8-0. About to embark on the most physically tolling portion of the schedule. 3 games in 12 days. A Monday Night game against our hated rivals, Minnesota 'Queens. A Sunday game - at Lambeau - against a Tampa team that matches up really well against us. And a Turkey Day bonanza in Detroit. The intensity will be extreme.
Quick hits from the Victory over the Chargers:
* Gotta love when McCarthy goes for the early dagger. If you've watched this team long enough, you know when it's coming. Normally, it's the deep ball to Jordy. Yes, Jordy Nelson becomes McCarthy's go-to guy. Usually, it's in a run formation. Often, Nelson is essentially a one-route option. Most times, the Rodgers to Nelson combo has been sublime and it's provided the difference in the outcome. Up to scores. Early in the 4th. McCarthy calls Nelson's number. Of course, Nelson responds. Spectacular.
* Speaking of Nelson. Man, did we get a deal on his 3-year extension. I'm not crazy when I say this: At present, who is a better #2 WR in the NFL? Seriously. Name one. Pierre Garcon? I'd take Jordy. Julio Jones? Not yet. Jeremy Maclin? Possibly, I suppose, but I'll take Nelson. Dez Bryant? Sure, if he'd ever stay healthy. Mario Manningham? I'll take Nelson. Plaxico or Santonio in NY? Maybe. But, I'll take Jordy. His rise has been a crucial development.
* Aaron Rodgers. Statistically, we'll hear about his first 8 games for a LONG time. Possibly forever. And I'm not exaggerating. It's hard to imagine a QB playing any better than Rodgers has played thus far this year. MVP!
* Greg Jennings is the best route runner in the NFL.
* Good to see the YOTTO!
* Lambeau West! You deserve big ups! You brought it! Chico, well done, mate. Josh King, it looked like you were there...judging from FaceBook. Great work, men. Victory was yours! And - clearly - you played a difference.
* Loved the BJ Raji comment before the game via NFL Films. "We came out here to take care of business. It's that simple. Go Pack Go!" Gotta love Raji. Even if he's not playing at the level that we're accustomed to seeing him play. To me, they need to move him back inside if Neal comes back healthy. He's a good player at the end, but he's a difference maker at the tackle spot. Sure, Pickett has been stellar, but Pickett was solid last year and he'd be a nice rotational player for Raji. And - who knows - it's possible that a fresher Raji would be a more productive Raji.
* Des Bishop punishing the QB!
* T-Mon taking it to the house! Great read!
* Charlie! Yes, I'll take some Peprah with my salt! Do a little dance, brother. OH BABY! Not only the Pick-6, but the game sealer! And here's the thing about Charlie Peprah: Sure, he makes mistakes. He's occasionally a liability on deep balls. But, he's also a guy that can play on my team any day. No one is working harder. He sticks his nose into every tackle.
* Sir Charles got his forced fumble last week. We didn't pounce on it, but more to come...and if we would have touched Rivers down on the forced fumble, it would have put Sir Charles as the first ever player to have more than 50 interceptions and 15 sacks. Bummed me out!
* Bulaga had a nice game. He's a solid RT. Hopefully, he'll be the RT for the next 10 years.
* Marshall Newhouse! Remember, he was a 5th Round pick! Gem, TT. Gem of a find. Sure this is a ton of room for improvement, but he's filled in beyond admirably. With Sherrod in the mix, TT has found himself a load of youthful Tackle talent.
* I enjoy watching Starks fight for extra yards.
* Kuhn on 3rd & 1 has been a first down.
* The catch Jennings made in the end zone was ridiculous.
* Keep on keepin' on, Mason Crosby.
* Saine with the tackle on special teams! I really like this kid. I did in the preseason. Was happy he stuck around.
* Really with the "Z-Man" could stay on the field.
* As for the communication issues in the secondary, it's scary. But, when you have ZERO pass rush, these things are going to happen. Need Mike Neal to get healthy. It baffles me that So'oto can't get on the field.
This week - it's the Minnesota Viqueens. The eye is on the Repeat. But, first things first, let's qualify for the playoffs. Wins in the Division. Wins in the Conference. These are necessities. Tie breakers at the end of the year. And, while it would take a huge collapse to prevent this team from heading to the playoffs, let's not take anything for granted. This is a MUST win. It absolutely appears to me that McCarthy's least favorite franchise is the Minnesota Viqueens. He'll look to vanquish the 'queens in convincing fashion.
This topic is so important to me that I'm going to start off my breakdown of the game with it: So'oto gets his chance this week. It's mandatory. What we're presently doing is not working. So, I'm expecting a mix. Not that So'oto is a savior, but he's an option and it's worth seeing what he can bring to the table. On 3rd downs, I'm expecting to see either So'oto coming after Ponder or we'll see Walden shadow him to limit his ability to make plays on the move.
This time against Minnesota, there will be no surprises. The big play to start the game won't happen. We'll be ready. We've seen Ponder's mobility. The game plan will be prepared to keep him in the pocket and force him to step up. Step up - right into the lap of BJ Raji.
Sure, AP will get his. And, if the 'queens are smart, they'll watch the San Diego replay and they'll see that the biggest mismatch on our roster is to put a solid route running TE on a LB. So, if they're smart, we'll see a lot of Shiancoe coming across the middle. They'll mix in some short routes to Harvin. They'll keep the clock running. Limit possessions. But, Ponder will not the success on 3rd down that he had last time we played. That will be the big difference.
*** Side note: Against the Pack, on offense, patience is the key to beating the Packers. It has to be ball control. Sure, the deep balls can lead to big plays, but every game, eventually our secondary is going to pick one of those off. And this defense lives for the big play in the secondary. Against the Pack, on defense, you have to pressure Aaron Rodgers. If he has time, you can't stop him. In fact, when I look at the Packers remaining schedule, 7 of the games are against teams that have what it takes to beat the Packers. The 8th - being the Chiefs - is at Arrowhead, which is never an easy place to play.***
Stating the obvious, the Packers must be able to slow down Jared Allen & Robison. Both are talented. Both pursue with a vengeance. Slow them down and this could be a blowout. Early. The 'queens cannot cover us. We have too many weapons.
If it's close in the 3rd Quarter, it wouldn't surprise me if McCarthy turned to a little trickery. Possibly a reverse to Randall Cobb. Look for Cobb to throw a TD at some point this year. Possibly this week. But, more likely against Detroit on Turkey Day.
We know the 'Queens. They know us. Let's play ball. Under the lights. On Monday Night Football. Shine those helmets. Give 'em some polish.
With weather expected to be in the mid-to-high 30's, this is Football weather in Green Bay, WI. Again, Rodgers goes for 300 and 3 TD's. James Jones has had a pension for making plays against the 'queens. He has another nice game against Minnesota this Monday Night.
Packers 34. Queens 20.
Bring it, G-Force. Elevate. Leave hoarse. Let's celebrate 9-0.
Go Pack Go!