Turn Out the Lights...

Posted December 17th, 2018 @ 02:12pm

If there is a silver lining to this dumpster fire of a season, maybe we won't see and hear any more State Farm commercials featuring Aaron Rodgers in 2019. Maybe they'll find a new pitchman/woman. Maybe that's wishful thinking.

Rodgers and the Packers saw their flickering playoff hopes officially snuffed out at Soldier Field in a game that was actually there for the taking. When Matt Nagy inexplicably tried a fake punt near midfield that backfired and the Pack went down the field to score and tie the game at 14, I allowed myself to hope, for just a moment, that Rodgers' domination of the Bears would continue.

Then when Tarik Cohen fumbled near the red zone as the fourth quarter started and the Packers recovered, there was the opportunity to go down the field and take the lead. Instead, we got sack, incomplete, incomplete, punt. The third down play was an overthrow to Marquez Valdez-Scantling that Rodgers used to make in his sleep. The Bears took over, scored and that was that.

This game looked a lot like just about every road game this season. Opportunities to make big plays were there, but Rodgers was unable to convert. The offense's inability on third downs this season has been as bad as I can remember in the Favre-Rodgers era. And now they are one game away from serving up the first winless road record in the 100 years the franchise has been playing football.

Any hopes Joe Philbin may have harbored of jump starting this offense and earning serious consideration for the head coaching job are out the window. The Packers need to identify someone who can light a fire under Rodgers and get him playing consistently like the QB we've watched the last ten years. Because the 2018 version has been inconsistent and downright average.

Defensively, there are signs of positivity, but we saw more missed tackles, untimely penalties and missed opportunities. Rookie Josh Jackson has regressed, while undrafted Tyler Lancaster looks like he can be a rotational player on the defensive line. Brian Gutekunst needs to seriously upgrade the linebacker and safety positions in the offseason to help Mike Pettine, or whoever is running the defense in 2019.

The Bears are legit, with a loaded defense and a young offense that will only get better. If the Packers are going to get back in the hunt in the North next season, they will need to hit a home run with their head coaching decision and hope that Gutey makes the most of the team's cap space and extra draft picks. The Bears went from worst to first. Everything changes year to year. After the first back to back losing season since Favre was a Falcon, the Pack has plenty of work to do.

And what they will need most is for Aaron Rodgers to look like Aaron Rodgers again.

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So Nice To Be Home for the Holidays

Posted December 14th, 2018 @ 07:12pm

It was courteous of the NFL to allow the Pack to be home for the holidays. OK, not exactly home, but at their home away from home. When the Packers and Bears take the field for the 198th meeting in the game's oldest rivalry, Aaron Rodgers and company will feel right at home.

After all, the Packers have won the last eight matchups at Soldier Field and the last four played there in December. Overall, the Pack has won the last five in the series and 15 of the last 17. That's not domination. That's ownership.

The Bears, of course, were certain they had ended the streak in the season opener, leading 20-0 and watching Rodgers exit on a cart. We all know what happened next. Are the Packers in the Bears' heads? Should we expect more magic on Sunday?

Um, probably not. If ever there was a team itching to hasten a changing of the guard, it's the Bears. Think about how ravenous their fans are.  Think about how many times over the years they've watched telecasts that scroll through the dozens of quarterbacks the Bears have run through since the Packers have had Favre and Rodgers.

The players and coaches don't care about all of that. But they've been reminded of the one-sidedness of this rivalry in recent years. For all of my 56 years of existence, the Bears owned what seemed like an insurmountable lead in the series. Last year, the Pack finally overtook them and now lead 97-94, with six ties.

The Bears have everything to play for, having announced themselves to the world with their defensive masterpiece over the Rams last Sunday night. Suddenly, they have their eyes on a first round bye and if they keep on winning they just might get it. They're as healthy as they could be, with only WR Allen Robinson listed on the injury report--and he's likely to play.

Mitch Trubisky, back from a minor shoulder injury, looked awful in the Rams win and is itching to pick on a Packers secondary that looks nothing like the one he faced in the opener. He probably has to use Wikipedia to figure out who some of these guys are. He'll use his legs to keep the Packers' linebackers honest and will depend on the Sproles-like Tarik Cohen to make the Pack pay in the passing game.

The defense feels it has unfinished business with Rodgers, who faces the prospect of being without starters on the right side of the offensive line. Byron Bell has been placed on IR and Bryan Bulaga has not practiced this week. If he doesn't go, Jason Spriggs gets a steady dose of Khalil Mack. Need I say anything more?

The Bears have a chance to topple their Goliath. Much as it pains me, I can't see the winless-on-the-road Packers rising up and swatting David away. Feels like a slingshot right between the eyes.

Bears 27  Packers 17

 

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Bring On Da Bears.

Posted December 10th, 2018 @ 02:12pm

We learned a little something about the Packers on Sunday. We'll learn a lot more about them next Sunday.

What we learned by watching their convincing win over the Falcons was that they weren't quite ready to fold their tent and call it a season. Offensively, they looked sharper, with Rodgers getting the ball out of his hands quickly, converting third downs and leaning on Aaron Jones in the second half. Defensively, we saw an actual pick six and a unit that contained Matt Ryan for most of the afternoon. There weren't even any major special teams gaffes.

Much of this was expected following the debacle against the Cardinals and the subsequent removal of Mike McCarthy. Joe Philbin showed he was up to the challenge of taking the reins and calling the plays, despite the calamitous start which saw both challenges used up in the opening drive (I still don't understand how the Packers lost the first one. The second one should not have been challenged).

Even the scrum that broke out after it appeared Rodgers had gotten hit in the head area while sliding was a breath of fresh air, showing this team still had some fight in them and was ready to stand behind its leader.

This was the kind of December home game that we've come to expect: 34 unanswered points against a team that is running out the string. But it was only the second home game all season where the result was determined relatively early in the afternoon.

It looks like the Packers came out of this game relatively unscathed. Seeing Kenny Clark on the ground clutching his arm was the most worrisome moment. But he returned to the game and finished--albeit without really making his presence felt--he didn't show up in the box score. Jake Kumerow had more tackles than he did.

More often than not, teams represent well in the games after an in-season firing of the head coach. What happens next will be much more interesting. The Pack heads to Soldier Field to face a Bears team that announced its legitimacy with a defensive masterpiece against the Rams on Sunday night.

They will be uber motivated to knock off their rivals; to officially end their season and get a measure of revenge from their second half meltdown in the season opener at Lambeau. They are 5 and a half point favorites to end an eight game losing streak at home to Rodgers and the Packers. If the Pack can make it nine in a row, well then we can say the team has come out of their funk. It would probably be too late for any post-season fun, but it would provide a nice spring board to whatever comes next in 2019.

 

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Packer Review

Here you will find my weekly "Packer Review" podcast the morning after each game. 
https://www.iheart.com/podcast/462-Packer-Review-28487532/episode/packer-review-week-10-28645854/

Power Rankings

The Baker's Dozen Why 13 and not 10? To celebrate the Pack’s 13 NFL titles, of course. 12/11/18

  1. Kansas City (2)
  2. New Orleans (3)
  3. LA Rams (1)
  4. LA Chargers (5)
  5. Chicago (7)
  6. New England (4)
  7. Dallas (8)
  8. Seattle (9)
  9. Houston (6)
  10. Baltimore (10)
  11. Indianapolis (-)
  12. Pittsburgh (11)
  13. Minnesota (12)
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