Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Funday – Bob Uecker

From Bob Uecker's signature home run call: "Get up, get up, get outta here...gone!" to his self-deprecating humor...every time I hear those golden pipes of Uecker’s a big smile comes to my face.

Despite being the best broadcaster ever to call games in Cheesehead country and one of greatest announcers of all-time, Bob Uecker is a remarkably humble man. Uecker has had the option to take more prestigious full-time announcing jobs but he loves Milwaukee and he loves baseball, so Uecker has remained the radio voice of the Milwaukee Brewers since 1971.

For how much Cheeseheads know Uecker as the voice of the Milwaukee Brewers, most people know Uecker from his acting career. Uecker appeared in:
- Movies: Harry Doyle in the Major League trilogy (I only acknowledge the original Major League)
- Televisions shows: George Owens on Mr. Belvedere, hosted Saturday Night Live, and was a regular guest on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
- Television commercials: appeared in a number of famous Miller Lite spots

Uecker was inducted into the broadcasters wing of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003 and the WWE Hall of Game in 2010. As you can see, Bob Uecker has some impressive range. I loved all of the aforementioned performances by Uecker, but Uecker’s best performances come when he calls Milwaukee Brewers games.

Uecker is a well-chronicled mediocre professional major league player, which he always said prepared him for knowing how hard it is to play in the majors. One of the reasons that Uecker is in the Hall of Fame is that he never shows players up.

I am a baseball fan first and foremost because my dad loves the game. My mom knows that, so she makes sure that my dad and I got to see every Milwaukee Brewers game we wanted, including Robin Yount’s 3,000 hit.

If I had to attribute my interest in baseball to anyone besides my parents, it would be listening to hundreds of Milwaukee Brewers games on the radio growing up. In the internet age saying radio (in part) peaked my interest in baseball sounds like saying I grew-up with the dinosaurs, but Bob Uecker really makes baseball games colorful for radio listeners.

Bob Costas recently interviewed Bob Uecker on "Inside Studio 42 with Bob Costas" on MLB Network. I thought I knew almost everything imaginable about Uecker but even I picked up some nuggets from the interview. For one, Uecker worked as a car mechanic during the day and "played baseball" at night. The economics of professional sports have changed dramatically in the last 50 years. Just to put it in perspective, can you imagine Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun working a day job before heading to Miller Park that night to play for the Brewers?

Uecker is notorious for having a lifetime .200 batting average and only hitting 14 career home runs in 6 major league seasons spanning 731 at-bats. Uecker claims his top salary playing professional baseball came in 1966 when he earned $17,000...$11,000 of that came from selling other guys equipment. Uecker also talked about getting fined while playing for the Philadelphia Phillies. The cop fined Uecker $50 for being intoxicated on the street and $150 for playing for the Phillies.

In Uecker's interview with Costas, Uecker also told some of my favorite Bob Uecker stories that I am sure we have all heard before but bear repeating.

When Uecker's major league career was over he joked that he found out by the Braves manager Lumen Harris telling him "no visitors allowed in the clubhouse."

Uecker also talked about calling games with some of the greatest announcers of the last 50 years. One of those guys, Howard Cosell, called Bob Uecker "truculent" on the air. Cosell followed that up by saying "you probably didn't know what that meant though Ueck." Uecker said something to the effect: "of course I do, if you had a truck I borrowed, it to would be a truck-you-lent." I know that is not the most nuanced humor in the world but it just shows how quick Uecker is calling games no matter whom he is sharing the booth with.

Finally, Costas and Uecker also talked about how great the brats and secret stadium sauce combo is at Brewers games in Milwaukee. I know this seems like a shameless plug, but it really ties into the story...for a great story about how brats can be a great networking tool, check out Joe Sweeney’s New York Time Bestseller, Networking is a Contact Sport and the accompanying website.

Unfortunately Uecker has had some health issues over the last year. Uecker had pancreas surgery in January, heart surgery in April, and unfortunately had another heart procedure recently. Luckily Uecker is doing well relying on his sharp self-deprecating humor to get through his health issues. I know I am not alone in looking forward to hearing Uecker in the booth next year and thank you for being you Ueck!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Week 11 of 2010 - Packers/Queens Review

The Green Bay Packers played the Minnesota Vikings ("Queens") for the 100th time in their storied rivalry on Sunday, November 21, 2010 in front of 64,120 people at the Metrodome ("Humpty Dumpty Dome"). The Cheeseheads dominated the Queens to give the Cheeseheads a slight upper hand in the all-time rivalry 51-48-1.

If you are an avid reader of, you know that I am often critical of Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy but starting with the coin toss, McCarthy made almost all the right moves to push his dome coaching record to 10-4 (including playoffs). The Packers called "heads" and won the toss. Instead of taking the ball, the Packers deferred to the 2nd half. I love that move on the road for two reasons.

One, with the Packers defense playing so well it gives them a chance to get on the field and silence the home crowd right away. The Packers have forced three-and-outs on 6 of 9 opening defensive drives. The only team to score on their first possession of either half was the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins scored a touchdown on their first drive of the game and a field goal on their first drive of the second half. There is always the possibility of giving up a score on the opening drive, which makes deferring look dumb, but the numbers were in the Packers' favor.

Two, at the start of a professional game the stadium is usually full unless you are the Miami Heat and have to tell your fans to "Fan Up" in a cheesy video. How sad is it that the Miami Heat have Wade, James, and Bosh but still have to tell their fans to "Fan Up" and show up to the games on time? The Miami Heat "Fan Up" video feels like a bad SNL parody. In fact, I looked for a better one but this mediocre parody of the Miami Heat’s “Fan Up” video was the best one I could find. Back to my original point, if you add in that the stadium is usually empty at the start of the 2nd half because people are getting food and going to the bathroom, the best time for the road team to have the ball is the start of the 2nd half. As a result, I think it makes complete sense to defer on the road to get the ball in the second half.

The Packers stopped the Queens on their opening drive but failed to do anything on offense when they got the ball. The Queens opened the scoring with a 24-yard field goal by all-time Packer's leading scorer and current Queens' place kicker Ryan Longwell. Unfortunately for the Queens, those would be the last points they scored on the day. In a bit of an oddity, for the second game in a row the Packers failed to score in the first quarter but still walloped their opponent.

The Packers opened the second quarter down 3-0 but with the ball thanks to a strip by Packer cornerback Charles Woodson of Queens running back Toby Gerhart that was recovered by Packer middle linebacker A.J. Hawk. The Packers failed to capitalize on the turnover and the teams traded possessions until the Packers matched the Queens with a field goal of their own 5 minutes into the second quarter.

The Packers forced a three-and-out on the ensuing Queens possession. Then the Packers offense moved the ball down the field methodically into scoring position again where Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers uncharacteristically threw what should have been an interception but Queens’ safety Husain Abdullah dropped the interception in the end zone. The Packers made the Queens pay. On the next play, Rodgers found Greg Jennings on an improvised route that ironically burned Abdullah and the Queens for a touchdown.

The Queens got the ball back with 5 minutes remaining in the half and proceeded to pound the ball on the ground with running back Adrian Peterson and all-around-stud Percy Harvin to set-up a 1st and 10 at the Packers’ 25-yard line. In what I like to think was the ultimate retirement gift…Favre uncorked a screamer intended for Harvin that was intercepted by cornerback Tramon Williams.

When Favre came to the sideline following the interception he got into a verbal altercation with Queens offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. You know things are going bad when Favre gets into a disagreement with Bevell because Bevell is Favre's biggest advocate on the Queens' coaching staff. If Favre and Bevell are at odds, Favre's days as a starter for Queens could be numbered.

Thanks to a low block by Queens’ wide receiver Greg Camarillo, the Packers offense took over at their own 47-yard line with a little over a minute remaining in the half. A scramble followed by 5 consecutive passes by Rodgers was capped off with a touchdown when Rodgers found wide receiver James Jones in the end zone with only 3 second remaining in the half to put the Packers up 17-3.

Let's play the "what if's" game for a second. What if Favre and the Queens scored a touchdown at the end of the half? The game would have been tied 10-10 with everything to play for in the second half. Instead, the Packers lead 17-3 and got the ball to start the second half.

The Packers picked up where they left off to start the second half moving the ball fairly well. On 1st and 10 at the Queens 46-yard line Rodgers hit Jennings on a short pass and Jennings was off to the races for a 46-yard touchdown to put the Packers up 24-3.

When the Queens got the ball back they moved it a little bit and looked to have converted a 51-yard field goal but were called for a hold which forced them to punt instead. Those are the types of things that happen to teams that are in a downward spiral. Dumb penalties compound an already dismal situation, which leads to unrest among the players.

Speaking of unrest among the players, the public went crazy over Nipplegate when Justin Timberlake accidentally exposed Janet Jackson's nipple for a millisecond during the Super Bowel XXXVIII halftime show, yet the NFL routinely shows NFL coaches and players swearing on the sidelines. In all honesty I have no problem with either, but I find it funny that people were so up in arms over Nipplegate but never complain about in-game swearing. As things started to fall apart for the Queens, rookie cornerback Chris Cook and veteran defensive end Ray Edwards got into a yelling match where you could see Chris Cook plainly saying "F#%k You Ray" a bunch of times. For my money it is worse for kids to see swearing like that all the time than a nipple for a millisecond.

After a couple of lackluster possessions by both teams, the Packers finally went for the kill when the Queens turned the ball over on downs on their own 42-yard line. The Packers moved the ball well setting up a 3rd and 1 at the Queens 22-yard line. Rodgers hit Greg Jennings on a "go" route for a touchdown. After the extra point the Packers were up 31-3 with 9 minutes remaining in he game. Things were so bad for the Queens in the Humpty Dumpty Dome at that point that when the broadcast went to commercial you could hear "Go Pack Go" chants.

Let's take a brief intermission to look at Greg Jennings' impressive day: 7 catches for 152 yards and 3 touchdowns. On two of the touchdowns, Jennings did a little something extra to get into the end zone. Almost 5 games removed from losing dynamic tight end Jermichael Finely for the season, it looks like Rodgers has finally locked into his go-to-guy Greg Jennings.

With the game out of reach, my nostalgia for Favre kicked in Stockholm Syndrome style. I am a Packer fan first, but there will always be a place in my heart for Favre. As Favre started to miss throws and fumble snaps with the game out of reach, I weirdly felt myself rooting for him to at least be competent. No matter how much of a diva Favre was on his way out of Green Bay, it will never change what he did for the Packers. I felt myself starting to hope that Favre would do enough to keep going because he was flirting with getting benched.

I think Packers wide receiver Donald Driver's quote after the game summed it up the best, Driver said something to the effect: "I love him to death but when you play this game, there's no friends until it's all over. I'm happy that we beat him." I felt the same way watching the end of the game. Favre did so much for the Packers. I by no means was rooting for him, but as he slumped over on the sidelines looking like a beaten down man I couldn't help but feel for him.

The politically correct thing to say is that this was not about Rodgers v. Favre but that would be a lie. Favre and the Queens pounded Rodgers and the Packers twice in 2009, but it looks like Rodgers and the Packers will have the last laugh taking it to Favre and Queens twice in 2010.

Rodgers was on fire going 22 for 31 for 301 yards and 4 touchdowns. Rodgers notched the second highest passer rating of his career, 141.3 (his highest was 155.3 against the Cleveland Browns on October 25, 2009). For the year Rodgers has a passer rating of 95.7 (9th best in the NFL) and has thrown 19 touchdowns (tied for 3rd best in the NFL).

On the other side of the coin, Favre was a pedestrian 17 for 38 for 208 yards and 1 interception for a 51.2 passer rating. Favre was only sacked once but got hit 7 times. At the end of the game Favre and Rodgers talked for a few moments with Rodgers smiling knowing he has a promising NFL career to look forward to while Favre gingerly left the field looking like a battered man finally headed for retirement.

One of the keys to beating the Queens was bottling up the ever-dangerous Percy Harvin. On kickoff returns Harvin averaged a mere 17.3 yards per return, which is 7.3 yards below his average. Despite blowing out the Queens 31-3, the Packers still could not establish a consistent running game. The leading rusher on the day for the Packers was Dimitri Nance, who gained a mere 37 yards on 12 carries...oh dang.

After crushing the Queens, the Packers defense is firing on all cylinders. Over the last 3 games the Packers defense has only given up 10 points: shut out the Jet on the road, gave up a touchdown to the Cowboys at home, and held the Queens to a field goal on the road. The last time the Packers defense only allowed 10 points over a 3 games period came in 1974.

For the season, the defense ranks third in the NFL in sacks with 29, tied for second in the NFL in interceptions with 15, second in the NFL in defensive touchdowns with 4, and second in the NFL in opposing quarterback passer rating allowing 66.5. Even better, the defense ranks first in the NFL in fewest touchdowns allowed with only 14 touchdowns surrendered and tied for first with the Chicago Bears in points allowed per game at 14.6 points per game. The only stat that flies in the face of all the aforementioned stats is that the Packers rank 12th in the NFL in total defense with 323.4 yards allowed per game.

I much prefer looking at yardage totals than points because sometimes points are fluky, but the 2010 Green Bay Packers are making me change my line of thinking. The Packers have scored 252 points and allowed 146 points for 106 positive net points. The next closest team in the NFL is the Pittsburgh Steelers with 70 positive net points. That means the Packers are outpacing the next best plus/minus team in the league by 36 points or 3.6 points per game...pretty impressive.

Just to juxtapose the yardage and points theories, the Packers beat the Queens 31-3 but only out gained the Queens by 74 yards for the game (374 yards for the Packers and 300 yards for the Queens). So as you can see I am going to hang my hat on the points stats this week as opposed to yardage stats.

Let’s look at some final game stats to understand why the Packers pounded the Queens on the road in the Humpty Dumpty Dome. The Packers:
- converted more first downs: 20 for the Packers and 15 for the Queens.
- converted more 3rd down attempts: 8 of 15 for the Packers and 4 of 14 for the Queens.
- won the turnover battle: Queens committed 2 turnovers while the Packers didn't commit any turnovers.
- committed less penalties: the Packers committed 1 penalty for 5 yards while the Queens committed 6 penalties for 50 yards.

In the end the Packers handed the Queens their second biggest home beat down in the 100 game rivalry dating back to 1961. The biggest home beat down the Queens have suffered came in 1964 when the Vince Lombardi lead Packers knocked off the Queens 42-13.

Throughout the game there was a steady stream of boos and "Fire Childress" chants. Well your wish was granted. For the second game in a row, the coach of the team the Packers beat did not have a job the following day. Brad Childress joined Wade Phillips in the NFL head coach unemployment line.

I hate to say "I told you so" (not really) but why did the Queens extend Childress for so long at such a big number after the 2009 season? In 2009 Favre had his best year of his entire career playing for an aging football team. It is not like a bunch of NFL teams would have been lining up to sign Childress if he was available. Everyone outside of the land of 10,000 lakes knew that Favre made the Queens season in 2009. Furthermore I have always maintained that the day Childress picked Favre up from the airport during training camp in 2009, he lost the locker room. Winning made that go away in 2009 but it reared its ugly head in 2010.

As always, I will end the post with a look back at the roster moves Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson made between my review of the Packer/Cowboys game and today. The Packers released linebacker Robert Francois and subsequently signed him back to the practice squad (in place of safety Michael Grego) to make room to activate running back James Starks off the physically unable to perform list. I have covered the physically unable to perform list and James Starks' health situation a number of times throughout the blog so I will keep it brief. Although the Packers want to bring Starks back slowly since he has not participated in a live football game in a little less than two years, Starks might be forced into action sooner rather than later because of the lack of quality depth that the Packers have at running back.

In an even bigger move, the Packers placed veteran right tackle Mark Tauscher on injured reserve and signed former Packer tight end Spencer Havner. With Tauscher getting placed on injured reserve, he might have taken his last snap as a Green Bay Packer. Despite only being a 7th round pick out of Wisconsin in 2000, Mark Tauscher has put together quite an impressive NFL career: played in the NFL for 11 years, made 132 starts, and appeared in 134 NFL games.

I find it interesting that Thompson put Tauscher on injured reserve as opposed to cutting him in the uncapped year. Part of that might be because McCarthy wants to keep Tauscher involved in the daily team activities through the end of the season to help tutor rookie tackle Bryan Bulaga. Tauscher is owed $4.58 million in 2011, but most of it comes in the form of salary ($4.1 million) as opposed to roster bonus ($280,000), with a $200,000 work out bonus making up the balance. That is an indication to me that the Packer expect to, or are at least leaving the door open to bringing back Tauscher in 2011 despite having Bulaga, Lang, and Newhouse in the fold.

I am going to start a new thing this week. I will score each move on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best possible score:
- Cut Francois for Starks: 8
- Placed Tauscher on injured reserve and resigned Havner: 4

Check back this weekend for a Wisconsin Badger related “Sunday Funday” post and next Wednesday for a long look back at the clash between two of the best teams in the NFC when the Packers take their talents to Atlanta to face the Falcons.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Midseason Rankings of 2010 Green Bay Packers

The 2010 Green Bay Packers have suffered a ton of serious injuries so far this season, which has forced them to place 11 players on injured reserve after only 9 games. Here is a list of players placed on injured reserve between opening day and today, along with my initial ranking (53 players are on the roster) for each of them:
#46 - Justin Harrell (DE)
#43 - Derrick Martin (S)
#33 - Brady Poppinga (OLB)
#24 - Mike Neal (DE)
#23 - Morgan Burnett (S)
#18 - Brad Jones (OLB)
#17 - Mark Tauscher (T)
#9 - Nick Barnett (MLB)
#7 - Ryan Grant (RB)
#5 - Jermichael Finley (TE)

If you look back at my initial rankings of the 2010 Green Bay Packers opening day roster, a number of rankings have changed. Some players have stepped up, while others continue to wallow on the bench.

Based on losing all of the players above for the season, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson has had to add 10 new faces to the 53-man roster between the start of the season and today. In parenthesis is my opening day ranking for each player. You will notice that 10 guys have a ranking of NR because they have been added to the roster in place of the aforementioned 10 players placed on injured reserve. Without further ado, here is the list:

#53 (53) - Nick McDonald (G):
Why not bring in a dedicated return man instead of subjecting Jordy Nelson, Tramon Williams, and Sam Shields to injury? McDonald has been inactive for every game this season, which is why I am 100% convinced that the Packers would be better off with a dedicated return man than McDonald. McDonald may be good down the road, but the Packers need a dynamic return man in 2010 much more than a potential starting guard in 2012. Remember the impact that Desmond Howard had in helping the Packers win Super Bowl XXXI?

#52 (NR) - James Starks (RB):
Starks is a big back that the coaches have been impressed with, but he has been injured for over two years. As a result, Starks has not played in a competitive football game since January of 2009. Look for the Packers to slowly incorporate Starks into the offense, which will be helpful since the Packers have been thin at running back since losing starting running back Ryan Grant for the season in week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

#51 (NR) - Spencer Havner (TE):
After getting cut at the end of training camp, Havner was picked up and subsequently cut by the Lions...ouch. With the loss of Finley, the Packers brought Havner back because no one has stepped up in place of Finley. Will Havner be the answer? Probably not, but Havner gets the Packers back to having 4 tight ends on the roster again. If Havner can stay healthy he will end up in the 30's for the final rankings, but that is a big if.

#50 (NR) - Diyral Briggs (OLB):
Biggs has only been active against the Cowboys for the Packers this year. Briggs looks to be mostly a special teams player. The Packers are in trouble if Briggs is getting regular snaps on defense in a close game as well.

#49 (NR) - Erik Walden (OLB):
Walden was active against the Jets and Cowboys. Walden looks to be just slightly better than Briggs, but much like Briggs, the Packers are in trouble if Walden gets regular snaps on defense in a close game.

#48 (NR) - Matt Wilhelm (MLB):
Thompson normally does not add a veteran like Wilhelm during the season. Instead Thompson prefers to add young players like Briggs and Walden. With all the injuries the Packers have suffered at linebacker this year, Wilhelm is a veteran middle linebacker that the Packers need to not only play but also provide veteran knowledge and leadership for the young Packers defense.

#47 (50) - Quinn Johnson (FB):
With all the talent on the Packers roster going into the 2010 campaign, Johnson looked like one of the first guys that would get cut when the Packers had to add players. Fortunately for Johnson, injuries have forced the Packers to add players at other positions. Whether the Packers suffered injuries or not this year, carrying 3 fullbacks is still a joke.

#46 (44) - Marshall Newhouse (T):
With offensive tackle Mark Tauscher (ranked #17 at the start of the season) lost for the season to a shoulder injury, Newhouse might be forced into action if the Packers suffer another injury along the offensive line. Newhouse has long arms, which makes him an ideal candidate to play left tackle down the road.

#45 (NR) - Atari Bigby (S):
After missing most of the off-season because of a contract dispute, Bigby reported to training camp with an injured ankle. As a result, the Packers had to place Bigby on the physically unable to perform list so he has only appeared in one game for the Packers this year. If things continue this way, 2010 is looking like a lost season for Bigby.

#44 (NR) - Anthony Smith (S):
The Packers sent the Jacksonville Jaguars a conditional 7th round pick to re-acquire Smith this year. It still boggles my mind why the Packers cut Smith before the 2009 season. Smith looks to be mostly a special teams player that might see some action at safety if the Packers suffer yet another injury.

#43 (51) - Brett Swain (WR):
With Donald Driver hobbled, Swain is getting more snaps on offense than expected in 2010. The Packers continue to keep Swain on the roster despite better wide receivers being on the free agent market. It must be Swain's play of special teams, because he has shown little as a wide receiver to justify his place on the roster.

#42 (NR) - Dimitri Nance (RB): the Packers signed Nance off the Atlanta Falcons practice squad. People complain about the Packers failure to trade for Marshawn Lynch or Jerome Harrison, but it was the Packers failure to add a guy like Ryan Torain (current Washington Redskin running back) that really hurts. Torain was a free agent when the Packers signed Nance so they could have gotten Torain for nothing. Nance might be good, but his lack of carries despite being on the roster for 8 games is telling.

#41 (37) - Brandon Underwood (CB):
Going into training camp Underwood looked like the odds on favorite to hold the nickel cornerback job (3rd on the depth chart). A little more than halfway through the season the Packers have him no higher than 5th on the cornerback depth. No one besides Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson know whether it is because of the cloud surrounding his off the field issues or his play.

#40 (48) - Pat Lee (CB):
Lee showed some promise returning kickoffs, but as usual, got hurt. I feel for Lee on personal level but as a professional he needs to be on the field more often. If not, it is time to cut Lee in the uncapped year and move on without him.

#39 (NR) - Howard Green (DT):
When the Packers claimed Green off waivers from the Jets before their match-up with the Jets, it was just what the doctor ordered. The Packers sorely needed a big body to add along the defensive line. Green was one of the keys to the Packers beating the Jets. Get out your “Grave Digger” shovels because Green looks like the 2010 version of Gilbert Brown.

#38 (47) - Tom Crabtree (TE):
With the injury to Jermichael Finely, the tight end position went from a position of strength to a pedestrian group of guys. Crabtree blocks well but it is questionable whether Crabtree will become a receiving threat in the second half of the season.

#37 (45) - Jarrett Bush (S):
I might be wrong on Bush. Initially I thought it was a waste of a roster spot to keep Bush, but he has proven to be a consistent player on special teams. Bush has cut down on penalties and justified Thompson’s decision to keep him on the 53-man roster.

#36 (NR) - Jarius Wynn (DE):
After getting cut at the end of training camp, Wynn was on the street until the Packers re-signed him following the inevitable Justin Harrell season ending injury. Wynn was the 182nd pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and has sadly given the Packers more than Harrell, the 16th pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

#35 (35) - Jason Spitz (G/C):
Going into the season, Spitz was the #1 back up at left guard, center, and right guard. Fortunately with all the injuries the Packers have suffered on both sides of the ball, one of the only places they have been healthy all season is the three interior offensive line positions.

#34 (31) - T.J. Lang (G):
Apparently Lang is not fully healthy yet because the Packers were working rookie first round draft pick Bryan Bulaga at left tackle and left guard. When starting right tackle went down, the Packers went with Bulaga instead of Lang. Lang still looks to have promise, but he will have to prove that 2009 was not a one-year flash in the pan.

#33 (40) - Donald Lee (TE):
By all accounts, Lee is a nice guy off the field but he still doesn't do enough for me on the field. Look for the newly acquired Havner to take away snaps from Lee when the Packers are looking to pass.

#32 (52) - C.J. Wilson (DE):
Wilson looked too small to play defensive end in the 3-4 and too slow to play outside linebacker. As a result, Wilson did not look like a match for the 3-4 defense. Fortunately, Wilson has put in the hard work to prove all the critics wrong and play well as a back up at defensive end in the 3-4.

#31 (49) - Andrew Quarless (TE):
This is based on potential more than production, because Quarless has yet to make a clean catch the entire season. His only touchdown "catch" stood because Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress failed to challenge the play. Some people compared Quarless to Finley in terms of their physical skills. Half way through his rookie season, Quarless has shown that he has a ways to go to get compared to Finley.

#30 (26) - Matt Flynn (QB):
The Packers tried a fake against the Vikings with Flynn throwing a deep pass to Andrew Quarless that should have been caught but Quarless tripped. As a result, I stand by my assertion that Flynn should be the holder instead of Masthay. Again one of my favorite journalists Bob McGinn completely disagreed with me in his chat, but I stand by the assertion. Flynn got some garbage time snaps against the Cowboys. It is still hard to tell whether Flynn is an NFL caliber quarterback…hopefully the Packers will not have to find out in 2010.

#29 (38) - Korey Hall (FB):
Converted from linebacker to fullback. With the Packers lack of quality depth at linebacker, may be the Packers should give him a few reps at linebacker like they did with newly re-acquired tight end Spencer Havner.

#28 (42) - Brett Goode (LS):
Recently the Packer tried wide receiver James Jones and offensive lineman Josh Sitton at long snapper. I understand that long snapping is a very specific skill but I am still amazed that teams cannot teach their starting and back-up centers to be the long snapper. Not only would it save a roster spot, but it would also provide some continuity at the snapper position. That said, Goode has been almost perfect in 2010 so the Packers might not want to mess with a good thing.

#27 (20) - Brandon Chillar (MLB):
Injuries have kept Chillar on the sidelines for a good portion of the season. With Bishop thriving in a starting role at middle linebacker, the Packers might be forced to decide whether they part ways with Barnett, Hawk, or Chillar in favor of Bishop because keeping all of them would mean the Packers have way too much money invested in four middle linebackers when only two can play at a time.

#26 (34) - Tim Masthay (P):
After a rough start to the season, Masthay's performance on the road against the New York Jets in windy conditions might have saved his job for the season. Masthay doesn't look like a franchise punter yet, the real test will be how he performs in the nasty weather conditions at Lambeau Field in December.

#25 (27) - Mason Crosby (K):
Crosby has pulled a Dennis Green "being who we thought he was". Crosby missed a tough game winning field goal on the road against the Washington Redskins as time expired. If Crosby made the aforementioned kick, he probably would have been ranked 5 spots higher on the list. Unfortunately Crosby continues to be just an above average place kicker as opposed to an excellent kicker. Plus, Crosby still hasn't had to kick in horrible conditions yet, so December might be a make-or-break month for Crosby.

#24 (19) - Jordy Nelson (WR):
Nelson has not taken the opportunities presented by the absence of Donald Driver to thrive in the passing game. Nelson still does not look like a #1 or #2 wide receiver. The Packer tried Nelson on kickoff returns, but much like Kuhn being pedestrian at running back, Nelson is pedestrian at kickoff returns. After his horrible two fumble performance that almost lead to a home loss to the Lions for the first time since the Model T was invented, the Packers are trying Sam Shields on kickoff returns.

#23 (39) - Frank Zombo (OLB):
With Brad Jones and Brady Poppinga lost for the season, Zombo is the starting outside linebacker opposite of Claymaker for now. Zombo looks better than an undrafted free agent but still not talented enough to be a legitimate starting outside linebacker in the NFL yet. Zombo is the beneficiary of playing opposite Claymaker. With teams forced to double Claymaker, Zombo has been able to make some plays.

#22 (29) - John Kuhn (FB):
With starting running back Ryan Grant lost for the season, the Packers have used Kuhn as their back-up running back. Kuhn is a good blocker but does not possess the breakaway speed to break off a big run or the power to consistently pick-up a yard in short yardage situations.

#21 (28) - Brandon Jackson (RB):
Each week Jackson gets better and better in place of the injured Ryan Grant. Jackson has shown that he will never be an every down running back like Grant, but his confidence continues to increase each week. As long as Jackson holds onto the ball, the Packers will be fine for the rest of 2010 with Jackson as their starting running back.

#20 (41) - Charlie Peprah (S):
The most undervalued player on the initial rankings. Peprah has played well enough to keep Atari Bigby and Anthony Smith on the sidelines.

#19 (21) - James Jones (WR):
In a contract year, Jones was supposed to have a breakout year. Unfortunately Jones has had breakout games followed by horrible games. With Donald Driver hobbled by injury for most the season, Jones had a chance to take the #2 receiving job and run with it. Instead Jones has had huge fumbles (lead to a loss to the Bears on Monday Night Football) and games riddled with drops. Jones looks like a guy that thrives as a 3rd receiver because of the mismatch it creates as opposed to a 1st or 2nd receiver.

#18 (36) - Desmond Bishop (MLB):
In my initial rankings I talked about how Bishop was "Mr. August" because he always impresses in training camp but never plays in actual games. I went on to say the only way that Bishop would get on the field in 2010 was a catastrophic injury at middle linebacker. Well that catastrophic injury happened to starting middle linebacker Nick Barnett. Fortunately Bishop has stepped up and performed admirably in place of Barnett. Bishop has played so well that the Packers need to seriously consider extending Bishop's contract before the end of the season when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

#17 (22) - Daryn Colledge (G):
With a little more than half the season in the books, Colledge has played above average at left guard. Unfortunately for Colledge, the Packers have quality back-ups (Spitz, Lang, Newhouse, and McDonald) on the offensive line so he still might not get the big extension he wants.

#16 (30) - Sam Shields (CB):
One of the biggest surprises and reasons why former starting cornerback Al Harris is playing for the Miami Dolphins instead of the Green Bay Packers. Coming out of the bye week the Packers are going to try Shields in the return game, something I have been calling for all season.

#15 (32) - A.J. Hawk (MLB):
Hawk has come up with a bunch of big plays this season. Although Hawk still has not justified being the #5 pick overall in the 2006 NFL Draft, he is making the Packers think twice about bringing him back in 2011 despite his $10 million salary.

#14 (25) - Bryan Bulaga (T):
With the loss of starting right tackle Mark Tauscher for the season, Bulaga has justified being a first round selection in less than one full NFL season. Whether Bulaga is the left tackle of the future in Green Bay is still up for debate. Bulaga has made a few rookie mistakes but has played well in place of Tauscher.

#13 (12) - Donald Driver (WR):
Out family hopes we didn't personally put the hex on Driver. Before the Packers/Vikings Sunday Night Game, Cheesehead Chick got her first NFL jersey...a Donald Driver jersey. I totally supported the decision because of Driver's back-story and consistent performance for the Packers over the last decade. Since then, Driver has not caught a ball…sorry DD.

#12 (15) - Scott Wells (C):
The anchor of the offensive line continues to play at a high level. Wells name has not been mentioned that often this year, which means he is doing what he is supposed to do along the offensive line.

#11 (8) - Ryan Pickett (DE):
Pickett has struggled with injuries this year. Despite Pickett being hobbled and losing up-and-coming rookie defensive lineman Mike Neal, the Packers have still been able to get a pass rush thanks to the emergence of C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn. That said, the Packers are much better with a healthy Pickett in the line-up

#10 (11) - Cullen Jenkins (DE):
Despite playing most of the season with a club on his hand, Jenkins has gotten the most consistent pass rush of any defensive lineman on the roster. Jenkins claims he would have had 5 more sacks without the club. That is up for debate, but what is not up for debate is that without Jenkins the Packers would be a 5-4 team, at best, as opposed to a 6-3 team.

#9 (14) - Chad Clifton (T):
When the Packers signed Clifton to a three-year contract in March, it looked like a one-year deal depending on how healthy he was at the end of the season. With Bulaga playing well at right tackle, Clifton has played even better at left tackle and deserves every chance to keep his job at left tackle in 2011 as long as he is healthy.

#8 (3) - Greg Jennings (WR):
The Packers have tried to get Jennings involved in the offense but his numbers are still down this year despite the Packers missing wide receiver Donald Driver and tight end Jermichael Finely. You would think with less people to throw the ball to, Jennings numbers might go up. In fact the exact opposite has happened. Defenses are keying on Jennings, which has lead to a down year for him so far. I expect the Packers to make some adjustments in the bye week and Jennings will have a big second half in 2010.

#7 (6) - Nick Collins (S):
Part of the reason that Charlie Peprah has looked so good filling in for injured rookie safety Morgan Burnett is Nick Collins. Safeties like Collins have so much range that they make the other players around them look better. Collins has made some spectacular plays (think of his interception of Favre on Sunday Night Football) this season. The only knock on Collins is that he dropped a few interceptions this year. Either way, Collins is carrying on the tradition of wearing jersey #36 well.

#6 (2) - Charles Woodson (CB):
As I have mentioned a few times before on the blog, I chart games for Football Outsiders. One of the things that I have to mark down when charting games for Football Outsiders is the defender targeted for each pass thrown. I have written “21-C.Woodson” much more than “38-T.Williams” this year. One theory is that Woodson covers the best receiver on the other team. Even if that is the case, Williams is shutting down his receiver more than Woodson this year. It is amazing that the NFL defensive player of the year is not the best player at his position on his own team the next year, but that shows just how well Tramon Williams is playing in 2010.

#5 (10) - Josh Sitton (G):
Sitton continues to impress and looks like the starting right guard in Green Bay for the next decade if the Packers are willing to pay Sitton. Sitton's combination of size, strength, and agility is rare at the guard position, so the Packers would be wise to extend Sitton.

#4 (16) - Tramon Williams (CB):
Despite being up-and-down in the preseason, Williams had been the best defensive back for the Packers in 2010. You read that correctly, Williams is playing better than safety Nick Collins and cornerback Charles Woodson. The Packers let former starting cornerback Al Harris go, in part, because of how well Williams has played in 2010. Williams is in a contract year so the Packers need to extend Williams soon or risk losing him to free agency in the off-season, which would be a catastrophic loss.

#3 (13) - B.J. Raji (NT):
Raji has been the playing time MVP of the defense in 2010. With all of the injuries the Packers have suffered along the defensive line, Raji has played the most snaps of any defensive lineman by a mile. Not only has Raji been healthy, but he has also played extremely well. There is no way that the Packers defense would be getting all the turnovers they are creating right now without Raji plugging up the middle so well.

#2 (1) - Aaron Rodgers (QB):
When Rodgers took over the starting job in 2008, some thought he forced the ball to wide receiver Greg Jennings. Last year Rodgers spread the ball around much better. Unfortunately this year Rodgers forced the ball into dynamic tight end Jermichael Finely much like he did with Jennings in 2008. When the Packers lost Finley for the season, Rodgers seemed to lose his rhythm with the offense. In the bye week, I hope the Packers took time to make sure everyone is incorporated in the offense so the second half can look more like the Packers/Cowboys game than the Packers/Redskins game.

#1 (4) - Clay Matthews (OLB):
I am not too sure if you have noticed lately, but I am calling Clay Matthews "Claymaker" on the blog because not only do I like the name but it succinctly describes how well he is playing. Claymaker is putting together quite an impressive resume in only a year and a half wearing the Green and Gold and quickly turning into the most dynamic defensive players in the NFL. Claymaker leads the NFL with 10.5 sacks this year, making him the only player in Packers' history to register 10 sacks in each of their first two seasons in the NFL. Claymaker was named NFC defensive player of the month for September. Claymaker also earned his 2nd defensive player of the week award this year and 3rd all-time. As a result, Claymaker joined Charles Woodson (4 times) and Reggie White (3 times) as the only Packers to be named NFC defensive player of the week at least 3 times. Something tells me Claymaker is going to break Chuck's record in short order. Let me leave you with something to ponder, 51 of the 53 NFL's most valuable players have been on the offensive side of the ball (two defensive players were: Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page in 1971 and New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1986)…could Claymaker be the 3rd all-time in 2010?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Week 9 of 2010 - Packers/Cowboys Review

With Dallas Cowboys’ starting quarterback and Wisconsin native Tony Romo out with a shoulder injury, NBC had to throw away their scrip for the game. Instead, NBC focused on the tenuous employment situation of now fired Dallas Cowboy head coach Wade Phillips. The first part of the post will recap the game I was fortunate enough to attend with Sug, David, and Jake followed by a look at the personnel moves the Packers made over the last week.

The game started with a quick three and out for the Cowboys. It looked like former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman was in charge because Dallas called three straight runs without getting the required 10 yards for a first down. Not a very inspired start to the game for the Cowboys...was offensive coordinator Jason Garrett sabotaging the game to get the Cowboys head coach job with those play calls?

The Packers followed that up with a nice methodical drive. The Packers lucked out that wide receiver Jordy Nelson jumped on wide receiver James Jones' fumble, again two steps forward and one step back for Jones. On 3rd and 3 the Packers gave up a 12-yard sack, which is inexcusable. That was only compounded by an even more inexcusable decision by Packers head coach Mike McCarthy's decision to try a 54-yard field goal attempt. Packers place kicker Mason Crosby's 54-yard attempt was blocked so the Packers came up empty handed on what looked like a nice first drive that soured quickly.

When the Cowboys got the ball back they moved the ball a little bit till Packers nickel cornerback Sam Shields made his first NFL interception. For a guy that was playing wide receiver in college just over a year ago, Shields has made a seamless transition to cornerback and looks like an actual NFL cornerback in the making.

NBC flashed the Green Bay Packers' 3rd down conversions rates through week 8 (yes I re-watched the game on Monday...I know I am a dork):
- With 1-3 yards to go they are 11 for 29 (37.9%) - 2nd lowest in NFL
- With 4-6 yards to go they are 7 for 18 (38.9%) - Tied for 19th in NFL
- With 7-plus yard to go they are 15 for 47 (31.9%) - 3rd in the NFL

Back to the game, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers rolled off another nice long run. That might be the most underrated part of Rodgers' game. Rodgers is more slippery than fast, but either way, it is very effective.

NBC flashed another 3rd down stat, this time focusing on Rodgers' performance on 3rd down in 2009 v. 2010:
- 2009: Quarterback Rating of 133.5 (highest in NFL since 1999), Touchdown to Interception ratio of 14 to 0, and 1st-Down percentage of 47% (2nd in NFL).
- 2010 (thru 8 weeks): Quarterback Rating of 65.7, Touchdown to Interception ratio of 5 to 5, and 1st-Down percentage of 36%.

Rodgers was absolutely on fire on 3rd down in 2009. That was not the case in 2010, but there is nothing like facing the 2010 Dallas Cowboys to help improve your 3rd down stats.

Back to the game, the Packers dialed up a perfect inside screen to running back Brandon Jackson to put the Packers up 7-0. That touchdown marked the 15th consecutive home game that the Packers scored points off a turnover, in this case Shields’ interception, which is the longest streak in the NFL. Why doesn’t Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy call screens more often? Jackson might not be the most explosive guy, but I like his chances to make a linebacker miss on a screen much more than a handing the ball off to him.

On consecutive plays Claymaker had a sack (forced the Cowboys into a 3rd and 17) and tipped ball at the line (that slowed the wide receiver screen just enough) to force the Cowboys into another 3 and out.

When the Packers got the ball back, Rodgers had another nice run. Rodgers is really starting to feel pressure better and running at the right times. Good call by all those scouts that knocked Rodgers athleticism coming into the NFL.

James Jones made two nice catches in a row. It is nice to see Jimmy playing better, but I still do not get why he is so inconsistent. Jones shows flashes of being a stud wide receiver, but as you will see a little later, he still has in-game mental lapses.

Brandon Jackson capped the drive with a nice hard run to put the Packers up 14-0. For some reason now former Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillps challenged the play. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones must have used that decision by Phillips as reason 1,427,136 why Wade Phillps was fired. It makes no sense to me why Phillips challenged the play. Let's say it wasn't a touchdown, the Packers get the ball at the one-inch-line with three chances to score a touchdown. I called out Mike McCarthy a few weeks ago for the same thing against the Vikings so I have to give Wade Phillips equal airtime. That does unfortunately put Mike McCarthy in the same company as Wade Phillips…yikes.

The Cowboys got the ball back down 14-0. On 3rd and 1, another great play by Claymaker. You have to seize any opportunities you get but what a horrible blocking scheme by the Cowboys? The Cowboys tried to block Claymaker with tight end Jason Witten. To make matters worse, Witten just let Claymaker run by without touching him.

When the Packers got the ball back, Rodgers hit wide receiver Greg Jennings for a long gain. They followed that up with a shotgun sweep to Jackson. For some reason Wade Phillps decided to use a timeout to stop the clock before the 2 minute warning, leaving the Cowboys with no more timeouts. On the next play Rodgers hit Jennings for an easy touchdown to cap another methodical 93-yard, 5-minute, 10-play drive to put the Packers up 21-0. Thanks for taking a timeout Wade, any time you can get your potent offense on the field down 21-0 you have to...way to conserve clock time.

On the ensuing kickoff, there was a nice "strip" by special teams maven Jarrett Bush. Starting safety Nick Collins gobbled up the fumble and ran it in for a touchdown. Quick question before we get back to bashing Wade Phillps, why is Nick Collins playing on special teams? The Packers are already thin at safety so if I were in charge, there is no way that Collins would get any special teams snaps on my watch. Just to balance the negative with the positive, the 28 points the Packers scored in the 2nd quarter were the most points the Packers have scored in a quarter since December 20, 1992 when they beat the Los Angeles Rams 28-13.

Back to Wade Phillps, thanks to taking a stupid timeout a few plays earlier, the Cowboys were out of timeouts and unable to challenge the play. The Cowboy return man was clearly down before he got stripped but Phillips could not challenge the play, which is reason 1,427,137 why Wade Phillps was fired after the game.

On the ensuing kickoff Mason Crosby inexplicably kicked the ball out of bounds. I hate to complain about the little things during a big win but something like that is unacceptable against a good team.

With good field position the Cowboys moved down the field at ease to score a touchdown. Too bad that the defense gave up a few big plays leading to the touchdown, but they can take some solace in the fact that they were victimized by Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant. Just to refresh your memory, the Packers selected now starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga one pick before the Dallas Cowboys selected Bryant in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Bryant is quickly turning into one of the most impressive offensive weapons in football. I still think it was the right pick by Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson to take Bulaga over Bryant, but much like the Michael Oher and Claymaker comparisons in the 2009 NFL Draft, Bulaga and Bryant will be forever compared.

Shields started the second half with a great return. Finally the Packers have wised up and put possibly the fastest guy in the NFL back there to return kicks. What took so long? Unfortunately the Packers did not capitalize on the good field position going three and out.

Back on defense, the Packers dialed up another effective blitz with Charles Woodson and Claymaker coming off the same side. I know the Cowboys are one of the worst teams in the NFL but the Packers should consider using the overload blitz more often based on the results it produced against the Cowboys.

After getting the ball back, the Packers moved the ball well dinking and dunking down the field. The Packers ran two consecutive wide receiver hitches to James Jones and Brett Swain. For those that don't know what a "hitch" is, the quarterback throws a quick pass to the wide receiver right at the line of scrimmage. That leaves the wide receiver one-on-one with the cornerback giving the wide receiver a chance to make a big play. Since the Packers don't run the ball at all, they use the "hitch" as a form of running. I like the play call but I might try that play with Jennings as opposed to Jones and Swain.

Rodgers followed that up with a perfect back shoulder throw to wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Following two incomplete passes, on 3rd and goal from the 10-yard line Rodgers hits James Jones for a touchdown. That was an absolutely perfect play call by the Packers. Rodgers threw right at the blitz with Greg Jennings already blocking for the easy touchdown. As Cris Collinsworth pointed out, cornerback Mike Jenkins gave up on the play...just a microcosm of the Dallas Cowboys season.

Coming back from the touchdown, high comedy that NBC was playing the sad Dallas player montage. That was the nail in the coffin for Wade Phillips. You know Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was watching that in his luxury suite. If there was any question whether Phillips would get fired, NBC guaranteed the dismissal of Phillips.

When the Cowboys got the ball back, Collins delivered a horrible helmet-to-helmet hit on Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams. In a rather odd move, Williams pleaded with NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell not to fine Collins for the fit after the game. Williams said: "Commissioner Goodell, don't fine the guy. It wasn't that bad of a deal, he shouldn't get fined. It was a football play, a football player making a football play. No injury, no harm."

Despite what Williams said, I am not too sure why Collins lowered his head on that play. I have mentioned this a number of times throughout the season, but if the NFL really wants to cut down on helmet-to-helmet hits they will need to change things at the Pop Warner Football level. Players are trained to lead with their head from a very young age, and that is exactly what Collins did. It is sad, but that is how they have been taught to play the game.

Following the Collins hit, middle linebacker Desmond Bishop continued his strong play by forcing a strip-sack of Jon Kitna. Truth be told, half a sack should be credited to Cowboys running back Felix Jones for failing to identify Bishop. Following that, Claymaker tips another ball to stall the drive.

The Packers got the ball back deep in their own territory. The Packers offense again dinked and dunked their way down the field. Using odd formations like three fullbacks lined up should-to-shoulder behind Rodgers. The formation is so odd that Football Outsiders doesn't even have that as a formation example. Aaron Rodgers and Brandon Jackson looked good on the drive; Jackson even had a run where he made a cornerback miss in the open field…a welcomed sign for Packer fans.

Quick drive intermission, the game was so one-sided that NBC had to go back to the Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers comparison. In case you didn't know by now, current Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was the offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers in 2005 under former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan. The 49ers drafted Smith instead of Rodgers, in part, because of McCarthy's input. Just to drive 49ers fans nuts, let's look at Smith and Rodgers careers side-by-side:
- Alex Smith: Drafted 1st overall in the 2005 NFL Draft, has a 17-30 career record, and a passer rating of 70.2.
- Aaron Rodgers: Drafted 24th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft, has a record of 22-18, and a passer rating of 94.9.

Just to rope in Redskins fans, the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers one pick before the Washington Redskins drafted current Oakland Raider quarterback Jason Campbell. Suffice to say the reason why the Packers are on the upswing while the Redskins and 49ers are struggling has a lot to do with picking the right quarterback in 2005, Ted Thompson’s first and best draft pick as general manager of the Green Bay Packers.

Back to the game, if you question whether the game is one sided at this point let’s look at some current stats:
- The Packers have no turnovers and the Cowboys have 2 turnovers.
- The Packers are out gaining the Cowboys 383 yards (264 passing and 119 rushing) to 87 yards (82 passing and 5 rushing).
- The Packers lead the Cowboys 35 to 7.

The Packers opened the 4th quarter facing a 3rd and 3 from the Dallas 18-yard line. The Packers made another easy conversion to give them 1st and goal from the 5-yard line. After a short run by fullback inexplicably turned running back John Kuhn and a false start by stud offensive guard in the making Josh Sitton, the Packers motioned Jackson out of the backfield and hit tight end Tom Crabtree who dropped a fairly easy pass. Quick side note on Kuhn, he set career highs with 13 carries for 50 yards…see what I mean about him not really being a running back? Anyhow, the aforementioned plays set-up a 3rd and goal from the Dallas 8-yard line.

Going into that 3rd down play, Rodgers was 8 for 8 throwing for 100 yards and 2 Touchdowns on 3rd down for the day. Rodgers hit wide receiver James Jones in stride on a crossing route that would have been a touchdown, but again, Jones dropped it. See what I mean about Jones not being a #1 or #2 wide receiver? Packers’ kicker Mason Crosby converted the 26-yard field goal to put the Packers up 38 to 7.

Following the field goal, the Cowboys moved the ball a little bit on the ground. Kitna followed that up by completing a ball down field to tight end Jason Witten. That gave Kitna a false confidence because on the next play Kitna threw right into the teeth of the blitz. Packers’ middle linebacker A.J. Hawk tipped the pass and the ever-alert Claymaker snagged the ball and took it to the house for a 62-yard touchdown.

Two notes on the aforementioned pick-six. First, that play came right towards where we were sitting. With how crazy the crowd was going, you would have thought that was a last second score to seal a playoff win...gotta love Lambeau crowds. Second, that was the weakest Lambeau Leap I have seen in long time. Nice pick-six Claymaker but work on the hops because that will not be the last Lambeau Leap of your career.

With the score 45-7 and 10 minutes remaining in the game, the result was not in doubt. The Packers forced a 3 and out. For some reason McCarthy still had Tramon Williams back there to return the punt. Why leave Williams open to injury in general, let alone in a blowout? Following a dumb penalty, the Cowboys had to re-kick. Again Williams was back there and he got absolutely crunched. Let me ask the question again McCarthy because you seem a little headstrong, why leave Williams open to injury when the game is decided?

While we are second guessing Mike McCarthy, why did he insert Matt Flynn on 1st down? The classy move would have been to have Rodgers hand off on first down, then insert Matt Flynn. That gives the crowd a chance to applaud Rodgers’ impressive night.

The drive stalled forcing the Packers to punt. Somehow Dez Bryant totally misjudged the punt and special teams maven Jarrett Bush came up with the fumble. In a sign that Wade Phillips has completely given up, he didn't challenge the play. Bush looked to have secured the ball in bounds, but at least if Phillps challenges the play, he can show he is still interested in keeping his job.

As a result, the Packers got the ball in the red zone. For some reason on 4th and 3 from the Dallas 10-yard line the Packers went for it. If they were going to go for it, why not at least throw it to see what the back-up quarterback brings to the table? Instead, the Packers were predictably stuffed on the run. In that spot I kick the field goal 99 times out of 100. If I go for it, I throw the ball to see what Flynn can do.

Since there was nothing left to talk about with 5 minutes remaining, NBC showed a Claymaker highlight package followed by a Charles Woodson highlight package. As a quick side, took it a step further putting together a Claymaker highlight video from the Packers/Cowboy game...definitely worth a watch after you finish reading the post.

Back to the game, Collinsworth and Michaels followed that up by giving Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers praise for doing what he's doing with the rag-tag defensive group ravaged by injury. Keeping that in mind, why are B.J. Raji, Cullen Jenkins, A.J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop, Frank Zombo, and Tramon Williams still on the field? FYI McCarthy, there are plenty of back-ups that could be in there now. Why risk more injures in garbage time?

In a perfect end to the game, Packers defensive lineman C.J. Wilson sacked Kitna to end the game. For some reason, the Cowboys were still throwing at the end of the game. As a guy who charts games for Football Outsiders, Wade Phillps could at least give a friendly parting gift before he gets fired of calling runs...they are much easier to chart.

One quick tangent, ESPN's The Sports Guy Bill Simmons contends that former up-and-coming Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was deliberately calling bad plays to get Wade Phillips fired. I am not willing to go that far, especially since the Cowboys are playing with a geriatric back-up quarterback, but the Cowboys did look stagnant on offense against the Packers. I like to think it is because the Packers have such an impressive defense but Garrett might have had a small hand in it as well.

NBC sideline report Andrew Kremer interviewed Charles Woodson and Claymaker after the game while "I Gotta Feeling" by Black Eyed Peas played in the background. Woodson, complete class as usual, talked up the Claymaker throughout his interview. Small things like that give me a good feeling about this team. Woodson could have talked about his plays against the Cowboys but he took the time allotted to praise the up-and-coming defensive stud. I love to see that. Claymaker's interview was pretty uneventful besides him at least admitting that his Lambeau Leap wasn't the best.

Cheesehead Chick's text to me at the end of the game succinctly described the beat down that the Packers put on the "Cowgirls" as she called them in an earlier text message. Cheesehead Chick texted: "The word is that it is an across the board Dallas collapse. I prefer to think that its an across the board Packer A@$ Pounding."

Indeed Cheesehead Chick, the Green Bay Packer offense put up 415 total yards on the Dallas Cowboys (2nd highest output of the season), converted 26 first downs (highest of the season), and went 10 for 15 on 3rd down (highest of the season).

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was 27 for 34 (completed 79.4%) for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns for a 131.5 passer rating (3rd highest passer rating of his career). You know the game is going well when the running game is involved as well. The Packers had their 2nd highest rushing total of the season with 138 rushing yards. It is sad that 138 rushing yards is their 2nd highest rushing total of the year…please be ready for 2011 Ryan Grant.

As always, I will finish the post with a look at the personnel moves made by Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson over the last week.

In a mild surprise, Thompson waived former starting cornerback Al Harris. That move brought an end to an 8-year marriage between the Packers and Harris. In one of the only positive personnel moves that former Green Bay Packers head coach and general manager Mike Sherman made, he acquired Harris and a 4th round pick from the Philadelphia Eagles for a 2nd round pick in 2003. For his Packer career, Harris started 102 of a possible 112 regular season games from 2003 to 2009. Harris made 2 Pro Bowl appearances and had 14 interceptions donning the green and gold.

The most memorable interception of Harris' Packer career came in overtime of their wild-card playoff game at home against the Seattle Seahawks. For those of you that don't remember, former Packer and then starting Seahawk quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said "we're gonna take the ball and score" after the Seahawks won the overtime coin toss. Hasselbeck went on to throw a "touchdown" pass in overtime, unfortunately for Seattle fans it was a pick-six by Al Harris.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Al Harris for two reasons. One, Harris is going to go down as one of the most successful cornerbacks in Packers history. Two, Harris' current agent Jack Bechta is one of the "good guys" on the agent side of the NFL. I was fortunate to attend a presentation by Bechta and his colleagues at the National Football Post recently. Harris and Bechta are a good match. By the way, if you want to follow Bechta on Twitter click here.

The release of Harris leaves the Packers' depth-chart at cornerback looking like this: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Pat Lee, Brandon Underwood, and Jarrett Bush. A few weeks into the season I thought Harris would be the perfect nickel cornerback coming off the physically unable to perform list. With how well undrafted rookie Sam Shields has played, the Packers were probably right to move on without Harris.

In the other personnel move, rookie running back James Starks was activated from the physically unable to perform list. Starks was a 6th round pick (193rd overall) in the 2010 NFL Draft out of Buffalo. In order to add Starks to the roster, the Packers had to waive some. That someone was rarely used linebacker Robert Francois.

Starks was Buffalo's all-time leading rusher (3,140 yards) despite missing his senior season with a shoulder injury. The last time that Starks played in a game was January 3, 2009 in the International Bowl. Starks hurt his hamstring in training camp, which landed him on the physically unable to perform list. As a result, Starks has not played a competitive down of football in a little less than two years. It is questionable whether Starks will see the field in 2010.

At 6’2” and 218 pounds, Starks is a big back that the Packers will need as the weather gets colder in Green Bay. Hopefully Starks can get healthy and run low to the ground because at 6’2” he will be easy to tackle if he runs to upright.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Initial Rankings of 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks

What a difference a year makes? In my 2009-10 Milwaukee Bucks initial player rankings I chronicled how most "experts" picked the Bucks to finish last in the Eastern Conference. Instead the Bucks made the playoffs and were one of the best stories in the NBA last season. I still contend that if Bucks center Andrew Bogut was healthy come playoff time last year, the Bucks would have made a deep run in the playoffs.

Based on how the Bucks finished last year, the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks are not going to sneak up on anyone. As per usual, Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond assembled another impressive team on paper. That said, there are still some questions facing the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks:
- Will Bogut rebound from injury again?
- How will the 8 new players mesh with the 7 holdovers from the 2009-10 team?
- Will Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings become an elite NBA point guard?
- How many players will Bucks head coach Scott Skiles use in his rotation?
- Will the Bucks move Michael Redd's expiring contract?

All of the aforementioned questions have been dissected by a number of publications. Instead, much like last year, I am going to rank the players on the Milwaukee Bucks current roster from 15 to 1. There are a number of factors that determine each player's value: short-term expectations, long-term expectations, salary, relative strength at each position, and swagger. I know that some of those factors are subjective but it is my list. I will update this list half way through the season and at the end of the season. Without further ado, here is the initial list:

#15) Michael Redd (SG): every time I start thinking about how sad the end to Michael Redd's time in Milwaukee is becoming, I remember that he is earning over $18 million this year. Redd is schedule to join the Bucks at the start of 2011 but my bet is that Redd never plays for the Bucks again. The real question is whether John Hammond moves Redd before the NBA trade deadline.

#14) Darington Hobson (SG/SF): as a chronicled in another installment of The Tweet Beat recently, the rookie second-round pick gave a blow-by-blow account of his recent hip surgery. Hopefully this is the last time I will have to say it, but I would much rather have a healthy Jordan Crawford (rookie shooting guard for the Atlanta Hawks) than a hobbled Hobson.

#13) Chris Douglas-Roberts (SG): much like Hobson, CDR is sidelined with an injury. Fortunately for the Bucks, CDR is set to play for the Bucks at some point this season, just no one is sure when that will happen.

#12) Earl Boykins (PG): there is a small place in my heart for Boykins because he is the only current professional athlete that I am taller than. Boykins is starting his second tour of duty with the Milwaukee Bucks. Expectations are low this time around since Boykins is slated to be the third-string point guard for the Bucks this year.

#11) Larry Sanders (PF): in short, Sanders is a long-term project. It is never a good sign when a first-round draft pick is a raw project, especially for a team with playoff aspirations. With how much quality depth the Bucks have at power forward and how injury prone Andrew Bogut is, I would have rather seen the Bucks add depth at center instead of drafting Sanders.

#10) Jon Brockman (PF): nice pick-up, but I wish he was 4 or 5 inches taller. This is going to be a reoccurring theme for the Bucks this year, they need taller players to back-up Bogut at center.

#9) Keyon Dooling (PG): is a much worse version of former back-up point guard Luke Ridnour. Two years in a row the Bucks lost their back-up point guard to the Minnesota Timberwolves. In an even stranger oddity, both lost players signed essentially the same four-year, $16 million contract to leave Milwaukee. Instead the Bucks signed Dooling to a two-year, $4.2 million contract. I guess the Bucks saved money but I think they are going to regret not trying to bring Ridnour back despite the hefty price tag.

#8) Ersan Ilyasova (PF): seems to keep maturing, but I am not too sure how much time he will get with so many power forwards on the roster. Mark my words, Ilyasova is a poor man's Dirk Nowitzki. Translation, give him minute Scott Skiles.

#7) Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (PF): is turning into one of the best defensive stoppers in the entire NBA. Since the Bucks are going to have a trouble getting everyone shots, Mbah a Moute or The Prince as I like to call him, is the perfect player for Scott Skiles. The Prince plays good defense and only takes shots when he is wide open.

#6) Drew Gooden (PF): when John Hammond signed Gooden in the off-season, I said the contract seemed rich for a guy who has played for 10 NBA teams in only 8 NBA seasons. It seems redundant to go over the ground already covered but I just can't get past why Hammond signed Gooden to such an expensive deal, despite Gooden being a borderline NBA starter. I hope I am proven wrong but Gooden's contract feels like the modern Dan Gadzuric deal.

#5) Corey Maggette (SF): it is nice to see the Bucks add salary via trade for once. Much like covering the Gooden deal, I gave my in-depth thoughts on the Maggette for Gaduric/Bell trade so I won't go over it again. Maggette is a slasher that gets to the free thrown line, which makes him a perfect sixth man for the Bucks. Unfortunately Maggette usually puts up number on bad teams and is rumored to be a locker room cancer.

#4) Carlos Delfino (SF): a great outside shooter that feels more like a shooting guard than a small forward. Just based on salary alone, $7 million over two-years, it would be hard to start Delfino ahead of Salmons at shooting guard. As a result, it might make more sense to start Ilyasova or The Prince at small forward and bring Delfino off the bench at shooting guard.

#3) John Salmons (SG): keeping in mind how well Salmons played down the stretch last year, his five-year, $40 million extension still feels a little rich. Don't get me wrong, I believe that Salmons is a talented NBA player. Luckily, there are two things that make the extension palatable as well. One, the contract decelerates in value after next season (2010-11: $8 million, 2011-12: $8.5 million, 2012-13: $8.1 million, 2013-14: $7.6 million, and 2014-15: $7 million) so it is not a back-end loaded deal. Two, the final year of the contract is a team option which means if Salmons struggles for the next few years, at least the Bucks are not obligated to pay the fifth year.

#2) Brandon Jennings (PG): despite being the surprise breakout rookie of last year, it is hard not to put him #1, but Bogut is still the most important player on the current Bucks roster. Here is the simple way to show that. If Jennings were lost for the playoffs last year, the Bucks would have still have had a shot to beat the Atlanta Hawks. With Bogut out against Atlanta in the playoffs, the Bucks were unable to win the playoff series. After last year, sky is the limit for Brandon Jennings. With a big second season, Brandon Jennings has a chance to join the young crop of stud NBA point guards. Quick side note on Jennings, how much do New York Knicks fans wish they drafted Jennings instead of Jordan Hill (who currently plays for the Houston Rockets)? Current Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni runs a point guard centered offense. If guys like LeBron and D-Wade saw Jennings thrive for the Knicks, they might be playing in New York instead of Miami. It might be a stretch, but is is just another example of the comedy of errors that is going on in the Big Apple.

#1) Andrew Bogut (C): another year, another season ending injury for Bogut. Unfortunately this is becoming a pattern for Bogut. At the end of last season, Bogut hurt his right elbow on a gruesome fall. All indications were that Bogut's right elbow would be completely healthy for the start of the season, but it still doesn't look healthy. Bogut is a talented center that runs the floor, passes well, finishes with both hands, takes charges, and blocks shots. Add that all up and you can see why the Bucks need Bogut to be successful.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Week 8 of 2010 - Packers/Jets Review

The New York Jets were the darlings of the NFL coming off a bye with a 5-1 record and hosting the injury-riddled Green Bay Packers at New Meadowlands Stadium. I love that they called it "New" Meadowlands Stadium. Yeah because when you throw "new" in front of the name of the old stadium, there is no way that it is going to evoke memories of the old crappy stadium that you just tore down to put up this new one.

Before we go any further I want to go on a quick jag about naming rights. I know naming rights are part of the price of doing business, but I hate when they retroactively assign naming rights. For example the MECCA in Milwaukee will always be the MECCA to me despite a cellular phone company paying for the naming rights. Juxtapose that with Miller Park. I am not against calling it Miller Park. In fact it will always be Miller Park to me, even if new naming rights are sold down the road. I am sure they will sell the naming rights soon to New Meadowlands Stadium, but why not do it right away? For me, it will always be the “New” Meadowlands Stadium.

Anyhow, back to the Packers/Jets game. Coming into the their match-up with the Packers, the Jets had not lost in over a month and a half. Add in that the Jets outscored their opponents by an average of 11.8 points in their last 5 wins and most people picked the Jets to continue their impressive winning streak.

The Packers and Jets both started out slow offensively trading 3-and-outs for each of their first two possessions of the game. On the Packers' third possession of the game they picked up one first down but were forced to punt again. The Jets' matched the Packers picking up one first down but were forced into a 4th and 18 from their own 20-yard line. Inexplicably, the Jets ran a fake punt from deep in their own territory. Initially it looked like Jets punter Steve Weatherford got just enough to pick-up the first down.

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy smartly challenged (you don't get to read that often) the spot of the ball. Upon further review, the Jets did not get enough for a first down, so they turned the ball over to the Packers deep in their own territory. There are differing accounts about whether the Jets coaches actually called the fake punt or whether Weatherford decided to run the fake on his own. Either the way, the Packers got great field position following the botched fake punt.

When the Packers took over at the Jets' 36-yard line, Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers connected with wide receiver Greg Jennings for a 30-yard gain on first down. Despite having a first and goal from the Jets' 6-yard line, the Packers failed to get into the end zone. As a result, the Packers settled for a Mason Crosby 20-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead.

On the ensuing drive the Jets moved the ball really well. That set-up a 2nd and 7 from the Green Bay 33-yard line to start the second quarter. Instead of running a traditional play, Jets' offensive coordinator (and for some reason much-hyped head coach in the making mostly because of his last name) Brian Schottenheimer dialed up a trick play. Former college quarterback and current Jets wide receiver Brad Smith took the direct snap in the Wildcat formation. The Packers' defense was not fooled on the play. Outside linebacker Frank Zombo tracked down Smith and ripped the ball out of Smith's hands. Packers' cornerback Tramon Williams recovered the fumble.

I have to question the play call by Schottenheimer, especially since the Jets were in the midst of their first good drive of the game. I know that the Jets want to get the ball in the hands of their playmakers like Smith as much as possible, but Smith needs to threaten to throw the ball before the Wildcat is anything more than a glorified predictable run.

With very little hesitation, Jets head coach Rex Ryan challenged the fumble. New Meadowlands Stadium is supposed to be the most technologically advanced football stadium in the world besides the new "Jerry Dome" in Dallas. Despite having that technology at his fingertips, Ryan challenged the play in short order without taking the time to look at the million-and-one replays he would get during the television timeout because of the change of possession. Great move Rex, I am glad they are still calling you a "genius". After reviewing the play, the referees rightly confirmed the ruling on the field.

The Packers failed to capitalize on the turnover and the teams traded a few short possessions till the Jets got the ball back with 10 minutes remaining in the half. After putting together what looked like another nice drive, the Jets faced a 3rd and 11 at the Green Bay 43-yard line. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez hit wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery for what looked like a minimal gain but Tramon Williams wrestled the ball away from Cotchery to force another Jets turnover.

Again Ryan challenged the play. Whether that was actually an interception is questionable but that was the ruling on the field. Mike Pereira, the former head of officiating for the NFL and a great addition to Fox, helped explain that since the call on the field was made one way there was no way that the play should be overturned. That means if the play was ruled a catch on the field, Pereira would have left it as a catch. Since the play was ruled an interception on the field, the interception had to stand.

As a quick side note, the NFL needs to simply the rules because they are becoming too complicated even for an avid NFL follower like me. Pereira helps explain things on Fox, but the NFL should not even need someone like Pereira to help explain the needlessly over complicated rules. The rules should make enough sense that the announcers can easily explain the calls without the help of outside experts.

While I am on this mini-jag, can we also officially stop calling Rex Ryan genius now? Even if the questionable play is overturned, what do the Jets gain? The Jets were facing a 3rd and 11 at the Packers 43-yard line. The Cotchery catch would have netted the Jets a few yards, which would have made it 4th and 8 from the Packers' 40-yard line. By NFL rule, even if Ryan wins that challenge, he would be out of challenges for the rest of the game because he already lost his first challenge. Is it worth roughly 30 yards in field position to be out of challenges for the rest of the game? If you answered yes, please stop reading and slap yourself. Of course it was a dumb challenge, one that will pay off for the Packers down the road. For all Cheeseheads, I want to personally thank you Rex for the dumb challenges.

Thanks to Ryan losing 2 challenges against the Packers, they have now had 5 consecutive lost challenges against them. Enjoy it while it lasts Cheeseheads because that is a nice run that I am sure will come to an end soon.

Back to the game. Following Williams' interception getting upheld, the Packers moved the ball well and looked like they were going to score a touchdown till Rodgers took an ill-advised 9-yard sack on 2nd and 10 from the Jets' 23-yard line. I guess that is redundant most of the time to say an "ill-advised sack" since a sack by definition is almost always ill advised, but this is the definition of a bad sack because it forced an even longer field goal attempt on a windy day. Crosby went on to miss the 45-yard field goal attempt giving the Jets the ball back with a little less than 2 minutes to go in the half.

The Jets failed to do anything when they got the ball back, which forced them to punt. The Packers got the ball back with a little less than a minute to go in the half. Following a sack, running back Brandon Jackson gained 27 yards on the ground with only a few seconds left in the half. Talk about getting your s$%t yards. Jackson struggles to pick up important yards, but gains 27 meaningless yards to end the half.

To start the second half the Packers gave up a 47-yard kickoff return to give the Jets great field position. After a minimal gain on first down and no gain on second down the Jets faced a 3rd and 7 at the Packers' 45-yard line. This time Schottenheimer called the perfect play and Sanchez hit much-maligned wide receiver Santonio Holmes in stride. Unfortunately for Jets, Holmes dropped the pass.

The safety was out of position on the play so if Holmes catches that ball, he probably scores a touchdown to put the Jets up 7-3. The only thing that would have prevented Holmes from taking it to the house was that Packers' rookie cornerback Sam Shields (possibly one of the faster players in the NFL) was covering Holmes on the play. Either way, the Jets were forced to punt despite starting with great field position.

Following a decent Packer drive that ended with a punt, the Jets got the ball back and put together a nice drive of their own. On 4th and 1 at the Green Bay 19-yard line the Jets do the smart thing and try a 36-yard field goal attempt. Much to the delight of Cheeseheads around the world, Jets' place kicker Nick Folk misses the field goal attempt wide right to keep the Packers up 3-0 in this offensive barn burner (I hope you sense the sarcasm).

Following the missed field goal, Rodgers saw something in the defense on first down and called an audible. Rodgers threw an absolutely perfect pass in stride to wide receiver James Jones. Unfortunately Jones dropped the easy reception, which would have netted a 50-yard gain and possibly a touchdown if Jones beats Jets' cornerback Antonio Cromartie in a foot race. You just saw reason #43 why James Jones is not a #1 or #2 wide receiver in the NFL yet. I am not saying Jones can’t develop into one; he just isn’t there yet. The Packers picked up a first down but are forced to punt.

Packers’ punter Tim Masthay got off his best punt of the day pinning the Jets deep in territory at their own 5-yard line. In the midst of another nice Jets drive, recent Jets castoff and current Packer defensive lineman Howard "I never miss a meal" Green forced a fumble on an end around that was recovered by the Jets for an 8-yard loss.

Unfazed by the fumble, the Jets put together a nice drive. On 1st and 10 from the Packers' 37-yard line, Jets tight end Dustin Keller (covered in-depth under the 19th ranked player Jordy Nelson) got called for a hold setting up a 1st and 20 from the Packers' 47-yard line. Sanchez tried to hit Keller for a short gain but Charles Woodson jumped in and took the ball out of Keller's hands. Credit Woodson for making another big play. For how much Woodson has been a liability in coverage this year, he continues to make big plays that usually net turnovers…gotta take the good with the bad with Chaz.

Remember the Jets are out of challenges because of the two plays Ryan unsuccessfully challenged earlier in the game. Based on replays the play probably would not have been overturned since it was very similar to the Williams interception from earlier in the game that was upheld, but the inability for the Jets to challenge the play is the bigger issue. That is the price that Ryan and the Jets had to pay for two stupid challenges earlier in the game.

Following the interception, the Packers moved the ball fairly well mixing in some short passes and runs to move the ball down the field. On 3rd and 10 from the Jets' 26-yard line the Jets brought heavy pressure. Rodgers smartly dumped the ball off to wide receiver Jordy Nelson in the flat. Nelson picked up a few yards but the Packers were forced to try a field goal. Rodgers looked to limp off the field after the play, which seemed to impact his mobility for the rest of the game. Crosby converted the 41-yard field goal attempt to put the Packers up 6-0.

When the Jets got the ball back Sanchez went back to the aforementioned Dustin Keller for a huge 40-yard gain on 3rd and 6 from their own 26-yard line. That first down put the Jets in striking distance of scoring. After a quarterback sneak by Sanchez on first down, Sanchez unsuccessfully tried to get the ball to Cotchery on the next two plays. That left the Jets facing a 4th and 8 from the Packers' 35-yard line. Sanchez again looked for Cotchery but Packers safety Charlie Peprah made a huge play to break-up the pass.

When the Packers got the ball back the Packers and Jets traded three runs and three timeouts. I am not too sure that I like the Jets using all their timeouts with four minutes left in the game, especially considering Rodgers was limping a little bit. If the Jets hold their timeouts, may be the Packers would have entertained throwing, especially with McCarthy at the helm. With Rodgers moving around gingerly, may be the Jets could have forced a turnover.

Either way, the Jets got the ball back with a little less than 4 minutes remaining in the game trailing 6-0. For some reason the Jets ran on first down, nice call Brian Schottenheimer. Good move getting the clock rolling on first down deep in your own territory with less than four minutes remaining. On second down, Sanchez found Cotchery for what looked like a big gain but again Charlie Peprah stepped up to make a big play and knock the ball loose to cause an incomplete pass. On 3rd and 5 from the Jets' 28-yard line, Claymaker executed a perfect spin move on right tackle Damien Woody to sack Sanchez for a 6-yard loss.

If the Jets would have held one of their timeouts, they could have punted here since they were at their own 22-yard line facing a 4th and 11 with 2 minutes and 40 seconds remaining. Instead the Jets were forced to go for it and did not convert on 4th down.

Since the Jets were out of timeouts, the Packers essentially sat on the ball to waste the clock. On 4th and 9 with 32 second remaining (with the Packers leading 6-0) they set-up an important 40-yard field goal attempt. I know this seems obvious but the field goal attempt was important because a made field goal extends the lead to 9-0 and clinches the game but if the Packers miss the field the Jets would have gotten the ball at their own 30-yard line only down 6-0 with 30 seconds on the clock.

With 19 seconds on the clock and the few thousand remaining fans chanting "Go Pack Go" the Jets decided to try and run some plays. On first down they completed a 20-yard pass to Cotchery. For some reason the clock stopped even though it should have rolled because Cotchery was forced out of bounds. Either way, it allowed the Jets to run one more play, which turned out to be a quarterback sneak by Sanchez.

You might be asking yourself, why did I describe the last two plays of the game in such detail? It gives me another chance to take a shot at Rex Ryan and Brian Schottenheimer. Why run plays in those situations? It is impossible to win the game at that point. I know kneeling feels like waving the white flag but it is the smart thing to do. What if Sanchez got hurt on one of those two seemingly meaningless plays? The Jets have way too much money invested in the guys on the field to run plays with 19 seconds on the clock down 9 points without any timeouts. It is not just Ryan that does that, almost all NFL coaches do it and I find it moronic.

Defense and field position were the determining factors in the game. I know it seems like a simple equation but if you win the turnover battle (Packers were plus-3 against the Jets after the Jets only committed 4 turnovers in their previous 6 games) and field position battle (Packers were plus-14 yards against the Jets with the Jets average starting field position their own 22-yard line), you usually win the game.

Green Bay Packers punter Tim Masthay has taken his fair share of heat so far this year. Through 7 weeks, Masthay was 21st in the NFL in gross punting average (43.2 yards) and 30th in the league in net punting average (33.8 yards). Masthay forgot all that and put together the punting performance of his life. In 8 attempts, Masthay averaged 44.0 yards gross and 41.5 yards net. That helped Masthay improve his season punting averages to 43.4 yards gross and 35.6 yards net. Masthay also doubled his inside-the-20 total to 10 (or 29.4% of his 34 punts). Just for comparison sake, 2009 much maligned Green Bay punter Jeremy Kapinos averaged 43.8 yards gross, 34.1 yards net and placed only 10 of 66 punts inside the 20-yard line (or 15.2% of his punts in 2009). Considering the windy conditions, it was one of the most impressive punting performances in Packers' history.

The Packers matched Masthay's impressive punting performance with an impressive defensive effort as well. Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers devised the perfect game plan in what was undoubtedly the most impressive defensive performance of his tenure in Green Bay. Thanks to the defense, the Packers notched their first shutout since a 26-0 victory over the Detroit Lions on October 18, 2009 and their first road shutout since 1991 (only their sixth in 50 years).

Despite being thin on the defensive line, waiver wire pick up Howard Green (played 34 snaps) from the Jets couldn't have been any bigger (no pun intended). The Packers held the second best rushing attached in the NFL in check. The two headed running back monster of Ladainian Tomlinson (54 yards on 16 carries) and Shonn Greene (22 yards on 6 carries) ran for 76 yards on 22 carries, with their longest only going for 8 yards.

"The Sanchize" ended the day going 16 for 38, throwing for 256 yards with 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions for a 43.3 passer rating. Those numbers are a little skewed by the fact that Jets receivers dropped a lot of balls and had a few taken away from them by Packers defensive backs that counted as interceptions. That said, from what I saw today, Sanchez is not a franchise quarterback.

Although Rodgers did not have a much better day going 15 for 34 throwing for 170 yards with 0 touchdowns and 0 interceptions for a 59.7 passer rating (3rd lowest in 40 career starts), he made the plays to help the Packers win the game.

I know it is early in his career but Sanchez looks much more like a Trent Dilfer type quarterback than an Aaron Rodgers type franchise quarterback. Don't get me wrong, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV with Dilfer as their quarterback but that Ravens defense was one of the best defenses ever assembled. The Jets have a good defense, but it is almost an insult to the 2000 Ravens defense to compare them to the 2010 Jets defense.

Bottom line, if I had a chance to take Aaron Rodgers or Mark Sanchez for the next 10 years to quarterback my franchise I don't even give it a second thought, I take Rodgers.

Normally I end each Wednesday What Happened Packer game review post with an in-depth look at each roster move that Green Bay Packers’ general manager Ted Thompson was forced to make because of injuries suffered in the game. Luckily the Packers did not suffer any significant injuries in their impressive road shutout victory over the Jets. As a result, the only roster move that Thompson made was to cut defensive end Michael Montgomery. That move was not very surprising for a few reasons.

Being an undersized defensive end (only weighs 282 pounds), Montgomery is a bad fit for the 3-4 defense. Plus the Packers have some quality depth at defensive end in C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn behind starters Ryan Pickett and Cullen Jenkins so Montgomery became expendable. Thompson most likely cut Montgomery so that he could active one of the three players (cornerback Al Harris, safety Atari Bigby, or running back James Starts) off the physically unable to performs list before the Packers’ Sunday Night Football game against the hapless Dallas Cowboys next weekend at Lambeau Field.

In conclusion, that was a quality road win by the Packers that helps shut up some of the AFC snobs that think the NFC is inferior this year. Slow down AFC snobs. Rex Ryan is not a genius, evidenced by getting shut out at home coming off a bye week.

Check back next Wednesday for a full recap of the Packers/Cowboys game along with an update on all of the pending roster moves for the guys currently on the physically unable to perform list because by next Wednesday Harris, Bigby, and Starks will either have to be activated (meaning someone else on the current 53-man roster will get cut), placed on injured reserve, or waived.