Hello Wisconsin: Midseason Superlatives and Second-Half Expectations

We've reached the midseason mark of the Packers' 2020 season. We're talking midseason superlatives, Beer of the Week and much more!

Somehow we blinked an eye and the Packers have already surpassed the halfway point of their regular season.

It’s almost impossible to believe that we’re sitting in mid-November already, but here we are, and the Packers are a healthy 6-2 and sitting in great position to make a push for the top seed in the NFC in the second half of the regular season. Considering there’s now only one team that gets a bye in each conference, this would be a huge, much-needed advantage for a team that will reach the postseason having played 12 consecutive games without a bye, due to the early scheduled bye this year.

Before we look ahead to what’s to come, let’s take a look at the first half of the season and hand out some superlatives based on what we’ve seen so far.

-TEAM MVP: Aaron Rodgers

This should be an obvious choice. Rodgers is playing some of the finest football of his historic career, and could very well have a third league MVP award on his resume when things are all said and done this season. Rodgers is completing passes at the second-best rate of his career, is on pace to set a career high for passing touchdowns and has thrown just two interceptions, both in the same game. 

 

-MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Jaire Alexander

There are several contenders for this award, which is exactly what you want to see for a team that was relying on its existing talent to make big leaps forward this year. On offense, my primary contenders were Robert Tonyan and Jamaal Williams. But I had to give it to Alexander. Jaire had a solid season in 2019, but in 2020 he’s playing like the best corner in football, a true lockdown in the mold of Darrelle Revis who’s cruising to a first-team all pro season. Jaire is going to be a very, very rich man when it’s time to start talking contract extension.

 

-BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Preston Smith

Again, there are unfortunately several contenders for this dubious distinction. On offense, you have to think the Packers were expecting more out of Marquez Valdes-Scantling heading into this season, but he really hasn’t managed to take advantage of increased opportunities or showcase any consistency. On defense, Darnell Savage hasn’t improved at the rate you’d hope for in a first-round pick in the secondary. 

But it’s Preston Smith who has really been discouraging. Smith is getting far too much money for the low level of production he’s had this year. He’s only had a handful of impactful plays and is way, way behind his sack pace from a season ago. At this point, he may be playing himself off the roster heading into 2021.

 

-MOST UNDERAPPRECIATED PLAYER: Corey Linsley

Corey Linsley plays at a position that’s already underappreciated in general. Centers rarely get any hype, they’re underrepresented in the Hall of Fame and you don’t hear any debates about the “best center in the game.” But if you were to have that debate this season, Linsley would have a strong claim for the title. He’s been absolutely fantastic both in run and pass blocking this season, and is going to make it really hard for the Packers to move on from him when his contract expires this offseason. Linsley deserves far more acclaim for his work so far this season; he’s played the best ball of his career.

 

-COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Billy Turner

The Packers had pretty good injury luck in 2019, so there weren’t any super obvious players to choose here who came back from injury to have a solid season this year. But I think Billy Turner deserves some love for the season he’s had so far. He’s proved himself to be a reliable player at several positions on the offensive line, just a year after many Packer fans felt like what the team got out of him for his contract was nowhere near worthwhile. I don’t think those same criticisms would hold up this year.

Any other superlatives you would like to throw out there?

Roster getting together at the right time

While it’s yet to be determined, this may be the weekend we get the long-awaited return of Allen Lazard from injury. 

What’s more, the Packers will have Jamaal Williams and Kamal Martin off the reserve/COVID list. Kevin King returned to practice on Monday, and while he may or may not be ready to go by the weekend, it’s a good sign that he’s progressing. Christian Kirksey also was practicing Monday, and is on his way to getting back in the lineup. It’s only a matter of time before David Bakhtiari is back as well.

Slowly but surely, this roster is pulling itself back together after a series of injuries. Barring additional setbacks, this team is getting healthy in time for an all-important second-half push. You want your best guys on the field in December, and the Packers are well on their way to making that happen.

What the Packers have managed to accomplish without some of these guys on the field for multiple games at a time has been impressive. Getting them all back together at the same time could give the Packers the boost they need as they seek a first round bye.

Wisconsin Beer of the Week

This week I’m bringing Beer of the Week back to 1840 Brewing Company, my personal favorite brewery here in the Milwaukee area (and in the state, really). If you’re in the Milwaukee area, highly recommend getting out there this weekend, as they have a really great selection of their bottles available.

My chosen beer of the week is no longer available for purchase at the brewery itself, but you can be certain they’re going to be bringing it back sooner than later. It’s the first 1840 beer I ever had, and it sucked me into their world of delicious brews to the point where I’m now a VIP member and there basically every week for their bottle releases as their tap room remains closed during the pandemic.

The beer is We Go Together Like… (Concord Grape), a peanut butter and jelly-inspired sour ale that is just unbelievably delicious. There’s a perfect balance of peanut butter and concord grape flavor, and the texture and sourness is just so perfect.

This is another one of those kinds of beers where traditionalists will scoff at the idea of this flavor combination in a beer, but trust me, give it a try and you’ll be blown away. There’s a reason why this bad boy scores a very high 4.32 rating on Untappd.

It comes in at right around 7 percent ABV, so it’s not one you need to worry about giving you a buzz, but it’s also not a beer you’re going to slam anyway. The depth of flavor and the sourness makes it one you’re going to want to sit and sip while enjoying a book or, dare I say, a football game.

If you do go out to 1840 this weekend (they have open hours for walk-up on Friday and Saturday afternoon), I’d strongly recommend their Time Moves Slow double IPA or their Juniperus gin barrel-aged saison, but literally everything they have for sale right now (and basically always)  is fantastic.

Around the NFC North

Once again it’s time for us to take a look around the NFC North.

The CHICAGO BEARS have somehow won five games, and it’s getting more and more difficult to see how. They were aided in part by collapses on the part of the Lions and Falcons, two teams who are extraordinarily adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. But this offense is absolutely putrid. I honestly don’t know how Bears fans can subject themselves to this week in and week out. Even worse, coach Matt Nagy said in a press conference that the team intends to “stay the course” on offense. At what point do you realize that your offense is garbage, and you need to make some adjustments to put the limited talent you have in positions to succeed? The Bears get a surging Vikings team this weekend, and they’re going to need every ounce of defense they can muster to put a stop to Dalvin Cook.

Coming off a loss to the Vikings, the DETROIT LIONS are now 3-5 and facing a must-win situation against the Washington Football Team if they’re going to have an even remotely realistic shot at getting that seventh seed in the NFC. The big surprise of this year has not been the Lions losing (after all, Matt Patricia is still the coach), but rather at how pedestrian Matthews Stafford has been. Stafford was playing some of the finest football of his career in 2019 before going down with injury. This year he’s just been… not good. You gotta wonder if he just needs a change of scenery at this point. There are plenty of other teams that could put his skillset to good use. Imagine a Stafford on New England, or Indianapolis, or in New Orleans to replace a retiring Brees. 

The MINNESOTA VIKINGS are suddenly 3-5 and while they’re not back in the hunt yet, they do have some renewed hope that their season still has some life to it. The margin for error is almost invisible, but a couple convincing wins in a row will do wonders for a team’s mindset. Now, I think the talk of Dalvin Cook for MVP is laughable at the moment--until the team is back on the right side of .500, Cook should be disqualified from contention. But there’s no denying that he’s the biggest reason this team has won the last two games, and that he’s going to need to be the one carrying all the weight to get this team back into the playoff picture. Very much like how a 2012 Adrian Peterson had to carry the Christian Ponder-led Vikings to the postseason. Can they pull it off? I doubt it, but there is an extra spot in the playoffs this year, so never say never.

Much love to our boy Big B

If you follow CheeseheadTV and other Packers-related happenings on Twitter or YouTube, you’re almost certainly familiar with prolific CHTV commenter and tweeter Big B (@bigpackers4x). He’s a 15-year-old Packers fanatic who hosts an aptly titled Underage Packers podcast with fellow teen and CHTV diehard Joey the Jaguar (@joeyGPG). He’s also known for being perhaps the biggest Jamaal Williams fan on the planet.

Big B broke the news on Twitter this week that he was diagnosed with cancer and is going through treatment. From what he says the prognosis is very good, but he’s in for a bit of a rough time with the treatment, there’s no way around it.

My wife is an oncology nurse, so I hear a lot about cancer treatment and diagnoses, and it’s always especially tough to hear when it’s someone so young who’s dealing with it. So my heart goes out to Big B, and I hope you’ll join me in delivering the kid some well wishes. 

We’re behind you, brother!

Nobody’s running away with the conference (or the league) this year

Look around the league and you’d be hard-pressed to find any teams that look truly unbeatable this season.

The league’s loan unbeaten team, the Steelers, have had plenty of close shaves, and just narrowly avoided defeat against the Dallas Cowboys, one of the worst teams in the NFL.

The defending champion Kansas City Chiefs have only one loss in the last 365 days (an embarrassing takedown by the Las Vegas Raiders), but have also looked vulnerable on several other occasions this season.

In the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks are on pace to demolish the 2011 Packers’ record for worst pass defense in NFL history. While their offense has been excellent, their defense is the worst in the league. 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have looked outstanding at times, and flat-out bad at others. They were just spanked by the Saints in primetime in a game that made Tom Brady look every bit of 43 years old. Those same Saints have had a couple embarrassing losses of their own, and have a quarterback incapable of throwing the ball more than 10 yards.

The Packers have had their issues, but who hasn’t in the NFL in 2020? Right now, if you’re keeping an eye on what’s happening around the rest of the league, there’s no reason to think this team can’t win a championship. They’ll need to show tougher resolve when the going gets tough (see: Tampa and Minnesota games), but from a talent perspective, there’s not a single team in the NFL the Packers can’t beat at the moment.

Week 10 quick forecast

The Packers under Aaron Rodgers have never lost to a team with a .125 winning percentage or below (except for a loss to the 0-1 Bengals in 2009, which, I think we can discount that for the purposes of this point).

The Jaguars are 1-7, absolutely awful on defense and are playing a no-name backup quarterback in Gardner Minshew’s absence. There’s not really anything this team actually does well at the moment. It would take a collapse of absolutely mammoth proportions for the Packers to struggle in this game, let alone lose.

So I’ll keep it that simple. Packers beat the brakes off the Jaguars, and the backups get some playing time again in the 4th quarter. 38-13. Go pack go!

 

__________________________

Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Comments (16)

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NickPerry's picture

November 12, 2020 at 06:50 am

Prayers and well wishes go out to Big B and his family...

Reading that this morning just hit me hard. 15 year old kids shouldn't have to going to through cancer treatments, they should be thinking about and playing things like 99% of the other kids in his class. Football, girls, school or whatever. That's just REALLY heavy.

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Guam's picture

November 12, 2020 at 07:37 am

Agreed NP. A cancer diagnosis at any age is tough, at 15 it is just heinous. I wish the young man all the best.

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

November 12, 2020 at 09:17 am

Right there with with you guys on the best wishes to Big B.

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 12, 2020 at 09:32 am

Cancer sucks! Plain and simple!

No one should have to go through it but especially not kids. No kid should have to go through it!

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Archie's picture

November 12, 2020 at 12:55 pm

Let's hope the GBP goes on a win streak and helps Big B get through his difficulties with good cheer!

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arthurl's picture

November 12, 2020 at 07:18 am

I feel the biggest disappointment should go to the GM for not addressing the DL. It could come back to haunt them come playoff time. This team has a genuine chance to reach the SB, but that’s a big hole. Up to this point everyone who follows this team knows with the exception of Clark, there isn’t another starter talent in that DL. Then again, the offense is on point, so it might not matter.

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lawatrain's picture

November 12, 2020 at 11:29 am

The GM first round picks haven’t done a lot yet, and maybe that’ll change but, for a team one win from going to the Super Bowl Gutey hasn’t played to win now. At what point does Mark Murphy get some blame, is he a sacred cow?

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Leatherhead's picture

November 12, 2020 at 05:09 pm

Well, the GM did lock up one of the best DL, Kenny Clark. That’s probably more than a lot of GMs have done.

We only play 2 DL and one of them is Clark. Keke, Lancaster, Lowry, Adams.....that’s who the other guys are. We’ll probably replace Monsteravious Adams in the offseason.

In theory, if we got a real good DL in the draft to pair with Clark and then filled in with the others....that could be pretty good group.

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Coldworld's picture

November 12, 2020 at 05:16 pm

Perhaps the problem comes with who we play and how rarely we play 3 DL. Maybe the last game marked a change in approach?

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Guam's picture

November 12, 2020 at 07:39 am

Not only is the team returning to good health, but the second half schedule should be a bit easier. The Colts and Titans will be challenges, but the rest of the schedule doesn't look too difficult despite playing the Bears twice. Like the author, I have seen the Bears play several times this year and their offense is bad, really bad. A repeat of 6-2 should be good enough to win the North and 7-1 may bring the grand prize of a #1 seed.

Too bad Gute didn't see fit to bring in some reinforcements because this team has a shot at getting to the SB. I don't think they are good enough to beat Pittsburgh or KC, but they could get to the game. Reinforcements might have been enough to win the game........

This series is becoming one of my favorite reads each week - thank you Tim Backes!

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NitschkeFan's picture

November 12, 2020 at 07:42 am

Overall a great first half of a season. Four 1st Team All Pro selections by PFF. Rodgers, Davante, , Linsley and Alexander.

KC deservedly the fav to win but after them everyone else is in the same tier as the Packers.

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 12, 2020 at 08:37 am

I agree with all the awards so far. I don't think I would change any of them.

Roster getting together at the right time-

We start our 2nd half of the season this week against the Jaguars. The first half has been a lot of good things, but we have had to play musical chairs at a number of positions. RB, WR, OL, ILB were the biggest positions that saw a lot of playing time from a lot of different players. We have had to play games with out our best RB, our best WR, our best OL, our best DL, and ILB has been a shuffle basically the entire season. We have played without our 2nd best CB for 1/2 the games.
The good news is we are getting guys back. Lazard, Bakhtiari and King all have been practicing. Jones came back last week, and we will be getting Williams back this week. We should be getting Kirksey back, but we also have Martin back from Covid list. Getting some starters back who have missed multiple games will really help.

Looking ahead, i like that we are starting to get back some of our key players. I would like to see us starting gain some momentum heading towards the playoffs. Lets be honest. Its the teams going into the playoffs with the most amount of momentum that typically have the longest playoff runs. Now is the time after this mini bye to slowly gaining speed and hopefully start to peak come playoff time.

Also, my thoughts are with Big B!

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Lphill's picture

November 12, 2020 at 08:59 am

Best wishes to big B and prayers ! Who will be to blame if the Packers are the number 1 seed in the NFC and lose because of a suspect defense ? Or will we hear oh well we have Jordan Love for the future , not addressing the run defense was inexcusable .

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

November 12, 2020 at 09:45 am

Perhaps you would like to share the names of the defensive players that you know were available for the general manager to obtain. Or your intimate inside information on the Packers trade and free agent negotiations.

Also, please be sure to refer to the Packers general manager as Mr. Gutekunst. You deplorables need to learn to respect your betters.

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BoHunter's picture

November 12, 2020 at 12:52 pm

May God strike Big B’s cancer down and return him to full health with his Almighty Power!
Go Pack Go !
BoHunter

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Tedlyflyfisher's picture

November 12, 2020 at 04:45 pm

We’re all in your corner, Big B!

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