If you looked at the Packers’ schedule at the start of the season, you probably would’ve thought they had a chance to reach the bye week unscathed.
But, after watching this team play through the first six weeks, they should be lucky to be 3-2-1 and have the sixth seed in the premature NFC Wild Card standings. The Packers have looked great in certain quarters but have also looked completely incompetent in others. The approaching bye week is critical, as the Packers’ next five games are as follows: @ Rams, @ Patriots, vs. Dolphins, @ Seahawks, @ Vikings. That’s a brutal stretch for any team, but in a closely-contested NFC North it’s pivotal that the Packers come out hot. Here’s what we’ve learned in Green Bay through six weeks.
There is still no leader on defense
Who’s it going to be?
Right now, there isn’t anything close to a leader on the defensive side of the ball in Green Bay. At this point, it doesn’t even have to be a vocal leader, just someone who will step up and make big plays, inspire in the huddle, and get the team ready to play on every series.
This is exactly why fans around Packerland wanted Gutekunst to go after Khalil Mack. His mere presence has changed the dynamic of the Bears’ defense and has turned it into one of the best in the league. The Packers have talent on defense, have showed flashes of potential (they’re somehow fourth in least amount of passing yards allowed), and have even played great halves. But it’s hard to see this group putting together a full game until someone steps up and motivates the troops.
Rookie receivers are ready to play
Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison have struggled with injuries this season, including both being absent in Monday’s game against the 49ers. We know Davante Adams is elite and is going to get his targets each week (I believe he’s now a top-5 receiver in the league), but Rodgers has to have other targets, and he may have found them after the first six games of the season.
Jimmy Graham is finally starting to produce as many believed he would—he had his first 100-yard game as a Packer against the 49ers. Equanimeous St. Brown hasn’t seen much action yet this season, but that could change quickly after catching a huge sideline pass against San Francisco to put the Packers in field goal range late in the fourth quarter. But the player that the Packers and fans should be most excited about is Marquez Valdes-Scantling—the fifth-round pick out of South Florida saw only two catches through the first four games, but he’s had ten in the last two games, including logging two career milestones with his first touchdown and first 100-yard game. If he can continue to produce at this level, the Packers may have yet another weapon for Rodgers going forward.
Rodgers is still a bit inconsistent
When you have a quarterback as great as Rodgers, you have to get a little knit-picky on your critiques. He’s been brilliant for the most part, and has single-handedly won the Packers two of their three games, but there’s been something about him that’s just been a little off since he went down with that knee injury.
Rodgers has always been known for taking sacks as opposed to throwing interceptions, which has certainly helped his 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, which stands alone at the top of all-time. But in these first six weeks, especially after his knee injury, he looks a little off compared to the Rodgers we’re used to. He’s missing receivers and he’s been indecisive at times when it comes to his reads. The Packers have allowed the fourth-most sacks in the league this year, giving up 3.5 per game. Some have come as a result of the offensive line, but others have resulted from either Rodgers’ inability to move around with the knee or holding onto the ball too long.
That’s enough negativity for now. With two weeks to prepare for the only undefeated team left in the league, the Packers should have enough to at least contend with the Rams. It’ll be a challenge, but if Green Bay can ride this offensive momentum into Los Angeles, anything can happen.