Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Trudging towards March

With the elation from the Super Bowl slowly wearing off day by day, Wisconsin sports fans are now desperately searching for something to keep their minds off of winter snow storms, freezing temperatures, midterm exams and crappy jobs. Don't get me wrong. I still enjoy watching the Badgers and Warriors duke it out in my second favorite sport, college basketball (second only behind baseball), but it's not quite enough to distract me from the droves of homework that the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh leaves at my doorstep. . . Now that you've caught your breath from that hysterical laughter, let me try and make you burst out once more. Do you realize which Division I college basketball program in Wisconsin has the best chance of winning their respective conference? Still no clue? Will the UWM Panthers please stand up! I'm not kidding you. Marquette sits in 11th place in the Big East, five games out of first place. The 12th ranked Wisconsin Badgers remain two games out of first and five games back of the Ohio State Buckeyes. But Milwaukee is only one back of Cleveland State with two games to go on the schedule...one of their games happens to be at Cleveland State -- Thursday, to be exact.

Before you get too excited, let me say this: UWM already hosted the Vikings earlier in the conference season and got toasted by 23 points at The Cell. Now let me get you too excited: the Panthers have won seven straight Horizon League games (they lost to non-conference opponent Buffalo in a BracketBuster game last Saturday). Not only this, but they swept the season series against Butler -- yes, the same Butler that was about two inches away from being National Champions last March. Well, okay, it's not nearly the same Butler team, but it's still rather unexpected news. If the chips fall correctly, the Horizon League tournament runs through Milwaukee. Those would be some magical chips.

That was for you, Chris. You're welcome.

When getting back to teams that can actually contend for the spot in the Big Dance, we have the Wisconsin Badgers locked in and the Marquette Warriors scrambling for an at-large bid out of the Big East. I basically went over my feelings towards these two squads in my last post, but a few things have changed since February 14th. This is just how sports are...my mind is always churning out a different opinion. Kyle brought up a good point about having two go-to guys in Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor rather than the typical lone scorer that the Badgers have had in past years. This is all well and good, but how about a third? I know this sounds greedy, but I think it's necessary. Look at teams like Ohio State and Purdue. They each have three (at the very least) guys they can turn to in tough situations. Therefore, I'm sticking with my Badgers-aren't-built-for-the-tourney attitude, but not completely ruling out an elite 8 appearance...that's the limit for this team, though.

Marquette? Yikes. That loss to St. John's in the BC was a killer. I fully expected the Warriors to pull that one out against a now ranked Red Storm team led by extremely underrated coach, Steve Lavin. Since they didn't, they are going to need to win a game or two in the Big East tournament to squeak into the field of 68. I think they can wind up 19-12 going into it, which would look pretty nice. What would look even better is a 20th win by irking one out in the conference tourney. Now look at the sitch...how can you shut out a team with a 20-13 record and ten wins in the Big East? You can't. Hence, I still like Marquette to earn a spot in the Madness...and make a little noise as well. Don't get up in a tizzy if they lose to Connecticut on Thursday because they have three very winnable games left on their slate.

I like how I just talked myself back into my original opinions.

Here's my snippet on the NBA. Melo is a Knick and the Bucks have some fearing to do.

I'd like to mention, in case you didn't already notice by the self-promoting links, that I earned an unpaid writing gig for a website called The Sports Jury. It's a pretty cool idea for a site as roughly 100 writers can basically chip in articles about whatever they want and then others can check in and read them. For instance, my article about the Bucks was somehow the feature article on the site all weekend, so that garnered me a bunch of reads. Eventually, I might be able to earn myself some pay out of it, so that's definitely something I'll be keeping up with.

Don't worry...I'm not going to abandon the blog thing. In fact, I'll be releasing new posts rather soon about my keys to filling out a perfect March Madness bracket so that you can all win a lot of money in your pools as well as a Brewers' season preview. For now, just try and survive the rest of February and then allow the NCAA tourney to ride you right into baseball season...and summer.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A familiar scene

To be perfectly honest, Super Bowl 45 will be something that I can look back on for a few years when faced with getting over the disappointment of the Packers' fellow Wisconsin sports teams. Fortunately, we have another team/school that's been surging to the forefront: the Wisconsin Badgers. Being just one week removed from one of the most impressive performances by a team of my rooting interest in my lifetime, the Badgers helped us relive some of the same emotions we felt two Sunday's ago (and on October 16th). For the second time during the school year, and only the second team in collegiate sports history, the Badgers knocked off the same school when they were ranked #1 in both football and basketball by defeating the Ohio State Suckeyes 71-67. The only other team to defeat a team both in football and basketball when they were tops in the country was Florida. As much as I wanted to attend yet ANOTHER game in which O-S-Who was ranked #1, it would have been both a financial burden and a prime example of pushing my luck a little too far. Had I been in the Kohl Center Saturday afternoon, there's no doubt in my mind that JT wouldn't have gone completely OFF and rallied from 15 down to top an extremely talented college basketball team.

Unfortunately, the other main rooting interests of myself and many others in Wisconsin in regards to basketball have failed to meet expectations: the Marquette Warriors and the Milwaukee Bucks. Especially the Bucks. During a stretch in which I expected Milwaukee to go on a mini-run before the All-Star break and perhaps sneak back into playoff position, they have faltered while showing literally no signs of a turnaround. Sorry, but you don't deserve to make the post-season when you lose to Indiana and Detroit in the Bradley Center. Combine this with the fact that the NBA is my least favorite professional sport out of the four major sports in America and you've heard just about all you're going to hear out of me about the NBA. I will say this, though...last year, the Bucks were able to sneak up on people because nobody expected anything of them. Going into the 2010-2011 season, we were considered to be contenders for the Central Division crown...oops. With great power comes great responsibility. Apparently the Bucks never had that power in the first place. I'm not counting them out yet (10th place in East, 4.5 games out of 8th), but I'm not going to put all of my eggs in that basket. Give me a call when the playoffs role around (not literally, please).

Continuing with the theme of depression, the Marquette Warriors. Yesterday was another example of a team that competes for about 30 minutes every game and then for some reason hits a proverbial brick wall. I'm pretty sure there isn't a team in the country that looks forward to playing Marquette, but they probably take solace in the fact that they know they'll control the final ten minutes. They should still be a 19-20 win team based on their remaining Big East schedule, but some of the games that we've seen MU let slip away (there are too many to list) definitely leave a bad taste in our mouths. The one positive that we can take out of Marquette's performance this year is how they always at least remain within striking distance in every single game. Remind you of a certain team that just completed their season? I don't see an NCAA Division I champion when I look at the Warriors, but they are a team that has slightly underachieved even though many experts didn't expect them to compete night in and night out like they have. I still believe Marquette will make some noise in March, whether it's a couple of early round upsets or giving a more renowned opponent a run for their money.

Enough about underachieving...let's look at a team that overachieves almost every single season: the Wisconsin Badgers. Picking up where we left off, the Badgers went down 47-32 after Jared Sullinger (who I thought played like a softy all afternoon) put home a layup. Immediately after Ohio State went on this monster run to start off the half, two things popped into my mind. I see why this team is ranked #1. There is still a lot of time on the clock. Once the Badgers went down 15, I began to put most of my faith in the announcer jinx when the lead announcer (his name escapes me at the moment) mentioned that Wisconsin wasn't built to come from behind. First of all, that's what she said. Second, I agreed. My mind immediately skipped backwards to the horrific beating Wisconsin took at the hands of an Ivy League school last March. I think Jordan Taylor's mind also regressed back to this game, and his second wind kicked in in a way I hadn't seen since the Penn State game about a year ago (and not just because I was there). A 15-0 run later and we had ourselves a tie ball game. It remained tight for basically the remainder of the game, but Taylor continued his hot shooting, freshman Josh Gasser played a key role and Mike Bruesewitz hit the game clinching trey ball with the shot clock winding down to help Bucky knock off a number one team for the first time in nearly 50 years. I think it's fair to say that Ohio State is our bitch.

Unfortunately, even though we all knew it was coming, the Wisconsin student section stormed the court after the victory. At first, I got caught up in the moment but then quickly became very disappointed in kids who I thought were a little sharper than myself. If you go back to my post on the regulations of being a fan, the Badgers' victory doesn't quite meet the criteria of court storming. Even if it did, it's the freaking Kohl Center. That place is a death trap for opponents. Obviously, defeating Duke last year was a big deal because we were unranked and the Dukies were in the top five, but this was a different situation and it should have merited a different reaction. One other note...if someone actually did spit in Sullinger's face after the game, he deserved it. Quit flopping. You're 6'9" 280. Man up.

Wisconsin is now ranked #10 in both polls, but another big game is looming as the Badgers must travel to West Lafayette to take on the 11th ranked Boilers. Purdue is a tough place to play and I recall Wisconsin having a tough loss there last season. I wouldn't be surprised to see the same this year. The Boilermakers lucked out this year by avoiding a trip to Madison, so hopefully Wisconsin wouldn't be punished for losing this game. I believe we'll keep it close and a big shot here or a costly turnover there should be the difference in the ball game. When looking at the big picture like we did with Marquette, the answer is simple: the Badgers aren't built for a deep run in March. We've seen it time in and time out...a sharp shooting team or a run-and-gun style always seems to have an advantage over Wisconsin's slow paced swing offense. The Badgers always seem to have trouble game planning for teams that they aren't as familiar with, and my concern applies to this season's team as well. However, Wisconsin has shown the ability to speed things up every once in awhile and get open looks early in the possession...at least when they want to. Incredible free throw efficiency could also help us forget about the failures of the past. I see Wisconsin as a 3-5 seed when it's all said and done depending on how some games-that-could-go-either-way games go down the stretch.

I'll leave you with a little something special to help get you excited for March. Consider it my Valentine's Day gift to each and every one of you (F*** this holiday).


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Don't forget to Pack Lombardi

(Deep breath)...wow.

14 years in the making.

When you live and die with sports like me, the lows feel like going through a divorce and the highs feel like you hit the lottery, neither of which I have had the pleasure of experiencing. I live for those highs knowing that I'll suffer through at least ten moments that will leave me heartbroken before I reach the pinnacle. On Sunday, February 6th, 2011, I will never forget where I was when I watched a football team that I've rooted for my entire life win Super Bowl XLV. I will never forget grabbing random people that I didn't even know and screaming out in joy in a room stacked full of people in a Madison college house. I will never forget the anxiety...the jubilation...the tears of joy that filled my eyes...every possible emotion the human mind can imagine. Many of you have now trekked through this passage. I may have been seven years old when the Packers were victorious in the first Super Bowl of my lifetime. But this one was clear to me. This was MY Super Bowl.

Saturday afternoon, I embarked on a 101 minute drive to Madison, Wisconsin where I would be watching the Green Bay Packers play a simple game of football on its greatest stage with close friends and total strangers. Saturday night was the Packer fiesta, but Sunday morning offered up chills that I get before something extremely nerve-racking is about to happen...like giving a big speech or carrying a conversation with a really hot chick that approaches me, something I must deal with almost every single day of my life. It's a blessing and a curse. To help take my mind off the inevitable, I watched Gus Johnson begrudgingly announce a blowout in the Kohl Center as Wisconsin romped the Spartans by 26 (by the way, expect more about college basketball in future posts. I haven't given the sport its due). Now it was 2 P.M. and I had nothing left to distract me. As the food was prepared by my gracious hosts and people began to file into 1514 Jefferson, the time was near. Before I knew it, Christina Aguilera was forgetting lines to the National Anthem and all that was left to do...was play ball.

I know it's rather cliche to look back and say "We should have put a camera in the back of the room" because of the crazy reactions people have towards a certain event, but seriously. There should've been a damn camera in the back of the room. It was ridiculous. People were clapping after every first down or any tackle in the backfield, hooping and hollering after a big gainer and jumping for joy while high five-ing everyone in sight when the football crossed the plain of the goal-line. Oh yeah...they were also slamming their hats into the ground after allowing a score, staring a hole through the ceiling after failing to convert a 3rd down and screaming at the television whenever Sam Shields ran into Tramon Williams during a punt (Shields had a rough one, there's no denying that). It was like we were there. I cried. I laughed. I swore. I yelled. I had an aneurysm. Yep...think that just about covers it: have I helped drag you back to Sunday night yet? Good. Let's get to game for Christ's sake.

Clearly, experience did not prove to be much of a difference as the Packers marched into the new Texas Stadium and defeated a Pittsburgh squad that included many two-time Super Bowl champions 31-25. In fact, you could argue that the Packers played with a lot more poise than the Steelers when considering a plus 3 margin in turnovers and an uncanny ability to come through in the clutch, which the team from Steel City failed to do multiple times. In what seemed to become per usual for the Pack, Green Bay jumped to an early lead fairly quickly with an impressive drive that ended with a dime over the shoulder of Bryant McFadden and into the waiting hands of Jordy "the hick from the sticks" Nelson. Green Bay never looked back, but this certainly doesn't mean things didn't get bumpy along the road to victory...here's why:

Road Bump #1 -- Donald Driver's leg injury: Even though this wouldn't end up being the biggest concern for Packer fans, watching Driver's leg bend in directions that would make Ray Nitschke cringe was the first of several injuries for Green Bay. This meant one of two things: Jordy Nelson would have to step up and be the #2 receiver (he beautifully did so...for the most part) and Brett Swain would now be inserted into 4-receiver sets (oh boy). A few drops by Jordy and a "drop" by Swain definitely helped make things a little more interesting.

Donald Driver's first down celebration riled up just about everyone.

Road Bump #2 -- Charles Woodson's broken collarbone: Roethlisberger stepped back and heaved one down the left sideline just out of the reach of Woodson as he laid out for the football. It didn't look all that bad, but Chuck's night was over and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize why the entire state of Wisconsin cursed out of mental agony when sideline reporter Pam Oliver announced the dreadful news. The two leaders. Gone in an instant. The Packer youth movement would have to win it for them, not with them.

Road Bump #3 -- James Jones' hands: I don't think I can explain the state of pain and anguish James Jones put the state of Wisconsin in, but I'll try. It's 21-10. The Packers receive the ball first in the second half. Pittsburgh snag the momentum just before the first half. Woodson is hurt. Driver is hurt. Shields is limited. We need to keep our defense off the field. Rodgers fires a dime to Jones who has nothing but daylight ahead of him...dropped. Uh oh. We've got a ballgame.

Thanks to these five plays (as well as a few others), the Packers would be able to overcome these detrimental shortcomings...

The top 5 game-changing plays for Green Bay in Super Bowl 45:

5. Late 4th quarter, :49 -- Tramon Williams plays absolutely perfect coverage and breaks up Big Ben's pass to Mike Wallace on 4th and 5. THERE IS YOUR DAGGER! Obviously a huge play, but we wouldn't have been in this position if not for the four plays in front of it.

4. 3rd and 10, Mid 4th quarter, own 25 -- Aaron Rodgers zips a pass down the middle to Greg Jennings for 31 yards to keep the Packers' final scoring drive alive. If this pass falls incomplete, the Packers have to once again punt the ball deep and don't have the chance to run more time off the clock, let alone put up at least a field goal to force the Steelers to score a touchdown. Big time throw. Big time catch.

3. Late 1st quarter, 3:34 -- After a crucial block in the back penalty against the Steelers special teams unit, Pittsburgh was pushed back to their own 7 yard line. On the first play of the drive, Howard Green hit Roethlisberger's right arm and forced an errant throw to the left side of the field. Nick Collins broke for the ball the moment Big Ben pump faked to that same side...TAINT.

2. 3rd and 7, Early 4th quarter, PIT 40 -- Should the Packers not convert here, we'll more than likely punt and pin the Steelers deep, but it still means Pittsburgh is only within 4. Rodgers zings the ball to Nelson on the right side (the same side that two blitzing DBs are storming through) for a 38 yard gain inside the Steelers 2. Oh...and by the way, this was the play right after Jordy let a first down pass slip through his hands. Talk about trust. Flip flop #4 and #2 if you'd like, but the fact that A-Rod went right back to Jordy speaks volumes about this team.

1. Early 4th quarter, 15:00, GB 33 -- The Steelers are once again in position to put together a game-leading drive as they hand off to Mendenhall on 2nd and 2. As he heads toward the outside (which we failed to stop numerous times), BOOOOM! Clay sticks his helmet to Rashard's right elbow, jarring the football loose. Desmond Bishop does a tremendous job of scooping up the football and is tackled at the GB 45. You CANNOT argue that this was the biggest play of Super Bowl XLV. No way, no how. Clay Matthews...the man, the myth, the legend. A huge reason why my life is still intact.

The 5 Unsung heroes of Super Bowl 45:

Punter -- Tim Masthay: I know he put up a shank-dank punt towards the end of the third quarter to hurt his average (40.5), but if their hadn't been an ineligible man down field (still don't get this call), Masthay's 57 yard boot would have counted, thus making his average a stellar 44.7. When the Packers' offense began struggling to move the football, Masthay was called upon to flip the field and he did just that, keeping the pressure on the Steelers and off the Packers' D. He very well may have ended the curse of the Green Bay punter and earned himself a second year on the Green Bay roster.

Cornerback -- Jarrett Bush: I can't believe I'm including this man...two plays before his impressive pick, I tore into Bush just like I have for the past six years because of his piss-poor performances as a Green Bay Packer. But because of Bush's solid special teams play in the past few years, he earned captain status. Sunday, he had an emergency fill-in at the nickel corner after Sam Shields and Charles Woodson went down with injuries and performed...admirably average. His interception was pure instinct (and ballsy), but he also gave up a rather easy touchdown to Hines Ward late in the first half. Still, Jarrett Bush surprised all of us Sunday evening and for that, I salute him. Step out of the dog house.

Cornerback -- Tramon Williams: Notice how I don't say 'punt returner'. Yikes. Let's try and forget about his muffed punt and idiotic unsportsmanlike penalty. Tramon was an absolute shut-down DB against the Steelers and this cannot be overlooked. Williams was forced into the #1 cornerback role but still remained on Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh's deep threat. Sure, Wallace still got his, but Williams played like a man who deserves quite a pay-raise as well as someone who will eventually emerge as the Packers' #1 corner.

Running back -- James Starks: I know he only carried the ball 11 times, but I've been waiting for a Packer running back who runs with as much purpose as Starks. Behind what was a rather porous offensive line, Starks chucked and ducked for some big gains in crucial situations which also helped keep the play action pass a viable option. Starks will likely back up Ryan Grant at the start of the 2011 season, but with Grant, Starks and Brandon Jackson as a 3rd down back next year (I have my doubts he'll be back, but this is my wish), all of a sudden the Packers will have a formidable running attack.

Linebacker -- Frank Zombo: I'll be the first to admit that I was wrong about Zombo in my last post, but can you blame me? It was Zombo's first action since week 14 against the Lions, so it was hard to gauge exactly how he would perform. Considering these circumstances, as well as Zombo's sack of Big Ben and a solid performance overall, Zombo deserves a lot of credit for stepping in for the injured Erik Walden and avoiding any sort of letdown at the linebacker position opposite of the Claymaker.

"Sung" Heroes: Aaron Rodgers (MVP. 'Nough said) ... Jordy Nelson (9 for 140) ... Greg Jennings (2 TDs, no drops) ... Clay Matthews (strip of Mendenhall) ... Nick Collins (TAINT)

There you have it. Man. What a ride. If you're worried about what I can possibly write about for the next seven months, stop fretting. I'll include a season review for the Pack in the blog sometime in the near future, but we still have college basketball to look forward to, a hopeful late-season push by the Bucks and a promising Brewer team that is soon to embark on their 2011 season.

But how about them Packers?

Super Bowl XLV. Champions.

THAT...is what it's all about.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Super important game

Getting nervous?

We're two days away from the most hyped up event in professional sports, and my favorite team happens to be involved. When I wake up Sunday from my alcohol-induced coma (kidding!), I can't even begin to explain to you how nervous I'll be. It's almost frightening. And if you're a die-hard sports fan like me, you'll feel the same way. I don't care how confident you feel about the Pack's chances...there will be thousands of tiny butterflies fluttering around in your stomach, and they won't leave until 5:29 PM Sunday evening. I have the same feeling that I've had the past five weeks: anything could happen. Good sign? For as much hell as we've been put through in the past years because of the rocky road that is Wisconsin sports, things haven't been all that bad lately. But please...for the love of God...let Sunday, February 6th be ingrained into Packer fans' minds for all the right reasons. Okay. Let's break this mother f***er down.

The Packers are going to lose because of the team photo controversy. It's just way too much of a distraction to overcome. Ben Roethlisberger being spotted at a bar Tuesday night will play a slight factor in how the Steelers prepare for this game, but man...Jermichael Finley and Nick Barnett really did it this time. Damn you, twitter. Steelers in a blowout.

Seriously. What a joke. I LOVE the media! (Ironic, I know)

Moving on. There are so many ways that I want to pick this match-up apart that I honestly don't know where to begin. I probably should have considered this before I started typing, but I don't like planning. I'm figuring that most of you have seen enough breakdowns of this game on ESPN...quarterbacks, running game etc...so I'll try and dig deep and get my fingernails really dirty while trying to find some unique aspects within this game that I think will play a key role.

I'll start with big plays. Both of these teams put food on the table with the help of big plays. Only one of them really gets food poisoning as a result of big plays. The Pittsburgh Steelers have waaaay too good of a defense for the amount of long balls they watch fly over their head, but nevertheless, it happens. Rather frequently. My only hope is that Mike McCarthy realizes this because with the scrambling ability of Aaron Rodgers, he will be able to keep plays alive. This allows for his deep threats, which can really be any of the four receivers, to maneuver around a little and possibly sneak behind the Steelers' secondary. Even if they don't, Rodgers and his receivers are almost always on the same page and guys always seem to find a way to get open. It's crazy to think about how studs like Troy Polamalu (apparently better than Clay Matthews), Ryan Clark and Ike Tayyyylor can allow this to happen, but they do. The Packers may allow a lot of annoying 1st downs on 3rd and 11, but they manage to keep everything in front of them and, to be cliche, bend but don't break. Don't get me wrong...Ben Roethlisberger is also known for his hard-to-believe scrambling antics because of his size, but I think Green Bay does a pretty solid job of containing scampering QBs. This is an area where I think the Packers can exploit the Steelers otherwise stingy D, and a big play or two could very well be the difference in this game.

(Some notable advantages for the Packers that have been drilled home by the media that I agree with: NT B.J. Raji vs. back-up C Doug Legursky, GB secondary over PIT secondary, GB receivers over PIT receivers)

I've mentioned the key for the Packers, but what is the area that Green Bay really has to clamp down on when it comes to facing Pittsburgh? Well, I kind of touched on it before, but if the Steelers start to find success running the football (which I think could be difficult with the loss of Pouncey), the Packers will have to be careful. By careful, I mean don't go away from the game plan to try and put more emphasis on stopping the run because that could end up hurting our chances even further. Let's think about it...why has Green Bay had success on defense this season? It's because they have always had the right personnel to plug into certain positions who know what their role is (THANK YOU, TED THOMPSON). We have to trust those guys just like we have all season long. They're the reason we've been in every game this season. If Rashard Mendenhall, who is a very solid back, starts to get on a role, Dom Capers has to have faith in his front line to adjust and start making plays. If we start stacking the box, our secondary might be in trouble. The deep ball can be stopped, but the one area where the Green Bay secondary has struggled at times is simply defending the opposing receivers. I think that if the Packers main rushers (Front three, Matthews and whoever plays at the other OLB spot (Zombo is back. Walden is battling injury.)) are able to contain Mendenhall, who in my mind isn't any better than LeSean McCoy or Michael Turner, they will have a great chance to win. Capers does a great job mixing in blitzes with a variety of different players, so this could also play a factor in slowing down the Steelers' running game.

By the way, I understand all the talk about Maurkice Pouncey and DE Aaron Smith being out, but there has hardly been any mention of Erik Walden's ankle injury, even during the Bears game two weeks ago when Robert Francois was forced into action. I personally believe that Walden is vital to the Packers' success. Frank Zombo is somebody that I feel kind of "eh" about when it comes to his ability on the football field, but it appears as though Walden will be limited heading into the Super Bowl. This means we'll basically be relying heavily on someone starting at outside linebacker for the first time since week 14 unless something changes in the next two days...uh oh.

(Some notable advantages for the Steelers that have been drilled home by the media that I agree with: PIT running game over GB running game, PIT front seven over GB front seven)

Speaking of the ground game...even though I agree that the Steelers have a more formidable running attack, James Starks has been HUGE for Green Bay. If the Packers can somehow formulate a decent running game against the Steelers on Sunday (which I kind of doubt), damn. Look out. We all know how much Coach McCarthy likes to set up that play action pass, which is why I'm not going to talk about it.

(Where the game could be decided/neither team has a real advantage: Quarterback play, Special teams)

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Did I just say that the Packers aren't at a disadvantage when talking about special teams? I promise I'm not intoxicated or on drugs. I could break down these units, but I don't want to put you to sleep (that is, if you haven't already passed out on your keyboard).

A couple hours later, and my nerves are still rising. It's starting to sink in, but it feels so surreal. When thinking about all the injuries...all the adjustments...five weeks of playoff football...overcoming heartbreaking losses. We can only hope that the Packers avoid a late game letdown for one more game. One. More. Game. In the words of the great Bart Scott: CAN'T WAIT!