I went to Nashville in search of my favorite source of entertainment. Family, music and Green Bay Packers football. I saw my family. My parents, my siblings, 6 nephews and 4 nieces. I saw music at the Ryman Auditorium. If you've never been, put it on your bucket list. Then, I hit up the Country Music Hall of Fame. Followed by 3 breweries. It was a vintage BuzzBoy style weekend. We rented a party bus. It was fantastic. Then - we saw the Green Bay Packers play. What a buzzkill.
4-5. Still, a glimmer of hope remains! Only one game out in the Division race. The only team in the Division with only one loss inside the Division. Bleak as it may be, a thread of optimism exists. Ever so slightly.
I sip a 2015 Sierra Nevada Narwhal. I've had it open for an hour and 15 minutes. As it warms to room temperature and the beer breathes, it really flows smoothly. It's rich chocolate goodness. Sticky. Sweet. I listen to the Katastro Strange Nights album. When you live less than 5 miles from Red Rocks Amphitheater, you get introduced to fun live music. Especially if you aren't afraid of some mid-week live shows. Katastro won me over this summer. Katastro opened for the Dirty Heads this summer. They were a winner. An up-and-coming band. Fun musical buzz.
Here are my quick vibes from the last week:
* I've been saying that it's Super Bowl or Bust. Clearly, Ted Thompson feels the same way. He doesn't sign Christine Michael any other year. But, this year is different. He knows that his team was built to win this year. Michael will certainly help after he learns the offense. Still, I'd like to see Ty Montgomery playing more than half of the snaps. Look around the NFL. The NFL has become a match-up league. More so than ever. Teams are using RB's as receivers more than ever, it seems. They're spreading RB's outside against LB's and running go-routes. They're hitting big plays. Why can't the Packers do that with Montgomery? It seems to make too much sense. Instead, the Packers are ignoring the mismatch.
* Mike McCarthy had no game plan entering the Titans game. Zero strategy. With the stadium seemingly 60% Packers fans - no joke - it appeared as though it'd be a game in which we'd be celebrating all afternoon. Instead, it was quite the contrary. The Titans were desperate. Hell, they tried a freakin' onside kick to start the game. AT HOME! They were absolutely intimidated by a 4-4 Packers team. How does McCarthy respond? Starks for 3 yards. Starks for 3 yards. Incomplete pass. Way to attack, Mike! Making matters worse, Starks hadn't played since Week 5. In the 4 games that he'd played prior to the Titans game, Starks had carried the ball 24 times for 42 yards. Starks had been averaging a WHOPPING 1.75 yards per carry on the year. He'd also dropped passes and fumbled the football the last time we saw him on the field. So, what's McCarthy's game plan? Let's hand it to Starks twice in a row. Brainless. Thoughtless. Utterly disappointing.
* The Titans couldn't cover the Packers. They didn't have the secondary to defend the Packers. The Packers should've come out with Montgomery in the backfield. Nelson and Cobb in the slot. Adams on the perimeter on one side and either Janis or Allison on the other perimeter. Should've spread the Titans out. Rodgers would've had a field day. Instead, McCarthy was beyond foolish and tried to establish some sort of non-existent run game. Baffling. Seriously, it dumbfounded me.
* Demetri Goodson should get cut. How do you not down the football at the one-yard line? Pathetic.
* God bless Aaron Rodgers. The TV does not do him justification. They show the negative. Rodgers was a fighter. A competitor. From the opening snap, he wanted the game. He was trying to will victory. Unfortunately, he can't play defense.
* When the Packers offense has looked championship-worthy, we've seen quick passes. With Ty or Adams in the backfield. Where'd that go? I DO NOT UNDERSTAND! Why not stick with what has worked?
* Here's the harshest stat I've seen in a long time: In what was considered by most as a must-win game, McCarthy rolled out Richard Rodgers for 83% of the snaps and James Starks for 71% of the snaps. Meanwhile, Randall Cobb only played 69% of the snaps and Montgomery played 28% of the snaps. What in the world are we thinking? I mean, Justin Perillo played 18% of the snaps. Why not play our weapons? It's painful.
* I really like watching Jordy Nelson operate out of the slot. It'll add longevity to his career. And, makes the Packers really dangerous when Jared Cook comes back. Cook can play on the outside. Line Jordy up to the inside next to him. Like the way Jordy works the middle of the field. Can't cover him with a LB.
* Speaking of Jared Cook. Please. PLEASE. PLEASE hurry back. I don't ever want to see Richard Rodgers on the field again. What does he bring?
* Mike Daniels needs to stop talking and start playing.
* Get well soon, TJ Lang. Worried about his injury.
* You, too, David Bakhtiari. We need you if we're going to salvage the season.
* Lane Taylor has been struggling mightily over the last couple of weeks.
* I keep envisioning a Packers team that gets a healthy EDDIE for the playoffs. Without the nicks, bumps and bruises. Ready to dominate. Then, I pinch myself and I wonder where the wins are going to come from on the schedule.
* For all of the Clay Matthews haters: have you seen this defense without him?
* Sorry to see Jake Ryan get hurt, but I wonder if it isn't a blessing in disguise. Might force Clay to play ILB when he returns. Said it before, I'll say it again, I seriously believe that his body cannot handle the physicality at the line of scrimmage.
* For the Damarious Randall haters: sure, he gets burnt, but the dude also makes plays. Right now, we're watching a defense that cannot force turnovers. We used to own the turnover battle. Not anymore.
* If Sammy Swagga retires and the Packers cut both Morgan Burnett and James Starks after year, the Packers will save roughly $22 million against the cap. As of now, I believe that they're roughly $36 million under the cap for next year, if they're to carry over the $10 million that they have left to spend in 2016.
* Prior to the 2013 NFL Draft I wrote this about Christine Michael: Christine Michael (3) - If I had the time and the access, I'd watch every carry of his college career. He has a nose for the end zone. Good vision. He will put the ball on the ground in careless fashion, but he'll also burst through defenders and pick up additional yardage. He has a stellar attitude. A consummate pro. Would be great in Green & Gold.
* Joe Thomas is not an every down ILB. I had high hopes for him. He is a 3rd down ILB. That's it. He lacks recognition in the run game. If it's not Clay playing ILB, I'd rather see Morgan Burnett at ILB, so Brice could play more safety. Brice was the only defender to make a play in TN.
This week - it's the Redskins. In Washington. On Sunday Night. In Prime Time. Oh boy. I'm scared. But, Mike McCarthy teams have played well with their backs against the wall in the past.
The Redskins are also in a must-win situation. Kirk Cousins has - at times - looked like a QB who could carry the Redskins back to the NFL Promised Land. He sees the field well. He finds the mismatch. He doesn't go away from it. He's deceptively quick. He uses his feet well. I'm a Kirk Cousins fan. Rob Kelley doesn't scare me out of the backfield. Chris Thompson is a solid pass-catching RB. He's shifty and has good vision. DeSean Jackson is questionable, but Pierre Garcon has been playing really well lately. Jamison Crowder has quietly become one of the best slot WR's in the NFL. Crowder is a first-down machine. He's also a lethal Punt Returner. Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis could have field days. Reed destroyed the Packers in the playoffs last year. Davis has found youthful energy in Washington. The Redskins weakness is their OL. The Packers front 4 has to dominate the line of scrimmage. Especially on the edges. Ty Nsekhe and Morgan Moses can be beaten at the Tackle position.
Washington has a try hard defense. Chris Baker is a solid interior pass rusher who will give the Packers Guards all kinds of problems. Ryan Kerrigan is a beast on the edge. Preston Smith also is trouble off the edge. Smith and Kerrigan can dominate games. Mason Foster is an off-and-on ILB. When he's on, look out. But, when he's off, he's really bad. Will Compton will give effort, but he's limited athletically. With Josh Norman on one side, look for Aaron Rodgers to attack Bashed Breeland. If Breeland is left alone, he can be beaten off the line of scrimmage for big plays. The Redskins safety play is not up to snuff.
There's no reason for the Packers to blitz this weekend. All too often Dom Capers has come with predictable blitz packages. QB's are recognizing them and tearing the depleted Packers secondary apart. Let's limit Clay's snaps. Let's limit Peppers' snaps. But, on passing downs, let's have Clay and Peppers attacking. To me, that seems like the best strategic approach towards getting the defense off the field.
I fully expect to see Mike McCarthy's Packers in attack mode. Playing with Cook, Nelson, Cobb and Adams as the most often used receiving options. Allison sees snaps as well. Montgomery used as a RB. Montgomery seeing pass catching opportunities. The Packers playing a fast paced brand of offensive football.
And, FINALLY, the Packers get a game changing turnover that gives momentum in the third Quarter on a HaHa interception.
Rodgers has a brilliant game attacking the middle of the field and targeting Breeland. Rodgers throws for 300 yards and 3 TD's.
If Clay, Rollins, Bakhtiari and Cook play, there are no excuses. This one is mandatory. I'm not surrendering. I'm doing all that I can to remain a believer. I hope the locker room at 1265 Lombardi Ave feels the same.
Go Pack Go!