25

September

No reason to panic despite Packers’ 1-2 start

With Aaron Rodgers under center and Randall Cobb in the lineup, the Packers will be just fine, offensively.

With Aaron Rodgers under center and Randall Cobb in the lineup, the Packers will be just fine, offensively.

Through three weeks, the Green Bay Packers sit at 1-2 entering their much-needed bye week.

Coming into the season, the Week 4 bye may have been seen as a disadvantage, but now, the timing could not have worked out better.

After giving up a 16-point lead and losing in dramatic fashion at Cincinnati, the Packers were left in a cloud of dust, wondering what had happened. The loss gives the Packers a much different feeling during their week off than they would have had they held onto their lead.

But coming out of the bye, the Packers figure to be in their best shape of the young 2013 season. And it’s not time for Packers fans to jump off the cliff just yet.

Perhaps the Packers’ biggest individual boost will be from safety Morgan Burnett. Likely the team’s most irreplaceable part of the secondary, Burnett (even without his dreads) is arguably the Packers’ second-most valuable defensive player behind Clay Matthews.

While the team is deep enough at cornerback to recover from losing a player–such as Casey Hayward–the depth at safety is not as strong.

Against the Bengals, Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings played pretty well overall. But against top-tier quarterbacks, a Burnett-less back end could spell a field day for the Peyton Mannings and Tom Bradys of the world.

Some are quick to point out that Burnett is not Nick Collins; Burnett may not be the savior for Green Bay’s defense, but there’s a reason why the Packers gave him a healthy long-term contract extension.

Whether it’s in Week 5 against Detroit or shortly after, the secondary will get an added boost from Hayward, who led the team with six interceptions as a rookie last season.

Hayward has been nursing a hamstring injury since training camp. Tramon Williams and Sam Shields have fared well through three games and adding Hayward to the slot–along with Burnett returning at safety–would give the Packers their best possible secondary.

Offensively, the Packers are fine.

That may sound overly optimistic following a disappointing performance in Cincinnati in which Aaron Rodgers threw a pair of interceptions. But there’s no panic going on at 1265 Lombardi; Rodgers remains one of the best in the business, and as long as No. 12 is under center, the Packers are going to be among the league’s top offenses.

And despite being without starting running back Eddie Lacy for the better part of two weeks, the Packers have now had two consecutive 100-yard rushers after a 44-game drought. James Starks went over the century mark in the home opener against Washington, and rookie Johnathan Franklin–deafeningly quiet this summer–exploded onto the scene with a 100-yard day in Cincinnati.

Lacy (concussion) was held out for the Bengals game, but he should be back in the lineup for Week 5 against the Detroit Lions.

Despite Starks’ and Franklin’s recent emergence, the Packers clearly viewed Lacy as their feature back coming into the season. And although he was relatively quiet in the season opener at San Francisco, the eye test suggests Lacy remains the team’s most talented back.

The running game wasn’t the problem against the Bengals; the problem was the Packers’ bread and butter–Rodgers and the passing game.

Jermichael Finley was lost for the game after suffering an ugly first-quarter concussion. In terms of value to the offense, Finley is certainly not Rodgers, but it was clear to see that the Packers struggled to carry out their game plan without their field-stretching tight end.

With a week off, one would expect Finley to return to the lineup for Week 5. And prior to suffering a concussion, Finley was a bright spot for the offense through two weeks.

With a healthy Finley and a recharged Lacy, the reloaded Packers’ offense should be firing on all cylinders to start their post-bye week journey.

Did the Packers blow a 16-point lead against the Bengals? Yes. Did they have an opportunity to beat the 49ers in the season opener? Sure.

But two close losses to a pair of preseason Super Bowl picks isn’t enough to ruin the Packers’ season. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and the Packers (good health permitting) will be just fine when the 2013 is in the books.

Why? Because of their 13 remaining games, six of them appear to be wins on paper. To get to ten wins, which is typically the magic number in the NFL, the Packers would need to win just three of the remaining seven to punch their tickets into the playoffs.

Should-win games (6) – vs. DET, vs. CLE, at MIN, vs. PHI, vs. MIN, vs. PIT

With the Vikings being a division rival, I suppose it may be a stretch to put both games in the “should-win” category, but that’s exactly what I’m doing. They simply don’t look good right now, and with two similarly skilled quarterbacks on the roster, a controversy may very well be looming.

Coming out of the bye week, the Lions game looks like a comfortable Packers victory. The Browns are all-in on a 2013 draft pick, the Eagles have struggled since a win in the opener, and the Steelers look nothing like the Steelers of recent years.

Other games (7) – at BAL, vs. CHI, at NYG, at DET, vs. ATL, at DAL, at CHI

At this point, there isn’t one game remaining on the schedule that the Packers will undoubtedly be the underdog. In fact, there are a couple games in here (at DET, vs. CHI) that I think most Packers fans would consider “should-win” games.

Ever since the schedule came out, I’ve had a feeling that the Packers would fall to the Lions on Thanksgiving but completely understand that Jim Schwartz-led teams always seem to screw up under the national spotlight.

Can the Packers win at Baltimore? Absolutely. Can they overcome their recent struggles against a putrid (in the early season, anyways) Giants team? Definitely.

The Packers’ schedule coming into the year looked tough but looking at the remaining 13 games following the bye, it would be a surprise to see their season end without a playoff berth.

Season Record Prediction: 11-5

I’m sticking to my guns; the Packers will be 11-5 at the end of the year. I didn’t pick them to lose at Cincinnati, but the other game I will change to my preseason prediction is the Giants game. They look really bad, and I think the Packers will win that game.

As of now, I have them losing at Baltimore, at Detroit and at Dallas. This is the NFL where anyone can beat anyone on any given Sunday.

But when it’s all said and done, I think the Packers will be just happy with where they are following the 2013 season–which is in the playoffs, contending for a Super Bowl.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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25 Responses to “No reason to panic despite Packers’ 1-2 start”

  1. Art says:

    Great article Marquues. Thank you for posting it. My concern is that the OLine as well as the DLine are weak, not Super Bowl caliber lines. There is no protection for AR and we are out-manned when we need just a yard to end the game. The DLine puts little pressure on opposing QB’s. It’s not good even when Haywood and Burnett return, it’s just not good.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  2. Savage57 says:

    Not considering jumping off a cliff, but I am peeking over the edge to see just how far the drop is.

    The consistency of the strengths and conversely, the weaknesses of this team portend some anxious moments for the faithful. Games that could and should be won, won’t be yet others will emerge where the Packers pull a rabbit out of the hat to hang one in the W column.

    Detroit coming out of the bye is going to be huge for this team. Win that game with consistent play in all aspects of the game, and the team can re-set with a level record and restored confidence. Get handled at home and I think the prospect of a finish in the 10-6 to 8-8 range is realistic, as hard as that might be to imagine. At that point to finish 11-5 the Packers would need to go 10-2 and this team hasn’t shown enough this year against quality opponents to make that idea credible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • Dobber says:

      I still think this is a 10 win team, but you’re right: a stumble against Detroit at Lambeau coming out of the bye would force me to rethink that.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    • Stroh says:

      Since when have the Leos ever “handled” the Packers under McCarthy? The Packers are an 11-5 team which is what I said in the offseason. Against quality opponents the Packers have lost 2 close road games indicating to me that they have the ability to win those, not unlike they learned to do in ’10. This is a team that once it discovers itself is going to be a team no one wants to face in the playoffs! The Packers under McCarthy almost always start slow and build as the season goes along getting better and stronger and winning more. It’ll be the same this year!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  3. Dobber says:

    “Can the Packers win at Baltimore? Absolutely. Can they overcome their recent struggles against a putrid (in the early season, anyways) Giants team? Definitely.”

    Baltimore hasn’t played consistent ball either, but the way they handled Houston on Sunday leads me to think that beating them on their field will be a tall order, even if the Packers are playing well.

    Tom Coughlin teams tend to be streaky, either starting fast and fading or starting slow and peaking late. I have a hard time believing that they’ll still be THIS bad at week 11. I’d like to pat myself on the back for saying early on that I thought they would be a shadow of their former selves this season and picking Dallas as the class of the NFC East, but there’s still plenty of time for an implosion in Big D. ;)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  4. Kurt the Turk says:

    GB has the happy fortune this year of playing what is probably the worst NFL division – the NFC East. So thanks to the very soft schedule playoffs are certainly realistic. I’ll take 2 wins over the Bears please and let whatever happens in the playoffs come what may.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

    • palmda says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

      Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

      • Kurt the Turk says:

        I agree the Bears will bevery hard to beat twice. I wrote about my hopes not my predictions. ;)

        I also don’t agree on 11-5. I do think it is entirely possible GB will make the playoffs but that is due more to a soft schedule than to GB being one of tis year’s elite teams. Even if we make the playoffs it’s likely we are bounced quickly.

        Hence my appeal to beat Chicago twice.

        I have been saying exactly what you say here since the 49ers game was in the bag. The O-line is bad and Dom Caper’s D once again is soft. I get a lot of “dislikes” on this blog for writing exactly what you wrote here. We actually seem to see eye-to-eye.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

    • Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

      “GB has the happy fortune this year of playing what is probably the worst NFL division – the NFC East.”

      Fools rush in.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

      • Kurt the Turk says:

        Translation please?

        Are you saying NYG, Phi, Dal, and Wash are looking tough this year?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  5. palmda says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

    • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

      Seriously? You’re taking the preseason into account?

      SMH…

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

    • Kurt the Turk says:

      According to today’s local paper the Lions lost a WR to a broken arm suffered in a car crash last night. He might be back this season but not by Week 5.

      I do not know what to expect from the Lions this year. We will see when they play. Fortunately for GB in the past they have been an undisciplined team and their coach is not impressive.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. Razer says:

    The fast start by the Bears can be problematic if we keep making mistakes. We’ll need to wait for the Culter meltdown to close the gap.

    My discouragement with this team is the under achievement of the offense. Yes, we need a solid defense and an improvement in D-line play but our strength is Rodgers and company. This unit needs to play better and needs to dictate the games. Defenses are scheming against us and we seem unable to impose our will.

    I know that I have complained about the play-calling but it is just one aspect of this offense that is under performing. We have all these TEs and we rarely incorporate them in the attack. We have a new O-line and yet we still want to drop back and work the deep ball. Whatever the reason, this unit needs to put the team on its back and leave the opponent in the dust.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  7. Elo says:

    Just beat the damn Bears.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

    • Outis says:

      Good Luck! I have doubts about that. The Bears are a much improved team. Here’s hoping that the Lions beat them up badly before they meet the Pack. That might be our only chance.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Since '61 says:

    Looking at the schedule I believe that the Packers should win out at home. If they go 8-0 at home, then they only need 2-3 road wins to make the playoffs. Now, the home game against Atl is the only home game I consider slightly questionable. As for the road games, we were only one play away from winning both games that we’ve played so far, against the best road teams that we’re going to face. To me that bodes well for picking up 2-4 roads wins. Stroh’s observation of the Packers starting slow and finishing strong under MM is right on. I think 11-5 is very realistic for this team barring major injuries. As for the playoffs we’ ll worry about that when we get there. As for taking the preseason into account, it doesn’t even deserve a thought. Thanks, Since ’61

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

    • Archie says:

      Good analysis. Vegas has GBP over/under at 10.5 Next home test will be DET. I see us winning at BALT the following week. The Bears will be tough. They have fixed their OL and switched from a high risk to low risk passing game. They did to CINCY what CINCY did to us. As is always the case, how we fare at home and how we fare in the division will decide our fate.

      Gotta love our stable of running backs!!!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. mark says:

    I think that their defense needs to play better. Since they are young and hoping for injured players to return, I hope that they will develop and get much better as the season goes on. So far they have allowed 30+ points in two games. Yes, I realize that the offense and Jeremy Ross are responsible for some of those points. However, in 2010, only one team cracked 30 on them. That was the Patriots with 31 points and defense didn’t allow all of those point either. If they aren’t able to defend a 16 point 4th quarter lead they won’t be going anywhere.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    • Archie says:

      Quite simply, they need more pass rush. Will Neal, Perry and Jones get better at rushing the passer? If not, this is as good as it gets for this collection of defensive players. Maybe the return of Burnett/Hayward will force QBs to hold the ball a tad longer and maybe Neal/Perry/Jones will gain a step. If so, that could be the answer. We can throw the ball. We can run the ball. We can stop the run. Our weak suit is no pass rush other than the great one!!!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. packett says:

    I have them winning all NFC North(including Dallas) I called them to win Baltimore, and Pitt and Cleveland. …and still believe they will. Take both v Minn. Split with Chicago. Two losses v Detroit. I am ambivalent about Atlanta, but now I think they could win it. I have a seven win stretch and 10 wins…and enough for at least wild card.
    I think its blessing in disguise to start out in a hole. They will get a sense of urgency.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  11. brian says:

    I think the packers will start winning games again. The Lions lost there second best receiver for the season. I could see Sam Shields having a similar game against Calvin Johnson as he did verse AJ Green. They do have an improved run game but the packers got a improved run d.

    Id like to see more Ryan Taylor and Andrew Quarless. Use them on the line and improve the blocking. Taylor is one of the nastiest special teams player we got. I would like to see some of that on offence. I know he got that penalty but I don’t think I would of reacted any better if someone hit me like that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. bubbaloo says:

    Man, I’m late to this party, but I’m not ready to panic. The biggest problem I see is the same one I saw during the season in 2010, when they won the Superbowl. The Packers seem to be 2 different teams, one week they play with a sense of urgency and the next week without, and as in ’10 I believe that’s coaching!
    Then again, if you give Finley and the now departed Jeremy Ross a can of stick-em, the Packers would be sitting at 3-0, and we’d all be smiling and unconcerned about these issues.
    For those crying about Perry’s lack of production, wake up, all the pre-draft Gurus predicted him as a “bad fit” for the Packers, while TT was content to sit back and not move up to get a real “partner” for Matthews, so it is what it is. TT is too satisfied with mediocrity!
    Kick some @$$ McPuffy, and things might get better, some times it looks like you just don’t care!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Archie says:

      “TT is too satisfied with mediocrity!”

      Even his #1 picks tend to be mediocre.

      Had not lucked out on both AROD and CMIII, the Pack would be a collection of very mediocre players.

      True of the OL as well as the DL, although D Jones still has a chance to be special.

      True of LB not named CMIII.

      True of our DBs.

      And true of our offensive skill players although the RBs are starting to excite: Harris; Lacy; Starks; and, Franklin! WRs unable to get open vs CINCY shows we have all #2/#3 type WRs.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0