Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sorry Matt Flynn, you rallying the Packers to a tie didn't actually win them the division

Ever since the Packers beat the Bears on Sunday to win the NFC North, all I've read on the internet and heard on TV is that Matt Flynn's rallying the Packers to a tie last month was a big reason why the Pack were able to win the division. Well, unfortunetally, that's simply not true. I guess it makes a good story, but again, it's not true. 

Why? Because had Green Bay lost that game, they still would've finished 3-3 in divisional play and 8-8 overall, better than the Bears 2-4 divisional record. So yea, I guess 8-7-1 is better than 8-8, but no, the tie didn't help the Packers the slightest bit. Now Matt Flynn did contribute to the team's successful regular season, rallying them to beat the Falcons and Cowboys in consecutive weeks, but he didn't in that particular contest. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Will Watching This Video Ever Get Old?

Probably not.

Reaction: Packers rally late to steal division title from Bears, 33-28

Well, where do I begin? Yesterday's game really was one for the ages. It probably shouldn't have been, but since Aaron Rodgers somehow found Randall Cobb in the final seconds for the go-ahead touchdown, it was. And I gotta say, I'm not surprised at all. After the Packers stopped the Bears on that 3rd-and-17 late, I knew they would win dramatically. I didn't think they would win thanks to a 48 yard pass on 4th-and-8, but I did assume they'd kick at least a field goal. And well, they did. 

Anyway, if this division title proves anything, it's that more people should read this blog. I mean, every other Packer blog said the Packers would miss the playoffs after their Thanksgiving meltdown, but not me. Not this site. Now I'm not trying to sound stuck-up here, but yea, I predicted this. And I'm damn proud of it. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Packers Win NFC North! Beat Bears 33-28

After QB Aaron Rodgers threw two first quarter interceptions, and later when the Bears scored touchdowns on three straight third quarter possessions, it didn't feel like it was the Packers game to win. But a late stop by the defense, and two late touchdowns brought them the Packers a win and the NFC North title.
As for Rodgers, it wasn't his best game but he got better as it went on. The Bears pass defense is still solid and he did a great job of using his feet to buy time late in the game. And his accuracy on the run was as outstanding as ever. I would never expect QB Matt Flynn to have made either of the two touchdown throws that Rodgers made while on the move.

WR Randall Cobb. I didn't expect him to play, he was just activated from I.R. a couple days ago, and he catches two touchdown passes. It wasn't all because of him, Rodgers escaped pressure on both receptions in order to buy some time for Cobb to get open, but his impact was felt immediately.

WR Jarrett Boykin's touchdown fumble recover. A big assist from the Bears defense for standing around on the play after Rodgers was stripped of the ball. Wow.

The Packers defense. It wasn't very good, RB Matt Forte ran wild, but they did a better job than I expected against Marshall and Jeffery (who both played well in their own right). The defense made some stops and gave Rodgers one more chance to win it.

Bring on the playoffs! Next week at Lambeau.

Packers shut out of Pro Bowl for first time since 2005

Earlier this weekend, this year's Pro Bowlers were quietly announced, with the Packers not getting any of their players selected for the first time since 2005. Now I guess that's not surprising, seeing as playmakers Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finley, and Randall Cobb have all missed a lot of time this season, but still, you'd think they'd get somebody on due to their popularity. 

Take baseball for example. Derek Jeter, in recent seasons, hasn't done anything meaningful for the Yankees, yet every year gets the most votes to play shortstop for the AL team. So yea, why wasn't Rodgers voted on? He's considered a super star, isn't he?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Packers listed as 3 point favorites for tomorrow's Bears game

Thanks to the fact that Rodgers is finally returning, the Packers have been listed as 3 point favorites for tomorrow's division title game against the Bears. When the odds for this one were first released on Wednesday, the Pack were actually 4 point underdogs, but that was obviously when Flynn was the one we all thought was going to start. 

Anyway, I've already said that I think the Packers will win this one easily, and I still stand by that prediction. In my opinion, Green Bay's defense is terrible, but when you have Rodgers throwing the ball, it won't matter. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Preview: Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Chicago

Here's how both teams looked at the end of October after Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler had taken most of their snaps at quarterback:
Team Pass Offense Run Offense Pass Defense Run Defense
Packers 3 4 28 8
Bears 8 7 25 9
And here are those same rankings as of December 27th:
Team Pass Offense Run Offense Pass Defense Run Defense
Packers 15 3 2630
Bears 8 16 1832
It would seem obvious that the pass offense would tank with WallaceTolzienFlynn, and the stats show that out. The pass offense has been in a statistically free-fall since Rodgers broke his collarbone. On the other hand, the Bears have been just about the same without Cutler. There's been a lot of talk about how they might be better with QB Josh McCown, but he's been helped by the fact that he's faced several bad pass defenses this season (including the Packers). The only thing that's really changed is their running game. I'm not sure what's happened over their past seven games, but RB Matt Forte is coming off a stinker against the Eagles. Maybe teams have focused on stopping Forte while Cutler was out. However, if defenses have been trying to shut down RB Eddie Lacy over the past several weeks, it hasn't been working; the Packers' run offense is up slightly from where it was at the end of October.

The real collapse has come from the Bears' run defense. The Eagles destroyed the Bears on the ground last week. While it looks like the Packers are just slightly worse, the reality is that the Bears' run D is about twice as bad (Packers rush DVOA 5.1%, Bears at 11.4% and lower is better). The offense will be a lot better with Rodgers, but the focus of the game plan should still be about winning the ground game with Lacy and RB James Starks.

As for the defense, they'll probably be exposed early and often. In Cutler's first game back against the Browns, who have a slightly better defense than the Packers, Cutler threw for 265 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also had 2 interceptions so that's where the Packers' defense will have to make some plays. Also, Forte ran for 127 yards (5.8 ypc as a team), and the Packers have had all kinds of trouble stopping running backs over the past few weeks.

Just as that Bears/Browns game turned into a 38 to 31 score, so game might too since the Packers have allowed over 30 points in their last two games and haven't held a team to under 20 points since the Ravens back on October 13th. I'm not sure how either team will stop the other's offense, so it might come down to who wins the turnover battle and maybe even be decided by a special teams play.

Reaction: Rodgers will start this weekend

Finally, the announcement that we've all been waiting for has been made: Aaron Rodgers will start for the Packers in this week's NFC North Championship game. As you know, Rodgers hasn't played since Week 9, but that doesn't matter. Right now, the Pack are very much alive in the race for the playoffs, and now all they gotta do is beat the Bears with their star QB and they're in. I think I speak for all of us when I say: Green Bay's got this one in the bag. I already thought they would win, but now I see a W this Sunday being 99% guaranteed. I mean, the Bears suck and the Packers have Rodgers back. Need I say more?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Belated Merry Christmas! Aaron Rodgers Will Start On Sunday

Aaron Schatz reminded all Packer fans that it'll still be a very competitive game on Sunday because the Packers's defense stinks, especially without LB Clay Matthews, but this is obviously good news.
QB Matt Flynn has been good at times over the past five games, but even Rodgers at his worst is better. With a DYAR of -41 and an ESPN QBR of 6.4 against the Steelers, Flynn has now had his third bad start of the year (for the Packers) to go along with two very good games against the Vikings and Cowboys. Flynn's QBR for the season is now 19.4 (including his one start for the Raiders) and he's been in the single digits in three of his six starts.

On the other hand, Rodgers is the usually excellent QB you expect. Using ESPN's QBR, his lowest grades of the season came against the Bengals and Ravens (33.3 and 34.3) and his season average is 70.3. Flynn's only had a higher QBR in one game this season (74.5 QBR against the Vikings).

Rodgers will be shaking off some rust against the Bears, but that hasn't been a problem in the past. Back in 2010, he missed a game due to a concussion and when he returned against the Giants he threw for 404 yards and 4 touchdowns. In his second game back, the last regular season game of that season (and it was against the Bears) he threw for 229 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception (ESPN QBR of 31.7). That was obviously not his best game, but the Bears defense was a lot, lot better back then and a QBR of 31.7 would still be better than Flynn's had in two of his four starts for the Packers this season. And statistically, Rodgers was about the same during the regular season in 2010 as he's been so far in 2013.

As cautious as they've been with him over the past few weeks, it seems very unlikely that they're risking a more serious injury by starting him. And his return, obviously, will make a huge difference on Sunday.

Matthews officially ruled OUT for this Sunday's Bears game

Packers LB Clay Matthews, who re-broke his thumb in Sunday's loss to the Steelers, has been officially ruled out for this weekend's NFC North Championship Game against the Bears, Bleacher Report reports. This comes as no surprise, but you know, it wasn't made official until today. 

Anyway, I'd like to be upset about this, but really, I couldn't care less. Pretty much all season, Matthews has either been hurt or unproductive, so I don't feel like his absence will effect the Packers this week the slightest bit. If anything, his being gone just might help them a little on defense. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Week 17 decision on Rodgers to be made tomorrow

According to Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, injured Packers QB Aaron Rodgers had a scan done recently, with its results, and whether or not Rodgers will play this week, set to be announced tomorrow. Now this news can be seen many different ways, but I'll take it in a positive one: that Rodgers is getting better. 

Remember, McCarthy did say that #12's decision would be made earlier in the week, but now that's obviously not happening. So yea, I guess Rodgers could still miss this week, but I don't think it's guaranteed anymore. Which is obviously great news if you're a pro-winning type of guy. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

If the Packers beat the Bears...

Despite going five weeks in between wins, losing just about every good player on their team to injury, and tieing, the Packers currently sit at 7-7 sixteen weeks in with a chance to win their third consecutive NFC North Title with a victory this Sunday in Chicago. Right now, it doesn't appear Rodgers will play in the game, but that doesn't mean he has no chance at returning for the playoffs. So, here's I think will happen in the postseason if the Packers beat the Bears this weekend:

Earlier this season, the Saints beat the 49ers down in New Orleans, meaning that they currently control the NFC's 5 seed. Now being the 5 seed, they would obviously play in the Packers in the Wild Card round, which I think is an easy pick depending on whether or not Rodgers plays. If he does, Packers will win. If he doesn't, Saints will win. Simple. 

Now if the Packers somehow manage to beat the Saints with Matt Flynn, they'll definitely lose to the Seahawks in the divisional round. But, if Rodgers plays, they might just pull it out. Remember the Atlanta game a few years ago? The Falcons looked pretty unbeatable in that one, but the Pack still won it. So yea, they're never guaranteed to fail. 

By this point, with Flynn or Rodgers, the Packers will be a mystery. Now I think the Cowboys will beat the Eagles next week, making them the 3 seed, but I don't see them beating the 49ers, who I think will also beat the Panthers in the Divisional Round. So, if the Pack are still alive at this point, I think they'll be playing at home against San Fran. Again, with Rodgers, they'll win. Without him, they'll probably lose.

Anyway, yea, that's what I think will happen. It probably won't be right, but it could be. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

It Looks Like Clay Matthews's Season Is Over

It didn't look good on Sunday when it was reported that LB Clay Matthews had a thumb injury (the same type of injury he suffered back in October) and now it does look like it's a repeat.
It hasn't felt like he's had the same impact this season as he's had in the past but he's finished the season with 7.5 sacks in 11 games. Add in the fact that he's been held back, at times, this season by the enormous cast he played with on his right hand for one game and a hamstring injury. He's given the team all he could this season.

The good news is that bones will eventually heal and the medical staff is probably going to take zero chances now that he's re-broken it. His 2013 season should be over but he'll come back at 100% for 2014. Get well Clay.

Packers Almost Rally, Fall Short To Steelers, 38-31

No one wants to win the NFC North. I'm still not quite sure how the Lions lost; they kept getting chances to win but did nothing with them. The Bears looked like a complete train wreck against the Eagles. The Packers would probably be running away with the division if they had QB Aaron Rodgers, though after I read this article on ESPN, I'm thinking he's not coming back at all this season. This picture summed up their game, but it's also a commentary on the entire NFC North:
What went wrong?

The defense. Big Ben had a decent game in terrible weather conditions while RB Le'Veon Bell ran for 4.8 ypc and 124 yards (he was barely above 3.0 ypc entering the game). 14 of the 38 points allowed weren't their fault, but the Steelers still managed three long touchdown drives (though one was after that pull-your-hair-out fake punt). That offsides call on LB Nick Perry during a field goal attempt was a huge mistake. It wasn't the defense's worst performance but they didn't step-up either.

QB Matt Flynn. He's been alternating every week between amazing (comebacks against Vikings and Cowboys) and dreadful (every other week). This week was back to dreadful. Two killer turnovers (an accidental hit on Flynn by TE Andrew Quarless turned into a pick-six; fumble on a scramble) led to 14 points, though I can't blame him for that INT. He again showed poor pocket awareness. He did make a bunch of good plays, but the end results (5.9 yards per attempt and ESPN QBR of 6.4) were ugly.

HC Mike McCarthy. The Packers ran the ball well despite having no big runs (5.0 ypc and nothing greater than 14 yards) but instead he kept calling pass plays. You can't run the ball all the time, they actually run the ball better when they go with a single-back and look like they're going to throw, but why did they call 44 pass plays to 28 rush plays? The worst moment was their goal line drive after Bell's fumble, when after one predictable running play with NT B.J. Raji pretending to be a fullback McCarthy put the ball into Flynn's hands and he overthrew two pass attempts. They eventually scored anyway because they got the ball back after that whatever the heck that call was by the refs. Is that even a rule? The next play, the Packers spread the defense out, pulled LG Josh Sitton to the right, and RB Eddie Lacy ran it in.

The botched ending at the one yard line with 20 seconds left. I liked the play calling, I wasn't happy to see the ball in Flynn's hands with the game on the line and RB James Starks was running well against a tired defense, but the right side of the line moved too soon. RT Don Barclay got the flag but RG T.J. Lang looked just as guilty and they just can't do that.

Despite the missed opportunity at home, the Packers still have another chance to make the playoffs with a win against the Bears next week. It's hard to imagine the Packers doing much in the playoffs but it's always a thrill to see a playoff game at Lambeau (they'd host that first weekend as a division winner) and sometimes a weak team can click at the right time.

Reaction: Packers drop meaningless game to Steelers, 38-31

(This Picture is Mine)
Well, as you probably already know, the Packers lost in exciting fashion yesterday to a team who had nothing to play for in the Steelers, 38-31. As I've said before, I was at the game, and was a little disappointed that it wasn't a win. But, in the end, it didn't matter. The Lions somehow lost to the Giants, while the Bears were embarrassed by the Eagles. Now really, the Eagles shouldn't have tried to win last night since the game was meaningless for them, but they did. So let's all thank them for that. 

Back to the point I was trying to make, yesterday's game was meaningless. Despite sitting at just 7-7 (the tie doesn't count at all, 7-7-1 is equal to 7-7), the Packers came out of the contest the same way they came in: a half game out. Meaning that all they gotta do is beat the awful Bears next week and they're NFC North Champs. Now Rodgers could be back next week, but if he isn't I don't think it'll matter. The Bears are terrible right now while the Pack are okay. And okay teams usually beat terrible teams, at least in my opinion.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Packers listed as 1 point favorites for today's Steelers game

Despite the fact that Aaron Rodgers will be out again, the Packers have been listed as 1 point favorites for their game today against the Steelers. I guess this isn't exactly surprising, but still, I'm sure there's some people out there who think Pittsburgh's better. 

Anyway, I'll be at this game, so they better win. If you haven't been to Lambeau in December before, let me inform you of something obvious: it's cold. And them losing won't make it any warmer so please Matt Flynn, win one more game. If you do, I will never criticize you for anything again. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Everybody's 100% confident in Flynn," Lang says

Now that Rodgers has been officially ruled out again this week, it's safe to say that the Packers will be stuck with their sometimes-good-sometimes-bad backup QB Matt Flynn again for tomorrow's game against the Steelers. Now last week against a terrible Dallas defense, Flynn threw for 4 TDs, although the one he threw to Nelson should've been picked off. Still, he was pretty good. And now the entire Packers locker room apparently loves him because of it.

“Obviously, we’ve done a lot of good things to win these last couple games. And a big reason is because Matt’s been playing pretty well,” Guard T.J. Long told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I think the more practice reps he gets, the more game reps he gets with the receivers, the chemistry he is building there with those guys, he’s only getting better. I think everybody is 100% confident in him. He led us to a great comeback win last week. He did a lot of good things."

So yea, they all think he'll be great. I don't, but they do. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Well, now Rodgers looks "ready to play"

No surprise here as the drama that is the Aaron Rodgers road to recovery changed again yesterday, when head coach Mike McCarthy told the media that, while the team is preparing Flynn to start in case he has to, Rodgers now appears to be "ready to play." All I can say is: of course he does. He's definitely healthy enough to compete right now, and we all know that the only reason he hasn't be cleared yet is because Ted Thompson's paranoia is a lot greater than his will to win. I mean, all week all I've heard is great things about #12, so I can't buy that he won't start this Sunday. I just can't. So, I'm predicting that Rodgers will be cleared to play this afternoon after his evaluation. At this moment, he's just too healthy to miss another game. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

How's Matt Flynn Played Over The Last Four Games?

It's still up in the air whether QB Aaron Rodgers will return this weekend so we still might watch another must-win game for the Green Bay Packers with Matt Flynn as their starting quarterback. With four games under his belt, he's now given me a decent sample size to evaluate what he's given the Packers. Below are some selected stats and I'll primarily focus on ESPN's QBR and Football Outsiders's DYAR stats by game.
Vikings 6.06 74.5 61
Lions 6.95 2.1 -159
Falcons 8.06 34.1 -92
Cowboys 7.67 59.0 94
I like yards per attempt as an indicator of a successful quarterback. For the season, including Flynn's time with the Raiders, his yards per attempt is 7.21 and it would rank him between Jay Cutler and Cam Newton on the list of quarterbacks who have at least 14 pass attempts per game. That's not the greatest company, but it's not bad either. He's not a dink-and-dunk quarterback like Alex Smith.

Both ESPN and Football Outsiders show how wildly inconsistent he's been. Even his home/road splits feature one solid game and one gigantic stinker. Football Outsiders gave him a bad grade for an otherwise decent game against the Falcons because he was sacked five times and the Falcons hadn't been sacking any quarterbacks this season.

One thing all four of these opponents have in common is that their pass defenses stink according to Football Outsiders. The Lions are the best (No. 20 overall) but that might be because they have the best pass rush. While the Steelers have the best pass defense Flynn's played against all season, it isn't much better and is currently ranked only 18th overall.

It's looking like a snowy weekend in Green Bay so maybe the pass game is going to be much less important this weekend. Maybe the game will rest on the shoulders of RB Eddie Lacy. However, Flynn will still play an important role either way and the one take away from the comparison of his home game against the Vikings and Falcons is that he wasn't sacked once by the Vikings. Avoiding turnovers is still more important, but avoiding negative plays is a close second. Against the Cowboys last week, the offense struggled so much in the first half, in part, because of several negative plays that moved them backwards. They avoided those in the second half and it was part of the reason for their amazing comeback.

He's certainly a frustrating quarterback to watch. From game to game (from half to half against the Cowboys) he goes from pretty good to unbelievably awful. I'm not sure which quarterback will show up on Sunday, if he's going to start again, but avoiding negative plays and sacks will be part of the formula if he's successful.

Rodgers "threw extremely well" in practice yesterday

Despite the fact that he surprisingly still hasn't been cleared to play, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers apparently "threw extremely well" in practice yesterday, head coach Mike McCarthy said in his post-practice press conference. In other reports, such as one by Bleacher Report, Rodgers also reportedly moved to both sides routinely, was able to handoff without pain, and was able to throw accurate, fast throws on the run. 

I gotta say, I have absolutely no idea what to make of this. I'm serious, I'm just lost here. It seems like every second another contradiction is made in this story. So, I'm just gonna ignore it until tomorrow afternoon when the results of #12's second evaluation are released. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Aaron Rodgers Still Isn't Healthy

Practice was partially open to the media on Wednesday, and it didn't look good for QB Aaron Rodgers. He still hasn't been cleared by their medical staff and he took reps with the second team. He still has the rest of the week to improve and get medically cleared to play, but it doesn't look good.
The Steelers are better than their 6-8 record would indicate, though they're also better than the Dolphins yet somehow they lost to them two weeks ago in Pittsburgh. It's much harder to see a path to victory without Rodgers, but playing at Lambeau with a heavy dose of RB Eddie Lacy might do the trick.

Rodgers to be evaluated today

According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, injured Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will be medically evaluated today. From what I've read, this evaluation will likely decide whether or not Rodgers will play this week, so yea, its result is kinda a big deal. 

In his tweet, Silverstein also mentioned that #12 "has a pretty good idea" on how the evaluation will go. Now since he's been practicing so well lately, I can only believe that he believes it'll go well. But, as always, I could be wrong. Although, as of now, I can't say I know anybody who thinks I am. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Werder: Packers believe Rodgers will return this week

According to ESPN's Ed Werder, the Packers "believe" injured QB Aaron Rodgers will return for this week's game against the Steelers. Rodgers hasn't played since November 4, when he broke his collarbone in a loss to the Bears. 

In my opinion, this news isn't at all surprising. For the last two weeks, Rodgers has been practicing pretty well, so I'll be shocked if he misses another game. Right now, he just seems too healthy. Now I obviously can't guarantee his return, but I definitely think it's likely. Unless of course he re-injures his collarbone, in which case he's a goner. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Lions Actually Lost? Packers Win And They're In The Playoffs

While I expected the Ravens, who are battling for their own AFC playoff spot, to put up the good fight on Monday night, eventually the Lions' offense would take over and win the game.

Instead, QB Matthew Stafford was an inaccurate mess (he ended up with 3 INTs) and Ravens' K Justin Tucker became Mr. Automatic. The Ravens should have been able to set up for something better than 61 yard field goal attempt to win the game, but it didn't matter.
Bring on the Steelers! Get healthy QB Aaron Rodgers! Let's see them win the NFC North!

Reaction: Packers put together epic rally to stun Cowboys, 37-36

Words can't describe the way we should all feel right now. Because as you probably know, yesterday the Packers, despite trailing 26-3 in the third quarter, came back to stun the Cowboys, 37-36, keeping their playoffs hopes alive. All I can say is: this game is one that will be remembered forever. The Pack really needed this one, and they got it. So now they're 7-6, they got Cobb and Rodgers ready to return, and they're facing a winnable schedule. In my opinion, it has become obvious: this team is very good and will win the NFC North this season. They may not do it until Week 17, but they'll definitely do it. 

Unbelievable: Packers Rally From 23 Down, Beat Cowboys 37-36

The box score makes the game look like a close one point win by the Green Bay Packers over the Cowboys. They had similar numbers in first downs (Packers 26, Cowboys 27), total yards (433 to 466), yards per play (6.4 to 6.8), and penalties (7 for 59 yards, 7 for 79). The +1 edge in turnover margin is the only stat that really stands out. While that turnover was huge, obviously this was never a close game. It was a first half dominated by the Cowboys and then it was surprisingly dominated by the Packers in the second.

The first half looked like a repeat of the Packers' Thanksgiving loss to the Lions. Other than on their first drive of 41 yards that went for a field goal, QB Matt Flynn did nothing in the first half. He missed wide open receivers and his interception was thrown into coverage with no receiver nearby. The defense was as bad as ever, allowing six scoring drives in the first half and multiple big plays, but they did stop the Cowboys on third down and forced them to settle for field goals. That didn't seem like a big deal when they were getting killed in the first half, but it helped them in the end.

I never turn off a Packer game when I'm watching, but I'd mentally written this game off after Flynn's interception with 4:38 left in the second quarter. He couldn't do anything on offense, the run defense was in shambles, and the safeties couldn't cover anybody. Teams don't come back from 23 point halftime deficits.
Obviously a lot changed in the second half. LB Jamari Lattimore inspired the troops in the locker room and on the very first play RB Eddie Lacy went flying off left tackle for 60 yards. Flynn wasn't a whole lot more accurate, WR Jordy Nelson had to pick an underthrown pass off a defender's back for a touchdown, but he had more time to throw because of better pass protection and he did find TE Andrew Quarless for five completions and one touchdown. I mention Quarless specifically because the Cowboys lost two of their starting linebackers (journeymen Justin Durant and Ernie Sims) at halftime due to injuries. Neither one is very good, both have been cast off by the Lions in recent years, but their absence helps explain why Lacy was able to start off the third quarter with a big run and why Quarless became a threat as a receiver. The middle of the field started to open up.

The offense ended up scoring a touchdown on their first five possessions of the second half (the last possession was a kneel down). The comeback would have never started if it weren't for the offense. But the defense didn't come out after halftime with the same turnaround.

The Cowboys offense did score on two of their first three possessions of the second half. The one punt in between happened after a well designed delayed blitz by LB Clay Matthews pinned Dallas deep, and led to a short punt that CB Micah Hyde returned to the Cowboys' 22 yard line. Until there was only three minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Packers' defense rarely stopped the Cowboys' offense. Maybe Dallas should have run it more, but it didn't seem to matter when the Packers couldn't stop their passing attack either. But two amazing plays on the ball, first the interception by CB Sam Shields at mid-field with just under three minutes remaining and then the pick by CB Tramon Williams a couple minutes later, were when the defense finally got into the comeback effort. Those were great plays by both of them, but they were also poor throws by Romo.

It's something I never expected at halftime but the Packers can still be in control of their own playoff destiny if the Ravens beat the Lions on Monday night. Go Ravens!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cobb cleared to run; could return next week

According to ESPN's Jason Wilde, Packers WR Randall Cobb has been cleared to run by team doctors. Cobb hasn't played or had a legit practice since Week 5, when he fractured his right tibia in a 19-17 win over the Ravens. 

While Cobb obviously won't play today, this news does make it possible that he could return for next week's game against the Steelers, if the Pack think they're still in it by then. So yea, he's getting pretty close to returning. Now all Green Bay needs to do is get Rodgers back and they should be good to go. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Lacy probable to play tomorrow

According to Bleacher Report, Packers RB Eddie Lacy, who hurt his ankle in last week's win over the Falcons, is currently listed as probable to compete in the team's game tomorrow in Dallas. In my opinion, this news is absolutely huge for the Pack, especially since it was just announced yesterday that Rodgers won't play. 

So, now what? Now, the Pack will need a huge game from Lacy if they're gonna win. That's unlikely to happen, but it could. Because I still have some hope left in this team. I probably shouldn't, but since they're not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet, I will. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Preview: Packers at Cowboys

A week after getting to play against the Falcons' woeful defense, ranked No. 29 overall by Football Outsiders, QB Matt Flynn will get another chance against an awful one; the Cowboys and their 30th ranked defense. On the flip side, QB Tony Romo will go up against the 31st ranked Packers' defense. But here's some good news:
I know ESPN has banned the word, but the Packers have sucked without Rodgers and they still could control their playoff chances by next week. The Lions are hosting the Ravens on Monday night. While the Ravens' have the worst running back tandem in recent history, they've won four of their last five games and are hanging onto the final playoff spot in the AFC. The Lions are favored by 6 points but they'll have a tough game on their hands.

Here are the Packers and Cowboys rankings from Football Outsiders:
Team Pass Offense Run Offense Pass Defense Run Defense
Green Bay 14 5 30 27
Dallas 10 6 28 30
I've been avoiding these rankings in recent weeks because they've been so meaningless for the Packers. With Rodgers, the pass offense was a Top 5 unit and since then they've been falling like a rock. That 14th ranked pass offense is loaded with Rodgers' Top 5 goodness and dragged down by all the sadness that comes from Flynn/Tolzien/Wallace. However, the run offense has been a Top 5 unit for most of the season.

The main point here is that both defenses are equally awful. If you watched last Monday night's game, you saw a Cowboys defense in collapse. The Bears ran it straight down their throat and threw at will. It also looks like they'll be without LB Sean Lee again this week after he left the Bears game with an injury. Their secondary is in bad shape but their front seven looks decimated.

On the other hand, the Packers defense showed some signs of life against the Falcons. LB Clay Matthews was quiet against them, but LB Nick Perry played well again and both players have returned to provide a legitimate outside pass rush. The Packers will probably play a lot of nickel defense against Romo, so the Cowboys will gain yards on the ground, but the key will be to tackle and prevent any big plays. However, that's something they've struggled with all season.

The Cowboys are favored by 7 points because Dallas has a real NFL QB while the Packers are crossing their fingers with Flynn. The Cowboys should win because of their passing attack, but the Packers could pull off the upset if a few things go their way; Lacy and Starks have to take charge on the ground, the Packers defense has to play like they did last week against the Falcons, and the Cowboys' defense has to continue playing awful like they did last week against the Bears.

More good news: Rodgers practiced in pads yesterday

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers practiced in pads yesterday and took about half of the team's 11-on-11 reps, Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports. Obviously, this is another step in the right direction for Rodgers, but it still doesn't guarantee that he'll play this weekend. 

In another piece of news, it has also been confirmed that Rodgers will be medically evaluated today, with a medical pass likely meaning he will start this Sunday in Dallas. So yea, if you think he doesn't have any chance of playing this week, you might wanna think again. Because right now, hope appears to be very much alive for #12. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Quarless: Rodgers took some 11-on-11 reps Wednesday

According to ESPN's Jason Wilde, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who is said to be unlikely to play this week, took 11-on-11 reps with the team's starters yesterday. In his tweet, Wilde also mentioned how TE Andrew Quarless was the one who "spilled the beans" about this piece of news, meaning that the Pack just might've wanted to keep this a secret. 

So, what do we make of this? Now I don't want to sound conspiratorial here, but could it be possible that the Packers are trying to give the impression that Rodgers is more hurt than he is, in order to make the Cowboys less worried about this Sunday's game? That's likely not the case, but, in a way, it could be. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Extra Points: Packers Win Over The Falcons

Since QB Aaron Rodgers had an MRI on his collarbone last week, the news hasn't been good, and it's still not looking good. QB Matt Flynn and the defense have to keep improving if they want to make the playoffs.

Pro Football Focus ran it's weekly ReFo article after the Packers' game, and I wanted to mention a couple players that I hadn't mentioned in Monday's recap.

C Evan Dietrich-Smith. The Falcons' defense was pretty unimpressive, but DT Corey Peters made an impact (PFF grade of +1.6) while recording one sack, one TFL, and one QB hit. On multiple plays, he got in the backfield, usually past Dietrich-Smith. EDS has started the last two weeks, but his injured knees must still be bothering him. He's played better than I expected this season though I'm wondering how he's going to hold up over their final three games.

LB Nick Perry. He was still listed on the injury report with the same foot injury that's forced him to miss a few games this season. With rookie LB Nate Palmer providing zero in his absence, it's been great to see Perry back. He had a strip sack fumble against the Lions that was returned for a touchdown and Pro Football Focus gave him credit for six pressures against the Falcons. He's been an effective edge rusher in his first two seasons, when healthy.

DE Johnny Jolly. A couple of minor injuries seemed to have slowed him down over the past several weeks, but he made an impact last week with a tackle for a loss and a patted down pass. Maybe he's getting healthy and back into form.

LG Josh Sitton. His back was bothering him for the first couple weeks of the season, but he's been outstanding since then. Pro Football Focus said that he surrendered no pressures against the Falcons and that was the eighth time he done that this season. He might be on pace for his second consecutive Pro Bowl appearance.

Why one more loss might not end the Packers season

Now that it appears that Aaron Rodgers will likely miss another week, I've decided to write this post to give every Packer fan who reads it hope for the coming games. It's not long, but I think it makes pretty good points. Anyway, the reason why the Packers could still win the NFC North this season despite losing one more contest is because the Lions and Bears simply aren't much better than them. In their next three games, the Bears will face the Browns and Eagles on the road before playing the Packers at home, while the Lions will host the Ravens and Giants before visiting the Vikings. Now in my opinion, it is very likely that the Bears will lose at least two of those games, while it is also possible that the Lions could do the same due to their constant inconsistency. So yea, don't give up hope just yet Pack fans. It's still possible that this year could be a good one.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Rodgers to visit with doctors tomorrow

According to Josh Alper of NBCSports.com, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who has missed the team's last five games with a broken collarbone, will meet with doctors tomorrow, where the decision on whether or not he will play this weekend will likely be made. Despite winning their last contest over Atlanta on Sunday, Matt Flynn again struggled as the team's starter, so it's likely that if #12 doesn't play they won't win. 

So, there you go. We know when his fate will be decided, so now let's start the countdown. Keep in mind, them losing this Sunday wouldn't technically knock them out of the playoff race, but that doesn't change the fact that another W would still help a lot. 

Monday, December 09, 2013

Packers Edge Out One-Point Win Over Falcons, 22-21

I'm going to start out on a positive note because the Packers finally got a win for the first time since October. They had to win and they did it. I'll hand the game ball to K Mason Crosby, who went from last season's goat to a reliable cold weather kicker in a must-win game. Nothing was a gimme on Sunday in the extreme cold and he was perfect with three field goals and an extra point.
Overall, even if QB Aaron Rodgers returns next week, I'm not confident they can make the playoffs. They have to win the NFC North and I'm not confident they can win out. I think the Lions will lose at least one of their remaining three games, they'll face the Ravens next week who are in a must-win situation of their own if they want to keep hold onto the final AFC playoff spot. However, I will feel differently if the Packers can beat the Cowboys next week.

The Falcons had no business having any chance of winning this game, but the Packers gave them one. The list of warm weather and/or dome teams that win on the road in the brutal cold is a short one, but the Packers almost added the Falcons to it.

QB Matt Flynn. For the most part, he ran a nice version of the West Coast offense. Seven different receivers caught more than one pass and he moved the offense down the field on five scoring drives. His back shoulder touchdown pass to TE Andrew Quarless was beautiful. However, it was mostly bad for him. His interception pick-six was a fluke, a tipped pass that ricocheted off another defender's foot, but his five sacks and one fumble off a sack were mostly on him. While RB Eddie Lacy was on the wrong side of Flynn to pick up the blitz on the fumble, Flynn seemed to have no awareness that the defensive back was sneaking up to the line and coming on the blitz. He should have motioned Lacy over to that side. It also happened again to him in the second half, though he held onto the ball that time. His QBR of 34.1 is bad, and coming against a dreadful Falcons defense makes it even worse.

RB Eddie Lacy. It wasn't a marquee performance (3.3 yards per carry) but he ran for some tough yards, moved the chains, and played through a badly sprained ankle in the second half.

WR Jordy Nelson. He caught all four passes thrown to him and he's been the one reliable threat down field while every other receiver has struggled to produce.

Atlanta's offense in the second half seemed to struggle badly with the cold. They couldn't sustain any drives and their receivers weren't holding onto many passes. While injuries have been an issue for them, the only player they're really missing now is WR Julio Jones. Their offense was ranked by Football Outsiders as the No. 11 unit overall before the game and the Packers shut them out in the second half.

Once again, poor safety play plagued the defense. S Morgan Burnett was beaten in coverage on both of Matt Ryan's touchdown passes, and a missed tackle by S M.D. Jennings appeared to send him to the bench. The defensive line actually played pretty well, a couple of RB Steven Jackson's best runs came when the defense was expecting pass and only playing with two lineman. They held up surprisingly well considering they got nothing from LB Clay Matthews and relied on CB Jarrett Bush for two big stops. The cold was a unique setting, but overall the defense played it's best game in weeks.

Reaction: Packers sneak past Falcons, 22-21

I'm not gonna lie to you guys, yesterday's game was frustrating. The Packers defense didn't give up any points in it's second half, but still wasn't that good. The Falcons walked all over them and, had the Atlanta receivers known how to catch the ball, the Pack would've lost the game. But, they didn't. That's what really matters.

So, I must say I am extremely pleased with the Packers performance yesterday. It wasn't that pretty, but it was a win. And we all know they really needed one of those. So, what do we do now? We play the waiting game for another 7 days, constantly asking the question: will Rodgers return THIS week?

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Packers listed as 3 point favorites for today's Falcons game

Finally, the odds for today's Falcons-Packers game have been released with the Packers, rather surprisingly, being listed as 3 point favorites. Now I pretty much expected this kind of prediction, but I'm still frustrated that it took so long to be released. Yea, whether or not Rodgers plays does matter, but couldn't you still release the odds and then change them later? Why are you waiting until gameday?

Anyway, I'm not picking either side to win this contest. I hope the Pack'll win, but I'm not sure they will. They're terrible, and so are the Falcons. The team who wins will not have won because they out-played the other, but because they sucked less. 

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Rodgers officially ruled OUT for tomorrow's Falcons game

Well, we knew this would happen. We don't want to accept it, but it is true.
Aaron Rodgers has been ruled OUT for the Packers game tomorrow against the 3-9 Atlanta Falcons. This news is a huge punch to the face to anybody who thinks the Packers will win the NFC North (me included) and pretty much dooms the Packers to a below .500, playoff-less season.

On second thought, they could still win. As I've already stated, the Falcons are just 3-9, so they're definitely beatable. How beatable? I have no idea. Let's just watch the game and find out. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

Williams fined $26k for making contact with ref

Packers CB Tramon Williams has been fined $26,000 dollars by the league for making contact with a referee in last Thursday's loss in Detroit, ESPN.com reports. In most cases, contact with an official results in a suspension, but for some reason Williams was let off easy here. 

Earlier this week, Williams said that this whole thing was huge misunderstanding, but that lie clearly wasn't bought by Commissioner Roger Goodell. Now I personally did not see the contact made, but that doesn't mean I don't buy the NFL's story. It was a frustrating game for the Packers, so the fact that Williams temporarily lost his self-control isn't surprising. 

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Rodgers "throwing well" in practice Wednesday

According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was "throwing well" in practice yesterday. In his tweet, Sliverstein also mentioned how most of the throws were either short or intermediate, but that they did have a lot of zip on them. 

What do we make of this? I don't know. I guess if Rodgers plays on Sunday, they could just have him run short pass plays. But I doubt they will. Right now, it unfortunetally appears that they'll be stuck with Flynn for another week. Which, I gotta say, is depressing. I don't think it necessarily guarantees another loss, but you know, I'd rather have #12 in. 

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Silver Lining: Matt Flynn Is Going To Be A Lot Better Prepared Next Week

Because their last game was on a short week, the Green Bay Packers had two fewer days to practice and prepare. Mike McCarthy was stuck deciding between his better quarterback who had hardly practiced (Matt Flynn) and his lesser QB who was more comfortable with the playbook (Scott Tolzien). Obviously Flynn's start against the Lions was a disaster and, in hindsight, Tolzien would have probably been better because it couldn't have gone much worse than Flynn's 2.1 QBR.

If it had been up to me, I'd have started Flynn too. Barring injury, I don't expect we'll see Tolzien on the field again this season. However I was surprised that Flynn didn't seem to be adjusting to the Lions' defense. This tweet explains why he seemed unprepared.
The good news here is that if he has to start against on Sunday, and it appears that will be the case, at least he'll have a full week of practice. He'll also get to play against one of the two defenses, Atlanta's, that is actually ranked lower than the Packers. I'm expecting a lot, lot better from him next Sunday.

Rodgers "not yet ruled out" for Sunday's game

After injured QB Aaron Rodgers underwent tests yesterday, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, in a press conference, told the media that #12 has not yet been cleared to play or ruled out for this Sunday's game against the Falcons. 

“Aaron Rodgers has not been cleared by the medical staff, Aaron Rodgers will practice tomorrow in a limited fashion, and we have not ruled him out for the game yet,” McCarthy said yesterday. “Aaron wants to play; it’s a medical situation. He has a clear understanding of where he is, as far as getting back on the field.”

While I'd prefer Rodgers play this week, I don't think that the Packers completely 100% need him to win. Sure, he'd help a lot, but isn't it possible that they can still win without him? The Falcons really aren't that good. 

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Packers Release Safety Jerron McMillian

I'm a little disappointed to read this news, but it also looks like the first of many changes to come on defense.
Jack wrote about Kahlil Bell earlier, who will probably take over for RB Johnathan Franklin on special teams and I'd be very surprised if he ever carries the ball.

McMillian is the bigger story. I wasn't expecting him to play as a rookie and instead he took over in the slot after CB Charles Woodson broke his collarbone. He played a lot of snaps in 2012 and played very well considering his inexperience and small school background.

However, instead of improving on a promising rookie season, he completely fell apart. He lost his role on defense in October after a disastrous game against the Ravens and fell behind backup S Chris Banjo on the depth chart. This came after a bad first few weeks when he was one of the main culprits for missed tackles. The defense has been missing a lot of tackles this season, but McMillian stood out as one of the worst offenders.

It's sad to see them give up on a promising young player, but he forced their hand after an awful 2013 season. GM Ted Thompson is going to have to make changes on defense this offseason and it doesn't hurt to get the process started early.

Packers sign former Bears RB Kahlil Bell

According to ESPN.com, the Packers signed former Bears RB Kahlil Bell yesterday. Bell played for the Bears from 2009-2012, and has rushed for a total of 663 yards in his 4-year NFL career. 

On Christmas Day 2011, Bell had by far the best game of his career at Lambeau Field, rushing for 121 yards in a Packers victory. So, since he's capable of doing that, let's hope he starts playing well again. The Pack could definitely use a better running game right now, especially if Rodgers ends up not playing this Sunday. Now I think he ultimately will, but you know, just in case he doesn't. 

Monday, December 02, 2013

Media still unsure if Rodgers will play against Falcons

Well, these last few days have been incredibly frustrating for us Packers fans.  After we were told for weeks that Aaron Rodgers would return for the Atlanta game, we are now being told that somehow Rodgers' collarbone has not yet healed and that he may now miss another week. 

NFL.com's Ian Rapoport tweeted this yesterday:

"Dec. 8 has been the target date for Packers QB Aaron Rodgers to return. Source now tells me “he’d be lucky” to be able to return this week."

However, ESPN's Bob Holtzman reported the exact opposite:

"Packers QB Aaron Rodgers says he hopes to play next Sunday, and he thinks his collarbone is completely healed."

So, who do we trust? An unnamed source or Rodgers himself? 

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Lions are planning on working out kickers soon: Is this the end of David Akers?

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Lions are planning on working out kickers soon. This, coming off the David Akers miss of a 31 yarder in the team's win Thursday over the Packers, is making people wonder: is David Akers about to leave another team?

Now if I'm a Lions fan, I definitely want Akers gone. He's inconsistent, unreliable, and lousy. But since I'm a Packers fan, I want him to stay. Because I know that if Detroit brings in anybody else, they're chances of winning games will increase. Field goals really are one of those things that are minor until you start missing a bunch of them.