Monday, December 10, 2012

Packers Prospering in Adversity

The storyline looks strangely familiar.

Over the last three seasons, when the situation appears to be particularly bleak, the Green Bay Packers do their best work. Conversely, when they seem to be set up to succeed, they inexplicably find a way not to.

The 2012 Packers seem to be reverting to the 2010 storyline: adversity followed by triumph.

The Packers defeated the Detroit Lions Sunday night, 27-20, improving their record to 9-4. The win gave the Packers sole possession of the lead in the North Division, and calmed a Packer fan base that has been in a nervous frenzy for the majority of the season.

The Packers stumbled out of the blocks this year, dipping to 1-2 after the infamous last-second loss to the Seahawks. Many people in Wisconsin thought the anger over the blown call controversy would spur the Packers, but Green Bay found itself below .500 again just two weeks later after a loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Panic spread quickly in Cheesehead Nation, with fans thinking the unthinkable: this team might not make the playoffs.

Since then, the Packers have won seven of their last eight games, and currently are in position for the third seed in the NFC. If the Packers defeat the Chicago Bears next week, they will clinch the NFC North Division and a spot in the playoffs. 

This all comes after an onslaught of injuries, similar to the 2010 season. In 2010 the Packers lost starting running back Ryan Grant to injury, along with tightend Jermichael Finley, defensive lineman Johnny Jolly, linebacker Nick Barnett, and offensive lineman Mark Tauscher among others. Despite these key injuries, the Packers made a late run, winning five straight on their way to the Super Bowl. The Packers managed to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, even after losing Charles Woodson in the first half to injury.

The 2011 Packers looked like a team prepared to make a run at the Super Bowl again, with minimal adversity faced the entire season. The Packers lost only one regular season game, and suffered no major injuries outside of a spinal injury to safety Nick Collins. They built momentum over the course of an entire season, only to fall flat in their first playoff game against the New York Giants.

This year, the team has been much more frustrating to watch, but you cannot deny its recent effectiveness. Their 9-4 record comes despite an onslaught of injuries yet again. Running back Cedric Benson, cornerback Charles Woodson, linebacker Clay Matthews, wide receiver Jordy Nelson, wide receiver Greg Jennings, offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga, cornerback Sam Shields, and offensive lineman Derek Sherrod have all missed considerable time due to injury. Yet somehow, the Packers have powered through and found ways to win. With Jennings returning against the Lions, and Matthews and Woodson due back against the Bears, the Packers are slowly returning to a healthier-looking team nearing the playoffs. 

Maybe the recipe in Green Bay isn’t to play great football year-long, but rather to build character along the way and win when it counts. Ironically over the two previous seasons, the Packers did better dealing with adversity than they did dealing with prosperity. Packer fans can only hope that this 2012 team continues to contend with adversity the way that the 2010 team did.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hamilton poor fit

For several months now, rumors have swirled that the Milwaukee Brewers are interested in signing free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton. But at the Winter Meetings in Nashville last week, manager Ron Roenicke downplayed the whole idea.

“We are good offensively,” Roenicke said. “We don’t need to make any changes in what we have with our regular players. And Josh comes at a high price.”

Roenicke’s voice is one of reason. While fans in Milwaukee would love to see a star-studded outfield that included both Hamilton and Ryan Braun, signing Hamilton would be unreasonable for a variety of reasons.

The Brewers already have a potent lineup that led the National League in both home runs and runs scored in the 2012 season. They are in position to return that everyday lineup in 2013, and the arrival of Josh Hamilton would crowd an outfield that has three viable starters in place. 

On top of that comes questions of Hamilton’s salary and age. He will be turning 32 next season, and injuries have hampered him his whole career. He has only played in 150 games once in his six-year career, and will most likely be seeking at least a five-year deal. Spending big money on Hamilton over a long period of time is a risk that the Brewers won’t be willing to take. The Brewers made an effort to keep Prince Fielder in Milwaukee through free agency, but lost the bidding war to Detroit. If the Brewers couldn’t retain a player that grew up in their farm system, it can’t be expected that they will manage to sign Hamilton, one of the premier free agents this offseason.

Even if the Brewers could afford Hamilton, the organization is better advised to focus on a pitching staff that is stretched thin in the bullpen, and largely unproven in the starting rotation. Roenicke knows the importance of finding pitching this offseason as well.

“Obviously anytime you can get a quality starter, that’s important,” Roenicke said. “But if what we’re looking at isn’t much better than our young guys, all of a sudden it becomes important to look at the bullpen. Because there are holes in the bullpen. There aren’t holes in our starting rotation.”

The most immediate need appears to be in the bullpen, with the Brewers only returning relievers John Axford, Jim Henderson, and Brandon Kintzler. But the starting rotation is far from a sure thing either. While the Brewers already have six starters to fill five rotation spots, three of those candidates have less than a year of major league experience. 

Josh Hamilton would be an exciting addition to any club, but he isn’t the right acquisition for this one.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2012-13 Milwaukee Bucks Season Preview

We're almost on the dawn of a brand new NBA season and with a promising draft class, the Bucks are younger, stronger and looking to impress this year.

With that said, here is the official WisSportsCentral season preview for the 2012-13 Milwaukee Bucks:

Marquis Daniels
Mike Dunleavy
Monta Ellis
Mustapha Farrakhan
Eddie Gill
Orien Greene
Brandon Jennings
Doron Lamb
Beno Udrih

Tobias Harris
John Henson
Ersan Ilyasova
Luc Mbah a Moute
Larry Sanders
Alando Tucker

Samuel Dalembert
Drew Gooden
Joel Przybilla
Ekpe Udoh

The Bucks roster currently sits at 19 players. However, the Bucks are only allowed to carry 12 on their active roster and must keep at least 1 on the inactive roster, where they can have up to 3 players (which includes players sent to the NBA Developmental League. In this case, it's likely the Bucks will either release Farrakhan, Greene and Tucker or send them to the D-League and then likely cut Daniels, Przybilla and Gill. Still, the Bucks would need to trim their roster by 1. Perhaps Gooden? Who knows...

Your 2012-13 starting lineup:

G - Brandon Jennings
G - Monta Ellis
F - Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
F - Ersan Ilyasova
C - Samuel Dalembert

Obviously, the Bucks will run the 1-2 punch of Jennings and Ellis at guard.

At forward, the only guarantee is Ilyasova. Earning a new contract this off-season, Ilyasova is going to have to prove he wasn't just having a "contract year."

I think that Mbah a Moute (who will be referred to as MaM from here on out) earns the other starting forward job over Harris and Dunleavy simply because of his stellar defensive play. Harris will see a much larger role with the Bucks this season, and it's possible that he will split time with MaM but I still think that he will start the season coming off the bench.

Coming to Milwaukee in the deal that sent Jon Leuer, Jon Brockman, Shaun Livingston and the 12th pick to Houston, Samuel Dalembert is the easy choice to start at center. Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh will get quality minutes at both the 4 and 5 spots as well, but Dalembert should see most of the minutes to begin the season.

The Bench:

G-F - Mike Dunleavy
G - Doron Lamb
G - Beno Udrih
F - Tobias Harris
F - John Henson
F-C - Larry Sanders
C-F - Drew Gooden
C-F - Ekpe Udoh

I think it's likely that Dunleavy will essentially be the team's "Sixth Man," taking over Carlos Delfino's role. Udrih will play PG whenever Ellis or Jennings aren't in. Henson should see about 20-25 minutes to start the season, mainly used in key defensive situations. Doron Lamb will hopefully translate his college game into being a solid contributor of 3-pointers. Harris' role is still uncertain to me, but I'm certain he will see plenty of playing time for a change. In the post, there will likely be a rotation between Sanders and Udoh as the pair are similarly effective on defense. Gooden will likely see garbage time this season, as his role this season should be more focused on simply being a "veteran presence." The Bucks have too many young players to develop so it would be a shame watching them waste away sitting on the bench.

What to expect:

I think this year's Bucks team has a decent amount of talent, but with a stacked Eastern Conference the postseason is likely just out of reach. It's a great thing to be young, but I'm afraid the Bucks might be too young. Defensively, they will be one of the best teams in the NBA. The Bradley Center will certainly be hosting a "block party" every night the Bucks are in town. Offensively, I'm afraid if Ellis or Jennings have an off shooting night, the Bucks don't really have anyone to step up and take over the scoring duty.

PREDICTION: 38-44, 3rd in Central Division, 9th in Eastern Conference.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Recap: Packers vs. Chargers - Week 1 Preseason

Thumbs Up: Nick Perry, Dezman Moses, Anthony Levine, Randall Cobb, Erik Walden, Tim Masthay

Thumbs Down: James Starks, Shaky Smithson, Diondre Borel, Herb Taylor, Casey Hayward, Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings, Graham Harrell, Marc Tyler

Our take: The Packers' offense struggled to get anything going throughout the entire game. Other than a nice drive from
Graham Harrell at the end of the 2nd quarter, the Pack just couldn't move the ball well, averaging only 3.4 yards per play. Some of the youngsters (Starks, Gilleylen) had trouble hanging onto the ball and backup QB Graham Harrell overthrew his targets multiple times. The uncertainty at left tackle didn't seem to be much of an issue, but Herb Taylor seemed overwhelmed by Chargers rookie DE Melvin Ingram. The offensive line as a whole allowed only two sacks.

Defensively, the secondary looked like it struggled in coverage at times, allowing a wide open pass down the middle to Antonio Gates for a TD in the 1st quarter and another to Vincent Brown in 2nd quarter. Tackling was also an issue on a couple plays; veteran safety Morgan Burnett missed a touchdown-saving tackle in the 2nd quarter. Pass rush looked decent, though only two sacks were recorded.

On special teams, punter Tim Masthay was in the zone averaging 49.5 yards/punt, with a long of 62 yards. Youngsters Diondre Borel and Shaky Smithson both fumbled punts, though Smithson recovered his.


Green Bay played with a losing effort. Too many mistakes. Sloppy play just a part of the preseason, however. Look for some of the kinks to be worked out by the time the team plays Cleveland next week.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

We're Back!

Welcome back, Wisconsin sports fans! After a long hiatus, Ryan and I are back in the reporting game and we vow to once again deliver the latest in Wisconsin sports news! Be sure to LIKE us on Facebook!