Tag Archives: Green Bay Packers

Monday Morning Breeze: The Revolution Will Be Caught One-Handed

[(MOST IMPORTANT NOTE: The Breeze will recap CFB’s Alabama-Clemson National Championship game on Tuesday, so this will be Professional Football-heavy, or College-Deflated, depending how you choose to see the glass re: -imisms) It’s near impossible to miss the unfolding humor in a reality that pits America’s Most Traditionally Revered NFL team against the steaming pile of toxic that has been Daniel Snyder’s Washington Trumps, in D.C., for a wild-card playoff game.

When you add the fact that a prominent Packer player is named “Ha Ha Clinton-Dix” while Hillary stumps for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination, I mean, clearly Fate’s got a warped thing for the wickedly absurd. So what could prepare us for an NFL Wild-card weekend that lived up to its name? Where Ace Ventura jokes became re-relevant (“laces out”) making my heart gently weep for Minnesota’s Blair Walsh Project, where it seems everyone wants to be like ODB Jr whether it’s receivers vying for his “Best Ever Catch ‘Til Tomorrow” crown, or Vontaze’s Burfict crime-ing for his “Grossest Cheap Shot” frown, where all he does is Russell Wilson Seattle to wins (or perhaps Faith’s wind), while the Bengals missed Double-Deuce Dalton more than the time it takes to restore sore thumbs, Pack Nation slumbers well ’cause Aaron Rodgers remembered how to kinda throw again, some.

To playoff football let’s succumb. Enter to the beating drum of your heart’s hum and maybe find fun…

NFL PLAYOFFS PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

NFL Playoffs Games of the Week (Wild-card Round) Kansas City Chiefs 30 @ Houston Texans 0 So it was, ho hum, on the very first kickoff of the very first ho hum playoff game KNILE DAVIS EXPLODES THROUGH A MASSIVE HOLE AND ho hum RETURNS IT ONE-HUNDRED AND SIX FREAKING YARDS FOR THE TD. Houston was never really close on the majority of this play or for the rest of the game as Kansas City would never relinquish that lead, with the helpful, steady hand of Alex Smith leading the way and the woefully unsteady hand of Bryan Hoyer (4 picks, yikes!) leaving the Texans exposed like a butterfly filet of poor play.

Jon Gruden quote of the day: “JJ Watt’s battling a bad groin injury.” Look, Watt’s an incredible player, but even he can’t fight a Kansas City O-line AND tangle with one of those “bad groin injury” things at the same time.

Pittsburgh Steelers 18 @ Cincinnati Bengals 16 An enchanting, angry contest. Part 1 of “Insane Catches by Incredible Wideouts,” and Vontaze’s Rage. This story told with the help of Vine’s visuality. We’ll start with the uglier portions of the game and finish with the beauty of Martavis’ gorgeous holy-roller TD catch. In all, it seems Andy Dalton will still get blamed for another 1st round exit, even though he wasn’t playing. We begin with one Vontaze Burfict losing his famously hot-tempered mind, producing a near clone of the ODB Jr. cheap-ass headshot, this time on Antonio Brown…

..but “Oh by the way” Burfict was way more egregious, disgusting, with this cheap headshot on Maxx Williams in a previous game versus the Ravens. Careful, it’s disturbing…

https://vine.co/v/iMWPBbFYELr

…and continuing the ugly parade, Pittsburgh ASSISTANT COACH Mike Munchak, yes, a coach, ripping some of Reggie Nelson’s dreads, rightfully pissing him right off…

…but thank all that’s True and Right in the world for Martavis Bryant’s incredible athleticism, focus, and brilliance all on display on this catch in the 3rd quarter, possibly trumping Beckham’s one-handed stab heard ’round the world…

Seattle Seahawks 10 @ Minnesota Vikings 9 This game will forever be remembered (by me) as “The Blair Walsh Project,” but it also included Part 2 of “Incredible Catches by Amazing Wideouts” and one of the more unlikely turning-point plays in recent history. First off, it looked cold as freezer burn in Minn-eh-sot-ah, -3 degrees for much of the game, with breath bursting from the entire stadium’s mouths like 80,000 proud vapers.

While their defense was its usual stout self, Seattle came out slightly resembling a steaming crater of ineptitude on offense. Then the play below happened, which appears to foreshadow more terror for Wilson and the ‘Hawks offense. Except he’s Macklemore uncommonly composed Russ Wilson, even in the face of certain peril, proving once again on this play why he’s so valuable to Mr. Pete Carroll and the ‘Hawks. For a little forced imagination, think of how 99.9% of the time the QB/center shotgun exchange is botched like this it results in, at best, a sack.

Instead, picture this reality where Wilson recovers smoothly, calmly baseball slides, retrieving the ball and springing back up in one swift motion, rolls away from oncoming defenders, looks downfield and fires a strike to a wide-open Tyler Lockett for the game-changing play. Seattle would go on to a TD and huge momentum swing, injecting life into their moribund offense and turning the tides of what was shaping up to be a certain Viking victory.

Yeah, I believe in momentum, F Nate Silver on this topic, and this was a huge swing in a game largely dictated by field position.

…then Adrian Peterson fumbles on the ensuing Viking possession, and SEA recovers with 10:30 left in the 4th.

…oh by the way Doug Baldwin becomes a bent Beckham-like wizard and makes this incredible one-hander…

…although Chase Coffman proves there should be some kinda permit receivers have to earn to attempt one-handed catch, like a driver’s license, ’cause he tries to be like Doug B. but instead makes an interception so easy…

Trailing Seattle 10-9 very late in the 4th quarter, Kyle Rudolph beat Kam Chancellor in man coverage for a huge first down catch (vindication for Chancellor getting away with a clear hold on Rudolph earlier), putting the Vikings in money-FG position for the certain game-winner. It was a kick that 99.6% of the time would’ve been a Blair Walsh layup 3-pointer. In a kinder, gentler reality Walsh nails the kick, the Vikings win, slay the 2-time Super Bowl Seahawks and move on to the next round.

In this harsher, cruel, coooold reality Walsh shanks the kick so badly left of the uprights, like a boomerang that didn’t go where it was supposed to and never came back, allowing America to brush the 8-inch thick dust off every Scott Norwood and Ace Ventura joke no longer forgotten to mankind. I understand Walsh is a professional, paid a ton of money to make that kick. He has to make that kick. But damn, I just feel bad for him.

Green Bay Packers 35 @ Washington Cousins/Trumps 18
This game started with a bizarre “DeSean Jackson scores but doesn’t” on a catch and run where he crossed the goal line near the pylon but crossed too far and stepped first out of bounds while holding the ball back pre-goal line. Green Bay went on to hold Washington to a field goal and early momentum. However, Green Bay’s offense was dormant for much of the first half until Aaron Rodgers started hooking up hardcore with Davante Adams and James Jones (don’t worry, Olivia Munn) and headed into halftime up 17-11 after giving up a safety.

In the second half, the Packers could not cover Washington’s Jordan Reed, who played incredibly (9 catches, 120 yards) with Kirk Cousins putting the Washingtons up 18-17 with a QB run. As the second half wore on though, Green Bay wrested control away, shutting down Washington’s attack, pounding Washington’s D with a steady diet of Lacy and Starks, and squeezing just enough juice out of A-Rod’s recovering air raid to coast comfortably into the next round. Kirk Cousins and the Washingtons were kinda like Leo here, at the Golden Globes: they won their division, had home-field against the Pack, everyone was lauding them for pulling through the RGIII fiasco.

They’re laughing, they’re having a good time, sitting nearer the top than they’ve been in a while. Meanwhile Rodgers and the Pack were like Lady Gaga: they just hadn’t looked like their typically dangerous self after blazing to a 6-0 start to the season before dropping 4 of their next 5 and finishing 2nd in the NFC North.

But oh, never forget about the beautiful power of Aaron Rodgers and the Pack, as they approach laughing Leo/Washington all the way from the forgotten back, shimmering the entire way as they (purposefully?) knock the Snyder’s over-extended elbow out of the way, smirking a triumphant return to the next round with a future full of promise, leaving Leo and the Snyders meekly grimacing in their wake.

https://vine.co/v/iMApWTgWgvL

THIS WEEK’S SIGN SOMETHING’S ASKEW IN THE WORLD

https://vine.co/v/iMm2OdgxwAK

Selfishly Sprayed Tweets Peak at Past Week

Packers Host Vikings For NFC North Title

Well that was less than enjoyable. The Green Bay Packers went in to a road game with the Arizona Cardinals last week with many questions as far as some fans were concerned. Unfortunately for those fans, their questions were resoundingly answered. Having emerged from their desert voyage thoroughly embarrassed in week 16, a home game with the Minnesota Vikings now looms with the NFC North Division on the line.

What’s that? You slept through last week’s Packer game against the Cardinals and have been so busy that you’re just now getting a chance to tune in and see what’s on tap this week for the Pack? In that case, let’s get you up to date:

  • The Packers are 10-5
  • They play the Vikings this week at Lambeau Field in the regular season finale
  • On the line in this game is the NFC North Division title and a first round playoff game at home
  • The loser is in the playoffs still, and heading to Washington to face the Redskins for the first round game

I know, not so bad right?

The Arizona game can be looked at in no other way than a “burn the tape” type of game for any Packers fans that wish to maintain their fleeting grip on sanity. The Packers have many flaws for a team in the position they now find themselves in. On offense, from top to bottom, nothing has gone smoothly all year for a unit that was expected to carry the team as they have in the past. There has been no consistency in the run game. The wide receivers have struggled to get open all season, lacking the ability to gain separation downfield, and dropping far too many balls when Rodgers finds ways to get it to them.

Injuries among the offensive line have caused communication breakdowns in the run game as well as in pass protection. Rumblings of Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy not seeing eye to eye have not yet been silenced. Opposing defenses have figured out the formula to slowing the Packer offense down and Mike McCarthy and his offensive staff and personnel have not yet been able to come up with the answers to solve the complicated riddle that is this season.

I’m done asking questions. I’ve gotten my answers. The fate of this season is not yet sealed, however, expectations can now be properly set. This is a Packer team that should contend for the division, go to the playoffs, and lose in one of the first 2 playoff rounds.

Essentially, they’re right where they should be from their performance this season. No more thoughts of a first round bye. Arizona proved they’d earned that. No more expecting to compete against the Broncos, Panthers and Cardinals. This year’s Green Bay Packers aren’t on that level. They are not a team that should be talked about in the top echelon of the National Football League. So, is it over?

No! Of course not!

The Packers have the players to get it done. They have the coaches to get it done. Their defense can continue keeping them in games. The offense could figure it out at any point now. I’m no longer hoping for it or expecting it. A guy can only take so much pain. I’m just saying it could happen. This week 17 matchup with Minnesota is the last chance to put some great momentum and confidence together heading into the playoffs. It’s a great chance to turn the page. Minnesota has played well this season and serves as a nice challenge for the Packers. It’s apropos that this game is for the division.

I won’t breakdown the game and look at any matchups. Adrian Peterson is pretty good. The Packers will have to contain him. Blah, blah, blah. I can’t “burn the tape” on this season and throw out everything before this and now pretend to look at this game and prognosticate about what can/will/should/could/might happen…maybe. Throw the records out. Flip the page. Burn the tape. This is the type of game where none of that matters. The Packers earlier win against the Vikings this season doesn’t matter. How the Vikings and Packers have played this year up to this point doesn’t matter. Any players that are out or injuries, excuses, etc. don’t matter. The opinions of fans and media don’t matter. The flaws and questions and answers and unanswered questions don’t matter. The Packers and Vikings play today in a one game season for the division.

Find a way to win. It doesn’t have to be pretty. The 2010-11 Green Bay Packers are not walking through that door. But the final chapters of the 2015-16 Green Bay Packers season have not yet been written. Green Bay still has a chance to make a run in the playoffs and write their own story. The chance to come back after an embarrassing loss and play for the division title in front of their home fans is now the challenge that sits before them. I’m excited to see how they respond. I won’t be hoping for anything. I’ll just be watching, without expectations. Let’s see what they’ve got

Bar is Raised for Packers This Week in Arizona

Having beaten the Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders in the last 3 weeks, the Green Bay Packers will have their hands full this week in the desert against the 12-2 Arizona Cardinals.

Detroit was a game they should have won, and needed the Rodgers to Rodgers hail mary to get it done. Dallas was a must win game without Romo, and Green Bay exploded in the run game to put them away in the 2nd half. Last week they went on the road and held a feisty Raiders team to 20 points, and though the offense only produced 2 touchdowns, it was enough to get the win and go to 10-4 with 2 games remaining. They’ve done what they were supposed to do, and for that Packer fans are grateful. Now the bar gets raised.

Heading into what could be the toughest game of the year so far on the road against a very well balanced Arizona Cardinals team in the 2nd of back to back west coast road trips, just enough may not be enough to get the job done. This pivotal week 16 test somewhat conveniently serves as a way to settle the debate within Packer Nation as to what this team is capable of this year. Listening to sports radio the last month or so you’d think the Packers were the most flawed 10-4 team in the history of the NFL.

I understand most of it. Expectations are high for this season, and deservedly so. Aaron Rodgers will only be in the prime of his career for so long. Mike McCarthy and this organization have said they want to be judged on championships. When fans assess this Packer team against that expectation, they don’t see a team that has displayed the ability to make a run through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl. They see a team that is finding ways to win games against teams they should beat, but who has struggled on offense against good defenses, and has not played their best football this year. Inexplicable losses to the Lions and Bears have the Packers 2 games behind Arizona for the 2nd seed and first round bye. Winning those games would have the Pack tied up with Arizona at 12-2, with this week’s game determining the 2nd seed in the NFC. Instead Green Bay will have to win this game, and next week vs. Minnesota 1If Minnesota wins this week that game will also be for the division, as well as having Arizona lose next week against Seattle. Possible sure, but this sure could be easier if Green Bay wouldn’t have made it so much harder on themselves.

We are good at the quarterbacking.
We are good at the quarterbacking.

The Oakland game last week serves as a microcosm of the Packer season thus far. The defense played great, keeping them in the game against a good offense, even scoring on a pick 6 by Damarious Randall. The offense didn’t do anything spectacular and sputtered out at points, but was able to maintain some drives and put up 2 touchdowns and 3 field goals. Just enough. With only a 4 point lead in the 3rd quarter, the pack went on a 19 play, 92 yard, 8 minute drive that only ended in a field goal. They moved the ball well, converted 3 third downs, maintaining possession and momentum in a drive that effectively helped to seal the game away. But once again they weren’t putting this game away earlier, and they weren’t getting in the end zone. They were doing just enough.

 

Unfortunately just doing enough does not win championships. It can beat Detroit, Dallas and Oakland. It can’t beat Denver or Carolina. Sometimes doing just enough, or not quite, even loses to the Lions and Bears. The Packers have not passed their most difficult tests this year, and this week 16 tilt against Arizona stands as a point of reckoning for the somewhat split fan base. If Green Bay plays their best football, they’ll have a chance against Arizona, and that’s all that we can ask for. Being able to play with the best teams in the league is what we rightfully expect, to be able to compete for championships. But just enough won’t be enough in the desert this week. Just enough will get them beat by 3 scores and embarrassed if Arizona is on their game.

Arizona’s offense is lead by quarterback Carson Palmer, coming into this game with a beat up finger that shouldn’t keep him from playing to his potential. He threw a couple touchdowns after injuring it last week. The Cards put up a league leading 422 yards of offense per game. The vaunted passing attack has weapons out wide in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown, possibly the best trio of wideouts in the league this year. The Cardinals also boast a potent rushing attack with David Johnson having filled in for the injured Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington. David Johnson has torn up defenses the last 3 weeks and offers a stiff challenge for the Green Bay defense. I’ve been very impressed with the Packer defense this year, and it has been the most consistent and unheralded unit of the team, keeping the Packers in games and giving them a chance to win. I don’t believe they’ve faced a better offense this year, so Dom Capers will need to have his defense ready to play their best game yet.

Green Bay’s offense will attempt to regain past form and display some consistency this week against a good defense in Arizona. Though the Honeybadger Tyrann Mathieu is out for this game, Patrick Peterson, Deone Bucannon and Dwight Freeney lead a physical and stout defense for Arizona. Mike McCarthy will try to keep the play calling balanced with the run and pass, and getting Lacy and James Starks involved early will be key to keeping the Cardinal pass rush at bay. With Mathieu out some passing lanes may be more open. Outside of Peterson the other defensive backs for Arizona show some weaknesses. Getting in a rhythm through strategic use of the hurry up offense to take advantage of personnel matchups throughout the game will be key.

Despite how much faith Packers fans have been able to put in the defense, with the Arizona offense as potent as it has shown this year, the Green Bay offense will have to put up points to keep Green Bay in this game. Controlling the time of possession to keep Palmer and his weapons off the field, and finishing those drives with touchdowns, will be needed to win in the desert. I believe they’ll be able to do that in spurts, but this Arizona team will be too tough of an opponent to take down on the road if the defense can’t force Arizona into uncommon mistakes. Arizona takes this one 31-27 in a game where the Packers play well, but not well enough to take out a very good team on the road in their 2nd west coast trip in as many weeks.

We're nobody's flawed 10-4 team.
We’re nobody’s flawed 10-4 team.

Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers don’t have time for the media’s or fan’s negative questioning. They’ve gotten to 10 wins for the 7th straight year. I don’t know if I buy that, but if that is their way of having an edge and creating an atmosphere akin to the “We’re nobody’s underdog.” run in 2010, that’s fine with me. Certainly they know of the issues the fans have been worried about all year.

They’ve already over-promised, and us fans wouldn’t have it any other way. Let’s hope Green Bay over-delivers on expectations this week. They’ll have to if they want to make it a game and prove they belong at the top of the NFC, competing for the Lombardi Trophy. You can be sure it will take more than just enough.

 

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1. If Minnesota wins this week that game will also be for the division

Packers Heating Up December

Now that is what a December Packer victory in Lambeau Field should feel like. The only thing missing was cold weather, and I don’t pretend to miss that much at all. At a critical time of the season with many goals hanging in the balance and fan confidence wavering, the Green Bay Packers thoroughly dispatched the Dallas Cowboys 28-7 last Sunday to pull ahead by 1 game for the Central Division lead, after Arizona had beaten Minnesota 23-20 to kickoff week 14 of the NFL season in a good game a few days earlier.

Yes, the Packers were supposed to win this game. but not many fans were letting themselves feel too confident since nothing else has come easy this year. Now sitting at 9-4 and a step closer to a division title, home playoff game and maybe even a first round bye, Packers fans can now breathe a sigh of relief for, well, a few days at least. It didn’t look as if it would be so easy through the first half and even into the 3rd quarter. I did find myself getting a bit nervous they hadn’t pulled away yet, anxiously dreading a big momentum changing play by Jerry’s ‘boys to make me all the more uneasy, but it never came. Green Bay pulled away from and beat an inferior team. They did what they were supposed to do, and it was quite the welcome feeling. Better luck next time Jerry.

On the offensive side of the ball, much of the talk was about Mike McCarthy’s decision to take back play calling. He had kept it a secret all week in an attempt to make sure Dallas couldn’t use the information to prepare better. I think a little bit much is being made of this. It’s not like McCarthy has had nothing to do with the offense up until now. He heard every play former play caller Tom Clements was sending in through his headset, and you’d have to imagine he had veto rights on anything he felt wasn’t a good call. That being said, play calling in the NFL can be somewhat of an art, and coach McCarthy has been considered one of the best in the game. Having him back calling the plays and getting in a rhythm for the playoffs is only a good thing. I only question the original decision to give up those duties in the first place. Something could also be said for how often it seemed the Packers offense was getting to the line earlier with more time for Aaron Rodgers to digest the defensive alignment and audible if necessary. He seemed to change the plays less at the line this game, possibly an effect of better calls being made in the first place.

After reading my column last week (presumably) and finding himself extra motivated, Eddie Lacy ran as hard as I’ve seen him run all season. He was a man possessed, running through attempted tackles and grinding Cowboy defenders into paste on his path to his best game of the year with season highs in carries (24) and yards (124). He and James Starks (11 carries for 71 yards) put the game away with over 100 yards rushing and 2 scores combined in the 4th quarter. For the whole game, including 27 yards of Rodgers scrambles, the Packers rushed for 230 yards, the most they have had in a game in 11 years. As Packers guard Josh Sitton alluded to, when they are running the ball like that, the entire offense feeds off of it, and it can grind down a defense through the course of a game. Running the ball successfully on early downs also helped them to convert 7 of 14 3rd down opportunities, extending drives and keeping a good but tiring Dallas defense on the field. The game ball definitely goes to the Packer run game and all involved, from Lacy and Starks to McCarthy’s play calling and the blocking from the offensive line and receivers.

The fact I’m into the third paragraph talking about offense and I’ve yet to complain about the struggling passing game serves to underscore the dominance they displayed on the ground. The passing game was not as big of a focus in this game, and was a bit underwhelming as a result. Aaron Rodgers completed 22 of 35 attempts for 218 yards and 2 scores, which was more than enough with the defense and running game dominating. Most importantly Rodgers protected the ball, as we’ve all come to expect, and McCarthy made a concerted effort to get an underutilized weapon in Randall Cobb more involved. Cobb was used more extensively out of the backfield and even lined up on the outside from his typical slot designation a few times. With 11 total touches for 90 yards, he threatened the formidable Cowboy defense in diverse ways, proving his worth in a game where he was involved as much as any this season.

It may be the somewhat overlooked defense that deserves the most praise. Granted, the Cowboys are missing some key weapons and haven’t been stellar on offense without Romo this year, but the Green Bay defense held them to 7 points on only 270 yards of offense, going 1 for 11 on 3rd downs and 0 for 2 on 4th down attempts. The Cowboys did not have a drive longer than 6 plays the entire game.

The Pack did give up some long runs to McFadden, 2 of which came on Dallas’ only touchdown drive of 80 yards that kept the ‘boys within reach in the 3rd Quarter. Besides that it was a stellar performance. Dez Bryant was essentially shut out, catching one pass for 9 yards. Sam Shields had a pick intended for Dez in the end zone and essentially eliminated him from the Cowboys game plan before leaving with a concussion in the 2nd quarter. Impressive rookie Damarious Randall took over without missing a beat and kept the clamps on Bryant for the rest of the game. While much attention has been focused on the previous offensive woes, the Green Bay defense has quietly surged as of late, now all the way up to 6th in the league in points allowed.

If you have a passing game struggling some with various deployments of 1-high safety blitz packages, having a dominant and improving run game and defense is certainly a good way to make it through that stretch. Next up this week are the Oakland Raiders (6-7), 3rd place in the AFC West. They are a better team than Dallas, and this one will be on the west coast. New coach Jack Del Rio has them playing a physical and aggressive brand of football with a very solid offense and somewhat underrated but streaky defense. I’m excited to see how the Packers respond with the bar being raised this week prior to yet another level the following week at Arizona.

Latavius Murray is a talented running back but for whatever reason the Oakland ground game has struggled the last 5 weeks, with Murray averaging under 50 yards per game and less than 3 yards per carry in that span. Derek Carr is a rapidly ascending 2nd year signal caller for the Raiders. Equipped with a very quick release and excellent arm strength, he also has the speed to occasionally beat you with his legs. He compares in many ways to a young Aaron Rodgers as far as general skill sets, especially with that quick release. At Carr’s disposal are 2 very good weapons on the outside in veteran Michael Crabtree and rookie Amari Cooper. Crabtree is a savvy and sure-handed wideout who has rejuvenated his career after a couple subpar seasons. Cooper has a lot of speed and is extremely polished for a rookie. He is on pace to be the first 1,000 yard receiver since Randy Moss for the Raiders and he has 6 of the longest 12 receptions for his team this year.

The solid and improving Packers defense will have it’s hands full in what I believe will be a stiff test. Even more the case now that word has come down that defensive back Sam Shields will not play, causing the packers young secondary to be tested on the road this week. Any help they can get from the front 7 pressuring Carr to make decisions faster than he wants to will be a huge help. Carr has shown less of an ability to deal with pressure up the middle, so look for the Packer defense to run some stunts to get rushers in his face quickly.

On defense Oakland deploys both 3-4 and 4-3 Under concepts in an aggressive scheme that makes big plays but can also give some big plays up. Strong side linebacker Khalil Mack is a terror. He leads the league in sacks (14) and has an excellent balance of power, speed and discipline. 5 (!) of those sacks were in an upset of Oakland’s divisional leading foe Denver last week. He will definitely be a focus of Green Bay’s protection schemes. Defensive end Mario Edwards is having a great rookie season. He sometimes moves inside on passing downs, and can cause some havoc rushing the passer from there. The secondary seems to be a weak spot being held together by all-time great and future potential first ballot Hall of Famer Charles Woodson.

Packers fans won’t need much of an introduction in this case, as Woodson spent the best and most productive 7 years of his long career in Green Bay. Let go by Green Bay with plenty more left in the tank, there’s no doubt the competitive veteran will have a little extra motivation when playing his old team this week. He as much as said so in interviews. I would expect nothing less in this case. Though he may go into the Hall of Fame as a Packer one day, right now he has business to take care of. Currently dealing with a shoulder injury, I still expect Woodson to be looking to make some big plays in this one. He has 5 interceptions this year so far, the most he’s had since donning green and gold. and he will be looking to get one off Aaron Rodgers in this one.

The Green Bay offense will have it’s opportunities to make some big plays this week, and it will come down to them taking advantage of those when they present themselves. I expect them to commit some extra resources to protecting Aaron Rodgers from the Oakland pass rush when they attempt to move it through the air. The best way to soften up a pass rush is with a powerful running game and cleverly designed and carefully called screen package. With the run game coming on strong and McCarthy’s advanced screen game I expect Green Bay to be able to move the ball on Oakland’s defense. Making sure they finish scoring drives with touchdowns instead of field goals will be key along with taking care of the ball and making sure Oakland’s pass rush doesn’t force Rodgers into making any uncharacteristic mistakes that Woodson and his teammates will be waiting to capitalize on.

This test on the road is a big one for the Pack. If they take care of business as they should, it will setup a great matchup in Arizona next week. Root for the Eagles to take down the Cardinals in Philly on Sunday. If Arizona loses 2 of the last 3 and the Packers win out, they can steal the elusive first round bye out from underneath the Cardinals. If the Packers don’t dispose of the Raiders this Sunday afternoon though, it won’t matter. Though the Pack is one game up for the division with the tiebreaker on Minnesota, just in case, you can also root for the Bears to beat the Vikings in Minnesota this weekend. I enjoy it when they play each other as it almost guarantees one of them will lose. I’d be fine with a tie as well.

Packer tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari have the biggest matchup of the day on the offensive side in keeping Mack, Edwards and the rest of the Raiders pass rush in check. They’ll certainly have help from tight ends and running backs in protection. On defense the secondary will have to slow down Oakland’s talented receivers and get pressure on Carr. I’d bet Woodson gets one pick off Rodgers in this one, but I think the Packers go out west and continue to heat up in December, beating a good and underrated Oakland team in their house 28-23.

Sometimes in sports it’s difficult to just do what you’re supposed to do and beat the teams you should beat. Green Bay began showing some real positive signs in last week’s win over Dallas. Continuing that momentum with a win in Oakland and setting up a monumental NFC showdown with Arizona is all this Packer fan could hope to get for Christmas. Hopefully all my fellow cheeseheads are on Santa’s nice list this year.

What Lies Ahead for the Green Bay Packers

As the NFL season turns for home in week 14, the Green Bay Packers (8-4) control their own destiny to win the NFC North and secure a home playoff game. To most teams and fans this would be an enviable position to be in, but with the way the Packers have been playing and half of the remaining games against Arizona (10-2) and division rival Minnesota (8-4), this week’s matchup with the Dallas Cowboys (4-8) in Green Bay suddenly becomes a very important game to win.

With Packers fans still coming down from the emotional high after a 61 yard walk-off hail mary win against the Lions (4-8) a week ago, reality begins to set in for what still lies ahead in the final stretch of the season. Unless you turned on the game just in time to see the final play last week (that would have been desirable), you are aware that the Packers have not yet fixed the same issues that have been plaguing their offensive efficiency for much of the season.

Dec 3, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers (82) catches a game winning touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers (not pictured) during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Green Bay won 27-23. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

To think how much worse things would look after a loss to the Lions last week, sitting at 7-5, only ahead in the Wild Card race by 1 game, paints a much darker picture for the remainder of the season. That would leave even less room for error in these final four games, and serves to underscore how important getting a win this week will be to the Packers achieving what still lies before them:

  • Winning the NFC North for a fourth consecutive year
  • Hosting a home playoff game at Lambeau Field
  • Earning a 1st round playoff bye

All still attainable, the Pack currently lead for the first two with the tie-breaker over Minnesota. They are two games behind Arizona for the 1st round bye as of now. Pending what Arizona does in the same span, they’d have a chance to pull even with them and gain the tiebreaker with a win in the desert in week 16. To be honest I’m not entirely sure who Packers fans should be rooting for in the Minnesota @ Arizona game this weekend, but a case could be made for either. Of course, completely collapsing and missing the playoffs all together or having to go on the road in a wild card game is still mathematically possible as well. I don’t believe that will happen, but after far too many uninspiring performances this year, feeling confident about achieving any of the aforementioned goals is a stretch.

After this week’s games are complete, many of the playoff seeding scenarios will begin to be more clear. As much as I dislike typical football coach interview cliches such as “one game at a time”, it all starts with getting a win this week in what is most likely going to be the most winnable game on paper of the remaining contests. If Jerry Jones is high-fiving oil tycoon buddies in his suite overlooking the unseasonably warm tundra after this one, the rest of the schedule looks a whole lot more daunting with a tough but winnable game at Oakland next, prior to closing out the season with huge contests at Arizona and against Minnesota.

A win against Dallas at home would typically be expected with the hapless state of the Cowboys minus one Tony Romo at the helm. Unfortunately with how Green Bay has played this year nothing is guaranteed. Some comments from Dez Bryant (“I can’t wait, man”) lead me to believe that the Cowboys could be extra motivated to avenge last year’s playoff loss on a controversial call overturning Bryant’s impressive “catch”, ending the Cowboys’ season and sending the Packers on to the NFC Championship Game (which we will not be discussing).

The Cowboys come off a not quite as thrilling 19-16 win in the final seconds over Washington in last weekend’s Monday Night Football contest. Dan Bailey hit the 10th game-winning kick of his career to seal the deal in what was admittedly a pretty terrible game to watch if you don’t enjoy bad teams from a terrible division playing ugly football. That is, at least until there was 1:14 left in the 4th quarter. At that point the game was tied 9-9 on 6 field goals. I had regretted taking on that endeavor until this point when the game blew up with exciting big plays to finish it off. For anyone that hadn’t dozed off, it was an exciting end to the game, that almost made up for the previous 58:46 of game time, but not quite.

Containing the Cowboys’ run game, currently led by oft-injured Darren McFadden, as well as making sure Dez Bryant does not have a huge day will be the keys to victory on the defensive side of the ball. McFadden had 53 yards rushing on 14 carries against Washington. He also fumbled twice, and had a touchdown, which was his 2nd in the last 9 games. He was taken out and evaluated for a concussion, but returned. With backup QB Matt Cassel unable to take advantage of too much downfield, I expect Sam Shields to be tasked with shutting down Dez Bryant and outside of some safety help the rest of the defense can focus more on bottling up the run game. Cassel did win his first game in 5 starts last week, and going into that game he had completed 62.2% of his passes in the previous 4 contests, lost by a total of 18 points. Something could be said for him progressing and learning the offense while getting more comfortable, but I don’t think he’s a serious threat to shred the defense. Be concerned if he is hitting Dez early and often, as he inexplicably was not even targeting Bryant much until desperation 4th quarter attempts in last week’s game.

I am most excited to watch rookie Jake Ryan at middle linebacker to see how he is progressing. He ascended to starter-level snaps last week and seems to have displaced Nate Palmer to special teams duty outside of limited snaps in the dime package. I watched Ryan a lot at Michigan and he was an exciting player who made a lot of plays, and also made some mistakes. He played “with his hair on fire” and was easy to root for. He didn’t start playing middle linebacker until his final year of college, so i believe he has an even higher ceiling than some would think. Having he and Clay both be able to work from the inside and outside in the future is tantalizing.

I don’t believe a Romo-less Cowboy offense can score in bunches on the Packers’ defense, so outside of limiting big plays on special teams the most interesting remaining matchups to me will all take place when the Packers have the ball.

The Dallas defense ranks a respectable 5th overall in yards per game (326.5), 5th against the pass (222.4) and 15th against the run (104.1). In the same metrics on the offensive side, the Packers rank an unfamiliar 22nd in overall yards per game (341.4), a paltry 23rd in passing (229.8) and 15th in rushing (111.7). Yards per game is certainly not the only stat to measure team performance on, but this highlights the formidable Dallas defense against the struggling Packers offense.

Assuming the Cowboys will employ similar strategies to most other teams that have found a way to slow down the Pack this year, this game will come down to the Cowboys ability to execute that strategy vs. the Packers ability to find a solution to the offensive woes they’ve been unable to fix thus far. Defenses have been bumping receivers at the line to disrupt timing and closing down windows for Rodgers with linebackers and safeties who haven’t had to fear the run game, the slow tight ends, or the non-existent ability of the Packers to send anyone deep to take the top off the defense.

Thankfully for the Packers, recent results have been trending towards them finally figuring these things out, so we’ll have to see if they can make it count after an extended week to work out their issues:

· Eddie Lacy is “rejuvenated” according to coach Mike McCarthy in a recent press conference. I don’t know what that means, but if he’s running as hard on Sunday as he does to the buffet table in the offseason, then that’s a great start for stressing those safeties and linebackers with a serious run game. If this rejuvenation falls flat, they’ll be counting on James Starks to carry the load. Whoever is toting the rock for the Pack this week, it would greatly help their cause if they could hold on to the dang football and stop putting it on the ground, even if it is for fumbled touchdowns. Yet another reminder of how many good bounces were needed last week.

· Last week also saw the Packers send Jeff Janus, one of the fastest players in the league, on a deep fly route down the left sideline. Not only did they have the audacity to send him on this route, they also threw it to him! It fell incomplete, but simply threatening a defense with that occasionally makes them have to respect it. It was the most thrilled Packer Nation has been at an incompletion in a while. The Packers miss Jordy Nelson dearly, but it’s been 12 games now and he’s not walking through that door. The continued emergence and health of Wisonsin-favorite Jared Abbrederis, as well as the potential return of Ty Montgomery, could all help to boost the receiving corps’ production. Davante Adams not dropping passes and James Jones deciding this is a game he’ll score 3 touchdowns could also prove beneficial.

· Finally, Richard Rodgers emergence last week as the Packers’ leading receiving threat (even before the hail mary), and the other Rodgers’ confidence in him, as well as hopefully re-stoked hail-mary-induced confidence in himself, could all combine together to help the passing game open some recently closed lanes.

Two other potential factors could shift a closer-than-hoped-for game to a Packer win this Sunday:

· By the time gameday gets here on Sunday, Green Bay will have had 4 more days of preparation than Dallas for this game. Even more beneficial at this point in the season, 4 more days of rest to get healthy. Whoever puts the schedules together for this season did the Packers no favors by any means with their divisional stretch of games and Thursday contests, and this doesn’t come close to making up for it, but it could be very helpful for this game.

· The Packers under McCarthy have typically been a team that gets better as the season goes along. In the final 4 games of the last 5 seasons, the Packers are the 3rd most winning team (14-6) in closing out regular seasons in December. They are only behind Indianapolis (15-5) and New England (17-3) in that same span. The Packers typically finish very strong, and this season, they will need that to be true more than ever.

I think the Packers win this one 27-20 in an exciting game that is close throughout.

The NFC playoff picture is heavily centered around the Packers, Vikings and Cardinals, who all play each other over the final 4 weeks of the season. Every game is huge, and none more than the one in front of each of these teams right now. We will know a lot more next week at this time, but the nice thing about the Vikings and Cardinals playing each other this week, is one of them has to lose. Or maybe Packer fans should be rooting for a tie? None of it will matter as much if they don’t take care of their own business this Sunday and beat a team that they should handle in Green Bay.

More Than A Friday: A Pedestrian Day of Football

The future is awesome; I think we’ve established that as fans.  You can watch every game, and basically every time slot gives you options.  The internet gives you a voice, and the time saved by technology actually provides the layman with that precious commodity of time to put knowledge behind that opinion.

Here’s an opinion.  Perhaps, we’ve met the point of critical mass or boiling point, or whatever, when it comes to being overwhelmed by things.  On Thanksgiving Day, we’re offered three NFL games and usually big-time College Football showdown involving the University of Texas.  Granted, two of those professional games are going to be home games for the Lions and Cowboys, so buyer beware on the excitement over those contests.  Texas was a better game when A&M was involved, but why would I get hung up on something like that?

It’s an honest question.  I have no skin in the game with the institutions of higher learning in Austin or College Station1While I’m at it, what happens in Norman, Stillwater, Waco, Fort Worth, or anywhere else in Big 12 Country mean much to me either., but I’m somehow predisposed to believe this game lacks an “it” factor, sans the Aggies.  Under Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M is a far cry from the style of play they exhibited as a Big 12 member, and frankly, Texas is currently a name-brand program without the name-brand results.

It’s football on a Thursday night, and I wasn’t watching by accident.  After a slow first quarter, I sent a text to a colleague that said spending my Thanksgiving evening watching that Texas Tech-Texas clash2With the option of watching a Bears-Packers game looming. felt too much like work.  Not a minute passes, and I’m watching the second coming of the Immaculate Reception3Only, this one didn’t hit the ground..  Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant found himself in the right place at the right time after an apparent interception by Holton Hill; only, Grant’s teammate Devin Lauderdale turned into a defender and jarred the ball loose, and Grant took it 65 yards for the score.

As an encore, Texas responded with this 91-yard jaunt by Chris Warren III.

I’m well aware that there’s potential intrigue at every turn, and I enjoyed every bit of awesome that Texas Tech and Texas would yield in the Red Raiders 48-45 victory at the home of the Longhorns.  Still, I remember when football was every bit as much of the pageantry of Thanksgiving as the bird in the oven.  You didn’t care that you were getting crummy Detroit and Dallas games, you watched.  You know you watched?  Because it didn’t happen very often.  Football on a Thursday, then more on Sunday; why would you even care that you were watching Mike McMahon?

The answer is now, it’s because now happened.  By the way NFL, thanks for not troubling any AFC teams for their services today.  Seriously though, if you had things to do, are you going to fight with loved ones over seeing the 4-6 Eagles and 3-7 Lions?  You should probably do the things you don’t want to do for other people, and get your lazy on with Cam Newton getting points in Dallas.  The thing is, I know I’m going to get plenty more Cam, and we should talk about Kuechly and Norman more with that Panthers squad, and unless interrupted by divine intervention, FOX is going to give me a lot more Cowboys4The Cowboys 3-8 record be damned!, so there’s nothing unique to draw me away from the dinner table, but still, I watch.

The night game is easy.  Classic rivalry, and the Bears have shown much more than a faint pulse lately, while we’ve micro analyzed the Packers and torn apart their their losses.  I don’t know what it was, but that game got second screen treatment on this Turkey Day.  Maybe I’m not ready for College Football to end, and had to cram in that Big 12 game that doesn’t affect the big picture.  Maybe I’m as burnt out on the Packers as I previously stated I am on the Cowboys.

I might just need things to be moved around a little.  Getting A&M back to Austin would help.  Rotating the Cowboys and Lions out of the daytime slots on Thanksgiving Thursday might be something to think about.  

Maybe I’m just getting old, but sports are fun.  I’m thankful to have them in my life.

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1. While I’m at it, what happens in Norman, Stillwater, Waco, Fort Worth, or anywhere else in Big 12 Country mean much to me either.
2. With the option of watching a Bears-Packers game looming.
3. Only, this one didn’t hit the ground.
4. The Cowboys 3-8 record be damned!

Why The NFL Has No Respect For The World Series

The NFL has done something over the past few years to prove to the world that they feel they are the only professional sports league that matters. We all know that the NFL is the top dog when it comes to professional sports, but now they seem to be laughing in the face of America’s former National Pastime.

There was a time when the National Football League actually respected Major League Baseball enough to not schedule a Sunday night game that would be played opposite the World Series. That time is over. Football is so popular in America that a Week 8 regular season NFL game gets more viewers than a possibly decisive Game 5 of the World Series.

nfl-wallpaper

 

NBC’s Sunday Night Football game between the undefeated Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos drew about 23 million viewers, while the World Series between the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets managed to bring in about 17.2 million viewers. Some will point to the fact that the baseball game ran late due to extra innings. The numbers actually show that many viewers flipped over to watch baseball after the football game ended. Game 5 of the World Series actually hit a 12 year high for ratings, but it still wasn’t enough to beat the NFL.

The marquee matchup between the undefeated teams of Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers was a little disappointing, while the World Series game was a nail-biter for 12 innings. Fantasy football can also be partially blamed because many people likely had key players in the Sunday night game. After the ratings came out, this was the most watched Week 8 NFL prime time game in 22 years! Obviously the NFL’s schedule makers didn’t know that both teams would be undefeated, but they knew that this would be a marquee matchup that would draw ratings against the World Series.

During its first four seasons on NBC, Sunday Night Football had the decency to take one week off as to not conflict with the World Series. Since deciding not to take a Sunday night off, the NFL’s schedule makers have featured either the Green Bay Packers or New Orleans Saints in the game opposite the World Series every year since 2010. The thought process is supposedly that neither New Orleans nor Green Bay has a MLB team so there should be no conflicts of interest.

Rob Carr/Getty Images
Rob Carr/Getty Images

It seems that the NFL is not going to back down and wants high ratings no matter what it goes up against. If this trend keeps up, it may be baseball that is forced to change its postseason schedule to avoid the NFL. With the NFL now playing prime time games on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays, that doesn’t leave much for MLB to work with. The World Series might have to be played on Tuesday and Wednesday with a travel day on Thursday. They could play the next two games on Friday and Saturday, although that would not allow for the current 2-3-2 format.

Even Pete Rose decided to do something else for Game 5 of the World Series. He had a contract already signed to appear for a private dinner, speech, and autograph session and was not able to be featured as an analyst on the Fox broadcast. It would be nice for the NFL and MLB to work together even if it’s just to schedule one week in October, but that seems unlikely. The NFL regards itself so highly that it will never budge and just wants to keep gaining money and popularity.

Because Everyone Else Gets to Do This: The Way Too Early NFL Projection for J.T. Barrett

In 2007, everyone said an LSU quarterback named JaMarcus Russell was a can’t miss prospect.  Everyone was wrong.  But everyone didn’t lose their job.  In fact, nothing really happened to the analysts and other media members who were on the JaMarcus bandwagon.  So here is my initial attempt at making a quarterback projection that will almost certainly be wrong, but, according to history, should leave me relatively unscathed: J.T. Barrett is the next Aaron Brooks.

In general, comparing players seems to be a very inexact science, especially since it is almost always based on a player reminding a person of someone else.  Cardale Jones gets the JaMarcus Russell comparison because he is a big, somewhat mobile quarterback who has a ridiculously powerful arm.  For J.T. Barrett, the obvious comparison would be former Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith.  However, using Troy Smith as a comparison would make my article way too short and oddly depressing as it would read like this:

J.T. Barrett is yet another quarterback who had great college success but couldn’t translate to the NFL.  He sat on the bench of (insert NFL team[s]) for 3 years and was released.  He is currently playing in the CFL for the (insert CFL team). 

Since a Troy Smith comparison would be too easy, Aaron Brooks is now my comparison.  Aaron Brooks was drafted in 1999 by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round.  In 2000, he played in 8 games for the Saints, starting 5.  His career ended in 2006 when he started and played 8 games for Oakland.  He finished his career with 123 touchdowns, 92 interceptions, and a 56.5% completion rate.  Not incredible stats, but very serviceable.  What the stats don’t say about Brooks is that he was a dynamic and exciting quarterback who had the ability to beat teams with his arm or his legs.

Like Brooks, J.T. Barrett possesses the athleticism to turn broken plays into positive yardage and provides enough of a running threat to keep defenses honest.  In addition, Barrett’s arm is not incredibly strong, but accurate, something that is arguably more important in the current football environment that emphasizes short, precise passing over the ability to throw effortless 40 yard passes.  In his brief college career, he has completed approximately 64% of his passes.

His NFL career can go in two very different paths, one leading to disaster, and the other leading to relative success (or whatever you wish to characterize the career of Aaron Brooks as):

  1. If the NFL team that drafts him incorporates some elements of the Ohio State attack that he currently thrives in, it is very likely that he can develop into a respectable quarterback who can make short throws, throw various wide receiver screens, and take the occasional shot downfield off of play action. Barrett must be provided with some weapons at running back and wide receiver as he doesn’t have the ability to turn middling players into stars.  However, the likelihood of this scenario becoming a reality is very slim.
  2. The current CBS rankings for the 2018 NFL draft have him as the #2 quarterback on the board behind current Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen. If this current projection holds, then, at worst, Barrett goes in the second round of the NFL draft to a team that is probably desperate for a quarterback, but wasn’t drafting quite high enough to get Kyle Allen or didn’t want to give up the picks/players to move up in the draft.   That team will probably go into the season with a very predictable plan: bring in a journeyman game manager type (think Josh McCown, what Kirk Cousins might be in a few years, or Matt Cassel) to hold down the fort for the year and give Barrett a year to watch and learn.  However, this plan NEVER plays out the way it is supposed to.  The team always starts losing, the coach gets anxious and needs to save his job, and a switch is made.  An unprepared quarterback is thrown into the NFL fire far too early, fans start calling him a bust after a few bad games, and the cycle repeats in next year’s draft.

Hopefully, scenario 2 doesn’t happen and Barrett is given the opportunity to develop properly so that he can fulfil his true potential of becoming Aaron Brooks 2.0.  But, much like the process of accurate player comparisons, Barrett’s career will hinge far too much on luck.

 

Image from sportingnews.com

 

 

 

Are Chiefs Primetime Ready?

Week three of the NFL season will conclude tonight as the Kansas City Chiefs go into Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers. The Packers role into tonight as one of the best teams in football having won their first two games in convincing fashion. The Chiefs come into tonight’s game after one of the worst regular season losses in franchise history.

Last week the Chiefs lost to the Denver Broncos in primetime on national TV. It wasn’t just that they lost to a division rival, it was how they lost. The Chiefs squandered an early fourteen point lead by giving the Broncos and Peyton Manning five turnovers. The final turnover was a Jamaal Charles fumble, on a pointless running play with thirty seconds left in regulation that the Broncos returned for a game winning touchdown.  It was Charles second fumble of the game and just one of many questionable play calls by head coach Andy Reid. The defense looked great early but could find no answer for Manning in the fourth quarter. Alex Smith was pretty much what Chiefs fans have come to expect from Alex Smith. He had one bad interception and a couple more tip balls that could be the fault of any number of factors. Otherwise, Smith had his usual “check-down Charlie” game plan. And for those keeping track at home, they did not throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver bringing that consecutive game streak to nineteen.

The odd thing about the game last week though, despite how horrible the Chiefs played, they still should have won. I feel confident in saying that the Chiefs were the better team on Thursday night. They gave Manning five extra possessions and were still in line for the win with under a minute to go in the game. It was the first time in NFL history that a team had scored two touchdowns in under one minute to first tie and then win the game. So what does that all mean for the Chiefs going forward?

For starters I believe it means that the Chiefs are a good football team. They have a top ten defense that will only get stronger with the return of corner Sean Smith next week. They have one of the best trios of offensive threats in the league with Travis Kelce, Charles and Jeremy Maclin. Smith has proven he can win when he’s surrounded with talent and as long as the offensive line can play decent than he should be able to find those weapons. A lot of people around Kansas City and in the national media expect the Chiefs to compete with Broncos for the AFC West crown while at worse being a wild card team. Being 1-1 after two weeks should not change those expectations for anyone.

The question is; as good as these Chiefs may be, are they ready for primetime? The Chiefs biggest problem since Reid took over three years ago is winning the games that mean the most. Everyone remembers the historic collapse against the Indianapolis Colts in the 2013 playoffs. The historic collapse last week is fresh in everyone’s mind. Reid is also 0-5 against the Broncos since he came to KC. The end of the season when teams hope to be playing their best ball, the Chiefs are 5-10 from week eleven on under Reid. The Chiefs did win a couple big games last season becoming the only team in NFL history to beat both Super Bowl contestants in the same season. But, the Chiefs also lost to the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans who combined to win only three other games all season.

That question will get answered tonight in Green Bay. The Chiefs don’t have to win this game to silence their critics, but they do need to look good. Smith can’t look frazzled and scared as he did against Denver. Reid can’t try to be cute and make crazy play calls trying to outsmart the other team. The defense needs to play at the top of their game for an entire game not just the first half. When the game ends tonight, whether the Chiefs win or lose, they need to show that they are a good team and that the moment is not too big for them. If the Chiefs can show that tonight than a lot more fans will jump on the band wagon and start to believe that this team could be something special. But, if the Chiefs perform the same way they did against Denver, than there will be a lot of warm seats in Arrowhead Stadium starting with Reid and Smith.

My Nomination for Most Hardcore College Football Fan Ever

In short, I spent my Saturday driving to Madison, Wisconsin to watch the University of Hawaii (UH) play the Wisconsin Badgers on TV at a friend’s house.  If it sounds unexciting and uninteresting, it’s because it is.  Driving from Milwaukee to Madison to spend the morning at what is supposedly the largest farmer’s market in the country, eat lunch, and then go to a friend’s house to watch the game is not the ideal “fan” experience.  But along the way, I had the opportunity to meet the man who will forever be the most hardcore college football fan I have ever known.

Between eating samples of cheese, honey, and bread from various vendors at the farmer’s market, I noticed a group of approximately 20 University of Hawaii fans.  Their green and white shirts stood out amongst the sea of red.  Being from Hawaii, I noticed their distinctive hats immediately, as it was what my grandparents used to wear when they went to games.  Thinking it would be fun, or at least interesting, to talk to a group of Hawaii fans, my wife and I approached them wearing our Badger shirts.  All of them were the approximate age of my grandparents when they used to religiously attend UH volleyball games before the dangers of driving at night ended those weekly adventures.

The UH fans asked how I had ended up in Wisconsin after growing up in Hawaii and also asked if I had tried to get any of my family to come up for the game.  I explained that my dad was thinking about attending the UH game, possibly with some friends and co-workers, but ultimately decided not to.  He didn’t want to see UH get bludgeoned.  I mentioned this fact to the UH fans sitting on a long bench at the farmer’s market and one asked, “How old is your dad?”

“65,” I responded.

“That’s nothing, we have a 99-year-old guy with us.  He’s in the capitol using the bathroom,” replied a woman in the group.

I got to meet this 99-year-old UH fan.  He is my nomination for the most hardcore college football fan.  The group of UH fans flew into Chicago on Friday.  They then took a bus into Madison for the Saturday game, an approximately 3 to 4 hour journey, and planned to bus back to Chicago on Sunday so they could return to Hawaii.  From experience, the direct flight from Honolulu to Chicago is about 9 hours.  If there is a layover, the total travel time increases to approximately 12 to 14 hours, if not longer.  It is a trip that is difficult at any age.  This 99-year-old man decided that his love for all things UH football was worth making the trek from Honolulu to Madison to see his team play an opponent who was favored by 24 to 28 points, depending on the day.  I didn’t speak with him for a long time, but in the few minutes we interacted, I learned that he wasn’t just a Hawaii fan, he may have been a Wisconsin fan as well.  After seeing my Wisconsin shirt, he sang the entire Wisconsin fight song, including the middle verses that are conveniently skipped at games because no one knows them.

Fans who do outrageous things like attend a Packer game in December shirtless or go to Raider games decked out with face paint and spikes get tons of attention.  But I truly feel that it is time for fans to take notice of the diehard senior citizens who travel with their team to see them play.  There is a 99-year-old man from Hawaii who said yes to, or possibly even hatched the idea of, flying halfway across the continental United States for a 3-day trip because he wanted to see his team play a game that they would lose 99 times out of 100.  To put this in perspective, I’ve asked my mom and dad, both of whom are approximately 35 years younger than the fan I met this weekend, to merely consider coming up to Wisconsin for this rare match-up (and to see their incredible progeny of whom they are so proud).  The request was met with incredulity, as though I had asked them to run a marathon or become MMA fighters.  I quickly dropped the subject.

I tip my hat to the many Hawaii fans who decided to come up to Madison.  Their loyalty puts the vast majority of fans to shame.