Ten reasons why it’s great to be a fan of Wisconsin Badger and Green Bay Packer football

By Jake McCormick

It’s a good week to be a fan of Wisconsin professional and collegiate football.

After a year and a half of consistent scrutiny surrounding Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are headed back to the playoffs and are considered one of the hottest teams in the NFL in a wide open race to the Super Bowl. Throw in all the clichés you want here (A dangerous team no division winner wants to face, peaking at the right time, don’t sleep on the Packers, etc.). [Read more…]

Packer win and momentum boost overshadowed by season ending injuries

49ers Packers Football

By Jake McCormick

Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers got some revenge of his own, so to speak, by besting the man picked 22 spots in front of him in the 2005 draft. By the San Francisco 49ers, his favorite childhood team. The Packer defense started to gel play like a unit and actually create pressure on the 49ers’ Alex Smith. Surprisingly, the Green Bay ground game racked up 158 yards on a team that allows 87 a game.

49ers Packers FootballEven more unbelievable, the Packer offensive line only gave up two sacks and four hits on Rodgers all day; both numbers have decreased over the past two games. Perhaps the biggest confidence boost came when the Packer offense ran out the last 5:40 to put the game away for good in the fourth quarter. Things definitely were starting to gel the way Packer fans and Skip Bayless expected.

But four words found a way to change the entire tone of the Packers’ 30-24 win over the 49ers: Out for the season.

The fourth quarter injuries to cornerback Al Harris and linebacker Aaron Kampman will put the weight of a Wild Card birth and the toughest stretch of their schedule on a Packer depth chart that wasn’t that deep last year. The next six games for Green Bay are at Detroit (Thanksgiving is always tough), Baltimore, at Chicago, at Pittsburgh, Seattle, at Arizona.

This means that rookie Brad Jones, who has played well as a fill in but is not the playmaker Kampman is, and Brady Poppinga will compete for Kampman’s spot. I would also include Jeremy Thompson in this discussion, as he had high expectations going into this season but has experienced quite a few bumps and bruises that have limited his playing time. We’ve already seen the defense perform well without Kampman, and if anything his injury makes letting him go into free agency at the end of the year much easier. Dealing with the loss of Al Harris is something entirely different.

Here’s a name that will now see increased playing time because of the Harris injury: Jarrett Bush. That’s scarier than Paranormal Activity. Tramon Williams is a playmaker and still developing as Harris’ successor, but he will be once again forced into a role as the primary bull’s eye for opposing quarterbacks. The only other player the Packers’ currently have to play the nickel (because Bush will only see the field when ABSOLUTELY necessary) is rookie Brandon Underwood.

Gone are the days where Charles Woodson can blanket opposing tight ends, blitz freely and showcase his athleticism in all its glory. Here to stay in 2009 are the holiday greetings double digit fantasy stats for Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner, and even Jay Cutler. Talk about lumps of coal.

49ers Packers FootballThe Packers will go with their current roster against the Lions on Thursday, and thankfully they won’t have to face the suddenly hot Matthew Stafford. But it still won’t be an easy task keep up their pace in the race for the Wild Card when two of their wheels have suddenly burst into flames.

Ted Thompson’s response to this situation could also tell us how much confidence he has in a secondary that is thinner than Lindsay Lohan. Either he’ll stand pat with a rookie playing more snaps at nickel in one game than he has all season, or he’ll break character and pick up an aging veteran like Jason Craft, Patrick Surtain or Sam Madison to at least taper the learning curve. I just stumbled upon a recording of the Packer defense saying, “Help us Ted Thompson. You’re our only hope.”

I’m just not sure a reemerging aged wonder can mentor and save the Luke Skywalkers in the secondary.

Seriously? The DEFENSE won a game for the PACKERS?

Cowboys Packers Football

By Jake McCormick

Typically, sports rivalries between states are cyclical, and right now, Minnesota is making me glad I’m still not going to college an hour and a half from their border. But this past weekend gave me a little needed confidence in Wisconsin sports.

Brewers GM Doug Melvin is stockpiling money like Bazooka Joe comics to cash in on some pitching, Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings (to which I was a witness) became the youngest player in NBA history to tally 50+ points in a game, and Wisconsin football is a step closer to double digits wins and a January bowl. Of course, this state lives and dies by the green and gold, and the Packers’ win would’ve been all it took to get Wisconsin’s blood pressure back to stable levels.

It was a win in arguably the most important game of the 2009 season for the entire organization, against a Cowboy team that had rattled off four straight wins and was beginning to put a season of relevancy back together. But as significant as this win might be for the rest of the season, it is almost as confusing as the loss to the Buccaneers.

Until the 17-7 win against the Cowboys on Sunday, the Packer defense had been doing its best Carrie Prejean impression of increasing ineptness against the Vikings and Buccaneers. Just when you thought she couldn’t make herself look even dumber, she opens her mouth on national television and makes Sarah Palin look like a MENSA member. Interesting the maverick of hockey moms is her idol, too. Back to football.

Was the Buccaneer game really the big slap in the face to get the Packer defense to trust their skills and the scheme? The (mostly Chuck Woodson) defensive-led win was the first of its kind since last year against the Colts. All things considered, the players should have some increased confidence now that they know what can happen when they play within their roles. The most interesting tid-bit to come out of this win was the fact that the Packers registered five sacks. Without Aaron Kampman.

Of course, you could make the assumption that rookie Brad Jones was a better option anyways because he is naturally an outside linebacker, and more than a few Packer fans have done so since Sunday. Plus, Kampman is a free agent after this season, and quietly was not happy about switching positions in a contract year. With that said, I find it hard to believe that Kampman’s absence was the catalyst for the defense to pull together and carry the offense.

Cowboys Packers FootballClay Matthews is becoming comfortable as the monster playmaker AJ Hawk was supposed to be, but Hawk made his fair share of big play hits against Dallas. My guess is they must’ve shared the same Muscle Milk regimen and hair stylist leading up to the game. Nick Barnett also looked more comfortable than he has all year. With three natural linebackers flying around and making plays like they were expected to, wouldn’t that free up Kampman to do the same? He very well may walk this year, but Kampman is still a more complete player than anyone the Packers could inject into his spot.

After following up an unexpected loss with an unexpected win, the Packers are only a game out of the Wild Card and very much alive in the playoff race. That makes every game from here on out a must win, much like Sunday’s against Dallas. This is the time of the year where Wild Card teams fizzle or get hot, and Green Bay can still go either way. However, the win against the Cowboys was a step in the right direction and Packer fans can only hope the team understands that they have seven more Dallas games to play if they want to reach the postseason. I think I’ll just close my eyes and hope for the best against Mr. Bugeye Singletary this Sunday.

Green Bay reeks of desperation, an improving defense, and the year 2004


By Jake McCormick

Have you ever been disappointed in a 26-0 shutout before last weekend? Better yet, has the Packer offense ever been the lighter fluid doused on your fires of frustration in those seemingly lopsided wins? Lost in Mike McCarthy’s inept playcalling in the red zone, a broken condom of an offensive line, and a lack of a consistent running game is the fact that the Green Bay defense has quietly made steady improvements and now ranks in the top 10 in the league in many statistical categories. Sure it’s early in the season and the Packers have played a mostly mediocre schedule, but do I need to remind you of last season’s defense under Bob Sanders? More predictable than a James Bond movie.

The Packer defense is currently ranked 10th in points per game (18.6), 8th in yards per game (298), 10th in passing yards per game (192.6), 16th in rushing yards per game (105.4), and 3rd in interceptions (10). They outrank the Minnesota Vikings in all of these categories except rushing yards per game, sacks, and forced fumbles. And the Packer offense deserves some credit for making the defense look good, as they have managed to limit their turnovers to two fumbles and interceptions apiece to make sure the defense’s turnovers are not in vain.

Lions Packers FootballI’m not saying the Packer defense is on par with the Vikings’, but it has taken steps forward to get to that point against nearly identical opponents. This weekend’s game features the Cleveland Browns on the opposite side of the field, who have many players with the LeBron flu and many more that play like they do. The Packers have a second straight chance to strengthen their defensive chemistry against a lesser team before facing the meat part of their schedule against the Ravens, Vikings, and Steelers.

The possibility that the Packer defense may win the team games as the offense continues to find itself is definitely a new feeling for Packer fans. Clearly the offensive line has problems everywhere, Rodgers has problems getting rid of the ball because he always hears footsteps, and the running game is so 2008. This of course has led to some desperate measures by Packer management in the form of free agency. Green Bay is rivaling New England in blast from the past free agent pickups. Unlike in New England, new Packers Ahman Green and Mark Tauscher actually have expectations to be regular contributors. Considering Ahman Green’s best days are seemingly behind him and Tauscher is coming off of knee surgery, it’s interesting to hear McCarthy and Ted Thompson changing their tones towards picking up veterans.

For all we know, Tauscher could be everything he was before last December’s knee injury, and Green could have a little bit of fumes left in his injury-proned tank. But wouldn’t these midseason problems have been alleviated if the team was more active under this philosophy during the offseason? Maybe McCarthy and Thompson have seen the light and understand that a free agent that will guarantee you some veteran level of production may be better than giving an annual baptism by fire to younger players. And maybe this is a way to cover their asses for free agent impotency. Either way, I hope it works.

Using the Kubler Ross stages of grief to cope with the Packers’ Week 2 loss

Can you believe Lamar Odom had five sacks?

Can you believe Lamar Odom had five sacks?

By Jake McCormick

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

That’s how I dealt with the Green Bay Packers’ pitiful loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that rightfully deserves a reality show and is a lot like the villains in any James Bond movie. SPECTRE or any other bad guy looks like an upgrade over the previous movie, but the end results are the same.

Denial: Bolting up from my barstool in downtown Milwaukee, not caring that I had left delicious onion rings and half a beer at my seat, I ran outside and did my best Revenge of the Sith Darth Vader Frankenstein impression, screaming to the skies “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” It became evident in about the middle of the third quarter that the Packers would not win the game, but I tried convincing myself otherwise until Ed Hochuli flexed his referee muscles.

Anger: Between the Packer crapfest, some douche 49er fan running up and down the rows in the bar every time Cincinnati did something and a Viking fan that yelled “Percy!” every time Percy Harvin touched the ball, I was poised to rip the Marquette University “McCormick Hall” sign from its post a few blocks from my house. I figured at least I would have something cool with my name on it instead of the usual bar fight story or broken parking meter. I also proceeded to drop F-bombs like George Carlin, and really was tempted to drive up to Green Bay and hand every member of the offensive line a broken bicycle to ride to practice at the start of the week.

Bargaining: This one was very short lived, seeing as I don’t pray and I refuse to believe God cares about sporting events. Why bother when it’s only Week 2 and every other person in the world is praying for something on His day off?

Depression: This one set in pretty quickly once I got home. I felt like I had a bad day at work (Which, technically, I did), and had seven days to think about it. I’m pretty sure my depression after a Packer game is like a woman’s depression after watching the last episode of Sex in the City.

Acceptance: Thank god this came to me Sunday night, and without severe detrimental effects to my relationships with my girlfriend, friends, and family. It is only Week 2, the Bengals do have a good offense, and the Packers have been drinking their own Kool-Aid. At this point, it’s a good thing they get their balls tugged out through their anus by a lesser team; hopefully it’ll be a big kick in the jaw early on instead of down the road. Build off of this, teach the offensive line how to block, and move on to preparing for St. Louis. And if the team that played the Bengals shows up in two weeks, we will be slaughtered and hung to dry. Hopefully I’ll be blacked out if that happens.

Here are my positional grades, and as you’ll note, they are much more cynical and tough than last week’s:


I seriously couldn't find a photo from this game where Rodgers wasn't being dragged down from behind.

I seriously couldn't find a photo from this game where Rodgers wasn't being dragged down from behind.

This is the best grade I’m going to give, because Aaron Rodgers’ lack of success was pretty much determined by his porous offensive line. Rodgers was taking hit after hit, but failed to make a big mistake other than take sacks. If you don’t have enough time, just limit the turnovers, and I would prefer that to what a former Green Bay quarterback would’ve done in those situations.

Grade: B

Running back
When the quarterback has three less rushing yards than your starting running back (43 to 46) and only carried the ball four times, you have the typical Packer running game. Ryan Grant has shown he can push a pile if needed, but still has yet to break a run that isn’t called back by a holding penalty. Grant claimed he is more prepared than ever for the position, but talk is cheap, in the words of Tom Brady. Sure the offensive line sucks, but good running backs create something out of nothing and HOLD ONTO THE BALL. I haven’t seen that yet this year.

Grade: C

Receiving corps
Donald Driver was Rodgers’ favorite target against Cincinnati, but Greg Jennings could’ve been replaced with Brett Swain and we wouldn’t have known the difference. Jennings was a non-factor all game, and I’m still trying to figure out why. The Bengal secondary isn’t filled with shutdown corners. It’s good that the ball was dropped considerably less than against the Bears and Driver got into a rhythm, but Jennings needs to get the ball when the team needs its playmakers the most.

Grade: C+

Offensive lineBengals Packers Football
Easily, EASILY the biggest problem spot in the team. Of course, you can’t win games if the quarterback is pulling a Jim Everett every play, nor if the line has fewer holes than a condom. Allen Barbre wasn’t the big problem, and that’s a problem. Chad Clifton was knocked out of the game and Daryn Colledge slid over to take his place in the third quarter, but neither player did their job (Paging Mark Tauscher…you’re needed on a crappy line). With 10 sacks given up already, Rodgers will not live through another full season of the line doesn’t remember that pass protection is a requirement for employment.

Grade: F–

Defensive line
Typical Packer defense. After shutting down a very good Chicago running back in Week 1, they sleepwalk against a castoff Bear with drug problems. Cedric Benson is NOT an elite running back, nor is he even a starter in most fantasy leagues, but somehow he gained 141 yards on 29 carries. Giving up a guaranteed 4-5 yards on a play is not a victory for the defense, and no matter what, YOU DO NOT LET AN OFFENSE CONVERT ON A 3RD AND 34!! Was Mike Sherman on the sidelines again, or what? That was the worst mental mistake of the game, and that goes for the entire defense.

Grade: D+

3rd and 34. It’s not that hard to stop, really. Especially when inside their 20 yard line. Either way, the linebackers were kept silent most of the game, and other than a Clay Matthews sack, looked like they were going through scout team drills. This is a deep group of players, but someone needs to step up and Ray Lewis somebody. By that I mean hit someone hard. On the football field.

Grade: D+


Is it ethical for the AP to remove the guy on the left's middle finger from the photo? I'm assuming so, because they did it.

Is it ethical for the AP to remove the guy on the left's middle finger from the photo? I'm assuming so, because they did it.

The top three tacklers were Charles Woodson, Nick Collins, and Aaron Rouse (who was just cut for an Italian guy names Matt Giordano. I think I bought a pizza from his restaurant once). I had a youth football coach who used to say that if the safties and corners don’t register a tackle all game, the defense did their job. Woodson continued to make big plays with his two interceptions, including one he took to the house, but when you give up big plays, those turnovers can be negated. Letting Chad Ochenta y Cinco get into the endzone is enough to get downgraded to a C level, and his subsequent pussification of the “Lambeau Leap” was just as bad. At least Fred Smoot had the balls to do it in a group of Packer fans. (Props to the guy who gave the bird to every camera photographing or filming the move, and CBS not censoring it. That ranks right up there in Lambeau Leap lore with the fat woman that was slapping William Henderson’s ass for about 10 minutes.)

Grade: C

Special Teams
Mason Crosby looks like he’s starting to hit a groove, making a clutch fourth quarter kick and executing a beautiful onside attempt that the Packers recovered. Jason Kapinos isn’t terrible either. But the coverage units gave up a combined 181 return yards. That in itself was the deciding factor in the game. You can give bad teams great field position all day, and they will find a way to score.

Grade: C-

I just keep telling myself there are 14 games left. After Week 2 last year, the Vikings were 0-2 and the Packers were 2-0. Look how the season ended. I’m not saying there’s a guaranteed reversal for either team, but to bet the farm when the season is still in its infancy would mean you’d probably be dead by Week 5. Let’s just hope the Packers got the memo about their extreme deficiencies on the offensive line.