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.
Go Pack Go!