5 reasons the Packers can beat the Seahawks

I hate the Seahawks. Pete Carroll is annoying. I’m sick of hearing about how loud their stupid stadium is. Russel Wilson is a terrible actor in bad commercials. Half the team is jacked up on PEDs. I can never figure out what Richard Sherman is yelling about.

I hope the Packers beat the Seahawks on Thursday by 12 touchdowns. Then I hope they build a giant bonfire at midfield, burn every last piece footage from the Fail Mary, and dance around the flames singing “Bang the Drum all Day” until dawn.

Unfortunately, none of that will likely happen, but the Packers can most definitely beat the Seachickens. Here are five reasons why:

Aaron Rodgers
Well, duh. The Packers will have the best player on the field Thursday in Aaron Rodgers. As an added bonus, Rodgers is back with something to prove after missing half of last season. QB1 seemed edgier during training camp. I wonder if he’s exiting the phase of his career where he’s a young guy establishing himself as a great player and entering the phase where he knows he’s a great player, expects greatness out of others, and is desperate to win now because who knows how long that greatness might last? I’m looking forward to a grouchier Aaron Rodgers in 2014.

Eddie Lacy
Big phat Eddie Lacy makes an old-school football loving guy like me giggle uncontrollably. The way he sets up blocks, his patience and vision, his explosiveness once he decides where to go, trucking smaller defenders, refusing to go down when tacklers pile on him, a slick spin move — all of it reminds me of football before the rulebook was re-written to encourage 60 passes per game. The yards won’t come easy against Seattle’s defense, but Lacy needs the ball early if the Packers want to win. When Mike McCarthy ignored the run until the second half against Seattle in 2012, the results were disastrous.

New rules
Speaking of the rulebook being re-written to encourage 60 passes per game, supposedly refs will be flagging any and all downfield contact on receivers. In the exhibition season, illegal contact calls were up 450 percent and defensive holding was up 353 percent compared to last season. We all know the Seahawks are a bunch of cheaters. If enforcement of downfield contact carries over into the regular season, it should help the Packers receivers against the physical (and cheating) Seahawks secondary.

Casey Hayward is back
Remember Casey Hayward? He’s the guy who picked off six passes and almost won defensive rookie of the year in 2012 before missing most of the next season with a bum hamstring. He’s back now, and he looked damn good in exhibition games. If the Packers training staff tapes up his hamstring nice and tight, Hayward’s addition to the defense will help slow down the likes of Percy Harvin and contain Russell Wilson.

Jordy Effing Nelson
To beat the Seahawks, you need receivers who aren’t fazed by their defensive backs’ devious grabbing, holding and pushing ways. Jordy Effing Nelson isn’t fazed by any of that. Jordy’s not open? No problem, Rodgers will just whip a pass by some defender’s earhole and Jordy will catch it. Jordy is out of room on the sideline? No worries, Rodgers will just fire a laser 3 yards out of bounds and Jordy will stretch to catch it with both feet in. A defender is on top of Jordy after a quick pass? Sheeeeeeeeit, the Jordy stiff arm will knock him to the ground in an instant.

Jordy. Effing. Nelson.


Packers Injuries: Here we go again?

When the Packers travel to Seattle to open the season on Sept. 4 in the NFL’s noisiest stadium against the defending Super Bowl champions, they’ll take the field without three, possibly four, preferred starters.

Nose tackle B.J. Raji (arm) is lost for the season. New center J.C. Tretter (knee) is out for up to six weeks. Brandon Bostick (leg), who likely would’ve started at tight end, is gone for at least a few weeks. Starting linebacker Brad Jones could miss time with a quad injury.

Yes, none of those players are Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson or Clay Matthews, but you’d rather not have to kick off your season with four preferred starters watching from the sidelines, even if those preferred starters aren’t superstars.

Last season, Packers’ preferred starters missed 70 games due to injury. Since 2010, the Packers lead the NFL with a ridiculous 153 games lost by starters because of injuries.

The 2014 season hasn’t even kicked off yet and the Packers are looking at almost 25 games lost already (16 for Raji and assume four for Tretter, three for Bostick and one for Jones).

I get that injuries are part of the game, every team goes through them. But those are some crazy numbers.

It’s easy to say, “Here we go again” with the Packers and injuries. I find myself muttering that exact phrase all too often.

But you could also put a positive spin on “Here we go again.” The injuries mean opportunity for promising young guys like Corey Linsley at center and Josh Boyd or Mike Pennel at nose tackle.

Most Packers fans are ready to move on from Brad Jones, so let’s see what Jamari Lattimore or Sam Barrington do in his place. Will rookie Richard Rodgers emerge as the top tight end with Bostick healing?

It takes depth to win in the NFL and we’ll find out quickly the quality of the Packers’ depth. As long as Rodgers, Lacy, Nelson and Matthews stay upright, it might not be such a bad thing to overcome these early injuries and have more players prepared to take the field as the season wears on.

Getting to know Packers Undrafted Free Agents Mike Pennel and Jayrone Elliott

The Packers discovered undrafted rookie free agent Sam Shields in 2010, bringing the receiver-turned-cornerback into training camp and watching him play a key role in their Super Bowl run. He kept right on developing and is now a player the Packers deemed worthy of a $39 million contract.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson has had success with other undrafted free agents in successive years, but hasn’t uncovered a gem quite like Shields. Might that change this season?

It’s far too early to tell, but nose tackle Mike Pennel and outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott have flashed so far this season. Could they be the next undrafted stars for the Packers?

We’ll find out soon enough.

In case they are, here’s a little more about each player so you can say you knew all about them if they do end up turning into big-time players.

Mike Pennel
With free agent signee Letroy Guion out with a bad hamstring, Pennel, a 6-foot-4, 331-pound wrecking ball, has seized his opportunity as the second-string nose tackle.

Nobody drafted Pennel because 1) he never finished high school, 2) he played his first two college seasons at a community college in Scottsdale, 3) he got into Arizona State, only to be suspended twice after playing just five games, 4) he played his last season at Colorado St.–Pueblo and didn’t exactly light up the field, and 5) he’s had at least one social media meltdown.

So far, he hasn’t been on a problem for the Packers.

Pennel’s size and athleticism has been impressive in training camp and he came up with a sack in Saturday’s exhibition win over the Rams. Of course, he’s raw and unpolished, but his body type and nasty playing style are exactly what the beleaguered Packers defensive line needs.

To me, what’s most impressive about Pennel is how he’s a sneaky 331 pounds (as much as one can be sneaky when weighing 331 pounds). He doesn’t look like he weighs 331 pounds and he sure doesn’t move like it.

If he can harness all that raw talent, not get on the wrong side of the coaching staff, and stay off of Twitter, the Packers might have found a player.

Jayrone Elliott
Elliott has played eight snaps this exhibition season and has three sacks — all of them coming in a four-play span against the Rams on Saturday.

At 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, Elliott has the size and height to be disruptive even if he’s not getting sacks. He’s also nimble enough to duck, spin, hook and race around bigger offensive tackles, much like he did on Saturday against the overmatched Sean Hooey.

No, dominating a third-team offensive tackle isn’t anything to brag too loudly about, but Elliott’s been making plays throughout camp, not just against third-stringers late in meaningless exhibition games.

The Packers seem to have about 500 outside linebackers on their roster. Unfortunately, only one (Clay Matthews) is really good and another one (Julius Peppers) is aging, new to the position, and might be on a snap count week to week.

The door is wide open for a player like Elliott to snag a roster spot and try to supplant Nick Perry, Andy Mulumba or Mike Neal in the outside linebacker rotation.

Packers Stock Report: Meaningless Football Edition

Normally I don’t start doing the Packers Stock Report until the regular season begins. Why? I have no idea.

A Packers Stock Report after the second exhibition game seems to make sense to me, thous. So, let’s do this:


Jayrone Elliot
When you get three sacks in four plays like Elliot did against the Rams on Saturday, you end up in the rising category. I don’t care if Elliot’s outburst came against third-stringers and an obviously overmatched tackle. Three sacks in four plays makes you a riser. Period.

Sam Barrington
I hopped on Barrington’s bandwagon when the Packers drafted him. After looking good in the first two exhibition games, others are joining me for the ride. Barrington is aggressive, explosive and plays mean — characteristics we’re not used to seeing from Packers’ middle linebackers in the post-Desmond Bishop era. Hopefully the Packers keep turning Barrington loose and he continues making plays.

Casey Hayward
Not many people are talking about Hayward, but those who are say he looks great after missing most of last season. He looked great against the Rams, especially on an early deep route down the sideline that he knocked down. If Hayward returns to his rookie year form, this secondary will be fun to watch.


Aaron Rodgers
QB1 effortlessly moved the Packers down the field for two scoring drives on Saturday and had the first-team offense humming. In other words, Rodgers did exactly what we expected he would do.

Eddie Lacy
It’s probably unfair to stick Lacy in the steady category. He’s anything but steady when he runs the ball. He’s crazy. I was screaming at Lacy to go out of bounds when he approached the sideline on a run against the Rams, but instead he spun inside and plowed his way for a few more yards. Lacy knows no other way to play than all out.

Scott Tolzien/Matt Flynn
The battle for the Packers backup QB job is at a stalemate. Both Tolzien and Flynn have played well. Tolzien looked especially sharp on Saturday despite taking some shots behind a shaky backup offensive line. Whomever wins, I’ll feel much better about the Packers backup QB than in previous seasons.


Davante Adams the punt returner
Enough is enough. It’s time to end the Davante Adams as a punt returner experiment.

Derek Sherrod
As great as the Packers starting offensive line has looked, the depth players have looked just as inept. Sherrod was beat often on Saturday and took a step backward after a good showing against the Titans. He seems to have all the tools you need to be a good left tackle, but he needs to be more aggressive with hands before pass rushers get into him.

NFL preseason
Man, I hate the preseason, even if the Packers are playing. Sept. 4 can’t get here soon enough.

Jerel Worthy a Blemish on Packers’ Stellar 2nd Round Track Record

Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Nick Collins, Greg Jennings, Eddie Lacy: These are some of the Packers’ second-round draft picks who have turned into big-time players during the Ted Thompson era.

Players like Casey Hayward, Mike Neal and Daryn Colledge — solid contributors, not big-time players (at least not yet in Hayward’s case) — were also second-round picks.

Thompson has mostly mastered round two of the draft, especially when taking a receiver. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had a few round-two whiffs.

The 2008 draft class was a second-round disaster. Thompson snatched up Brian Brohm as insurance in case Aaron Rodgers flopped following in the footsteps of Brett Favre. Rodgers has done just fine, Brohm was cut a year later.

Pat Lee was also taken in the second round in 2008. Lee’s most memorable play was once fumbling a kickoff near the goal line, then downing the ball for a near-safety. He’s long gone.

And then there’s Jerel Worthy, whom the Packers traded up to select in the second round in 2012, the draft where Thompson’s first six selections were all on defense.

Worthy joined the ranks of Brohm and Lee as Packers’ second round busts on Tuesday when he was traded to the Patriots for a conditional late-round draft pick. Essentially, the Packers were going to cut Worthy, but managed to find a team to dump him on and maybe get a little something in return.

Worthy looked ineffective his rookie season before blowing out his knee late in the year. He came back late last year and didn’t do anything. He hurt his back and hadn’t yet this training camp.

I’d probably put Worthy right behind Brohm and slightly ahead of Lee in the worst Packers’ second-round draft picks under Ted Thompson standings. It’s unfortunate because I would have liked to see Worthy get a chance to develop in his second year instead of battle back from an injury. Defensive lineman usually take a year or two of seasoning before they get going.

The 2012 draft class is one Thompson would like to mostly forget. First-rounder Nick Perry has, like Worthy, been injured and ineffective. Safety Jerron McMillian was a disaster last season and Thompson’s four selections from rounds 4-7 are no longer on the team.

That’s not good for an organization that relies on the draft instead of free agency to re-stock the talent cupboard every offseason.

We’ll soon find out if Davante Adams, this year’s second-rounder, will fall into the Nelson/Cobb/Collins category or the Brohm/Lee/Worthy category.

Packers vs. Titans: 5 Things to Watch in Exhibition Opener

Will Richard Rodgers emerge as a downfield threat for the Packers at tight end?

Will Richard Rodgers emerge as a downfield threat for the Packers at tight end?

The Green Bay Packers open their exhibition season against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night. NFL exhibition games are usually about as entertaining as darning socks, but if you manage to make it through the entire ordeal, here are five things to watch from a Packers perspective:

Stay healthy
First and foremost — before any heated position battles or players you’re hoping to get a peek at during live game action — make sure you pray to whatever God you typically pray to that the Packers survive this first exhibition game with minimal injuries. The Packers have already lost Jared Abbrederis and Don Barclay for the season with ACL tears. Morgan Burnett is on the shelf with an oblique strain, an injury that can take a long time to heal. The Packers have been one of the most injury-ravaged teams in the NFL over the last five seasons. Enough is enough. Stay healthy, guys.

Young safeties
With Morgan Burnett back in Green Bay recovering from an oblique strain, the Packers young safeties will have an opportunity to stand out. Sean Richardson has been a camp standout so far and wants to prove that he’s more than a box safety. Micah Hyde has lined up as a starter since minicamp and needs to prove that he’s made the transition from slot corner to a starting NFL safety. It seems like rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is being brought along slowly. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m sure he’d like to make an impact and speed up the process of him entering the starting lineup. Finally, don’t forget about guys like Chris Banjo and Tanner Miller. After last season’s dismal performance, the Packers safety position battle is wide open. Nobody should be counted out.

Richard Rodgers vs. Brandon Bostick
Yeah, it’s probably going to be tight end by committee for the Packers this season, but someone on that committee needs to provide some type of down-the-seam threat like Jermichael Finley did. They don’t have to do everything Finley did, but at least show enough that teams have to pay attention to a tight end zipping through the seam. Early reports on Rodgers indicate he’s lost weight and is much faster than the 4.87 40-yard dash he ran at the NFL combine. Bostick showed he has the athleticism to be a downfield threat, but his hands are iffy. We’ll see if either player rises above the other on Saturday, and how the other, more traditional tight ends in the Packers’ rotation fit.

JC Tretter
Mike McCarthy has been talking up Tretter ever since the Packers let Evan Dietrich-Smith walk. Now we’ll see if Tretter, who missed all of last season after breaking his ankle in an offseason fumble recovery drill, wins the starting job and puts a halt to the Packers’ carousel of rotating centers for a couple of seasons. If Tretter is shaky, keep an eye on rookie Corey Linsley. He sounds like an unpolished bruiser.

Sam Barrington
I’ve had my eye on Barrington ever since the Packers drafted him the 7th round in 2013. I think he can play and will challenge Brad Jones for one of the two inside linebacker starting slots before the season is over. I haven’t heard much about Barrington in training camp, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he looks in the exhibition opener. So far, I’m the only person on this kid’s bandwagon. After Saturday, will I have company or will I be leaping off?

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Ed Hochuli

NFL referee Ed Hochuli was at Packers training camp this week to discuss changes to NFL rules.

I know I said last week’s Surviving Sunday was the last until the Packers 2014 season ends, but I’m kind of down about the Jared Abbrederis injury and don’t feel like cranking out 500 words about Khyri Thornton, Richard Rodgers or some other Packers player we should probably wait until after a couple preseason games to even begin evaluating.

So, I’m reneging on my promise to shelve Surviving Sunday until 2015 and bringing it back one more time in 2014, mostly to get some random, whacked out thoughts out of my NFL brain and onto your screen.

RIP defense
NFL referee Ed Hochuli was at Packers training camp this week and shared some news about stricter enforcement of pass interference rules this season.

I hate how far the NFL game is tilted toward offenses these days. I know I sound like an old man in full “get-off-my-lawn” mode, but I don’t care. I miss the days when it was OK to nail the quarterback and receivers were taking a risk when reaching out for that pass over the middle.

I also miss the game-within-a-game played by receivers and defensive backs. A crafty DB could push the boundaries of illegal contact or pass interference just far enough to throw a receiver off his route without drawing a flag. If Hochuli is to be believed, those days might be over.

A good defense is still a good defense, regardless of rules changes. The great ones adapt. But Hochuli’s words earlier this week reminded me of just how much I miss the days when defenses could play without one arm tied behind their back.

I know the days or defensive freedom are long gone and never returning. If you think Roger Goodell and the NFL will be loosening the reigns on defense anytime soon, you’re whacked.

Here are a few other ideas about the NFL that are whacked, but at least make you think a little bit. These are all just random thoughts running through my head. I’m not endorsing any of these ideas or realistically expecting them to actually happen, but they will probably make for some interesting Sunday conversation (and hopefully a chuckle or two).

In-stadium daycare
I have a 9-month-old son, and while I’d like to take him to his first Packers game as soon as possible, it probably won’t realistically happen for at least a couple of years. When we go to games, we need to either get a babysitter, or leave our son with grandma and grandpa.

Both options are feasible, but not all new parents have relatives nearby or a babysitter on call to watch their kid(s) for an entire day while you’re drinking beer and yelling at grown men in tight pants throwing around an odd-shaped leather ball. Plus, if you’re like me, you want to make sure your kid starts absorbing all that is great about the Packers and football as early as possible, even if the kid is still too young to sit through an entire live game.

That’s why NFL teams should offer in-stadium daycare. Parents can bring their kids to the stadium, tailgate and hang out before kickoff, then drop off their kid at the in-stadium daycare during the game.

Instead of worrying about how little Junior is doing with the 14-year-old you hired to watch him, you can focus all your attention on the game. If you want to check on your kid, you just pop into the in-stadium daycare and make sure everything is alright. You can even bring your kid out into the stadium every now and then to see their first Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass or Morgan Burnett blown coverage.

NFL owners, money-grubbing rascals that they are, should embrace this idea. Have you seen daycare prices lately? They are outrageously expensive. NFL teams could charge an arm and a leg to watch your kid during the game and a lot of people would pay it.

Plus it helps NFL teams begin the indoctrination process at an early age. For example, one of the activities at the Lambeau Field daycare would be teaching the youngsters how to sing the “The Bears Still Suck” or how to ask “How many Super Bowls has your team won?” when annoying Vikings or Lions fans start spouting off at the mouth.

To me, in-stadium NFL daycare is a no-brainer.

Ignoring crimes
Were people more upset about the fact that Ray Rice knocked out his wife? Or were they more upset about the lack of adequate punishment handed down by the NFL?

In my opinion, the lack of adequate punishment caused much more of an uproar than the actual crime. I’m not saying people didn’t care about what Rice did, but the incident was already off people’s radar. What brought it zooming back into the spotlight and has kept it there for more than a week is the fact that the NFL “only” suspended Rice for two games.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seems to think he’s improving the NFL’s image by acting as judge and jury whenever players break the law. I’m not so sure he is.

People seem to accept the fact that a certain number of NFL players are going get arrested and do dumb things. People don’t like it, but they’ve accepted it. When a player gets arrested, people grumble, shake their heads, then move on and continue preparing for their fantasy football draft.

What drags the NFL’s image down is the extra round of press, and in cases like the Rice situation, the outrage that follows after the NFL issues punishment.

So what if Goodell just says the hell with it and declares that the NFL will no longer be fining and suspending players for off-field transgressions?

“From now on, I’m here to oversee football, not what players do off the field,” Goodell would say at the news conference announcing this radical shift. “I’m not endorsing misbehavior, but I’m sick of getting dragged through the mud when fans, media and social media mobs think my punishments are too harsh, too lenient or too whatever.”

If the commissioner did this, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with the move, but I’d understand his overall point.

Eliminating ties
I was at the Packers-Vikings tie last season. It sucked. Four hours of trash talking your Vikings friends and getting all jazzed up about the Packers comeback, and it all ends in…nothing.

Ties need to be eliminated from the NFL (from all sports, really). However, NFL games are already too long. Nobody wants to see a four-hour game go five hours if nobody wins after the first overtime. So, here’s how NFL overtime needs to be overhauled.

  • Keep the current overtime rules as they are, but shorten the overtime period to 10 minutes.
  • If the game remains tied after those 10 minutes, then the first team to make a “positive play” wins.
  • What’s a “positive play?” Let’s say the Packers and Vikings are tied after overtime. The home team would be given the ball at the 50-yard line and would have to pick up a first down to win the game.
  • However, if the team with the ball doesn’t gain at least 3 yards per play in its pursuit of a first down, then the defense wins the game.
  • So, the Packers get the ball on the 50. Rodgers hits Nelson for six yards. The game continues. Next play, Lacy runs for 5 yards, the Packers get a first down and win the game.
  • Now let’s say the Packers get the ball on the 50 and Rodgers is sacked on the first play. The Vikings win since they prevented the Packers from gaining at least 3 yards.
  • There would also be a special teams option. The home can decide if it would like to kick off or receive a kick off instead of playing offense. If the receiving team returns the ball to the 22 yard line, the receiving team wins. If the kicking teams stops the returner before the 22, the kicking team wins.
  • A touch back means the receiving team gets the ball at the 50.
  • The kicking team wins if the kicker kicks the ball through the goalposts on the kickoff.

This is a genius idea. Make it happen, NFL.

Fewer commercials
If NFL refs are really going to get stricter about calling downfield contact, games will go from already-too-long, to oh-my-God-NFL-games-are-now-longer-than-baseball-games-and-I-want-to-stab-myself long.

Games can be shortened ever so slightly if the NFL would eliminate its stupid policy or running a commercial after a team scores, then running another commercial immediately after the ensuing kickoff.

This drives me crazy. I could maybe forgive the NFL for putting handcuffs on defenses if they stop this maddening strategy.

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