Archive for September, 2007

Chargers/Packers Reax
September 26, 2007

OK, I was wrong in my preseason predictions about the Chargers/Packers game. While I seem to have corrected predicted that “the massive turnover among San Diego’s coaching staff will be their downfall,” I thought the Chargers would have enough firepower to win this matchup at Lambeau 30-20.

What I find interesting about the reaction to this game is everyone piling on San Diego — a team that has already matched its number of losses (two) from last season — for losing, and no one giving props to the Packers for winning and extending their season mark to 3-0 (and their regular-season winning streak to seven). The implication of course being that the Packers are not a very good team and that the Chargers had no business losing to them, even in Green Bay.

But from where I sat, I saw two very good football teams that played a tough and very entertaining game. Guess what, San Diego, seems there is no shame this year to losing to the Pack. Turns out they’re pretty good.

How can you pile on San Diego when Phillip Rivers completed 75 percent of his passes for 306 yards and three touchdowns and the defense held the Packers to 42 yards rushing? And although San Diego did allow Brett Favre to rack up 369 yards and three touchdowns — in the process tying Dan Marino’s record for the most touchdown passes in NFL history — anyone watching that game knew that Favre was razor sharp all game and hit guys who were well covered. Same could be said of the Packers’ pass defense and how Rivers was able to have his best game of the year.

A game like this usually comes down to a couple of plays, and both went the way of Green Bay — Favre’s 57-yard strike to Greg Jennings to put the Packers up with two minutes left, and Nick Barnett’s interception to basically seal the win with 1:12 remaining.

If I’m a San Diego fan, I don’t worry. This team still looks like it has the potential to go on a run, and with upcoming games against Kansas City, Oakland, Houston, and Minnesota, probably will. But they need to find holes for LT.

If I’m a Packer fan, I’m ecstatic. What looked to be the toughest part of the schedule is over, the defending division champ Chicago Bears are a mess, and you’re playing the woeful Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Only problem — no running game. Granted, that sounds like a huge issue, but so far Favre has been able to get it done with what is quickly becoming one of the best group of receivers in the game. Favre and the passing game will have to do it again against the Vikings, whose only team strength is its run defense. But if Damon Huard can carve up the Vikings pass defense, what do you think Brett Favre will do on Sunday?

He’ll be celebrating not only a victory but also breaking the NFL record for passing touchdowns. And in the Metrodome, no less, which was for so many years his personal Terrordome.

What a way to wrap up the first month of what is shaping up to be a tremendous season.

He’ll

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Packers/Giants Reax . . . And The Brewers Too?
September 18, 2007

OK, time to be honest about something: Just as I was finishing this post, my Internet connection became unstable and I lost what I had written. Which was quite a bit. And I am steamed about it.

So, in the interest of me not killing myself out of frustration, I will attempt to make the same points I had already once committed to screen, without maybe as much of the frills.

In my preseason picks, I had picked the Packers to beat the Giants. The Giants are a bad team, perhaps worse than I thought before the season started. The players are stupid, the coach can’t control them, and even Pam Oliver deems it OK to completely dis them mid-game. Oh, and Eli Manning couldn’t manage the night shift at your neighborhood McDonald’s, much less a NFL offense. Were it not for the Falcons and the Vikings — have you seen Tavaris Jackson play? — I think the Giants would be the worst team in the NFC.

Not to take too much away from the Packers. They looked as good on Sunday as I’ve seen them look in a long time. The defense — despite giving up a few big plays (the Giants did after all score 35 points and gain 478 yards in week 1) is quickly becoming one of the stoutest in the league. And the offense bounced back nicely from its anemic week 1 performance to look about as unstoppable as John Madden heading toward an Old Country Buffet.

Brett Favre? He’s pretty good, never much better than on Sunday. Three TDs for the first time in a year. Spread the ball around to eight different receivers. Could always find the open man, and even when the man wasn’t open, he could still direct his pass so only his receiver could make a play on the ball. And he was undoubtedly having fun, a far cry from the hopelessness that he expressed after the offense laid an egg in week 1 at home against Philadelphia. Oh, and he’s now the winningest NFL quarterback of all time. Pretty good.

The running game? Still a concern. Brandon Jackson is going to have to improve, but the Packers might not need him to. Not if DeShawn Wynn can run like he did against the Giants on a team with a better defensive unit. Jackson: Only 2.1 yards a carry. Wynn? 5.0 yards a carry. Wynn should get more touches in the weeks to come. If he succeeds, you can forget many of the concerns about the offensive line.

Next week the San Diego Chargers come to Lambeau Field in a game that I predicted the Chargers would win 30-20. After seeing the Patriots put the Chargers through more embarrassment in a night than Britney Spears puts herself through in a month, I’m not so sure that the Packers can’t win this game. I still think that the Chargers will have something to prove and will win a close one similar to their week 1 victory against the Bears. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Interesting stat of the day: Brandon Jackson, whose play as been shaky to say the least, still has a better yards per rush average than Charger stud LaDainian Tomlinson? Hell, even Ron Dayne (is he still in the league?) has a better yards per rush average than Tomlinson.

Anyway, Chargers vs. Packers. Good game for WISC-TV this week. 12 noon.

With the NFL heating up and the Packers and Badgers both off to good starts, have you forgotten about the Brewers? Let’s hope not, because after seemingly bottoming out, the Brewers are playing some good ball — they’ve won three straight and ten out of fifteen in the month of September. Prince Fielder continues to dominate opposing pitchers and Yovani Gallardo is close to completely eclipsing Ben Sheets as the Brewers’ ace. Unfortunately, the Cubs are still a game up on Milwaukee and they have an easier schedule the last two weeks of the season. I counted the Brewers out several weeks ago; I hope they can prove me wrong.

Eagles/Packers Reax
September 10, 2007

Well, I thought I would man up and come here every week during the NFL season and see how I did with my game-by-game Packers predictions, which I posted the Friday before the first game.

Let’s see, week one I said that the Eagles would beat the Packers by a final of 27-21. The Packers pulled off what I and most football prognosticators would consider the upset by beating the Eagles by the final of 16-13.

Not so great, but I was right about a couple of things: One, that it would be a close game (which it was, and a very entertaining one at that); and two, that Brian Westbrook would outplay Brandon Jackson (OK, not exactly a bold prediction there). Westbrook finished with 85 yards rushing and 46 yards receiving, while Jackson had 40 yards rushing and 35 yards receiving.

But while the Eagles running game put the Packers running game to shame, Favre outplayed Donovan McNabb, who was starting his first regular season game after tearing a knee ligament last November. Favre’s stats (23-of-42 for 206 yards, no touchdowns, and one pick) don’t do justice to how well Favre played under loads of pressure — he was sacked four times, but what was more memorable than the sacks were a couple that he managed to get out of and turn into positive yardage. Particularly noteworthy was a shovel pass (actually it was more like a dry heave) to rookie DeShawn Wynn that Wynn turned into an 18-yard gainer. Favre was simply the most enjoyable player to watch on Sunday; not for the first time and hopefully not for the last.

Kicker Mason Crosby obviously also was a star on Sunday, becoming the first rookie kicker to win a game with a field goal since the 1979 season. And the Packers defense was stellar almost all day, limiting what promises to be an explosive Eagles offense to 283 net yards that seemed like a lot less. Packer fans have good reason to be excited about the team’s defense.

What is a lot less promising — even with Favre’s spirited play — is the Packers overall offense. Posting only 215 yards, the Packers would have likely lost the game if not for Philadelphia’s horrendous — horrendous — play on special teams, which led directly to 10 of Green Bay’s 16 points, including Crosby’s game winner. Add on a field goal that came after a Packer interception that capped a less than stellar drive that saw the Packers actually lose yardage, and you have a Packer offense that put together one, count ’em one, decent scoring drive all day (a 13-play, 51-yard drive in the third quarter that resulted in a field goal).

Bottom line, it doesn’t matter if the Eagles have more talent than the Packers; they made mistakes — many mistakes — and the Packers took advantage of them. It’s a big win, especially for a team that in recent years has had problems winning games early in the season.

Next Sunday at 12 noon local time, the Packers visit the Giants, a game I picked the Packers to win. Based on what I saw last night, I feel good about the Packers being able to score against that marshmallow Giants defense. We’ll see.

Week-By-Week Look at Packer Season
September 7, 2007

Back to the blog. Just a heads-up that during football season, I will be attempting to post commentaries on Badgers and Packers games that may or may not be included in the blog but will definitely be accessible elsewhere on Channel 3000. Just so you don’t think I’m not posting anything when in reality I try to post more stuff during football season.

So, here we go. Summer vacation is over, schools and universities are back in session, Big Brother is almost over (sigh) and the NFL season has begun with Thursday’s trashing of the Saints at the hands of the defending Super Bowl champ Colts. (Thanks for nothing, Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister. Glad I drafted you on my fantasy team.)

Actually, despite being largely embarrassed in the NFL’s annual kick-off spectacular, I still think the Saints will be fine going head-to-head with other NFC teams. There is just that whopping disparity between the best of the AFC and the best of the NFC.

Which brings us to the Packers. Should they be considered among “the best of the NFC”? How will they fare in Mike McCarthy’s sophomore campaign? Can a team post a winning record with almost no running attack? Let’s look at how I think the season will play out for the Packers in what will be Brett Favre’s last season. (Yep, I’m calling it. Now we don’t have to go through that interminable “will he or won’t he” offseason stuff. See, I just saved you like three months of worry.)

Week 1. Philadelphia. The Packers haven’t beaten the Eagles since 2000, and last year’s game was a good old-fashioned whooping, with Philly beating the Pack to the tune of 31-9. I don’t think Sunday’s season opener will be anywhere near as lopsided, but two trends are working against the Packers — their slow start of recent years, and the Eagles’ recent domination of the Packers. Plus the Eagles have Brian Westbrook and the Packers have Brandon Jackson. Final score: Eagles 27, Packers 21.

Week 2. at New York Giants. The Giants make a lot of news, and none of it very good. Seems like no one, past or present, likes the coach, no one, past or present, thinks Eli Manning is anything more than Fredo Corleone to brother Payton’s Michael, and — oh yeah — their best player retired. I like the Packers to win their first road contest. Final score: Packers 20, Giants 13.

Week 3. San Diego. Remember what I said about the disparity between the NFC and AFC? While I think the massive turnover among San Diego’s coaching staff will be their downfall this season, their stash of offensive weapons will serve them fine this week. Plus the Chargers have LaDainian Tomlinson and the Packers have Brandon Jackson. Final score: Chargers 30, Packers 20.

Week 4. at Minnesota. Some people think the Vikings will be OK this year, with the addition of Adrian Peterson bolstering what was a pathetic offense last season. I’m not one of those people. Plus the Packers have Brett Favre and the Vikings have Tavaris Jackson. Final score: Packers 13, Vikings 10.

Week 5. Chicago. Trading away Thomas Jones in favor of Cedric Benson was a colossal mistake by the Bears. No team that lost in the Super Bowl has returned to the Super Bowl the next season for fifteen years. I don’t think Rex Grossman will ever get better. In short, I don’t expect that much from the Bears this season. Final score: Packers 24, Bears 21.

Week 6. Washington. I keep wanting to pick the Redskins to be a playoff contender this season. I like Chris Cooley. I like Santana Moss. I like Ladell Betts and Clinton Portis (if Portis can stay or even get healthy). I think Jason Campbell could surprise. But I just can’t pick this team to do very well. I just don’t like this team period. Final score: Packers 30, Redskins 21.

Week 7. Bye. The Packers and their fans take time to enjoy the team’s 4-2 record and three-game win streak.

Week 8. at Denver. The enjoyment doesn’t last long as the Packers head to Mile High for a Monday night matchup. Jay Cutler’s going to be better this year, Travis Henry was a good pick-up, and Javon Walker will be excited to play against his former team. Every year there’s a game like this, and I think this will be the game. Luckily, Ron Jaworski puts enough people to sleep that most of America will miss much of the lopsided affair. Final score: Broncos 42, Packers 21. (This one’s for departing WISC-TV sports anchor Alanna Rizzo, who’s is returning home to Colorado and her beloved Broncos. Good luck, Alanna!)

Week 9. at Kansas City. Remember what I said about the disparity between the NFC and the AFC? Fortunately, Kansas City will be not only one of the worst teams in the AFC, but one of the worst teams in football, period. Being at home will help them, but not much. Not convinced? Damon Huard is their starting quarterback. Enough said. Final score: Packers 35, Chiefs 14.

Week 10. Minnesota. Even when the rest of the league seemed to be intimidated by playing at Lambeau Field, the Vikings never seemed to be. But (see above), the Vikings won’t be that good, and Adrian Peterson will just about be hitting the wall around this point in his rookie season. Final score: Packers 13, Vikings 10.

Week 11. Carolina. You know what the Panthers are? Boring. You know what else they are? On the downward spiral. Sure, they’ve got Steve Smith, but Jake Delhomme’s best days are behind him and the DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams are DeOverrated. Final Score: Packers 20, Panthers 10.

Week 12. at Detroit. By this point in the season (Thanksgiving Day), we’ll know whether these Lions are the Lions of old or the 10-win Lions that QB Jon Kitna thinks they’ll be. Last I checked, Kitna went to Central Washington and not MIT. Translation: He’s not that smart. And last I checked, Matt Millen was still in charge of this team. And last I checked, they have a lot of sexy wide receivers that underachieve and not much else. Final score: Packers 24, Lions 21.

Week 13. at Dallas. I’m not that sold on Dallas. Nor do I buy any of the talk that this year’s Dallas team will be better off with Wade Phillips as opposed to Bill Parcells. But I think Tony Romo will be good enough, and Julius Jones and Marion Barber will be a solid backfield. Plus some guy named Terrell Owens is pretty good. Unfortunately, most people around Madison won’t be able to see what should a good game because it’s being carried by the NFL Network. Final score: Cowboys 28, Packers 27.

Week 14. Oakland. I may be woozy from the loss of blood from too many mosquito bites, but I actually think the Raiders might not stink this year. They’ll have a pretty good defense, and should have a solid running attack with Dominic Rhodes and LaMont Jordan. I even think Josh McCown might not be too bad. All this adds up to an upset special: Raiders 20, Packers 13.

Week 15. at St. Louis. St. Louis could be a sleeper team this year. If you can call a team with Steven Jackson, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, and Marc Bulger a sleeper team. Final score: Rams 30, Packers 17.

Week 16. at Chicago. Look for the Packers to take the broom to the Bears. Plus, the game’s right around the holidays (December 23), and we all know that Rex Grossman will have better things — like Christmas shopping and New Year’s Eve party plans — on his mind. Final score: Packers 16, Bears 10.

Week 17. Detroit. I’m giving this game to the Lions only because if all of my previous predictions are right (yeah, right), the Packers would sweep the NFC North with a win in this game. And I just can’t see that happening. Let’s say that with Rod Marinelli almost certain to be fired at season’s end, the Lions muster enough cohesiveness to win this game. Final score: Lions 21, Packers 14.

So they you go. 9-7. A one-game improvement on last season. Not good enough to make Favre’s swansong truly memorable, but still a positive as he goes out on a winning note.

Enjoy the football. And the Big Brother finale. Seriously CBS, can’t you do that show year-round?