Packers must jump out to early lead against 49ers

I hope the Green Bay Packers get the football first on Sunday.
If they win the coin toss against the San Francisco 49ers, I pray they don't defer to the second half. If the 49ers wins the toss, I hope and pray they defer and force the Packers to accept the opening kickoff.
Why? Because the Packers must start quickly to begin the NFC Championship game. They must grab an early lead and then turn their defense loose.
This has been a topic of conversation throughout media outlets this week. The common strategy among NFL gurus is that a team should defer the opening kickoff for the second half because the chances are greater that team will have the last offensive possession before halftime and then get the ball back immediately in the second half.
I don't know about you, but in my years spent listening, watching and covering NFL games, it doesn't happen all that frequently.
Let's be clear. Green Bay is not a "come-from-behind" team when it plays against NFL elite teams, especially in critical games. All we need to do is flashback to the Packers-49ers regular season game. Granted, the Packers had the ball first, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers fumbled resulting in a quick 7-0 deficit. Green Bay faced a 10-0 hole by the end of the first quarter and a 23-0 crater by halftime. Frisco went on to a 37-8 rout. However, I guarantee that won't repeat again if the same scenario presents itself.
Let me ask you this. As an athlete, would you prefer to play from behind or ahead?
That's why I hope the Packers get the ball on offense to open the game.
What do you think?

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Packers' Rodgers must change roles

Aaron Rodgers needs a role change.
The Green Bay Packers' veteran quarterback (pictured) must do his best "Superman" impression by stepping into a phone booth and changing into Clark Kent.
Rather than being "Da Man," as he has been all these years, Rodgers must be "Da Manager" for the remainder of his NFL career. Don't get me wrong. The Packers road Rodgers' arm and legs for years, but it's time for a change. Not only for the franchise, but also for himself.
The first step began more than a year ago when head coach Mike McCarthy was fired. Loyal Packers' followers knew Rodgers and McCarthy had drawn lines in the sand. While they were joined arm and arm in the "Pass first, run second" philosophy for years, their divorce was imminent in 2018. One of them was going to leave and it wasn't Rodgers. Good call!
Exit McCarthy. Enter young Matt LaFleur, an NFL head coaching newcomer with an entirely different offensive scheme, including a run-pass-option game.
Despite all eyes on the new marriage for months, Rodgers and LaFleur hit it off beautifully and the Packers finished with a surprising 13-3 regular-season record.
By most standards, Rodgers has had an uncharacteristic down year, but the Packers still won. That's most important.
Rodgers certainly isn't washed up, but as he openly describes in golf terms, has "made the turn to the back nine," of his stellar career. That doesn't mean the 36-year-old doesn't have it anymore. Personally, I would take Rodgers any time, any day against every other QB in the league, especially in the playoffs. However, injuries are beginning to take their toll on the sure first-time ballot NFL Hall of Famer.
So, how can he change?
First, Rodgers is extremely cerebral, a chess master who continues to out-think even the best NFL defensive coordinators in the league. He is a true veteran leader, the man players and coaches rely upon. Rodgers still has a very good arm, although not as strong before his two collarbone injuries. He is also a very good scrambler, although his legs are showing their age, and wear and tear as the Green Bay starting quarterback for the last 17 seasons. Yet, perhaps his best strengths now are running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.
Rodgers' most glaring weakness, at least this year, is passing accuracy. He's been off a tick or more several times, including 16 overthrows in the season finale at Detroit. However, he still connected on some precise throws only Aaron Rodgers can make in many other games including a few in Green Bay's "must-win" regular-season finale over Detroit for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. The other weakness is a sub-par receiving corps other than No. 1 Davante Adams.
To prolong his career and boost the playoff run, Rodgers must become more of a game manager than a game changer, similar to what other older quarterbacks such as Tom Brady and Drew Brees have become. Rodgers should not try to carry the team on his shoulders alone. Focus more on the rushing and the short passing games which, in turn, should free up receivers downfield. It will not only serve Rodgers well now, but also in the long run as he enjoys a career into his 40s.

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Packers' defense gets signature victory at last

The Green Bay Packers' defense got the signature victory it's been searching for all season. And it couldn't have come at a better time.
Despite the offense turning the ball over three times in its first six possessions and handing the Minnesota Vikings their only 10 points of the game, Green Bay rallied behind Aaron Jones' legs (154 yards rushing), Aaron Rodgers' arm (216 passing yards), Davante Adams' hands (13 catches for 116 yards) and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's tenacious defense (139 total yards allowed) to notch a 23-10 NFC North Division clinching victory at U.S. Bank Stadium on Monday night.
It was a must-win for both playoff bound teams, who could actually face each other for the third time this season depending how the playoffs shake out.
One would believe the Packers blew out the Vikings by first glance at some of the stats.
The Packers controlled:
* Time of possession, 37:32 to 22:28.
* First downs, 22 to 8.
* Total yards, 383 to 139.
* Yards rushing, 184 to 57.
* Yards passing 199 to 82.
Yet, it was Pettine's front four, led by Za'Darius Smith (3 1/2 sacks) and Kenny Clark (1), who frustrated the Vikes all night. Green Bay  totaled five sacks, to Minnesota's three.
Monday night's defensive performance actually reminded me of the Packers' season opener on Sept. 5, when they manhandled the Bears, 10-3, in Chicago.
I recall writing a blog the next day saying more than once that "One game did not make a season."However, the Packers showed they can indeed play defense with the best.
Now, it's on to NFC North bottom feeder Detroit for the regular-season finale on Sunday. While no game is a guarantee and the Lions (3-11-1) always seem to give Green Bay fits, the Packers (12-3) will win. Then it's on to the playoffs, hopefully, with the No. 1 seed, a bye and home advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Packers haven’t played a divisional-round game at home since 2014 and Rodgers has never had the NFC title game at Lambeau. That would be "super" to a season that has already surprised all of us.
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Packers' victory certainly wasn't pretty... again

The Packers won, but it was anything but pretty again.
Let's move on to the playoffs.
The Green Bay Packers looked extremely ragged against the lowly Detroit Lions in a walk-off Mason Crosby field goal and 23-20 victory at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday.
Green Bay finished with a 13-3 regular-season record and secured the No. 2 seed for the NFC playoffs.
It definitely wasn't a historic victory, beginning with quarterback Aaron Rodgers' uncharacteristic 16 overthrows to receivers.
However, Rodgers (pictured) was right on the money in the final quarter to rally the Pack back from a 17-3 deficit.
We all admit Rodgers, and his teammates played poorly. But a win is a win in the NFL and the Packers have had plenty of ugly wins this season.
However, who would you prefer under center with less than 2 minutes left in a pivotal game? Kirk Cousins...? Mitchell Trubisky?
The Packers ARE in the playoffs and we'll all find out in two weeks whether they are worthy of their surprising postseason berth.
Personally, I'm getting tired of the "one and done" crowd and all the Rodgers bashing, so let's take a deep breath and wait for Jan. 12.

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Packers-Bears matchup larger than expected

I have been telling family and friends for the past month that this Sunday's Green Bay Packers game will determine the remainder of their season.
Why? Da Bears are coming to Lambeau and they are still seething from their 10-3 opening day loss to the Packers in Soldier Field.
Sunday's NFC North matchup marks game No. 200 in the NFL’s oldest rivalry. The Packers hold a 98-95-6 edge in the series, which includes two playoff games (1-1).
Green Bay, riding a modest two-game winning streak, sits atop the division with a surprising 10-3 record. While Da Bears are 7-6 with a three-game winning streak, they need Sunday's victory more than the second-place Minnesota Vikings (9-4) to have any chance for a post-season wild-card berth.
The Packers control their own destiny within the division, but it's a testy three-game schedule to close the season. The Packers are on the road at Minnesota next week, and then finish the regular season with another road game at the 3-9-1 Detroit Lions.
Forget the fact that the Packers have won nine of their last 11 meetings against the Bears at Lambeau Field and have won six of the last seven games against Chicago.
What's more important is each of the last four matchups between the two teams has been decided by a touchdown or less and Sunday's battle should be another low-scoring, close game. Simply put, these two teams don't like each other. Their games are always downright physical, and it is no secret Da Bears consider every game against Green Bay their "Super Bowl."
Minnesota doesn't have an easy three-game stretch either. The Vikings are on the west coast against the Los Angeles Chargers late Sunday afternoon before returning home for their final two games - the Packers in a Monday night matchup on Dec. 23 and Da Bears on Dec. 29.
However, it all begins with the Packers-Bears on Sunday.

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