It was rich in Holiday Cheer. 14-1. The most victories in franchise Regular Season History. Defeating the Bears for the 4th time in the 2011 calendar year. Proving, in fact, that the Bears do still suck! In convincing fashion. Whether it was Nutler, Hanie or McCown as the QB for Chicago, the Packers owned the Bears in 2011. It was a magical year. Purely dominating our old rivals. Bears fans will claim injury. But, last I checked, the Bears had Urlacher, Tillman, Briggs, and Peppers all playing on the defensive side of the ball. All were neutralized. In return, the NFL’s MVP connected on 5 TD’s without his best weapon, Greg Jennings. Ultimately, as the most cherished theater in American sports echoed with “Bears Still Suck” chants, the play on the field showed that the Lambeau Faithful was quite accurate in our assessments.
Quick hits from the thrashing of the Bears:
· Aaron Rodgers is the NFL’s MVP. He beat Brees head to head. He didn’t have a 2-interception game all year. Brees has had multiple 2-interception games. He has thrown for more TD’s than Brees. He’s averaged more than an extra yard per attempt than Brees. Rodgers is your MVP. No doubt in my mind.
· Mike McCarthy, you own Lovie Smith. And we love you for it. When Lovie Smith was hired in 2004, he said his top priority was to beat the Packers. Well, Lovie, you went 0-4 in 2011. Cheers to you, Lovie!
· Jordy Nelson running the deep route to perfection.
· Clay Matthews making big plays! In the 1st half, it was almost as if he was the only one on defense who showed up. He baited McCown with a magic touch. And the interception was a game changer.
· Desmond Bishop, welcome back. You were missed.
· I’m not in panic mode, but I’m starting to wonder whether DJ Smith should be starting over AJ Hawk.
· We’re going to need improved Safety play in the playoffs. Both Burnett and Peprah appear to be a step late in pass defense.
· J-Mike, stay confident, young man. You’re a threat. Defenses key on you. You’re a match-up nightmare. In order for the Repeat to come to fruition, we’ll need you in a BIG WAY!
· Good to see James Jones step up and get the offense in rhythm with the crossing route in front of his nemesis, Peanut Tillman.
· I enjoy watching Brandon Saine run.
· Hope Starks can stay healthy for the stretch run.
· GAME MVP: MARSHALL NEWHOUSE!
· Thought TJ Lang did a remarkable job as well.
· Big ups to Evan Diedrich-Smith!
· The Packers OL > The Bears DL. Music to my ears.
· BJ Raji is struggling. Even when he gets a push, he’s not finishing plays.
· I’m beginning to wonder about Mike Neal. CJ Wilson is getting more push than him and that scares me.
· T-Mon has to get his MOJO back. Giving too much separation. Doesn’t seem overly inspired. When he’s “on” – he’s as good as it gets in this league. His body language hasn’t seemed like himself.
· J-Bush & P-Lee are absolute difference makers on special teams. Brad Jones played well on special teams as well. Fun to watch.
· Tim Masthay is LEGIT!
· Randall Cobb brings a dimension to Packers football that hasn’t been seen since Desmond Howard left. Rossum did some good things, but not to this level. Packer historians are reminded of Travis Williams! Cobb makes a 10-yard return look so exciting. Hope his injury isn’t serious.
· Let me repeat, Aaron Rodgers is the NFL’s MVP. G-Force, don’t take this for granted.
· Speaking of the G-Force. Even when the game is in doubt, the crowd needs to stay elevated. This defense needs our help. We have to make it tough on the opposition. Play our role.
This week – it’s Detroit. And frankly, I’d rest our stars. No Aaron Rodgers. And if he plays, make it one series at the most. But, seriously, save the roster spot. Make him inactive. Jennings and Starks are already ruled out. I’d do the same with Bulaga as there is no need to push him. I would also sit Woodson and Matthews. Pickett would not play. Neither would Raji. I’d work Green, Wilson, Neal, and Wynn on the DL. Run them hard. I’d play a lot of 2 down lineman. Give some of the LB’s a shot. I’d like to see Davon House. T-Mon would see limited action. So would Bishop. We’d see more of DJ Smith and Robert Francois. We’d see more of So’oto and Lattimore. I’d like to see MD Jennings at Safety. Jennings was a ball hawk in the preseason. I’d like to see him in the rotation.
Offensively, I’d give the game to Brandon Saine. I’d like to see him touch the ball 20-25 times. I’d like to see him catching passes. With the Packers likely to only have 3 WR’s in the lineup, we’ll see a lot of double TE’s. With J-Mike likely to get limited reps, I’d like to see Ryan Taylor getting his shot. The same with DJ Williams running down the seam. Give the kids the reps that they didn’t get during mini-camps. I’d also test Clifton to see if he’s good to go for the Run to the Repeat.
Frankly, it could be argued that it’d be in the Packers best interest to lose this game. Assuming the 49ers beat the Rams, the #6 seed would travel to New Orleans. If the Lions win, the Falcons would get their third crack at the Saints. Traditionally, the Falcons have battled the Saints well. It’d be a rivalry game. Remember that the Falcons beat the Saints in New Orleans in 2010. In ’09, they battled the Saints and eventually fell by 8 points. In ’08, they fought hard against the Saints, only to lose by 4 points. If you can’t tell, I’d prefer to not play the Saints in the playoffs. I’m not scared of New Orleans. In fact, I think we’d beat them. But, I’d like to make the Saints road to the NFC Championship as difficult as possible.
With that said, the Packers are playing for 15-1 with their back-ups. I’d like to see Flynn in control of the offense. A good performance by Flynn could potentially affect his status with the Packers next year. It’d also affect the compensatory pick we’d get for him. It’d be fun to see him play well.
Look for the Lions to try and attack us with Kevin Smith. The formula is to run the ball against the Packers. Smith will pound it at us. Then, they’ll send Calvin Johnson on deep routes and dump the ball to Smith underneath. The Lions will pester us. Eat the clock. Almost stunningly, the Packers are OK with the Lions strategy. The Packers would like to keep the clock moving as well as the #1 motivation for this week is to stay healthy. And, when the Packers get the ball, we see a lot of short passes. We set a lot of Saine pounding the ball. Saine pushing the pile forward. Then McCarthy calls play action and he hits Jones on a deep ball.
As the Lions spread the ball to Burleson, Pettigrew, Johnson, Smith and Titus Young, they find some efficiency. They move the ball, but break down near the Red Zone on a couple of occasions. Additionally, the Packers force 2 big turnovers. Flynn throws for 200 yards and a TD. Saine rushes for 80 yards and a TD.
The Lions haven’t won against the Packers on the road since 1991. It’s not happening this year. Even with our back-ups.
Packers 23. Lions 20.
Before I sign off, I had to give a huge shout-out to my good mate, Pat Hoeft. He's started a clothing line named "GEEBZ" - get after his line. It's fun stuff. Check out his website at www.geebzshirts.com. You'll like what you see. Well done, Pat!
Go Pack Go!
Happy New Year,