Last Sunday Green Bay improved its record to 5-2 on the season, defeating the Carolina Panthers 38-17 in front of a sold-out crowd at Lambeau Field.
The Packers jumped on the Panthers early, scoring on their opening drive when quarterback Aaron Rodgers found receiver Jordy Nelson for a 59-yard touchdown. It was the third time this season that Rodgers connected with Nelson on a score of 50 or more yards.
The Panthers couldn’t generate any offense in the first half. Green Bay took advantage of their poor tackle situation, and wreaked havoc on quarterback Cam Newton. Linebacker Julius Peppers had 1.5 sacks, his single-game best as a Packer.
As the offense continues to operate at a high level, the responsibility falls on the defense to develop into a viable partner. Since the awful showing in 2011, Green Bay’s defense has gone through good and bad spurts. The current outlook is positive, but they've been in this situation before. In fact, last year's defense allowed about 276 yards per game in the month of October. Then the injuries hit.
Perhaps I’m knocking on wood, but the regular-season is nearly half over, and the Packers have avoided significant injuries. Staying healthy is crucial, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
The Packers are a dangerous NFC contender if they remain healthy, and the good defensive spurts become the norm.
Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy clearly knew how to attack the Panthers because of their familiarity with Carolina's cover-2 defense, which is the same defense Chicago ran under former coach Lovie Smith. The Pack relied on their running game early. Establishing the run forced the linebackers and safeties to hesitate, allowing Rodgers to exploit them with play action. The game itself was never in doubt, so there was never a moment on Sunday where it could potentially turn. Simply put, this game turned mid-week when McCarthy implemented his game plan.
Running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks averaged 5.2 yards per carry, thanks to a strong effort from the offensive line. The entire line deserves credit for bouncing back following a tough outing in Miami. The right side of the line particularly played well. As a tandem, tackle Bryan Bulaga and guard T.J. Lang played their best game.
Stud of the Game
Any worries concerning receiver Randall Cobb’s long-term status with the team has quelled. The fourth-year receiver caught six passes for 121 yards and a touchdown last Sunday. He was terrific after the catch, using his quickness to make defenders miss in the open field. Cobb and receiver Jordy Nelson have at least one touchdown in four consecutive games.
On Fox’s NFL pregame show, studio host Curt Menefee proclaimed that the six best teams in football are beginning to distinguish themselves from the rest of the field.
The six teams Menefee cited were Arizona, Dallas, Denver, New England, Philadelphia and San Diego. Two of them loss on Sunday.
The omissions of Baltimore, Green Bay, and Indianapolis surprised me. The Colts and Packers have elite quarterbacks while Baltimore has a good, well-rounded team.
Based on the results of last week, there is no elite team in the NFL. Maybe Denver can stake claim to the top spot, as they have impressive victories over Arizona and San Francisco. However, both wins were at home.
Clearly, the Packers are among the top under-the-radar teams. That may change next week, as Green Bay travels to New Orleans for a matchup with the Saints on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. The Saints (2-4) are coming off a tough 24-23 loss to Detroit, a game they led at the two-minute warning.
Football is a game of matchups, and the Packers matchup very well with the Saints. New Orleans’ defense is struggling. Their secondary is reeling and their pass rush is non-existent. Green Bay will score points, putting pressure on Saints quarterback Drew Brees to match them.
Brees is among the best quarterbacks in football. His pocket presence is remarkable and he uses his eyes as well as any quarterback does. He’ll challenge the secondary, while a healthy Mark Ingram will challenge the front seven.
If the defense fails to answer the challenges, Sunday's game will be a shootout between two of the game’s best quarterbacks. However, if the defense is up to the tasks, then the Packers win in a rout.
Under the latter scenario, the number of teams distinguishing themselves grows to seven. Please visit Row12.com for weekly articles done by myself on college and fantasy football. We also have a great staff of writers that covers every major sport.