Big Tests Ahead For The Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers have been mediocre this season, even with a healthy Aaron Rodgers back in the saddle. The Packers are 3-2-1. They rank in the middle of the NFL in both points scored and points allowed. The smart money in Las Vegas has lost confidence in them—Green Bay is available at healthy 25-1 odds to win the Super Bowl. By comparison, the Pittsburgh Steelers—another team off to a slow start with a great veteran quarterback—are at 18-1. Here’s a few thoughts on the Packers’ performance thus far…
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*Rodgers has become an erratic quarterback. His 61.7% completion rate is one of the worst in the NFL. Only five other starting QBs are worse and four of them are rookies. While Rodgers’ yards-per-attempt of 7.9 is pretty good, that doesn’t make up for this kind of inefficiency. Nor is there a reason for it. Not with Davante Adams emerging as a #1 receiver and Jimmy Graham in the fold at tight end.
*The offensive line, rarely a team strength, has serious holes at both guard spots. A direct consequence of this is the lack of any meaningful running game.
*The defense needs Clay Matthews and Nick Perry to be playmakers on the edge. Both are playing subpar football. In fairness, Matthews has become the focal point of the NFL’s new determination to flag every little hit on quarterbacks and that’s hindered his production. But whatever the reason, a defense that is questionable in the secondary, is not going to succeed without its two best pass-rushers.
*To conclude the bad news—Green Bay’s next two games are on the road against the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots. If we look further into the schedule, there’s difficult road trips to Minnesota and Chicago still on deck. It’s going to get harder, not easier, for the Packers moving forward.
But to focus only on what’s above would be to be paint an overly bleak picture. There are also positives in Green Bay…
*As mentioned, Adams is developing a real rapport with Rodgers as the new #1 receiver. Maybe Packer fans can finally emotionally let go of Jordy Nelson.
*The perimeter of the offensive line, the most important part when it comes to pass protection, is in good hands. David Bakhtari is one of the league’s best left tackles. If Bryan Bulaga can keep himself healthy on the right side, that will seal up both edges. Ryan Linsley is a stabilizing force at center.
*On the other side of the ball, Kenny Clark is a terrific nose tackle. This is an absolute prerequisite for any defense that relies on its outside linebackers. If Clark keeps it going and tying up blockers, the opportunities will be there for Matthews and Perry to get in gear.
Finally, let’s begin where we started. The Packers are getting erratic play at quarterback, yet are still 3-2-1 in a division where everyone has 2-3 losses. Any time a Packer fan makes a list of their problems and the play of Aaron Rodgers is on that list, it’s a good thing. It will turn around.
The Vikings and Bears each had a chance to put the Packers in an early hole and let it slip away. I expect Green Bay to get at least a split of these next two high-profile road trips and ultimately to survive the NFC North race.