16

March

Tom Crabtree Leaves Packers, Signs With Bucs

Tom Crabtree Lambeau Leap vs. Chicago bears

Unfortunately for Packers fans, we won’t be seeing Tom Crabtree making any Lambeau Leaps this season.

The next time Tom Crabtree catches a touchdown, executes a fake field goal, or makes you laugh out loud with one of his Tweets, it won’t be as a member of the Green Bay Packers.

The tight end reportedly has signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Packers declined to place a low tender on Crabtree that would have cost about $1.3 million, thus making Crabtree an unrestricted free agent.

The Bucs will be getting a versatile player who can play tight end, line up as an H-back and contribute on special teams. Packers fans are losing a player who built a connection with cheeseheads everywhere through social media and general accessibility.

I’m sad to see Crabtree go, just like I’m sad to see any Packers player depart who is a solid contributor and appears to be a decent guy. But from strictly a football sense, I don’t blame the Packers for only offering Crabtree the minimum.

Crabtree only caught eight passes in 2013 (although three went for touchdowns) and Pro Football Focus gave him a negative run-blocking grade of -7.7. With Andrew Quarless returning, the Packers probably didn’t feel that Crabtree was worth more to them than the minimum.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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25

October

Around the NFC North in Week 8

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 8

Week 8 is upon us which means the season is almost half over!  Let’s take a look around the NFC North and at the matchups to come.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) at Minnesota Vikings (5-2)

This game kicks off NFL’s week 8 as the Thursday night matchup.  It’s a rare meeting between these two teams since the Bucs left the old NFC Central and became part of the NFC South.  Tampa has won the last three with the most recent being last season.

Minnesota comes in a surprising 5-2.   They beat the Arizona Cardinals behind a good defensive performance and with the continued contribution of RB Adrian Peterson.  Tampa had seemingly pulled off a last-second TD by QB Josh Freeman for the win over the New Orleans Saints but the catch was later ruled invalid.  Tampa dropped to 2-4.

Anytime a team is working on a short week, it adds an additional challenge for teams to prepare and for players to get past the bumps and bruises from the week prior.  Both teams are fortunate that they are not dealing with many health issues at the moment.

The Vikings have been winning with defense this season.  They had nine sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown this past Sunday by their top rookie S Harrison Smith.  And having struggled offensively over the past few weeks, Minnesota was able to muster two scores on a vintage run by Peterson and a Christian Ponder pass to Percy Harvin.  Harvin leads the NFL with 53 catches.  The Vikings lethargic offense may get a jumpstart this week as they face a Tampa defense that ranks 25th overall.

Tampa has had a hard time keeping up with their opposition this year, largely due to the 329 passing yards they are giving up each week.  If Minnesota’s struggles in the passing game continue and they go heavy in the run game, it may benefit the Tampa defense as they are surrendering just 76 yards/game on the ground.  Of course, they are facing the elite Adrian Peterson and a Vikings ground attack that is averaging just over 130 yards/game.  How Tampa counters the Viking rush attack will be a key in this game.

The Vikings are winning games and are at home on a short week.  I give them the edge.

22

November

Packers Week 12 Stock Report: Rodgers and Nelson Rising, Sitton and Peprah Falling

Most of you probably thought the Packers would beat the Bucs on Sunday, but how many of you thought BJ Raji would have more fantasy points than Greg Jennings and Ryan Grant combined? How many of you thought Tim Masthay would fumble twice on the same play, then run for a first down? How many of you thought Mason Crosby would see his field goal streak ended on a measly 29-yard attempt?

If any one of you is raising your hand, you’re lying.

Sunday’s win over the  Bucs featured several moments that made me wonder if the Packers were just doing things to amuse themselves. But in the end, it turned out to be a seriously competitive game, probably more competitive than it needed to be.

Time for the stock report.

Rising

Aaron Rodgers
After going 23 for 34 for 299 yards, 3 TDs and a QB rating of  112.3, Rodgers spent most of his postgame news conference talking about how frustrated he was with how he played. Rodgers missed a few open receivers and threw an uncharacteristic fourth quarter interception, but if Sunday was an “off” game for No. 12, the sky is the limit for this offense.

Jordy Nelson
For a good part of the first half, the Packers best play on offense was to have Rodgers scramble and eventually connect with Nelson on an improvised pass. Nelson has five TDs in his last three games and has a reception of at least 35 yards in six games this season. Nelson might just be the Packers No. 1 receiver, at least for now.

Tramon Williams
The Packers defense struggled again on Sunday, but Williams had two interceptions and continued to improve his play. Dom Capers needs Williams to keep playing at a high level while he tries to sort out the other problems on defense, especially tackling.

Steady

James Starks
Give Starks a little bit of space and he puts a hurt on would-be tacklers. Unfortunately, Starks left Sunday’s game after getting twisted around on a fourth quarter run. Hopefully he’s alright and continue being a steady force for the Packers out of the backfield.

John Kuhn
Kuhn has TDs in three of his last four games and is solid as the only fullback on the roster. Kuhn needs to keep up his steady play because if he doesn’t, BJ Raji might take his job. 

21

November

McCarthy: Packers RB James Starks Could Play Thursday

Packers RB James Starks may still be play Thursday in Detroit.

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that running back James Starks will likely practice Tuesday and could even play on Thursday in Detroit if all goes well during the week.

Starks was hurt during the fourth quarter of the Packers’ 35-26 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. He was bent back in the middle of a pile and needed assistance getting off the field. After the game, McCarthy called the injury a “knee sprain,” which hasn’t exactly been the kindest of injury assessments recently.

On Monday, the somber mood seemed to change. McCarthy called Starks “sore” but seemed optimistic that his second-year running back would test out the knee Tuesday at practice. If Starks passes the tests during the week, McCarthy said he’s “hopeful” that Starks would play against the Lions on Thanksgiving.

Other highlights from McCarthy’s Monday press conference:

  • Receiver Greg Jennings has a knee bruise but should practice on Tuesday. All indications pointed to him being ready for Thursday.
  • McCarthy didn’t seem worried about the schedule, and he also pointed out that Detroit is now on the exact same schedule. He feels good about where the Packers are at health-wise, too.
  • Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel asked a good question about the Lions’ defensive line and their ability to win upfront against the Packers late last season. McCarthy said that the Lions’ play in the trenches was one of the major factors in their win in December of 2010. He also said that the Packers have focused mostly on tape from this season because the Lions have different players upfront, including rookie defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
  • McCarthy said that mental preparation was the most important part of this week. The Packers will spend limited time on the practice field to ensure the physical aspect of the game is intact. McCarthy said he won’t lose this game on Tuesday and Wednesday with grueling practices.
  • McCarthy wasn’t worried about the punt protection issues that Tampa Bay may have exposed on Sunday. He said the special teams had an up and down day but that everything was correctable.
  • He seemed very impressed with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. He noted that the most important stat for a young quarterback is games played, and the experience is clearly starting to pay off. Stafford is having “a heck of a year.”
21

November

Packers vs. Buccaneers: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 35-26 Win over Tampa Bay

Photo: Mark Hoffman, Journal Sentinel

The Green Bay Packers (10-0) held a tenuous two-point lead over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6) late in the fourth quarter Sunday, but a third down scoring play from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson and a pair of interceptions from Tramon Williams helped the Packers win their 10th straight game of 2011 and 16th overall dating back to last season.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. “Worst” game

During a season in which he’s made the impossible look easy, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers admittedly had his first “off day” of 2011. The accuracy wasn’t there in stunning detail, as Rodgers missed a handful of receivers on throws that he’s made in his sleep through the first nine games. Also, the blame for the interception he threw in the fourth quarter lands squarely on his shoulders. James Jones was blanketed on the short out, and it was an easy pick for Elbert Mack on the worst decision Rodgers’ has made with the football this season.

In his post game press conference, Rodgers was visibly frustrated about some of the mistakes. For a perfectionist like Rodgers, that frustration is easy to understand. But here’s the best part of the whole deal: On a day where Rodgers has his “worst” performance of the season, he still threw for 299 yards and three scores on 68 percent passing. He extended his NFL record streak of passer ratings over 110 to nine with a 112.3 mark. Rodgers’ worst day of 2011 still exceeds what the majority of the NFL’s quarterbacks do at their very best.

2. An odd start

The Packers first offensive drive of the game gave us an early glimpse into what turned out to be an odd football game. A Josh Sitton hold on Albert Haynesworth put the Packers offense into a hole they couldn’t climb out of, but punter Tim Masthay’s fumble(s) and stumble while avoiding a block on fourth-and-1 gave the offense a new set of downs. 11 plays later, Rodgers was handing the ball off to B.J. “The Freezer” Raji for a one-yard touchdown that gave the Packers a 7-0 lead. Raji’s dive up the gut capped off the Packers most extensive drive of the season (15 plays, 88 yards, 8:27) and, for better or worse, gave us our second viewing of Raji’s bellydancing skills. The 340-pound Raji wisely avoided an attempt at a Lambeau Leap.

20

November

Packers vs. Buccaneers – Unfiltered Game Day Commentary and First Impressions: Green Bay 35, Tampa Bay 26

Raji celebrates after his touchdown run. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Green Bay Packers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs are struggling. The Packers are not. This looks like another blowout win for the Packers, but I guess we have to play the game first. Personally, I see this game going more like the Rams game than the Vikings game. The Packers will always be in control, but it won’t be the complete domination that everyone expects.

With the Thanksgiving showdown against the Lions just a few days away, I also think the Packers might get a little bored today. Speaking of bored, you’ve probably had enough of my pregame ramblings. Lets get to the game.

Packers inactivies: CB Davon House, LB Robert Francois, LB Jamari Lattimore, LB Frank Zombo, OG Ray Dominguez, OT Chad Clifton and TE D.J. Williams.

Mike Neal makes his 2011 debut today. I thought the Packers would wait until the Thanksgiving game, but this is a nice surprise.

Safety Tanard Jackson is inactive for the Bucs. That’s going to make it even more difficult for Tampa Bay to slow down Jermichael Finley and Green Bay’s WRs.

First half

We get Joe Buck and Troy Aikman today. I love my touchdowns called in a monotone voice.

The Bucs convert on 3rd and 7 and Clay Matthews leaves the game with some sort of injury. Not a great start.

With Matthews on the sideline, AJ Hawk hits Josh Freeman’s arm on 3rd and 4 and the Packers offense will go to work. Dom Capers brought the pressure on that series.

Josh Sitton with a hold on the Packers second play. His struggles continue.

Well, that’s a new one. The Packers offense can’t get a first down, so P Tim Masthay runs for the first down after a Bucs rusher comes at him unblocked. Masthay also shows why he’s a punter by fumbling the ball out of bounds with nobody around him. He was actually credited with two fumbles and a fumble recovery on the play.

The Packers are driving after Masthay’s run. Rodgers just used James Starks as a checkdown option. Good sign.

So Masthay runs for a first down after a failed punt, then BJ Raji plows his way for a one-yard TD. The Packers are just trying to amuse themselves at this point, right?

20

November

Packers vs. Buccaneers: 5 Factors That Favor Green Bay on Sunday

When a 9-0 team like the Green Bay Packers welcomes a 4-5 club like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there are going to be a number of factors that favor the undefeated team at home. And really, Packers fans probably don’t need much for comfort as they head into Sunday. I’ve haven’t witnessed much nail-biting in the lead up to Week 11. However, if you are one of those fans who is sweating the Packers upcoming game against the Bucs, maybe the following five factors will calm your mind.

1. The Bucs really struggle on D

The Packers offense is playing well enough right now that matchups become more or less a moot point. But when scanning the Buccaneers’ defensive numbers in 2011, it’s hard to ignore the kind of mismatch we could see on Sunday. Through nine games, the Bucs currently rank No. 31 in total defense (401.2 yards/game), No. 28 in pass defense (263/game), No. 29 in rush defense (138.2/game) and No. 27 in points allowed (25.9/game). According to Pro Football Focus, the Bucs are the third-worst rated defense in the NFL. It’s bad across the board. Aaron Rodgers and Co. is always a threat to put a big number on the board, but it looks like a near certainty on Sunday against this Bucs defense.

2. End of a tough stretch

Bucs coach Raheem Morris talked this week about how much harder the schedule has been in 2011, which is theoretically a true statement but also one that completely undermines their 10-win season from a year ago. They’ll finally get a break after Week 11. Sunday’s game with the Packers ends a horrific stretch of games for the Bucs which included the 49ers (8-1), Saints x 2 (7-3), Bears (6-3) and Texans (7-3). Including the 9-0 Packers, that’s a 34-13 record of teams that has faced the Bucs since Week 5. They’ve went just 1-5 during that stretch. If the Packers get up early at home on Sunday, the Bucs might be inclined to pack it in. Also, don’t forget that Sunday will be the first game that the Bucs have played in the cold in 2011. They’ve been either indoors or in warm weather in all nine games of 2011.

3. No pass rush