I hope you’ve all enjoyed “What’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers Week.” By now we’ve all read story after story, reminding us that Rodgers has not looked anything like a former MVP for the better part of a season now. The numbers don’t lie, but it’s far too early in the 2016 season to panic.
Two games in, the Packers offense ranks at or near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories–the once potent Pack attack suddenly is devoid of big plays and game changing players. Mike McCarthy has been too quick to abandon the running game and continues to feature plays where the receivers go deep downfield. More often they not, they have not gotten open and Rodgers has been forced to either hang on to the ball too long or try to fit the ball into a tight space. Wouldn’t it be nice to see McCarthy work in more slants, hitches and screens, to take advantage of the quick, jukey talents of Cobb, Nelson and Montgomery? And wouldn’t it be nice to see Jared Cook used as the weapon we all believe he can be?
Rodgers perhaps doesn’t have the confidence and swagger to tell us all to R-E-L-A-X right now, but with four consecutive home games upcoming, the team will have plenty of time to figure out what’s wrong with the offense. None of these opponents provide anything close to an elite defense (Lions, Giants, Cowboys and Bears), so if we head toward November with the offense still stuck in neutral then we can have a serious conversation.
The revival needs to start on Sunday, against a Lions team that will be missing its best player, pass rusher Ziggy Ansah. Their next best defensive player, Milwaukee native DeAndre Levy, is also likely out–he hasn’t practiced all week. We’ve come to expect big Rodgers bounce backs, on the heels of rocky performances. Sunday, it would be nice to see the offense click against this banged up unit.
It would be a surprise if we don’t see Jared Abbrederis and Ty Montgomery get some snaps. The Pack hasn’t really gone past the top three guys yet. Without a dangerous pass rush, look for more four receiver sets. I expect the offense to be up tempo, feeding off the energy of the crowd at the home opener.
But the Lions come into this game with a much different mindset than they have the last 25 years. For the first time they’re not being asked why they can’t win in Wisconsin, since the long streak was snapped last season. There will be no intimidation, to mental hoops to jump through–the Lions know they can win at Lambeau.
They’re coming off a lousy showing as well, losing at home to the lowly Titans. After an explosive showing in the opener in Indy, the offense stalled last week and is dealing with the season-ending loss of running back Ameer Abdullah. That leaves them with Theo Riddick, a dangerous receiver/scat back type who is unlikely to find much footing between the tackles against the Pack’s top ranked rush defense.
Green Bay’s defense is as banged up as Detroit’s, if not more so. Not practicing this week are Clay Matthews (hamstring), Morgan Burnett (groin), Leroy Guion (knee), Datone Jones (knee) and Sam Shields (concussion). And with the pass defense looking shaky last week against the Vikes’ lone weapon Stefon Diggs, they’ll have their hands full with Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Anquan Boldin and Eric Ebron.
With the bye week coming up next week, the Pack may be tempted to try to get by without a few guys to give them extra time to heal. It will be interesting to see how the team deals with those injured guys.
As usual, the Lions are weak up front, despite a bushel full of high draft picks on the offensive line. The Pack should have the advantage with their pass rush, even if a couple of them are not at 100%. Moving Matthew Stafford off his spot and making him get rid of the ball quickly is the recipe to stop the Lions. Not breaking any news here: a shaky secondary can be made to look a lot better with a strong pass rush.
I don’t expect a 40 point explosion this Sunday. But I do expect this offense to take some major steps forward, even if it’s a rainy afternoon, which appears likely. The Packers will begin the process of quieting the critics by looking a little more like the Packers.
Packers 26 Lions 19