by Troy Sparks
GREEN BAY – With their record still unblemished before their game, Dec. 11, at home, against the Oakland Raiders, the Green Bay Packers will see the interest and hordes of national media outlets increase. Add to that the pressure (even though the players won’t admit it) of trying to finish the season undefeated and it could be very hard for the green and gold to deal with.
The Packers did everything right and the Raiders did everything wrong. With all the penalties that Oakland committed in the game (11), you wonder if that will cost head coach Hue Jackson his job. Al Davis is gone, but his son, Mark, will continue to run that organization with an iron fist like his father did.Green Bay did everything the same way for the last 13 weeks. They scored points. This game was over by halftime as they went into the locker room with a 31-0 lead.
Oakland got on the board in the third quarter with a touchdown from running back Michael Bush to trail 34-7. But in the NFL, comebacks happen all the time. Giving momentum back to the Raiders was nothing that Packer fans had to worry about. The Pack led 46-9 early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ day was done. He helped the green and gold score a team-record 463 points through 13 games and 57 TDs. Green Bay went to 13-0 with a 46-16 win over Oakland.
So the $64,000 question that everybody wants to know is: Who can beat the Green Bay Packers? “Coach (Mike McCarthy) has always told us, ‘Don’t believe the hype,’ ” receiver Donald Driver said. “We have to take care of ourselves. We control the game. We always said, no one can beat us but ourselves. And that’s a true fact.”
With the Packers clinching the NFC North division and a first round bye, there’s still a lot to play for in the final stretch of the regular season, like home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Linebacker Clay Matthews said that keeping the momentum rolling into the postseason and not taking the foot off the gas will help the team focused on reaching the Super Bowl.
“Obviously, you want to be peaking towards the end of the season and into the playoffs,” he said. “I think last year, there was no other team with as much momentum as we had, especially on defense. With a performance like tonight, hopefully we can back that up next week (Dec. 18 at Kansas City) and move forward with that.”
Bucks Ready to Roll
Now that the NBA lockout is over and the players are back to work, we’ll see what the Milwaukee Bucks can do with all the new talent that filtered through the Cousins Center for their hastily arranged Media Day, Dec. 10. Last season, the team went through the same thing with new players who didn’t mesh, and that’s part of the reason why they had a losing season in 2010-11.
Eight players return from last season. Darington Hobson is getting a second chance. When he had hip problems last year, the Bucks released him. Hobson had surgery and is back in camp. The other seven players on the preseason roster are draft picks, acquisitions through trades and free agents.
Head coach Scott Skiles has to find playing time for everyone and put together a winning formula in their shortened season. “I thought at this time last year, managing minutes might be difficult,” he said. “Most days, we had half a team because of injuries. Normally, those things work itself out that way.”
The Bucks have enough weapons on offense, but they also have to play defense every once in a while. To help with that side of the ball, the club welcomed a legend and a guy who knows about playing defense. He received the NBA’s first defensive player of the year award.
“Coach Skiles has a tremendous defensive system, and (the players) buy into it,” new Bucks assistant coach Sidney Moncrief said. “I don’t think we’ll have any problems with the players understanding it.” Moncrief brings instant credibility to the organization, which already has been in place with his participation in past events on behalf of the team, with a floor level view from the bench. “They see the old guy on the wall,” he said.
Bucks owner Herb Kohl is relieved that the NBA is up and running. “We just play basketball and entertain our fans,” Kohl said. “Labor woes, that’s no fun.”
The new collective bargaining agreement and revenue sharing will help all teams. “I think our balance is good for small market teams,” Kohl said. “It gives us a very real opportunity to be profitable, which hasn’t been true for quite a number of years.”
Kohl voted for the new agreement between the players union and the owners. For the Bucks, they could get between $5 million and $16 million a year. Kohl did acknowledge that building a new arena should be top priority for whoever owns the team whenever he is ready to sell it and ownership changes hands.
Braun’s Image Took Blow
If Ryan Braun’s positive test for a banned substance is upheld, that will tarnish his squeaky clean image a little bit. It was reported that Braun knew a month before he received the NL MVP award that he tested positive. He probably swore on a stack of Bibles that he was innocent. If Braun’s guilty, his suspension may be either 25 or 50 games. You have to wonder how Brewer fans will look at him now as a player and human being.
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