There wasn’t a lot to take away from the Pack’s ten point win over the Steelers. They beat a team they were supposed to beat: a proud franchise that still has a lot of talented players, but one that no longer has a Hall of Fame quarterback.
Of course, it would’ve been nice to watch the first quarter. Why CBS decided that the whole country needed to see the Jets-Titans overtime is beyond my pay grade. It was a ridiculous decision. Even those of us with Sunday Ticket were shut out: it was blacked out because it was on local TV. Yes, we got glimpses via the Red Zone channel, but the network execs who made that decision should be fired.
The cool thing about the win is the names of the players we’re talking about afterward: Randall Cobb, AJ Dillon, Kingsley Keke, Rashan Gary, Eric Stokes. These guys all stepped up and made big plays, and with the injuries piling up, the Pack’s depth will continue to be tested and relied upon.
It’s hard to feel too good about the 3-1 start, until we hear about the severity of Jaire Alexander’s shoulder injury. If the initial reports of an AC joint injury are correct, we’ll have dodged a bullet. That’s likely a 2-4 week recovery, vs. the potential of a more long term injury to his collarbone.
Considering what we witnessed in Week 1, you gotta like where the Pack is sitting right now. The banged up and very young and inexperienced offensive line, missing its best two players, held its own these last two games against two of the toughest front sevens the team will face all season. The running game finally got untracked and for the first time we got a real glimpse of the Pack’s ‘thunder and lightning’ backfield, with Aaron Jones and Dillon combining for nearly 200 yards of offense. Watching Dillon out there in the fourth quarter as the Pack nursed a lead, plowing into those tired defenders is a thing of beauty and something that will be huge when the weather turns.
Also beautiful is seeing Aaron Rodgers rekindle his connection with Cobb. With MVS out for a few weeks, the Pack loses that deep threat, which changes how defenses will prepare to play the Pack–Davante Adams will surely see a lot more attention from safeties. Enter Cobb, who served as Rodgers’ security blanket, converting four third downs in his five receptions, and finding the end zone twice. More of this, please. Also it’s not illegal to target Cobb more than five times per game.
I thought the defense was just okay in this one. They allowed Ben to complete 65% of his passes and he wasn’t under a ton of duress, considering how awful that offensive line is. Alexander giving up a 45 touchdown to Diontae Johnson is just something we’re not used to seeing and the Steelers’ receivers had productive days. But the defense continues to swarm and tackle well. And they made big plays when they needed to, like Keke’s strip sack and Gary’s big boy sack where he basically grabbed Ben by the jersey and threw him to the ground.
So, a solid win for the Pack and now comes a three game stretch where they will be favored in each, despite two road games. Yet they will likely be without Alexander and we’re not sure about Jenkins and King. Figuring out a way to take care of business at Cincinnati and Chicago, and then at home against Washington is huge because then they’ll head to the desert to play the unbeaten Cardinals on a short week and then visit Patrick Mahomes at Arrowhead. If the Pack is no worse than 6-3 at that point, they’ll be right where they need to be.
Bottom line: this team will likely win the North by default and probably won’t be in the running for the NFC’s top seed, because injuries are already piling up and the schedule is just too daunting. So let’s continue to enjoy watching this team play week in and week out and hope that key players like Bakhtiari, Jenkins, MVS, Alexander and maybe even Za’Darius are good to go when this team gets down to business in January.