Friday, September 30, 2011

Why I Was Secretly Happy the Broncos Won the Super Bowl (And my thoughts on this week's game)

Looking back on that Packers team of the 90's is always a great time for me. Favre hitting Sharpe every other play for a first down. Edgar Bennett trucking his way through the line. Dorsey Levins working his way upfield. When Desmond Howard ran that kick back in Super Bowl XXXI, it was cathartic for me. Remember, I became a fan in the middle of the worst decade the Packers ever had; the 1980s. To see the team I loved reach the pinnacle of football was awesome. To be there in the pub with my family watching on projector screens, it was a top 5 moment in my life to that point.

Fast forward one year. It was January 1998. I was 21 years old living in Oregon with my parents and working as a bellman in a Portland hotel. I'd met the girl of my dreams and was enjoying the peak of the Packers '90s run. And as a bellman I had a little cash to spend. My aunt lived in Vegas and so I decided I would do a parlay on the Super Bowl, just to add to the fun. My parlay was this: Packers win the Coin Toss, Over in the first quarter, over in the 2nd quarter, over in the first half, over in the 3rd quarter, over in the 4th quarter, over for the game and of course the Packers to win straight up. That's an 8 way parlay folks. 100 to 1 odds. So I called my aunt a couple of days before the game. My sweet loving Aunt Sally, God rest her soul. I told her I wanted to bet $100 and told her what to bet it on. If the ticket came in it would be a cool 10 grand. I was sure that it would be a high scoring game so I thought I had a fair shot.

Game time comes. The Packers win the toss. Sweet! That's one. Of course the game was just as high scoring as I had thought it would be, but the Packers just weren't controlling the game the way they should. Then Eugene Robinson picked off Elway. Favre led the team right down the field. The game was tied and the tide had been turned. The Packers would win and cover. I was sure. It was about this time I got a call. From my Aunt. I found out that she had not been able to get to a sports book to place my bet. I was devastated. 10 grand out there that should have been mine. When Terrell Davis scored the winning touchdown, deep down I was relieved. Instead of costing me $10,000, my Aunt Sally saved me $100. And I can still smile on that day because of it.

Moving on to the Broncos game this Sunday, a lot of people think this game against the Broncos is a trap game. I agree. Von Miller and Elvis Dumerville will provide a fierce pass rush. That means the running game will have to have success for the offense to flow. Ryan Grant is out and James Starks showed no decisiveness against the Bears. That must change against the Broncos. I also have a concern about the passing game. I'm starting to feel that Rodgers is focusing on Jennings and Finley too often. They have been the target of 43% of Rodgers attempts and have 44% of the Packers receptions. I really think targets need to even up between the Packers receivers for the passing game to keep producing at the rate it has (Yes I know Rodgers is one of two QBs to have a 100+ QB rating over the first three weeks. I'd just like to see it stay that way).

As far as the defense, I was happy to hear that Nick Collins' fusion went well. I'm sad that he's out for the rest of the year but at the same time I hope that he considers his long term quality of life before he thinks about playing football again. Morgan Burnett played very well in Collin's absence last week. Hopefully with another week playing with the ones Charlie Peprah will be more prepared to actually cover people and tackle. I still see this as a fairly easy Packers victory, 31-17 sounds about right for a score.

P.S. Only 2 more weeks to #throwbackweekend!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

So there's a Bears game this week?

I mean look at that throwback!! So ugly.
Who knew? I could post a ton of stuff about how the Bears still suck (they do, by the way) but I'm late to the party. They've sucked since evolution decided that it should give big ugly and hairy a shot. The Bears are on a level of suckitude not seen since Hubert Cecil Booth invented the vacuum. But I won't. I'm going to instead talk about a few current and former Bears that I don't think suck. Ten of them to be exact.

10. Mike Haas - I lived in Oregon when he was in college so I got to see a lot of Haas on Saturdays and I grew to love the scrubby little walk on. He was drafted by the Saints but they waived him after his rookie season. I thought it was a horrible end to a good career. It was great to see him make the Bears practice squad in 2006 and then to see him on their active roster in 2007. He earned his shot and it was nice to see the Bears give it to him.

9. Brian Urlacher - I've always been a fan of the underdog. Yes, Urlacher was an underdog at one time. He came from a 3A high school. Texas Tech was his dream college, but they didn't recruit him. So he went to New Mexico where he played safety/linebacker/rover. He played big there and set all kinds of records. But, it was New Mexico. This guy couldn't do that in the NFL, could he? Well, he has and I respect that. Also, it's not his fault the media plays him up so much.

Pete Rozelle is rolling in his grave.
8. Jim McMahon - I liked the headband. I liked the sunglasses. I was young and the Packers weren't good and I liked watching McMahon and those Bears teams because they had swagger. That swagger was thanks to guys like McMahon (and a few names you'll see later).

7. Kevin Butler - Yes, it's a kicker. A kicker with the nickname of Butthead. A kicker who called his fiance from training camp and told her that they would have to move their wedding because he would be busy at the Super Bowl. Also, I've posted a pic of my son wearing a Mason Crosby jersey. So you know I like kickers.

6. Lance Briggs - He's more important to the Bears than Urlacher. He's a better all around linebacker than  Urlacher. There. I said it. So why does he get overlooked when it comes to contract negotiations? Why does the media ignore him so much? I think it's a conspiracy perpetuated by Jerry Angelo to keep the chip firmly planted on Briggs' shoulder.

I've always been a sucker for gap toothed smiles
5. William "The Refrigerator" Perry - The Super Bowl Shuffle. A 400 pound DT with rushing and receiving TDs. He was hard not to like. Now with the issues in his personal life, he feels like an everyman. I remember watching him control the middle. I remember that gap toothed smile. And I hope get can come out on the other side and smile again soon.

4. Gayle Sayers - Sayers came before my time. All I have to look at are the videos of him breaking ankles over and over again. He was Barry Sanders before Barry Sanders was Barry Sanders. Seriously. You young kids born in the 90's that only know Favre and a Bears team that doesn't instill the fear to go along with the hate better go find tape. Watch it. Learn your history.

3. Matt Forte -13 rushes a game? Come on Lovie! Forte should be your horse! He can do it all. He's the closest thing the Bears have had since Sweetness was wearing 34 and killing the Packers every week. This has nothing to do with the face that Forte is on my fantasy team. He deserves better. So start using him right. 20+ carries and 5 receptions or so and the Bears are in the playoffs again. I can't believe I'm saying this. No one show this to the Bears brass!

2. Mike Ditka - Sure, he was the head coach when the Bears were great in the 80's. That's only part of why I have him on this list. Ditka changed the tight end position in the NFL. He was the first TE inducted into the HOF and without him, there's no Mark Chmura or Jermichael Finley. Before he came into the NFL TEs where just 6th linemen who were eligible to catch passes. So thank him Packer fans.

Rest In Peace Sweetness. You're Missed.
1. Walter Payton - I don't care how much you hate the Bears he was amazing to watch. If you didn't love watching Sweetness play against every team not named Packers then you aren't a true football fan. He did it all and he looked great doing it. I've mentioned Barry Sanders before. Barry may have been more elusive but Payton was just so smooth. His game had a flow to it. He glided through cuts. Even when he improvised it looked like it was choreographed. I have never seen a running back be so smooth. Then there was his touchdown celebration:

1. Hand ball to referee
2. Return to sidelines

I like TD celebrations. The cell phone, the sharpie, the pom poms and of course the Lambeau Leap. You just scored, you should be happy! At the same time watching Sweetness just hand the ball to the ref fit. There's nothing smoother than acting like you've been there. You left too soon Sweetness.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Four Questions About the Packers/Panthers Game

Cam Newton passed all over the Cardinals in week 1.   
1. Will Cam Newton Burn the Packers like he did the Cardinals? No. Even if Tramon Williams doesn't play, I don't think you'll see near the numbers that Newton had last week against the Cardinals. The Cards secondary is not good and they also put extra defenders in the box and forced the Panthers to try to beat them through the air. People seem to be forgetting that it worked. Cam Newton was the talk of the week, but the Cardinals won that game 28-21.  The biggest reason for Newton's success last week was poor play by the Cardinals secondary. The Packers don't have that problem. My prediction for Cam is no more than 250 yards passing and that Newton will throw at least one interception. Capers will be throwing the kitchen sink at Cam and it will work.

2. What should Packers fans really be concerned about against the Panthers? The only way the Panthers can beat the Packers is to play keep away. They have the runnings backs to do it in Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. In 2009, both Williams and Stewart ran for over 1000 yards. I know Mark Ingram didn't do much against the defense last week, but the Packers D had issues with the run in the preseason. I'm concerned that a more developed running game like the one the Panthers possess will be able to beat up on the Packers front 7 like Joseph Addai and Beanie Wells did in the preseason. My nightmare for this game is the Panthers running the ball 40 times for 200+ yards and winning the time of possession battle by a 2-1 margin.

3. What is the wildcard for the Panthers in this game? Darren Sproles showed us that kick coverage is still a huge issue for the Packers with his kick and punt returns last week. He ran one back for a TD and averaged over 40 yards a return on 4 total returns. Armanti Edwards is the Panthers version of Sproles. Edwards is a college QB turned NFL WR/PR. Some of you might remember him as the guy who led FCS school Appalacian State to a victory over then 5th ranked Michigan in 2007. Last week was his first chance to return kicks in a real NFL game. I'm guessing Shawn Slocum's kick coverage will make him look like he's been doing it for years.

4. How will the Packers beat the Panthers? The Packers will take to the air once again. The Panthers are very thin in the secondary and I expect the Packers offense to be able to pass at will. I'll be honest. Chris Gamble is the only name I knew out of the Panthers secondary before I looked at their depth chart. Their other starting CB is 5'8" Captain Munnerlyn, a 2009 7th round draft pick and their safeties are nothing to write home about. I'm guessing Aaron Rodgers completes passes to at least 8 different guys and I'm predicting a stat line in the range of 20-27 for 325 and 3 TDs.

On a side note, I'm confused by the Packers special teams. The KR/PR game seems much improved with a legit returner. Slocum turned Tim Masthay into a great all around punter (other than that line drive week 1). So, why are the coverage teams so horrid? Is it all on coaching or does it have more to do with players not doing their jobs on the coverage teams? Can it be quickly fixed with a coaching change? Here's hoping the biggest problem (and the only real one I see right now) the Packers have doesn't end up becoming their downfall. GO PACK GO!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Predicting the Packers Season Game by Game

Ok, so I may be a little late getting this one out, but here's my thoughts on all 16 games of the regular season.

Week 1 - Vs. the New Orleans Saints -  I think this will be a high scoring shootout. My prediction is the Packers pull out the win 42-34. Aaron Rodgers will be on fire but the defense will struggle. The game won't be over until the D has a goal line stand.

Week 2 - At the Carolina Panthers - I see the defense making every effort to confuse Cam Newton. I also see it working to the tun of 3 INTs. Newton had some success vs the Cardinals week 1, but I think the Packers defense is quite a bit stronger than the Cards. 35-14 Packers.

Week 3 - At the Chicago Bears - Ahhhhh, a rivalry renewed. I'd be a lot more scared of the Bears if Lovie didn't hate Matt Forte so much. He's their biggest weapon and they only gave him 16 carries. Were it not for him turning a screen play into a 56 yard touchdown I'd be able to make a Varsity Blues joke here. This game ends on a Rodgers INT to Urlacher. Rodgers catches him from behind, forces a fumble and runs it back for a TD. 20-17 Packers. 

Week 4 - Vs the Denver Broncos - I would have been a lot more concerned about this game if Tim Tebow were starting (/sarcasm). Knowshon doesn't scare me. Orton doesn't scare me. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil scare me a bit. I'm guessing this will be a more run heavy game. 27-13 Packers.

Week 5 - At the Atlanta Falcons - Matty Ice sure melted against the Bears today. Michael Turner worries me though. He's big and he runs downhill. The Packers D has had a problem with big time RBs for a while now. But I really don't think any other offense will be able to keep up with the Packers O. 42-28 Packers.

Week 6 - Vs the St. Louis Rams - I will be at this game for #throwbackweekend. I can't wait to watch the greatest show on tundra run and throw all over the Rams D. I like Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson, I just don't think the Rams have a chance. 53-7 Packers.

Week 7 - At the Minnesota Vikings - Donovan McNabb? Really? Adrian Peterson could run for 220 on the Packers D but it wouldn't matter. McNabb will save the day. 33-17 Packers.

Week 8 - At Bye Week - The Packers are gonna kick the crap out of Bye Week.

Week 9 - At the San Diego Chargers - Did you watch the Chargers suck against the Vikings? I didn't know if was possible to suck that bad. Sure they won, but it was the Vikings. 56-3 Packers.

Week 10 - Vs the Minnesota Vikings - Ugh. I have to write something about the Vikings again already? I swear I already wrote something about the Vikings. Screw that. 40-7 Packers

Week 11 - Vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Legarrette Blount will want to punch a Packer after this game. I actually think the Bucs are underrated. I think Blount is a good strong RB and I like Josh Freeman and the Bucs receiving core. However, Rhonde Barber is like 80 and I just can't see him or the rest of the Bucs D stopping the Packers passing attack.  28-17 Packers.

Week 12 - At the Detroit Lions - Suh is one man that does scare me. I worry that he'll break Aaron Rodgers. That would be bad. But I don't think he'll have a chance. I think this is another game where the running attack takes over. Detroit's strength is their passing game so I look for the Packers to play a bit of keep away. 31-0 Packers.

Week 13 - At the New York Giants - Eli Manning is ugly. 74-3 Packers.

Week 14 - Vs the Oakland Raiders - Al Davis is a Zombie. 69-12 Packers.

Week 15 - At the Kansas City Chiefs - Jamaal Charles is good. Not good enough to beat the Packers, but good. Hook 'em Horns! 42-14 Packers. (P.S. It would be nice if one of those touchdowns went to Dwayne Bowe. He's a good WR and Matt Cassel needs to stop ignoring him)

Week 16 - Vs the Chicago Bears - If the Packers lose a game this year, this is the one. The Bears will be fighting for the wild card. the Packers will have shut Rodgers down with home field advantage clinched. But it's the frozen tundra. It's Christmas. How could the Packers lose on Christmas? 24-14 Packers.

Week 17 - Vs the Detroit Lions - Happy New Year Packers fans! You start the new year off cheering for Matt Flynn and the 2nd string Green Bay Packers! Good thing it's just the Paper Lions. 27-10 Packers.

That's right, the Packers are going 16-0 in the regular season this year. Write it down, book it, guarantee it, do whatever it is you want to do with it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Quick thoughts on the Season Opener Tonight

Mason Crosby's biggest fan is ready for tonight!  

I had every intention of making a big season prediction post guessing every game, but then I went on vacation over the weekend and it was all forgotten. Here's just a couple quick thoughts about te Saints game later tonight (I'll make the big season preview on Sunday while the rest of the games are on).

Look for a slow first half - I really think both offenses will struggle early on. There will be all the hype and energy from the pregame festivities and that could put both offenses out of synch. We'll have 2 of the top defensive minds gameplanning and I just see a lot of pressure in te first half. I would not be surprised to see a 7-3 score at the half. I think things will open up in the 2nd half though. I also think some early screen plays to Grant and Starks could open things up sooner.

Quarterback play will not decide the game - I think control of the game will boil down to which team can run the ball better. I'm talking in the range of 300 combined rushing yards for both teams. I give the Packers the edge in the running game but it's close. Mark Ingram was a great pickup for the Saints.

The Team with the best special teams play will win - I really think a big return late or a great deep punt will be the difference. I feel both teams are so evenly matched on offense and defense that special teams has to be where this game will be won or lost.

My pick for the game is Packer 24, Saints 20. Tim Masthay pins Brees deep with under 2 minutes and the defense holds on.