Archive for November, 2008

Let’s get ahead of ourselves – the Pack’s next 6 games

November 18, 2008

For those of you who thoroughly enjoy hearing athletes and coaches say “we’re taking it one game at a time and right now all we’re focused on is the _________ game”, you may not want to read this post. I prefer it when athletes, coaches, fans openly project and look past weak opponents.

Our schedule over the next 6 games is as follows:

  • @ New Orleans, Carolina, Houston, @ Jax, @ Chi, Detroit

Of these games, I am most worried about the 3 away games. Of course, we have to play well to win the others (except the Detroit game), but these 3 concern me the most. I think this next game in New Orleans is especially important. If we can take down Brees and Bush and co it would make coming home for two tough, but very winnable games easier. Carolina is solid, but they’ve played a fairly weak schedule and Delhomme has been erratic this year – I am confident we can win this one at home. Houston has Sage Rosenfels (and hopefully still will by then) who may be the least clutch QB ever. At Jax could be tough and at Chicago is always tough. Detroit is hideous. So, I can see us going at least 4-2 and maybe even doing better than that. I believe 4-2 may end up being sufficient for the playoffs. I will say this, if Chicago loses this weekend to St. Louis, they are done.

Factors going forward:

  • Will Kyle Orton work diligently to get his QB rating back in the 70s where it belongs?
  • Will Matt Forte hit a rookie wall?
  • Will Ryan Grant pick up steam like he did in the 2nd half of last year and run wild?
  • Will Mike McCarthy stay focused himself? I noticed last weekend, MM was pumped up and even yelling at the officials early in the game – he wanted it. Not sure he’s been that way in all the previous games.
  • Will the Williams duo be suspended (and as some are speculating, possibly Allen too for dirty play)
  • Will AP be able to remain injury free for the remainder of the season?
  • Will national writers continue to be mysteriously duped into thinking Gus Frerotte is a quality QB (Kevin Seifert, ESPN’s NFC North blogger – a former Star Tribune reporter, says “Frerotte is the most experienced — if not the most careful — quarterback in the division and isn’t fazed by big-game pressure.” Not sure what he means by “careful” but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean 11 picks in 9 games, a sub-60% completion percentage, fumbling/getting sacked a lot a 77 QB rating. Not sure either why Seifert would say Frerotte’s not fazed by big games – he was not terrible in New Orleans but that’s about it.

STEVE ADDS: I think Seifert was probably saying that Frerotte is not the most careful, rather than suggesting that he is careful.  And perhaps he meant that Frerotte isn’t fazed by big-game pressure because, a) his vast experience includes very few big-games, because he sucks, or, b) he is so consistently bad in big games that there is little pressure on him to do well.  Either way, we’ve warned our readers about Seifert’s reporting in the past.  I don’t think it’s fair to judge the guy’s entire body of work by one mistake, but it was the really the only story going at the time and it was a rather significant mistake to make.


60,000 mile “maintenance”

November 18, 2008

Have you ever taken your car in for one of the major “maintenance” jobs? 30,000, 60,000, 90,000 etc. Well, I have been doing this fairly regularly over the years and every time I’m due for one, I get angry. I can’t help it. It always happens the same way when I call to schedule:

  • Me: Hi, I’d like to schedule an appointment for an oil change.
  • Service: How many miles do you have on the vehicle?
  • Me: 60,000
  • Service: Oh, then you’ll also need the 60,000 mile maintenance, would you like to schedule that as well?
  • Me: Well, what does that entail?
  • Service: We change the oil, lubricate a few things, rotate the tires, give you some new spark plugs, check the belts, check the hoses, check air filters, check tire pressure, check johnson rods, check brake fluid, check the coffee level in our coffee mugs, check what time it is, check on how Johnny’s kid’s high school football game went last night….
  • Me: Oh, well, you indicated you check a lot of things, anything you actually “do” besides the oil change?
  • Service: Yes, we give you new spark plugs and rotate the tires. And, you need a record indicating you’ve gotten all of your maintenance done and your car checked regularly if you want to keep the warranty valid on your car. And we keep that here for you, nicely organized. Without this maintenance record, the manufacturer may not have to honor the warranty.
  • Me: What?
  • Service: And that will come to $542.
  • Me: $542!?! Seriously? But an oil change, tire rotation, spark plug replacement is on special down the block for $49…I’d guess they could check on a few things too while they’re at it…
  • Service: Actually, if you add up all that we do for a maintenance, it comes out pretty close to that total.
  • Me: Ummm, pretty close?
  • Service: Is there a day that works best for you?
  • Me: I’ll have to…check.

(Taken nearly verbatim from an actual conversation with a dealership 20 minutes ago).

Romo and the Cowboys could run the table

November 17, 2008

I hesitate to write anything favorable about the Cowboys…ever. I don’t like the franchise, Jerry Jones is a tool, Wade Phillips looks so clueless every time he’s shown on TV and most things about the Dallas Cowboys are just obnoxious. Perhaps most importantly, I watched them beat up on the Packers during the 90s (though practically ALL the games were in lame Texas Stadium) and my hatred for the Cowboys eventually grew to rival my hatred for the Bears. (Imagine then, how coollame, new word, sort of like bittersweet, if you will, it was when I golfed with Cowboys WR Alvin Harper a few years back).

But there was something about the way the Cowboys took down a quality Redskins team. It was similar to what I saw when I watched them beat up on the Packers at Lambeau earlier this season. I think the Redskins are really good. They are a very sound team with a strong running game, a safe, sensible passing game and a quality defense. But Dallas controlled the second half of that game and were it not for a few nice defensive plays by the Redskins that led to picks, Dallas might have won by a couple TDs.

Here is why they could run the table:

  1. Romo is very good. He is confident and while he’s prone to the boneheaded pass here and there, he is savvy and can make some beautiful throws (the throw to win the game to Bennett was beholdable, as it were).
  2. Witten and Bennett both are great receivers – but John Madden is right, Witten is a tremendous asset for many other reasons.
  3. TO and Roy Williams will be an exhausting duo to have to defend for defenses for the remainder of the year. Both of these guys can break games open with quality catch/run plays. Romo can also throw to Miles Austin who just makes plays whenever he’s on the field. The receiving options for Romo in the red zone especially make playing defense against them brutal (Witten, Bennett, Williams, TO, Barber, Jones).
  4. Marion Barber runs very hard and is a smart football player. His taking tackles inbounds at the end of the game last night on several occasions was smart football – and his 100+ yards pretty much won the game. He can catch, run, juke and roll right through defenders.
  5. Felix Jones is hurt but when he returns, there is yet another scary offensive weapon.
  6. Terrance Newman is a great corner. He shut down one of this year’s best WRs last night.
  7. Ratliffe and Ware are both scary D-Linemen (though Ware may not be the best run defender.

In the NFC, I think there are only 2 teams right now who could spoil things for the Cowboys: the Giants because I can’t leave out the obvious and the Packers, if we get to the playoffs. While I’d worry re the Pack’s run D trying to stop Barber/Jones, our pass D is so good that Romo’s tendency to throw a bad pick or two could result in defensive TDs for us. And the way our offense clicked yesterday, stopping such a balanced attack would be a tall order for anyone. Anyway, I don’t mean to get ahead of myself but after watching a bunch of games yesterday, both the Cowboys’ scariness and the Packers suddenly brighter prospects have been dominant thoughts this morning.

Ahhhh, That’s Better — Packers Tied for 1st Place

November 16, 2008

Some observations.  Please add to them in the comments and have an extra PBR tonight.

*I think Mike McCarthy was right about the importance of having the offense practice together.

*The offensive line looked very strong — maybe even dominant.  Rodgers was not sacked all day and the Bears really never got close.

*Nice first drive. Ryan Grant looked strong, as he has for the past several weeks, and — for the first time in a long time — there were actually holes for him to run through.  It was a sign of things to come.

*Aaron Rodgers looked good.  He badly underthrew Donald Driver on the ball that was intercepted by Brian Urlacher, and he missed a few others.  But overall, he was very sharp.

*The Bears came in ranked #4 in rushing defense, allowing just 74.9 yards a game.  Ryan Grant had 145 yards on 24 carries.  That’s the guy Ted Thompson signed to a long-term deal.

*The run defense was just fine, despite missing Nick Barnett.  They held Matt Forte to just 64 yards, one of the lowest of the season.

*Mason Crosby’s 53-yard field goal looked like it would have been good from 63 yards.  It’s easy to understand why McCarthy had so much confidence in him last week, though it still doesn’t excuse the poor playcalling.  And the only reason Crosby had to kick a 53-yarder was because of some strange, conservative playcalling before the half.  (The screen pass to Brandon Jackson on first down was reminiscent of last week.  I guess McCarthy was serious when he said he didn’t second guess his playcalling.

*One nitpick: I would not have left Ryan Grant in up 31 points and below 5 minutes in the games.  Unnecessary.  Unwise.

Overall, though, a solid win.  Very nice with the Vikings’ nice.

Game keys – Chicago

November 15, 2008
  • Pound the ball with Ryan Grant. Everyone you’ll read will talk about the Bears’ strong run D and their poor pass defense. That doesn’t matter for this game. The Pack should open up the pass game by running the ball effectively. What the Bears are hoping happens, is that the Pack tries a few run plays without success, then gives up the run. Then, the Bears would just drop extra players into coverage making the pass game harder. I recognize this is a tall order for a seemingly hapless O-Line, but last week they actually blocked quite well on running plays.  Couple this with the fact that Grant has been running hard lately and seems to be playing inspired ball. Good run game will open up the pass big-time because their pass D is bad.
  • The Bears’ corners are not playing well. Work them on longer patterns. This could be pretty tough for an O-Line with major protection issues, but it is very important to at least take a few shots down field to stretch the field. I know I often include this in the game keys, but I often include this after a week when we didn’t stretch the field and it cost us (though it was hard to stretch the field for Rodgers when he had .5 seconds to throw the ball).
  • McCarthy can’t be afraid to bench one of the O-Line players if they are sucking. I am usually a proponent of sticking with a core group of guys hoping they’ll eventually get it together but in this case, I’m not so sure anyway. I am particularly concerned re Chad Clifton’s play and my concern is not just based on his horrific showing last week. He hasn’t played well for a while.
  • McCarthy also needs to be willing to evaluate on the fly, during the game, how Hawk is doing in the middle. If it’s not working, McCarthy may be better off going to that 4-2-5 nickel-type line-up they used so effectively against the Colts. The Bears may be game-planning as I type for a heavy dose of the 2-TE sets and having more coverage help may be a good idea. Also, the way our LBs are playing this year (in the 4-3-4 line-up), I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that just having a 4-2-5 for most of the game might not also be better for stopping the run.
  • McCarthy also needs to be ready to cut Frost DURING THE GAME if he continues to not deliver. I’m sure Mason Crosby can punt the ball 30-40 yards on a line drive with 1 second hangtime.
  • Force Matt Forte to fumble. I don’t care if it means giving up extra yards because we’re too busy trying to strip the ball. Putting a dent in this kids’ growing confidence (and consequently, in Lovie’s confidence in Forte) could really help us to encourage them to try to beat us through the air.
  • I want to see Aaron Rodgers line up as a WR at least once.

Harrell injured…again

November 15, 2008

Read here from Knee sprain now – it appears as though he will play, but is listed as questionable. I kind of like Justin Harrell from interviews etc – seems like a nice kid. But I’m not sure how much longer we can hang on to a guy who gets injured constantly.

Jon Gruden’s questionable quote…

November 14, 2008

Read this from Jon Gruden re Earnest Graham’s chances of playing Sunday:

“He’s going to gut it out, he’s going to grit it out just like pro football players do this time of year,” Gruden said. “I’ve got good feelings for Earnest Graham.”

I’ll bet Gruden would want the chance to restate that one.

2008 Week 11 picks

November 13, 2008
  • NYJ @ NE (-3.5) – Favre and co will lead the AFC East after tonight (not just saying this because they’re up 24-13 right now, I had to submit my pool picks earlier and put a lot of points on them).
  • NO @ KC (+4.5) – Final score 44-30, NO. Wow, would Tony Gonzalez look good in Green and Gold!
  • Chi @ GB (-5.5) – Surprising spread here as this is usually a close game. The last few weeks, I have been very reluctant to pick the Pack, but this week, for some odd reason (especially consider Barnett’s injury), I’m not so worried. Packers…comfortably here.
  • Balt @ NYG (-6.5) – Coughlin apparently fined a player this week for thinking about showing up late for a meeting.
  • Oak @ Mia (-10.5) – hard to believe how little we’ve heard about Bill Parcells this year. Seriously.
  • Phil @ CIncy (+8.5) – How does Marvin Lewis have a job?
  • Det @ Car (-14.5) – Detroit has no chance…to even cover. Man, Drew Stanton must suck.
  • Den @ Atl (-5.5) – Mike Smith may be one of the most anonymous, highly talented coaches out there.
  • Tenn @ Jax (+2.5) – the unlikely undefeated reign ends here. Tenn is good and their coach is very good, but this undefeated business needs to stop. They are just not good enough for it to continue. I actually wouldn’t be too surprised to see it not only end, but come to a fairly dramatic halt.
  • Hou @ Indy (-8.5) – Hou is done. Sage Rosenfels is a disaster. He’s had some good quarters here and there but not a good QB. Too bad because they have serious talent.
  • MN @ TB (-3.5) – This is the kind of game that MN might win because they may need to tease their lame fanbase just a bit more before crashing dramatically at the end of the year leading the quiet and respectful Adrian Peterson to cry out for a trade.
  • St L @ SF (-5.5) – The NFL has reportedly decided to cancel this game due to lack of interest.
  • AZ @ Sea (+5.5) – Hasselbeck is back, but he was bad before he left in part because they have a bad team. But they have seen the slight resurrection of Koren Robinson. I like Sea to pull off the upset here as AZ may be feeling like they should give one back after last week.
  • SD @ Pitt (-4.5) – Does Ben Roeth now suck? No, Pitt is just reverse Minnesota. They struggle throughout the season giving everyone the impression that they’re not great, then they heat up and dominate. That domination may start any week.
  • Dal @ Wash (+1.5) – Dallas will awaken for this one. Jerry Jones will obnoxiate, as it were, on the sideline.
  • Buff @ Cleve (-5.5) – Cleve’s loss to Denver last week most likely ruined their season. Buff will get it back together after taking the last several weeks off apparently.

Denny Green – football genius?

November 13, 2008

It’s hard to believe that I’d title this post “Denny Green – football genius?”. My guess is that the general perception of Denny Green is that he isn’t that bright. Some might think that because of his high, squeeky, scratchy voice, or from a foolish gameday decision or 10 from his coaching days, or from not taking talented teams far enough in the playoffs, or from the “we are who they thought they are” tirade.

So why would I label him a genius?

He’s a fantastic commentator, of all things. I still can’t believe I’m writing this, but the guy is profoundly insightful during the Westwood One radio broadcasts. He is able to diagnose plays before the play-by-play guy can tell us what is happening, call penalties as they happen and generally give the listener a unique understanding for the coaching decisions behind some of the plays. He also has great working knowledge of the tendencies of specific players.

I didn’t like him as the Vike’s coach but I’ve gotta say, once you get past that voice, you’ll get lots of good info if you just listen.

Old Man Sudden Contraction of an Illness Alert

November 12, 2008

I have noticed that as I age and become less healthy overall (essentially by leading a tremendously sedentary lifestyle), I am more vulnerable to picking up the common cold than at any other period in my life. But the amazing thing to me about these colds, is how I get them. Last night, at 7:48pm, while watching the show “House”, I got a cold. I wasn’t doing anything – actually I was having a beer (Grolsch Light – yes, I drifted from my Pasbt/Leinie’s/Miller roots the other day at the store). I was just sitting there when suddenly, out of nowhere, I got a cold. Someone or something somewhere, flipped a switch and I got a cold – just like that. My throat tightened and felt sore, my nose started running and my eyes started to water. At 7:47pm, I was breathing beautifully and taking for granted my fine non-cold health. Not sure why this strikes me as odd but I guess I always thought the onset of such illnesses was more gradual. Maybe I’ve never paid attention to it quite like this. Is this what happens with age – or is this how we always get colds?