Saturday, January 16, 2016

My Take -> NFC Divisional Round

Greetings, G-Force.

I write with confidence. For those that have followed this blog long enough, you know my theory is to write with an optimistic, yet realistic approach. I envision the Packers winning. Weekly. I believe in the Green Bay Packers organization. It's been tough to keep the faith in the 2015 version of the Green Bay Packers. Frankly, from a rooting perspective, it's been one of the difficult versions of the Green Bay Packers to love. It's been a frustrating season. But, when their backs were against the wall. In the Wild Card round. Down 11-0. On the road. Facing a 3rd & 4. The Packers offense found life. They never looked back. Suddenly, once again, there was rejuvenated hope within the hearts, minds and souls of the Packers community. And, with this organization, communal belief goes a long way.

As I write, I calmly listen to the Bob Marley "Confrontation" album. It's Marley's last album. Released 2 years after his death. A compilation of largely unreleased tunes. It offers a great vision of how much beautiful music was left in his creative life prior to his departure. Give Thanks and Praises is a gorgeous, but underrated Marley tune. The consistently of the album runs smoothly. Elegantly. It'll carry the mood. Throughout.

I sip a Renegade Depravity. A milk stout that is littered with Peanut Butter. Most Peanut Butter Stouts will leave you requiring a toothbrush due to the residue of the powder that lingers post consumption. Not this one. A true treat. When it's around, I buy it by the growler. Often. 11% ABV. It's beautiful. It doesn't overpower you with syrup. Instead, it's a legit pour. That leaves the mouth watering for more. I love this beer. I look forward to it annually.

Here are my quick vibes from the last week:

* I love Mike McCarthy. Prior to this year, he's always seemed to rally the team when they were in a time of need. In the first truly desperate moment of the season, his offense came together. To the tune of 32 points over a crucial 5 consecutive possessions. The offense was creative. It was cerebral. It had variety. It was productive. Even in makeshift form, the results were splendid. Props to you, Mike McCarthy.

* While the team scored points, it didn't play exceptionally well. There were flaws. But, for the first time in a long while, there was camaraderie. A bit of the "One mind. One purpose. One heart. One goal." type mentality seemed to exist. You know, XLV-style. There was togetherness. There was teamship. From the eye test, the team appeared to be having fun. That was entertainment to my amateur eye.

* Aaron Rodgers completed 58% of his passes. He threw for 210 yards. He averaged 5.8 yards per attempt. And, that, my fellow Packer friends, is exactly why I don't live and die by the box score anymore. While Rodgers wasn't overly dominant, he was efficient. He wasn't a precise as we've seen him in years past, but he was in control. He commanded the line of scrimmage. He connected on important third down plays. He led TD drives of 80, 60, 80 and 76 yards. He wasn't the surgeon. Instead he was the engineer. And, the results offered hope for the future.

* It was great to see the ball in a number of different players hands. In the past, it was the norm for 7 different receivers to catch passes. But, that disappeared over the 2nd half of the season. Against Washington, 4 players carried the ball and 7 players caught passes. We used our weapons. We moved the ball effectively. We saw the results that we've been yearning to taste. It's important to spread the pig skin wealth.

* It was great to see the Packers defensive line riding high and applying pressure. Mike Neal with the vital strip-sack and recovery that turned the tide and gave the Packers the ball back as the Redskins threatened to extend their lead. Nick Perry was active with 2.5 sacks. Clay was a dictator with 1.5 sacks and multiple pressures. He was dangerous on the stunt. Peppers looked youthful with his 2 QB hits. On multiple occasions, Peppers was forcing Cousins to move off of his spot as Peppers got a push from the DT spot. Mike Daniels may not have been in an authority in the box score, he was a pursuant on the field. He consistently won the leverage battle and collapsed the pocket. BJ Raji displayed great quickness. His excitement along the line caused all kinds of issues for the interior of the Redskins OL.

* Another game in which YELLOW JAKE showed he can play in the NFL. Especially in the run game. He's showing first-class run stopping skills.

* Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward played their best football of the season. In fact, Hayward earned himself a pay check. Someone will watch Hayward's ball skills and tackling from the win over the Redskins and they'll overpay him. I doubt it'll be Green Bay that offers him the money, so he's likely gone. But, Hayward was straight-up balling on Sunday!

* Q-Rollins can tackle. In fact, he might be the best text book tackler on the team.

* Jeff Janis continues to shine on special teams.

* HaHa Clinton-Dix's high effort play to force DeSean Jackson out of bounds just shy of the goal line was an important play of the game. It slowed the Redskins momentum, while the Packers offense figured out how to attack the Redskins defense.

* It was nice to see Letroy Guion getting a push into the offensive backfield. That hasn't happened much in the 2015 season.

* JC Tretter might've saved the Packers season. It's been a struggle to find replacements at Tackle on the OL. After a rough first quarter, Tretter was up for the challenge. He wasn't forceful, but he was impressive over the last three quarters. Highly versatile player.

* Liked seeing Abby in the slot and Cobb on the outside. With Abby on the field, McCarthy has options as a play caller in the no-huddle. He can shift Cobb to the outside or move him to the backfield. He can create confusion for the defense. Abby's presence also gives Rodgers the ability to adjust at the line of scrimmage. It seems as though the Packers can play faster at the line of scrimmage - due to their versatility and options - when Abby is on the field. I'd like to see Abby roll into the backfield and to see him on a swing pass. Much like we saw Ty Montgomery earlier in the year. I'd imagine that's the next dimension of those packages.

* We saw Jeff Janis line up in the slot. Nothing came of it. But, I have to wonder if there's a deep ball coming to Janis out of the slot. Maybe on a wheel route. One in which he's lined up against a 2nd tier DB who lacks the speed that Janis offers. Might be a big play coming out of that formation. McCarthy has been known to hide formations for key situations. Look for a play in which Janis runs a wheel route out of the slot. I'd think he'd be in man-coverage. With little emphasis. I picture Janis lined up in the slot to the right. Jones to the outside of him. Jones runs a quick slant that acts as a mini pick. Janis wheels around him up the sideline. And, then he uses his speed. If I were McCarthy, I'd design the play.

* Sad to see AQ81 out for the year. Hoping Perillo gets a shot to move chains. Sitting down just across the first-down stick on little curl routes. Have to play the chains this week.

* I've wondered if Kennard Backman would make a play down the seam this year. Maybe on play-action. No one would be prepared for it. It could be a wrinkle to throw in this week. And, it would not take genius creativity to design it. A simple go route. Backman lined up tight to Bakhtiari on the left side of the line. He's on the short side of the field. Fake the draw to Lacy to the strong side of the field. Look for Backman streaking. Could find a nice gain.

* Randall Cobb touched the ball 8 times. That's a winning formula.

* Just when Davante Adams looked to be ready to make an impact on the 2015 Season, he goes down with a fluke injury. Bummer.

* Aaron Rodgers and James Jones were in lock-step with one another. Fun to watch.

* We saw Aaron Rodgers smile. Yes, it happened. I DVR'd the game. I watched the game a 2nd time. It really occurred. It was pretty cool.

* The Packers were struggling. Looking poorly. Down 11-0. I opened a Boulevard Love Child #4. There needed to be more love. Additionally, we all gave Family Hugs. An offensive onslaught ensued. Believe in the Family Hugs. When in doubt, hug a family member. Forever.

* There was a Green 'n Yellow Bumblebee and Green 'n Yellow Hornet connection for the first time in what seems like a season. Both Starks and Lacy were impactful. Both were found in the end zone. Both were determined. Both were consistently grabbing plus yardage.

* I'm happy Robertson Daniel is on the Packers roster. He's a long, active DB. He can run. But, I hope he's not needed this weekend. Really hoping Sammy Swagga and Q-Rollins are fit to go. The fact that he's activated has me concerned about the availability of both Sammy and Rollins.

This week - it's the Cardinals. In Arizona. The same place in which the Packers were absolutely destroyed in Week 16. In the last match-up, the Packers were fully dominated. They were banged up on the OL. They had no answer for Freeney or Calais Campbell. Campbell and Freeney punished the Packers. Early and often. It became a blood bath. The Packers were demolished. The same won't apply in the playoffs.

The Cardinals took advantage of a depleted Packers OL in the previous meeting. But, this week, it appears as though the Packers OL will be healthier than it's been since mid-season. It sounds as if the entire OL has at least had limited participation most of the week. I'm hoping this leads to a better rhythm. A unit that is in-sync. I'm envisioning an OL that wins the point of attack. An OL with continuity. And togetherness. An OL that dominates the Cardinals secondary. While the Cardinals defensive front is talented, they aren't nearly as good as they were in our previous match-up.

Expect the Packers to establish the run early. Expect the Packers to pound away at the Cardinals DL. An abundance of Lacy. The Packers will move the Cardinals DL backwards. Lacy will cut forward and grab yards. In chunks. He'll keep the chains moving. If the Packers try to run the ball laterally, it won't work. Instead, they attack the Cardinals right between the tackles.

Defensively, it's beyond important for the Packers to win the line of scrimmage. They have to get Carson Palmer off his spot. Palmer can't move. They need to see Palmer move. They need to hit Palmer. Let Palmer know that we came to play. The Packers have to be more physical than the Cardinals on the interior of the line. I love seeing Peppers and Clay lined up next to each other. With Clay stunting to the inside. If Capers designs the same again this week, Clay will intimidate Palmer. He'll force a mistake. On the backside, it's Neal or Perry coming on speed rushes with Daniels collapsing. The Packers have to live in Carson Palmer's face.

The Cardinals have a number of offensive weapons. I'd argue that they have more talent at the skill positions than any offense in the league. David Johnson exposed YELLOW JAKE in the first match-up. YELLOW JAKE is going to have play tougher and quicker than he did the last time we matched up. Larry Fitzgerald is a match-up nightmare for the Packers in the slot. If Sammy Swagga can't play, the Packers don't have anyone that can match the speed of John Brown. The Packers had no answer for Michael Floyd in the first contest.

In order for the Packers to slow down the Cardinals offense, they're going to have to play two-deep safety to prevent the 15-20 yard routes. They need to congest the secondary past the marker. Force Carson Palmer to be patient. They need to make Palmer stick to the underneath routes. I doubt Palmer will stay disciplined. And, eventually, while rushing 4, the Packers will get pressure on Palmer. They'll force the mistake. But, the Packers have to prevent the big plays deep down the field. Make the Cardinals be methodical in their approach. Trust that we can get pressure with 4 rotating DL. And, an occasional 5th man coming on the blitz. If the Cardinals are attacking deep down the field with even moderate success, it could be a long day for the Packers defense.

Mike McCarthy is going to have to be aggressive. The Packers are going to need to create two additional possessions in order to win. They can come via turnovers, fake punts, fake FG's, or onside kicks. Somehow, someway, the Packers have to generate two possessions in this game. Ideally, they'll come through Carson Palmer mistakes. But, if not, McCarthy has to be aggressive in taking chances.

The Packers play no-huddle offense. They try to keep the Cardinals personnel on the field in an attempt to wear the down. They strive to find a free play or two. Rodgers succeeds and finds a big play down the sideline to Jones, who, once again, is rockin' a hoodie. Ever the fashion warrior, Jones shows that he's eager to continue his playing career in Green Bay. Jones tops 80 yards and scores a TD.

Rodgers is in control. He moves the offense with intent. He's on point.

Whoever gets the ball last, wins. Thankfully, the Good Lord is shining his Light on the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers delivers. He gets the Packers into FG range. Crosby connects.

Packers 34
Cardinals 31

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

My Take -> NFC Wild Card

Greetings, G-Force.

I often say that we are all a product of our roots. We apply those roots to today. In my youth, I had a Mother that loved more than anyone I've ever met. I had a Father that smiled and enjoyed life more than anyone I've ever met. On Sunday's in the fall, we watched Packers football. Come playoff time, we watched football with great intent. Though I was at the 1982 Packers 41-16 victory over the Cardinals, I was only 4 years old. The game is vividly etched in my mind. I loved the fire throughout Lambeau on that great day. It had been 10 years since the Packers had been in the playoffs. Post that year, as I watched the playoffs, I yearned for that Packers playoff feeling. The Packers never tasted a playoff game again in the 80's. Still, I never lost my love for the team that hails from Titletown, U.S.A. I always viewed the team with a healthy perspective - painful as it may have been. The Packers are a soulmate of mine.

As I write, I sip a Crooked Stave Silly Cybies. It's a Belgian Style Dark Ale. Aged in Oak Barrels. With raspberries. Measuring in at 9.0% ABV. A tremendous treat. Perfectly sour. With a heavy raspberry flavor throughout. True perfection. Pumping through the speakers is the Phish White Tape. Felt that it had a couple of lyrics that brought comedic approach when absorbing them with the current state of the Packers fans I communicate with.

Trey opens the vinyl with these lyrics: "Woke up this morning and I had those walking blues. I wasn't walking nowhere cause I didn't have no floor." Reminded me of how buzzed out Packers fans have been throughout the 2nd half of the season. And, the views that there was no bottom. Well, after losing 6 of the last 10 games, it's possible that the fans were right. But, in my opinion, that's no way to live. Why choose the doldrums of life? This team has playoff exposure. It's tasted playoff success. Keep the spirits up!

I love the ACDC bag lyrics when Trey belts out: "Time to put your money where your mouth is. Put 'em in a field and let 'em fight it out. I'm running so fast my feet don't touch the ground. I'm a stranger here I'm going down. Let's get down to the nitty gritty. Let's get this show on the road!" It's playoff time! Time to see what this team is really made of. The Redskins are the strangers to that playoff feeling. The Packers have the experience. Let's play!

Here are my quick thoughts over the last week:

* The ghosts of Lambeau's past were showing their faces as Teddy Bridgewater threw the ball left handed. They smiled down on 1265 Lombardi Ave as Mason Crosby forced a fumble. They flexed their muscles as Teddy Bridgewater mysteriously dropped a handoff to AP. The crowd was animated. The team wasn't good enough. In the Regular Season, the Packers didn't have the pension to seize victory. And, thus, we finished 10-6. We lost the NFC North crown to the 'queens. At the most hallowed of American theaters. That's an awful buzz. But, as a community, we must bounce back. As now, it's for real. Keep those vibes -- kind.

* I've been vocal about the relationship between Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers. Reading of their body languages - it hasn't seem healthy. There's appeared to be clear discontent. A true disgust that was lingering behind the scenes. It was frustrating to watch. McCarthy seemed infuriated by his inability to reach his 2x MVP QB. Rodgers appeared to be disgruntled. Unappreciative of his mastermind Head Coach. Neither had made a public comment to negate such thoughts. And, then Pete Dougherty wrote this article on Friday morning: - and if you haven't read it, buzz in. It's my favorite read of the year. They both admit to the conflict that has brought struggles, but they also both seem to have it behind it. Are they legit emotions? Possibly. Was it a PR stunt? Potentially. Either way - I embrace the article. It was a great way for both of them to put on their game faces. It offers hope that Clark Kent is walking into a phone booth. It's time to flip the proverbial light switch.

* If I could define the 2015 Regular Season in 3 plays, it'd be:

1.) 4th & 5. 2nd Quarter. Trailing 6-3. James Jones beats Xavier Rhodes on a double move. In past years, this would've been a TD. Jones had a step and a half. Instead, the reigning MVP was short on his pass and thus, the ball was knocked away. In 2015, Aaron Rodgers wasn't his MVP self.
2.) Trailing 13-3, but showing signs of life after a sublime Micah Hyde interception. It felt like a moment in which the Packers would cut the lead to a one-score game. 3rd & 12 after a questionable holding call on Corey Linsley negated a physical first-down run by Eddie Lacy. Josh Sitton playing LT for the first time in his NFL career. Playing it with less than a week of practice. A week in which there weren't even enough healthy DL for him to hone his skills, so he was practicing against a pass rushing OL. But, on this crucial 3rd down play, Sitton has to block a hard pursuing Everson Griffen. Sitton isn't up for the challenge as Griffen blows by him. Griffen hits Rodgers' arm just before the ball is released. The ball falls to the turf. The 'queens pick it up and return the ball 55 yards for a TD to make it 20-3. The 2015 team has suffered too many injuries to function. They gave a valiant effort. But, the results weren't good enough to claim the Division crown.
3.) Teddy Bridgewater fumbles the handoff to AP. The seems to bounce to YELLOW JAKE. But, YELLOW JAKE isn't able to win the fight for the ball. Instead, AP recovers. All year, the Packers have struggled to recover the loose football. They have won the 50/50 ball when it's been rolling on the turf. So close. Yet, so far away.

* Vince Lombardi is quoted as saying, "The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising agin after you fall." The Packers have fallen. But, with the playoffs in the present, it's time RISE UP!

* Loving Jeff Janis as a gunner.

* Wake up, Kennard Backman.

* The 2015 Regular Season Green Bay Packers weren't good enough to overcome mistakes. They needed to be overly precise. Without perfect precision, the Packers didn't finish drives. On the opening drive, the Packers were dominating the line of scrimmage. Pounding the ball at the heart of the 'queens defense. Over the first 12 plays, the Packers drove the ball 69 yards. Mostly on the ground. And, then McCarthy calls a great roll-out to the left. AQ81 was open in the flat. Right in front of Rodgers. The reigning MVP didn't see him. Instead he threw the ball away. When the Packers haven't capitalized on those 2nd down plays, the drives have stalled. This was also evidenced prior to the 4th & 5 mis-throw by Rodgers. On 2nd & 4, Rodgers hit Cobb in the flat. Appeared like it'd definitely be a first-down and if he made one person miss, it could've been a TD. Instead Cobb dropped the ball. Eventually, the drive stalled.

* How do the Packers conduct a practice? If you have 53 players on the active roster and 18 are either not participating or limited participants, you're down to 35 players. Then, consider that 3 of those players are QB's and 3 are specialists. All of a sudden, you're down to 29 players who are taking part in practice. Further, consider that the top 6 OL on the roster are on the injury report. Not fully participating. Also, Raji, Guion, Elliott, Neal, Perry, Daniels, and Datone Jones have all been off and on the injury report over the last 2 weeks. With that said, how is Mike McCarthy expected to put together a game plan? McCarthy has often said that "Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance." So, without his team on the practice field, how is McCarthy supposed to prepare his team? Seems like an overwhelming challenge.

* I give heavy kudos to TJ Lang, Bryan Bulaga, Corey Linsley, Josh Sitton, and David Bakhtiari. They are all warriors on the OL. A turn back the clock style of player. True fighters. 1960's type players. But, let's face it. When you don't practice all week and then you have to battle a beastly 300 pound man in 1 on 1 protection on Sunday, how do you expect them to consistently win? You'd have to imagine that they miss the mark on their ideal hand placement or that they miss the leverage battle on occasion - simply because they haven't been able to practice all week. You need repetition. It brings muscle memory. When you don't practice, how do you improve? How can you work on tendencies? You can't. And, thus, mistakes will occur.

* The Packers have run a timing offense. Based on precision. Oft mastered during the week and then put on display on Sundays. But, when you don't have your team on the practice field, how do you master your craft? You don't.

* I often wonder how much endurance is lost due to the team not practicing. Mike Daniels has come out as a ball of fire over the last couple of weeks. But, he wasn't able to sustain his energy throughout. He wore down. Can you blame him?

* Great to see Micah Hyde finding the football. Twice!

* Mason Crosby. WOW! Was almost a play for the ages.

* I'm seriously concerned about how long Sammy Swagga has been out with his injury. Didn't seem like a devastating blow when he hit the turf. Appeared to be mild contact. Clearly, it was more than what caught the eye. Vibes to Swagga! We miss him. Hope he's OK.

* I hope I never see another pass to Richard Rodgers in the flat again.

* The Packers need Justin Perillo moving sticks on short curl routes. A possession target. Who sits down in the middle of the defensive zone. Who finds the gaps. A guy that Rodgers can play pitch and catch with. Perillo has those talents.

* I'm afraid of seeing YELLOW JAKE in coverage on a RB again.

Sooner or later. It all gets real. Sunday is that day.

I remind myself that the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers weren't an impressive Regular Season team. The 2007 New York Giants were an average Regular Season team. The 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers were not considered to be likely contenders. In 2010, the Packers found their way into the playoffs through the backdoor. In 2011, the Giants went 2011. In 2012, the Ravens stumbled into the playoffs. All won the Super Bowl.

In 2010, the Packers finished 10-6. They went to the NFC East Champions. Then, they went to the NFC South Champions. Then, they went to the NFC North Champions. History has a funny way of repeating itself. See you in Minnesota in a couple of weeks. Watch out, Pittsburgh. Pop Tarts comin' back again. Plus, Green Bay v Pittsburgh in Super Bowl 50 seems to make the most sense.

I kid, I kid. Kinda.

I'm not predicting a Packers Super Bowl. Not even close. But, the Packers have the best player in the NFL. He just has to play like he's the best player in the NFL. The Packers are built around Aaron Rodgers. It's time for him to put the cape on. It's time for him to carry the Packers. It's time for Rodgers to further his greatness. Aaron Rodgers has a chance to go down as one of the greatest QB's of all-time. But, in order to be considered, he has to shine in the playoffs. The lights are on. This is when careers are written. It's time for Rodgers to become untangled. It's time for Rodgers to etch his name into Legendary status. Without another Super Bowl, he'll never be considered amongst the likes of Montana and Brady. With one more, he enters the discussion. Prior to the year, I predicted 10-6 to 11-5. We finished 10-6. But, I also thought, let's get to the playoffs in see what happens. After all, we do have the best player in the NFL. He just has to play up to his standards.

In past years, the Packers have had a lot of pressure on themselves entering the playoffs. This year, there is none. Let's make a run!

The Redskins were 6-2 at home this year. They represent a dangerous opponent. Not unlike the Eagles in 2010. They're hot. Seemingly peaking. With DeSean Jackson as a lethal deep target.

Quick story. September 21, 2014. I turned to my brother-in-law. I tell him, "Someday, Kurt Cousins is going to be a starting QB in the Super Bowl." He has all of the tools. He sees the field. He makes quick decisions. He has enough mobility to move the ball with his legs. He needed to work on preventing mistakes. He was turnover prone. He seems to have fixed that part of his game.

Cousins has weapons. DeSean Jackson can still run. Without Sammy Swagga, I'm not sure that the Packers have anyone to cover him. I like our rookies, but neither of them can run with Jackson. Pierre Garcon is still a physical route runner who gets to the spot. Jamison Crowder is a solid slot receiver. Jordan Reed is arguably the 2nd most productive TE in football. He'll give the Packers fits. Matt Jones might be the best screen receiving RB in football. When Jones is on the field, the ball will be in his hands. Somehow. Some way. Either via the run or the pass. Alfred Morris isn't what he was a couple of years ago, but he's still a talented one-cut runner. But, the Washington OL can be bullied. It'll be up to Raji, Daniels, Neal, Peppers, Pennel, Perry and Guion to come out swinging.

Washington's defense gets after the QB. Chris Baker, Ryan Kerrigan, and Preston Smith can all flat-out rush the passer. Not fully one-dimensional players, but that's their best trait. If Bakhtiari isn't fit to go, I'm concerned. On the interior, Jason Hatcher will give Lang, Sitton and Linsley everything that they can handle. Terrance Knighton and Ricky Jean-Francois rotate to add beef to the 'skins run stopping efforts. The Washington LB core can be exposed outside of Perry Riley. Riley is a baller. Trent Murphy is capable, but he's proven to be a hair too slow for the NFL. Will Compton doesn't scare anyone. The Redskins secondary can be beaten. DeAngelo Hall is still a fighter, but he can be beaten on double moves. Bashed Breeland is a high effort player, but he can be outmuscled. Both Breeland and Hall are gamblers. The Redskins signed Cary Williams this week. I presume that they expect him to play a role in the nickel. His best days are behind him. He's a grabber and is sure to get penalized if he sees the field. Dashon Goldson is a fierce intimidator in the middle of the field. I'm happy that Will Blackmon has had a nice career in the NFL. I've always liked Willie. He's a great athlete. But, he's an average Safety. At best.

Look for Rodgers to get the Redskins to jump offsides on a couple of plays with his hard count. The Redskins will be itching to get to the MVP. They'll be experiencing nerves in their first playoff game since 2012. They'll be jumpy. Rodgers takes advantage. He finds a big play.

The Redskins CB's get multiple penalties as they fight at the point of the Packers WR's routes.

The Packers struggle to cover Jordan Reed on comeback routes over the middle and in the flat on play-action roll-outs. He annoys the Packers. Garcon runs the 15 yard deep-in. He runs the 20 yard post. Jackson takes off on a fly route. Matt Jones gets 50 yards on screen plays. Alfred Morris pounds away between the tackles.

YELLOW JAKE plays strong in the run game.

The Packers line Peppers at DT on the right side of the defense on 3rd down. Clay is at OLB on the right side. Peppers collapses. Takes out the Guard and the Tackle. Clay stunts to the inside. He welcomes Cousins to playoff football.

At some point, Cousins gets knocked off his spot and throws off his back foot into the hands of a Packer. I'll predict that it's HaHa who makes the play.

Nick Perry grabs a sack. Dustin Hopkins misses a FG for the 'skins. Both teams score 5 times.

I've been waiting for weeks for Rodgers to have a vintage AARON RODGERS performance. It's gotta happen. He wings it all over the park. He finds his rhythm. He finds his California Surfer Smile. He plays with glee. He's on target. Almost amazingly, Davante Adams has a big day. So does Randall Cobb. Our Regular Season memories are erased. There's new belief in the steps of the good folk in Green Bay, WI. We live for another week. And, for a moment, all feels right in the world again.

Packers 27
Redskins 23

Call me the Jokerman. I still believe in the Green Bay Packers. I will until the season dies. Forgive me, I'm wired that way.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

My Take -> Week 17

Greetings, G-Force.

We're 10-5. We're hosting the 'queens at Lambeau Field. In Week 17. With a chance to win the Division for the 5th consecutive year. We control our Divisional destiny. I'll take it.

I listen to the Manu Chao "Esperanz" wax to keep the spirit alive. I sip a New Glarus Coffee Stout to send positive vibes to Football's Motherland. Had to keep the alcohol flavors as local as possible. And, it's been Stout weather in CO for the last week.

Here are my thoughts over the last week:

* 38-8. It was an annihilation. Mostly, due to our own fault. We couldn't get out of our own way. Football is a situational sport. You have to manage the game. Especially when you're as banged up as the Packers are right now. The Packers needed to get out to an early lead. They needed to control the clock in the early portion of the game. The defense came out firing. Winning the line of scrimmage. The offense came out and picked up a first down. We had another first down negated by a questionable holding call on Sitton. Had the penalty not been called the Packers would've had the ball 1st & 10 at the Arizona 27. Still, on 3rd & 13 from the Arizona 49, Rodgers hit Adams on a beautiful throw. Showing horrible footwork, Adams was unable to get his 2nd foot down. Had Adams caught the ball, the Packers would've had a first down and would've surely taken an early lead. But, Davante Adams is not a play maker. Once again, Davante Adams let the Packers down. Again, the defense held as Mike Neal had a crucial 3rd down sack to push the Cardinals out of FG range. The Packers offense showed signs of life until Davante Adams couldn't separate on a 3rd & 5 pass. Trailing 7-0, McCarthy called his "shot play." The vintage deep ball that we've seen Nelson score TD's on so many times over the years. It was Jones running the deep route, but he wasn't open. Instead, Rodgers went to the underneath route. Abby was open and should've secured a 23 yard completion. Instead, Abby dropped the ball. And, after Linsley was called for holding, the drive never got underway. Down 10-0. 2:00 to play in the half, Mike Daniels make the game changing play! A brilliant interception! 1st and 10 for the Packers from the Cardinals 15. Surely, it's going to be a one-score game entering the half. Oh, and the Packers get the ball to start the 2nd half. I'm feeling good. But, the reigning MVP went brainless. And, the Cardinals took advantage. 80 yards on 7 plays in 00:51 against a lifeless Packers defense. Suddenly, it was 17-0 Arizona at the half. Not because we were outplayed, but because we were making unforced errors. We couldn't get out of our own way.

* Down 3-scores in the 3rd Quarter, the Packers wrongly abandoned the run. The Packers were having success running the football. Lacy averaged 5 yards a carry. And, when you're a single track offense, Dwight Freeney is no longer a situational player. He's an every down player. If Freeney is told to unload and go after the QB every play against Donny Barclay, eventually he's going to win. Especially if he doesn't have to worry about the run. Freeney had no fear in his pursuit of A-Rod. He had 3 sacks, 3 QB hits and 2 tackles for loss. Had the Packers not made the unforced errors in the 1st half, Freeney's impact wouldn't have been so grand in the 2nd half. And, in that instance, this isn't a 30-point blowout. Yes, I'm a glass half-full kinda guy.

* It was telling to see the interaction between Rodgers and McCarthy after the Adams drop on 3rd down on the first series of the game. Rodgers wanted to challenge. McCarthy declined. In insubordinate fashion, Rodgers gave McCarthy a dust-you-off type hand gesture in disgust. Even though Adams was clearly out of bounds. Showed Rodgers' sense of desperation. It also showed that there's clearly dissension between our MVP QB and our Head Coach. It's tough for me to imagine a scenario in which Mike McCarthy, Tom Clements and Edgar Bennett are all in their current roles. Seems like we're too top heavy on the offensive side of the ball. Are there defined job descriptions? I have no clue what Bennett's responsibilities are.

* Eddie Lacy ran hard. He should've carried the ball 20 times. Regardless of the score.

* The James Starks fumble was disgusting.

* It was good to see AQ81 running again.

* Mike Pennel was arguably our best player last week. Yes, I just wrote that.

* YELLOW JAKE was exposed. For the first time this year, he was consistently beat in space. And, he didn't have the speed to catch up. He's given up plays earlier in the year, but not in which most of the yardage was after the catch. Kind of a buzzkill of a performance from the rookie.

* Damarious Randall was abused. He didn't have the firepower nor the burst to play with the Arizona WR's.

* When the Packers have all 5 of their OL on the injury report during the week. And, they aren't just injured, but they're listed as a Did Not Participate or as Limited Participation, how do you run a practice? Additionally, the Packers were without Daniels, Raji, Guion, and Neal for most of the week. Isn't that essentially our entire starting defensive front? It's hard for me to believe that the Packers had a productive week of practice this week. Concerns me about our preparation heading into this all-important match-up against the 'queens.

It's the Packers hosting the 'queens. At Lambeau. In the final regular season game on the 2015 NFL Schedule. Prime Time. Frigid temperatures. GET LOUD LAMBEAU!

In Week 17 of the 2013 NFL Season, the Packers went to Soldier in a winner take all battle. The Packers defeated the hated Bears to capture the NFC North crown. In Week 17 of the 2014 NFL Season, the Packers hosted the Lions in a winner take all battle. The Packers defeated the Lions to capture the NFC North crown. In Week 17 of the 2015 NFL Season, the Packers will host the 'queens in a winner take all battle. The Packers will defeat the 'queens to capture the NFC North crown.

We know the 'queens. They know us. The 'queens are healthier than GB. And, from an eye-test perspective, they're playing better football than the Packers. They're dominating the line of scrimmage. They're running the ball with dominance. And, Teddy, has been extremely efficient over the last three weeks.

The 'queens are undoubtedly confident heading into Lambeau this weekend. But, as Chad Greenway mentioned earlier this week, there's a certain level of intimidation that factors into this rivalry. I've heard a number of die-hard Packers fans suggest that it might be better for the Packers to lose this week, so that the road to the Super Bowl will be easier. For me, I don't want to lose the mental edge that we have over the 'queens. There's a lasting effect to this mental advantage. The 'queens know that the road to the NFC Title goes through Green Bay, WI. And, they're right. I don't want that mentality to change. Ever. Also, the road to the Super Bowl won't be easy - regardless of what happens this weekend. And if we don't improve our brand of football, we won't make it out of Wild Card Weekend. Plainly stated, let's take it one game at a time. And it starts with a win this weekend against our little brother, the 'queens from Minnesota.

In the first match-up McCarthy out-coached Zimmer. He attacked the line of scrimmage with an intense fighters approach. His team was ready for battle. Both mentally and physically. McCarthy will have to have his team ready once again or it could be a depressing finish to the 2015 Regular Season.

Look for the 'queens to pound AP early. Then, they'll go play action. They'll try Rudolph down the field. They'll test us deep with both Diggs and Wallace - especially if Sammy Swagga can't play. Damarious Randall better be ready because he'll be attacked.

I expect to see Clay and Morgan Burnett shooting the running gaps to slow down AP and to try to prevent him from getting to the second level. It'll be important for the Packers to wrap AP up. After he's corralled, I'm hoping that there's gang tackling in which players are slapping at the ball. If so, I anticipate that AP could put one on the turf.

Offensively, the Packers have to stick with the run. Give it to Lacy 25 times. Set up the play action as Harrison Smith inches towards the line of scrimmage. Then, take a shot over the top against Terrance Newman. If you let Newman play within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage, he's still a highly serviceable CB. But, if you test him on the deep ball or on double moves, he can't run anymore. There's a big play to be had over the top of Newman.

The Packers don't turn the ball over. Minnesota gives it to Green Bay on two occasions. The Packers grab onto the NFC North crown once again. Oh, and again, everything feels right in the world.

Packers 24
'queens 23

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.