Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Take -> Week 9

Greetings, G-Force.

A quick note: I noticed that I picked up quite a few readers last week. Please know that I'm not trying to be Bob McGinn or any other journalist. I don't intend to be. I'm a fan. I write for the fan. My intent is to be an Optimistic Realist. I often use the words "we" or "us" as I consider the Packers my own. Welcome. And, thanks for reading! The readers inspire me to continue.

5-2. Perched atop the NFC North by our lonesome. What a beautiful buzz. In celebratory fashion, the rivalry at the Dome that's named after a Shopping Mall was closed to echoes of "Go Pack Go!" Well done, G-Force! The crowd was loud and in charge. It was a grand 4th Quarter. The chants that rang thru the dome were truly sublime. Pure ecstasy!

When I looked at the schedule before the season, the first thing that jumped out at me was the Viqueens and Bears in back-to-back weeks. In convincing fashion, a win was placed next to the Viqueens game. Now, it's time to do the same to the hated Bears. 'Tis the Season, get after a Pumpkin beer. My favorite is the Imperial Pumpkin from Dry Dock. Here's some vibes from the win over the 'queens:

* Mike McCarthy continues to impress. I wondered what tricks would be up his sleeve. The biggest one was Jordy in the slot. On two critical 3rd downs, Jordy was in the slot and was given a free release. Both went for TD's. Credit to Rodgers for his pinpoint accuracy on both balls. Word up to Jordy Nelson as he made great catches on both plays.

* Can we please sign Jordy Nelson for life? On the "Aaron Rodgers Show" - Rodgers talked about carpooling with Nelson. He called them good friends. Can't we just lock him up? I mean Nelson is quickly catapulting into one of my favorite WR's that the Packers have ever had. He seems to "do it for the love and not for the money."

* It's unlikely that Aaron Rodgers can win the MVP award as Peyton Manning has been beyond brilliant, but man, Rodgers has been MVP worthy. Playing with what appears to be a 2nd tier supporting cast, Rodgers' play was elite. Only 5 incomplete passes. He connected with 6 different receivers. He threw for 285 yards and 2 TD's. He was in complete control. Fully cerebral. All game.

* Jarrett Boykin is so impressive. Love the way he picks the ball off the turf. Strong hands. A willing, talented blocker. He's gifted.

* Myles White feels like he's a part of something. He's in on the celebrations. He wants to be a player in this league. He wants to prove himself. He's hungry to be a good blocker. Lined up in the slot, he was occasionally late in getting to the CB, which hindered potential big runs for Lacy and it clearly affected White's body language. He's a proud kid.

* Have to appreciate Marshall Newhouse. Total team player on the sidelines. A cheerleader. He was a Tackle eligible on the Lacy TD and he was the 1st to greet him.

* There was sensational camaraderie shown between Lacy & Starks post the Starks TD. Lacy was genuinely excited for Starks & shared the joy.

* Eddie Lacy has taken over for Donald Driver as having the best smile on the team.

* Micah Hyde is the Artisan. In his youth, he was aged to perfection.

* I've thought long and hard about this. I've thoroughly scoured depth charts. Where would you rank Mike Daniels as far as interior pass rushers? Here's who I'd put ahead of him: JJ Watt, Muhammad Wilkerson, Jason Hatcher, Henry Melton, Suh, Fairley, Geno Atkins, and Darnell Dockett. That's it. Some might say Justin Smith, Chris Jones or Dontari Poe. And, while I'd agree that Smith, Jones and Poe are better all around players, I'd take Daniels as a pure pass rusher. No matter how you slice it, he's definitely a top 15 interior pass rusher. Let me remind you that he's a 4th Round pick in his 2nd year. Cheers to you, Ted Thompson. I'll continue to say it, Mike Daniels makes a play every single week. He plays to his strengths and he's a true bulldozer.

* Thought Chris Harper played well for the Packers on special teams last week. Active. Looked like a willing tackler. Wonder when he gets introduced to the offense.

* Don Barclay is a solid player when he plays straight ahead. He uses leverage well. He's willing. But, when he has to move, he often times struggles. The good thing for Barclay is that the weather is changing and the game is about to slow down a bit. Props to McCarthy for sticking with him. He's an above average run blocker.

* Liked the design of the package with Taylor & Newhouse lined up in the backfield with Lacy. It didn't work in large part due to Bostick missing his block. Was happy to see how often they used Newhouse as an extra lineman. Remember 2003 when Kevin Barry was consistently used in Jumbo packages? It worked well then. It looked good in the Dome. Well done, Mike McCarthy. Keep things interesting. Soon, we'll see play-action and a deep ball out of that formation. This week? Possibly.

* Before the season, I wrote often about my desire to see more of Jamari Lattimore as an ILB. I'm liking what I'm seeing. With each game, Jamari Lattimore becomes more comfortable. He attacks with a vengeance. He's solid in pursuit. He's had sacks in back-to-back games.

* Put this on a Thought Pad: Including playoffs, prior to last week, Jared Allen had played 12 games vs the Packers. He'd accumulated 44 tackles & 17 sacks. Last week, he had N.O.T.H.I.N.G. ZERO. ZILCH. He was SHUTOUT. CHEERS TO YOU, DAVID BAKHTIARI!

* I've been hard on EDS. At times last week, he was great. He does get tossed around on occasion, but for the most part, I've liked his push over the last couple of games.

* It's a 2-man race for Coach of the Year: Andy Reid and Mike McCarthy.

* Jarrett Boykin was targeted 6 times. He had 5 catches for 89 yards. Myles White was targeted 7 times. He had 5 catches for 35 yards. Greg Jennings was targeted 3 times. He had 1 catch for 9 yards. ¡Be Great, Greg!

* AQ81 was good, not great, in the blocking game. And, he looked good the two times he was targeted as a receiver.

* Eddie Lacy. THE HAMMER! I love the nickname. Let's keep him running North & South rather than East & West.

* Once again, the Packers stacked one side of the line of scrimmage and ran a pitch play with success. A play-action is coming out of this formation soon. Trust me.

* Really liked the screen passes to Lacy. On the first one, I wish Josh Sitton had blocked Kevin Williams. If so, it'd have been a TD.

* James Starks slashing thru the 'queens defense is a thing of beauty.


* Please, Jordy. Forever. You & Me. I beg of you.

* Johnny Jolly, BJ Raji & Ryan Pickett all made nice plays on AP.

* Good news for you, Morgan Burnett: You only have to play AP once more this year!

* Two weeks in a row that Jake Stoneburner has had a bad penalty. Clean it up, young man. But, know that I appreciate your desire.

* I wish that Chris Banjo and Sam Barrington had an extra step. They both have a heart that you cannot teach. Might lack a bit of instincts. But, they play with great desire. The kind of guys that you root for. But, both look a step slow.

* Welcome back, Casey Hayward. Big plays are coming.

* Good game, T-Mon. He's not the XLV version of T-Mon, but he has a big play coming. Sure, he's a step slower, but I like his mind. Thought the first PI call was awful.

* By the way, on the 2nd to last play of the 1st half, AP did not get out of bounds. Horrible officiating.

* Here's a 3-play stretch. Micah Hyde makes a tackle on 3rd down to get the Packers off the field. Micah Hyde runs a punt back 93 yards for a TD. Micah Hyde is on the field for Kickoff Coverage. Some would call him a Football Player. I might as well. But, first, I'd call him an Artisan.

* Eddie Lacy initiates contact.

* Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba aren't stars, but they're serviceable.

* Mike Neal isn't ever going to be an above average player in space, but I like him as a pass rusher.

* Keep plugging, Datone Jones. You're getting closer with each game.

* Imagine the Packers pass rush when the Claymaker and Nick Perry come back. Daniels, Perry, Clay and a Jones/Neal rotation. We'll get home with just 4. Often.

* Sammy Swagga continues to be elite. I'm scared of what his financial demands will be.

* Brandon Bostick has a hard time releasing off the line of scrimmage. Need to not have him as one of the 7 guys at the line to try and help him get a release.

* MD Jennings is a smart player. He knows where to be. He has a hard time finishing the play. But, he seems like a man that is due good karma.

* AJ Hawk with another above average game.

* Thought Lang and Sitton were excellent.

* The Packers will block another punt. Soon.

* I'm going to overlook the Cordarrelle Patterson kickoff return for now. Patterson is a player with a bright future. Last year at this time, I had him as an ideal target for the Packers in my Mock Draft.

* The sooner Franklin is taken off of Kick Returns, the better.

* Keep on, keepin' on, Mason Crosby.

* Brief pause to recognize the brilliance of Ted Thompson......thanks, Ted. Thank you, Ted. No, really, thank you, Ted. With all sincerity. You're brilliant. Far smarter than I. I questioned this teams depth. I did. I admit it. I thought we were a "9-7 team. 10-6, at best." And, while we're not out of the woods, I didn't think this team would win 3 straight without Clay.

* Quick note on Mike McCarthy: Are the doubters finally confident in this man's system? The Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, Dom Capers, and Aaron Rodgers combination is lethal.

* Dom Capers has the defense playing good football without two of our best defenders in the Claymaker and Brad Jones.

This week - it's the Bears. In life, I aim to be a peaceful man. A lover, of sorts. I like to smile. I enjoy being around those who smile. Rarely, if ever, will I use the word "hate." In fact, there's one thing in life that I hate. That's the Chicago Bears. Well, maybe Ray Nutler as well. But, I hate the Chicago Bears. Everything about them. In fact, I might hate the Chicago Bears as much as I love the Green Bay Packers. Seriously. Some of you may know that I travel from Denver to Chicago every other week. Because of this, I've grown to hate the Bears even more than I did already. This deeply rooted hatred has grown extensively.

I have to admit. I wish Ray Nutler was playing this week. The Packers own him. In grand fashion. I wish we could watch him throwing it into Hayward's lap. Oh well.

Allow me to remind you of one thing: Halas Trophy. Soldier Field. Visitors Locker Room. Gon' Pop Tarts on the Bears and XLV is a cherished vibe. Trump Card Forever!

The stats suggest the Packers should run away with this one. The Packers are averaging an NFC high, 438.9 yards per game. Furthering the potency is the fact that Lacy is averaging 4.0 yards per carry and Starks is averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Meanwhile, the Bears defense is last in the NFL in sacks and yards per pass play. They've given up 34 plays of 20 yards or more, which is tied for 31st in the NFL. They're last in yards per pass play. They're 24th in average rushing yards given up per game, and they're 28th in the NFL in third down percentage and completion percentage. Further, they're beat up with Henry Melton and Lance Briggs being out for the game. Charles Tillman's status is also in question. It's my guess that Tillman will play, but he, too, is injured.

On paper, the potent Packers offense should scorch the beat-up Bears defense. But, this is Monday Night Football. It's the Bears and the Packers. The greatest rivalry in sports. Throw the stats out the window. This one is for real. Rise Up, Lambeau!

While the Bears will be playing without Ray Nutler, they will have Josh McCown. If you watched the Bears play the Redskins, the Bears were more impressive with McCown than they were with Nutler. I give the credit to Mark Trestman. I think Trestman is a sound coach. He has solid offensive design. He has a system. And, by all appearances, the Bears have bought into that system. I believe that McCown is a bigger threat to the Packers than Nutler. The Packers know Nutler. There's not much video of McCown running the Trestman system. McCown is a running threat. He's a decent passer on the run. With the Packers injuries at OLB, it wouldn't surprise me if McCown makes a number of annoying plays as he uses his legs to elude pressure and create positive plays for the Bears offense. Especially early in the game.

Who would have thought it, but the Bears OL is physical, while the Bears DL has been pushovers. Jermon Bushrod has proved to be a good signing. Jordan Mills and Kyle Long have been solid picks. I still question Mills, but I give him credit for the start to his season. Yes, the Bears OL has been mightily improved.

At the skill positions, the Bears have been better than they've ever been. Matt Forte is legit. Michael Bush is a bruiser. Brandon Marshall is a superstar. Alshon Jeffery has evolved into the WR that I thought he might. Martellus Bennett was a good offseason addition. Earl Bennett is a reliable 3rd WR.

I would like to remind you that 2 years ago, I was a big-time promoter of Jeffery. I’ve mentioned this often, but it’s worth reiterating; when I was watching Jeffery play against Vanderbilt his last year of college, Casey Hayward matched up with Alshon Jeffery. On that day, Jeffery had 2 catches. Hayward had two interceptions. There’s familiarity there. I wouldn't mind seeing Hayward lining up against him. With that said, last year, Sammy Swagga played well against Jeffery when they matched up against each other.

The Bears defense is not the Bears of old. Yes, they force turnovers. Yes, Tillman and Tim Jennings make up a top-shelf tandem. Though, you can watch the NFC Championship game from the XLV run and see that a bigger WR (uh-um, Jordy Nelson) can run a 15 yard post and get his body in front of Jennings. When this happens, Jennings cannot stop the bigger WR.

The Bears do have hope for the future in young LB's Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene. In order for the Bears to win on Monday Night Football, Bostic and Greene might need to come of age.

On defense, the Bears also will need Julius Peppers to return to form. He hasn't been himself in 2013. Regardless, he's a beast. Shea McClellin hasn't looked worthy of a 1st round pick, but he applied decent pressure at Lambeau last year. Corey Wootton was a talented DE, but due to injury, he's playing out of position at DT. A healthy Stephen Paea should help the Bears defensive interior. James Anderson is an average, physical LB. Major Wright has displayed playmaking skills. Chris Conte can be had. When either Zack Bowman or Isaiah Frey walk onto the field, they'll be targeted.

Devin Hester. Don't even think about it.

As always, this will be a physical contest. A bruising game. The Packers come out throwing the ball. It's a 15 yard post to Nelson. The same to Boykin. Then, it's play-action to Quarless in the flat. It's Rodgers to Boykin for the TD.

The Bears respond. The Packers double team Marshall. Jeffery & Marshall's wide length present problems for the Packers as they win a couple of jump balls. McCown uses his legs to disrupt the Packers rhythm. It's McCown to Bennett for a TD.

The Bears defense struggles to get off the field, much like the 'queens. McCarthy does a good job mixing Lacy and Starks. The Packers establish the running game. Grabbing 6-7 yards at a time. The Packers offense continues to find fortune.

Forte irritates the Packers defense. He picks up multiple first downs. They get him to the outside and into the open field for a 20-yard pick-up. They've gone to the pitch often this year with great success.

Eventually, the Packers inside rush rises to the occasion. Daniels and Jones apply pressure. Moreover, Hawk and Lattimore find success on inside blitzes. Brad Jones sees his first action in multiple weeks and he, too, finds success on inside rushes. Capers' disguise fools McCown and T-Mon grabs his first pick of the season.

I have an odd feeling that either Bostick or Harper makes a play this Monday.

It's Monday Night Football. It's Lambeau Field. It's the Bears and the Packers. In a shootout, it's a golden victory for the Packers.

Packers 34. Bears 27.

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

That’ll NEVER get old.


Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Take -> Week 8

Greetings, G-Force.

Let me come clean. Today, yes, today, is the first time this year that I write without a drop of alcohol in my system. No, I'm not an alcoholic. Nor am I a recovering boozer. But, when I write, it's my one-hour a week in which I block everything else out. The baby is in bed. The wife is out shopping. It's my music on the speaker system. Today, that's Lucky Dube's "Live in Uganda" album. Normally, I'd be having a beer, a glass of whiskey or a glass of vodka on the rocks. Well, I'd likely throw a marinated onion in my vodka. Not today. Today, it's water, a bowl of strawberries and a tortilla that's wrapped around macadamia butter. You'll have to pardon me. Here goes nothing.

4-2. Emphatically! In first place. By ourselves. Clearly, the earth is back on its axis. The seasons have changed. The weather becomes an issue. Finesse is replaced with physicality. And, the Green Bay Packers have both a running game and a dominant Defensive Line. I always enjoyed that fall game against an AFC opponent at Lambeau Field. Generally, since 1992, they turned into celebrations. Last Sunday, as the Packers hosted the Browns. The same applied. Here are some takeaways:

* How can you not love Mike McCarthy? Other than Andy Reid, who else is even in the running for Coach of the Year? Seriously. The evolution of this offense is brilliant. As I watched the game, I felt like a lil' kid playing "GO FISH." I wanted Rodgers under center. Got what I wanted. I wanted play-action early in the game. Got what I wanted. I wanted Boykin targeted 8 times. He was targeted 10 times and caught 8 balls. As fans, please realize what McCarthy has accomplished with the decimated roster that he's trotted out since 2010. Every year, it seems as though the Packers are punished with severe injuries. Every year, McCarthy produces a winner.

* The Packers mental mettle is being challenged right now. While other teams seem to be folding with each passing injury, McCarthy keeps the Packers plugging along. Victoriously. Plainly stated, McCarthy is a level-headed, players coach.

* Cheers to Dom Capers. I did not believe the Packers would have success without Clay Matthews this year. But, between Capers' designs and Kevin Greene's teachings, Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer have been more than serviceable.

* In the Packers XLV run, Capers utilized a lot of the Big Beefy formation with Howard Green, BJ Raji and Ryan Pickett all on the field at the same time. Green's failures in 2011 didn't allow it to be effective. Largely, he played with 2 down lineman in 2012. I like this version of the Big Beefy package. The Jolly, Pickett, Raji combo has been robust. Well done, Dom.

* Aaron Rodgers is brilliant. In control of everything. Loved his trust in Boykin. His ball placement on his passes to Boykin were spot on. Vintage performance by the XLV MVP.

* EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE! This guy has changed our franchise. Literally. We are a threat to run the football. Consistently, we seem to be facing 2nd & 6. Defenses are absolutely cognitive that the 2013 Green Bay Packers can punch you in the mouth. Thanks to Eddie Lacy!

* Great game, Jarrett Boykin. Exciting to see him get up and grab it. Liked the run after the catch. The extension for the TD was thrilling. Now, we need more.

* May the Good Lord shine his light on J-Mike. Finley has been an absolute beast this year. He was becoming the player that we'd all wanted him to become. Now, that we know there's not permanent damage, I feel like it's OK to state that I really hope he can make a comeback this year.

* Big props to TJ Lang. Fun to see him finishing plays to the whistle. Exciting to see him pulling in the 1st Quarter.

* Each week - Datone Jones gets closer to the QB. The Packers need him to develop into a legitimate 3rd down pass rusher. His 1st sack is coming soon. I can taste it. He's showing signs of being slippery. I like his hustle. He's tenacious. Importantly, it looks like he expects results from himself.

* The Packers have to be impressed with the run play of Andy Mulumba. Over the last two weeks, he's fought off blocks to make multiple plays.

* Great to see Cleveland run right at Nate Palmer on the first play of scrimmage. Palmer was up to the task in fairly convincing fashion.

* Mike Daniels! Every week he makes a play. Every. Single. Week!

* Like BJ Raji's push. Have to believe that he has a sack coming soon.

* AJ Hawk looks like an All-Pro. He's a different man. He's quick. He has burst. He's tackling with a vengeance. Let's hope it continues.

* Jamari Lattimore will make a big play if he continues to see playing time. My prediction is that he'll pick off a pass and take it to the house. He's instinctive. He anticipates well. I wish he'd pursue harder on the blitz, but I think that will come with time.

* Sammy Swagga is an elite CB.

* Morgan Burnett continues to bring a presence to our secondary.

* Micah Hyde is pure. Organically created. Crafted by an artisan.

* Ras-House is a baller. Love his game. Great to see him get the interception.

* Johnny Jolly stuffing the run!

* T-Mon with the sack!

* Good to see Chris Banjo active. Looks like he's earning more playing time. He's jumped Jerron McMillan.

* MD Jennings puts himself in the right spot, but he has a hard time finishing plays.

* It was a highly questionable call, but how does Jerron McMillan not make the tackle with ease on the fake punt?

* Sublimely designed wheel route to Franklin. Wish Rodgers would have hit him. Would have been a supreme TD.

* Can we please sign Jordy to a 6-year contract? I want him in Green Bay for the rest of his career.

* It should be noted that Eddie Lacy had 5 catches.

* Jamari Lattimore's stat line: 12 tackles. 9 solo. 1 sack. 1 PD. 1 Tackle for Loss. 1 QB Hit. Dude can play.

* Thought Jake Stoneburner was active on special teams.

* In limited action, I felt Mike Neal applied nice pressure.

This week - it's the Viqueens from Minnesota. You know - the team that wears Purple. They play in a Dome. A Dome that's named after a shopping mall. Yeah, we play them. Once again, it's a mystery as to who will play QB for the 'queens. Ponder took the first team snaps, but only because Josh Freeman was experiencing concussion-like symptoms. I want to play Josh Freeman. While we've beaten him since 2009, I am still not over that loss at Tampa.

It's interesting that the 3 RB's that I consider to be the best in my lifetime have all played within the division: Barry Sanders, Walter Payton and AP. AP is a total stallion. An unbelievable force. A thrill to watch. Even when he's abusing you. He does it with absolute authority. Nothing but respect for that man.

On offense, the 'queens have some weapons. The artist formerly known as "Be Great" - Greg Jennings - can play. We know this first hand. Jerome Simpson is an underrated WR who can beat you deep. Cordarrelle Patterson is an athlete. Jarius Wright has talents. Kyle Rudolph is a rising star at TE. Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt are steady at Tackle. But, Minnesota does not have a QB. Their QB play has been pathetic, to put it lightly.

Defensively, Minnesota has great depth on the DL. We all know Jared Allen, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, and Kevin Williams. But, Letroy Guion, Fred Evans and 1st round pick, Sharrif Floyd, are all powerful DT's who offer good push. At LB, Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson are above average. So, what's the problem? The secondary. Harrison Smith's injury took a below average unit and made it beyond poor. Neither Chris Cook nor Josh Robinson can be expected to cover Jordy Nelson. They can't.

If Rodgers gets protection - which is a big 'if' - I expect Rodgers to pass for over 350 yards. Minnesota cannot cover us. Not even with the depleted weapons at WR. Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo can be exposed deep down the field. And, with the 'queens having to respect the run, look for McCarthy to try a deep ball to Jordy.

McCarthy does a marvelous job setting up opponents. He shows the same formation multiple weeks in a row and runs the same play. Eventually, teams read the formation and he comes with an element of surprise. Often, this surprise happens against either Minnesota or Chicago. Expect McCarthy to show some new tricks.

In 2009, J-Mike was a main target in Minnesota. In 2010, AQ81 had a big TD at Lambeau against Minnesota. Look for Bostick to be a target over the next two weeks. Bostick has been saved for something. There's no better time to use him than now.

My prediction: Look for McCarthy to stack the left side of the line. 2 TE formation. AQ81 lined up tight against Bakhtiari. Boykin lined close to the line of scrimmage, but a step back. Bostick between Boykin and AQ81. Jordy split wide right. The Packers have effectively run a pitch out of this formation all year. If I know this, so do Defensive Coordinators. They'll be preparing to stop it. This time McCarthy fakes the pitch. Bostick gets a free release and is streaking down the seam. Make the play, Brandon!

I'll assume that Freeman plays as that's what they stated to the media. Even though I predict Ponder plays. But, for the sake of timing, it's Freeman. Freeman struggles all game. The Packers get pressure up the gut. Early. Often. Freeman overthrows the crossing route and MD Jennings grabs the pick.

AP gets his early in the game. But, the Packers offense is too much. The protection isn't great, but it's enough. And, Rodgers moves the ball effectively. Thus, AP is limited to 16 carries.

It's Rodgers on the back-shoulder to Nelson. It's Rodgers in the flat to AQ81. It's Rodgers on the comeback to Boykin. It's Rodgers on the screen to Lacy. Minnesota responds by dropping the safeties even further. McCarthy responds with EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE!

It's always terrific to grab victory in Minnesota. Especially on Sunday Night Football.

Packers 34. Viqueens 16.

Since we're at the mid-way point of the College Football season, here's a quick glimpse of my mock draft. As always, I'm behind on OL, I only draft someone if I've watched him play and I use the CBS DRAFT SCOUT web site for my round projections unless I want to move someone up. As a side note, I'm giving the Packers compensatory picks in the 5th & 6th rounds for Jennings and Walden. Here goes:

Round 1.) Eric Ebron, TE, UNC. Not much has changed for me since before the college football season. Ebron and Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo are my top two targets. Mack would be ideal for the 3-4, but it's questionable that he makes it out of the top-20. So, as of now, the guess is that he's not around when the Packers select. Ebron would be an ideal fit for the Packers offense. He's a gem who isn't afraid of running across the middle and making plays in traffic. Additionally, he can get deep down the field. He's an average blocker, but if Finley doesn't stick around, Ebron would fill-in. Two others that fit: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vandy and Kyle Van Roy, OLB, BYU.

Round 2.) Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State. Previously, I had him listed in my Mock Draft as a 3rd Round selection. While he's still projected as a 2nd or 3rd round pick, I wouldn't be disappointed if he were our 1st Round pick. He slaps wrists. Goes after the football. He's an intimidator. A brute tackler. He plays the ball in the air. He's become my favorite player to watch in college football. He reminds me of Brian Dawkins. The complete package. He'd start today. He'll be the mock until next years draft. Guaranteed. I don't care how much he rises. I'll take him in Round 1. Others to watch: Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU & Odell Beckham, Jr, WR, LSU. Both are ideal for the Packers system.

Round 3.) Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia. Give Murray the ball in a close game. And, he's going to put his team in position to win. Seems like a natural fit for the Packers offense. Can throw on the run. Has great instincts. Confident. Takes command of the huddle.

Round 4.) Rashad Greene, WR, FSU. An ideal slot WR in the NFL. Moves like Victor Cruz. If you miss him in the open field, he's taking it to the house. He's reliable. Plays with flair. Not ideal size, but he makes up for it with grit.

Round 5.) Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State. Every time I watch Hyde, I become more impressed. He does it all. Plays with hunger. At times, he's carried OSU.

Round 5.) Max Bullough, ILB, Michigan State. He's a Ted Thompson "football player." A leader on defense. Great size. A student of the game. Great family lineage.

Round 6.) Michael Sam, OLB, Mizzou. Sam can get to the QB. Hand in the dirt pass rusher. Savvy. Knows the game. Understands the angle to the QB. Has been a game changer.

Round 6.) Gus Handler, C, Colorado. The Packers did well with a Colorado OL last year. Handler has NFL ability. Not the best size as he looks like he could add weight. But, he's fairly athletic and is a developmental prospect.

Round 7.) Beau Allen, DL, WI. I like that Allen has gained exposure to a 3-4. I like the way he plugs the hole. Is he a 1st year starter? No. Can he be groomed? I believe so.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Take -> Week 7

Greetings, G-Force.

3-2. A winning record for the first time in 2013. In riveting fashion. On the road. At the Defending Super Bowl Champions. Yes, we went into the Champs house and punched them in the mouth. With conviction. Truly sublime, yo.

Let your lips touch whiskey. Savor the sweetness. It must be onward and upward from here. With two winnable games, it should be.

Here's some vibes from the game:

* I love Mike McCarthy. Every team has injuries. I get it. But, man, the injuries suffered thus far have been unbelievably crazy. What other coach would consistently win that game? Bill Belichick? Sure. Mike Tomlin? I used to feel that way. Who else? Anyone? One thing we can say convincingly: Mike McCarthy rallies the troops. Time & time again. Regardless of who is injured, McCarthy wins. Consistently. What a leader!

* The Packers beat the Ravens without Clay, Brad Jones, Casey Hayward, Bryan Bulaga, James Starks and James Jones. Oh, and Randall Cobb, Nick Perry & Mike Neal all went down with injury. And, yes, McCarthy made the adjustments to pull off the victory on a day when Aaron Rodgers wasn't at his sharpest.

* David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay v Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs! Really? Suggs had zero sacks. Great job, Bakhtiari. Excellent play calling, Mike McCarthy.

* The running game was in rhythm. The play-action pass to Jordy for the 64-yard TD was absolute ballin'. Great design. Great timing. That's perfection, Mike McCarthy.

* Coming into the year, a lot of people were calling for Dom Capers' head. Where are those guys now? Capers has done an excellent job mixing blitzes. He's also changed the defensive fronts. He's playing with 3-down lineman more often. The results: The Packers are among the best in the league at stopping the run.

* The DL looks more physical than they've been since REGGIE left in 1998. God bless the soul of Reggie White! Man, he was a stud. And, you know he's shining from heaven as he stares down at this DL.

* AJ Hawk! Beastly, dude! His best game as a Packer. Undoubtedly.

* Please, Jordy. Please. Please sign an extension. Now! Stay in Green Bay forever.

* Eddie Lacy! Eddie Lacy! Eddie Lacy! I'd like to start a petition for Lambeau to rock an "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" Chant. Can we make this happen? It should!

* Rodgers is due for a BIG game. Like a 4-TD game. Regardless of the weapons. He's that good. It'll happen soon.

* I'm forever a T-Mon fan. I'm a loyal man. But, his tackling was pathetic. Didn't seem to be trying. Didn't have a problem with the defensive holding penalty because he thought he had 6 points the other way. But, bro, you have to give effort on the tackle. He could be benched soon.

* Blessings to Randall Cobb.

* A speedy recovery to Mike Neal, James Jones, and Nick Perry.

* Andy Mulumba & Nate Palmer played significant snaps. And, Dom had the troops coming after the reigning Super Bowl MVP.

* Micah Hyde's sack was vintage! Overload the right side of the right side. Hyde comes untouched. Great design, Dom Capers.

* "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" Make it happen, Lambeau!

* Morgan Burnett. It's great to have him back. A true difference maker. He was rock solid on the goal line stand. His presence is great to have on the field.

* Jerron McMillan should be our 4th Safety. Unacceptable, Jerron. You can't let the WR get behind you on 4th & 21. No way.

* Great play, J-Mike! You were the set-up man. Next time, be the closer and stay inbounds! Finley has had a solid year. Sign the extension, J-Mike. And be fair.

* Andy Mulumba is a fighter. He hasn't mastered leverage. But, he plays with tenacity on every play.

* "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" Make it happen, Lambeau!

* Josh Sitton is adjusting well to the left side of the line. When the Packers run left, good things are happening.

* Nick Perry! Huge play! We need him back.

* While Perry is away, look for Datone Jones to line up on the outside. He might not stand up, but he'll shift outside the tackle on occasion.

* On 3rd & 1, can we hand it off to Eddie Lacy?

* In the red zone, can we hand it off to Eddie Lacy?

* With Eddie Lacy, the Packers have a running game. Without him, we might still have a running game if Starks can stay healthy.

* Instead of watching MNF, I watched Eddie Lacy drive a dagger into the hearts of Ravens fans. And the Ravens defense. And John Harbaugh.

* "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" Make it happen, Lambeau!

* AQ81, I enjoy your blocking skills. Great toughness.

* Welcome to the field, Myles White. You, too, Jake Stoneburner.

* What were you thinking, John Kuhn? On the punt and when you tried to hurdle Webb to get the 1st down. Run him over!

* I wonder if Kuhn was trying too hard. He didn't play for two weeks. He wanted to make an impact. I get it. But, stick to the basics, John.

* The complexity of Lacy's last run is grand. We haven't seen a successful conversion on a similar occasion in a long time. Let me paint the picture: Suggs gets leverage on Bakhtiari and pushes him backwards. Seemingly gaining containment to the outside. It's a run between the guard and the tackle. The LB plugs the hole. Sitton gets no push. Arguably, Sitton was guilty of holding. It's not called. Lacy quickly notices that there's nothing there. He bounces it outside. He grabs a 1st down as he has the speed to get around Suggs and get to the edge. He slides to kill the click. He grabs the win. On the road. Against the champs. He sets up victory formation.

* "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" Make it happen, Lambeau!

* The play-action pass is back in Mike McCarthy's arsenal. Thank you, Eddie Lacy.

* What a win! We were more physical than Baltimore. In Baltimore. That's not supposed to happen. It happened.

* AJ Hawks deserves a second mention.

* I was pleased with Jamari Lattimore's game. But, I wished he'd finish with more might when he rushes the QB.

* Good special teams pay, Chris Banjo.

* Way to finish the half, Nick Perry.

* Good playing, Davon House.

* Good to have you back, Mason Crosby.

* Run straight ahead Micah Hyde. Grab yardage. Be more lie Mike Pryor. Less like Devon Hester. Yes, I wrote that. But, Micah, be who you are. Wherever you are.

* Well done, BJ Raji. He's playing the run well. Now, go get the QB, BJ!

* Mike Daniels makes a play ever week.

* The blocked punt by Ryan Taylor was awesome!

* "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" Make it happen, Lambeau!

* Tough day for Jarrett Boykin. Better days are ahead. I promise. He will be in rhythm. He won't drop the all.

* The Ryan Pickett/Johnny Jolly/CJ Wilson rotation looked good.

* Sammy Swagga is an elite CB.

* This Packers team needs to be more concerned about the yardage marker and less concerned about grabbing the big play. Get the first down and push reset on the down marker. Too many times we are being stopped on third and short when a first down could have been picked up earlier. Find he check down, Aaron. Or pick it up with your feet. But, either way, move the chains. I don't want to take away the innovation, but this version of the Packers is different than others and it should force everyone to adjust. Including Rodgers.

* On 1st down inside the red zone, I'm giving the ball to Eddie Lacy. 100% of the time.

* Packers fans should be excited for Chris Harper. Before the NFL Draft, I listed him as 1 of 11 WR's that would fit with the Packers. He was projected as a 4th Round pick. Seattle grabbed him in the 4th Round. In April, I wrote, "Great size. Football player. Put him on the field and you'll get consistent production. Don't love his speed. But, he's a feisty competitor who'll play solid ball for the next 7-10 years." Today, I stand by that thought. And, I'm happy he's in Green Bay.

* "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" "EDDIE!" Make it happen, Lambeau!

This week - it's the Cleveland Browns. With Brandon Weeden as their starting QB. At Lambeau Field. Show no mercy, Dom Capers and Mike McCarthy.

The Browns have limited weapons. I like Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. In fact, Cameron will pose problems for the Packers. Travis Benjamin has speed, but little of anything else. Greg Little has promise, but he's raw. Davone Bess is a possession receiver with limitations. Willis McGahee & Chris Ogbonnaya don't scare me.

The Browns do have some positives on the OL. Joe Thomas is as good as it gets at LT. Alex Mack is a first-class Center.

Defensively, Cleveland has some definite strengths. Jabaal Sheard can get to the QB. Barkevious Mingo can play. Phil Taylor can be tough to move. Paul Krueger was a key cog in the Baltimore title run last year. D'Qwell Jackson tackles everything he hits. Joe Haden is a top 10 CB in the NFL, possibly a top 5 CB. TJ Ward would start on nearly every team in the NFL at Safety. Yes, the Browns defense has some solid pieces in place. But, they also have deficiencies.

Buster Skrine meet Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers will be coming after Skrine early. And often.

Cleveland will likely match Joe Haden on Jordy Nelson. Everywhere Nelson goes, Haden will probably follow. Look for Jarrett Boykin to get his chance to shine. I think he will. Going after Skrine, it wouldn't surprise me if Rodgers targets Boykin at least 8 times on Sunday.

With J-Mike moving to the slot, Rodgers will look at him on short down and outs underneath the Nelson go-route. Nelson then becomes a blocker and J-Mike is expected to continue to punch out yards after the catch.

Early in the game, I hope the Packers open it up. With the recent run success, it's reasonable for the Cleveland defense to prepare for a heavy dose of Eddie Lacy. If I'm McCarthy, I come with a variety of play action passes. It's possible that Rodgers could be facing 8-men in the box. If so, the Packers must try to take advantage of 1 on 1 coverage on the outside.

Look for Cleveland to try and eat clock. They'll run a fairly basic offense. They'll try to attack the right side of our defense. Running behind Joe Thomas and going after Mulumba, the Browns look to punch out yardage. It's not happening.

Early on, Cleveland converts a couple of 3rd downs as Capers rushes only 3. With the Packers playing zone defense, Josh Gordon finds a gap on a crossing route and picks up good yardage. Jordan Cameron frustrates the Packers offense. Cleveland notches and early 3 points.

While Cleveland's defense is fairly stout against the run, Eddie Lacy finds some daylight behind Josh Sitton and David Bakhtiari. The Packers efficiently move the ball as Rodgers hits AQ81 in the flat. It's Rodgers to Boykin for a TD and a Lambeau Leap into the South End Zone!

Late in the 2nd Quarter, Weeden makes his mistake. He puts too much air under his deep ball to Josh Gordon and Morgan Burnett makes the play. The tide rolls fully into the Packers favor.

It's Eddie Lacy pounding away. And then, there's more Eddie Lacy. Followed by a play-action pass to J-Mike over the middle.

If fully healthy, the Packers would win this one 41-13. But, we aren't. So, it'll be closer than we'd like.

Packers 23
Browns 16

Rise and shine, G-Force. Let's do this convincingly. The team needs the fans. Elevate. Be loud. Be proud. Spark goodness. If the team comes out flat, don't get down. Be the spark plug. Change the energy. But, stay positive as we battle thru obstacles with new faces in the lineup. At times, the timing may be off. But, stay in lock-step. Let's survive until Cobb, Matthews, and Perry come back. But, the team needs the fans to be difference makers. Get after it, G-Force. With a vengeance. And leave hoarse. As fans, you can make it difficult for Weeden. And, when things become challenging for Weeden, he fails. Make it tough for him.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

My Take -> Week 6

Greetings, G-Force.

Back on track. And tied for the Division lead in the loss column. The schedule has us in a position to make a run, if we can get thru the Defending Champions on the road. Sure, the Lions were undermanned as they played without Calvin Johnson & Nate Burleson, but you aren't going to get any sympathy from an organization that has been littered with injuries since the start of the XLV Season. Under Mike McCarthy direction, the Packers have admirably applied the "Next Man Up" philosophy and - for the most part - the player who was next in line has played better than expected.

Any time you win in the Division, it's crucial. Though it wasn't pretty, it looks the same in the box score and ultimately, it was a solid grind it out victory over a tough-minded Lions team. Here's some vibes from the game:

* Mike McCarthy wins inside the Division. The appearance isn't always delightful to the eye, but the end result is normally the same: VICTORY FORMATION. I respect McCarthy. I like how he's trying to let the offense evolve. Clearly, he's still figuring it out. But, it's coming together. It's a full-on blend of a heavy running attack on 1st down. Mixed in with short passes and additional runs on 2nd down. Then, on 3rd Down, the ball is put in Rodgers hands - almost exclusively. It's an offense based out of shotgun formations. In my mind, McCarthy is clearly setting up opponents in the future. Look for more play action passes out of the same formations.

* I like the pitch play to the outside. It's worked wonders. I expect this play to evolve into a play action pass to the weak side of the field. It'd generate one-on-one coverage and an open TE in the flat. It'd be a first down.

* While McCarthy's new offense isn't as flamboyant as ones in the past, it's effective for this version of the Packers. It eats the clock and it forces Rodgers to execute on 3rd and 6 or less. I like my chances in that situation. It's more ball control than we're used to seeing out of the Green & Gold.

* The other place McCarthy's new offense demands efficiency is inside the Red Zone. And, this is his biggest area of opportunity. Inside the 10, McCarthy has abandoned the run game. He needs to give the ball to Lacy who has a nose for the end zone. Let Lacy pound away. McCarthy is getting too fancy. Rodgers appears frustrated with the play-calling. Further, Rodgers seems as though he is losing confidence in the OL inside the Red Zone. Once the 1st read is covered, it looks like Rodgers looks down at the pass rush and not down the field for open receivers. Could be wrong, but that's what I perceive.

* Dear Aaron Rodgers, Stay cool. Stay calm. Stay collected. You are our driver. We all know this. Your frustrations speak volumes. Keep us united. Especially in the Red Zone. Big things are soon to happen for this offense.

* I like Eddie Lacy. A lot. But, he leaves a lot of yards on the field. Find the yardage maker, Eddie. Move the sticks. Be less concerned about looking for the 25 yard carry and more concerned about picking up the 1st down. Prior to the 3rd & 1 in which Rodgers' pass to Cobb was knocked down by DeAndre Levy at the line of scrimmage (what was McCarthy thinking on that play call?), I thought Lacy could have picked up a first down on both of the prior carries, but he misread the rushing lanes.

* How epic was McCarthy's insertion of Cobb as a RB? Changed the game. Brought the Packers a victory. Loved the play call. Running Cobb to the weak side. Big adjustment from McCarthy. The more Cobb touches the ball, the better this offense will be.

* Jordy Nelson is an acrobat! In full exclamation.

* James Jones is underrated.

* Note to Johnathan Franklin: if you don't hang onto the football in this league, you don't last long. Priority #1 is ball possession.

* Great game, Josh Sitton. You, too, EDS.

* Thought TJ Lang played well with the exception of when he whiffed on Levy on the screen.

* Keep working, David Bakhtiari.

* J-Mike is running harder after the catch than he has throughout his NFL Career.

* Ryan Taylor should be released. He brings zero value. Great play call by McCarthy. Great design. Taylor was wide open. Ball hits him in the hands. Should have been a TD. No excuses.

* Get healthy, Clay Matthews. We need you.

* Great game, Mike Neal. Be ready for more action. Neal was an absolute stud against Detroit. Against the run and putting pressure on the QB.

* The Packers will miss Brad Jones. Hope he's back soon. Man, he's been somewhat beastly this year.

* I didn't want to see Robert Francois in action due to a Brad Jones injury, but I was excited to see him. Sad that he's done for the year. The special teams units will sorely miss him.

* Time to elevate Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington.

* Big play, Morgan Burnett! Thought that was a TD. Good instincts, young man.

* Play bump and run, Ras-Davon. No reason House is laying off receivers by 5-7 yards. That's not his game. He has to out-physical WR's at the line of scrimmage.

* Good game, AJ Hawk. He's having his best year as a Packer. He still struggles in pass coverage, but it was fun to see him shifting DL into the right spot prior to the play and nearly every time, his adjustment was spot on.

* Ryan Pickett is immovable.

* Mike Daniels keeps pushing OL backwards.

* Make the tackle, MD Jennings!

* Game ball to you, Mason Crosby.

* The last couple of years, the Packers have made plays on special teams, it didn't look as though Micah Hyde could continue that trend based on his one return. I'm not willing to give up that piece of our team. We need to improve in the return game.

* Much has been made of Nick Perry's move to the right side. I feel like his comfort there is important. Not only is he playing a new position at OLB, but he also is pushing off with a different side of his body. When I first saw him play for USC, he was on the right side. He was abusing Jonathan Martin. Martin was eventually a 2nd round pick by the Dolphins. Perry looked powerful. He looked quick. He looked natural. We didn't see a lot of that in his limited action on the left side. But, in just a few snaps, he notched 2 sacks and a forced fumble rushing from the right side. He'll get his chance to punch out more pressure on the QB. Play with confidence, Nick.

* Quick shout out to Sir Charles! Tied the NFL Record for most defensive returns for a TD. He also picked off a pass. And, thus, he was awarded the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. Stallion!

This week - it's the Ravens. In Baltimore. It should be noted that the Ravens are a much better team at home than they are on the road. The Ravens have a stout OL, a couple of talented RB's, a beastly pass rush, and the most overrated QB in the NFL.

I'm not a Joe Flacco fan. I give him credit for winning the Super Bowl. He engineered a great playoff run. He was deserving of the Super Bowl MVP. But, man, as a week-to-week QB, I'm glad he's not in Green Bay.

Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are legit. Both are the type of RB's that traditionally give the Packers problems. They're tough. Physical. Great vision. And, both are utilized well on the screen. If I were the Offensive Coordinator for Baltimore, I'd call between 7-10 screens this week. Rice and Pierce will make hay on the Packers thru the screen and dump offs.

The Ravens OL is big and gifted. Eugene Moore looks to start at RT. He's a solid addition and will immediately improve the Ravens OL. Nick Perry will have his work cut out for him as he tries to beat Michael Oher in an attempt to get to Flacco.

Torrey Smith can get deep. But, he's not a great short-to-intermediate route runner. Jacoby Jones is talented, but he might not play. Marlon Brown and Tandon Doss don't scare me. Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark are decent possession receivers.

Defensively, the Ravens scare me. Dumervil and Suggs are intimidating. They could have their way with Bakhtiari and Barclay. Canty, Ngata and Arthur Jones are all legit. Ngata is elite. Canty is long and problematic. Ladarius Webb, Jimmy Smith and Corey Graham are solid CB's who match up well with our 3-headed WR combo of Nelson, Jones and Cobb. Matt Elam has playmaking skills at Safety.

The Ravens defense matches up well with the Packers offense. Freakishly well. In order for the Packers to win, they'll have to do two things: run the football and utilize the middle of the field. Lately, McCarthy has been stuck on moving the football to the outside. He's gotten away from the middle of the field. This week - the Packers must attack the middle of the field. Force James Ihedigbo, Daryl Smith and Josh Bynes to make plays. Force them to cover J-Mike and AQ81. Get Finley and Quarless down the field. Use the dump off to Lacy. Get Kuhn involved underneath. Take what you can get. And run it right at Canty. Yes, run Lacy at Canty. On repeat.

Defensively, the Packers must play to stop the run. If so, Flacco will make a mistake. It'll be up to our DB's to capitalize on those mistakes. I'm confident that they will. I'm calling it again this week - look for T-Mon to grab a game changing pick!

Don't let Torrey Smith beat you deep. The Packers must give help on the deep ball with Smith. 8 in the box. With help over the top on Smith. Get after Flacco with a variety of blitzes. Flacco will be throwing off his back foot. Opportunities will be present.

Corey Graham is an excellent slot CB. He'll do well against Cobb. It'll be up to McCarthy to get creative in an attempt to get Cobb the ball.

Early on, look for the Packers to come out trying to punch the Ravens DL in the mouth. Running right at the Ravens DL. The Packers move the football with moderate success and Crosby is true as the Packers stall near the Red Zone.

The Ravens move the football in annoying fashion. On a 2nd and 12, they hit the Packers in the teeth with a screen to Pierce. It's Flacco to Smith in the back corner of the end zone.

But, the Packers respond. It's Finley over the middle of the field. And, then, the Packers take advantage of the overly aggressive CB play on the outside. Using a double move, James Jones gets behind Jimmy Smith. For a big play.

Watch for it, Graham, Smith and Webb are grabbers. Let's hope we get the calls. Because pass interference and defensive holding calls could come in abundance.

It's a back and forth game. The Packers cling to a 3-point lead late. And they come with pressure up the middle. Jamari Lattimore gets home for a big sack! Side note on why I'm excited to see Lattimore: he's a natural pass rusher. Like Jones, he used to play OLB. This should translate into enhanced pressure from the inside. I like Lattimore's game. I expect positive things out of him.

Once again, it's Rodgers in victory formation for a BIG road win.

Packers 23. Ravens 20.

Are you Feelin' It? I'm Feelin' It!

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

My Take -> Week 5

Greetings, G-Force.

The bye week brought good vibes to Titletown, U.S.A. For the most part, we found health. We also watched the Bears, Falcons, Giants and Cowboys lose. Suddenly, a Packers win over the Lions at Lambeau coupled with a Saints win in Chicago and, once again, everything will be right in the world of the NFC North. That's roots livin'.

At halftime of the Bengals game, I said to my wife, "This is a make a believer out of me 2nd half." We didn't win. But, we entertained, offered hope and played well. Here's some takeaways from the loss to the Bengals:

* Throw away all of the garbage that Aaron Rodgers isn't clutch. I don't buy any of it. Rodgers is elite. Regardless of the situation, I want the ball in the hands of the XLV MVP. I was absolutely positive the Packers would pull off the victory until his 4th down pass fell incomplete. I wish he'd have seen Cobb on 2nd down prior to getting two passes batted down at the line. Cobb was open for an easy first down. Oh well. Onward and upward, Aaron. It was the worst game of Rodgers' career, but I won't dwell on that.

* Jordy Nelson is spectacular. After he signs another extension, I'm getting his autograph. His photo belongs on my Packers Wall of Fame.

* Hated the fumble, but Franklin showed legitimate elusiveness, patience, power and vision. You know, the things that generally make an elite back. Oh, and I also admired his confidence.

* Clay Matthews! Best defender in the NFL? Richard Sherman? Maybe. JJ Watt? Maybe. I'll take Clay.

* There was a nice Datone Jones sighting. The blocked XP had the potential to be a big play in the game.

* I'm hard on MD Jennings. I don't like his aggressiveness, but I liked the sack and the fumble return. Well done.

* Brad Jones! He hasn't mastered pad level, but man he's smart. Tackles high and loses leverage, but he's normally in the right place. I like his athleticism.

* Thought AJ Hawk also played well.

* Didn't like Starks going down. He was in the groove. Felt like he'd turned a corner.

* No reason that Cobb doesn't touch the ball 10 times per game.

* Catch the ball, AQ81! You, too, Jerron McMillan.

* Play on, Sammy Swagga. Dude is making $$$ right now. Looking like a Pro Bowler.

* Really like T-Mon's effort and aggressiveness. He looks healthy for the first time since the injury vs NO in Week 1 of the 2011 season. He has a big play coming.

* Mike Daniels is rock solid.

* Ryan Pickett plays ball.

* The defensive front is much stronger with Jolly on the field.

* Davon House has done well on the blitz. Didn't finish the play, but found his way to the QB.

* Micah Hyde is off to a rough start. Didn't see that coming. Stay confident, young man.

* Need more out of Mike Neal & Nick Perry. Immediately.

* Excited to go Morgan Burnett back. Even without the dreads.

* David Bakhtiari will have better games in the future. I'm not worried.

* Noteworthy: Sir Charles had a sack vs the Redskins. Sir Charles has 18 for his career, just 2 short of becoming the first player with 50 interceptions and 20 sacks. Stallion!

* Also, I can't say I'm rooting for Greg Jennings to play well, but his performance will impact the compensatory pick that the Packers receive next year. Thus, his 2 TD's last week should be noted.

This week - the Lions come to Lambeau. The Lions struggles in the state of Wisconsin are well documented. This Lions team appears to be different. Megatron is a stud. Reggie Bush looks like the USC version of Reggie Bush. Matthew Stafford has played well. Ryan Broyles can cause headaches. With Fauria, Pettigrew and Scheffler; they have 3 solid TE options. Suh, Fairley, Ziggy Ansah and Willie Young make up a physical, active front 4. Tulloch & Levy find the football, but both can be exposed. Glover Quin is off to a great start. And Delmas is healthy and playing at a high level.

This is a crucial game for both teams. The road to the NFC North crown goes thru Green Bay. Forget what the records presently say, in order to win the Division, you have to beat the Packers. Since McCarthy became the Head Coach in 2006, the Packers have mad the playoffs in 4 of 6 years. His recipe: win in the Division. Including the playoffs, the Packers have won 13 of the last 14 games against Divisional foes. Nothing changes this weekend.

Sure, Detroit is playing with heightened confidence. They're a poor 4th Quarter away from being 4-0 with wins against the Bears and Viqueens. They've moved the ball well offensively. They've put pressure on the QB. They've forced turnovers. They have every reason to believe in themselves. But, they're coming to Green Bay. To the mystical Lambeau Field. And, they aren't leaving with victory.

Early on, Detroit quiets the Lambeau faithful with a well conceived 80-yard TD drive. Stafford hits Johnson for a TD over Sammy Swagga.

The Packers respond by pounding the football at the heart of the Lions defense. Lacy and Franklin both get touches and positive yardage. Rodgers finds J-Mike down the seam for the equalizer! After the TD, J-Mike makes certain that Delmas sees the celebration.

Reggie Bush was an ideal addition for the Lions. Detroit likes to spread the field and then run Bush on quick hitters. Brad Jones & AJ Hawk better be aggressive as they attack the hole. And, why wouldn't they? After all, last year, the Packers bruised the interior of the Lions OL with a variety of blitzes. They also abused Riley Reiff. If Clay is full speed ahead, he's going to notch at least 2 sacks. Nick Perry & Mike Neal should find success against Jason Fox. On the inside, the Packers DL rotation should be able to punish Sims, Raiola and Warford. The Packers will win the line of scrimmage and generate 4 sacks. 2 by Matthews. 1 by Perry. 1 by Brad Jones. Book it: Stafford will move the ball, but he will get rattled.

On the other side of the ball, Detroit's DL will cause problems for the Packers OL even though - for the most part - the Packers have done well against Suh. But, McCarthy runs quick hitters. Finding Nelson & Jones who pile up big yardage after the catch. Rashean Mathis was a solid addition, but he's not the same player he once was. Chris Houston is a fighter, but he can be had on the back shoulder. Darius Slay is a nice young talent with a bright future. But, today? He can't stop the Rodgers & Nelson combination. It'll be a long, frustrating day for Slay. Nelson grabs two TD's.

Detroit has some success moving the ball. Johnson & Bush will make plays. Broyles and the TE's annoy the Packers with nickel & dime yardage. Kris Durham also sees targets. But, as they move towards the red zone, they have to settle for FG's. Often.

T-Mon grabs a pick. Burnett finds his groove midway thru the 2nd Quarter. There's a lot to prove. It's a statement game. The Packers reign.

Packers 34. Lions 26.

It's back to the roots. No matter where you go, the Packers are the Lions of the NFC North Kingdom. Elevate, Lambeau!

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac