Saturday, December 5, 2009

Three Game Streak on the Line

The Thanksgiving day game certainly did not start off with a bang for the Packers. First, Jordy Nelson fumbled the opening kickoff which, with the help of a roughing the quarterback penalty, led to a Lions' touchdown. Then the Packers had a sustained and impressive drive, but which ended in a missed field goal. Then the Lions drove into Packer territory quickly on the next drive. "Oh, no" (or some more colorful expression), Packer fans everywhere must have wondered, is it going to be one of those days? But Nick Collins' athletic interception at the sideline ended that drive, and it was almost all Packers for the rest of the game, which ended in a 34-12 final score. I almost forgot to mention the fantastic game Donald Driver had. Driver had 7 catches for 142 yards (including two long bombs) and a touchdown. Good enough to merit the Golden Turkey award (or whatever they call it) at the end of the game.

So the Packers go into the Monday night game against the Ravens as the proud owners of a 3-game winning streak. The timing could not be better. This leaves the Packers with a 7-4 record, with 5 games to go, which means that, almost no matter what happens, they will be in contention for a wild card spot into the last couple of weeks of the season. There is no cause to get too carried away. This 3-game streak is made up of one win against a good team (the Cowboys), another against a mediocre but improving team (the 49ers) and one against a bad, banged up team (the Lions). Still, despite my quibbles about easing up in the 4th quarter of games, the Packers were impressive in all three games and had leads of 17 to 22 points in the 4th quarter of each game.

The Baltimore Ravens will undoubtedly be a tougher opponent than the Lions. In the last three weeks, they crushed the Browns, almost upset the undefeated Colts, and beat the Steelers (who were without Roethlisberger). Three things lead me to predict a Packer victory. First, the Packers have been making a much more concerted effort to have a balanced offensive game plan, which will serve them well against a tough defense like the Ravens. Second, even though the Packers still lead the league in sacks given up, they have improved dramatically in the last three games, partly because of a more balanced game plan, and partly because Rodgers has done a better job of getting rid of the ball. Finally, while the Packers were hurt badly by the loss of Aaron Kampman and Al Harris, their replacements played well against the Lions and then got 11 days to get ready for their next game.

Now, if we could just arrange for the Vikings to lose to the Cardinals, and for the Packers to beat the Ravens, it would be a heck of a good football weekend.

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