Lessons Learned with the Packers Not in the Playoffs

We'd all prefer that the Packers were still playing, but we might as well learn a bit from these playoffs. 

As much of a bummer as it is that the Packers aren’t playing January football, we can’t help but watch playoff games, and we might as well take a few lessons from other teams’ accomplishments and misfortunes.

Neither of these is an intellectual breakthrough by any means. They’re more reminders about where the Packers stand and where they need to be.

The first lesson that’s become apparent is that first-round byes matter a lot. Home field advantage is a nice boon, but every game in the regular season is crucial because an extra week of rest is up for grabs. There was a run in the NFL during which seemingly any team could appear in or win a Super Bowl. Just get into the tournament – you never know what could happen.

The Packers were one of those teams, winning a title as a 6-seed.

But it’s been a while since a team made a Cinderella run through the NFL playoffs. This season will be the sixth in a row in which both Super Bowl participants had the luxury of a first-round bye. Nine of the last 10 teams to play for a title were 1-seeds.

As long as the Packers have a chance to qualify for the playoffs in future seasons, hope will spring eternal. But in order for this team to get back to the promised land, it’s much more likely that they’ll have “the look” all season long. The 2018 season has been all about the Chiefs and Saints torching the entire league, and it wouldn’t be surprising if those teams face off in the Super Bowl.

Another 6-seed will probably make a championship run again, but with so much attrition through the course of the season, that first-round bye is golden. The Packers don’t just need to get back into the playoffs – they need to get back to lighting the league ablaze and dominating for the entire season.

The second lesson I’ve learned watching these playoffs is that we, as Packer fans, are blessed with kicker stability. Green Bay has had just four kickers since 1989, and that includes the single season of Dave Rayner in 2006. Otherwise, it’s been Chris Jacke, Ryan Longwell and Mason Crosby for three decades.

While the Vikings have had notorious kicker issues, I’ve had the pleasure of living in Chicago after the double-doink elimination the Bears suffered.

Many fans of other teams roll their eyes at how blessed the Packers franchise has been with quarterbacks, but the lineage of kicker success has been almost as impressive. Now, punters are a different story, but let’s not go there.

Quarterback dysfunction and kicker dysfunction are two of the most brutal ways to lose football games. It’s worth remembering how fortunate we are in those categories. Let’s be grateful for what we have, with an eye toward building a juggernaut going forward.

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Matt Kelley is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter via @hustleandheart1

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Comments (54)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Lare's picture

January 15, 2019 at 11:43 am

I usually don't watch other games during the season, but a couple of things that have struck me in watching the playoff games so far are:

1. The physicality of these other teams, I mean these guys are just making crushing hits on tackles and blocks. I don't remember seeing that much from recent Packers teams.

2. Good tackling, once again something that has been lacking in GB recently,

3. TE production. Some of these other TEs are carrying their teams.

4. WR's wide open on a lot of plays. Don't know what they're doing to get receivers so open but the Packers need to be doing that.

5. In-game adjustments. Every team comes out every game with direction during their pre-game planning. But the teams that seem to win in the end are those that can make the necessary adjustments to counter what the other team is doing.

6. Trick plays, these teams are not afraid to try anything and everything to win games.

There's probably more that some of you have noticed, but those have jumped out to me so far. Hope we can see a great deal of improvement in some of these areas in the future with the new coaching staff.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

January 15, 2019 at 12:11 pm

Lare!
Perfect!

I have noticed EXACTLY every point you make but not just in the playoffs but throughout the past regular season games.

I am so glad the Pack has moved on from MM and TT. It was blatantly obvious big problems in Packerland and I would not be surprised if MM struggles finding a HC position. He was sub par at best the past multiple years.

Aaron should be lauded by all Packer fans for bringing attention to fact MM needed to go.

Excited for 2019 Packer football!

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Swisch's picture

January 15, 2019 at 01:54 pm

Good stuff, Lare.
Regarding #4, it's hard to remember the last time the Packers were able to get wide receivers open.
That's why Aaron Rodgers has gotten so famous extending plays.
It's sad when your best play is drawing a penalty for offsides or too many men on the field, and then using that free play to try for a long pass downfield.
I also don't know the answers to getting wide receivers open, but hope LaFleur does.
Perhaps throwing more to running backs and tight ends may help to get the wide receivers open.
Also, perhaps triangle formations for receivers; and crossing routes that create natural obstacles for coverage without needing to actually set picks.
In general, perhaps the Packers offense could use more in the way of motion and misdirection, sweeps and screens, and an occasional trick play.
For example, going for it on fourth-and-one is one thing if it's just sending a running back into the middle of the scrum; it's quite another if the defense has to contend with a variety of possibilities inside and outside, on the ground and in the air.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 15, 2019 at 11:01 pm

Excellent post. Makes me dream of what is possible and what we have to look forward to.

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dobber's picture

January 15, 2019 at 02:16 pm

"1. The physicality of these other teams, I mean these guys are just making crushing hits on tackles and blocks."

Part of that is play speed. These teams play so much faster than we've seen the Packers play in several years. And their players arrive with force (speed to power).

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 15, 2019 at 11:06 pm

Agreed. The number one thing I see when watching other teams (even not so good teams) is speed. Crispness as well. Teams come up to the LOS more quickly. Other teams seem to snap the ball more quickly. And then also play speed. I watched Ertz run a route over the middle and thought Ertz runs routes and Graham lumbers through them. I saw safeties come up and make tackles that limited yards gained instead of herding them towards the sidelines as the ball carrier gained positive yards.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 15, 2019 at 11:44 am

Other than all the obvious, having an Aaron Donald would be great. And a starting Safety.

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Swisch's picture

January 15, 2019 at 01:59 pm

Yeah but our defensive line seems to be a real strength, and I'm not so sure there are any Aaron Donalds out there except for Aaron Donald.

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4thand10's picture

January 15, 2019 at 10:05 pm

or Aaron Donald and Suh....., maybe throw in Gurley...

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Packer Fan's picture

January 15, 2019 at 11:48 am

Watching teams like the Rams and Saints offensives move the ball and control what is happening is the awakening thing for me. Green Bay got stale. We need a better offensive line, a slot receiver that is quicker than Cobb and healthier. And for gosh sake, more discipline among the players. All the words we have been hearing this year, accountability, complacency and discipline and along with creativity were absent from the team. So out with the old coaches that fostered those attitudes. Hope LaFluer can bring that back.

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4thand10's picture

January 15, 2019 at 10:06 pm

Cobb would Have been healthy if McCarthy hadn’t used him as a running back for 3 yrs in a row....

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Rebecca's picture

January 16, 2019 at 11:59 am

19 rushes in the last 3 seasons.
2018 - 0
2017 - 9
2016 - 10

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ShanghaiKid's picture

January 15, 2019 at 12:00 pm

GB isn’t going to earn a bye week for a long time. There are building blocks on this team, but there is a lack of top end talent to take them from a 5/6 seed to a 1/2 seed.

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kevgk's picture

January 15, 2019 at 01:01 pm

In the last few years, the saints went 7-9, 7-9, 11-5, and 13-3. This team has several pieces in place, namely an elite WR, LT, QB, DL, and possibly two good corners. A few drafts hits and a healthy season could take this team very far. A turn around can be closer than you think.

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ShanghaiKid's picture

January 15, 2019 at 04:03 pm

I see what you're getting at, but I'd also add in the last few years the Saints haven't had the turnover in FO or coaching staff that the Packers have had either.

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Swisch's picture

January 15, 2019 at 02:10 pm

Stars on offense: Rodgers, Adams, Jones, Bakhtiari, Linsley -- plus maybe one or more of our young wide receivers including MVS.
Stars on defense: Clark, Daniels, Martinez, Alexander, Breeland -- plus perhaps Fackrell, and one or more of our other young linemen and defensive backs.
Add a good draft with one or two difference makers, a solid free agent signing or three (Landon Collins?); and other guys on the current roster developing into at least solid contributors -- and maybe, just maybe, we're in the playoffs next year, and contending for a Super Bowl thereafter.
Glad to get others thoughts!

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Packer Fan's picture

January 15, 2019 at 02:53 pm

Right on the stars. Oline needs fixing. Collins would be a great pickup. He is a difference maker. And getting healthy is really important. Way too many injuries to make a run in the playoffs. There are other things, but good start.

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Bearmeat's picture

January 15, 2019 at 02:59 pm

My thoughts:

Stars on offense: Rodgers (when he plays like he is capable). Adams, Jones (when healthy), Bakh.

Solid pieces on offense: Linsley, Williams, Bulaga, (when healthy).

Iffy offensive pieces: Taylor

Potential, but too young to know: WR 2, 3, 4, 5, Tonyan

Upgrades needed: RG, TE, Depth. Everywhere.

Stars on defense: Clark, Alexander (projected).

Solid pieces: Daniels, Breeland (if he re-signs), King (when healthy), Martinez. Fackrell (OLB3)

Iffy: Tramon (FS), J Jackson (ILB)

Too young to know: J Jackson (FS?). Burks, Lancaster,

Needs replacing: OLB1, OLB2, FS, SS. Depth everywhere.

Special teams: P - Iffy. K - Needs replacing. LS - Needs replacing.

A LOT of holes there. It can be done with one great offseason, the right coaches and injury luck, but I'm more inclined to think this team is still pointed at 2020.

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ShanghaiKid's picture

January 15, 2019 at 03:16 pm

G.D. Bear. If you go look at what I just posted it's scary how alike we're thinking.

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ShanghaiKid's picture

January 15, 2019 at 03:14 pm

I've included my personal thoughts on stars, as well as holes on each side of the ball.

Mostly agree with stars on offense.

Holes:
RG, WR2, TE, RT (depending on what happens with Bulaga) and OL depth. I'd also add slot WR, but that also depends how things shake out. The Packers could kill two birds with one stone if they went out and got someone like Tate.

Very much disagree with your assessment with stars on D. As currently constructed. I've got stars: Clark and Alexander, that's it. Potential stars: King.

Holes to fill: Edge, FS, SS, ILB, and Packers probably need to add another CB. King has just not proven he can stay on the field. He's a potential difference maker when healthy, but hasn't proven he can stay on the field.

Overall, in my estimation, there's a lot of holes to fill in one off-season. You combine that with a first year HC and turnover in staff. I think it's possible it's another 1-2 years before the Packers even make the playoffs. Now, it's entirely possible they strike gold like the Colts and Saints, and draft a couple of All-pro/Pro-bowl type players year 1. Until that happens I'll stand by my assessment of this roster.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 15, 2019 at 03:22 pm

Agree

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Swisch's picture

January 15, 2019 at 04:58 pm

I registered a "like" to comments above that were more pessimistic than I am about the future, because they were well presented, and actually may be more realistic.
There are indeed a lot of question marks on the Packers. Even with Aaron Rodgers, there's the question of whether he'll bounce back to elite form (not that he wasn't good this past season).
I'm hopeful about Rodgers being elite next year -- and to think about him passing to the elite Davante Adams, and handing off to a rising star in Aaron Jones, is to realize that the Packers aren't starting from the bottom.
Obtain three or more offensive linemen in the draft and free agency to go along with Bakh, Bulaga, and Linsley; get another tight end to go along with a possibly developing Tonyan and a possibly reviving Graham; then consider all the young talent at wide receiver; add in a couple of young and promising offensive coaches in LaFleur and Hackett -- and there's real hope for a top-ten offense next season.
As far as defense, there's so many young guys who could excel that maybe a few or more do excel. Add an edge rusher or two in the draft, plus a Landon Collins in free agency. Continue with Pettine's scrappy play from last season plus another year of gelling. The result may be an upper-half unit.
A lot of questions, but numerous reasons for hope. No guarantees, but it may help to sustain Packers fans to realize that there is more than a little talent on this team.
We're not rebuilding, and may be more than half way to an excellent roster already. Just having Rodgers back to top form has us at 8-8. With success in the draft and free agency, at least there's a chance for a wild card, or even a division title.
In any case, the discussion is fun.

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Skip greenBayless's picture

January 15, 2019 at 05:09 pm

I wish everyone was as honorable as you are Swisch.

Dash

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Rebecca's picture

January 16, 2019 at 12:08 pm

When everyone is something, it no longer has meaning. If everyone was a “hero” then heroism would be the norm; negating the need for the word hero. Likewise with “honorable”. But I like your romantic and idealistic bombasity! There are a plethora of dishonorable scallywags dishonoring our great Green Bay Packers heroes for you to call out! Thanks, Rebecca since ‘91

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Skip greenBayless's picture

January 16, 2019 at 01:05 pm

" registered a "like" to comments above that were more pessimistic than I am about the future, because they were well presented, and actually may be more realistic."

I have no idea what you are trying to say honestly. I'm assuming it's a put down. Rebecca, that quote above by Swisch was why I said he was a honorable person. Even though he disagreed with the content he respected the person because it was well presented. I related to that comment so I gave him a shout out. I also have respect for Swisch for his brave public admission of dealing with depression which I had a family member suffer from and commit suicide as a result. So yeah, I can relate with Swisch.

Dash

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Swisch's picture

January 16, 2019 at 02:15 pm

Thanks, Dash.
Whether I agree or disagree with others, or some of both, I try to "like" comments here that contribute to the discussion -- because that's what makes it fun to participate in sites like Cheesehead TV.
The more Packers fans who feel welcome to express their sincere views in a rough-and-tumble but always respectful and even cordial way -- the better the overall experience.
On another note, I am so sad for you losing your family member too early. I pray that in the merciful love of God you'll be reunited with this person one day in a far better place.
I would also encourage with all my heart that anyone struggling with depression hang in there no matter what, and try to get help until you find the right people. I believe there's a very important reason for all of us to be here (see, for example, the beloved classic, "It's a Wonderful Life").
I always like to remember the eminent sportswriter Dick Schaap calling the Lombardi Packers the best team in history. He seemed to be saying that these Packers weren't necessarily the most talented, or even the most successful, team -- but that they were the group of individuals who best came together to maximize their common potential.
That's what I love about the Lombardi Packers, even though I was born in 1962 and was too young to actually appreciate them in real time. They remained very much individuals, but sacrificed something of themselves to achieve a common greatness.
When the magnificent Herb Adderley, who went on to win a Super Bowl with the Cowboys in the '70s, said in retirement that he will always be a Packer, and that he thinks about Vince Lombardi every day -- well, that kind of testimony is really moving to me, and shows how sports can uplift all of life.
It seems to me that in the plan of God, we are all essential to the good of each other -- whether as stars or subs -- and each integral to our mutual happiness.
Please forgive any excesses of length or personal sharing in this comment. My best to all.

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Skip greenBayless's picture

January 16, 2019 at 03:13 pm

Very kind words Swisch. You said all that needed to be said.

Dash

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JohnnyLogan's picture

January 15, 2019 at 12:02 pm

Home field is a huge advantage. NE has played in a fairly weak division for years and almost always had home field throughout the playoffs. They crushed the Chargers and are a better team, but three times they failed to convert a 3rd down and each time some ticky tack flag gave them life and they went out on to score. A Sports Illustrated article years ago proved rather definitively that it doesn't matter the sport, referees, umpires, football judges, they are affected by the home crowd and often subconsciously throw a flag or make a call to hear the positive roar of the crowd. There's a reason, and it isn't home cooking, that teams in every sport do better at home. So yes, we need to play to get home field, not just make the playoffs.

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nostradanus's picture

January 15, 2019 at 12:08 pm

Pad Level = Playoffs

That is all...

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Skip greenBayless's picture

January 15, 2019 at 12:18 pm

Excellent article Matt Kelley.

Dash

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sam1's picture

January 15, 2019 at 12:18 pm

Lets wait and see what transpires. Has only one way to go hopefully, up!

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Leatherhead's picture

January 15, 2019 at 12:27 pm

If you win your division, you get a home playoff game.

A home playoff game involves 75000 tickets or so go. If the average price is $100.....and I know it's higher....that's $7.5 million dollars.

And there's parking. And Concessions. And gift shop.

If you're a deep-pocketed owner, maybe that doesn't mean much, but to the Packers it means a lot. And for the city of Green Bay, it's hotels and restaurants and a lot of tertiary revenue.

So I don't care what the Saints and the Rams and the Patriots and the Chiefs are doing nearly as much as I care about the Vikings, the Bears, and the Lions.

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LeotisHarris's picture

January 15, 2019 at 09:56 pm

Old School, I think the socialist model of the NFL continues into the playoffs. Home teams benefit from concessions, hotels, parking etc, but all gate revenues flow to the league to be shared equally. Teams are given a stipend to help cover costs for each playoff game.

Added: the league pays players in the playoffs as contracts end at the end of the regular season.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 16, 2019 at 12:37 am

I was sure you weren't just another pretty face, Leotis! It has been reported by Joel Corry that home teams, though they do retain all the revenue from parking and concessions, can indeed lose money by hosting a playoff game at home. The city and surrounding areas obviously do well financially.

As you noted, teams don't pay their players for playoff games (and thus they don't count against the cap). Instead, the NFL which gets all gate receipts pays the each player an identical amount, and it is a shockingly low number. Each player in the 2015 wild card got $24K (loser $22K). Pay for the divisional game was $24K, and conference championship was $44K. If you're making $8M (about $500K per game), $22K is a pittance. It was just below the league minimum.

The average NFL ticket per Statista is $100.26 per ticket, which might mean $7.5M in receipts. Even if the players got all of the gate receipts, since there are 106 players plus some on IR and such, so perhaps 120, that would be about $62.5K per player.

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LeotisHarris's picture

January 16, 2019 at 07:29 pm

Hah! Backhanded compliment accepted, Tgr. And, kudos to you for efficiently explaining the matter without excessive and unnecessary use of "that." :)

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Handsback's picture

January 15, 2019 at 12:31 pm

Green Bay's last good shot was that loss at Seattle. They had all of their oline playing, their dline was strong and the only real healthy problem was Rodger's mobility.

If they can build strong starters and a few reserves for both lines, they will be competing again. With a healthy Rodgers and solid playmakers...they can get those byes.

My biggest question is how long will it take to achieve that?

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Demon's picture

January 15, 2019 at 02:09 pm

Its been said that a team takes on the personality of its head coach.

Packer teams have been notoriously soft for a more than a few years. Along with being unprepared, undisciplined, out of shape and at times looked completely lost.

Yeah, that is Mcpad levels personality!

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Skip greenBayless's picture

January 15, 2019 at 03:36 pm

"ts been said that a team takes on the personality of its head coach.

Packer teams have been notoriously soft for a more than a few years."

So what personality do you see this team taking on with the new and improved Matty Nice? Did the soft just get softer? Call me skeptical but I didn't exactly see toughness in that press conference. I honestly saw weakness, doubt and apprehension.

Dash

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Demon's picture

January 15, 2019 at 06:02 pm

I dont know yet Dash. I am going to give him a chance. Although so far i was a little disappointed in his choice of OC.

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Skip greenBayless's picture

January 15, 2019 at 11:31 pm

Of course we are going to give the guy a chance. We have no choice but to hope for the best. The last choice for OC was as someone said "probably his 5th option" at that point. It's like Green Bay fell to the bottom of the barrel again and it's 1975 and nobody wants to come here. It has that type of feel to me. Instead of Bart Starr and Zeke Bratkowski hand signalling in from the sidelines, we will have Marty McFlyeur and Buddy Hackett in their place. Yeah, I'm with you on this WhiteT.

Dash

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Rebecca's picture

January 16, 2019 at 12:13 pm

Where’s the honor in referring to someone with disparaging nicknames? Why go there when there are an abundance of these bullying terms bandied about on CHTV?

Sincerely,
Rebecca

since ‘91

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Rossonero's picture

January 15, 2019 at 02:47 pm

Offensive line play is a theme I've noticed with the final 4 teams left.

You saw what one draft did the Colts O-line (even though they've been eliminated).

It's also plain to see that the Saints, Rams, Chiefs and Patriots all have good, if not great O-lines to allow their offenses to score a prolific number of points.

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porupack's picture

January 16, 2019 at 09:21 am

Yes, Rossonero; I agree that the Oline play is key to Rodgers problems and to his turn around (now that GB has drafted young speedy WRs). Need a first round caliber olineman drafted and a 2nd rround caliber guard. Then....need a First round caliber TE.
Since the draft is deep in DL, OLB, DE....it is wise to skip first 2 rounds for D and go OT, TE, Oline/guard. Then draft OLB/DE and S in rounds 3-5. It is iimperative to get the Offense back to surgical, rhythm which means control that line of scrimmage and open holes.

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Rossonero's picture

January 16, 2019 at 11:27 am

Concur with your comments about draft needs, only except the part about skipping pass rusher in round 1. We need to spend one of our two first round picks on the best edge rusher available, unless the Packers simply don't like what's in front of them.

Regarding O-lines, the last time we had a Super Bowl caliber O-line was 2014. Lang and Sitton are gone, and their absences has been noticeable.

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3rdigraphics's picture

January 15, 2019 at 02:48 pm

The packers went 15-1 in 2011 and easily got a 1st round bye...then they got their ass kicked at home in the divisional round.

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Lare's picture

January 15, 2019 at 03:04 pm

Yes, but they lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Giants who peaked and got healthy at the right time.

Another example would be the Packers winning the Super Bowl in 2010 after coming into the playoffs as the 6th seed with a 10-6 record.

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jww061356's picture

January 15, 2019 at 03:59 pm

Agree on all points, but.....I think one of the reasons home field matters is you make your house a tough place to play. Ex: Seattle, Minnesota, Philadelphia, NE, and Kansas City. You do that by kicking some ass at home, something the Packers haven't done in a while. Atlanta was another tough out at home in 2016. Kick a little ass, and teams will come in a bit intimidated. A lot easier to get home field throughout or a 1st round bye when you are 8-0 or 7-1 at home.

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jsb937's picture

January 15, 2019 at 07:03 pm

Kareem Hunt, Kareem Hunt, Kareem Hunt. But they won't because they are wussies. Did I mention Kareem Hunt.

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LeotisHarris's picture

January 15, 2019 at 08:12 pm

Fortunately, men who assault women haven't fared well as Green Bay Packers. Erik Walden was given a ticket out of town. Mossy Cade had his woes. Substance abuse gets a second chance in Green Bay. Violence against women does not.

Are you a father? Maybe you could demonstrate your'e not a wuss by setting your daughter up with Kareem? C'mon, he can run with a football!

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porupack's picture

January 16, 2019 at 09:26 am

I am split opinion on this. Totally respect your view Leotis. I fully support, demand GB or any team to cut a player involved in such abuse. And, would not accept that player back on same team after breaking trust,
But, if such player from another team after serving a penalty were available, I would advocate a second chance if remorse, compensation/atonement were evidenced. Don't know enough about KHunt, but I would advocate GB giving consideration.

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LeotisHarris's picture

January 16, 2019 at 08:57 pm

porupack, the Hunt video is easily found. Take a look and see if your opinion changes on him.

That said, Joe Mixon is playing after punching a college girl, as is Tyreek Hill after abusing his pregnant girlfriend. So, yes, apologies and cash settlements allow for a nice career if you have speed.

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Oppy's picture

January 16, 2019 at 06:24 pm

What about Ahman Green and James Lofton? People seem to look the other way when very productive Packers assault women.

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LeotisHarris's picture

January 16, 2019 at 08:50 pm

Didn't the incident with Lofton trigger the fire sale to Oakland? Or at least play a part in it? I agree, his career did not suffer as a result.

Green, I think, faced consequences for his behavior with his daughter. It also occurred after his playing days.

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Oppy's picture

January 17, 2019 at 06:56 pm

His daughter was the second incident- many years after his first, vs. his wife.

Lofton had a previous incident two years before that occurred in Milwaukee, but police swept in under the rug.

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