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Packers B+. The Pack performed well in back to back victories on the road in Seattle and against the Colts in Lambeau this past Sunday, particulary heartening after the shellacking dished out by Atlanta. As Packer's radio announcer Larry McCarren is fond of saying the bye week couldn't come at a better time providing a much needed chance for Atari Bigby and Ryan Pickett to get healthier, Woodson and Rodgers to rest their respective injuries, and Justin Harrell to work his way into the game rotation. Pack stands at 4-3, tied with the meatheads to the south for the division lead. Next game up is against Tennessee where we will see just how strong the defense's resolve is. They seemed to take the challenge of stopping Peyton Manning personally and they'll need the same mind set going up against Tennessee's running game, our weakness all season.
So after 7 weeks of live competition what do we know about this team, if anything? Well one thing we know is that we will be ok at the quarterback position from both the health and the talent standpoints. AR showed me something last week in Seattle. He showed me that just because at lot of folks think he is a little bitch, he doesn't have to act like one (and he doesn't need phone calls from The Great One to convince him to play thru pain) and that he's tougher than a lot of people thought. Usually being 'injury prone' goes along with a prissy attitude, but Rodgers has shown that he is willing to play thru the pain and that makes a big difference. The Great One was always getting banged up during the season (how do you think he got addicted to pain killers?) but no one ever labeled him as injury prone. I think AR has earned a little of that respect now and even the veterans who were loyal to that other guy are starting to see that.
I think we also know that we do have some playmakers in the secondary. This unit was a big question mark during the offseason after big receivers ran freely for big plays last season like Plaxico in the NFC Championship. The question was what do we have after Charles Woodson and Al Harris, can anyone currently on the roster step up if these guys go down? 4 picks returned for touchdowns later I think we have an answer. Collins, Bigby (when healthy), Trammon Williams, and Aaron Rouse have all stepped up big this season while Harris mends his spleen. One play in particular where Collins came from the other side of the field and leapt in the air to deflect a pass to a receiver about ten yards behind him in the end zone made me say 'wow, so that's what they saw when they drafted him' (and I love the handshake ritual after an interception). The way they put the clamps on the Colts recievers for 4 quarters a fan can't gush enough about the way this unit has performed under pressure. Now keep it up for 9 more weeks.
The O line did a good job this week matching up with the smaller very quick Colts front, Tauscher in particular. Who says the tackles are washed up!?
It's been mentioned that Woodson in having a Pro Bowl caliber season, but Nick Collins really looks like he is 'getting it'.
Earlier this season I said Nick Barnett looked like he was poised for a breakout year to 'star player' status. I now officially recant that statement.
RB Deshawn Wynn is back on the roster, special teams ace Tracey White was cut the other week. Sorry to see White go, glad to see Wynn back (he reminds me of like a Kenneth Davis type).
TT whiffed on not dealing for Tony Gonzalez for a second rounder. It would have given Rodgers a virtual security blanket and provided a good means to attack those seams down the middle more. I think that is an often overlooked detail that contributed to The Great Ones development as a quarterback, he always had a good TE saftey valve. Give AR something to work with besides Donald Lee and Tory Humphrey.
I've been hearing the rumors of The Great One taking the initiative to call the coaching staffs of Packer opponents to give them the scoop on Green Bay's offensive philosophies. I must add that right now this is only a rumor and is only really being reported by FOX Sports (and we know how reliable FOX News is, not). We'll see how this shakes out and if The Great One even responds to it, but my gut tells me that this is a little far-fetched for someone to have made up on their own without there being some truth to it somewhere. And if it is true . . . I'm speechless. Getting traded to another team and giving them info on your old team when the two play each other is expected. A player going out of his way to contact his former teams opponents and offering to break down their playbook? WTF is that? Packer's Ring of Honor? That is reserved for men who understand the meaning of the word.
Brewers B+. Well the Crew hung in there when the going got tough, but they ran out of lives against the Phillies. But it's still sunny here in southeastern Wisconsin. The Crew did accomplish some of the major goals they sought to acheive at the beginning of the season. Season attendance went well beyond the 3 million mark thanks to the Crew being in contention for the division title for most of the season. And we finally made the postseason again, even if for only a few games. They made baseball in September relevant again in Wisconsin. A lot of today's fans are too young to remember '82 so they got a little taste of what that was like (and it was so fitting that some of the guys who were here then were running the show this season: Yost, Simmons, Yount). From every fan account I heard and read just getting there was worth it. Having seen both I would have to say both seasons were equally special but in different ways (mostly because of the outcomes).
So now on to the offseason matters. GM Doug Melvin considered keeping Svuem on a manager, but ultimately decided they needed someone with a little more experience (Melvin got the extension he was looking for though). MJS's Tom Hardicourt runs down some of the early candidates. Right now I would guess Ken Macha could be called the early front runner because he was offered the Brewers post right before they hired Yost. No one available right now jumps out at me as being the perfect fit for this team. I think Melvin should have stuck with Svuem.
Brewers pulled off one of the greatest mid season trades in history by acquiring CC Sabaithia and it has been pretty much assumed that he will walk in free agency. But CC is not saying that's a done deal and neither is Melvin. But if CC does end up walking, maybe the Crew could pick up a guy like Jake Peavy?
University of Wisconsin football, D+. Maybe with all that went on this summer and then the excitement of the Brewer's run I just haven't paid enough attention to UW football. We've been spoiled ever since Alvarez resurrected this program. For the past decade it has pretty much been the most consistent (major) sports team in the state, but all things move in cycles. For whatever reasons (inexperience and subpar QB play are most often cited) this team just cannot get it together consistently this season and has opened with their worst record in Big Ten play since '96. I hear there are still some bowls we could make but no one is really holding their breath for the Motor City Bowl.
When a team underperforms like this a lot of the blame tends to fall on the shoulders of the coach (deservedly so), but fans calling Bielema's firing are way out of line. It's way too early for talk like that. Bielema is a good coach, was hand picked by Alvarez, and before this season had only lost like 4 times in his tenure. Believe me I understand the addiction to winning and being ranked but this isn't some football factory where quality coaches are lining up waiting to come here. We don't need to start firing coaches every 2 -3 years like Alabama or somebody. Just be patient and stick with Bielema like we stuck with the other guy named Brett for so long.
And I feel you Camp Lambeau, but UW is still a football school first. This is Big Ten country and that has always meant football.
Bucks. If I were giving the Bucks a preseason grade it would be a D. They have only won 1 game in the preaseason so far and have not really been competitve in most of them. I don't really have any high expectations for this team, but I expect them to do better than last year in both effort and results. What that expectation is based on is not anything I could rationally explain so let's just say I have hope in Skiles and Hammond.
The Bucks have a lot of new pieces and it looks like right now everybody is just kinda feeling things out, seeing how the pieces will fit together. The two rooks haven't really shown too much during the preseason. Luc Richard has pretty much been as advertised; high energy guy who defends and rebounds and has shown glimpses of offensive potential. Alexander still looks a bit overwhelmed but has shown some improvement.
The Bucks invited four players to their training camp and have cut the two guards already. Matt Freije has made a good impression so far so the Bucks may be trying to figure a way to keep him although they already have 15 guys signed (remember Damon Jones is not in camp and has an expiring contract).
Check out Charlie Villanueva's blog over on NBA.com. He's got some interesting perspectives on the Bucks moves this summer, the outlook for this season, and how he has supposedly been refining his diet. Something I found interesting was the fact that he had his first child this summer. Often time that maturing process you go thru as a first time parent carries over to the rest of your life. Maybe Charlie will finally be able to channel all that talent he has into consistent performances on both ends of the floor.