'Tis the Holiday season. A grand December game at Lambeau awaits. This one will be special.
I was born and raised Catholic. In an Irish family. For me, Christmas means great laughs with family, gift giving in the spirit of Santa, more Christ, and intense Green Bay Packers football. But, I'm fully cognitive that religion divides people in the world. So, as I write, I take a break from Christmas music and I listen to Sly and the Family Stone's "Stand" vinyl. Everyday People. All for one. One for all. Music is the weapon of the future.
I sip an Avery "Tweak" as I damn near tweaked out with concern a couple of times last Sunday. At 17.81% ABV, it comes with a punch. An imperial stout. With coffee. And aged in bourbon barrels. Yes, it helps me to R-E-L-A-X.
Here are my quick vibes over the last week:
* The team looks to be in a small funk right now. And, it's starting with McCarthy. I'll never understand the 3rd and goal handoff to Kuhn. On a counter nonetheless. Hey Coach, hand it to EDDIE! I was surprised to see 5 WR on the field on the 4th down. Why not kick a FG and take a two-score lead? Why not give it to EDDIE? McCarthy is searching for answers. I don't blame McCarthy for being stalwart to Rodgers' arm, but right now, Eddie is running with a purpose.
* EDDIE! Tackling him is a business decision. He's in playoff mode.
* Rodgers showing the toughness of a Champion. Confident in the pocket. A calming figure in the huddle. An MVP.
* While Rodgers is in peak form, the Packers have to go on another Super run. He's too good not to win another title.
* Jordy Nelson. FOREVER!
* Randall Cobb. Lock him up!
* This isn't the time for Davante Adams to lose both focus and confidence. Loved how Rodgers came back to him on an easy out pass to try and get him going again. I'm wondering if Adams has hit the rookie wall.
* Jarrett Boykin doesn't look like the same player that he was last year. Really frustrating. No rhythm to his game right now.
* AQ81! The big guy with another big reception!
* Kuhn as a lead run blocker was a solid addition to the offense early in the game. Opened a couple of really huge holes. Following Kuhn's lead, EDDIE grabbed chunks of yardage.
* EDDIE locking down nearly 6 yards per carry.
* Nice hands, Richard Rodgers. Keep working hard, young man. You've earned the MVP's confidence.
* I loved how McCarthy named the captains for huge playoffs already. Amp it up! Again, McCarthy shows a masterful pulse on this team.
* After a slow start, I thought Bakhtiari performed really well for the final 3 Quarters.
* TJ Lang. Josh Sitton. Best Guard duo in the National Football League.
* The Corey Lindsley holding call wasn't fair. He looked like a masterful technician on the play.
* Like that Tretter continues to see snaps.
* Bulaga toughed it out and played strong.
* James Starks needs an education on down and distance game situations. Too often he's trying to make something happen when it'd be wise to simply lower your shoulder and push for a couple of yards.
* Congrats to EDDIE for topping 1,000 yards for the second year in a row.
* Jordy is a security blanket.
* Randall Cobb is aging to perfection. So crafty.
* Once again, Clay Matthews comes thru with a monstrous performance. The Claymaker was fast, active and powerful. Since the bye, he's been an absolute Superstar.
* Mike Daniels with a dominant showing. Especially early in the game. He meant business.
* Need Letroy Guion winning the mini battles. He's been pushed backwards a lot over the last 6 Quarters. That was fine vs Tampa. But, it won't be OK vs future opponents.
* As Julius Peppers strives to etch his name alongside Sir Charles and REGGIE as veteran FA's who propelled the Packers to Super status, he has to continue to pursue QB's with the same intensity he brought vs Tampa. Two great sacks!
* Mike Neal with the burst for a sack.
* Really vibin' the Jayrone Elliot effort. Wish he had an extra gear and a quicker 1st step, but the dude could make an impact in the playoffs.
* Nick Perry will not be on the Packers next year.
* Datone with the pick! Great pressure by Elliot on the play.
* Barrington came with aggression on the blitz. He was an integral part of the commanding display of defense. While he lacks speed, he brings strength and desire.
* MORGAN BURNETT! Wow - what a day. He's made great strides this year. Attacking at the line of scrimmage. Terrific in run defense. Making plays on the blitz.
* Ha Ha can tackle really well, but he still isn't a playmaker when the ball is in the air. Gets beat often.
* Sammy Swagga has to get his swagger back.
* Hayward & T-Mon were rock steady.
* More positive effort for Josh Boyd. He's an important part of the defensive rotation.
* Need better from Tim Masthay.
* We are in the playoffs. That's the first step. Now, we need to handle the Lions and catch a week of rest.
This week - it's the Lions. For all the marbles. A win means a first round bye. A #2 seed. A chance to refresh, recharge and take aim at a 14th World Championship. A loss means a 6th seed and a date at Dallas next weekend. We need this one.
We know the Lions. They're littered with weapons. Stafford can whip it. Bush can run it. Calvin & Tate can catch it. We might not have an answer for Riddick. Bell will bury his head into our DL and push for yards. Pettigrew is gifted athletically, but makes mental challenges. If healthy, Ebron is a talented TE. But, their OL is soft. And, they can be bullied. Especially without Raiola. The Packers must attack the right side of the Lions OL. Riley Rieff can be had at LT.
Defensively, the Lions are as good as it gets at DL. DeAndre Levy makes plays. Darius Slay and Glover Quin have been great. Rashean Mathis has tested time and exceeded in the battle. James Ihedigbo has consistently made game changing plays. And, while their depth is limited in the secondary, they have performed at a high level.
Jeremy Ross. I had so much hope for him as a Packer. Prior to the draft, I had targeted him as a potential Packer. When he was claimed post the draft, I had high expectations. He showed glimpses of goodness. And, then the fateful fumble vs SF happened. I lost all faith. In Detroit, he's been dangerous. Though he can't be trusted, he'll be a factor.
Turnovers will play a story. I expect Peppers to make a play. T-Mon as well.
Randall Cobb is the key to the game. Yes, it's all about a Cobb. They can't cover him. He needs to be a priority. Early. And often.
The crowd will be raging. The excitement will be animated. The intensity will be high. The Packers will return to glory in the NFC North. The Lions haven't won in WI since 1991. The streak remains alive.
Rodgers throws for 260 and two. Eddie pounds away for 100 and two.
Go Pack Go!