So today the Wisconsin football Badgers play their first road game of the season, on the periphery of Sin City against the UNLV Runnin' Rebels. Wisconsin, currently ranked 5th in both the AP and the Coaches' polls, is a 25 point favorite, according to the line in today's paper. UNLV is unranked, and coming off their first road win in several years, a close victory over the Aggies of Utah State.
Anyone else remember the last time a high ranked Wisconsin team played an overlooked UNLV squad? Uh, right . . . the Wisco men's basketball team's total pants-crapping against UNLV in the second round of the NCAA tournament this spring. I was there, and it sucked, hard. Thus, the theme of my Badgers preview is this-- vengeance! Let UW cover the spread and kick some ass.
Seriously now, UNLV has a redshirt freshman at quarterback who's starting his second game. He ran for a bunch of yards on Utah State, so apparently is quite mobile. Their running back is a big stolid guy who transferred from a juco, and their wideouts are apparently pretty good. The run a four wide receiver spread, which I imagine UW will try to deal with through their base package (with Casillas and Levy matching up on wideouts), but may have to counter with their Nickel. I haven't heard much about their defense, except that it was rated poorly last season, but they have one good linebacker, who's first name is Beau, and last name begins with B. Anyhow, I'm hoping UW will be able to run on them, and I hope fans will see a better performance from the defense-- improved angels of pursuit and surer tackling. I could definitely see UNLV having some success early on offense, like last week. But again, Wisconsin should figure it out and shut them out as the game progresses, and they should be good on offense throughout.
The Badgers don't have Lance, and they shouldn't use up PJ on the Rebels so Zach Brown and John Clay, hopefully, will get plenty of carries. It'll be neat to see what they can do. Hell, it'd be neat to see the game at all. The stupid thing is being carried on Versus, which my carrier only gives to you on the "every conceivable channel known to man" package. Thus, it looks like I'll be wasting money at some late night establishment-- the game comes on at 9 pm Central.
The Packers game, well, who knows what to expect? Philly shredded the Packers through the air last season in Ahmad Carroll's final performance in a Green Bay uniform. McNabb ("McSchnabb") is back and looks relatively healthy, though returning from ACL tears can take a while, and often folks are never quite the same afterwards. Their running back, Bryant Westbrook is a player, both carrying and catching the ball, and was probably a first round draft pick in your fantasy league. Their wide receivers remain unproven, though the signed the Rams' white boy speedster Kevin Curtis in the offseason. They have a very good secondary (Dawkins is getting old but is a perennial Pro Bowler), but relatively unproven linebackers and an aging and/or inexperienced defensive line.
This game could be tight, as it will be apparent strength (Philly's McSchnabb directed offense) vs. apparent strength (the Packers' (hopefully) solid defense). Philly fans and most Vegas prognosticators think the Packers secondary still sucks, a la last season, and are predicting a big day from the Eaglet's passing game. It'll be interesting to see how the D holds up, after another year under Bates, another off-season to mature for the younger players, and Atari "Sega" Bigby replacing Manuel at safety.
My expectations for the Packers' offense, and thus for their scoring potential, are low. Jennings tweaked a hammie this week, Driver is still coming back off his scary sprained foot, Morency may not play, and Brandon Jackson was recently concussed. (Why the eff don't all NFL players wear the concussion prevention helmets? Morons!) And it's not like the offense was setting the world on fire in the preseason, even with most of these guys healthy.
I think the Eagles are a playoff team going into the season, so it could be tough. The Eagles are favored by Vegas and pretty much everyone else out there. For the Packers, and especially for the defense, it's put up or shut up time. The Packers look better than last season, but fans are nervous, and personally, my expectations are low, largely because I have serious doubts about the offense and I think their schedule is tougher than last season. It's time to put these alleged improvements to the test-- a good showing against the Eagles, even, daresay, a victory, would do wonders for fans and the team's image.