10-0. 16 in a row. Protecting the home turf as the opposition throws their best punch. Almost oddly, Tampa is built for the cold weather, while Green Bay is best constructed to play in weather controlled environments. Regardless, the Yucs came with everything they had. They tried to steal possessions. They played well on the outside. Their DL played as well as it could play. And – we still walked away with victory. Remaining unbeaten. Clearly, through 10 games, the Packers are the class of the NFL. Prime for a repeat. Remember, Mike McCarthy teams will continue to improve. We’ve yet to hit our stride. I’m confident it’ll happen in the coming weeks.
Quick hits from the victory on Sunday:
· Mike McCarthy is a player’s coach. Let’s face it: BJ Raji is struggling. If the Packers are going to Repeat, we need more out of Raji. Raji has Hawaii bound skills. He has not played to his potential. So, what does McCarthy do? He unleashes the Freezer! Epic. Great form, Mike McCarthy! It was great to see Raji smile. His confidence needed that. He needed a little swagger to his step. McCarthy tried to provide him with that.
· Aaron Rodgers continues to be the NFL’s MVP. A “down game” for Rodgers is 299 yards with 3 TD’s and 1 interception.
· Thankful the injuries to Starks and Jennings don’t appear to be serious.
· Jordy Nelson – once again, I’ll say – the best #2 WR in the NFL. Sure, Rodgers makes everyone better. But, Nelson can flat out play. He’s a gamer.
· Double-D showing up as the weather turns bad. Then calls the Packers “the Greatest Show on Grass!” Lovely.
· Time for Ryan Grant to step up. Grant is playing for his career right now. He’ll get a chance to show his worth this week. Time to perform, Ryan. He looks slow to hit the hole and when he hits the hole, he’s lacking acceleration. Thought he’d be further along at this point of the season.
· Tom Crabtree! Get in the stands, young man!
· J-Mike may have dropped the ball, but he’s still the focus of Defensive Coordinators. On nearly every play.
· The interior of the OL is struggling. Josh Sitton, come on, man. Wells & Lang didn’t seem to be on the same page on a couple of plays.
* Is this the real James Jones? Or is he in a funk? Can’t figure it out. Looks like he doesn’t care. And the penalty on the special teams play was unnecessary. And the non-attempt to tackle after the interception is absolutely unacceptable. That's how you play yourself off the team.
* Randall Cobb in Green Bay is totally spectacular. Guy has superstar skills. A game changer. And the ability to win us a playoff game. A true difference maker. Can’t wait to see him throw a TD pass. He’s getting more involved in the offense. Soon – expect trickery. Possibly this week.
* Congrats to Sir Charles! While I haven't seen this documented anywhere, I believe he became the first player to notch more than 50 interceptions and 15 sacks for a career. I'd love it if he could get 2 more sacks this year. Would be sweet to see him finish his career with over 20 sacks!
* While the Claymaker did not get home for a sack, his pressure has been more vibrant since the bye. Good things are coming to him. It was interesting to see the Packers trying to rush Clay from the inside, while either Hawk or Bishop pursued from the outside on the blitz. Capers is desperately looking to find ways to get CM3 to the QB.
* T-Mon playing as though he's among the best cover CB's in the NFL. Clearly, once again, T-Mon is healthy. Tramondous!
* Really wish Morgan "the Predator" Burnett could rid himself of the cast.
* Walden getting to the QB!! Need more of this.
* I thought that AJ Hawk - at times - was playing his best football of the year. Really pursued with intensity. Until the big run by Blount, I thought Hawk was having his best game of the year.
* Surprised to see Mike Neal standing up on a couple of occasions. Wish they'd plant his hand and let him attack.
* Ryan Taylor continues to impress on special teams.
* Love to see Kuhn punching the ball into the end zone!
* AQ81 continues to improve as a blocker. He's a fighter.
This week - it's the game that we've all been waiting for. Thanksgiving. In Detroit. This place will be mayhem. The Lions have waited more than 15 years for a game to matter this late in the season. They feel relevant. They played well against the defending Champs last year. They have reason to believe.
The Lions will look to win by the line of scrimmage. Especially on the defensive side of the ball. While much is said about Vanden Bosch, Fairley, Corey Williams (who is injured and in question), and Suh; one guy that can flat out get to the QB is Cliff Avril. Avril is intense. He's tough. He swipes at the football. He gets the edge. He'll be a tough match for Bulaga. Vanden Bosch's grit and experience will be a tough draw for Newhouse. And - as has been well documented - the interior of the Packers OL vs the interior of the DL for the Lions will be a crucial component in determining the outcome.
Look for the Packers to send TE's in motion. Then, I'd expect them to keep them in the backfield to help block. They'll release late and be dump off options. Rodgers' patience will be tested. But, if we can avoid penalties, we'll be able to move the football.
We'll also see J-Mike chip either Vanden Bosch or Avril (likely Vanden Bosch) prior to going out for a route. Much like the Packers did with Allen & Robison against Minnesota.
It's a big game for Ryan Grant. Grant needs to perform. A QB's best friend is the run game, especially if the Lions are coming with heavy pursuit. Grant can also quiet down the intensity of the crowd.
Don't be surprised to see Brandon Saine get his chance. I envision Saine getting the ball on a swing pass or two. He'll fight through arm tackles and pick up first downs if he's put in a 1 v 1 scenario in the open field.
Big plays can be had down the field against the improved, yet still average, Detroit secondary. Chris Harris was a nice recent addition for the Lions. He brings knowledge of the NFC North. He knows what we do. Chris Houston has made some big plays this year. He can't cover Jordy Nelson. He can't cover Greg Jennings. Eric Wright was a nice offseason addition. He's a fighter. But, I'll take Nelson & Jennings. Louis Delmas is a heavy hitter. If history is any indication, you know that J-Mike will be looking to make a play on him. YOTTO!
I really believe that this is the day Randall Cobb comes up BIG on the offensive side of the ball. Be it a reverse. He could throw a pass in some form of trickery. Or it could simply be Cobb operating out of the slot. He's a weapon. Depending on how much McCarthy respects the Lions, it wouldn't shock me if he has something up his sleeve. And, it's likely Cobb will be involved.
The Lions have weapons on offense. Calvin Johnson is a superstar. But, call me crazy, I believe T-Mon will match up with Johnson and T-Mon will have a good game. Sure, Johnson is going to put up numbers. It wouldn't surprise me if he scores 2 TD's, but T-Mon will make a play as well. Titus Young is a good young talent. Sammy Swagga should shadow him all day. Burleson is a good slot option. Sir Charles will eat him up. What scares me most about the Lions is their TE play. We've struggled against TE's this year. Scheffler & Pettigrew are match-up problems for the Packers. Both can run across the middle. Both can get down the seam. Both can make the big play. Both are tough to bring to the turf.
This much is true: Sir Charles will make a play. He loves going back to the state of Michigan. He loves to play the Lions. Since joining the Packers in 2006, in 10 games against the Lions, Sir Charles has recorded 7 interceptions, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery and 3 TD's. Sir Charles will make a play on National TV. He always does.
It should also be noted that while Stafford has had a very good year, he will occasionally trust his arm too much and throw into traffic. He's thrown 10 interceptions in 10 games. Opportunities will be present.
Kevin Smith had a HUGE game last week. He must be contained. He's a straight ahead runner for the most part. Close the gaps and he's not going to do much. But, if he has a hole, he's a threat to take it to the house.
Throughout the 2011 Season, the Lions have mostly been a slow starting team. They've had a pension for making comebacks. If they fall behind on Thanksgiving, they aren't coming back.
It'll be a dog fight. In the end, there's too much of the NFL's MVP and a big defensive play changes the game.
Packers 37. Lions 31.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Go Pack Go!