9

December

Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers Key Matchups

 

Aaron Rodgers and Ndomukong Suh

The Packers are hoping Suh won’t get this close to Rodgers on Sunday

We’re back to the Detroit Lions already?  It seems like just three weeks ago I was breaking down the key matchups between these same Lions and the Green Bay Packers.  That’s because I was.  Due to the fate of the 2012 scheduling, the Green Bay Packers ended up with five divisional games in their final seven and didn’t see either the Lions nor the Vikings for the first time until week 11.  That means there will be a short time in between each matchup.  In the case of this rivalry, it was a mere 21 days.

With not many changes in the game’s key matchups, I’m going to drill down on the top three and spend more time on them.

Packers Offensive Line vs. Lions Defensive Line

No, not an earth shattering proclamation and yes, it’s a repeat from the first matchup.  But alas, it’s still a key in this game.  Since the last matchup, the Packers are dealing with yet more injuries on the line.  Starting guard/tackle T.J. Lang did not participate in practice on Wednesday and Packers head coach Mike McCarthy did not seem too optimistic with his progress early on this week.  I don’t expect Lang to play on Sunday which clears the path for rookie undrafted free agent Don Barclay to make his first NFL start at right tackle.

Barclay will be matched up against Lions left defensive end Cliff Avril.  Avril has had another solid year for the Lions and has 8.5 sacks on the season.  His quick initial burst will immediately test Barclay’s footwork and I expect the Packers offensive game plan to slide some help to that right side.  In a one-on-one matchup, I would expect Barclay to struggle.  For the football junkies out there, keep an eye on this matchup throughout the game as there will surely be a few mano-a-mano opportunities.  This will tell us a lot about what the Packers have in Barclay.

One source that may provide that much-needed assistance to the right side is newly acquired veteran running back Ryan Grant.  Grant was signed after it was determined the James Starks would miss quite some time with a knee injury.  While not the fleetest of foot, Grant is solid in his pass protection and should provide a boost there.  He knows the offense and should be able to step in and contribute right away.

26

September

Packers vs. Seattle: Moving on from Monday Night: It. Is. Time.

Green Bay Packers huddle

Green Bay Packers will unite at Lambeau Field this Sunday

By now, you’ve all probably read everyone’s take on last night’s embarrassing showing by the NFL.  I’m a bit late to the party but I have the benefit of some extra time to digest what took place and having read it all too.  I don’t have it figured out, probably never will.  But I do know that I feel very disappointed.

I’m not going to break down the numbers, re-hash the stats or talk about the “shoulda, woulda, coulda”.  So what am I going to do?  I’m just going to shoot straight from the hip.  I’m going add this one to the list of disappointments in recent Packer history:

- The Terrell Owens TD catch in the end zone to beat the Pack during the 1998 season playoffs.  A loss that ironically was affected by another bad call by a referee as an obvious Jerry Rice fumble was ruled down by contact.  Back then there was no instant replay and the call stood.  9ers drove down and. . . .

- 1st playoff loss at Lambeau Field against the Atlanta Falcons (a dome team) during 2002 season playoffs

- 4th and 26 a year later

- The embarrassing playoff loss to the Vikings during the 2004 season playoffs

- The entire 2005 season

- The gut-wrenching NFCCG loss to the Giants during the 2007 playoffs that would be Brett Favre’s last game in a Packer uniform

-The 2008 offseason and eventual trade of Favre to the Jets and the drama that it brought with it

-Last year’s playoff loss, again to the Giants, after a 15-1 regular season

You’re probably all saying “well most of those are playoff games.  Of course they’re disappointing!”.  No, last night’s Packers vs. Seahawks matchup wasn’t a playoff game, but it sure felt like it, didn’t it?  As I’m sitting here watching the replay of the game’s final play for about the 50th time and over 24 hours later, it feels as though the Packers lost much more than a single football game.  Over the past day, not a single side bar on ESPN’s network is without at least one topic related to yesterday’s contest.  When was the last time a regular season game, especially this early in the season, got this much play?

18

July

Packers Profit: Changes Coming To The Lambeau Field Atrium?

Lambeau Atrium

Not even 10 years old, is the Atrium in for its first renovation?

For those fans coming to Green Bay for one or several Packer games this season, you will notice immediately the changes in the south end zone with  ongoing construction that is adding of 6,600 seats as well as two new high definition video boards that are in place for the start of the 2012 season.

Those are changes to the stadium bowl.  Now the Packers are apparently eyeing up some changes to the Lambeau Field Atrium.

According to the Green Bay Press Gazette, Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said the team has some ambitious plans for the first major renovation since the atrium was completed in 2003.

Some proposed plans include moving the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame from the basement of the atrium up to the second floor which is currently home to Curly’s Pub.  This would mean increased visibility for the Hall of Fame, according the team.

The restaurant in turn would move to the first floor of the atrium near the Packers Pro Shop.  The Packers said this would also increase visibility for Curly’s Pub.  Changes in the pro shop also might be coming, Murphy said.

With the Packers recently disclosing a record profit of $42.7 million in 2011, the team is obviously not resting on its laurels and continues to make sure the franchise is financially stable long term.  Keeping the Lambeau Field Atrium up to par with the rest of the NFL is crucial to that goal and its obvious Murphy recognizes that.

The team also should be able to re-sign existing sponsors as well as attract new ones.  As long as the product on the football field continues to be excellent, the Packers should have no trouble in continuing to put money in the till.

Improvements to the atrium and stadium proper are a big part of the development of the stadium district as well.  Cabela’s announced earlier this year it was building a store in Green Bay not too far from Lambeau Field and it is expected other major businesses will follow suit and build near the stadium.

It’s definitely a good time to be a Packer fan.

29

December

Christmas at Lambeau: An Experience Of A Lifetime

Post-Victory. What a Christmas gift!

If there is one thing I have learned growing up in Wisconsin, it’s that when someone offers you a free ticket to a Green Bay Packers game you must say yes or face terrible consequences.

Even on Christmas Day.

First a little background: I work two jobs, both in retail. Obviously the arrival of Christmas was a big relief to me as it’s the sign that the craziness that began the day after Thanksgiving was finally coming to an end.  With both employers being closed, I was looking forward to the day off and quiet time with family and watching Packers vs. Bears on TV before going back in at 5:30 am on the 26th.

Then the phone rang at about 9 am.

You don’t expect too many phone calls Christmas Day aside from relatives outside the area calling to say “Merry Christmas.” This one, however, was a very different (and honestly a much better) phone call.

It was cousin, ironically from Illinois but a Packers season ticket holder. He had a spare ticket to the game Sunday night and asked if I wanted to go along, no charge at all.  If ever there was a stupid question, this is it.

Of course I’d go! Any Packer fan needs to have their Cheesehead confiscated if they turn down the opportunity to see the oldest rivalry in the NFL in person.  Still, it was Christmas and I knew family was coming.  Like a child excited to be invited to the best party ever, I sheepishly asked my dad if this would be an issue with the family coming over.  Since he’s a Packer shareholder, he borderline chastised me for even asking and said go and have fun.

So I went about the rest of my day wound tighter than a clock in anticipation.  When family arrived at 2:30, I explained my departure and all understood even my other cousin who is a Giants fan (I have the best family ever).  After a communication hiccup involving who was driving and when to leave, we arrived in Green Bay about 6:00 and parked about 4 blocks away from Lambeau Field.

28

October

The Contenders: Reviewing the Packers Competition for the Top Seed in the NFC

Could Alex Smith meet Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Championship game?

The Green Bay Packers haven’t hosted a playoff game at Lambeau Field since losing to the Giants in the NFC Championship on Jan. 20, 2008. After a 7-0 start, the Packers have some people whispering about going undefeated.

Barring injury, the Packers are more talented than any of their remaining opponents. But can they go undefeated? That’s a tall task.

The Packers toughest tests will come after the bye when they travel to San Diego, on Thanksgiving against the Lions, at the Giants and at home against the Bears and Lions.

Lets say the Packers end up 13-3. Would that be good enough for the No. 1 seed in the NFC and homefield throughout the playoffs? I think so. The Saints could give the Packers a run, but Green Bay already has the tiebreaker advantage. San Franscisco and Detroit are still…well, San Francico and Detroit. Both are improved, but not at the Packers’ level. The Giants only have two losses, but they face a brutal schedule down the stretch.

Packers fans should plan on skipping their January house payment. There’s a good chance that money would be better spent on NFC Championship game tickets at Lambeau.

49ers
Record: 5-1
Projected finish: 12-4
Even if you don’t think the 49ers are for real, they still could end up 12-4. I guess it depends how you define for real. If for real means beating the mediocre and bad teams on your schedule, the 49ers are for real. If it means rising up and winning a game or two that you’re not supposed to, I’m not sure the 49ers qualify.

Assuming the 49ers just beat the teams they’re supposed to, they’ll get wins over Cleveland, Washington, Arizona (2), St. Louis (2), and Seattle. According to my Morrison County math, that’s 12-4.

Could the 49ers get the No. 2 seed in the NFC? The Aaron Rodgers-Alex Smith-Mike McCarthy storyline would make for an intriguing NFC championship.

Saints
Record: 5-2
Projected finish: 12-4
How tough is the rest of the Saints schedule? Depends what you think of Atlanta. The Saints play them twice. How about Detroit and Tampa Bay? The Saints play both at home. Will Tennessee be any good by week 14? The Saints play the Titans on the road. The Saints also travel to St. Louis and Minnesota, host the Giants and finish with Carolina at home.

25

August

Green Bay Packers Unveil Lambeau Field Expansion Plans; Stock Sale Could Be Coming

How the Lambeau Field south end zone will look at the start of the 2013 season

The Green Bay Packers announced today their plans to expand Lambeau Field by 6,600 seats as well as adding a new entrance gate to the south and north end zones by the start of the 2013 season with groundbreaking scheduled for September 1 this year. Some of the funding could come from a new sale of Packers stock.

The seats will be added in four levels and the seats will contain seatbacks.    The project also includes a rooftop viewing area for club seat holders that will be available for special non-football events (like this year’s Kenny Chesney concert) as well.

Escalators and elevators are also being added to the north and south end zones to ease the flow of entry and exit of fans from the stadium.

The Packers are completely funding this project which will include some loans, according to the press release from the team.    A team stock sale is being considered and user fees similar to the 1999-2003 renovation of Lambeau Field is also being discussed.

Ticket prices are expected to be between the cost of a current bowl seat ($87) to club seat  prices (maximum $313).

Well, my first obvious thought is the more Cheeseheads to make noise at Lambeau, the better.  As you can see by the image, this isn’t truly “closing off” the bowl as there are gaps between the three sections of new seats.  Of course while noise is a good thing sometimes, you don’t want to become a Metrodome without a roof.

Regarding the stock sale, I’m excited.  This would  open the door to a whole new bunch of NFL owners and the continued tradition of the community and the Packers working together for the good of the team.  The downside is that if the price is at $500 a share (and it could be higher if a sale is held), that’s a lot of money for a family to fork over in this economy. 

Then again, knowing the resiliency of Packer Nation, they’ll find a way for this to happen.

Of course, some fans may be upset that some seats will feature backs as the rest of Lambeau has the old school bleachers.  The Packers in their press release did say that general seating would be featured but not all fans are comfortable on bleachers.  While I think the old bleachers are neat, it’s time to at least add some new modern seating.

19

August

Packers vs. Cardinals: Things to Watch in Preseason Week 2

In the lead up to the Packers and Cardinals preseason matchup, consider this: in two of the last three games between these two clubs, there has been some serious offensive fireworks—to the tune of  177 total points and nearly 2,000 total offensive yards.

Most remember (or would rather forget) the 2009 Wildcard Card game in Arizona—a back-and-forth affair in which the Packers and Cardinals engaged in one of the wildest shootouts in playoff history.

A week after the Packers dismantled the Cardinals in Week 17 of the regular season, Arizona jumped out to leads of 17-0, 24-7 and 31-10 before Aaron Rodgers and the Packers mounted two impressive comebacks.

With the score 31-10, Rodgers lead the Packers on four straight touchdown drives—all ending on Rodgers’ touchdown passes—to tie the game at 38.

Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who threw for five touchdown passes and 379 yards, put Arizona back into the lead with 4:55 left when he hit Steve Breaston for a 17-yard score. Rodgers remained unfazed, however, as he led the Packers right down the field for another tying-touchdown. His 11-yard pass to Spencer Havner with 1:52 left helped send the game into overtime tied at 45 (of course, so did a Neil Rackers missed chip-shot 34-yard field goal on the Cardinals next drive).

Then, the game abruptly ended when Rodgers was stripped on a controversial play during the Packers first offensive series, giving the Cardinals a 51-45 win. The loss was certainly disappointing from a Packers perspective but the stat line was not: Rodgers threw for 423 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another. The two teams combined for over 1,000 yards and 96 points, and to this day it remains the highest scoring playoff game in NFL history.

But before the Packers and Cardinals gave the 2009 NFL playoffs an aerial assault that hasn’t been seen since, they put together a high-scoring preseason affair that same year.

In the third week of exhibition play in ’09, the Packers were the ones who jumped out to a big lead in Arizona. In fact, with their No. 1 offense playing the entire first half, the Packers raced out to a 38-10 lead—only to see that advantage shrink to a final score of 44-37.