It's tough to get a straight answer in the NFL sometimes, let alone something
bordering on insightful. After sorting through the ever popular "we just have to
take it one game at time," the tried and true "those guys are paid to make
plays, too," and my personal favorite, "I'll have to wait until I see the film,
" I decided to consult the last reliable source available to answer ten burning
questions about the Green Bay Packers and their remaining schedule. That's
right, the Magic 8 Ball.
Okay, let's give it a shake ...
Q: Any chance the defense will turn things around?
Magic 8 Ball says: Reply Hazy Try Again
We're not off to a great start, but that sounds about right. Roughly ten months separated from their losses to the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons, it seems Green Bay is still trying to figure out how to fix this side of the ball. Inconsistent pressure on the quarterback, a lack of turnovers and an inability to get off the field on third down have led to a near rock-bottom ranking. This group may have gotten faster since last year's playoff debacle, but they haven't gotten much better.
Q: Can Ahman Green avoid fumbling during the next seven games?
Magic 8 Ball says: My Sources Say No
These results aren't scientific, but there's a better chance of J Lo and Ben
eating Thanksgiving dinner at my house than Green hanging onto the pigskin for
the next seven weeks. You don't have to like it, but it's going to happen so you
might as well prepare for it. Green is one of the games' strongest, smoothest
and most instinctive runners who's a threat to score every time he touches the
ball. With a league-leading seven fumbles, he's also a threat to cough it up,
but the good by far outweighs the bad. Brett Favre will throw interceptions.
Green will fumble. Both are great. Period.
Q: Is Grady Jackson the answer to the teams pass rush woes?
Magic 8 Ball says: Ask Again Later
Okay, that's fair. Happy to be on a new team with a clean slate, the former
New Orleans problem child debuted for the Green and Gold with four tackles and a
half sack. Jackson is a big, big man. Let's just say when he sits around the
locker room, he... well, you get the picture. While the acquisition of Jackson
may not cure all that ills this unit, it's a Sasquatch-sized step in the right
direction. In Jackson, Green Bay gets a veteran player, that when sufficiently
motivated, can move that weight very quickly toward some very unlucky
quarterback. If he can draw some of the double teams Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila gets
each week, let alone get the quarterback himself, things might start coming
Q: Is the ‘Lambeau Mystique' gone?
Magic 8 Ball says: Signs Point To Yes
I don't want to say ‘I told you so,' but I knew taking down that green sheet metal would be a mistake. Sadly, as beautiful as the newly renovated Lambeau Field is, it is not the den of fear that it once was for opponents. There's a chance that's because the lions in the den aren't as strong or as hungry as they once were. Or maybe Green Bay relied too much on their opponents getting caught up in said mystique and not enough on their ability to defend their home turf. Whatever the case, the Packers have lost four of their last six games at home and it's clear the impenetrable aura that once existed is no longer in effect.
Q: If Bhawoh Jue had a blanket, could he cover himself?
Magic 8 Ball says: Don't Count On It
Remember back in 2001 when LeRoy Butler cracked his shoulder blade and Jue
took over at strong safety for seven games? The Penn State rookie looked like
the Packers next stud defensive back. Fast-forward two years and Jue is known
more for the plays he didn't make than any he did. After a groin injury
shortened his 2002 season, Jue was hoping to be involved in some big plays this
season at cornerback. He was. Just ask Eddie Kennison and Todd Pinkston.
Q: Can Javon Walker become a consistent threat down the stretch?
Magic 8 Ball says: Cannot Predict Now
He burst onto the scene in last year's playoff loss, but couldn't wrest the job away from Robert Ferguson. He saw increased playing time when Ferguson was sidelined with injuries, but even when Ferguson returned, Walker continued to contribute. Through nine games, Walker is second on the team in touchdowns, and first in yards per catch. In an offense that hasn't thrown deep that often, Walker's found a way to either get open or get the all-important YAC (yards after catch). Known for his speed, it's curious why the Packers ran Donald Driver and not Walker deep against a Philadelphia secondary missing two Pro Bowl players. But then again, wasn't it curious that they threw deep against three-time Pro Bowler Troy Vincent and not some guy named Lito Sheppard?
Q: Should Joe Johnson and Jamal Reynolds be learning a skilled trade?
Magic 8 Ball says: As I See It Yes
If you think of the NFL Draft and free agent signings as a sort of high-stakes game of Battleship, Johnson and Reynolds would be major misses. Oddly enough, their inability to provide the Packers with anything close to what they thought they were getting may have ultimately sunk the team's season in 2003. In two years, this duo has combined for 38 tackles and three sacks. Just think what that money might have got you. No one will miss either of these two next season.
Q: Any chance of a Packer returner taking one the distance?
Magic 8 Ball says: It Is Certain
I think the Magic Ball may be confused. The recently signed and released
Reggie Swinton returned a kick for a touchdown after the Lions signed him, but
what about Antonio Chatman? Despite being built like the kid bagging your
groceries at Pick ‘N' Save, the former Arena League standout has done a
respectable job. Does he evoke images of Desmond Howard or for that matter even
Roell Preston? Not exactly. Part of Chatman's early problems was his penchant
for dancing around after initially catching the ball. Presumably, Special Teams
Coach John Bonamego has explained that he is not auditioning for the next
Beyonce video and over the last few games, Chatman has done a better job of
heading up field. But as far as taking one to the house? Don‘t bet your check on
Q: Nick Barnett, NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year?
Magic 8 Ball says: Without A Doubt
Barnett is set on proving that the dreaded ‘Rookie Wall' that players run
into around this time of year is either a figment of the imagination or a crutch
for less determined, less conditioned players. Nine games in, Barnett remains
one of the squad's most consistent playmakers. Tied for second in sacks and
interceptions with two each, he leads the team with 90 tackles. Named the NFL's
Defensive Rookie of the Month for October, Barnett is leading the NFC voting for
the Pro Bowl at middle linebacker. Now that's a great rookie season.
Q: Can the Packers get in to the playoffs?
Magic 8 Ball says: Outlook Not So Good
That's not a definitive ‘no,' but this team has been far too inconsistent
thus far to think they're playoff bound. They lost their home opener, fell flat
in the dessert, didn't seal the deal vs. KC and let the Eagles drive down the
field for the win a day after conference foes Minnesota, Tampa Bay, New York and
Seattle all lost. Now Green Bay is one of six 4-5 teams in the NFC with little,
if any, margin for error. The remaining schedule looks easy, but so did their
date in Arizona. A loss on Sunday likely puts them three games back for a wild
card spot and erases any hope of catching the Vikings for the NFC North title,
still with seven games left, anything can happen.
And there you have it. Cryptic, controversial and at times confusing, at least the Magic 8 Ball avoided the cliches. Time will tell how accurate its answers are.
(W. Keith Roerdink is a freelance writer from Wausau, Wis. and a longtime contributor to the Packer Report. Check out his weekly Hot Read column every Thursday.)