What to make of the Packers’ puzzling 2-3 start? OK, they should be 3-2, but that embarrassing meltdown in Indy has rendered the Seattle loss moot. Suddenly the team that was most folks’ #1 ranked team entering the season, is at a crossroads: going 4-5 in its last nine games, with a lot of questions to be answered:
1. What’s with the penalties? The team leads the NFL in penalty yardage, thanks to an over-abundance of pass interference penalties. Granted, it seems Sam Shields gets one terrible call against him each game, but Woodson and company have been way too grabby. And the front seven has been hit with some personal fouls that smart teams avoid.
2. What happened to stopping teams on third down? The team did a decent job the first few weeks, but Drew Brees converted 52% of them and rookie Andrew Luck hit on 40%. The frustrating thing is they’re giving up too many third and long plays and not getting off the field. Combine this with…
3. Remember when the defense got turnovers? They’ve let a number of picks slip away and for a defense that has been “bend but don’t break” the last few years, the lack of takeaways is causing the unit to break at the most inopportune times.
4. What to do with the running game? With Benson possibly lost for the season, we’re back to the trio we went into camp with. James Starks will return this week from his turf toe, but he looked shaky and tentative before his injury in the preseason. Alex Green will probably get the start, but if he can’t help in pass protection, he won’t last long. Mike McCarthy has shown a penchant for abandoning the run at times this season, to disastrous consequences. If the team can’t move the ball on the ground, the passing game will never take off.
5. Speaking of the passing game, what’s with the drops? No one is immune from this one, but Jermichael Finley has been the biggest culprit. If he can’t blow up in the game Sunday night, with the Texans’ having lost outstanding linebacker and tight end coverer Brian Cushing, then it might be hard to expect much from him the rest of the year. Jordy Nelson has also regressed this season and hasn’t grabbed the #1 receiver role in Greg Jennings’ absence. As for Donald Driver, he’s not getting many chances, but he’s dropped a couple himself and looks like a guy who’s over the hill. Randall Cobb needs to be featured more in this offense. It needs to start Sunday night.
6. What’s up with Rodgers? He’s not playing to 2011 standards, but that was a historically great level and we may not see that this year. Clearly he misses Scott Wells and Chad Clifton, along with a healthy Jennings. He is still playing like an elite QB, but he’s made some uncharacteristic mistakes and his confidence seems shaky at times.
7. What’s going on with the coaching? Dom Capers doesn’t seem to have a real handle on his young defense. His inability to remove Reggie Wayne from the equation last Sunday was ridiculous. For McCarthy to blow a 21-3 halftime lead speaks to a communication problem in the locker room and a play calling problem. Despite the lead, he abandoned the run, allowing the Colts’ pass rush to tee off on #12. Now an unnamed player says ‘the refs are out to get us.’ Coaches can’t allow players to believe this.
There are more questions to be answered. Feel free to add yours in the comments section. The bottom line is the Packers need to find some answers quickly, beginning Sunday night in Houston where they are four point underdogs to the unbeaten Texans. A surprising road victory would be the right start, but stopping Arian Foster, Matt Schaub and JJ Watt will be incredibly difficult.