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Packers. B+ Even though the Pack lost to undefeated Tennessee in overtime last Sunday they turned in a pretty good performance. The Titans are a physical team and for the most part our defense matched their play. But once again they just could not make the plays that they needed to when they needed to.
The secondary could not stop Titans WR Brandon Jones late in the game and he came up with some big plays that extended drives. The defensive line could not slow down Tennessee's running game. Seemed like they were just getting blown off the line all game and especially on the Titans last drive in regulation. Though one bright note was the play of recently activated Justin Harrell. He was active in pushing to close the pocket and he held his ground pretty well against the run. That was the story on him coming out of Tennessee where he showed glimpses of great talent but could not stay out of the training room. If he could bring it all together to start being a consistent contributor that would be a big boost for this unit.
If I'm not mistaken I think this was the first game this season where the Pack didn't get a turnover. The d-backs had a sudden case of the dropsies. Even the game announcers could point to at least four potential interceptions dropped, including one in the fourth quarter that the Pack could have used to try to seal the game. The Titans are not the perfect team like the Pats almost were last year, they're just really good at playing their game. They play defense, they run the ball, and they don't get behind. Getting them to turn the ball over was a must if the Pack wanted to leave Nashville with a W, unfortunately they just couldn't get it done.
The offense shoulders some of the blame too starting with it's best player AR. Rodgers had his first shaky performance throwing a pick in the red zone and losing a fumble, which means he may have been watching The Great One a little too closely. Emulate the good AR not the bad. Still he's the first quarterback to throw for over 300 yards against Tennessee this year so he did have his moments. The offense as a whole though could not sustain drives and score when they needed to. Ryan Grant had a so-so day with 86 yards rushing, but you can see that he is getting better; hitting the hole quicker, running harder, breaking more initial tackles. I'd still be embarrased if I were him though creating all that fuss this summer about his contract and then coming in and not doing jack isht.
As everybody who cares knows by now Rodgers got a contract extension last week. Some are questioning if this is too soon and think management should have at least waited until the end of the season, but I think it is well deserved. QB flukes get exposed over the course of a season and I think Rodgers play has shown he's no fluke, on the contrary he is solidly one of the best players on the team. And after the way he's carried himself thru the controversy this summer I think he's shown he is a person of good charachter also, so why not.
Jermichael Finley made some waves in the media this week stating that he's "ready to execute" and to be used more in the offense. Laughable to say the least if you saw how he had trouble catching a 5 yard pass over his shoulder on that 4th and 1 McCarthy went for in the first half. Keep mouthing off rook if you want a short NFL career cause behavior like that will get you out of here quicker than you can say Javon Walker.
Up next are the dysfunctional Vikes in the Metrodome. Everybody seems to think Jared Allen not playing is a big advantage for us but I like our chances even if he does play. He's like Chris Hovan was; lots of talk but come Sunday nothin'. He was a non-factor in the game earlier this year. I'm more concerned that AR does not emulate The Great One's often wretched performances in the dome.
Bucks, C. Bucks are 3-3 are getting bushwhacked by the Celtics, second to last in the Central. Bucks play has been rather up and down this season, but they are showing a marked improvement over last season's campaign.
They are playing defense better. Most of that of course could probably be attributed to the installment of Skiles as head coach, but it is also greatly aided by the play of some of the new guys Luc Mbah a Moute the second round pick and newly acquired Richard Jefferson. And it can also be attributed to an increase in effort. I think everyone has kinda picked it up a little bit intensity wise to keep up with Skiles's coaching style. Offensively, we know the team can score. The problem has always been stopping the other guys from scoring.
Speaking of Mbah a Moute it's beginning to look like we might just have found ourselves a diamond in the rough. At UCLA he was strictly known for being a defender, but as often happens in the league with guys like that coming from college into an NBA offense he's starting to show that he has some offensive skills also. And he's also showing some great versatility as a defender able to guard multiple postitions. His continued emergence could be one of the keys to the Bucks crashing the playoff party next April.
When I first heard that Luke Ridnour was going to be our new point guard, let's just say it didn't make me feel very inspired. But he and Ramon Sessions are so far making a good tandem at the point. In the Bucks recent win over the Wizards Sessions and Ridnour combined for almost 30 assists between them. It's nice to see Sessions bouncing back after a nondescript preseason. This tandem could get better as the season goes on.
I'm concerned about Bogut. He seems to be playing even less aggressively than usual this season, certainly less than the effort he gave in the Olympics for Austrailia. Could his ankle injury from the Games still be bothering him? He seemed excited about this season over the summer so I hope this isn't one of those attitude things. We need him to play like he did in Beijing if the Bucks really hope to do something this season.
University of Wisconsin football, C+. I'll give the Badgers an average grade after splitting a bad loss at Michigan State, a game they should have won, with an expected blowout against Indiana Saturday afternoon. The loss in Lansing was very similar in fashion to the Packers loss in Nashville. After having a three score lead reduced to a field goal margin in the fourth quarter the Badgers still had a chance to close out the game on a possession with less than 3 minutes left if they could have just made a couple of first downs but they could not sustain the drive. Sherer really showed his weaknesses as a QB on that drive, unable to execute properly on a roll out on 3rd down when the receiver was wide open. Michigan promptly marched down the field kicked the field goal to send it to overtime and when they won the toss Javon Ringer drove them right down the field for the winning score.
I gotta say Bielema deserved the heat he took this past week for the MSU loss. That's a game that was in hand and should have went in the win column if not for poor execution and crucial game management mistakes like not milking the clock during their possessions in the 4th quarter and having the defense in a 'prevent' mode leaving the underneath routes and middle of the field wide open, instead of continuing to attack. Under Alvarez UW strangled teams when they had leads late in the game bleeding the clock unmercifully, maybe Bielema should seek out some words of wisdom regarding this season's slide. And yes it's still way too early to talk about firing him.
So now all we have to do is beat Minnesota and Cal Poly at home to finish up 7 -5. I read somewhere that Minnesota ended up with a record like that last year and went to the Insight.com bowl. Yipeeeee. (I am such a spoiled fan. I should be happy the Badgers could even be going to a bowl game. It wasn't that long ago when that alone would have been a great accomplishment for this program.) I've loosened up a little on my rant from the last Wank. Saying the team doesn't deserve to go to a bowl game comes from bitterness about what could have been. A bowl game can be a great experience for a team, especially the young guys who might not get to play much. From that aspect these kids deserve it if they can get eligible.
Brewers. Lots of Brewer offseason news to comment on this week. New manager Ken Macha is starting to round out his coaching staff with numerous appointments, the funniest of which has to be Dale Sveum coming back as the batting coach. Really?? The guy had like a career .230 average with several seasons that dipped below .200. Really??? That's your new batting coach? Doesn't this just turn batting practice into one big fuck off session? And I was joking but now I'm really starting to worry.
Willie Randolph was named bench coach. I always liked Willie as a player and I thought he got a little bit of a raw deal with the Mets, so I'm happy to see him working again. However I do wonder how he will mesh with this current group of players. Did you know that Randolph actually played a season in Milwaukee in '91 hitting .327?
Bill Castro was named pitching coach replacing the departed Mike Maddux. Castro has been in the Brewers organization for 17 years including 7 as a pitcher and ten as the bullpen coach. No one was more deserving of the appointment than him.
The new third base coach is one Brad Fischer a Wisconsin native who has almost 30 years of baseball experience. Don't know much about him but if he's been around that long he must know something. Besides he couldn't any worse than Sveum was right?
The Brewers picked up the $10 million option on CF Mike Cameron and extended a formal offer to CC Sabaithia this week. GM Doug Melvin will not discuss details publicly, but most bloggers and sources believe the deal is for $100 million over 5 years. That's quite a significant amount for the Brewers and probably represents close to their realistic limit as a small market team, but it's definitely beatable by suitors like the Yankees. So we will see how CC decides.
Remember this 2008 team well, it may not be together for much longer. Besides CC other Brewer free agents include Russell Branyan, Guillermo Mota, Craig Counsell, Gabe Kapler, Ray Durham, Mike Lamb, and of course Ben Sheets. Speaking of Sheets I haven't really heard any free agent buzz on him like a Jake Peavy or Sabaithia. Perhaps it's not not a forgone conclusion that he's gone if the Brewers make him an offer.
Brewers blog Bernie's Crew is doing individual post season reviews/projections on the players. Here's the first one on Prince Fielder.
Not everybody is happy with the choice of Macha as manager.