Football season is finally here! It seems like it took forever, but training camp is over, the final preseason game has been played, and the NFL season starts in only a few days. The final roster cuts are in as well, and it will be important to look at each of the players remaining on the team. But before the season actually begins, let's look at the games on the schedule and a prediction by yours truly here.
Thursday, September 4th, 2014, 7:30 PM CDT--Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks
Since the NFL schedule was released a few months ago, every Packer fan has had this game circled on their calendar. Not only are they frustrated by the outcome of the previous game in Seattle, the game known as the "Fail Mary" with the replacement refs soon to be ousted, but it should be another really close game. The Seahawks sacked Aaron Rodgers 8 times in the first half last time, but their offensive line is better now, and Eddie Lacy is also present. After dropping their last few season openers, the Packers should be able to take this game by a final score of 27-24.
Sunday, September 14th, 2014, 3:25 PM CDT--New York Jets at Green Bay Packers
The home opener for the Packers is always going to be a thrilling game. The Packers have a relatively easy looking opener, with the Jets having a lot of roster turnover, and it looks like their secondary is hurt going into the season. The battle between the defensive line of the Jets and the offensive line of the Packers will be fantastic to watch. Lower scoring than many people would probably think. The Packers will win to go 2-0 by a final of 24-10.
Sunday, September 21st, 2014, 12:00 PM CDT--Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
Curiously, the Lions again did very little to fix their primary weakness from last year, which is their secondary. Instead of taking a strong cornerback or safety in the first round, they drafted tight end Eric Ebron. Their primary new player from free agency is wide receiver Golden Tate. Granted, their defensive line is very strong, which helps mask their primary weakness, but there will be a lot of shoot outs for the Lions this season. The Packers will get this win but it will look difficult throughout. Final score is going to be Packers 45-Lions 38.
Sunday, September 28th, 2014, 12:00 PM CDT--Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
This age old rivalry is always a great game to watch. The two teams in the NFC North with the most tradition, and they split their two games last year. Again it will be a battle of two good offenses, but this is a game where the Packers could easily stumble. Jay Cutler has very good receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. Matt Forte is a physical running back who can catch out of the backfield. The Bears will take this one at home, Packers lose 28-34.
Thursday, October 2nd, 2014, 7:25 PM CDT--Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
A short week between two teams that know each other very well. The Packers will have their first game here against new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. He was the defensive coordinator for the Bengals last year. The defensive talent just isn't there though, and Zimmer will struggle to contain the Packers offense. The Green Bay Packers take a second divisional win with a final score of 41-17.
Sunday, October 12th, 2014, 12:00 PM CDT--Green Bay Packers at Miami Dolphins
This will be the first time the Packers and Dolphins face each other since Joe Philbin left the Packers offensive coordinator position to become their Head Coach. It's always nice to go down to Miami for a game, and the Packers just simply have more talent on their roster right now than the Dolphins have. Plus, the Packers have more rest for this game coming off of their long break from their second Thursday night game of the season. Packers win the game 31-21.
Sunday, October 19th, 2014, 12:00 PM CDT--Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers
Cam Newton and the Panthers have not been on the schedule since the week 2 game from a few years ago where Nick Collins was seriously hurt and has been out of football ever since. The Panthers defense has vastly improved since then, but their offense has lost a lot of talent since then, especially with Steve Smith leaving the team to go to the Baltimore Ravens this past off-season. The Packers lean on Lacy and Rodgers throws a lot of short passes to get the team to record another victory, Packers win 27-20.
Sunday, October 26th, 2014, 7:30 PM CDT--Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints
Rodgers vs Brees. This game is always an exciting one. The Packers hold a 16-7 all time record against the Saints, and they also have won the last two. The 2011 kickoff game between these teams was when Randall Cobb burst onto the scene as a rookie, going 108 yards for a kick return touchdown. They played in 2012 as well at Lambeau Field, when the Packers won 28-27. With the venue being changed to the French Quarter, Bourbon Street, and the Superdome, where the Saints play out of their minds, it is going to be difficult for the road team. The Packers are going to lose this game most likely, with the Saints winning 41-31.
Sunday, November 9th, 2014, 7:30 PM CST--Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
The Packers come into this game directly after their bye week. They will want to avenge their prior loss to the Bears, and the last time they played at Lambeau Field was the game where Aaron Rodgers was hurt by Bears defensive lineman Shea McClellan. The Packers are hoping to do many things in this game and their defense should be much better than they had been in prior years. Anyway, it is difficult to win two games against the same opponent in the same season. So, the Packers should avenge that loss with a final score of 38-27.
Sunday, November 16th, 2014, 12:00 PM CST--Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers
The Eagles came to Green Bay last year during Rodgers' injury and were able to beat the Packers during the Scott Tolzien games. Riley Cooper was able to get open against the smaller Packer cornerbacks. Foles loves Cooper and hit him on several big plays. McCoy is also very difficult to keep contained. The Packers would love to avenge the loss from last year, but it would seem likely for the Eagles to get a win at this point, beating the Packers 38-35.
Sunday, November 23rd, 2014, 12:00 PM CST--Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings will likely be having a rough season at this point, it is tough to imagine what position they will be in. Will Teddy Bridgewater be in at quarterback to get some experience? How good is the Vikings defensive line? Are they able to provide a solid situation under new head coach Mike Zimmer? Despite the interesting story lines, the Packers should be able to win this game in Minnesota pretty easily, because Adrian Peterson is the best player on the team, and they had lost their defensive leader in Jared Allen. Packers win 35-24.
Sunday, November 30th, 2014, 3:25 PM CST--New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers
Assuming that Rob Gronkowski is healthy, he will be facing the Packers biggest weaknesses in the middle of the defense. Tom Brady is hoping to do better this season with the young receivers having even more talent after last year. The Patriots defense though has some of the best talent it has had in recent years, and the Packers will have to face both Darelle Revis and Brandon Browner. New England will hand the Packers their fourth loss of the season, defeating the Green Bay Packers 31-21.
Monday, December 8th, 2014, 7:30 PM CST--Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers
The Falcons are a dome team. They have talented receivers in Julio Jones and Roddy White. The offensive line is great at pass blocking but not fantastic at run blocking. The Packers should win this presumably cold game behind the strength of their running game and their defense, which is much stronger than the Falcons running game and defense. The Packers win a cold one, with a final score of 27-10.
Sunday, December 14th, 2014, 12:00 PM CST--Green Bay Packers at Buffalo Bills
Sadly for the Buffalo Bills, they are probably the easiest game for the Packers this season. EJ Manuel and Sammy Watkins are both young, the defense has some talent but hasn't put it all together last year. They lost their defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who became the Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns. The Packers will go on the road and beat the Bills, with a final score of 34-13.
Sunday, December 21st, 2014, 12:00 PM CST--Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Hello again Lovie Smith. Seems like he is trying to capture the offense that the Bears took right after he left only down in the Tampa Bay area with the backup quarterback and now starter in Tampa, Josh McCown. The Packers usually did perform quite well against the Smith led Bears teams. They should be able to take a victory from him again since the Packers are just more talented across the board. The Packers will win in Florida again with a final score of 34-24.
Sunday, December 28th, 2014, 12:00 PM CST--Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
The Detroit Lions haven't won in the state of Wisconsin in a significantly long time. The Lions last won in Wisconsin at Lambeau Field on December, 15, 1991. Mike Tomczak was the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. Erik Kramer was the quarterback for the Detroit Lions, and their leading receiver in the game is Mike Farr. The Packers are going to be playing most likely to ensure that they could have a bye into the playoffs. They will cruise to victory against the Lions with a final of 44-27.
Now let's look at the players that made the 53 man roster by position.
Quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, and Scott Tolzien.
The Packers usually only keep two quarterbacks on the team. Rodgers was a shoo-in to make the roster as a former NFL MVP and winning a Super Bowl, but it had been a previous thought that Flynn and Tolzien were fighting for one spot. The Packers saw that both of them could bring value to the roster because otherwise only one would have been kept. If Rodgers was to get injured again, Mike McCarthy has announced that Flynn would be the next man up.
Running Backs: Eddie Lacy, James Starks, DeJuan Harris, and John Kuhn.
Reigning rookie of the year Eddie Lacy is going to be featured in the offense this season. Even though other running backs are listed on the roster they will probably not see a lot of playing time. Starks would be the full time back up if Lacy was to get injured. Harris is more of a change of pace running back. Kuhn is the fullback and might get more of a third down role depending on how much of a workload Lacy is getting.
Wide Receivers: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin, Davante Adams, and Jeff Janis.
The Packers were considered likely to be keeping more receivers than they did. Two rookies getting a lot of experience in Adams and Janis. Janis will be used a lot on special teams most likely after his big kickoff return against the Chiefs in the final preseason game. Boykin beat out Adams so far for the third receiver spot. The rookies will just practice but they both showed far to much talent to get cut because they would have been claimed elsewhere.
Tight Ends: Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Richard Rodgers, and Ryan Taylor.
The presumed starter of the group at this point is Richard Rodgers after he started the second and third preseason games. The third round draft pick was really disrespected when the Packers took him with their compensatory pick. Many fans who follow the draft were unfamiliar with what exactly he could do. But Aaron Rodgers from the Cal Golden Bears throwing to Richard Rodgers from the Cal Golden Bears provides a lovely Rodgers to Rodgers pairing. Bostick is athletic as well and will be used a lot for that. Taylor is around for special teams primarily because he is a good blocker.
Offensive Linemen: David Bahktiari, Bryan Bulaga, Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Corey Linsley, J.C. Tretter, Derek Sherrod, and Lane Taylor.
Bahktiari and Bulaga are the starting tackles. Sitton and Lang are the starting guards. Because of the preseason injury to J.C. Tretter, Corey Linsley from Ohio State will be a starting rookie Center against the Seahawks. After a few weeks though, Tretter could get the starting job back depending on just how well Linsley performs. Sherrod is the swing tackle, and every Packers fan will probably be a fair amount of nervous if Sherrod has to have some expanded playing time due to an injury to either Bahktiari or Bulaga. Don Barclay was likely going to be the swing tackle, but an early training camp injury placed him on injured reserve. Lane Taylor is a backup guard and he will fill in if there is an injury to Sitton or Lang. The Packers kept Taylor around last year as well, so he's probably a little bit more trusted than Sherrod.
Defensive Linemen: Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, Letroy Guion, Josh Boyd, and Mike Pennel.
Obviously only seeing 5 people for the 3 man defensive line looks like very little amount of depth. The main thing to realize is that Julius Peppers and Mike Neal, both linebackers, have both played defensive end in the past and are very likely to end up in that rotation in the event of injuries. Daniels and Jones will be the outside ends in the 3-4 base defense. Guion is the man filling in at Nose Tackle because of the bicep tear to B.J. Raji. Josh Boyd will back up Guion at nose tackle and has good enough size to do so, while Mike Pennel will be a backup defensive end for both Jones and Daniels. Don't be surprised if Boyd and Pennel get rotated in a lot because these big guys need to be kept fresh. Khyri Thornton, the Packers third round pick, was placed on injured reserve with an injury in the final preseason game.
Linebackers: Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Nick Perry, Mike Neal, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Andy Mulumba, Jayrone Elliott, and Carl Bradford.
If there was one spot that it was evident that the Packers were completely loaded at during the preseason, it was at linebacker. Matthews and Peppers will be the primary men at outside backer. Both are excellent at rushing the passer and it has been rumored for a while that Peppers could do something a little bit different in playing the elephant position on the defense. Elephant appears to mean he could go inside and rush or stay on the outside and rush from either a standing or hand in the ground position. Hawk and Jones will start at inside linebacker. Hawk has been with the Packers his whole career, ever since the Packers took him at fifth overall in the NFL draft. Jones originally was an outside linebacker when the Packers first transitioned to a 3-4, but has since been converted into the inside. Perry is a backup pass rusher on the outside, but he is also a former first round draft selection. He has a lot of talent for a backup. Neal is the other backup, and both Perry and Neal would alternate on the opposite side of Clay Matthews last season. Lattimore and Barrington will backup Hawk and Jones on the inside. They were both on the team last year and stepped up when Jones had an injury. Andy Mulumba played some at inside linebacker last year as well, because the position was just ravaged with injuries. Hopefully the Packers do not have that issue this year. Elliott looked great in the preseason, consistently beating the man on the other side of the ball, showing some great pass rushing techniques in the process. He had several sacks and is looking to bring that to the NFL, despite going undrafted. Bradford was the Packers fourth round selection, but was rather unremarkable in the preseason, and was probably one of the final selections for the final 53 man roster.
Cornerbacks: Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, and Demetri Goodson.
Williams and Shields are the two starting cornerbacks that are getting the big money contracts. Hayward and House are both excellent and could probably start on some other teams but will provide support on both the nickel and dime situations. Bush has been a gunner his whole career, and will stay primarily focused on special teams, but he has gotten a few interceptions on defense in his career too. Goodson was the Packers sixth round pick. He had played basketball at Gonzaga before transferring over to Baylor. He didn't play all that much because of injuries and is a very raw talent that should not be seeing the field very often, because he will be targeted by opposing quarterbacks simply because he is the weak link of the defense.
Safeties: Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and Sean Richardson.
This position has been a glaring weakness since the Nick Collins injury from a few years ago. Clinton-Dix is the Packers first round draft selection, Micah Hyde converted from cornerback to safety. Burnett has the most experience and Richardson played the position some last year in the rotation of safeties. The projected starters are probably Burnett and Hyde, but Clinton-Dix will have a good opportunity to fill in one of those spots if there is an injury to either of them. The Packers will trust any combination of these two compared to what they had in the defense last year.
Specialists: Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, and Brett Goode.
Mason Crosby has been the starting kicker ever since the Packers took him in the sixth round several years ago. He struggled with his kicking in 2012, but has looked sharp since then and should be no issue for the Packers this year. Tim Masthay is the Packers starting punter. Hopefully for Packers fans he doesn't get any snaps this year. Brett Goode is the long snapper and he has been there for a long time as well.
Practice Squad: S Chris Banjo, WR Kevin Dorsey, C Garth Gerhart, WR Alex Gillett, RB Michael Hill, LB Adrian Hubbard, TE Justin Perillo, DE Luther Robinson, T Jeremy Vujnovich and WR Myles White.
So from the cut to 75 the Packers placed four on injured reserved, cut 18, and then signed those 10 to the practice squad. The players who didn't make the practice squad in Green Bay but from the last 75 are LB Jake Doughty, T John Fullington, DT Carlos Gray, G Jordan McCray, S Tanner Miller, RB LaDarius Perkins, CB Jumal Rolle, and CB Ryan White. John Fullington signed with the San Francisco 49ers. The other players are all free agents at this point.
The Green Bay Packers roster is loaded with talent, and according to the games predicted above by this humble columnist, they will go 12-4. That should be enough to give them a first round bye and they can beat a wild card team to advance to the NFC Championship game. The team is deep enough to make a Super Bowl run, but because of some of the recent struggles when they have made the playoffs, they aren't mentioned in the same breath as the Seahawks and 49ers. Right now they have made some advancements in the roster, but it's uncertain if it is enough. They will probably lose to the eventual Super Bowl Champion, just because the NFC is so much stronger than the AFC. Whatever happens, they will be thrilling to watch as they win some big games. Just keep Aaron Rodgers healthy for the whole season. Go Pack Go!