Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Take -> Week 4

Greetings, G-Force.

The NFL is my favorite pastime. As I write, I'm looking at my basement wall which is littered with signed pictures of Greg Jennings, Aaron Rodgers, Ray Nitschke, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Willie Davis, Sir Charles Woodson, Brett Favre's kid-like joy post his TD pass to Bad-Moon Rison, Andre Rison's step into the XXXI end zone, Clay Matthews holding up the football after his strip of AP and return for a TD, Desmond Howard and his kickoff return for a TD in the XXXI Super Bowl, Bart Starr's Ice Bowl dive, Willie Wood, Herb Adderley, Dave Robinson, Ahman Green, and Desmond Bishop. I've even got the BJ Raji TRUMP CARD moment autographed above the desk in my basement. To my left, their are autographed Nick Collins, James Lofton, Edgar Bennett, Paul Hornung, Brett Favre, Charles Woodson, Paul Hornung, and Bart Starr. With the exception of Ahman Green and James Lofton, all won Super Bowls in Green Bay. All in different eras. Sure, each had a MVP QB, but the reason each was a Champion was because of defense.

Prior to seeing what Brian Carriveau accurately called the "FAIL MARY" - I thought I was watching a Championship Defense. While most pundits would fairly question the current status of the Packers offense, I viewed the "FAIL MARY" game this way: The 2012 Green Bay Packers went into a hostile environment and won. Not with offense, but with sublime defense. Since Mike "The Irishman" McCarthy took over the Packers coaching staff in 2006, the Packers have won 3 games in which they scored less than 16 points. They beat the Viqueens 9-7 in a December battle in 2006. They won twice in the 2010 season; a 9-0 victory in New York over the Jets and 10-3 over the Bears on January 2nd. The Seattle game should have been #4. It should have brought a sense of security to Packers fans. A vibe that even when the NFL's MVP isn't playing top notch football, the Packers can still win on the road against a quality NFC opponent.

Then came the play.

I thought about canceling the NFL Ticket. But, I enjoy Packers football too much. I swore I would not watch another non-Packers game with replacement referees. When the agreement between the NFL and the Refs came to fruition, I gave myself a one-game boycott. I didn't tune in on Thursday Night. But as my Dad said, "Scott, you are only hurting myself. The NFL doesn't care whether you watched or not." With the refs back, I'll buzz into some football today. I won't devote my Sunday to it, but I'll be aware as to the happenings.

As an amateur yet heavily interested NFL historian, I enjoy looking into the riches of previous generations. I believe Peter King to be the most knowledgeable living NFL Historian. ***Side note: It's no wonder that he agrees that Don Hutson is the BEST NFL PLAYER EVER. He's the Babe Ruth of the NFL. And, no one cares. Also, Peter, please vote LeRoy Butler into the NFL HOF. He changed the way safety was played. Butler deserves a bust for the the opposite reason that Andre Reed, Tim Brown and Cris Carter haven't received theirs. While Reed, Brown and Carter were all statistically similar and made similar impacts for their respective teams, Butler was an innovator. Butler was nearly the first ever to get to 40 interceptions and 20 sacks. He was great against the run. He played CB in the slot. He played strong safety. He played free safety. He was the inventor of the Lambeau Leap. He was ALL-DECADE in the 90's. He was a Super Bowl Champion. It'd be a great day for Packers fans if Dave Robinson, Ron Wolf and LeRoy Butler were all enshrined. Won't happen. But, a man can dream.***

As I went for a run through the Mile-High air yesterday, I kept thinking about Peter King's twitter response post the "FAIL MARY." It inspired me to get close to the computer. But, I backed away. As I sipped a 21st Amendment "BREW FREE OR DIE IPA" - I thought longer about whether I could bring myself to write. Mentally, I kept thinking, "Man, I'm going to devote 90 minutes to writing about Koko B. Ware and his bird Freddie and the WWF back into the 80's. Isn't that what I witnessed?" While the Badgers were melting down and Texas was setting up an epic WVU v Texas battle in Austin next week, I was enjoying a Crazy Mountain Pale Ale. I convinced myself that I was going to wake up on Sunday and drown myself in Cafe Bustelo. Loaded on Bustelo, I'd write. I'd at least re-post what Peter King wrote on Twitter. So, here goes.

Mark it down, G-Force. Peter King, arguably the greatest living historian of the NFL, wrote this:

"One of the great disgraces in NFL history."

Perfectly worded. Everyone agrees. While we all agree, Peter King would know. G-Force, we were robbed.

Throughout his fairly short time in the NFL, Roger Goodell has been mightily challenged. Throughout, he handled himself with class. He was a professional. He was personable. He was both a leader and a face for the NFL. But, on the occasion in which the NFL suddenly became bad reality TV, Roger ran. He was nowhere to be seen. He acted as a clown. Instead of putting his face - front and center - he put forth a bogus memo that was absolutely appalling to anyone who has football intellect. He signed the agreement with the Refs and wouldn't acknowledge that the Monday Night fiasco had anything to do with it. And, then, like a clown, he sent a foolish e-mail to the fans. It furthered with feeling of insult.

But, somehow, Peter King's comment made me feel justified. Book it. "One of the great disgraces in NFL history." Yet, unrecognized by the NFL's Leader. Shameful.

This week - it's the Saints. The Saints at 0-3. The Packers at 1-2. Must win for both. Expect Aaron Rodgers to return to his MVP form. Expect the Packers to put points on the board. Expect Clay Matthews to be the Claymaker again today. 2 sacks for Clay.

Packers 38. Saints 23.

If you're going to Lambeau today, be louder than ever. Scream with anger, if you must. But, be faithful to Packers. We need this one today. Or the prospects of the 2012 NFL Season will be bleak.

Sorry for the lack of a game breakdown. I'll do better next week. I promise.

Thank you, Peter King. And yes, it was "One of the great disgraces in NFL history."

Go Pack Go.

Talkin' S-Mac.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My Take -> Week 3

Greetings, G-Force.

What a thrill! Once again, Ray Nutler came to Lambeau. Once again, Ray Nutler left in despair. And, once again, with Ray Nutler as the starting QB, the BEARS STILL SUCKED! It doesn't get any better than a Lambeau celebration on Prime Time, under the lights, and against the hated rival to the South.

Excitingly, there were a lot of positives to take away from the victory over Chicago. Here are some kind vibes from the game:

* The league's MVP has not found his rhythm yet, but the defense picked up the slack. And, because of it, after 2 weeks, the Packers are tied for 1st place in the NFC North.
* The Claymaker looks to be playing at his 2010 level. Vicious in pursuit. Attacking the line of scrimmage. Fearless. I love how he's moving around and he's coming from all different positions on the field.
* Sir Charles making plays in the secondary! And, then point his finger in Nutler's face with intensity. The intimidation factor was priceless.
* T-Mon went nose-to-nose and toes-to-toes with Brandon Marshall. T-Mon picked off two passes for 38 yards. Marshall caught two passes for 24 yards.
* The Bears were excited about their 2nd round pick, Alshon Jeffery. Between Sammy Swagga and Casey Hayward, Jeffery was held to 1 catch for 7 yards.
* Jerron McMillan looks to have play making ability. Liked how he found his way around the football. Now, he needs to catch it!
* For those Dom Capers haters, what did you think of the Bears victory? Loved how he played with only one DL. Bringing in 4 LB's and 6 DB's. Using Sir Charles as a Rover. Rotating Raji, Worthy, and Daniels as the lone rusher. Keeping the legs of the DL fresh. I also loved how he incorporated Erik Walden into the game plan and rotated the LB's.
* 7 sacks! 4 interceptions! 1 game! I love Ray Nutler.
* Worthy grabs his first sack! Daniels does the same!
* DJ Smith runs over Forte!
* Remember when the Bears and Packers used to play and the Bears would dominate the special teams battle. Yeah, those days are not around anymore. Now, it's the contrary.
* Tim Masthay totally neutralized Devin Hester.
* Mike McCarthy goes gutsy on 4th & 26! And it brought the dagger! What a call. What courage. What confidence. What bravery. And Tom Crabtree delivers! Also, what a block by the WVU grad, Don Barclay! Loved it.
* Our rookies are making an impact and bringing attitude. As I mentioned, Worthy and Daniels each had a sack. McMillan had a pick. Moses was active and in the face of the opponent. Hayward was jamming people at the line of scrimmage. Hayward spent a lot of time on Earl Bennett. Both are Vanderbilt products. Hayward got the best of Bennett, who finished with 2 catches for 21 yards. While Perry didn't get home for a sack, he certainly applied pressure and generated a push.
* Rodgers has yet to find his rhythm. At times, he looks frustrated. Almost annoyed. Stay patient, MVP. Good things are coming.
* I absolutely love what McCarthy is doing with Randall Cobb. Have to utilize his versatility. Big plays will continue to come for him.
* Double D dancing with the stars in the end zone! 1 catch. 26 yards. 1 TD. 1 Dance in the end zone. 1 Lambeau Leap. Sublime stuff!
* 7 sacks! 4 interceptions! 1 game! I love Ray Nutler.
* Loved the way Benson hit the hole. Also enjoyed how McCarthy stuck with the run game to soften the pressure from the Bears front 4.
* Jordy Nelson & J-Mike have not had the start to the season that I thought they might. Not worried about it. Just mentioning.
* KUHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!! Always fun when he catches a screen and puts his head down.
* Tom Crabtree had more receiving yards than Brandon Marshall.
* 7 sacks! 4 interceptions! 1 game! I love Ray Nutler.
* After the TD pass to Driver, I enjoyed how Rodgers pointed to the sideline. Clearly, they had seen something that they could expose. And, they did with exceptional precision.

This week - it's the Seahawks. In Seattle. A tough place to play. The home of the 12th man. On Monday Night Football. Under the lights. It'll be hostile. It'll also be time for the Packers to polish the helmets and let their starts shine. Let's sparkle, baby. Let's sparkle.

The Seahawks are going to attempt to mimic the game plan of the Chiefs last year. They'll pound it on the ground and hope to look at 3rd & 4 or less. They want to put Russell Wilson in position to succeed. Expect Marshawn Lynch to get at least 20 carries and possibly more than 25. If Lynch touches it less than 20 times, the Packers will win in a blow-out. But, the Seahawks will be methodical. They'll be patient. They'll hope for success on 3rd down.

Russell Wilson has been a nice story. He had a great pre-season. He led them to a big win over the Cowboys. His mobility has allowed him to extend plays. He's been able to step up in the pocket and make plays with his feet. In two games, he has nearly 50 yards rushing. He's done just enough with his feet to keep you honest, but he is capable of moving chains with his legs.

The Packers should match up well with the Seahawks WR's. Braylon Edwards and Sidney Rice have the size to be difference makers. Golden Tate had a lot of promise coming out of ND. None of the 3 are overly worrisome. In all seriousness, when used in the slot, Doug Baldwin would be the Packers toughest match-up. I like the way T-Mon would line up against Rice. Sammy Swagga can line-up and run with Tate. It'd be up to Hayward to get his hands on Baldwin and to jam him off his route or Baldwin can be a 3rd down weapon.

The key to the game will be the battle at the line of scrimmage. The Packers are coming off of a dominant performance and now, they'll be facing Breno Giacomini at RT. Yes, the same Breno Giacomini that was an absolutely sieve at Tackle for the Packers in the preseason over the last couple of years. Nick Perry, lets see that bull rush! Erik Walden, I'd love to see you swimming underneath Breno. Lick your chops, Clay Matthews. Get ready for another big time performance in front of a National Audience. On the other side of the line, the Seahawks will be getting Russell Okung back from a knee injury. While Okung is a solid player. I can't imagine he'll be at 100%.

Look for the Seahawks ball control offense to be predicated on runs between the tackles and behind Max Unger and John Moffitt, two young, athletic OL. It'll be up to Raji and Pickett to plug the holes and keep Seattle in 3rd and long situations.

The Seahawks defense is vastly underrated. They're aggressive. They're confident. Each play, they seek to punish the ball carrier. They have one of the best secondaries in the NFL with Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Brandon Browner. If you've followed the blog long enough, you'll know that I loved Sherman coming out of college last year. The converted WR loves to use his hands at the line of scrimmage. He'll turn and run with you. He'll get his hands on a lot of balls. But, he's also susceptible to biting on the stop-and-go. Chancellor and Thomas are as legitimate of a Safety tandem as their is in the NFL. Both are ballhawks. Browner is a legitimate Pro Bowl caliber CB.

Look for Benson to get his touches early in the game to slow down the pursuit of the Seattle defense. Benson will also look to quiet the crowd. The cut-back should be open as both Brandon Mebane and Alan Branch will occasionally over pursue. If Benson can get to 75 yards, the Packers will be happy with the offensive output. If the Packers try to spread Seattle out and play from the shot-gun all game, CenturyLink Field is a tough place to play.

After looking to establish the rune early in the game, the Packers should look for some easy completions for Rodgers. Let's get him in a rhythm. Let him taste success. Put him in position for success. Then, go play action. Get Nelson on Sherman. Let's see Nelson go up and make a play. The big play is coming soon. We've yet to taste it in 2012. We'll see it this week.

The Seahawks keep it close. But a big defensive turnover late as Woodson picks off Wilson changes the landscape. The Packers move to 2-1.

Green Bay 27. Seattle 16.

Go Pack Go.

Talkin' S-Mac.!/buzzboy3

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Take -> Week 2

Greetings, G-Force.

Pardon me, but while I put together my notes over the last couple of days, I'm littered with a buzz from the Baus Family Vineyards. I'm not a wine connoisseur, but the Cabernet Sauvignon is well priced and delicious.

The 2012 Season has started in an awkwardly similar manner as the 2011 Season finished. We were outmatched. We were punched in the mouth. We lost to a physical team. Plain and simple. It hurt. Badly. But, it wasn’t overly unexpected. What was frustrating is this: if you’ve watched the 49ers play, you know that their offense is predicated on creating match-ups. Clearly, we hadn’t scouted the 49ers enough. When Michael Crabtree is lined up in the slot, you’d hope that Nick Perry is not lined up against him. Well, it happened. That’s a problem. A scary one. And let’s hope that scenario does not continue. Overall, the Packers weren’t polished. We lacked shine. Aaron Rodgers is one of the more cerebral players in the NFL. But, his decision on 3rd down with just more than 30 seconds to play in the 1st half was done out of frustration. If Rodgers slides to the ground, SF has to burn their last timeout and they likely go into the half with a 13-7 lead. Instead, Rodgers flips the ball out of bounds and SF saved it’s timeout, which led to the 16-7 deficit. The vibe was eerily similar to Hakeem Nicks dancing off the field after the Hail Mary that put the dagger in the 2011 NFL Season. Ouch.

With that said, I’m not going to be a negative man. I have not lost faith. SF is a solid team. I’m OK with the loss. I want to see improvement. It wouldn’t shock me if this team finishes 10-6 or 11-5, yet we might be better positioned for a playoff run than we were as a 15-1 team last year. This team will require patience. Patience from the coaching staff. Patience from the locker room. Patience from the fans. Our youngsters are being asked to make an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball. I’m confident that we’ll improve over time. And, thus, we’ll have the capacity to make a run late in the year. Please, don’t panic. Things will improve. It might not happen in the first 4 games of the year, but this team will find its stride.

If there is one positive takeaway from the game, it was Randall Cobb. I loved the way he was used. It was an extension of the running game. Success was consistently achieved. I am excited to see his role continue to evolve. I see big things from him this year.

Another super exciting piece of the 49er game was the play of Clay Matthews and Sir Charles Woodson. With Sir Charles’ 1.5 sacks, he’s within 3 sacks of becoming the FIRST PLAYER IN NFL HISTORY with 50 interceptions and 20 sacks. You know Sir Charles is ready to sic Nutler this weekend.

We’re 0-1. But, it’s time to move forward. And, this week, it’s the Bears. Our hated rivals to the south. I’m animated for this one. Want it. Desperately.

The Bears are the media darlings after their impressive home victory over the Colts. Nutler to Marshall looked legit. The Forte/Bush combo looked like an ideal match. On defense, the Bears front-7 looked ripe. They looked like they have tools in place to be a serious contender in the NFC. But, in order to do so, the Bears will have to get through the Packers. And, as we know the Packers own the TRUMP CARD over the Bears.

Remember it: Halas Trophy. Soldier Field. Visitors Locker Room. Trump Card. Forever.

That’ll NEVER get old.

But, 2012 is a new year. Even with a new year, the game will likely be decided by the play of Aaron Rodgers v Ray Nutler. In his career, Rodgers has been terrific vs the Bears. Nutler, on the other hand, has been, well, Ray Nutler against the Packers. The Packers have faced Nutler 7 times in his career. Once as a Bronco and 6 times as a Bear. Nutler has a 1-6 record against the Packers. In those seven games, Nutler has thrown 7 TD's and 12 interceptions. He was also knocked out of the NFC Championship with a questionable injury. Bears fans burned his jersey after the NFC Championship game. He was labeled a quitter. Thus far, the Packers have owned Ray Nutler. Let’s hope it continues for another week.

When the Bears have the ball, Nutler will look to use his reunited toy, Brandon Marshall. The last time Marshall matched up with T-Mon, Marshall ate him up. Still, I’d line T-Mon in a nose-to-nose, toes-to-toes fashion against Marshall. T-Mon must win that battle. I’d also give T-Mon over-the-top help with Morgan Burnett.

We saw a lot of J-Bush last week. This week - let’s see Casey Hayward! I’ve mentioned this often, but it’s worth reiterating; the last time Hayward matched up with Alshon Jeffery was when they were in college. On that day, Jeffery had 2 catches. Hayward had two interceptions. There’s familiarity there. I’d like to see Hayward lining up against him. Sure, Sammy Swagga should be the 2nd CB in the base defense, but I’d like to see Hayward on the field this week.

Forte is a stud. DJ Smith is going to have to play significantly better this week than he did last week or Forte may be in for a huge day. The Packers have had big penetration on the Bears DL in the past. Last year, in Chicago, Forte had 9 carries for 2 yards. It’d be nice to see that again this week.

On 3rd down, look for Walden to be on the field. Perry slides a step inside. Hand in the dirt. Like he did in college. Raji is lined up next to Perry. Look for Worthy and Daniels rotate with Raji. Clay as the other rusher. Let’s punish Nutler and force the big turnover.

On the defensive side of the ball, Bears will bring intensity. But, the Packers OL matches up well with the Bears DL. When the Bears rush 4, I expect Rodgers to have a fair amount of time. If Rodgers is blitzed, I like the match-ups on the outside – assuming Greg Jennings plays. In the past, the Bears have had no answer for Greg Jennings & J-Mike. I can’t imagine why that would change.

It’s important for McCarthy to get Rodgers in a rhythm early in the game. Rodgers needs to get off to a quick start. If one thing is for certain, he’s a much better player when he gets off to a quick start. He’s the MPV of the NFL when the Packers are playing with the lead. When they aren’t, he appears to get frustrated easily. In order to find a fluid start to the game, the Packers should attack Tim Jennings. While Jennings played well against the Colts, he’s never faired well against Green Bay. Short posts have been successful routes and they have eventually set up double moves. If given time, big plays will be had this weekend. But, first, let’s put some easy completions on the stat sheet.

As Rodgers finds success, look for Benson to get his carries. Playing against the team that drafted him, Benson is sure to be determined. He’ll be motivated to make an impact. Rather than the delayed draw or counter runs, I’d like to see quick hitting, punch you in the mouth runs that allow for a cut-back. Ryan Grant produced solid numbers in Chicago last year as he used patience and the cut-back to grab yards in large chunks, averaging 5.4 yards per on 17 rushes. Benson should get the same amount of carries and with that, we’ll likely see him have the same success.

Play the Trump Card, G-Force. The Packers find their stride and win a crucial NFC North battle.

Green Bay 31. Chicago 30.

We better be ready. If not, we’ll be 0-2 prior to the 2nd Sunday of the NFL Season. With two losses in the NFC. And, 2 losses at Lambeau. Be ready, Titletown. Make a difference.


Go Pack Go!

Talkin’ S-Mac.!/buzzboy3

Friday, September 7, 2012

My Take -> Week 1

Greetings, G-Force.

If you haven't heard, my wife gave birth to our first child, Dylan McKenna, yesterday. Dylan was born at 35 weeks and 6 days. Clearly, he didn't want to miss the Kickoff to the NFL season and more importantly, he obviously wanted to be home for the start of the Packer season this Sunday.  

It is the 5-time Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers traveling to Titletown, USA to take on the 13-time World Champion Green Bay Packers. On FOX. Buck & Aikman in the booth. This is grand!

The 49ers will bring a fierce, powerful defensive attack couple with a punishing offense that takes the occasional timely shot down field. They'll be a tough match-up for the finesse of the Packers offense. Plainly stated, the physical nature of the Green Bay roster will be put to its toughest task of the season in Week 1. San Francisco will bring attitude. The biggest question of the day: Can the Packers go blow for blow with the 49ers and match their toughness? If not, the Packers will have to try an turn this gam into a shoot out or else it could be a long, frustrating day at Lambeau Field.

Jim Harbaugh's offense is predicated on mismatches. Harbaugh has undoubtedly spent significant time licking his chops at the notion of getting Vernon Davis lined up in space against either Nick Perry or one of the Packers ILB's.  Harbaugh will try to move the pocket and utilize Alex Smith's mobility. He will look to pound Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter at the meat of the interior defense. Then, he'll come with play action. Outside of Davis, the routes will be fairly simple to cover if the Packers stay disciplined. We'll see crossing routes to Crabtree, deep balls to Moss, and passes in the flat to Delanie Walker. With that said, if the Packers can force 3rd & 6 or more, Alex Smith will give the defense plenty of opportunities for big plays.

To counter the 49ers attack, the Packers will utilize their full array of DL. Call me crazy, but this is a big game for CJ Wilson. Wilson was kept due to his play against the run. If he can't nut-up against SF, it'd be a huge disappointment. In the XLV run, Wilson was a solid run stuffer. When his role was expanded last year, he became a below average football player. But, Wilson has returned to his '10 spot on the team. He's a rotational defender who is expected to plug holes and take up blockers. It's my hope that he'll free up space for DJ Smith to meet ball carriers at or near the line of scrimmage. 

The brute approach of the SF OL will be a terrific challenge for the revamped front 7 on the Packers defense. It has been frustrating to see how Worthy was used in the preseason. Worthy needs to be pulled tighter to the Guard. Too many times, Worthy has been found standing up, lined up in front of the tackle. On 3rd down, let's line Worthy and Raji tight against the Guards. With Perry's bull rush an Matthews' speed rush, it's likely that pressure would be applied with only 4 defenders. On 3rd down, it's possible that Alex Smith might require a spy in some scenarios.

But, the key is stopping the 49ers is to slow down Vernon Davis. To do so, I'd lock Woodson man for man on him. Woodson has the physicality and the football whereabouts to slow down Davis. I don't believe we have anyone else who can defend him.

The Packers OL is going to have a total gut-check. Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, Isaac Sopoaga, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are seek fierce contact. They'll all be attack the NFL's MVP with a vicious intent via a variety of blitzes. The OL must communicate at peak levels and win the 1 on 1 battles. Newhouse v Aldon Smith is an important battle. The Packers must get positive yards on 1st & 2nd down or the 49ers defensive front can be absolutely lethal. 

But, if the SF defense has a weakness it is found on the outside. Tarell Brown can be had. So, can Chris Culliver. I really liked Perrish Cox coming out of college, but he hasn't been able to keep himself on the field. The key to beating SF is to spread 'em out. Well timed, quick passes. Short hitches to Greg "BE GREAT" Jennings. Slants to JJ. Short 4 yard outs to Double D. Then, it's Jordy on the deep post. 

Expect McCarthy to try to force the 49ers to drop Willis & Bowman into coverage. This also opens up Cedric Benson on he cutback run. Expect McCarthy to add in some trickery with Randall Cobb. Whether it's on special teams or on offense, Cobb will make a game changing play. He'll swing field position and the momentum. 

Rodgers throws for 250 and 3 TD's. 

Green Bay 27. San Francisco 23. 

Rise Up, Lambeau Field. Off yur' ass. On yur' feet. In unison. Let's get to 1-0.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.