Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Things I Think I Know: The Packers Will Not Go Undefeated

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Thing I think I know #1: Green Bay won't go undefeated, and they aren't a lock to go to the Super Bowl either.
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The Green Bay Packers have a formidable offense. That's good because with a defense that is giving up 399.6 ypg, they will need every touchdown that Aaron Rodger's golden arm can deliver. Much like the Patriots, the Packers have been thriving on a steady diet of big plays, pick sixes and bend, break, but don't lose defense. But can the Packers really go 16-0 with a defense that is middle of the road at best? A quick glance at their run defense provides hope (they are ranked 8th in the NFL, giving up 100 ypg), but look deeper and see that they give up 4.6 yards per carry, which puts them in the bottom third.

Aaron Rodgers is doing a heck of a job leading the leagues most explosive offense to an 8-0 start, but the fact that he's been so perfect in the first half of the season (and so has his core of receivers and tight ends) might actually be a curse rather than a blessing for the Pack.

Some adversity can be a perfect tonic for a winning post season, and unless the Packers get a dose of reality from someone in the 2nd half of the season, they will march into the post season feeling invincible, when in reality they are a team with more holes than a brick of swiss cheese on defense.

November is the time where things get interesting in the NFL season: The weather turns cold, and suddenly the long pass, such a staple of September and October football, isn't so easy to execute. While teams like Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago and the Eagles have spent a lot of their time making adjustments and studying tape, the Packers have been doing photo shoots for SI and hearing about how Rodgers is the best quarterback since Tom Brady.

The adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" is not true in the NFL. In the NFL, if you don't change, you die. If you can't keep your opponents guessing, they will flatten you.

While the rest of the league has been doggedly trying to bolster their weaknesses, the Packers have been winning in spite of theirs. The Packers too, are aware of their shortcomings, but they seem resigned to continue riding along on the coattails of the offense. "A win covers up everything," said cornerback Tramon Williams after the 45-38 defeat of the Chargers on Sunday. "But it's something that's been going on for half a year now. You want to correct it but it hasn't been yet. We've still been making the same mistakes."

This piece by Pete Dougherty of Packersnews.com goes into some of the details of the Packers defensive woes, and compares the '11 team to the '09 team that gave up 51 point in a wildcard loss at Phoenix.

That could happen this year. With Clay Matthews recording only three sacks and doing very little "claymaking," and with the loss of safety Nick Collins to injury early in the season, the Packers are desperately in need of a pass rush to make things a little easier on their struggling secondary.

It may provide comfort that the Pack is tops in the NFL with 16 interceptions, but if the well runs dry, and Rogers puts up a few less than godlike performances in the 2nd half, then Green Bay could drift back to the rest of the pack in the second half of the season very quickly.

Maybe for Green Bay, it would be the blessing they need. A good hard look in the mirror can be just what the doctor ordered sometimes, even when you are among the leagues elite.