Saturday, December 24, 2011

Next Goal: Home Field Advantage

It just figures that, as soon as I jump on the "undefeated Packers" bandwagon, they go out and lay an egg on the field.  All season long, I have been saying that I figured that the Packers would lose a game somewhere along the way.  Then, last week, I finally said that I thought the Packers would win their final 3 games to end the regular season undefeated.  You could say that I jinxed the team, but I think the odds just finally caught up with them.  (That, and the fact that the Packers were out-played on both sides of the ball, and out-coached as well.)

All year long, we have seen Aaron Rodgers carry the Packers on his back.  Receivers would drop balls, the defense would give up too many points, the running game would struggle, but the MVP-caliber play by Aaron Rodgers would bail out the team.  And in some games, we have seen the defense give up enough points to put the win in jeopardy, but then they would come up with the big turnover or stop to save the game.  The week 1 win against the Saints is a perfect example of both of these phenomena in action.  Rodgers was unstoppable in the passing game, and the defense came up with the big stop from the 1 yard line with no time left on the clock.

The question always was: what happens in a game that is close where the defense doesn't come up with the turnovers?  Or what happens in a game that is close where Aaron Rodgers doesn't have a sensational game?  Well, now we know, since the Chiefs game involved: (1) no turnovers generated by the Packers' defense; (2) a very sub-par performance by Aaron Rodgers, who completed less than 50% of his passes; (3) lots of drops by the receivers; and (4) a rushing game that was productive, but not given enough chances to move the ball.  The result was a loss to the Chiefs, by the score of 19-14.

I have been out of town since the game, and have not had the chance to go through the painful exercise of watching the game again.  This may well be one of those games I never get around to watching again.  We watched the Chiefs game in a Packers bar in Las Vegas.  Let's just say that this place was no Kettle of Fish.  The Kettle of Fish is a great Packers bar in Manhattan, where we watched the Monday Night Packers-Broncos game during the 2007 season. Everything was great about that bar, and we would return any time we are in New York during football season.  Whereas this bar in Las Vegas was full of smoke (hey, it's Las Vegas), not particularly friendly, and someplace we would avoid if in Las Vegas again during the season.

I am finishing this blog post after the Saturday (Christmas Eve) day games.  The 49ers beat the Seahawks, and as a result, the Packers still need one more Packer win or a 49er loss in order to clinch home field advantage in the NFC playoffs.  So Sunday night's game matters to the Packers, in every possible way.  The Packers ought to go out and win this game and get HFA out of the way, without leaving anything to be decided in the final game.  The Bears will be without starting quarterback Jay Cutler and starting running back Matt Forte.  The Bears have decided that Caleb Hanie is not the answer, and so they will start Josh McCown at quarterback against the Packers.  The Packers have plenty of injury problems of their own, and will be playing without Greg Jennings, Bryan Bulaga, Chad Clifton and Ryan Pickett.  The Bears usually play very well against the Packers, but the psychology of this game is all in the Packers' favor.  The Packers have HFA to play for, they ought to be mad as hell and a little embarrassed about last week's game, and should want to get that taste out of their mouths.  The Bears, while still alive for the playoffs, have lost four games in a row, and it would take a minor miracle for them to end up with a wild card spot.  That is a recipe for a Packers victory, and I suspect they will beat the Bears easily.

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to all.

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