayed his love for the greatest fans in sports. Woodson is a proud Green Bay Packer. It's a treat to witness.

Shout it with me: Aa-ron Rod-gers. Aa-ron Rod-gers. Aa-ron Rod-gers. He's cool as a cucumber in hot sauce. He's the key to our playoff run. He has the capacity to carry us through the playoffs. After the game, Rodgers was spotted in Curly's Pub inside the Lambeau Field Atrium. He was shaking hands and talking about how much he enjoyed being the QB of the Green Bay Packers. He also thanked the fans for their support.

Behind Charles Woodson, Aaron Rodgers is quickly becoming my favorite player in the NFL. He's become a stallion far sooner than anyone could have predicted. He's maturing gracefully. He reminds me of an athletic, mobile Troy Aikman. Poised in the pocket. Confident and able to make every throw. Consistently looking for the deep throw. Lethal on third down.

I enjoy noticing the little things that you get to see being at the game. It is apparent that Nick Barnett & Clay Matthews are the vocal leaders on defense. They conduct the defensive huddles. They've both been playing exceptionally and showing that actions are louder than words. Barnett has played with terrific physicality. Matthews - who Boots accurately calls "The Claymaker" - is a true presence on the field. His quickness constantly alters plays. Even if the box score does not show it. On multiple occasions, he forced Hasselbeck into mistakes. By the way, I hope Hasselbeck is our back-up QB next year.

The interactions between the likes of Clay & Chuckie shows a strong respect between veteran and rookie.

J-Mike, Double-D, and Greg Jennings are absolutely pleasant to watch on the pitch. They're enjoying themselves and the offensive camaraderie is impeccable.

Ryan Grant, B-Jack, and Ahman Green also have a mutual adoration. Regardless of who scored the TD, it was an absolute love fest between the three. Great to witness.

BJ Raji is forever named "Jazz Hands." His reaction after a big play is absolutely spectacular as he begs for heightened crowd recognition. Raji is a big bowl of jelly. Slippery to contain. Bubbly. Three times, he made drive altering plays. If he develops into a pass rusher, he could have Pro Bowl potential.

Johnny Jolly is a Winter Wonderland. He's arguably the most underrated DL in the league. He's an absolute winner. His 11 passes defensed are beyond amazing. He's a tremendous run stopper. We can win with him. Against anyone.

If Ras-A-tari performs as he did last weekend, we'll be tough to beat. Making plays on the ball. Lowering the boom on receivers. He'd be another weapon that teams would have to prepare for. His physical play will also strike fear in the minds of receivers much like he did late in the '07 season.

The fanfare for Crosby before his 52 yard FG is unmatched in all of sport. Sublime support.

Brad Jones continues to grow in his role. He's been more than satisfactory and he seems to improve each week.

In all, the Packers look to be having a lot of fun. I give Mike McCarthy a lot of credit.

This week -> it's the Cardinals. With very little on the line. But, the Packers must look sharp. Frankly, at the present moment, I'm not afraid of any NFL team. I'd play anyone, anywhere. My biggest concern is staying healthy. I would not be totally surprised if the Cardinals shared a similar thought especially if there is no possible way they can gain a 1st round bye out of a victory.

I'd like to see the starters play the 1st Half with great success. The Packers jump out to a 24-10 lead. Rodgers stays in rhythm, throwing his 30th TD. Driver goes over 1,000 yards for the season. Jennings eclipses 1,100. Grant goes over 1,250. Defensively, the Claymaker grabs his 11th sack. Chuckie grabs his 9th pick. Statistically, it is a terrific season for the Packers.

In the 2nd half, I want to pay close attention to Flynn's development. I want to see the U-HAUL get real life experience on the big stage. Remember that this is the type of game in which T-Mon came of age in the '07 season finale. I want to see Cyril Obiozor get a chance to work on his first step off the ball. He's got the body to be an elite 3-4 OLB. I want to see if Wynn can make it in this league, he needs additional reps. I want to see more of Bishop at ILB. The 2nd half of this game will help provide an indication of offseason requirements. While one half of football does not provide concrete conclusions, it does allow for a reference point.

Enjoy this week. Wear Packer colors. Harness in the energy. Feel the buzz. Whether you are in Denver, New York, Green Bay, London, Milwaukee, Madison, Albuquerque, Miami, San Diego, Seattle, Minneapolis or Chicago -> it just does not matter, promote the Packers word. Feel it on the inside. Wear it on the outside, baby!

Think of the Cowboys post Aikman. The Dolphins post Marino. The Broncos post Elway. The Bills post Kelly. The 49ers post Young. Hell, look at the Browns post Kosar. It's a great relief to be back in the playoffs. And it's a credit to Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers.

Packers 27. Cardinals 23.

Go Pack Go!!!

Have a Happy & Safe New Year.


Talkin' S-Mac.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Take -> Week 16

Greetings, G-Force.

It feels good to have a meaningful late December game once again. After being spoiled with games of significance from 1992-2004, we became void of importance with the exception of the "favre-ulous" 2007 campaign. Once again, the Pack is back. And, assuming Aaron Rodgers stays healthy, we should be meaningful for the next 7-10 years. Rodgers is a MAN. A fierce competitor. A victim of shoddy special teams play and a late-game defense that fails to act as infantry when attempting to seal a game. Rodgers has become an elite 3rd down passer and appears headed for an NFL MVP award at some point in his career.

Since Reggie White left the Packers in 1998, the Packers have struggled to find anyone that could seal a game. Sure, Ras-A-tari has done it a couple of times against the 'queens and Al Harris has also provided late-game heroics in his past. With that being said, no one has been a consistent late game playmaker. And thus, no team has suffered the game defeats that the Packers have encountered since Reggie's retirement. And, really, these tumultuous losses began with TO's catch in Reggie's last game as a Packer in the '98 Wild Card game.

Jarrett Bush. Leave my life. Soon.

Josh Bell? Really. Really? Really! How is that Touchdown even possible?

It baffled me that we only rushed three. One of them was Jairus Wynn. And Clay Matthews was dropped in coverage? What were we thinking? Matthews is quickly becoming an elite defensive player. He's a difference maker. Yet, on the play in which we could have all but clinched a playoff berth, Clay Matthews was nowhere near the QB. Frustrating.

For 55 minutes, Chuckie, T-Mon, Nintendo Nick and CM3 have become premier playmakers. Each has displayed the capability to change a game at any moment and in a variety of ways - whether it be sacking the QB or forcing a turnover.

Normally, I'm not one to discuss the officiating after the game. But, did anyone else feel as though the refs were favoring the Steelers? I felt the officiating was awfully fautly.

The Packers are in a neck-in-neck battle with the Cowboys & Giants for a Wild Card berth. While the current standings indicate the Packers control their destiny, we learned in Week 15 that the Giants & Cowboys are not going to lie down. In fact, they seemed to have played their best football of the '09 Season.

This week - the Packers must elevate against the lowly Seahawks. It should be festive. 2 days after Christmas. The G-Force will be present. WE NEED THIS WIN!!!

Since Mike Holmgren bolted Green Bay for Seattle, the Packers and Seahawks have forged a small rivalry. It's been a fun relationship that's included two terrifc playoff battles and a number of one-sided regular season games. Once again, this week, we should witness a one-sided regular season game.

The Seahawks do not have a pass rush. They do not have cover corners. They are not good against the run. Offensively, the Packers are on a mission. McCarthy tamed the Steelers early pass rush with an empty backfield that forced the Steelers to cover us. McCarthy won't have to worry about fierce LB blitzes against Seattle.

Defensively, the Packers should be able to pressure Hasselbeck. We'll get in his face and turnovers will follow. Nintendo Nick & T-Mon both intercept passes this week. Hopefully, they'll also be awarded with new contracts after the game as well.

Clifton & Tauscher continue to be anchors for the OL. They've been terrific over the last 5 weeks. Providing Rodgers will ample time, Rodgers throws for 320 & 3 TD's.

It was great to see the back-shoulder fade to J-Mike. We see it again this week.

'Tis the Season to be Jolly. Therefore, Johnny grabs a sack.

This one is a party. It'll be a Holiday treat to be in attendance with my brothers.

Packers 38. Seahawks 13.

Be Loud,

Talkin' S-Mac.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Tribute to Charles Woodson

Greetings, G-Force.

It's rare that I write a double take for the week. But, I figure that instead of including Charles Woodson in the weekly take, I'd write a short blog entirely devoted to him.

Without question, Woodson is the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. He's the first player to ever win 2 NFC Defensive Player of the Month awards. Each week, he's been the player that seems to have the biggest impact on the game. I'd argue that he's having the best defensive year of any Packer in my lifetime. The only men that have come close was Reggie White in 1998 when he was the NFC's Defensive Player of the Year and LeRoy Butler in 1996.

For the year, in 13 games, Woodson has 60 tackles. 8 interceptions. 4 Forced Fumbles. 1 Fumble Recovery. 2 sacks. 2 TD's. 14 passes defensed. 1 Heisman Trophy pose.

The Packers record for interceptions in a year is 10. 10 times - a Packer has had 9 interceptions. If Woodson plays in 16 games this year, he's likely to grab at least one more interception and possibly two more to tie the record.

For comparison sake, in 1998, Reggie White had 16 sacks. He forced 3 fumbles and recovered 2. He had 46 tackles. While Reggie was spectacular, he faded down the stretch with only 1 sack over the last 5 games.

In 1996, LeRoy Butler was the anchor of our Super Bowl Champion defense. It should be mentioned that - as a whole - the '96 Packers defense is extremely underrated in the history rankings. Butler finished with 87 tackels, 6.5 sacks, 5 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 TD, 1 Lambeau Leap and 149 return yards. Sadly, today, LeRoy Butler lives in national anonymity when he should be in the NFL Hall of Fame.

Regardless of where Woodson's '09 season ranks, he's clearly having a remarkable year that will long live in the legends within the great history of the Green Bay Packers organization.

I'm hoping for another TD.


Talkin' S-Mac.

My Take -> Week 15

Greetings, G-Force.

I wish everyone a Happy Holidays! Packer spirit alive. Packer energy is well. A successful Packers season enhances the Holiday vibe.

Last Sunday, we furthered the notion that the Bears still suck. And because of it, the Packers are on the brink of playoff qualification just two years into the post Brett Favre era. Truly a terrific achievement.

Riding the wave of terrific defense and a maturing QB, the Packers are enjoying a 5-game winning streak. Undoubtedly, the team is both improving and feeling more comfortable each week. Capers' creativity week-in and week-out has opposing QB's confused. The blitz call on 2nd down of the Bears final possession was executed to perfection. Rushing 6, Chillar comes from inside to out. The Bears keep a back in to protect. The back grabs Chillar who does not attempt to rush Cutler. Instead - his purpose is to take the back out of the play. Therefore, T-Mon has a clear path to Cutler. T-Mon tosses Cutler to the turf for an 8-yard loss. Beautiful.

Congrats to Chillar on his contract. It's time to give T-Mon & Nintendo Nick the same. Nintendo Nick is a top-5 safety in the NFL. T-Mon is a legitimate NFL CB. Both are vital components of our franchise.

The NFL's #1 defense held Forte to 51 yards - playing without lead run stuffer Ryan Pickett. CM3 gets another sack. Barnett playing at arguably the best level of his professional career. Hawk playing with both certainty and confidence. Another steady game for Brad Jones. Jolly & Jenkins dominate the line of scrimmage each week. Poppinga making 2 special teams tackles.

The Packers found the running game against the hated Bears - pounding out 146 yards. Ryan Grant might be the most under appreciated back in the league. He's on pace for over 1300 yards. He's averaging 4.3 yards per carry. No one pays any attention. Except for my wife, of course. During the game, in her Valley Girl way, A* says, "He's, like, got his legs back." Cheers, *!

J-Mike is becoming a man. His next step is to learn to step out of the tackle of a undersized CB. He seems to be hitting the ground before contact. I'd love to see him run right at a CB and fight for extra yards. Become mean, J-Mike. Unleash yourself.

Our Red Zone deficiencies could become a major issue at some point this year. The back-shoulder fade to J-Mike is the solution. Get him isolated. Call the play.

I'd cut Mason Crosby. He's unreliable.

This week - it's the Super Bowl Champs, in Pittsburgh. In December. With the possibility of potentially clinching a playoff berth. While we've won 5 games in a row, Pittsburgh has lost 5 in a row. Don't be fooled. The Steelers have great tradition and a champions heart. And even today, they're only one game out of the playoff race. We could end their season with a victory this week.

The Steelers will be without Polamalu & star guard, Chris Kemoeatu. However, Roethlisberger, Ward, Holmes, Farrior, Taylor, Harrison, and Woodley will be on the field. They're well fit to punch anyone in the mouth and provide a stiff test.

They'll test us deep with Mike Wallace. We'll see deep crossing routes to Holmes. Short out passes to Ward. Check downs to Heath Miller. A heavy dose of Mendenhall. Defensively, they'll mix a variety of blitzes to confuse our young QB.

Early in the game Rodgers attacks the center of the Steelers defense. They get behind Ryan Clark & Tyrone Carter in the Steelers secondary. Jennings - matched up with Ike Taylor - gets into the end zone on a double move fly route. 7-0 Good Guys.

Pitt responds. Big Ben to Holmes. Big Ben to Miller for a 1st down. Mendenhall punches it at us. The Terrible Towels are waving. Ben finds Wallace who is lined up against J-Bush for a 35 yard TD.

It's a back and forth contest. It's late. Trailing by 3, Rodgers gets the ball. 3 minutes left. A playoff berth on the line. Battling the Champs. The Steelers '09 life is on the line. Rodgers goes to work.

To Driver. To Jones on an underneath crossing route. To Jennings on a puma route. To J-Mike. The dump to B-Jack for 7. We're in the Red Zone. It's back-shoulder to J-Mike. I want it. I'm calling it. WE'RE IN, BABY! WE'RE IN THE PLAYOFFS, BABY!! WE'RE IN, BABY!!! It's celebration time!

Grant tops 60 yards and 1100 for the season. Rodgers throws 2 TD's. CM3 gets another sack.

It's a stealth-like Packers performance, on the road. We qualify for the playoffs in grand fashion.

Green Bay 24. Pittsburgh 20.

And so this is Christmas. It's Joy to the World. Hark! The Herald. Do you hear what I hear? It's the Packers in the playoffs. It's the Wonderful Time of the Year.

Happy Holidays,

Talkin' S-Mac.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Take -> Week 14

Greetings, G-Force.

I write with joy.

Three of our last four head coaches were named Mike. Mike Holmgren was a master at getting his team to peak come December. As much as we all despised Mike Sherman's January decision making & in-game coaching skills, he had his team to play Packer football each year in December. Mike McCarthy is following suit. In 2006, he won his last four games. In 2007, he won 3 of his last four. 2008 was a circus rather than a football season.

Presently, we're playing our best football of the 2009 season. Sure, we are penalized an excessive amount. Sure, Mason Crosby continues to be putrid. And our special teams unit fail to ever make a big play. Regardless, the Packers are a possessed football team. Playing with aggression. It's a treat to watch.

McCarthy has been creative with his play calling. He's become less predictable. And I loved when he inserted a fresh Ahman Green in the 4th Quarter to punish a winded Ravens defense. Green's presence also inspired Ryan Grant to run harder.

I was thankful that we FINALLY went to the fade pass to J-Mike in the corner of the end zone. It was interesting how they originally lined him up in the backfield in an effort to find a mismatch. I wish it would have been a back shoulder throw. Next time -> it should be. It's a safer pass.

Clay Matthews III continues to be a stallion. In fact, for the first time in his NFL career, he commanded a double team. Consistently. The Ravens had to keep a RB in the backfield to chip him in order to slow him down. It was a treat to watch. Never say die, Clay.

Brad Jones had his most impressive performance of the year. He appeared quicker. Still not fast on the field. But, he plays with great awareness. I wish he would have made the open field tackle on Ray Rice for a loss, but nonetheless, he played well. Congrats on your 1st sack, Brad.

BJ Raji. 3 weeks in a row with a play in the backfield.

Pickett, Jenkins & Jolly playing mean. True difference makers.

Hawk with the dagger! The clincher.

Barnett continuing to improve in the 3-4 defense each week.

T-Mon & Nintendo Nick making big plays to change momentum.

Aaron Rodgers is an MVP candidate. He won't win it. That's for Brees or Manning. But, Rodgers deserves votes. He's becoming a man in front of our eyes. He's seeing the field better. Utilizing the check-down. Relying on the TE. Just as his predecessor did.

In fact, I ran an office poll today in which I asked 10 die-hard football fans to name their top 7 candidates for the NFL's MVP. The final tally included Charles Woodson and Aaron Rodgers in the top-6. It went Manning, Brees, Favre, Rodgers, Rivers, Woodson.

J-Mike has Pro-Bowl potential.

Donald Driver is making a case to be a Hall of Famer. He might need to have four more seasons in which he averages 60 catches and 750 yards. If so, he'd finish his career with over 900 catches and 12,000 yards. Those are Hall of Fame numbers.

How can a Sunday in December be any better than what is on tap this weekend? At 1 EST, it's the Packers traveling to Soldier Field to take on the hated Bears. At 4 EST, it's San Diego visiting Dallas in a crucial battle as both teams jostle for playoff positioning. And the nightcapper is a terrific NFC battle between the Giants & the Eagles. When we go to bed on Sunday night, we'll have a clearer picture of the clustered NFC playoff race.

The Packers cannot overlook this game. We must be ready. We must come out early and make a statement. If so, the Bears could hibernate. Both teams are banged up with crucial players nursing injuries. This will be a survival of the fittest. When these two teams play in December, you can throw the records in the garbage.

Both teams OL's have struggled this year. While the Packers OL has improved, the Bears OL has become worse. The Bears will have to keep a back in to help Orlando Pace or else the only thing that will stop CM3 on the pass rush would be himself loosing his footing.

I foresee the Bears trying to establish the run early. I believe the Bears will try to use a mixture of Kahlil Bell and Forte to slow down the pace of the game. They'll utilize Olsen in a variety of places on the field. They'll hide him as an H-Back. They'll line him outside. They'll place him on both sides of the line of scrimmages. Trying to create a mismatch. And then expect the Bears to try and find one-on-one coverage on the outside. The Bears will think they can expose our CB's with their speedy WR's, Devin Hester & Johnny Knox. They also will try to exploit the pass interference calls that have become commonplace in the Packers defensive backfield.

Defensively, the Bears will play us straight up. They'll try to beat us with their front 4. Using their DE's to speed rush against our aging OT's. LB's Hunter Hillenmeyer & Lance Briggs are banged up. They're expected to play, but they won't be 100% (much like Raji, Jenkins & Pickett for us).

In 12 games, Jay Cutler has thrown 20 interceptions. In 12 games, the Packers defense has picked off 21 passes. I like our chances. Unless, of course, the Bears play the way they did last week in which Cutler only threw the ball 17 times. He only completed 8 passes and he looked like he lacked confidence. Regardless, Cutler is a gunslinger with a terrific arm and the ability to make any throw. Therefore, he's dangerous on every play.

The Bears take the opening kickoff into Packers territory. The Bears have a great special teams return unit. We have an awful coverage team. This match-up scares me. The Bears take the short field. The Packers are on their heels. Forte for 7 yards. Cutler to Olsen. Forte punches it at us. Knox on a slant. Forte runs in for a short TD.

The Bears defense forces the punt. Again, the Bears have a good special teams play to bring the ball near mid-field. It has the makings of a frustrating game. Those stupid Bear claws/Bear Hats - that are a copy of the Cheesehead - romp with excitement.

Again, the Bears move the football. Cutler to Bennett. More Forte. The Bears are winning the line of scrimmage. T-Mon breaks up a third down pass. Robbie Gould - the most underrated kicker in football - drills one from 45 yards. 10-0 Bears.

The Packers come out flat. But, the weather calls for mid 30's and light snow flurries. Little wind. This is Packer football. McCarthy gathers the troops. And the next step in the evolution of the McCarthy/Rodgers combo arrives against our hated Rival. We show that we have the grit to make a HUGE comeback on the road in a Division game, in December.

Rodgers to Grant on a screen. Rodgers to Driver. Rodgers to Jennings (who continues to struggle in cold weather games). Rodgers to Jones over the middle for a 1st down. Rodgers to Driver for 6 points.

Clay flies around Orlando Pace. The future HOF'er is stuck in his tracks. Jay Cutler meets CM3. The Packers are off the field.

Rodgers goes back to work. Using all of his tools in his shed. Sharp precision. It's Donald Lee. It's J-Mike between the safeties for 22 yards. Grant on a delayed draw punches through the middle for a nice gain. It's Rodgers to Havner for a 14-10 Packers lead.

Cutler finds Ras-A-tari. He's due to make a play. It'll happen this week.

Rodgers dumps to B-Jack on a check down. B-Jack has played really well this year; not worth a 2nd round pick, but playing well. He's been reliable.

Rodgers to Jordy. Rodgers finds Jennings deep for 6 points.

But, the Bears don't quit. Another good kickoff return gives the Bears field position. Cutler finds Knox on a deep one.

Late in the game, the Packers lead by 7. The Bears get the ball. Under 2 minutes. Clay Matthews III makes his presence felt. Outracing Pace to the corner. He collects his 9th sack of the year. A desperation 4th down pass by Cutler lands in the lap of Nintendo Nick.

Rodgers name enters all national circles of MVP talk. He's not the winner, but he's a candidate and deserves some nomination.

Packers 31. Bears 24.

May the good Lord shine a light on you. Make every song you sing, your favorite tune. Let it start with GO PACK GO!

Say it with me: THE BEARS STILL SUCK.

Talkin' S-Mac.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Take -> Week 13

Greetings, G-Force.

Charles Woodson ensured that everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving. Chuckie, we're thankful to have you.

Three impressive wins against NFC opponents have the Packers holding prime NFC real estate. We're well positioned for one of the NFC Wild Card spots. As the Giants, Falcons & Eagles have struggled for consistency, the Packers seem to be peaking as we enter the December stretch.

I've often talked about the 8 game swing stretch. I've thought that we must finish no worse than 6-2 over that 8 game stretch in order to make it to the playoffs. I stand by my statements. In my mind, this is a must win. While it'll still be conceivable for the Packers to make the playoffs even if they lose, we'll learn more about the Packers this week than we have in any previous week. We'll find out how physically and mentally tough the Packers have become. We've feasted on less than stellar teams. We showed that our stars were flashier than Dallas' star. We jumped out on the 49ers early. We beat an already beaten up Detroit team. Yes, they're all wins. Good wins. Great wins, in fact. But, this week we'll find out just how far the Green Bay Packers have come along.

It's Monday Night Football. At Lambeau Field. This is a game that the Packers must win. No excuses.

The Ravens will provide a stiff test. They are built for December football. They play defense. They force turnovers. They run the ball with a fierce mentality. They're tough to bring down. They'll try to beat you up. No matter the score, they'll continue to fight. I could argue that Baltimore has an unmatched physical determination in the NFL. Additionally, their playoff life is on the line.

While the Packers lead the NFL in rush defense, for a variety of reasons, with the exception of our battles against A.P., we haven't really been tested since the Bengals & Rams stuffed it down our throats in Weeks 2 & 3. Dallas gave up on the run after a successful first drive. So did the 49ers. The Ravens will try to beat us up for 60 minutes - regardless of the score.

We're significantly better than Baltimore on the perimeter. The Ravens have the edge between the Tackles. In order to win in December, you have to win the running game. Especially at Lambeau Field. Thus, I feel this week will be a significant indicator as we attempt to gauge whether the Packers are contenders or pretenders.

The Ravens three headed running monster of Ray Rice, Willis McGahee & Le'Ron McClain will require a persistent fight from our Front 7. Back-to-back weeks Raji has made a play behind the line of scrimmage. Jolly & Jenkins continue to get a quick jump off the ball. Hawk and Barnett have been above average as ILB's. CM3 is quickly growing into a man who makes a play a week. Brad Jones just has to be assignment-sure, mistake-free.

If we can consistently force 3rd & 7 or more, we'll win. Probably by 2 scores. Many think highly of Joe Flacco. I'm not one of them. Frankly, I think he's mightily overrated. He has some decent targets in Derrick Mason and Todd Heap. Mark Clayton is a decent deep threat who has underachieved - nonetheless he has to be accounted for. Kelly Washington has become a solid 3rd down WR who has become proficient at moving the chains in the middle of the field running crossing routes.

If we can force 3rd and long situations, we can get pressure on Flacco. Like many young QB's, he's often guilty of holding onto the football too long. He'll take a hit even though he stands tall in the pocket. It's just that he's not very elusive. You know where to find him. We must pursue.

While the Ravens defense is on the decline, it remains a formidable opponent. Ray Lewis can still intimidate. Ed Reed can still play center field. Haloti Ngata is a premier 3-4 run defender. Dawan Landry is a solid safety. But, this Ravens defense has holes, notably at CB where Dominique Foxworth, Frank Walker, and Chris Carr are all average to below-average CB's. With Suggs not playing due to injury, the Packers should be able to protect Rodgers and if the Ravens come with heavy blitzes, Rodgers should be able to expose the mismatches on the perimeter with an audible to quick, short routes.

Mother Nature calls for mid-20's with a slight snow flurry. Winds of 4 mph. This should be Packer football. It should be picturesque. It should be a Packers victory.

The Ravens start quickly. Pounding it at us. The move into scoring position, only to be held to 3 points.

The Packers respond. Rodgers to J-Mike over the middle of the field for 15 yards. Rodgers to Nelson on a short pass turns into a 1st down. Grant punching it at the Ravens heart. Rodgers to Jennings for 6 points.

The Packers grab a 14-3 lead. The crowd rises. Flacco starts to pick on J-Bush. Getting Mason isolated on Bush, the Ravens pick up consecutive 1st downs. It's Kelly Washington for a first down on a 3rd down. Ray Rice gets loose. 14-10.

With the Packers up 20-10, our pathetic special teams rears its head. The Ravens play solid special teams. The Packers do not. Special teams changes the tide and gives the Ravens sound field position.

Flacco finds Heap. He finds Rice on a screen to get the ball inside the 10. McGahee pounds it in.

6 minutes left. The Packers lead by 3. With the ball. Rodgers goes to work.

***Every year, there is a time when the season changes for the better or for the worse. In 1996, Doug Evans picked off Tony Banks and returned it for a TD. The Packers never looked back. In 2006, Favre connected with Chris Francies on a big third down in Miami. The season looked lost at 1-4 until that play continued an important drive. The Packers finished 8-8. In 2007, it was Favre to Jennings at Denver - in OT - that inspired greatness. In 2008, it was our final drive at Tennessee. We failed to find points with a chance to win. Our season spun downward. In 2009, thus far, it was in Week 10 against the Cowboys. With the score 3-0, the Packers faced 3rd & 11 from their own 34. Rodgers found Jennings for 14 yards. Three plays later, the Packers faced 3rd & 13. Rodgers found Lee for 17 yards. Later that drive, the Packers were staring at 3rd & 6. Rodgers connected with Jordy for 7 yards. The next play Rodgers scored on a 1 yard TD run. Since then, Rodgers has been brilliant.***

Well, Rodgers pulls out his magic wand once again. It's Monday Night brilliance. Completing a big third down to Driver on a quick slant. The check down to Lee. Rodgers continues to show maturity. With under 2 minutes left, it's victory formation.

The Packers win a hard fought, hotly contested battle.

Green Bay 20. Baltimore 17.

After the game, Rodgers has 24 touchdowns. 5 interceptions on the season. He shows that he's Pro Bowl material. In the spotlight on national TV. Rodgers elevates into a premier NFL QB.

Enjoy Sunday. Pay extra attention to the Cowboys/Giants & Eagles/Falcons games. They might impact our season and postseason outlook.


Talkin' S-Mac.