Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What Will the Packers Look Like After the Bye?

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Watching your team lose a game is always frustrating.  Watching them dig themselves out of a hole, build a sizable lead, and then collapse and lose the game after all, is not only frustrating but infuriating.  Add in wounded players all over the field and you have the formula for despair.  All of that, and more, came out of the Packers' 34-30 loss to the Bengals last week.  They found themselves peering upward at the 3-0 Bears (now at 3-1), wondering what the rest of the season would look like.

After last week's game, speculation was running rampant.

When would the Packers dump kick returner Jeremy Ross, who was responsible for another fumbled kickoff, leading to the Packers trailing 14-0 in the opening minutes of the game?  Answer: the day after the game.  (Follow-up question: if you are going to dump him the next day, why have him run back more kicks during the game?  I have no answer on that one.)

What was the story behind Rodgers and McCarthy yelling at each other on the sideline in the second quarter, after a Packers drive fizzled at the Bengals' one yard line?  Rodgers confirmed that the discussion was about play-calling, but the antagonists otherwise brushed it off by saying that they are both fierce competitors trying to win the game.

I even heard some speculation in a Packers Talk Radio Network podcast that Rodgers sustained a concussion on the sideline hit on the drive that fizzled at the one.  I have to admit, the same thought occurred to me while watching the game.  The difference is that the podcaster in question is a medical doctor, so her observation counts for more than mine.

While the Packers were idle this week, the Packers' next opponents, the Lions, were busy beating the Bears, so that both the Lions and Bears are now 3-1.  I saw enough of that game to feel that beating the Lions will be no walk in the park on Sunday, but if the Packers are ever going to recover enough to win the division, it was probably important for the Lions to knock off the unbeaten Bears, and it is even more important that the Packers start to play more consistently and go out and beat the Lions at home.

Despite all the drama of last week's loss, it is useful to keep things in perspective - it is a long season, and if the Packers can get their act together, there is plenty of time to turn things around.  Speaking of keeping things in perspective, it is hard to say it any better than Zach Kruse of Cheesehead TV did:

– Keep this in mind: The Packers were without starters at running back, safety, cornerback and eventually tight end and outside linebacker, plus backup running back and special teams gunner. Coughing up a 16-point second half lead is inexcusable, but that’s a lot of talent to lose on the road against a good football team.
I agree on all counts.  I can't excuse the blown lead, but let's face it, when you lose that many people, before and during the game, you can say "next man up" all you want, but you still have a problem on your hands.

The Packers just came back after their bye week on Monday, so it is still a little early to know how many of these players will be back for the Sunday game against the Lions.  As of today (Wednesday), all of the injured players are back participating fully in practice, with these notable exceptions: Hayward (out, and sounds like he is not expected back this week), OL Greg Van Roten (out), James Starks (did not practice, sounds like he will be out this week) and Clay Matthews (limited participation).  I think this means that Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, Jermichael Finley and Morgan Burnett are all expected back this week.  Will that be enough?  Let's hope so, because otherwise it will be a long season.  The Lions have beaten the Vikings, Redskins, and Bears, and lost to the Cardinals, in putting up their 3-1 record.  Only the win against the Bears impresses me.  Reggie Bush has played surprisingly well for the Lions, and of course Calvin Johnson is almost impossible to stop. But I still believe that the Packers have more talent on their roster, they will be playing at home, they have had two weeks to game plan, rest up, and get some players healthier.  I am looking for a big Packers win on Sunday.

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