On Tap! Week One NFCN Games

On Tap!

What’s on Tap for week one of the NFL for our NFCN teams…

Straight Up (A cocktail served with no ice or the straight facts)

The Bears looked positively punch-drunk when these two teams last played. Aaron Rodgers tossed six touchdown passes in the first half as the Packers dominated the Bears 55-14 in November of 2014.

The news for Bears fans isn’t much better over the last several years. Chicago has lost nine of ten to the Packers and 11 of the last 13. This Packers run has moved them within two games of the Bears in their all-time series, 93-91-6.

Expectations are the Packers will take one more step toward evening up the longest rivalry in the NFL.

Super Call (High octane, higher proof alcohols or the best players)

There’s no one better at quarterback than Aaron Rodgers, although his recent playoff run (2-4 since he won the Super Bowl) makes some question his play in big games (more on that topic here).

Rodgers has tossed a total of ten touchdown passes in his last two games against the Bears and could have added to that total had he played all four quarters in their last match.

The Bears new 3-4 defense is certain to be a be crazy cocktail the Packers will have trouble with from a scheme standpoint. New defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was 4-0 against the Packers when he held the same job for the San Francisco 49ers.

Fangio and new Bears head coach John Fox’s have been been conducting a top secret concoction of schemes. The idea is to shock and awe the Packers on Sunday.

This paranoid approach to secrecy has not made the new Bears administration popular with the media and some fans, but it might be a useful tactic against the Packers.

Flat (Missing sufficient carbonation or a player who sucks)

No amount of secrecy can hide the fact that there is now a talent difference between these two teams that can be measured anywhere from substantial to sizeable. The Packers offense is loaded with talent at the skill positions. Their number one running back, Eddie Lacy, was famished running against the Bears (three yard average in two games), but that’s because Rodgers was feasting on the Bears secondary.

On defense, the Packers have benefitted from the Julius Peppers revival and if Clay Matthews is healthy the Bears offensive line will have trouble containing that duo’s pass rush.

The Packers troubles are with their run defense. Watch for the Bears to run the ball wherever linebacker Sam Barrington lines up. Running the ball is an area the Bears disclosed they will focus on this year. Matt Forte, rookie speedster Jeremy Langford, might be a formidable combo for Green Bay to contend with.

The Bears passing game will likely sputter given the Packers strong defensive backfield and the lack of practice time Alshon Jeffrey and Eddie Royal had in the preseason.

86ed (Gone, out of inventory or an injured player)

Both teams suffered huge injuries this preseason to their wide receiver ranks. The biggest news was Jordy Nelson going down for the season with a torn ACL. The injury is significant to the team’s passing attack, but maybe more so to the team’s psyche. Coach Mike McCarthy had to address the issue with his team trying to guard against a dip in confidence.

It didn’t help the team’s confidence when Randall Cobb left the following preseason game with a shoulder injury. He’s expected to play, but he admitted Wednesday that he will not have full range of motion in his shoulder. When tackled, Cobb said he will need to fall on his shoulder with some care, so his effectiveness might be a concern.

The team’s offensive line could be a concern, too. Left Tackle David Bakhtiari has a knee condition. Josh Sitton, the All-Pro left guard left the second preseason game with an ankle injury and did not play the following week. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga left the third preseason game with an ankle injury. Right guard T.J. Lang had a concussion in the second preseason game.

That’s four of the five starters nursing some kind of ailment.

On defense the Packers star defensive player Clay Matthews missed considerable preseason action due to knee and elbow injuries. Micah Hyde suffered a neck injury. Only Jordy Nelson is 86ed for the game, everyone else is expected to play.

The Bears lost their number one draft pick, WR Kevin White for all, or a considerable part, of the 2015 season due to a stress fracture. Alshon Jeffrey who was on fire at camp until he suffered a calf injury which Coach John Fox described as day-to-day for almost 30 days.

The Bears special teams took a big hit when Senorise Perry was lost for the season. The Bears Left Tackle Jermon Bushrod is coming off back surgery and has struggled in his preseason action. Rookie Eddie Goldman, the team’s promising starting nose tackle, suffered a concussion in the preseason, but has practiced this week.

Both teams will miss players due to suspension. The Bears Jay Ratliff and the Packers Latroy Guion and Datone Jones will all miss the game and their lack presence on defense might be an issue.

The Tab (The final bill or a prediction on who wins)

If the Bears are going to stop the Packers annual beatdown, this is a great opportunity. While Chicago is clearly the inferior team, the Packers come into the season opener primed for an upset. Over the last three seasons the Packers are 1-2 after their first three games. Green Bay has been notoriously slow to start the season after a devastating playoff loss.

The loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game might have this team hungover with disappointment. Remember they led 16-0 at the half and 19 to seven with more than three minutes to go in the game. Pro Football Reference listed the Packers chances of winning, at that point of the game, at 99.9%. It was an utterly astounding collapse and the football nation wants to see if the Packers can reverse their losing trend.

Mike McCarthy is aware of the trend and is going out of his way to reverse it. One way is to confidently assert the Packers won’t lose. He recently said his team was ready to…

“Kick Chicago’s ass.”

Bears fans, expect an upset victory but do not get use to it as the season promises more losses than victories to this barkeep. Bears by a point, but I’m not betting the baby’s milk money on it.

Digestifs (An after dinner drink… or more booze/info you really don’t need)

This is the 191st meeting of this historic rivalry… Fox-TV is sending their number one broadcast crew of Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Erin Andrews to do the game… Jay Cutler owns a 1-11 record against the Packers… Aaron Rodgers is 12-2 against the Bears lifetime, and that includes a victory in the 2012 NFC Championship game.


Super Premimum week 2 lions chargers

Straight Up (A cocktail served with no ice or the straight facts)

Under first year coach Jim Caldwell the Lions improved from 7-9 to 11-5 and earned the team’s second playoff berth in the last 15 years. Caldwell brought a culture change to Detroit. Under their previous coach, Jim Schwartz, the team was known for its undisciplined nature. Caldwell immediately preached wholesome virtues and the results have begun to show.

The big news for the Lions in 2015 is how will their top ranked defense fare without defensive tackle and all-world player Ndamukong Suh who drove away to Miami with a six-year, $114 million contract.

How big will the void be?

Super Call (High octane, higher proof alcohols or the best players)

The 2014 Lions defense was among the best in the NFL. They were second in yards per game (300.9) and third in points allowed per game (17.6). Expect MLB DeAndre Levy to continue his tackling ways (151, second in the league), even without Suh on the field. Glover Quin led all safeties in the NFL with interceptions, seven. Third year corner Darius Slay took a huge step forward last season and is expected to take a leap this season.

On offense there really is no reason to doubt that aging wide receiver Calvin Johnson will continue his premier play. Especially with Golden Tate III back, an improving pass catching tight end, Eric Ebron, and the re-birth of the running game with new additions rookies Ameer Abdullah and preseason sensation Zach Zenner to spell starter Joique Bell.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford’s stats in 2014 took a hit under new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s more conservative approach, but there are signs the seven year QB will be allowed to sling the ball a little more given his knowledge of the offense and Megatron’s good health.

Flat (Missing sufficient carbonation or a player who sucks)

The Lions defense desperately needs new acquisition Haloti Ngata, acquired in a trade to replace Suh, to play as he did with his former team, the Baltimore Ravens. The Lions strongly believe the 31 year old 345 pounder will but he did not play during the preseason due to a hamstring injury and was activated only recently.

Without Suh and DT Nick Fairley (lost via free agency) the Lions need Ngata, free agent acquisition Tyrunn Walker and second year man Caraun Reid to provide the interior pass rush that allowed the team’s defensive backs to thrive. There’s a concern that if the team needs to rely on blitzing to create a pass rush, that the Lions defensive backfield could be exposed.

On the other side of the ball, the Lions offensive line has some questions and really needs first round pick Laken Tomlinson to become a plug and play left guard.

86ed (Gone, out of inventory or an injured player)

The Detroit Free Press reports that right guard Larry Warford (high ankle sprain), defensive tackle Caraun Reid and linebacker DeAndre Levy did not practice early this week. Levy may be the biggest concern. Starting right tackle LaAdrian Waddle is practicing, but with the second-stringers. He’s coming off an ACL injury. All four players are vital for the Lions.,Reid was having an outstanding camp until he suffered an ankle injury, but unquestionably Levy would be the biggest loss for the team if he did not play.

The Chargers will be without tight end Antonio Gates who is serving a suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs.

The Tab (The final bill or a prediction on who wins)

Historically the Lions have not fared well in San Diego. They are 0-4 lifetime when games are held at Qualcomm Stadium. That streak ends Sunday as the Lions defense will feast on the Chargers weak offensive line and scare future opponents by lighting up the Chargers scoreboard. The Chargers were weak against the run last year and the Lions running game enters the game with preseason momentum. Lions by 10.

Digestifs (An after dinner drink… or more booze/info you really don’t need)

Qualcomm Stadium was first known as San Diego Stadium and later Jack Murphy Stadium… The Chargers had a six-game winning streak against the Lions, but that was snapped in their last meeting, Christmas Even, 2011 when the Lions won at home 38-10… It will be fun for many NFCN fans to see what former Wisconsin Badger Melvin Gordon will do in his NFL debut with the Chargers. San Diego had a pathetic rushing attack last year ranking 30th (85.4 yards per game)… The Chargers scored five more touchdowns than the Lions in 2014, but allowed eight more on defense… The Chargers were 9-7 last season and tied for second in the AFC West with the Kansas City Chiefs.

On Tap!

Straight Up (A cocktail served with no ice or the straight facts)

The Vikings are quickly becoming an acquired taste for many NFL prognosticators. While some, like ESPN, still have them struggling, ranking them at number 18 in the Power Rankings, others like SI.Com have the Vikings barely missing the playoffs with a 10-6 record and Bleacher Report has Minnesota as the strongest dark horse playoff contender.

The reason so many are toasting the Vikings is not so much the return of Adrian Peterson, although that is huge, but the growth of second year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the prospects that Mike Zimmer’s defense is on the verge of becoming a dominant one.

Super Call (High octane, higher proof alcohols or the best players)

Even at age 30 and after a one year absence due to legal issues Adrian Peterson is still the game’s best running back in pro football.  He is the  Dom Perignon of running backs.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner wants Peterson to catch more passes in open space and while Peterson may not rush for the 2,500 yards he’s set as a goal – he might reach that figure in all-purpose yards.

Bridgewater has set a goal of passing at a 70% completion clip and he shows all the proper mechanics and smarts to achieve such a lofty goal. His wide receiver corps has been strengthened with the addition of speedster Mike Wallace and his rapport with Charles Johnson continues to improve. Bridgewater’s favorite passing target is tight end Kyle Rudolph who enters the season healthy.

The Vikings defense has young emerging stars like defensive backs Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes; linebacker Anthony Barr; and defensive lineman Everson Griffen.

Flat (Missing sufficient carbonation or a player who sucks)

The Vikings are still not happy with the play of former first round pick Cordarelle Patterson. Additionally the team’s offensive potential might have a difficult time if the offensive line doesn’t play better than it did last year. That crew made Bridgewater’s inaugural NFL season tougher than it needed to be. Part of the problem was left tackle Matt Kalil. Fortunately, he’s played much better in the preseason. Unfortunately…

86ed (Gone, out of inventory or an injured player)

… the team’s best two linemen are hurt. The most serious is right tackle Phil Loadholt who was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon Center John Sullivan has been suffering from back spasms and is status in uncertain.

The Tab (The final bill or a prediction on who wins)

The 49ers are a wreck. Their offseason was the worst for any NFL franchise. They lost players to retirement they had no inkling were calling it quits including 24 year old linebacker Chris Borland and 25 year old offensive tackle Anthony Davis. Both cited head injuries. Veteran Patrick Willis hung up the cleats, too. Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Mike Iupati are among sone of the veterans gone via free-agency.

Then there’s the coaching staff. That’s been gutted, too. If the Vikings don’t go into Levi’s Stadium and send the expected crowd of 68,500 further demoralized then those who have been picking the Vikings to have a good season will be the ones demoralized. The Vikings by 13.

Digestifs (An after dinner drink… or more booze/info you really don’t need)

The 49ers played their first game at Levin Stadium last year when the Bears upset them 28 to 20… The Vikings have one of the youngest rosters in the NFL despite the presence of 37 year old CB Terance Newman and 35 year old back-up QB Shaun Hill… The Viks youngest player is 20 year old Danielle Hunter… the average age of the team is 26.37 per NFLSavant.com.

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Aldo Gandia

Aldo Gandia

Among my career highlights I have produced two films while in high school that received nationwide attention; leaned out of a helicopter over the Gulf of Suez at the age of 20 to shoot movies of oil rigs; won an Emmy award for a sports special and another for a kid's fitness show; and led a team of very talented creative professionals to produce break-through corporate communications.

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