I write from the perspective of an optimistic realist. I will always stand by the side of the Green Bay Packers. Regardless of whether we're World Champions or whether we're slumping deep into the doldrums. I'm a fan of the Green Bay Packers. In my youth, I was raised by positive parents. As a man, I'm a product of my roots. And, thus, I relish the gift that awaits this Sunday. A heavy weight clash. With first place lingering in the balance. I'm ready for Sunday afternoon.
To keep my vibe positive, I choose Lucky Dube's Live in Uganda. It's a fantastic album. Uplifting. Joyful. It provides glorious happiness to my soul. True excitement for my mind. Stay blissful, Packers fans.
By my side sits an Evil Twin Lil' B. 11.5% ABV. Complex in flavor. Dynamic at the first sip. Thick. Sweet. A fluffy syrup like head pours from the bottle. A burnt dark chocolate taste at the finish is preceded by a dark fruit and coffee concoction. There's a ton of action in each sip. This beer lives in my fridge during the winter months.
Here are my quick vibes from the past week:
* First and foremost, I couldn't stomach watching the Lions game a second time. It was that pitiful. I couldn't stomach it. So, my analysis is lighter than I'd like.
* Mike McCarthy is a mastermind of an offensive play caller. He's the ultimate at rallying the troops. But, in 2015, he isn't calling the plays. And, his locker room seems to be falling apart at the seams. Makes me wonder what his role is with the current team. And, I'd argue that I'm a bigger fan of McCarthy than anyone I know.
* Is Aaron Rodgers willing to be coached? Valid question, I think. He seems disinterested during meetings with his coaches. There's little-to-no eye contact. Appears as though he's lost respect for the coaching staff.
* For those of you that say that this is the lowest point of McCarthy's coaching tenure in Green Bay, I remind you that the Packers were shut out 26-0 by the Bears in his first game as a Head Coach in 2006. His team rallied around him and finished 8-8 with 4 straight wins. I remind you that in 2009 the Packers fell to the winless Bucs in Tampa (I was there) to fall to 4-4. His team rallied around him and finished 11-5. In 2010, the Packers had an ugly loss to the Dolphins at Lambeau. The loss brought the Packers to 3-3. McCarthy's team rallied. They finished 10-6 and went on to be XLV Champions. In 2012, the Packers blew at big lead at Indy to fall to 2-3. McCarthy's group rallied and won the Division with an 11-5 record. In 2013, the packers were 5-6-1 and without Aaron Rodgers. The team rallied and won the NFC North crown. In 2014, the Packers started off 1-2. The season was on the brink of becoming a waste. The Packers rallied and finished 12-4. So, here we sit in 2015. 6-3. One game behind the 'queens in the NFC North. With two dates against the 'queens waiting in the balance. I haven't thrown in the towel. The 2015 season isn't tarnished. But, our best football better be in front of us.
* Catch the ball, Randall Cobb. If he hangs on, it might've been 10-0 Green Bay. And, in that case, it might've been a different game.
* As ugly as the game was, if Mason Crosby makes the kick, we'd be sitting at 7-2. Yo Mason. We need better than that. I'd give him a pass, but we saw him do the exact same thing against Indy in 2012. That was brutal. To me, it looked like he choked.
* The Lambeau Gods were shining from the heavens. Continuously granting the Packers an opportunity to continue the Lions winless streak in WI, but Mason Crosby couldn't deliver. Bums me out.
* The Packers may not be in first place in the NFC North right now, but we do hold a 2-game lead in the Wild Card race. With tie breakers over the Rams and Seahawks. Additionally, it's noteworthy that the Rams play SEA and AZ again. And, SEA plays AZ and MN in the near future. And, MN plays ATL. There's a lot of football ahead of us. Stay the course. Be patient. Let's see how this plays out.
* Davante Adams had 21 targets. He finished with 79 yards. That's not a joke. Disgustingly pathetic. He was spending more time begging for penalties. He lost his composure. He dropped a deep ball. It was really hard to watch. And, when he was open, Rodgers missed him twice.
* Abby finally got his chance. He looked good. And, then he got hurt. Again.
* IT IS TIME FOR JEFF JANIS. RIGHT NOW. PLAY HIM. RUN HIM ON THAT WHEEL ROUTE AGAINST A NICKEL DEFENDER. THERE ISN'T A NICKEL CB IN THE LEAGUE THAT CAN RUN WITH HIM.
* The Packers started the game with slants and screens. The offense looked great. And, then they went away from it. For no apparent reason. Terrible offensive design. I have no idea why McCarthy isn't calling the plays.
* I've been begging for Rodgers to look at the middle of the field. Thankfully, he did. And, Justin Perillo finished with 5 catches for 58 yards and a TD because of it. Rodgers has to use the middle of the field from here on out. We're too predictable. Look at the crossing route underneath. It's open.
* Great game, Perillo! A true bright spot. A security blanket.
* Nice to see Richard Rodgers in the end zone again. He's a lethal red zone target. He's up to 5 TD's on the year.
* Really like what Starks is doing in the screen game.
* COME ON, EDDIE! WE NEED YOU! IT'S YOUR TIME OF YEAR! BRUISE ON. IN POWERFUL FASHION!
* YELLOW JAKE has to make the tackle on that Kickoff Return to start the 2nd half.
* Speaking of YELLOW JAKE, I'm baffled as to why he didn't play on the defensive side of the ball. Pains me. Nate Palmer can't play. He has no instincts. He'll never make a game changing play. The 3-4 defense requires big time play at the LB position. If Nate Palmer were to get cut, I'm not sure that he'd be on an NFL team. Just as Brad Jones is currently sitting on the sidelines. Palmer might be on the couch next to him.
* I love TJ Lang's game.
* I'm surprised at how bad Corey Linsley is playing. Looks like a shadow of himself.
* I'm a huge Josh Sitton fan. But, we need more.
* Gotta wonder if Bulaga is banged up. Not playing like himself. He's the best RT in the game. Need him to return to his normal self.
* I've heard many people say that the Packers limitations are showing because of a lack of FA signings. I couldn't disagree more. The Packers signed Cobb and Bulaga in FA. Two huge signings. We kept our own. They were two of the most crucial signings in all of FA. Remember that. Also, TT went for the fix at WR with James Jones.
* Speaking of James Jones, over the last 3 weeks, he's played like the player I'd thought he'd be when the Packers signed him earlier this year. He's lost a step. He's struggling to separate. He can't get open. We need more.
* The Packers were playing Datone Jones at OLB. I'm a big fan of Datone Jones, but he's not an OLB. Why don't we just run a 4-3? Neal, Perry, and Jones aren't 3-4 OLB. 3-4 OLB's weight between 245 & 260. And, they can flat out run! They can drop in coverage. They have a speed rush and a leverage winning bull rush. They win with speed. Neal, Perry, and Jones are so limited at 3-4 OLB. And, because of it, Capers has limited options. Wish we could see more of Jayrone Elliott.
* Liked Ha Ha's play. Played with fire. Thought his interception was going to be a monstrous game changing play. A season changing play, much like Doug Evans in 1996. Remember 1996? The Packers were 8-3. Coming off of 2 horrible losses. They were playing terrible at St Louis. And, then Doug Evans had a pick-6 that brought the good vibes back to 1265 Lombardi Ave. Someone has to make that play for the Packers this year.
* Ron Wolf was honored at half time of the Lions game. Ted Thompson has done everything that Ron Wolf did for the Green Bay Packers. Someday - his name will also need to be unveiled in the Ring at Lambeau Field.
* Sammy Swagga wanted nothing to do with Golden Tate on the big 3rd down late in the game.
* Why do the Packers insist on blitzing Casey Hayward? Has he ever made a play? The Packers trailed 12-10. There was 5:07 to play. It was 3rd & 9. Detroit had the ball at their own 21. Lambeau seemed to be rocking. I was convinced that the Packers would win. They had all momentum. Capers called a blitz. Stafford prepared to be hit. Hayward had a free shot. And then I'm not sure what happened. It looked like he swiped at the football instead of bringing Stafford to the ground. Instead, Stafford rolled left. Escaped pressure and hit Johnson for a 13-yard gain. Pissed me off.
* The Packers had 7 possessions that ended in a punt and had 6 plays or less. Yes, that's an Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay Packers. What world am I living in?
* The Lions were rolling CB's I'd never heard of onto the field. And, they were shutting down the Packers WR's. That's the current 2015 Green Bay Packers.
* Damarious Randall is showing a knack for making the big play. The ball finds him.
* Micah Hyde is a great tackler.
* Where is Julius Peppers?
* Make a play, Mike Daniels.
* Liked the push by Letroy Guion.
* Aaron Ripkowski is the real deal on special teams.
* Packers fans have to enjoy seeing Clay Matthews on the field. He's an absolute superstar. We're blessed that he's in Green & Gold.
This week - it's the 'queens from Minnesota. They're threatening to steal the NFC North crown from the 4-time defending Champions. In 2013, the Packers defeated the Bears in Week 17 in a winner take all game to capture the NFC North crown. In 2014, the Packers defeated the Lions in Week 17 in a winner take all game to capture the NFC North crown. It's noteworthy that the Packers play the 'queens in Week 17 in 2015.
The 'queens have won 5 straight. They have a terrific coach in Mike Zimmer. They have a fantastic defense. They have the best RB in football. They have a QB with a uniting personality. The Minnesota crowd will be loud. They're ready for this game. In many ways, it's their Super Bowl. The Minnesota 'queens are envious of the Green Bay Packers. They are the younger brother that desperately wants to be the older brother. The 'queens are without a title. The Packers have 13 of them. The Packers are the pretty team wearing Green. The 'queens are the brother that Mom & Dad didn't have time to shop for, so they were thrown in a Purple shirt off the Wal-Mart racks. The Packers have a legendary stadium. While the game this Sunday will be outdoors, the 'queens played indoors for 32 straight years. As I say to my son all of the time, "Memories are made outdoors. Go play outside." The 'queens have followed that mantra. They have minimal positive memories in their history.
But, suddenly, in 2015, the 'queens look like they're better than the Packers. They're more disciplined. They win the line of scrimmage. They force turnovers. They're better coached. They don't seem to turn the ball over. They force turnovers. They dominate special teams. They win third down. They come from behind. And, when they have the lead, they lean on AP in a big way. This version of the Minnesota 'queens is tough to beat. They're for real. The testosterone levels of the 2015 Green Bay Packers will be tested in a big way. There's a seismic shift in the NFC North that's threatening to occur. But, in order for that shift to happen, the 'queens have to get thru the Packers. And, at present, the Packers control their own destiny. Good luck, 'queens. It's not happening.
I first saw Teddy Bridgewater when he was a Senior in High School. He was athletic. He was mobile. He was a leader. It was easy to like his game. He's still that way. AP is back to his old self. The child-beating Peterson has been dominating defenses. Frankly, it disgusts me to even write AP's name. And, that's painful because AP is as good of a RB that I've ever watched play. He's right there with Barry Sanders and Walter Payton. Stefon Diggs has emerged as a favorite target of Bridgewater. Diggs gets deep on play action. He's a tough cover. Mike Wallace has shown signs of life. He's running lethal crossing routes and is a threat to beat you deep on every play. Jarius Wright is a solid slot receiver and Charles Johnson is a big target. Johnson, the former Packer, has all of the talent required to be a star WR. At times, he's put it all together and been a tough cover. But, consistency has been his issue. The 'queens are loaded at TE. Kyle Rudolph is a star. Rhett Ellison is underrated. And, MyCole Pruitt is a solid blocker who finds space and can move chains. I'm shocked as to how well the 'queens OL has played. They aren't littered with big names, but they've played really well. They've protected Teddy and created holes for AP to run through. It's worth mentioning that Minnesota is so committed to the run game that it wouldn't surprise to see Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata combine for 10 touches.
Minnesota's defense is terrific. Brian Robison and Everson Griffen have made up a 1-2 punch of edge rushers. Both win with a gifted speed/power combo. They're energizers. No one has beats them in the effort battle. Linval Joseph is an intimidating presence in the middle of the field. Joseph is a superstar. He's dominant. He's forceful. He's among the best DL in football. Sharrif Floyd is a physical figure who wins 1 v 1 battles on the regular. The Packers OL has their work cut out for them. The 'queens have an awesome LB core. It makes me jealous. Admittedly. Anthony Barr is a total stud. Eric Kendricks has been great. Chad Greenway is a veteran leader who can still ball. Harrison Smith is among the best safties in football. He can do it all. He rushes the QB as well as any Safety in football. He can cover the slot. He can play CF. Harrison Smith has mad game. Andrew Sendejo is the weak spot on the defense. He often takes bad angles to the ball in the run game and in coverage. He can be exposed. Xavier Rhodes is a shut down CB in the making. He's given the Packers problems in the past. Trae Waynes is the Nickel CB. I like Waynes game. A lot. Terence Newman is a player that Mike Zimmer trusts. He can't run like he used to, but he knows Zimmer's system and he's dependable. I hope the Packers test Newman deep on multiple occasions. Let's see if Newman can run with Janis. There could be a big play waiting if we test Newman deep.
The 'queens special teams cannot be overlooked. Marcus Sherels is sneaky quick as a PR. Cordarrelle Patterson has given the Packers problems as a KR previously. I don't want to see the ball in his hands.
The Packers backs are against the wall. In the regular season, when the McCarthy/Rodgers tandem has faced this circumstance, it's generally worked out in the Packers favor. This is a tough test. Minnesota is stout. They're more physical than Green Bay. They've played more possessed than Green Bay. They've played with more of a fighter's mentality than Green Bay. But, sooner or later, it gets real. And, this Sunday is one of those days.
Minnesota comes out running the football. It's AP at the heart of the Packers front. Raji wins with quickness. Daniels wins with leverage. Guion wins with power. AP is neutralized, but on 3rd down, Bridgewater gets to the edge and hits an open Diggs on a comeback route. Then, AP gets loose into the Packers secondary. Stay calm, Packers fans. The defense holds to 3.
Lacy gets carries. McCarthy wants to show that the Packers can win with physicality. Lacy gets some tough yards to the left side of the OL. It's Rodgers connecting with Cobb on a crucial 3rd down. Richard Rodgers gives the Packers the lead with his 6th TD of the year.
The 'queens continue to move the ball at a slow but steady pace. Sammy Swagga runs with Wallace. Randall fights with Diggs on the outside. But, Randolph gives us problems over the middle of the field as the Packers stack the box to stop the run. We're vulnerable in play action to the TE. And, Norv Turner is out thinking Dom Capers.
McCarthy often saves things for big games. This week - it has to be Janis. IT HAS TO BE. They can't run with him. On a double move, Janis gets deep for a big one.
The Packers lead 14-9. Mid 4th Quarter. AP grabs 15. Softens the defense. The 'queens go play-action to Diggs. It's Bridgewater to Rudolph. The 'queens take a 16-14 lead late.
It's a dog fight. In a rowdy environment. The Packers will is tested. This team has been to battle previously. In the regular season, they've left victorious. Almost always, it seems. Rodgers walks with a nervous confidence. He comes on the screen to Starks. He hits Cobb on a short ball over the middle. He finds Perillo for a first down. It's Adams on a comeback. And, this time, thankfully, Crosby connects late.
Stake claim to the NFC North, boys. We need this one. It's ours until we're knocked out. Have fun. Play free. Be hungry.
Go Pack Go!