4-0! A 2 game lead over the rest of the field in the NFC North! With the next 2 games at Lambeau! Carpe diem, Titletown, U.S.A.
As I write, I sip a Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale. What a perfectly concocted beer! Sweet like a piece of caramel candy. It's 9.5%, but the booze is well disguised. It's a mouthful. Almost to the point that it feels like you can chew it. If this beer can still be found on shelves in America's Dairyland, be sure to grab it! I give it a 10 out of 10.
Musically, Toots & The Maytals' "Never Grow Old" vinyl spins. Partially selected due to the brilliance of Sir Charles Woodson. It is his Birthday week. 62 interceptions. Again, he rips off Ray Nutler! It was magical. Nearly brought a tear to my eye. That man never gets old. And, for old times sake I remind you of his greatness: Heisman Trophy. National Champion. Defensive Rookie of the Year. Defensive Player of the Year. Super Bowl Champion. The ONE speech. The first player to notch 60 interceptions and 20 sacks in a career.
I can't help but - once again - post that words to that epic speech:
"Think about one thing. One. For two weeks, two weeks, think about one. One mind. Let's be one heartbeat. One purpose. One goal. One more game. One. Let's get it! And check this. President [Barack Obama] don't want to come watch us play in the Super Bowl? Guess what? Guess what? We'll go see him. White House on three. One, two, three. White House!"
May the Good Lord always shine his light on Sir Charles Woodson.
Here are my quick vibes from the last week:
* I have to remind myself that an aggressive Mike McCarthy is a good Mike McCarthy. Twice on the last drive of the 2nd Quarter, the Packers went for it on 4th & 1. Both times, I wished they hadn't. I guess that I was practicing amateurism. McCarthy had his finger on the pulse of the game better than I did. On the first 4th & 1, I'd have played field position. Clinging to a 7-3 lead, I feared that the 49ers would get the stop and have an opportunity to get the ball near midfield with a shot to take the lead before the half. And, on the second 4th & 1, I didn't think McCarthy should risk leaving points on the field. As it turned out, he settled for a FG any ways and Crosby missed it, so it didn't matter what McCarthy chose to do.
* Even when Aaron Rodgers isn't robotic, he's still Superhuman. Have to wonder how his game would've changed if Ty Montgomery had held onto the ball on the opening pass down the sidelines. Rodgers' play fake on the play was fantastic. Fooled everyone.
* Total treat to see McCarthy and Clements put Montgomery and Cobb in the backfield early in the game. The Packers wanted this game. Badly. They weren't going to leave anything off the table. It was important to show disguise early.
* EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE! Toughing it out. 90 bruising yards on 18 carries. 5 yards per attempt. All physical. A grind-it-out performance from EDDIE!
* Starks was steady. Thought he missed the hole on the 8 yard screen to the outside. Seemed as though Sitton held his block to the outside. It also appeared as though Jones had the DB pushed to allow an alley for Starks to run through. Might have been a missed opportunity for a big play.
* Was good to see KUUUUHHHNNNN involved in the passing game. I thought we might see more of that early on. With all of the options that the Packers possess, it's easy for a defense to overlook Kuhn. Don't be surprised if we start to see more underneath passes to Kuhn on the roll-out.
* The FB Dive was back. And, this time it netted 6 points!
* Knew the 49ers Defense would come out possessed. Didn't think they'd out physical the interior of the OL as much as they did. Sutton, Linsley and Lang were moved backwards more than they've been all year. Limited Rodgers' passing lanes. Forced him to escape earlier than he'd like to.
* Donny Barclay was solid for 3 Quarters. Then, he got absolutely worked in the 4th Quarter. Still, the Packers are 3-0 with Barclay as the starting RT. And, considering Barclay has received little-to-no help, he's played admirably. For the most part.
* Bakhtiari is rock solid.
* Richard Rodgers is quietly becoming one of the most consistent players on the team. Wish his routes were three yards deeper than they're currently being run, but he's the check-down receiver on most plays. And, clearly, the MVP has full-trust in him. But, as a blocker, he's consistently exposed.
* The Rodgers to Rodgers TD. OH MY! First of all, pure brilliance by the MVP to escape. And then to roll to his left to create time. Then, Richard Rodgers' presence of mind to find the hole in the defense. Great camaraderie. He's turning into a legitimate Red Zone target. As I've said all along, he's catching a minimum of 6 TD's this year and don't be surprised if he grabs 10 TD's.
* Do a little dance, James Jones. Marvelous footwork along the sidelines. The vet continues to shine. Even in the pink wrists. Personally, I prefer the yellow wrists.
* Randall Cobb leaving it all out on the field. Brute toughness. First-class hustle. Overly determined. Blessed to have him in Green & Gold.
* Ty Montgomery continues to warrant targets. When he touches the ball, good things happen.
* Good to see Kennard Backman scuffling it up.
* Banjo, Janis, Palmer and Ripkowski each made their presence felt on special teams. Janis, once again, was very impressive as a gunner.
* It was reported that Jayrone's Elliott's nickname is "Shakespeare" because all he does is make plays. Great sack by the rising youngster. Can't wait for him to be allowed to fully act on instinct, so that we can see him try to win with a speed rush around the edge. It seemed as though he was being used in contain mode yet his burst was enough to get him to the QB. His role has to continue to increase.
* Julius Peppers is a monstrous presence at DT in the middle of the field.
* BJ RAJI! Remains in XLV form. Loved his hustle. His pursuit was exceptional. He was a force in the middle of the defense.
* Letroy Guion going spiritual gangsta after the play. Bringing attitude.
* Datone Jones continues to eat up blockers and finish plays. He's undoubtedly playing the best football of his short career.
* Mike Neal with the CRUCIAL sack!
* Mike Daniels grinds. He's tireless. He's passionate. He won't be denied.
* The CLAYMAKER! What a fantastic performance! Consistently disruptive. Showing elite speed and power up the gut. He got in Kaepernick's head early. He stayed in Kaepernick's head often. Great game by Clay.
* Joe Thomas continues to impress. Knocked the ball loose inside the Red Zone. Would have been great to see the Packers recover it, but nonetheless, good to see the ball on the ground.
* Like Datone Jones, Nick Perry is playing the best football of his career. Two sacks. Consistent pressure. Working until the whistle. Finishing plays with intensity.
* Nate Palmer with his best game of the year. He was around the football. Even with his size he lacks strength, but his heart can't be questioned.
* SAMMY SWAGGA! FLASH THAT SMILE! BRING SWAGGA TO THAT SECONDARY! He gambled on his interception. He guess right. And, he showed the athleticism required to go up and get it! Big play from Sammy Swagga!
* Quinten Rollins is an aggressive tackler. He hits with conviction. Fearless.
* My guess is that SHOWCASE, Casey Hayward, has a big play coming. Likely in the next two weeks.
* Damarious Randall was tested. He was up for the challenge. Even when he was beat, he had good coverage. Loved his patience and composure on the pass defensed in the end zone. Didn't look like a veteran on the play. He'll continue to see increased opportunities to make big plays.
* Micah Hyde. Trustworthy. In the right place. Tremendous role player.
* HaHa with his best game of the year. Remarkable job of defending the read-option. He was all over Kaepernick on the outside. As Clay pursued Kaepernick up the middle, Kaepernick was flushed to the outside. HaHa was waiting. And, he was a sure tackler. Liked seeing HaHa on the outside run blitz as well.
* Dom Capers, yo! DOM CAPERS. Great design. Kept Kaepernick uneasy. Monstrous mental win for Dom and the Packers locker room.
* Sad to see that Sean Richardson's career might have come to a close with another neck injury. Seems like a great teammate. Wish him great health.
* It has been magical to watch the Packers offense consistently take advantage of penalties by the defense. Whether it be via a free play or a defensive holding penalty, if you give the Packers offense an extra set of downs, this team is going to capitalize. We might need a couple of freebies this weekend against the Rams.
* This team is playing with great confidence. An aggressive gait permeates around this team. Exuding goodness. A healthy aura. If the team stays healthy, it feels like something special is brewing. But, health is key.
* Mike McCarthy teams always improve as the year goes along. We've yet to see this teams best football.
This week - it's the St Louis Rams. At Lambeau. The first noon kickoff of the year at Lambeau. The game will provide a major test for the Packers. And, frankly, I'm nervous. Just like in past years, the best way to defend the 2015 Green Bay Packers is to rush 4. Hope you get pressure. Jam the WR's at the line. Slow down the timing. Keep everything in front of you. And, then, offensively, keep Rodgers off of the field. Run the football. Don't turn the ball over. Play possession football. And, if you have to punt, do it. I could argue that no one applies this strategy better than the Jeff Fisher led St Louis Rams.
Offensively, the Rams will look to play possession football. They'll pound Todd Gurley. Early and often. They'll try to out-muscle the Packers DL. The Rams will also look to play action. Expect to see Nick Foles rolling to his right. Jared Cook is an under appreciated TE. He's a weapon. Lance Kendricks creates mismatches with his size/speed combination. Kendricks can stretch the field. Tavon Austin is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. He's elusive and he's only satisfied with game-altering plays. He's a dangerous kick returner. Stedman Bailey is steady. A sure route runner. Solid hands. A tough cover. Kenny Britt presents a physical presence who can get over the top. The St Louis OL will try to bully the Packers with attitude. They'll be physical, but can be beaten with speed around the edges.
Defensively, the Rams Front 4 is absolutely terrific. Chris Long, Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Robert Quinn. That's fearsome. 'Nuff said. James Laurinaitis is an intelligent, tough-minded ILB that perfectly fits the persona of the Rams defense. Akeem Ayers has been inconsistent as a pro, but I've always been a fan of his game. He's often around the football. They'll miss Alec Ogletree who went out with an injury. The secondary is underrated. Janoris Jenkins and Lamarcus Joyner are undersized, but they're physical. And, they're confident. Trumaine Johnson is rough at the line of scrimmage. He gets his hands on WR's and alters routes with physicality. TJ McDonald and Rodney McLeod aren't fleet of foot but their well positioned and will often play deep in order to prevent anything over the top.
It'll be interesting to see how rowdy the Lambeau Faithful elevates this Sunday. In the two previous games, the crowd has been fantastic. But, they were both prime time games. This game is a Sunday afternoon game. There's no national audience. It's not under the lights. It'll be up to the crowd to try and make things difficult for the St Louis offense. Get up, Lambeau. Be proud. Be loud!
Early on, St Louis slows the game down. Grabs yardage on the ground. Gurley pulls Palmer for extra yards. Jared Cook gets loose in secondary. But, the Packers hold to 3. The Packers respond. It's EDDIE and Richard Rodgers making up the majority of the yardage. And, then, it's the MVP to James Jones on a back-shoulder pass for a TD.
The Rams front 4 gives the Packers trouble. But, Eddie Lacy continues to grab yards. The Packers patience is tested on offense. The Rams move the football as Gurley eats yards. The Packers neutralize Austin, but Kendricks and Cook make plays. Randall quiets Britt. Hayward makes a play on Bailey.
Cobb catches 5 balls. Lacy runs for 85. Richard Rodgers catches 6 balls. James Jones catches 4 balls. The MVP adds two TD's.
The Packers win a frustrating, nail biter.
Odd gut feeling: The Packers bust up a fake punt attempt by the Rams.
Packers 20. Rams 19.
I didn't get as far as I'd to have gotten on my 2016 Packers Mock Draft, but here's where I'm at so far. And, as always, I only comment if I've given a thorough study of the player. There are a number of Juniors that I have my eye on that I'm less convinced will declare as anyone that I've listed below. In those cases, I've excluded them from my mock. I'm struggling to find CB's that I'm infatuated with. Like usual, I haven't given attention to OL draft picks. I've given the Packers an extra 4th and a 5th as compensatory picks.
Round 1: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State. I see him translating to an ILB role in a 3-4. Great speed. Pension for making the big play. Others: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (even with the injury); Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama; Su'a Cravens, LB, USC; Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU (if he's on the board, he's the pick, but I believe he'll be off the board before the Packers select at #32.
Round 2: Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama. Would be a great compliment to Eddie. Has the mudders stride. A gamer. Shows up when the lights are on. Others: Kendell Beckwith, ILB, LSU; Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee; Jordan Jenkins, OLB, Georgia; Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida.
Round 3: Deon Bush, S, _. Tough minded athlete who plays the ball. Physical tackler. Other: Kentrell Brothers, ILB, Mizzou.
Round 4: Wayne Lyons, CB, Michigan. Have the size that the Packers target at CB. Can turn and run. Not afraid to get his hands on the WR. Sure tackler. Physical player. Others: Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma; Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple; William Jackson III, CB, Houston.
Round 4: Nelson Spruce, WR, Colorado. Outside of Jordon Nelson, the Packers lack a deep threat. Spruce can stretch the field. Great hands. Extremely productive throughout his career. Would fit into the culture of the Green Bay locker room. Other: D'haquille Williams, WR, Auburn (1st round talent, but off field issues; Chris Brown, WR, ND.
Round 5: Bronson Kaufusi, OLB/DE, BYU. Great athlete. Tireless in pursuit of QB. Needs work dropping in coverage, but carries his weight well and is nimble for his size.
Round 5: Jake McGee, TE, Florida. Willing in-line blocker. Excellent receiver. Finds the holes in the defense and sits down. Can line out on the outside and run effectively. Dangerous red zone target. Huge upside. Other: Jake Duzey, TE, Iowa.
Round 6: Antonio Longino, ILB, ASU. Love the way he blitzes from the inside. Shows leadership qualities. Energizes the defense. Plays with excitement. Plays fast. Others: Pete Robertson, LB, Texas Tech; Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan; Anthony Sarao, ILB, USC.
Round 7: KJ Dillon, S, West Virginia. Confidently steps into the slot and will run with any WR. Can play FS or SS. Not afraid to step into the box and get physical. Like Dillon's return ability as well. Taking Dillon over Geno Matias-Smith, S, Alabama. Matias-Smith can cover in the slot. Former CB. Willing pursuer in the run game. Finds the football. Other: Raphael Kirby, LB, _; Deion Jones, LB, LSU; Juston Burris, CB, NC State; Joshua Perkins, TE, Washington; Noah Spence, OLB,Eastern Kentucky.
Go Pack Go!