After Three Weeks, We Hit the Pause ButtonPosted:Sep 26th, 2013 6:19 pm
A week four bye is not ideal, but someone has to do it and the Packers have been pretty fortunate with midseason bye weeks in recent years. Besides, the Thanksgiving Day game will provide a mini-bye, giving the team 10 days to get ready for the four December games that will likely seal their fate.
After a couple of tough road losses to open the season, I think the Packers are fortunate to get a couple of weeks to calm down, take a couple of deep breaths and prepare to attempt to sweep their October games, with home games against the Lions and Browns and road tests in Baltimore and the Twin Cities.
We know this is a banged up club. I heard a rumor the marketing team has come up with a new concession item for Lambeau: it's a ham sandwich with string cheese: they call it the ham-string--a play on the popular injury that seems to hit every defensive starter every season. Unfortunately hammies seem to claim a couple of games every year for Clay Matthews. When his tightened up in the second quarter against the Bengals, the defense looked markedly different. The Pack simply has to have someone else step up as a viable pas rusher. Both to complement Matthews and to take over when he's out.
The hope is that he's fine for the Lions game and that Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward make their season debuts. Hayward seems the less likely of the two to be ready. But an extra week off right now could do wonders for the maligned defense, which I still think has a chance to be much improved from last year. After Stafford, they face three struggling offenses, which should provide a good tonic.
The bye week also provides time to find a new return guy. The team has brought in a couple of young guys--including the returner for the Green Bay Blizzard indoor team--but we can expect to see more of Randall Cobb as the punt returner, at least in the short term. I have no issues with the release of Jeremy Ross--he had plenty of chances to grab the job.
If the Pack had to play this week, there's no guarantee there would be a running back healthy enough to start. By next Sunday, we expect Eddie Lacy to be cleared to return. As for Starks and Franklin, we'll know more about their health next week when the team returns to get ready for week five. But after a lost preseason where the team was completely unable to run the ball, the last two weeks have shown promise of what's to come. Both Starks and Franklin have flashed and Lacy should get the next chance to take center stage.
One of the early bright spots: the play of Sam Shields, who's playing for a new contract. At this rate, he will command top dollar in the offseason and force the team to part ways with Tramon Williams. Shields is developing into the team's top cover corner. After slowing AJ Green for most of the game, he will likely draw the assignment on Megatron next week. Williams has done okay in the past, but his move inside has a permanent feel to it (through this season), even with Hayward due back soon.
Much has been made of the sideline exchange between Rodgers and McCarthy last Sunday. If you don't want two headstrong, competitive talented guys manning those two positions, then you don't want to be champions. Let's all calm down. This is not something we see week in and week out. These are two guys who almost always are on the same page and who lead an offense that can score with anyone. Things happen in tight games when one play can swing a game. Let's move on.
It's no fun sitting on 1-2 for two weeks, but remember, then the Lions come to town. As you know they don't win in Wisconsin--22 straight and counting. Hopefully, they'll knock off the Bears at Ford Field this week and come to Lambeau feeling pretty good about themselves. And hopefully the Pack will take the field a healthier, rested and hungry group-- ready to rebound from a slow start, just like they did last year.