Let’s be honest. The NFC North was supposed to be a two horse race between the Packers and Vikings. It still might turn out that way, but right now, the Bears have crashed the party. In fact, they may be imposters, or even decoys. I think they’re GLG-20s. Spies, Like Us. So without further ado, the Monday Night preview, Akroyd and Chase style.
Keys to the Game
“You may begin…now!” – Remember the Foreign Service Board Exams? Millbarge and Fitz-Hume need to pass to move up the ladder. Well, welcome to the big stage Mr. Bulaga. Your exam is against Julius Peppers. We don’t care how you pass this exam Monday, just pass it. Protecting Rodgers is the vital cog in the Packers’ offensive wheel. The Packers are going to have to give Bulaga some help, much like Akroyd assists Chase in this classic scene.
“For every wrong answer, I cut off a finger.” – Green Bay needs to take care of the rock Monday night. The Bears defense used to feast off of turnovers and every one Monday would be like cutting off a finger. You can include penalties in this mix as well. Eight penalties in two games is a good start. Keep it going under pressure.
“Yeah, I found it in a box of Lucky Charms.” – I can imagine Mike Martz putting Jay Cutler in the basement under Soldier Field all summer trying to figure out Martz’s complex offense. “Break it down again with the machines!” Penalties and turnovers should have cost the Bears a win in week one, but Cutler is currently the top-rated quarterback in the NFL. Cutler is historically prone to the turnover and there’s been none better getting takeaways than the Packers over the last 18 games.
“Stop right there and I’ll bring back the sun.” – The Packers are on the road on Monday night against a division rival. How the Packers respond in the first quarter is vitally important. A strong gameplan, executed, will take care of the upstart Bears. I hope the Packers respond better than Millbarge and Fitz-Hume!
PREDICTION- Green Bay 24, Chicago 20
Mike McCarthy’s halftime speech has entered the pantheon of great speeches. None of us know what was really said, except for the fact that Brady Poppinga said it was only PG-13. McCarthy has joined the elite, and his speech is now alongside such greats as John “Bluto” Blutarsky. The Packers followed one of the worst quarters in NFL history (7 plays, -4 yards) with a solid 3rd quarter (14 plays, 103 yards, 2 TDs). It wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor and the game Sunday wasn’t over at the half. Thank goodness.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1)Wow, do the Bills suck. This is the first key, because the Packers did not play very well. Fortunately, the Bills showed up to Sunday’s gunfight with a Fisher Price plastic butter knife. At least they upped their yardage this week. Maybe next week, they can hit 200 yds. Just an FYI- I believe the NFL record for worst average in yards per game belongs to the 1933 Cincinnati Reds with 115 ypg. They also scored 3.8 ppg that year. Surprisingly, they went 3-6-1. Something to shoot for Bills fans.
2) Our linebackers were amazing Sunday. Matthews, Hawk and Barnett combined for 23 tackles, 4 TFLs and 3 sacks (the last two were all Matthews). Throw in Chillar’s pick to open the 3rd quarter and you have complete domination. Dom Capers must just giggle to himself.
3) Having a back-up tackle was definitely a key Sunday. The Bills had no sacks this week. Imagine last year at this time. I’d have put the over-under at 15½ sacks. Bulaga may never relinquish the left tackle spot.
4) Perspective. We learned nothing Sunday. This is akin to the Badgers learning anything about themselves Saturday against Austin Peay. We woodshedded a team we were supposed to woodshed. I guarantee we’ll learn something Monday night.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Props to AJ Hawk, but Clay Matthews wins this week. 3 sacks for the second week in a row. He is the defensive Jermichael Finley. There is no one-man answer to stop him. It’s actually quite ridiculous if you think about it. And how in the hell does he weigh 255 lbs?
PLAY OF THE GAME
Dead for an entire quarter, Brandon Chillar’s pick ignited the Packers and pushed them out of the doldrums. The offense took Chillar’s cue and scored on Driver’s catch to make it 20-7 Pack. The Bills went from taking the lead to asking Trent Edwards to lead a comeback. Ballgame.
FINALLY! The Packers beat their first team over .500 since November 16th of last year when they beat the 5-4 Chicago Bears. That is a long time coming, but after reading of the events that took place Monday morning, I had a strong feeling the Packers were going to win. The offense had it out in their Monday meeting. Driver spoke, Tauscher spoke and Rodgers spoke. Enough was enough. They finally realized the severity of the situation they had put themselves in. Backs were against the wall. A loss pretty much knocked them out of playoff contention in Week 10. There was an obvious sense of urgency. So much of professional sports is showing up. For most of these teams, the talent level is remarkably close, so it comes down to energy, and harnessing that energy into making plays. You can tell when a team shows up to play and when they are there for the paycheck. I figured Sunday was going to be one of those show up games for the Packers, and it was.
Talking with buddies last week, I was really the only one who felt the Packers were going to win. My reasons were twofold. One, the stuff I mentioned above, and two, our defense. The Packers D was ranked #4 in the NFL and has the ability to shut teams down, which in turn keeps our inconsistent offense in the game. They had shut down two crappy teams, but this was a test and they passed with flying colors. Some keys to the game…
1) If the Packers make the playoffs, Charles Woodson will win Defensive Player of the Year. It’s ridiculous how good he is. Besides Jared Allen, who has almost all of his sacks against the Packers, name another player who is getting the publicity Woodson is getting. Look at this line from Sunday: 9 tackles- 8 solo, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, 1 INT. One of the most dominant performances by a DB I have ever seen.
2) Dallas has a solid defense, but we committed to the run. 28 carries and Ryan Grant averaged 4.2 yards per carry. Everything was between the tackles. Hopefully, they have thrown the stretch play out of the playbook.
3) It was nice to see the McCarthy understand the team he has. His offensive line sucks. He finally put in a game plan to make up for it. There were no deep patterns Sunday. There isn’t enough time for the receivers to get into their deep routes, so everything was short. Worked fine. 25 completions for 189 yards. Not pretty, but effective.
4) Play of the game- The touchdown pass to Havner. Driver had dropped a TD on first down and after a short run it was 3rd and goal from the 2. Touchdown makes it 17-0, field goal makes it 13-0, keeps Dallas within two scores, and gives them a little momentum because of the goalline stand.
5) Our linebacking crew could be together for a long time. Pretty exciting, isn’t it?
6) NFL officials suck. 22 penalties enforced, 7 first downs by penalty. It’s getting insane. On a side note, did you see the game last night, when a Browns DL was flagged for a personal foul on Flacco for tackling him below the knees? Where exactly can you hit a QB now and not get a penalty?
7) I’m feeling a shutout Sunday against the 49ers. We can put a wildcard contender out to pasture.
You have 10 seconds to name five players from the Buccaneers. GO! Name their quarterback. GO! Didn’t think so. To show how bad the Buccaneers are this season, you can’t even access their 2009 stats on their website. They must not want to inflict any more pain on their fans. On a good note, the Bucs will be decked out in the old Tampa orange Sunday. Nothing brings back the memories of bad Tampa teams like the old Bucs colors and logo. Remember legendary coach John McKay, when asked of his team’s execution? “I’m all for it.” Here’s a video from the 1976-77 seasons. Enjoy.
On to the present. Unfortunately, it’s becoming evident that Mike McCarthy has no control over this team. When Johnny Jolly was asked about his asinine head butt against the Vikings, he said, “It was a call they could have called either way. It is what it is. I play like that every game. It ain’t going to change from here.”
When asked about the play and whether or not he should have been benched, McCarthy’s answer was, “By benching somebody, you could be taking away from your defense.” WOW. I guess that answers the questions about our penalty problems. If the head coach isn’t going to require and enforce discipline on the field, fans might as well expect the normal 42 penalties a game. McCarthy is asking for as much discipline as he shows at the buffet table.
Keys to the game
1) A repeat of Cleveland. Tampa Bay is 28th in the league in rushing defense and total defense. We pounded the run against the Browns, we’ll do the same against the Bucs. Ryan Grant is averaging 4.1 yds per carry, and he should average that or more Sunday. This is also the perfect week to debut Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton at tackle. We’re going to need production from these two guys if we want to make the playoffs, and this will be a good warmup for the Cowboys and 49ers.
2) Execute in the Red Zone. The Packers are 21st in the NFL in RZ offense and 28th in RZ defense. The Buccaneers are 7th in RZ offense. Improvement will get us in the playoffs, status quo will knock us out of the running.
3) Continue to win the turnover battle. Green Bay is currently T1 in the NFL with the Eagles at +12. They have the least amount of turnovers in the league with 5. They should be able to feast on the 28th ranked offense in the league.
4) The Packers need to dominate the first quarter. Tampa is running out of chances to prevent an 0-16 season. They still have to play the Saints and Falcons twice, @ Miami, @ Carolina, @ Seattle, and home against the Jets. The line will be +10 or more in every game. They might think this is one of those games they have a chance to win. End those ideas early.
Prediction- Green Bay 38, Tampa Bay 10
I have a real problem with all of the people selling their Packers tickets for Sunday’s game. I didn’t even think about it for a second. Why wouldn’t you want to be at Lambeau Sunday? Even without the return of Brett Favre, this is a huge game in the NFC North. I don’t care if you need the money for your booze habit, you go. Need the money for health care? Rub some dirt on it..and go to the game. It’s going to be a classic. The Packers don’t introduce anyone on the visiting team anymore, so Favre’s name will never be announced. If he was, I would boo. He’s on the Vikings. I hate the Vikings.
Before we get to the keys to the game, how about the two attempted tackles by Favre last week after his fumble and pick in Pittsburgh. A complete embarrassment to anyone who has ever played the game. Wrangler should pull their endorsement deal with Favre, because chicks don’t wear Wranglers. No one should ever rip on a kicker or punter ever again before mentioning Brett Favre.
One more rant…the offensive playcalling for the Vikings is going to come back to haunt them. There must be some deal in place with Favre and Childress. Every time the Vikings are inside the 5, they throw the ball. Unreal. You have the best back in the game, and all they can think of is padding the old man’s stats. Keep it up Chilly.
If you are thinking part two will be anything like part one, think again. Also think about this if you’re a Vikings fan. In the first game, your QB played out of his mind, your defense had 8 sacks, forced 2 turnovers, Green Bay had 7 penalties, and you won by 7. That’s it. Seven. For all of the hype with Minnesota’s defense, it is the Packers defense that is currently 3rd in the NFL. Don’t talk about Detroit and Cleveland. The Vikings have already played both of them as well. Be prepared for a defensive clinic…by the Packers.
Keys to the game
1) Packers defensive domination continues. What a difference three weeks makes. Capers has the D running on all cylinders. I would take the Packers D-Line over the Vikings. We have one of the top set of LB’s in the league and I’m predicting 2 sacks from our defensive backs. The Packers defense will also be doing a Lambeau Leap.
2) Control Adrian Peterson without being conservative. Let the aggressive scheme contain Peterson. Granted, they did a hell of a job on AP the first time, but they sat back to cover the gaps, letting Favre have all the time in the world when they did throw the ball.
3) Rodgers stays hot. Hey, he was the NFL’s Offensive Player of the month. Enough said.
4) Control 1st down. Five of the eight sacks in the first game were on 1st down. Either by running the ball or utilizing the short passing game, the Packers need to pick up 4-7 yards on 1st down. Amazingly, Green Bay was 7-13 on 3rd down the first time, but you can’t let Jared Allen pin his ears back on 3rd and long.
5) The energy in Lambeau will be too much for the Vikings to overcome. For those who believe in karma, this isn’t karma. Favre having to come to Lambeau for the NFC Championship game in -15 degree weather is karma. Would you sell those tickets too?
Prediction- Green Bay 27, Minnesota 13
In my preview last week, I wrote that the Browns’ offense sucked. I’d like to publically apologize to all things that suck, because the Browns’ offense is way past sucking. They are a complete train wreck. We need to invent a new word to describe the Browns’ offense. On a related note, what did Brady Quinn do to Eric Mangini? It must have been something perverse to not even get a chance over the last few weeks, but this isn’t a Browns’ blog, so let’s get on to the Packers.
1) The Ahman Green signing has already paid dividends. Ryan Grant looked like a different back Sunday. Granted, it was against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, but he was explosive and running downhill. Nothing like a little competition to get someone going. The real test will be Sunday, but 41 team carries for 202 yards is a great boost!
2) 155.4- Aaron Rodgers’ QB rating on Sunday. It was perfect in the first half. It doesn’t matter who it’s against. Yikes! Another great sign is 8 targets for Greg Jennings. He still hasn’t had a break-out game, but I think he’s getting closer. Thankfully, Jermichael Finley only has a knee sprain.
3) 36.4- Derek Anderson’s QB rating. Don’t forget this guy has went to a Pro Bowl. The defense continues to get the big turnover and in successive weeks, has turned away teams inside the 10. This may not seem like a big deal, but it builds confidence for moments when we will need a red zone stop to win a game.
4) Two teams the Packers should have blown out. Two blowouts. Outscored Detroit and Cleveland 57-3. Outgained the two 895-388. Do it again Sunday!
In my bye week thoughts, I mentioned the Packers will be 4-2 going into their game against the Vikings. I personally see no way this doesn’t happen. Not only are the Cleveland Browns still playing like an expansion team, they had over 15 players held out of practice this week with flu-like symptoms. On a related note, 83% of Browns fans have been out of work with flu-like symptoms. They all become nauseous on Sunday afternoons. Watching the Browns play is now considered hazardous to your health. The CDC is investigating.
The Packers’ locker room is starting to look like a wing of the Packers Hall of Fame. Mark Tauscher is back, Ahman Green is back. Word is Lynn Dickey and Frank Winters were in for workouts this week. Also word in that the government inspected the players’ entrance at Lambeau to make sure it had wheelchair access. Just shows how little is out there on the free agent wire.
Keys to the Game:
1) Use the short passing game to open up the deep passing game. It looks like the Packers are not going to force the issue in terms of running the football. That’s fine. In fact, there was an article this week by Pete Dougherty in the Green Bay Press-Gazette that covers this topic. A six-yard quick out is better then our yards per carry rushing the ball.
2) Contain Josh Cribbs. With the exit of Braylon Edwards, he is Cleveland’s ONLY playmaker. He already has two returns for touchdowns, which in fact, is 33% of the Browns’ scores. They will also look to get him touches in the offense.
3) Another shutout for the defense. Let’s be honest. The Browns suck. They are 30th in scoring, 31st in total yards, and 31st in passing yards. They couldn’t score with a fistful of pardons in a female prison. The Packers D doubled their sack total last week and could double it again this week.
4) Play a cleaner game. They won’t have to be perfect Sunday, but the mental and repeated physical mistakes need to end. McCarthy pulled Brandon Jackson after he fumbled in the 2nd half last week; he needs to do the same with everyone else. How cool would it be to see an offensive lineman get pulled in the middle of a drive. That’s making a statement!
Prediction- Green Bay 27, Cleveland 0
I’ve never heard so much complaining over a 26-0 win. My goodness. I understand perfection is the goal (which btw, would be 59-0 as we found out in the Patriots/Titans game), but a win in the NFL is still a win in the NFL. You only get 16 chances, which means all that matters is winning. That being said, let’s breakdown the keys from my preview and some other observations.
1. Run the ball with authority. This didn’t happen until the last couple of drives. 30 rushes is great, 107 yards is not. Facing a depleted Lions DL should have helped our running game. Running the ball is also difficult when Ryan Grant has broken two tackles in five games. Our offense is obviously a “pass to set up the run offense.”
2. Contain Kevin Smith. Held Smith to 61 total yards and made the QBs beat you. QB’s were 11-25 with 3 ints and a rating of 16.7 Great job by the Packer defense.
3. Use the blitz package.
We unnerved the Detroit offense with pressure, and although we didn’t get there every time, we ended up with 5 sacks, 3.5 of which were by LBs and CBs. Great sign!
4. Dominate in all three aspects. a KO return called back, a PR that should have went to the house, solid defense and a nice passing game. I would say the Packers controlled all three phases.
Prediction was 37-13. I picked them to win by 24, they won by 26. Not bad.
1- We’re getting to the point where there is a complete lack of discipline when it comes to playing a clean game. There is no sustained focus on the football field. False starts and after the play personal fouls are inexcusable.
2- Everyone loves to rip Ted. Well, where’s the love when he moved up to get someone he wanted in the 1st round on draft day? That someone? Clay Matthews. WOW.
3- Five trips to the red zone, one touchdown. This stat will kill us in the second half of the season. Middle of the field was open all day, needed to take advantage of it in the RZ.
3- Clifton will be better next week. Watching games yesterday when I got back from Lambeau, I noticed every tackle in the same position as Clifton. No flags. NFL officials are starting to get the same reputation as NBA officials; clueless, inconsistent, and awful.
4- Can we get a hand signal in our hurry-up offense so we don’t have to spike the ball? Something that’s signals a play out of the formation you were just in. Is that too hard to install on Wednesday? I hate watching us give up a play inside the 10 yard line. You’re all at the line to spike it, RUN A PLAY!