Hello Wisconsin: The Only Way to Go from Here is Up

Things can't really get any worse for the Packers after their week one collapse in Jacksonville... right?

After an early loss in the regular season, it’s common for sports fans to say “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” The idea being that the season is long, and the team that comes hot out of the gates may not be the one to cross the finish line first.

Of course, the metaphor works another way.

Marathons are long and miserable, and the farther you go the worse you feel until finally you collapse in a heap and spend the coming days and weeks regretting the choices you made that led you to participate in the race in the first place.

So, you know, one way or another, that phrase is going to apply to the Green Bay Packers this season.

I spent enough time on Monday excoriating the Packers’ pathetic display in Jacksonville, so I’m not going to waste too much more space venting about what we’re all tired of reliving by now. 

The good news is that when you start with a 38-3 shellacking, really the only way to go is up.

The Packers get a bit of a break in a Monday Night home game against the Lions, who valiantly fought back in week one after spending the first portion of the game getting absolutely annihilated by the San Francisco 49ers. 

The Lions were bad in 2020, and are likely going to be worse in 2021. They are clearly worse at the quarterback position (going from Matthew Stafford to Jared Goff), lost their best receiver, still don’t have a defense to speak of (particularly secondary), and have an insane head coach who’s more likely to become a meme than a mainstay.

It’s a good chance for the Packers to hit the reset button, get back into their offense and figure out what the hell it is they want to do on defense.

Good teams, even great teams, can have bad losses.

Here’s hoping we remember this start to the season as a blip in an otherwise extraordinary season.

The 2021 Packers as the 2014 Packers?

There have been a lot of parallels drawn over the last few days to the 2014. That team started slow (R-E-L-A-X), thanks in large part to a new and relatively young offensive line with a rookie center. They had some issues gelling early on, but over the final three months of the season became a top offense in the league, and were supported by solid defensive play.

I’m not particularly worried about the Packers’ offense. At some point, David Bakhtiari will return, and the quality snaps the young guys like Josh Myers and Royce Newman are getting will begin to pay dividends.

But it’s the defense where the parallels start to fall flat for me. Is this unit, with its current makeup and under the leadership of Joe Barry, capable of playing defense at the same caliber as that 2014 team?

Now, that 2014 team was not the best defense we’ve seen in the Rodgers era. It was middle of the pack in DVOA, and didn’t do particularly great with scoring defense or ranking by yardage. But it felt like that was the last time in the Dom Capers era where the defense stepped up and made big plays when needed and was capable of occasionally winning the team some games. 

The Packers’ 2020 defense was very comparable in DVOA to that 2014 defense. The talent level of that defense (which is essentially the same as the 2021 defense) is also pretty similar. 

I guess ultimately the question is whether you trust the Packers’ defense will be able to improve over its 2020 results with primarily the same players, and Joe Barry as defensive coordinator.

The results from the first game certainly are not promising.

But again, for better or for worse, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Wisconsin Beer of the Week

I started a new weekly tradition this week when I asked my Twitter followers before the game which type of beer I should crack for kickoff of the Packer game. The choices I provided were:

  1. Light and Crisp

  2. Strong and dark

  3. Fruity and sour

Choice A won out in the end, and so I went into my fridge and pulled out a truly great summertime beer, Cream City Brix by Enlightened Brewing Company here in Milwaukee

I’ve chosen a couple Enlightened beers before as my Beer of the Week. This is their most broadly distributed beer, the company’s flagship. It’s a light cream ale that goes down incredibly smoothly at 5 percent ABV.

Cream style ales predate prohibition, as do Milwaukee’s cream city bricks, which were used to build many of the most historic structures in our fair city. The word “brix” is a measure of sugar used when making wines and ciders, so it’s sort of a play on words for a Milwaukee-based beer.

It’s a very light, crisp and slightly sweet beer akin to a pilsner, the kind of beer you grab after you finish mowing the lawn, or when you’re going to head to the beach or a volleyball game. Just about any beer lover will enjoy this one.

You can pick up cans at the brewery in Milwaukee, but they also have some limited regional distribution. I purchased my cans at my local Woodman’s. 

Week one weirdness abounds

Every year there’s some really unusual stuff that happens in week one, and then things tend to sort of correct themselves throughout the rest of the season.

The Packers weren’t the only victims to week one weirdness this season.

The Cincinnati Bengals unexpectedly took down the Minnesota Vikings on their home turf in overtime. The Vikings came into the season with a lot of hype (stop me if you’ve heard this before), only to come out and lay an egg against a team that was among the worst in the league a season ago. 

The Arizona Cardinals beating the Tennessee Titans wasn’t a massive surprise, but the forcefulness with which they did it certainly was. Derrick Henry was thoroughly bottled up, and the Cardinals looked like championship contenders in the process.

The Dallas Cowboys very nearly took down the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their own stadium in an exciting opening night matchup. 

The Bills, another common choice for a Super Bowl appearance, looked flat and gave the game away to the Steelers while playing at home.

The Eagles, an offseason punching bag for many fans and analysts alike, absolutely crushed the Falcons on their home turf.

The Houston Texans, THE offseason punching bag for many fans and analysts, embarrassed the Urban Meyer/Trevor Lawrence Jaguars.

Week one is the hardest week to predict every single year, but it was especially chaotic this season. We’ll see how many of these teams continue to surprise us.

Wisconsin corn mazes for your fall enjoyment

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “corn mazes are a fall tradition in Wisconsin.” I’ll have to take their word for it, because I’m a city boy who doesn’t get out to farmland very frequently. Not that I’ve never been to a corn maze--I just don’t think about making it a part of my fall each year. 

The article I linked above provides a list of some of the best corn mazes to visit in the state, including hours of operation, costs, locations, contact info and other fun things to do while you’re there. A couple are located relatively close to Milwaukee, but the selections are spread throughout the entire state, so go wild.

I’m more of a pumpkin patch or apple orchard person, myself, because I think corn mazes would either freak me out, make me anxious or both. But if this is your kind of thing, be sure to check one out.

I’ll be heading out to my first pumpkin patch of the season in a few weeks on a field trip for my three year old’s preschool. But I’m definitely looking forward to getting some fresh apple cider (the thicker and more opaque, the better!) and some caramel apples very soon as well.

I’m not one of those folks who spends all summer waiting for fall to arrive for all the basic fall foods and activities. But come on, who doesn’t love orchard-fresh apples?!

Around the NFC North

Here we go once again around the NFC North leading into week two.

-The CHICAGO BEARS are still engaging in the Andy Dalton charade for some odd reason. At this point, Dalton is who he is. I refuse to believe he gives the team a better chance to win than Justin Fields. At least Fields doesn’t have a cap on his ability at this point in his career. I also don’t buy the argument that the Bears are holding Fields out to protect him from the Bears’ terrible offensive line. I really just think Matt Nagy is that dumb and stubborn.

-The DETROIT LIONS had a wild opening week against the 49ers. They went down big, nearly came back and ultimately collapsed as they are wont to do. Jamaal Williams had a solid debut for the team with over 100 all-purpose yards and a touchdown, so that was nice to see from a former beloved Packer. The team lost Jeff Gladney for the season, thinning them out even more at defensive back. This week they travel to take on the Packers who are going to have some frustrations to take out, so it’s unlikely things will get much better. If the Packers’ offense returns to form, it could easily be two weeks in a row to start the season that they give up more than 40 points, which would sort of make this year’s Lions the bizarro version of the 2020 Packers.

-The MINNESOTA VIKINGS have their work cut out for them this season. A loss to the Bengals to get things kicked off is disastrous for a team that had a slow start a year ago and doomed its season. This week they’ve got a date with the Arizona Cardinals, who looked like one of the better teams in football in week one in decimating the Tennessee Titans, who were expected to be contenders themselves.

Time for the Packers to insert their new blood

I brought it up briefly in my Game Changing Play of the Week article on Monday, but I just do not understand the continued insistence on giving large numbers of snaps to guys like Kevin King, Tyler Lancaster and Dean Lowry.

All of these guys are in at least their fourth year with the team. They are known commodities who are either below average to average (Lancaster and Lowry), or startlingly inconsistent, ranging from absolutely horrendous to surprisingly capable (King). 

You can absolutely do worse than Lancaster and Lowry if you’re talking about, like, rotational players (true second or third string guys). But we’re talking about guys that are still being asked to take starter reps in year four for Lancaster and six (!) for Lowry.

It’s unbelievable to me that the team has not made any legitimate effort to improve the position. How many more times does Brian Gutekunst need to see these guys get blown off the line of scrimmage before he decides to get serious about investing some serious assets in the defensive line? Because Kenny Clark can’t do it all by himself, and you can’t count on Jack Heflin and TJ Slaton to be the solutions to the problem (though you should still at least give them some opportunity to show what they’ve got).

Kingsley Keke is rapidly getting into this territory as well, by the way. He gets this year to prove himself, and then will likely be a bubble player in 2022. 

As for King… where to even begin? I was surprised when the team brought him back for this season. I really thought that the baggage was going to be too much, similar to Brett Hundley in 2018. The Scotty Miller play is forever going to live in Packer fan nightmares, along with 4th and 26, the Jerry Rice fumble that wasn’t, the Elwaycopter, the Bostick onside kick flub… you get the picture.

I understood the decision to bring him back, though. King played solid football at the beginning of the season when healthy, and was not at all at full strength in the playoffs. Maybe, just maybe, he could get back to the level of play he achieved while healthy.

The problem is, well, King is never healthy. And what we saw out of him in week one was him picking up exactly where he left off against Tampa: getting bamboozled on simple deep out routes and being spun all over the field in coverage while mediocre receivers run right past him.

I’ve seen everything I need to see from King. There’s no reason to start him any more. He’s useful as depth and as a situational player, but Eric Stokes is far more athletic and has far more upside. It’s time to put King on the bench and move on to the guy who’s going to be getting all those snaps after this season anyway.

Manningcast: Surprisingly excellent

I had a chance to go back and watch some extended cuts of the Manningcast from Monday Night Football this week.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, ESPN has Peyton and Eli Manning on a separate broadcast of Monday Night Football adding their own insight, commentary and reactions, with some occasional guests popping in and out throughout the evening. 

I watched the full end of game and overtime, and it was really outstanding. Way better than any MNF commentary we’ve seen in years. An excellent balance of humor and really smart football with a laid back feel to it. Awesome to see these two quarterbacks dissecting plays as they’re happening live. Their reactions to a lot of plays were hilariously low key, also--you can tell they’re watching games completely differently than how fans do. Their responses tend to be quite academic, though every now and then they get pretty excited about what’s happening.

The alternate telecast airs on ESPN2 and ESPN+. It’ll be happening on 10 different editions of MNF throughout the season, so any time it comes on I’ll definitely be giving it a watch. 

I have to admit that I thought this would come across as gimmicky and lame, but it actually ended up being a really cool and unique telecast and I hope they continue to explore this more.

Prediction for Lions vs. Packers

So obviously I’m picking the Packers to win against Detroit on Monday Night. 

I just cannot believe this team is so far up its own ass that they’re going to come in and overlook the Lions after getting thoroughly embarrassed in week one. 

This team has a history of performing very well after losses under Matt LaFleur. The Lions’ weaknesses are innumerable, and the Packers will almost certainly attack that weak secondary with the play action while giving Aaron Jones plenty of the touches that he failed to get in week one.

This one shouldn’t be close.

But if it is… hoo boy, this team’s in worse shape than we thought.

Packers 31, Lions 17 with some garbage points.



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.

6 points

Comments (16)

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

September 16, 2021 at 06:46 am

I know that the subject is already chewed, but my opinion is that terrible outing in Jacksonville is the by product of this year spring saga. I suppose many players (who are not friends or directly dependent on Aaron Rodgers) have question marks over their heads when trying to justify all that sh*t what was happening whole spring and part of the summer before TC. When we are talking about respect shown to players many of us (and the players themselves) talks how much money some player get with the contract as this is the measure how much respected that player(s) is/are. Now they have opportunity to listen the most expensive player in the whole NFL how he claims that money is not the issue, that money have nothing with respect. He claims that respect can be shown by allowing him to mess with others job. He got Randall Cobb (?) and he got the right to change every play-call his play-caller (in this case HC) announce to him. But, if it is not about the money, than why he do not want to renegotiate his contract and cut the money he is suppose to get? Very beautiful mystery, isn't it?

Second, I already stated that it looks to me how Tampa 2 D is form of D our beloved Diva does not know how to handle. I had some uncertainty that I might be wrong, as I'm not that good in understanding football systems. But yesterday I found article that has numbers to prove I was right. Here it is, if you want to look at the article:

Regarding Lancaster and Lowry - they might be on their down years, so there may be real concern. I say play Slaton and Heflin, trade or cut Lowry, release Lancaster and promote Abdullah Anderson from PS, the guy who showed some promise during the preseason.

Regarding Kevin King - I'm not trying to defend KK. Just want to say that KK bad games comes always when Packers play zone, and when they plays 10+ yards from receiver. When Packers play "man" Kevin King is above average. So, MLF confirmed that after last preseason, saying when KK is pressuring the WR he is good as any in the league. So it is really mind boggling when you learn how coaches knows what is his strength and what is his weakness and still playing him to his weakness.

Tim, thank you for your thoughts.

5 points
NickPerry's picture

September 16, 2021 at 06:50 am

If there was ever a MUST WIN game week 2 of an NFL season for the Packers it's this week against the Lions. Now, TRYING to put my obvious "Homer" feelings aside, I look at these teams and honestly think this should be a cakewalk for the Packers Monday Night.

The Packers O-Line wasn't nearly as bad as I thought against the Saints week one. Jenkins is just a freak and IMO is one of the best ALL AROUND O-Linemen in the NFL. Plug this kid in anywhere and he performs...Jenkins was the #2 ranked LT according to PFF last week. Meyers was ranked 5th, Patrick 8th, Turner 20th. The only stinker was Neuman who ranked 44th. The PROBLEMS was everywhere else starting at the HC and QB. The game plan stunk, the play calling was worse, and the QB play, well that was the worse shitshow of Rodgers career.

The Defense? I can't even waste another breath. But I do expect a MUCH better performance Monday. This defense really does have a lot of talent at all levels. Clearly Clark is a bit lonely as far as talent going around on the DL, but I still like Barnes, love Gary and the Smiths, and the moment we insert Stokes for King, the Packers will have a damn good secondary that just needs so time to gel and excel in this scheme. (Okay maybe a little Homer in that last sentence)

8 points
Coldworld's picture

September 16, 2021 at 08:47 am

The worst performance on the field was from Rodgers. That’s a hard mountain to overcome. Add in terrible preparation, a poor or abandoned game plan and horrible personnel choices and usage on a D that also looked confused and you have a melt down. Rodgers, LaFleur and Barry have a great deal to answer. Getting lost in blaming this on King or Lowry or even the FO is to blame the symptom not the disease.

3 points
NickPerry's picture

September 17, 2021 at 05:36 am

"Rodgers, LaFleur and Barry have a great deal to answer. Getting lost in blaming this on King or Lowry or even the FO is to blame the symptom not the disease."

While I agree with this comment and I KNOW it's not entirely Kings fault, but CW, King IS NOT getting better. That 55 TD pss was a perfect example of Kevin King. Or what about the out pattern for a 1st down for about 13 yards where King gave a 10 yard cushion and the Saints WR who ran the out still had a 8 yard cushion WITH king still backpedaling when he made his cut towards the sideline and the ball was already in the air.

Teams are going to continue to attack King and it's just too easy for the opposing offense to eat with King out there. Let Stokes play, get his lumps early. He can't possibly be worse and the experience priceless.

0 points
Razer's picture

September 16, 2021 at 07:34 am

...It’s unbelievable to me that the team has not made any legitimate effort to improve the position. How many more times does Brian Gutekunst need to see these guys get blown off the line of scrimmage...

True Tim - no where to go but up - you would think. I have been thinking this about our defense for a decade and D-line in particular. When are we going to do something about this? After Rodgers is long gone?

No where to go but up on offense. There is no rebuild here or lack of talent or even lack of knowledge. We did it last year and had a year to refine/enhance the formula. So what's the problem? Team think?

Get to work boys.

Thanks Tim for the beer reviews - maybe the best part of our weekly recap. I too like the crisper, lighter ales and ipas. I could almost taste the cream ale brix from your description.

0 points
RedRight49's picture

September 16, 2021 at 07:47 am

On paper the Packers should win this game and on Lambeau Field the Packers will win this game.

What little concern I have about the game is that the Lions have nothing to loose ( except another L in the long list of Ls to the Pack) and everything to prove.

Campbell the Coach came to Detroit after about 5 years on the Saints staff so he should have an excellent grasp of what the Saint's did, albeit with better personnel than the Lions have, to dominate the Pack.

The Lions had lots of fight in 'em till the final whistle against the '49, never quit fighting when far behind and likely will be ready to play a hard 60 minute slugfest come Monday night.

Quintez Cephus had some nice routes and scores and I would hate to see him or any of the Detroit WRs given too much cushion as we've seen the Packer's D backfield so generously gift receivers.

This is a game for both the Packers O and D to settle in and execute to the best of their abilities and the Pack should put up 28 - 38 points if they are the Pack
I believe they are.

The Packer's D should be more in sync this week and I would like to see more Stokes and how about a dose of Heflin in the rotation?

The Pack wins on Monday night and the Mannings have to acknowledge that Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and Aaron Jones are back on the winning track.


0 points
stockholder's picture

September 16, 2021 at 08:05 am

This team has problems. Pushing flexibility isn't going to work. The same O , Same O, on this Team, keeps them from succeeding. I've bitched about DL for years. Other then Alexander and Gary. The talent is regressing. Why? Age and SPEED. I want man to man ,now. Either you can tackle or can't. You may like the reps everyone gets. But it's not what champions do. It's time to Face facts. Is Savage Nick Collins? What really is Kings problem? Wasn't he drafted to play man to man? Sullivan will always see the first pass. And where is the heart of this Defense? Yes I'm referring to the LBs. If guys look slow. Their taking plays off. Was it time to rebuild the OL Wall? I still believe their were better choices. And the Brass didn't make them.

-3 points
Coldworld's picture

September 16, 2021 at 08:42 am

In my view we mostly have better options. For me this is primarily an issue for the coaches not the FO. I don’t know why we continue with Clark at DE. Im willing to let Slaton and Heflin learn on the job over Lowry and Lancaster who is just coming off an arm issue as well. As to King, if one is going to play him, even LaFleur admits he needs to be used to pressure, yet that played him well off his man. Firstly that’s clearly dumb as the past has shown the HC as well as fans and, secondly, let Stokes learn.

Repeating obvious mistakes deserves ridicule. That the coaches did requires answers. Let the young players learn over playing ones we know to be back up level or just being played directly against type or physically impaired. This roster isn’t perfect: what NFL roster is? But, blaming this primarily on the FO misses the point entirely, just as the coaches did last week. That is a recipe for continuing folly.

2 points
Booner's picture

September 16, 2021 at 09:44 am

Stink Stank Stunk! That sums up the coaching and effort by the entire team last week!
Go out and do your job!

2 points
jont's picture

September 16, 2021 at 10:03 am

Thanks for the pointer about an alternative booth crew for MNF. I have never liked ESPN's announcers, and it's not getting better. The play by play guy still sounds like each night is his first football game, and I couldn't care less about the gay guy and the ones who stopped drinking... great, good for them, now drop it already and get back to football.

4 points
TarynsEyes's picture

September 16, 2021 at 10:35 am

Does anyone remember the fear that Shane Falco had in The Replacements, quicksand? With a loss to Detriot this team just might be standing in it.

4 points
Difer's picture

September 16, 2021 at 02:30 pm

The Packers should fare better than they did in Jacksonville (the graveyard of all things green & gold). But, please, let's put the Superbowl aspirations back in the beer keg. The Packers, for now, are a realistic contender for the division title, and a 1 and done playoff appearance. Just enjoy the wins and forget the losses. Beer will help with that.

2 points
Jaqu’eau's picture

September 16, 2021 at 09:18 pm

I respect your opinion and totally appreciate you sharing it. But, why should we drop Super Bowl aspirations for much less, especially after only one (admittedly lousy) game? If SB aspirations are an exaggeration after Sunday, then isn’t your prophetic early playoff exit an even greater exaggeration in the opposite direction at this point? Lotta ballgame left, let’s see where it takes us!

-1 points
splitpea1's picture

September 16, 2021 at 02:36 pm

Who knows why Lowry, Lancaster, and King were re-signed and continue to receive a large amount of playing time?

Maybe the front office likes these guys personally and wants to give them every chance to succeed.

Maybe the front office and coaching staff prefer familiarity and predictability over new faces.

Maybe the front office is a little unsure of itself when assessing certain defensive positions early in the draft.

Maybe the front office thinks and hopes that a great offense will overcome everything, even though it's been proven four times in the last decade that as far as you can get is to be an NFC bridesmaid.

Maybe the front office thinks the vast majority of the fan base is perfectly content with double-digit win seasons and nothing more.

-3 points
Jaqu’eau's picture

September 16, 2021 at 09:23 pm

Thanks for the article. I live out of state, so I won’t be able to enjoy the cream ale brix, but wonder how it compares to the OG Blatz cream ale!

0 points
GP1's picture

September 19, 2021 at 12:44 am

The article makes the point that across the League teams have changed re the previous season but rejects any possibility that the Packers have changed re last season. Even after the horrendous off season in which our QB stated that he wanted out and other unkind comments about Green Bay. That our best wide receiver also made it clear that he wanted out and Both he and the other W.R.s from last year took no part in anything but the compulsory pre-season activities. Mr Z Smith also made it known that he was not happy and has taken virtually no part in anything and is now on I.R. The scenes of the bench suggest that the rest of the squad is not happy with the aforementioned players ergo this is not a happy team. Mr Rogers created this. Mr Rogers has got to fix it or that is his legacy.

0 points