Suddenly, a first round bye is within sight. My how things can change from week to week. But, in order for the Packers to finish 12-4, the Lambeau Faithful will have to be much rowdier than they were on Sunday. Without Morgan Burnett going straight gangsta on the Viqueens, the purple wearing, dome playing football team might have come into the Frozen Tundra and left with victory. Thank you, Rasta Morgan! Here's some takeaways from the victory over the Domers:
* The sideline didn't seem as festive as it has in years past. Prior to the game, Cobb & Hayward appeared to be taking an active role in trying to be inspiring figures. Outside of them, I didn't see a lot of rallying interaction.
* Loved Sir Charles Woodson's reaction after the bogus 15-yard penalty on T-Mon. He was in the refs grill with extreme intensity. Can't wait to get him back on the field.
* When it's all said and done, we might remember Morgan Burnett for making the biggest play of the year. Down 4. Viqueens threatening to go up 2-scores and holding all momentum in an agitated, frustrated, somewhat lifeless Lambeau Field. Banged up defensively, we were starving for someone to elevate and make a game changing play. Enter Morgan Burnett. Not once, but twice. And, with it, a trigger of life came to the Packers sideline, the Lambeau Faithful and the prospects of an improved Packers playoff seeding.
* AP is a beast. And, he showed as much on Sunday. But, outside of 3 absolutely stunningly amazing runs, I thought Raji, Jones, Pickett, and Hawk did a decent job on him. Sure, those three runs totaled approximately 150 yards, but the 3rd & 1 stop in the 3rd Quarter was monstrous.
* Erik Walden has extreme limitations and Frank Zombo is invincible. With the Claymaker comes back, I hope Moses starts opposite him; even though Moses didn't play well against MN either.
* Aaron Rodgers. Man, we're lucky he's a Green Bay Packer.
* Wanted to see Don Barclay. Got my wish. Didn't want him to play due to injury, but it could be a blessing in disguise if Lang is healthy enough to play next week. Thought Barclay played well. We had success running right. Barclay was a big part in that.
* James Starks running with conviction! We're going to miss you, man.
* Alex Green running hard as well!
* Welcome back, Ryan Grant.
* I like when Kuhn catches the ball out of the backfield.
* Good to see Greg Jennings again. He wasn't his Pro Bowl self, but he's a presence.
* Great catch, James Jones.
* The more Randall Cobb touches the ball, the happier I am.
* Get healthy, Jordy Nelson. You, as well, TJ Lang. Cannot be stressed enough.
* Can't forget the enormous importance of the second Morgan Burnett interception.
* It'd be great to get Woodson & Matthews healthy this week. Same with Nelson & Lang. It's December. Time to start peaking.
* D-House, T-Mon, and Casey Hayward all played with tremendous passion.
* Though Jared Allen had a good statistical performance, I thought Marshall Newhouse played very well.
* I see you playin', J-Mike!
* Wrap up, MD Jennings.
* Brad Jones understands football. Doesn't always have the athletic ability to make the play, but he has the smarts.
* This team reminds me of the 2002 Green Bay Packers. We sneak away with victories without playing great football. The win-loss record is probably more favorable than it should be considering the brand of football that's being played. Nonetheless, we're 8-4 and we control our own destiny with respect to winning the Division. And, I still believe that we match-up really well with everyone outside of SF, NYG, and Denver.
This week, it's the Lions. Detroit hasn't won in WI since 1991. Yes, since 1991! But, we must be prepared for battle. Even though we escaped Detroit with a thrilling victory earlier in the year, don't be confused. In that game, we saw a good performance from our defense, but if Matthew Stafford would have been on target, it could have been disastrous. On multiple occasions, Stafford simply missed wide open receivers. I don't expect that to happen this week. So, we will have to tighten up the secondary, much like we did against the Viqueens. And, we will have to pressure Stafford like we did in Detroit. A win at Lambeau over Detroit and we are well positioned to win the Division. We would also be well positioned to gain a first round bye as it is tough to see SF winning their last 4 games.
We match up well with Detroit. We can punch them in the gut on both sides of the ball, even with their intimidating front 4 and our inferior OL. We have had a mental edge over them. If we protect Rodgers, big plays can be had. In abundance.
With the recent pains that the Lions have had at WR, it shouldn't be a problem for us to be able to give a strict double team on Calvin Johnson. While Johnson is as dynamic as there is in the league, Pettigrew and Scheffler are big time problems for our LB's. They will present enormous challenges for Jennings, Hawk, Jones, and McMillan. May I, once again, suggest that Robert Francois deserves snaps and matches up well against the Detroit TE's. Mike Thomas is the type of WR that previously annoyed the Packers, but with Casey Hayward on him, I imagine that Thomas' production will be limited. The key will be our ability to pressure Stafford. We need to knock him off of his spot. If we do so, we will generate either turnovers or sacks. And, possibly both.
The best guess is this: the weather plays a factor. Running games are important. Alex Green runs hard and finds patience. Follow the FB, Alex. John Kuhn also gets involved in the offense. We see Ryan Grant in action. We smash 'em in the mouth a bit. Rush for over 80 yards. Not groundbreaking, but it opens up a little play action. Greg Jennings finds his stride and lives his BE GREAT philosophy and tops 75 yards with a TD. J-Mike finds himself open. Rodgers, the NFL's reigning MVP, is in rhythm. One problem: so is Stafford. The Lions TE's presents immense issues. Johnson gets behind the double team. But, Stafford cannot handle the elements and throws a big interception.
It's a shoot-out. Mason Crosby makes a big kick!
Packers 27. Lions 24.
Go Pack Go!