Thursday, December 24, 2015

My Take -> Week 16

Greetings, G-Force.

10-4. Winners of three in a row. Leading the NFC North. Yet, somehow, Packers fans are up-in-arms over this team. Not me. Just as the Spirit of Santa will live forever, so will my belief in the Green Bay Packers.

I sip a 2014 Crooked Stave St Bretta. It's a dark ale that is brewed with citrus and fermented in Oak Foeders. Last year - it was bursting with citrus. Now, the Brett is taking over. It's becoming funky. The fruit is disappearing quickly. Time to pop open your St Bretta's that are at least a year old. Unless, of course, you want a mouthful of Brett, which isn't a bad buzz. The music is soft as the kids are sleep and my 3 month old is a really light sleeper. I have a quiet addiction to the Of Monsters & Men "My Head Is An Animal" album. I find it to be calming, yet happily inspirational.

Here are my thoughts over the last week:

* If you're looking to read something about how the Packers are currently in the doldrums, please stop reading. You can turn to a variety of other internet outlets for that. You can also get it from most of the local news sources in WI. You can also get that from most of your fellow Packers fans. You know - those same Packers fans that begged for the Packers to trade for Steve Smith before the trade deadline and those same Packers fans that were pissed that the Packers didn't make a move for the likes of Vernon Davis. Well, Packers fans, let me tell you how that would've played out: Steve Smith got injured shortly after the trade deadline and he's done for the year. Vernon Davis has been an absolute stiff in Denver. In the last two games, he's dropped crucial 3rd down passes late in the 4th Quarter. He's been such a disappointment that their are many Broncos fans that'd like him cut. Packers fans need to remember to TrusT Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy. Yes, it's spelt TrusT. Capitalize those T's because Ted Thompson should've earned your respect by now. If the Packers are going to fix what's happening on offense, it's going to have to happen from within the Locker Room. Someone on the depth chart has to play the role of next man up. At this point, Abby seems like he's our best option.

* I often hear about the stats of the Packers players or the Packers team. Growing up, I was a stats junkie. I loved Fantasy Football. I'm no longer attached to Fantasy. I feel that - in many ways - it's ruined fandom in the sport. Now, the only stat I care about in a football game is the final score. Style points don't matter in sports. The chief objective is to win the game. The Packers have won 10 games. They've lost 4 games. They lead the NFC North. And, they're in striking distance of gaining a first-round bye. Yes, there's room for improvement, but there's a lot to like. The Packers are winning games. Games in which they are seemingly being out played. But, Mike McCarthy's team is finding ways to win. Without Jordy Nelson and Ty Montgomery. Without a productive Eddie Lacy. Without a healthy OL. That, to me, is exciting.

* Clearly, Aaron Rodgers is disgruntled. He has issues with Mike McCarthy. Their relationship is broken. I hope it can be repaired. As they're both better with each other. Rodgers needs to be reminded of what it's like to be coached by someone like Mike Sherman or Ray Rhodes. McCarthy rejuvenated Favre's career. He made Favre a better QB. Rodgers better be careful as to how he chooses his words and his actions in the near future.

* The Packers offense is getting close. While the offense didn't start off with fire, I loved that Lacy or Cobb touched the ball 4 of the first 5 plays. McCarthy knows to get the ball to his playmakers. McCarthy loves to hide Cobb. He disguises him in an attempt to get him running forward with pace. I know I'm alone on this, but I liked a lot of what I saw out of the offense. I liked the design. There were play-action roll-outs. We saw crossing routes lead to first-down conversions on 2 & !7 and on 3rd & 7. After blowing the 14-0 lead, we witnessed a potent 3 play, 53 yard TD that gave the Packers a lead that they never relinquished. We saw a tough minded 19 play, 92 yard drive that ate up 8:11 off of the clock. At times, offensively, we showed a "Lion Heart." Sure, there were still a lot of errors. Adams dropped two balls, Janis dropped one, Richard Rodgers dropped a ball, and so did Kuhn on a perfectly designed screen. We also saw James Jones questionably push off in the end-zone that negated a TD. There were also two turnovers that showed poor form.

* The Raiders are an underrated team. They've beaten Denver, in Denver. They should've beaten Denver in Oakland. They had Pittsburgh on the ropes in the Steel City. Therefore, I find it easy to take a glass half-full view of this game. Had either Janis or Adams caught passes by the goal line and had Starks held onto the football...and had Rodgers not thrown the interception near the goal line...and had Crosby's FG not been blocked, this would've been a blow-out and the Packers might've put up more than 40 points. Yes, there are a lot of ifs and ands, but we showed promise last week.

* I am happy that AQ81 is back. I hope he's fit. I hope he's ready. Aaron Rodgers trusts him. We need to get the MVP's mojo back. It's time to surround him with receivers that he has confidence in. Right now, it feels like he trusts Abby, JJ and Cobb. We know that he's been comfortable with AQ81 previously. I'd play single back and go 3-wide. Also, AQ81 is a much better blocker than Richard Rodgers. AQ81 should benefit the run game.

* Davante Adams. My least favorite Packer. Full of athleticism. All the talents that you look for in an elite WR. But, he's soft. Both mentally and physically. He can't play the ball in the air. His hands are suspect. And, he complains more than any Packer that I can remember. He's hard to cheer for. I had huge expectations for him. He's been a total disappointment. His playing time should be significantly cut back.

* Need to see more of Abby. Liked his footwork down the sideline. If we're going to make a run this year, we might need his naturally instinctive route running and his sure hands.

* Great game, JJ. Good to see you rocking out in that hoodie.

* Randall Cobb showing a bit of his tough as nails persona. You know, the one that we've loved since he arrived in Green Bay.

* I'm as big of an Eddie Lacy supporter as you're going to get, but I didn't think he ran hard in the 2nd half. Want to see him trying to punish defenders in the secondary. He got to the second level on a couple of occasions, but he didn't explode. He left yards on the field. Lacy also was slow in blitz pick-up.

* Great game, David Bakhtiari. He was physical. He was quick. He used his hands well. Hurt to see him get injured. Hope he's healthy.

* TJ Lang is clearly not healthy. I find him to be our best OL. But, he was pushed around, at times. He's gutting it out and I give him mad props for that, but he doesn't appear to be healthy.

* Another solid performance by Tretter.

* The Packers have to figure out 3rd & 1. They're getting blown off the ball. Right from the snap. Next time, I'd go play action to AQ81 in the flat.

* The DL elevated in a big way. JP played his best game in 2015. Letroy Guion appears to be taking steps. Two weeks in a row, Guion has flashed in the run game. Datone Jones held the edge in the run game. Mike Daniels got pursuit. Mike Neal looked quicker than he's ever looked as a pro. BJ played with force. Once again, Mike Pennel held the point.

* YELLOW JAKE. He's growing into his role. He's around the ball. He's responsible. He's getting to the sideline. He's shedding blockers. Looks to have a little Keith Brooking in him.

* Clay Matthews wasn't himself against Oakland. Even though his bull rush was solid. He was guessing wrong in the run game. He missed a couple of tackles. Wasn't the Clay that we know and love.

* Joe Thomas had a good push on the Micah Hyde interception.

* Speaking of, tone setting play by Hyde! Great coverage. Loved how he undercut the route. And then, always a treat to see him putting his return skills on display.

* Jeff Janis. He's turning into a Pro Bowl caliber special teams player. He had a great KO return and as a gunner, he was first class on multiple occasions.

* Morgan Burnett made an appearance. First in the run game. And, then I really liked the pass deflection. Wished he'd have picked it off, but a good play nonetheless.

* Damarious Randall with the pick 6! Big play, rook! Sure, he had troubles, but that'll happen to a newbie. Huge 1st Quarter play to give the Packers a 2-score lead on the road.

* Q-Rollins. Love this kid's game. He gets his hands on the football. He sees the ball. He'll learn to catch those picks, I think. He could've easily had 3-4 interceptions. Had his hands on the ball. Didn't hang on. Love how he tackles with aggression as well. Kid has a future!

* Get well, Sammy.

* Sad to see that Ty Montgomery is done for the year. Thought he'd play a major role down the stretch.

* Enjoyed seeing Jayrone Elliott playing meaningful snaps early in the game. Brought energy.

* Aaron Ripkowski is a special teams guru. Pure hustle. He gets down the field with grit. And, he finds the returner. Fun to watch.

* Sir Charles Woodson. ONE. Forever. Happy Retirement. I love you, man.

This week - it's the Cardinals. With a win, the Packers will trail the Cardinals for the #2 seed by 1 game. But, the Cardinals play Seattle in Week 17. It's also possible that the Packers v 'queens game in Week 17 will be flexed to the night game. If that happens, the Packers will know whether they're playing for the #2 seed. This could all play into the Packers advantage. But, the Packers have to win on Sunday. I hear that their will be numerous Packers fans in the Stadium. Get loud!

It wouldn't shock me if the Cardinals won this game 38-20. But, this team has flashed greatness on a couple of occasions. Most notably against Seattle and Minnesota. Their have been 5 games that felt like the Packers were playing playoff teams: SEA, KC, DEN, CAR, and MN. In those games, the Packers are 3-2. In their 3 wins, the Packers have played really inspired football. Arguably, their 3 best performances of the year. I'm not going to be surprised if that same type of thing happens this week.

The Cardinals are loaded at talent on offense. Carson Palmer has found youth in Arizona - much in the same way as Kurt Warner did before him. Larry Fitzgerald is still a star at WR. Michael Floyd is a big target who can run. John Brown can get deep with the best of 'em. Jaron Brown is a long WR who high-points the ball and consistently wins jump balls. At TE, Jermaine Gresham and Darren Fells are both steady targets who couple as willing blockers. Prior to the draft, I had this to say about David Johnson: "He's a sublime one cut runner who sees the hole. He catches the ball with elite style. He runs with elegance. He lowers his shoulder with desire. He reminds me of Matt Forte." I still feel that way. Johnson scares me. The Cardinals have invested in their OL. They've added Mike Iupati and Jared Veldheer via FA to man the left side of the line. They drafted Jonathan Cooper in Round 1 in 2013 to play Guard. Bobbie Massie can be beaten at RT. And, Lyle Sendlein can be pushed back with an inside rush.

Defensively, Arizona packs a punch. They'll be without Tyrann Mathieu, but they'll be getting Rashad Johnson back from injury. Even without Mathieu, they have a tremendous secondary. Patrick Peterson is elite. Tony Jefferson is undersized, but he's still physically dominant. Jerraud Powers is a talented cover CB. Rashad Johnson plays the football in the air at a high level. DJ Swearinger is a physical presence who swarms in the middle of the field. They have depth in the secondary. And, they rotate often. Up front, outside of Calais Campbell - who is a staple - the Cardinals rotate their DL often. Rodney Gunter is tireless in his pursuit. Dwight Freeney can still bring the spin move on passing downs. Cory Redding and Red Bryant are beefy run stoppers. Coming out of college, I was pining for the Packers to draft Deone Bucannon. I saw him as inside the box S. The Cardinals play him at LB. Bucannon has been a menacing force. Bucannon has 11 tackles for loss, an interception, a TD, 99 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries. What a beast! This offseason the Cardinals added both Sean Weatherspoon and Markus Golden to bolster their LB crops, but neither has been a high performer. Kevin Minter and Alex Okafor have been the weak links on the defense.

Bruce Arians is an offensive wizard. A dynamic play caller.

The Packers need Sammy Swagga healthy. With Sammy, I think the Packers can match up well with Arizona's talented WR's. Sammy can play Floyd. Randall fights Fitzgerald. Rollins and/or Hayward runs with Brown. I also think that Hyde matches up well with Gresham in coverage. It'll be crucial for the Packers to win the run game and to slow down David Johnson early in the game. If Johnson can be slowed early, it won't give as much merit to the play action deep ball that Arians is sure to try on multiple occasions. Arians - it seems - tries the deep ball more than anyone. And, Palmer has been a pin point passer on those routes.

Look for Josh Brown to get at least two bombs thrown his way. Look for Floyd to get a deep ball on a fly route and a couple of 20 yard come back routes. They'll use Larry Fitzgerald on crossing routes and on 15-20 yard posts.

Carson Palmer is throwing with confidence. He's fitting the ball into tight spots. Look for him to make a mistake.

And, call me crazy, but I feel like the Packers DL will come to play. I think Clay will be shooting gaps. I think he'll be making plays at the line of scrimmage. I believe he'll rebound from a disappointing performance. Expect Raji, Daniels, Guion and Pennel to all play big roles in the run game.

I've been waiting for the MVP to have a break out game. A precision performance. Where he's in the zone. He's had big games in Arizona before. He has one again. Arizona will come on a multitude of blitzes. The Packers will pick them up. The MVP will get rid of the ball quickly. He finds Cobb on crossing routes. He connects with Jones a quick back-shoulder route. He finds AQ81 on a down and out. There's a well-timed screen. Abby grabs a comeback route. Adams shakes for 6 yards after a 4 yard hitch. Almost oddly, the timing clicks.

Lacy runs hard. Starks does the same. It's a coming out party - of sorts - for the Packers offense.

Out of a DT spot, JP makes a big play getting in the face of Palmer on third down.

Packers 27
Cardinals 23

Keep the faith! Merry Christmas!

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Friday, December 18, 2015

My Take -> Week 15

Greetings, G-Force.

The Holidays are more fun when the Packers are relevant. It was an absolute treat to enjoy a Sunday at Lambeau Field. This time of year, it's common to hear "Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas." Last Sunday was certainly Jolly. But, if the Celtic meaning of Holly is to be the ruler of winter, the weather didn't do it's part. Thankfully, the Green Bay Packers did hold their end of the winter bargain. A dominating 4th Quarter that had the Packers Faithful rejoicing in one another's arms.

A trip to Lambeau is always a day to cherish. I see old friends and a bunch of family members. It was great to have the Grill Master himself, Vargas, rocking out on his tailgating job. It was a true delight to have PatRad pouring heady beers. It was epic to share a beer with Jon Longley and his bro. I was blessed to hang with my Uncle Pat, my Uncle Jeff, my Aunt Mary, my brother-in-law Brian, my cousins Ryan, Emily, and Mary, and Mary's boyfriend Anthony in the parking lot. My Mom and my sister, Marni, sat in the box. I sat in the stands with my Uncle Jeff, my brother-in-law Brian, and my cousins Ryan, Cindy, Kim, and Brian. With my Dad jamming the tunes, needless to say, there were plenty of FAMILY HUGS at Lambeau. Family. Holidays. Lambeau. Energetically, the spirit should offer victories in that scenario. The good times were rolling. And, while it's Thursday night, I'm still struggling with my voice. I've been hoarse since Sunday. I'm also probably still intoxicated. Lambeau was dope. My family is dope. And, in the words of the Hard Working Americans, "Dope is Dope." Oh, and if you haven't buzzed into the Hard Working Americans, what are you waiting for? It's a collaboration of musical superstars. And, one of those stallions, Chad Staehly, reigns from Green Bay. He's also a die hard Packers fan. Vibe into the Hard Working Americans. Your musical mind will emancipate brilliance. I promise. Dope is Dope, man.

I have two albums and two beers by my side. I'll be spinning the Emmylou Harris "Light of the Stable" vinyl and the Curtis Mayfield "Superfly" record. If you haven't heard Emmylou sing "Silent Night" - make sure you do so this Holiday season. And, watching Eddie Lacy run last Sunday, "Superfly" seems like an appropriate word to bounce to. I'm sipping a Boulevard Love Child 6. Frankly, it's my least favorite of the Love Child's. No fruit sensation. Only a light sour feel. Can't feel the barrel age. A decent funk. Not sure I'll purchase again. I've just popped a Founder's Breakfast Stout. When in the Midwest, it's a staple of my December diet. I had to fly home a 4-pack. So, if I fall off track during this blog, bare with me. Please. And thanks.

Here are my quick vibes from the last week:

* MIKE MCCARTHY CALLING PLAYS! And, suddenly, the ball is consistently in the hands of Eddie Lacy and Randall Cobb. There was creativity. There was design. The Packers were calling plays that set up future plays. The defense was confused. There were backs and WR's running in the open field. I'll never understand why it took so long for this to occur, but nonetheless, I'm happen the Head Coach is back in charge. Oh, and it seemed like people were having fun once again. Smiles bring success. In sports and in life.

* The Packers were close to making me a full-on believer. Up 14-0. With the ball. Less than 2 minutes on the clock. I wanted 3 points. A 3-score lead. Felt it could've been a first-half dagger. They had a 2nd chance in the 3rd Quarter. They failed again. While the victory tasted great, the Packers were unable to deliver a CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE early in the game. The Cowboys were allowed to hang around. Against a better team, the Packers may not be so fortunate to come away with victory if they don't close the game when given the opportunity in the first 3 Quarters.

* 'Tis the Season. Santa resides in your local mall. A wreath hangs from your front door. Christmas lights line the streets. And, Eddie Lacy is darting into the secondary!

* Aaron Rodgers. We're spoiled. We expect him to be robotic. In 2015, he's human. He's still excellent. He's just not the supernatural player that we're accustomed to watching. Still, he's making throws that we just don't see in by other QB's. 0-0. Clock nearing 11:00 to play in the 2nd Quarter. The Packers were facing a 3rd & 10. The 13-yard strike to James Jones was an absolute beauty.

* The screen pass to Starks for a TD. Magnificent play design. Also, how about the athleticism by Lang and Tretter on the play? Both hustling into the open field. Fantastic.

* Speaking of Tretter. I'm not a masterful evaluator of Centers by any means, but for my amateur eye, it appears as though the Packers are benefitting from Tretter's athleticism. He moves better than Linsley. He isn't as strong as Linsley, but regardless, he's been smart in moving defenders. He's getting to the 2nd level. It'll be interesting to see how the Packers decide to play their cards when Linsley is healthy.

* Richard Rodgers continues to show that he's a lethal Red Zone target. His 7th TD of the year. On pace for 9. That was extremely predictable before the season.

* Truly exciting to watch Randall Cobb block. I've felt like the blocking by our WR's has been less than we've seen in past years since the injury to Ty Montgomery. But, Cobb really elevated his game in the blocking arena this past weekend. Great to see.

* Aaron be nimble. Aaron be quick. Aaron jump over that first down stick. The MVP was lethal with his legs.

* Jeff Janis showed Pro Bowl skills as a special teams gunner. Truly dominant performance by Janis.

* Is there a better mudder in the NFL than Eddie Lacy?

* Riveting to see Clay go untouched for a forceful sack. We're spoiled to have him in Green & Gold.

* Congrats to Mike Daniels. Stoked to have him in Titletown, U.S.A. for the foreseeable future.

* Mike Pennel can play in this league. Multiple dominating plays by Pennel. Including a huge tackle for loss near the goal line. He's really impressed throughout the 2015 campaign.

* Big play of the game. 3rd & 1. From the Dallas 10. After the Packers had been stopped on 4th & Goal. The Cowboys run Turbin left. Appeared to have an easy first down. But, Letroy Guion releases from the block. Sheds to his left with a sudden split. He aggressively tosses Turbin to the turf just shy of the first down. Guion's best play of the year. Gave the Packers good field position. Set up the Packers first scoring drive.

* YELLOW JAKE. Again showing that he can play in this league. He intimidates WR's that are coming over the middle. He strikes fear. He plays smart. He's a sure tackler. It also appears as though Clay respects YELLOW JAKE. To my eye, the body language says so anyways. They interact well. Sound communication. He might have a big play in his future. Possibly picking off a crossing route. He's close.

* Great tackling, Casey Hayward.

* With HaHa, Damarious Randall, Sammy Swagga, and Q-Rollins; the Packers secondary looks to have a youthfully bright future. Randall and Rollins can play.

* Still waiting for Burnett to make an impact on the 2015 season.

* EDDIE! With the burst! Showing quickness. Displaying desire. Flashing a smile. He's ready to put us on his back.

* Loved seeing Jayrone Elliott making plays. 3 of them, in fact.

* The Packers need to bring back BJ Raji.

* Mike Neal and Nick Perry won't play for Green Bay in 2016.

* Sublime to hear the EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE! chants at Lambeau last Sunday. Magical evening.

* Enjoyed seeing Chris Banjo make an impactful play on special teams.

* 21-7. 3:11 to play. Packers take over at the Dallas 38. 4 carries for Lacy. 38 yards. TD. If the Packers want the 2015 season to finish in a Super fashion, we need that type of commanding performance from the dreaded RB. We need him joyful. We need him animated. We need him forcing defenders to make business decision when approaching contact.

* Think about this: the Packers beat Oakland on Sunday. Then Sunday night becomes an Eagles party as Philly will be hosting the Cardinals. Should the Eagles win, the following week, the Packers will be playing the Cardinals for the #2 seed in the NFC. Makes me stoked to even think about it.

This week - it's the Raiders in Oakland. Which instantly brings back memories of the Irv Favre game. Boy, was Brett magical on that epic Monday Night.

The Raiders can ball. They have weapons. They can put up points. They force turnovers. They get after the QB. They're a dangerous opponent. Especially when they're playing at home. They have a clear cut home field advantage.

Offensively, the Packers better be prepared. Michael Crabtree is playing his best football. Amari Cooper is an impressive rookie WR who is lethal after the catch. Latavius Murray is a physical RB who finds his way to the 2nd level. Derek Carr can whip the football. When Carr isn't making mistakes, he's making big plays. But, he's still learning to master the position in the NFL. Still, he's capable of throwing for 300 yards and 2 TD's on any given Sunday. I've liked Mychal Rivera as a receiving TE since he was in college. Same with Clive Walford. Both will give the Packers problems. The Raiders OL can be beat. The Packers have to win the line of scrimmage and get into Carr's face. If they do, Carr will make mistakes.

The Raiders defense attacks the QB. If you've followed my blog long enough, you know what I think about Khalil Mack. I was writing about him before his Senior year at Buffalo. Kid can play. I wanted him in Green Bay. Saw him as a 1st round pick long before most "experts" on the net. Dan Williams is a plug in the middle of the defense. Mario Edwards is having a solid year along the DL. Curtis Lofton can still man the middle of the field. Malcolm Smith is a play making LB with great instincts. The Raiders secondary can be exposed, but the Packers will have to win the 1 v 1 battles on the outside. If Jordy were playing, he'd top 175 this week. But, we struggle to win on the perimeter. David Amerson and DJ Hayden can be beaten. Frequently. But, the Packers will have to be more assertive on the perimeter than we've been most of the year. I'm scared that we won't be able to take advantage of the Raiders biggest weakness.

The Raiders also have Sir Charles Woodson. Arguably my favorite football player to ever wear a uniform. I loved him at Michigan. I loved him in Oakland. I danced on the streets of South Beach in Miami when he signed in Green Bay. I bought his jersey. Still, I tape EVERY ONE of his games each week. Just so I can watch him play. He's the greatest defensive back that I've ever seen play football. And, for my eye, there is little debate. The only guy who compares is Rod Woodson. He's a Heisman Trophy winner. He's a National Champion. He's a Defensive ROY. He's a Defensive MVP. He's a Super Bowl winner. He's the only player in the history of the NFL with 60 interceptions and 20 sacks. Each week, he seems to make a play. Still. What a Superstar. That's why I've knighted him. Sir Charles. Forever a Super Bowl Champion. The "ONE" speech will live in Packer lore for eternity.

The Raiders will move the football. They'll put themselves into position to put up big points. But, the Packers defense will bend, but not break. At some point, Peppers will make a play this Sunday. A game changer. A play that could net points for the Packers defense. When Carr makes mistakes, they come in a big way. Look for Daniels to also get pressure up the gut. Datone Jones as well.

The Packers establish Lacy early. They slow down the pass rush by pounding away at the interior of the Raiders defense. Then, they attack Mack in the run game. They want him to hesitate his step by a second. As soon, it's the play action roll-out. Moving Rodgers away from Mack. And, the MVP is looking deep. To Abby. Who comes down with the first big play of his NFL career.

It's a nerve wracking back-and-forth contest. But, the Packers prevail after a late Raiders turnover.

Lacy grabs 90 yards. Rodgers tosses for 275. Cobb finds the end zone. Peppers and Matthews notch sacks.

Packers 30
Raiders 27

Here's my pre-Bowl season 2016 Mock Draft. And, for the record, I'm rarely someone that is for the all-in trade up. This year is the exception. I'd mortgage much of my draft to trade up and get Jaylon Smith, LB, ND. Smith is fast. He's strong. He's instinctive. He's EXACTLY what this Packers defense needs. Smith and Clay together would be a wrecking crew for the future. I'd trade multiple picks to get Smith.

For the sake of the Mock Draft, I play it safe. I wish I had time to be more thorough, but here are some short notes and names to take a look at. My short notes throughout the college season are more vast this year than they have been in past years, so I'll be able to give a better take in the future, but for now this will do. Here goes:

Round 1 - Alex McCalister, OLB, Florida. He's undersized from a weight perspective. But, his height distracts throws. His speed off the edge is unmatched. He'd be an ideal pass rusher who'd immediately disrupt offenses rhythm. He's been oft injured. But, I love his game. He's an underclassman, but my guess is that he comes out. He's a pure pass rusher. He'd fit a monster need for the Packers. Others: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State; Kenny Clark, DL, UCLA; Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU; Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech; Shaq Lawson, DL, Clemson; Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia; Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama; and Josh Doctson, WR, TCU; Emmanuel Ogbah, DL, OK State; Jonathan Allen, DL, AL.

Round 2 - Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama. Great in coverage. Fast. Instinctive. Great tackler. Good football knowledge. Plays sideline to sideline. Others: KeiVarae Russell, CB, ND; Kendell Beckwith, ILB, LSU; Will Redmond, CB, Mississippi State; Jordan Jenkins, OLB, Georgia; Jayron Kearse, SS, Clemson; and Carl Nassib, DL, Penn State; Will Fuller, WR, ND; Jonathan Bullard, DL, Florida; Su'a Cravens, LB, USC; Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky.

Round 3 - C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame. He's battling injury. But, when healthy, he's lethal. Great vision. Excellent quickness. Hits the hole with intent. Would be a great change of pace back for the Pack. Others: Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas; Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson; Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee; Sheldon Day, DL, ND; Anthony Zettel, DL, Penn State; Kentrell Brothers, ILB, Mizzou.

Round 4 - Desmond King, CB, Iowa. King is so underrated. Could move into Round 2-3 if he comes out. Nose to nose at the line of scrimmage, he attacks the WR. He's consistent. Plays the ball with excellence. Not overly fleet of football, but fast enough. I'd take him on the perimeter to push for playing time on Day 1 in 2016. Others: William Jackson III, CB, Houston; Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple; Aaron Burbridge, WR, Michigan State; Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida.

Round 4 - Nelson Spruce, WR, Colorado. Every year, we hear TT say that one of his selections is a "Football player." Well, this year, Spruce fits the bill. He gets deep. He runs crisp routes. He's the consummate teammate. He plays with a fierce presence week-in and week-out. Others: Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma; Deon Bush, S, []_[]; Joe Schobert, LB, WI; Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas.

Round 5 - Jake McGee, TE, Florida. Book it. I want McGee. He can spread wide. He's a willing blocker. He has great hands. A Red Zone target. Clutch performer. Love his game. Other: Devonte Fields, LB, Louisville.

Round 5 - Bronson Kaufusi, OLB, BYU. Work hard pass rusher. Might not be a true 3-4 OLB, but he can play the edge. He holds the point. He's relentless. Plays with effort. Decent burst. Others: Chris Brown, WR, ND.

Round 6 - Silverberry Mouhon, OLB, Cincy. He's a splash player that pursues off the edge. Maybe a pick more out of need than out of love for the player, but when he gives maximum effort, Mouhon can get home. Potential to be a boom player. Worth a late round pick. Others: Jimmy Bean, OLB, OK State; Nate Meier, OLB, Iowa.

Round 7 - KJ Dillon, S, West Virginia. Tough for me to not select a Mountaineer. He's versatile. He can cover the slot. He can play FS. He returns punts. He's a leader. He's dependable. Deion Jones, LB, LSU; Antonio Longino, ILB, Arizona State; Geno Matias-Smith, S, Alabama; Pete Robertson, LB, Texas Tech; Raphael Kirby, ILB, []_[]; Jake Duzey, TE, Iowa; Henry Krieger, TE, Iowa; Duke Thomas, CB, Texas.

I hope to post much more about Draft prospects between Xmas & New Years. Have a Merry Christmas. Thanks for your readership.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Friday, December 11, 2015

My Take -> Week 14

Greetings, G-Force.

A desperate heave at the most desperate time of the season brought a stroke of magic. An exclamatory hint of good luck. And, perhaps, it saved the season. In sports, momentum is a thing. If the Rodgers to Rodgers Hail Mary doesn't reap a memorable playoff run, then 2015 was meant to be a disappointment for the Green Bay Packers.

I write from Titletown, U.S.A. I breathe in the hallowed Green Bay air as the Packers sit at the top of the NFC North. The last week has been great fun. Not only have the Packers won via a 61-yard Hail Mary with 00:00 on the clock, but the 'queens have lost back-to-back games. And, thus, as I attend the game this week against the Cowboys, the Packers will be gleefully staring down at the rest of the Division.

I sip a New Glarus Milk Stout. It's sweet. It's smooth. It makes me smile. I'm eating Ron's spreadable cheese with Cheddar on top of Wheat Thins. I may or may not be listening to Bang On the Drum. Yes, I'm back home. We're all a product of our roots. My roots lie in Green Bay, WI. Forever.

Here are my thoughts over the last week:

* Julius Peppers may have been silent since the bye, but man, dude went straight spiritual gangsta when the Packers needed a game changing defensive play.

* Had Mike Neal not made an epic ankle grabbing tackle on the WR screen on 3rd & 11 mid-way through the 3rd Quarter, it'd have been 24-0. Neal's play, in many ways, was a game saving play.

* Down 20-0. This team was dead. They'd missed a chip shot FG. They were facing a 3rd & long. And, Rodgers to Rodgers provided a reason to move towards the edge of your seat with excitement.

* Richard Rodgers. Finally, the Packers tested the middle of the field. They found Rodgers as he was taking his break up the field. And, therefore, Richard Rodgers had the best game of his young career. He found yards after the catch. He was a difference maker, a chain mover. Guy is still a miserable blocker, but it was good to see him as a receiver taking the ball up the field rather than seeing him running towards the sideline after catching the ball on a short down and out.

* The Packers fans are an integral part of this organization. The players and the fans create a kinship community. One that is karmically intertwined. We rely on each others energy. Together, we needed a communal moment of jubilation. In Rodgers to Rodgers, we got it. Now, let's do something with it. The energy is high. It's time to carry on with goodness.

* YELLOW JAKE. Kid can play. Was great in the run game. Fun to see him pounce on the fumble. And, when he was beat in the passing game, he didn't give up YAC. Further, it appeared as though he intimidated when receivers were running across the middle.

* Mike Daniels played great. Total MAN.

* Speaking of men, David Bakhtiari. Just earning respect. Playing thru pain. Gon' old timer on us. Gritty. Gutty. Dominant.

* Jeff Janis. Why not keep running on the deep ball. Planned play to take a shot to Janis. Looked like the reigning MVP dropped it perfectly. Should have landed in his lap. But, Janis stopped his route. Was he trying to draw a penalty? Was his depth perception off? I'm not sure, but he looked like an amateur.

* Run the route 2 yards deeper, Abby.

* Another disappointing route running day from Davante Adams.

* 4th & 1. Season on the line. Cobb is open in flat. WOW! It exists! Why not do that more often?

* HaHa was the best Packers player last Thursday.

* Sammy Swagga is playing the best football of his career.

* Thought Crockett added a bit of a spark. Showed quickness. A small burst. More of one than we saw all pre-season. A little jittery. But, what could be expected. Impressive showing for the young kid.

* The Green Bay Press Gazette's "HAIL YES" quote was fantastic. So, was the moment that the HAIL YES play occurred. But, it doesn't erase the memory of 35 minutes of poorly played football.

* I'm bullish on the future of Quinten Rollins. Love how he plays. Fearless. Throws his body around. On the final 3rd down conversion by the Lions, Rollins was in position. Missed the deflection by inches.

* Eddie missing curfew? Come on, man. Really liked how McCarthy stood behind him this week in the press conference. If this team is going to do anything from now until February, we need Lacy. Mightily.

* Better days are ahead for the Packers offense. We're getting AQ81 back. The OL is getting healthier. Montgomery is close to getting healthy. Hopefully, Lacy finds his stride. These are not all "ifs" - they will occur. And, when they do, the Packers will be able to offer diversity on the offensive side of the ball. The Packers will be able to display creativity. And, Rodgers' weapons will expand.

* I wasn't overly high on Montee Ball coming out of college, but I was excited to see that he came into Green Bay for a tryout. And, I was hoping that the Packers would take a shot on him.

Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be Cowboys.

The Packers need this one. Win the next two and the playoffs should be a lock. We'd also be in position to not only win the Division, but to compete for the #2 seed. I can't stand the Cowboys. I'm still bitter from our rivalry in the early-to-mid 90's.

Regardless of the Cowboys inept play at QB, they have weapons on offense. Dez & Terrance Williams are a dynamite duo. Devin Street is a big target. Cole Beasley is a solid slot WR. Darren McFadden is healthy and playing Grade-A football. Jason Witten is still playing at a HOF level. Gavin Escobar can stretch the field. And, the Dallas OL is among the best in football. If they get average QB play, the Cowboys will put up points.

Defensively, Dallas balls. Their front 4 strikes fear in people. Greg Hardy is an evil man. He's also a dominant football player. The Cowboys sold their soul to the Devil when they signed him. Tyrone Crawford is an active pursuant of the QB. Demarcus Lawrence is an overachieving hard worker. Randy Gregory is an undersized pass rusher. At LB, Sean Lee is elite when he's healthy. Rolando McClain has found a home in Dallas. But, Dallas' secondary is vulnerable. Byron Jones has all of the athletic traits that you look for, but he hasn't been a world beater. Brandon Carr hasn't been the same player as he was in KC. Morris Claiborne has not been the player that I thought he'd be coming out of college. JJ Wilcox and Barry Church are talented players at S, but both can be exposed.

Can the Packers WR's separate? If not, we could be in for a long day. Dallas will get pressure. Dallas will get in Rodgers' face. They'll be physical up front. The Packers have to win on the outside.

Look for the Packers to use Lacy early in the game to try and soften up the middle of the Cowboys defense. It'd open up the play action. It'd make us less predictable.

In past years, the Packers would've beaten a lesser-QB'd team at Lambeau by 20 points. But, 2015 is different. Somehow, he we need to force a turnover. We have to win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Dallas will run the clock. They'll eat up the clock between plays. They'll use Witten and Beasley underneath. They'll try to pound the ball with McFadden. They'll look for big plays over the top to both Williams and Bryant. They'll try to win on deep slants and inside-posts.

I'm expecting Lacy to have a good game. A defining game for him.

I'm expecting Aaron Rodgers to take care of the football and to give the Packers an early lead.

I'm expecting Clay Matthews to make a big play this weekend.

I'm expecting a dogfight. A hard fought, hotly contested battle.

I'm expecting the Packers to prevail in a low scoring affair.

Packers 20
Cowboys 16

The Cowboys have lost 5 games by less than one-score. They can't be taken lightly. They're better than their record indicates. Lambeau Faithful, it's time to rise. Off your freakin' ass. On your freakin' feet. This is December football. In Titletown, U.S.A. It's time to make a difference. It's time to set the standard. If you have expectations for the player, I have expectations for you as a fan. Do your part. Make a difference. Bring your passion. Be loud. Be proud. Let's make 2015 a year to yell "HAIL YES!"

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

My Take -> Week 13

Greetings, G-Force.

There’s no way to spin this one. It was likely the last time that Bart Starr will ever step foot on Lambeau Field. It was a day to celebrate the Legend of Brett Favre. It was a day in which Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre and Bart Starr were all in the same place at the same time. On Thanksgiving. In Prime Time. Against the hated Bears. And, disgustingly, the Packers didn’t show up. Book it as the most embarrassing regular season loss in my lifetime.

I sit with Bing Crosby singing me Christmas music. Bing keeps me jolly during the Holiday season. I sip a Station 26 Single Hop Chinook IPA. It offers me a crisp pine/fruit hop sensation that is really refreshing.

Here are my quick vibes from the last week:

* Yes, an aggressive Mike McCarthy is a good Mike McCarthy. But, I hated the decision to go for it on 4th drive on the opening possession. Wanted to play the field position game. Game plan felt stale. Team energy looked flat. Awful start to the game.

* EDDIE! He was unstoppable. And, then he fumbled. But, no worries, the ball got poked from behind. Keep feeding him the rock, right? No. Instead, for some odd reason, we went away from him. Why is it that we allow for consistently poor performance from the likes of Davante Adams and Nate Palmer, but we don’t stick with EDDIE when he’s have a dominant game? We keep rolling with Adams and Palmer. We keep putting them in position to make plays. They consistently fail us. We should have stuck with Lacy. Why the double standard?

* In life, you can’t ignore what you don’t understand. Clearly, the Packers don’t understand why they can’t get WR’s open on the outside. So, mix it up. Throw the crossing route. Stack the formation. Bunch the WR’s. Give Janis a shot.

* I’m hopeful that Abby will add something on offense when he comes back this week.

* For whatever reason, the reigning MVP isn’t as sharp as he’s been throughout his career. He’s missing his target.

* Catch the ball, Davante Adams. That was 6 points.

* Another week in which Julius Peppers doesn’t make a play.

* Why is Demetri Goodson covering Alshon on a crucial 3rd down play? It was clear that they were going that way before the play. We didn’t respond.

* This years Packers team doesn’t come up with loose balls. Thought Rollins and Kuhn both had chances to pick up fumbles. Neither did. Those are the types of plays that decide games. We don’t make the little plays.

* Last year, we had the big comeback win at Miami. This year, we aren’t winning the close ones in the waning moments.

* The Packers have lost back-to-back home games to the Lions and the Bears. In the two games, the Packers combined for 29 points. At home. It wouldn’t have shocked me if the Packers scored 29 points in each game individually.

* Prior to the season, I projected 10-6 to 11-5 for the Packers. I felt that way because I thought we were vulnerable at ILB and on the perimeter at CB. I was also concerned about our ability to pressure the QB. I had no fears about the offense. It’s crazy to think about how average to below-average our offense is playing right now.

* It’s time for Mike McCarthy to take complete control of the offense once again. We’re dysfunctional.

* Really solid game from Datone Jones.

* Mike Neal played well.

* Liked seeing Quinten Rollins on the blitz. Would like to see more of that. Wish Rollins would have held onto the interception that hit him in the chest.

* The Bears were driving for the lead. Lambeau Field sounded silent. Where’d the crowd go? Too much turkey?

* Davante Adams complains for a flag way too much. It’s really annoying.

* The 2015 team kind of reminds me of the 2004 team. Playing hung over from a disappointing collapse the prior year. In ’04, we won the Division and hosted a playoff game. Only to get moon’d by Randy Moss.

We’re 7-4. All is NOT lost. But, we need the next 3. Badly. All winnable games. If we don’t, the playoffs are in jeopardy as the last two will be really tough. This week – it’s the Lions. The Lions have won 3 in a row and seem to be playing inspired football. And, frankly, I’m scared. I’m afraid of our ability to cover Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson - especially if Damarious Randall is limited. I’m afraid of Theo Riddick coming out of the backfield. It wouldn’t shock me if Riddick catches 5 balls on Sunday. I’m afraid of our ability to cover Pettigrew and Ebron. The Packers must get in Stafford’s face.

I’m concerned about our ability to block Jason Jones and Ziggy Ansah. I’m concerned about our ability to separate against the Lions weak secondary. I’m worried.

But, I’m keeping the faith. I trust that Abby and Janis get a chance. I trust that both make plays. I trust that Lacy keeps running hard. I trust that the Packers will put points on the board. I trust that the Packers will play with a pulse. I trust that the Packers will get in Stafford’s face and force a game-changing turnover.

Packers 24
Lions 23

Go Pack Go!

Talkin’ S-Mac.